Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 12 Mar 1991

Vol. 406 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Central Review Committee Meeting.

Proinsias De Rossa


3 Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the matters discussed at the first meeting of the Central Review Committee under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress; if, in particular, the February unemployment figures were discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Central Review Committee under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress held their first meeting on 27 February 1991. Among the matters discussed at the meeting were the committee's operational procedures, the effects on the economy of the EC farm price proposals, CAP reform and GATT negotiations, the area-based response to long term unemployment and the health services.

Any public statements on the detailed deliberations of the committee are a matter for the committee themselves to decide.

In view of the fact that the Programme for Economic and Social Progress was debated and approved by this House would the Taoiseach not agree that it would make sense for reports on these meetings to be at least placed in the Library of the House?

I would, of course, agree and this will be done in respect of any progress report published by the committee. It was done under the last programme and that process will be continued.

Will the Taoiseach comment on the concern expressed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions about the issue of the long term unemployed of whom they estimate approximately 100,000 exist, many of them over 40 years of age? They regard this as a specific area which needs to be tackled urgently by way of job creation, training for new technology and the taking-up of new jobs.

The programme makes specific provision for exactly that situation. There is a whole new initiative included in the programme for tackling long term unemployment in black spot areas. The Central Review Committee are now working out the details of that initiative. A number of areas will be selected around the country which are areas of high, long term, unemployment and a special company will be set up to take charge of the programme in that area. There will be a partnership between the local community, Government agencies, trade unions and employers who will all work together in these pilot areas to specifically use the resources of the local community in providing employment.

Would the Taoiseach agree that this local area based approach which he is proposing is totally inadequate to the scale of the problem of long term unemployment, in view of the fact that it will only apply in a few pilot areas and has not even started yet? Can the Taoiseach give some indication when, if ever, the scheme will be extended nationally? Secondly, can the Taoiseach indicate, in regard to the other matters discussed at the meeting — the GATT negotiations — if it has been agreed yet by the Government that there should be a study by an independent body, such as the Economic and Social Research Institute, on the total damage to the entire Irish economy, including the PAYE sector, as a result of the proposals of Commissioner MacSharry in regard to agriculture?

We are having quite an extension of this question into the GATT area.

I find it sad that Deputy Bruton would attempt to belittle and undermine this exciting new proposal——

It is totally inadequate.

——in the programme. This is in addition to all the policies at national level which are designed to create employment. This is a new concept to specifically target black spot areas and to ensure that all the resources in the pilot area are concentrated on the problem that the local community effort, the Government agencies, the employers and the trade union branches in the area, are all involved in a specific concentrated drive to see what can be done on the ground in that area about long term unemployment. I think it is an excellent idea, and I have great hopes for it. It is in addition to national policies directed towards the creation of employment.

Arising from the Taoiseach's extensive and clearly well informed reply, is it his Department or some other Department that have responsibility for co-ordinating this exercise?

(Limerick East): The new coalition.

The Central Review Committee, with a specific input from my Department and with the general guidance of the Minister for Labour.

Can the Taoiseach explain why two specific questions put down in my name asking him some of the detailed information he has just given were transferred to the Department of Labour? Do the Taoiseach's Department not have a role in this area? I have been informed by the Ceann Comhairle's office that they have no responsibility for refusing to take questions. The Taoiseach has given extensive replies to questions, yet when I put down the question——

Let us deal with the question before us, Deputy.

The Taoiseach, in reply to supplementary questions, has given precise details to questions that were transferred by his Department.

We cannot go back on other questions.

I apologise for that. That was not my intention.

May I ask the Taoiseach at what stage does he believe a special meeting will have to be called of the Central Review Committee to review the overall programme in the light of increasing unemployment figures? Will it be when the figure has reached 260,000 or 270,000? Would he indicate at what stage there will be an emergency meeting of the Central Review Committee in light of the fact that the programme is based on 228,000 unemployed, while the Minister for Labour has announced that there are 244,000 unemployed and the reality is that the figure is 275,000 based on the numbers currently doing training courses?

The Deputy is hurtling figures around which cast doubt on his credibility.

So is the Taoiseach.


They are official figures published by the Taoiseach's Department.

Do the Deputies opposite think that shouting and barracking is the proper way to conduct parliamentary procedure? I find that I can deal in a constructive way with the Labour Party on these issues——

The new coalition.

——but unfortunately somebody seems to have told the Fine Gael Party that the right way to conduct parliamentary business is to barrack the Minister or Taoiseach who is replying.


If Deputies genuinely want to get information on these matters, please give me an opportunity to do so. I am prepared to stay here all day explaining these matters if Deputies would let me.

(Limerick East): Answer the question.

The question, as I said, was based on all sorts of rubbish, hypothetical, speculative figures by the Deputy——

Real figures.

Deputies seem to have a notion, and I want to dissuade them against it, that we may debate these matters. We may not debate such matters at Question Time. There are ample ways of dealing with the issue of unemployment rather than attempting to debate the matter now.

May I ask the Taoiseach two simple questions? Why have the Government not decided to carry out a comprehensive economic study of the effects of Commissioner MacSharry's proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, in terms of lost jobs in the PAYE sector? Second, why, when the social partners recommended a national approach to long term unemployment with national schemes in all areas, have the Government instead chosen to introduce a few puny underfinanced schemes in a few pilot areas?

The Deputy is showing a complete lack of knowledge of the actual situation. The Government are not bringing forward this proposal. This proposal is included in the programme.

It has been warmly welcomed by the social partners, and specifically warmly welcomed by the trade unions. The Deputy completely misunderstands that aspect. This is a new initiative on top of all national policies to have a new approach in the selected black spot areas.

It is quite inadequate in view of the scale of the problem.

The Deputy does not understand.

The pilot projects referred to by the Taoiseach are welcome. The experience of a pilot project of the type referred to has worked quite successfully in Ballymun in locating jobs for a number of people who are long term unemployed, but it has not, by a long chalk, solved the unemployment problem in Ballymun, and that is my concern. Pilot projects on their own will not solve the problem. There are 100,000 long term unemployed who need jobs urgently. How long does the Taoiseach expect that the pilot projects he has referred to will continue, and at what stage will they be extended in a way which, hopefully, will absorb the 100,000 people who are already long term unemployed and the increasing numbers now appearing on the live register?

I am glad the Deputy has that constructive approach as distinct from Deputy Bruton who seems to wish to ridicule and try to undermine every effort we make.

The Taoiseach spent four years on this side of the House doing likewise, and worse.

It is not legitimate to come in here and complain about levels of unemployment——

The Government, by their policies, are causing unemployment.

——and then try to undermine the efforts of the Government to tackle the problem.

The business expansion scheme reduced the unemployment figure by 4,000.

The position with regard to the new concept — it will subsume the existing scheme in Ballymun and elsewhere — is that the Central Review Committee are at present finalising the details of the operational method of the exercise and it will start straightaway. I could not say at this stage what the time span will be, but I would visualise that in a year's time there will be results. As soon as we have been able to ascertain the right approach, the approach which shows results, it will be extended nationally.

The Taoiseach failed to answer the question.

Deputy Barry's question must be very brief.

Has there been a comprehensive assessment of the effects on the economy of the CAP proposals?

Questions appertaining to GATT must be tabled to the appropriate Minister.

We carry out those sort of assessments all the time.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, said that the Government do not carry out these assessments.

The proposals have not been finalised and we cannot ascertain the full impact of proposals which have not been finalised.

It will be too late when the study of the proposals is finalised——

I am calling Question No. 4.

It is not the first time he turned his back on the farmers.