Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Economic and Social Progress.

Michael Creed


1 Mr. Creed asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the economic and social progress achieved by the Government since July 1989, as it was on this basis that the joint Programme for Government was agreed.

The vast majority of the commitments contained in the Programme for Government agreed in July 1989 have either been implemented or are in the process of implementation.

The elements of economic and social progress achieved since July 1989 include:

—a net increase of 25,000 in employment;

—a reduction in the Exchequer borrowing requirement to 2 per cent and the debt/GNP ratio to 110 per cent;

—a reduction in the standard rate of income tax from 32 per cent to 29 per cent and in the top rate from 56 per cent to 52 per cent;

—improvements in tax exemption limits and the family income supplement;

—a reduction in the standard rate of VAT from 25 per cent to 21 per cent;

—greater access to hospital services with free public consultant care extended to the whole population from 1 July 1991;

—social welfare means tests streamlined;

—social welfare appeals office established in September 1990;

—special increases given to long term unemployed persons;

—new carers allowance introduced in November 1990;

—single means-tested lone parent's allowance introduced in November 1990;

—area-based strategy for long term unemployed piloted in 12 disadvantaged areas;

—employment incentive scheme directed towards long term unemployed persons, early school-leavers and the handicapped;

—training and employment programmes expanded;

—pilot job-training scheme introduced in May 1990;

—vocational training opportunities scheme expanded;

—60 additional teaching posts allocated to disadvantaged schools in 1990 and a further 60 in 1991;

—special allocation of £1 million provided in 1991 to address areas of disadvantage at all levels of the education system;

—increased allocation made for school books at primary and post primary levels;

—capitation grants increased in 1990 from £24 to £28 for primary schools and from £140 to £150 for secondary schools;

—a plan for social housing published in February 1991 with the potential to provide for 5,000 extra households each year;

—capital provision for housing increased from £43 million to £80.5 million with priority being given to areas with acute housing needs, remedial works and travellers' sites;

—Office for the Protection of the Environment established and Environment Protection Agency Bill initiated;

—urban renewal grants scheme extended and eight new centres designated in 1990;

—disadvantaged areas scheme extended;

—forestry development continued — 20,000 hectares planted in 1990;

—criminal law updated, including larceny law, criminal damages and the law on rape and the death penalty abolished and

—£500,000 allocated in 1990 and 1991 for emigrant advisory services as well as £200,000 to support groups in the United States.

I am confident that the implementation of the recently published review of the joint Programme for Government will lead to the achievement of further economic and social progress in the period up to 1993.

I would expect the Taoiseach to say that. I found his response breathtaking. I put it to the Taoiseach that in terms of social and economic progress he has been extremely selective in the figures and items he has given in his reply. One of the key essentials in making progress is to identify our problems. Surely those problems are the record level of unemployment at 265,000 and emigration which has increased by 136,000 since he became Taoiseach. May I further put it to the Taoiseach that even the targets the Government have set in their programme will go nowhere towards advancing economic or social progress. At best they will maintain thestatus quo and will not in any way significantly erode the cancers of unemployment and emigration in Irish society.

The Deputy's mis-quotation in regard to emigration is typical of the inaccuracies included in his statement by way of question. The simple fact is that emigration has now ceased to all intents and purposes.

Since the Taoiseach took office 136,000 people have emigrated.

Order, please. Deputy Creed has asked some questions and he should listen to the Taoiseach's reply.

Emigration has now ceased. The Deputy would probably like to deny it but that is the position——

Have those people come back?

——shown by the statistics. That cessation of emigration largely accounts for the unacceptable increase in the live register. The Deputy asked me — he is probably sorry now that he did so — to outline the economic and social progress achieved by the Government on the basis of the joint Programme for Government and that is precisely what I gave him. The Deputy now realises that his question was a ghastly mistake because I have been able to outline for him a comprehensive list of valuable social improvements made since the programme was first published in 1989.

The Taoiseach's arrogance is breathtaking in so far as he is presiding over record levels of unemployment and emigration and has included them as areas of economic and social progress under the Government's joint programme.

The Deputy does not want to hear the good news.