Finance Bill, 1977: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "The Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the occupant of the Chair, who, after the election, might be occupying that seat of power.

The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Ahern, referred to his reservations about the Finance Bill. He said the Government did not have a policy and that the Civil Service was dictating policy on financial matters. I remind Deputy Ahern that when he was Minister for Finance more powers were given to the Revenue Commissioners than in any other time in the history of the State. I also remind him that in the Finance Act, 1991, Deputy Ahern, as Minister for Finance, introduced a measure which is a sad reflection on his party and what it stands for. I refer to the outlawing of leasing among family members. It was legitimate and legal up to that time to lease property to a family member, but it was then outlawed.

Take the example of a person who wants to avail of the farm retirement scheme and whose son may want to take over the property. Many farmers might decide their sons are not ready to inherit the whole property at this time and would prefer to lease it to them. If the farmer leases his property to a stranger he can get up to £6,000 per year tax free on that leasehold. If he leases the same amount of land to his son, daughter or another family member he cannot get that tax relief. In other words, the measure is anti-family. It was introduced in the Finance Act, 1991 by the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern. It is ludicrous for Deputy Ahern to suggest that civil servants control what is happening now without looking back at what he was responsible for at the time.

This year's budget introduced many worthwhile measures, some of which have already been outlined by Members. A couple can earn up to about £550 per week without moving on to the full rate of tax. That is not generally realised. If they have a mortgage that will increase the amount of money they can earn before they pay tax at the top rate. That is a tremendous improvement. It has come about not only by widening tax bands but also by increasing personal allowances.

I welcome the new 26 per cent rate of tax and the further improvement in employees' PRSI, which has been reduced by 1 per cent. That is on top of the reductions over the past three or four years on employers' PRSI. It makes it much more worthwhile for people to work.

Widows and widowers are the forgotten people in society and in my book they get a raw deal. When the wife of a man who lives in my area and earns about £25,000 died he was left with two school-going children. The man works away from home quite often and the task of looking after his two children is expensive. He needs a person to look after his house and the children when he is away from home and that creates an additional expense for him. The mortgage he took out a number of years ago is in his own name, hence the mortgage protection policy did not cover his wife. On top of the trauma of losing his wife he now has to cope with our taxation system. He is the sole breadwinner looking after the household, but what does the State do for that man? It puts an additional burden of £50 per week income tax on him. To my mind that is ludicrous.

It comes about because of our tax system. A single person starts to pay the top rate of tax at about £13,000. A married couple will start to pay the top rate of tax at about £26,000. A widow or widower, however, goes to the top rate of tax at £15,500. That is why this widower will have to pay additional tax. It is unfair and needs to be looked at urgently. It is very anti-family and we cannot stand over it. We should at least introduce a system whereby widows and widowers can get a special tax allowance for the period during which they have dependent children. The Minister should look specifically at that and contemplate amendments to the Bill. A move on that would be welcomed by all sides of the House.

There are a number of other anomalies in the taxation system. For example, a woman whose husband died of cancer leaving her to look after three small children, contacted me recently. The children receive pensions in their own right from the contributory pension scheme their father was involved in. The widow will receive a pension from the Department of Social Welfare with allowances for the children because of his contributions. However, that woman is taxed on her social welfare income and is even taxed on the amount she receives for her children. This is despite the fact that each of her children has a tax allowance of £3,500. Since the pension they receive is just over £2,000, why can the additional amount of tax free allowances those children have — to bring them up to their personal allowances of £3,500 — not be offset against the social welfare allowance their mother receives? That seems ludicrous and it would only take a small adjustment to our tax code to deal with it. Such a change which would be welcome is pro-family, and that is something we must be conscious of.

That widow had to have expensive orthodontic treatment carried out on one of her children. Her application to have that treatment offset against her tax was disallowed because the child had an income in excess of £2,000. The income limit of £2,000 was set back in 1967 and has not been reviewed since. Surely a strong case can be made to have that £2,000 increased? That would remove the terrible anomaly in the system whereby she cannot get tax relief on that expenditure. It is anti-family.

Over the years our tax system has contained a number of anti-family measures, a matter the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Family dealt with. In these buoyant times with the economy running so well, the Minister should make great efforts to eliminate any anomalies in the tax code. I understand they cannot all be eliminated overnight at a stroke, but over a period we should set ourselves the target of making our tax system family friendly so that it is beneficial for somebody to live within a family unit. The tax code should reflect that.

May I share my time with Deputy Matt Brennan?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

Yes, there is provision for that.

The Finance Bill gives us an opportunity to look at financial and other matters. I refer particularly to the admission by the Minister for Finance in a recent interview in Brussels that there was no scope for further tax cuts. That is clear evidence of the dangerous indiscriminate tax and spend policy of the past two years. It is extremely alarming and defeatist for a Minister for Finance to speak in those terms. I was appalled when I read those remarks, which he also made in this House.

The Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and their Cabinet colleagues are trying to make a virtue out of necessity, having squandered the growth achieved in 1995 and 1996 by allowing public spending to rise by 22 per cent at a time when inflation was only 6 per cent. The spending of the fruits of growth has been flushed out into the open. Departments were broadcasting good news, but no one mentioned the fact that public spending increased by 22 per cent when inflation was 6 per cent. Every household knows that is a recipe for disaster which we will pay for when growth slows down. When the party ends, the legacy of this three party Cabinet will be that it presided over a 22 per cent increase in public spending when inflation was 6 per cent.

It is clear the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have given up on tax reform and tax reduction and have become hostages to the 1 per cent party, Democratic Left, which appears to hold substantial levers in Government. We should have expected the admission by the Minister for Finance that there was no further scope for tax reductions when he took 1p off the rate of tax in the budget at a time of unprecedented growth in the economy.

I reject the attack by the Minister for Finance in his speech in Brussels on the Fianna Fáil leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and on this party's finance policies. Fianna Fáil, and particularly Deputy Bertie Ahern as Minister for Finance, oversaw the tax reduction programme from 1987 to 1994. It also reduced the top rate of tax from 54 to 47 per cent and the lower rate of tax from 35 to 26 per cent. That should be compared to the 1p reduction offered by the Minister for Finance. We did that in difficult times when we did not have enormous growth and when we had to find savings. The Minister has reduced it from 26 to 25 per cent at a time of unprecedented growth.

The Minister is right that there will be a clear choice in the general election between a Fianna Fáil Government, which has delivered the type of tax reductions to which I referred while meeting its social responsibilities, and this three party Government, which admits, through the Minister for Finance, that it does not see any scope for tax reductions at this time or in the foreseeable future. At least it has put its money where its mouth is by reducing tax by 1p at a time of unprecedented growth. The only thing on which I agree with the Minister for Finance is that there is a clear choice between steady tax reductions of the type to which I referred and controlling public spending while meeting social obligations out of growth or an economic strategy of spend and tax and tax and spend.

It may be all right for economic commentators to say it does not matter if public spending is up by 22 per cent because growth will pay for it. However, it is not good enough for a Minister for Finance to preside over a party which squanders public money. The party will end soon because the funds from Brussels will run out, growth will slow down and interest rates will start to rise, as they are already doing in the United States. The party will have to be paid for and this will cause great economic hardship.

When growth is cut by international circumstances, we might not be able to cut public spending. However, we do not have to make substantial cuts. People often ask me on radio and television programmes where the cuts will be made to allow for tax reductions. I reject the view that we need to make cuts in public spending. What is needed is a Minister for Finance or a party in Government to say that public spending will grow at the rate of inflation plus 1 or 2 per cent. If this

Government had done that, £1.5 billion would be available for tax cuts, debt reduction and social programmes. It would have been able to reduce the top rate of tax by 5p or the bottom rate of tax by at least 4p. It is childish to challenge this side of the House to state where cuts will be made because it is well known that if public spending is restricted, the economy will grow and this will generate revenue.

This sounds like 1977.

Figures published a few days ago show a tax take of between £300 million or £400 million more than the Government had projected and yet there is still no scope for tax cuts by the Minister for Finance. This money will be used to prop up the social programmes. In fairness to the Labour Party and Democratic Left, at least we know where they stand. They want to tax people and spend the money on major social programmes. However, I am surprised at Fine Gael, a party that should know better and knew better in the past than to let anyone else in Government embark on such a reckless economic strategy.

We will not allow a Martin O'Donoghue clone back in again.

If the Deputy wants a debate about matters 20 years ago, I am sure we can arrange it.

We are still paying Fianna Fáil's bill from 1977.

I am surprised at such comments from Deputies of such calibre who know that what I am saying is accurate and that if Fine Gael was in Government on its own this would not happen.

That is why taxes are being reduced.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

No interruptions please.

Fine Gael is accepting the social programmes of Democratic Left and the Labour Party. We always know that such parties will increase tax and spend money across a range of programmes. However, I am surprised that Fine Gael is willing to accept that.

The editorial in the Sunday Business Post last weekend stated that Fianna Fáil stands for nothing and questioned its bona fides on various matters. I take this opportunity to reject the thinking in that newspaper's editorial and to tell the Sunday Business Post to decide where it stands on a range of matters. That editorial was an insidious demonisation of the main Opposition party and it requires a response from this side of the House. That Sunday newspaper should withdraw and reject the thinking in that editorial. That business paper appears to have crossed the Rubicon in that Democratic Left and the Labour Party are running the Government given the type of spending I mentioned. A party with 1 per cent support in the national opinion polls is calling the economic and social policies of the Cabinet. Last Sunday there was an assault on the Fianna Fáil Party by the editorial writer of that newspaper who said he or she did not know what our party stood for. If that editorial writer cared to listen I would tell him or her that this party stands for many things including enterprise, republicanism, social and cultural progress——

Water charges.

