Central Fund Bill, 1957 (Certified Money Bill) — Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Senators are no doubt familiar with the form of the Central Fund Bill, the main function of which is to give legislative effect to the Vote on Account of £37,300,000 for 1957-58 which was passed earlier this week by Dáil Éireann. Each year on 31st March parliamentary sanction for the issue of money from the Central Fund lapses and, accordingly, the fresh sanction which the present Bill will give is necessary in order that Government services should not come to a standstill at the end of this week.

The Vote on Account is based on the detailed estimates of expenditure on the Supply Services set out in the Volume of Estimates which was recently circulated to Senators. It represents slightly less than one-third of the total of that volume and is required to keep the State in funds until such time as the individual Estimates have been passed and the Appropriation Bill has become law.

I explained in the Dáil that both the Estimates Volume and the Vote on Account were already printed when the present Government took office. The Estimates Volume was in fact issued on the day on which I first saw it, the 21st March, and the Vote on Account a day later. The House will appreciate that this immediate circulation was inevitable in view of the time-factor involved and in no way implies that the present Government accepts responsibility for the Estimates in detail. I think I have made the position in this regard clear in the slip which I caused to be circulated with the Estimates Volume and from which it will be seen that the Estimates are at present being examined in the various Departments concerned.

In these circumstances, I shall not attempt to analyse the Volume of Estimates. The variations in the individual Estimates as compared with the current year's provisions are, as usual, summarised in the General Abstract at the front of the Volume. Meantime, pending my examination of the general financial position, I feel that it would be premature—indeed impossible—for me to make further comment.

We have seen the Minister here before in other capacities and I suppose we ought to welcome him in his capacity as Minister for Finance. Perhaps "congratulations" would not be the right word to apply; perhaps we should really commiserate with the person who becomes Minister for Finance at the present moment. At any rate, this much is true, Sir, that the Bill, as the Minister says, must be passed now. It is not a light burden that has been imposed upon him, nor was it a light burden on his predecessor; nor should it be ignored, Sir, that this Bill imposes a burden which is not light upon the public at large. It is a Bill for a very large sum. Whatever his immediate responsibilities are, the Minister, in the near future, will have to face finding a solution for very difficult problems.

The Minister's predecessor showed public spirit and showed courage and cleared the ground for progress towards a solution of our problems and we hope very sincerely that further progress will be made. When I say that, I think it should be added that progress on the national economic front is not something which concerns the Minister alone; it is not purely the Minister's business alone or indeed the Government's business; it concerns the whole of us, that our financial problems and our economic problems should be solved and that we should face the difficulties which arise—some of them entirely external to ourselves and some of them entirely, perhaps, if I may use the word, problems for which we have the entire responsibility ourselves.

I rise to support this Bill and to agree that it must be passed. The Minister is right in not having made any attempt to find fault or to conduct any kind of a probe to fix blame upon anybody. That would not do any of us good in our present position. What we really need is a concerted effort to solve a problem which really exists, rather than conduct an inquiry as to how it arose and as to who particularly is responsible for it.

The Minister says he is going to examine the Book of Estimates. Like myself, the Minister is old enough to have heard that phrase before and he has had many experiences of the fact that, after that phrase was used, very little happened. Whatever efforts the Minister makes to solve our financial problems, I should like on behalf of the people on this side of the House, to express our hope that these efforts will be successful. I hope that the Estimates will be examined, not in a Party spirit, but fairly and impartially.

I should like to promise that, as far as we are concerned, our attitude should be and will be to consider the national interest—as the Minister's predecessor considered the national interest—and to support measures which seem to us to be good. I might conclude by saying that we should rejoice and everybody will rejoice at anything effective which is done, no matter what Government or what Party does it.

Having said so much, I should like to say that this Bill, as has been pointed out by the Minister, must be passed by 31st March. Its details, I think, cannot be discussed in the present atmosphere or in the present circumstances. Therefore, I agree with the Bill and think that all stages should be passed to-day.

This afternoon, we have with us a new Minister for Finance and I am sure we all welcome him. I follow Senator Hayes in his patriotic expression of opinion, that we should all join in supporting him in his efforts to stabilise the national economy. I also share Senator Hayes's view that we should, if possible, have a short debate on this Bill so that the new Government can get down to business as soon as possible on these lines.

