I call on Deputy De Rossa to resume his contribution. He has 45 minutes remaining.
Estimates, 1991 (Resumed).
I thought I had 50 minutes. I spoke for 10 minutes yesterday and I had an hour.
I will have that checked.
There was a new arrangement made this morning that speakers called today would speak for 45 minutes.
Yesterday on the Estimates debate I indicated that the House procedures needed to be reformed. I was saying that the procedure that we are engaged in at the moment where we have 21 hours of debate on the Estimates of a general kind was hardly the most appropriate way of dealing with such a wide range of Estimates, or, as other Deputies pointed out, covering the expenditure of £2.5 million. It is not a good idea to have to deal with these things in such a generalised way.
There is obviously a need for an Adjournment debate — it has the title of an Estimates debate but in fact it is an Adjournment debate — where there is a general review of Government performance. It highlights again, and I intend to deal with this later on, the urgent need to look at the procedures of this House and how we do our business.
On 6 December last the Taoiseach addressed a Cairde Fáil function in Dublin and, according to newspaper reports, urged Fianna Fáil members and supporters to speak out about what he described as "the economic miracle this Government had performed".
Speaking in the Estimates debate ten days later I warned that the `economic miracle' would prove to be a mirage, and that the closer it was looked at, the more apparently phoney it became. Seven months on, the accuracy of my prediction has been established beyond dispute. Fianna Fáil self proclaimed economic miracle has proven to be, like all mirages, an optical illusion. The country faces an unemployment crisis which is now the worst in the history of the State; we face budgetary problems on a scale not experienced since the mid-eighties. TheProgramme for Economic and Social Progress, the centrepiece of the Government's economic strategy, is under serious threat and we face yet another series of cutbacks in essential public services, cutbacks which, incidentally we will not know about until this House goes into recess.
Meanwhile the Taoiseach flounders around looking for suitable scapegoats for his disappearing miracles — the returning emigrants, public sector workers seeking their long overdue special increases, the international recession, anything except their own incompetence and inadequacy.
Nothing so completely sums up our utter failure as a society that after almost 70 years of independence we now have the worst unemployment level on record, and nothing so adequately sums up the political bankruptcy of our Government than that the slowing up of emigration should be cited as the reason for the huge increase in unemployment. Surely those who worked to secure our independence believed that they were establishing a State which would offer our young people something better than the stark choice between unemployment and emigration.
The turn of events in recent months has forced the Government to come close to uttering the unspeakable truth of Irish politics — that the whole economic strategy of this Government was based entirely on us being able to continue to dump our human surplus on other countries. Now that the safety valve of emigration is closing, the whole strategy is in tatters. The Government seem paralysed and unable to come up with any significant proposals to help job creation and are reduced to desperate hopes that the economies in the United Kingdom and the United States will pick up again. The fact is that unemployment is out of control and the prospect of 300,000 on the live register is now a frightening reality.
This is the Administration that told us in 1989 that job creation would be the major priority of the new Government; not simply a major priority, but the major priority. Yet this is the Administration that has allowed unemployment to jump by more than 30,000 in the past year alone.
Their record on unemployment has been the greatest possible indictment of all of those governments which have held office over the past decade. Unemployment has not been below 100,000 since 1980 and never been less than 200,000 since 1984. During the past decade 200,000 people have been forced to emigrate, largely because of unemployment. Despite the scale of the problem and despite the serious upturn in unemployment this year, the Government, like their predecessors, have persisted with the "climatology" school of economics. This approach is founded on the clearly erroneous view that if an appropriate "climate" conducive to private enterprise is created then the private sector will respond by providing the levels of investment necessary to make serious inroads into the unemployment problem.
In recent years there has been a particularly favourable climate for private enterprise. A variety of tax-based incentive schemes are available; generous Government grants and employment subsidies are readily available; inflation rates have reached their lowest levels in decades; wage settlements have been particularly low and strikes few; and there are plenty of educated and trained young workers.
Despite this virtually ideal "climate", private enterprise has gone nowhere near producing an adequate response in jobcreating investment. While the Government may talk about job creation, profit realisation is the prime consideration for private business, and the whole array of aids and incentives provided by the taxpayer have been exploited in no uncertain fashion to expand the profits of firms, both native and foreign.
As long as the Government effectively wash their hands of the job creation issue and leave all responsibility to the private sector, unemployment will continue to scar Irish society. A much more interventionist policy is required which would focus on industrial sectors with export growth potential and concentrate on developing strong Irish based firms in these sectors, along with essential support firms producing material and service inputs.
We must also be more selective about the manner in which public money is spent. State supports for individual firms should take the form of loans, shareholdings and charges for services, rather than free hand-outs which are the central feature of current Government policy. In addition the State should seek to acquire strategic shareholdings in key firms, in order to secure a strong influence in the investment decisions of these firms.
Both State-owned and private sector firms have a role to play in job creation. Flexible structures to facilitate joint ventures and other links both within the State sector and between State and private firms are also necessary. There must be a reversal of Government policies which are resulting in job losses in the public sector — such as the proposed 1,500 in An Post — and the sale of commercial semi-State companies. There must also be much more pressure applied to the private sector to ensure that profits are reinvested to create additional jobs. Most of all, the Government must accept that there is not just an unemployment problem, but an unemployment crisis on an unprecedented scale. Then perhaps it will be treated with the seriousness it merits, and the thousands of families, whose lives have been blighted by unemployment given some hope again.
The burden on the economy, arising from unemployment, is now so great that there does not seem to be any way in which the economy can be restored to full health until the majority of those on the dole queues are put back into productive work. Everyone acknowledges that the cost of unemployment payments is a major factor in the Government's budgetary targets for this year being so off course.
The full cost to the Exchequer of unemployment is notoriously hard to compute, but from official figures it is possible to establish that the direct cost in terms of additional social welfare payments and income tax foregone is at least £2,000 million. According to the summary of public expenditure, transfers from the Exchequer to the unemployed this year were expected to amount to £744 million. It will now probably be closer to £800 million. The average amount paid in income tax by PAYE workers last year was £3,100 million. On the basis of that figure, if the 250,000 on the dole were put back to work it would bring in an additional £735 million. On the same basis, putting the unemployed back to work would bring in around £572 million in PRSI. This gives a total of £2,100 million or £600 for every man, woman and child in the State.
To this must be added indirect losses to the State such as lower VAT and excise returns arising from the reduced purchasing power of the unemployed, lower rent returns to local authorities because of the structure of the differential rent system, extra health costs, supplementary welfare payments and so on. We can only speculate as to the cost of these elements, but when they are taken into account, the total cost of unemployment is likely to be closer to £2,500 million.
Shocking as these figures are, they are only part of the picture. Of even more significance, is the human and social cost — the families broken, the lives destroyed and talents wasted by the scourge of unemployment. The abandonment by successive Governments of the unemployed is reaping a bitter harvest of poverty, crime, vandalism and social alienation. This is especially so in urban areas, where unemployment is demoralising and destroying entire communities.
Right-wing politicians and economists have repeatedly suggested that unemployment can only be solved when the national finances are put into order. All the evidence now is that the opposite is the case, that the economy cannot be restored to full health until the majority of those on the dole queues are put back into productive work.
Unfortunately, the reaction of this Government to their budgetary miscalculations has been entirely predictable. The Minister for Finance is reaching for the knife, once again, to inflict yet more cuts on essential public services. Hospitals in a number of areas have already been asked to prepare contingency plans for ward closures, and it seems that health is again to be a prime target. Despite the fact that many schools, especially those in areas where parents cannot afford "voluntary" contributions, are on the verge of collapse, education is also to suffer. For the past decade, workers and their families have been asked to carry the burden of efforts to restore fiscal stability and have had to endure the impact of repeated cutbacks in essential public services. It is time other sectors also carried their fair share.
It also seems that some Ministers at least are determined to seek a renegotiation of theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress, and are particularly targeting deferred public sector pay awards. The Workers' Party have traditionally supported the concept of centralised collective bargaining, but we voted against the PESP for a number of reasons — because of the absence of specific commitments to real tax reform, the failure to provide for a minimum wages, and because of the exclusion of the commercial State-sponsored bodies from the “no compulsory retirement” provision in the public service generally.
Despite these reservations, our commitment to the principle of centralised collective bargaining remains. We believe that such agreements best facilitate the planned development of the economy. However, if the Government now attempt to rewrite the PESP by renegotiating pay commitments entered into, or deferring special pay awards, it would simply destroy the possibility of concluding any such agreements in the future. If the Government now break the commitments they freely entered into two years ago, how could workers or the trade union movement have any confidence in the credibility of any future agreements?
What is particularly deplorable is the way in which public sector workers are being singled out by a group of well heeled, influential right wing commentators and economists, and being made the scapegoats for the budgetary miscalculations of the Minister for Finance. Despite the public perception to the contrary, many public sector workers are poorly paid, often earning well below the average national industrial wage. They have already made considerable sacrifices, agreeing to defer special pay agreements — some of which were due for payment as far back as 1987. The validity of these claims has been established through the normal public service negotiating procedures, has been accepted by the Government and they must now be honoured. Any attempt to renege on these agreements could plunge the public service into serious industrial relations problems.
Workers, in both the public and private sectors, have shown an exceptional degree of wage moderation since 1987. They were assured by the Government that the return for wage moderation would be a major reduction in unemployment. Instead they have seen unemployment allowed to climb to an unprecedented level. In the private sector many of the employers saw their employees' restraint simply as an opportunity to reap even greater profits, much of which were transferred out of the country. Between 1986 and 1988, the national wage bill increased by 15 per cent from £10 billion to £11.5 billion. In the same period profits rose from £4.3 billion to over £6.1 billion, a rise of 42 per cent. Workers have paid the price and made the sacrifices. It is now time that others did their share.
Apart from unemployment and the general economic crisis, the other major problem which continues to haunt Irish society is the continuing sectarian violence in Northern Ireland — violence which continues to take a deadly toll and which continues to pose a threat to people on the entire island, as the discovery of the massive bomb in Donegal this week clearly illustrated.
The collapse of the inter-party talks in Northern Ireland last week, is particularly disappointing. Nobody wants to make the situation any more bleak than it is, but neither is there any point in underestimating the seriousness of the situation or trying to put an optimistic veneer on what was a most serious development for the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic.
When it was announced, after 18 months of preparatory work by the Secretary of State, Mr. Peter Brooke, that inter-party talks would commence in April, it offered the first gleam of hope for more than a decade that some political progress could be made in Northern Ireland. The participants had the good will and moral support of all those who wanted to see an end to the terrible cycle of violence which had scarred Northern Ireland for more than 20 years. Unfortunately the participants in the talks did not live up to the expectations of the people. Far too much time was wasted in seeking to gain advantage by almost all of the participating parties. People in both parts of Ireland looked on in bewilderment as the politicians haggled over relatively minor issues, which most had expected would be settled within a matter of days.
Setting up the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference for 16 July was clearly unrealistic, especially as so much time was lost early on in the discussions. It set a deadline that could not be met. The holding of the conference or the deferral of it should not have been sufficient reason to abandon whatever progress had been made and scuttle the entire process. It may well be that that conference was simply the device used by people on both sides, to end the talks for now. Whatever the reason, the collapse of the talks has shattered the hopes of the people of Northern Ireland. They have been let down. The parties involved squandered what most people considered to have been the best opportunity for many years to make political progress in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately the parties involved in the talks seemed incapable of breaking out of the narrow sectarian traditions which have bedevilled Northern Ireland for so long. They seem incapable of adapting to the needs of the nineties and confronting the sectarian monster. The result of this is that Northern Ireland continues to be deprived of any local democratic representation as the economic problems mount and terrorism and sectarian conflict continue to dominate public life.
Despite the bleak scenario I have painted, the efforts to secure progress towards a political solution must not be abandoned. To do so would be simply to surrender to the Provisional IRA and their Loyalist counterparts. The fact that the talks got under way at all was largely due to the pressure exerted by ordinary people in Northern Ireland. That pressure has not gone away and will not go away. It must now be intensified. Pressure must be intensified on the political parties in Northern Ireland and on the British and Irish Governments to set aside the old tribal hostility and to face up to their responsibilities to engage in constructive and fruitful dialogue.
The Irish Government must explore all ways in which they can help the political atmosphere and potential for progress in Northern Ireland. In this context, the question of constitutional reform is of particular importance. The events of the past two months show that Articles 2 and 3 remain a major impediment to political progress in Northern Ireland. Their amendment to confirm what is clearly the wish of most people on this island — that unity can only come about through the consent of the people of Northern Ireland — could only help to remove suspicion and distrust and contribute to much improved relations between the peoples of the two parts of this island.
In this regard I would draw the attention of the House to the opinion polls published in all of today's papers which confirm that the people of the Republic regard the amendment of Articles 2 and 3 as an important step in improving the situation in Northern Ireland. It is reported in theIrish Press that two-thirds of the Republic's voters favour changing Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. This poll was co-ordinated by Irish Marketing Surveys. The article continues:
Sixty-one per cent of the electorate said it would favour an amendment to the Constitution, 49 per cent thought it would improve the chances for a political settlement in the North, but 34 per cent judged that it would make no difference.
Nine out of 10 voters would like to see the talks start again and believe resumed talks are important for the North's future, but over half rate the chances of any future talks as 50:50.
This clearly indicates that voters in the Republic want to see movement made by the Irish Government in helping these talks to succeed. A statement by the Irish Government to the effect that they are prepared to discuss amending Articles 2 and 3 would greatly assist in ensuring that the talks process gets under way once again.
This opinion poll was carried out simultaneously in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain. The results of the poll are extremely interesting. On the question of preferred solutions for the future of Northern Ireland, there is extremely strong support for the idea of full integration with Britain — something like 39 per cent of those polled chose it as their first preference while 52 per cent chose it as their first and second preferences. It is important for the Irish Government to bear in mind that kind of feeling in Northern Ireland when they are deciding on their approach to any talks.
As I indicated here before, the alternative to a developed government could be a fairly massive swing towards full integration with Britain. The fact that the poll in Britain shows that the people there do not want the North to be fully integrated with them must also be borne in mind by both Governments. The views of the population in the North should be very carefully considered. The result of this opinion poll should also be carefully considered as a guide to how the people in the North feel.
It is often forgotten that the problems in the North relate to real people and that it is ordinary men, women and children who suffer daily from the actions of sectarian gangs who simply refuse to accept the right of citizens to decide their future democratically and who insist, because they possess guns, that they have a right to impose their view on the population at large.
As I indicated at the outset, I would now like to return to the question of Dáil reform. I made the point that if the purpose was to examine the Estimates the debate we are engaged in at present is meaningless having regard to the fact we are debating them in the month of July six to seven months after the budget was passed by the House and the fact that it is quite likely that during the recess they will be changed because of the miscalculations made by the Minister for Finance in the budget. Apart from those facts, the procedure of Deputies standing up in the House to address the Estimates is unreal. It would be far more practical to establish a committee of the House to tease out the detail of the Estimates and the Finance Bill, when published, in Committee before the matter is dealt with on the Floor of the House. Much time is wasted by having debates in the House to examine Government spending even though in practice it cannot do this. As I indicated, there is a need to have an Adjournment debate, which essentially is what the debate we are having amounts to, to give the Opposition parties an opportunity to examine and express their views on Government policies and to propose alternatives.
This session of the Dáil has been characterised by repeated disputes about Dáil procedures. These Estimates are being debated in the absence of the Fine Gael Party who I believe have made a gross error of judgment in withdrawing from the House for the debate. Despite this disadvantage and regardless of what feelings they may have about the nature of the debate, it is wrong for a major party to withdraw from the House in that way for an extended length of time. I could understand them withdrawing in protest for an hour or even a day but to absent themselves for the debate on the Estimates amounts to a dereliction of duty on their part.
