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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 9 Feb 1994

Vol. 438 No. 5

Financial Resolutions, 1994. - Financial Resolution No. 8. General (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That it is expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.
—(Minister for Finance).

As I said in my opening statement before lunch, many people are very disappointed with this budget. They had great expectations, given the many opportunities open to the Minister for Finance in preparing the 1994 Budget. There was a great build-up to it and the Minister for Finance and other Ministers made good use of the PR opportunities available to point out that the money that would be saved would be used to benefit the people in terms of tax reform.

However, as the days pass and the budget is analysed, it can be seen there are many "sleepers", as they are sometimes described. Already difficulties have been caused by the residential property tax. Another proposal in the budget which has not yet hit the headlines but will — I am glad the Minister of State at the Department of Social Welfare is present in the House — is the proposal to attack the incomes of widows. This is going to come back on the Government.

It is not just a question of the Government selecting one of the most vulnerable groups in society to attack — the Minister referred to some of their benefits as perks — it is an attack on the entire system of social insurance which people pay into. Before I became a Member of this House I worked in industry and paid into the social insurance fund. I did so in the knowledge that at a certain stage I would be able to benefit from these contributions in terms of pension rights and so on. People understand that if one pays into this fund they will receive benefits and that they will not be attacked.

In attacking the contributory widow's pension in the budget the Government has undermined the entire system. While people accept that the various allowances, such as unemployment assistance, will change from time to time, they did not expect when they started to pay contributions to the social insurance fund that their benefits would be attacked by the Government. As time goes by, people will come to realise that they will be affected. I realise that existing recipients of widow's pension will not be affected, but sooner rather than later all widows and widowers will have their contributory pensions means tested. It is reprehensible for the Government to introduce on the one hand a widower's pension — this is to be welcomed as there must be equality on these issues — but on the other to place the burden on widows.

The Government has driven a wedge between widows and widowers. Widows who have been affected will deduce that they are being hit because the Government decided to bring in pensions for widowers. It is the most subversive proposal in this budget with regard to our system of social insurance and, as time goes on, the Minister and her colleagues in Cabinet will begin to realise what they have done to the social insurance system. It is difficult enough to make people recognise how important it is to prepare for retirement and old age. Now they will feel that if they make any provision and are thrifty and careful they will be hit. People will be frightened by this measure. Men will worry because many women outlive their husbands and, therefore, there are more widows than widowers. The Minister has not heard the end of that element of the budget.

I listened to a series of speeches from Government backbenchers. However, I have not heard any since the flurry of parliamentary party meetings so even as I speak a new bombshell could be dropped by some Government backbenchers who pretend that they were not really aware of what they were voting for on budget night and that it is their right now to cherry-pick between the bits they like and the bits they do not like. The Labour Party and Fianna Fáil formed a Government with a majority of over 30 and they must take what goes with that. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot have a group of Fianna Fáil backbenchers demanding a meeting with Minister Ahern to negotiate changes and, on the other hand, take all the perks of office.

I am glad the Government is beginning to realise the mistakes made in the budget, but this is not the right way to do business. At the very least it is incompetent to start renegotiating the budget when the ink is hardly dry on the page. As far as this side of the House is concerned this debate is a bit of a farce because we do not know from day-to-day what behind-the-scenes deals might be going on and what changes might be made. We are told we will see it all in the Finance Bill, but that will not be out for a number of weeks. Maybe it is the Government's hope that opposition to various elements of the budget will die. Let the Minister be warned, it will not die and, as some of the elements of this budget take hold and affect people's wage packets, many of the issues will come back to haunt the Government.

There were high expectations of this budget. Every 1 per cent decrease in international interest rates gave us a saving on our repayments of £285 million. This budget did not give back even 1 per cent of a drop in interest rates. The total package given back in the budget is £194 million when all its elements are taken into account.

Of course there are elements in the budget with which I do not disagree. I am glad that widowers are getting pensions. I am glad to see extra money going to a number of groups and I am glad that some areas have been singled out and given money in he budget. We are disappointed in the lack of an overall thrust in view of the fact that this Government, more than any other for many years, had the opportunity to make relevant changes in the taxation system. It had the money, the flexibility and the majority — it was not on a knife edge as many Government's have been for the last ten years. The Government could have got anything through and this was exactly the year when there should have been fundamental changes in tax. However, all the Government has done is tinker and some of that tinkering is very damaging.

When the history of this time is written Minister Smith will be remembered as the Minister for potholes, although he did have a competitior; Minister Pádraig Flynn was known for a while as the Minsiter for potholes. However, they were baby potholes. Now we have fathers and mothers of potholes on our roads and I am not talking about roads which do not have heavy traffic. Every road needs attention bar, perhaps, some of the new main roads. Everywhere I go in my constituency there are potholes, and ditches collapsing. The reason is that for years we have not looked after our county roads. Because of the cutback in the rate support grant county councils have been allowing things like clearing and filling in ditches to go by the board. As a result water gathers on the roads so that now you have almost to be a stunt driver to make your way along some of them. You must have a very good lock on steering to manoeuvre round potholes. I am not talking about Cavan; I am talking about places like Rush, Lusk, Balbriggan, Malahide and Swords, towns on the outskirts of this city where the daily traffic movements are double and three times the traffic movements on some of our national primary routes.

On the Malahide Road coming out from Dublin there is a daily traffic count of over 12,000 vehicles. That is an enormous level of traffic. Many of our national primary routes would not have that level of traffic in a week, let alone in a day, and yet we cannot convince the Minister for potholes, Deputy Smith, that it is his responsibility. In the budget £15 million was allocated from the tax amnesty. This was an opportunity for the Minister to say that for every £1 spent on a road beginning to deteriorate another £10 is saved. If roads are allowed to deteriorate badly a decent job will cost ten times more than it would if councils were allowed to cut out bad bits and redo them instead of throwing in a bucket of tarmacadam and tamping it down with the back of a spade which most of the councils are now forced to do. They just about manage to keep a hole filled until the next shower of rain. The Minister spoke about the large sums of money he spent on the roads, but if he is spending that kind of money it is not effective and he must take the blame for the condition of roads all over the country.

The budget may be good for some people but not for those who pay a mortgage and VHI, own a house worth over £75,000, drive a car and have a frequent drink, a frequent — or even a casual — smoke. If you are not a widow and do not do all those other things there are some good elements in the budget. I do not like using a word like "mean" about a budget because I do not think politicians necessarily set out to be mean. However, elements of this budget are mean and that is the only way I can describe them. It is a direct attack on the perceived wealth of the middle income earners. I do not know if that is the result of Labour's participation in Government. The message, loud and clear, of the Tánaiste the other day was that this is a joint budget and that one side cannot be sniping at the other. In other words he was saying that people should put up or shut up. This budget was prepared by a Coalition Cabinet, but it has mean elements and attacks middle class people. I am not talking about people who have vast wealth.

There is a perception in the Labour Party that if people own their houses, pay health insurance, have two cars to allow the husband to travel to work and the wife to take the children to school and, also, perhaps, go on a continental holiday every two or three years that they are very wealthy. I listened to a Fianna Fáil backbencher earlier today make a plea for educational grants for rural people. He instanced a typical person earning £27,000 per annum, who would be over the income limit in respect of the property tax if his or her house is valued at more than £75,000. More than likely that person pays PRSI, a mortgage and so on. The Deputy gave a breakdown of the income to make a case for a third level grant for his client who, he stated, had only £80 or £90 per week to spend after paying the bills. I suggested to the Deputy he ought to have shown those figures to the Minister for Finance when he was preparing his budget and arranging to squeeze the 350,000 people in the so-called well-off middle income group. Those people, many of whom live in the suburbs of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Wexford, provide for themselves and their families, but the Minister has gone out of his way to deprive them of their last bit of self-reliance, self-provision and effort. They cannot take any more.

People living in areas perceived to be good middle class areas do not have a spare pound to give to collections in their areas because they are on such a tight budget providing for themselves, paying for their health care, etc. They pay for their children's dental treatment, school outings, third level education and so on. They are always just above the limit in respect of third level grants and medical cards and receive very little from the State. Many of them live in hope of getting free travel if they live long enough but, of course, some of them may end up widowed and suffer in another manner. That is all they hope to get for what they have put into society.

I am not talking merely about middle income PAYE families, but about many middle income self-employed people who create one or two jobs. Yesterday I received a letter from a constituent who runs a small nursery business. She employs her daughter and another young relative who might otherwise be on the dole. Last year her business was severely affected by bad weather and all her stocks were destroyed. She has practically nothing left from her investment and needs a little assistance to maintain her business. She has paid every step of the way and now her business will go down the Swanee. She is not entitled to any assistance to make up for that natural disaster because she is outside the limit which applies to schemes for other horticulturists. I am at a loss as to where to advise her to go for assistance to keep her business operational. It will be by the inexorable effort of such small businesses — but which this budget has hit hardest — that we will make inroads into our high unemployment level.

We must be realistic about attracting large firms here which will create 500 or 1,000 jobs in certain areas. Recently I visited Taiwan with the chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Deputy Lenihan. It was a very interesting exercise. They have experienced an economic miracle there. For example, 20 years ago their per capita income was $500 per head compared with $10,500 today. They have a good work ethic and people there work very hard. They also face many problems. The country has suffered severe environmental damage which they are trying to rectify. I spoke to many owners of small businesses employing approximately ten people who told me their government gives them an opportunity to get on their feet. It does not hound them about owing £185.30 in VAT. Regulations are set down and new businesses are allowed an opportunity to reinvest the money they make in their first few years of business. In that way, businesses can expand. In contrast, when people here start a business we batter them down with a host of regulations.

People often ask why big businesses who get into trouble have been allowed to run up such high bills in tax, PRSI and so on, to the State. They wonder how they get away with it to the point where the amount owing is frequently millions of pounds, while a small business person running a shop on a main street is hounded each month by somebody knocking on the door looking for payments. The system is inequitable and the drift of this budget, the second introduced by this Government, is to squeeze those who the Labour Party, and perhaps Fianna Fáil, believe are wealthy. It has been the Labour Party's line for a long time that those people are not paying their fair share, but if they revolt the result will be serious. If they are squeezed to the limit and can take no more, they will react.

Middle income families are willing to pay their fair share but they would like to see value and effectiveness for the money they pay. They are not getting value for money at present and that is why the Minister is getting the backlash about the proposed residential property tax charges. They do not take into account the fact that in general the people it will affect do not own their houses; the banks and building societies own them. I recently heard a person on a radio programme say that the bills should be sent to the banks and building societies because they own most of the houses in this city and in other cities and towns around the country. Many people with their own houses will die before they have paid for them and only if a mortgage protection policy is taken out will the children inherit a non-encumbered house.

In the past few weeks we have had a débâcle in respect of the Fingal and South Dublin County Councils. In his budget speech the Minister referred to the new Dublin councils and stated:

...this marks a quite historic change as these are the first new county councils established since the last century. The new arrangements will ensure more relevant and accessible local government in the Dublin area with a stronger focus on the needs of the areas served.

Those are wonderful words, but we did not get adequate finance to deal with the huge start-up costs of the new councils. We received £1 million to cover the start-up costs of the three new county councils after inheriting a debt of £21 to £22 million from the former county council. That is like tying a heavy weight around the neck of a baby and expecting it to learn to walk, and carry the weight wherever it goes. Members of Fingal Council and South Dublin Council were forced to decide whether to allow democracy to die in the counties and an individual to do the Minister's bidding, or to protect people's rights in a democracy by way of council members remaining as the elected representatives.

