Seanad Éireann - Volume 88 - 25 January, 1978
Appropriation Act, 1977: Motion.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Before entering on item No. 2, I may say for the guidance of Senators that the scope of debate on it is the expenditure as detailed in the Appropriation Act, 1977. Discussion of a general nature on expenditure and financial policies, including taxation, is also permitted. It is not in order, however, to discuss details of taxation or any particular tax such as would be appropriate to be debated on a Finance Bill. The period to which the debate relates is that covered by the Appropriation Act.
Mr. E. Ryan Mr. E. Ryan
Mr. E. Ryan: I move:
That Seanad Éireann notes the supply services and purposes to which sums have been appropriated in the Appropriation Act, 1977.
Dr. Whitaker Dr. Whitaker
Dr. Whitaker: On a point of order, from what was said in relation to the scope of the debate can I take it that it covers general comments on financial  policy with particular reference to expenditure and borrowing?
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Yes.
Minister for Finance (Mr. Colley) George Colley
Minister for Finance (Mr. Colley): This motion provides the Seanad with an opportunity to debate in detail the expenditure covered by the Appropriation Act, 1977 and for discussing expenditure and financial policies in that context. As Senators are aware, the Appropriation Act appropriated formally the sums voted by the Dáil for the supply services. In addition, the Act authorised the utilisation of certain departmental receipts as Appropriations-in-Aid.
Section 2, which is the principal section of the Act, appropriated to the specific services set out in the Schedule to the Act the sum of £1,827,930,226, comprised of £3,586 to cover the excess on the grant for superannuation and retired allowances for the year 1975; £27,870,380 in respect of Supplementary Estimates for 1976 which were not passed in time for inclusion in the previous year's Appropriation Act; and £1,800,056,260 in respect of the Estimates for 1977, comprised of the original Estimates of £1,677,475,000, 34 Supplementary Estimates which amounted to £122,565,260 and an additional Estimate of £16,000 for the Office of the Minister for Economic Planning and Development.
I do not propose to make a lengthy opening statement on this occasion but in my concluding remarks I shall endeavour to deal as fully as I can with the various matters which will be raised by Senators during the course of this debate. I look forward to an interesting and constructive discussion.
Mr. Cooney Mr. Cooney
Mr. Cooney: I understand that traditionally the debate on this Act enables us to have, what I might term, a political debate on matters affecting the Government. This debate has come up quite a short time after a new Government have taken office, after what is traditionally regarded as the honeymoon period, when the new administration can do no wrong, when they are engaged principally in fulfilling  pre-electoral promises and handing out the goodies on which election success was based. Normally there would not be much scope for an Opposition to indulge in a political debate at this time so soon after the honeymoon. However this honeymoon has come to an end, just like one that never got under way.
When one looks back on the Fianna Fáil manifesto which made many promises, some of more significance than others, it seems that the most significant promise made was the very specific commitment to reduce unemployment. There was a commitment to reduce the unemployment figure in 1977 by 5,000 and in 1978 by 20,000. There were other promises, a promise to remove the rates from motor cars— something which does not stand up to a minute's examination on either social or economic grounds—and a promise to do away immediately with all rates on dwelling houses without any conception of how that money was to be replaced. We have seen now certain draconian measures to replace it, regressive measures removing the rates exemption for the farmers under £75. These people because of their strategic place in that industry need to be given incentives rather than disincentives. We see the socially reprehensible movement of taking the subsidy from cheese, a basic foodstuff. In the context of trying to negotiate a National Wage Agreement driving up the cost of a basic food does not make much sense.
The last announcement we had today was regarding the removal of the subsidy on town gas, which again was designed to ease the burden on the many people who are not in a position to bear the cost of living as easily as others. This too is obviously going to sour to some extent the atmosphere in which a National Wage Agreement has to be negotiated. Another way in which the money was compensated for was the removal of the subsidy on phosphatic fertilisers. This again is a positive disincentive to agriculture at a time when that sector of the economy should be getting all the incentives the State can manage to give.
The most significant promise, a very  specific promise made in the manifesto, was the reduction to be achieved in the unemployment figures. In spite of what spokesmen for the Government party have attempted to put forward— for instance, the Taoiseach in a rather notorious radio interview of some weeks ago talked about meeting the target in that 5,100 new jobs had been created—that is not the promise and that is not the target. The target is very specific, a reduction in unemployment.
That target and those promises obviously and understandably had a considerable effect on the out-turn of the election because they attracted many young people on the threshold of careers or about to leave school who were worried about their future and who were given the impression that if they voted for the Government their job prospects were going to be vastly improved. I would be apprehensive of the social price that may have to be paid by this country if these promises are not fulfilled. I doubt if they were ever capable of being fulfilled because they were so rashly optimistic as to verge on the fraudulent. When the generation who have been conned come to realise what has been done to them the price that we may have to pay in terms of disillusionment and cynicism about politics and politicians may be very high indeed.
The first failure has taken place. On 1st July, 1977, the time the manifesto was published and the promise was made, the unemployment figure on the live register stood at 109,338. Many people here will recall the election campaign when the figure of 180,000 was bruited abroad quite carelessly by responsible people and by professional economists as being the unemployment figure, and that was the scare figure used at the time. The figure on the live register on 1st July was 109,338 and that was the figure that had to be reduced by 5,000 in the year 1977. On 30th December, 1977, the figure on the live register instead of reducing from that total of 109,000 had climbed to 111,763. Far from fulfilment of the promise or even a movement towards fulfilment of the promise there was a movement in the opposite direction. Senators may be interested  to know that on 13th January this year the figure had climbed yet again to 113,354 and this is the non-result of this critically significant Government promise that unemployment was to be reduced that was made to the Irish people solemnly in seeking their political support last summer. We see that unemployment is now increasing. The target for this year is to reduce unemployment by 20,000 but 5,000 has to be made up from the failure to meet the target in 1977 and there is a shortfall of 2,425 on the top of the failure to meet the target.
Therefore the actual reduction in unemployment required for 1978 is 27,425. What this will mean in number of jobs is something that economists are arguing about but it will surely not be fewer than 30,000 to 35,000 jobs and this is the target which the Government have set themselves. It is a target which I think is impossible to realise. I and every right-minded citizen hope it will be realised. If it is not realised and if it was a physically impossible target in the first instance, then a lot of harm can be done to the attitudes of people towards politics and politicians.
We recently had a White Paper in which the Government strategy for the next four years was outlined, this strategy being designed to meet these manifesto targets. The strategy broadly is to borrow heavily and if necessary run budget deficits. The idea behind this strategy apparently is to give a tremendous impetus or boost to the economy over the next couple of years in the hope that it will take off on a scale unprecedented in the history of this nation and in that take-off it will bring with it such an immense amount of growth that all these jobs will be provided. We certainly hope this will happen but it has been described by its author, the Minister for Economic Planning and Development, as a gamble. He was being fair and honest when he described it as a gamble. It is one thing being an economist in the rarefied atmosphere of academic institutions juggling with paper models and making assumptions as to how certain sections of the community will behave and how certain trends should develop,  everything being logical and everybody being sensible; it is another thing being an economist in the harsh world of reality where the practising economist is not juggling with paper models but is dealing with sections of the population with economic muscle. He is dealing with the intransigence of trade unions who are out to protect the well-being and welfare of their members. He has to deal with the self-interest of the business community, a self-interest which they see as necessary to ensure funds to continue investment in their businesses, and never mind keeping the accounts in the Isle of Man and Bermuda in a healthy state. Again, too, he has to deal with the conservatism of bureaucracy, who see their role as keeping the rest of us from making fools of ourselves. So real life for an economist is vastly different from juggling with paper models in an academic institution.
No economist is entitled to take risks with the economic well-being and health of this nation even if that risk is described as the laudable target of removing unemployment once and for all. The risk is that the strategy in a time of growth of committing the country to an astoundingly high level of borrowing and providing for deficit budgeting does not provide for any reserves if there should come a recession in any other part of the world which will affect us. We will have used up our reserves in this initial gamble. It is interesting to note that by way of condition precedent to this strategy set out in the White Paper there is an assumption that there will be a continuation of favourable trade circumstances in other countries. This is a rash and dangerous assumption because as far as I am aware there is no great confidence among the OECD countries that the recession has finally gone away or that the lull at the moment is anything other than temporary. Again too we are very dependent here on the health or lack of health in the British economy which at present seems to be going through a favourable time. But in my opinion the boom in the British economy is nothing more than an oily bubble and  it is likely to burst at any time. I say “oily” deliberately because, if you like, the psychology behind it comes from the finding of the North Sea oil and the effects it is having on the financial position in Britain. The underlying weaknesses of that economy are still there: very often, an incompetent management, antiquated plant and a disgruntled and difficult labour force. Those underlying weaknesses in the British economy are still there, and at any time if the confidence of the speculators in the financial world should be in any way shaken in Britain, and the financial speculation moves the opposite way, Britain could be plunged back very quickly into a recession. Likewise, if what we are told by international statesmen is so, the economy of the OECD countries has not improved to the extent that one can say the improvement is permanent and we are safe now in gambling here by using all our strategic reserves of borrowing and budget deficits at this stage instead of keeping them in reserve for the possible rainy day.
This policy is highly dangerous for the reasons I have stated. It uses up our reserves and it will leave us in an impossibly weak position to deal with a recession, should a recession come in a year or two years' time. Our borrowing will have been so heavy that we will be unable to borrow more. The economy will not be able to carry it, even if international institutions were prepared to lend it to us. Again, too, I do not think the strategy will produce the number of jobs which are its avowed aim. To produce in this year some 30,000 jobs seems to me to be an impossible target. I would dearly love to see it being achieved, but it is an impossible target. Having regard to past performance in this country, having regard to rate of job creation in more developed and wealthy countries, I think it is, quite frankly, an impossible target, a target which should never have been set, a target which would not have been set but for reasons of political expediency. I will gladly eat my words should I be proved wrong at the end of 1978 and the unemployment figures have been reduced by 20,000 plus the shortfall of 7,425  for this year. I will gladly eat my words should that be the position.
