Dáil Éireann - Volume 340 - 03 March, 1983
Financial Resolutions, 1983. - Financial Resolution No.14: General (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That it is expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.
—(Minister for Finance.)
An Ceann Comhairle Thomas J. (Cavan) Fitzpatrick
An Ceann Comhairle: The Tánaiste is in possession and has 47 minutes.
The Tánaiste Dick Spring
The Tánaiste: Prior to the adjournment and the circus we have just witnessed, I was dealing with the problems facing the building industry. I was outlining the central importance to the economy of the building industry, firstly because of the size of its output and the employment it gives and, secondly, because of its central  role in providing the necessary, physical infrastructure for economic and social development. Unfortunately, the general trend in the industry over the past few years has been downward, with falling output and reduced employment.
There are a number of reasons for this state of affairs. The worldwide recession has been the major cause but this has been compounded by the erosion of confidence, resulting from the economic difficulties facing the country.
One of my goals over the years ahead will be to restore that confidence, thereby increasing private sector investment leading to a resumption in growth in output and employment. The level of public capital support for the industry provided in the Public Capital Programme, while it may not be as high as I would like, is the highest level of support that our economy can bear at this time. It is also a fact that public capital support for the building industry cannot, of itself, solve the industry's problems. The decline in private sector investment is the principal underlying reason for the industry's present state.
The various problems confronting the industry were put forward by the industry's representatives at a meeting I had with them recently. I am considering the setting up of a broadly based council which would be representative of the different interests involved in the building industry and would provide a forum for ventilating matters affecting the industry. At the meeting the representatives of the industry were invited to submit to me their views on the form the council should take. I see the council operating within the context of the overall planning framework envisaged in the Joint Programme for Government.
In all of this my principal concern will be employment. One source of potential extra employment is in building materials manufacture. In 1981 — the last full year for which figures are available — imports of building materials had a value of about £350 million. About half of these imports could have been produced at home, creating direct employment of between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs. Relatively speaking, our adverse trade balance in this  sector is among the highest in Europe. Between 1977 and 1981 the value of our imports of building materials doubled, whereas the value of exports increased by less than one-third. As Minister for the Environment, I would be very anxious to see a reversal of this trend. I would remind all concerned in the building industry — especially specifiers and contractors — to bear in mind the benefits they can confer on the national economy and the additional employment they can generate by opting for building products and materials that are made in Ireland.
Timber is by far the single building material with the greatest potential for import substitution. It has been quantified in excess of £30 million a year at current prices. Over recent years, there has been a considerable advance in the processing and the finished quality of Irish timber. This improved quality together with the increased quantity of timber maturing in Irish forests combine to create, for the first time, the opportunity to make real progress in substituting native for imported softwood timber.
From my viewpoint, as Minister for the Environment, it is vitally important that the individuals and bodies concerned should take all possible steps to exploit to the full the more widespread use of quality Irish timber in construction.
Finally as regards the building industry, I hope to be in a position, following receipt of a consultant's report on the industry, which is expected soon, to promote longer term planning for the industry, thereby creating a better investment climate and initiating a period of balanced development. The report in question was commissioned to identify the opportunity and to detail an action programme for development and expansion, particularly in relation to employment.
Housing is the biggest single component of the construction industry, accounting for over 40 per cent of output and about one third of employment. The importance of the housing sector is not solely because of its output and employment implications but also its capacity to satisfy a basic social need. It is the Government's policy to ensure that as far  as it is within our resources every household is reasonably housed. In the interests of equity, the State must concentrate on housing those who otherwise would not be in a position to house themselves. Over the past decade and a half, housing output has been rising in response to the increase in population over this period.
The need for a high level of housing output will continue, a fact we recognise in our Joint Programme for Government which includes an aim to raise output towards 30,000 units per year. While the programme did not lay down any specific timescale I am concerned that there should be no avoidable delay in making progress towards the achievement of this target.
