I hope not. I do not intend to proceed any further. I listened to what the Taoiseach had to say and although he seemed to think that we would not have an opportunity of discussing it in this House, that he feels the Government have a mandate to pursue the policy of getting into the Common Market, I presume at some stage we will have an opportunity of debating it.
With regard to the question of statistics which were mentioned by Deputy Molloy, I am sure statistics can be turned about, have been turned about and will continue to be turned about to make a particular case. However, the statistics in use at least are held to be valid statistics inasmuch as they are produced by a Government Department.
Deputy Molloy imputed the lessening morale of the people to this Party. I propose to lay that charge at the feet of the Minister for Finance in his Budget on this occasion. If there is lack of morale in the country the Minister has done quite a bit to ensure that lack of morale. In that connection it appals me that we go on continually in this House year after year on an upward spiral all the time in regard to expenditure. It never seems to taper off. There always seems to be something desirable that should be done. The end of it that certainly worries me is the fact that according to the Minister we will have to pay in the coming year something like £69 million to service public debt, that the increase which is occurring in this Budget will provide £7 million in regard to the servicing of debt. If I have looked at the figures properly, this sum of money which is being provided for the extra service of debt is more than the amount that is being provided for, I think, three of the Departments of State in regard to their expenditure so far as the welfare of the people is concerned.
One would ask oneself at this stage with what view is the Minister looking in the long term at this country. What view does the Minister and his advisers and his Department have in regard to the outlook for this country, in regard to money values? Does the present policy which is being pursued for years now and which we propose to continue mean that the Minister believes he ought to borrow more money at the present time, believing that money will become less in value? Does this fit in with the Minister's thinking in regard to savings and what moral value has it for the public if they are to feel that this is true, that money values are becoming less and that as the years go by we will find ourselves in the position where somebody would say: "Was it not a pity we did not do more in housing, for instance, when money was cheaper, was it not a pity we did not do more in agriculture when money was cheaper? Was it not a pity we did not do more with regard to the encouragement of industry in this country when money was cheaper? Was it not a pity we did not promote full employment when money was cheaper?" These are some of the thoughts that struck me when trying to read into the Minister's Budget Statement the Kind of philosophy which he seems to exude in this statement of his.
I agree that the Minister in his Budget has made some innovations but the basic thing to me in a Budget statement is that it is an instrument of financial policy being used by the custodian of the public purse, first and foremost to ensure that the taxpayer is not unduly pressed and that the public are getting value for the money that is being spent and furthermore that the money being spent is creating some kind of promise for future progress and employment in the country. I doubt if these suppositions could be validated by what the Minister has said in the Budget.
We have not in this Budget any hope of creating full employment. The Minister admits that, because he makes provision in the Budget for the payment of unemployment assistance over the full year. The Minister does not believe in the viability of small farms, or that they can ever be made viable, because again he makes provision for the payment of assistance to the small farmers for the foreseeable future, but expresses a hope in regard to their being made viable in the future. This reminds me of some of the things that were enunciated here by the Minister for Transport and Power. He spoke of viable farms in the sense of the elimination of small farms and their being welded together into larger units. I wonder how that contrasts with the Minister's professed care for the western regions.
What hope has the Minister that the aids he is giving to the West will help the people who live there—the people about whom Deputy Molloy spoke a short time ago—to remain in the West and to maintain their distinctive culture? How can they remain there in the circumstances in which we frame a Budget which acknowledges the fact that the small farms are doomed to extinction, and that the people who work in the rural areas can look forward only to unemployment benefit or assistance? That is something to which the Minister should have given much more attention.
As a fresh Minister for Finance, and coming to the Ministry of Finance from the Ministry of Agriculture with which he dealt previously, he knows quite well what is happening in the rural areas, and he knows that rural employment is declining. He knows that people are leaving the land and that these statistics are not wrong. Each Deputy from a rural area got a document this morning from the Minister for Local Government pointing out to him the areas in his constituency which could rate for a grant under the Special Employment Schemes because they have a high level of unemployment.