The White Paper is a document of some 69 pages and three pages and a bit are devoted to agriculture. It is the usual perfunctory, ritualistic nod documents such as this give in that direction. The opening sentence of the section on agriculture reads: “In terms of employment and output agriculture is of greater relative importance to the Irish economy than to that of any other EEC member State.” Of course, that is so true and is such an important statement that it is a matter of serious criticism that a White Paper, which deals with national development for the next four years, deals in such a perfunctory and superficial way with this most important part of our total economy. Agriculture is what makes this country. Agriculture is what informs our culture, gives us our distinction, gives us our nationality, and it is the area which, oddly enough, has been the Cinderella of all Governments in the past.
I am especially disappointed that this White Paper entitled “National Development” is so scanty in dealing with agriculture. There are the usual generalisations about what will be done by Government measures, about fiscal measures, the establishment of land development authorities responsible for structural reform, and long-term leasing to young farmers. There are all sorts of general specifics but there is no hard economic planning in this section on agriculture dealing with this most important part of our economy.
There is one paragraph which says: “The net effect of Government policy allied to the favourable environment now prevailing for agricultural expansion suggest that gross agricultural output will grow by about 25 per cent during the years 1977-1980. This will be faster than the rate of growth in any previous four-year period in the past two decades.” So it will. It will be astoundingly faster than the rate of growth not merely in this country but in any other country in the EEC, other than Holland perhaps, over a certain period. Yet, an assumption that this would happen without giving any indication  of the policy imperatives that would make it happen quite frankly does not make sense and makes the document somehow less than credible.
I am disappointed that this document, which was published only a few weeks ago and which purports to deal with agriculture even in a superficial way, apparently has paid no attention whatever to a paper issued by the National Economic and Social Council last October entitled “Alternative Growth Rates in Irish Agriculture”. The paper was produced by a number of agricultural economists and it attempts to show what could be achieved in terms of increased output from the agricultural sector with the consequences for jobs on farm and in agriculture related industries over a period from 1974 to 1985. In that report the statistics on the growth in agricultural output over the last number of years show that the figure of 25 per cent projected by the White Paper for the next four years would be completely out of character with any growth achieved so far. Undoubtedly, there were constraints on agricultural growth in the past in so far as prior to 1973 we were constrained by the size of the home market and the annual increase in demand for agricultural produce from the home market is not very big.
Of course, all of that was changed dramatically by our entry into the EEC. While the percentage annual increase in demand for agricultural produce in any country is not that great, nevertheless the huge extra market available to us must mean there is for our agricultural industry now an immense demand which we can fulfil. Of course, we are blessed here by two factors in the agricultural area that no other country has. We have a fertile soil and a temperate climate. This study to which I have referred, “Alternative Growth Rates in Irish Agriculture”, is a feasibility study as to how production could be increased and what the consequences of increased production would be. It does a projection based on existing trends and a projection based on certain growth trends.
If our present pattern of agriculture were to be continued over that period  there would be very little improvement in the unemployment position. The authors estimate that, if we were to continue until 1985 on the same trends as have been in our agricultural area up to now, the increase in factory jobs would be a mere 567 and there would be a drop of 52,000 in on-farm employment compared with 1974. In order to investigate what agriculture could do for our economy, these people have done a feasibility study of the consequences of enhanced growth in the agricultural sector. In their study they have set out in detail the changes that would have to be achieved, the targets that would have to be met in order to gain substantially in terms of employment.
They emphasise that it is merely a feasibility study and that there are economic and financial considerations to be taken into account. The important thing is that these men show that, by virtue of a different and more intensive rate of growth in Irish agriculture, they reckon that in the 11-year period ending 1985, there could be 23,200 extra factory jobs in industries attached or allied to agriculture and that there would be a saving of 15,000 on-farm jobs. While there would be a continued decline in on-farm employment, the rate of decline would be so slowed by the intensive agricultural regime that 15,000 jobs would be saved. That is a total of 38,200 jobs which would arise directly from the projections they have made about how our agriculture should develop over that period.
They go on then to point out that there is a relationship between direct and indirect or induced jobs. While this relationship is difficult to quantify, they assume a ratio of 1: 1, which is not unreasonable. They reckon therefore that there could be a total of 76,400 extra jobs available by 1985 if the model detailed in their work could be introduced as a model for our agricultural sector.
That study is possibly the most exciting thing that has been done in the economic field for a long time because it is based on what is our great  natural resource. It has the possibility of making a really significant and lasting contribution to our unemployment question. The authors think that their projections are conservative and quote that the Irish Grassland and Animal Production Association thought there could be an extra 80,000 jobs over five to six years from an annual growth rate less than the high rate they project. The Irish Farmers' Association estimated an extra 102,000 jobs over ten years, also from an annual rate of growth less than the high in their study.
These are quite exciting figures that we have available to us, figures which are shown in great detail in this study to be feasible and which certainly demand more attention from the Government than apparently they have got. The authors of the White Paper dismiss the whole agricultural area in a matter of three pages and a bit with perfunctory generalisations. It is important for the future of the country to take up what I fear is going to be the industrial strategy projected in the White Paper. It is very important that attention would be given to the studies that have been made in the agricultural area and that the salvation of our country is to be found in our traditional industry. This will need an immense effort, an immense channelling of resources both financially and in terms of man power, towards the agricultural sector. There will have to be tremendous heightening of the services available to farmers. Cash incentives will have to be made available to them. Advise will have to be made available to them. Above all, leadership will have to be made available to them to ensure they take that advice and make use of whatever finance may be made available.
A study done by the General Council of the Committees of Agriculture shows that only 20 per cent of Irish farmers have a high interest in getting advice and financial help for their farms. Fifty per cent of farmers have some interest, while as high as 30 per cent have no interest. This is an appalling state of affairs but is a reflection of some of the historical attitudes of Irish farmers towards their industry. It has not been regarded as something  that can be a humming, viable business. Farming has been carried on in a traditional easy-going pattern. Obviously that has to change if the growth rates to produce the jobs I mentioned are to be achieved. That can only be changed if three things are provided by the Government—leadership: an arrangement to provide leadership at local, county and parish level, and that leadership to come through help from farming organisations, Macra na Feirme, The Irish Farmers' Association, and the Creamery Milk Suppliers; and leadership through the county committees of agriculture. These things have to come first, so that there will be a lead in every corner of the country for a farmer who can be encouraged to improve his position. There has to be advice available—not just one instructor for a huge area who can see a farmer maybe once a year once every two years. There has to be advice available as a continuing on-going service for every farmer. He has to be educated from the start in how to run his farm on modern lines and there has to be finance to enable him to do this.
If at this stage the emphasis began to shift from looking to meet an impossible target for job creation in the industrial sector to a possible and highly achievable target in the agricultural sector then the future of this country might be guaranteed, and the cynicism and disillusionment which may be engendered among our young people by failure of the manifesto to meet its promises can be avoided and the intrinsic nature of this country preserved.
The White Paper is to be strongly criticised for its failure to deal with the agricultural industry. I do not know if it is a credible document. It was published only a fortnight ago. There are suggestions that it has been prepared merely to satisfy our obligation to the EEC. I do not know what care went into its preparation but I do not think there could have been a lot when it can solemnly make a statement like this: “The Government will continue to press the Irish claim for a 50-mile exclusive fishery limit.” The world and his wife know that claim has been  quietly dropped and is no longer being pushed. To produce a White Paper on National Development and solemnly to make that statement must raise a considerable question mark about the seriousness of the people who wrote this paper and about whether it is to be taken as a credible document.
The strategy which it outlines—the excessive borrowing at a time when we are in growth—shows it to be a document that does not deserve credibility. Its failure to deal with agriculture shows it to be a document that is barely credible. This is a bad beginning for a Government that came into office with the biggest majority in the history of the nation. I hope that the carelessness of this document and some other actions which we have seen in the last number of days are not a reflection of the security, political strength and, indeed, arrogance, which that size of a majority can give.
Mr. Jago Mr. Jago
Mr. Jago: I will endeavour to speak to the Appropriation Act, not to the White Paper. This Act is of the order of approximately £1,800 million. It is interesting to note that approximately half this sum is related to three services which are there to distribute wealth and which aim at giving development and security to the individual. I refer to Health, £323 million; Social Welfare, £279 million; and Education, £303 million, making a total of £905 million. If you look at the services from which we are to gain production and to make the money to pay for the other services, this amounts to approximately one-quarter of the total amount. I refer to Industry, Commerce and Energy, Labour, Tourism, Transport, Agriculture, Environment, Forestry and Lands, the total being £261 millions. The final quarter goes to pay for general services to the nation, such as the Garda Síochána, the Army, telephones and similar services.
Coming back to the first half—£905 million—we spent £323 million on health. The question is: did we have to spend it and did we get value for it? In the modern state an adequate health service must be made available. Because a person has not the means to pay, we must not debar that person  from the health service. Originally the health service was to be available to all, but that is not the case. We also have proof that a health service is necessary and desirable because people not covered by it contribute to the VHI scheme. One has to add that premium to the cost of health each year. This proves that when persons do not get a health service from the State they have to cater for themselves, which is definite proof that a health service is necessary. The question is: do we get value for it? Whilst we hear many rumours about increased absenteeism due to easy certification of illness and the excessive distribution of expensive drugs, that does not appear to me to be the criteria on which to judge whether the health service has been successful.