The capital commitment to housing which has been made in the budget is a gererous one especially in view of the constraints necessarily imposed by the very difficult budgetary situation. It is not enough, however, to make sure that there will be sufficient capital available for housing, it is equally important to ensure that these resources are directed to where they will be most effective and that they will assist those who are most in need. The House can be assured that I will be most vigilant in directing the resources that are available to us to obtain maximum value for the State's outlay.
One sector where Government intervention is direct and most effective is in the provision of housing by local authorities. A total of £208 million is being made available towards the local authority housing construction programme in 1983. This represents an increase of £22 million or 12 per cent on last year's provision. I am pleased to be able to say that recently the rate of increase in the tender prices for local authority dwellings has slowed down. This development should enhance the return, in real terms, that we can get from our 1983 capital allocation. In addition, it is my intention to have a broad-ranging examination undertaken of the extent to which there may be scope for restraining the unit costs of such dwellings, which have unfortunately increased so substantially in recent years. The  increased provision for the programme should ensure that the level of construction is maintained throughout 1983. Allowing for the recent more favourable tender prices, it should enable more than 5,700 local authority houses to be completed by the year's end, and result in an average building programme throughout the year of more than 7,000 houses. Employment on the programme should be maintained at the 1982 level.
Apart from the capital allocated for the construction of houses provided by local authorities for letting, a sum of more than £128 million is being allocated for the subsidisation of local authority housing generally in 1983. This subsidy meets in full the loan charges which the local authorities pay on the money borrowed by them to provide houses for letting to those in need. The 1983 provision is an increase of more than £30 million, or 30 per cent over the expenditure in 1982.
Output in the private housing sector is, of course, affected by the general economic situation and, in particular by the level of demand. The availability of an adequate supply of mortgage finance is paramount to the welfare of the sector. I am pleased to say that the outlook for mortgage finance is good. Last year, the building societies advanced £290 million in home loans in respect of 14,000 dwellings. In 1983, the societies are expected to have mortgage finance available for about 15,000 home loans. The building society mortgage rate is now at its lowest for more than four years and the level of house prices is stable.
People on lower incomes for whom the building societies do not cater are provided with mortgage finance through the loans schemes operated by the local authorities and by the Housing Finance Agency. This latter scheme has proved very popular. By the end of last year nearly £17 million had been advanced by the agency in mortgages. This year, an allocation of £50 million is being provided to the agency which is expected to be ample for its needs. Deputies will be aware that the agency's first issue of stock recently was very successful. The success  of the stock issue is very encouraging as it makes private sector funds available for housing which is, indeed, most welcome.
Apart from mortgage finances and following on from my meeting with representatives of the building industry to which I have already referred, I am having a special examination carried out with a view to creating an environment conducive to private house building. I have in mind, for example, the easing of constraints in areas such as bridging finance and planning and by-law controls which may be having a disincentive effect on private sector investment and private house purchase.
Despite the gravity of our financial situation and the need to look searchingly at every item of public expenditure, the Government are continuing the operation of special schemes to encourage private house purchase. These measures include the new house grant scheme for first-time purchasers and the mortgage subsidy scheme which applies to much the same category of persons.
It is my aim to ensure that these schemes coupled with the operation of the Housing Finance Agency and local authority loan schemes, should have the maximum effect in raising housing output and in broadening the categories of persons to which private house purchase is a feasible proposition. The continued commitment to the scheme of grants for house improvement shows the importance we attach to the preservation of the existing housing stock.
There is a particular programme of housing aid which, I feel, is important. It is the programme to improve the living conditions of old people living alone in insanitary or unfit accommodation for which £1 million was provided last year. The range of works undertaken could involve repairs to a chimney or fireplaces to ensure effective heating, the provision of water and sanitary facilities, the provision of food storage facilities, works to facilitate access to a house such as a ramp or handrail, etc. Application for aid can be made by the occupant of the house requiring improvement, or any person or  body such as a relative, doctor, clergyman, public nurse, voluntary body, etc., could apply on his or her behalf.