As each year passes, the inadequacies of our procedures become more apparent and the case for fundamental Dáil reform is now beyond dispute. It is, of course, illogical for us to be debating at length the Estimates in respect of which half of the money has already been spent, which cannot be amended by the Opposition and which are likely to be substantially changed by the Government during the next few weeks because of the budgetary over-run but this is just one of the many anomalies in the way the House operates. The Workers' Party have been trying to highlight the way in which each December for the past number of years the House has been asked to pass all Stages of the Appropriation Bill without debate.
A Bill cannot be published and circulated until the First Stage has been passed. With regard to the Appropriation Bill, what this means in effect is that the Dáil passes a Bill which it has not seen. Is there any other Parliament in the world which would pass a Bill it has not seen? I doubt it. It comes as a great shock to most newly elected Deputies to discover just how restricted they are in their efforts to represent their constituents, by Standing Orders and obscure, often unwritten, rules or precedent and tradition. Precedent and tradition have their place in any institution, especially in Parliament, but too often precedent and tradition seem to be used to restrict rather than enhance the role of Deputies.
A matter of particular concern is the increased use of the guillotine to force legislation through without adequate debate or time to table amendments. I instance the Finance Bill. During the past six months important legislation, such as the part-time workers Bill, the Sugar Bill, the Social Welfare Bill, the Finance Bill, the Health (Amendment) Bill, the Local Government Bill and many others have been guillotined. Each year large sections of the Finance Bill have been passed by the Dáil without ever having been debated in the manner prescribed. I suspect it has become the practice of Ministers in drafting the Finance Bill to put sections they do not want to have debated in the House in the latter half of the Bill because they know that in the course of the debate the Bill will be guillotined before major sections of it are reached. This point should be borne in mind when discussing whether adequate time has been allocated for a debate on a Bill.
I indicated on a number of occasions in this House that we should adopt a rational approach to our work and that there is a limit to which one can go in allocating time for debates on legislation but, at the same time, it is important to have a procedure whereby Deputies who have genuine concerns about aspects or sections of Bills and who want to propose amendments and have them discussed are allowed do so. The only realistic way in which this can be done while, at the same time, allowing the main House to operate in an efficient way is to establish committees to deal with Bills. The Finance Bill is an obvious Bill which should be dealt with by a committee before being presented on the Floor of the House. In this way Deputies could examine the detail of the Bill over a period of weeks or months. Only the contentious issues would eventually be dealt with on the Floor of the House.
It is possible for us, given that we are all rational individuals and are anxious to make a contribution to the better running of the State, to reform the procedures of the House to allow us to do that. This would not necessarily rule out the possibility of a confrontation on some issues. This is inevitable; otherwise, we would not have a Government and Opposition. Indeed, it would be quite dangerous for Opposition parties to get too cosy or become too agreeable with the Government of the day whoever they may be. As I said, it is important that we address that matter before too long. I have no doubt the headlines in some of our newspapers tomorrow will speak about the Dáil going on holiday for the next three months and highlight the problems and crises facing so many of our people. In those circumstances I would not blame people for being cynical about the political process but we have only ourselves to blame.
I am not talking here about changing the odd rule here or there, the extension of priority questions or fiddling around with the discussion time allocated after the Adjournment debate, but rather suggesting that the way in which the Dáil does its business needs to be fundamentally reshaped. The Government have a responsibility to bring forward proposals in this regard as they promised to do in the Programme for Government. Each year large sections of the Finance Bill are passed without ever being debated in the Dáil in the manner prescribed. It is, in effect, legislation by ministerial or Civil Service decree. Guillotines should only be used in the most exceptional circumstances. Instead, in our legislative system they have become the norm.
Many of the problems arise from the inadequate time available to the Dáil to do its business. Part of the solution is clearly to extend the length of the sessions. It is ludicrous that today we are to go into recess for more than three months. The sitting hours for each week should also be extended. Even these reforms will be of little value unless more of the detailed work necessary on Bills is given over to all-party committees.
This is only part of the solution. A root and branch review of our procedures is necessary to bring them up to the standard appropriate to the needs of a democratic society on the verge of the 21st century. The Dáil is expected by the electorate to respond comprehensively to the many issues and problems which arise daily and to lead the country towards a resolution of those problems. That means not just facilitating the Government but also ensuring that parties and Deputies in Opposition can make a real contribution to the work involved.
The Workers' Party will be publishing their proposals for Dáil reform within the next few weeks and we will be glad to join in discussions with other parties in Government and in Opposition on these or any other proposals. We do not claim to have the last word on this issue. Any Government who ignore the very real disenchantment of the public with our existing system will be foolish if they do not amend the way we do our business.
Some months ago the Dáil passed the Health (Amendment) Bill which was intended to extend the eligibility of people to health services, specifically the services of consultants. In the course of the debate we argued that it was necessary to have a common waiting list to ensure equal treatment for private and public patients. The Minister dismissed that idea saying it was not necessary and that the question of who would get treatment was a matter for the medical consultant who would make a decision based on clinical assessment rather than on the basis of whether the patient was public or private.
The Minister stated:
The clear identification of the status of every patient, as either the public or private patient of the consultant, will be implemented in every hospital, for every patient from next Saturday, 1 June...
The new identification system will also apply to outpatient hospital services. Section 7 of the Bill provides that, in relation to outpatient services also, I will be able to specify by regulation that where a person is the private patient of a consultant he may, as with in-patient services, forego his entitlement to treatment as a public patient. It also empowers me to specify outpatient hospital charges for private patients. This is consistent with the general approach now being taken, i.e., that private patients of consultants should be regarded as private patients of the hospital as well.
I can best summarise the purpose of the new system by saying that it is intended to benefit public patients without disimproving the position of private patients.
The Minister went on to indicate that he expected this procedure would end the practice of queue jumping by private patients, but the procedures now in place are actually facilitating this. The Minister has issued instructions that all hospitals should prepare two waiting lists, one for private patients and one for public patients. When persons go for outpatient services they are asked whether they are private or public patients. They are told that if they declare as public patients they will go on a waiting list which can stretch from three months to three years. If they declare as private patients they will be seen immediately. That is a disgrace. It is discrimination against taxpayers who are entitled to services free of charge because they paid taxes while employed and have earned their entitlement. The children and spouses of taxpayers and the unemployed have a similar entitlement. It is unacceptable that people should be treated on the basis of whether they can afford to hand out money to a consultant.
I have a specific case of a woman who was in pain and went to a public hospital in this city. She declared she was a public patient and was told she would have to wait three weeks to be seen by a consultant and to have tests carried out. She then said she would declare herself to be a private patient and she was seen immediately by the consultant concerned. That is not acceptable and the Minister must immediately take steps to change the system where people are discriminated against in relation to the provision of health services.
The Minister indicated in introducing the Health (Amendment) Bill that he would review its operation. There is now an urgent case for reviewing the waiting list system. We should abolish the existing public and private waiting lists and introduce a common list system which will prevent the consultant from choosing between the patient who is able to pay cash into his hand and the patient who will put his claim through the health services. That issue must be dealt with urgently. It will be the litmus test of whether the Minister for Health is genuinely concerned about providing health care for all on the basis of need.
I propose that all the Votes for which I am responsible be taken together.
The total Estimate for all the Votes for which I am responsible is £441,156,000, an increase of £26,155,000 or 6.3 per cent above the expenditure for these Votes in 1990. The Estimate is made up as follows—
Vote 19 — Office of the Minister for Justice
Vote 20 — Garda Síochána
Vote 21 — Prisons
Vote 22 — Courts
Vote 23 — Land Registry and Registry of Deeds
Vote 24 — Charitable Donations and Bequests
Pay, allowances and so on amount to 83.1 per cent of the total Estimates, and show an increase of 7.3 per cent compared with 1990.
I shall commence with Vote 20 — Garda Síochána. The 1991 Estimates provision for the Garda Síochána allows me to build on the achievements of 1990 in terms of maximising the number of gardaí on the street, and ensuring that the force have the resources they need to do their job of protecting the public from the wrong-doer.
When I became Minister for Justice, I made it my priority to provide the citizens of this country with the security they need to go about their daily business without fear for their person or property. To this end, I am taking all necessary steps to maximise the number of gardaí on our streets and roads, to release gardaí for operational duty by creating a much enhanced clerical back up and to ensure that the Garda Síochána have the resources and equipment they require to discharge their responsibilities effectively. The Garda Estimate for 1991 provides the necessary finance for a number of particular measures to give added support to the gardaí in their task of preventing and detecting crime. Provision is being made for the recruitment of 348 trainee gardaí this year so as to bring to 1,000 the total number of trainees to enter Templemore under the present recruitment competition. I have already announced a new Garda recruitment competition to take in a further 1,000 Garda trainees commencing in 1992. I want to take the opportunity of this debate to emphasise that the 1,000 recruitment programme that has been announced will continue as planned.
About 350 experienced members of the force are being retained by a temporary extension of the retirement age for gardaí, sergeants and inspectors. This extension, which I first announced in November 1989 for a three year period, is being extended for a further year, up to 31 December 1992.
In order to strengthen the management of the force, some 660 promotions in their ranks have been authorised by the Government since November 1989. These include the 252 promotions announced by me last December as part of my 1991 crime fighting package. Most of these have already taken place and the remainder will take place as soon as circumstances allow.
This year's Estimate will finance the appointment of 107 civilians to Garda offices so as to release an equivalent number of gardaí for outdoor duty. In all, 250 civilian staff will have been appointed by the end of this year to help return an equivalent number of gardaí to the work for which they were recruited and trained.
The 1991 Estimate shows significant increases over last year's provisions for office and police equipment. Among the current year's purchases are new computer and word-processing systems, new firearms training equipment, additional road traffic equipment to crack down on drunken driving and breaches of speed limits and new training equipment for the Garda college in Templemore.
This year's Estimate, will finance a number of Garda/community relations projects. For example, £55,000 is being provided to fund year long development programmes in the Killinarden and Ronanstown areas of Dublin. These programmes will be run in co-operation with the Catholic Youth Council and the Tallaght Youth Service and will provide support for youth activities as well as recreational, sporting and social events in the area.
Special provision is being made with the programmes for a counselling service for young people who may be at risk. There will be a particular focus on meeting the needs and interests of young travellers in the Killinarden and Ronanstown areas.
Recently, there has been a great deal of concern about the problems which crime presents to our community. Crime here reached an unprecedented level in 1983 when 102,387 indictable crimes were recorded. Since then the crime rate has been brought down considerably by a combination of Government action and effective Garda strategies. The provisional figure for recorded crime in 1990 was 87,658 — almost 15 per cent less than it was in 1983. In the same period, the incidence of many serious and appalling crimes has been dramatically reduced. I am pleased to say that the provisional figures for recorded indictable crime in the Dublin Metropolitan Area for 1990 indicate a reduction of 3 per cent on the 1989 figures. This follows on an 8 per cent decrease in recorded crime in the DMA in 1989 compared to 1988.
I am aware that tentative figures for the first five months of this year do show an increase in crime in certain areas. It would, however, be a mistake to seek to draw any conclusions about longer term trends from figures for such a short period and of course the Garda authorities have already put specific measures in place to counteract the kinds of crime which have shown an increase. These measures include the use of additional patrols and checkpoints, greater deployment of plain clothes surveillance units and the targeting of Garda resources to meet specific anti-crime needs. The Garda authorities are satisfied that these measures will prove effective in tackling crime problems. The authorities are paying particular attention to drug-related incidents which have given rise to concern in certain Dublin suburbs of late. I am pleased to note that the Garda have had considerable success in tackling this problem. The situation is, of course, being very carefully monitored and any further action needed will be taken by me and the Garda authorities.
The successes which have been achieved to date in the fight against crime do not of course, diminish the scale of the task still before us. We must constantly strive to find new and better ways of protecting our communities against crime. It was considerations such as these which led the Garda authorities to review the policing arrangements for rural areas. I want to take this opportunity to again express my concern about misleading comments reported in the media in relation to rural community policing and to again set the record straight.
The plan submitted to me by the Garda authorities is not, as some have suggested, a cost saving exercise. It involves substantially more, not less, expenditure on rural community policing. What it aims at is substantially improved contact between the gardaí and the communities they serve in rural Ireland. I want to get gardaí in rural, as well as urban, areas out from behind desks to do the job for which they were recruited and trained. Under the plan they will have more transport, new computer facilities, additional civilian clerical back-up, and will see the abolition of outdated record-keeping. For example, the number of forms to be filled at a Garda station will be more than halved from the present ridiculous level of over 60.
There will be no closure or downgrading of Garda stations. On the contrary, the plan, in fact, entails the renovation of rural stations and Garda houses, specifically to encourage gardaí to reside in the communities they serve.
These proposals would guarantee to the general public that their local station will be open during those hours it is officially due to be open. At present, the opening hours of rural Garda stations can be unpredictable, with many of them closed when the public expect them to be open. This is something I am determined to redress. Those who make a great play about the new proposals leading to severe restrictions in the opening hours of rural Garda stations might do well to inform themselves fully about the situation on the ground before making further inaccurate comments in this regard. From some of the comments that have been made on this subject, one might be forgiven for thinking that the ideal way to deploy Garda resources in rural Ireland would be to have gardaí in behind their desks in the station all through the day. I do not for one moment believe that that is what the sensible people who live in our towns and villages and outlying areas really want. A service to the public does, of course, have to be provided in the local Garda station itself for certain purposes, but often in smaller centres, the extent of the demand for that kind of service is quite limited, and could be very satisfactorily catered for by having the local station open at specific and guaranteed hours.
I consider it vitally important that expert advice received from the Garda authorities as to how rural community policing might be improved should receive full consideration, and I do not intend to be deflected from my examination of the plan on the basis of misleading comments as to what is involved. Of course, full consideration will be given to all the views that have been put forward, both inside and outside this House, before any final decisions are made. The Garda associations have already been given the opportunity to put their views to the Garda authorities and to me, and I can assure the House that I will weigh very carefully the views of all interested parties before finalising the new arrangements.
My major concern at this point is to reassure the rural community, some of whom — for example, the elderly — may have been unnecessarily distressed by the misleading and politically motivated statements which have been made, that the aim of the Garda plan is to make their communities safer from the activities of criminals and not the opposite. The aim is to devise ways in which the Garda service in rural areas can be improved. There is no hidden agenda in the Garda plans for rural policing and I deplore the irresponsible comments being made which suggest otherwise.
This debate gives me the opportunity to repeat the Government's commitment to ensure that every effort is made, with all of the means at our disposal, to combat the violence of the Provisional IRA and other paramilitaries. The activities of the paramilitaries have resulted in tragic human suffering. There are all too many people on this island who have lost husbands, wives, parents and children and many others who have been seriously injured.
As well as this tragic cost in human terms, the violence has cost us dearly in the loss of jobs, investment and opportunities. It is estimated that, since 1969, the Exchequer has incurred expenditure of over £1.5 billion on additional security costs arising from the troubles in the North. That is an indication of the lost opportunities which our society has had to endure as scarce resources were diverted away from areas of potential growth and investment to security. There are, of course, other losses which are difficult to quantify, such as lost revenue from tourism and lost investment by foreign companies, because of the unfavourable impact of the image of violence.
We know that the Provisional IRA have available to them large supplies of weapons and explosives. The Garda in recent years have made a number of seizures of considerable quantities of these munitions, and they are determined in their efforts to continue the searches throughout the country. Since 1988, over 670 firearms, almost 200,000 rounds of assorted ammunition, nearly 4,000 lbs. of explosives, as well as assorted incendiary devices, bombs and other military hardware have been seized. These seizures have undoubtedly contributed to the saving of lives and the Garda and indeed the Defence Forces who ably assist them, when necessary, are entitled to our appreciation for their good work.