Many years ago we had a tuberculosis problem and the State spent a lot of money in providing beds. It was an ever-increasing expenditure year by year and suddenly it stopped. This proved that the money spent on TB eradication was worthwhile. We are not reducing costs on health and, therefore, it appears that we have a maintenance position rather than a preventive maintenance position. I am glad to see that we are now going to endeavour to concentrate on preventive maintenance.
As far as social welfare is concerned, the sum of £279 million provided is divided between social insurance and social assistance. It is beyond question that social insurance is a necessity. It is there to cover periods when people are temporarily unemployed or when they retire. Therefore, any administration will have to cover social insurance. The question is: can one have maladministration in social insurance? Can there be bad effects by the way it is administered?
In recent years the high cost of the stamp to the employee and the employer has caused hardship. The high cost of the stamp was equal in all cases, irrespective of the person's earnings. If there was a case where a person could get one day's work for £10 approximately £3 was deducted from  that sum. On the other hand, an employer could have been in a position to give extra employment by giving an extra day's work in which case it would cost him £4. I am glad to see that the stamp to those earnings under £50 a week has been reduced by £1, which allows the differential necessary between the earning capacity of different people. It also, in effect, gives a 2 per cent wage increase; but the employer is still paying the same amount. I look forward to the day when the stamp will go completely and when social insurance will be paid according to the earnings of the person concerned.
We spent £303 million on education. We hear a lot of complaints about the teacher-pupil ratio, bad buildings and so on. I know that any Minister tackling this problem can only tackle it in relation to the money that is made available to him. I would like to make one comment, namely, to take the Leaving Certificate off the pedestal and as soon as possible to bring in an alternative. The future of this island is not to make it a nation of saints and scholars: the future of this island is to make it a nation of people who can contribute to the country. Therefore, a technician with a job is more valuable than an idle academic.
I would like to look briefly at the other services which contribute to the production of the country. The Department of Industry, Commerce and Energy spent £101 million compared to the three services which I have referred to already. This appears to be a very small amount when this is the driving force behind our expansion. The question is this. Over the past few years if more money had been spent by aiding some of the weaker industries, would some of those weaker industries be still with us? In 1975 in Britain, they brought in the temporary employment subsidy. This was and is paid in relation to employees in danger of redundancy; £20 per employee per week for 12 months and £10 per week for a further six months. Some 322,283 employees were eligible for payment between August 1975 and September 1977 and 50 per cent of the amount paid went to the textile, footwear and  clothing industries. How many of our textile industries have been closed since 1975? Could they still be with us if they had got a subsidy such as this, or some other assistance, at the right time and not when the horse has left the stable? In Britain at the present time there are 71,000 applications pending. The present situation is that Irish clothing output is 13 per cent below the 1974 level, whereas the British clothing output is 5 per cent over the 1974 level.
We know that the present Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy has several schemes to promote employment and to create jobs. One of them—the Buy Irish Campaign—is to be increased in vigour, and that is something. The people in the whole of Ireland as a unit can create jobs if they only go to the trouble of doing so. It appears that we are spending more of our time in academic discussions rather than getting down to the job.
I cannot understand where Senator Cooney got his figures. The basic figure we require is that of the census and we have not got one. He compared the registered unemployed in, I think, July, 1977 with that at the end of the year. I have known several people who were unemployed last July who were not so registered and are employed today. Therefore, I cannot see where he has obtained the figures to prove his case. There are people also who, in their own interests, advertise that our economy is going up and up. They mention that only so that they can make a case for getting a greater share of the cake. Despite what is being said the present position is that we have had, in the private sector, an increase of 8,000 jobs. Our profits, before tax, in the last year improved by 49 per cent but, after tax, were only 24 per cent and the reinvested profits went up by 35 per cent. If we have got to achieve a target of something like 15,000 jobs in the private sector that re-investment rate will not be sufficient. Therefore the restraint must be maintained to allow re-investment to create jobs because they constitute our most important goal today.
 Referring briefly to agriculture on which we spent £177 million, the fact that we had to spend that amount is proof that agriculture is still in a developing stage. The position of the farmer and the agricultural economy has improved over the last few years because prices in agriculture have improved. We have no indication whatever that anything has happened over the last few years to increase agricultural output. Henceforth I hope the farming community will realise that their future depends on greater production, possibly by better use of fertilisers, better quality of stock.
But we still have the TB and brucellosis eradication problems. I note from the figures that whereas £600,000 was the estimate for brucellosis eradication nothing was spent on it.
Finally, on environment, I see the figure was £86 million. If we are to develop our economy we have a transport problem on our hands. Our traffic is growing; our roads cannot carry the traffic; some towns should be bypassed and we are lacking in bridges. These problems must be faced in the future because, if we do not, then we cannot keep pace with any economic expansion. I am glad to read that the Government are at present preparing a major plan.
Mr. Kennedy Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy: Reference was made earlier to the talks at present proceeding through the Employer Labour Conference with a view to formulating a new National Wage Agreement. As a participant in those talks, which are conducted in private, it would not be proper for me to make any public reference to them in detail. However, I can and must say that the progress of the talks is being hindered very considerably because the Government made it conditional on the implementation of their pre-election promise about reduced taxation that there should be a national wage agreement which would limit increases in wages and salaries during 1978 to 5 per cent. That is the major obstacle to the progress of the national wage talks. The manifesto included no condition on the taxation concession. The manifesto simply said that, if elected, the Fianna Fáil  Party would make taxation concessions to the tune of £160 million. The manifesto went on to say that if wage increases during 1978 were limited to 5 per cent certain other things would follow but that was not a condition. The talks will be resumed in about an hour's time. While I do not want to embarrass the Minister, I can assure him that he can help very considerably towards the early conclusion of a new national wage agreement if he would make it clear publicly that he stands over the taxation promise in the manifesto, that those taxation concessions will be granted regardless of the type of national wage agreement that might be concluded. I would ask him to do this if he wants, firstly, to implement his Government's pre-election promises, and secondly, if he wants a new national wage agreement.
Dr. Whitaker Dr. Whitaker
Dr. Whitaker: I should like first to make a particular point and then to offer some comments on the general state of the public finances.
To take the particular criticism first, the Appropriation Act covers at least one item of expenditure with which I must say I do not fully agree. I refer to the provision of £1.8 million included in the Miscellaneous Expenses Vote for recoupment to the Central Bank of Ireland of payments to the liquidator of the Irish Trust Bank Ltd. The new Estimates published this morning show a further £118,000 still to be paid. The Irish Trust Bank was a bank licensed under the Central Bank Act, 1971, which, through misapplication of its resources, became insolvent and whose depositors were promised repayment in full if the present Government came into office. The Vote honours that promise. My position, which I must honestly state here, is that I think that promise went too far in committing public moneys.
Let me remind Senators that the Central Bank Act, 1971, has this express provision: section 9 (5) reads:
The grant of a licence to a person shall not constitute a warranty as to the solvency of the person to whom it is granted and the Bank shall not be liable in respect of any losses incurred  through the insolvency or default of a person to whom a licence is granted.
In the light of that provision I am, I confess, rather surprised that the Central Bank appears to have paid out money without a positive or specific statutory authorisation.
As the Minister for Finance said in the Dáil, there is probably room for tightening the supervisory provisions. I do not think anyone will dispute that supervision can never be fully effective. Nobody can ensure that a clever person, whether in Lugano, Chiasso, Dublin or Cork, will not be able to defraud depositors, particularly if he is in a position of trust with access to, or command of, substantial resources.
It was, Senators may recall, a special feature of the Irish Trust Bank case that proceedings in the High Court at the end of 1973, while they went against the Central Bank on a technicality about the wording of a letter, at least gave considerable publicity to the Central Bank's view that a certain person closely associated with the Irish Trust Bank was not a suitable person to be in a position to direct or strongly influence its affairs. Moreover, as the Minister has pointed out in the Dáil, every intelligent person must recognise that the higher the reward offered the greater the risk. Any bank that offers exceptionally high rates of interest on deposits, as the Irish Trust Bank did, should be treated with some circumspection by would-be depositors.
Essentially where I differ with the Minister for Finance is on the question whether in all these circumstances, when the Irish Trust Bank became insolvent, there was a public duty to recoup the depositors in full. I must put on record my view that there was not present in this case a serious risk that failure to do so would have any significant reaction on the country's good name or on the reputation or prospects of its financial institutions or on the country's attractiveness to foreign investors. There is, of course, room for a difference of view on this but that is my view.
One might, of course, concede that some sympathy was due to the smaller  depositors and I would not be so hardnosed as to deny this. But in those countries where there is a provision for relief for small depositors—and it is rare enough—this is covered by deposit insurance schemes financed ultimately by the banks themselves and not out of public funds. One may note in passing that the United States insurance scheme has a ceiling of 20,000 dollars per depositor, say, £10,000. The larger and supposedly more intelligent and discriminating depositors are normally and in my view, quite properly left to bear the consequences themselves if they become victims of their own greed for a higher than normal return on their money. I find it hard to see why they should be recompensed in full out of the taxes we all have to pay.
My general comments are about the recent and prospective trend in public expenditure which is anything but reassuring. The 1977 appropriations carry the total of public expenditure, current and capital, for that year to approximately £2,400 million; current expenditure is just short of £2,000 million and it increased by about 18 per cent last year. Indeed, public expenditure has for many years been rising faster than gross national product. At its present level it is claiming 50 per cent or more of total national resources. The public sector as a whole is laying hold of an even bigger majority share leaving the private sector with much the smaller part of national resources at its disposal.
