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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Dec 1992

Vol. 425 No. 2

Supplementary Estimates, 1992. - Vote 44: Increases in Remuneration and Pensions.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £54,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1992, for Increases in Remuneration and Pensions.

I will begin to reiterating what I said yesterday. I congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your re-appointment to the Chair. I welcome back the Deputies who were in the last and previous Dála. I also welcome all the new Members and look forward to working with them. I particularly welcome back the Finance spokespersons from all parties who successfully made it through the election.

I welcome the opportunity which this brief debate affords this new Dáil to review the budgetary position now that the financial year is drawing to a close. It is both a conclusion and a beginning, a chance to review the past and to look forward to the future. I will start by reviewing the overall budgetary position.

In the budget presented to the House last January the Exchequer borrowing requirement was projected at £590 million or 2.4 per cent of GNP. The trends reflected in the end-September Exchequer returns indicated that the level of borrowing would be broadly in line with the budget target. The pressures on non-capital supply spending which were evident at that stage, particularly in the social area, have not abated. There was also, of course, the need to provide for the Christmas bonus to welfare recipients. However, at the same time, tax revenue should produce a surplus this year due mainly to a strong corporation tax performance. There are also likely to be savings on Central Fund Services. Taken together, these factors will mitigate the supply spending overrun, and while the EBR may not come in exactly on target, the eventual 1992 outturn should, overall, represent a creditable budgetary performance in what has been a very difficult year.

In particular, we can take a good deal of satisfaction in the fact that Irish fiscal performance in 1992 should again fall within the 3 per cent general Government deficit/GDP ration which is specified as one of the primary budgetary convergence criteria in the draft European Monetary Union Treaty. Steady downward pressure is also being maintained on the debt/GDP ratio, which has fallen from almost 117 per cent in 1987 to 94 per cent last year, and will again decline in 1992. We must not underrate these achievements which are likely to compare very favourably with the budgetary performance in many of the other EC member states.

The motion before the Dáil today requests approval for certain Supplementary Estimates. The Supplementary Estimates now required amount to a total of £93.784 million, the principal amount being £54 million required for Vote 44 — Remuneration.

The House has been supplied with details of each Estimate so I propose to confine myself to a few brief remarks on the Excess Votes and on the Finance Supplementary Estimates. Other Ministers will speak on their own Supplementary Estimates.

There are two Excess Votes before the House today relating to 1990. These concern the President's Establishment and Superannuation and Retired Allowances. The excesses, which are minor, arose because of under-estimation of the expenditure involved. An Excess Vote is a technical means of rectifying the position. The Committee of Public Accounts has already considered these excesses and has reported that it saw no objection to these excesses being sanctioned by the Dáil. As is customary, Excess Votes are taken in conjunction with Supplementary Estimates.

I will now deal with two Supplementary Estimates on my own Votes. In relation to my own Department's Vote, a Supplementary Estimate of £250,000 is required to help to reduce the outstanding loans taken out by the Irish Institute for European Affairs in Louvain. The institute is a non-profit body established under Belgian law in 1984. It plays a useful role in allowing Irish business, educational and administrative interests to inform themselves about the process of European integration. I am sure that the House will agree that it is of particular importance that the facilities of the institute are available to people and organisations from both parts of Ireland.

The institute owns the buildings of the old Irish College in Louvain which were made available to the institute on condition that they are used for the benefit of Irish people. Substantial loans were required to fund renovation and fitting out. Approximately £600,000 is outstanding and, while support for the work was received from business and individuals from both parts of Ireland, such sources now seem exhausted.

The grant of £250,000 provided for in the Supplementary Estimate before the House will be paid from national lottery funds. The Northern Ireland authorities have promised to match this grant at a future date.

In January this year, the Government announced a package of measures in relation to public service pay which involved the placing of ceilings on the general round increases due under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, and the deferral of the outstanding phases of special increases. In the light of the emerging budgetary outturn for 1992, the Government has now decided to bring forward to 1992 the payment of the arrears of outstanding special pay increases due to be paid to certain groups of public servants in January 1993.

The Supplementary Estimate will enable such payments, so far as it is possible, to be made in the current year. Savings which have emerged on departmental Votes will be used to fund the balance of the estimated cost of £71 million. I might mention that the overall cost amounts to some £75 million but for technical reasons, some £4 million cannot be paid this year.

The main groups to benefit from arrears payments include teachers, nurses, prison officers, gardaí, junior hospital doctors and principals and assistant principals in the Civil Service and related grades. The Supplementary Estimate of £54 million for Vote 44— Remuneration — which I have introduced to the House will, if approved, help to reduce the difficulties faced by any incoming Administration.

I will now turn very briefly to the budgetary outlook for 1993 which will undoubtedly present a very difficult challenge. In the absence of a dramatic improvement in the international economy, the budget arithmetic will have to accommodate further increases in unemployment against the background of slack tax revenue buoyancy. There could be a change in the international position during 1993 but, having listened to all my colleagues outline their position at the ECOFIN Council in Edinburgh on Friday and having seen the reports from the IMF, OECD and the EC which predict an increase in unemployment in Community terms to 11 per cent during the course of 1993 and a growth rate of between zero and 1 per cent, that is not likely. There is a number of issues which will help as the year goes by; if there is a strengthening of the American dollar there may also be a strengthening of sterling.

I have stated many times both here and at the ECOFIN Council meetings and in the concluding debate of the 26th Dáil that it will be 1994 before matters improve, and I still hold that view. It appears from the global budgetary examinations being carried out by the IMF, the OECD and the EC that there will be a recovery in 1994 and thereafter but not in 1993.

In addition, there is a number of factors which have a negative impact on the revenue outlook for 1993, and Deputy Bruton referred to them yesterday. The inauguration of the Single European Market will involve the elimination of VAT at the point of entry and capital liberalisation requires the modification of the deposit interest retention tax, known to us as DIRT. The cash flow loss in 1993 from the VAT change should be partially mitigated by alternative measures within the VAT area, but significant losses will accrue from the DIRT adjustment.

There will also be considerable challenges on the expenditure side in 1993. We can almost certainly expect that there will be a continuation of the pressures in the social area which emerged this year. There will have to be an increase in the Social Welfare Vote and my colleague the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, will deal with that later. All the indications are that the unemployment figure for 1993 will be significantly higher than in 1992.

As regards the 1993 Estimates, the Government has examined departmental demands in detail and has taken certain steps towards improving next year's opening position. Nonetheless, there is a considerable amount still to be done and bringing forward the arrears of special pay increases will assist in this regard.

As we do not intend to publish an abridged Estimates volume or summary public capital programme at this stage, I will not go into detail on any of the decisions taken on the 1993 Estimates; that will be a matter for the incoming Government and the Minister for Finance of the incoming Government.

In regard to the Exchequer borrowing requirement and the European Monetary Union targets, the EBR target for 1993 will, of course, be settled in the context of preparing the forthcoming budget. At the same time, I urge that all necessary steps be taken to ensure that this country continues to meet the budgetary convergence criteria envisaged in the draft European Monetary Union treaty. In that regard, the critical measurement is the general Government deficit/GDP ratio which is set at 3 per cent.

I would be less than honest if I, as Minister for Finance, did not say that a difficult task lies ahead and that many difficult decisions will have to be made. I hope the good work done by successive Governments and Ministers will achieve that position.

I thank Deputies Quinn and Noonan for their co-operation on the currency issues over the last five or six weeks. During the Adjournment Debate on the last day of the 26th Dáil I asked them not to make that a political issue during the election campaign, and I thank them for their co-operation in that regard. I am sure the House is aware that this morning, the Central Bank set its rate for overnight support to the money market at 16 per cent, that is down from just over 20 per cent. As the House is aware, that is the Central Bank's key short-term facility and the STF interest rate has been suspended. Each morning the bank indicates to the market the overnight rate for that day, and that is the figure which reached 100 per cent on 30 November last, but thankfully the rate has now dropped back to 16 per cent. The Irish inter-bank rates have fallen again this morning as a result of the Central Bank's move. The key one month rate is now approximately 20 per cent; yesterday it was roughly 5 per cent or 6 per cent higher, depending on the time of day. The three month rate, the rate which concerns businesses was 17 per cent or 18 per cent this morning. The policies this House adopted in this regard — with great difficulty I might add — are a move in the right direction, but I would be less than honest if I said the pressures have eased. That is not the case. However, I appreciate the co-operation I received on this matter.

In conclusion, I commend the Supplementary Estimates and Excess Votes to the new Dáil.

(Limerick East): First, I congratulate you, Sir, on your re-election to the Chair. I am happy you are back in your rightful position and look forward to the debates in the new Dáil.

Go raibh maith agat.

(Limerick East): I also thank the Minister for Finance for his courtesy and the helpful way he undertook the responsibilities of his office both in this House and in private discussions. More than likely he will retain the Finance portfolio in the new Administration. In thanking him I am not suggesting that he is leaving office. It is appropriate that I should thank him because he has been very helpful and courteous at all times to me personally and to members of my party.

We will be agreeing the Estimate today in unusual circumstances. There is no point going over the ground that we have covered on the hustings. However, I wish to put a number of points to the Minister to which he might refer when winding up the debate.

I welcome the Government's decision to bring forward the back money element of the public sector pay award on the special pay increases from January 1993 to this year. That will improve the budgetary situation in 1993 by approximately £71 million. As there appears to be some leeway in the outturn this year, that was a fair decision and will be very beneficial.

Will the Minister outline the other commitments under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which are in train for 1993 and early 1994? I understand the ordinary pay round is due from 1 January and I presume there are other commitments in regard to repaying the losses as a result of capping the ordinary pay round which will be due in December 1993. I would like the Minister to give a full statement of the commitments under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress on all public pay agreements, the amounts due, when they are due, and so on.

I would like the Minister to comment on whether he has renegotiated with the trade union movement the arrangements under conciliation and arbitration which decide public pay awards, particularly in connection with special awards. In the early days of the election campaign did the Government sanction the full payment of the 1 December phase of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress? Is it now bringing forward the payment of back money due by unilateral action, or is there agreement with the trade union movement, especially the public sector unions, to make some arrangement on a modification of the conciliation and arbitration schemes?

In regard to the Minister's comments on the budgetary position for 1993, I would like him to align the various measures the Government is now using. For the past four or five years we have spoken about the debt/GNP ratio and the public as well as ourselves are familiar with the yardstick of a decreasing debt/GNP ratio as being essential to fulfil our Maastricht obligations. Earlier this year the Minister began to substitute the debt/GDP ratio for the debt/GNP ratio in his scripts. Of course, that puts a better face on things as the debt/GDP ratio will be lower than the debt/GNP ratio because of our circumstances. As I understand it, neither is the measure used in Europe. The Minister has moved on today — and I think this is the first time I have seen the term used in a ministerial script — to talk about the general Government deficit as a ratio of GDP, which is slightly different again.

We are all talking the same language at the same time and using the same measurements. I should like the Minister in his reply to attempt to align the three measures and to explain the relativities to Members of the House, the general public and economic commentators. Will the GGD-GDP ratio be used in future, which I understand is the case? Could everything be put in those terms and will the Minister supply us with simple numerical tables that will convert one to the other because there is a change in the terms being used and it can be confusing if we do not use the same terms?

I welcome the Minister's remarks on exchange rate policy; he has briefed us on occasions during the year and we have tried to be as helpful as possible. However, it is a very unreal area of policy for debate in this House because we always feel constrained, which might have an adverse effect on the policy. It is not possible — certainly from the Opposition benches — to have any kind of real debate on the merits or demerits of the present exchange rate policy without risking giving a push in a direction we do not want and causing a problem on the markets for the Minister. However, it is high time the Government set out a balance sheet to show on the one hand the benefits of the present policy and on the other the losses. To put it at its mildest, since the currency crisis in September the value of the IR£ has gone up by about 5 per cent with our main trading partners which means that the value of our savings and payments, social welfare, salaries or wages has also gone up by about 5 per cent in relation to spending power. There is nothing in the fundamentals of our economy to justify that increase, there is nothing to justify Ireland Inc. awarding a 5 per cent increase in spending power to everyone in the country.

I know it works out differently on average as different people have different spending patterns but we can only talk about the average and the effect is that the money in one's pocket has gone up by about 5 per cent and the fundamentals of the economy have not changed. This was not done as a matter of policy, it was an accident caused by occurrences elsewhere. A policy decision was not taken by our Government to increase the value of the IR£, policy decisions were taken elsewhere to decrease values of currencies. A price must be paid and we cannot simply refuse to debate the issues in case we frighten somebody in the currency markets. The Minister has an obligation to lead the debate and if the present exchange rate policy needs changes in our fundamental attitudes to justify them it should be laid on the table. If our exchange rate policy will mean 20,000 or 25,000 redundancies in the first three months of the year we should be told that is the price.

I am very unhappy at the manner in which the debate on exchange rate policy has been conducted. The Opposition parties in the House are constrained, first by the fear that they might say something which would not be in the national interest and which would have some kind of effect on the currency market and, second, because we do not have full information. I do not believe the Minister or Members of this House decide exchange rate policy. The Central Bank decides all these matters, although the legislation which established the Central Bank did not give it the kind of power it now has. I do not want to proceed beyond that because in opening a debate on an issue like that, one is accused of having gone soft on the issue. However, there is a real area of concern felt by people at work who are afraid of redundancy, by employers who say they cannot carry the first quarter of this year and, in particular, by the indigenous sector of the economy that is exporting to the United Kingdom. The debate must be opened up because we are not sure what we are being asked to pay in terms of economic cost by maintaining an all-party approach to the exchange rate policy. If we were living in ordinary times I would take issue with some of the Estimates but because times are extraordinary we will support them.

I wish to repeat my words of congratulation to you, a Cheann Comhairle, and to wish you well as we start our normal business in, perhaps, abnormal times. The Labour Party will support these Estimates in case their defeat would provoke another general election which I do not think any of us want. The House would not thank us if that was the way we used our new found strength.

I welcome the comments by the Minister and his graciousness in respect of the contributions and co-operation received from the Labour Party, and indeed from Deputy Noonan on behalf of Fine Gael. I am sure the same applies to Deputy Rabbitte of Democratic Left. Deputy Noonan stated quite clearly the sense of constraint and responsibility on us in this context, particularly since September. If the Minister remains in his position — or if somebody else takes over — he or she should realise that in this volatile time there is a need for greater co-operation in respect of information between the Government and the Members of this House in whatever format that is considered suitable. I do not necessarily mean confidential briefings with one or two Deputies; every Member of the House in one way or another must be involved in ensuring that we pursue the right kind of economic policy where there is broad agreement. Where there is not agreement the matter should be debated openly and, to that extent, I welcome the Minister's comments.

I wish to take issue with one or two items in this Estimate; my colleague, Deputy Bell, and others will be raising individual items at the appropriate time between now and the end of the debate. The Minister for Finance has indirect responsibility for the Office of Public Works. We are looking for extra money for that office and I should like to know whether he, or anybody in his Department, sanctioned or were asked to sanction the incredibly expensive public advertisements the Office of Public Works took upon itself to publish in the national newspapers, proclaiming its excellence and expertise. There were half page colour advertisements in The Irish Times and in other national newspapers reminding the public that the Office of Public Works had done lovely things, which indeed it has, the Custom House is an example. However, I wonder whether this was a cloak to mask the destruction on which they are about to embark in the Burren and Luggala, County Wicklow.

I have a healthy respect for the manic attack on expenditure practised by every official in the Department of Finance when an applicant Department, for instance the joint public services committee of this House seeks money to install air conditioning in this Chamber, the lack of which was the subject of many complaints. The officials who use the blue pencil with relish on items of expenditure of this kind which are considered necessary by public representatives and others appear to have allowed these advertisements to be placed in newspapers. Since we are looking for extra money for the Office of Public Works, I should like the Minister to respond to my query as I do not know what the thinking was at that stage.

I ask the Minister, in his caretaker capacity, to issue an instruction to have work halted on those two interpretative centres — Mullaghmore and Luggala — until such time as the incoming Government, with a mandate from this House, can review the position and decide whether they should be proceeded with. My personal view is that such centres as are necessary to an interpretation of the value of the relevant monument or surrounding environment and as an aid in promoting tourism, should be located in the nearest appropriate urban centre, thereby reinforcing the urban fabric of the region and maximising the economic and environmental activity of the region rather than what is proposed by the Office of Public Works. Indeed, had the Office of Public Works to go through the rigours of planning application, like any other body, they might not have received such planning permission in the first instance.

I welcome the grant, in the Minister's Estimate, of £250,000 for the Irish Institute for European Affairs at Louvain, a project with which I was connected earlier and which has resulted in the execution of some excellent work. It would be my hope — if the Northern Ireland authorities proffer the remaining moneys — that the Minister would be able to indicate when such moneys might be received so that the outstanding sum of £100,000 could be cleared rendering the institute in a better position to promote its activities in various institutions here. Equally it is my hope that at some stage the appropriate committee of this House would arrange for Irish Deputies and Senators to avail of the facilities of that institute so that they might experience a "hands on" introduction to the work of the Commission and the European Communities first-hand through the institute located in Louvain.

On the broader issue of economic policy I want to reiterate the attitude of the Labour Party in relation to the 1993 budget. In the course of his introductory remarks the Minister for Finance stated that the position is difficult. We recognise that the position is difficult and has deteriorated in absolute terms, as was indicated yesterday in the report of the ESRI. I want to confirm the realism that animates the Labour Party's economic policy in relation to what we can or cannot do in the future, which realism has not altered in any way. We recognise that the constraints we put on ourselves at the very outset of the general election campaign in regard to the 3 per cent maximum growth within the European Monetary Union, as the general norm within the European Monetary Union framework over the four or five year term of office during which my party might participate in Government, are those we accept. I want to place that on the record, leaving nobody in doubt about our attitude to such activities. There appears to be some problem about communication in this House, as much about tone as content. I can state in very clear terms that whatever expenditure may be incurred by the Labour Party in Government, or supported by my party in opposition, would be on projects which would help the economic development of this country. In that context I must pay tribute to the successful outcome of the Edinburgh Summit — as I did last evening on television — when I paid tribute also to the Spanish Government and their successful charge. It would appear that the Irish Government received most of the moneys and least of the approbrium from the German authorities by allowing the Spaniards make most of the noise. In that context it would be ungracious not to acknowledge — assuming that the figures will be confirmed in detail, and there is no reason to suggest they will not be confirmed, give or take some margins — the capital transfers now on offer over a seven year period which should enable us plan in a coherent, non-inflationary manner, items of expenditure of a capital nature in addition to current account support for educational services enabling this country to endeavour to close the gap between economic activity and living standards within this member state and the EC average. One might have hoped that we would have learned from the past as to how best such substantial sums of money could be spent. I am unhappy at the manner in which such money was spent in the past, unhappy at the lack of democratic involvement and consultation, indeed the lack of any coherence in the allocation of moneys to capital projects nationwide. It is clear to me that, had those moneys not been available in the first instance, the Office of Public Works would not be erecting interpretative centres all over the place. Perhaps the mere availability of the money offers the worst temptation to spend it on anything that happens to appeal to some well placed politician or individual in a key position in some Government Department. If this money is forthcoming then it must be spent intelligently, collectively and in a manner that will maximise its benefit to the community in the broader sense. It is my hope that earlier structures erected nationwide under previous Ministers for Finance, in particular former Deputy MacSharry, and which were a farce, as well as the secrecy of the Department of Finance which has more in common with the former Kremlin than with an open democracy, will be replaced by something more open and consultative so that Members such as Deputy Liz O'Donnell and myself in Dublin Corporation can be given some idea of what moneys are available, in what way they can be spent and what is the role, if any, of local representatives in their expenditure. We are not without some wisdom on the ground. We know there is an abundance of wisdom in Merrion Street, indeed a unique insight on the part of civil servants in the Department of Finance, who know far better than any public representative what the people need. The permanent civil servants of Upper Merrion Street have a unique insight into precisely what the electorate want. I hope that any new structure that may evolve will be more open to the expressed desires and collective wisdom of our elected representatives.

May I join the endless stream of tributes to you, Sir, on your re-election as Ceann Comhairle? Throughout my last period in this House you were unfailingly kind and patient with me. I was delighted to hear that you were to be re-elected. Indeed, even before your re-election, you had occasion, in your personal capacity, to speak about the independence and integrity of the Oireachtas. I heartily agree with every single word you spoke on those occasions.

The first point with which I would like to deal is the last one mentioned by Deputy Quinn in relation to the Office of Public Works and its expenditure on interpretative centres. Certainly it is true that the layman in our society would take the view that the Department of Finance, as the supervisor of the Office of Public Works, appears to operate on the basis that, where funds are available, projects should go ahead, the importance of which is not clear to the average person. Nor is the decision-making process in relation thereto clear to the average person.

I might take a couple of examples. I should say that, where credit is due, I always give it. For instance, the work undertaken in the Phoenix Park on the Ashtown Castle centre was remarkable involving the very sane and intelligent application of public resources. What is taking place in Mullaghmore in County Clare is evidence of what I consider to be flawed judgment. I do not believe that tourists like such dedicated interpretative centres, where they can look at photographs and listen to audio/visual descriptions of a place they are visiting. I contend that tourists are somewhat more discerning, have a less child-like approach to such visits. I contend they like to see a monument or region in the raw, not in buildings where they are supposed to be impressed by rather anodyne comment on the monument or place in question.

I might suggest that, in relation to the Burren project, it would have made much more sense — as Deputy Quinn said— to have located any such facility in an urban centre in Clare in, say, Corofin or one of the adjoining towns where such would lead to spin-off activity for local publicans and the like. Indeed I might suggest that the Office of Public Works should have considered restoring say, Leminagh Castle in County Clare, as a project worthy of support in its own right, something people would find interesting, rather than erect a modern building of doubtful value in a quarry in the midst of an area of high amenity. Of course, the lesson to be learned from that is that it is important — again as Deputy Quinn said — that the priorities, decision-making process and programme of the Office of Public Works for the expenditure of moneys, especially European moneys, be made known publicly. The public are entitled to know what it is intended to do with their money, what decisions are being made, what projects are being rejected and the values that underlie those decisions.