In my 1991 crime fighting package, I announced the allocation of 50 additional gardaí to the traffic corps in the current year. I indicated that the Dublin traffic corps was to be increased by 28 and the remaining 22 were for other divisional traffic corps. These additional traffic corps personnel are now in place. At the same time I also announced that I had succeeded in obtaining additional funds to enable the Garda to purchase state-of-the-art equipment for traffic law enforcement purposes. Moreover the prosecution authorities had put in place new procedures for investigating and prosecuting drivers responsible for serious traffic accidents.
The stage was then set for a major traffic law enforcement campaign which had as its aim a reduction in the number of people killed on our roads. I announced that such a campaign was about to commence for the month of December which traditionally saw an upsurge in road accident deaths as a result of the festive season. The four weeks of December 1990 saw unprecedented traffic law enforcement activity by the Garda on our roads which, to judge by the results, clearly resulted in the saving of lives. By any standards, this was a spectacular success which was welcomed by all sections of society. I am glad to be in a position to tell the House that the increased emphasis on traffic law enforcement did not end after Christmas. In reviewing the Garda enforcement campaign over the Christmas period, the Garda authorities indicated to me their intention to maintain the Force's traffic law enforcement activities at a very high level throughout 1991 and beyond. This is exactly what has been happening.
Deputies on all sides will be glad to know that the downward trend in fatal accidents has continued into 1991. For the first five months of this year, road deaths are down over 20 per cent when compared to last year and injuries are down about 10 per cent on the same period. For the first five months of 1990, 193 people were killed on Irish roads. In the same period in 1991 the number of deaths due to road accidents fell to 153. As regards injuries, 3,405 people were injured as a result of traffic accidents in the first five months of 1990; in the same period in 1991, this figure was down to 3,066.
There will be no let-up in the Garda campaign to save lives on our roads, and I want to make this absolutely clear to all motorists. The Garda will maintain extremely high vigilance for drunken and dangerous driving. Lest anybody be in any doubt on that score, the Garda authorities have informed me that detections for drunken driving related offences are up by over 10 per cent in the first quarter of this year. The reduced incidence of road accidents is, of course, welcome also in that it must impact on the cost of car insurance. We will all be looking forward to tangible benefits on this front arising from the very fine work of the Garda in road traffic law enforcement and the excellent response of the public.
The Garda are currently preparing for a major drive against Dublin's illegal parking problem. As indicated in my 1991 law enforcement package, a second new car pound with the capacity to hold 300 cars will open at the corner of Parkgate Street and Infirmary Road in Dublin at the end of August.
I would like now to turn to a major development in Garda services for juveniles and community groups. I have already announced that increased emphasis is being placed on the juvenile liaison scheme and on community-oriented policing schemes such as the comGarda schools project and the community Garda scheme. In so far as the Garda juvenile liaison officer scheme is concerned, this year sees the implementation of the first major reforms of the scheme since its inception in 1963. The Garda juvenile liaison service was established to provide an alternative to bringing young people before the courts who had an early scrape with the law. It was set up with one sergeant and six gardaí. Gradually, over the years it was extended first to major provincial centres and then in 1981 to every Garda division in the State. The idea was that intensive supervision would be provided for young offenders following a formal caution by a senior local Garda officer. Today the scheme involves 83 members of the Garda around the country who are engaged on visits to these young people in their homes over a long period following the commission of an offence.
Following a review of the juvenile liaison service last year, I announced in December last my approval of certain recommendations made to me by the commissioner in relation to the operation of the scheme. These recommendations included the establishment of a national juvenile liaison office based in Dublin to oversee the operation of the service throughout the State — this office, which is now in place, reports to the chief superintendent in charge of community relations and its director is the superintendent in charge of the community relations/JLO section in the Dublin metropolitan area headquarters in Harcourt Square; reform of the reporting and supervision arrangements for juvenile liaison officers to ensure that the young offenders who require the greatest level of attention, encouragement and counselling are directly targeted; a more flexible approach to the duration of the period of supervision of offenders by juvenile liaison officers — young offenders require variable periods of counselling and support, depending on circumstances; from now on, JLO supervision will be more closely tailored to the needs of the young people concerned; as long as the child is at risk, he or she will receive visits from the juvenile liaison officer, but no longer; the two year supervision period which has generally obtained up to now is no longer being applied in rigid fashion; the juvenile liaison officer service to be worked on a seven day roster to allow for family visits in the evenings and at weekends; and special training to be provided for juvenile liaison officers. Members of the Garda who carry out this special work all receive a degree of preparation by way of training courses which cover the main elements of social work. The aptitude of the members of the force who seek to fill juvenile liaison posts is very much taken into account when they are selected. Nonetheless, it was felt that their preparation and training requires to be enhanced and deepened in the future and a new training course for these officers has commenced in the Garda college.
A feature of the revamped juvenile liaison officer service is the production of a manual of instructions involving a complete restatement of the aims and objectives of the scheme in the form of a set of guidelines. These guidelines set out the procedures for a new system of formal and informal cautions to young offenders, provide for new arrangements to ensure co-ordination of juvenile liaison officer procedures at national bureau level, and introduce a new information leaflet to the parents or guardian of a juvenile who has been cautioned under the juvenile liaison officer scheme.
To be included in the Garda juvenile liaison officer scheme an offender must be under 18 years of age, admit the offence, have not been cautioned previously or, having been cautioned, the circumstances are such that it would be deemed appropriate to administer a further caution, and have parents/guardian who must agree to co-operate with the Garda by accepting any help or advice about the juvenile's future, or where the parents/guardian fail to co-operate, circumstances pertaining to the particular case are such that the juvenile deserves the opportunity of availing of the benefits of the scheme. While the consent of the injured party is not a condition for inclusion of a juvenile offender in the juvenile liaison officer scheme, nevertheless their views will be considered.
Juvenile offenders who are admitted into the scheme will be dealt with in one of two ways — informal or formal caution. The formal caution will, as the title suggests, be a formal procedure and should take place in a Garda station. The caution will be administered by the district officer for the area where the offender resides. The following persons must be present, the offender, the offender's parent(s)-guardian, the juvenile liaison officer and the cautioning officer. At the termination of the caution, the parent(s)-guardian will be issued with a leaflet "Information to Parent/Guardian of a child who has been Cautioned" by the juvenile liaison officer. The informal caution will be given by the local juvenile liaison officer in the presence of the juvenile's parent(s)-guardian.
There is no question of applying the JLO procedure in the case of the more serious categories of offences other than those listed in relation to its operation. The instructions to gardaí list over half a page of offences which must in all circumstances be dealt with by the use of the formal prosecution process. There is no need for me to list all of these offences, but the House will not be surprised to hear that they include offences such as cruelty to children, dangerous driving, causing death, as well as various grave offences such as carrying firearms with intent, rape and so on. I want to emphasise there is nothing "soft" about the JLO procedure. It is recognised internationally that there is a need for a procedure for dealing with less serious juvenile offences which falls between the options of doing nothing at all and the more formal prosecution procedure.
The case for having such a procedure here has long been recognised. The JLO scheme, as I have said, has been in existence since 1963 and has proven its value. Recent developments in this scheme represent a response to the success of the programme by its enhancement throughout the country. The JLO scheme is a valuable part of the overall effort to tackle the vexing problem of juvenile crime while ensuring against an increase in risk that youngsters capable of being diverted from wrongdoing would become more resistant to authority, more cynical about the judicial process and that they would, as a consequence, eventually be lost to a life in crime.
Another important initiative taken in the area of Garda services for juveniles is the Garda schools project, which has enormous potential to influence youngsters for the good before they even become involved in criminal activity. Community gardaí based in the areas involved have been specially trained to take part in school room meetings with ten to 12 years old living in the area they serve. The schools involved have regular visits from the gardaí involved in the project. The youngsters involved are encouraged to develop an understanding of and support for the Garda's role in their community. A total of 16 schools, 14 in Dublin and two in Limerick are now involved in this Garda schools programme. Plans are at an advanced stage to extend the schools project further, and I will be making announcements in this regard before too long.
Over 120 community gardaí have been assigned in Dublin alone to community policing duties. This scheme is of tremendous benefit in providing communities with a more visible Garda presence, and putting the Garda in closer contact with the local residents. Cork, Limerick and Galway have also benefited from this programme which will be further extended shortly.
As I have said on many occasions, solving the crime problem cannot be left to the Garda alone. All sections of the community have a role to play. Effective crime prevention requires the full support and assistance of the community. The Garda are actively involved in promoting the use of crime-prevention measures as well as encouraging the participation of the public in community-based crime-prevention schemes.
The neighbourhood watch programme which was introduced in 1985 to enlist the voluntary help of the community to fight crime has enjoyed phenomenal success, and there are now approximately 1,070 schemes involving about 203,000 households in existence throughout the country. I am pleased to say that the business community are also contributing to the effort. Racal Chubb sponsor the very successful annual award scheme for the best neighbourhood watch and community alert schemes.
Very recently, the AMEV Insurance Company have sponsored the production and printing of an excellent reference manual for use by neighbourhood watch scheme co-ordinators. These are welcome initiatives and I hope that the future will see many more examples of the various sectors of the community getting together to help in defeating the criminal.
The rural equivalent of neighbourhood watch is the community alert scheme, which was initiated by Muintir na Tíre in co-operation with the Garda Síochána to combat the problem of attacks on the elderly in rural areas. Again, this involves the local community working in close liaison with the Garda to identify elderly people at risk, to visit them and also to be alert to any suspicious happenings in the neighbourhood.
Cowardly and often brutal attacks on the elderly members of our society cannot and will not be tolerated, and we must all do what we can to ensure such attacks do not happen. Muintir na Tíre and the Garda have devised an excellent scheme to help elderly people, and I would urge anyone who wishes to do something positive for elderly people and who can do so, to participate in these schemes and help to make our country a safer place for our elderly citizens.
I now want to turn to the Prisons Vote. The total net Estimate for the Prisons Vote exceeds the corresponding figure for 1990 by £9.997 million, an increase of 14 per cent. Part of this increase, £4.8 million, results from the transfer from the Vote for the Office of the Minister for Justice, Vote 19, to this Vote of the salaries and related costs of the staff of the Probation and Welfare Service. As the bulk of expenditure of that service relates to offenders, it was decided that it was more appropriate to include that expenditure in the Prisons Vote. The balance of the increase in the Prisons Vote reflects the need to provide necessary staffing and basic services for the continuing high numbers in custody and also reflects the Government's continuing commitment to the development of alternatives to custody, to the improvement of special services for those in custody, and to the upgrading of accommodation. I should now like to highlight the more significant increases.
The increase under Subhead A is £3.247 million or 6 per cent on the 1990 Estimate. It arises mainly to cover the cost of recruiting an additional 196 prison officers to deal with the growth in the numbers in custody, and to effect a reduction in the level of overtime expenditure. The average daily number of persons in custody now stands at an all-time high of 2,200, which is over 1,000 or 84 per cent higher than 10 years ago, and over 300 or 18 per cent higher than five years ago. The 196 additional staff will also facilitate the appointment of the extra 42 medical orderlies required to provide 24 hour medical orderly cover in all the closed institutions as recommended in the interim report of the Prison Deaths Advisory Group.
There are increases under sub-heads G1, G2 and G3 for the Probation and Welfare Service which, apart from covering the transferred costs of salaries which I have mentioned, will facilitate the furthere development of alternatives to custody, especially for young offenders. An extra 31 Probation and Welfare Service staff are being recruited to provide special intensive supervision for a significant number of offenders as an alternative to custody. The main cost associated with this programme is in Probation and Welfare Service salaries but, in addition, an allocation of £750,000, an increase of 341 per cent on the 1990 Estimate, is provided for the acquisition and renovation of premises for use as probation centres, including £300,000 for the establishment of drop-in centres in Dublin and Cork for young offenders. Moreover, a total of £1.634 million, an increase of 26 per cent, has been allocated for hostels, workshops and probation centres operated by voluntary bodies in conjunction with the Probation and Welfare Service.
The community service orders scheme continues to have the confidence of the courts, and a total of 1,246 persons were sentenced last year to perform work in the community as an alternative to being committed to custody. The scheme provides offenders with an opportunity to offer reparation for their crimes to the community at large. The scheme could not operate without the help of many voluntary organisations and groups and they deserve the highest commendation for their work. The allocation for the operation of the scheme has been increased by £2,000 to £340,000. This sum does not, of course, include the salaries of the Probation and Welfare Service staff involved in the scheme.
More than £8 million has been allocated this year for the provision of new custodial accommodation and for the upgrading and maintenance of existing older accommodation — more than £5 million for new works and £3 million for upgrading and maintenance of existing accommodation. This allocation will facilitate the construction of a new unit in Mountjoy Prison, which will provide accommodation and treatment facilities appropriate to the needs of offenders who are suffering from infectious diseases, including those who are HIV positive. Construction commenced in April this year and will take about 18 months to complete. The allocation also includes provision for refurbishment of the existing accommodation at St. Patrick's Institution and the Women's Prison in Mountjoy. Refurbishment of the first wing of St. Patrick's Institution is nearing completion and work on the Women's Prison is expected to commence shortly. Incidentally, in-cell sanitation will be included as a standard feature in all new work and the major renovation schemes. Other work relating to the upgrading of security, and to the improvement of facilities generally will also be undertaken, mainly in Mountjoy, Portlaoise, Limerick and Loughan House.
Extra resources are also being provided to maintain the level of educational and work training services for prisoners. A total of over £2 million is being spent on educational services, made up of £1.75 million for 123 full-time teacher equivalents which is paid by Vocational Education Committees and £325,000 for equipment and materials which is borne on the Prison Vote. A total of £732,000 is being spent on equipment and materials for work/work training activities that is, excluding staff costs which are included in sub-head A of the Vote.
These, then, are the more significant features of the Prisons Vote which reflect the Government's continuing commitment to maintaining a viable prison system and providing for the future. As well as making available sufficient secure accommodation for those sent to prison by the courts, the emphasis remains on providing a range of services which will not only continue to promote the health and welfare of those in custody but also assist them to turn to a crime-free life on release.
I am very conscious of the need to provide adequate space in the prison system in order to maintain the credibility of the criminal justice system and to assure the public that the prisons will play an adequate part in protecting them as far as possible from the depredations of certain criminal elements. Since the vast majority of sentences are necessarily of limited duration, however, it is not sufficient, in the interest of protecting the public, to simply lock up those convicted of crime and take them out of circulation. We must not lose sight of the need to look for more long term benefits to be derived from their stay in prison.
I have made it clear on many occasions that the prison system, of itself, cannot rehabilitate anyone, and success can be achieved only if a prisoner can be persuaded that there is a better and more satisfying existence than the life of crime. It is important, therefore, that prisoners should receive as much counselling as possible from all those involved in operating our prisons, but particularly from the welfare service, psychologists and medical personnel, and that they should be presented with every opportunity for education and work training so that they may acquire the necessary mental and manual skills to cope with a crime free life in the community.
Assistance in this effort from as many voluntary organisations in the community is invaluable, and I am glad to acknowledge here the contribution of the very many groups who provide a range of facilities outside the prisons, designed not only to steer young people away from the life of crime, but also to help ex-prisoners to return to the community. I plan to keep under constant review the adequacy and effectiveness of all the support services to ensure that we maximise rehabilitative efforts in the long term interest of the public.
In my comments on the Garda Vote, I outlined the many Garda projects designed to discourage crime and particularly to divert young people from a life of crime. This effort is complemented by the many alternatives to imprisonment which have been developed. It is universally accepted that while prisons must be available in the public interest for the worst offenders, it should be used as a last resort not only in the long term interest of the offenders but also of the public.