Given the persons involved, formalities are kept to a minimum and in the case of any application approved, the work is carried out at no cost to the applicant. Generally, the programme is being undertaken with the co-operation of the health boards on a regional basis under the direction of the various community care managers. There is also close co-operation with certain voluntary organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul and “Alone”. Notwithstanding, the need for the closest scrutiny of expenditures I must acknowledge that I was considerably impressed by the nature and administration, etc., of this particular relatively modest programme. I am glad that, following my initiative in the matter, the Government have decided that a further special provision of £1 million would be made in 1983 for this special programme to improve the housing conditions of the elderly.
Before leaving the subject of housing, I want to say something about my own approach to this most pressing problem. To a large extent, I see advancement in housing conditions generally as a cornerstone of overall social policy. If people are not properly housed, it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to advance in other ways; their whole pattern of life may be affected, their opportunities for development may be restricted, their potential for benefiting from education may be regarded, and the employment opportunities otherwise open to them may be prejudiced. At the present time, I have to face the fact that what can be done in the housing field is constrained by the harsh realities of our present situation; these realities mean, in brutal terms, that the inequalities and inadequacies in housing conditions will be with us for some time to come. However, it will be my aim to see that policies can be developed in such a way that take account of the available financial resources but will at the same time achieve greater equity for all, help people in accordance with their needs and maintain a consistent trend of activity both in relation to  new building and the maintenance of our existing housing stock.
Turning now to roads nobody will deny that 1982 was characterised by widespread complaints about the condition of our roads and by a sharp fall in employment on road works. Employment declined from 11,500 in 1979 to 10,550 in 1981. Employment fell by a further 450 last year. Four local authorities had workers on a three-day week for part of the year. Despite the present difficult economic situation, I am hopeful that our budgetary strategy for 1983 will see an overall net improvement in the condition of our roads and a halt to the falling employment on roads.
Direct State investment in roads in 1983 will amount to £115.5 million, representing an increase of 14 per cent relative to 1982. This should more than compensate for increases in costs. The 1983 provision represents an increase of 51 per cent in real terms compared with 1979. Ninety million pounds is being provided this year for improvements, or £10 million greater than in 1982. Priority must, of course, be given to the completion of schemes already in progress throughout the country and new works will be chosen with an eye on supplementary finance from EEC sources. The main schemes in progress during this year will include the by-passes at Naas, Santry, Swords, and Athlone, the Kilkenny ring road, a new Redmond Bridge in Waterford and the Bandon Line Road and Custom House bridges in Cork.
Regarding maintenance, our aim must be to preserve the existing roads and the capital investment of previous decades by spending more on maintenance. The £25.5 million under this heading is an 18.6 per cent increase over 1982. This money will not only allow for a better standard of maintenance on our national roads but it will also allow a modest increase in the block grant for certain works on main and county roads. Road works are labour-intensive and road maintenance provides more jobs per unit of expenditure than road improvements. There is a wide distribution of direct employment both on site and off site  throughout the country and there is indirect employment in quarrying, plant and other related industries. Equally important is that by far the greater amount of the materials used comes from entirely native sources.
Deputies, Senators and local councillors of all political persuasions are now aware of the fact that some county roads are deteriorating because there has been insufficient money to maintain them. The Exchequer does not contribute directly to the costs of county road maintenance but it influences to a large degree the level of the annual programme of works through the agricultural grant and the domestic rate relief grant. The extra £31.5 million provided for these grants compared with the provision made by the previous administration as recently as last November will certainly improve the state of local finances and allow them a much wider range of discretionary expenditure. I am confident they will direct a fair share of this new finance to much needed maintenance work on county roads and in doing so maintain local employment.
The sanitary services programme is of course a prerequisite for the construction of houses, factories, offices and community buildings. The programme is also essential for the modernisation and expansion of farming activity and for the prevention and abatement of pollution. It is for these reasons that the Government despite the present financial constraints have provided a capital allocation of close on £110 million for sanitary services in 1983. This represents an increase of over £16 million or 17 per cent on the outturn capital expenditure of less than £94 million on water and sewerage services in 1982. Despite economic and fiscal problems, sanitary services investment will grow in real terms in 1983. The Government's allocations to sanitary services is a recognition of the need for the building up of the infrastructure required to support medium and long term economic growth and job creation and thus is, in effect, a vote of confidence in the future.