With regard to the Minister's remarks in relation to remuneration in the public service, it is abundantly clear from the decision which underlies Vote 44 that by deciding on this measure the Government made the budgetary arithmetic easier for the incoming Administration, whoever they may be. The figures were circulated, in the context of the post election result, by the Minister's Department to the opposition parties in a very helpful way. It is good that those figures will be improved a little and that the outlook is not quite as grim. Nevertheless the outlook is daunting. Deputy Quinn was at pains to demonstrate that the Labour Party is not unmindful of the budgetary realities and is not completely bound by its published document and the analyses that lies behind it. The Progressive Democrats put considerable effort into analysing the Labour Party's views on these matters not with a view to being critical but with a view to understanding them. During the past two and a half weeks considerable effort has been made by my party in trying to analyse the Labour Party's understanding of these matters. All the time has not necessarily been wasted in this regard. If the present initiative of the Labour Party falters, all that work will be put to good use by the Progressive Democrats if the Labour Party wishes to join in discussions with us again.

In relation to public service pay, I echo what Deputy Noonan said in inquiring whether there is any quid pro quo for the advancement of these payments of special pay increases. Has any understanding been arrived at with the public service unions in regard to the arbitration system? I note that a recent judicial appointment accidentally creates a vacancy in the office of public pay arbitrator. It is worthwhile at this stage, before a new appointment is made, to look at the whole scheme and decide whether it is in need of reform. Surely now, when the parties in the House are in an open-minded frame of mind, is the time to take that issue by the horns and look at it carefully and make whatever changes are considered necessary in the national interest.

A figure I would like to have from the Minister, if it is available to him, is the net cost after tax implications of the expenditure of £71 million. I am interested to know the average rate of tax on special pay increases of this kind and the actual cost to the Exchequer in paying a sum of money of that order at this stage of the year.

The Minister has formally moved many Estimates. I agree with Deputy Noonan that bearing in mind the times that are in it, they should not be subject to the usual scrutiny and hard-nosed review from the Opposition benches in relation to public expenditure generally. That is appropriate on some occasions. Would the Minister agree it is desirable that we get back as soon as we can to the publication of Estimates in the first week of the October sitting of the Dáil? It should be possible to arrange that between now and the next occasion on which annual Estimates will be presented. Will the Minister also agree that the departmental publication for which his Department was responsible in the past, the comprehensive study on public expenditure which contributed to public understanding of the implications of public expenditures should be published soon and frequently? When I was a Member of this House before I found that volume of particular help in understanding precisely what decisions were being made. It was also of help to those outside this House who were concerned with public expenditure. They could follow and understand what was involved in the annual Book of Estimates and the implications of each item of expenditure. It is time those detailed comprehensive analyses were published again.

Going back to what Deputy Quinn said about the Labour Party's view on a three, four or five year plan, to comply with the general Government deficit ratio, it occurs to me that the time has now come to do here what has been done to some extent in the UK, that is to put in place not simply an annual budgetary strategy but a strategy that goes over a number of years. Perhaps the negotiations for the formation of a new Administration here will set the context in which it is possible to set a three year strategy for public expenditure so that the public will understand it and so that there will be some discipline of a political kind on those who participate in Government, to adhere to targets which they have set for each year during the period in which they anticipate they will be in Government.

We are dealing this morning with a set of Supplementary Estimates which total almost £100 million. As previous speakers said, in normal circumstances we would probably wish to address ourselves much more critically to the Supplementary Estimates which have been presented to us than is possible this morning in the rather unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves. I agree with the last comment made by Deputy McDowell. It is necessary that for the future the whole question of public accounts, of Estimates and budgetary strategy is dealt with on a longer term basis than simply the annual basis on which we now deal with it, which means that each year we find ourselves at this time of the year dealing with Supplementary Estimates to deal with overspending or, as in the case today, in relation to remuneration, bringing forward payments which would otherwise be paid next year. An opportunity presents itself now which would enable whatever Government is formed and the House to deal with Estimates in that way. The discussions now under way in relation to the formation of a Government seem to suggest that at least some kind of four year strategy will now evolve. That will have implications for the way in which Government expenditure and accounting is dealt with over the lifetime of the next Government. The opportunity that approach is presenting should be availed of in order to present the House and the public with an approach to public spending and to have a debate on it which extends beyond simply an annual debate.

The whole question of EC funding, which coincides with the formation of the new Government, should also present that opportunity. As Deputy Quinn said earlier there is a necessity for a greater degree of transparency and a greater degree of public involvement in the approach taken to the expenditure of the EC funds that will be available to this country. Certainly, the approach taken in the past — a very secretive approach taken by the respective Government Departments which allowed a minimal involvement of local authorities, local communities and the public in general — cannot be sustained. A greater degree of involvement will be required by the public, local authorities and local communities in the future.

When presenting these Estimates to the House, the Minister for Finance made a disturbing throw-away remark— that he expected an increase in unemployment in the coming year. The degree of poverty in our society is very evident at this time of the year, and that is particularly so this year. Apart from the usual social and economic indicators, there are at this time of the year many very visible indicators of poverty. For example, the number of retail businesses that have decided it is necessary to hold sales just a couple of weeks before Christmas — an unusual event — is indicative of the extent of a shortage of purchasing power in the community. The degree of poverty and its effects were brought home to us very forcibly in the past few days in reports that several homeless persons in our capital city have died from the cold this winter.

One of the Estimates dealt with today includes a small amount of money for the housing portion of the Environment Estimate. The 27th Dáil would make a very good start were the acting Government and the Minister for the Environment to take emergency measures to try to prevent the occurrence of further deaths from the cold among homeless people in our capital city. During the weekend I suggested that perhaps some of our unused public buildings such as Army barracks, former Garda stations, schools and parts of hospitals could be converted by way of an emergency measure to provide shelter for the homeless people who are exposed to the elements and, as has been witnessed so tragically in the past couple of weeks, to the risk of death.

The largest single element in the Supplementary Estimates before the House relates to remuneration. I agree absolutely that the commitments given under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress must be honoured. This debate provides an opportunity for us to consider some of the low-paid public servants. There is a perception in the community that public servants are well paid. While some public servants may be well paid, the vast majority of them are paid low wages, are at the bottom rung of the earnings ladder. In this regard, I instance clerical assistants and clerical officers in the Civil Service and corresponding grades in the local authorities and health boards. Those people are very badly paid.

We must give consideration to the plight of some of the lowly paid public servants who work here with Members in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Very specifically, we must consider the position of the secretarial staff of Dáil Deputies, some of whom now face difficulties as a result of the changes brought about by the recent general election. I ask the Minister for Finance to deal sympathetically with the plight of secretarial staff whose jobs are in danger as a result of the defeat of outgoing TDs in the general election and I ask him to take steps to put the scheme for secretarial assistants on a statutory basis. Secretarial assistants who work with Deputies and Senators are indispensible to our work and to the efficient running of the House. In many cases they carry a substantial burden of the workload of Dáil Deputies.

When the scheme for the employment of Dáil secretarial assistants was introduced in the early eighties it was provided on an ad hoc basis. Unfortunately, 12 years later, the scheme is still operating on an ad hoc basis. I know that Deputy Quinn when he was Minister with responsibility for the public service considered putting the scheme on a statutory basis. Now there is an increasingly volatile position with regard to membership of this House. The 27th Dáil has 42 new Members, which means that 42 former Deputies are no longer with us, either voluntarily or involuntary in that they lost their seats at the discretion of the electorate. As a result, of course, many of the 42 secretarial assistants who worked for those Deputies have also been exposed to uncertainty in relation to their future employment. I know that attempts are made within the political parties to absorb those secretarial assistants whose employment is put at risk as a result of general election results but it is unsatisfactory that the scheme does not operate on a statutory basis. For the first time we have an arrangement for severance payment whereby Members of the House at the very least know what their entitlements will be if they lose their seats. Those who work with Deputies, however, do not have such an arrangement and very often they do not know what the future holds for them. Negotiations on this issue have been opened between the trade union which represents the secretarial assistants and the Department of Finance but, in the context of this debate and bearing in mind that the largest single Estimate relates to remuneration and the position of public servants, I take this opportunity to ask the Minister for Finance to give sympathetic consideration to the position put before him and also to consider putting the scheme on a statutory basis.

The purpose of this Supplementary Estimate, the second Supplementary Estimate for my Department this year, is to provide for the grant of £1 million from my Department's Vote to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. That grant was announced by the Government last week.

I shall deal with two points raised by Deputy Gilmore. First, I shall bring the matter raised by him in relation to secretarial assistants to the attention of the Minister for Finance. The Deputy made a particularly valid point and the issue concerns all political parties. Many of those affected are very concerned at present.

Earlier in the Deputy's contribution he claimed that the Minister for Finance had said that unemployment would definitely increase next year. What the Minister said was that at the ECOFIN Council meeting held on Friday last there was talk of an 11 per cent increase in unemployment in the European Community.

I propose to deal with the area of my Department's responsibility for which this Supplementary Estimate is provided. The Vote as passed including the Supplementary Estimate agreed by this House on 5 November 1992, does not contain provision for this payment. Accordingly, a second Supplementary Estimate is now being sought so that the approval of the House may be obtained for the expenditure involved.

The amount of the Supplementary Estimate, £1,000, is merely a token amount having regard to the fact that there are sufficient funds in Subhead E of the Vote (Unemployment Assistance) to meet the cost of the payment of the grant of £1 million to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Everybody in the country knows the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It is the major charitable organisation in Ireland. Its name is synonymous with the practical help and advice it provides to the needy and the disadvantaged in our community. However, not everybody is aware of the length and the extent of its services in this country. The society has been in existence for almost 160 years and for 148 years of that time it has had a presence here in Ireland. The first major disaster confronted by the society shortly after its foundation in Ireland was the Great Famine, during which its members devoted themselves to the relief of the starving.

Since then, the society as an organisation has flourished and developed and continued to respond to the changing needs of Irish society. In recent years, its primary work of offering friendship and financial assistance has expanded into self-help programmes through job creation initiatives, home management and personal development courses. Today, the society has over 1,000 conferences and 11,000 extremely active members across the country.

At any one time, more than 100,000 Irish lives are touched by the society in some way or other. Weekly visits to the elderly living alone, to families in need of assistance and to patients in hospital amount to over 23,000 at any one time. The importance of this massive contribution can be gauged by the fact that the society caller may be the only visitor many of those people see from one week to the next.

I am pleased to put on the record my Department's involvement with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul over the past number of years. Since 1988, over £1,075,000 has been allocated to the society under the various grants schemes administered by my Department.

In the 1988 budget, the then Minister for Social Welfare provided funding of £100,000 to the society to enable them to undertake a major nationwide programme of home management and personal development courses. That was a very valuable initiative with over 7,000 people successfully completing the courses. Participants found the course of immense value in confidence building, improved self-esteem and self-motivation. In addition, a further allocation of £100,000 was made to the society in December 1988 to help meet the exceptional demands that are made on their services over the Christmas period.

In 1989, arising from the success of the earlier courses, the Government gave a special allocation of £500,000 to the society to undertake a major development programme aimed at creating employment opportunities, continuing the home management and personal development courses and undertaking various other projects. The job creation initiative was a novel approach on the part of the society.

The money allocated was earmarked for a special job creation programme in disadvantaged areas under the society's employment projects scheme. The job creation programme included financial support in the early stages of business set-up, guidance and encouragement and contributions to community based initiatives.

In 1990, a further £100,000 was allocated to the society to enable it to continue and expand its home management and personal development courses. The development of personal skills among people living in disadvantaged areas is vital for themselves and their local communities. Many of the course participants may have left school early and may be lacking in essential life skills.

As a result of the courses, many participants went on to successfully complete further education. The society itself regards those courses as its most effective strategy for helping families on low incomes to cope with the situation.

The Department of Social Welfare is not just in the business of providing cash payments on a weekly basis to qualified recipients. We are also involved in the welfare of people in the broadest sense. Voluntary organisations have a major role to play in this regard. Many such organisations are working on a daily basis with social welfare clients and understand their needs and problems. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been to the fore in tackling those needs and problems.

I am delighted that the Government has found it possible to make this special allocation at this time of the year and I wish the Society of St. Vincent de Paul continued success in its very important work.

I commend this Supplementary Estimate to the House.

Deputy Bell rose.

The reason for the pause is that a Fine Gael speaker is listed here as the next speaker. I invite Deputy Bell to speak.

I assume the Fine Gael speaker is not contributing to the debate.

Acting Chairman

You have been called.

First, I should like to respond very briefly to the point made by Deputy McDowell. I understood him to say that his party had carried out a detailed examination of the Labour Party's proposed document for Government, particularly the costings of the various proposals. I was particularly glad to hear that but it is very much at variance with what his party leader said in the House yesterday; I assume the party leader was not reflecting the views of Deputy McDowell. We would like the courtesy of a copy of their document so that our expert team can carry out a detailed examination. We have been trying to get that document for the past week and a half without success. Perhaps, in the cool of the morning and having reflected on yesterday's debate, there is a change of heart.

I should like to refer particularly to the recent statements made by various economic commentators in relation to the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. So far as the Labour Party is concerned, the Programme for Economic and Social Progress is sacrosanct; there can be no messing around with it or watering it down. I should like to put on record on behalf of the Labour Party and the trade union movement that any government, who attempts to interfere with that national agreement between the major social partners would be committing political suicide. Labour will not be a party to any such proposal.

That agreement was negotiated freely between the social partners. It was held up as an example of the best way to do national business. It was spoken about at the European Parliament and at meetings all over the world by Ministers as an example of the responsible way business should be done. It was voted by a special delegate conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which represents the vast majority of workers, and was accepted by a substantial majority of workers in every category. When it came before Dáil Éireann there was all-party agreement on the terms of that document and it was voted through this House. It can only be changed if a special delegate conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions were to be convened and they voted in favour of change. That will not happen. Even if it did, my view is that it would have to come before this House for any amendments to be made. Neither proposal would have the support of the Labour Party or the trade union movement. Political commentators, economic forecasters, etc., may forget about changing or not honouring the terms of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. That will not happen.

I welcome the Minister's announcement this morning on the Supplementary Estimate to give much needed assistance to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the people living in poverty. As spokesman on social welfare and poverty, I welcome that announcement on behalf of the Labour Party. It is very little when one considers the work which the Society of St. Vincent de Paul do on a voluntary basis. In other words, it costs the State nothing, but we give them only a pittance in terms of assistance.

I know we talk about sums of £1 million, £100,000 and £500,000 in the document but those organisations collect much more than that themselves and pay it out without any cost at all to the State. It is organisations such as these which could help prevent the appalling tragedies which occurred in Dublin over the past few weeks where three adults died from the cold. It is difficult to imagine how this can happen in Ireland in 1992 at a time when we are talking about international finance and billions of pounds in EC funding. For the sake of a bed, these three people died from the cold. This is christian modern Ireland in 1992.

Those are the issues to which the Labour Party in this House hope to make a contribution to resolving. I know the Minister is very conscious of the many problems of poverty in social welfare but I have to say that many of those problems have been created by him and his Department. Much of the hardship created prior to Christmas arose from the decisions taken in the 1992 Social Welfare Act. Twelve of the 21 ministerial orders had very severe effects on the lower income groups. I am sure that members of Fianna Fáil and many other Members of this House discovered this when they went rapping on doors during the general election campaign. The media did not understand what was happening, but Fianna Fáil canvassers and Members of this House did when they went knocking on doors and people asked them why they had lost £12, £18 or £21 in their social welfare benefit coming up to Christmas and without notice. That created much poverty and hardship, but worse was to follow.

When people went to get their eyes tested, have their spectacles replaced or have dental treatment they were appalled to find that because they did not have 13 paid-up contributions in the contribution year they could not get optical or dental treatment. I am talking about people who had worked for 40 or 50 years and who had retired. We talk about poverty, but these people who had paid into the system were crucified because nobody understood what was happening and the need for them to have 13 paid-up contributions in the contribution year. Members of various parties who had been out canvassing came to me and asked me to explain the system to them. They flooded into my office in Drogheda and the offices of other councillors and politicians to protest and complain about what was happening. Those are the problems which have been created as a result of the various decisions which were taken.

The meanest decision of all was the one to bring payment of the Christmas bonus forward to a date before the general election. I wonder why that happened. The Christmas bonus was paid approximately five weeks before Christmas, something that had never happened before. As a result of this decision, people who had come off unemployment assistance and gone on to a FÁS scheme could not collect the Christmas bonus. In other words, people were given an incentive to come off long term unemployment, the Christmas bonus was brought forward and as a result the unfortunate people who had done some productive work on a FÁS scheme did not receive any Christmas bonus. I call on the Minister or the new Minister to make the Christmas bonus a statutory benefit so that people will not have to wait to see how it will be paid, the percentage which will be paid or when it is paid; a provision should be included in legislation that the Christmas bonus would be paid to people on long term unemployment or long term FÁS or work schemes. These people should receive the Christmas bonus as a right; it should not be a hand-out which is used to bargain with the electorate before a general election. I know my time is running out——

Acting Chairman

In fact, it has run out. I would be obliged if you would conclude your contribution.

It is our intention to examine the entire PRSI system. Because of the many cut backs which have now been introduced I believe the PRSI system has now outrun its usefulness.

Deputy Michael McDowell rose.

I seek the guidance of the Chair. I propose to deal with the Supplementary Estimates for the Department of Education but I will give way——

I will not delay the Minister.

I am seeking the approval of the House for four Supplementary Estimates on the Votes for the Office of the Minister for Education, First Level Education, Second Level and Further Education and Third Level and Further Education.

The position with regard to gross expenditure for the four Education Votes is that we expect to exceed the budget by about £1.5 million on total gross expenditure of over £1,620 million. This represents a variation of under 0.1 per cent.

The four Supplementary Estimates amount to £7.154 million as follows: Office of Minister for Education, £1.252 million; First Level Education, a token estimate of £1,000; Second Level and Further Education, £5,900 million; and Third Level and Further Education, a token estimate of £1,000.

On the Vote for the Office of the Minister for Education, an additional £902,000 is sought to cover the cost of school transport services in 1992. This requirement arises from the need to provide for increases in costs, increased insurance claims and increased activity and numbers using the service.

An additional £300,000 in respect of sports current programmes in 1992 is required to fund the cost of new initiatives where the demands have been greater than originally anticipated. It includes an allocation to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association to provide equipment for boxing clubs.

An extra £450,000 is also being sought to enable a grant-in-aid of that amount to be paid to Dublin Zoo. This payment will enable the zoo to cover the deficit incurred in its last financial year, carry out essential works and proceed with plans for an exhibition designed to increase attendances and revenues.

The additional expenditure involved is offset by savings of £400,000 on the provision for major sports facilities due to progress on a number of projects being slower than anticipated because of problems at the local level relating mainly to site acquisition, planning difficulties and the provision of the necessary local contribution.

On the Vote for First Level Education, an additional provision of £2.7 million is sought to provide for higher than anticipated payments in respect of emergency and minor capital works. These works would include the replacement of prefabricated accommodation, repairs to mechanical and electrical services and replacement of roofs and windows.

This additional expenditure is offset by increased receipts of £400,000 and savings of £2,299,000. The increased receipts are in respect of primary teachers' superannuation contributions. A saving of £399,000 on the running costs of special school is due to difficulties in recruiting suitable staff for the new centres in Lusk, County Dublin. The saving of £1.9 million on the capital provision for a new girls' centre at Finglas is due to the initiation of a review of this development and, in particular, the choice of site.

On the Second Level and Further Education Vote, an additional £1.3 million is sought for the running costs of community and comprehensive schools. The provision is required for the pay costs of additional full-time and eligible part-time teachers arising from increased enrolments and the opening of new schools.

The cost of running the certificate examinations in 1992 is expected to be £850,000 greater than originally estimated due to a number of factors. Payments in respect of practical examinations and for preparatory work by teachers on examination materials proved greater than expected. In addition, the number of candidates sitting the 1992 exams was greater than anticipated, stationery costs were also greater than expected and fees for examiners and superintendents were increased by 3 per cent.

An additional £60,000 is required for subhead L — Miscellaneous. This will meet the costs of providing English classes for Bosnian refugees, the costs of a Working Party on Assessment in the Junior Certificate Examination and the costs of translating curricular material into Irish.

Capital expenditure on second level school is also expected to exceed the original Estimate by £2.23 million. It was necessary to proceed with a number of projects to address the unsatisfactory condition of existing accommodation. Additional expenditure was also necessary to meet the exceptionally high demand for prefabricated units as replacements or to meet temporary increases in enrolments in the 1992-93 school year.

Provision is also necessary under this Vote to meet payments which the approved Estimates envisaged would be funded from receipts from the European Social Fund. It appears unlikely at this stage that any further significant receipts will be received before the end of the year. It is necessary, therefore, to provide for a shortfall of £5.19 million in ESF receipts, offset by increased receipts of £0.93 million from teacher superannuation contributions to give a net shortfall of £4.26 million. If further appropriations-in-aid are received, however, they will reduce the actual charge on the Exchequer and the additional money voted will be returned as savings. Moreover, most of the expected shortfall will be received in early 1993 and will have the effect of reducing the charge on the Exchequer in that year.

There are offsetting savings of £2.8 million on other subheads of the Vote which are due to overestimation on salaries for secondary teachers, superannuation costs of teachers and on the provision for miscellaneous post primary services.

On the Third Level and Further Education Vote, an additional £2.082 million is required in subhead A1 to cover the cost of recouping local authorities in respect of expenditure incurred by them in 1991 on fees and maintenance grants to students under the higher education grants scheme. This is indicative of the success of the Government's policy to encourage students with the necessary aptitudes, abilities and commitment to participate in third level education.

A further sum of £372,000 is required by the Higher Education Authority in respect of pension gratuities and the extra cost of the undergraduate expansion programme in a number of third level institutions.

An additional provision of £82,000 is sought in subheads F and G to cover the payment of pension lump sums arising in the Dublin Dental Hospital and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

There are offsetting savings of £2.535 million on the capital provision for third level vocational education committee colleges due mainly to delays in planning in respect of the extension to the College of Catering in Cathal Brugha Street and CoACT, Limerick, Phase 1. The delays arose because of problems in relation to exchange of sites with third parties.