——a balanced approach to social issues and a range of central important issues. It is strange that a newspaper bearing the words "business post" in its title should write that type of editorial at a time when the left wing dominates the Government and I call for it to withdraw that insidious, unnecessary and gratuitous assault on the main Opposition party.

John Waters in his recent article in The Irish Times at least had the good grace to explain what was behind such thinking, some type of profound repugnance to Fianna Fáil in the modern Irish mind. If that is the case, the writer of that Sunday Business Post editorial, and other editorial writers, should think again before they fan the disgraceful attitude in that editorial.

There will be many discussions and debates on financial and economic matters in the forthcoming election campaign, but I would like it to focus on the real issues. The country faces many important decisions, including participation in a single European currency, the peace process in Northern Ireland, the economic and tax strategy to be pursued by the future Government, investment in education, health and so on. There are serious economic, financial and other issues on which the campaign should be based such as what should we do when EU funding dries up in 1999; what should we do if the EU does not participate in a single currency and we have to go it alone; what should we do if this Cabinet continues the spending party and there are no tax reductions and what should we do about ensuring growth continues?

If the campaign begins with an editorial such as that published in the Sunday Business Post, it would lead to a very messy and silly one. I call on all parties to have a campaign in which we discuss the real differences between the Government and the Opposition on economic strategy and serious differences in their approaches to Northern Ireland, as came to light during this morning's Order of Business when one of the main architects of the peace process was in effect criticised by the Minister for Tourism and Trade and the Taoiseach refused to withdraw that criticism.

And rightly so.

I do not mind discussing those differences with the public. Other differences include approaches to taxation, spending, Northern Ireland and prioritisation of programmes with which we have to deal and crime. The liberals opposite have gone soft on crime, but our view is that it is time to get tough. Our party has different policies on crime, tax and Northern Ireland. I would like those differences explained to the people to let them vote for candidates whose views on those issues they support. That is why I take issue with that Sunday Business Post editorial which sought to launch a general election campaign based on frivolous matters rather than on the deep policy issues which divide the two sides of the House.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate. The question must be asked, why is the country performing so well? It is doing well because it is riding on the crest of a Fianna Fáil wave which began in 1987 when the then Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, introduced a very tough budget. I remember a Fianna Fáil minority Government being supported by sensible Deputies on the Opposition benches, but not by the Labour Party or members of Democratic Left. I also remember Fine Gael abstaining but the Labour Party voting against everything that was good for this country.

I paid tribute before and I do so again to Minister Dukes for the way he acted responsibly during the term of that minority Fianna Fáil Government. He knew from his time in Government with Labour that he could not do what he wanted as Minister for Finance because of objections from Deputies Spring, Quinn and other Labour Party colleagues. Credit must be given where it is due. It was not easy for Fianna Fáil to put the country back on the tracks following those four and a half disastrous years, but if the present Minister for Finance had been in that Department at that time the national debt would not only have doubled but trebled. Deputy Quinn is Minister for Finance at a great time. We left Government when the finances of this country were in good order and I want to see that continue.

On the first Sunday of January this year I accompanied a friend who brought his son to the departure lounge of Knock Airport to board a plane bound for Manchester airport. I could not help but notice the number of young people who were boarding flights for London and Manchester. They were in their twenties or thirties. Young people are still being forced to leave the west to seek employment. In the past two and a half years 12,500 new jobs were created in Dublin, but only 150 were created in Connacht, Ulster and Clare. Last week 1,249 new jobs were announced, but there was no mention of any jobs for the west save for a few in Galway. Under this Government no jobs were created in Sligo or Mayo. That is unbelievable.

What about Leitrim?

If one were to visit a rail terminal or bus station in my constituency on a Sunday evening, one would see a large number of young people boarding buses and trains to return to school and work in Dublin. The Minister for Education recently sanctioned an inadequate amount of money for a library for Sligo regional technical college. The library facility was erected many years ago at a time when there were fewer students and a new library and administration block is needed urgently. I support the governing body of Sligo regional technical college in its campaign to achieve institute of technology status which is made stronger by the fact that 46 per cent of the students come from the west.

The Government is not doing enough for education in County Sligo. The county has an excellent third level home economics school in St Angela's College of Education but successive Governments have not recognised it. It is time the temporary lecturers working in that college for the past seven or eight years were made permanent.

The IDA policy has not been successful in achieving industrial development in the west. In 1995 the IDA announced a total of 57 major investment projects but few of the jobs went to County Sligo. Twelve per cent of the projected jobs went to the north-west region while 52 per cent of them went to the east. Twenty per cent of the population lives in the west and, therfore, 20 per cent of the projected jobs and not 12 per cent should be allocated to this region.

When Fianna Fáil was in Government under the leadership of Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Ray MacSharry, many jobs were created in County Sligo. Shortly before Deputy Albert Reynolds left office he sanctioned the Masonite project, which has a staff of 500 people and is one of the best employers in County Leitrim. It was wonderful to see so many jobs being created in County Leitrim, where they are badly needed. Galway city and the east coast are overpopulated. If we diverted such jobs to Sligo town, the capital of the north-west, more young people would live there. There are few young people living in rural Ireland because they must leave to find jobs in overpopulated cities, such as Dublin and Galway. It is unfair that Sligo is not getting the number of jobs it deserves.

In earlier years, the efforts of Seán Lemass led to the establishment of many small industries which provided essential employment for families who otherwise would have had to emigrate. Nowadays, the western region is discriminated against in the allocation of regional development funding and Cohesion Funds. When the Tánaiste had an opportunity to distribute Structural Funds he gave Farranfore Airport £6.3 million but Sligo Regional Airport received only £250,000. The airport in County Kerry received over £6 million more than the Sligo airport. Was that fair? Why should one person, the Tánaiste, hijack all the money for an airport in County Kerry and forget about the other regional airports, such as Knock Airport which has been a great success and which makes a profit? When Knock Airport was being developed, a Minister from another party described Knock as "the foggy bog". That is not the case. It is a success story. What is needed is more employment in Knock which would be of great benefit to County Mayo, which borders my constituency.

The previous speaker mentioned the reclassification of Ireland in the EU in 1999. I hope the Government will not be in office at the turn of the century to negotiate the next allocation of Structural Funds because God help the west of Ireland if it is. Ireland holds Objective One status at present and the western region should maintain that status after 1999. If it does not and Ireland looses Structural Funding, everyone, not only the young, will leave the west. It is the subsidies that are keeping the towns and villages of the west alive at present. Objective One status is the most favourable classification possible and EU funds have enabled the Irish economy to grow significantly over recent years.

The introduction of national heritage areas has huge implications for farmers who are affected directly. In some cases farmers will be obliged to agree not to graze on to their land. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has done a considerable amount of damage to the mountainous areas affected and something should be done about that. It costs millions of pounds to pay the spin-doctors employed by Ministers of this Government. If that money was spent on industry in the west, it would make a great difference.

I will share my time with Deputy Bradford.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

That is in order.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Finance Bill which gives legal effect to the provisions of the budget. It is also a watershed debate if we are to believe the expectations of an election in the near future. This debate should be about political parties putting down markers as to where they stand on economic policy and I am proud to stand by the achievements of this Government's economic policy. Many Members commented on the excellent economic record of the past two and a half years, one of the most fundamental ingredients being a stable political environment. That is one of the key attributes the Taoiseach, and the three parties in Government, have been able to bring into the political arena from which will emerge confidence among the business community and the public to engage in the type of long-term investment and commitment in our economy from which we all benefit.

I do not need to list the impressive economic indicators to confirm that those fruits have flowed from that stable political environment. However, there are some key indicators worthy of repetition. For example, there are some 100,000 more people working today than there were when this Government came into office and inflation and interest rates are at record low levels.

It is interesting to note the bankruptcy of ideas emanating from the Opposition benches vis a vis taxation in general — personal and business taxation which have been significantly reduced. Due to increased economic activity the Government has been able to reduce the amount of tax it takes from individual companies, serving as an incentive to further investment.

Clearly what has been absent from any of the contributions from the Opposition benches has been any credible, coherent alternative voice or policy approach than that being pursued successfully by the present Administration. On the one hand, we listened to Deputy Séamus Brennan castigate the Government for failing to rein in public spending. On the other hand, daily on the Order of Business, including this morning, Members of the Fianna Fáil Front Bench castigate the Government for not having spent more.

On the Order of Business this morning Deputy Joe Walsh sought at least £70 million of Exchequer compensation — to which I am to a large extent sympathetic — while, on the other hand, castigated the Government for not expending sufficient on social welfare, health and so on. If this Government is to be criticised on its record of spending excessively, where does the Opposition propose its cuts be implemented?

I listened to a review of the Dublin South-East constituency on an interesting radio programme on Monday evening last when an Opposition Deputy was put under the spotlight. He wilted and was unable to identify where he believed the axe should fall. If Fianna Fáil is returned to Government are we to take it that the axe will fall on the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Blood Transfusion Service Board and its attendant hepatitis C compensation payments?

