asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that some wage-earners and salaried people in the lower income group are concerned about the increase in the cost of living which EEC membership will bring about, particularly in such items as beef and dairy products; and if he will make a statement on the Government's proposals to compensate these people and so allay their anxiety.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Cost of Living Increases.
The rise in the cost of living as a result of EEC membership will not be marked. It was estimated in the White Paper on Ireland's Accession to the European Communities that between 0.7 per cent and 1.0 per cent would be added per year to the consumer price index if we were to close the present gap between Community and Irish producer prices over a five-year period. However, the removal of protection and the more competitive conditions thereby involved will, as the White Paper indicated, affect the prices of non-food items and should operate to reduce the rate of increase of consumer prices. Moreover, entry into the Community will create conditions under which we can achieve faster growth in real incomes, which will more than offset price increases. The substantial savings to the Exchequer which will follow EEC entry will be available to finance increased social expenditure.
The Government's approach is to aim at a continuing increase in real incomes, and to give special attention to the development of our social services. This approach underlies this year's Budget.
From what the Parliamentary Secretary has said can it be taken that wage-earners and other categories will not suffer in any way as a result of our accession to the EEC?
This is what the referendum was all about. Everything was spelled out very clearly. Some industrialists will find themselves in difficulties, but these difficulties will be more than offset by increasing interest in investment here.