It was the other way around only a few short years ago. In 1972 the ratio of total public expenditure to GNP was 40 per cent; in 1958 it was 28 per cent. The counterpart of this, of course, is a massive increase in the burden of taxation, the impact of which has been deferred and lightened to some extent by the enormous current deficits of recent years, in other words, by not currently paying our way. If we were covering those deficits my estimate is that taxation, instead of being 43 per cent of national income would be 47 per cent.
The tendency for public financial requirements to pre-empt more and more of the community's output is a prime cause of a form of inflation  which holds dangers for us no less real than price or cost inflation. I mean the form of inflation which reveals itself in large balance of payments deficits, generated by the Government's deficit financing and in part also financed by the foreign borrowing undertaken by the Government to finance their deficits. These balance of payments deficits are a means of getting our hands on resources beyond what we currently earn. The recent National Development White Paper gives us a vista of vast external deficits for years to come, despite the exceptionally high rate of growth envisaged in national output. All this is needed to sustain the great increase in consumption projected in the White Paper. We cannot afford to ignore the similarity between continuing large balance of payment deficits and a mounting personal overdraft. Neither can be the object of benign neglect or incautious optimism. One would like to see some convincing explanation of how, eventually, we can be brought to live within our means even as these are expanded by a very high growth rate. An oil discovery would be a great help but, unfortunately, it cannot be relied upon.
A particularly disquieting feature of recent public finance trends is the growth of deficits on the current account of the budget and the consequential incurring of heavy foreign debt to meet everyday needs rather than capital requirements. I regret I cannot completely absolve the present Minister for Finance from some of the blame in this context because it was he who in 1972 first endowed the current budget deficit with an air of respectability.
Mr. Colley Mr. Colley
Mr. Colley: Also, of course, as the Senator will recall, we ended up with virtually no deficit.
Dr. Whitaker Dr. Whitaker
Dr. Whitaker: I shall come to that in a moment but meanwhile I fear the Minister is poised on the brink of enlarging that deficit to phenomenal dimensions in a year of already high economic growth. To be fair, I must say that the Minister's actual use of the expedient in 1972-73 was moderate and in retrospect not of serious economic import.
 Prior to 1972 the desideratum of a balanced current budget was at least aimed at, even if not always realised. It is important to say that this was not done in pursuit of some Gladstonian ideal, in ignorance of Keynes and modern economics. It was done to preserve some discipline in Government financial management and in the knowledge that increased borrowing for capital purposes offered adequate scope for an expansionary stimulus when such was needed. I remember arguing with the Minister before the 1972 budget that the deliberate and open incurring of a deficit on the current account of the budget would be a dangerous innovation. It was not by itself necessary as an economic stimulus since that function could better be performed through enlarging the capital budget. I pointed out that on Keynesian principles it was not the current account deficit that mattered but the deficit in the budget as a whole, capital and current, that is, the borrowing requirement for all budgetary purposes. I argued that we could get more value in terms of jobs and lasting assets by relying on the capital budget to provide the expansionary stimulus.
Capital expenditure in Ireland, in our experience, contrary to textbook pronouncements, is in fact more flexible than current expenditure which consists so largely of irreducible items like pay, pensions, social welfare and debt service. I warned that, once a large current deficit had been allowed to appear, Governments would find it extremely difficult for political reasons to close the gap again even if this course were dictated by sound economic principles.
My arguments proved unavailing, but I remain strongly of the view that the opening up of current deficits was a regrettable decision. In a country still lacking many basic facilities, such as roads, telephones, hospitals, educational buildings, it would have been much better to borrow only for additional capital expenditure, particularly when so much of the borrowing was foreign borrowing. Much of the criticism by the Central Bank of public finance in the years since 1972 and  again, I see, today, has been along these lines, reinforced by the argument that, with greater income restraint more jobs could have been maintained and created with less total Government borrowing, whether on capital or current account.
I lay claim to no great prophetic insight but the record of what happened once the current deficit sluice was raised affords striking confirmation of my worst fears. This is the record: in 1972-73 the actual deficit in the current budget was £5 million; in 1973-74, £11 million; in the nine months of 1974, £92 million; in 1975 £259 million; in 1976 £201 million; in 1977 £209 million. This total of £777 million of borrowing for current purposes since the 1952 budget represents about one-third of total Exchequer borrowings for all purposes in that period. In some years it was as high as 40 per cent. A substantial part of this borrowing was foreign borrowing which now, at over £1,000 million, represents one-fourth of the outstanding liabilities of the State. Half, or even more, of this foreign debt falls due for repayment over the next three years or so. The servicing of the national debt required last year about £410 million.
Looking slightly forward—to 1978 —one can see no hope of any improvement in the situation, quite the contrary. Total borrowing, according to the Government's manifesto and White Paper, will rise to about 13 per cent of GNP. In other words, it will probably lie between £800 million and £850 million. I should not be surprised, given all the tax reliefs and social provisions already promised and the pay increases to come, if the current budget deficit this year were nearly double that of 1977, assuming there is no significant increase in taxes.
I welcome the acknowledgment in the National Development White Paper that, after this outburst of deficit financing, the public finances must be brought back into better shape. Perhaps one must look on 1978 as an Augustinian year: Lord make me chaste but not yet; and then, somehow, virtue will gradually be restored! There is to be, according to the words of the White Paper, “reorientation  and containment so as to enable the current deficit to be reduced.” The prospective average rate of increase in current public expenditure on goods and services in real terms over the years 1978-1980 is given in the White Paper at 3 per cent, a rate which appears to be only half the annual rate which prevailed in the early Seventies, before the recession.
Since taxation is to be reduced rather than increased as a proportion of national income, this must signify a quite severe brake on current spending. The White Paper, indeed, admits to a dilemma. All the projections, it says, of likely Exchequer expenditure up to 1980 point to its continuing to grow faster than GNP, whereas the White Paper's objectives in regard to releasing resources for the private sector and not allowing the tax burden to increase—if possible, bringing it down —require that the growth of current Exchequer spending be drastically slowed down.
No precise indications are yet available of how this dilemma is to be resolved or of how the braking process will be applied to the main constituents of current expenditure, namely, pay and pensions, debt service and social services, which, as the White Paper says, have been the fastest growing element in recent years. None of these elements will yield easily to the curbing hand of the planners. So, very stringent and, doubtless unpopular decisions of policy will obviously need to be taken in order to regain control over our public finances and progressively eliminate the current budget deficit. These are the necessary means towards reducing our external payments deficits and foreign borrowing to manageable proportions. This curbing must happen if the private sector is not to be faced with a further shrinking of its share of resources in the form of disposable income and investment capital; if the burden of taxation is not to be greatly increased rather than reduced; if we are to retain a reasonable measure of discretion in deciding our financial and economic policies in less favourable times; and if our economic growth in the longer term is to be assured.
 I hope to see these urgent and important problems tackled in the promised Green Paper.
Mr. Butler Mr. Butler
Mr. Butler: I am glad of the opportunity to speak on this motion and I will confine my remarks to the principal Irish industry, agriculture. Senator Jago remarked that he saw no increase in production over the past number of years in agriculture. He must not have studied the development of agriculture over those years. I am involved in the dairy industry and the increase in production in that field was in the region of 10 per cent over the past year and in the previous years it was substantially above the year before. That shows that there was an increase in production and an increasing involvement by the agricultural community. Those who understand what agriculture is all about will realise, if they look at the figures, that not alone has the production of milk increased but also the production of cereals, especially barley, increased substantially. That helps reduce the balance of payments. The production of beet since our entry into the EEC and since the negotiations by the former Minister for Agriculture, who succeeded in getting a substantial price rise for that product, has also increased. I can assure everybody that those in the sugar industry are happy about this. The extra employment given in that industry over the past few years is great.
If one looks at our provisional external trade figures for November, 1977 one will see that the export value of food and live animals amounted to £873,170,000. The previous year the figure was £681,068,000. That shows the value of agriculture to Ireland and also shows the increase in value of agriculture to the country. If one looks at the document issued this morning one can see the position as compared with 1977. One can also get an idea of the respect the Government have for agriculture. Agricultural grants, primary and supplementary allowances, are reduced by £2.7 million and this relates to the relief of rates on agricultural land. Lime and fertilisers subsidies have been reduced by £3.28 million.  Anybody who knows the value of lime and fertilisers to the soil and the value in relation to production must see that the Government have very little interest in agriculture.
In my opinion it is a way of taxing farmers indirectly. During the election many comments were made on farming taxation introduced by the last Government. However, under that taxation the Government would not receive anything in the region of £6 million. But, by two strokes of a pen, farmers are now being taxed to the extent of almost £6 million. That is all I wish to say regarding the taxation of farmers.
I should like to comment on agriculture because of its value to the country. The Minister for Agriculture stated that he would abolish the NAA, the National Agricultural Authority, set up by Deputy Mark Clinton. He would be making a grave mistake if he did that. If he feels strongly about certain aspects of that authority he should change those but the authority should be left. We must have communication from the bottom to the top and from the top down to the bottom. We must have information going from the farmer, through the adviser, to the research people. Those in research, if they find out something that would be beneficial to the farmers, should relay it back to them through the advisory service, the people who are closest to farmers. Unless we do that we are not going to have full production in agriculture. I am certain of that.
We must also improve the advisory service. Although it will be a cost on the Exchequer it will be money well spent. We all realise that the advisory service is a depleted one. Advisers are involved in extra work because of the modernisation scheme and so on and, therefore, it is necessary that we increase the numbers. We must get inside the farm gates. The advice is going to very few farmers. The top 30 per cent are receiving it and making use of it. The other 70 per cent are making very little use of it. The reason is that it is not getting back to them. We must see that it gets back to them if we want production.