I will be forgiven, perhaps, if I take this opportunity of saying to a new Minister for Finance—and through him to new Ministers for Agriculture, for Health and for Education—what I think they should keep in mind as the basic first principles of our national economy.

There is grave danger in the world to-day that even the wisest of us and the most responsible of us may be bullied by long words, words like "technology" and "automation" and the like. Because they are long and pretentious and new, we are inclined to think that they hold the secret of our welfare and will control the future. I remember a few years ago, when I was in Liverpool, just opposite the university library there, I saw written on the wall: "Down with the synchrocyclotron." It was a frightening phrase. I am sure many citizens of Liverpool shuddered as they saw that simply because it was a new, long and impressive word and it looked as if it might hold the future in its hands.

I want the Minister to listen to some rather simple statements—they will be quite brief and the words short— but I really believe any Government that keeps these principles in mind will not be deflected from the right path by long words or false promises. There is a risk of confusion in our minds amid all these conflicting new terms and new ideas. What does the natural wealth of this country depend on? Simply this—the products of our lands and of our seas and the health, strength and intelligence of our people —in other words, the gifts that Nature has given us and how we use those gifts. We cannot get away from it in spite of long words and new policies. Those are the essentials, and everything else—industry and commerce or whatever you like—is secondary to the lands and seas and the people.

It was very pleasing to me, when I had thought this out in terms of what I have learned and what I have seen, to find out that, in fact, this is the recognised financial policy of the country and we are on the right lines although we are not going fast enough along them. If we look at the Estimates—and may I congratulate the unknown authors of these Estimates, because the volume is a most valuable and instructive one, and I think they deserve great credit for producing it so well and so clearly—what do we find? What are the three largest sums of money in the whole expenditure? As I see it, they are the sums to be spent on Agriculture, Health and Education. Agriculture now receives, counting the grants, £13,500,000 compared with £4,500,000 in 1948/49. Health now receives £8,000,000 compared with £1,500,000 in 1948/49. (I do not include the Estimate for Social Assistance.) But what about the Estimate which deals with our knowledge and intelligence? What about Education? It is a fairly high figure— £11,500,000, but in 1948/49 it was already £7,000,000.

In other words within the last eight years Agriculture has received three times its original estimate, Health approximately six times, and Education less than twice what it received in 1948/49. Those are rough figures but I think they are approximately accurate and sufficient to give a general picture.

I suggest to the Minister—he has been Minister for Health and so he will go some way with me at least— that there is an unwise discrepancy. Why is Education being neglected in this way? It is neglected—the figures show it. I think it is partly psychological; people do not want much education. I am a teacher myself and I know that from experience. They want as much health as they can get; they want their lands to be as good as they can be, but they do not want very much education. So long as they can read, write and add up pounds, shillings and pence they are often fairly well satisfied. I am afraid that what the people do not want—may I say it?—is not a vote-catching proposition. Health is; Agriculture is, but, I am afraid, not Education. Again in Education you have a diminishing scale of popularity. Primary education, everyone wants; secondary education, a certain number; but the universities fewer still.

This is reflected in the Estimates. Primary Education gets £9,000,000; Secondary Education £1,800,000, and University Education, £670,000. Consider those figures. It means that three-quarters of the £12,000,000 is being spent on Primary Education, roughly one-sixth on Secondary Education and one-twentieth on University Education. In what are called democratic terms, in terms of the numbers of people involved, that is fair, but if we want quality in education in this country it is unfair and unwise. We are spending as a nation £670,000 on five university colleges. The Northern Ireland Government is spending, I understand, about £1,000,000 on one university college. The Northern Ireland Government is spending approximately £1,000,000 for a population of 1,000,000 people—£1 per head, you may say. We are spending £670,000 for a population of 3,000,000; we are spending one half per cent. of our total expenditure on the universities.

Is this a wise policy in a scientific age when the use of our lands depends more and more on scientific research and scientific knowledge? Most Senators, I think, receive a copy of an excellently edited paper called "Irish Industry" and they may have read an article in the last number, I think, or perhaps the one before that, on technical research and how well it pays. It quotes figures which are impressive. In 1952 the United States spent 1 per cent. of gross national income—and that is a big gross national income—on research and it is going up by 10 per cent. a year. The United States spends 2 per cent. of the gross national income on research; the Federal Republic of Germany, 1 per cent. I do not think we are spending anything like that and yet the prosperity of our fields and forests and our seas ultimately will depend on science as well as on the health and strength and intelligence of our people.