Equally we are daily castigated by the Opposition spokespersons on Justice for allegedly failing in the Department of Justice. In the broad thrust of Fianna Fáil policy, notwithstanding the agenda Deputy O'Donoghue pursues from the freedom of the Opposition benches, will the progress made on justice issues, for example, the recruitment of an additional 1,450 Garda over the past two and a half years, the announced additional recruitment campaign from the beginning of next year, the prison places building programme, the improvements effected in the administration of justice, the £30 million invested in improving Garda technology, all have the axe fall on them if its expenditure cuts are to be effected? Can it be taken that the equality payments agreed by this Government, championed by the Minister for Social Welfare, will also be axed?

In terms of a requisite watershed debate on where parties stand in the lead up to a general election the question must be posed: is there any coherent, alternative approach emanating from the Opposition benches? Clearly, the answer is no, in itself an endorsement of how this Government has successfully managed the public purse and created an environment within which the type of record and economic indicators from which we are benefiting arose.

The simple fact is that two and a half years is not a sufficient tenure in office. I am of the strong belief that the true potential of our economy and people will be fully realised only within a further period of political stability from which additional economic benefits will accrue. That is the key advantage this Government, and the Taoiseach in particular, offer, in stark contrast to the alleged Government in waiting. It is true that previous attempts at coalescing between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil and Labour ended in political disaster. A stable political environment is essential if we are to encourage the type of investment and industrial confidence from which many new jobs will flow.

But from the fruits of a successful economy there is an obligation to ensure that sectors that fall on difficult times are compensated and adequately catered for. Undoubtedly the past 12 months has been one of the most difficult years for the agricultural community resulting from the BSE crisis, not of any political-making, a problem which does not lend itself to quick-fix solutions, as some commentators would have us believe. Rather it calls for constant lobbying to restore consumer confidence in beef and beef products, for negotiating and political skills in order to extract maximum compensation payments at EU level and for vigilance in protecting and reopening markets for our beef.

The Minister has performed admirably in those three areas but additional difficulties are being encountered from the culmination of three specific incidents, one being export refunds, second, the revaluation of the green £ and, third, the difficult environment being experienced in terms of third country markets for our beef products. Because we do not ship live animals there is at present no competition between the factories and third country markets; that triple whammy has inflicted considerable pain on the beef sector in recent weeks.

There is a strong case to be made — no doubt the Taoiseach, Minister for Finance and Government will give it serious consideration — for some Exchequer compensation to match EU compensation for the green £ devaluation. That EU compensation is triggered automatically as is the revaluation process, yet some commentators have attempted to imply that lack of vigilance on the part of the Minister has led to that revaluation, which is not the case.

I am sure Deputy Mary O'Rourke knows there is in place a trigger mechanism that brings about that revaluation process. Of course, there were previous occasions when devaluations which represented a windfall, or good fortune, for Irish agriculture were thoroughly enjoyed. However, the shoe is now on the other foot, inflicting considerable pain, particularly in the case of winter fatteners. I recall the December immediately preceding the BSE crisis, meeting producers of winter fatteners who were extremely agitated about receiving £1 per pound for the finished product in the factories and could not survive. Today one is lucky to get 80p per pound. Perhaps the agricultural community has suffered from crying wolf too often to enable us and the broader community to recognise a real problem. I know from my experience of direct involvement in agriculture and meetings which I have had with the IFA and other farming organisations in recent weeks there is real pain in the agricultural community in the beef area. The first step towards ensuring something is done is to recognise the problem. If there was a problem at a £1 per pound in the meat factories. That triple whammy of the export refunds which restricts exports to third countries which is a consequence of the GATT negotiations, with which the Deputy opposite is familiar, and the difficulties in markets which were previously open to us prior to the BSE crisis make it incumbent on the Government to give serious consideration to an Exchequer contribution to alleviate the worse excesses of the problems posed here.

I contributed previously on the budget debate and have covered much of what was announced at that stage and what is being given legal effect in the Bill. I concur with Deputy Brennan's plea for real debate on issues that should be material to a general election but I have found from listening to Opposition contributions there was a real bankruptcy about an alternative. That is the greatest vote of confidence the Government will get.

I agree with the earlier comments of my colleague Deputy Creed. All Government Deputies and backbenchers are singing merrily from the same hymn sheet which sums up why the Government is working so effectively and why a record number of people throughout the country are satisfied with its performance. The Government is led by a cohesive team. There is an effective group of Ministers and results are being delivered and felt throughout the country.

The Finance Bill, which has been described as a watershed, is the third and final Finance Bill introduced by the Government during its terms of office. We can still harbour thoughts of November and December.

What about next January?

That, collectively, we all waste much time in politics and in media circles speculating about when the election will be——

It is great fun.

It is expensive fun for the Deputy.

——leads me to the point that we urgently need a fixed term of parliament. No business would run its affairs on the basis of not knowing when the term of office of the chief executive or chairman will come up for renewal. If an Oireachtas should sit for a set number of years it would eliminate all the idle speculation as to when the next election will take place. Perhaps we will have another Finance Bill but the chances are this will be the last Finance Bill of the Government and one I am proud to support.

Deputy Seamus Brennan, who knows much about Government having served in a number of them, made the plea that the election should be fought on issues and used to highlight the differences between the Government and the Opposition on various matters, namely management of the economy, social policy, Northern Ireland, etc. In a sense I agree with him. We can have great philosophical political debates but the man and woman on the street will decide who should form the next Government on the basis of the strength of the economy and the stability of the Government. I am confident to go before any constituent on those factors and say the Government and the economy are performing well. Since the business of Government is being managed effectively, we do not have daily crises and disputes between Ministers, which was evident during the period from 1989 to 1994 in particular. The former Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, who is looking aghast——

They were very happy times.

——without being involved in any of those disputes, was aware of the difficulties Fianna Fáil faced in its Coalition arrangements with the Progressive Democrats and the Labour Party. Given that Fine Gael never had a leader who could look into his heart and read the minds of the people, we do not have the view that we were born to rule or have all the answers. The parties in Government are working well together because the three leaders realise nobody is right all the time, that it requires consensus and agreement and what has worked in the past two and a half years can work in the next four or five years.

The bottom line as far as the public is concerned is the Government's record on job creation. Deputy Mattie Brennan bemoaned the fact that not enough new industries had opened in his constituency or in the west. We would all like to hear an announcement of a factory for our town or constituency every month but we must recognise that up to 150,000 extra jobs were created in the past two and a half years. It is not always a question of a new factory but whether the factory which had employed ten people now employs 11 or a factory which employed 100 people, employing 120 or 130 people. There has been steady employment growth across all sectors because of the sensible way in which the economy has been managed. The growth in jobs is reflected in increased tax buoyancy and increased revenue for State coffers. That is the type of successful economic management which has transformed the fortunes of the economy and the political fortunes of the Government in the past two years. Extra jobs have been created and there has been siginificant tax reform. It is not always a question of the reduction in the rate of tax. There has been a significant widening of the tax bands and we can say with certainty that every single taxpayer paying tax in the 1997-8 tax year will pay significantly less than two years ago.

The Government's record in the short term has been significant. Hundreds of extra pounds have been put into every taxpayer's pocket. That is what genuine tax reform is all about: reducing the rate but also widening the tax bands and trying to spread the fruits of the economic boom as widely as possible. That has been achieved to a degree in the past two years and can be achieved to an every greater degree if the same Government has the reins of power during the next four or five years.

I reiterate what my colleague Deputy Creed said in relation to company and business taxation. There has been a significant reduction in the tax rates of companies, particularly small companies. It shows that the Government fully recognises the small company has a major role to play in job creation and has been delivering on job creation in the past number of years. This record of job creation, tax reform, social policy and social advancement can stand the test of comparison with any previous Government. The election debate and the choice the public must make will focus on stability, which has helped to bring about sound economic policy and real economic success during the Government's term of office. The country will require such stability in the next four to five years.

When we discuss income tax reductions and Deputy Brennan refers to putting additional money into taxpayers' pockets, we cannot ignore the fact that tax cuts or budget reductions will make no difference if interest rates rise and mortgage rates return to the huge levels last seen when Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats shared power. Mortgage rates are at a record low and everyone hopes they will fall even further. However, they will not remain consistently low unless there is a stable political environment. The environment created by the present Government, from the point of view of economic and political stability, has helped to reduce income tax rates. Mortgage holders are benefiting to the tune of £10, £15, £20 and, in some cases, more per week as a result of the Government's success in creating economic and political stability. The economy requires more of the same during the next five to six years.

The Government elected in the coming months will lead the country into the next millennium. The next Taoiseach and Government will face a major political and economic task. However, I strongly believe that the present Government's record during the past two and a half years will stand it in good stead and the public will request more of the same. I have not met any constituents who demanded that Deputy Bertie Ahern should replace Deputy John Bruton as Taoiseach or believe that the former could represent this country at home and abroad as effectively as the latter. Likewise, none of my constituents has requested that Deputy Joe Walsh should replace Deputy Yates as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry or that Deputy McCreevy should replace Deputy De Rossa in the Department of Social Welfare. No one has informed me that anyone could do a better job than Deputy Richard Bruton as Minister for Enterprise and Employment but I would exclude Deputy——

I thank the Deputy for his kindness in not mentioning my name. His mother would be proud of him.