I commend the Supplementary Estimates to the House.

Acting Chairman

I call Deputy Sean Kenny and I offer my best wishes to the Deputy on his initial contribution to the House.

I join in that.

Thank you. Since the Minister for Education is in the House, I wish to raise the matter of children who require special education because of learning or other disabilities. Because of their special needs they are required to attend special schools located a considerable distance from their homes, unlike other children who can attend a local school of their parents' choice. The Department of Education operates a free travel scheme for children attending special schools, subject to certain criteria. I wish to raise one of these criteria and seek to have its operation reviewed.

To qualify for free travel children must attend the "nearest available" special school. The operation of this regulation in the city of Dublin is causing hardship to families who are considered to be inteligible as these rules are applied. I refer in particular to children from Howth and Kilbarrack who attend St. Augustine's Special School in Blackrock. These children travel from their homes to Blackrock by DART, which serves the area in which they live and provides a safe and quick means of transport for students and commuters generally who travel to work or school along its route. The children to whom I refer from Howth and Kilbarrack do not qualify for free travel on the grounds that they do not attend the "nearest available" school.

The Department of Education argues that the nearest available school is Scoil Cíarán in Glasnevin. I know that Scoil Cíarán is a fine school and I am not in any way critical of its teaching staff or management but for children living in Howth and Kilbarrack it is more difficult to gain access to Scoil Ciarán than to travel to St. Augustine's in Blackrock. To travel to Glasnevin these children would have to be bussed to the city centre and from there to Glasnevin during the morning rush hour. Anybody familiar with Dublin's traffic congestion will appreciate the time, difficulty and expense this would involve.

The DART was developed at considerable public expense and should be utilised for educational travel where possible, rather than adding to the existing deplorable traffic congestion in our city. I invite the Minister or the incoming Minister to travel from Howth to Blackrock any morning during the school term and on another morning to travel by road from Howth to Kilbarrack to Glasnevin and to make a comparison between the time taken, the cost, the inconvenience and the difficulty. For children attending a special school there is an added difficulty. If this Minister of the incoming Minister were to do so, he or she would see the merit in interpreting the "nearest available school" criterion in a more practical and humane way.

I refer to the new carer's allowance introduced the year before last. Initially there was great difficulty in qualifying for this allowance. Public representatives dealt with many people who could not qualify but eventually the criteria were changed, enabling people to qualify for the carer's allowance. Those who qualified initially have had their allowance withdrawn in recent months, being told they are ineligible. I dealt last week with the case of a woman who had been receiving a carer's allowance for a handicapped son aged 21. She went to the local post office in Donaghmede, as she did every week, and was told that her allowance has been withdrawn. She has received no communication from the Department of Social Welfare to this effect. This information was given to her as she stood in a queue in the post office and she was made to feel like a criminal trying to cheat, to obtain some allowance to which she was not entitled. When I spoke to the lady several days later she had still not received any written communication that her carer's allowance had been withdrawn.

There was talk during the election of humanising the social welfare system. Certainly it needs to be humanised in terms of conveying decisions to applicants who either qualify or are considered ineligible. It is not good enough that a person should be told over the counter in the local post office that he or she no longer qualifies for benefit. The operation of the system needs to be reviewed. This is something for which we in the Labour Party will be striving.

My colleague, Deputy Bell, mentioned the difficulties in Drogheda where people found themselves cut off from social welfare benefits. In this city of Dublin it was the same, if not worse. Because of the implementation of a new directive from the Minister, people who qualified for special payments to help with their rent, their ESB bills and the expenses associated with children returning to school in September were told that they could only get one payment of £100 once a year. The implementation of that rule has created severe hardship. I am sure it was a major factor during the general election and we intend to put it on the table when negotiations in relation to forming the next Government commence.

Let me conclude by thanking the Ceann Comhairle for his courtesy in allowing me to make my first speech in this House. I would also like to convey my congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle himself on his re-election to the Chair and assure him of my support.

I too would like to be associated with the words of congratulation to Deputy Kenny who has just made his maiden speech.

I wish to deal with the Supplementary Estimate under Vote 39, International Co-operation, in the sum of £1,275,000. The breakdown under subhead A — Contributions to International Organisations — is as follows: first, there is the United Nations Protection Force in former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR). UNPROFOR was established in February 1992 as an interim peace-keeping force to create condition of peace and security required for an overall settlement to the Yugoslav crisis. The current estimated cost has been set at $635 million. Ireland's mandatory contribution to this, based on our peace-keeping scale of assessment is £350,000.

The crisis in the former Yugoslavia remains a cause for the utmost concern. There has been no abatement of military aggression, ethnic cleansing and brutal acts — even against the most defenceless members of the population.

The primary responsibility for this brutal conflict rests with the leadership of Serbia and of the Bosnian Serbs. The imposition of economic sanctions by the European Community and by the UN Security Council must be maintained until the authorities in Belgrade give effect to their commitments to the peace process and change their policies fundamentally. If not, sanctions will be tightened and extended further and Serbia's isolation will be made complete.

We are actively supporting the peace process which is now under way within the framework of the International Conference on former Yugoslavia under the auspices of the European Community and the United Nations.

Ireland is also continuing its involvement in efforts on the ground in the region to establish the conditions for a negotiated settlement. In this regard, 20 members of the Garda Síochána are working with the UN peacekeeping force, UNPROFOR, in Croatia, and six Defence Forces personnel are serving with that force in Croatia and at Sarajevo airport. A further six are with the European Community Monitor Mission in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina and in Bulgaria. Our practical commitment to activities which support the peace process is, therefore, clear and substantial.

UN Security Council Resolution 776 authorised the extension of the original UNPROFOR mandate to provide military protection for humanitarian relief operations in Bosnia. As Deputies will be aware, this phase of the UN operation is of vital importance in the light of the desperate plight of the people of Bosnia. With the onset of winter, the threat of mass starvation for the citizens of Sarajevo and other besieged communities in that country, is a very real one, unless the humanitarian agencies are protected in carrying out their activities.

The global budget for this phase of the UN operation is estimated at $495 million including $59 million dollars for shared and headquarters costs. The Twelve EC countries have agreed that they will all make contributions commensurate with what they would normally pay, based on their UN peace-keeping scale of assessment, taking account of the contributions made by the troop-contributing countries. Further contributions from other member states of the UN are also being actively sought or have already been promised.

Ireland has offered the sum of £100,000 as its share of the burden and this figure is included in today's Supplementary Estimate. The moneys will be paid into a UN Trust Fund established for this purpose and the fund will be subject to the normal UN budget scrutiny mechanism.

The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), with over 22,000 personnel, both military and civilian, is the largest peace-keeping operation ever undertaken by the United Nations. UNTAC will oversee the implementation of the UN peace plan for Cambodia begun with the signing of the Paris Agreements by the four Cambodian factions on 23 October 1991.

A major focus of the UNTAC operation will be the creation of a neutral political environment in Cambodia to enable free and fair elections for a constituent assembly to be held before the end of May 1993 in accordance with the timetable laid down by the UN Security Council. Ireland has contributed 15 military observers and 40 gardaí to UNTAC's military and police components. The cost of UNTAC has been estimated at $1.9 billion of which Ireland's mandatory assessment to date is approximately £550,000.

As regards the United Nations Observer Mission in Somalia (UNOSOM) Deputies will recall previous statements made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the tragic situation there. At least 250,000 people have died so far this year in Somalia and a further 1.5 million people face imminent death from starvation unless enough food is delivered within the next few weeks.

Irish aid organisations feature prominently in providing humanitarian aid, often in conditions of extreme danger. There are over 70 Irish nationals working with Concern, GOAL, the Irish Red Cross, Trócaire and other humanitarian organisations in Somalia. In order to ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid it is essential that a secure environment be created. The Government welcomed, therefore, the adoption by the Security Council on 3 December of Resolution 794, which sanctioned the deployment of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.

We also remain fully committed to our earlier offer to send a 60-strong transport contingent from the Irish Defence Forces to Somalia as part of UNOSOM, the original UN operation in Somalia, and will shortly put a motion of approval to this effect before Dáil Éireann. We believe that the deployment of UNOSOM should take place as soon as Operation Restore Hope has been successfully completed.

The estimated total cost of the UNOSOM operation has been calculated at $109.6 million. A sum of £106,000 has been included in this Supplementary Estimate.

While the total for all these contributions to UN peace-keeping operations comes to approximately £1.1 million, savings made under other subheads have reduced the total sought in this subhead of the Supplementary Estimate to £695,000.

The increased provision for subhead D — Agency for Personal Service Overseas (£130,000) — and for subhead E — Disaster Relief (£370,000) — are to meet the extra costs arising for personnel costs and relief operations in Somalia in the course of this year.

I should like to take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to all those concerned, both the individual volunteers and the agencies and to express to them the gratitude of the Irish people for the magnificent contribution which they have made.

The extra £30,000 proposed for subhead H.1 — the Refugee Agency — results from the additional funds necessary for the effort to help Yugoslav refugees. Only a relatively small amount of the total cost involved is covered by the Supplementary Estimate for the Refugee Agency. However, I would not like this occasion to pass without paying tribute to the agency board, to their staff and to their volunteer assistants for the extraordinary efforts they made in order to facilitate the reception at the beginning of September of 178 refugees. Much of the cost of this operation was borne by other Departments' Votes. I avail of this opportunity to express my thanks for the efforts, frequently voluntary, which permitted the smooth reception of the Yugoslav refugees at Cherry Orchard Hospital. In addition to the Refugee Agency, a special word of thanks is due to the Irish Red Cross and to the Civil Defence and to the Eastern Health Board. I am happy to say that when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Ogata, visited Ireland in November last she was particularly pleased with the conditions which had been established for the reception of the refugees.

The adjustment in subhead J — Appropriation in Aid — is of a purely technical nature and arises from the postponement of the disposal of assets to 1993.

Before I conclude, a Cheann Comhairle, I congratulate you on your election as Ceann Comhairle for the 27th Dáil.

Like the last speaker, I too wish to congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your re-election to an office which you have distinguished by the manner in which you have discharged your duties during my time in this House. I wish you every success in the future. I hope there will not be a further election for your post for some considerable time.

The Deputy is very kind.

I would also like to congratulate all the Members who were successful in the most recent election and welcome the new Members to the House and to extend our commiserations to those who did not get back.

Given the time limitations I want to comment on overseas development aid, the subject dealt with by the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt. While he will not receive many plaudits from this side of the House about the general application of funds towards overseas development aid, we must accept that both he and his Department have probably done the best that they can in the circumstances. We should recognise also the magnitude of the problem. There is a need for us to respond in a realistic way to the public who have responded well to the Somalia appeals in recent times.

Regardless of which Government is in power, and it could be anyone at this stage, it must give a lead in this area and respond to those who are in a worse position than ourselves. We often feel that we are very badly off but the people living on the fringes of the Third World are in desperate straits, as has been illustrated repeatedly on our television screens. This has brought home to us that there is a correlation between famine and starvation and war. We can only hope that these dire conditions which were brought to our attention during the past year or more will be alleviated by the world powers which have the necessary expertise and funding. If nothing comes from it but a response from world agencies, it will have been worth while. I also wish to compliment the European Community for its efforts.

In case the incoming Government feels secure about the £8 billion we are supposed to receive in the not too distant future, this money is to be used for a particular purpose; it is not a hand-out to increase or enhance people's living standards for a short time, it is to be used to provide infrastructure to achieve a better standard of living and a better quality of life for our people over a long period. If the incoming Government, regardless of what hue, were to attempt to use the money from the Cohesion Fund for any purpose other than the provision of infrastructure, it would be doing itself and the country severe injustice. I hope it will accept this responsibility in the months and years ahead and act in the best interests of the country.

In relation to the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Justice, it has been brought to our attention during the past few years that there is a need to provide adequate telecommunication facilities to enable that Department to keep in step with modern crime. I and other Members over the years have said it is essential that we provide the Department and gardaí on the beat with telecommunication facilities to enable them respond quickly and adequately to crime in any part of the country at any time.

The "green man" system is inadequate and does not work because when members of the public attempt to contact the forces of law and order in an emergency more often than not their local Garda station is unoccupied. Why is it unoccupied? Because of rationalisation, the public are unable to contact a friendly voice at the other end of the telephone line. As a result they ring a central station which, in turn, will try to contact the local station or someone on patrol. In at least 50 per cent of cases this system does not work because people cannot contact the authorities who should be there to protect them as quickly as they would like.

Rationalisation and modernisation should not necessarily mean the elimination of services which down the years were provided for the public. These services are being eliminated or curtailed in an effort to save money. However, the balance of power has tilted in favour of the criminal. I am not criticising the Garda authorities but rather stating that in the preparation of Estimates and budgets it should be clearly acknowledged that we are losing the fight against petty crime which, ultimately, leads to serious crime. The public have a right to go about their daily business without fear or intimidation from hooligans or those who have serious criminal activities in mind.

Like other speakers, I would like to refer briefly to the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of the Environment. In the past I have criticised this Estimate repeatedly. I hope whichever Administration has the good luck or otherwise to take office in the coming weeks will look seriously at how the housing crisis can be resolved, because this Supplementary Estimate will make no impact on it.

During the past 12 months the housing position has got steadily worse. As I said in this House and at health board meetings, in my 17 years as a public representative at local and national level, I have never before seen such deprivation in relation to housing as I have in the past 12 to 14 months. Before now I never had to take constituents in my car at night to hostels in this capital city because there was nowhere else for them to go. I never had to bring people from hostels to local authority housing offices in order to get them access to facilities which did not exist, where all they could do was talk to a housing officer or to somebody in control. These people could do absolutely nothing for them because we in this House, or more especially the Department of the Environment did not face up to their responsibilities and did not seriously accept the needs of the people concerned.

It was alleged that the banks and the financial institutions would resolve the housing needs of the people. The result is that there are about 35,000 people on waiting lists at present. These families will not have an adequate home for Christmas. They are seriously deprived, but for some unknown reason there has not been a great backlash. It appears these people do not have votes and have no worthwhile clout at election time. If they had, that would have been a major issue in recent times, but that was not the case and I cannot understand the reason. This matter was never seriously addressed by the Government in the past couple of years. The people on that side of the House did not have the will to tackle the problem, even from a humanitarian or compassionate point of view. For some unknown reason it never seemed to ring a bell except on the Opposition benches and I cannot understand that.

I hope that whatever Administration sits over there in the next couple of years will take a serious look at housing. The people who are so deprived are being done a terrible injustice on two counts: first, they have no housing and, therefore, their quality of life is poor and, second, the health of these families is affected, usually by respiratory illnesses, even for long periods after leaving unfit housing. This is a sad reflection on the powers that be who make no provision for these people. I say again to whoever sits on those benches over there that I hope their decisions will have regard to the manner in which they are likely to affect the people on whose behalf they are taken.

Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat, a Cheann Comhairle, toisc go bhfuil tú atofa don Chathaoir i nDáil Éireann; agus comhghairdeas a dhéanamh freisin leis na hiarrthóirí go léir a toghadh don Teach. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an-chomhoibriú eadrainn sna blianta atá os ár gcomhair amach san 27ú Dáil.

The token Supplementary Estimate now sought for Vote 10 arises for a number of reasons. The effect on the Vote is to increase the gross Estimate by £1.101 million to £111.828 million and the net Estimate by £1,000 to £99.944 million.

The first item is the additional allocation of £16,000 sought for subhead B, President's household staff. This arises from additional overtime and training of staff.

The Maintenance and Supplies subhead, F1, will need an additional allocation of £410,000 to meet extra costs incurred in the maintenance of State property. The commissioners hold on behalf of the State some five million square feet of office and other accommodation spread over about 2,800 properties. Fifty per cent is State owned and 50 per cent is leased but all involve the commissioners with a duty to maintain these properties to the highest standards possible. This task includes the maintenance of some of our most prestigious buildings such as Áras an Uachtaráin, the State Apartments, Government Buildings, Leinster House, Dublin Castle Conference Centre and the National Gallery to name but a few.

I would like to take this opportunity of commending the commissioners on the excellent work they do in all areas of activity under their control. It is difficult to foresee the volume of works that will require attention in a given year but there seems to be an evergrowing demand resulting in a continuing strain on resources. It is most important that we continue to give our support to the building maintenance programme.

The energy costs subhead, F4, needs additional funding of £40,000 to cover increased costs at certain buildings. While individual Departments are responsible for their own energy costs, the commissioners have retained responsibility for the cost of heating and light at some of the more prestigious buildings in the greater Dublin area.

An additional sum of £960,000 is sought for subhead H, Inland Waterways. Since taking over responsibility for the maintenance of our inland waterways in 1986 the commissioners have endeavoured to devote as much of their resources as possible to the development of this natural amenity. The canals had been neglected for many years prior to their transfer to the Office of Public Works and considerable expenditure has been necessary on essential maintenance of canal banks and restoration of locks.

The sum now required is to cover the cost of a major drive to bring the standard of the maintenance of our waters up to an acceptable level. This year great progress has been made on the stretch of the Royal Canal between Blanchardstown in Dublin, and the Liffey and I am pleased to say that this stretch should be fully open to navigation next year. In addition, it has been necessary to acquire lands for the purpose of the development of the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal project. Finally, additional works at Terryglass and Banagher harbours on the Shannon and the Waterways Interpretative Centre at Ringsend, Dublin are contributory factors to the excess on this subhead. These projects are partially funded by the EC under the tourism operational programme.

Subhead J which covers national monuments and historic properties requires an additional sum of £747,000. The additional amount sought is required to cover increased expenditure on structural funded projects such as Ashtown Castle, St. Audeon's Church, Portumna Castle and Clonmacnois. These projects and many others are part funded by the EC through the tourism operational programme. Ashtown Castle, which is located in the Phoenix Park, was recently completed and opened to the public and has proved to be a major visitor attraction. While the National Monuments and Historic Properties Service's work is conservation orientated, nonetheless, the completion of the Ashtown Castle project has clearly demonstrated how the finished product can contribute to the promotion of tourism in Ireland and, at the same time, maintain the commissioner's role in relation to conservation.

A number of projects charged to this subhead have been the focus of some opposition. These are the Boyne Valley Archaeological Park Development and the Dun Chaoin Centre for the Great Blasket Island National Historic Park. I have dealt with our policy on the provision of visitor centres at heritage sites in this House on many occasions in the past number of years. I remain convinced that we are going about it in the right way. Areas of national importance to our heritage are acquired and their subsequent management, including the control of visitor access, is founded on the overall objective of conservation. Thus, conservation is balanced with freedom of public access. I can tell you that as the Dun Chaoin Centre nears completion many who were opposed to it have now changed their views. I have no doubt the same will apply in relation to the Donore Centre being built for the Boyne Valley and indeed other centres being constructed in various parts of the country.

The development of the visitor centre at the Céide Fields Neolithic Settlement in County Mayo, which is also charged to this subhead is nearing completion. This is a major project taken over by the commissioners from the local community at their request. There is no controversy here, no injunction sought — I wonder why? An extra sum of £40,000 is sought for subhead L.1 Arterial Drainage Surveys, to provide for the specialist studies by consultants for the cost benefit analyses and environmental impact assessments of the Mulcair and Owenmore rivers.

An additional £500,000 is required on subhead L.2, Arterial Drainage Construction, to meet the cost of redundancy payments on the Bonet and Monaghan Blackwater drainage schemes and to cover a substantial compensation settlement on the Boyne drainage scheme. The completion of the Boyle, Bonet and Monaghan Blackwater schemes will confer benefit on more than 40,000 acres of land which heretofore had serious problems with flooding or waterlogging. The completion of the Monaghan Blackwater scheme last month leaves only the Bonet drainage scheme at construction stage. This is scheduled to be completed next year and with this in mind I will be proposing an alternative approach to river drainage to that currently practised. We have been working on that for some time.

Subhead L.3, Arterial Drainage Maintenance, needs an extra £204,000 to cover the purchase of materials which were required for emergency repair works to the most seriously deteriorated embankments. The commissioners have a statutory duty to maintain completed schemes if the benefits secured are not to be lost.

At the outset I mentioned that this is a token Supplementary Estimate. Deputies will see from Part II of the details that significant savings totalling £1.816 million are expected on certain subheads and an increase of £1.100 million is anticipated on the original Appropriations-in-Aid Estimate. I propose to give details only of the significant factors in both cases.

A saving of £300,000 on subhead A.1 is due mainly to the non-filling of a number of vacancies and a greater control on expenditure in the last year or so. The bulk of the saving on subhead F.2 is due to the delay in plans to replace printing machinery in the implant unit together with the less than expected expenditure on warehouse management. The saving of £650,000 on subhead F.3 is due largely to better than expected settlements achieved in the 1992 Dublin rent reviews. Because of the many delays in the commencement of the Burren and Wicklow National Park projects a saving of £640,000 will be achieved on subhead G. These delays were largely outside the control of the commissioners.

The surplus in the Appropriations-in-Aid receipts is attributable to the sale of property at Beggar's Bush. In this context significant progress has been made in recent years in disposal of surplus State property.

Before I commend this Supplementary Estimate to the House I would like to refute some of the statements made earlier this morning particularly by Deputies Quinn and McDowell. First, let me say that the Office of Public Works heritage advertising campaign is now in its fourth year. It was not dreamt up, as Deputy Quinn suggested, to distract attention from the work at Luggula and Mullaghamore. It is an ongoing campaign to make the public at large aware of their heritage. It is aimed at the raising of public consciousness and is designed to invite people to actively experience their heritage and learn the important values of conservation. The campaign cost about £100,000 and this must be seen against receipts at parks and monuments of over £1.5 million.

When we returned to Government in 1987 we placed major emphasis on tourism, particularly heritage, historic and cultural tourism, as part of economic growth. When I was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for heritage affairs in 1987, in discussions with the commissioners I directed the office to get involved in the promotion of heritage, historic and cultural tourism and to use the gems and the jewels the Commissioners of Public Works had taken care of so efficiently over the years. As a result of that direction and those discussions we decided it was time we advertised and promoted all the outstanding properties, particularly the heritage properties under our control. We have expanded that promotion over the years and we make no apologies for that.