I suggest also there is another reason for improving and fostering university education. Because I am not a scientific man, if I simply pleaded for science, I would not be acting as a vocational Senator should. Now that Ireland is beginning, in Emmet's phrase, to "take her place among the nations of the world", our politicians, our statesmen, and our own civil servants, will need to be able to compete with the highest intelligences of European countries and countries of the world in the international parliaments, committees and organisations, which will more and more control our destiny here. Unless our international statesmen and representatives are superlatively well educated, this country will suffer. There is very much more that could be said on this, but I will not say it now. I have said a good deal of it before in this House and, with a bit of luck, I hope to say a good deal more again in this House.

I must return once more to those first principles. Our national wealth and prosperity depend on our lands and on our people. They depend partly on the high quality of what nature has given us—the fertility of our fields, the physical powers and intelligence of our people. These are God-given gifts and no Government can control or improve them in any sense. But what Governments can and should foster and control is the better use of these gifts—the cultivation of our lands and the cultivation of our minds.

As a practical policy, I suggest to the new Ministers for Health and Education and Agriculture—with, I hope, the active co-operation of our new Minister for Finance—that they never yield to other Departments in insisting that the country's prosperity depends primarily on their special spheres of duty. I will go further. I suggest to the Ministers for Health and Agriculture that much of the success of their efforts in health and agriculture will depend on the education of the country in general and on university education and research in particular. If this is true, it follows that to spend only about 10 per cent. of the national income on education and only 5 per cent. of that 10 per cent.—that is, ½ per cent. of the total national income—on the universities is an unwise policy. If anything I have said can persuade the Minister to keep that in mind when he has his opportunity of preparing his own Estimates, I feel I shall have done something for the country as well as for the universities.

Like the other Senators who have spoken, I wish to join in welcoming the new Minister for Finance here in the Seanad. I trust that whilst he is Minister for Finance the nation will go ahead in prosperity. I want to suggest that he now has an opportunity for expanding the economy of this country.

I think Senators will excuse me if I return to a theme which I have mentioned before in this House, that is, the question of the balance of payments and our outlook on the balance of payments. I happened to look— it is always a good thing, I suppose— at what I said last year on this same Bill and I notice that at that time I was optimistic enough—some people thought it very foolish—to say that the crisis in the balance of payments was not quite as severe as was being implied.

I returned to that theme again in July and again, I think, in November. I cannot say that the figures have proved me right; the figures have not been there all the time for all of us to see. The problem we dealt with last year—we dealt with it by imposing import levies—was a problem of a £35,000,000 deficit in the balance of payments. I supported the imposition of the import levies as being a correct measure to deal with that problem. I still think it was a correct measure.

What I had to say about the matter then and what I say again now is that these figures must be looked at carefully at the earliest opportunity. Last year, we had alarm and despondency about our balance of payments. Not alone did we impose import levies, but other steps were taken, whether deliberate or accidental. I refer to the general credit squeeze. This general credit squeeze principally, with, added to it, the import levies, hire purchase restrictions and the rise in interest rates, has had a very serious effect on employment. We knew that at the time and we warned of that result. However, it was something that had to be dealt with. We have had the peak unemployment figure of 95,000 in February of this year. Now, because of the usual seasonal decline, that figure is going down. I trust, however, that we will not finish with a seasonal decline but that things will continue to improve.

I said that the problem last year was a deficit of £35,000,000 in the balance of payments. There has been a striking change since then and all of us on all sides of the House should look at that change. The balance of payments deficit for the year ending 31st December, 1956, will not be more than £15,000,000—in other words, an improvement of £20,000,000 over the previous year.

I criticised the former Minister for Finance and, equally, I will criticise this Minister if he adopts the same attitude in regard to quoting the calender year. It is not a complete or true picture. We have had comparisons made between one calendar year and another—forgetting or ignoring the fact that positive steps to deal with the balance of payments crisis were taken only in March of 1956 and that any comparison should be made with the time the import levies were imposed rather than with any calendar year.