Sadly, people have informed me of their wish to see Deputy O'Rourke return to the Department of Education.

People want to see that happen.

This issue is about who will best run the country and the present Government has a record of which it can be proud.

Section 6 relates to tax relief in respect of third level fees, something which everyone has advocated from time to time. The fruits of the economic success people are currently enjoying must be used to build a better Ireland and education will play a key role in that regard. We can try to put in place social welfare schemes and new methods to deal with disadvantage but nothing can solve this problem as well as education. Every possible resource must be utilised to expand the education base.

Third level education is the key towards people gaining additional qualifications and job opportunities. Section 6 will introduce tax relief on third level fees for certain undergraduates which is an important development. During the past 20 years, growing numbers of people have attended third level institutions. However, we must aspire to send every second level student to third level. People sometimes encounter financial as opposed to academic problems when applying to enter third level education and the introduction of further tax relief in that regard is significant and will produce results.

I note that the provisions in section 6 will extend relief to those pursuing distance education courses. He made the point that this is designed to facilitate open university courses. I support that concept because we must move away from the old perception that a third level institution is a large building situated in a major town. In the future, third level education will be much more off-campus. A strong focus must be placed on the concept of the open university. We should do everything possible by way of changing the tax system to make such options more interesting, affordable and rewarding. I welcome the fact that section 6 sets out to do so.

The Minister also referred to the concept of the developing companies market and the establishment of the special BES fund. In his capacity as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Small Business and Services, Deputy Creed has highlighted the need for such a fund on a number of occasions. As a result of the excellent management of the country to which I referred, there are now large sums of money available for investment in business. It is rewarding to see such money invested in large companies to help them enlarge their operations further. However, we must try to put the maximum amount of money from this fund in the direction of small business and new enterprise. The provisions put in place in the relevant sections by the Minister will help and the creation of the developing companies market concept will encourage advances in this regard.

We have a long way to go in developing small business and enterprise. I hope the Minister's efforts to do so through the Finance Bill are successful and that increasing amounts of money will be invested in small companies. This will produce jobs and real economic benefits.

We cannot ignore the fact that the debate on the Finance Bill and all political debate between now and the election will be concerned with the Government's record and the alternative on offer from the Opposition. The Government can confidently inform the electorate that its policies have worked because it has created employment and opportunity, spread the benefits of the economic boom across the different sectors of society and encouraged major advances in social welfare, education and employment. The Government has succeeded in its work during the past two and a half years and the public will vote for more of the same.

I have spent more time than I would have wished in Opposition. Political scientists inform us that politics is a grave philosophical game and people are meant to have strong arguments in favour and against certain issues. Everyone is aware that Irish politics is about delivering results. I sometimes feel sorry for Opposition spokespersons and leaders when they are criticised because all they can do is wait for the Government to drop the ball. The bad news for the Opposition is that this Administration has not dropped the ball. The Government is working and succeeding and the Opposition will be obliged to wait for another term when things might improve. It is unfair that last week's opinion polls showed Opposition ratings have fallen significantly. I do not believe this should have happened because the parties involved are doing the best they can in difficult times.

They only fell by 2 per cent.

That is more than enough. The Government has succeeded in creating employment and has done effective work during its term of office and I have no doubt that the public will request more of the same.

This is the last Finance Bill that the Minister for Finance and the Government will put through the House in 1997. However, it is significant legislation because it builds on what was achieved during the past two years. It is a forerunner to what can be expected in the next four to five years.

I am most unfrustrated and very happy. Deputy Bradford will have to look hard to find a less frustrated person. He said this would be the last Finance Bill introduced by the Government and he is correct.

In its current term.

It will be the Government's last Finance Bill. We are heading for an election. I hesitate to give the date because I already owe Deputy Creed £5, but I imagine Friday 23 May will be the date.

Customarily, the Finance Bill is an opportunity to talk about matters of interest in the political, commercial and social scenes. Listening to Deputies Creed and Bradford, who are hard working representatives for their communities and whom I wish many long years in Opposition, I was struck by their repetition of what was said by practically every other Government speaker. They pride themselves that they all think the same way about everything. Is that not most extraordinary? They are all "Dolly-like" clones.

It is called consensus.

If every member of each party in the rainbow Government thinks the same on every matter there is something very wrong in society, although I mean no disrespect to any Member.

I was at a farmers' meeting last night and a topic of conversation was how the leader of Democratic Left constantly abuses the farming community. If the Democratic Left was true to its ideology that would be a true expression of its feelings in that regard. How can the Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, claim to have the same view on agriculture as the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa?

It is extraordinary that the Minister of State could have the same views as the Leader of Democratic Left.

Equally extraordinary is the barrenness and futility of each Deputy opposite saying that he or she thinks the same on every matter as each other Deputy on the Government benches. I never came across a similar approach in even the most rigidly politically controlled countries. Creativity, imagination and ideas should form a part of political philosophy and not a desperate search not to be different from anybody else in a group of three parties ranging from the far left to the far right.

The cartoon on the front page of last Saturday's edition of The Irish Times was interesting. It showed the three leaders of the Government parties astride a bicycle. The Tánaiste was in front with perspiration rolling down his brow with his hand pointing left. Behind him was the Minister for Social Welfare, equally distressed, with his hand pointing further left. On the back of the horse was the Taoiseach with his hand pointing far right and he was extremely distressed. To give balance to my point, I would point out that on the other side of the cartoon was the leader of my party on a tandem with Deputy Harney and they had quizzical looks on their faces.

Did they have a glass of water each?

There are almost daily glitzy announcements of new jobs from the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. He should be referred to the Director of Consumer Affairs for false advertising because the headline may announce, for example, 800 jobs coming on stream but the small print indicates that they will come over the next ten years. If one was around long enough one might find the numbers of jobs greatly diminished. The hopes are never matched by the numbers of jobs produced. The recycling of job announcements is also interesting. An investment in my constituency announced more than two years ago was re-announced three weeks ago. There was much local amusement about it.

Unemployment is almost as high as crime on the list of the public's concerns as we approach the election. These are the two major issues of concern despite the Minister for Enterprise and Employment's "flúirseach" gestures. His announcements must not be making their way into the public consciousness because if they were there would not be such strong concern on the issue of unemployment.

I am convinced the strong concern is based on facts. There is no reduction in the number of people who seek advice at my clinics on how to get jobs for themselves or their children. If Deputies from all parties were to talk freely on the matter we would agree that these jobs are not reaching the women and men we meet in our constituencies. No matter what party we are in we all try to help; it is a part of what we do as public representatives, be it in Government or Opposition. I regularly meet young people with good graduate qualifications and I try to advise them on postgraduate or other training courses. There are large numbers of unemployed people.

Although he is regarded now as somewhat old-fashioned, J.K. Galbraith talked about a "culture of contentment" in which people were content with bearable levels of unemployment. The point is similar to the zero tolerance issue as Deputy O'Donoghue has outlined it. Why should we put up with what the culture of contentment would consider a "bearable" level of unemployment of 260,000? It is a high figure and I accept the level was also high during my party's period in Government. When the unemployment figures were announced the other day I thought it interesting that one of the Government's propaganda handlers made the point that they constituted the best record of employment since 1991. Incidentally, 1991 is when Fianna Fáil was last in Government with the Progressive Democrats, yet the Tánaiste constantly tells us of the misery list he intends to prepare of those years of Government.

There is a strong feeling that there is much amiss in society. Studies show that the poverty gap has grown steadily under this and previous Governments. It is our duty as public representatives to redress the balance and render society more equitable.

The Labour Party has been in Government for almost nine of the past 15 years, yet it continues to take the high moral ground and lecture the rest of us on what we should be doing. Unless there is a willingness across party lines to tackle long-term unemployment, this society is headed for chaos. I wish the members of the Government could hear the hollow laughs in the pubs and homes of Ireland when the phrase "we are living in a Celtic tiger economy and the wonder of the West" is repeated ad nauseam. I am glad there has been industrial growth but this should not be at the expense of the less well off. That would be at our peril. People need to be given the opportunity to earn to contribute to the economy, otherwise their lives will be wasted.

The cycle of deprivation is evident in many communities. When one looks at television one can see what is happening in places such as Tallaght where people express their fears and concerns at huge public meetings. They have no faith that the State agencies will guide and help them and show them the way ahead. Long-term unemployment is part of the cycle of deprivation which leads to crime. There are families where fathers and sons, mothers and daughters have never had a job and wake up knowing they will never have one. The unemployment figure has fallen but this makes the long-term unemployment figures look even worse. The numbers of long-term unemployed continue to grow as a percentage of the total.

In a display of contentment, the three partners in Government constantly state that they think at one on every item. This is an extraordinary phenomenon which, in political terms, is dangerous and will have a destabilising effect on society. I would prefer to see in Government strong individuals with definite ideas which can be incorporated in a programme for Government. Parties in Government should be able to express their opinions without being afraid of upsetting their partners. Every morning the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, says to himself, "today I will be nice to everyone in Government". That is a barren philosophy. The coming weeks will show that the electorate does not like the rainbow.

It has been described as a strong Government.

I wish to share the remainder of my time with my colleague, Deputy Ray Burke.