 We need production to reduce our balance of payments. The total value of that industry is £873 million out of a total of £2,291 million. We must increase the figure for agriculture. The only way we can do that is by advice from people who have it to give freely. These people must be paid by the Government.
Senator Cooney mentioned the White Paper which is a very important document but there is very sparse reading in it as far as agriculture is concerned. As I have proved by the type of taxation they have put on production the Government think little of that industry. The removal of subsidies on fertilisers does not amount to a lot but it is money that should be very well spent.
Another thing we must give serious consideration to is the eradication of disease. As far as the Government are concerned the pre-intensive area is very important. It is the area where the major production takes place, the five counties of Munster and a few counties bordering that area. That is where the highest percentage of agricultural production takes place. If we are serious about the removal of disease we must be serious about removing it from that area.
The compensation being asked by the farmers is not unrealistic. The Minister for Finance must take congnisance of the fact that they are serious. The value of the milk produced by the diseased animals might be limited but at least farmers are earning money from that produce. If we do not compensate them they will keep the diseased animals. They are not getting sufficient money to replace those animals. They have a very strong case. Some settlement should be made soon because we are coming into spring when milk production is starting and being sent to the creameries. Unless something is done soon the diseased animals will be put in calf again and we will have the same situation next year and the following year. We cannot have full production with that type of farming.
We have millions of acres which have produced very little. Unless we have the advice to get that land into  production then we will have very sparse production in that area. In the west there is a million acres of land producing very little. It can be converted into very productive land if these people are given advice on the way to do it. The western farmer is anxious, like any other farmer, to get full value out of the land. I would like to impress on the Minister for Agriculture that the NAA must be allowed to function. If research and advice are given to farmers we will have great development of agricultural land, otherwise there will be very little or none at all.
I mentioned taxation of farmers and the cry during the last election about taxing the farmer. We now have indirect taxation of nearly £6 million. I hope the farmers realise that. We have much to offer as far as agriculture is concerned. There is no doubt but that the £873 million could be increased over four, five or six years by 50 per cent if farmers are encouraged and advised to do that. They must be allowed to do it and they must get the encouragement from the Government to do it. It has been said employment in the production end of the industry can be substantially increased in rural Ireland where it is necessary to have a greater population and to have extra finance and not have the greater percentage of it in Dublin. We need to develop agricultural production and processing. We have read in many papers recently about the type of increase which can take place if enough encouragement is given. In the milk industry, where processing is taking place, the only way we will get any great increase in employment is by increasing milk production in the two valley periods of the year. Farmers must be compensated for doing that. But they will not do it if they do not get the encouragement from the industry itself and from the Government. Enough is not being done there.
Employment in that industry could be increased in a short time by 20 per cent. But it is in the beef industry that we must take an interest. Much of our meat is being exported before it is vacuum packed. It is the vacuum  packing of meat that sells meat to the housewives of England and to the Europeans because it is presented better that way and they know it will be Irish meat. We must have development in that area where meat is sold in that way rather than being sold alive or in sides. At the same time we must have some small percentage of live cattle exported in order to allow the farmers to see whether they are getting a proper price for their meat. Competition between live and killed meat would show up that. It is necessary that the Government examine the production of agriculture and take more interest in that because in my opinion after seeing the Government at work in the last six months I feel that they have very little interest in agriculture. An example of this lack of interest has been the removal of subsidies in respect of fertilisers which are needed for greater production, and the removal of the NAA. I am convinced of the necessity for allowing that body to function. If there are some changes to be made which the Minister considers would improve the flow of information and allay the anxieties of the research people, he should explain to the research people that it is for the benefit of the country that the NAA must function.
Mr. Honan Mr. Honan
Mr. Honan: Sooner or later in every year the time arrives for consideration of past Government expenditure. This time seems invariably to coincide with times of greatest parliamentary pressures of one type or another. Then of course, the time that can be made available is unrealistic. It would, therefore, seem necessary to make forward arrangements to ensure a more generous time allocation for this important function of the Oireachtas in the immediate future.
When one looks through the figures in their consolidated form it is not easy to identify other than the major items of expenditure. But one thinks of the well-heeled deputations that can be observed in an unending, snake-like movement towards the office of the Minister for Finance seeking for themselves the most generous slice of the national cake. One can only think then of the old saying that the big  battalion always wins and one asks where are the small ones.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Hear, hear.
Mrs. Honan Mrs. Honan
Mrs. Honan: One knows the continuos pressure that is exerted on the Government of the day and on Ministers almost daily by groups or lobbies who by any standard would be regarded as reasonably well provided for from public resources. Such pressures should be resisted not only by Governments but by us, the people. Were it not for the moneys collected by voluntary bodies and donated by many generous people in the grey areas of those who cannot care for themselves many lives would be tragic. Now here is the kernel of the problem. Where the well-muscled sections can campaign for the larger piece of the GNP the less fortunate have to take their place at the end of the queue and wait for the crumbs. I stand here proudly today having helped in the field of the mentally handicapped for more than 15 years and I must say that Government Departments have helped and that we have got magnificent co-operation from the Departments of Finance, Education and Health with advice, help and funds when possible. However, I am now strongly suggesting to the Minister that the present situation is neither acceptable nor wise. It should be made known well in advance to voluntary bodies what help is forthcoming to them each year to enable them to plan in advance. Such arrangements would produce a much greater result in the end for all dayto-day financing for the Minister, for all of us, for all future Government Ministers and indeed for the nation as a whole.
One comment before I finish regarding something I have observed since I came here some short time ago: I suppose if I stay here long enough I will be able to make very long speeches but at the moment I am afraid I am only capable of saying briefly exactly what I think and feel strongly about and asking your indulgence.
Mrs. Hussey Mrs. Hussey
 Mrs. Hussey: I, too, wish to be very brief. I want to speak about one very small aspect of the Appropriation Accounts which I have been studying. During the past four years we have had several pieces of legislation which were designed to help people caught in a family breakdown situation. We have the Family Home Protection Act which corrected the situation where the family home could be sold without consent over the head of a spouse.
There are gaps in that legislation which are only now coming to light. There was a maintenance agreement made with Britain so that the deserting husband could be made to face his responsibilities even if he had left this country. There were attachment of earnings orders made so that employers could be made pay a man's wages directly to his wife when he had refused to maintain his family.
Various Acts like this were then followed by a White Paper, or a discussion document as it was called about the law of nullity in this country, but this seems to have been lost without trace. It was discovered that not only had the new Attorney General sent it away for discussion to the Law Reform Commission but so had the old Attorney General. Then one looks at the Appropriation Accounts and finds some interesting small figures. As an example, I will mention two of them: £135,000 is provided for legal aid and £135,000 was given to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The only money which was given to help the thousands of families caught in a breakdown situation to help them seek legal advice in order to find their way through this mess of legislation is the paltry sum of £11,000 given to a group of students who are doing the work that this country should be doing in providing free legal advice and aid, mainly for women of no means caught in a family breakdown situation. The £135,000 legal aid is criminal legal aid; I am talking about civil legal aid, primarily for marital breakdown cases and family law cases. To expect a group of students aided by some public-spirited barristers and solicitors to attempt to give this service  with £11,000 at their disposal is a crying shame.
Senator Honan mentioned the weak. These people are very weak indeed and I hope that next year when we are going through the Appropriation Accounts we will have sorted out the morass of the Pringle Committee. I do not know what has happened to that report and I understand we cannot discuss it today. I hope we will see a very realistic, proper figure there to help the kind of situation in which these very weak people find themselves.
Professor Conroy Professor Conroy
Professor Conroy: The figures which have been mentioned and which are here before us are indeed very high figures for a small country, as Senator Whitaker has pointed out and as I am sure we are all aware. Nonetheless, they are very necessary. We must have a very considerable expenditure if we are to have positive government and if we are to tackle the serve problems of employment and development which face us.
It is recognised that the figures, large though they are, are still fully within our financial capabilities. When comparing this debate with previous debates, it is pleasant to know that we now have positive plans for the development of the economy. These plans will be fully implemented and are already in the process of being implemented.
There is, however, one small cloud on the horizon. We are very fortunate in this country and in the financial allocations which we have made, and which I hope we will be able to continue to make, in that we have not had to include on any serious scale an item which is such a severe burden to so many other countries, that is, defence expenditure. We have been very fortunate, despite the troubles in the North and the consequences of it, that we have been able to maintain defence expenditure at a very low level. One would sincerely hope that this will continue to be the case because it could be a very serve burden if it is necessary to add this to the expenditure which will be necessary to defeat unemployment and develop the economy further.
 Nonetheless, we must take some slight cognizance of the international situation. It is a simple fact at the moment that there is a continuing build-up of military hardware in Europe. The Warsaw Pact countries appear in the past few months to have reached a stage at which it is no longer a question of defensive capability. We in this country would have great sympathy and understanding for a country which has suffered devastating invasion on two occasions if it felt extremely nervous about its security and spent the vast sums that are being spent by the Warsaw Pact countries for this purpose.
It does, though, become a somewhat different matter when that defence capability gradually becomes transformed into an offensive capability and this, unfortunately, would seem to be the position at the moment. One hopes that this is just a slight overenthusiasm, a slight natural tendency to develop defensive mechanisms to excess. Nonetheless, it is there; it is coupled with the recent warning which Brezhnev has given to all our fellow members of the EEC—the personal letters written to all members of the EEC except ourselves. We, of course, are not members of NATO. Nothing I am saying is in any way implying that we should become members of NATO. It is, perhaps, worth nothing that in the last few days the head of the NATO air force has admitted that, in fact, the Warsaw pact offensive capability in the air now exceeds any practicable defensive capability on the NATO side.