The Minister for the Environment comes in here and adopts a parish priest image. He raises his hands, his voice softens, he nods to Deputies and gives a little homily as if he were in the pulpit; but that is not good enough. He is responsible for ensuring that local government is local. At a time when he knew that councils would be forced into making either drastic cuts or introducing charges, he sat at the Cabinet table and allowed the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, through the extension of the residential property tax, to raid the money a council might be able to collect from people to enable it provide better local services.

I hope the public recognises who is to blame for the condition of local services. The blame lies with the shenanigans of Fianna Fáil in 1985, when it abolished charges at a time when people had become accustomed to them, and the games it played during the past five to six years when it was responsible for Dublin county. During that time it raided development levy funds, which were properly used to provide services for people, but not for the services for which it had been hoped to use them. The Government might consider matters are difficult now because of the introduction of the residential property tax, but they should beware of the muster of widows, the unemployed and the many other groups who have been meanly attacked in the budget. As they say in the best parlance, "You ain't seen nothing yet, Minister".

On budget day I described the budget as pro-jobs, pro-growth and pro-enterprise. During the course of the debate my colleagues have outlined in some detail the myriad of positive measures which will support job creation as the fundamental thrust of the Government and is number one priority. It is no accident that so many enterprise groups, from IBEC to the Small Industries Association, have fulsomely welcomed the provisions of the budget. It will take some time for all the benefits——

And all the bad things.

——enshrined in the budget to be fully appreciated by the people. I am confident this budget will be recognised as one of the best budgets for enterprise and jobs for this country. I do not want to be side-tracked by some of the issues focused on. I understand the Opposition focusing in a narrow way on one or two of the component elements of the budget.

The Minister should listen to the public.

I wish to consider this budget in its totality. I am heartily confident that the public will appreciate the tremendous strides made in transforming the economy during the past 12 months and which are reflected in the budget. The January unemployment figures, which highlight a real growth in sustainable jobs — this has not been the normal January pattern — are heartening.

I wish to focus on the area of responsibility for which I have at Cabinet level, namely, the health services. The 1994 Budget and Health Estimates clearly reflect the Government's continued strong commitment to the health services of this country. Our health services are facing new challenges in the nineties and the performance of this Government will eventually be judged by its willingness and ability to meet these challenges. Our population is beginning to age, the number of elderly people will rise significantly over the next ten to 20 years and we will have to provide increasingly for high dependency groups in the population such as adults with a mental handicap and persons with AIDS. The series of developments announced by me as part of the 1994 Health Estimates and those announced in this year's budget reflect the changing direction and emphasis of health service delivery towards a service which not only seeks to treat and cure but a service which above all cares for people. The provision of additional funds for mental handicap, child care, care of the elderly, dental services and HIV-AIDS services represents a real commitment to the development of high quality community based services. The additional provision in this year's budget in the areas of hospital waiting lists, charges, dentistry and services for the disabled build on these new developments and those begun in 1993 and demonstrated the commitment of the Government to real improvements in the caring services.

The 1994 net Health Vote, when the additions in the budget are taken into account, is more than £1,900 million. The provision for health represents more than one-fifth of all Government spending on supply services this year. In comparing the provisions for health services for 1993 and 1994 it is necessary to take account of the significant volume of once-off expenditure which occurs in both years. When the substantial pay arrears in 1993 and the financing of health boards' debt are taken into account the increase in the post budget net vote in 1993 is approximately £148 million or 9 per cent.

In 1994 we will make significant progress on the objectives set out in the Programme for a Partnership Government. In all there are eight items affecting the health services in the budget. These are: financing health agency debt, waiting list initiative, review of hospital charges, Dublin Dental Hospital, pilot sheltered employment scheme, health cash allowances, transport for disabled people and the refund of VAT on donated research equipment. I would like to comment in some detail on these items.

The special allocation of £100 million announced by the Minister for Finance in his budget speech will address the problem of the accumulated excess debt of health agencies. This excess debt was funded by high bank overdrafts and by running up extended periods of trade credit with suppliers, with consequent effects for job creation prospects for small suppliers up and down the country. These have imposed a heavy burden on small family businesses, who have had to wait a long time for payment, and on health agencies themselves through interest charges and through their inability to secure best value for food, services and other supplies.

While technically this excess debt was attributable to overruns between 1984 and 1992 much of the expenditure was unavoidable and beyond the control of the agencies. For example, the Exchequer did not have to meet the full cost of demand-led schemes until 1991. The principal demand-led schemes are the drug refund schemes and the disabled person's maintenance allowance. Between 1984 and 1990 the health board's had to meet £40 million of expenditure on these schemes for which they were not recouped. In addition, no supplementary Estimates were sought in the mid-eighties in respect of other expenditure which would normally be recouped from the Exchequer.

The injection of £100 million into the service will enable the agencies to deal with their banks and creditors on a normal commercial basis. It will assist traders and voluntary organisations in receipt of health board grants. It will enable the agencies to operate more efficiently in their purchasing and financing. We have talked about this problem for the past ten years. This Government has shown that it does not talk about problems it addresses but resolves them. This is a once-off allocation which will not be repeated. Legislation will be introduced by me shortly to strengthen financial control in the health agencies and to prevent a recurrence of the build-up of this type of debt.

The waiting list initiative I announced in 1993 has led to a significant reduction in the number of people on hospital waiting lists. I promised an additional 17,000 operations in 1993. In fact the number of additional operations provided was 18,768. In June 1993 there were over 40,000 people awaiting admission to acute hospitals nationally. At the end of December 1993 this figure had been reduced by 14,757 to 25,373, a reduction of 37 per cent. A matter of particular satisfaction was the progress achieved in relation to adults waiting more than 12 months and children waiting more than six months. In the problem specialities, I have reduced the list from around 14,000 to around 6,000. Similar progress was made in relation to general surgery. I would like to pay a special tribute to those hospital staff who co-operated so whole heartedly in the Government's waiting list initiative, thereby making this reduction possible.

The Government is anxious to build on the success of the 1993 waiting list initiative. The continuation of the initiative in 1994, with the special allocation of £10 million announced in the budget, will enable further major inroads to be made in problem areas. The principal objective will continue to be the elimination of waiting times in excess of 12 months for adults in the problem specialties and six months for children for ENT and ophthalmology. A detailed review is under way on the experience gained during 1993 and the Department will be discussing with the health agencies in the coming weeks the arrangements to be put in place during 1994.

I am sure that all Deputies will be pleased with the progress now being made to ensure that no patient has to wait an inordinate length of time for treatment. It has been most gratifying to be associated with this development and I want to thank everyone in my Department and throughout the service who have made it possible.

I am happy that the system of hospital charges has been reviewed and reformed. In March 1993 the existing charge of £10 in respect of the first treatment for any particular condition was replaced with a new charge of £6 which applied to each visit, subject to a maximum of £42 in any 12 month period. These changes in charges were necessary because of the difficult budgetary situation at that time and the need to ensure that essential health services were maintained.

I signalled my misgivings about the operation and application of hospital charges and I announced the establishment of a review group on hospital charges last April. Having considered its recommendations, I have decided to make the following changes which will take effect from 1 March 1994: the present anomaly which leads to a double charge for people admitted to hospital overnight will be removed. For example, a person admitted in the evening and discharged the following morning is often charged for two days. I will now amend the regulations to remove this anomaly; I am happy that the £6 charge for attendances at out-patient departments will be abolished. The review group had identified a number of anomalies and inequities in relation to the application of the charge to out-patient services and I have accepted the group's view that these would be impossible to rectify fully, other than by the abolition of the charge; the £6 charge at accident and emergency departments will also be abolished. However, persons who attend the accident and emergency department directly, without a referral note from their general practitioner, will be liable for a charge of £12 which will apply only to the first visit for any episode of care. Any subsequent treatment during that episode will be free of charge. Patients referred by the general practitioner will not have to pay this charge. The present exemptions will continue to apply, the main exempted category being medical card holders.

These reforms will remove the anomalies-inequities in the present system; support the development of primary care, particularly in urban areas, by removing the incentive to use the accident and emergency department for the treatment of conditions which would be more appropriately dealt with by the general practitioner; reduce the costs of public hospital services to patients and greatly simplify collection and administration procedures in hospitals. The cost of these charges in 1994 will be £5 million.

I have commenced a major series of improvements in our dental services in accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government. The existing Dublin Dental Hospital and School, normally referred to as the Dublin Dental Hospital, was originally built 95 years ago. The facilities are spread over two sites, the main hospital building at Lincoln Place and Dunlop-Oriel House at Westland Row-Fenian Street.

The school is an important academic centre for the training of dentists, for their post-graduate training and for the training of dental auxiliaries. It currently provides undergraduate training in dental science for 35 students each year. The students play an important role in providing patient services. Over the years the Dublin Dental Hospital has performed an essential role in meeting requirements of the dental services. When originally built it was designed to cater for 2,500 patients per annum. It currently has 87,000 patient attendances per annum. It provides a wide range of services, including routine primary dental care and specialist services to Dublin city and the Leinster area in general. It provides tertiary care on a national basis outside the Munster area which is serviced by Cork Dental Hospital.

For a number of years the buildings of the Dublin Dental Hospital have been in a poor state of repair and a cause for concern because the existing structures have not been capable of being modified to meet required fire safety standards. The fact that throughout this difficult period the hospital has managed to provide an excellent service and to maintain an excellent academic standard, despite the poor state of the premises, is a tribute to all involved but particularly to the staff and students, and I would like to pay a tribute to them on this occasion.

Early last year the three Ministers involved — Education, Finance and Health — accepted that the present situation could not continue. An inter-departmental group was established to address the issue. The report of the group recognised the need to locate a dental hospital and school in Dublin and recommended the refurbishment and extension of the existing buildings at Lincoln Place and Westland Row. The Government accepted the report and the Minister for Finance announced in his Budget Statement that he will provide £1 million in 1994 to commence the refurbishment and extension of the Dublin Dental Hospital in Lincoln Place and Westland Row which will be completed over the next four years at an estimated total cost of £8 million. This is a most welcome development. This allocation will ensure the future of the hospital as a first-class public dental facility availed of by thousands of citizens each year, many of whom would otherwise have difficulty in getting dental treatment.

Changes in the overall labour market in Ireland in recent years, in particular, the increase in the rate of unemployment, have brought about a significant deterioration in the job prospects of people with disabilities. In this situation, there is general agreement that there is a need for a more structured system of sheltered employment for people with disabilities.

The pilot scheme announced by the Minister for Finance in the budget is designed to assist viable enterprises established to employ people with disabilities. It is envisaged that the scheme will have two elements: (i) a capital fund to assist the establishment and development of such enterprises. This would be in addition to grant aid which might be available from sources such as Forbairt and the County Enterprise Boards, and (ii) an employment subsidy grant to be paid to the enterprise. Workers would retain the secondary benefits which they held prior to employment in the enterprise.