Does the Minister believe it is desirable to create employment opportunities? Does he believe it is desirable to provide for housing, and schools, and roadmaking, and improvements of that kind, to create employment opportunities? If we are to follow his philosophy of continually upping Budgets without any pause, at what stage in Irish public life will a halt be called to that programme, and in what way will the necessary wealth be generated to pay this debt and the service of the debt? That takes no account of the local authorities' debt.
Even though interest rates are high, and deplorably high, if the Minister believes that money values will become less—and it is generally accepted that money values will become less and that the ordinary units of currency will automatically be devalued over the years — it would have been a well worthwhile exercise for the Minister to have indulged in large scale borrowing to create conditions of full employment, and having done that let the future generations deal with the problem of the National Debt when money values have depreciated far below what they are today.
In regard to this question of borrowings, the Government also sustain the local authorities' borrowings from the Local Loans Fund. Here is something which has been stultifying employment so far as the rural areas are concerned. The building programme last year, while it picked up on the previous year, was still low in relation to the needs for housing. There is a grave need for housing in the large centres of population, and there is a growing need in the country areas because of obsolescence in rural housing. One wonders at this stage what the end of this matter will be. We still have a continuing rate of obsolescence in housing and our current programme is not able to take up the slack.
In Dublin, for instance, we still have a position in which married couples must put their names in a lottery to obtain houses. In the rural areas when people apply for borrowing facilities, the local authorities are confined in the amount of borrowing they can make. It is well nigh impossible for young people to build their own homes, and we should be encouraging them to provide their own homes in the rural areas if we believe in the rural areas at all. I am being forced reluctantly to the conclusion that this Government do not believe the rural areas can be saved. That has been made apparent by their policy on education, which is to move children from these areas into larger centres, and also by their policy in regard to the creation of industrial projects and industrial regions around towns. That seems to be the mentality at the moment. I do not condemn it out of hand. You must face the situation and you must take some steps, but the Government seem to believe that the countryside is doomed.
If we were to examine the statistics, which at times we do not like to take note of, and take the number of small people and small farmers in the country, and perhaps maybe small landowners too, and regard them as constituting the rural population, we would see the percentage. We must believe that their position is such that the Minister for Finance has come to their assistance in the way of unemployment assistance and rates remission. It is now being brought to £20 poor law valuation but the Minister believes that all small farms with a poor law valuation up to £33 ought to be assisted. This is a further admission that agriculture is in the doldrums.
In relation to a Budget which seeks an extra £20 million this year, it would seem that £7 million will go to the service of debt. That means that the taxpayer and the people generally will have to work all the harder to provide this extra £7 million which, of its nature, is non-productive.
A sum of £3½ million is mentioned for education and £2 million for health. For agriculture, including rates relief, a figure of £2 million is mentioned. With regard to the £3½ million for education, I notice that the Minister deals with £1 million of this amount of money for a start. He mentions that the extensive programme of improvements now under way includes the introduction this year of important new plans for post-primary education. I do not propose to deal with education today: I shall deal with it when the Estimate for that Department comes before the House.
I should like to ask the Minister for Finance if the Minister for Education is satisfied that this £1 million can be used this year. Is the Minister for Finance satisfied that the plans for this expenditure have been accepted or are at the point where they can be accepted? I know from experience that quite a lot of conferences are being held in the country to try to get this programme working. We shall perhaps have an opportunity of debating all this with the Minister for Education but, at the moment, I doubt if part of it at least will not provide another portion of the windfall which the Minister is anticipating in his estimation of errors in the preparation of Estimates by Departments to the extent of £4 million.
In the light of the experience of the past few years, a figure of £4 million in respect of over-estimation seems very generous, especially in view of the kinds of instructions Departments have been getting in regard to curtailment of expenses. This extends over the whole sector of the public service. Every Department of State had to prune their Estimates. It will be interesting to see if, at the end of this financial year, the Minister's estimate in relation to over-estimation is correct. I must say here, however, that it is possible to create a surplus at the end of the year, provided the Minister for Finance is strong enough to curtail the expenditure of other Departments. He can always create the necessary amount of slack at that period.