I must say that my personal sympathies are with a resolution of Senator West and Senator Martin which is on our Order Paper and which, no doubt, we will be meeting in due course. We must face facts. We in this island are, unfortunately, in a very strategic position. This is the situation whether NATO exists or not. We know how we maintained neutrality in the Second World War. In my opinion this was one of the greatest achievements of this State. It was a very difficult achievement and there is no reason to believe that it might not be even more difficult in a future  situation. It is very important if we are going to maintain our neutrality that we bear in mind the possiblity that we may some day have to face appropriations considerably higher than we are talking about today. We may have to make a greater effort to make it clear to both East and West that we are fully capable of maintatining neutrality, no matter what the situation may be.
I sincerely hope that this does not come to pass, but I think one would be lacking in prudence in consideration of the present situation were not one at least to draw attention to this possibility, with all the enormous implications, not only for the appropriations but in so many other ways as well.
Lady Goulding Lady Goulding
Lady Goulding: I should like to make one suggestion which would bring down costs for the Minister for Health. For the last two and a half decades I have been muttering “community centres” throughout our cities, towns and villages. This suggestion would initially need capital. Money spent on these community centres would save the taxpayer a great deal of money. At the moment, without these community centres, a person not ill enough to be an in-patient in a hospital either has to stay as an in-patient in order to get the appropriate treatment or has to be brought by taxi paid for by the Department of Health or the relevant health board for treatment. If small community centres were set up under medical supervision and run by paramedicals that would save the State a great deal of money. It would mean transport costs would be cut and hospitals would be able to give more time to their in-patients.
I have suggested this on many occasions and I am pleased to have the opportunity of saying it here now because not only would it save us money but it would be a good thing for the particular type of patient, who may be a geriatric patient, maybe recovering from a stroke or some such disability, not really requiring hospital treatment but needing a certain amount of paramedical treatment.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
 Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I was reflecting, when Senator Whitaker was making his contribution to this debate, the curious effect on a person's authority in offering any proposition that results from his engaging in a commitment to political parties. Now if I, or any member of this party, happened to have said what Senator Whitaker said with regard to the Irish Trust Bank, what we would have said would have been dismissed as a political contribution and so regarded by the public and seen as: “Oh, they are just bashing each other again.”
In relation to that particular matter I, for that reason, did not choose to refer to that subject—and I do not propose to go into it any further than he has gone at the moment—but I should like to go on from that point and to raise the question as to why it is politicians' utterances are discounted to the extent that they are by those of the public who listen to them. This, I think, is largely due to the unreality of the political debate where people, when they are out, are criticising those who are in for what they are doing, knowing perfectly well that they themselves would do similar things if they were in themselves.
The party system has served the people well enough. We have all worked our society out of a state of civil war to where we have free elections, freely conducted, free choices made by the people, and Governments with authority emerging from these free elections. Material progress has been made so that it can at least be said that those in employment today enjoy a standard of living which is a multiplier of the standard of living that their fathers enjoyed when this State was founded. This has been an achievement of politicians in this House. A consensus has arisen between the parties with regard to the legitimacy of the institutions. All the parties represented in this House agree that authority of office given by the people should be recognised. This has been an achievement. There has been a considerable modernisation of Irish circumstances affected by compromise decisions of one kind or another. It is the nature of practical decisions  that they are compromise decisions. Material progress has been made. But as material progress is made, it is very often made with some degree of advance in moral progress on one level, which can be seen in Ireland by an increasing awareness of social need; but the cost, which is real on another level, can be seen in the greed of people to which politicians have to respond and for which politicians are, to some degree, responsible.
Now, as to the 14 June last, and I do not take the Augustinian suggestions of Senator Whitaker as quite apt to our situation. It may be apt as a description of the Government but I do not think it is quite apt a description of what I want to refer to. Augustine at that point at least was beginning to recognise that this was a decision before him. Let us hope the Government is beginning to recognise that this is a decision before it.
The position of the people last June was much more the Byronic one of “Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter” and no mention of “sermons and soda-water the day after”. Now we are beginning to have the sermons and the soda-water. We are beginning to have the soda-water in the disappointment to the greedy in the fall of the ground rents Bill, which does not and, as everybody knew, could not abolish ground rents but which does slyly and dishonestly pretend it is giving in a costless fashion a service to the people who want to buy out their ground rents when it says that it is only going to cost them £5. It is going to cost them a great deal more than £5 or it is not going to cost them anything. There will either be a trickle, in which case it will cost them £5, plus a small amount of additional cost in the shape of additional taxation to pay for the professional people who will have to be employed to cope with the examination of title involved, or it will be a flood in which case it will cost the public a great deal.
Our political system has worked well enough, but it has left us in a situation where it is possible for a party in Opposition to go to the electorate and to say to them: “We will give you, if you are a first purchaser of a  new house”—and I am taking it that is what you said; I am not alleging you said any more—“freedom from rates on dwelling houses, and if your car is not 16 horse power or more, we will give you freedom from car tax”. There were no sermons then. What reservations were there were very much the small print on the back of a bus ticket. People's expectations were stirred to believe that they could get something for nothing. They cannot, they must pay for everything. They are beginning to pay now. I am not saying that this is wrong. I would prefer to see a Government do the right thing than hold to its promises if its promises ought not to have been made and are wrong.
We are beginning to hear some sermons now, when the subsidy to the gas company is going, when the fertiliser subsidy is being cut back, when the cheese subsidy is being cut back. I am not saying these things are wrong but that these things were not said to the people on Bloomsday when it was wine, women and mirth and laughter and there were no sermons and soda-water the day after. I believe, a matter more important than the question of the appropriateness of the extension of borrowing at this time is the question of incomes restraint which is expressed in costs of production. I would not like to say anything in this House which would in any way weaken realisation of the Government's ambition on that. In this kind of conventional wisdom in the past, I very often found that the conventionally wise were wrong, but this time I think they are right. If great expectations were opened and if the cost of raising these great expectations is to be found in an increased appetite for income which will be expressed in cost which will hold back progress, part of the responsibility for that is our system of Government, as well as the congealed promises in the Fianna Fáil manifesto. No matter what the Minister may have said, no matter how he or any other individual member of Fianna Fáil may have reserved themselves the people who are now in Government stood behind the message of the manifesto. We have to ask ourselves, whether a concensus will require to be found between  the political parties represented in this House on the matter of unemployment, for example. Is it conceivable that any party would allege that any other party in this House is against the realisation of that objective? To be unemployed in the western world is very different and very much worse than to be unemployed or underemployed in the East, because of the value which is being placed, in the western tradition, on work as such.
It seems that a victim of general elections is truth. When I think that it became politically impossible to present a defence of the last Government based upon the international recession and inflation, I realise that there is a type of co-operation with dishonesty which does not stop at political opponents but that there is co-operation at other institutional levels by people who are afraid to say “what could they have done about that”, when in three years the price of commodities other than fuel oil, doubled, when we had what Nicholas Caulder described in the economic journal as a “totally unprecedented”—in economic history —combination of recession and inflation. Two political parties tried to govern in that situation. Senator Whitaker said that we should have borrowed for telephones, that we should have narrowed our borrowing down to purely productive purposes. I suggest that we all suffer, including Senator Whitaker, in making these kinds of judgements, from the occupations we have followed, from the nature of the interests which are prior for us. Would it have been a good thing for this society if those who continued to enjoy good incomes and good expenditure during years of a very bad slump and acute inflation appeared to be unconcerned about those who are put out of jobs? I am not concerned to justify every decision made by the National Coalition Government. That is irrelevant to my argument. I argue that it seems that part of the truth cannot be expressed for fear that it may have a political overtone. Everybody making an objective comment on these years ought to say that there was a very acute economic  problem for these people to cope with, ought to look at the alternatives that were before them and ought to ask those who complain of capital taxation, of high income tax, or any other type of taxation or cuts in expenditure, the postponement of the census or anything else, what alternatives were there? Even if one is thinking solely of himself and his seat is on a mound of money generating a mound of income, what is the use of that if there is not social stability? That is a very poor argument for providing properly for people who are taking the brunt of recession and suffering most from inflation.
I would like to suggest as a serious proposition to Fianna Fáil that they ought to examine their conscience with regard to promises pertaining to, for example, the abolition of rates on dwelling houses irrespective of the value of the house. It was a simple way of selling the whole damned thing. Everybody paying rates is going to get a free right. There is no complexity in that. But with people occupying, houses, like my own, with a valuations of £66, in order to give to me that which I had previously to pay out of after-tax income so as to get the pre-tax advantage of it, a very considerable multiplier would have to be made. That was done with a vote-getting purpose. Where do we go from here? What kind of society are we moving towards?
Despite what Senator Murphy might have implied about the devolution around the corner, I do not see a Cuba here; but I could see a Peronist Government here. If the financiers did not hesitate about New York I do not see them being too worried about us at the end of the day. But if this is the kind of promise which is made from a position of political strength—because that is what it was with these circumstances already there —if this was the gamble, not then described as a gamble, that was being made, how irresponsible was it? What is to follow the next time? If this is being so successful now what are the next seekers of power going to bid? Are the Irish people to be fired every four years at a general election by a series of promises that fetter their  future wisdom, that mislead them into casting their votes for those who pretend they can give these things for nothing? Are we moving towards a Peronist position where we do not give a twopenny damn about truth? I hope we are not. So far as I can offer resistance to that movement, I shall. There ought to be a like resistance from anybody on the other side who is to have the hapless duties of the present Minister for Finance.
We are dealing with a motion in relation to thousands of millions of pounds, and I ask what degree of examination being carried out on behalf of the people on this expenditure that has not been carried out by people who never seek election, who do not have to seek election, who have managed to get themselves extremely well provided for incidentally. This matter has now become almost impossible politically to debate. People try to silence me in lots of things, and that is one of them. I am told now that the public service have so many votes that it is not right or sensible for Dublin-based politicians, certainly, to be talking about them. That is very serious if that is so.