The £2 million provided in 1994 comprises £0.75 million in respect of start-up costs and £1.25 million in respect of the employment subsidy. Proposals for the development of such enterprises have been received from the Rehabilitation Institute and preliminary discussions and examination of these have already taken place. The scheme now announced will not, however, be confined to Rehab and the establishment of viable enterprises by other organisations or companies will receive equal consideration by my Department. The programme will be overseen by the Department of Health. It is envisaged that the programme will run for a pilot period of three years. I will be particularly concerned to ensure that only viable enterprises are supported through this programme. It will not be helpful to anyone in the longer term if the enterprises do not prove to be viable on a continuing basis.

Arrangements will be put in place to ensure that all Departments concerned with issues of disability will be involved in its operation and monitoring. Further discussions will take place immediately between the relevant Government Departments and the agencies involved to agree the detailed arrangements for the introduction of the pilot programme as soon as possible.

A sum of £100,000 has been allocated to assist voluntary organisations to improve transport arrangements for people with disabilities, particularly for adapting vehicles to facilitate easier transport. This expenditure will have a marked improvement on the quality of everyday life for many disabled people. The details of this expenditure will be planned jointly with the Department of Equality and Law Reform.

With effect from July 1994, an increase of 3 per cent will be applied to cash allowances and cash grants such as disabled persons maintenance allowance, blind welfare allowances and payments under the long term illness scheme. This is in line with the increases in social welfare and will more than maintain the value of these payments and protect them against inflation.

My colleague, the Minister for Finance, announced in his Budget Statement that he is extending the present refund arrangements relating to donated medical equipment to cover donated research equipment used in the medical laboratories of universities and similar institutions. While the details of the arrangements have yet to be worked out, it is likely that the system will work on lines similar to those introduced in 1992 for a full refund of VAT on qualifying equipment purchased by or donated to hospitals through voluntary donations.

In framing the 1994 Estimate the Government is determined to provide the best possible standard of health service and to direct additional resources to areas of special need. The provisions made in the budget for the health services are clear evidence of the Government's commitment to the development of a first class health service. Strict control of health spending and more accountable management will continue to form key elements of health policy.

We in the health services have a special role to play to ensure that the large proportion of national resources spent on health is used wisely and effectively. I look forward to a year in which, working together, we will build on the significant progress achieved in 1993 and continue to provide services of the highest quality and standard, responsive to the needs of all who depend on them.

I want first to refer to the effects of the budget on the lives of ordinary people. I have followed the budget debate very carefully and listened to the contributions of both Government and Opposition Deputies. Some of the points I wish to make have been made by previous speakers but as a public representative I believe it is my duty to highlight the lack of financial provisions in the budget.

Many speakers referred to the poor conditions of roads due to the lack of adequate finance for local authorities. County roads in particular are deteriorating at an alarming rate because local authorities have not been given adequate resources to repair and maintain them properly. In parts of Connemara tá na bóithre ró-uafásach.

Because of neglect over the past number of years and the hilly nature of the countryside, the condition of roads in Connemara is particularly bad. It is false economy for the Government not to allocate proper funding for the maintenance and upkeep of roads, particularly county roads. If roads are neglected surfaces become damaged and potholes appear. Once the surface is worn away water running down from hills, as in the case of Connemara, and rainfall in the case of other roads, washes away the foundation. It will cost the Government billions of pounds to restore these roads to a proper condition in the future than it will now cost them to fill in potholes and maintain county roads.

The condition of the roads in some parts of County Galway and other counties have gone beyond a joke; it is now a serious issue. The funding made available to Galway County Council for county roads will only enable the county engineering staff to surface-dress the roads every 45 years. This intolerable situation cannot be allowed to continue. County councils must be given adequate funding to enable them to surface-dress county roads every few years. If this work is not carried out it will cost billions of pounds more to restore county roads in the years to come.

I am glad the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry is in the House because I want to raise a question I am often asked by my constituents: when will grants due to farmers be paid? It is now almost impossible to get through to Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry offices on the phone and the staff are more than fully stretched in dealing with these applications. Farmers who phone the Department or call into their local office cannot get the information they require. This situation is causing a lot of frustration among applicants who are legitimately entitled to this money. For example, many farmers who applied for their premium payments in January 1993 have still not been paid. Furthermore, the staff in the Department cannot deal with inquiries about these cases because the system is completely bogged down.

Because of the forthcoming European elections perhaps we will go back to the situation of 1992 when grants were paid in reasonable time. I am informed that second payments for cattle and suckler cow grants, promised by the Government at the end of January, will not be made until April or May. This intolerable situation cannot be allowed to continue and I ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to investigate this problem so that he can tell farmers at the beginning of the year that they will receive their payments when they are due. That would save much time, effort and frustration on the part of farmers and the Minister's staff who are stretched beyond capacity in dealing with daily inquiries to their offices. If that was the only thing the Minister did in his term of office it would represent a great day's work and he would be remembered as the Minister who had tackled and resolved the problem.

I read the various contributions on this budget to see what proposals there were in regard to jobs and solving the serious problem of the 300,000 people unemployed. Nothing in this budget will relieve the unemployment problem, people who are genuinely looking for work but who cannot get it. Job creation is taxed as much now as before this budget. The Minister for Health referred earlier to the fact that the effects of this budget will only become apparent later but already some of the budget proposals have made headlines. It will become increasingly obvious that nothing has been done in the budget to relieve the plight of the 300,000 unemployed.

Last week in Galway the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Quinn, attended a press conference at which he announced the possibility of the creation of 500 jobs. I also welcome Boston Scientific to Galway, we are happy to have those jobs following the announcement a year ago of the loss of 780 jobs in Digital. At that time a task force was set up to see how the crisis as a result of the layoffs in Digital could be handled, I compliment those who worked on the task force and the people of Galway who did not throw in the towel but tried to redeem the unfortunate situation. That work has proved fruitful; we have now almost replaced the number of jobs lost in Digital.

I was disappointed with one aspect of the Minister's visit to Galway. He seemed to indicate that the task force had achieved its objective and could now be disbanded. I do not believe that is the case in Galway, no more than any other city. In Galway county 19,000 people are unemployed, in Galway city the unemployment figures have increased in the past two and a half years from over 5,000 to almost 9,000. Therefore, no one can be complacent although it might appear to people in other parts of the country that we are doing well in Galway, that jobs are being created and that local people are making a great effort, with the assistance of State agencies, to secure jobs for the city and the county. Great efforts have been made but, lest anyone get the wrong impression, there is much work still to be done in Galway. The task force should not be abolished. It should be renewed and perhaps channel its energies in the direction of assisting local people to set up their own industries and create jobs. There is a tremendous amount of work for this task force in Galway, the work is not complete and if the Minister has not yet made a final decision to disband it I ask him not to do so because it is essential to allow it to continue its work on behalf of the people of Galway in reducing the figure of 19,000 unemployed.

One of the more controversial proposals in the budget is the property tax or rather the tax on people's homes. The campaign against this tax has been taken up by members of the Opposition and the media, in a vigorous manner and, from what I read in the newspapers, with some success. I also read about the concessions the Government is now prepared to make. The Minister for Finance was quoted this morning as saying he would give a categorical assurance that he would not increase the threshold of this tax and that the house value thresholds would not be further reduced. I read the Minister's January 1992 budget speech in which he gave a categorical assurance that the levels would not be reduced so I am not sure whether we should believe him now. I hope he is expressing his true feelings but certainly what he said in January 1992 proved not to be the case because he reduced the house value threshold from £91,200 to £75,000 and the income threshold from £28,100 to £25,000.

One aspect of this measure which I consider a step in the wrong direction is that the £25,000 income threshold might be regarded as a large income. Those interviewed at a shopping centre in Dublin yesterday thought that £25,000 was a very good income and saw no reason people would not pay tax on their homes. However, the provision in the budget is in regard to a total family income of £25,000. I was so surprised by this provision that I queried it with officials in the Department of Finance on the morning following the budget and I was assured that the figure was £25,000 per household to bring people into the property tax net. That is an anti-family measure because, for example, if a husband or wife earns £16,000 or £17,000 and have two adult children living in the house earning £4,000 each, and if the value of that person's home was in excess of £75,000 they would fall within the residential property tax net. It would appear to me that that would place pressure on some young people because if one of the children in that home was not a wage earner or living in the home, they would not fall within the ambit of the tax net. The easiest thing for such a parent to do — the regulation would place such pressure — would be to put pressure on the young person to leave the family home and move to rented accommodation. That constitutes an attack on the family.

I raised the point previously with the Minister for Social Welfare about the attack on the family from the other end of that scale — I note no budgetary provision to rectify this matter — whereby young unemployed people in the family home who apply for unemployment assistance are deemed to be ineligible because they are living with their parents. If that same young person moves out of the family home into private rented accommodation, in Galway city or elsewhere, he or she is eligible for unemployment assistance. As he or she is now in receipt of unemployment assistance and living in rented accommodation, the following week or so they can apply to the relevant health board and receive a rent subsidy. It will clearly be seen that in the long run, this costs the State much more money that had such people been granted some social welfare allowance and been permitted to remain in the family home. It was and is a crazy stipulation that young people living in the family home did not qualify for unemployment assistance while those forced to move out of the family home were deemed to be eligible.

In that regulation, applied between the Departments of Social Welfare and Health, it is obvious there is no liaison between Government Departments on what might affect one Department's budget so long as the budget of the other Department was all right. Similarly, in the case of the tax on homes, it is clear that no consideration was given to the fact that this was an anti-family tax. I read in this morning's paper that the Minister was considering taking the income of the principal earner in the home only into account in the assessment of this tax. If that is the case it would appear that the vigorous campaign in the media and elsewhere is having an effect on the Government, forcing it to rethink.

One other budgetary provision, elaborated on by the Minister for Social Welfare in his contribution, is something about which I have spoken in every budget debate for the past three years. I refer to the carer's allowance scheme, introduced three years ago, which I welcomed provided people were allowed to qualify under its provisions. In giving the Minister full recognition for its introduction, I stated that any scheme under which an allowance would be paid to a person caring full-time for somebody who might otherwise be in a health board institution is very good.

The rate on its introduction was £45 which has now been increased to £57.10. Unfortunately, three years after its introduction, out of an approximate 100,000 carers, no more than 5,000 qualify for this allowance and some are eligible for part only. The fears I expressed then were well founded since people are not qualifying under its provisions. I note that the Minister for Social Welfare said that, under the budgetary provisions, an extra 500 carers will now qualify for the allowance and a further 350 existing carers will receive increases. The figure of 500 extra carers is very small compared with the approximate 90,000 carers at present outside the qualification limits. I raised this matter very often with the Minister, as have others. The Carers Association have constantly raised the matter with the Minister but, unfortunately, we do not seem to have the same effect that the lobby against the residential property tax had in the short period since the Minister's Budget Statement. Possibly that is because carers are so involved, on a 24-hour, 365 days of the year basis, caring for people they have not had time to form an effective lobby group to bombard the Minister about the inadequacies of the regulations pertaining to the carer's allowance.

I ask the media, who so gallantly took up the case on behalf of home owners who will be brought within the residential property tax net, to take up the case of carers. I shall at every possible opportunity highlight the inadequacies of the carer's allowance.

I raised individual cases with the Minister for Social Welfare. A woman I know who applied for the carer's allowance is minding a doubly incontinent bedridden person in her home. Her husband had 12 cattle and 40 sheep and that amounted to the total of his farming activities. As a result of several visits by a social welfare officer that woman — caring for that person 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year — was deemed to be ineligible for the carer's allowance because her income was nine pence above the guidelines. Lest the Minister present, or the Minister for Social Welfare who may be listening or read this debate, might think I am not speaking factually, I shall give the reference number in that case which is, 24/5687580B. That case should be investigated.