The most important component of the sanitary services programme in terms of  facilitating economic and social development is the provision of major public water and sewerage schemes. It is my intention to ensure that the capital available is channelled to major public water and sewerage schemes of the highest priority, namely, those designed to cater for new industrial and residential developments, so that these schemes can proceed to construction with the minimum avoidable delay. The average direct employment on the sanitary services programme is projected to increase to 2,150 jobs in 1983. This represents a 19 per cent increase on the outturn average employment of 1,810 jobs in 1982.
The EEC Western Package of FEOGA aid is of vital significance to the development of the less favoured farming areas in the western counties. The capital allocation for sanitary services includes a provision of £5.3 million for public water schemes designated for grant assistance under the western package and is adequate to meet all grant requirements likely to arise in 1983. This reflects the Government's commitment to maintaining the momentum of the western package in building up the infrastructure of the West of Ireland.
The Government are also conscious of the need to give all practicable assistance to private group water schemes which play such a vital role in bringing piped water to rural houses and associated farms which lack this basic amenity. Accordingly, a sum of £7.2 million has been allocated to group water scheme grants. This represents an increase of £900,000 or 14 per cent on the corresponding outturn provision in 1982.
I am glad to say that despite the current economic difficulties the Government are providing substantial funds for employment on environment works in the local government sector this year. A sum of £8 million is being made available to my Department from the funds of the Youth Employment Agency. A sum of £6 million will be used for the engagement by local authorities of longer-term young unemployed persons to carry out works of environmental benefit to their areas and to develop appropriate skills through  this work experience programme. The remaining £2 million will be used to develop new opportunities through local authorities for temporary employment and training. I am anxious to see greater emphasis placed on training aspects and benefits of the local authority programmes in this area in the current year. My Department, in conjunction with the Youth Employment Agency, have reviewed the scheme to ensure that all participants get the best possible training and work experience and that value for money is achieved on all projects.
A further £2 million is provided in my Department's vote for the financing of local authority environment schemes bringing to £10 million the total of funds being made available to local authorities in 1983 to promote the twin aims of employment creation — and especially the creation of employment for young people — and of cleaning-up and improving the environment all round the country. I have now notified local authorities of the details and their allocations. I would anticipate that the Youth Employment Programme will enable upwards of 3,000 young people to participate with local authorities in work experience and training schemes throughout 1983.
In view of the importance of job creation, I believe that it is essential now that the planning control system should operate speedily and effectively and that all avoidable delays in decision-making are eliminated. With this objective in mind, I am continuing with the general review of planning law promised by my predecessor. Pending completion of this review, a great deal can be done by administrative action to ensure that the exercise of development control will not have the effect of impeding worthwhile development. Each planning authority have been asked to carry out, as a matter of urgency, a review of their general approach to development control. To assist them in this task a substantial memorandum containing advice and guidelines of a general nature was issued by my Department in October 1982. In these difficult economic times I expect all authorities to adopt a positive approach and to streamline procedures to the maximum  extent consistent with sound planning principles.
Recently, concern has been expressed about delays at appeals level. Some delays are of course inevitable, given the procedures that must be followed by An Bord Pleanála to ensure justice to all concerned. In addition, there are factors outside the control of the board that add to the length of time taken to determine some appeals. An Bord Pleanála have adopted new administrative procedures aimed at increasing their capacity to process appeals and additional inspectors are to be appointed. I am concerned, however, that there appears to have been a considerable increase in the numbers of appeals on hands during 1982 and I have undertaken urgent consideration of the measures that might be taken to arrest and reverse this trend.
The operation of the planning control system has considerable cost implications for local authorities and it is reasonable that those using the system should make some contribution towards this. With this in mind, a system of fees for planning applications and appeals is being introduced. It is anticipated that fees for planning applications will yield about £5.5 million in the current year, or about half of the cost of operation of the control system. In the case of appeals a relatively modest appeal fee of £30 is being introduced. The amount to be raised will represent only a fraction of the cost of operating the appeals system and I think it is not unreasonable under present conditions to ask the people who have recourse to the system to make this contribution and to reduce to that extent the burden on the public at large.