I should not interrupt the Minister of State in making his maiden speech.

I have contributed as much as the Deputy.

I thank my colleague for agreeing to share her time with me. The barren nature of the Government's philosophy and thought is nowhere more evident than in this Bill which lacks foresight in its failure to set out a strategic plan for Ireland's economic and social development. This Bill, with the Social Welfare Bill, should set out measures to steer the economy and the people of the nation in these good times and in the more difficult times that lie ahead. However, it represents little more than a reckless pre-election spending spree and a gamble with the health of the economy.

Increased spending has been the hallmark of this Administration which has been spending money like a druken sailor. Spending will increase this year by 6.5 per cent, three times the rate of inflation. Between January 1995 and end December 1996 current spending increased by over 20 per cent against a cumulative inflation rate of 6 per cent. Over 50 per cent of taxes in 1996 were used to service the national debt which the Government has failed to reduce. My colleague. Deputy Michael Woods, yesterday repeated the comment made by the leader of my party, Deputy Bertie Ahern, that there is an urgent necessity to cap the national debt at £30 million and then reduce it.

What happened to the policy of the Minister for Finance outlined in the programme for Government prepared by the ill-matched three to restrict growth in expenditure to 2 per cent? The reality is that it was discarded during the Government's spending spree. This has major implications for the taxpayer. There has been much talk about the Celtic tiger and the progress made on the strong foundations laid by Fianna Fáil in 1987 but it is the taxpayer who has been penalised most. Money continues to roll in as there is no relief for the taxpayer.

The rainbow coalition of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left halted the process of reductions in income tax initiated by Fianna Fáil and reneged on its commitments in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. In three successive budgets the standard rate of tax has been reduced by a mere 1 per cent in a time of plenty. By contrast, the previous Fianna Fáil Government reduced the upper rate from 60 per cent to 48 per cent and the lower rate from 35 per cent to 27 per cent but much more needs to be done.

Why has the Government failed completely to reduce significantly the tax burden in a time of economic prosperity? The answer is simple. Once it had completed its spending spree, the coffers were empty and it was unable to reward the taxpayer.

Despite its claims to the contrary, the Government has failed to address the problem of unemployment and to meet its targets in this area. Furthermore, the claim by the Minister for Finance that the issues of drugs and crime do not come within the parameters of the Department of Finance highlights the Government's attitude to the disadvantaged in society. If the rainbow coalition does not regard a reduction in drug abuse and crime as central to economic and social development then it does not deserve to be in office.

Like other Deputies, I have been meeting my constituents and seeking their support in the forthcoming general election. The clear message they are giving is that the Government has failed society in terms of dealing with crime and drugs and has failed the taxpayer in terms of reducing the level of tax. The first duty of a Government is to provide security for its citizens in their homes and business places and on the streets and to ensure their children are safe from the appalling effects of drugs. The Government has failed miserably on both counts.

The policy on justice has been driven by my party's spokesman, Deputy John O'Donoghue, who has introduced most of the amending legislation in this area. He introduced the legislation under which the Criminal Assets Bureau, which has been so successful, was set up. The budget failed to make any provision for those in society who are least able to provide for themselves. It represents a total sell out of the so-called Labour and Democratic Left ideals in this area.

The semi-State sector is very important to the economy. My party leader referred to the proposed break up of FÁS, about which the unions have been notified. There is a total lack of concern in this proposal for the less well off in society. Of course, this matter is of no interest to this Administration or its supporters. My party is determined that the semi-State sector should be properly supported.

In the commercial semi-State sector, the Government's proposals in regard to Aer Lingus are scandalous and totally at variance with what it said it would do prior to the last general election. Yesterday on the Order of Business the Taoiseach made it clear that the sale of Aer Lingus was currently under examination by the board of the company and any legislation required to give effect to its decisions would be promptly introduced. The management and workers of Aer Lingus worked hard to make a trading profit last year and it is totally unacceptable that the Government should reward them by selling off part of the company. This proposal does not give any recognition to the efforts of the workers and management of the company. It is totally wrong that decisions on the future of the national airline should be made by the board of a semi-State company. This matter should only be decided by the Government and the Dáil. However, by passing the decision over to the board the Government can say the board made the decision and all they are doing is bringing in legislation to ratify it.

When Deputies Spring and De Rossa visited Dublin Airport during the last general election campaign they gave solemn commitments to the staff that the airline would not be sold. Despite those promises and the commitments given during the negotiations on Partnership 2000 and the programme for Government which stated that strategic alliances would only be pursued when it was in the interests of the staff, negotiations are taking place on the sale of part of Aer Lingus. Deputy Seamus Brennan issued a statement today in which he says that Aer Lingus is back in profit thanks to the work of the staff and the former Minister, Deputy Brian Cowen, and to a major injection of taxpayers' funds which was principally brought about by Deputy Bertie Ahern when Minister for Finance. Now that the profits are flowing in, the Government wants to sell out on the taxpayers and sell part of Aer Lingus to a foreign multinational. If the Government follows this course there could be major implications for the staff of Aer Lingus. In his statement Deputy Brennan said:

We have already seen that the Telecom strategic alliance has meant that 1,200 jobs are to be shed with another 5,000 in danger. There is no doubt that the same will happen at Aer Lingus. Some multinational player will want a return on their money and will shed jobs and cut routes and possibly close down TEAM. The Aer Lingus deal will turn out as bad as the one the Government has done for Telecom when a price of just £183 million was achieved for a stake worth between £4 million-£5 million and Aer Lingus workers and tax payers will end up being short changed after making such a huge investment in the airline.

The staff who have made this investment in the airline deserve better from the Government than to be treated in this way. They will not forget the empty promises made by the leaders of Labour and Democratic Left on this issue.

The duty free industry is vitally important to airports, the travelling public, manufacturers and Aer Rianta workers. During its six months Presidency of the European Union the Government did not put on the agenda of EU Finance Ministers the future of duty free shopping or carry out a study. I assure this House, Aer Rianta workers and duty free suppliers that Fianna Fáil in Government will fight hard to retain this very important industry. We are the only country in Europe with no land connection to mainland Europe and it is very important that we have a duty free industry. The Government has failed Aer Rianta, its workers and suppliers. However, the incoming Fianna Fáil-led Administration will do what should have been done by this appalling Administration.

How appropriate.

Acting Chairman:

That is agreed.

Having listened attentively to the previous two speakers one can see just how divided the Fianna Fáil Party is. Deputy Burke complained about the level of spending, while Deputy O'Rourke wanted more spending. It shows clearly the difference between the Fianna Fáil philosophy on privatisation and that of the Progressive Democrats. If and when the Progressive Democrats Party gets into power it has promised to privatise as many companies as possible, yet statements from Fianna Fáil speakers today indicate it is totally opposed to even the partial involvement of any partner with Aer Lingus to ensure the company's future. Contradictions are emerging daily in the statements from Fianna Fáil depending on the audience it is addressing — local people in Ballymun or the business sector in Dublin 4.

There was a reference by Deputy O'Rourke to the fact that the Government partners are very much in agreement. That is because the Government is being managed well. There is total coherence among the three parties. We are adhering to our programme and, as a result, the country is benefiting considerably. The Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government collapsed following various scandals and inquires, and the Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition collapsed because Labour could no longer trust its partner in Government. This is one of the most successful Governments in the history of the State and I am sure the people will vote confidence in it in the next election, whenever that may be.

Deputy Burke referred to Telecom Éireann but failed to acknowledge its recent announcement of substantial decreases in the cost of international telephone calls which will make our industry far more competitive. That reflects the cost cutting exercise undergone by Telecom in recent years and the fact that it can be competitive which will help industry and tourism and boost our overall competitiveness.

Listening to Deputy Burke, who makes very little sense, and Deputy O'Rourke, to whom I would tend to listen a little more attentively, it is obvious there are wide differences in Fianna Fáil in regard to its future policy. There is no resemblance between the utterances of Fianna Fáil speakers and those of speakers from the Progressive Democrats.

I wish to examine specifically the sections of the Finance Bill which impact most directly on the agri-food sector. It is important to examine how these measures fit into the broader picture of the performance of that sector and its contribution to the national economy. I will commence by looking back at 1996, in particular the performance of the national economy and the way agriculture performed in that buoyant economic climate. I will briefly examine capital investment in agriculture during the 1990s.

At the end of 1996, agreement was reached with the social partners on a new programme, Partnership 2000, and I will refer to some of the main items contained in the agreement as they affect agriculture. Partnership 2000 provides a framework for the development of our economy over the next three years and it was a significant development on which to conclude 1996. From this agreement arose many of the Government commitments subsequently dealt with in the budget and which gave rise to the 1997 Finance Bill. I will refer to the various sections of the Bill dealing with Partnership 2000 commitments as I discuss them and conclude with a brief look at the prospects for agriculture, and the economy as a whole, for the years ahead.

In 1996, the economy performed exceptionally well with output growth of 7.25 per cent compared to an OECD average of 2.5 per cent. As in 1995, the strong growth was underpinned by low inflation and a low interest rate environment. I am sure Deputy Cullen received his copy of The Week in Europe today, the first item of which deals with the Irish economy. It is headed “Ireland tops EU growth rate” and reads as follows:

Ireland's economy grew in 1996 at five times the EU average growth rate. Irish GDP growth was 7.8 per cent compared to 1.6 per cent for the EU as a whole. Apart from Ireland, the next best performer was the Netherlands at 2.56 per cent. Most Members States saw reduced growth rates. Italy had the weakest growth at 0.77 per cent.