If we compare the position from the latest date we have, namely, the year ending February, 1957, with the year ending February, 1956, we will find that the deficit on the visible balance of trade was £62,000,000, while for the year ending February, 1956, there was a deficit of £100,000,000. That, as Senators will readily appreciate, is an improvement of £38,000,000 in 12 months. The crisis we were facing last year was because of a deficit of £35,000,000. Not alone have we corrected that crisis in the past year but we have apparently gone a little too far. We have gone further than we needed to go. The levies operated in March, 1956, but we know well that they did not begin to have effect on imports until much later and there were, in fact, further levies in July, 1956.

It is fair and very reasonable to assume from the latest figures that we will have a surplus in our balance of payments for the year ending 31st March, 1957—an extraordinary position and not a very desirable position—and that we will have an increasing surplus every month after that. The Minister might say—and it is a fair criticism— that some improvement must be due to the running down of stocks. I accept that some of that improvement is necessarily due to the running down of stocks, but if we look at the volume of imports—£181,000,000 worth of goods were imported in 1956—we notice that the £38,000,000 improvement in our balance of payments cannot have been due entirely to the running down of stocks and must have been due to the running down of stocks only to a slight extent. I do not think we have been running down our stocks of oil and petrol. Rumour has it that all over the country tanks generally are overflowing and people are only too anxious to sell their petrol and oil coupons.

The point I want to make is that we have here an opportunity of expanding our economy. The balance of payments problem has been largely rectified. The crisis has been surmounted. I would not advocate that the import levies should be swept aside immediately. I think they have good effects other than that of simply dealing with our balance of payments. They tend to cut down expenditure on luxury goods, make more money available for capital investment here, as well as providing a better and more protected market for Irish industries. However, in so far as they affect employment, such as levies on the imports of parts for further manufacture here, I suggest that they should be removed immediately.

I hope the Minister will not say to me: "I have been only a week in office. You should have said that to the previous Minister." That was said to the previous Minister and I am saying it now to stress and repeat the point that the balance of payments problem may have been and has been exaggerated too much. We have surmounted the problem, and, in fact, I think it will be shown that we have earned a surplus.

Coupled with the steps taken to deal with the balance of payments problem, there was, as I have said, a general credit restriction in the country. That was a climate created by our difficulties. I think the sooner that climate is changed, the better it will be for everybody concerned. All of us, no matter on what side we may be for any little period of time, have now an opportunity of expanding our economy. I am told that there are capital works available and ready to start. I think it was disclosed at a Prices Advisory Body hearing in Dublin last week that the Sugar Company, for instance, had over £2,000,000 worth of replacements, capital expansion and arrears of work ready, that they were ready, willing and desiring to get on with this work, but that they were short of the necessary finance.

It is time the climate in regard to our economic position and in regard to the credit squeeze was changed in this country. We have surmounted the crisis and, very soon, we will be earning a surplus, if we are not actually doing it at the present time. It is time the economy was expanded, the credit squeeze ended and the cut back in our economy halted. Employment throughout the country should be expanded generally. The point I am making is that there is no need for gloom in looking at our economy. We can surmount our difficulties. We have done so in the past 12 months. I know it is much easier to restrict than to expand. It is easy to cut back on our economy, but it is so much more difficult to try to get things started again, having surmounted our difficulties.

I hope—and I say this sincerely— that the Minister will now find it possible to expand our economy because, as I have said, our difficulties have been overcome. He has now a clear field in front of him. He can face the future with courage and we will soon find an expanding economy in this country. In other words, I trust that the Government will have a policy of expansion and not a policy of restriction.

Notwithstanding all the previous speaker has said, I believe the Minister will not be able to do anything effective until he has at least taken over control of the credit of this country. I will not go into the matter further. We may have a better opportunity of discussing it in the future. I am quite satisfied that until he deals with our financial structure, the Minister will have very little to boast about at the end of his term. He will have our co-operation in doing so.

Before the Minister speaks, I should like to make a few comments on the Bill before us and on some of the Estimates on which, as the Minister has told us, the Bill is based. Included in the Book of Estimates this year was a short, typewritten document, telling us that the Minister for Finance had not yet had time for a detailed examination of the Estimates and that—and here I quote —"accordingly he cannot accept responsibility for them as regards either form or amount".