A key priority for this Government is to reverse the very serious imbalance in our nation's finances. That was the position 12 months ago and it is equally true to-day. This is the only road which can be followed if we are to build up the necessary confidence in the economy as a whole, which is vital to creating conditions essential to the maintenance and growth of employment. An over-riding objective is the creation of additional jobs. I am afraid there are no easy or soft  options open to us. We are now, unfortunately, having to face the consequences of the economic policies pursued over a number of years by those on the opposite side of the House.
Confidence must be restored to the building industry and, as I have already indicated, this will be one of my highest priorities. A relevant area of activity which is vital to job creation concerns the provision of local authority services. The package which I have put together for local authorities, including an extra £31.5 million by way of rates support grants, will give a much-needed boost to their discretionary spending to the benefit of both the services they provide and employment.
We have a long road to travel to get employment creation up to the level where opportunities exist for those now out of work and for the young people coming into the labour force. I am confident that our people will be prepared to travel that road with us. They know, as we know, that we cannot go on mortgaging the future.
The parents of young families — the parents of children facing a bleak future — are willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary if that future can be given back to all our children. For my part, I will work to ensure that that sacrifice is not in vain.
Mr. Briscoe Mr. Briscoe
Mr. Briscoe: Before the Minister leaves the House perhaps he could give me an answer to a question. In his statement he said it is anticipated that about 3,000 young people will be employed on the youth employment scheme this year. Has he any idea how many were employed on the scheme last year?
The Tánaiste Dick Spring
The Tánaiste: I do not have that figure to hand.
Mr. Briscoe Mr. Briscoe
Mr. Briscoe: This is one of the finest schemes and I congratulate the Minister on encouraging and developing it. I suppose all Members would differ on the emphasis we would put on a budget and would have our own ideas about areas where we would not make any cuts. I regret very much the cutbacks that have  taken place in education. To me the priorities in life are food, shelter—in this I include clothing—and education. We have a tremendous responsibility and obligation to educate our young people irrespective of what job opportunities may exist at a particular time in our development. Recently there was considerable controversy regarding a speech made by Deputy Kelly when he suggested we were educating our people for export. I found it difficult to disagree with some of the things he said, although I would not agree with everything. If we have a situation where our young people are forced to look further than Ireland to get employment, it is right and necessary that they have a proper education to enable them at least to avail of job opportunities elsewhere. As a parent I would like to state that if my children had to emigrate I would want them to have had a good education.
I regret in particular the cutbacks in the area of remedial teaching. I take a keen interest in matters dealing with mental health, and in organisations that work with young people suffering from Down's Syndrome and those who need special care. I have an understanding of the slow learner. Many of these people could not be described as mentally retarded but they are slow learners in the initial stages and normally would be left at the back of the class while the rest of the students progressed. We have a great responsibility to such people and I am very saddened that once again remedial teaching is being cut back. This happened before in the period of office of the former National Coalition Government in 1973 but when we resumed office in 1977 we restored remedial teaching.
The philosophy of our party places a higher priority on education than would appear to be the case with the Coalition Government. This is evidenced by the fact that we restored the entry age for young children in primary schools. What we did on that occasion was appreciated and I am glad that our good work in this regard has not been undone by the Government. We have a tremendous responsibility with regard to slow learners. Many of these people improve very considerably  as they develop. Many people are late developers. In the years to come we will regret the cutbacks now taking place in the area of remedial teaching.
There is also the matter of cutbacks in career guidance teaching. Again, this will have a bad effect particularly on the more deprived areas such as the inner city area in Dublin. We need career guidance teachers because they fulfil a most important function. The amount of money was small in relation to the good work they were carrying out and it was a tragedy that the Minister for Education imposed cutbacks at this level. The Government should have another look at this matter. In Dublin city the saving in this area will be in the region of £50,000.
