I think we should have another look at this. Is there any incentive at all in extending the relief, as has been suggested? If a firm is established here and is doing well, surely it will not fold up just because this marginal relief is withheld? I have no expert knowledge on this and I should be interested to hear the Minister comment on it.
With regard to decimalisation, what is suggested here must be done because people would otherwise use outdated machinery and plant. With regard to holiday cottages, there was a plan by Bord Fáilte that 18 or 19 holiday cottages would constitute a village and a grant would be given. In the event of substantial sums being spent on modernising existing holiday cottages should something not be done to help in these cases, or are they included? This appears to apply only to new holiday cottages.
I welcome the assistance in regard to recreational facilities but the worker earning £6 10s a week will find it very difficult to accept the need for tax remissions in cases like these when his own needs are greater. He has to buy food and clothing with his money. While facilities of this kind are welcome, surely they could be paid for other than by those who have very little themselves?
The change in stamp duties is something no one will quarrel with. It is a good idea. The only thing is it applies only where the value of the house does not exceed £6,000. Because of the present cost of sites a £4,000 house will go over the £6,000 mark. This says "first purchase." Does it mean a new house only? There would need to be clarification of this.
I heard someone from the assurance companies say that the tax relief given is a big one. If it is a good idea and improves the position then, I suppose, it is the right thing to do. The abolition of Schedule A and Schedule B follows on last year's Budget. It is not a new arrangement.
Death duties cause a great deal of trouble. It would be a great pity if any effort were made to permit the very wealthy to get away with any more. The allowance given here is small. A house may be valued at £6,000, £7,000 or £8,000 and it may be very difficult to find the money to pay death duties on that sum.
The rebate of duty on disabled persons' vehicles is a good idea but it should not be confined merely to vehicles which are used for the purpose of going to work. The situation would be very difficult if a disabled person works for one week and does not work the next week. The amount of money involved is very small. Surely this rebate should be a global one?
Over £3 million is provided by way of assistance to farmers. This is not anywhere near what is required to help those who really need help. No Government in this country have ever made a definite effort to help the small farmer. It is no good giving him a shilling or two extra per week. He needs a decent income. Farmers in the west and south can get the dole. That is not the answer, but small farmers in other parts of the country cannot even get that. Most of this £3 million will be swallowed up by the big farmers. They can avail of everything that is going. There is a responsibility on the Government to give a decent way of living to the small farmer, and the sooner that is done the better it will be. The small farm incentive bonus scheme looks all right on paper, but how many can avail of it? The greatest difficulty the small farmer has is that he has not sufficient credit or capital to get him out of the difficulty in which he is. Every Government so far have given a blanket sum to agriculture, believing they are doing well. We know quite well, and the Government should know, that, spread over the whole farming community, the sum is infinitesimal. Those who really need it do not get it.
Could the Minister get on to the people responsible for administering these schemes and ensure that the long delays which occur are cut out? Would he not agree that it is extremely annoying to some farmer who attempts to bring water to his house and farm buildings to find that, month after month, an argument appears to be going on between officials of two Departments as to how much of the common cost each should bear? Apart from anything else, it is extremely annoying to find farmers waiting maybe 18 months for a simple grant which anybody at all could decide in five minutes. Numerous visits from inspectors do not seem to solve the problem. It usually finishes up with an argument over whether one or other Department is being asked to pay a few pounds more of the common cost. This is not a reflection on the Government: it is an administrative difficulty. A ministerial direction should be given that this sort of fooling should stop.
The same can be said in relation to other Government schemes. I know a man who was looking for a grant for a calved heifer some years ago. He had six visits from various inspectors before, eventually, he was told he could not get it. After a row was raised in this House about it, he was paid the grant. This sort of nonsense should not be allowed. I am not saying that this is true of all grants but it is true of those I have mentioned in particular.
I am a bit cynical about some of the statements made by the Minister for Finance. Here is what he had to say in relation to public service pensions. The reference is the end of page 49 and the top of page 50 of his Budget Statement.
In recent years the Government have increased public service pensions on six occasions. Pensions related to 1959 pay levels have been raised by 35 per cent and those related to 1961 pay levels have gone up by 28 per cent. This includes compensation for rises in the Consumer Price Index from those years, up to June, 1966, and, in addition, a further increase of 5 per cent was granted last year.
The pensioners longest retired are, of course, those whose needs are most immediate because of the lower pay rates to which their pensions are related. I have met the representatives of these pensioners many times and they have always pressed for parity with the pensions of those retiring now. This would be quite expensive. While I could not give full effect to it now, I have decided to adopt it in principle and to move towards it over a number of years. As a start, the pensions of those who retired before the general pay revision of 1 February, 1964, will be brought up to the level of the pensions of their colleagues who retired with the benefit of that pay revision.