Despite that good news, Deputies Burke and O'Rourke told us the country was in trouble and that our economy was in a poor state. The indicators are that the economy is currently prospering and is likely to continue. Ireland is called the Celtic Tiger because it is perceived, not only in Europe but throughout the developed world, as a properly managed economy going in the right direction. That is the reason we are creating more jobs than ever through international investment. I spoke to a number of international investors recently who were very positive about Ireland and the way we are managing our economy. That is to the credit of this Government, although I would be the first to recognise the contributions of previous Governments.

The growth in the economy is impressive in the context of economic uncertainty in Europe and the difficulties associated with the negative impact of the BSE crisis. The underlying strength of the Irish economy has been achieved by a focused approach to fiscal, monetary, income and employment policies by the Government. The strong performance has been achieved without any upward pressure on inflation which has been held at 1.6 per cent — the lowest since the 1950s — and compares very favourably with an EU average of 2.6 per cent. The economy was driven in 1996 by strong domestic demand, with capital investment in construction rising strongly. The most significant development of our economic performance has been the increase of 50,000 in the numbers at work last year.

Despite the buoyancy of the economy, 1996 was a difficult year for agriculture. There were many difficulties which needed to be tackled by the Government in preparation for the budget. Although aggregate farm income throughout the year as a whole was maintained at just below 1995 levels, which was a very creditable performance, the benefits were not distributed equally across all sectors. There was very strong growth in output values in the pig and sheep sectors while there was a good performance in milk output values and, despite signs of a weakening of the international market for dairy products, milk prices were more or less maintained at the high levels achieved in 1995. Cereal producers suffered a sharp price decline which caused their output value to fall, although this was compensated to some extent by a very good harvest.

The main difficulties faced in 1996 related to beef production. Deputies hardly need reminding that from March 1996 onwards the BSE crisis threw this sector into turmoil, with a decline in consumer confidence in beef and the closure of certain international markets to Irish beef. The Government moved swiftly and made every effort to maintain stability in the market, to support producer income once the crisis emerged and to minimise income loss. The emergency market support measures adopted went a considerable way to assist with this. The special BSE package of £70 million which was secured in June last year was both timely and helpful. Included as part of this package was an amendment to the rules governing the deseasonalisation premium, worth £16 million, to guarantee its continuation this year. The additional £31 million package agreed in October will further cushion producers. The reopening of international markets and the recovery in consumer confidence within the EU helped stabilise the sector towards year end.

Since the 1992 CAP reform changes, direct payments have become a vital element of farmers' incomes, and 1996 was no exception with payments of over £904 million being paid out by my Department during the year. These equated to over 44 per cent of aggregate farm income in 1996 without which farmers would have found themselves in very poor financial circumstances.

Investment in agriculture increased by over 27 per cent in nominal terms and over 12 per cent in real terms between 1991 and 1995. Expenditure on farm buildings peaked in 1991, helped by grant aid available under the Operational Programme for the Control of Farmyard Pollution 1989-92. The pace of on-farm investment weakened during 1993 but recovered by 1995 reflecting in part the strong uptake of the new CFP scheme under the OPARDF 1994-9, and strong growth in farm incomes over the period. Favourable taxation incentives, introduced as part of the special package of measures for farmers in the 1997 budget, should further boost investment on necessary capital works for pollution control on Irish farms over the medium term. Investment in farm machinery has increased dramatically — by 50 per cent in the two years to 1995 — reflecting increased on-farm mechanisation and buoyant farm incomes. However, the 1996 out-turn may well show a levelling off of investment in response to the uncertainties caused by the BSE crisis.

The successful conclusion of Partnership 2000 provides the framework for social and economic progress and cohesion over the next three years. Partnership 2000 addresses three essential economic and social challenges: maintaining an effective and consistent policy approach in a period of high economic growth; significantly reducing social disparities and exclusion especially by reducing long-term unemployment; and responding effectively at national, sectoral and enterprise levels to global competition and the information society.

The primary objective of macro-economic policy is identified so as to secure and strengthen the economy's capacity for sustainable employment, economic growth and social inclusion. In this regard it was agreed that fiscal policy should incorporate the following: an action programme on social inclusion involving extra expenditure of £525 million; tax reductions of £1 billion, in a full year equal to over 0.55 per cent of GDP; annual growth in gross current supply service expenditure to be kept as close as possible to 2 per cent in real terms; a general Government deficit of not more than 1.5 per cent by 1999 and a debt-GDP ratio of 70 per cent by 1999.

As one of the major social partners the farm organisations were involved in these discussions and I believe that the agreement with these organisations provides a blueprint for developing a competitive sector over the coming years. The overriding concern in the short-term is to ensure that our high animal health status is maintained and that consumer confidence in livestock products is strengthened both at home and in our important export markets. Therefore, to provide for effective traceability of cattle we have agreed, in Partnership 2000, that the computerised animal monitoring system currently being developed will be fully implemented during 1998.

The production of low-cost high quality products that can compete in the more liberalised trading environment of the future is essential. The long-term competitiveness of the agri-food sector will depend crucially on attracting new entrants to farming, providing the necessary training, advice and research backup to all farmers and encouraging productive and non-productive investment throughout the sector.

Partnership 2000 contains commitments to improve existing arrangements for education and training for farmers. It also makes provision for an independent review of advisory services to ensure a more effective and efficient delivery of Teagasc programmes in this area.

Incentives to encourage new entrants into farming include a commitment to seek the continuation of the early retirement scheme after 1997. The agreement also provided for significant tax concessions to encourage investment and early transfer of land. The relatively high age profile of Irish farmers has been a persistent obstacle to structural change within the agriculture sector over many years, and I am very pleased that this year's Finance Bill has put in place a coherent set of tax incentives which will greatly assist the entry of young people into farming and encourage investment generally among farmers.

The targeted set of measures agreed in the context of Partnership 2000 and contained in the Finance Bill is as follows: the renewal of the special stamp duty relief for transfers of agricultural land and buildings to young trained farmers for a further three years is dealt with in section 98. This concession will save young farmers £4.5 million in a full year and will continue to act as an important incentive to early transfer and, in turn, structural change within the farming sector.

The Government is very much aware of the investment needs of young farmers and this was the subject of much discussion during the talks on Partnership 2000. Section 17 deals with concessions in this area and I consider that, for example, the continuation of 100 per cent stock relief for young trained farmers for a further two years will continue to benefit new entrants who have to invest heavily in building up stock numbers.

Section 18 allows all farmers to continue to avail of the 25 per cent stock relief which will release resources for productive investment for the upgrading and replacement of facilities necessary to reduce production costs and enhance efficiency.

One of the Government's main objectives is to maintain an environmentally sound farming sector. During the discussions on the new programme, the farm organisations pressed very strongly for the introduction of incentives for investment in necessary on-farm pollution control works, and it was agreed that some incentives were needed to encourage larger farmers within the tax net to undertake pollution related investment.

The commitment in Partnership 2000 to improve the existing very generous capital allowances available to farmers has been honoured. Under section 18 provision is made for a special one year allowance of 50 per cent of the expenditure incurred on necessary pollution control measures up to an expenditure limit of £20,000, with the balance of expenditure written off over the following seven years. This concession is the most favourable countrywide relief in the economy, and we are confident that it will make a very significant contribution to the protection of the rural environmental in the years ahead.

The commitment of small to medium sized farmers to environmental protection is clearly demonstrated by the strong uptake of the control of farm pollution scheme which attracted some 18,500 participants at the time of its suspension in 1995. To ensure that the momentum of on-farm pollution control investment is maintained over the coming years we agreed, in the context of Partnership 2000, to give priority to the reintroduction of the control of farm pollution scheme, if additional funds become available at the mid term review of Structural Funds.

Other changes of benefit to farmers and the food industry contained in the Finance Bill are also worth highlighting. Despite the fact that 1996 aggregate farm incomes were more or less maintained at the 1995 levels, many farmers were badly affected by the BSE crisis during the year, and continue to be affected. The decision to increase the VAT refund again this year to 3.3 per cent at a full-year cost of £14.1 million, and for which provision is made in section 78, should boost the income of farmers who are not currently registered for VAT but are required to pay VAT on their inputs.

Section 104 provides that farmers will also benefit from the increase in agricultural relief for Capital Acquisition Tax from 75 per cent to 90 per cent for those transferring land, buildings, livestock and machinery. This and other incentives will further ease the transfer costs for farmers, and young farmers in particular.

Under sections 37 and 38 the reduction in the standard rate of corporation tax from 38 per cent to 36 per cent and from 30 per cent to 28 per cent on the first £50,000 of company income will reduce tax on non-manufacturing activities.

Farmers, as taxpayers, will also share the benefits of what has been, by any standard, a well thought out and comprehensive Finance Bill. The further cut in the standard rate from 27 per cent to 26 per cent coupled with the widening of the bands increased personal allowances and the increase in the income tax exemption limit should all put more money into the pockets of farmers this year. The integrated package of measures for the farming sector contained in this year's Bill should boost income, promote on farm investment, particularly necessary investment in environmental protection, and help improve the structure of the Irish agricultural sector. The new measures, along with the renewal and improvement of incentives for investment and the orderly transfer of land, are important elements in the drive for improved competitiveness in the sector.

