I am pleased to speak in this important debate on the economy. It is important that we mean what we say and try to give credence to the issues we talk about. I listened to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste speak yesterday. I do not know if it is all in their minds or all spin to be talking up the economy as they are. I notice their stated aim in the programme for Government is to reignite and regenerate the economy but we seem to be going the wrong way about it. It has now been recognised by the IMF that all the financial rectitude and austerity is not working. To prepare a budget that will in six weeks' time take another €3 billion to €5 billion out of the economy is just false economy.
We can talk all we like about new initiatives - and we have seen some, which I welcome - but those to do with microfinance and funding for small businesses have been too slow. The new schemes are not effective. There was talk of all kinds of supports for work, for example, during the Private Members' debate this week on the sick pay scheme, but I do not know where this is coming from. There is obviously a problem with sick pay, as the Minister accepted, and it is mainly in the public service. I listened to the debate last night and do not want to be repetitive. As a small employer, I know most employers have good relations with their staff. If staff go out sick, they are paid for the first couple of days; most come back within a day or two when they are fit to do so, and there will not be prolonged sickness. If that legislation comes in, on top of all the other legislation that has come in over the past 20 years, it will result in much duplication and replication.
It is said that when England sneezes, Ireland coughs. Now, when Europe says "Jump", we seem to say "How high?" As an example of legislation that has been taken in here from Europe, the nitrates directive that was passed some years ago is nonsensical in that it is based on calendar months. In most years, the weather has been so wet a person could not get onto land to spread the slurry. This year has been worse because cattle could not be taken out of the sheds and they are now in again because the land is so wet. We are approaching the final day of October with still no sign of an extension to the date. We have to spend time, energy and effort, with Ministers meeting Ministers and Departments meeting Department officials, to discuss this issue. It is nonsensical legislation because it should be related to climatic conditions rather than calendar months. This is one example that illustrates my point.
Health and safety is another issue. While it is badly needed and we must have due regard to the issue, it has gone totally bananas and over the top. It has become an industry for the people working in it, many of whom make quite a good living at it. What are they doing? They are persecuting ordinary business people. Many of those who come out to deal with health and safety issues do not have the first clue about it, as the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, will know, being in business himself. They have a folder under their arm or a briefcase and they have regulations to enact, but in many cases - certainly in my business - they do not know the function of the machines or how they operate. It is impossible for business people to continue because common sense seems to have stayed out on Kildare Street when these people were here drafting this legislation. I do not know what they were thinking about.
I am not here to criticise the public service; I am here to criticise the permanent government. Governments come and Governments go, and Ministers come and Ministers go, but these officials are there and neither hell nor high water would change them, their ideas or their thinking. There will have to be a whole dismantling of the government set-up that has been grown and created, which is self-serving rather than serving the public. This is at the basic root of our financial difficulties. I accept we are in a worldwide recession but we partied here, we were allowed to party and the party was promoted. As the last speaker said, everything was based around property, with the bankers and everyone else involved in firing out money recklessly. We had no regulation. The regulator was asleep, but what did we do? We rewarded him with a pleasant pension and a lump sum going off. Thankfully, some people have now been brought before the courts but nobody has yet been found guilty of anything.
Everybody was involved. The politicians paid the price, many from the party I was involved in, which I parted ways with because of the carry-on. However, not one official has been held to account for lack of regulation or any of the bad advice, the stupid advice, the non-advice or the warnings that were not given. I read recently in Deputy Ross's book that one medium-ranking official in the Department of Finance was sounding the warning bell but she was silenced and banished. That is not fit for purpose.
I attended a committee yesterday looking into the issue of Valentia and Malin Head. As I am not from those areas, I did not speak, but I listened, and I saw nothing but arrogance from officials. Reports have been commissioned and when the reports did not suit them, they dissected them and took out all the critical parts. What kind of a system have we grown into? When are we going to say "Stop"? When are we going to change it? The Government promised transparency and everything else but we got the exact opposite of what it promised. There seems to be ineptitude on all sides in dealing with the system. The system is dragging our economy into the mire and will keep it there, while fat cats can earn lots of money and enjoy expenses, foreign trips and so on. This includes ourselves. We are paid too much and we must take a cut as well. I am glad the Ceann Comhairle mentioned this morning that the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission had made savings. However, what kind of a commission is it - what kind of a system is it - if the Independent grouping of 19 Members has no representation on it? We voted the Estimate through this morning-----