The last time I quoted such cases in the House in the presence of the Minister for Social Welfare, the Minister informed me that if I was concerned about any cases I should document them for him and he would take a personal interest in their investigation. I wrote to the Minister several times, the last occasion being 10 November 1993. I am sorry to say I received no reply to any of my correspondence.

That would not be like the Minister.

I wish to quote another case to which I received no reply following my representations, the reference is, 23/5696621N. I am highlighting cases of which I have a thorough knowledge and in respect of which I know in my heart and soul the carer is entitled to the allowance.

Whenever I telephone the Department of Social Welfare in Sligo and speak to the appropriate officer I am told that my views may be correct but Deputies are the people who lay down the regulations and the officials merely implement them. I take no responsibility for a regulation that disqualifies the type of people about whom I speak from the carer's allowance. Eligibility for the carer's allowance should be based on the income of the carer rather than on that of the household. The carers to whom I have referred will continue to care, because of their Christian charity, for the people concerned. However, the fact that they are snubbed and insulted by the Department of Social Welfare is a severe body blow to them. Those people are only seeking recognition for the wonderful work they do in caring for people who would otherwise cost the State £300 to £500 per week in institutional care. Once the Department of Social Welfare keeps its budget in order it does not seem to matter what it costs the Department of Health to pick up the tab. There ought to be more liaison between the various Government Departments so that if an obvious saving can be made to the State as between different Departments, it will be made.

The Galway Carer's Group made a submission prior to the budget seeking the removal of the means test clause in the case of both the carer and the person being cared for. The following examples might highlight the ridiculous nature of the position. To receive the full carer's allowance, a person must not have an income of more than £2 per week. That is ridiculous. Any income in excess of that amount is deducted from the allowance. In other words if the carer is in receipt of over £59 per week, or is deemed to have an income in excess of that amount they are disqualified from receiving the allowance. Any couple whose joint income exceeds £95 per week will not qualify. That is a ridiculous cut off point for a person who is doing such wonderful work, as acknowledged by the Minister for Social Welfare, in his several addresses on this matter here. Elderly people should retain their entitlement to electricity and fuel allowances in the event of a carer having to move in with them as happens sometimes because of distance or because the person being cared for cannot be left alone at night.

I could easily have spent my entire 30 minutes speaking on the issue of carers. Because those people are not in a position to make a case for themselves they must depend on their local representatives and on people in the media to highlight their position. I can assure carers that if their case is taken up by the media and if they become a lobby a group, like the lobby group to oppose the residential property tax, their campaign will be successful, too. We have made a slight breakthrough in the budget but it will help only a minority of carers who are ineligible at present for the carer's allowance.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Power. I am pleased to participate in this debate on a budget which I believe is good for the overall economy and good in particular, for the sectors of agriculture, food and forestry for which I have responsibility. The farming sector has had two good years in 1992 and 1993. Aggregate farm income net of interest payments increased by 37 per cent over the two years. I believe that the provisions in the budget will assist the farm sector in making further improvements in income in 1994 — and beyond.

In discussing the agriculture, food and forestry sector, it is also necessary to acknowledge that budget decisions will only ever fill in one part of the policy picture. There are other major policy measures — both EU and national — which are of vital importance to the people working in the sectors.

For example, the various EU price and market support schemes are central. The CAP reform accompanying measures, relating to farmer retirement, agri-environment and forestry, will have an important role in 1994 and beyond. The National Development Plan for 1994 to 1999 will provide substantial resources from the EU Structural Funds. The plan has, of course, yet to be agreed with the European Commission, and negotiations on the plan with the Commission will soon commence. But already, certain provision has been made in the 1994 Estimates for the matching national funding to get certain schemes underway.

So the various market supports, income supports, investment incentives and taxation arrangements represent a complex and interlinked policy for the agriculture, food and forestry sectors. They also represent, in my view, a coherent policy for the sectors. I am very pleased, therefore, that these various strands of policy have been brought together in the new National Programme for Competitiveness and Work. Within this programme, there will be, for the farming, food, forestry and rural sectors, a programme for competitiveness and rural development.

This programme represents an agreed agenda between the Government and the farm organisations. The Government has undertaken to do certain things, either at national level or in the context of negotiation at EU level. This agenda will provide the framework within which Irish farming and the food industry must increasingly take its own responsibility for its wellbeing. We all know that cost efficiency and quality levels must improve. Government can, and will, assist in this process, but the industry itself must rise to the challenges which confront it.

I want to highlight a number of decisions taken in the budget and in the Estimates which already make a major contribution to the programme for competitiveness and rural development.

The first issue relates to CAP premium and headage payments. As 1993-94 was the first year of CAP reform, there was a major increase in the number and complexity of EU schemes administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. The total number of applications was in the order of 650,000. This has admittedly given rise to problems, both for the administrative system within the Department and for farmers.

The position is that more than 500,000 payments amounting to over £377 million were made to farmers under the various premium and headage schemes in the year ended 31 December 1993. This compares with total payments of £350 million in the year ended 31 December 1992. The high payment levels in 1993 were achieved against the background of EU regulations which preclude payments under the special beef and suckler cow premium schemes before 1 November and even then limit the payments to 60 per cent advances.

The efficient and timely payment of CAP premia and headage payments is a major priority for me and for the Government. As an indication of that priority, the Estimates had provided £2.8 million for computer facilities and the budget provided an additional £2 million for additional staff. This is of course in addition to the extra staff I have provided as a result of the £4.4 million. I secured in the 1993 budget allocation. A large proportion of the resources for additional staff and the computer equipment will go towards the provision of an on-line system linking the Department's local offices to headquarters. This system should be in place by end-June 1994 and should play a key role in delivering a more effective and prompt service in making payments to farmers. I wish to make those payments to farmers when they are due. That is the objective. The year 1994 is the first year of the implementation of the full CAP reform scheme. The payments are no more than what farmers are entitled to and it is the function of the Department to administer those schemes and make those payments. There is no excuse, and I am not making any excuse here. Farmers should be paid when payments are due.

The new computer and on-line facilities and additional staff should play a critical role in assisting us to meet the commitment which has been entered into in the context of the programme for competitiveness and rural development — that there will be a further improvement in the delivery of all CAP compensatory payments in 1994 relative to 1993 and that in 1995 payment of all eligible premium claims will be made within three months of application where this is permissible under EU rules. If I do that, as Deputy McCormack said, the people will put up a statue of me in the west.

I will give the Minister every credit, and I will invite him down for it.

There is a further important commitment in the programme for competitiveness and rural development, which has a consequence for the agriculture and food Vote in 1994. Additional resources will be provided during 1994 as a first step to moving progressively, over the three years of the programme, to a position where all valid claims for headage payments will be paid by October of the year in question.

The budget was a tax reforming budget and farmers, like other taxpayers, will benefit from the substantial changes in regard to income tax levies. I particularly welcome the extension of the PAYE allowance to the children of farmers, as well as to self-employed persons, working at home. This is a positive measure to support the family farm unit. In the Year of the Family I am glad that we could do a number of things that would assist farm families.

On the capital taxation front, there were substantial improvements in the budget and these have been further built upon in the programme for competitiveness and work. I want to be quite clear as to the thinking behind these decisions by Government. Farming is a highly capital intensive business, producing relatively low income returns per unit of capital. The taxation code has traditionally acknowledged this and this year's changes are a further example of that acknowledgment.

The budget increased the agricultural relief and the thresholds for gifts and inheritance in relation to farm land and buildings. In addition, a relief to gifts and inheritances of other farm assets— including livestock and machinery — was introduced for the first time in the budget. For the probate tax, a 30 per cent relief for agricultural land and buildings was introduced in recognition of the special circumstances of farming. In addition, farmers, like other taxpayers, gain from the introduction of a full exemption for spouses and the retrospection of these reliefs to the date of its introduction on 18 June 1993 will mean that no spouse will have to pay probate tax, and all credit is due to the ICA for highlighting that anomaly.

The Government has also made a commitment in the programme for competitiveness and rural development that there will be improvements in the 1994 Finance Bill in relation to capital allowances for farm buildings and structures and in relation to stamp duty for farm transfers to trained young farmers. As Deputies know, Macra na Feirme, particularly, are concerned about the cost of stamp duty in transferring land to young farmers. The move on stamp duty is designed to accelerate the transfer of farms to younger people — something which I see as important in preparing for the more competitive days ahead. This change in stamp duty should also work hand in hand with the farmer retirement scheme to promote such transfers. I should also mention that the budget increased the allocation for this scheme from £5 million to £7.5 million in light of the considerable interest expressed in the scheme.

In summary, on taxation, we have put in place a taxation system for farmers which recognises the capital intensity of their business and which should promote the type of farm transfer and structural change which will be necessary if the competitive challenge of the future is to be met.

The food industry is at the centre of this Government's policy for both the industrial and the agricultural sectors. It is a major source of manufacturing jobs and value added. The industry has to increasingly link with the farming sector to meet consumer demands. A number of the taxation changes in the budget, both in relation to income and capital taxation, should benefit the food industry. In addition, £7 million is provided for institutional R and D in the food sector. This will be part-funded by the EU. The long term future of the food industry is in producing higher value products and I want the industry to have the necessary R and D base to achieve this.

Work is continuing at an accelerated pace on the legislation to set up An Bord Bia, the new Irish Food Board. I expect that the legislation to establish An Bord Bia, will be introduced in the House during this session. The establishment of An Bord Bia is part of the Government's response to the challenges facing the food industry. It will provide a more co-ordinated and streamlined approach to the promotion and marketing of our foodstuffs and should provide new impetus in this area.

An Bord Bia has been allocated £2.6 million in the budget in addition to funding available to existing food promotion agencies. This will enable the new agency to make an immediate impact on the food markets throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

I am pleased that the new programme places such importance on rural development. For 1994, funding for Leader and INTERREG is, at £21 million, being more than doubled. The year 1993 saw a process of review and assessment by individual Leader groups with better evaluation of projects. For the future, the emphasis must be on harnessing local community leadership and initiative to further develop our rural areas. I am committed to negotiate a substantial increase in funding for a new comprehensive Leader programme to be operated by my Department.

Spending on forestry-related activities will be at an all-time high in 1994. The public capital programme provides for an expenditure of over £80 million in 1994 in this sector, which is almost 90 per cent greater than the outturn for 1993.

The substantial commitment of additional resources this year reflects the Government's determination to develop the forest sector's potential to provide employment opportunities and create wealth in rural Ireland, often in remote areas where opportunities are otherwise limited.

The development of the forest sector is fully consistent with both the Programme for a Partnership Government and the Budget Statement of my colleague, the Minister for Finance, who, in his speech, stressed the importance of improving the country's infrastructure in order to achieve further economic progress. The establishment of new plantations will continue to be the main focus in 1994 and beyond. This is very much a case of infrastructural improvement which will result in the creation of new jobs. A very recent example of the kind of development opportunity presented by the forest sector is the Oriented Strand Board Mill in Waterford which will be a major boost to that region, along with the modernisation and the further expansion of the Medite Plant in Clonmel.

Will the Minister bring it to West Cork?