The scheme for intensive supervision in the community by the Probation and Welfare Service which I mentioned already is a new initiative in this direction. Apart from the clear benefits for the community, these alternatives generally involve a less expensive choice than prison custody which is an important consideration in these days in the light of demands for improvements in other social services. The thrust of overall Government policy in the penal area is to strike the right balance between provision of custodial facilities for the cases where they are needed and non-custodial alternatives for cases where they can appropriately be applied.
Looking now to the Courts Vote, I have broad responsibility for providing the services necessary to enable the courts to function effectively and this is reflected in the Vote. The Courts Vote for 1991 covers the usual range of provisions — from salaries and office equipment to courthouse accommodation and telecommunications.
The estimated net cost of the courts system in 1991, taking into accounts the gross current expenditure and the revenue which will accrue to the State through fines etc., is in the region of £10.5 million. I am anxious to ensure that the courts system has at its disposal the necessary facilities to enable it to continue to operate effectively.
In the limited time available I do not have time to list the various computerisation and other measures which have been taken. By introducing the Courts (No. 1) Bill and the Courts (No. 2) Bill, which have been passed by the Dáil and the Seanad, I have taken steps to ensure that our courts are made more accessible to the public. I have appointed two further High Court judges and more judges to the Circuit Court and the District Court. I have changed the appropriate levels of jurisdiction from £2,500 to £5,000 in the District Court and from £15,000 to £30,000 in the case of the Circuit Court. I have also announced the introduction of a new small claims procedure which will be set up during the summer in a number of pilot areas and, following a review in those areas, it will be operational in the rest of the country. A procedure in relation to small claims has been badly needed for many years and in the autumn I will be introducing a Bill to set up a court of civil appeal, which is also a very important measure. The present temporary judges will be made permanent.
I have had a review carried out of the Land Registry. One of the first things I did when I took office was to see what could be done about the backlog there. I announced it is intended to establish the Land Registry on a semi-State basis. In the meantime the backlog has been tackled by the provision of extra staff and by an increase of 18 per cent in funding. This includes the cost of 31 extra heads of staff in 1991, the majority of whom have been assigned to checking duties associated with the programme of computerisation of the abstract records at the Registry of Deeds, which is having an effect. I am happy to inform the House that the intake of dealings in the registry in 1990 increased by 1.4 per cent compared with 1989. The output of dealings completed increased by 28 per cent. An extra 20,332 dealings completed in 1990 saw the total arrears of dealings decrease to 50,624, which is still unacceptably high.
It is now 51,000—as from 5 o'clock yesterday.
This is the first time in some years that there has been a decrease in arrears and it is my intention to build on this achievement. I should like to pay tribute to the new registrar.
We have had more staff and law centres in relation to civil legal aid. The allocation in respect of the scheme of civil legal aid and advice is £2.483 million, which represents an increase of 15 per cent on the allocation for 1990. It is the second year in succession in which there has been an increase, which indicates the Government's commitment to it. Last year the board were able to take on a substantial number of solicitor and administrative staff to fill vacancies and this year there will be an expansion of the service, as already announced, by the opening of three additional law centres at Letterkenny, Castlebar and Dundalk.
This will, in turn, mean additional part-time law centres at other locations to be decided by the Legal Aid Board.
The board also proposed that one of the existing Dublin law centres should be closed and two new law centres opened instead at Clondalkin and Finglas-Ballymun. I have approved this proposal. These new law centres in the Dublin area will service part-time law centres in Blanchardstown and Balbriggan. These changes will mean that the board will have 16 full-time law centres and 25 part-time centres situated around the country. Their solicitor staffing will be at an all-time high of 40. I am considering the involvement of private practitioners in the provision of legal services under the scheme and I have requested the Law Society to examine the feasibility of such a development. I am awaiting their proposals in this matter.
The total cost of running the criminal legal aid scheme this year is estimated to be £2.95 million, including value-added tax and retention tax, which are recouped to the Exchequer.
The backlog in the Garda Complaints Board is being tackled by the provision of extra resources. Extra funding was made available this year and the backlog has now been reduced considerably. I want to see it reduced even further. There was a backlog of complaints of 750 last November and it is under 500 today, a decrease of about one-third in less than eight months. However, it is my wish that the backlog be cleared completely. It is interesting that the number of complaints has been reduced; of course it was expected that there would be a falling off in their initial number.
The Irish Association for Victim Support are doing an excellent job as a back-up to the work of the Garda. Members of the association, working on a voluntary basis, provide support and advice to victims of crime in the aftermath of what is for many of the victims a traumatic experience. In discussions which I had with them they suggested the provision of accommodation in the Four Courts and other courthouses where victims of crime could meet before and during court proceedings. I have arranged to make accommodation available in the Four Courts and in the new Dún Laoghaire courthouse which is being designed. Such a facility will also be provided in new courthouses.
I have indicated to the House where State resources within my control have been allocated. I hope I have made it clear that my first priority in the use of those resources is the protection of the citizen in his home, at his business and on our streets. I believe we can point to a high level of achievement in the use of resources and this House has my pledge that every effort will be made in the future to maintain and build on those successes for the benefit of all our people.
I welcome some of the statements made by the Minister for Justice, in particular those concerning the recruitment of another 1,000 gardaí. I also welcome the pilot scheme of a small claims court. As the Minister will know, there has been a call for such a move for some time. Such a court is necessary and it may go a long way towards alleviating some of the difficulties and delays in other courts. It is unfortunate in some respects that time does not permit a detailed discussion of the Minister's very elaborate statement. In some areas much needs to be done.
The Minister should take cognisance of a figure I find quite starting, that 2,200 people are held in custody. That must be a worry for all Members. The figure is 84 per cent higher than it was ten years ago. The position would warrant full examination by the Department of Justice and many other Departments. It is frightening if this is the number of people who shall require custodial sentences in the future. There are still problems. The Minister outlined in his statement the manner in which he is to tackle those problems. There will always be funding and staffing problems for the prisons. I urge the Minister to proceed as quickly as possible with the steps he has mentioned to remedy fundamental problems in relation to prisons, particularly those in relation to the women's prison. The facilities at the women's prison are well below the standard required.
I urge the Minister to implement the recommendations contained in the consultants' report on the Land Registry. Progress has been made in that regard, but there is a way to go. My information is that as of yesterday there are still 51,000 cases pending at the registry, which is a huge backlog. I realise work is on hand for the proofing of records prior to computerisation. The Minister did not make it clear in his statement whether the consultants' report had been accepted or whether the recommendations in that report are being worked on. Despite efforts by the Minister in the past couple of years, morale in the Land Registry is still low. As yet staff of the Land Registry have not read the consultants' report nor heard of the recommendations in it. I urge the Minister to inform Land Registry staff of what will take place. That would be in everybody's interest. The Land Registry is an asset to this State. It pays its way well and we should have it working in the most efficient way possible. I am sure every politician in the House is aware of the problems caused by delays in dealings with the Land Registry. We would all be spared an amount of work every week if the Land Registry operated on a more regular basis.
Gardaí throughout the country are stretched at present, and I welcome the Minister's statement that 1,000 extra gardaí are to be recruited.
I should like to mention the procedure under which the Estimates are being debated. I am at a loss to understand the reason for the withdrawal from the Estimates debate by the largest Opposition party. There is always a need for Dáil reform, and every politician has his or her own ideas on what reform is necessary and the way the House should conduct its business. The Government have a particular view and because of the Government's Executive functions obviously they are responsible to the House ultimately. However, I do not understand the idea of withdrawing from the debate because it did not suit the mood of the moment. Much of the business of the House could be reformed, from Question Time to the open-ended Second Stage debates, for example, during which Deputies may talk until until the cows come home. The budget debate is in need of drastic reform and, obviously, the latter day Estimates debate halfway through a year is not the most satisfactory way to conduct the business of the House.
All parties in the House have views on Dáil reform. The ideas should be put through the relevant committee and Dáil business rationalised. We are all charged by our constituents to get our business done in the most efficient way possible. There are certain times when debates have to be open-ended, and times when emergency debates are needed. There needs to be flexibility in relation to debates, but ultimately, we are accountable for the spending of public money. I understand that originally there was agreement by all parties that the Estimates be debated globally. There was concern about the amount of time allocated, but, in fact, the amount of time offered is much more than has been devoted to the Estimates debate in the past. That procedure may not be the most satisfactory way to discuss the expenditure of large tranches of public money, to have the Minister come in, pat himself or herself on the back and read out a fairly complimentary statement drawn up by his or her Department. There is much to be said for that being done earlier in the year before expenditure rather than halfway through the year when most of the budget is committed.
The committee dealing with reform should examine the whole question of the budget debate and the Estimates debate. I do not believe that either are in the best interests of the expenditure of public money. I make those statements from the point of view of trying to be helpful to the Ministers involved. Ministers, and their officials, do not hold all the wisdom in relation to the running of this country and in that respect many Deputies could be of assistance to Ministers in relation to priorities and to the spending of public moneys. More work could be done in committee. The House has experienced the very successful performance of committees in work carried out on the Child Care Bill and the Companies Bill. The Government should take cognisance of that.
Members face difficulties in trying to match up to the briefings available to Ministers by their Departments and their information on finances. Change is called for in that respect. Deputies should be entitled to more information from the Departments before debates such as this take place. In the Minister's interest, in the Government's interest and in democracy's interest, greater accountability should be brought into play. Notwithstanding that point, all parties have a duty to participate in the Estimates debate. This year the procedures for the debate on the Estimates are no different from procedures followed in my ten years in the House. If anything, more time has been allocated to the debate. It is not the most satisfactory way to do business, but until all parties sit down to consider what reform is necessary we should participate and not abrogate our duties as a party in the House. All parties should be here to go through the Ministers' statements in detail.
The Estimates in general leave the position of the Government — Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats — quite exposed in relation to budgetary strategy at this time of the year. The Government are presiding over the biggest budgetary miscalculation of recent years, certainly since they economised on economic and budgetary truths in the 1981 budgetary figures. The Government have outshone themselves in their cynical and contemptuous attitude towards the public they serve. The inappropriate decision of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds, to not come before the House in the past few weeks to list spending cuts or options aimed at averting an overrun in the budget was a mistake. Members are denied the opportunity to participate in the debate with all the facts and figures.
The Dáil is going into recess and the Government, knowing they face major problems, are not prepared to come into the House to discuss the issues. Effectively, a certain amount of charade is taking place in that we are debating Estimates prepared last October, and part of the budget of last January, at a time when the figures have become irrelevant because of the miscalculations made by the Minister for Finance despite numerous public economic commentators stating at the time that the figures were wrong, that they would not stand up and that the growth forecasting was totally out of line with what was in the markets at the time.
The local elections are out of the way. The Minister for Finance is now about to introduce a series of cutbacks and these will obviously, to say the least, put a question mark over the Government's commitment to essential public services. If the Government decide to pursue a policy of cutbacks in health, education and the environment, obviously their memories will have to be refreshed in relation to recent times.
The Minister for Finance, with the co-operation of the two parties in Government, is preparing to engage in a sleight of hand yet again in relation to the budgetary figures. All the signs are that the £250 million from the sale of Irish Life will be used to bail out the Government, to cover up the mistakes which are now evident and to present a picture at the end of the year that is very far from the true economic situation. If the proceeds from the sale of Irish Life are squandered in a once off cover-up of the true economic position, it will represent the greatest financial scandal we have seen.
We should not be surprised that the Government sometimes described, usually by themselves, as the best Government in the history of the State have succeeded in polarising Irish society in its cynical approach to the concept of Government accountability. In the last year this has been manifested by the Government's complacency in relation to many serious issues, in relation to the Goodman affair, the Gallagher case and the Taoiseach's proposed Temple Bar. The Labour Party played a major role in highlighting the flaws and dangerous aspects of this particular Bill. It contains the genesis of a very substantial conflict of interest and, indeed, if the powers in the Bill were put in the wrong hands, the seeds of corruption on a grand scale would be planted. Apart from the issue of conflict of interest, there is the potential for corruption. There are very serious question marks surrounding the constitutionality of a Bill of this nature. We often wonder why the public view public life with cynicism and indeed contempt and when this Government ignore the concept of accountability it is no wonder.
The Government illustrated their concept of accountability in their response to our recent Private Members' Bill on ethics in Government. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds, stated that legislation governing the disclosure of interests by public representatives was totally unnecessary. Disclosure of gifts to Ministers and political parties he described as irrelevant. The Minister's claim that such legislation is unnecessary, greatly alienates us from our European partners and from regulations of public life in European states and might suggest that there is something to be hidden. The reputation of this Government has been pulled to ribbons.
The money from the sale of Irish Life should and must be used for new investment in the economy. We were told early in the year that under no circumstances would the money from Irish Life be used to correct the books if what was then being forecast and is now taking place should come to pass. If we are selling off our assets to pay for current spending, it would be financial mismanagement of the State and there must be some people in Government who do not want to see that. The Leader of the Progressive Democrats himself called this sort of thing a fraud on the people. It would be a total waste because once the money from Irish Life is realised by the Government, once Irish Life is sold and the money has been spent, it cannot be sold again in another year.
The Government have been warned on many occasions about this sort of spending of public money. At the time of the budget many warnings were issued to the Government in relation to their projections on the basis that they were quite simplistic and incorrect. The estimate for economic growth was too high and the allowances made for unemployment were to small. It is amazing to see in the last number of weeks that it is now accepted by the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and his Government colleagues, that the figures are out of kilter. Nobody, however, seems to offer any explanation. Nobody seems to offer an apology about the basis on which the calculations were carried out last January.
At the time many people in this House with some experience of government and of budgetary figures, at least questioned and wanted reassurances and tried to warn the Minister for Finance that there were serious dangers inherent in the budgetary figures. We were dismissed. We were not taken seriously by the Minister for Finance who knew everything, whose figures were right. He said we would not have any problems and that growth would be as he predicted. He was not even allowing for the possibility of miscalculation or errors.
Obviously there are certain things that cannot be forecast but on this occasion all the signs were staring the Minister for Finance and the Government in the face. There would be serious problems before mid-year because of various world events. The Minister for Finance and his Government chose to ignore those and I believe it showed serious misjudgment on the part of the Minister for Finance and the Government in their budgetary figures for 1991.
The Government talk continuously about an economic miracle. If what we are living through is an economic miracle, God help us if we are around when there is economic difficulty. Perhaps the economic miracle we are talking about has something to do with the moving statues of some years ago, but it has contributed nothing to economic growth. We have seen some pay restraint in recent years and increased productivity, but who is benefiting from any aspects of the economic miracle? I do not believe the workers are benefiting nor are the unemployed. We have the highest number of unemployed in the history of the State and they are not benefiting, nor are the people waiting in hospital queues or those looking for public housing. Some people at the top appear to have benefited from the Government's policies.
The ESRI medium term review confirms what the Labour Party have been saying. Without a fundamental change of policy the growth in our economy will be of little benefit to the quarter of a million people plus who are unemployed. Instead the growth will continue to drain the economy in significant measure in the form of repatriated profits and investment abroad. There is nothing in that for the Irish economy. In fact, many of the policy instruments available to address the crisis of unemployment in the medium term are steadily being dismantled by this Government. Exchange controls are gone; risk capital is being decimated and investment in training and education has been sharply cut back in recent years. At the same time this Government are committed, it appears, to a helter skelter approach to European Economic and Monetary Union without any serious consideration about where that will lead our unemployed people.
Europe has no employment policy. This must be patently obvious to the Ministers involved in the various ministerial groupings in Europe. It has no industrial policy and Europe has failed primarily in relation to job creation.
The funds available for equalising economic structures throughout Europe are far too limited. The result is that if the pace of EMU continues the disparity between regions in Europe will increase rather than decrease with Ireland, along with other peripheral countries, suffering badly and lagging far behind European standards in the central European countries.