The Bill is very positive for the farming community. It honours many of the commitments made in Partnership 2000. This morning I heard a prominent trade unionist refer to the fact that many of the agreements entered into were not being put in place. They have been honoured in the agricultural sector and some are contained in the Bill.

Deputy O'Rourke's last remark was peculiar. She said the Taoiseach gets up every morning and says to himself he is going to be nice to everyone today. She found this very unusual. It is a good philosophy to have in life but is completely alien to the Deputy. Deputy O'Rourke then went on to say that all Government TDs spoke from the one hymn sheet, were clones, were determined to stay in power at any price and were afraid to upset the other partners. Deputy Burke then said exactly the same. The cloning is not all one sided.

Together with the Social Welfare Bill, the Finance Bill gives effect to the provisions of the budget. It is also a tidying-up operation addressing some of the issues not referred to in it or which have surfaced in the intervening weeks. The budget was the third in a package of three presented by the Government. Changes were deliberately targeted at people on low incomes, whether on social welfare or in low paid employment. It continued the work and family friendly approach adopted by the Government since entering office in December 1994.

One matter which has still not been addressed is the tax status of corporate donations to charities. It is not an issue and has been debated for as long as I can remember. I urge the Minister to table an appropriate amendment when the Bill reaches Committee Stage. As demands on charities grow heavier, the pressure on their resources increases. In over two years I have spoken five times on this issue but we are no closer to a solution. With buoyant tax receipt, it is an ideal time for the Minister to make a gesture in the direction of the organisations which have made their case so well such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which so often picks up the pieces for many people.

As well as providing material assistance, charities by their very existence reinforce the concept of community. They are an affirmation of our responsibility for one another, of our existence as a society rather than as a collection of individuals. A potent argument has been put forward by the Irish charities tax reform group for relief to be introduced on corporate donations from £100 to £10,000. According to its calculations such an initiative, which could be introduced on an initial pilot basis, would increase corporate donations to charities by around £7 million to a total of £11 million per year, while costing the Exchequer approximately £3 million. Given that there is already an existing list of charities which benefit from revenue exemptions and that corporations already obtain tax relief under a variety of headings, there is no practical obstacle to introducing such a measure with a built in review date. The charity review group says this should happen in three years. Providing relief on corporate donations would substantially increase the funds available to charities. Even more important, however, it would increase the connection between corporations and the communities within which they operate which is as important. I urge the Minister to address this matter when the Bill reaches Committee Stage.

The budget gives us an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be done as well as what has been achieved. It also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on alternatives, for example, if the Bill were presented by the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil. The Progressive Democrats and the McCreevy wing of Fianna Fáil have a clear vision for which they must be congratulated because they constantly crow about ideology to the Government. They equally have an ideology. They would probably grant tax relief to corporations on charitable donations and I welcome Deputy McCreevy's support for this measure, which he stated earlier. They would have to take such an initiative when one considers the increased burden which would be placed on charities if we were to have a rerun of the PD-Fianna Fáil Government of the 1989-92 vintage.

The Deputy would not like that.

Those who wonder what the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil would offer in Government need only cast their minds back to that "temporary little arrangement" which was not temporary enough for the majority of people in Ireland.

Tremendous tax reforms.

It had long lasting consequences, including the infamous social welfare cuts introduced by Deputy McCreevy, the effects of which were finally reversed recently by Deputy De Rossa. Deputy McCreevy indicated he favours revisiting the taxation of social welfare. Are we to look forward to another "dirty dozen" cuts? The 1989-92 Administration was plagued by instability with Deputy McDowell prowling restlessly outside the gates of Government buildings to ensure his colleagues did not deviate from the PD gospel.

The choice facing the people later this year will not simply be between the progressive vision offered by the current coalition or the right wing vision of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. They will be asked to choose between stability or chaos, between three parties working together for the common good or a Government where policy is made not in Cabinet but on Morning Ireland. Last week Deputy Harney said if returned to office her party would revisit water charges. In a few brief moments she reduced her potential coalition partners to stunned silence, and the rest of the country with them, and finally demolished her party's claim to be the guardian of tax reform. An analysis of PD policy proposals ranging from increased road tolling to the reintroduction of water charges indicates clearly that PAYE workers would find themselves paying more in indirect taxes under any PD influenced Government. When it first donned the mantle of fiscal rectitude it marketed itself as the party of no tax and no spend. It did what it promised and the rhetoric became reality when basic services were subjected to savage cutbacks during the 1989-92 Administration. The Progressive Democrats may want people to have more money in their pockets, but that is not the case when it comes to water charges or travelling to work. Their leader should definitely avoid early morning interviews.

I wish to share time with Deputies Noel Ahern and Moffat.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

That is in order.

I will start by referring to the Taoiseach's ebullient form this morning when he referred to Waterford and the south east. I was trying to attract the Chair's attention to respond to his remarks but, because of the number of Members trying to contribute, I was unsuccessful. The Taoiseach gave credit to his new found colleague in the city for the new bridge. If he had taken time to look around he would have seen the stunned expressions on the faces of Deputy Deasy and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea. While he had the courtesy to mention my name, it was in a rather condescending manner. The Taoiseach is foolish if he believes the public will accept that one individual was the driving force behind one of our most important new infrastructures. He was grossly unfair to his former friend, Deputy Deasy. The Taoiseach appears to have many former friends in the Government these days. He was also extremely unfair to Deputy Kenneally. In playing his games this morning, he forgot that there was a united front on the project. The real commendations are due to Waterford Corporation, Waterford and Kilkenny County Councils and the officials who worked tirelessly with public representatives, particularly during the past 18 months, to ensure the project was ready for the mid-term review. That is what the Taoiseach should have concentrated on this morning instead of making a mockery of the National Roads Authority, the Minister for the Environment and all those involved in the project. He should think twice before being flippant about such important matters. I hope he hears my response because unfortunately I was not unable to respond this morning. I can only reflect on what Deputy Deasy may think, but the forthcoming general election may prove a bridge too far for the gentleman the Taoiseach mentioned this morning because he certainly will not unseat Deputy Deasy.

It is frustrating that public commentators and the public seem to accept that we can no longer question public expenditure. There appears to be little interest in the current high levels of public expenditure at a time of tremendous economic growth. Political commentators put more weight on trivial matters that make a banner headline for one day and are then forgotten, but when matters turn around in the years ahead they will lecture all and sundry about what happened in the mid-1990s when levels of public expenditure reached 20 per cent and inflation was running at 6 per cent. The current high expenditure levels will have a major effect on the economy in future years.

While an air of confidence among people is understandable, they should be careful not to get caught in the comfort zone and believe that current growth levels will remain, irrespective of what we do. That is not the case. People tend to have short memories. Similar policies, although pursued at a time of serious economic downturn in the mid-1980s, almost bankrupt the country. If a case could be made for increasing public expenditure and prime pumping the economy, a secondary school student studying economics or accountancy would know that adopting such policies might be wise and fruitful at a time of economic slump——

What would the Deputy cut? Would he cut back in the area of education?

——but to do so at a time of unprecedented economic growth lacks vision and leads to serious problems in the future. I hope there will be a change of Government in the next few months to redress the incredible changes in fiscal policy that have occured under this Government.

As I have stated on many occasions, this is highly masked by the increasing levels of revenue inflows. This year the tax take is running at 15 per cent ahead of expectation. Where do PAYE workers figure in all of this? What have they gained in the past three years? They have gained by a mere 1 per cent in direct terms.

When Members of the House, the Central Bank or economists from the right or left talk about the economy, the key concern is to maintain competitiveness in our economy. We must be more competitive than any other economy in Europe as well as compete in the world arena in terms of multinational investment. We are aware that substantial changes will take place in the years ahead. Structural funding will be radically altered in less than two years' time and the onrushing train of monetary union will have serious implications for us. We are not using the current fiscal instruments available to us to even cushion some of the problems we will face in the next few years. Rather than using the inflows to the Exchequer in recent years to reduce tax rates and cushion the effects of currency fluctuations if the UK does not join economic and monetary union in the first round, we rushed headlong to raise expenditure to astronomical levels.

One could make a case for high spending if it involved capital projects from which there would be long-term benefits. However, we are spending money on unsustainable projects and I am sure no Member would disagree with that. Current expenditure levels are sustainable only in the context of a booming economy. That is the only context in which we could get away with it. However, that only prolongs the day when the Irish, European or world economies will experience a downturn. We do not want to go from boom to bust. That is the one thing we simply cannot afford.

What would the Deputy cut?

I have listened to Deputy Broughan on so many occasions that I have no intention of getting embroiled at this stage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

Deputy Cullen without interruption, please.

Spell it out for the electorate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

Thank you very much Deputy Broughan. We had a very orderly debate until you graced us with your presence. I intend that orderly debate will continue. The Member is in possession. The Deputy will have his own opportunity to contribute and he too will get an uninterrupted passage.

Deputy Broughan will have the next five years to study what the Fianna Fáil Party will do because we will be on that side of the House, I hope, before the summer begins.

With the Progressive Democrats?

Preferably on our own.

With water and service charges?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

Deputy Broughan will not disregard the Chair.