I ask the Government to look sympathetically at the two areas I have mentioned. I know that education eats money at a ferocious rate. Between them education, health and social welfare use 50 per cent of the money spent in running the State. They are very large spending Departments. I am disappointed there has been no apparent movement in relation to the development of a youth policy. I know that there is talk about meeting various organisations but there has not been any allocation of funds to develop youth clubs. I have often described youth education as a second chance education for many people who leave school at an early date.
I accept that there are some good aspects to the budget and one is in relation to the youth employment programme. However, one provision in the budget which I considered very mean was the matter of VAT on fuel, particularly on briquettes. People who use this type of fuel are mainly poor people. Better-off people tend to use briquettes in their centrally heated homes when they are having visitors, or when they usually light fires in the grate at Christmas time but essentially it is a fuel that is much more used by poorer families particularly in Dublin. The action of the Government in this area was especially mean.
The £4 fuel voucher is excellent value because it goes to the people who need it most. It is one of the best operated schemes. The Government could have  increased the amount even by 50p or £1. This would mean that those in need would not be worse off because of the imposition of VAT. The cost of living is high and it will continue to soar especially having regard to increases in petrol and diesel. All the increases will eventually work their way down to the goods delivered to the shops. We are now at the stage where people have to look twice at the money in their pocket. To old people, to those on the lower levels of social welfare who have families and who are to trying to clothe and feed them the old basics of bread, cheese and milk are expensive items now. Cheese is very expensive and I do not understand why. It was once a staple diet. Nobody ever went hungry because there was always bread and cheese. If one looks at the price of a pound of cheese one would not believe one's eyes. On the continent it is much cheaper. Large families have to contend with all these things and it is not easy for them.
We on this side of the House always advocated that subsidies should be introduced when there is high unemployment and high inflation. When the unemployment rate and the rate of inflation begin to reduce one begins to dismantle subsidies. We are all suspicious about subsidies because they benefit the rich as well as the poor. However, as most families are on a low income it is the lesser of two evils.
In certain areas there should be means tests. For example, we might have a look at grants which are available to a first-time purchaser of a house valued at £50,000 or £60,000. The best way to tax people is by extracting it according to their income. When one is desperately trying to save money and do so with a sense of social justice — I do not say the Minister for Finance has any less a social conscience than I — one can differ on how cuts are made and where the priorities are but we must be very careful not to completely cripple someone who is already up to his neck in taxation, be it young families trying to educate their children or whoever. Very often families try to pay for music lessons and so on for  children. If we forget that there is a cultural education we must give our children we will be left with a nation without a soul. Cultural education is what gives soul to a people. People who make sacrifices for their children and forego holidays and so on so that they can give their children little extras do so because they want it for their children and the Government should not make it difficult for them.
The middle income group are hard pressed now. Included in that group are wage earners with good jobs. They cannot be drained financially much more than they have been. If they are forced by economic necessity to stop educating their children outside school whether through music lessons, drama or whatever, we will be in trouble. The Government Chief Whip is present in the House and I should like him to tell me when the Community Service Bill will be brought before the House. It is important that it be brought in soon.
I am deeply concerned about the malicious damage which is done in our society. We are haemorrhaging from the amount of money which has to be spent in compensation for malicious damage and also from the money which is paid to the garda to police the streets. There are no deterrents to crime. I should like to see a situation where people who are caught vandalising property, burning cars, mugging people, robbing handbags and so on should be made to put back into the community what they have taken out of it. Every time I see a figure of £300 million in compensation for malicious damages I wonder if it is correct. I am staggered at the cost involved. The only way we will stop this is to stamp out vandalism. If the Government did not have to spend such a vast sum then they would not have to introduce any new taxation. When put in that light one recognises that there is a big task ahead of us.
I should like to see encouragement of home industries. Yesterday I was speaking to a priest who runs a group in the Thomas Street area of my constituency about development centres for young people. I thought if they were to develop  even candle-making as a home industry where six people could come together and be shown how to make candles they could sell them to the traders in Thomas Street who in turn could sell them at Christmas time. If we have a generation of young people leaving school with no job, their self-confidence and belief in themselves will soon disappear. When they get married and have children they will have little ambition for them.