That is why we in the Labour Party have demanded that Ireland should be ready to use its veto over EMU — to say we are prepared to take the process of integration no further unless and until consideration is given to the high unemployment that we have. There are 16 million people unemployed throughout the European Community countries with Ireland's unemployment rate standing at a staggering 16 per cent.
At the next Intergovernmental Conference on EMU the Irish Government should and must ensure that employment is put firmly on the European agenda. The Taoiseach should be told to take enough copies of the ESRI review with him to the European Summit in Luxembourg so that he can give one to every Head of Government there to let them see that economic growth is of very little intrinsic value unless policies exist to translate growth into jobs and wealth that can be retained in a growing economy. Needless to say, he should also point out what the report is saying in relation to the Government's efforts and failures which have to be recognised and dealt with in relation to their economic planning.
An aspect of worry I have relates to the Government's attitude to Europe, the Government's attitude to developments taking place in Europe which is just like the Government's attitude to the agricultural debate which has been happening for the last 12 months, but until about 10.45 p.m. last Tuesday the Minister Deputy O'Kennedy and his colleagues were unprepared to take up the challenge. For the last 12 to 18 months Opposition parties in this House have been trying to impress upon the Minister for Agriculture and Food and his colleagues that action had to be taken in advance of the detailed announcements by Commissioner MacSharry. Unfortunately Commissioner MacSharry has set the agenda firmly now and we are trailing in his wake. We will be trying to catch up with that agenda for the next six to 12 months. Unfortunately, the markers have been firmly laid down by the Commissioner and Irish agriculture will lose. If the Government do not take an aggressive approach towards EMU and European integration the same will happen again. We will not get our point of view on the agenda. The Taoiseach certainly did not impress on the other Heads of State at the last meeting the serious difficulties facing this country.
Unemployment has been acknowledged, reluctantly, by the Government in the past number of weeks. It is the biggest problem facing the country. It would be an obscenity if the Government's plans to address a current budgetary over-run were to be implemented by another so-called voluntary redundancy round. We had that in 1987. Many people were made redundant in the public service and many of them are back working in the public service despite having taken redundancy, because the Government quickly found out that essential services could not be provided by a scaled-down operation.
The 250,000 unemployed people and the 60,000 school leavers can have little hope in the Government and their policies if the Government continue to implement the redundancy package they have been implementing over the past number of years by making 10,000 or 12,000 people redundant during the recess. Any employment strategy has to start from a perspective of giving priority to maintaining existing employment. It is rather cynical on the part of the Taoiseach to call in the semi-State industry heads to talk about job creation when most of the semi-State industries have been shedding jobs left, right and centre for the past number of years and are battling to hold on to jobs. An Post are an obvious example. The Taoiseach has called them in to talk about job creation when they have on the table plans to shed hundreds of jobs. One wonders what future this holds out for job creation.
The Government will have to make choices between tax cuts, essential public services and jobs. I hope the ICTU will indicate their total opposition to the use of financial inducement by the Government to individual public service employees to sell their jobs in the light of the current unemployment crisis. Redundancy is a sad, short term solution. If people who over the last four or five years availed of redundancy had the choice again 90 per cent of them would take their jobs back in order to provide for the long term security of their families.
Essential public services are already operating a skeleton service. The health service cannot afford further cutbacks. Waiting lists will grow longer due to the new concept of temporarily closing wards in July and August. It is a new concept that operations are not to take place during those months. I was not aware that one could decide to have one's appendix out in September or October. I thought that if the problem arose one needed treatment. It would appear, on the directive of the Department of Health and the various health boards that surgery will not be carried out during July and August where possible.
Health care must be regarded as a fundamental basic right and should not depend on whether one can afford it. Unfortunately the Government's policy in relation to health care is discriminating more and more against people without the financial resources to buy health care when they need it. People on low incomes are finding it more and more difficult to secure access to health care. The Government have a range of reports at their disposal — the Kennedy report, the Foxe report, the report of the Commission on Health Funding. However little has been done to implement the recommendations. Decisions on principle have to be made by the Government and the basic principle should be that access to health care must be provided for the people. Then the Government must take steps to give effect to that principle. I wonder if the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition Government really consider health care to be a basic human right, because their record in relation to cutbacks in the health services over the past three to four years does not give any credence to their belief that health is a basic human right.
Over the past few months the Minister for Health has been telling the health boards that he wants to provide the level of service that was provided in 1990. For most of the health boards, just to take account of inflation if nothing else, that requires extra funds and the money is not forthcoming from the Department. If the Minister genuinely wants to provide the same level of service that was provided in 1990 and 1989 he must provide the extra money. Otherwise, he should have the courage to tell the health boards they will not get additional resources and that if they cannot provide the appropriate level of service, so be it. Extra resources have not been allocated so far. The Minister cannot have it both ways. He cannot tell the health boards to provide a service without giving the additional financial allocations. In terms of political honesty it would be better for him either to provide the resources or tell the health boards they are not getting any more resources. Then at least they could get on with the business of running the health boards.
Other areas under the ambit of the Department of Health have severe problems. The Rape Crisis Centre, for instance, has been in the news recently. The allocation of £10,000 is considered to be far too little by the people who run the Rape Crisis Centres and it has been described as an insult by others. To add insult to injury, I understand that the allocation for this year has not yet been paid and these people are in dire need of financial and other assistance. The Minister should at least give them the allocation for this year and let them try to make do. We are half-way through the year and there is not any sign yet of the allocation for 1991.
Serious problems exist in the area of mental and physical handicap. I am not sure if the Minister realises that his allocation to mental handicap this year will go nowhere near solving the problems in relation to residential places for people with physical or mental disability. The review group has reported to the Minister and I would urge him, if the Executive of the State — as the Taoiseach said this morning on the Order of Business — continues to function during the summer recess, to keep that report as one of his priorities.
We are facing serious problems. I regret the Government have not seen fit to come before the House and take the Opposition parties, at least those of us who have stayed for the debate, into their confidence in relation to our serious problems. The Cabinet will obviously have to make serious fundamental decisions affecting public expenditure, employment and unemployment. It is regrettable they did not use the last two weeks of this session to have that debate in this House. We are looking at the prospect of 300,000 people being unemployed but the Taoiseach was not able to give us an up-to-date forecast in relation to the numbers which the Government are now being supplied with from the Departments of Labour and Social Welfare, which will obviously be a severe drain on the resources of the State for the remainder of 1991. If the Government persist in making the least possible information available to the House, in not coming before the House and sharing the difficulties, they will not have the co-operation of the Opposition.
At the end of the day all politicians in this House are charged with trying to stop the increasing unemployment, trying to get people back to work, trying to improve the economy. All the economic difficulties are not of the Government's making. Some are, and some are international. We all have a role to play. If the Taoiseach and the Government want the co-operation of the Opposition parties they will have to change their style of Government; they will have to come before the House with all the information. The Minister for Finance should have done that much earlier this year in relation to spending and to the fall-off in tax revenue and then we would have had a more serious debate. All the wisdom is not on the Government side of the House, despite the services provided for them by civil servants. Members on this side of the House also have a contribution to make. The Government are minimising these contributions and that is not in the best interests of this country which is facing very serious economic problems. In many respects it is hard to believe this House will not function until 16 October in relation to those problems. Obviously it is in nobody's interest that unemployment and our economic difficulties continue to increase.
TheProgramme for National Recovery, in which the Government put so much faith, will now have to be reviewed.
This means that the Government's economic programme is way off line and the Government parties have to review the programme for Government. A great deal of the programme for Government agreed by both parties when the Government was formed has never come before this House, and I wonder if it will ever see the light of day. So far as I can detect, there is no enthusiasm among Fianna Fáil Ministers in relation to the proposals for reform made by the Progressive Democrat Party on the formation of the Government. As time goes by, I wonder if there is much enthusiasm among Progressive Democrat Minister for the reform which their party sought in 1989 before they agreed to go into Government.
The Vote for my Department proposes that a sum not exceeding £131.834 million be granted to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ended 31 December 1991 for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, including certain services administered by that office and for payment of certain loans, grants and grants-in-aid.
The Estimate for the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications has shown a continuing fall over recent years, down from £145.5 million in 1987 to under £132 million this year. This represents a decrease of about one-fifth in real terms in the Vote. This drop has been due to tighter controls on expenditure and increased revenue in respect of services, particularly in the air transport area.
Government strategy of the past few years has been based on a number of fundamental policy points: first, the requirement and determination to have lower public borrowing; second, improved competitiveness, mainly through moderate pay increases; and, third, strict adherence to our obligations in the EMS. The latter point is not often highlighted but nevertheless it has been an important and central ingredient in Government strategy over the past few years and has been of considerable benefit. All of these strategies are crucial to the development of the individual sectors of the economy.
I know my colleague, the Minister for Finance, will wish to respond to some of the points made by Deputy Spring, particularly those in relation to EMU and the privatisation of Irish Life. A recent edition ofThe Economist placed Ireland as the fifth best performer in the developed world in terms of the performance of the economy. In view of our high level of unemployment this judgment on the state of our economy by this very respected and highly thought of international economic journal is good news.
As Deputy Spring said, the Opposition parties have a role to play in improving our economy. I would welcome any ideas they can put forward in this regard. The Government would be very wise to listen carefully and sift through any ideas put forward by the Opposition in regard to unemployment as all our efforts will be required to solve this problem. However, I want to say to Deputy Spring and the Opposition generally that a simplistic policy of low tax and high spending will not work. That strategy was tried before without success. Obviously we will run into difficulties if we pursue that course of action.
As I said, Government strategy over the past few years is crucial to the development of the individual sectors of our economy. I wonder how many of us are aware of the international perspective involved in the level of emigration. Four or five years ago 45,000 to 50,000 people left Ireland every year to seek work in the UK, the USA and elsewhere. That figure is down to 1,000 this year. In addition to providing jobs for our increased workforce, the population generally and the students leaving our schools, the Government also have to provide jobs for returning emigrants.
As Deputy Spring rightly said, the employment difficulties which we are trying to resolve are not all Irish-led; many of them have been caused by the recessions in the UK and the USA. To put it simply, people who were happy in the past to gain experience in, for example, the USA before returning home to work do not now have that option. There is now an unprecedented demand on the economy to provide employment for these people, a pressure which, quite bluntly, no Irish Government in modern times have had to deal with. This demand is unique, intense and urgent and the Government are doing their best to meet it. They will avail of any offer of support to them including that today from the Labour Party, in particular.
The tourism, transport and communications sectors can offer a lot in this area. These sectors are at the cutting edge of the economy. Together they account for 17 per cent of our gross national product and sustain 13 per cent of total employment in our economy. State bodies are playing a very important and leading role in these sectors. They now employ some 50,000 people and have a turnover of £2.5 billion per annum. Therefore I am serious in saying that these sectors are at the cutting edge of our economy, and the figures are there to support this.
Almost all of these commercial State bodies have to operate in a fiercely competitive environment. Most of them have accepted that competition is a fact of life. However, I want to say to those State companies which have not yet had to face competition or meet consumer demands that they must get ready for this as they will not be exempt from such competition and demands. State companies have always responded excellently when faced with competition. There are plenty of examples to prove this. For example, when RTE were faced with competition from private radio and television companies they responded magnificently. They maintained their standards, met the competition face on and performed very well. Aer Lingus have also reacted positively to competition in the aviation area. I will refer to this in more detail later. All State companies initially fear competition and its implications for employment and the future of their companies. I understand this reaction but competition in every case has led to more choice for consumers and State companies have performed better and more enthusiastically all round. I want to say to these companies that competition is a fact of modern life and there is no place for monopolies in the Ireland of the future. I know that companies accept and welcome that message as it will take the shackles off them and enable them to compete in a real commercial sense rather than having to cope with the difficulties of State bureaucracy around their necks.
With regard to aviation, the Government policy continues to pursue the liberalisation of the regulatory environment within which airlines, including our own carriers, are required to operate. To put it simply, this policy on access, to get people to and from this island by air or sea, is of critical importance to an island economy. It is important that we continue to develop those links. This policy is designed to encourage the development of a soundly based air transport industry to compete effectively with foreign carries and provide regular and reliable air services to and from Ireland at the lowest economic cost. We have made every effort in recent years to maintain a policy of low air fares and have been very successful. Unfortunately, pressure is being brought to bear to have these fares raised. I am trying to resist this but the Gulf War, which led to enormous pressure being put to increase the cost of oil, presented us with many difficulties. It is still our policy to have low air fares to and from Ireland. I am conscious of the fact that ours is an island economy and low air and sea fares are of critical importance in developing the economy. It is important to bear this fundamental philosophy in mind when developing access transport.
During our Presidency of the European Community early last year substantial advances were made in the aviation sector. We pushed through a package of air liberalisation measures in an effort to open up the skies, to permit more airlines to fly to more places and to cut through the red tape which, unfortunately, is a feature of the aviation industry. It is now, arguably, the most regulated industry and there is an urgent need to deregulate it in an effort to allow it develop in a freer environment.
I would like to inform the House today that for the year ending 31 March 1991 our national airline, Aer Lingus, expect profits of £6 million, down from £37 million in the previous year. I want to take this opportunity to compliment the management and staff of the company for the fine job they have done in very difficult circumstances. Despite having to complete against international competition, they have managed to maintain their international reputation and image. This was no easy task given the fierce competition in the aviation sector today. Once again, I compliment the management and staff of the company.
Like most other airlines, as one can see from the profit figures I have just announced, Aer Lingus have been going through a very difficult period and they have responded by bringing forward a blueprint for recovery. While the drop in profits from £37 million to £6 million is both disappointing and worrying, given the difficulties encountered it was, nevertheless, a good performance by international standards. There is hardly an airline who, during the past six months, have not shed a large number of staff, sold off aircraft or retrenched. Indeed, many airlines in the United States and throughout Europe have gone into liquidation because of the fierce recession in the aviation business which was brought about initially by the Gulf crisis, the corresponding oil crisis and other pressures. In addition, many people in the United States in particular and in Europe in the aftermath of the Gulf War were afraid to travel. In those circumstances it was a highly creditable performance by Aer Lingus to return a profit. This would not have been possible were it not for the skill of the management on their non-aviation activities. There were substantial losses on the aviation side but they did very well in their ancillary activities.
Let me say to Aer Lingus today that this blueprint for recovery which does not entail any forced redundancies is the minimum necessary and must be implemented in its entirety. The element relating to cost control must be adhered to. There is no room for anything other than full compliance with the blueprint for recovery. As I understand it, the trade union movement — and I thank them for this — are co-operating fully and I wish them every success. I hope this is a temporary set-back and that the airline will get stronger in the years ahead. I also want to encourage the airline, as I did formally when I attended a board meeting recently, to seek out strategic alliances. It is important that they do not continue as an island company. They should seek marketing arrangements and alliances with other airlines which would be of benefit to them in the future.
The TEAM project at Aer Lingus opens an exciting new chapter in Irish aviation. A new £35 million maintenance hangar has been completed. The staff strength in TEAM is currently approaching 2,000, including over 450 new recruits and they expect to take on a further 300 people in the next year or so. Airmotive, another Aer Lingus subsidiary, have entered into a joint venture with Pratt & Whitney, a world leader, on the repair of jet engine cases. This project involves total investment of £24 million. Approximately 65 people are currently working on this project and this number is expected to rise to 300 by the end of 1994. I wish everyone associated with that project every success because this is the kind of project Ireland needs as it will give Aer Lingus credibility, a high profile and an image in the modern business of aviation maintenance.
The provision in the public capital programme for Aer Lingus is up £16 million on the 1990 outturn of £150 million. The bulk of 1991 expenditure, £101 million, will go on the acquisition of new aircraft. Already this year the airline have taken delivery of four Boeing 737s and two Fokker 50s. This brings to 22 the number of new aircraft delivered since 1987 at an overall cost of $602 million. It is important to bear that figure in mind: since 1987 Aer Lingus have purchased new aircraft to the value of $602 million. This is an indication of their confidence in the future and I thank them for it. They now have the most modern aircraft, highly trained staff and determined management available and I know that they will do well. Aer Lingus are financing their fleet programme from a combination of own resources and borrowings and without recourse to the Government for equity.