I welcome my colleague, Deputy Sheehan, to the House. A number of the other areas dealt with in the budget were useful in laying the groundwork for a more competitive agriculture and food industry, and a more diversified rural economy. An additional £5.5 million was provided for Teagasc which is doing such an excellent job in supporting the development and improvement of agriculture. The Government is fully committed to the promotion and development of the horticultural industry which is a highly labour intensive sector. An additional £175,000 has been provided for An Bord Glas bringing its grant-in-aid for 1994 to £1.316 million. I was pleased to be able to make £50,000 available for Macra na Feirme on their 50th anniversary celebrations, in recognition of the outstanding work they have done for agriculture and in developing farm leaders throughout their 50 years.

The allocation for the horse racing industry in 1994 is doubled to £6.55 million. This is being made available in the context of my proposals for a new structure for the industry which I hope and trust will become the vehicle that facilitates the achievement of the industry's full development potential and secure the long-term future of this valuable sector. I expect to introduce legislation to Government in the next week or so and to have the Bill circulated later this month. I hope to have some exciting finishes in this industry before the year is out.

The Minister is not thinking of buying a trotting horse?

That will include trotting. With regard to residue testing, an extra £1.5 million was provided in the budget for the programme of residue testing in meat. In the future we will be able to give an assurance that meat will be safe to eat, free of any harmful or illegal residues.

I am also pleased that £1 million has been made available in the budget to ease losses incurred by horticultural farmers following the severe storm damage in 1993. Advertisements appeared in the newspapers this week so people can apply in good time for such assistance.

This is a good budget and a satisfactory outcome for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. I commend it to the House. My colleague, Deputy Power, has asked to take my remaining time.

I thank the Minister for giving me the opportunity to do the second lap. He has done the first in style and I think his constituency colleague across the floor acknowledges that.

He jumped Beechers the first time round.

I was very pleased with the circulation of the Minister's speech on budget day. I have been very critical of the previous practice where prior to the budget distribution of the speech was confined to Ministers, Ministers of State and former Ministers. I am delighted that this year we were all treated in the same fashion.

It was not before time.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, got many things right in this year's budget and honesty demands that those who called for certain things should acknowledge they have been done. One would have to go back a long time to find a budget as friendly as this to the interest of workers, farmers and indeed the business community. The living standards of workers will be protected by lower taxes; unit payroll costs of employers will fall when the new agreement to replace the Programme for Economic and Social Progress comes into force. Changes in the capital taxation regime go a long way to meeting the long standing demands of farmers. Trade unions and farm organisations have done particularly well in the budget and the 1 per cent levy has been abolished. It received a great deal of publicity last year when it was introduced in spite of the Minister's assertions that it was a short term measure but its removal has been ignored by the Opposition parties. There have been significant increases in tax allowances and a series of measures which make it easier and more profitable to do business. The former Taoiseach, the late Mr. Seán Lemass said that when farming is doing well, the whole country is doing well and one has only to look at the recent Central Bank figures of farmers' deposits at just under £1 billion to realise the considerable purchasing power in the sector which will filter through to the rural economy.

Let me pay tribute to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Joe Walsh, who presided over the great recovery in farm incomes. Despite the predictions of the prophets of doom and gloom he steered the industry to the point where farm incomes are at an all time high. I am sure the Deputies opposite will agree.

The premiums due to farmers must be paid.

The Minister's task has not been easy. Some propaganda has described CAP reform as the son of Cromwell but Cromwell did not come back from Brussels with £600 million a year to inject into the Irish economy. De Valera said that the truth will always come out. It is quite obvious from the recent opinion polls that many Fine Gael supporters are happy with the Minister's performance and indeed that of the Government.

The Deputy will know that in June.

The most recent MRBI poll conducted shows that 74 per cent of all farmers are satisfied with the performance of the Taoiseach.

Carlow-Kilkenny): It is not in order to entice Deputy Sheehan to intervene and to refer to the MRBI poll——

The former Leader of Fianna Fáil did not pay attention to polls.

The Opposition should not ignore the fact that 53 per cent of bigger farmers are dissatisfied with the Fine Gael Leader, Deputy John Bruton.

The Deputy has got his statistics wrong.

I accept it is bad news but one can often learn more from listening to the bad news.

The changes in the budget, with the measures now being negotiated in the new programme, will help to consolidate the spectacular progress in the agricultural sector. The improvement in the capital acquisitions tax, which includes a relief on livestock and machinery, will facilitate the transfer of viable farm businesses from one generation to the next. This is very important as most land transfers are between members of the family rather than on the open market. Greater land mobility can be achieved by promoting inter-family transfers than through any other measure. As a result of recent changes, the vast majority of farmers will not have to pay capital acquisition tax when taking over a farm. For those farmers who still have to pay the tax, the changes in this year's budget will reduce the amount payable quite considerably, for example a son or daughter taking over a farm valued at £500,000 will now have to pay £26,000 inheritance tax compared with £82,000 last year.

They will have to sell the farm.

A family member inheriting a farm with a total value of £250,000 will have to pay only £4,000 as a result of the changes in this year's budget.

The changes in the probate tax are also very significant. In this year's budget, spouses are exempted from the tax and the agricultural relief reduces the value of land, quota and buildings by 30 per cent for probate tax. The farm organisations now admit that the back of the probate tax has been broken and that it will no longer be a major problem for most farm families.

The 30 per cent relief is a pittance.

The provision of an extra £2 million in addition to £2.8 million already provided in the Estimates to improve the delivery of services to farmers is to be greatly welcomed. This will enable the section of the Department dealing with beef premiums and headage payments to be streamlined and computerised.

I hope it will expedite payments.

The Minister has given an undertaking in that regard. Everyone appreciates that farmers have not had a great service.

Farmers have had to wait 12 months for payments.

I am well aware of that. The Government has acknowledged that difficulties existed and a major effort is being made to remedy them. I have every confidence that the Minister will honour the guarantees he has given.

I have heard them many times before.

A new single national computer network that will make the old blue card system redundant is planned. When it is operational it will be possible to establish the whereabouts and background of any animal. It will also be possible to pay all premia and headage payments, where EC regulations permit, within three months of receipt of application when the new computerised system is fully in place. With the extra resources envisaged under the new Programme for Economic and Social Progress deal it will help to ensure that 100 per cent of headage payments are made in the calendar year in which they are due. These developments are welcomed. Now that these payments are worth over £600 million each year to livestock and tillage farmers and constitute a major portion of their income it is important that cheques are paid on time. Our record in this regard leaves a lot to be desired but we look forward to improvements in this area.

I congratulate the Minister on making an additional £5.5 million available to Teagasc for development and restructuring. I understand that approximately £2.5 million of this is to be used to fund an early retirement scheme within the organisation. Teagasc will be significant beneficiary of Structural Funds over the next six years under the terms of the National Development Plan. The organisation has gone through a rough patch in recent years because of pressure on its finances. Shortly, for the first time, Teagasc will be able to plan its finances as well as its research, advisory and education programmes on a medium-term basis knowing what funding to expect over a defined period. I understand also that the case made by the Government to the European Union Commission on behalf of Teagasc envisages an enhanced role for the organisation in the areas of rural business, forestry and community development as well as its traditional farming role, which is welcomed. I am also delighted with the £500 provided from the Estimate and that the allocation is being increased by a further £500,000 in the budget. It is clear from the huge turnout at the information meetings on the scheme organised by the Department with Teagasc that there is a huge interest in the scheme and this will undoubtedly help to improve the structure of Irish agriculture.

There is a mountain of anomalies in the schemes.

Most people appreciate these informative meetings, which are particularly relevant to people who are considering availing of the scheme.

Given the bad publicity about the use of angel dust and illegal hormones in meat production I am glad that extra resources are being allocated for technology to develop rapid screening systems for the detection of residues in meat. This will enable further specific guarantees to be given in relation to the status of our meat production.

One of the features of the budget I am not emamoured with is the growth in public spending, described by some people as an explosion. Day-to-day Government spending will rise by approximately 8 per cent to a projected £9.3 billion. There is slippage between the increase in public spending and the taxes needed to fund it. If we do not control this upward spiral taxes will inexorably have to be increased further to bridge the gap. While I acknowledge much progress has been made in this regard since 1987 it is estimated the national debt increased to 102.25 per cent of GNP at the end of last year compared with 99.6 per cent at the end of the previous year. This trend must not be allowed to continue. I have no wish to hand on an economic straitjacket to the next generation.

What was the cause of this?

In 1990 the National Treasury Management Agency was established. I had the privilege of visiting its offices and found it a very satisfying experience to see the experts, led by the chief executive, Mr. Michael Somers, managing the national debt in a professional way. We can gain some comfort from this.

With regard to the semi-State bodies, as we are all aware, Aer Lingus finds itself in serious financial difficulty. At the end of 1992 it had debts of more than £500 million while Aer Rianta had debts of almost £40 million. Earlier this year Bord na Móna had debts in excess of £180 million while in the middle of last year Telecom Éireann had debts of more than £1,000 million. While a number of excellent people work in these bodies the debts incurred are not being managed in a professional way. In this regard large savings could be made.

I call on the Minister for Finance to extend the remit of the National Treasury Management Agency to include semi-State bodies and, possibly, some of the local authorities. Even though this agency has been operating only for a few years it has secured tremendous savings for the State. Given the size of the national debt it is important that it is managed in a professional way and that we get the best value for money. I wish to pay tribute to those involved in the agency.

In previous budget debates I called on the Minister for Defence to commence recruitment to the Defence Forces. I am delighted therefore that the Minister, Deputy Andrews, has decided to do so. Different arrangements have been made on this occasion in that people will be recruited on a five year contract. In this regard the fears expressed by some people — they are of the opinion we are going to recruit what they refer to as "yellow packs"— are groundless. The truth is that any man or woman will be able to join for a period much longer than five years.

Only 500 places are available for which there are 10,000 applicants.

I would like to see more. It goes to show that people still want to join the Defence Forces and take pride in it.

There will be no light at the end of the tunnel for the 9,500 who will not be selected.

I am delighted that a Fianna Fáil Minister has decided to take this action. The Fine Gael Party has found it very difficult to pick holes in the budget. After considerable discussion among its members it has decided to jump on the property tax band wagon.

The public picked holes in it.

In the poll to which I referred when people were asked which item in the budget would affect them most it was fourth on the list behind petrol and drink.

What about the poor man's pint?

I have no hesitation in commending the budget.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on the budget which, according to many commentators, was one of the best ever introduced. While the Fine Gael Party, and other parties in Opposition, find it difficult to analyse it the fact is we are prepared as a party to debate the positive aspects in any forum, including this House.

What about the negative aspects?

The Fine Gael Party in particular has tried to cloud the budget and decided to run with one dry bone but there is nowhere else for it to run except down a cul-de-sac as is clear from recent opinion polls.

The Deputy's party is not doing too well in the polls either.

I travelled more than 150 miles in my constituency last weekend and met hundreds of people and not one of them mentioned the items referred to by Fine Gael. I am sure there are people in my constituency living in houses worth more than £75,000 but, as has been pointed out by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Fitzgerald, who is present, irrespective of the small contribution to be raised in broadening the tax net, their take home pay will increase by some £600 this year. That is what tax reform is all about; it involves much more than lowering taxes as advocated by Fine Gael. It should be remembered also that it has advocated expenditure cuts.

