Written Answers. - Programme for Government.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

32 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the priorities in the coalition's agreed Programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13573/02]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

34 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on An Agreed Programme for Government. [14387/02]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

35 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the areas of An Agreed Programme for Government for which his Department has responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14388/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 34 and 35 together.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to make a statement to the House on the recently agreed programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

In the general election for the 29th Dáil, the electorate strengthened the mandate of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. The policy platforms of the two parties have been endorsed as a blueprint for our future.

Our programme for Government is both clear in intent and specific in detail. It is the agreed agenda for this partnership Government over five full years. The Irish people can justly be proud of the achievements of the peace, prosperity and progress of recent times.

Since 1997, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in government have worked extremely well and productively together in providing good government for the country. But now for the future much more remains to be done. A five year programme for Government is by necessity an ordered series of priorities and An Agreed Programme for Government 2002-2007 sets out further objectives to build on the success we have achieved as well as the important issues remaining.

In implementing the commitments in An Agreed Programme for Government, we will bring forward and progress the most ambitious legislative programme in the history of our State. Given the large number of specific commitments set out in the agreed programme, it would be impossible in the time allotted to detail each of the important pledges we have made.

The cornerstones of An Agreed Programme for Government are based on our desire to build a better Ireland for everyone and our promises at the last election to protect and expand prosperity for all, to strengthen peace and reconciliation, to pursue the fight against crime, to guarantee improved pensions, to reform and develop our health services and to invest in better public services.

The programme sets out an agenda for all major aspects of Government activity. It is divided into five major parts and contains 477 specific pledges.

Part One contains sections on peace, defence and international affairs. As I said in the Dáil on the day I was re-elected Taoiseach, building a lasting and just peace on this island is this government's great political goal, the priority that I have and will continue to put above all else. The agreed programme also repeats the very clear commitment of both parties in their election manifestos to hold a new referendum on enlargement later this year.
Part Two deals with a range of economic issues. It reflects the great task of not only extending prosperity in time but expanding it in scope to reach all our people. The overall target for public spending is set at keeping within the terms of the EU Stability and Growth Pact.
In relation to tax, the key priorities are removing people on the minimum wage from the tax net and reducing the numbers who pay tax at the higher rate. Other changes will be made if economic and fiscal circumstances permit, implementing the objectives of An Action Programme for the Millennium. The phased reduction in corporation tax will be completed.
A new national development finance agency and a national transformation fund will be established to push forward major infrastructure investment plans. A major emphasis is placed on supporting research and development as part of ensuring that Ireland remains a centre of innovation.
Part Three deals with seven different areas under the broad heading of ensuring balanced regional development. The national spatial strategy will be published. The central priority for the new Government, will be to ensure that all parts of Ireland see real progress. A new integrated transport policy will be implemented. A range of commitments on agriculture and rural development are outlined. The programme also outlines commitments in the areas of the environment, tourism, housing and the marine.
Part Four deals with 13 areas under the general heading of building a caring society. A commitment is made to reach a minimum €200 per week for pensioners and €150 for all social welfare payments. The health strategy will be implemented in full. A programme to recruit 2,000 more gardaí will be implemented and they will be targeted against public order offences and drugs. Class sizes will be reduced, with an emphasis on infant classes. A new schools modernisation fund, which will be funded by the new NDFA, will be established and it will ensure that all school buildings meet modern standards. Significant increases will be implemented in child benefit as part of a co-ordinated effort to tackle child poverty. Measures to target drug dealers and regenerate our most disadvantaged communities are outlined. This part of the programme also deals with equality, law reform and asylum issues.
Part Five is called supporting civic life and deals with good government, sport, culture and the Irish language. The programme gives a commitment to supporting the commercial semi-state sector and to securing a viable long-term future for State companies. It also points to a number of ways to improve value for money and the quality of state services. The programme signals this Government's wish to negotiate a renewed partnership agreement.
In relation to sport, the programme sets out a continued commitment to sport at all levels. It also sets out a commitment to construct a world-class national stadium. Other facilities which service the needs of sporting bodies at both national and local level will also be constructed. The new arts and heritage plans will be implemented. A range of policies to support the Irish language and improve supports for Gaelscoileanna are outlined.
The key areas for which my Department is responsible in terms of An Agreed Programme for Government can be broadly summarised as follows: supporting the development and implementation of policy in a co-ordinated way across Departments, including servicing the activities of relevant Cabinet committees; working with the British Government and the pro-agreeement parties to achieve the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects; working towards a new social partnership agreement; co-ordinating the eGovernment initiative to bring about an expansion in the range and quality of online Government services; and ensuring that Ireland's key objectives in the European Union are carried forward in the context of the Taoiseach's role as a member of the European Council.
Question No. 33 resubmitted.