Let me be quite clear on the subject of transparency of the Office of Public Works activities. The Office of Public Works is an agent of Government and its programmes are approved by both the Department of Finance and Government where necessary. The programme of Structural Fund-aided projects was given the widest possible publicity when the tourism operational programme was first announced in 1989. The visitor centre projects which seem to excite some of the current and former Deputies were cleared by Government and received the approval of the relevant planning authorities. So professional are the officials of the Office of Public Works in their approach to this work that Justice O'Hanlon in refusing to grant an interim injunction in the case of the Burren Centre stated, and I quote:

It appears to me that the Commissioners have been meticulous in the manner in which they have carried forward the project to date, in giving information to the local authority and to the public at large as to the nature of the planned development; in inviting comments and giving consideration to representations made; in commissioning the Environmental Impact Report, and generally in going well beyond what they conceived as their duties and obligations at law in these respects.

That statement was made by a very eminent member of the Judiciary. He went on to say, and I quote:

I believe the Respondents (that is the Office of Public Works) have conducted their affairs in an irreproachable manner to date.

That is a far cry from what Deputies Quinn and McDowell would have you believe. I am proud to be part of the team managing the affairs of State in the Office of Public Works and as their political head I pay a special tribute to the commissioners, the management and the staff at all levels in the Office of Public Works for the excellent discharge of their duties on behalf of the people of Ireland in a very important Department.

I commend this supplementary estimate to the House.

Prior to dealing with the estimate, I join other Deputies, Sir, in wishing you well in your term as Ceann Comhairle in this House. I hope it lasts for a number of years, to the benefit not only of yourself, but to that of Members of the House.

It is taken for granted in this House that Supplementary Estimates are introduced annually amounting to millions of pounds. They are passed with little discussion and generally without a vote. If there is a Supplementary Estimate one must realise that there has been an overrun in the budget set down for the year. If the households of the country were to run their business in this way families would be bankrupt and many homes would be repossessed by the building societies. The running of the country by the Government is no different from running a household; people should keep a tighter rein on the Estimate with which they are provided at the beginning of the budgetary year.

It is not acceptable at the end of the year to receive an extra £1 million or £2 million to carry us through. The fact that this happened is no surprise to this side of the House. The Government has been distracted not only for the past 12 months but for the past two years from the job for which they were appointed, running this country and keeping a tighter rein on the Estimates provided for the running of Government Departments. Obviously, it is too late now for that to be taken on board by the present Administration and it is difficult to know what shape the new Administration will take.

Many people are annoyed at the length of time it is taking to put that Administration in place. The carrot of £8 billion EC money is now being waved at potential partners who might join Fianna Fáil in Government. However, the expenditure of this £8 billion rests on the shoulders of every Member of this House; we must all have a say in how it will be spent. It is not good enough to say that for the next seven years we will get money from Europe, that this will be our saviour and that we can go on our merry way. That is not acceptable. Positive schemes must be put in place and every section of the community is entitled to a fair share. To date I have not seen any indication that the present Administration, albeit in abeyance but, nevertheless, the people responsible at present, will make a fair distribution of those EC funds to the four corners of the country. A sum of £1 billion was mentioned in regard to the Cohesion Fund, an astronomical amount of money in any terms but seems to be taken as just a sum of money.

When the Minister for Finance was asked to give an indication of how this money might be spent he referred to a rail system from Dublin to Belfast, the upgrading of the road from O'Connell Bridge to Dublin Airport, the cleaning of Dublin Bay; all his references were to Dublin. Does that Minister, and the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith who is also present, realise that areas outside the greater Dublin area are in need of rail and road systems, drainage works and so on?

Listening to Deputy Boylan one would think this was his first time in the House.

I have been a Member of this House for five years and have been hearing the same story from Fianna Fáil Governments about the greater areas of population where votes can be got, but that has not worked for them this time. They must realise there are people outside the Dublin area who are looking for services. Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim have potential for development. There are people there with the will power to do something but they are not getting the support from Government. The county roads in Cavan and Monaghan are a disgrace to any Government. That is not acceptable.

For years the Deputy's council was afraid to even vote money.

That is not true. We have met our obligations. I do not accept the Minister's statement, it is nonsense. If that is the Minister's view I hope there will be a complete change of administration and I hope that the Labour Party are listening attentively because, obviously, there has not been a change of attitude from Fianna Fáil. The people in rural Cavan and Monaghan are entitled to a road to their door which is as good as a road in any town or city in the rest of the country. Why should they be denied that service? Why should there be footpaths to people's doors in an urban area and no such facility in a rural area? A cart-track seems to be good enough for rural areas, but that is not good enough and I will not accept it.

The Deputy is not discharging his duties——

There is a strict time limit on this debate and interruptions of any kind are most unwelcome.

There should be a fair distribution of the £8 billion to the four parts of the country and every sector should benefit from it. Any sum which comes to the north-east or the north-west will have an immediate effect which will give a valuable return to the economy.

There is a need for an immediate national housing scheme. In my constituency there is a great demand for housing, particularly for rural cottages. building more houses would solve the great social problem at present and would also generate employment. A number of Deputies referred to the problem of crime; there is a need for a substantial increase in the number of gardaí, it is a sad state of affairs but it is the case. The tradition of the garda on the beat needs to be revived because it had the effect of deterring crime. When people knew that gardaí were patrolling cities and towns they thought twice about committing crime. I could give examples of robberies in my own constituency which could have been prevented if there had been enough gardaí patrolling the streets. There have been cases of elderly people being attacked and tied up in their homes and robbed of their few possessions. It is not good enough, they are entitled to safety and sanctuary in their homes and the State must provide that.

The incoming Government should abolish the means test in relation to ESF grants. It has caused major problems for many households as parents were planning to send their children to third-level education in the regional colleges but that system has now been denied to them because the Government did not budget properly. Ireland is the only member state which means-tests the ESF grants, we are denying people the right to educate their children. We tabled a Private Members' motion asking that the means testing of ESF grants be abolished but we were not successful. It was laughable to hear the Government during the general election campaign announcing free education at third level for all children. Of course, that is impossible but it should be available to those in need, which is not the case at present, because of the restrictions placed on the grants by the Government.

The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, referred to the good work of the Office of Public works in relation to the restoration of public buildings and national monuments. I fully support his views in that regard as they are part and parcel of our heritage and we must be prepared to set aside annually sums of money for the restoration of these magnificant buildings which not only have tourism potential but are there for us—and future generations—to admire. However, drains and rivers are also the responsibility of the Office of Public Works although it is very difficult to get a commitment from it in regard to the rivers and drains for which it is responsible because it knows there is an awful lot of work to be done. Farm land is being rendered useless as a result of drains being neglected, farmers living adjacent to them are prepared to do something about the problem but they are not allowed to do so because they are public drains. They would be prepared to work in conjunction with the Office of Public Works if they could get an official from that office to inspect the drains. However, as the Minister is probably aware, that is well-nigh impossible. Personnel in the Office of Public Works should be more accessible to farmers who want to improve their land. Some people seem to be in favour of removing this country from its agricultural base but that is foolish thinking as the bedrock of our economy is agriculture and always will be. Drainage will have a major ongoing role to play in that regard and it must be upgraded.

The Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Walsh, is not in the House——

He is negotiating for Ireland——

Deputy Boylan should bring his speech to a close.

The Minister has not met his deadline in regard to grants. If farmer A is paid, farmer B is also entitled to be paid. The Minister would not like it if his salary was paid three months after I received mine and the same applies to grants to farmers. The system should be streamlined, the grants are part of farmers' incomes, not extras.

I was approached by Deputy Michael Higgins asking for time for a brief contribution from The Labour Party. I will accommodate that if it is within the rules.

Is the Minister giving way to another Deputy?

Mr. Smith


I now call Deputy Bhamjee. As this is his maiden speech, I welcome him to the House and wish him much success and happiness.

Thank you very much, A Cheann Comhairle. I also add my congratulations and best wishes to those you have received over the last two days.

I am delighted to be a Member of the Dáil and to represent the Labour Party in County Clare. The county's last representative was Mr. Paddy Hogan, about 40 years ago. I hope that my winning a seat will add a bit of colour and flavour to the proceedings and that my professional expertise will not be called upon too often in the House.

I welcome the Supplementary Estimate on health because the health issues were one of the major elements of The Labour Party manifesto in the election and helped to increase the number of Labour Party Dáil Deputies. As a result of underfunding to the Mid-Western Health Board in comparison with other health boards, services were curtailed within the region. Within County Clare there was the fear that Ennis County Hospital was being downgraded and would eventually close. That hospital is an absolute necessity since it serves a vast hinterland and population of 90,000, of whom at least one-third are over the age of 65. Thus, they elected me, a doctor, to represent them in this 27th Dáil to express their concerns to Government.

Clare is an example only of what is happening with regard to health issues nationwide, with bed numbers being reduced, waiting lists extended and children's dental services reduced. I shall not go into all of the detail in that respect. For example in County Clare we do not have local maternity services. This means women in labour have to travel from Loop Head to Limerick and Galway, a distance of 50 to 75 miles to deliver their babies—and some babies have been delivered en route. The people of County Clare demand a maternity unit in Ennis County Hospital so that, at least, we will have a Clare football team in years to come. Since babies are at present being born in Galway and Limerick, bearing in mind GAA rules, we may have difficulty in fielding a Clare team for the Munster Final; we hope to participate in the All-Ireland Final next year.

We are concerned also that the elderly are not being cared for in the community, because there are insufficient beds for long term care or for respite patients to give their carers a break. There is a clear need for long term beds for the elderly.

Mentally handicapped persons nationwide do not have adequate workshops or residential accommodation. Insufficient capital finance are allocated to health boards to enable them purchase homes within the community to house psychiatric patients, as was envisaged in the document "Planning for the Future" with regard to psychiatric services. In addition, public health nurses and nurses working in hospitals nationwide are overworked and stressed, and some with special skills are emigrating. In addition, general practitioners are affected by the retention tax, and a number of their experienced members leaving the country for greener pastures abroad. Extra funding is needed for additional care for general medical card patients which would result in fewer patients being referred to hospital services.

I welcome the Supplementary Estimate and am sure the relevant moneys voted will be much appreciated.

I will make a few comments on education. The Minister for Education should visit Ballinacally primary school. The state of the buildings there is atrocious, and there is need for a new school building. There are a few more problem schools I wish he would visit also.

I suggest that the Minister for Finance should examine the pension schemes of retired civil servants many of whom are experiencing difficulty with the present high cost of living, because those pensions have not been increased proportionately.

To revert to the Office of Public Works and Mullaghmore, there is a full court case pending in January. I am aware that Mr. Justice O'Hanlon has granted an interim injunction. I contend that the Office of Public Works should wait until all these court cases have been heard and completed before commencing the building of an interpretative centre at Mullaghmore. That legal action may prove that the Office of Public Works does not have the right to build such a centre. If we can await the formation of a Government we can await such a building. I would advise the Office of Public Works to await the outcome of such court action.

As has been said, we do need local authority housing nationwide. For example, in County Clare there is the need for at least 300 to 400 such houses to be built. Perhaps another Supplementary Estimate would help in the building of more such houses.

Déanaim comhghairdeas leat, a Cheann Chomhairle, faoi tú bheith tofa arís chun dul i mbun na ndualgaisí a bhaineann leis an oifig tábhachtach atá agat. Tá mé cinnte de go ndéanfaidh tú do dhícheall cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do ghach ball den Tí seo.

I propose to deal, in the short time available to me, with the Environment Supplementary Estimate. This supplementary represents increased spending of £8.2 million and a net shortfall in receipts of £1.25 million. The gross requirement of £9.45 million is offset by savings of £3.15 million to give the net figure of £6.3 million.

The major item of additional spending is £6 million on improvements to non-national roads, bringing the total Exchequer outlay on these roads to £79.3 million in 1992. Primary responsibility for the funding of works on these roads rests with local authorities. Traditionally, the works were financed from local resources, with only limited State assistance.

Since 1989, a discretionary grant system has been operated in relation to regional and county roads generally, leaving local authorities free to decide within general guidelines what works would be undertaken. Also in 1989, the Government made a commitment that £150 million would be provided over three years in discretionary grants to county councils for these roads. This commitment was more than fulfilled. Total discretionary grants over the period 1989 to 1991 amounted to £182.4 million.

The high level of investment has been maintained this year with discretionary grants totalling £68.1 million allocated to local authorities — almost three times the amount allocated in 1986. This is clear evidence of a determination to improve the fabric of the network of non-national roads. It is also a recognition of the Government's commitment to the ongoing requirements of the agriculture, forestry and tourism industries, in addition to the requirements of rural communities generally.

Investment by local authorities in non-national roads which are of importance to industry or tourism development qualifies for 50 per cent EC aid under the operational programme on peripherality. Investment of £115 million on these roads over the 1989-93 period will qualify for such aid under this programme. A further £8 million will qualify for EC aid under the rural development operational programme. I look forward to a substantial increase in the amount of EC aid allocated for these roads in the next round following the week end decision of the European Council to increase substantially the overall level of the Structural Funds and agreement that account must be taken of the pressing need for rural development in allocating aid between member states.

The Supplementary Estimate provides an additional £1.4 million for recoupment to local authorities of the cost of running motor tax offices, a task which they undertake as agents of the State. The total bill for these administrative costs this year will exceed £12.8 million, representing about 6 per cent of the estimated revenue collected by motor tax offices.

Costs of operating the local motor tax offices have been growing in recent years due to a number of factors. First, the volume of transactions has increased steadily. Second, new or improved motor tax offices have been provided to replace accommodation that was inadequate and, in some cases, Dickensian. Taxpaying motorists and local authority staff are entitled to conduct motor tax transactions in decent and secure office conditions. Another factor has been the initial cost of new computer systems being installed on a pilot basis, in four offices which account for almost half of all vehicle licensing transactions in the State. These computers should enable the system to cope with an ever growing volume of transactions more efficiently and securely than is possible with manual systems.

New administrative and legal arrangements have had to be made to enable motor tax offices to cope with radical changes being introduced on 1 January 1993. Responsibility for vehicle registration is being transferred from that date to the Revenue Commissioners as part of the arrangements for the collection and enforcement of the vehicle registration tax which will replace vehicle excise duty. At the same time, motor tax offices are being given new duties in relation to the enforcement of EC controls on vehicle emissions and in relation to the phased extension of roadworthiness testing to about 53,000 light goods vehicles over four years old. Any teething troubles which may arise in the initial stages of the new system should be quickly identified and remedied with the co-operation of all bodies involved.

An additional £800,000 are required to meet liabilities this year for the payment of new house grants. The additional funds will enable about 400 grants to be paid to applicants who would otherwise have had to wait until next year for payment. In view of the present level of overdraft interest rates it is particularly important that there be no avoidable delay in paying these grants.

Overall, £9.8 million will be spent this year on new house grants. The increased spending reflects the buoyancy of the housing market. This year total housing completions are set to reach between 21,000 and 22,000, with up to 20,000 new private houses being built, the highest level since 1983.

The Supplementary Estimate amends the net amount of the 1992 Vote to take account of a net shortfall in receipts this year of £1.25 million. This amount is made up of a shortfall of £1.65 million in receipts from the Custom House Docks Development Authority, offset by higher than anticipated receipts from driving test fees.

The 1992 Vote provided for a payment of £3 million by the docks authority out of profits accruing from that part of the development which has been completed to date. Given the level of the State investment in this project, it is important that a direct financial return be made to the State over and above the benefits accuring by way of job creation and urban renewal. This financial return is achieved through the payment by the authority to the Exchequer of all profits not required to meet its own current and capital requirements. The authority itself has received no subvention from the State since 1988.

By April 1991 five major office buildings had been completed on the docks site. Negotiations are continuing between the authority and the development company aimed at completing the balance of the development by January 1997 when the tax incentives applicable in the area will expire. While progress has been made in these negotiations, it is a matter of serious concern to me that it has not yet proved possible to reach full agreement and that the construction of further elements of the development has as a consequence been delayed.

The payment of £3 million by the authority was included in the 1992 Vote in the expectation that agreement would be reached before now on arrangements for carrying out further development. In the event, the authority will pay only £1.35 million to the Exchequer this year, leaving a shortfall of £1.65 million to be provided for.

Further work at the Custom House Docks should get under way early next year. This is important from the point of view of the employment which will be created in construction and in the many enterprises and services to be located on the site. Further payments to the Exchequer will arise as development progresses.

Some of the additional spending I have referred to is offset by savings of £3.15 million on other services in the Vote. The largest saving is £2.25 million due to slower than anticipated progress on some of the new schemes in the plan for Social Housing, such as the scheme for improvement works in lieu of local authority housing and the mortgage allowance scheme.

Small savings have also emerged on departmental salaries, environmental services, the provision for the Environmental Protection Agency, loan subsidies to local authorities and miscellaneous services.

I conclude by commending the Supplementary Environment Estimate of £6.3 million to the House. As I have shown, the additional expenditure relates to matured liabilities on mainline services which must be met before the end of the year.

While I appreciate the urgency of the matter and the reasons the Minister brought this Estimate to the House, the Minister in his speech clearly illustrates some of the policies which were being pursued by the outgoing Government. The Minister in his speech said that there was a saving of £2.25 million on social housing as a result of the new policy being pursued by the Government not being taken up. During the lifetime of the previous Government successive Opposition Deputies asked when this scheme would get under way and what were the legal difficulties. They found road blocks everywhere. Now they have disappeared and, alleluia, we will now reduce the housing list in Ennis which accounts for 300 applicants and we can look forward to a new era in which social housing policy will be applied in Ennis. I am afraid that will not happen. Neither the Minister nor the previous Government recognised that there were social housing difficulties and that people are suffering. People will continue to suffer unless there is a revolution. Deputy Bhamjee is looking forward to an expansion of the housing stock in Ennis. Judged on the rate at which the Department pursued their policies during the last Administration I am afraid Deputy Bhamjee will have to wait until the following Government is installed to get that change in place.

It is apparent from the Minister's speech that job opportunities were not uppermost in the minds of the Department. The Department wanted to take in as much money as possible from driving tests. Some people repeat the test five, six and seven times. On the popular "Gay Byrne Show" we hear people ringing in about this. Even this morning people complained about the number of driving tests which had to be undergone. The Minister did not say whether he approves of the rigid rules which are applied by some driving testers and not by others.

Mr. Smith

The majority pass the test the first time.

The Minister referred to higher than anticipated receipts from driving test fees. One area in which the Department is making a considerable profit is on repeat tests. The availability of tests is another problem.

Mr. Smith

There are 10,000 accidents per year.

I know all about accidents too. There are real difficulties and some people who have to do tests five and six times do not need to do them. Other problems in the driving test area should be seriously looked at with a view to reform. A number of accidents might not occur if the rules and regulations were properly and even-handedly applied.

The Minister also talked about the Custom House Docks Authority. This was supposed to be the panacea for all our ills when it was announced by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, after his election in 1987 when he had hijacked the financial services centre from Shannon to Dublin. Now, five years later, the Minister is still pleading lack of uptake and referring to the problems there. The Minister should admit that all they did was displace jobs in the city and move them down to the docks.

Mr. Smith

The Deputy just does not understand.

I understand that this project was originally to be put in place in Shannon Airport. Fianna Fáil took the plan lock, stock and barrel to give greater advantage to people to site in Dublin to the disadvantage of the Shannon area. We have a disproportionately huge number of unemployed people in the Shannon area. They all face the prospect of migrating to Dublin to try to get jobs on the Custom House Docks site which is not completed, and displace the people who are being moved from the centre of the city to the docks site. Not enough thought was put into this. It was just an effort by the former Taoiseach to curry favour with his native Dubliners.

The former Taoiseach also claimed this to be an effort of international significance and he said that Dublin would become the financial services centre of western Europe. The strange thing was that already other countries, other cities in the UK for instance, all saw the advantages of establishing a strong financial services centre in each country. They were not blind and they set up those centres. In order to set up this centre here we gave a lot of taxpayers money to people in the financial services area who did not need it and we are continuing to do it even in this Estimate. Here we are blithely putting away £1.35 million which could account for, perhaps, 600 jobs.

There was a bias in favour of Dublin as against Shannon when the Financial Services Centre was set up in the Customs House Docks area and the result of that is that the Shannon services centre has not grown to any extent. All that has happened is that we in the mid-western region, having originated the idea, have massaged the wealthy area, the metropolis of Dublin.

The incoming Government will have to change the bias against regional development. If any Department is biased in regard to regional development it is the Department of the Environment, and that is particularly evident so far as the roadways are concerned. By way of the major infrastructural development that might be undertaken by the Department of the Environment in the coming year before the completion of the Single Market, I have pleaded with the Minister to approve the construction of a motorway from Dublin to Shannon. There has been no response to that request. Clare County Council has taken action by joining with Limerick County Council to establish a joint engineering and design team in order to facilitate that proposal. In the context of job creation, it is very disappointing not to get a favourable response to the proposal for these major roadworks which, if adopted, would provide jobs in construction and would create jobs on the commercial side—in the transportation of agricultural produce and manufactured goods, for example, and in the tourism sector in that tourists would be able to travel the country more quickly.

I extend my very good wishes to the Ceann Comhairle on his re-election. I also welcome all new Deputies, especially those who are in the House at present. I hope the new Deputies will find, in their membership of the House, fulfilment of their objectives on behalf of their constituents.

This Supplementary Estimate concerns an amount of £20,200,000 and is comprised of three items: the operational programme for rural development, under subhead M9; livestock headage payments to farmers in disadvantaged areas, under subhead M3; and Coras Beostoic agus Feola, CBE, under subhead I1.

I am very pleased with progress under the operational programme for rural development, in which I have had a particular interest as Minister with responsibility for rural enterprise. This programme is one of those co-financed by the EC under the present round of the Structural Funds and covers the period 1991 to 1993. It is a multi-sectoral programme comprising a wide variety of measures ranging from alternative farm enterprises such as horses and deer to agri-tourism, horticulture, the very valuable farm relief service, forestry and the small community enterprise scheme. In addition, it contains provision for improvement of rural infrastructures, namely rural roads and fishery harbours, as well as research and development and marketing in the food industry and training in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The programme was designed to complement the measures contained in other operational programmes which have a direct or indirect impact on rural development and to accommodate initiatives that could not be easily catered for elsewhere. The total public expenditure will be over £100 million in the three year life of that programme, of which about £60 million will be provided by the EC.