In general the budget has been well received. Some people are anxious about various aspects of it which may affect them and we have an obligation to explain the position to them. Some of the best paid commentators have used the airwaves to promote their own vested interests. I would say to those people that this budget is about job creation——

There are 300,000 people unemployed.

——to give people an opportunity to re-enter the labour market. I ask the Opposition to look again at the budget as it contains an abundance of good measures in this regard. The Deputy is correct in saying that almost 300,000 people are unemployed but that problem has been addressed in the budget as the Deputy, and everyone else, believes it should be addressed.

I am pleased that one member of the Opposition is listening because usually when I rise to speak Members opposite get so upset that they do not want to listen. I wish to draw their attention to the fact that the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Quinn, announced a package of measures which will address some of the problems. Under the community employment programme, there will be an enterprise fund of £100 million for small and medium-sized businesses. That programme will provide jobs in local authorities and in the private sector for some 40,000 people by the end of this year. This measure will address the needs of the unemployed and, more important, the long term unemployed, in a manner that will give those people the opportunity to re-enter the jobs market. This innovative programme has been developed through experience with other schemes such as the social employment scheme, the community development programme and the VTOS which is run by vocational colleges. The Minister should look at the area addressed by the Teamwork scheme, particularly as used to assist in schools for the handicapped and places where people with special needs are cared for. The teamwork scheme was specifically designed for younger people who had just left school and were prepared to apply themselves on a vocational basis to help younger disadvantaged people and in the process gain experience that would help them to get into the workplace later. Before we abolish Teamwork we should look at the need it met.

We must give the long term unemployed a second chance — in some cases a first chance — to reintegrate into the labour market. It is imperative that we reawaken the economic potential of people who were previously ignored by Government although not by this one. This Government, with a Labour Party input of which we are proud, has also introduced the most innovative enterprise scheme ever devised. A total of £100 million is being made available at fixed interest rates for ten years. This was done in response to proposals from the Opposition, the task force on small businesses and the Culliton report. This budget is pro-enterprise, pro-jobs and pro-small businesses.

The budget has been good also for those in jobs. Let me start with the low-paid. Some 60,000 people earn £10,000 or less and the Government specifically targets them for help. The health and employment levies, amounting to 2.25 per cent of people's incomes, has been abolished and that helps the low-paid. The employers of the low-paid also accept that it is a help.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Employers do not accept it as a help; it is causing a problem.

The 1 per cent income levy has been abolished——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): It was a criminal tax and should never have been imposed.

The people Fine Gael are worried about, who will make a small contribution of £100 or more, will benefit by some £600 as a result of the removal of the 1 per cent income levy. Despite our critics we have kept our promises. We worked hand-in-hand with the trade union movement and others. We said the levy would be temporary, and it was. Its abolition proves that, as usual, our critics were wrong. As a result of these measures the average take-home pay of those on low incomes will be increased by about 3 per cent. The Opposition have lost sight of this because they are running with this dry bone they have in their mouths.

There has for the first time been radical reform of taxation. The social and economic council which consists of employers, trade unions, farmers and others also said that any Government that was serious about tax reform should address the question of taxation of capital and of property.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about the promises?

Very few have had the courage to introduce any radical measures no matter how small. Personal allowances have been addressed and this year will rise to a figure exceeding the amount by which they rose in the past six years. The standard rate tax band has been widened by four times the rate of inflation. All of these measures will make people better off in the long run and it is difficult to listen to the Opposition trying to dictate the agenda and blind people to the benefits that everybody, including the Opposition, knows are in the budget. This budget is about creating jobs and jobs will be created in spite of the Opposition.

What about the problems in Clonmel?

This budget will stimulate the economy and improve the prospects for growth in the next few years. It is part of an overall strategy which, together with the National Development Plan and the National Public Capital Programme, both of which the Opposition objected to, will maximise the employment potential in the Irish economy. In the 1992 general election we said we would put justice into economics——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): And ethics into Government.

——and we have done so in this budget. It is evidence that we are remaining faithful to the pledges——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about the advertisement before the election?

——we gave to the people that elected us. This budget has initiated a process of tax reform and a widening of the tax base. Over the years other political parties called for and promised tax reform but none of them either had the political courage or were in a position to do so. That is why they are whinging on the Opposition benches and waving their white flags and copies of speeches made by candidates——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): It was an advertisement in a newspaper.

——when we were campaigning. If Fine Gael had behaved it might be in Government today. I see nobody on the Opposition benches who has the courage to implement widescale tax reform. This Government has started on the process of tax reform which it intends to continue irrespective of the Opposition.

In addition to spreading the tax burden to other sectors of society the Government has committed itself to significant levels of social spending. I know there are Members who are worried about social spending. The main Opposition spokesperson on Finance has a worry about it. He accuses us of being a tax and spend Government while every week he comes into the House calling for additional spending. He does not say where the money is to come from but when we make an effort to reform the taxation system to enable spending he complains. He went so far as to suggest in his submission to the NESC report that the anomaly in regard to the cut-off point for high-paid workers on PRSI should be addressed. It was addressed in the budget and he criticised that.

Last year we built 3,500 local authority houses. The Leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Bruton, complained about building local authority houses for people in need despite the fact that we need another 30,000 houses to meet demands. We will keep up the momentum in 1994 and I am sure Fine Gael members of the local authorities will be pleased because their constituents also need houses. People want good services and amenities and they do not want to be confronted with stingy penny-pinching attitudes by the Opposition, particularly their Finance spokesperson who seems to have difficulty in knowing what his party want him to say or do.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The Deputy found it difficult after the election.

In regard to housing I wish to highlight all the benefits of the urban renewal scheme in Clonmel. We have extended the deadline to allow its completion. I would like to see this scheme extended to other towns in my constituency such as Cahir, Cashel and Tipperary. However, we must proceed cautiously in regard to this. The scheme has demonstrated how urban decline can be halted in a few years by providing incentives. It has dramatically transformed run-down, underutilised areas in what would normally be a thriving business or residential community. It has also created physical, economic and social improvements in areas which will remain long after the tax incentives have disappeared.

The scheme has also generated a substantial number of jobs in the construction industry and, more importantly, long term jobs in the companies and businesses that availed of the incentive. It is obvious that without those incentives the private sector will not expand. The scheme is welcome because it triggered into action people whose primary motive is profit and as a result jobs will be created under the scheme.

An important and pleasing aspect of the scheme is the return of private sector housing in city centre locations and other urban areas. As far back as 1988 my party campaigned to bring the breath of life back to our cities and towns.

The Government will force them out now with the property tax.

This has been the best budget for housing for many years. It specifically provided an extra £12 million for local authority housing, an extra £2.5 million for remedial works, an extra £1.5 million for the provision of bathrooms and a special new provision of £3 million for the replacement of windows and so on in flat complexes. In addition, it has provided an additional £2 million for the task force on housing for the elderly. Is there any more worthy cause on which to use public finances than in caring for our old and those in need in the community? Those extra provisions, totalling £21 million, were made available in addition to the already greatly increased provisions for the social housing programme, including local authority and voluntary housing schemes in the 1994 Estimates.

In the Programme for a Partnership Government we promised 3,500 local authority housing starts or acquisitions in 1993. We have achieved 3,800 by taking up unused starts in local authorities which did not avail of their allocation and were carried over from previous years. Approximately 300 of those represented the purchase of existing houses. The capital allocation for the provision of local authority housing was increased by 60 per cent in 1993 and if the Labour Party was not in Government that figure could not be reached. That massive increase is necessary to secure completion in 1994 of the dwellings commenced in 1993 and to provide the further start-ups necessary in our local authority areas.

The voluntary housing sector continues to meet the needs of social housing, but I would like to see more done in that area so that we could attack the housing lists that have bedevilled all local authorities in the past number of years. I hope the rental subsidy scheme and other assistance provided for those in low cost housing, will address the problem identified at local authority level, in the Houses of the Oireachtas, in both parliamentary parties and in Government. We are committed to providing, as soon as possible, bathroom facilities in local authority dwellings that do not have them. Who would believe that in 1994 some local authority houses do not have bathroom or toilet facilities?

That is a great shame.

The allocation for the bathrooms sub-programme will be increased from £2.5 million in 1992 to £4 million this year. The commitment to allocate extra funding will enable authorities to eliminate deficiencies in their housing stock and ensure that local authority tenants will no longer have to put up indefinitely with the absence of basic facilities.

As I stated already, this is one of the best budgets ever introduced for housing even though some people criticised particular aspects of it because of their constituency brief on the matter. It is also a good budget for jobs. When account is taken of the additional £21 million capital provided for the housing programme we will have reached a target of £295 million, an increase of 58 per cent on last year's outturn and more than double what was spent in 1992.

I could talk forever about aspects of this budget. The Minister for Education should be proud of the fact that she has allocated additional funding for secondary and primary school building programmes. Total investment in school and college building has been increased to £98 million this year. That is the type of expenditure the Government and the Labour Party can stand over because the public want the services and the Opposition has called for them repeatedly.

We will call for more. The Deputy should come down to my constituency to see the condition of schools there.

We are delivering those services. Does the Deputy want more spending? It would be great if the Fine Gael Party agreed with those of us who advocated funding for areas of need because some of them have been neglected by successive Governments in the past. We are proud of the influence we have brought to bear in that sensitive area. I am sure most constituencies benefited from the Minister's decision to improve school buildings, to increase the number of remedial teachers, improve the pupil-teacher ratio and improve the whole infrastructure. What is wrong with giving people what they need? That is what the Government has been trying to do in this budget.

As I said already, this is the best budget in recent years. As my party Leader stated, it is pro-jobs, pro-growth and proenterprise. Everybody, from the highest paid to the lowest, will benefit in some form. If the Minister for Finance can redistribute the wealth available to us, whether by assistance from Europe, or by widening the tax net, which means the majority of people will benefit, that should be welcomed.

Tax allowance certificates will be issued in April and in May and June and throughout the rest of this financial year people will realise the benefits they will derive from this budget. Tax deductions are spread fairly and it improves the take-home pay of the low paid which will enable them to meet the demands from local authorities and so on.

What about the mortgage relief?

Some members of the media have been critical of various sections of this budget. I represent a rural constituency and I do not apologise to anybody for the benefits provided in this budget for the farming sector. They were provided because of the inequities in the system. If we improve the lot of farmers — many of whom are very poor — as a result of removing the tax inequities it is merely levelling the playing pitch. People in rural areas are entitled to a level playing pitch. Many small farmers are in the PAYE sector and must depend on offfarm income. My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy O'Shea, is committed to ensuring that small and medium sized farmers, who are an important part of the economic life of this country, are treated similarly to everybody else.

What about the extension of disadvantaged areas, is that gone with the wind?

The Deputy has a much better hope of an extension in that regard now than ever before.

The provisions of the budget ensure that people living in disadvantaged areas who need assistance to survive, will be catered for. Without such assistance rural areas would be disadvantaged. The Government with Labour Party input through farming organisations, is ensuring that inequities in previous disadvantaged or severely handicapped areas, which might have been overlooked in the past will be redressed. We will ensure that the people in those areas living on the periphery of Europe will not lose out on their basic rights. They depend on such payments to remain in the community, to be part of its life blood and not disadvantaged by bigger farmers who have accumulated wealth. I am concerned about the smaller farmer with an average income of approximately £5,000-£6,000 per year. I want to ensure that those farmers receive the payments to which they are entitled——

The Deputy's party has stifled them and thrown them to the wolves.