I should like to associate myself with those Senators who welcomed the Minister to-day in assuming a rather onerous task. I think we can all sympathise with the Minister because he is, as it were, defending a set of Estimates which he had no part in preparing, but I am afraid he should have used a happier phrase in this disclaimer, because, of course, not merely can he accept responsibility for these Estimates, but he must do so under the Constitution, and no one else can. We have to have governmental responsibility for the Estimates as put before us, and although he may not like to have to defend either the form or the amount, in point of fact, legally speaking, the Government, and he consequently as a member of the Government, is responsible for these Estimates. Quite obviously, if the Minister is not responsible for them, we should have to ask: "Who is?" and have that person or persons before us to defend them. However, that is only criticism of a phrase. I think we realise what is intended by what I think was a very unhappy phrase. We can sympathise with the Minister on the necessity in which he finds himself of defending Estimates which he really has not had time to examine thoroughly.

Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling that since individual Estimates for individual Departments are, in the main, drawn up by departmental officials, who are still with us, I am glad to say, it will not take very long to convince the various heads of Departments, the new Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, of the necessity for most of these Estimates in our present economic system. In other words, we shall find when we come to the Appropriations, upon which we shall have a fuller debate— and most of us hope that we may be privileged to be back on that occasion —that the Government will in fact be defending, item by item, the same Estimates as were prepared by their predecessors. I attribute that to something which has become all too apparent in Government policy down through the years; that is, that the policy of all our political Parties has been growing more and more alike. I realise that the Fianna Fáil Party invariably show irritation when that is said, and tend to declare that the reason for the similarity is that Fine Gael have stolen Fianna Fáil policy. On the other hand, the Fine Gael reply is that Fianna Fáil are at last coming around to their point of view.

I speak as an Independent, and it seems to me, as I view Government policy, and as that policy is implied by such Estimates as we have before us and as it will be implied in the Appropriations, that there is a good deal of truth in both those points of view. It is true that Fine Gael policy has grown closer to Fianna Fáil. It is also true that Fianna Fáil policy has grown closer to that of Fine Gael. What both have in common as regards policy is enormous, and extremely conservative. What separates them is infinitesimal. I should, therefore, like the Minister at this stage to tell us something about the kind of considerations that he will have in mind when he comes to preparing the Appropriations, the Budget and the provision of moneys in continuance of the measures inherent in this Central Fund Bill, but more in accordance with his own Party's policy.

I should like, if I can, to stimulate him into indicating to us just what sort of differences he will expect to find it necessary to introduce. As at present advised, I venture to predict that the sort of differences that will be introduced will be for the most part imperceptible to the naked eye, in so far as they will represent any change in attitude towards our social and economic system.

Quite some time ago an Irish political leader committed himself to the proposition, and I quote:—

"That the whole basis of production, distribution, finance and credit requires complete overhauling... If we shirk any item in this task, if we fail to make the radical changes necessary, if we fail to organise our economic life deliberately, and purposefully to provide as its first object for the fundamental needs of all our citizens so that everyone may at least be reasonably housed, clothed and fed, we shall be failing in our duty, and failing cruelly and disastrously."

The phrase that goes just before all that is: "No matter what interest is crossed." Now, that is the kind of adumbration of policy to which I, for one, would rally, and to which, I think, many Irish people would rally. It was an adumbration of policy vouchsafed us on September 26th, 1932, by Mr. de Valera, when he was President of the Council of the League of Nations, and was speaking in Geneva, and had, in fact, himself been in power in Ireland for a few months.

I should like to ask the Minister now if anything like that still represents his Government's policy? Does he feel that, unless he radically alters the whole system of production, distribution, finance and credit in order to provide as its first object for the fundamental needs of the people, he will have failed in his duty, and failed cruelly and disastrously? Or is that just some old forgotten theory which has no longer any relevance? Is it something to which attention need no longer be given? I should like to feel that that is not just old, stale, past history and that this Government now, with its large majority, put in with a clear mandate, intends radically to alter our whole system of distribution, production, finance and credit so as to provide, as its first object, for the fundamental needs of our people.

It is only fair that we should wait a little longer for a full statement on policy, but I would welcome from the Minister to-day some assurance that the Government will not be satisfied merely to keep the highly defective machine ticking over. That is all that has been done by successive Governments from the beginning, from the time when we first gained a measure of self-government. The Minister has told us that this Central Fund Bill is based on the Estimates, and, although he legitimately disclaims personal responsibility for those Estimates, he now has ministerial responsibility for them. From that point of view, I should like to comment on some of the items now.