Our party system could at least begin to do its duties to the people in relation to Estimates by agreeing on some procedures for their examination which would be better than that which obtains at present. If we were now discussing whether we would spend £50,000 or £100,000 we would go into it in the greatest of detail. But this is Parkinson's Law gone completely crazy. There was more debate about it when the current services did not cost £100 million than there is now when they are costing 20 times as much. I am not satisfied from a democratic point of view—and I am equating democracy with the good system and forgetting about its defects—that, whatever goes on between the Department of Finance and any other given Department, necessarily all the points of view are heard, listened to and noted when decisions are made, just as I am not sure that this Seanad is composed in such a way that the pressures and knowledge are being felt here as they would be felt under another composition. But at least the  Dáil has a better chance of doing that job.
Let Fianna Fáil use their 84 seats now to do some good; there is not much point in having 84 seats if you would do just as much as if you had only 72. Let them give some lead in this question which is a question of a transfer of power. This question of expenditure is one which gets a resolution after a debate where all the points of view with regard to the expenditure have been heard. I agree with the implications of Senator Murphy's observation here a month or so ago. From the point of view of a political party now not in power, hopeful that they still may have a useful part to play for the people in or out of power, I hope the Government are as successful as some people think they will not be. The gamble should be more precisely expressed as a gamble of viable jobs against cul-de-sac jobs. I hope it is successful because the freedom of our institutions is, to me, supremely valuable, and the freedom of expression of any point of view by anybody is put at risk if this sort of system breaks down.
The problem is not that of the people deprived in the sense of being sick, invalided, old, weary and lonely, who have not the power in their limbs to lift them to do damage; but it is a problem concerning people with strong arms and reasonable intelligence, plenty of appetite and a good deal of frustration. If that problem is not solved when there is a general election there may not be a Leinster House to go into. There may be a Government Buildings to take over in the upshot of a general election fought like the last one. Let us have general elections in which we have fair debates, not waters that are muddied, not promises nearly like promises of a prostitute—they are like the poule de lux, wrapped up in high-falutin' statistics and economics— made worse because they came out on a poorly-typed piece of paper from somebody who had been dismissed as not being very learned, made worse because they appear to have attached to them the badge of learning, the seriousness of thought.
Mrs. Cassidy Mrs. Cassidy
 Mrs. Cassidy: The last debate on an Appropriation Bill in this House was remarkable for the consensus of opinion on the need for a coherent, workable plan to solve our economic problems. There were, of course, differences of opinion as to what form this plan should take. Now we have a Government with a plan and, not only with a plan, but with a new Department which designed the plan and is charged with the task of putting it into effect. The plan and the Department—in particular the degree to which the Department of Economic Planning and Development will be dependent on the Department of Finance—have been the subject of criticism, both adverse and constructive. It is worth remembering that one of the most useful forms of encouragement to an active Government is constructive criticism.
Of course, the Government is faced with what a former British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, called the harsh reality of translating Opposition priorities into Government allocations. Of course, a Government's priorities are limited by, on the one hand, their resources and on the other by the degree of discipline and restraint which its people are prepared or persuaded to accept. While the economists may know the route, they do not drive the taxi. I am confident that the prophets of doom will be cheated of the spectacle of the Minister for Economic Planning and Development being left like Cinderella with his “hooves” in the ashes while the Minister for Finance whoops it up at the ball.
The acceptance of restraint means for those of us who are concerned with the lack of clear, coherent objectives in the system of education— parents and educationists alike—that we must be prepared to accept the Government's premise that “implementation of improvements will be phased because of the limitation of resources.” It means that we must be prepared to accept the dictum that the best is the enemy of the good and find the Government's objective in having as their priority the reduction of the pupil-teacher ratio in first and second level schools an acceptable compromise.
 After 13 years, the effect of the implementation of the last Government White Paper, Investment in Education, the product of a Fianna Fáil administration, was the subject matter of a critical review by the National Social and Economic Council entitled Expenditure in Education in Ireland, published in January of 1976. The findings may be briefly summarised. We are not spending enough on education. In particular, we are not spending enough at first and second level where investment is most likely to provide equality of opportunity and equality of access. Finally, what we do spend we cannot afford anyhow, which would seem to suggest that the whole system is grinding slowly to a halt.
Mr. Sheehan who prepared the report poses the question: is the system of education a rationing and screening device as well as a creator of skills and qualifications? We are obliged by the Constitution to provide a free though not necessarily adequate education for primary school children. The inadequacy of first level education may be measured by the high degree of illiteracy among school leavers at this level. It is said that one in four primary school leavers does so unable to read or write. The curriculum presently offered to secondary school students has been described as irrelevant to their needs and circumstances in a report published in January 1976 by a sub-committee of Dublin City Council set up to inquire into the causes of absenteeism. This view was endorsed by the curriculum development unit based in Trinity College at a seminar in November 1976.
In vocational schools, while there has been increased emphasis on technological education, this has been in response to demand rather than a consciously planned development. Indeed, a comment of the Limerick Director of the NIHE in October 1976 described technological education as being “in disarray”. Those lucky enough to survive the rat race and get a place at university will either emigrate on graduation or join the dole queue. It is a sad reflection on the Irish people with our love of learning, which after all is one of our finer traditions, to have  allowed our system of education to become one of screening and rejection rather than one of encouragement and hope.
The basic problem to be faced is this: the development of the system in 1965 was geared to the projected demand for skilled and educated manpower necessary to fulfil the targets of the Second Plan for Economic Expansion and this it did, and this is what it is still doing. We are providing a system for our children based upon the assumption that we are still enjoying the period, comparatively brief, of affluence of the late sixties and early seventies and which has no relevance to their needs in the 1980s. For how long then will raising the level of a grant here or adding a teacher there be enough? For how long can we avoid the consideration of alternative means of financing the educational system? The real question is, not can we afford to spend money on education, but can we afford not to.
Mr. Kilbride Mr. Kilbride
Mr. Kilbride: This is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him success. My contribution will be brief. My home is in the centre of the country, in a part of Leinster which is composed mainly of medium and small-sized farmers. Perhaps I would prefer to be described as a small farmer. There are some aspects of the public service which the Government and appropriate Ministers should examine —for example, our system of local government in regard to road building and rural electrification in areas where people are engaged in agriculture and industry.
First, I want to deal with rural electrification and the manner in which the ESB sell electricity to small industrialists compared with how they sell it to the larger industrialists. I can give the Minister details, which he can verify if he wishes, of an instance in my county where the ESB were asked to extend the three-phase line to two industrialists, each of whom lived exactly the same distance from the point where the current had to be connected. The small industrialist employing  only nine or ten people had to get the current extended to his premises. He knew that the other party had already obtained approval from the ESB for a similar extension and that he was getting his extension at two-thirds the cost the small industrialist would be, and had been, asked to pay.
The ESB appear to sell electricity —and the Minister will check this I hope—on the basis of what they will recoup for the lines they are providing. In other words, a large industry will use a certain amount of electricity and the ESB will get £X from that industry. The small industrialist will not use as much electricity but he will be charged 50 per cent more for the installation of electricity than the large industrialist. That is not what we should expect from a national service.
The money for that service is being provided by all the people. This has been the case since the inception of the ESB. When the Shannon scheme was initiated we were promised that the farmers and industrialists in smaller rural areas would have the same facilities as the bigger industrialists in centres where the ESB would recoup a considerable amount of their expenses. We have found that the reverse is true. This is inhibiting the creation of industry in rural areas. I am sure the Minister will agree that the small industries have come through the recent recession better than their bigger brothers. If there is anything to be weighted on the side of the industrialists, big or small, it should be weighted in the interests of the small industrialists.
When a new industry is being established the ESB have a very important part to play. Their help can be the deciding factor in whether the industry succeeds or not. As a State institution producing energy, they should be prepared to assist people who wish to erect factories by installing motors and providing the energy to work the machines. They should extend over a number of years—four, three or two—the terms for the repayment of the initial cost that arises where current has to be brought five, six, seven, eight or nine ESB pole lengths across a rural area.
 If somebody who can provide employment and is putting all he has in the world into an industry—and I know such people—who has borrowed from an industrial bank to equip his factory with up-to-date machinery and every modern facility, asks the ESB to extend to him the same repayment terms they extend to an individual, this facility should be provided. In other words, if £2,000 is the installation cost, the small industrialist should be allowed to pay that sum over three or four years. The ESB may say “No, you must pay through the teeth or you will not start your factory. Even though you will give employment and do not now have the finances to get this business going, we cannot give you electricity unless you pay now”. That is a fact and I can testify to it. If the Minister wants details I will be only too pleased to give them to him.
There is another aspect of the electricity system with which I have to find fault. Over the years the ESB have been extending electricity, under Government supervision and sponsoring—I am very happy that it was like that—into rural areas on the basis of domestic consumption. In other words, if you wanted to have an iron to iron your shirt, or a heater to put at your toes, you were able to plug in, but if you wanted to use a milking machine the chances were that you could not do so.
I have evidence where farmers have been able to have electricity because they were the first to draw off the lines single-phase current, but when their neighbours who were equally entitled and who had also subscribed through tax, looked for electricity supply, they were told they could not have it. I know of cases where, if farmer A milks his cows, farmer B must wait until he is finished.
