I refrain from comment on Senator Lenehan's remarks which, as usual, did not do much credit to this House. The provision here is designed to increase the amount allowed for children and it has the effect of improving the position of people with children over 16 who are paying income tax and who, as a result of this, can benefit to a greater extent if they send their children to school beyond that age. It is an excellent thing that we should do everything we can to improve equality of opportunity in education. Anything which encourages people to send their children to school beyond the age of 16 is a good thing.
But what concerns me is that this provision is not impartial in its operation and is designed only for the benefit of the well-to-do. There is no comparable benefit for people who are not in the happy position of being able to pay income tax. I shall take the case of two people, both with a wife and two children, one of whom is a labourer on £10 a week—that is what an agricultural labourer would get if he were lucky—and the other— a well-to-do man with £5,000 or £6,000 a year. The Minister has told another House, in another context, that £7,000 a year is the typical remuneration of a chief executive of a company. I shall not go as far as that; let us just say £5,000 or £6,000 a year. That man, as a result of this particular provision, has his purchasing power increased, when he sends a child over 16 years to school, by £90 a year. As a result of his decision to send a child to school beyond the age of 16 years, he is left with £90 more to use for that or other purposes. He sends the child to a school which is subsidised, on average, to the tune of over 70 per cent by the State, so he pays less than 30 per cent of the school fees. Because he is well enough off to send the child there at all, he qualifies for this subsidy. The National Industrial Economic Council, in their comments on "Investment in Education" say:
The existing arrangements "confer an automatic subsidy on all aided post-primary and university pupils, while a second subsidy is in effect conferred on pupils whose families are in a position to benefit from income tax concessions".
Now, contrast the position of the man we have just dealt with, who gets £5,000 or £6,000 a year and who gets a present of £90 with the man on £10 a week who cannot afford to pay fees, who cannot afford the cost of the books and transport and who certainly cannot afford—if he is not living in the neighbourhood of a secondary school—the cost of boarding the child in a secondary school. He gets nothing whatever. There are scholarships, of course, but how many? The Report on "Investment in Education" discloses that only 10 per cent of children in secondary schools have scholarships. It also discloses that only 20 per cent of our children are attending school at the age of 17. That means that two per cent of the children at the age of 17 are getting scholarships and this worker's child would need to be in the top two per cent in intelligence to get anything whatsoever from the State to help him deal with his problem of being unable to pay for the cost of a secondary education, whereas the man with £5,000 or £6,000—which the Labour Party are so keen to get increased—gets £90 a year and nearly three-quarters of the school fees paid for him. As an income taxpayer, I am delighted to get this present of £52 10s. Eventually you would get over £100 a year if your income were sufficiently high. I am delighted to get my £52 10s a year. I am delighted to have a substantial proportion of my school fees paid by the State but I frankly have a guilty conscience that nothing whatever is being done in the case of parents who are not in this happy position.
This provision makes it a system of allowance which has turned this country into a middle class paradise; where if you buy a house, you get income tax off the mortgage, where if you send your children to school beyond the age of 16 you get large sums of money to help you pay for them there, where somebody not well enough off does not get any benefit. I think broader taxes may be necessary. It is quite obvious that we cannot leave the whole burden of this country on indirect taxes, when no country in Europe draws so much of its revenue from those taxes and so little from direct taxes as we do. I do not think we can go on with a system under which we have a higher proportion of indirect taxation carried by the whole community than anywhere else. This system of educational facilities and housing facilities available only to those well enough off to pay income tax, with no comparable or equivalent benefit for people who are not in this happy position, cannot be allowed to continue. This type of society can only be described as anti-social.
While we may welcome these benefits, we cannot do so without calling for equivalent benefit for those not in that position. I should like to press this point because it is a matter of fundamental social policy constantly overlooked by the people who are vocal, who are in the Dáil and Seanad, those who find it easy to write to newspapers, all pressing for more and more tax allowances while the voice of the ordinary man in the street, who is not getting these benefits, is not heard. It is not heard even through the Labour Party, who are supposed to be the spokesmen for this particular group. Therefore, I would press the point that we cannot support a proposal of this kind without voicing our desire and concern that these should be extended not only to the well-to-do but also to those who are not in that position.