Coming up to the second week of March of this year, it looked as if the returns would show a much larger surplus. At that stage, the Minister might very well have finished with a surplus of £3 million to £4 million. Inexplicably, however, that money seemed to fade away within the framework of the Department of Finance and the Minister finished with the surplus of which he spoke and on which he is basing his programme for this year—a surplus of £1.3 million; £2 million odd being raised by taxation and this supposition of an over-estimation of £4 million. Let us hope that that £4 million over-estimation will be spread over all the Departments and that some Departments will not find themselves with too much over-estimation, indicating that their Estimates were not well framed. At that stage, some Accounting Officers will have very hot ears if such should be the case.
It is surely contradictory of the Minister to say that farming will be prosperous only when output is steadily rising. If I understand this correctly, the Minister believes that, when we have more produce off the land, everybody will be happy. Consider the situation in the past year and the continuing situation of a glut of cattle. This has created a grave problem for the farming community. They have had to accept prices for their cattle which were too low to enable them to run their farms economically. There will be a glut of any farm product unless there is a market for it. Unless we have a guaranteed market for our various farm products, we shall be on the wrong foot from the point of view of price to the producer and from the point of view of the taxpayer who must provide the necessary financial support.
I have spoken already of rates relief and assistance. The steps taken by the Minister in this Budget are indicative of recognition of the situation which prevails generally in the agricultural sector. Again referring to what Deputy Molloy said in regard to the Common Market, may I say I hope our market research in regard to Common Market proposals will be more forward, as regards our prospects, than that in regard to the British market? I hope that, somewhere in the Estimate of the Minister for Agriculture, there is money to enable market research to be carried out. Such research was initiated years ago with a grant of £250,000 when we first started to probe the British market in regard to dairy products. I hope the Minister will ensure that the Minister for Agriculture, and the Council he has set up, will have the groundwork prepared for the kind of markets which will give agriculture the type of incentive it needs.
Deputy Molloy referred to the fact that he believes the future of this country depends on industry. It was interesting to hear the Taoiseach speaking, within the past day or so, of slight recession and the difficulties in regard to manufacturing industries when we do get into the Common Market. On what are we going to base it? Is it on agriculture or is it on industry, or is it on a combination of both? I believe it will be on a combination of both. I do not accept for a moment that our entry into the Common Market, whether that should be in 1970 or afterwards, is going to be an easy exercise or one that is not going to be without pain at times. Anybody who has read the OECD Reports can see the comparison between the state of our economy and the state of the economies of countries which are Member States of the Council of Europe. The Minister for Finance has sounded that note of caution in his Budget speech. Everybody will need to be careful and not be overoptimistic or led astray by false promises or dangerous assumptions in regard to what is in store for our people when that era comes about.
I should like to ask the Minister a question about the travelling allowances for old age pensioners and also the provision of free electricity for these people. I presume that these benefits apply to the State at large. In regard to transport in Dublin and in the builtup areas, which I presume include Cork and Limerick, the term "valley period" was used. Does that mean that the old age pensioner living in a rural area cannot avail of CIE transport when there is only one bus a day, one to the centre and one back in the evening? Are we going to create a further demarcation line between our people in this respect?
As I said, we had this morning an indication from the Minister for Local Government in regard to schemes which could be submitted for unemployment assistance and for grants for minor employment schemes. Again, you have this creation of areas. I received a list of areas in my constituency but I am certain that there are other areas in the constituency which are just as much in need of this kind of assistance as those on the list, but because people there have not been signing on at the labour exchange, these areas are out. As they have not got pockets of registered unemployed, they cannot qualify. This is discriminatory against a rural population.
I do not see why we should have this sort of discrimination. Surely the officers of the Departments will be able to satisfy the Minister in regard to these schemes and to show employment is justified or that a grant is justified? Generally speaking, there is too much of this discrimination. I shall deal with another aspect of that shortly.
The Minister mentioned a grant for milk coolers and he has set aside a sum of £250,000 for this purpose. I wonder when he is replying would he deal with the question of the availability of credit because many farmers who would wish to install a cooler have not got a water supply.