The measures for which my Department has responsibility in providing direct grant assistance to farmers and other rural dwellers are those relating to alternative farm enterprises, agri-tourism, horticulture, farm relief services and the small and community enterprise scheme. Apart from the latter scheme, to which I will return in a few moments, the rate of progress is excellent, with original available funding of £17.1 million already fully committed. This encouraging response by farmers and other rural dwellers is a vote of confidence in the future of our rural communities.

The small and community enterprise scheme is, arguably, the most authentic rural development measure in the programme. Its purpose is to encourage and stimulate new enterprise in our rural areas with a view to additional job creation. The scheme supports projects providing products or services which have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Unfortunately, due to a number of administrative difficulties, it was not possible to get this measure fully operational until mid-1992. The measure is being operated through the county development team structure in each county and through SFADCO in the midwest. The interest generated in this scheme is considerable, I am glad to report. Quite a number of interesting small business proposals are emerging in the tourism, crafts and manufacturing sectors. By the end of this year grant approvals totalling £1.9 million will have issued to applicants, representing an overall investment of £3.8 million in those projects. These investments represent a small but significant contribution to new job creation in rural areas.

Taking account of the delayed start up of the scheme as well as the likelihood that not all of the available funds of £7.6 million can be committed within the programme period, and having regard to the success of the other measures referred to which are over subscribed, we have now agreed with the EC Commission and the social partners to divert about £4 million to the farm diversification, agri-tourism, horticulture and farm relief services measures. Given the take-up rate of these schemes so far, there is no question but that the additional funds will be committed very quickly.

Taking everything into consideration, the operational programme for rural development is enjoying a very successful year and the additional resources of £2.2 million in this Supplementary Estimate amount to a profitable investment which will help very considerably to underpin the rural economy.

Looking to the future, my Department is now actively considering the elements for inclusion in the post-1993 round of the Structural Fund, including the contents of the next operational programme for rural development.

As the Taoiseach indicated in the House yesterday, an outstandingly favourable financial deal was achieved for Ireland at the European Council in Edinburgh last weekend in the areas of Structural and Cohesion funding.

I wish to avail of this opportunity to compliment the Taoiseach and his negotiating team on having secured £8 billion for the funding of development programmes in Ireland in coming years. This achievement should play an important part in tackling our very serious problem of unemployment. Included in the negotiated figure is a level of funding that will provide for the recently negotiated reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and, perhaps more important still, will help to safeguard what has been negotiated under Common Agricultural Policy in the context of the current round of GATT negotiations. It is anticipated that we will be able to provide the level of funding necessary to fund the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

The final point I should like to make in relation to the availability of this very substantial amount of money is that we need to plan in advance to ensure that this money is spent productively particularly to create new jobs. When we joined the European Community we received a high degree of funding in terms of our initial development programmes. I have said in the House in the past that I was not satisfied that we got the best possible value and return from that initial investment and, with this £8 billion we have an opportunity to ensure that this money is spent wisely and productively and that it is orientated towards dealing with the problem of unemployment.

As a new Deputy I thank you for allowing me time to speak. I also thank you for providing us with an information pack which was of great help. Every new Member with whom I spoke found it extremely useful. It takes a while to figure out how the system works, but at least it is a start.

In discussing the Supplementary Estimates one issue of importance in my area relates to the Estimate for the Office of Public Works. We had an unfortunate experience with the Office of Public Works recently. Looking to the coming year it is important that the management of the Office of Public Works as well as the funding be considered in the light of public accountability.

In regard to the provision of an interpretative centre in Wicklow, obviously the Office of Public Works operated within the rules and regulations of their organisation, but the reality is that people who were directly affected or who were concerned about the future of County Wicklow and the mountain area in particular, felt that their views were not taken into account, and those views are strongly held. I share the view that while the Office of Public Works has a tremendous record in conservation, in relation to the interpretative centre in County Wicklow what it is proposing is inappropriate and should be reconsidered for the future. In terms of financial management, and in particular in terms of job creation, there are more desirable alternatives.

Modern thinking on conservation and landscape management dictates that we should not be establishing major buildings in any sensitive area and that any building which takes place for the convenience of tourism or visitors should be connected with local communities. There are local communities in Wicklow who are experiencing all the deprivations which other rural communities are experiencing. County Wicklow has some of the most rural communities in this country. By recognising that fact we can evolve a proper management for visitor centres in the future.

The landowners and the farmers of the area produced a study which recommended that small visitor centres connected with local communities could create badly needed jobs. That is the future for interpretation of landscape areas and it is one which I hope the Office of Public Works will consider rather than proceeding with what is an inappropriate and intrusive building in the landscape which may have an knock-on impact which we will never be able to deal with.

In relation to the Supplementary Estimate on Education, I note there is an increase in the cost of school transport. The whole question of school transport should be restructured to allow greater flexibility. Many children are unable to get to school on the regular transport network. There are difficulties to be overcome, including over-crowded buses and buses which are not full because of restrictions relating to different schools. Sometimes parents have to travel a few miles so that their children can get the school bus, although another bus may be passing their door. The system needs to be altered and restructured to ensure that the needs of children are met.

In relation to the funding of schools I am sure everybody will be making a case for additional funding. A crisis in relation to school places is hitting us in north Wicklow. I have just been informed that approximately 37 children in the Kilcoole-Delgany area have been refused a place at second level in September 1993. This is very disturbing for the parents because those children expected to go to the second level school near their home. Now that system has broken down. A number of years ago the parents foresaw the problem and organised a campaign to have a second level school provided in Kilcoole but, unfortunately, the Department of Education refused that request. There is now an urgent need to provide second level places for those children and other children who will be affected in the next few weeks.

During the election campaign the Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan, made a commitment to provide places. The future Minister for Education should look at the possibility of providing school accommodation in existing buildings. A convent in Kilcoole is vacant; it is up for sale and would make a suitable school. Whatever the arrangements, I am asking the incoming Minister to take this matter seriously because it is deeply distressing to parents to find that the logical development of their children is being thwarted in this way.

My final point relates to poverty. I welcome the fact that the society of St. Vincent de Paul is being given an injection of capital of £1 million. It is a tremendous organisation supporting many families and they deserve great credit. However, considering the number of people who live in poverty, it is time for a new approach and to get away from the principle of charity supporting families but develop instead an approach which recognises the rights of people on low income or on social welfare to care for themselves and their families in dignity. I should like to cite one small example. A lady from Bray contacted me this morning in tears. She has a very sick six year old whom she wants to bring home from hospital for Christmas. She cannot bring him home because of a lack of heating in the house. To have a heating system installed she is required to go to three different authorities—community welfare, the local authority and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — to secure the necessary funds. Her pain and anxiety are unnecessary. The harshness of this system, albeit with the voluntary effort made by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, has to be tackled particularly coming up to Christmas. There are too many families living in dire poverty whose needs and rights should be recognised.

The 1992 original gross sum provided by the Government for the health services was £1,756.417 million. When account is taken of a Supplementary Estimate passed by this House on 9 November 1992 the total gross provision in 1992 is £1,806.288 million. This represents an increase of £150 million or over 9 per cent on the 1991 gross outturn. The Supplementary Estimate before the House today will not change the gross expenditure figure of £1,806.288 million as previously settled but merely adjusts the funding sources from which the total expenditure on health services which has been approved by Dáil Éireann will be financed.

Funding for the gross provision in the Health Vote comes from two principal sources — direct grants from the Exchequer and appropriations-in-aid of the Health Vote. Grants from the Exchequer fulfil the vast majority of the funding requirement—about 89 per cent of last year's gross vote was funded by means of direct Exchequer grants.

The appropriations-in-aid which provide the balance of funding required to meet the gross voted sum come from a number of sources. The two principal sources of appropriations-in-aid are receipts from health contributions and the recovery of the cost of health services provided under regulations of the European Community. Last year these two sources together accounted for £186.892 million or 98.7 per cent of the total appropriations-in-aid.

Under EC Regulations 1408/71 and 574/72, the country in which an employed or self-employed person pays social insurance or was insured prior to retirement must bear responsibility for the cost of health services for the insured person and his or her dependants even when they are resident permanently or temporarily in another member state.

This country has entered into nonreimbursement or waiver agreements with France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Holland as the number of insured persons from those countries residing in Ireland and the number of persons insured in Ireland resident in those countries is roughly equal. However, a reimbursement arrangement has been entered into with the United Kingdom which results in a balance due in Ireland's favour.

The number of Irish people resident in Ireland, having previously worked in Britain and now in receipt of pensions from Britain is considerable and there is, therefore, an agreement between the two countries with regard to the basis for calculating the net liability. As it is not possible to refund actual expenditure, reimbursement is based upon average health costs, estimated under EC guidelines, and on the basis of estimates of the number of persons concerned. In addition to pensioners and their dependents, expenditure on temporary visitors to Ireland and the families resident in Ireland but dependent upon persons working in the UK is also taken into account. It is estimated that funding from this source will amount to about £50 million in 1992.

Notwithstanding the important contribution which receipts under EC regulations make towards the funding of the health services, by far the largest single element within the appropriations-in-aid of the Health Vote is that arising from health contributions which in 1991 amounted to £145.002 million out of total appropriations-in-aid of £189.274 million. The health contributions system was introduced in 1971 when it provided for flat-rate contributions, payable with certain exemptions by persons with limited eligibility for health services. The flatrate scheme was modified in 1979 to provide for the incorporation of an income-related element into the scheme. All individuals over 16 years of age with income assessable for income tax are liable for health contributions with the exception of medical card holders, persons in receipt of a social welfare widows' pension, lone parents' allowance, or social assistance allowance as a deserted wife or unmarried mother. Where an employee is a medical card holder the health contribution — which is payable at a rate of 1.25 per cent or gross income — is paid by the employer rather than the employee. Coupled with the development of health services under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress the income ceiling which had previously governed the payment of health contributions was abolished in 1991.

In the current year an estimate of £176 million was made in respect of receipts from health contributions. In the light of receipts so far this year it would appear that the final total may fall short of this sum by £2.5 million. Where such a situation arises there are two courses of action open to the Government; it may reduce the gross level of expenditure in line with the expected shortfall in appropriations-in-aid or, alternatively, it may provide additional funding from the Exchequer to make good the expected shortfall. This Government's concern has always been that the necessary resources should be available to allow for the provision of a service which reflects as closely as possible the needs of its patients and clients. Such an attitude mirrors my own personal commitment to the health service.

This concern has been clearly illustrated by the level of resources which the Government has devoted to the health services in spite of the difficult economic circumstances which prevail both at home and internationally. Not only has the Government sought to maintain the health services at approved levels but has also provided for the development of services at a number of locations throughout the country such as the developments in the acute hospital sector, the provision of a medical genetics service at Crumlin Hospital and the development of ENT services in the Midland, North-Eastern and Western Health Board areas. The Government has also provided an extra £6 million this year for services for the mentally handicapped. Provision has also been made for improvements in the services for people with AIDS and HIV. The Government gave an increase of £3.5 million in recognition of the priority which should be given to this area.

In keeping with the high priority which the Government places on the health services, as illustrated by the number of developments taking place, the Government is not prepared to countenance a situation where a possible shortfall in appropriations-in-aid would give rise to a reduction in the level of resources available to the health services. As Minister for Health, I believe it would be grossly unfair to do that. Accordingly, this Supplementary Estimate makes provision to offset the potential shortfall in appropriations-in-aid by the provision of additional resources from the Exchequer of £2.5 million. While the Supplementary Estimate does not make provision for any additional expenditure on health services, it will, of course, ensure that there will be no need to reduce the sum available to the health services on foot of a shortfall in appropriations-in-aid.

This Supplementary Estimate reflects the commitment of the Government to maintain the level of expenditure agreed in respect of 1992 and, accordingly, I recommend it most wholeheartedly to the House.

May I ask the Minister a question? Was any money allocated to the Mid-Western Health Board out of that Supplementary Estimate?

A brief answer, please.

This Supplementary Estimate was introduced because there was a shortfall of £2.5 million in receipts from health contributions. Therefore, we are only adding to it; it is provided for in the budget. It will not provide any extra money. If we had not introduced this Supplementary Estimate we would either have had to claw back some of the money or reduce some of the services available. I recognise the Deputy's point about the Mid-Western Health Board and he has my sympathy in this regard. That issue will be dealt with on another occasion.

Acting Chairman

The normal procedure is that questions can be put at 4.30 p.m.

The Minister may not be here at 4.30 p.m.

I may not, but I will still be fighting.

I wish to concur with the good wishes extended by the House to the Ceann Comhairle on his re-election and on what I believe has been his excellent administration of this House over the past decade.

I welcome the promise given by the Minister for Health not to reduce services and to provide for an extra £2.5 million. He has shown a certain concern that the fundamental health services should be maintained during his period in office but there are still enormous gaps in the health service. In Beaumont Hospital, for example, critically ill patients can be left on ambulance stretchers in hallways for up to 15 or 20 hours. That is unacceptable in a modern health service. The severe cutbacks in dental and optical benefits introduced this year by the Minister's colleague at the Department of Social Welfare have seriously reduced the quality of the health service for insured persons.

The provision of £6 million for the mentally handicapped is a small drop in the ocean when compared with the amount needed to cope with the serious problems of disability. We need a much greater commitment on the part of any incoming Government to look after the needs of the handicapped, especially older handicapped persons. We are all aware of older parents who are coping magnificently with a handicapped person over the age of 16 or 17, for whom there is no provision in our health or education system.

Turning to the Environment Estimate, I welcome the provision of an extra £6.3 million which the Minister has announced. A colleague on the other benches remarked that his district was slightly discriminated against when compared with Dublin. In many respects Dublin is, unfortunately, the Cinderella area. In the recent allocation of rate support grants only one local authority's funding was cut in real terms — Dublin Corporation. In recent weeks we have seen sad evidence of the housing crisis gripping this city but the response of Dublin Corporation has had to be very muted. Our only response has been to fall back on the social housing programme put forward by the Minister for the Environment. The Minister mentioned the remarkable fact that £2.25 million allocated for social housing has not been used this year. One of the reasons is that the terms of the shared ownership scheme are so restrictive that it is impossible for someone in receipt of social welfare payments to qualify. In the Dublin Corporation area, for example, 80 per cent of housing applicants are in receipt of social welfare and for them everything this Minister has done under the social housing scheme is useless. The problem has fallen back on Dublin Corporation and this year we are building 70 or 75 houses, although there are 7,000 families on the housing list. Whatever Government emerges in the coming weeks must take vigorous action to cope with this problem, which is beginning to get out of control. The problem of people literally dying on our streets must be dealt with.

In addition to the very low number of housing starts in the Dublin Corporation area, we have the massive problem of housing maintenance. About 7,000 or 8,000 of our 30,000 tenants live in veritable Third World conditions. The response of the Department of the Environment in recent weeks has been pathetic. In 1986 the people of Darndale, an area of 920 houses, were promised a programme of refurbishment which would change the character of the area, which was very badly designed in the first place and became to some extent a repository for some of the social problems of the city. After six or seven years only one third of that programme is complete. It seems it will be finished in 2002 or 2005. There is a similar situation in many other areas to the north and west of the city. The Department of the Environment has responded by doing nothing, simply waiting for the situation to improve and allowing the suffering of homeless people to continue.

I welcome the extra £6 million for second level education. There are still many children working in Third World conditions in very poor school buildings. This is an area that should be dealt with when capital allocations are being considered.

I welcome my colleague, Deputy Broughan, and congratulate him on his election. He spent a lot of his time speaking on issues relating to the environment and I will respond to some of the points he raised.

There have been several references in the House to the tragic deaths of individuals in our capital city and people have pointed the finger at the Minister for the Environment and the housing authorities. I suggest to the Deputy that he should not point the finger too much at the moment. He might find himself in a different situation in a couple of days. I would ask him to hold fire. The Deputy's party was in Government not so long ago and there was a Labour Minister for the Environment. No great progress was made in relation to housing and that should be noted.

I want to give credit where credit is due in relation to the plan for social housing, a most innovative scheme whose title explains it exactly. I said at meetings of Dublin Corporation that we did not give the plan a real opportunity. People are prepared to come into this House and criticise the plan but it has not been properly tried. There are six innovative and progressive aspects to it. Nobody in this House can say that their party has put forward a better plan. The existing plan is ideal and credit should be given to the Minister who introduced it. Deputies opposite had an opportunity and they failed.

Let us consider some of the previous Ministers for the Environment and their suggestions as to how the housing problem in the Dublin area should be addressed. I do not have to spell out the problems that resulted in certain local authority estates. We must work together to try to address the housing problems. We should be prepared to work in a very positive manner on this innovative scheme to integrate those who require that into our community at different levels.

In Ireland huge numbers of people prefer to own their own houses rather than rent them. The plan for shared ownership is an encouragement to those people to do that and to buy the house of their choice where they so desire. That should be encouraged by all Members of this House. We must bear in mind where we have made mistakes in the past and try to improve on our performance.

I want to refer to the "forgotten people" who need to avail of the psychiatric facilities in our health service. Since we are dealing with the health vote it is appropriate that I refer to that because it is linked with homelessness. The charge was made at a local authority meeting that people in need are allowed to roam the streets and are forgotten about. The Minister for Health has asked for an interim report as soon as possible on the Planning for the Future document. Since this document was initiated a number of people who, heretofore, were locked into institutionalised care have been given their independence in hostel accommodation etc., depending on the level of care they needed, and have been integrated into the working community by way of sheltered working environments. The Planning for the Future document has proved to be very positive. Not every plan is 100 per cent effective and there will be some pitfalls. I am pleased to be able to say that the Minister for Health, Deputy O'Connell, mentioned that it was necessary to carry out a review of this plan and bring in an interim report as soon as possible. I look forward to the laying of this report before the House and participating in the debate at that stage.

As I have only a minute or two left I will not be able to cover other matters that I wish to deal with. However I thought it was important to respond to some of the issues that the previous speaker mentioned. I want to compliment the Minister for Health on the job he has done. A sum of £1.8 billion is being spent on health. Maybe if it was £3.8 billion it still would not be enough. However, £1.8 billion is a huge amount of money and I believe we are getting value for money in certain instances and are providing a very good level of health care that is recognised among our European partners as being one of the best in Europe.

I would like to see improvements in a number of areas. The focusing of attention on primary and community care is welcome. We must improve support services for the elderly so that they can continue to remain in their homes and get the necessary level of service which, heretofore, was not available to them.

I welcome the vote before us and the fact that we are spending £1.8 billion. I look forward to a debate of longer duration in which I hope to be able to positively contribute on the question of further improvement and development of our health services.

First, I would like to extend my congratulations to the Ceann Comhairle on his re-election and wish him the very best over the years to come.

A Chathaoirligh, I welcome this early opportunity to express my views on the inadequate funding of the health service and the inequity with which the funding is allocated both to the health boards and within each health board area.

I wonder if the amount before the House today is sufficient, as the health board of which I am a member, the North Eastern Health Board, is heading towards a deficit of over £2 million. The Minister is well aware of the poor facilities in Our Lady's Hospital in Navan which are by far the worst in the North-Eastern Health Board area if not in the whole country and was compared recently by a reporter to a war zone. It is not right that medical staff — nursing and non-nursing staff — should be required to provide health care in such conditions. It is wrong that patients should be subjected to such Victorian conditions in 1992. Funding must be provided where the need is greatest. It is absurd that patients must be wheeled on trolleys out into the elements when being taken from one section of the hospital to another, and this is happening in Our Lady's Hospital. It is wrong that a county like Meath with a population in excess of 106,000 people does not have one acute psychiatric bed. It is wrong that a county with such a population has fewer geriatric beds, medical beds and surgical beds than counties with half that population. It is wrong that a county with 980,000 people over the age of 65 does not have a geriatrician. It is wrong that over 600 people await orthopaedic procedures while as many as 500 await appointments to assess their needs for medical treatment. This is but one health board area.

The lack of support services for our mentally handicapped, like speech, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychological help, the lack of respite care and residential care is a geriatric setting for elderly people with mental handicap is obvious. Recently the Minister for Health expressed his frustration at the failure of the Department of Finance to provide him with the necessary funding. His frustration is nothing compared to ours in Meath at the failure to provide us with proper funding for the health services. Unfortunately, time does not allow me to expand further on the inadequate funding in that area. However, when the Estimates for 1993 come before the House I intend to raise the matter in more detail.

The funding provided by the Department of the Environment to local authorities leaves much to be desired. The local authority I represent has seen a reduction in employment, and the same can be said for every other local authority, of approximately 40 per cent in the number of employees. Ten years ago when County Meath had a population of approximately 70,000 we had 411 outdoor workers but today with a population of 106,000 we have about 200 outdoor workers and people ask questions about the state of our roads and the other services provided.

There has been much debate both in and outside the House during the past few years about the social employment scheme. This scheme has been used or misused during the past few years by various local authorities to replace full-time staff. It is high time the Minister for the Environment, in conjunction with the Minister for Labour, set about changing the regulations which govern the social employment scheme to ensure that the workers concerned are treated in the same way as all other workers employed by the local authorities, that they are given all the various entitlements and labour legislation protection. In the interim they should be paid the Christmas bonus like all other unemployed people. Unfortunately, the scheme is being used to camouflage the unemployment figures.

The question of housing was raised this morning and this afternoon by the previous speaker. In County Meath alone, which would be regarded as a relatively wealthy county, there are in excess of 600 people on the housing list. The Minister's reply in 1992 was that funding would be provided to build 25 houses. The Minister was inconsiderate and this from a man who comes from a rural constituency and knows how difficult it is to provide housing given that there are no grants, other than the £2,000 grant, available.