Aer Rianta have been a substantial beneficiary of this liberalisation. Passenger traffic has grown by 90 per cent during the past five years. Employment in the company grew by almost one-fifth between 1987 and 1990, from 1,976 to 2,300. In addition, average employment in the Great Southern Hotels is 380. Aer Rianta's annual contribution to the Exchequer has virtually doubled from the £10 million realised in 1987 to £18 million this year. That is the direct contribution by our airports to the Exchequer and is a very fine performance indeed. They intend to make further progress in the nineties in developing competitive, high quality airport facilities to cater for increasing passenger demand up to the end of the decade. Funds will come from a combination of Aer Rianta's own resources, borrowings and EC funds for a £116 million investment programme.
In addition, a further £18 million will be invested in the Great Southern Hotels which Aer Rianta purchased in November 1990 as part of a strategy to develop additional revenue sources. I am pleased to announce to the House that employment in the Great Southern Hotels is planned to increase by 100 between 1990 and 1993. Aer Rianta also expect employment in their overseas activities to double to almost 350 over the next three years.
Aer Rianta are now a major engine of growth and are increasingly a catalyst for developing the economy. Their international work, particularly in the Soviet Union, has been an example of which we can be very proud. They have a strong board of directors and a very good workforce and they are working out a strategic direction for the future. I recently met the directors and asked them to develop the company even further and to create new employment opportunities. They have undertaken actively to seek out new directions and new business.
The Government do not wish Aer Rianta to be static. We wish the State companies to grow in the context of meeting competition and finding and developing new opportunities as they have done so successfully in the past. Far from any lack of commitment to State companies, I am fully committed, as are the Government, to their continuing development, for their own benefit and that of the people.
Investments totalling £18.6 million over the next three years have been approved for the six regional airports at Sligo, Carrickfin, Galway, Connaught, Farranfore and Waterford. Half this funding will come from the ERDF and half from local sources.
I would remind the House of my full commitment to the development of the regional airport network, which can do much to enhance the economy. I appeal to the management of these airports not simply to deal with existing business but to develop new markets. They need to win business from new airlines. It is not sufficient to rely on Aer Lingus and Ryanair. It is not enough to leave it to the Government to provide funds to develop these airports. Management must come up with sound business propositions and must be determined to win market share in what is a fiercely competitive business.
Air traffic congestion has been a considerable problem throughout Europe, mainly because of a lack of adequate planning and investment during the eighties. As a result of our re-equipment programme at the State airports, in terms of equipment and facilities, we are now on a par with the best that Europe has to offer. We have just completed a major programme of investment in air traffic control equipment and it is as good, if not better, than that found at any airport in the EC. A new capital programme is being prepared which will ensure that our facilities continue to be of the highest standard and in line with developing technology.
I am also considering currently a radical departure in the way that the Irish air navigation system is operated and managed. Proposals envisage that the Air Navigation Services Office of my Department would operate as a fully selffinancing organisation in which a very clear voice would be given to the airline companies. I believe that ANSO as a commercial, independent entity, while continuing to meet the highest safety standards, would provide users with a high quality service at a competitive price. I hope over the next few weeks to be able to make a substantial announcement particularly regarding the capacity of air traffic control to earn revenue and provide employment.
The grant to CIE of £109.6 million is the single biggest expenditure item in my 1991 Estimate. It is a reduction of £4 million in the 1988 figure, representing a drop in real terms of over 10 per cent. The Department are actively encouraging CIE to reduce their dependency on the State through a combination of cost reductions, innovative marketing strategies and optimum utilisation of group resources.
EC assistance has been sought for a number of rail projects including new rail freight gantries at Cork, Dundalk, Limerick and Sligo and the provision of a commuter rail service between Clondalkin and the city centre, subject to studies.
I admire greatly the dedication of the staff of CIE and the hard work of their management. This State subsidy will have to be reduced in the years ahead — it amounts to £2 million a week of taxpayers' money to subsidise the railways and buses. I am not arguing that public transport can be self-sufficient. A level of subsidy, particularly on the railway side, is essential and probably always will be, but the current level is quite difficult for a small country to sustain. Over the past five years more than £500 million have gone to CIE to develop public transport. Just think what we could do in regard to taxation or how we could spend that money in other areas such as health, education, social services and industry. I am not arguing that none of this subsidy is necessary, but the downward pressure which I have applied must continue. We must have a level of subsidy which the taxpayer can afford. CIE understand that message clearly.
I have also been encouraging wider public debate on transport options for Dublin city. This capital city requires to develop a modern transport system which will stand it in good stead in the next century. I have established a high level expert group to advise me on the development of a city-wide light rail transport system. I want the group to examine quickly the financial and technical feasibility of such a system. Any system would have to be phased in over a number of years and it would have to be integrated. I do not want anad hoc transport system. I want an overall plan within which we will start to develop and build on a phased basis. Without pre-empting the report of the high level group, I have a strong personal preference for proceeding with a city-wide light rail transport system, perhaps commencing with the old Harcourt Street line, the Tallaght line, the airport line and so on, and building it up over a period of years.
I must emphasise that I do not have the funding available for this proposal. I am lobbying the EC and I have invited the private sector to come forward with proposals. The private sector played a very important role in developing our road network, particularly the East Link and the West Link bridges. It used to be said that one could not involve the private sector in this area but that has been disproved. I am offering the private sector a joint venture arrangement with the Government to help me to develop as a matter of some urgency a transport system, perhaps a light rail system, for the Dublin city and county area as soon as is practicable. I will continue to work along these lines with the group I have established and see how funding can be located for such a development. I also welcome and encourage public debate in this area.
I expect the Government to consider proposals which I will put to them shortly concerning increased competition in the bus industry. A Bill is at an advanced stage of preparation which will provide for significant liberalisation and will facilitate an expanded and more cost effective range of public transport services. I will have more to say about that when the Bill is presented to Government, but I regard it as a radical measure which I hope will receive widespread support.
Arrangements for the sale of the B & I shipping line to the Irish Continental Group are now at a very advanced stage. Extensive consultations have taken place with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and with representatives of the B & I group of unions on matters relating to the sale.
Let me be clear about this. The Exchequer has put more than £100 million into B & I over the past ten years or so. On top of all this, this year again the Exchequer has had to guarantee a further £8 million in borrowing to keep the company going pending the sale to the Irish Continental Group. Between ships, capital investment and current investment very substantial sums of money would be required to retain the company and keep it in operation. I want to make it clear to everybody involved with the decision to sell the B & I to the Irish Continental Group that this sale simply has to go ahead. In my view it is the best possible deal I can negotiate for the future of the B & I. It gives them a chance to have a future and to be part of a strong, new Irish shipping company. I urge everybody involved in the deal to take it as quickly as possible. As I have said, and I repeat with all the authority I can summon, I simply cannot guarantee that the B & I will continue in business if this deal does not proceed. The alternative to the deal is extremely bleak for the workforce and for everybody involved with the B & I. The sale presents a golden opportunity now for the B & I to get together with their new owners, the Irish Continental Group, to develop a strong Irish shipping company who can compete internationally, and to do that as a matter of some urgency. To hold up the sale or to postpone it in any way will only lead the company into more difficulty. I could not guarantee that the company would continue in business in those circumstances. Certainly I would have very few options indeed and I do not even want to consider some of them.
Having said that, I want to salute the B & I workforce. In fairness to them, over many years of sacrifice with plan after plan being put to them, they have bitten the bullet and have responded to those plans magnificently. I know it has not been easy. There have been sacrifices and the B & I workforce have suffered considerably but I have to deal with the situation as I find it. I am absolutely convinced that transferring the company from the public to the private sector is the right thing for the company and the workforce and it gives them the opportunity now to build together a new Irish ferries company to meet competition internationally. I will give that new company every possible support available to me to ensure they go from strength to strength. I would like to see this deal concluded as quickly as possible.
I express my thanks also to the management of the B & I who have led the company very succesfully over many years in very difficult circumstances.
The Government have been very keen for some time to obtain EC funding in order to stimulate private investment in improving our access transport services. Following a detailed examination, the Government have identified a number of urgent shipping investments in both the lift-on/lift-off and roll-on/roll-off shipping sectors. In recent weeks I have lodged a package of investment proposals with the EC Commission seeking to secure EC financial support for private investment in shipping. I will continue to use all means at my disposal to advance Ireland's case for support in this area. I have been to Brussels recently and met two Commissioners. I put to them the Irish Government's very simple philosophy which is that our seas are our roads, our seas are our railways, in the sense that when they are supporting developments between France and Germany, France and Italy or cross-national developments they tend to support them in the roads area or the rail area throughout Europe. It is not possible for us to have those kinds of links because of our seas, therefore we make the argument that the EC Commission and the EC institutions will have to support the Irish Government in their determination to provide funding for mobile assets for ships for access transport facilities. We have started that campaign and we will not let go until we are successful with it. Support for Ireland's access transport policy is a matter of urgency.
In the tourism area 1990 results showed yet another upswing in the industry with overseas visitors surpassing the 3 million mark for the first time. Irish tourism is now bringing in over £1 billion in foreign revenue, equivalent to almost 7 per cent of our total exports. Altogether the tourism sector, including the growing home market, is now worth £1.5 billion. It is a major source of job creation. In the past four years employment sustained by Irish tourism has grown to around 80,000 people, up by about 16,000 on the 1987 figure and tourism will continue to create approximately 5,000 jobs per annum. Let me say that is the target we set ourselves. We have been delivering on that in the tourist sector and we will continue to do so.
Let me take this opportunity to thank publicly my Minister of State, Deputy Denis Lyons, for his excellent work for tourism since he took up office with our Department about two years ago. He has performed extremely well in helping us achieve the figures I have outlined.
The £420 million tourism investment over the three years of theProgramme for National Revovery has been a key factor in our success. We are in the middle of a £300 million operational programme for tourism which will show unprecedented investment in the industry over the next couple of years. Indeed, as I have said often and will say again, in the four year period we are putting more into the Irish tourist industry in the way of capital and investment than we invested in the industry in the past 30 years as a whole. This will continue to be reflected in the additional numbers of tourists coming to the country. With the ending of the Gulf crisis tourism has picked up appreciably and we now stand to reap the benefits of the extra £2.5 million plus marketing which the Government and the industry, with EC assistance, put in earlier this year to respond to the situtation in the Gulf. I expect 1991 to be better than the 1990 season, and 1990 was the best year on record for Irish tourism. I do not believe we will reach our target figure of 15 per cent increase but I believe it will be better than last year, and if you are better than your record year that is something to be hopeful about. Irish tourism is investing, marketing and growing.
Regarding broadcasting, greater competition and deregulation is by no means confined to the transport sectors. Recent years have witnessed a complete change of emphasis as to how broadcasting is regulated and who may operate broadcasting services in Europe. No longer is broadcasting the exclusive domain of the State or of State agencies. We have opened the doors to legitimate competition in broadcasting with the passing of the Radio and Television Act in 1988 which set up the Independent Radio and Television Commission. Today, in addition to the RTE services, there is a national independent radio service, there are 22 independent local radio services employing over 600 people, and negotiations are continuing between the IRTC and the promotors of TV3 regarding the establishment of an independent television service.
The legislation governing the relationship between RTE and the independent broadcasting sector in the advertising market came into force in October 1990. I am keeping its operation under review to be satisfied that it is effectively achieving Government objectives in the area. I have recently been engaged in a round of talks with all interested parties in the broadcasting area and I have discussed with them the Broadcasting Act and the whole question of Irish broadcasting. I have met the advertisers, the newspapers, the film industry, RTE and a number of the local private stations and private sector national interests. I will have more meetings on this and when I have completed those and am fully briefed I will be in a position to make a judgment on how effective or otherwise the Broadcasting Act is or has been. As I have said on many occasions, as with all legislation you look at it very carefully, see if it is working and make your decisions when you have completed that process. That is what I am doing at the moment.
RTE themselves are in a healthy financial position, achieving a surplus of £6.6 million in 1989. In 1990 they sold 50 per cent of their shareholding in Cablelink and as a result were able to repay all outstanding Exchequer advances, over £16 million.
Deputies are aware of the nature and extent of An Post's financial problems, which I outlined to the House some weeks ago. They are well documented and I do not intend to go into them in any great detail, except to say that talks are going on. I wish those talks well. I have said many times that the An Post's plan is not cast in stone. So far as the Government and I are concerned, any set of proposals will be acceptable provided they return the post office to a breakeven point without operating subsidy, provided they seek to generate additional revenue and lessen the impact which they consider may be felt in certain areas. I have referred part of this plan to consultants and as soon as I hear from them I will make decisions on the matter. The post office simply must come back to financial health and get back to a breakeven point without operating subsidy and any set of proposals will be acceptable to me provided those principles are accepted by management and workers in the post office. I am available, as I have been for months, to both sides to discuss and tease out how best we might meet these objectives. I am not prepared to stand aside and watch the unwarranted dismantling of the postal service throughout Ireland for what might be very small, short term gains. I invite all concerned to continue to work to find a solution to this problem.
Telecom Éireann set out their financial performance this week and it was very impressive. They have shown increased profits and an increased dividend to the Government. Turn-over has increased and investment has been increasing also. However, there is still a debt of over £1 billion on the Telecom Éireann balance sheet which is a dangerously high sum and it is a matter of some urgency that they move to reduce that debt as soon as is practicable. They have been reducing costs but there is a lot more to be done in that area. I have told Telecom Éireann that I wish to see a steady reduction in telephone charges in the months and years ahead. They have reduced telephone charges by 20 per cent in real terms between 1986 and this year but there is more to be done.
The company put proposals to me some months ago in the area of timed calls. They proposed that there be five minute timed calls in local areas, but I was not able to agree to that. I told the company I would agree to 15 minute timed calls at peak times and 30 minute timed calls at off-peak times. That has been accepted by the company and will be put into force next January. I regard that as sufficiently delicate and sensitive, taking into consideration the old and, more importantly, those who need the telephone.
I thank the House for considering this Estimate. The areas of tourism, transport and communications are major growth areas in the economy. As Minister in charge of these areas of activity I do not regard them as administrative areas but as engines of growth and as opportunities for additional revenue and employment. I thank everybody associated with these companies and with my Department and the Minister of State for their support since last year's Estimate was discussed.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Ryan.
Is that agreed?
I am not so sure. The Deputy did not agree to our sharing time.
I never objected to the Ministers sharing time. Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
My brief is education and I intend to spend most of my time on that subject. However, everybody must refer to unemployment and emigration when speaking on issues in the House, and I will say a few words on those matters at the outset. The unemployment figure is rising rapidly and is expected to rise further this year. The Taoiseach has told us in the last few years that this is the greatest Government in the history of the State, that they are bringing about the right climate and the right environment for private enterprise to create thousands of jobs and end the scourge of unemployment and emigration. What is supposed to be the greatest Government in the history of the State has left us with rapidly increasing unemployment. There has been a temporary down-turn in emigration this year due to recessions elsewhere. However, if the economies of the United States and Britain pick up, unfortunately our young people will take to the boats and planes again in rapid emigration from this country.
We must ask why are we so different from everybody else, why is there massive emigration and huge unemployment and why we have never been able to approach anything near full employment as other modern economies have been able to do? Even the most high-tech economies, as in the case of Japan, are able to achieve full employment, but we have been told for some years that we will never again have full employment.