I make the first comment because I feel it is a comment that should be made, but, at the outset, I should like to say that in making this comment I intend no discourtesy and I hope no one will take offence. I would like the Minister to give us some clarification. I refer to the Estimate which allows a sum of £1,186 for "a State gift" to His Holiness the Pope of a set of vestments to mark the occasion of his 80th birthday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator must be aware that details of administration may not be discussed on this Bill. Broad lines of Government policy may be referred to, but an examination of the Estimates may not be entered into on this measure.

My purpose is to question the Minister on the principle involved in the application of public moneys, raised by taxation, for a gift of this nature to one whom, both as a person and a symbol, we all respect but to whom a gift of this kind seems to me to be something for which public moneys ought not to be voted. It is not on the detail that I speak but on the principle involved in making such a State gift. Clearly, a voluntary subscription in a matter of this kind would have an immense success, and an immense success probably amongst members of the Government, but to vote public moneys for such a purpose seems to me to be making an improper use of public funds.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

So long as the Senator remembers that he may not enter into a discussion of the working of the Departments, he may proceed.

Yes. I refer, therefore, to this principle. I think one does not have to be a member of his Church to recognise the saintliness, the extreme simplicity and, I think, the wisdom of the person who is at present Pope, His Holiness Pope Pius XII; and he himself, I would suggest, is the very person who might prefer it, had we decided to spend £1,100 on clothing poor children in the back streets of our towns and villages and sending a message to him that inasmuch as we had done it into the least of these, we had done it unto him.

Is this in order, I wonder, at all or is the Senator permitted to discuss a matter of that kind at all in any public place?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If the matter is one of general policy.

Is it a put-up job of Trinity College, or what?

I would like to know that, too.

That is a most ill-considered and injudicious remark. May I ask the Senator to withdraw the insinuation that he has just made against Trinity College? On a point of order, I think it is only reasonable that such an insinuation should be withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Chair does not think that there was anything disorderly in the remark. Senator Sheehy Skeffington to continue.

I am afraid that I consider that it is my right as a member of this House to ask questions and to comment on the manner in which money voted by this House is spent.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Except that the Senator may not go into detail on these matters.

I realise that, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. I should just like to assure Senator O'Sullivan that this is not what he calls a "put-up job"——

It certainly is a put-up job—£1,100.

——and that I speak here in my personal capacity as a member of this Seanad, with, I think, a full right to put the question as to what way the money estimated for in these Estimates is to be spent.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator has dealt sufficiently with that question.

I will leave the question, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, if you will just permit me to repeat what I said at the beginning, that I can assure the House and Senator O'Sullivan that I intend no discourtesy either to the Seanad or to the Minister, to the Church or to His Holiness the Pope himself, but that I have felt it my right, and indeed my duty to raise the question, in no spirit at all, I can assure him, of desiring to give offence, and I think that if my remarks are examined, it will be found that I have committed no discourtesy. However, on your ruling, Sir, I should like to leave that subject and to pass to one or two other items in the Estimates.

May I say that it should be commented that you did not rule the Senator out of order on that matter? Is that not correct?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach


It would be a pity to rule him out of order. It would be a pity to make martyrs out of people who are not martyrs.

I withdraw that phrase, if I said it, and I intended no discourtesy to you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. I realise that you are keeping very strictly within the rules of order, and have been entirely fair to me in this matter. I hope that I can leave the matter there, having said what I felt needed saying without any suggestion of my being a martyr or a victim in any way.

I should like to turn to another Supplementary Estimate, Estimate No. 22, which refers to universities and colleges, in which there is an item of £20,000 for "site development" at Belfield, Stillorgan. I mention this question mainly for the purpose of seeking information. It is said to-day in a letter to theIrish Times that any money that will have to be voted for building of a new university or university college or residense there, will have to be voted by the Oireachtas and will have to be debated. I think that that is quite true and I think that this is the moment when we might have at least some indication from the Minister as to just what is the policy of the Government in relation to future building upon this site.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am afraid it will not be in order for the Minister to go into that matter on this Bill.