We will wait and see what the electorate does. As I was saying, the spending levels we are experiencing are simply not sustainable, expect in the current situation where you have those sort of Exchequer inflows. It is irresponsible behaviour, risking the development of the economy in preparing for changes in Structural Fund flows into the country and the effects of monetary union when we enter, as I presume we will, even if the United Kingdom stays out in the first round.

Through our many fiscal instruments we could already be planning ways of cushioning its effects. Instead, however, we are doing nothing in real terms to prepare for the effects on jobs and to underpin the competitiveness of our economy which grew off the backs of workers over the last decade. They took a lot of hard hits, yet they increased their productivity to unbelievable levels compared to some years ago. They have not been given the reward for the effort, work and productivity levels they achieved. It is a shame on the Government and the Labour Party who sees itself as the great defender of the PAYE sector. That is another myth that has been exploded.

Reality. It is history.

Question must be asked about the way the IDA operates and the way jobs are being created and dispersed. Politicians and Government cannot interfere when companies choose a particular location. They do so in the first instance, and rightly so, on economic grounds depending on where their markets are located, whether they are domestic or international, European or American. That is a big influencing factor on where companies locate. Clearly, however, when one coldly analyses the job statistics for where jobs are being created today——

Did the Deputy read the FÁS report?

——based on the Government's own statistics presented by the IDA, my own region of Waterford and the south-east generally has been seriously disadvantaged. That is not to cast aspersions on those involved in the regional office in Waterford or in looking after the south-east. I have no doubt they are doing the best they can with the resources available. However, I will never forgive — until it changed, and I hope that when back in office we will change it — the decision to remove the regional director of the IDA and base him in Cork, and to put the south west and south east regions together. It is an impossible and intolerable task for one individual to straddle a third of the country. That is not a specific commitment to job creation. One must concentrate on the regions but doubling the size of a region in the way the IDA did, has greatly diminished our prospects in the south-east. It was a serious error of judgment. The Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Bruton, should not have tolerated this decision. He was courteous enough to meet me and other local Deputies from Waterford to discuss the matter, but in spite of his best efforts I did not find one solid argument to convince me it was a good decision. It may have been all right for Cork but Cork was doing fine without it. I do not see any reason Cork needs the south-east attached to it. We need the competitiveness between the various attributes within the IDA, both domestically and internationally, to ensure there is a focus in each region. There are competing and conflicting interests in having an IDA director based over such regions including Cork and Waterford, particularly in the port areas. It is wrong to put anybody in that position and I want to see the situation reversed, although I have no confidence that the Government will reverse it. Nevertheless, on Fianna Fáil return to Government it will be one of the issues that will be examined within that Department.

The Finance Bill is a bit like the budget this year; it is all very predictable. We knew most of it, having read about it in the newspapers, long before the budget was announced. There is nothing new, no forward planning and no real direction in the Bill. I accept what a number of speakers have said; that there is a "feel good" factor around. Naturally, I would say it is due to sound economic management over the last——

Two and a half years.

——ten years by various Governments. However, just because there is a "feel good" factor around does not mean that Governments or individual Ministers should be throwing money in all directions. There has been far too much of that in recent times. As I see it, in recent months every problem is being headed off at the pass by the Government and every issue is being sorted very quickly. We even see it here in Private Members' Time when all of a sudden everything is accepted. The Government cannot say no to anybody. I hope the election comes quickly or the country will be broke. One can do that for a couple of weeks coming up to an election but one cannot do it for very long, no matter who is in power. Sooner or later that sort of problem will come back to haunt you.

What about 1977?

While things are going well, it is important to reflect that we will be paying out £200 million extra on the national debt this year. We will still borrow £637 million according to the budget figures, or over £2 billion in the three year programme of the Minister for Finance. That is an awful lot of money. We can manage it as long as the economy is going well but economies swing one way and the other like a pendulum. Sooner or later, no matter who is in power, things will not be as good and we are not providing for the rainy day.

There has been much talk today about this cohesive Government and all that nonsense. It is easy to keep everybody happy when you are throwing money in all directions. Deputy Broughan was a school teacher. It is the same as if you are handling children, give them sweets and lemonade. When you are handing things out left, right and centre, everybody is happy.

Firm discipline and leadership.

That is the way it is going but I am sure there are many issues — and something like the third banking force comes to mind — where there has been no cohesion. I am sure there are many other items but we will probably not find out for three or four years. Then we will realise the sort of long-term strategic planning issues which should have been dealt with in 1996 and 1997 but were not. If you are prepared to avoid issues you can keep everybody happy.

A big spin was put on the budget saying that everybody did very well out of it. Since the tax free allowances were announced a number of people have told me they are very bitter about the budget. Last year or the year before Deputy Broughan had meetings with Matt Merrigan and other retired ICTU people, including Mr. Rice.

The age allowance was doubled. What did the Deputy's brother do?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

The Member in possession, without interruption.

The issue I am talking about is the unfair way in which the exemption limits were treated. If I was a 70 year old ex-TD or ex-school teacher, as a married man I would have received an increase of £500 in my personal allowance, plus £400 in my age allowance from the budget. That is £900 added to my tax free allowance. According to a recent reply to a parliamentary question, 27,000 pensioners are paying the marginal rate. They have been conned because they only received a tax free allowance increase of £200 while others got £900. I do not know why 27,000 pensioners were singled out and victimised. A hallmark of any society is how it treats its elderly. If the economy is doing well, surely we should look after the elderly who struggled through more difficult times? I do not know if it was a mistake or deliberate, but those tax paying pensioners have been treated shabbily.

There have been a number of jibes about Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Water rates are not an issue in my constituency because we have not paid any since 1986 when Dublin City Council, controlled by Fianna Fáil under the leadership of Deputy Bertie Ahern, abolished them. Next year my constituents will have to pay increased car tax as a result of the Government's decision. Deputy Broughan is riding two horses — he has one foot in Dublin Corporation area and one in Fingal County Council area. I will tell my constituents that they will have to pay increased car tax next year thanks to the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Shortall and Deputy Flaherty. If those three Deputies do not tell their constituents, I will do so.

Water is more important.

The Deputy sat on the fence on the water issue. It is important to keep a deal negotiated with another political party no matter how strong the views are on the issue. However, when Deputy Bertie Ahern shook hands with the Leader of the Labour Party two years ago, the deal was broken after a couple of days. It is important to know that the person with whom a deal is made has the authority to make the deal and is not a puppet on someone else's string.

Many Members mentioned the economic boom and said it was concentrated in Dublin rather than in Donegal, Kerry or Cork. However, many parts of Dublin have not experienced it either. I read statements by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and IDA Ireland about the number of new jobs being created. I hope some of them will be in Dublin North-West. It is represented by three Government Deputies, including the Minister for Social Welfare, yet it has got sweet nothing.

It has the airport.

Did the Government give it to us? The Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Stagg, gave us an incinerator recently. A couple of years ago we were in line to get a science and technology park, but the Minister for Social Welfare gave it to his colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbitte. There was another proposal many months ago to designate Finglas technology campus a tax free area. However, that did not happen. The Minister for Finance made the Grand Canal Street site and a site in Ringsend tax designated areas, but he could not do so in Finglas. I do not understand how that represents justice.

The Deputy is getting £200 million for Ballymun.

Where is the cheque?

It is coming.

I heard the announcement and I saw the photo opportunity but I did not see any money.

It did not happen when the Deputy was in Government. Fianna Fáil built the flats but we will take them down.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

No interruptions please.

The people of Ballymun are not fools. They realise what a photo opportunity means a couple of months or weeks before an election. If there was any real commitment, this project would have been announced last year and the first tranche of money provided this year.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. The budget, the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill usually highlight the Government's priorities. The Minister for Finance said this Bill will enable the Government to reward work, safeguard jobs, reduce business tax and stimulate enterprise. When I heard that, I wondered if I was in Disneyland or Ireland.

What will this Bill do for the country in the long-term? It seems to be a case of spending more to solve our problems. There have been no tax cuts except a reduction of 1p. When Fianna Fáil was in Government during more difficult times, the lower rate of tax was reduced from 35 per cent to 27 per cent and the higher rate from 58 per cent to 48 per cent. We are disappointed the Minister did not reduce taxes further. Our national debt is £30 billion, yet we are still borrowing money. We seem to be making no effort to reduce that. Public spending increased by 22 per cent over the past three years when inflation was 6 per cent. If there is a downturn in the economy, it will cause great hardship for many people.

This Bill will not stimulate growth in County Mayo, particularly the Ballina region which I represent. There are 3,000 unemployed people in Ballina a number which has not decreased over the past couple of years. We have talked about urban renewal, but we should also consider rural renewal. The Finance Bill does not provide a stimulus to improve rural Ireland. Is it not possible to extend business expansion schemes to these areas or to create tax incentives for places such as Knock Airport? Rural areas have fared badly under this Government. Agriculture has also been hit with beef prices dropping from 107p per pound in 1995 to 80p per pound. Unfortunately, the measures adopted by the Government are not helping to solve these problems.

The Cohesion Fund and Structural Funds have not been spent in the right regions. Objective One was mentioned by a few speakers. This is a time of boom, but in 1999 Objective One may not include the entire country. We should target places such as the west, the north-west and the south-east which need a capital injection if they are to survive after 1999.

Debate adjourned.