On inflation, I stated in my reply that the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and I met the leaderships of IBEC and ICTU and discussed all of these issues. As I stated, the purpose was to discuss Towards 2016, and particularly the aspects of mortgage interest rate increases — there were eight 0.25% increases over the past 18 months — and oil prices. They represent over half of the rise in inflation over the same period. These are factors mainly outside our domestic control but we have examined and discussed all the issues in our control. Bilateral meetings with various agencies, including the Central Statistics Office, the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency and the Commission on Energy Regulation, were held with a view to establishing the scope of remedial action on inflation. We discussed the position of the energy regulator and other local authority charges that are outside the determination of central Government. We discussed the fact that inflation in consumer services is running at 9.1% per annum in the year to date, while consumer goods inflation is at 0.3%. We spent considerable time examining the factors behind this because it is alarming. While mortgage interest is a large component of service inflation, it seems clear that competition in the services sector is an issue as well. Otherwise, we would not have figures such as this.
The anti-inflation group was established to examine ways to reduce domestically generated inflation. The group is composed of representatives of the Government, IBEC and ICTU and has considered detailed assessment provided by the CSO and contributions from the consumer price index. We will continue to examine these areas and see what action we can fulfil.
Regarding Deputy Ó Caoláin's second question, I agree that issues go up and down on the factors affecting housing and the price of housing. The arguments change and the defences one puts in at one time are turned around in another period. For years I have defended our actions to increase supply so that it meets demand. This is the reason for the increases but as soon as one reaches that position it comes as a factor that we see a downturn in the market. In fact, we are still building houses and the figure is a multiple of what the EU, or any component part, and the US is building. I do not understand the argument but it is probably a lack of knowledge on the part of people who talk about these matters. They do not consider the underlying figures but that is of no great interest.
We have substantially increased the investment in social and affordable spending, now four times the figure from one decade ago. We are building on the progress and the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016, sets out an ambitious programme of delivery for the next three years. We are increasing the number of expected starts and acquisitions of social housing for the period 2007-09 by 4,000 to 27,000 units, a mix of local authority housing, voluntary housing, co-operative housing and long-term contracts under the rental accommodation scheme. Some 17,000 households will benefit from affordable housing measures in that period and 60,000 will benefit from social and affordable measures.
The National Development Plan 2007-2013 provides resources of €18 billion for social and affordable housing. We should and are putting efforts into this end of the market. Our commitments go beyond simple social and affordable housing. Some 140,000 households are planned and finance has been made available over the period, building on the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, report on housing. The Exchequer provision for this year is almost €1.5 billion, an increase of 10% on last year. That is what we are doing now. The new Government is supporting these major resources, allowing for the commencement of 6,500 local authority houses. There will be some 2,000 starts in the voluntary and co-operative sector.
In regard to the Deputy's third question on social partnership, as I did not see any of the leaders of the newspaper world at the meeting last week, we had no particular discussions. Of those, the Independent Group——