The conditions in which most of the people on the waiting list are living are chronic. Is it any wonder there is so much sickness? Is there any connection between this and the fact that there has been an increase in the incidence of tuberculosis during the past few years? It should be remembered that in the 1950s there was a serious outbreak of tuberculosis and that at the same time there was a housing crisis. I wonder if there is a close connection between the two?

The Office of Public Works was mentioned. As you are aware, Acting Chairman, reference has been made to the Blackwater drainage scheme and to the Supplementary Estimate of £500,000 to pay redundancy to those who have lost their jobs during the past few weeks. It was a great pity the Minister did not allow the Blackwater scheme to be extended to cover the Finn-Lackey scheme as this would have ensured the jobs of the 60 plus people and that the skills they acquired on the Blackwater scheme would have been put to better use. They will now find themselves on the dole queue for some years to come.

In relation to education, the Minister responsible is not present but I would ask him to ensure that funding is provided for three projects and to honour the commitment he made in the House. First, I ask him to ensure that work on Ashbourne second level school will commence in January, as promised; second, that negotiations will commence immediately with a view to getting work on the second level school at Dunboyne under way and, third, that the extension to Dunshaughlin community college will be given the go-ahead. I refer to this area specifically as it has a population of approximately 26,000 people, is the fastest growing area in County Meath and has the lowest number of secondary school places.

The total Estimate for the Garda Síochána Vote for 1992 was £339,570,000. The Supplementary Estimate now being sought in respect of this Vote is £2.1 million or, to put this figure in perspective, 0.6 per cent of the original Estimate. Overruns have arisen in a number of areas, particularly in the case of Garda overtime, under subhead A1; travel under subhead A2; compensation claims under subhead A3; maintenance of Garda premises under subhead A6; in respect of station services under subhead B and the purchase and maintenance of transport under subhead D. On the other hand, there have been savings against which these overruns can be offset leaving a need for a Supplementary Estimate of £2.1 million.

In considering the need for this extra funding, I think it would be useful to consider in the time available to me, some of the developments that have taken place during the year. Under the heading of crime, while it was disappointing to note that the level of recorded indictable crime in 1991 increased by over 7 per cent in comparison with in 1990, the provisional indications so far this year are that the crime situation is improving with the overall level of crime in the country remaining stable and the level of crime in the Dublin area showing a decrease on last year's trend. During the year I had regular consultations with the Garda Commissioner in relation to the crime situation and I am satisfied that no effort has been spared by the Garda authorities in drawing up, reviewing, assessing and improving their anti-crime strategies.

The role of the community should be considered. There is no doubt that the involvement of the community in crime prevention can be as important as the role of the Garda Síochána in preventing crime. By assisting the Garda and being aware of crime prevention measures which we can take, we can help to keep our society free of crime. There is now worldwide recognition of the fact that the traditional police and law and order response to crime is no longer enough and that a broader based response must be developed. For this reason I welcome the trend in the Garda Síochána to involve the public in the fight against crime through a number of successful community-based initiatives. Neighbourhood Watch schemes have been developed throughout the country to assist the Garda in protecting homes and property. Community Alert members keep a watchful eye on elderly people at risk in rural areas and work with the Garda to ensure that maximum protection is provided. These schemes continue to grow in strength and their success can be measured by the enthusiastic support and involvement of the community in them. There are now 1,439 Neighbourhood Watch schemes involving 268,564 households and 415 Community Alert schemes in operation throughout the country. The Community Policing scheme continues to work very effectively enhancing Garda-Community relationships in the more densely populated urban areas.

In furtherance of the involvement of the community in the fight against crime, the new "Crimeline" programme was launched in September of this year. "Crimeline" replaced "Garda Patrol" which had been running since 1964 and has given an excellent service down through the years.

"Crimeline" encourages the public to assist the Garda in solving serious crimes and, thanks to the response of the public, the programme has been very successful to date. The programme features reenactments of crimes, videos of actual crimes taking place and also reports on missing persons, road safety, drug abuse and home security. Viewers of "Crimeline" are encouraged to call a special telephone number with any information they feel is relevant to Garda investigations. The Garda report that the response to the programme so far has been enormous and has been very valuable to them in the investigation of a large number of crimes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the viewers of "Crimeline" for their assistance and to encourage the public to watch the programme and assist the Garda with information where possible or to use the free 24 hour Garda confidential telephone service which was introduced in January of this year.

A new broader based approach to crime prevention has been clearly identified for urban areas where particular law and order problems are being experienced. I recently received the report of the Interdepartmental Group on Urban Crime with particular reference to the Ronanstown area of County Dublin and am in the process of drawing up plans for its implementation. The report contains an integrated plan including measures to create jobs, improve roads and street lighting and extra Garda patrols. It recognises that positive discrimination in the allocation of resources to areas such as Ronanstown should continue, these resources to be allocated to increasing education and work training opportunities, and health facilities. The report also recognises the importance of Garda and community relations and the need for a particular emphasis on Garda foot patrols and swift-response mobile units.

The problem of city centre crime was given much prominence during the year. I met with the Garda Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner with responsibility for the Dublin Metropolitan area to discuss the problem. I also went on a fact finding tour of the Dublin city centre area to get a first hand appreciation of the situation. While recognising that in many instances we have nothing to fear but fear itself, I was particularly anxious to ensure that the ordinary citizen should feel safe on the streets of our capital city. To that end, I arranged for an additional 50 gardaí to be assigned to the city centre with particular emphasis on increasing the level of foot patrols in the area. In addition, extra civilian staff are also being assigned to the area to release gardaí for the outdoor operational duties for which they were specifically recruited and trained. New legislation is also planned to strengthen Garda powers to deal with street offences.

The House will be aware of the impact in recent years of the anti-drink driving campaigns which owe their considerable success to the trojan efforts of the Garda. These campaigns have resulted in a significant reduction in the number of people who, heretofore, would have taken the chance and driven while under the influence of alcohol. I am certain that the success of these campaigns, which have had widespread acceptance by all sectors of society, have been instrumental in reducing the number of drunk driving related fatalities and accidents on our roads. Of course, enforcement of the drunk driving campaign is not just a feature of the Christmas period, it is an all year effort by the Garda. Indeed, it is significant to note that for the past year the Garda mounted in excess of 10,000 road traffic check points every month. While these check points would be of a general traffic nature, the high visible presence of the Garda would be a major factor in deterring many a drunk driver from siting behind the steering wheel of a car. However, this level of enforcement comes at a price and draws heavily on Garda manpower and resources, but, I think all sides of the House will agree that the investment involved has been more than repaid by the many lives that have been saved. It is my intention that the resources which have contributed to the success of the anti-drink driving campaign will continue to flow and that the Garda will continue to build on their considerable success to date.

Turning now to the Courts Vote, the token supplementary Estimate of £1,000 on the Courts Vote provides for additional expenditure of £846,000 offset by a surplus in Appropriations-in-Aid combined with savings on subheads A.1. and A.4. The Estimate is required to authorise the necessary adjustments as between the various subheads. The additional expenditure arises mainly under Subhead A.3. to pay the expenses in 1992 of and incidental to the investigation by inspectors appointed by the High Court under section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990. On the application of the Minister for Industry and Commerce under section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990, the High Court, on 16 September 1991, appointed two inspectors nominated by that Minister to investigate the affairs of Siúcre Éireann cpt. On 18 September 1991, on the application of the inspectors, an order was made by the court under section 9 of the Act, authorising the inspectors to investigate other companies related to Siúcre Éireann cpt. The Minister for Justice, under section 13 of the Act, is responsible in the first instance for the expenses of the investigation but the court may decide that all or part of the expenses incurred are recouped to the Minister by the company under investigation.

Expenses amounting to £626,964 were met in the year ended 31 December 1991 out of the Courts Vote. The amount, which has been paid out of the Courts Vote in 1992 is £624,000. This is the additional sum now required to meet these expenses.

On 25 February 1992, the Government decided that the Minister for Justice should make an application to the High Court under section 13 of the Act seeking to recover the costs of the investigation from Siúicre Éireann cpt. and eight of its nine related companies. The High Court, in May 1992, refused the application of the Minister, but in June 1992 the Government decided to appeal the High Court decision to the Supreme Court. The appeal is awaiting hearing. I should point out that, in any event, section 13 (2) of the Companies Act, 1990, offers a possible alternative path to recovery of the expenses incurred in the inquiry and this approach will be considered, if necessary, after the question of the appeal has been resolved.

I can assure Deputies that all avenues open to me as Minister for Justice for the recovery of the expenses, which have initially been borne by the taxpayer, will be pursued. An additional sum of £222,000 is also required under Subhead A.2. to pay for greater than anticipated expenses on home and foreign travel and subsistence. The additional expenditure is offset partly by increased Appropriations-in-Aid fines bringing in revenue of £250,000. This increase is mainly attributable to the more effective enforcement of court fines which it has been possible to achieve this year as well as to an increase in the level of fines being imposed by the courts. The remaining additional expenditure will be offset by savings achieved under Subheads A.1.— Salaries, Wages and Allowances — and A.4. — Post and Telecommunications Services — of the Courts Vote. I ask this House to support the Supplementary Estimates.

Mar fhocal scoir, ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a ghlacadh leatsa, a Cheann Comhairle, as tú a bheith athtofa mar Cheann Comhairle an Tí.

I now call Deputy Seymour Crawford. As this is the Deputy's maiden speech I welcome him most sincerely to the House and wish him much success and personal happiness.

Thank you very much, a Cheann Comhairle. Like other Deputies, I extend my good wishes to you on being returned to the post of Ceann Comhairle. From what has been said, you have obviously carried out your duties in a very fair-minded way and I look forward to a continuing of that practice during this Dáil.

I wish to refer first to the Supplementary Estimate for agriculture. As a former board member of CBF I welcome the increase of £150,000 in that budget. It is time that CBF was acknowledged for the tremendous effort it has made on behalf of the livestock industry. For many years we relied on one or two people to carry out marketing, and CBF, the marketing arm of the industry, were stinted in doing their proper job. I hope that in the 1993 Estimates the meat board will be properly recognised for the job it does.

I also welcome the increased funding for livestock headage payments. However, all the people of Cavan-Monaghan will not avail of this increase in that only 43 per cent of Monaghan and 62 per cent of Cavan is designated as severely handicapped. Until all of counties Cavan and Monaghan are designated as severely handicapped, hopefully by the next Government, many people will not receive their just reward. At a time when farm incomes are dropping severely we must make an all out effort to ensure that these areas, together with many other areas in the country, are reclassified as soon as possible.

The Minister spoke about the need for aid for rural development and none of us would deny that such aid is required. However, that would be a small recompense for the major devaluation of farm outputs in recent times. Unfortunately, once again we have seen our sheep farmers protesting outside the buildings of the European Commission because of the drastic drop in their incomes. This not only affects sheep farmers but all those employed in the sheep farming industry because many of those farmers if not given some immediate assistance will go out of business.

The disastrous effects of the GATT negotiations in so far as this country is concerned will be a major drop in the price of cattle. It is estimated that by the year 1999 the annual output from this country will have fallen by £125 million. Rural development is extremely important in this context and the sum provided for such development will be meaningless unless we can draw down the necessary EC funds which should be forthcoming following the Taoiseach's announcement that £8 billion will be available over the next seven years. It is important to ensure that that £8 billion is distributed fairly. The Minister for the Environment stated that he would be increasing the budget allocation for roads infrastructure and that a major effort will be made to improve roads. Coming from the Cavan-Monaghan area, I have to say that——

The potholes are still there.

They are most definitely still there. A few days ago I burst a tyre on my car driving, not on a by-road but on a main road. The condition of our roads is still a serious problem.

In the past whenever INTERREG funds were made available for Border areas, especially for roads, the Taoiseach thought fit to allocate some of those Border funds to Counties Longford, Roscommon and Meath. One wonders how those counties suddenly become Border areas. I hope that the problems in Counties Cavan and Monaghan will be taken into account in the distribution of the £8 billion. We do not have a railway service or many of the services which exist in other counties and as my colleague, Deputy Leonard, has said here on many occasions, we have the largest production of poultry and mushrooms in the country. Consequently, there is very heavy traffic on our county roads and that should be recognised as should the hard work of the farmers and other business people in that region.

In regard to the Estimate for the Office of Public Works, I was amazed to read that the workers involved in the Bonet drainage scheme received a generous severance pay while 44 of their colleagues working on the Monaghan Blackwater scheme were laid off just 17 days before Christmas and given the minimum possible allowance, yet the job was incomplete. I would question the sincerity of the Minister in allowing people to be paid off when a job is not completed. Those people subsequently applied for social welfare benefit and we all know social welfare assistance is paid out of State funding. It would have been more sensible to allow the men continue working on the Blackwater drainage scheme until it was completed and then pay them off if necessary. I do not believe it was necessary to pay them off because in another part of our county the Erne catchment drainage scheme is causing serious problems to the road structure and is affecting the tourism and fishing industries. Therefore, I hope that under this £8 billion aid package some money can be found to at least do a clean-up job in that river area. As in the case of the Blackwater river, the Erne river crosses the Border and, therefore, we will need to enter into consultations in this regard with our colleagues in Northern Ireland.

School transport was referred to earlier and we have many problems in this area. I hope in next year's Estimate some money will be provided for at least two schools in County Monaghan, one at Glaslough and another at Kilanny. The Glaslough school needs a one-room extension and the Kilanny school is similar to one which might have existed in the last century; it needs to be rebuilt or restructured.

I now call Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald and on this, her maiden speech, may I say how pleased I am to see her here? I wish her every success and personal happiness.

I will refer mainly to the housing Estimate. Contrary to popular belief, the most significant cut in public spending over the past five years has taken place, not in the health area, but in housing. In that time we have seen the virtual abandonment of the public housing problem. We have expanding housing waiting lists and an increasing problem of homelessness most tragically illustrated by the three deaths of homeless persons in Dublin last week.

While public attention in the recent election focused on the problems of mortgage holders, particularly the problems experienced by recent first-time buyers, account must be taken of people who will never be able to afford their own home and who are forgotten on the growing housing waiting lists.

With 300,000 people out of work and such a high level of unemployment among young people, the number of people who are unable to afford their own home when they start a family is growing. It is estimated that four out of five of those on housing waiting lists are living on social welfare. Few, if any, of these are in a position to avail of the schemes on offer under the programme for social housing which are primarily aimed at people in employment. Schemes such as the shared ownership scheme and the subsidised site schemes are only of interest to those with a job and for the 80 per cent of people on housing waiting lists who do not have a job there is virtually nothing on offer.

An official count of the numbers on housing waiting lists was carried out in March 1991 under section 9 of the 1988 Act. That revealed that there were 23,000 people on housing waiting lists, including an estimated 2,500 homeless people; that is recognised by everybody involved as being an under-estimate of the number of people who are homeless. It is under-estimated by at least a third; there may well be as many as 5,000 homeless people. Since March 1991, almost two years ago, the numbers on housing waiting lists have certainly grown. Casual vacancies in the existing local authority housing stock are few and far between following the sell-off of 40 per cent of those houses in 1988. I estimate that the inflow on to housing lists exceeds the number being rehoused by approximately 3,000 a year. Given that those figures are roughly two years old, the real, underlying housing waiting list is in the order of 30,000, not 23,000.

The number of new local authority homes provided last year was 1,200. That compares with an average annual building programme of 6,000 new homes during the first half of the eighties. The house building programme of local authorities has been literally decimated. The Estimate provision in 1992 for local authority housing is £18.5 million compared to £20.4 million in 1991. If one adds the proceeds of the sale of local authority houses to their tenants there is an expentiture of £41.5 million on the programme this year compared to £43.5 million last year. This compares with an expenditure of £206 million in 1984 under the same heading. Therefore, there has been a massive abandonment of public investment in the housing area.

I am disappointed this Supplementary Estimate contains no provision for any increase in the provision of capital for public housing. There is a very modest provision for private house grants, but there is nothing for people who are unable to afford their own homes. I hope that a substantial increased provision of public housing will be a condition of participation in any Government of which the Labour Party is a member. One area where additional homes could be provided relatively cheaply and quickly would be through renovation of upper floors on shopping streets — places like George's Street and Capel Street — which are well located. Research in Britain has shown that similar-type upper floor accommodation can be provided at about £15,000 to £2,000 per unit compared to about £42,000 per unit on other accommodation in the Dublin area. These streets are well located and are particularly suitable for single or young people.

The programme for social housing contains a number of innovative ideas on housing policy. These ideas, however, are no substitute for hard cash for those who face longer and longer waiting lists with sometimes three and four families living in the one house. I know of one family consisting of parents and three daughters, all with their own families, living in one house, the eldest daughter, with two children, is number 130 on the waiting list of Dublin County Council. She does not have a snowball's chance in hell of being offered housing.

By the end of September 1992, 18 months after the announcement of the programme for social housing, activity levels were still minimal compared with the scale of the outstanding housing task; in the first nine months of this year mortgage allowance was allocated to 164 people; 311 people participated in shared ownership; there were 21 improvement works in lieu of housing; 65 people were allocated a rental subsidy; 357 sites were provided and voluntary housing amounted to 299, making a total of 1,217. We are also building roughly 1,200 houses compared to an average programme of 6,000 houses per year which is needed to tackle the housing problem. Indeed the social housing sector, on which the Minister places such reliance, is running into difficulties getting approval to go ahead with a number of housing association and co-operative rental housing projects. These voluntary groups cannot be expected to sign contracts to go ahead unless they have firm guarantees that the funding is in place. I appeal to the Minister to unblock the logjam in these cases.

The Department's assessment of homelessness shows that 1,000 people are living in hostels. The general experience in Dublin is that hostels are full to overflowing and the local authorities are spending a fortune on bed and breakfast accommodation, money that would be far better spent in providing secure long term housing in the first instance.

Last week's tragedies illustrate the need to develop a network of suitable sheltered acommodation for homeless people, particularly those with special needs. Voluntary organisations like Simon receive Government funding towards providing new shelters but they do not get any money in guaranteed funding for running costs; they must organise collections and fund runs to ensure that they can meet their running costs. We do not have any scheme of help for on-site care and welfare services for homeless people with special needs, the people we have been turning out of our psychiatric hospitals and who have been lying on the streets of Dublin.

The assessment by local authorities of the housing needs of homeless people in many cases has been a cursory one. Research by Focus Point shows that in Dublin Corporation people get, on average, three minutes in the housing assessment section. Local authorities are not using their powers under section 10 of the Housing Act, 1988, where they could plan to meet the special needs of individual homeless people and to design programmes around their individual needs. If you do not know what those needs are you will hardly design and fund a programme to meet them.

I should also like this House to enact legislation, similar to the Act dealing with nursing homes, which would set standards of accommodation and welfare services for centres for homeless people. We have almost no official policy in regard to private rented housing. The household budget survey figures show that private tenants pay the highest share of their income on rent and receive least in return in terms of space and quality of accommodation and the almost complete absence of security of tenure. I am glad that legislation was enacted recently which gives a minimum four weeks' period of notice to quit but that is very little for someone who moves from flat to flat or from bedsit to bedsit; 45 per cent of private tenants are aged over 35 and they are long term private tenants.

The tax reliefs under section 23 have encouraged the provision of new housing but none of this tax relief — which is very generous — has been tied to any conditions regarding the other housing which landlords own. You can qualify for tax relief on the rental income from slum properties and we do not ask any questions in regard to whether these properties meet the regulations on minimum standards, whether people have been issued with rent books or receipts or whether there are any conditions in this area. If public money is being spent by way of tax relief or in grants we should demand good standards of accountability in return.

The problem of growing housing lists has overflowed into private rented housing where it is estimated that the State may now be paying up to £20 million per year in rent subsidies under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Much of the accommodation is substandard; again there is little or no security of tenure but tenants on welfare have little choice. We would be far better putting that £20 million into long term, secure housing instead of paying it to landlords for substandard accommodation. The means test for the rental allowance is the harshest in the whole social welfare code, reducing pensioners and widows on higher welfare payments to the supplementary welfare allowance level and an after-rent income of £53 per week for a single person. The annual increase in welfare payments has been clawed back from this group of recipients by reducing their rent allowance. Therefore, what they gain on the one hand in the budget is always pulled back from the rent allowance.

Today's Supplementary Estimates detail direct Government expenditure. The same degree of scrutiny is not afforded to tax expenditures which are often of much greater magnitude and very differently focused from direct expenditure. In the case of housing, indirect expenditure through mortgage interest relief is estimated at £230 million, significantly higher than combined spending on capital provision for local authority housing, other housing subsidies and rent allowances put together; 38 per cent of loans issued last year were endowment mortgages which enjoy significant tax advantages over the conventional annuity mortgage. For this extra tax advantage the community does not get one single penny; we do not get better housing. Much of the difference in subsidies is effectively siphoned off in commissions received by the agents issuing these loans. With the growing awareness of the problems of mortgage arrears, it is important to recognise that people get into mortgage difficulties far more quickly with an endowment mortgage than with the conventional annuity mortgage because if you are not working and not paying tax, the tax relief is no use to you. These loans are structured to give higher tax relief. The taxpayer is paying extra money for these and not getting any housing benefit in return.

It is instructive to compare the conditions under which public moneys subsidise housing under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and tax relief on mortgage interest. If I moved from my comfortable home in Dundrum to a five-bedroom detached house in Foxrock or to a split level six-bedroom bungalow up the mountains, I would qualify for tax relief to make the move. No one would ask me if I was "over-accommodated" or regard me as choosy for changing my neighbourhood. The higher my income and tax bracket, the higher the real value of the subsidy. On the other hand, if I was unemployed, living in a bedsit and I wanted to move to a flat with its own bathroom I would face the prospect of being considered "over-accommodated" in my new place and would lose some or part of my rent subsidy. If an old age pensioner has an income of £66.50 per week the health board in assessing rent will regard that person as entitled to only £53.

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy, especially when she is making her maiden speech, but I must conform to the order of the Dáil concerning the time limit. The time available to the Deputy is almost exhausted.