I understand that we are voting to-day £20,000 for site development. I accept your ruling, of course, but I think it legitimate to ask the Minister what is the site for; because, obviously, we do not develop a site for no purpose. I should like to make it quite clear, and I think I can now speak for all of Trinity College, that if moneys are to be voted for the purpose of alleviating the present very considerable overcrowding of University College—and I take this particular Estimate as being an indication of that—then I think all of us would be in favour of that, and would be most sympathetic with any plan to give effect to the bettering of conditions, along the lines indicated, for this sister college. I do think, however, that something should be said about the plans for future development of this site. I should not like to feel that we vote to-day the site, to-morrow the basement, the day after that the first floor, and so on. I should like to feel that a general policy is being evolved. I should have liked to go into a certain amount of detail there, but I realise that I should not be in order. I prefer just to put the question as to whether the Government has yet reached the point when it could take the public into its confidence as to its policy in regard to the future of this site.

I should like to pass to just one other point. I do not want to speak at length. Senator Stanford has already said, far better than I can, what should be said about the importance of the granting of money for education in this country, and, rightly I think, he did not concentrate simply upon university grants, but directed his remarks to the necessity for an overall grant for education, which would be considerably increased. I should like an assurance from the Minister that it is the intention of the present Government to implement the desire, which I think is a national desire, to improve our educational standards at all the levels.

I find it disappointing that in Votes 40 and 41, relating to primary and secondary education, between 1948-49 and 1957-58, the amounts voted or estimated for primary education showed an increase of roughly 80 per cent., from £5,000,000 to £9,000,000, and for secondary education an increase of something over 120 per cent., from £800,000 to £1,800,000. I am not at all suggesting that too much money is spent on secondary education. Not nearly enough is spent, but I should like to feel that primary education is not being forgotten even in a relative sense, because it is the only education got by the majority of our people. I do not think we should forget that. I think it is the one Estimate for which we can continually demand more generous treatment.

I should like the Minister to realise that the present Estimate—whether he cares to take responsibility for it or not—in relation to Vote 56 relating to Defence has been reduced by £1,000,000. I think that is an excellent thing. That Estimate has been reduced from £7,000,000 to £6,000,000. However, in 1948-49 that Estimate was only £3,500,000. I fail to see why our Estimate for Defence has to be anything like £6,000,000. I am afraid a lot of that money goes for expenditure upon foolish notions of prestige. I should like to feel that the new Government will have the courage to cut and rationalise expenditure on Defence, and will have the imagination to see that the best way in which money so saved could be spent would be upon the real defence of this country—to transfer it to the Vote for Education, because, in the final analysis, our educational standards are our deepest defence.

I believe that in this country—and I am not accustomed to indulging in superlatives—we have in our children a level of intelligence which is quite remarkable. Those children deserve a better chance than, so far, any Government has found it possible to give them. I should like to end on that note and ask the Minister to assure us that the new Government will have as one of its first concerns the immediate improvement of the standard of education of all our people.

First of all, I should like to thank Senators who were so very kind to me in their remarks. I wish them well for the future. I hope we may be able to work together to improve conditions generally in this country. Senator Murphy talked of the balance of payments crisis and I should like to say a few words on that. I do not think that this time last year the position was exaggerated; in fact it did take three very drastic provisions—import levies, a credit squeeze and hire purchase restrictions—to get things into a comparatively good position again.

We may have reached that position now, but these restrictions are still there, and, while I am indeed very sympathetic with Senator Murphy's point of view that some of these things should be withdrawn as soon as possible, one is always afraid that, if they are withdrawn suddenly, we may get back into the old position again. The whole position requires very careful consideration before anything like that is done.

Senator Hickey said we should take control of our credit or something to that effect. I do not know exactly what he means by that. I have heard him speak on the same problem before and I should be very happy indeed to get any advice he may be able to give me on the subject. Senator Stanford told us that our greatest assets in this country were our production from the land and from the sea. Nobody will deny that, coupled with the health and strength and intelligence of our people, these are our greatest assets. We should do all in our power in the way of the provision of money or in the formulation of policy to make towards further production from the land and we should, of course, at all times help our people with regard to health, strength and intelligence.

Senator Stanford remarked that the three highest Estimates in this Book were those for the Department of Health, first of all, the Department of Education and Agriculture. That is almost true. He overlooked one thing —the Department of Social Welfare which, unfortunately, swallows more money than any other Department. I suppose it is not a good sign of our economy that we should have to spend so much money through that Department, but, at the same time, the conditions of the people concerned—the unemployed, the widows and orphans and the old age pensioners—demand that money be spent in this way.