——and that the areas in which they live are designated as disadvantaged. Deputy Sheehan need have no doubt that with Labour Party input we will ensure that the people Deputy Sheehan and I represent will be catered for. I am confident that the measures we will introduce during our term in Government will make sure that the people of rural areas will be treated the same as urban dwellers. I make no apology for this budgetary measure which seeks to equalise the tax code in respect of farmers taking account of any PAYE and PRSI allowances which they may receive in respect of their wives and children. We have been fighting for this measure for some time, unlike Deputy Sheehan who whinges from the Opposition benches and never makes a constructive contribution in this regard, we have managed to do something about the matter.

The Government has been talking about this for five years but it has done nothing for disadvantaged areas, it is a disgrace.

Deputy Sheehan, please desist.

We are in a position to do something about it, which must be upsetting for Deputies in Opposition who would like to have such influence. We intend to use our influence to fulfil the mandate given to the Labour Party to bring justice into politics and not to have stroke politics. People have rights and we, as the oldest political party, want to ensure that we adequately represent our constituents, who have given the party the largest number of Deputies ever in this House. We secured those seats by promising the people that we would make changes. The budget introduced so many changes that the Opposition has not yet been able to analyse them.

The Opposition spokesperson on Finance occasionally refers to me in my absence and I will now refer to him in his absence. I am sorry he is not present to hear a constructive contribution on the budget and to hear a reminder of its benefits. Unless he gets his act together and states what he stands for the electorate will be confused. The electorate know what we stand for and that we will deliver the goods before the end of the life of this Government.

The electorate knows what Deputy Ferris's party stand for. I was pleased to be present for the last ten minutes of Deputy Ferris's contribution and to hear that Labour would not be party to stroke politics. He spoke about justice in economics, but he did not mention the cynical public who heard the Minister's budget speech, read the newspaper reports on it and then saw the wheel turn. I was pleased to hear that Deputy Ferris changed his tune in regard to small farmers. About one and a half years ago he told the people in Howth and various parts of Dublin——

I was never in Howth except as a visitor.

The Deputy will not go there again. He and his leader told those people that there would be no tax on property. That was the divine gospel according to the leader of the Labour Party. Deputy Ferris will recall what the leader of the Labour Party said about Fianna Fáil and its leader in the weeks leading up to the last general election. He will also recall that some weeks later his party agreed to form a Government with Fianna Fáil. It is hard to understand how such a partnership could come about and that members of the Labour Party changed their minds in such a short time. It stated that there would be no reduction in mortgage and VHI reliefs. The people believed the leader of the Labour Party but that is no longer the case. Deputy Ferris gave a lecture on the amount of money available for housing but omitted to give the allocation for roads. It may have been an oversight on his part.

An extra £30 million.

How much money will remain when road works have been completed in County Tipperary?

I am pleased the Deputy appreciates what we are doing.

When one considers that the area of County Cork represents one eighth of this country, what percentage of the allocation will be allocated to our country? It will probably be on the basis of the number of Fianna Fáil politicians in Cork city and county. Deputy Ferris said there will be no more stroke politics, a classic comment from a Deputy who announced details of a major factory for Clonmel that never materialised. He is the last Deputy who should lecture the public.

I am pleased the Deputy is back.

I was around before the Deputy and I will probably be around after him.

I do not mind.

Deputy Ferris spoke of justice in economics but there is none. PRSI has been removed for those earning under £9,000. However, an article in this week's edition of Business and Finance states that no PRSI payment applies in respect of an employee earning £9,000 but £400 will apply in respect of an employee who earns £9,001. That is economic justice according to Deputy Ferris. If it is, God help this country. There has been talk of job incentives. I understand that a person in receipt of social employment or social welfare benefit of £8,000 per year is better off than a person working and earning £15,000 per year. A man aged 40 to 45, married with three children recently called to see me and he cried like a baby because his house had been repossessed by a bank. I explained the situation to the appropriate health board who saw no difficulty in paying him £35 per week as a contribution towards his mortgage repayment. When the official asked me where I could meet this person I told him it would be difficult because the person was working. When he heard that, he said the health board could not give him a contribution. Despite the fact that that person was in a badly paid job and had to travel 30 miles to work, the health board was debarred from helping him pay his mortgage.

Where is the caring Government now?

It is no wonder Deputy Ferris is rubbing his eye; he cannot believe what I am saying.

Can the Deputy accept it?

No, I do not accept it. Was the person working when he took out the mortgage?

Yes, otherwise he would not get a mortgage, as the Deputy should know. There are many other such instances that I could mention. There are anomalies throughout the system which make it impossible for people to survive.

Deputy Ferris spoke about the contribution to housing. In the electoral areas of Mallow and Kanturk in north Cork 125 houses were built in 1986. However, the following year when Fianna Fáil took office only ten houses were built. At present there are 350 families in this area on the housing list, at least half of whom are in urgent need of rehousing. Deputy Ferris spoke about the Government's contribution to ensuring that facilities such as water and bathrooms are provided in houses throughout the country. I accept his concern, but it will not install water and bathrooms and alleviate the problems of these unfortunate people. It is time that something was done about this matter.

I am not going to make a major issue of the property tax, but I understand from the Government statements that this tax will bring in £5 million. Is that right? Deputy Ferris knows most things, but he has not responded to that question.

The Deputy should read the budget.

That £5 million will go to a concern which is virtually next door to the Minister for Finance. Why was a small portion of it, even £1 million, not allocated to GAA clubs? Is it because they are not situated near the home of the Minister for Finance? I would like a response to that question. The GAA does remarkable work and makes a great contribution to this country. Were it not for that organisation many more young people would be on the streets breaking the law and would be a cause for concern. I do not know why the GAA is being totally ignored by the Minister.

Deputy Ferris also spoke about unemployment. I am sure he will admit he is not an expert in that department. The budget referred to schemes such as social employment schemes, FÁS schemes and so on, but will those schemes create sustainable jobs? Will any of the people who will be involved in those schemes in the coming year still have their jobs in 12 months, or will they be back on the unemployment list? The reference in the budget to 40,000 to 100,000 jobs is simply an exercise in massaging the unemployment figures.

Is the Deputy suggesting that these people should remain unemployed?

No. I am asking a question, not making a statement.

Has the Deputy addressed that question to the private sector?

If Deputy Ferris tells me that these 40,000 or 60,000 jobs will be permanent I will be glad, but there is no evidence that they will be long term, sustainable jobs. Taking into account those on retirement pension and so on, the figure for the unemployed of 297,000 could be increased to 340,000. The figures were altered five years ago by a Government that is now in coalition with the Labour Party.

I wish to briefly refer to small farmers, about whom Deputy Ferris rightly expressed concern. Small farmers with milk quotas of up to 30,000 gallons are regarded as a hindrance to the Government, co-operatives and the economic community. In many cases lorry drivers will not collect from these people because the roads are in such bad condition. As far as the Department is concerned these people are uneconomic and their cases take up too much paper work in the Department; in other words, they should get out of business.

Recently a farmer with a quota of 120,000 gallons told me he wanted to lease a further 50,000 to 70,000 gallons, which would bring his quota to 175,000 to 200,000 gallons. How can the small farmer compete with such a person? As the Minister of State knows, he cannot. The Minister should not misunderstand what I am saying; I am not blaming him. I am sure that people with quotas of 10,000 to 15,000 gallons attend his clinics seeking headage payments and beef and ewe premiums. They want the money immediately and cannot wait three or six months for it. I am sure the Minister tells these people that he will try to alleviate the problem. However, these people cannot afford to wait. They are so urgently in need of money that one day to them is like a year or two to us. In saying that, I am addressing all Members. When small farmers, with a quota of 10,000 or 20,000 gallons, ask me whether they should give the quota to their sons I advise them not to do so because there is no future in farming. People would be better off if they could get a job elsewhere.

The new farming retirement scheme is welcome. However, the requirement in relation to 10 per cent of the total acreage is an incentive to small farmers to get out of farming, to lease their land and quotas, trust in God and join the dole queue. This is regrettable.

I referred earlier to headage payments. Farmers who are owed millions of pounds in headage payments cannot wait for this money. As I understand it, in the agreement reached between the social partners, the Minister and the farming organisations last week, it is hoped that from 1996 onwards farmers will be paid their grants in the year they apply. However, from my figures I believe they will still have to wait for that facility to which they are fully entitled. Regardless of the parties they represent, Deputies from rural areas who have contact with farmers will know that what I am saying is correct. They may not admit this in the House but as sure as God made little apples that is the unpleasant reality.

I want to refer to lotto funding. Approximately 15 months ago all lotto funding was to be handled by local authorities. My secretary got in touch with the Department today to inquire about lotto funding and, as I understand it, last year's grants are only being paid this year. Lotto funding, as we now know it, is no better or worse than a slush fund. I will not go into the details regarding a former Minister who is no longer a Member of this House. Is it any wonder that members of the public are cynical about all politicians? It does not give me any pleasure to say that. Those of us who feel very strongly about the maintenance of standards in public life cringe at events which took place some time ago. The public at large expect better than that. I will not go into the details of what is happening across the water where an effort is being made to get back to basics, but I am very concerned about slush funds and the abuse of power. If we do not prove that we are maintaining and upholding certain standards and that we have not been reduced to slush funds and the era of spin doctors, then the public will tell us what they think of us one way or another. I do not want such a situation to arise.

With regard to the residential property tax, reference was made to its impact on the middle income class. If there is any class in our society today which was stewed alive in the budget it was the middle income class. Many of them will have to pay residential property tax, their mortgage and VHI reliefs will be reduced and, above all——

They get a lot of money in tax refunds.

The Deputy can ask them that when he is canvassing shortly for the local elections.

I will. The facts are there.

As I was saying, they will also be caught by the proposals in regard to third level education where no relief whatsoever is given. Those in the middle income bracket, earning £10,000, £12,000, £14,000 or £15,000 who get approximately £8,000 into their hands — say a husband and wife with two or three children — who have to pay for health care, have mortgages and have to pay for the basic necessities of life got no relief in the budget, and neither Deputy Ferris nor any other Deputy should try to tell me otherwise.

Regardless of who is in Government, I do not like to see spin doctors trying to tell the public what they want to hear. I do not want any Government to employ PR people who will rush to the media to tell them their story. Why do we not——

Tell the truth.

——tell it as it is?


I am very pleased Deputy Ferris said that people should be told the truth.

The truth is written in this document, if the Deputy wants to read it.

Deputy Crowley, without interruption.

I am sorry I did not bring with me the statement made by the Labour Party before the last general election. The Deputy had drawn this on himself. On radio a few mornings ago the chairman of the Labour Party said that promises made in the election campaign had been made in the white heat of the moment. Was that not a classic statement? In other words — this is my interpretation — We told barefaced lies in the white heat of the moment; we made promises in the white heat of the moment——

To cod the people

In other words, when the election was over and the Labour Party had got 33 seats it said to the public, "Shag the begrudgers, we will do what we like now that we are in power". That is my interpretation of what the chairman of the Labour Party said——

We never said that; we do not use such words.

They are more pleasant than telling lies.

We would not use such words.

Did the Deputy hear that statement?

Does the Deputy want to read the budget?

Deputy Crowley, without interruption, please.

Will the Deputy answer my question?

What did the Deputy's party say about rainbows in the last election?

Deputy Crowley, without interruption, please.