Just listen to this. He says he has decided to adopt, in principle, parity. This question has been raised on a number of occasions by Ministers for Finance. When Senator Dr. James Ryan was Minister for Finance he was very definite about it. He did not say what Deputy Haughey said. He said he would do it definitely—that he would give parity: that promise has not been honoured. He ceased to be Minister for Finance in the following year and, from that time, which is a number of years ago, until now, the position has not been improved very much. Now, however, we have a definite statement, the very same as the statement Senator Dr. James Ryan made, that Deputy Haughey, the Minister for Finance, is prepared to look at it.
The 5 per cent increase, granted last year, was granted from 1st August. I have met quite a number of local authority pensioners who told me that, in May, they had got their increase, with arrears. How much did they get? They got an increase of 2d per month. Personally, I feel that, in a case like this, there should be a minimum amount. If there is a 5 per cent increase there should be a floor. At least, there should be some amount less than which they will not get. Otherwise, it becomes a bad joke on those people who are expecting something reasonable and then find they are getting very little. I appeal to the Minister to bring them up to parity. After all, the older men and women have died off and are dying off. Like the IRA pensions, if we wait another few years, they will not be necessary because these people will be gone to their reward. I hope they get a better reward in the next world than they got from the State in this world. Again, it is a 1st August increase and the amount is £500,000 this year and £800,000 in a full year. I feel the Minister should have gone the whole hog.
In another few years time, the Old IRA will have disappeared. Whoever will be here then will not, I am sure, see that heading in the Budget because the Old IRA are rapidly disappearing. I consider that some of these people have been treated shamefully. I have myself investigated the circumstances of a man who was given a medal and, when he applied for free travel, he was told that the medal was not correctly awarded. He and his brother were in a house which was attacked by the Black and Tans. His brother was shot but this man escaped because he was only a boy and small enough to get into a ditch and to be able to get away. He was told that the medal was not properly awarded. He applied for a special allowance but was refused. He applied for free electricity and free travel but was refused. It was said that there was no evidence that he was in the Old IRA. I had 16 people to certify that he was a member and I informed the Department of Defence of that fact three months ago but, apart from a curt acknowledgment, I have heard nothing further. The Minister talked in his Budget speech about the Old IRA. He wants to do whatever he can for those people to whom we are so indebted. It is saddening to reflect on the way they are treated by people who are now sitting in plush chairs and who will never again experience the frustration of wanting something and of not being able to get it — that is, if some of these people in plush chairs ever in their lives had that feeling or were ever short of money to buy something they really required. If they were ever short of money then they can understand the position.
The Minister proposes to increase the pension of a recipient of a special allowance who has a military service pension of less than £25 a year to that amount — almost 10s a week. Will that not be a wonderful day for such persons? On that £25 a year, they will be able to go on a holiday to Rosapenna in County Donegal. They can then qualify for the general pensions increase which, in this case, is about ten per cent and the special allowance will also share in that increase. These are people who are becoming very scarce. Should something not be done to try to give them better than that? There is a funeral grant of £25 for members of the Old IRA. Recently I was asked to approach a local authority about a bill for a simple funeral which was for £40. The funeral grant here is £25. What kind of funeral can now be provided with £25?
Widows of public servants whose husbands died or retired before 23rd July, 1968, will get half pension. Everything is not wonderful but it is at least meeting part of the requirements. I think it was a good idea. The only thing about it is that we are told that the administrative machinery to implement the scheme is only being set up and that it is proposed to administer it as soon as possible. How soon will it be administered? The Minister should have made some effort to give it now.
With regard to taxes, it was claimed by a representative of tobacco companies yesterday evening that the 2d extra per packet will reduce the amount of cigarettes that will be smoked and that this will cause unemployment. I should be sorry to think that such unemployment will occur. The traditional way of taxing is wrong. Nevertheless, in my opinion, far too many people smoke far too many cigarettes: that is a personal opinion.
The 3d per gallon on petrol, which is supposed to be not very heavy is, in fact, pretty bad. It is a fact that very many people actually require to use a car. As I mentioned earlier, 3d per gallon will be a substantial impost on those people. In addition, the cost of distribution is bound to rise because of the amount of money being paid for petrol used in delivery trucks,et cetera. Indeed, I heard somebody talking about the cost of collecting milk and the distribution of certain materials on to which this cost will go. I notice that buses are exempt, private buses, tour buses and public service buses. Delivery lorries, CIE or otherwise, are not. I will not make any comment about the increases in the price of beers and spirits, but I know many people feel strongly about this. There is also the question of the increase in the rate of wholesale tax on certain articles from 10 to 15 per cent. I think a mistake has been made here also. The Minister says:
As the principal social aim of this budget is to assist the lower-paid and weaker sections, it seems appropriate that some of the additional revenue required should be derived from spending on less essential items. I propose, therefore, to increase the rate of wholesale tax on certain articles from 10 to 15 per cent, with effect from 1st June, 1969. The articles concerned are motorcars, motor-cycles, scooters and mopeds...
and so on. Mark you, it does not refer to expensive cars. Will this increase affect the man who goes to buy an old second-hand car? Many people who do not need them use motor-cycles but a lot of people use them to go to their work. Motor-cycles, scooters and mopeds are mainly used by working-class people.