Senator Murphy seemed to think that we had gone too far in our measures to solve our balance of payments problem. I should like to assure him we have not gone too far. I am, of course, speaking from the knowledge gained from an examination of the position during the past week or so. I do sympathise with the Senator and with anybody else who wishes to see these restrictive measures removed as soon as possible. "As soon as possible" is the operative phrase. I would not like to say when that will be—certainly not the immediate future.

Senators are anxious to see our economy built on a proper basis. All would agree on that and I should like to say that, as far as I am concerned, I will do my utmost to bring in a Budget that will be properly balanced. That will mean, possibly, that some very unpleasant actions will have to be taken. I do not expect to get many suggestions as to how expenditure can be reduced and revenue increased. Such suggestions would be very welcome, if they could be made. I am afraid quite a lot will have to be done either by way of increasing revenue or cutting down expenditure. These are matters for the Government, and, when the time comes, they will have to face the Oireachtas with proposals for balancing the Budget.

As Senator Sheehy Skeffington says, it may be that year after year the Estimates appear much in the same form, whatever Government may be in power. When I say I am not taking responsibility for the form of the Estimates now, I must point out that legally I am responsible for presenting them to the House. What I mean is that I am not taking responsibility for the final form of the Estimates. I am asking the House to give the Government permission to spend £37,000,000 while we are bringing the main Estimates through the Dáil and coming along to the Seanad later with the Appropriation Bill. In regard to some of these Estimates, we may come to the conclusion that money is being spent unwisely or that sufficient money has not been estimated for certain services. We may cut some of the Estimates and decide that enough money has not been provided in other cases. I think that is what I had in mind when I pinned a slip to the Book of Estimates stating that I was not taking responsibility for either the form or the volume of any of the Estimates submitted. A new Government should not hastily make changes and indeed should not make a change at all, unless they feel it is necessary. It would be a very bad thing if Governments coming in were to make changes for the sake of making changes in the Estimates that are already presented. Therefore, if you give us a little time, we will be able to make it known what changes we do propose.

I subscribe, of course, as I suppose do all the members here, to the formula as stated by Senator Sheehy Skeffington, that we should provide for the fundamental needs of our people. I take it that everybody who goes into politics has that aim. We may have a different way of looking at that or we may have a different way of achieving that aim, and we probably have not the same method in mind as Senator Sheehy Skeffington or other Senators here, but at least we have the same aim. If it is necessary to make radical changes in the financial structure or in our economic system in order to achieve that end, I have no hesitation in saying that it will be done. That question will be part of the examination we are making and intend to make of the finances that are presented so far, as covered by these Estimates.

With regard to this gift to the Pope, I do not know much about it and I do not know in what circumstances the Government decided to make this gift, although I saw a reference to it in the papers. It is not, by the way, covered in this Book of Estimates at all. The Seanad will not have an opportunity of discussing that point officially until the Appropriation Bill comes along at the end of the summer. As I say, I do not know the circumstances in which the Government made this gift, but I do know that, if the Government want to, they have a perfect right to make a gift to anybody, even people much less worthy than His Holiness the Pope, provided they get the sanction of the Dáil, and that sanction will be sought in due course.

As regards the site development at University College, Dublin, negotiations have been going on between more than one Government and U.C.D. for buildings for what would amount practically to a new university college. It will cost a lot of money and will take a long time to build, but it will not start until the Minister for Finance feels that he is in a position to provide the necessary capital. The previous Government, I understand, were seeking means of spending money on relief. This happened to be convenient to a very big pool of unemployment and they thought they could spend £20,000 in developing the site which will be necessary and which will be done before any building is attempted there.

With regard to giving an assurance to the Seanad that we intend to improve our educational standards, I do not think there is any difficulty about giving that assurance. I am sure I can say that there was never a Government coming into office in this or probably any other country that had not the best intentions of improving educational standards, and we have those intentions. We have as a Government before done what we considered to be our duty in improving educational standards by getting the best available personnel, by improving the conditions of that personnel and also by spending money on school buildings, particularly in connection with primary education. Therefore, anybody who will examine the record of the Fianna Fáil Government will have no hesitation in expecting that they will improve educational standards. I am sure that if anybody were speaking here for a Coalition Government, he would say the same thing. I think that would apply to all Governments.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.
Bill passed through Committee, reported without recommendation, received for final consideration and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.