We need to evaluate the various housing subsidies given under different headings to see how they add up to an integrated and coherent housing policy. We need to evaluate to what degree housing subsidies contribute to the achievement of housing objectives and to what extent they are captured by higher prices of housing and, ultimately, of building land. With the degree of urban dereliction that still characterises many cities and towns we need to look afresh at the balance of subsidies between new building and renewal and refurbishment of the existing buildings. We also need to re-examine the favourable subsidies and tax treatment of upmarket housing and trading up and to see to what extent we are encouraging people to invest in houses costing £200,000, instead of in business development and job creation.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Déanaim comhghairdeas leat, a Cheann Comhairle, agus tá áthas orm go bhfuil tú ar ais arís chun leanúint leis an chaighdeán ard a bhí agat le blianta fada. Le cúnamh Dé beimid in áit éigin le chéile uair éigin eile. Tá áthas orm chomh maith bheith ar ais chun labhairt anseo inniu.

These Supplementary Estimates cover so many issues it is impossible to deal with any in detail. However, I might deal with a few general headings, the first being health in respect of which I want to make a special plea to the incoming Minister to do something specific about the waiting lists for heart operations. I have had personal experience of what this means, knowing many people in my constituency who have been awaiting a call from a hospital for a heart by-pass operation for many months. These waiting lists should be treated with the utmost concern and urgency. When driving here the other day I heard on the radio that the national lottery had sent a £40 cheque to each of the thousand people who had received a hamper that did not contain a turkey or ham. That amounted to £40,000, probably in the case of many people who already had turkeys and hams, while others might not. I calculated that that £40,000 would have helped perhaps close on ten people being given a new lease of life by having a heart operation. A special effort should be made to divert national lottery funds to health to clear this backlog of patients awaiting heart operations. We should ensure that those moneys are diverted to such worthy causes. I shall be reminding the incoming Government and Minister of this in due course.

I have drawn the attention of the House on many occasions to the need for more remedial teachers in our schools. It would appear that nationwide we have some of the largest classes in Europe, something in the region of 40,000 children attending classes of 40 or more pupils. There are far too many children in such classes in need of remedial education. I know the Minister always will experience difficulty in paying all of the bills but we must afford all our children the best possible educational opportunity. Not all children are geared to studying what are regarded as academic subjects. Indeed, some children have been successful in later life even though, at school, academically they may have been regarded as not having done so well. However, we are now in an era of examinations and diplomas. For example, at one time one could have got a job anywhere if one was able to repair a car engine. I have heard of a top-class mechanic having applied for a job but, simply because he did not have certificates to prove that he knew the front from the back of a car engine, he was not even called for interview.

We are reaching the stage when people must be subjected to academic tests, beginning even at primary school level because, if pupils fall behind at that level, they will suffer in the long term. I repeat that the Minister must give consideration to remedial teaching in rural schools. While realising that our towns and cities have their problems, that there are deprived areas and families who are educationally deprived, a child attending a rural school is deserving of the same chance of his or her place in the sun. It should not be taken for granted that pupils attending rural schools do not encounter educational difficulties. It would be my hope that, when funding education, the incoming Minister will seriously examine the overall question of remedial teachers.

Some Members have referred already to the difficulties experienced with regard to the schools transport service. Always there are anomalies encountered in the transport area, for example, that of children being located the requisite distance from their school. However, when one hears of a difference of one-tenth of a mile in distance from a child's school — when the nearest school to the home may be one located in another parish — one is led to wonder whether sanity does not go out the window in adhering to the red tape. Much common sense could be deployed dealing with such problems when very often children and their parents are inconvenienced. A parent may have to drive a child one mile to and from school simply because a school bus takes another route, whereas an additional three or four minutes on the part of the school bus would facilitate all concerned. It would be my hope that next year the question of the schools bus service will be seriously examined since we spend much money on that service.

I have raised the question of school furniture before and do so again, contending that it is not conducive to the good physical health of our children since school benches that tilt backwards at the top are no longer in use, as before, when children could sit upright when writing. Our schools are now inundated with flat table-top desks over which children must bend. The advice I have received from physiotherapists is that that is exactly what children should not have to do, contending that such leads to the malformation of young backs. I raised this matter with Deputy O'Rourke when she was Minister for Education and will do so again with the incoming Minister. If the advice given me is correct — that it does damage children's backs — then the matter should be seriously examined and something done about it because rectification is too late in middle age.

The moneys voted in the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Justice could be expended on many things. I join the queue of people who have called for extra gardaí on the beat. If more were seen on the beat we would not have so many criminals who think nothing of travelling to many of our towns and villages to commit crimes. They do so in the knowledge that they are completely free to do so, that nobody will spot them. If there were more gardaí on the beat, and seen to be on the beat, local communities would feel secure in the knowledge of there being some form of surveillance. Local communities would feel more secure in their homes, especially old people. Many canvassers in the course of the general election discovered that old people were afraid to open their doors to them. Old people rightly deserve some form of security and comfort and not be terrorised by all sorts of hooligans. The only way they can be afforded such security is through the deployment of extra gardaí, which will cost money, but we must be prepared to pay for what are considered to be priorities.

Many Members have highlighted the major problem being experienced through the lack of public authority housing. It cannot be contended that the outgoing Government had any interest in local authority housing. I know that throughout the period of office of the 1983-87 Government there was an average of 55 local authority houses built annually in Carlow whereas the average dropped to approximately eight over the past four years. This means that in the town of Carlow there is an ever-increasing local authority housing list. The incoming Government will have to find much money if they are to make a serious attempt at providing such housing for people in need. It would appear that the outgoing Government did not consider local authority housing sufficiently important. I do not know what will happen in the case of the new regime. The prediction was that if one voted for Deputy Dick Spring one would get Deputy John Bruton but that dream has become a nightmare because one could finish up with Deputy Albert Reynolds, in which case I do not know what the people will do. It would be my hope that if Deputy Ferris is part of that incoming Government he will explain to its members that local authority housing does constitute a serious problem requiring much expenditure.

Disabled/dependent persons grants given for extensions to such people's houses can be extremely valuable in the case of old, infirm people. Sometimes the argument is advanced that such grants are abused, that younger people build extensions to their homes in the knowledge that they will obtain it once the older person passes on. I do not fall for that type of argument. If the medical criteria are strict and adhered to such grants will be given only where there is genuine need. It is a pity that people suffering from arthritis or angina are still expected to climb stairs simply because the householder cannot afford to build an extension. In some cases, grants for disabled people have been cut back and that is a pity.

We talk about red tape, EC regulations and so on, but when it comes to subsidies, there is nothing more galling than someone in an office deciding that a mistake is a criminal act and that someone is out to defraud the nation and Europe of a pile of money. I know of a case where a vet has put into writing that he made a genuine mistake between in-calf heifers and cows, but for some strange reason that will not be accepted and the people in power insist that it was done to defraud the nation of massive amounts of money with regard to the few cattle involved. I hope that the Department of Agriculture and Food will have a new outlook on that sort of thing.

We spend so much money on social welfare that it would be a pity if we continued the trend which penalises a person who is honest enough to declare that he will work for certain days, so that at the end of the year he will be noted as having a certain income. The system discourages honesty and that is the real pity.

I congratulate the Chair on his re-election and wish him every success in the 27th Dáil which I hope will last a while. I also congratulate the new Members on their election. I particularly congratulate Deputy Joe Costello whose family I know. I wish the Deputy every success in Dáil Éireann.

The Common Agricultural Policy and GATT negotiations were successfully negotiated in Europe by our EC Commissioner, Mr. Ray MacSharry, a former Minister for Agriculture and for Finance, and also a Sligo man. Regardless of what the IFA say on the outcome of the GATT negotiations, I congratulate Mr. Ray MacSharry who did an excellent job. We were lucky to have a man such as Mr. MacSharry in Europe negotiating for us on the Common Agricultural Policy and GATT negotiations. I know Alan Gillis is doing an excellent job as leader of the IFA, but who is he representing? Is he representing the big farmers or the small farmers whom I represent? Mr. Ray MacSharry did an excellent job for farmers, particularly farmers in the west and I compliment him on that. I would ask the Irish Farmers Association to ease off. A good job was done in Brussels and Mr. Ray MacSharry was responsible for it.

I am glad to see the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Treacy in the House again. I hope he will put in place a scheme for arterial drainage. In my constituency a candidate went forward in the election to push for the implementation of the Arrow and Owenmore drainage scheme. The Arrow and Owenmore rivers spread across south Sligo and the people in that area have been waiting for a number of years for an arterial drainage scheme. Without grants from Europe for arterial drainage, the Minister proposes to bring in a new scheme for such work. I hope he will implement such scheme——

I gave a commitment this morning in that regard.

——as soon as possible. I gave the people concerned a commitment that I would work to make sure the rivers are drained. Some farmers in the area have as much as 45 to 50 acres of their land flooded. Because of the high rainfall in the west this winter the scheme has become even more urgent.

We are not happy with the number of houses built in recent years. I hope more local authority houses will be built under the next administration. The shared ownership scheme introduced by the previous Minister has been a tremendous success for the people who availed of it. It has helped many young couples to build or buy their own homes. I hope the scheme will be continued. A number of other schemes including the housing finance scheme in the Department of the Environment are good schemes which I hope, too, will be continued but we need to build more houses.

Previous speakers referred to long hospital waiting lists. There are long waiting lists particularly for hip replacement and heart by-pass operations. I hope the list will be reduced in the near future as people are suffering while awaiting attention. We have an excellent Minister for Health at the moment but I hope the incoming Minister will do something to reduce the long waiting lists.

Deputy Joan Burton. Since this is the Deputy's maiden speech, I wish her a most cordial welcome and every success and personal happiness.

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle agus comhghairdeachas leat féin.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to the critical need for funding for education in disadvantaged areas, and to the problem of the numbers of children who are dropping out of school from as early as nine and ten years of age. In west County Dublin there are two major corporation housing areas, in north Clondalkin and in parts of west Blanchardstown. These areas are socially disadvantaged, with an unemployment level of 60 to 70 per cent. Many households are single parent households, headed by women. In these areas there is a particular need for attention and treatment of children who are leaving school very early and who are at serious risk of becoming involved in crime and vandalism. Unfortunately, in these areas many residents are plagued by regular outbreaks of joy-riding and vandalism. The school attendance service is nonexistent in those areas. In fact, there is no school attendance officer in the whole of County Dublin. That responsibility has been passed to the community gardaí, who are doing an excellent job but who are, unfortunately, relatively few in number and are already heavily overburdened. I ask the Minister for Education to initiate programmes in each of those areas aimed at children at risk.

My second point concerns second level education in west Dublin. I refer the House to the plan for the development of north Clondalkin, published in November. Page nine of that plan shows the extraordinary age structure of the population of north Clondalkin. No less than 58 per cent of the people there are under 24 years of age. North Clondalkin would have the youngest population of any area in the State and probably also in the history of the State.

There are two second level colleges serving north Clondalkin. The bigger college, Collinstown Park, has no sports hall and, therefore, has very restricted sports facilities. I appeal to the Minister to make north Clondalkin a priority area and to provide a sports hall and proper sports facilities for the college in Collinstown. The second community school in the area, St. Kevin's, has acquired fame and notoriety as a result of the constant need for the parents of children attending that school to campaign and protest for almost everything. At present children attending that school are bussed on a part-time basis between their semi-finished school in north Clondalkin and the old school in Lucan. That is not satisfactory for an area that has such major problems and it is something that will have to change as soon as possible.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to some of the problems that have arisen this year in relation to changes in the ESF grant scheme. It has come to my attention, as a teacher at third level in the Dublin Institute of Technology, that for children of families who are living on social welfare assistance there are several serious problems in relation to the processing of third level grant applications. I should like the Minister to bear these problems in mind.

The first problem is that the procedure is technical and difficult. The form issued this year to the vocational education committees for completion by applicants contained about 12 pages of detail. Many of those pages of detail were applicable to self-employed persons; the amount of filling in required of a family on social welfare was very limited. I appeal to the Minister to review the application forms before next year and to make them more user friendly. It should be remembered that for a family who are sending a child to third level education through a grant or a scholarship — perhaps for the first time in the family — the filling in of an application form is a momentous job. While it may seem an easy job to all of us, it is an unnecessary barrier when the forms are difficult.

The second problem is that children of families who are living on social welfare assistance who are given a university grant have to pay a booking deposit to the CAO and it averages out at about £194. I have had to advise would-be students to go to the community welfare officer, the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the local credit union in order to borrow the deposit that will confirm their CAO place. Surely there could be a simple administrative arrangement whereby the Department of Social Welfare, perhaps in conjunction with the head teacher of the school attended, could confirm that the family are social welfare recipients, and that one arm of the State is making an advance payment to another arm of the State. I appeal to the Minister to have the problem sorted out by next year. It is most important that in areas of disadvantage every child who can avail of a third level education be given the maximum encouragement to do so. If we are talking about improving and empowering areas of disadvantage, we are talking most of all about the young intelligent children who are coming forward — in substantial numbers, I am pleased to say — from areas such as north Clondalkin and west Blanchardstown and who need to be given every encouragement to take up their places.

I now turn to the Estimates on housing. Other Deputies have already spoken on this subject. Deputy Callely spoke of the housing crisis that exists in Dublin. I find elements of the plan for social housing worth while and have made that statement before at council level. The commitment to move away from large housing estates such as those developed in Dublin in the 1960s and 1970s is excellent. However, it should be remembered that a plan for social housing is not a substitute for a housing programme. A plan for social housing is a specific help and has the potential to be of considerable assistance to a relatively small group of families or people who are starting families who are in employment and who can make arrangements for the purchase of a house. However, for those families who are on social welfare assistance, who have no job prospects or are very low paid it is of no benefit. I want to make it clear that the plan for social housing is not the answer to the housing crisis.

Some of my colleagues have referred to the housing crisis that now exists in Dublin and, for instance, to the fact that this year the Eastern Health Board is paying some £12 million in rent allowances. It is my belief that we are not getting value for money so far as that £12 million is concerned. For this year the housing estimate for Dublin County Council is about £2 million. The £12 million to be paid out in rent allowances could be better directed towards the housing programme and the actual provision of housing. Instead, most of the money goes to landlords. They are not required to give terms of tenancy that are secure and long term and there is no way of vetting the quality of housing taken up by tenants. I appeal to the Minister to review this matter and to give serious consideration to the question of whether better value for money could be achieved.

In a new area of Dublin that has grown and developed in the past 20 to 25 years, the Blanchardstown and Castleknock area, there is no second level school in Castleknock. Many parents who are living in the Castleknock area face a dilemma when their children are ready to leave primary school in that they are not officially in the catchment area of any public secondary school. Therefore, they face the problem that from an early age their children have to sit entrance examinations. I ask the Minister to publish the Bannon report on the provision of second level education in the Castleknock area and to consider urgently the case for a second level school in Castleknock.

I congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your re-election to office and wish you success in this, your fourth appointment to office. I also congratulate all the new Deputies and commiserate with those who were unsuccessful.

Following the announcement of the Delors II programme in Edinburgh last weekend we are ending the year on a high note. Despite all the doom and gloom which circulated in this House and the council chambers throughout the country during the past year in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy, GATT, etc., we should face into 1993 with an air of confidence. When we speak in those terms we should reflect on the people who were the mainstay to ensuring we got our rights in the Delors II programme, particularly Commissioner Ray MacSharry, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture and Food who have served this country well in trying times during the tough negotiations of the past year. The sum of £8 billion over the next seven years is welcome.

It is important that enterprise boards be set up as planned in each county which would then have a structure which could maximise the benefits to be derived from rural development schemes. I look forward to those boards being set up early in the new year. In the interim county councils and other development agencies should examine closely how best they can benefit from this funding. They should draw up lists of projects so that they will be in a position to recommend them when the funding is available. A number of areas have been targeted in the rural development scheme. One is tourism which is of enormous benefit locally and nationally. Inland areas have been underdeveloped and neglected by the tourism boards who laid most emphasis on developing further the traditional tourist areas. It has been a case of throwing apples into the orchard rather than targeting areas which have potential but were not developed.

In regard to the rural development programmes there has been a great deal of talk about the further expansion of the food processing and food production industry, an area which has great potential. In my area this industry has been developed to a high degree but there is still room for further development. This has been brought home to us by a number of manufacturing concerns which have built up international markets and have strong promotional forces for selling in Europe and elsewhere. While it is easy to produce, it is hard to sell. Emphasis placed on the selling factor in recent years has resulted in a strong base being provided for the food industry but I have no doubt that could be improved.

Mention has been made of alternative forms of enterprise. Here too many areas could be developed with good effect which could provide jobs to produce goods which would substantially reduce imports. Anyone who has been involved in agriculture since the war will know that at one time the quality of the soil was poor and the level of fertilisation low but things have vastly improved. I hope that in the early months of 1993 we will see an all-out effort at county level to develop the enterprise boards with a view to availing of the maximum benefits which can be derived from the funding, for which we are thankful, which was so ably negotiated by our team in the past 12 months.

Many previous speakers have referred to social housing and housing schemes. While we are all aware of the need for housing we must agree that there are many fine aspects to the scheme announced and there are many areas which will benefit enormously — for example, joint ownership, the provision of sites, and the subsidy for those giving up local authority housing. If Deputies and councillors applied themselves to examining how best that scheme would be suited to their constituents, they would do a better job than those perpetual whingers. One thing we will never be short of is whingers.

The issue of roads has also been mentioned. In the next operational programme I hope more money will be made available for county roads. Substantial funding will have to be provided for regional and county roads development. If we are to develop our regions we have to develop the basic infrastructure of roads. Both electricity and communications have been well developed but roads are now the main issue which require further development. I hope the Minister for the Environment will ensure that he gets his share of the fund. I was very disappointed that although we have established various bodies under the rural development programmes only 4 per cent of this fund was secured for the development of county and regional roads, a pittance. There will have to be a huge injection of funds to ensure a proper infrastructure is put in place.

The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Treacy, spoke about the Office of Public Works and drainage schemes. As the drainage scheme in Monaghan will be terminated next year, I urge the Minister to re-examine the concept of arterial drainage and to place more emphasis on scrubbing, clearing and removing obstacles to rivers. If that was done, if the programme, which is of ten years duration only — is changed and funding is sought, the Office of Public Works could do a wonderful job. I invited the respect of which there are serious problems. He intended to visit the Blackwater area but he did not get the opportunity to do so as he had to apply himself to setting up enterprise boards. I hope he will be able to make such a visit and that the present drainage system will be changed to give better value for money.

Many previous speakers referred to the housing crisis. Like every other county council, Limerick County Council is trying to deal with the housing crisis in its county. It is important to analyse how the housing crisis arose. During the period 1983-87 the then Government, a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour, had a dynamic housing policy which broke the back of the housing crisis which then existed. However, since 1987 there has been a considerable decline in the number of houses being built. As a result, every county council has huge housing waiting lists. I would classify the housing lists as a waiting game — people can be waiting for years for a house.

One factor which has exacerbated the housing crisis over the past few years is that emigration has dried up and people are returning to this country because they cannot get work abroad. There is also the new phenomenon of families breaking up. When a family in a local authority house split up, one of the spouses has to live in rented accommodation, which is usually subsidised by the health board, while waiting to be housed by the local authority. In some cases both spouses may be looking for local authority housing. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of single parents. These factors have led to our present critical housing problem. I agree with the points made by Deputy Blaney yesterday in relation to the construction industry. If we want to build confidence in our economy we must invest more in a dynamic housing policy. The money invested in such a policy would be compensated for by an increase in employment and the injection of a sense of buoyancy in our economy which has been lacking for some time.

The last speaker, Deputy Leonard, referred to the social housing plan which was marketed on 14 February 1991, St. Valentine's Day. It was supposed to be a love affair with the people who needed housing but it has fallen far short of this. It is all very fine for Deputy Leonard to say that people should not whinge about the matter but rather get on with the work. County councils have tried to get on with the work but finance needs to be provided by the Department of the Environment. If that Department starves the county councils of funding, how can they proceed with the implementation of the social housing plan? That plan was marketed in a very glossy brochure but has failed to live up to expectations. I know from having spoken to them that county council officials are disappointed with the plan. There is only one way this plan can work, that is, by the Department providing sufficient funds.

I wish to refer to another matter which has been of concern to me over the past year. It relates to an area in which the Government could invest and from which it would reap dividends. I refer to group water schemes. Usually the people who participate in such schemes make an investment. Part of the problem in this regard is that all the money for group water schemes for this year — a total of £2 million — was used up earlier in the year. In the past FEOGA funds were invested in group water schemes and 75 per cent of these schemes in the western package were covered. I understand that the FEOGA funds dried up some considerable time ago. Therefore, it is now necessary for the Government — I hope this is included in the Delors II package which has been referred to — to reinvest in group water schemes. It is true to say that approximately 70 group water schemes are awaiting final approval and funding by the Department. Sadly, the reply from the Department at present is that they have no funds available for schemes. During the past year I referred to many of the schemes in my county — Ballingarry Upper, Dromtrasna Collins, Glenbrohane, Martinstown and The Hill in Abbeyfeale, to name but a few. People are awaiting final permission to proceed with these schemes. The people in many of those areas have collected money and now need an injection of Government funds to proceed. There is an estimated membership of 3,900 people in the 70 schemes in the list I have with me. Some of the water used by these people at present has a high content of iron and many people have no water supply to their houses. This is totally unacceptable in this day and age. These schemes do not require a significant amount of money and I believe they could be funded through the EC, as happened in the past. This funding would enable many group water schemes to proceed.

I wish to refer to another area which needs to be looked at. One of the achievements of the 1983-87 Government was the introduction by the then Minister, John Boland, of the reconstruction grants scheme. These grants gave a boost to the housing programme as they enabled many families to buy older houses and develop them. Unfortunately, those grants were completely abolished. The reconstruction grants should be reintroduced with certain ceilings on them in order to deal with the housing crisis. We need initiatives to try to break that crisis. Many people who invested in their own homes have been crippled by the recent 3 per cent increase in mortgage rates. It is essential that these people are given some hope. Many of them will be forced to go to the St. Vincent de Paul Society for help this Christmas because they cannot afford the latest increase in mortgage rates. It is necessary to increase the level of mortgage interest relief, which was part of the Fine Gael election policy, in an effort to help those people who are trapped in a financial crisis.