I have said since coming into this House in 1982 — we have been saying it for many years — that private enterprise has failed dismally to create indigenous industrial infrastructure since the State was founded. It was a recognition of this fact in the thirties by Seán Lemass that led to the setting up of the semi-State companies, particularly commercial semi-State companies. Private enterprise was unable to develop industrially in this country and, therefore, many highly successful semi-State companies were formed such a the Irish Sugar Company, Bord na Móna, the ESB, Aer Lingus and so on. Many of the successful companies have been in the semi-State area.
The Workers' Party have no intention of talking about nationalisation of private enterprise because there is nothing in private enterprise worth nationalising. At one stage the banks were worth nationalising but they have allowed their greed to overcome their management capacity. Through their excessive greed they are destroying themselves. The State sector must be looked at by any Government who wish to create jobs. The Government say it is not their responsibility to create jobs, but nobody believes that except the Government. People elect them to do things such as create jobs and ensure they are maintained. Every citizen is entitled to a job and, therefore, the Government have a responsibility to ensure that that entitlement is met, whether through the private sector or public sector. They must accept that responsibility.
As regards developing this country industrially, private enterprise has played no part whatsoever. I will give simple examples. The Federation of Irish Employers talk about keeping people in education for longer periods, others talk about training schemes, job sharing schemes and so on, but nobody talks about industrialisation in new areas.
If one takes a trip down the country one will see that the country is white with sheep. We have never had more sheep in the history of the State. I asked questions last week about sheep and I discovered that the number of sheep has increased from 5,595,000 in 1987 to 8,690,000 in 1990, a huge increase. When the Government talk about sheep they talk about mutton or lamb but, fortunately, sheep produce wool and nobody pays the slightest attention to it. We have huge amounts of wool but we have no woollen industry. We used to have a woollen industry and many worsted mills. We used make worsted suits from our own wool and we had all the processes for wool.
The number of sheep exported has risen from 89,000 in 1987 to 242,000 in 1990. The number of sheep skins exported has risen from 2,500,000 in 1987 to 4,800,000 in 1990 and all our wool is exported to the extent of 11 million tonnes in 1990. We import 4.5 million tonnes. The point I am making is that we have a huge potential industry and private enterprise is not the slightest bit interested. For wool exports of 11,700,000 tonnes in 1989 we received £20 million; for less wool, for 11,690,000 tonnes in 1990 we received £12 million. Not alone are we exporting all our wool, our sheepskins and our sheep but we are exporting them at possibly the lowest price in the world. That used to be the price of wool in the sixties. We have the cheapest wool in the world — millions of tonnes of it — yet we have not one entrepreneur willing to do anything about creating jobs by establishing a woollen industry. I give that as one example, another example can be taken from the beef sector.
We have no tanning industry. We export all our skins and import all our leather. I give them simply as examples. The same applies in regard to lead and zinc which I repeat every year. In 1989, 341,000 tonnes of raw ore was exported and there were no jobs created except for digging it out. Unless we are prepared to create jobs from our own resources we are wasting our time bringing in multinationals to give us some extra jobs. The main point I wish to make about jobs is that unless the Government get their act together and ensure that, instead of having a handful of people — probably not more than 12 — in total control of our wool trade from which they made £20 million from exports up to last year, apart altogether from sheepskins, the wool trade is developed, industry created and jobs provided in that area — the same applies to our other natural resources — we will continue for generation after generation with high unemployment.
I wish to turn to Education. I have, on previous occasions, dealt with the enormous cutbacks in Education since 1987. Whatever about the greatest Government in the history of the State, the Minister for Education will be remembered by thousands of parents and pupils as being the worst Minister for Education in the history of the State because of the effects the cutbacks have had. The Minister may have agreed willingly to these cutbacks — we do not know — and certainly there were huge cutbacks in the Department of Education. The cutbacks, the blame for which rests with the Minister for Education, have deprived many children of a decent education, first by overcrowded schools, the lack of remedial teachers, the ending of the guidance councillor scheme and the ending of the school psychological service. Those matters were of particular benefit to the disadvantaged areas.
I wish to inform the Deputy that he has 15 minutes left. If the Deputy is sharing his time with Deputy Ryan there are 15 minutes left to share. The Minister will be called to conclude the debate at 3.30 p.m.
I want now to deal with the school building programme and the capital allocation in Education in which there have also been cutbacks. There have been cutbacks in all areas of development in Education, which were promised some years ago. The demographic statistics prove that these developments are needed. A number of RTCs, second level schools and primary schools are required throughout the country.
I will begin with the primary school sector and refer to my constituency where 1,200 children travelling in more than 40 buses, leave the Cherry Orchard area every morning from that disadvantaged area to attend six different schools and return every afternoon. Pupils from the same family attend two or three different schools. No school has been built in Cherry Orchard. Parents must pay £2.50 per pupil for that transport to the nearest school and in some cases up to £3.50 for others. Disadvantaged families are paying £8 or £9 per week for school transport for two or three children. The parents have no jobs and there are no schools or amenities for their children. The parents must pay to have their children transported to school each morning. The Minister who has saved £5 million or £6 million is not building a school there should, at least, allocate £1 million to assist in the transport costs of 1,200 children to school.
In my constituency in the new town Blanchardstown there has been agreement with the Department of Education for the past six or seven years that two secondary schools are required in that area. Sites have been purchased and all that is needed is a nod from the Minister for Education, as soon as she gets the nod from the Minister for Finance, to proceed with the building of the schools. The attitude of the Department of Education, and, I presume that of the Minister, is that these children can be spread over all the schools in the city.
Three new satellite towns were to be built in Dublin, planned at Government and local authority levels. They were to be three, separate satellite towns — not suburbs — of 100,000 each, with their own town centre and were supposed to be independent. Blanchardstown was one of the areas involved. Will the Department and the Minister look at the new town of Blanchardstown when assessing the need for schooling in that area? It should not be associated with Dublin and an insistence that pupils travel as far as Leeson Street to attend second level schools. If they are serious about satellite towns, all Departments must concentrate on this matter. The town must be built in accordance with the demographic statistics in the area and we must ensure that it is integrated with its own second level schools and regional technical college.
The Labour Party feel that the current mechanism for discussing Estimates is totally inadequate. There is a real need for change in the Dáil to make a meaningful difference to the needs of our constituents.
Fine Gael, for their own reasons, did not participate in this debate. They should have expressed their views in relation to the Estimates and they will find it very difficult to explain to the electorate why they did not. I welcome elections because that is when we hear the fears and needs of the people we represent. We do not have many opportunities to do that and the Estimates debate is one opportunity to put our views to the Minister. We are told that this Government are the best in the history of the State, they may think so but the public do not perceive them in that way.
I am spokesman for Defence. The Minister for Defence originally intended to allocate a specific sum this year but obviously the Minister for Finance told him it had to be pruned. The allocation of £7 million for maintenance of barracks was cut to £5 million. The cutbacks are very obvious when you look at sleeping accommodation in many of the barracks throughout the country.
Further pruning will have an even more devastating effect. The Gleeson report is gathering dust on a shelf because the finance required to implement the basic recommendations in the report will not be provided. If we are trying to encourage people to join the reserve Defence Force, it is incumbent on the Government to say what we want of our Defence Forces and to provide at least some of the allocation required for personnel of the Permanent Defence Forces and the FCA. I hope the Minister will take the recommendations of the Gleeson report on board and provide at least some of the money required.
I am gravely concerned about first and second level education, in some areas our children cannot get into schools. In my constituency in Swords, for example, which has a catchment area of 30,000 people there is a dual day school system in River Valley, an area with 2,000 houses, to the detriment of the children's education. There has been no planning in this area because of the lack of finance.
Fingal community college has little or no open space or play area for over 600 children, which is a scandal. Something must be done in this regard because people's needs — and those of their children — have been taken for granted for too long. The Estimate for Education does not meet those requirements.
The housing crisis is not acknowledged by the Minister. Last February the Minister brought all the chairmen of councils and corporations throughout the country to the Custom House, it was a PR exercise in relation to the provision of housing. There was supposed to be a programme which would deal with the needs of the homeless. Regrettably, five months later, the documentation which would implement certain aspects of the programme has not reached the Department. Indeed, legislation would be needed to implement the programme. The Minister was trying to con the people; over 1,300 applicants in my constituency are in need of housing. The Minister said he had the solution to the problem but of course he does not.
The vast majority of people cannot take up the offer contained in the shared ownership scheme because, according to the 1989 figures, 75 per cent of applicants were earning less than £6,000 per year. We are still awaiting the statistics for 1990 which the Minister will not release. How could people earning that kind of money make mortgage repayments? Let us be realistic, let us meet people's needs, let us provide houses, let us bring in a realistic programme and let us be honest with the people.
I wish to refer briefly to the Health Vote and the delays experienced when trying to get into a hospital. Last week I was visited by a man suffering from a heart complaint who had been assessed for hospital admission. He rang for an ambulance and an ambulance arrived, but it was not a special ambulance. When he arrived at the hospital a different ambulance was pointed out to him and he was told that that was the ambulance he should have travelled in but that it had not been available because of a dispute. Because of a lack of finance an ambulance that might possibly have been required as a life saver was not available for use the day it was needed.
I should like to mention a dispute in the dental system that has been brought to my attention. It is incumbent on the Minister to ensure that dentists working under that system are paid within a reasonable period. It is completely unacceptable——
I have to advise the Deputy that he is now taking up the time of the Minister.
It is important that I share my information that the Eastern Health Board delayed more than three months in making payments to the dentists who work under that scheme. I hope that measures can be taken to ensure that the Eastern Health Board pay those dentists on time.
The Government have failed to meet the social needs of the people. I hope they will take to heart the lessons of the recent local elections.
May I first say in response to the issues raised by Deputy Ryan that this Government are providing more money to the health services than has been the case of any other Government in the history of the State? It is not for the Government to deal with small management problems; that is the responsibility of management people in the various health boards who allow such things to happen. If such incidents occur in the treatment of patients they are to be condemned by all of us.
This debate on the Estimates has been both interesting and novel — interesting for the range of topics covered and viewpoints expressed as well as for the rhetorical skills and fervour of certain contributors. The novel aspect of the proceedings lay in the fact that so many Deputies chose not to contribute to this important debate.
A number of speakers criticised the timing of this debate. They argued that the year was half over, half of the money spent and that, in any event, the Estimates now being passed would become irrelevant due to expenditure adjustments likely to be made shortly by the Government. Such a line of argument serves only to mislead the public and misrepresent the true position.
The first half of the year is a particularly busy time for the Dáil and, indeed, the Seanad. We begin the year with the budget which is then debated extensively with many Members of the House contributing. Around this time also, the Social Welfare Bill must be debated and enacted before the start of the PRSI year on 6 April. The House also devotes considerable time and energy to discussions of the Finance Bill and its many and complex provisions. There are inevitably many other demands on the time of the House by way of urgent legislation or motions put down by both Government and Opposition Deputies.
It is true that we are now into the second half of the year and that about half of the proposed annual expenditure has taken place, but this is in accordance with the express intentions of this House as enshrined in legislation. I am referring here, of course, to the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act, 1965, which authorises the Minister for Finance in every financial year to issue out of the Central Fund and make available in respect of any supply service, up to four-fifths of the previous year's appropriation of that Vote.
Accordingly, it is by no means an unusual occurrence to find that it is well into the financial year, and even sometimes well into the second half of the financial year, before the Estimates are considered and passed by the Dáil. Moreover, the vast bulk of Exchequer expenditure is of a routine, recurring nature and is backed by statutory provisions. Given this fact, the Dáil does not devote and pass the Estimates on a line by line basis. In fact, it just notes Part I of the Estimate, the ambit, together with the net Vote allocation.
The debate on the Estimates is valuable in facilitating a wide-ranging discussion on the activities of the Department or office in question and highlighting any new or unusual features regarding the particular Estimate. Such a general debate has taken place in this House under this motion — though the number of contributing Deputies was lower than usual, due to some unavoidable absences — so the prerogative of the House in regard to the Estimates has not been undermined.
I must also touch briefly upon some constitutional considerations affecting discussion of the Estimates. Some Deputies have proposed referring the Estimates to a committee for detailed analysis or that Deputies generally should be free to put forward amendments to the Government's published Estimates. It is the prerogative and responsibility of the Government of the of the day, under the Constitution, to propose expenditure through the Estimates. I would refer Deputies to Article 17.2 pf the Constituton which states that:
Dáil Éireann shall not pass any vote or resolution, and no law shall be enacted, for the appropriation of revenue or other public moneys unless the purpose of the appropriation shall have been recommended to Dáil Éireann by a message from the Government signed by the Taoiseach.
This constitutional position is reflected in Dáil Standing Orders, which stipulate that the motion on the Estimates shall be decided without amendment. The Dáil's responsibility is to either adopt or reject these spending proposals in their entirety.
To have it otherwise would reduce the Estimates volume to a discussion document and, if extensively amended by the Dáil, would leave the Government in the intolerable situation of having to implement and be accountable for spending proposals and programmes which were not part of their own priorities. This would also seriously undermine the ability of the Government to manage the public finances. No budget could be properly framed in such a situation, and no man knows that better than the present Leader of the Fine Gael, Deputy John Bruton, who has spoken about Dáil reform.
I have already set out in my opening contribution to this debate the factors which have led to the emerging overrun of £200 million on the 1991 budget target for the EBR. The detailed analysis I provided then demonstrates very clearly that the slippage off our targets has arisen under a very few heads and for reasons that are readily identifiable. For the most part the drift can be put down to the fact that the international downturn has been much worse than could have been foreseen in the very uncertain climate at the start of the year.
Put very briefly, social spending had to increase to pay for an exceptionally sharp shift in the migration trend, which nobody forecast correctly. Certain areas of consumption tax revenue have been depressed because the influence on us of international developments have been rather worse than anticipated. This year's developments are, of course, part of what economists would describe as the normal cyclical pattern of economic growth and the signs are that a resumption of growth is coming. We should avoid talking ourselves into a depression or misrepresenting the situation as a crisis, which it clearly is not.
I can assure the House that there is no question of any loosening of the overall discipline which has underpinned our successful performance to date. Having reduced the annual Exchequer deficit by four-fifths in nominal terms, from £2,145 million in 1986 to £462 million last year, and to less than one-sixth of its 1986 level in GNP terms, from 12.8 per cent to 2 per cent of GNP, accusations of fiscal irresponsibility are baseless and bordering on the hysterical.
The timing of the budget slippage is unfortunate as it is taking place in the very year when a planned increase in public sector pay is being put into effect. I would be the first to admit that there are genuine concerns on this front. I mentioned some of them in my opening speech. I referred to the fact that perhaps it was time to look at the systems, the traditional relativities and so on through which public service pay is determined, but let us not forget two things.
First, it must be remembered that basically the public service pay bill derives from the level of services — health, education, welfare, security and so on — which we as a caring democratic society decide to provide for our citizens. The pay bill is therefore not a soft option for me or for anybody else when unforeseen problems develop in the public finances. Those who cry to heaven about the bill seem to have no problem in isolating it as a kind of abstraction divorced from the labour-intensive services from which it derives. There is a fair degree of dishonesty in this approach and it is about time a bit more realism came into the coverage of this whole topic.
Second, let us not forget what has been achieved in recent years by way of containing costs on this front. When I became Minister in November 1988 I was faced with a very substantial accumulation of deferred special pay increases which are dealt with through the conciliation and arbitration system. We faced up to this in 1989 and through discussion and negotiation agreement was reached with the Public Services Committee of ICTU on a phased implementation of these increases. The effect has been that these increases have been spread over a period of more than three years. The benefits to the Exchequer and therefore to the community from this have been very considerable. Those who are now so keen to criticise should at least be honest enough to acknowledge what we have achieved over the last three years. At the same time let them acknowledge the contribution made by the union side in bringing about this situation.