We must encourage local industry. When the Minister is replying to the debate he might give consideration to this point. Recently visiting my constituency I met Mr. Michael Swords who is a wonderful teacher at Bolton Street. He teaches young people leaving school how to use computers. They would not be in competition with people studying computer science at university or technical school level. A shopkeeper with a turnover of no more than £15,000 or £20,000 a year might be encouraged to get a small computer costing £400 or £500 and set up a filing system. Young people without a leaving certificate could operate those computers. They could be employed as office staff. There are many ways in which we could help local enterprise and this is something in which we should interest ourselves.
The mineral water industry employ roughly 1,000 people and they are going through a very tough time. In the budget the Minister said that as he had already imposed increases in the January mini-budget on spirits, tobacco, beer and wine, he allowed for a corresponding reduction in excise duty on these products to offset the increase in VAT from 18 per cent to 23 per cent, but he excluded mineral waters. The people in this industry feel very aggrieved because of this. The Minister should have another look at this, even at this late stage. These people feel that they are being discriminated against and, in my view, they are justified. They made the point that prior to being elected to Government, Fine Gael had indicated a willingness to reduce the duty on soft drinks because they felt it was unfair to children. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy P. Barry told this to the  soft drinks and beer bottlers association. Perhaps they would make representations to the Minister for Finance, although very often Ministers for Finance are their own bosses. The Minister for Finance understands this position and he must look at every job and help every industry so that they will not fold up. It is very important that he stop the slide in which the mineral water industry find themselves because the price of a bottle of orange is unbelievably high.
I was glad to hear the Tánaiste refer to the speeding up of planning applications and the process by which people get their planning approvals. He might look at speeding up by-law approvals. Most people attached to local authorities appreciate that people can be waiting six months for a by-law approval to carry out an extension to a small house. If the application is put in around April or May the work may not be finished before winter and may have to be deferred for another year when prices will have increased further. Dublin Corporation are trying to transfer this procedure from their planning department to the applicant's architects who will give the go-ahead, when agreement has been reached between them and the Department of the Environment. No planning approval would be given if it was not deserved.
The streamlining and speeding up of planning permissions generally is very important. We want to keep people at work. Very often a small builder can be literally hanging on, waiting for the next contract which may be dependent on a planning permission which has been delayed or appealed. It is no harm to charge a fee if a person is appealing against a planning approval, because there will always be professional objectors. It will be a test of a person's sincerity if he is willing to pay to appeal against a planning approval. If he wins his appeal, a case could be made for refunding his money. We should discourage the people who make frivolous objections because they are stopping the creation of employment and this is frustrating. I would like the Minister for the Environment to tell the local authorities that they should not  allow any plans to go through if they do not conform to good planning, but if they do conform, approval should be given and the job started.
Many people in business feel that civil servants, who have no fear of redundancies, do not have the same sense of urgency. I find that very difficult to accept. Everybody knows it takes four people at work to maintain one civil servant. I do not know how that figure was arrived at, but it has often been quoted. It is very important that the civil service make sure that the people who by their taxes, pay my Dáil allowance and their salary, are encouraged to keep producing. I have no doubt we will come out of this depression but we have to be optimistic. I come from a long line of optimists and believe in the future of this country and the people. We must set the right example by getting down to hard work and developing the work ethic.
I am glad to see some money will be spent on our roads which are in a deplorable state. I travel to this House almost every day and see many potholes which have been filed with tar and about five or six weeks later the roads are as bad as ever. This is a terrible waste of money. Perhaps the Minister would look at the cost of maintaining certain roads and ask why the maintenance of such and such a road costs so much. We have to become very cost-conscious in the public service and it is important that every bill is queried, especially accounts that seem unnecessarily high.
Dáil Éireann 340 Financial Resolutions, 1983. Financial Resolution No.14: General (Resumed).