A previous speaker spoke at length about education. There is only one area of education about which I am particularly concerned and I am sure every politician has encountered this problem. I refer to the need for more remedial teachers. We are not solving the problems in this area. Many children go through primary schools and on to second level schools without receiving proper education. Unfortunately, they are left behind due to the lack of remedial teachers. In many cases three or four schools have to share a remedial teacher. The serious problems in this area need to be addressed. It saddens me to have to tell schools managers who approach me for help in getting a remedial teacher that there are not sufficient funds, they are not top of the priority sequence, are not sufficiently disadvantaged and will have to wait in the queue. Many of these schools have been waiting in the queue for years. Many children who have gone through our educational system have been deprived due to a lack of remedial teachers.

I wish to refer briefly to the Garda Síochána. Reference was made to the need for more gardaí on the beat. I find it surprising that the number of gardaí is approximately 500 less than it was during the mid-eighties. Is this to say that our problems have disappeared since the mid-eighties, or have they got worse? We all know the type of situations with which gardaí have to deal nowadays and the insecurity which exists, particularly in rural areas. I do not think there is any substitute for gardaí on the beat. We have a very positive approach to the training of gardaí who have to spend two years in Templemore. Reference has been made to the civilisation of the Garda. We need to be very careful if we decide to proceed in that direction in an effort to rectify any manpower deficiencies in the Garda. I could go on at length about this issue but I am aware of the time limitations.

I want to deal specifically with the area of agriculture for which there is a Supplementary Estimate of £20 million. My newly elected colleagues, whom I welcome, have devoted their energies to dealing with the areas of education and housing, some of the crisis areas the Labour Party highlighted during the general election. As a national party we are concerned about all aspects of Irish life and the economy. Agriculture plays a major role in that it accounts for some 40 per cent of our economic activity.

Earlier this year we identified some of the difficulties we saw arising from the review of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Minister for Agriculture and Food said that farmers would benefit by between £50 million and £100 million but the farm organisations disagreed. The balance came down on the side of the Minister who, in difficult circumstances, had negotiated a very difficult change in the whole structure of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is clear that the future of Irish agriculture lies very much in our hands. In planning for the future development of that important industry we must take full and proper account of the changes that are in place or about to be made and must also consider the Culliton report, which calls for the publication of a national food plan.

During the general election campaign we were criticised because we had not specifically identified agriculture in our party policy document. This was basically because we felt that within Europe agreement on Common Agricultural Policy reform had already been concluded, admittedly behind closed doors. Part of the reform is that in future the industry will be supported by income support rather than product support and if there is to be a viable future for family farms we must ensure that payments flow to farmers quickly and easily without great bureaucracy. If not, people will be in difficulty. The importance of the food processing industry cannot be overstated for the continuation of jobs, the creation of jobs in the downstream food industry and in the marketing industry and we must ensure that farmers are compensated through the establishment of a dynamic forum involving production and marketing and that farmers with a guaranteed income will continue to be paid for producing a product. Ireland has a special place in the eyes of the world as a country producing good, organic produce. We have a green and clean image that has been tarnished to some extent and is still subject to tarnishing in Dublin Castle. Farmers must have an alternative to the cheque in the post. Rural Ireland will not be satisfied to receive compensation for doing nothing.

It should not be forgotten that the Common Agricultural Policy is as old as the Community. It is the only policy in operation in the Community. It aims to sustain family farms with a reasonable income through a guaranteed minimum price structure for produce or a price compensation for farmers. It also aims to ensure an adequate supply of food for consumers at reasonable cost. We say that in the context of thousands of people starving in Somalia, while millionaires who own deep freeze boats ship food around our coasts at Community expense. We want people compensated for producing food and to ensure that the needy here and in other countries can have access to food. We have a responsibility as a country rich in food production.

If some of these ideals have been followed through, why is it that in recent days this capital city has been inundated by protesting farmers, who feel there is a fundamental flaw in the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy and anomalies in the payment of sheep subsidies and headage payments? They believe their incomes are under threat. The provisions negotiated by Mr. Macsharry as part of a GATT agreement created consternation in many countries. Farmers do not come to Dublin to protest without legitimate cause. They protested in the past and were walked on by Ministers for Agriculture. They will not allow people to erode their income, whether those people are Commissioners or Governments. If this GATT agreement undermines the Common Agricultural Policy there is a responsibility on the incoming Government, on the Council of Ministers and the Commission to make sure that some of the £8 billion negotiated at Edinburgh will be paid out in compensation.

This document from the Minister for Agriculture and Food deals with payments to disadvantaged areas and most of the Estimate is related to that sector. If payments to farmers in disadvantaged areas are not made on time and as easily as possible, family farms will continue to disappear. The disadvantaged areas scheme contains many anomalies, particularly with regard to the various degrees of disadvantage. Promises were made by the outgoing Government which have not been honoured. Areas were given the facility to appeal their exclusion and the Government should come clean and say whether people should be eligible for payments when they meet the criteria. Why should there have been an appeals process if these areas already complied with the criteria? Somebody is sitting on this issue, either in the Department of Finance or the Department of Agriculture and Food, and I ask them to pay these people in disadvantaged areas their due. If not, the people of rural Ireland will lose faith in those elected to represent their views in the Oireachtas.

There are responsibilities on all of us, whether in Opposition or in Government. The Labour Party is prepared to play a role in whatever formula can be worked out as a result of the election. We are prepared to make sure that all areas of the community are treated equally. We want to put trust back into politics and credibility into the economy. Priorities in the areas of housing, health services, homelessness, education and the handicapped have been mentioned by my colleagues. There are other areas in rural Ireland that cannot be forgotten. Small farm families do not need the earth, although they own it. All they are demanding are their rights, their right to remain at home, to rear a family at home, to work for themselves and generate jobs in the processing industry which will fuel the economy by benefiting the export trade, producing a product in Europe that we can be proud of. This is what rural Ireland is about. Dublin should not dominate the political scene. It should not be thought that when one gets to Newlands Cross that is the end of things. Two-thirds of the population live outside Dublin and maintain this capital city. It is the people in rural Ireland who help to maintain the capital city, to fund the administration of law and order, of Government and the bureaucracy of which we are part. We must be user friendly, as Members of the Oireachtas. We must let it be seen that we are serious about making the changes that the Labour Party said would follow from this election. There will be changes and we will make sure they reflect the views of the whole of Ireland.

(Laois-Offaly): Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leat féin agus don Teach as ucht an seans seo a thabhairt dom labhairt don chead uair anseo.

The question of education is one that has been addressed by previous speakers today. As it is an area of special interest to me I beg the indulgence of the House to allow me make a number of points in relation to the Estimate presented to us here today, particularly as this Estimate and the budget that will come before the House in the not too distant future will have been prepared in the light of the debate on the Green Paper on education.

As the vice-chairperson of the County Offaly Vocational Education Committee, I would like to raise a number of points on the vocational and technical aspects of education in relation to the preparation of Estimates and budgets.

One of the features of the Green Paper on Education is the emphasis on technical and vocational education. We are told in the Green Paper that the present system is overly academic and that the skills needed to encourage enterprise, business and employment in this country, are those of a technical and vocational nature, yet the status and recognition given to vocational education committees who have spearheaded this area of education since the thirties is most disappointing.

We in the Labour Party have stated that we will take the opportunity, after a new Government is formed, to seek the redrafting of the Green Paper on Education in full consultation with all the partners. I would like to think that one of the main partners who will be consulted will be the vocational education committees. It is an area that has served us well in the past and can certainly serve us well in the future in our strategic need to build up a core of technical and vocational skills in the country.

There is an Estimate before us today for second level education. It is a very complex area, as anybody working in the field will know. In relation to my own county, County Offaly, successive Ministers for Education have listened to our case for vocational education and have enabled us to provide one of the most comprehensive and modern vocational education centres of any county in the country. I compliment the various Ministers who have helped us in that endeavour.

At the moment we are completing the improvement of the vocational schools in the county. I beg the indulgence of the House to mention a particular case which I would like to put before the Minister for consideration in drawing up the Estimates and the budget. Work is currently taking place on an extension to the vocational school in Clara, County Offaly, based on an accommodation schedule of 275 pupils. This was the case a number of years ago when the schedule was prepared. At the moment there are 350 pupils in that school and it is projected that that number will rise to over 400 between 1996 and the end of the decade. A submission has been made to the Department for the inclusion of accommodation to meet this extra enrolment at the current building stage. I ask the Department and the Minister to take that request on board and provide the necessary finance for that work to be carried out before the completion of the building programme in the new year.

My main concern in addressing the Education Estimate is primary education. In our manifesto which we placed before the people on 25 November we gave a commitment that any extra funding which became available in the education sector would be geared towards improving services at primary level. Many primary schools, particularly in rural areas, are existing in antiquated nineteenth century Victorian conditions. I appeal for an urgent building programme to be put in place to bring the very important primary sector into the late twentieth century. In my area St. Kieran's national school in Clonmacnoise has been looking for extra accommodation since 1984. I was glad to hear the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, announce this morning in his Supplementary Estimate for the Office of Public Works that work on the heritage and visitor centre at the monastic site in Clonmacnoise is to go ahead and that he is currently improving facilities for tourists in the county. However, I would like to think that in addition to valuing our heritage from the past we would value the heritage and potential of the young people who live in that area today. This is something I would commend to the Department for urgent attention.

In the area of youth and sport I appeal to the incoming Government to take the whole question of lottery funding out of political hands and apply it to the areas for which it was originally intended. When the national lottery was introduced the voluntary youth organisations were told that their allocations in the regular Estimates would be reduced and this would be compensated for by an increase in funding from the national lottery. Similarly, facilities such as swimming pools, community centres and recreation centres were promised to us on the introduction of the national lottery. I hope that the incoming Government will review the procedure for the disbursement of national lottery funds.

In regard to adult and further education, I am glad to see that the Estimate today provides for an extra 500 places in the VTOS scheme. This is a very worthwhile scheme which allows people who are on social welfare to return to education to broaden their horizons and increase their chances for the future by participation in full-time education programmes. However, I appeal to the Ministers for Education and Social Welfare to take note of the very discriminatory fact that spouses of social welfare claimants are not entitled to participate in these programmes. Only the claimants themselves are so entitled and this discriminates very much against women, against the wives of men who happen to be signing on. Many of these women are interested in returning to full-time education and improving their chances. This chance, which is offered through the VTOS, should be open to them.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for giving me the opportunity, at an early stage in the new Dáil, to highlight my concerns in the area of education. I intend to return to this matter in future contributions in this House.

I will be brief, Acting Chairman, as I have already participated in the debate on one of the Estimates earlier today——

I understand that the Deputy has spoken already.

(Limerick East): The Deputy cannot speak twice.

May I raise one issue on Vote 32, Agriculture and Food?

Acting Chairman


There is one matter of grave concern that I would like to raise.

Acting Chairman

I am sorry, Deputy but my hands are tied.

I hope your presence in the Chair, Acting Chairman, is the harbinger of greater things to come. I wish to congratulate Deputy Gallagher on his maiden speech. It is nice to see so many Deputies make their maiden speech on the first day on which they have an opportunity to do so in the Dáil.

The Taoiseach and the Minister are very proud of the fact that we are to receive £8 billion from the Structural and Cohesion Funds. I would like the Minister to give an undertaking here that a substantial proportion of that money will be allocated to the railways. On the last occasion nothing was allocated for intercity links because of the Government's negligence and failure to submit an application for Structural Funds for the railways, not because Europe did not want to give us the money. I understand that the position has now changed.

The condition of the Dublin-Sligo rail link has been largely responsible for the change in attitude on the part of the Government. I am glad that the railways will form an important and integral part of the application for Structural Funds. I want to ensure that priority is given to the areas most in need. Unquestionably, as the Minister is well aware the area most in need is the Dublin-Sligo rail link.

At present business is booming on this rail link. Up to 600 passengers travel each morning and evening between Dublin and Sligo despite the fact that the service is inadequate and runs up to 30 minutes late every day. I had great difficulty in getting here on time when the new Dáil assembled, not that it made much difference given that business was prolonged. I ask the Minister to ensure, when allocations are being made, that the railways figure prominently and priority is given to the Dublin-Sligo rail link.

Let me refer to one other important issue so far as Sligo is concerned, that is the drainage of the Owenmore and Arrow catchment areas. There has been agitation and a drainage committee has been in existence for 50 years. This scheme has now come to the top of the list but I understand that the Minister's Department — the Minister for Finance is directly responsible — are hesitating and deciding on whether any more arterial drainage work should be carried out. I also understand that the Mulcair river which is in the constituency of my colleague, Deputy Noonan, our spokesman on Finance, is also involved. I would hate to think at this stage when the Owenmore, Arrow and Mulcair rivers are at the top of the list that there would be no further drainage work. This would be a desperate decision so far as the people in those areas are concerned.

I should tell the House that on 10 July last there was flooding in the Owenmore and Arrow catchment areas which has not receded since. The people living in that area put forward a candidate in the last election and he got a very respectable 1,600 votes. I understand that some decisions were about to be taken before the election and that these were postponed. We have now been told that, based on the findings of a cost benefit analysis, this work may not proceed. As this would be the first catchment area in the entire country that was not drained based on the findings of a cost benefit analysis I must ask if the rules have been changed or if something has happened in the meantime with the result that this area which covers one-third of the farmland of south Sligo will not qualify? I believe that the rules may have been changed to save money for the Exchequer but I hope that this is not so.

The former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, gave a solemn undertaking at Ballymote which he repeated at Strandhill, on behalf of the then Fianna Fáil Government, that this area would be drained. I will seek to have this work carried out regardless of whether we are in Opposition or in Government. I said on the occasion on which I was nominated and subsequently that I would avail of every possible opportunity open to a Dáil Deputy to ensure that this work is carried out. The people have been seeking this for 50 years and I will not accept lightly a proposal that we back away from it.

Another matter that has to be dealt with is the west Sligo group water scheme. The members of that scheme considered the idea of putting forward a candidate in the election but decided not to do so. Before the election it was decided that a minor part of the scheme should proceed. A protest meeting was due to be held at 9 p.m. on a Thursday and at 8.30 p.m. a fax message was received from the relevant Minister indicating that £350,000 would be allocated. This is welcome but will only cover about one-eighth of the entire scheme. Regardless of which Government is in power I hope this promise will be honoured. I will seek to ensure that it is.

I should also say that work should be carried out on the Castleconnor, Kilglass and Skreen-Dromard group water schemes at a cost of about £2 million to £3 million to the Exchequer. The sources supply pipeline is already in place from Corrownagh Church to Corballa Church. Up to 500,000 gallons of water could be delivered per day. I am told that this is the purest water scheme, gravity fed, in the country. But because these group water schemes are not being financed, this source of 500,000 gallons cannot be tapped. I am told also that a few farmers are taking about 10,000 gallons a day from it. This is crazy. I am not blaming the Government in office but rather the system that would allow this to happen. I am asking that money be provided in the Estimates so that work can start on these schemes and on the Owenmore-Arrow drainage scheme and that a portion of the next tranche of Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds, which also cover the transport sector, be supplied to allow work on major infrastructural developments to proceed as they are badly needed in County Sligo. There are many other worthy projects but on this occasion I am talking about the major ones.

If the Minister is still in office, and if one can gauge the political pulse at present it appears that he will be, though naturally I would prefer if it was the other way round because the whole purpose of politics is to be close to the source of power and be able to deliver on promises, I hope he will ensure that work on these major infrastructural developments proceeds. As I said, I am not referring here to minor projects of which there are many, particularly in the area of housing which is an important issue no matter which Government is in power, and one that has been neglected in recent years — the cutbacks are making themselves felt now.

I hope attention will be paid to the major infrastructural projects I have mentioned; the Government has been made aware of them, there is a need for them and, regardless of which Government is in power, it will have an obligation to deliver in that respect.

Deputy Noonan raised a number of points of information on which he asked me to reply in winding-up. First, he raised a number of points in relation to public sector pay. The Government is currently discussing ways in which the public service pay determination system can be made more transparent so that, in particular, the question of the Government's ability to pay can be more readily addressed when pay claims are referred to third party adjudication. This matter is being addressed in the context of discussions under clause 3 of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress pay agreement which provides for negotiations on improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, subject to a limit or “cap” of 3 per cent which cannot apply in the public service until 1993. The emphasis in the public service is, however, on restructuring negotiations to improve efficiency and effectiveness so as to offset any increases in pay.

Papers setting out the Government's proposed approach to changing the pay determination system have been put to the staff sides of the conciliation and arbitration schemes for the Civil Service, teachers and health and local authority employees. While discussions on this matter are at an early stage, it is intended that the public service pay determination system will be revised to provide for greater transparency, less frequent recourse to adjudication and more weight to be given to ability to pay and budgetary considerations.

The Deputy also inquired as to whether the proposed payment of arrears is consistent with the terms of the Government's package of 17 January 1992 concerning public service pay. Under this package, special increases for certain groups of public servants which were due to be paid with effect from 1 March and 1 September 1992, were deferred to 1 December 1992, with arrears payable in January 1993. When I put this package to the public service committee of ICTU on 17 January last, I indicated verbally that, if possible, such payments might be made earlier than provided for in the package. The proposal to move a Supplementary Estimate for this purpose is therefore consistent with the approach underlying the package.

The only commitments outstanding in the January package on public service pay are the removal of the ceiling of £6.50 per week, with effect from 1 December 1993 on the general round increase of 3.75 per cent payable in 1993, and the question of the restoration of the losses which resulted from the imposition of ceilings on the general round increases in 1992 and 1993.

In relation to this latter commitment, I set out the Government's position on this matter in my statement of 17 January 1992 to the public services committee of ICTU. I indicated that in considering the request from Congress that this loss be made good during the period of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the Government must have regard to its responsibility to implement the agreed overriding objectives of both the Programme for National Recovery and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress that the public finances must not be allowed to drift out of control once again. I also stated that the Government is prepared to commit itself to honouring in full the pay commitments in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress in the context of our key fiscal objectives. I also indicated that the Government is prepared to have further discussions with Congress in 1993 and before the expiry of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, to agree a specific timetable for recoupment of these losses arising from the application of the ceilings on the general round increases at the earliest possible dates, and in any event not later than 1994.

The second point concerned the definition of the general Government deficit criterion used as part of the European Monetary Union convergence criteria. The basic budgetary criteria specified in the Maastricht Treaty are: the general Government deficit should not exceed 3 per cent of GDP unless the excess is temporary and exceptional and the ratio remains close to 3 per cent; and the debt/GDP ratio must be sufficiently diminishing and approaching 60 per cent of GDP at a satisfactory pace. I will deal with each of these criteria in turn.

As Deputies will be aware, the budget deficit normally referred to in Ireland is the EBR as a percentage of GNP. The main differences between this and the general Government deficit used for Maastricht purposes are that the latter includes all local authority and non-commercial State body transactions, not just those financed by the Exchequer; excludes loans and share capital transactions with commercial State bodies or the private sector; consolidates internal transactions within public authorities that can affect the EBR in a particular year — e.g. winding-up of the Land Bond Fund and is based on GDP rather than GNP, which reduces the ratio in our case. Overall, in recent years the general Government deficit has been about 0.5 per cent of GDP higher than the EBR which takes account of share and asset sales, though this can fluctuate from year to year.

The debt/GDP ratio is essentially calculated for Maastricht purposes by adding the estimated consolidated debt of the local government sector, including health agencies and vocational education committees, to the Exchequer debt figure with which Deputies will already be familiar. Debt on a general Government basis is currently estimated at some 93 per cent of GDP. It is thus almost totally comprised of the Exchequer debt element.

Finally, Deputy Noonan referred to the expression of these criteria by reference to gross domestic product, GDP, rather than to gross national product, GNP. The selection of GDP merely follows the definitions of the budgetary criteria stipulated in the Treaty and those definitions, in turn, simply follow the widespread use internationally of GDP rather than GNP as a conventional measurement of economic performance.

I agree with Deputy Noonan in that this has been a change for us because we have not used the term gross domestic product. In Europe gross national product is not referred to — the term gross domestic product is always used. As a result of the Maastricht Treaty an effort has been made this year to standardise the term and in future we will all use the term gross domestic product. It will take a while for us to get used to that but that is the way economies will be judged. For most countries the difference between gross domestic product and gross national product is less significant than for us — I take Deputy Noonan's point that that is why it will be a little more difficult for us — for whom profit repatriations and foreign debt service payments, the main factors of relevance, are higher than average.

Deputy Noonan, and other Deputies referred to the appreciation of the Irish pound in terms of trade-weighted index in the past few months. The appreciation of the pound has been due almost entirely to the devaluation of sterling. There is a problem with the suddenness of this change for some businesses. For this reason we introduced the market development fund to help businesses adjust. This has been successful in some areas and not in others where businesses do not fulfil the criteria laid down. We have adopted the approach that the way to restore competitiveness is to allow time for industry to change its cost structure. The Government too will have to examine in the budget preparations what action it can take to accommodate the new currency parameters. Since the crisis began in September we have taken the necessary policy decisions at all times in consultation with my officials, the Central Bank and the National Treasury Management Agency. The whole exercise has been well co-ordinated and it would be a misrepresentation to allow a contrary impression to emerge.

Deputy Quinn's points about the Office of Public Works have been answered by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy. Deputy McDowell inquired about the cost of pay increases, particularly the £71 million arrears now being funded by the Supplementary Estimate of £54 million for Vote 44 — Remuneration. Clearly the net Exchequer cost of any pay increase is less than the gross amounts being voted today. The calculation of the precise net addition to Government spending is dependent on a number of complex factors, particularly the question of determining how the extra income will be disposed of. In keeping with standard practice, this and other changes in Government revenue and expenditure are taken account of in reviewing the economic impact of the annual budget, a process which, as Deputy McDowell is aware, is ongoing. I have noted the other points made by Deputies and will bear them in mind.

I thank Deputies for their comments and co-operation, Deputies Noonan and Quinn in particular, for their assistance in taking so many Estimates today. I congratulate all the new Deputies who took the opportunity to speak on the Supplementary Estimates. I thank them for their good wishes and I extend to them my good wishes in their future careers as Members of this House.

Votes put and agreed to.