If the Deputy's party had followed that rainbow it would be much better off in the eyes of the public today.

The Deputy's rainbow is disappearing very quickly.

May I ask Deputy Ferris one question?

I ask Deputy Crowley to address his comments through the Chair.

I am doing that, Sir. Will Deputy Ferris respond to a simple question: did he know of the statement by the leaders of the Labour Party during the election campaign that there would be no tax on houses, no reduction in mortgage relief and no reduction in VHI relief? If Deputy Ferris answers that question I will be a happy man. The silence is deafening.

Obviously the Deputy does not want me to reply.

Does this not prove that the public has a right to be cynical of what it is being told by the Labour Party and, to a lesser degree, Fianna Fáil, the parties in coalition?

What is the policy of the Deputy's party on these issues?

It is not so long ago since Commissioner Flynn, a former Minister for the Environment, said coalitions were against Fianna Fáil ethos and that it would not participate in one. We now know the answer to that statement. This is a sad reflection on the Government of the day and, worse still, it increases the cynicism among the public towards politicians. That is a tragedy for Irish politics.

I wish to share my time with Deputy O'Donoghue.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Pehaps it is because it is a few weeks old that Deputies have tended to wander somewhat from the contents of the budget and seem to have forgotten the very positive response to it by the media. I think the positive response to the budget arises from the fact that it is a pro-jobs budget. That is what the budget sets out to do and that is what it will achieve. That is the most important aspect of the budget.

To attempt to criticise certain aspects of the budget is difficult for many people but when we consider its overall effect it is clear people on low wages will, at long last, get the benefits required to take them off the dole. Very often many of our constituents on the dole who have medical cards and other benefits are offered a job but find that it is not viable financially to take it up. People on low incomes, particularly those earning less than £173 per week, will not have to pay the 1 per cent employment and training levy or the 1.25 per cent health contribution. There is now an incentive for employers as when the employees are earning less than £173 per week the employers' PRSI is reduced from 12.2 per cent to 9 per cent.

I can understand why Deputy Ferris is leaving.

I have to attend the Whips' meeting.

These are important improvements in the budget which will benefit people on low salaries. We must have a balanced debate and remember the unemployed who have difficulty finding jobs that mean something in income at the end of the week. These improvements, in terms of the levies and the PRSI, are specifically for those people and the employers who wish to employ them. Business people have told us time and again about the cost of creating jobs while honest people complain constantly about the difficulty of getting a worthwhile job in terms of take home pay, having regard to their benefits on the dole. From that point of view this is a pro jobs budget.

Many commentators referred to the enterprise culture created by the budget. The morning after I attended a breakfast meeting of business people and bankers who appreciated the growth that would develop as a result of this budget. I realise the job of the Opposition is to oppose but we must be careful when we debate this budget to remember that we are trying to develop an enterprise culture and growth in the economy that will create much needed jobs.

Improvements in the budget, such as the VAT registration thresholds, are important for small business people because the threshold is lowered to £40,000 per annum in respect of the sale of goods and £20,000 in relation to services. Those people have been struggling but they will now have the burden of the administration of VAT removed from them and will be able to get on with the operation of their businesses.

The removal of red tape in regard to many measures in the budget is important, in particular the single registration forms and single tax clearance certificates. People often attend our clinics complaining about the amount of red tape they have to go through before they can even set up a business so the tidying up of matters in relation to finance is very important.

I was particularly impressed with the improvements in regard to the probate tax. I am the chairperson of the Fianna Fáil National Women's Committee and we lobbied the Minister throughout the year on this issue because we were very concerned about the changes in last year's budget with regard to the probate tax, particularly between spouses. Most Deputies will be aware that ICAs all over the country, specifically in my county and indeed nationally, wrote to me — and I am sure to other Deputies — about the probate tax. We should thank the Minister for the changes introduced in that area, particularly in regard to spouses, and the 30 per cent improvement in the market value on the agricultural land and buildings for probate tax.

We should specifically welcome the fact that the change in the probate tax is backdated to last June when it was introduced initially. Therefore, the women's committee and the ICAs who lobbied the Minister for the removal of probate tax between spouses can now be assured that the changes will mean that widows have not been caught in the interim.

Education was mentioned by previous speakers and it is of particular interest to us in south County Meath because of the huge lack of post-primary school places. Many of our children have to be educated in Dublin because of the lack of buildings in County Meath, the need for school extensions and new schools. I was delighted with the increase in funding for this area in the budget. I have not been a Member of the Dáil for long but I remember when Deputy O'Rourke was Minister for Education she allocated £18 million to post-primary schools. This was increased in subsequent budgets to £26.5 million, then to £32 million and an additional £5 million in this budget brings the figure to £37 million. The funding for the provision of post-primary buildings has more than doubled in that short period. The school extension in Dunshaughlin will be funded from this year's allocation and we are happy about that.

While I welcome the funding, we are disappointed at the lack of additional school places in Dunboyne and we realise that funding is not the only difficulty. We are thankful that the finance is available in this year's budget to provide additional post-primary places but the debate continues about the management structure — as distinct from funding — in the Dunboyne school. However, it is ridiculous that the children of the area are still without school places while this debate continues when additional places are needed for September 1994. Many Deputies would not understand this problem; they are perhaps concerned with the lack of school transport or the loss of teachers in their areas. The increases in the budget are critical to an area such as ours in terms of the provision of school facilities but it is absurd that the Dunboyne school in particular still has not been provided with funding for these facilities.

If I may be parochial for a moment, one area particularly welcome to us in Meath was the extension of the urban renewal scheme because this scheme never operated in County Meath. At last Navan is covered by the urban renewal scheme. Improvements in the tourism sector, which provides 86,000 jobs, are also welcome. The improvements for the hotel industry and tour buses and the removal of the VAT are all welcome to a sector that wants to increase tourism and see 1994 as one of the best years on record. The £5 million allocated for overseas marketing is welcome and we must improve our efforts to market Ireland as a tourism nation.

I am glad that the agricultural organisations and bodies welcomed the budget, probably because of the probate tax issues to which I referred. They were very welcome, particularly in the farming community, and the improvements in the capital acquisitions tax which will result in easier transfers of farms. The changes in the PAYE allowances to sons and daughters of farmers and of business people is also welcome. Those people have been extremely annoyed over the years that their sons and daughters are treated differently in regard to PAYE. The £50,000 allocation to Macra na Feirme, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is welcome.

Overall the impact of the budget will be positive; it will help to create more jobs in the economy, improve the environment for business and remove some of the bureaucracy in these areas.

This is an innovative and imaginative budget which encourages enterprise. In short, gives hope to the jobless, improves the lot of the unemployed and those on other social welfare payments, gives incentive to business and breathes new life into the economy. Any finance Minister, certainly in the European Union, would have been more than proud to introduce a budget like this. In that context it is a great pity that the waters have been muddied by a controversy which has blown up in relation to the residential property tax which, as the Minister said in his Budget Statement, would yield a mere £5 million.

For the GAA.

This controversy does not do justice to the Minister's budget which was one of the finest produced in the history of this State but, because of continuous reference to it in the media, in this House and elsewhere, I find it necessary to address the issue. While I have no wish to become engaged in controversy with Members of the Opposition or anybody else in relation to the issue, it is in the interests of fairness and equity that the record should be set straight.

We all know, as a matter of history, that it was Deputy Dukes, when Minister for Finance, who introduced the residential property tax in 1983. That is the truth——

Of course it is.

While that is the truth these ingenuous statements on the part of politicians who strongly advocated the introduction of a tax of this nature in the past are deplorable and must be addressed. I understand that, in a lunch time radio interview today, the leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Harney, stated that the Progressive Democrats Party was never, never, never in favour of a property tax.

Like the Labour Party.

Ingenuous statements like those must be addressed. I wish to quote from the Official Report of 11 February 1988.

The spin doctors.

The public are entitled to hear what the then Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy O'Malley, had to say as reported at column 1913:

Everyone talks about the necessity for reducing the tax burden represented by income tax and indirect taxes. However, that is only feasible in the context of widening the tax base. That is why our party are committed to a comprehensive property tax on buildings and land to begin to get this equation more into balance.

Deputy O'Malley went on to say:

Even in the United states property taxes raise 10 per cent of annual revenue. Here the comparable figure is 3 per cent. We must redress the virtual trebling of the burden of income tax in this country over the past eight years.

The record shows that when Deputy Harney says "never, never, never" in relation to a property tax — in this case, a residential property tax — what she means is "never, never, never" in relation to just a residential property tax but "yes, yes, yes" in relation to a tax on all property including residences.

At their 1987 party conference the Progressive Democrats voted in favour of a tax on all real property as a method of funding local government. As a Front Bench spokesperson of her party at that time surely Deputy Harney must have been aware of that? It was in Deputy O'Malley's contribution in the House on 11 February 1988 that that line of argument was strongly supported by their then leader. At that 1987 party conference it was argued that a tax on property would catch everyone, even those in the black economy since everyone has to have a place to live.

Is Deputy O'Donoghue in favour of the residential property tax or not?

The Deputy should allow Deputy O'Donoghue to conclude. There are five minutes only remaining before we go on to other business and Deputy O'Donoghue should be allowed to utilise those five minutes without interruption.

In November 1988 the policy, which I might describe as the "never, never, never" policy in relation to residential property tax but the "yes, yes, yes" policy in relation to tax on all property, including residential property, was watered down but only somewhat. The Progressive Democrats produced a document entitled Employment, Enterprise and Taxation which contained a proposal for a £125 million local property charge. That document stated:

More often than not the greater value of such a house the more likely is one's probable ability to pay.

How hollow are those words of Deputy Harney and other critics of this tax a few short years ago. The truth is that if one puts oneself on a pedestal, one must always remember that it is a long way to the ground. If one cannot adhere to the standards one sets oneself in the public mind, then the public are entitled to feel that they were in some way tricked or conned. As a consequence cynicism sets in and where cynicism sets in in relation to a political party the lesson of history has been that the rot sets in as well.

In the light of what I said in relation to the attitude of the Progressive Democrats to property tax, including residential property tax, in the past, Deputy Harney should explain precisely why she states that the Progressive Democrats was not in favour of a property tax. Indeed, she should explain, in the light of these policy decisions by her party in the past, why she states that she is now totally opposed to a property tax.

Whatever about the merits or demerits of the arguments advanced in relation to residential property tax, the only conclusion one can reach is that the attack on the tax — which comprises a miniscule part of this budget — was motivated solely by a political desire to injure the Government parties; not by a desire to have the tax removed or to have the various mechanisms softened, but by a naked, political, obvious desire to do as much damage as possible, irrespective of the fact that the integrity of her party was being severely dented in the process.

In the light of what I said, being in no way personal — I never would be — the public can now make up their minds. They have the facts and they must judge this proposal in the light of its history.

I made those comments because in the controversy in relation to this matter we have been unable to see the wood for the trees. Virtually every proposal in this budget is job-orientated, is aimed at improving people's lives and livelihoods, at continuing the correction of the public finances while, at the same time, balancing the necessity of providing essential services for our people. In that respect some of the more welcome features of it should be addressed by me. For example, I greatly welcome the Minister's decision to reduce PRSI contributions in respect of low paid workers and the elimination of the levies on them. This means that certain industries, where there are low paid workers involved, may now be in a position to expand while at the same time improving the income of their employees.

Debate adjourned.