It is ironic that the success of our strategy over the last three years is now to a large measure the source of much of the current criticism. We succeeded in having heavy cost liabilities postponed but inevitability the day comes when the full cost has to be met. This is reflected in the 1991 pay figures. It is unfortunate that this coincides with the emergence of other unforeseen liabilities but, as I have said, we should not let that detract from our achievements on the cost front since 1988.
Commentators and critics can indulge in the luxury of being selective in what they decide to cover. My canvass has to be much broader than that. I have to search for a balance between the needs of the public finances, the requirements of the public services themselves and the need to secure the interests and morale of the people we employ to provide those services.
How that balance is struck at any particular time depends on the circumstances prevailing at the time. That is the brief I have worked to. That is the brief which shaped what we achieved in the years since 1988. That is the brief I will continue to work to.
While dealing with public service pay, I might just say a few words on the related topic of public service numbers.
Reference was made to Appendix B of theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress as leaving “room for the Government to reintroduce a programme of redundancies”. This is to misunderstand the purpose of the Appendix which is to provide a mechanism for dealing with problems which may arise if and when staff in an area of the public service are surplus to the requirements of the employing organisation. It is not a mechanism to make staff redundant. In fact, it specifically mentions other methods of dealing with surplus staff such as redeployment, career breaks etc. The objective is to avoid compulsory retirements by providing for discussions by a monitoring committee representative of public service unions and management.
I would like to deal with the criticisms which have been made both inside and outside this House that the economic growth forecast of 2.25 per cent underlying this year's budget was in some sense grossly optimistic. Certainly this is a novel criticism of the Department of Finance's forecasts which have usually been criticised in the past for being unduly conservative.
The fact is of course that the Department's budget-time forecast for GDP growth of 2.25 per cent was not — I repeat not — out of line with other forecasts which had been published around that time. For example the ESRI at that time were forecasting 2.50 per cent; in other words slightly more optimistic than my Department. The EC Commission in December had predicted 2.25 cent growth for Ireland, the same as the Department's forecast. Many private sector forecasts published immediately before the budget were broadly similar to my Department's forecast or only marginally less optimistic. For example, Goodbody's Stockbrokers published a January forecast of 2.2 per cent for GDP growth, virtually identical with my Department's figure. Solomons Stockbrokers forecast in January was 2.1 per cent, again only marginally lower than the official forecast. Davy's Stockbrokers immediate pre-budget forecast was for 1.75 per cent GDP growth which they revised upwards — yes upwards — to 2 per cent immediately after the budget.
There are many others which we could go through if we had the time such as the OECD at 3.2 per cent at budget time, the ESRI at 2.50 per cent, the EC Commission and the Central Bank each at 2.3 per cent, the EIU at 2.1 per cent and the Allied Irish Investment Managers at 2.1 per cent. It is interesting to see what has happened since. With every month that passes some of them bring back their forecasts but the only forecast that we can afford to make is one for the whole year. We do not have the luxury of a licence to be able to change it every month.
Of course, the broadly similar assessments of overall output growth obscure differing estimates for the components of that growth. Such differences can have budgetary implications. If I had based my expectations about tax revenue and unemployment expenditure on the least favourable independent assessment made at budget time, would that have captured the shortfall which now appears to have emerged? The answer is that it would not — not by a long shot. The various independent forecasts do not provide all the details necessary for precision. However, there is enough transparency to make a fair estimate. The least favourable independent assessment of economic prospects around at that time implied tax revenue lower, and unemployment-related expenditure higher, by a total amount which varies from my budget projections by less than £100 million. That is round about half the overrun now foreshadowed. On the other hand, the estimates of the international agencies — admittedly made before January — suggested an Irish economy better than the one on which I predicted my budget.
The budget was prepared at a time of exceptional uncertainty about prospects for the world economy and I said so at that time.
The Gulf War was in full swing. Oil prices had shot up from $20 to $40 per barrel over the previous five months and then come back down again to $28 in early January and fell further to around $20 just before the budget. The international forecasts for growth in our trading partners on which we were relying were based on an assumed average oil price of $29 in 1991. In framing the budget we made an assumption that oil prices would average closer to $25 this year; however we made it crystal clear at the time that we were assuming that the associated beneficial effects of lower oil prices would be offset by the greater uncertainty then prevailing. Experience has indeed borne out the wisdom of that prudent assumption.
Forecasts for growth in many of our major trading partners have had to be revised downward significantly since the start of the year. Growth forecasts have been reduced for the UK, the USA, France, Italy, Canada, Australia and even for Germany and Japan.
Most of my colleagues in the EC are also having to grapple with similar problems of projected budgetary overruns this year because of all forecasts having to be adjusted downwards.
The forecast for average growth in the EC has been revised down to 1.4 per cent compared with 2.25 per cent. In the UK output is now projected by the Commission to decline by more than 2 per cent compared with the rise of 0.75 per cent the Commission predicted in December.
It goes without saying that the weaker trend in growth abroad has an adverse impact here. This is inescapable. But it is interesting to note that none of the recent independent assessments I have seen is forecasting anyting like a decline in output here. Indeed the most conservative I have seen still envisages output growth of 1.3 per cent; the ESRI last month predicted 2 per cent; the Central Bank in May predicted 1.75 per cent — as did the EC Commission also in May. Less than two weeks ago Goodbody's Stockbrokers predicted 1.6 per cent. And last but not least, on Wednesday of last week — 3 July — the OECD in Paris published a forecast of 2.25 per cent growth for Ireland in 1991 which as it happens is identical to my January forecast. This is despite the reduction in growth prospects for our trading partners to which I have just referred.
The OECD are more optimistic than I or other domestic forecasters would be now. It is extremely interesting and note-worthy that a highly respected international team of absolutely independent economic forecasters should be publishing this forecast of 2.25 per cent growth in 1991 for the Irish economy at this time. Those who accuse me or my Department of irresponsibility in basing this year's budget on a similar forecast should look at the facts. I make no apology to anyone for basing this year's budget on a forecast which was within the range of the best advice of independent domestic and international economists at the time.
We are not in recession. Consumers have certainly become more cautious this year, at least where expensive purchases are concerned. This has had a disproportionate impact on tax revenue — which we have to live with in the budgetary context. Second, the altered migration pattern has increased the numbers on the live register. These factors do not, by any means, suggest that the fundamental health of our economy is in question. As a member of a Government who have presided over the real progress that has been made, I am glad to say the impact of the international downturn has been lessened by the increased share in world markets which we have been able to secure through the cost and other competitive gains that Irish industry has made in recent years. Independent judgments agree that output will grow by between 1 and 2 per cent this year. This achievement, in a very difficult year, shows how far we have come in a very short period, and is a matter of which we should all be proud. It also provides very real evidence of the potential we have for growth when the international economy picks up. The international experts, the OECD and European Community forecasters, agree that the recovery should begin during the second half of this year, and strengthen through the first half of 1992.
Given the economic context in which the slippages from budget targets have occurred, and the relatively limited extent — both in size and scope — of the emerging overrun, the Government could have argued that it was not necessary to take remedial action this year. Much of the interest that the overrun has aroused is due to the mere fact that it has occurred at all; any drift away from the Government's budget targets is nowadays very unusual, to say the least. The public have become used to end-year out-turns which outperform the budget targets. I will not reiterate here our record in this area over the four years 1987 to 1990. That stands for itself.
The Government do not accept that, as a nation, we can afford to sit back and wait for the economic environment to improve. That attitude contributed in no small way to the building up of the over-hang of debt on which the servicing costs alone still pre-empt over 9 per cent of our gross national product each year. That attitude could lead to a perception among the international community that we had somehow lost our way, and could have put at risk the many benefits that have flowed from our real achievement in turning a critical situation into a sustainable and orderly improvement in the public finances.
That attitude might have introduced doubts about our commitment to a stable exchange rate policy firmly located within the narrow-bank ERM countries, and might have undone some of the very real progress we have made in reducing our interest rate differentials with other countries. Two days ago, the differential with the Deutschemark had reduced to 0.6 per cent. There is no 2 per cent differential as Fine Gael might suggest.
It is irresponsible of the Opposition parties to call for more and more expenditure on practically every front. That would certainly mean a return to the bad old days of rampant inflation, widespread overruns on departmental allocations, unsustainable budget trends and general uncertainty, all of which combine to erode the confidence that is so vital to investment and the creation of viable self-sustaining jobs. The Government, of course, do not take that attitude. We will not let matters drift.
The £270 million that will accrue to the Exchequer from the Irish Life flotation will not be presented as compensating for the overruns. I made it quite clear in my Budget Statement that although they will serve to reduce substantially the eventual EBR for 1991, these proceeds had not been taken into account in the budgetary arithmetic. The budget performance should be judged without reference to the once-off benefit of a capital receipt of this magnitude. That remains the position.
Neither will we turn to the superficial option of increasing taxation to bridge the gap. That was attempted in the mid-eighties by the former Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government and that policy singularly failed, raising all level of taxation up to unsustainable levels, and it made a bad situation worse. In our particular circumstances this year it would have merely depressed already fragile domestic consumption trends and would have been at odds with the whole thrust of the policy which has been so successful to date, which is to secure progress by controlling expenditure and reforming the tax system while reducing the burden of taxation.
As to the contention that widespread modifications to published Estimates are shortly about to be announced, this is very wide of the mark. Any slippagevis-à-vis our budgetary objectives is, a matter of serious concern to this Government.
It is accepted by all informed commentators that it is not practicable for us to recover all of the ground that has been lost at this stage of the year. To the extent that expenditure can be brought back on course this year, our first concern will be to ensure that Departments generally stay within their published allocations and, where possible, offer some savings to help offset overruns which are unavoidable such as in the social welfare and health areas. This hardly amounts to the fundamental recasting of the published Estimates as suggested by some Deputies — nor is such major surgery required at this time. Nevertheless, such action will demonstrate we are determined to retain the tight control of expenditure which underpinned the tremendous improvement in the public finances and the associated economic upturn over the last five years and to put the public finances back on course to meet the continuing commitment to our medium-term budgetary objectives. The Estimates discussions that will start in September will take on board the necessity to take decisions now and before the end of this year that will underpin savings in getting back on the proper course for 1992 and beyond.
Some of my Cabinet colleagues in their contributions have covered some of the points made by Deputies from the opposite side of the House. Accordingly, I will not go over the same ground in my response, but will just confine myself to making a few points. Some concerns were expressed that we might not achieve the level of EC Structural Funds receipts budgeted for this year. I am pleased to inform the House that some £340 million has been received to date from the Structural Funds, the bulk of which goes to the Exchequer. This includes £110 million from the ESF which was received since the Exchequer statement was published at the end of June. Had the element of this £110 million which was expected to reach us by end June come in on schedule, the first half EBR would have been substantially less than the £813 million reported at that time. I am confident that our targets in this area will be met this year in relation to the Structural Funds.
Today we are opening the applications for shares allotments in Irish Life. Information within the last half hour shows that this issue will be well and truly over-subscribed. It has gone exceptionally well. There has been a very strong response from the workers in Irish Life, the policyholders and from international investors who are also seeking allocations.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins, with his customary vigour, talked about welfare applicants having to visit the same old buildings which he said were never painted or renovated from one year to the next. This is surely taking rhetorical licence — or should I say poetic licence — too far. In recent years, there has been an extensive programme to upgrade and even replace many welfare offices. Many new employment exchanges or extensions to existing ones have been opened in the outer suburbs of Dublin and indeed around the country in Newbridge, Cork, Limerick and other locations. Many offices have also been refurbished and redecorated as part of the increased clientorientation of the Department of Social Welfare.
Deputy McCartan questioned whether the commitment to recruit 1,000 gardaí was now to be abandoned. That suggestion has already been emphatically refuted by my colleague, the Minister for Justice. I concur with his denial. The House would want us to ensure that the protection of people in their homes, the protection of their property and dealing with crime in general are areas of priority spending. That is the view of the Government also.
I offer my sincere thanks to those Deputies who contributed to the topical and lively discussion on the Estimates and I trust I have responded fairly to the concerns expressed. It was not possible for me to respond to some of the concerns of the absentee Members of the House who chose not to participate in the debate. Be it on their heads to explain that to the electorate. It only remains for me to once again commend the Estimates to the House.
As it is now 4 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with the resolution of the Dáil of 4 July. The question is: "That the Estimates for the Public Services undisposed of, a Supplementary Estimate for the Houses of the Oireachtas and the European Assembly for a sum not exceeding £31,000 and a Supplementary Estimate for International Co-Operation for a sum not exceeding £600,000 for the year ended 31 December 1991 are hereby agreed to."
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Clohessy, Peadar.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
- Cullimore, Séamus.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Davern, Noel.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Dennehy, John.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Fahey, Jackie.
- Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- O'Toole, Martin Joe.
- Power, Seán.
- Quill, Máirín.
- Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
- Flood, Chris.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Hillery, Brian.
- Hilliard, Colm.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Kelly, Laurence.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Lyons, Denis.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McDaid, Jim.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Morley, P.J.
- Noonan, Michael J.
- (Limerick West).
- O'Connell, John.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Roche, Dick.
- Stafford, John.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Wilson, John P.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Ahearn, Therese.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Barnes, Monica.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Barry, Peter.
- Bell, Michael.
- Belton, Louis J.
- Boylan, Andrew.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Bruton, John.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Byrne, Eric.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Connor, John.
- Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
- Cotter, Bill.
- Creed, Michael.
- Crowley, Frank.
- Currie, Austin.
- Deasy, Austin.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Durkan, Bernard.
- Enright, Thomas W.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- Finucane, Michael.
- FitzGerald, Garret.
- Flaherty, Mary.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Garland, Roger.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Gregory, Tony.
- Harte, Paddy.
- Higgins, Jim.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Hogan, Philip.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lee, Pat.
- Lowry, Michael.
- McCartan, Pat.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- Mac Giolla, Tomás.
- McGrath, Paul.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Nealon, Ted.
- Noonan, Michael
- (Limerick East).
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Gerry.
- Owen, Nora.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sherlock, Joe.
- Spring, Dick.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Taylor, Mervyn.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Yates, Ivan.
I should like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Government, to wish all members a happy and enjoyable recess. I hope they will all be refreshed for a good and active political debate during the next session. I should also like to send our best wishes to the Ceann Comhairle whom I understand is indisposed at present.
I should like to join with the Minister in sending our good wishes to the Ceann Comhairle. I should also like to wish the staff of the House an enjoyable recess. We are very grateful for the work they have done often under trying conditions and late into the night. I hope they have a good holiday so that they will be ready to meet the rigours of the next session.
On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish the Ceann Comhairle a speedy recovery and hope he will be back to good health as quickly as possible. I hope all Members and, in particular, the staff who have worked late nights with a difficult run of business have an enjoyable break. Needless to say we politicians will be working very hard during the summer recess in preparation for a hectic session in the autumn. I hope the Minister for Finance sorts out some of the financial problems facing the country.
I should like to join my colleagues on all sides of the House in wishing all Members a restful holiday. Although some of us regret the fact that we are not returning until 16 October, I do not think any of us regret the fact that Dáil is going into recess today. Nevertheless, I hope that all Members will have a restful holiday and that the Government will not have too many surprises for us during the recess. If they are making any major decisions as to how the country should be run I hope they will recall the Dáil to explain what they are doing.
May I on behalf of my colleague, Deputy Pattison, and myself exend our good wishes to the Ceann Comhairle? In the autumn Deputy Pattison and I will have been Members of this House for 30 years, so we thought it appropriate to extend our good wishes to the Ceann Comhairle and we hope he will be back here with us to celebrate our 30 years in the Dáil on 4 October.
I should like to be associated with the good wishes to everyone present and absent. Go mba seacht bhfearr a bheidh sibh go léir agus bhur gcúram nuair a thiocfaimid le chéile arís ag meán lae, an 16 Deireadh Fómhair.
The Dáil adjourned at 4.20 p.m. until 12 noon on Wednesday, 16 October 1991.