I know of situations where the Electricity Supply Board installed electric current on the basis of people needing industrial current and it has not been utilised to the extent it might have been. While we concede that they are entitled to be respected for making a contribution like that to industry even though it is not being utilised to  the extent it might, the Government have a responsibility to see that the ESB initiate a scheme for the improvement of electricity supply in rural areas. I am speaking for the farmers who are milking seven, eight, ten or 12 cows and sending the milk to the creamery. They are entitled to electricity which will enable them to milk their cows at a regular time and to have the milk cooled properly. It is a disgrace that a situation exists where county engineers in the north and west complain that there is not the necessary supply of water in the various towns because of the system of supplying water to milking parlours. Now we have an electric system for cooling and the farmer is entitled to have the current. He should not be put in the position if he uses the supply that there will not be sufficient current for his television set.
These are circumstances we have to consider in terms of how far the Government are thinking of applying their economic plan for recovery in respect of agriculture. It is worthy of consideration and I would appeal to the Government to take an extensive and careful view of it. Energy is being demanded every day but nobody has a better right to obtain it and to protest when he is being denied it than the farmer. Farmers are producing something which was not there before. We invite industrialists to establish in this country. I am delighted they have come and I hope they will be successful in promoting employment in industry and in selling their goods abroad. They are all applauded and lauded when they come here but many of us seem to forget we have the greatest industry of all in agriculture. Farmers do not want to be put first but they want to be put on equal terms. It is the demand of the people of the country that agriculture be exploited to the fullest possible extent. The spinoff in regard to the export of live animals, carcases, and meat dressing is a very extensive element of our industry. If we were to compare it to any other industry it would come out first. For that reason the small industrialist and the farmer are entitled to the opportunity given to other sections in big industry.
 It should be evident to the Government that the contribution of big industry is no greater than that of agriculture and the small industrialist. I appeal to the Minister and the Government to give this sincere and careful consideration.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: The debate on the Appropriation Act affords an opportunity to the Seanad to assess and comment on Government performance in the provision of services for which moneys have been voted. Clearly it covers a very broad area and each Senator has to select particular subject matters which are of interest or concern. I propose to select areas which I think are of particular concern and I know my colleagues in the Labour Party will be focussing on other areas. I do this in the hope of getting specific replies from the Minister to the questions I will be raising. I appreciate that he may have difficulty in replying to all of the many and varied points which may come up, but the debate can only be a useful one if we can get as many responses as possible specifically on the points raised.
First I would like to make a general comment on the White Paper on National Development 1977-1980 published the other day which was described by the Minister for Economic Planning and Development as a “gamble”. It may very well be that Fianna Fáil are right in thinking the people prefer a gamble to the truth, but there is a particular responsibility on a Government when that Government can anticipate a stable period in office and when they have a very secure majority in political terms. There is a grave moral responsibility to face the challenges of the times and not to wrap up proposals in a way that makes them dependent on so many variables that the actual realistic possibility of their being implemented cannot be calculated. There are too many dependent variables, depending on getting a five per cent wage restraint, or depending on this or that. This is a gamble of incredibly serious proportions because of the nature of the challenge facing us—the challenge to create adequate employment and  opportunities for young people and to maintain and improve the standards of living of people generally. This Government came to power emphasising the need for overall planning but I regret they have not faced the nature of the challenge, the very serious proportions of the challenge, and they have come up with a formula which depends on so many variables that it is almost an abdication of clear Government responsibility in the matter.
One thing that is very clear is that since Fianna Fáil came into office in June the rich have got richer. It is interesting to document this fact. The rich have got richer because they are relieved of rates on their large houses. Rates have been removed on private dwellings and that is more beneficial to those who paid more in rates. The richer you are, the bigger your house and the bigger the rates burden which impinged; so very specifically and dramatically the removal of rates has been of proportionately greater benefit to the better off. I agree very much with the criticism made by Dr. Brendan Walsh at the youth convention in Cork organised by Fianna Fáil where he stressed the fact that the removal of rates in that global way was a regressive step. That is one item of evidence of the rich getting richer.
Secondly, Fianna Fáil have taken the step of removing any valuation limit on house improvement grants. Here again those who are well off can apply for house improvement grants; the rich getting richer; if you have a nice house and you want to build a new bathroom, apply—no limit! What kind of priorities have we got?
Mr. Colley Mr. Colley
Mr. Colley: Jobs primarily.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: I will come to that. The next area where the rich are getting richer is in relation to running cars. Tax has been removed on cars. This is of particular benefit to those with two, or possibly even three cars. Certainly it benefits the better off. Farmers think they are going to continue to evade the full burden of fair taxation. It remains to be seen whether they have good ground for their belief. The statistics  shown recently of the burden carried by the taxpayer who is paying under the PAYE system is an indictment of the tax structure here and further points up the absurd situation of the evasion of a fair tax burden by the farming community who benefit so dramatically from our membership of the European Economic Community and common agricultural policy. That has pushed up food prices for the consumer. It has hit the working class particularly who have a higher proportion of their budget spent on food. European farm prices are particularly beneficial to the farmer; the richer the farmer the better off he is in the circumstances and it looks as if it will continue to do well.
Finally there have been hints that there are going to be changes in capital taxation in the budget next week. These are hints and it remains to be seen what will be done. Undoubtedly the specific implementation of promises has the effect of making the well-off better off, the rich richer and, needless to say—and not surprisingly—the poor poorer. The poor get poorer because food subsidies are being removed, for example, in relation to cheese. The poor get poorer because the subsidy on town gas is to be removed with a disastrous increase in the weekly budget for working-class homes, for poor people who need more heat and have to use gas, so also for elderly people very dependent on gas. That is again a clear indication of the strange priorities and concern of this Government.
Worst of all—there is an area on which I intend to concentrate to some extent and on which I will be seeking specific responses from the Minister— I hope somebody will be passing on the message to him since he is unable to remain for this part of the debate himself—I will be seeking fairly specific answers to questions about the implementation of legislation which was supposed to create a new structure and new terms of reference in relation to those on the poverty line, those who are destitute, those who are most in need in our community. I refer to the Social Welfare (Supplementary Welfare  Allowances) Act, 1975. This Act came into effect on the 1st July, 1977 and coincided therefore more or less with the beginning of the Fianna Fáil Government administration. The Act was supposed to be a replacement of the old home assistance system. It was supposed to move away from the old poor law relief, the relief of the destitute; and to create a structure of rights and entitlements for beneficiaries, of statutory rights to fixed amounts, a whole different climate and approach. I intend to show in some details that, despite the change in name and even the change in name of the officials of the Department of Social Welfare, the reality is all too often that of the old discretionary home assistance, the reality of public charity to the destitute from the public purse and, at times, a very mean evidence of charity at that.
I should like to refer to a contribution by Deputy John O'Connell, Labour spokesman on Health and Social Welfare in the Dáil Official Report 1st December, 1977 at columns 579-580. It was in relation to the Estimate for Social Welfare. He said:
The social welfare supplementary allowances were brought in last year and constituted a long overdue legislative reform. Under it every person in the state whose means are insufficient to meet his needs and those of his dependants is entitled to a supplementary welfare allowance. This allowance is provided as a right and it is a supplementation of the standard allowance and other social welfare payments where these are insufficient to meet special needs.
That is a statement with which I would agree were I a lawyer looking at the terms of the Act. But the reality is different, as Deputy O'Connell goes on to say, and I quote him:
Unfortunately, in practice there is a big gap between what we as legislators intended and what actually happens.
I would submit that that gap is particularly serious in a country like ours which—uniquely in the EEC—still has far too much evidence of grinding visible poverty, of rock-bottom  poverty, destitute people: unmarried mothers, elderly people, single people who perhaps for mental or physical reasons cannot work and who are destitute. I do not think that in other countries in the European Community one can see it quite as noticeably as one can here and certainly, in particular, in parts of the city of Dublin.
It appears that the non-operation or maladministration of the supplementary benefits scheme arises from a number of factors. It is in relation to these factors I would welcome specific responses from the Minister. First of all, applicants for supplementary allowances are given no adequate information about their rights in the matter. It is very curious that, when the new scheme was brought into being on the 1st July, 1977—after a very regrettable delay for a variety of reasons—there was no attempt made by the Department to advertise the nature of the benefits, who was eligible to apply for them, what was meant by the supplementary element in them, why they were even called supplementary allowances, that the essential idea was to be a supplement over the minimum. Surely when the Act was directed towards the least-advantaged, the most vulnerable, the most helpless people in the community there was a particular onus on the Department and Minister responsible to publicise very clearly, in the newspapers and on television, that this scheme had come into operation with its benefits to particular applicants or recipients. Unfortunately that did not happen. The only publicity that I have seen and been able to trace about this scheme is a minimal advertising of it in conjunction with all other entitlements to social welfare, and where the supplementary element is not given at all; it just refers to the minimum allowance which now, for an adult, is £10.30 a week. There is no question of that being the minimum and there being a right, based on assessment of need, to get supplementary allowance in excess of that.
I understand that the Department did eventually publish a sheet of paper which gave some details of the scheme and that this was supposed to be included in the booklet which contains  details of all the other social welfare schemes. But, through some presumably innocent inadvertency, the slip of paper was not included in the booklet and apparently has been lying in the Department of Social Welfare, or lying somewhere waiting to be put somewhere. Single sheets are now available if somebody inquires for them. That is a most inadequate publicising of information about what was to be a very important change in the State approach to supplementary allowances for those on the poverty line, below the poverty line, the very poor, the destitute, the vunerable people in our society. That is the first point: that there was not adequate information.
Secondly, the guidelines issued to the community welfare officers who were to implement the scheme do not seem to permit the proper operation of the supplementary aspect of the Act. It appears that the community welfare officers cannot give the supplementary benefit without the permission of their supervisor, without the permission of somebody else further up the line. This has built in a rigidity into the scheme which was not there even under the old home assistance. At least under the home assistance the individual official could in cases of urgent need use discretion and pay out an amount, but it now appears that the supplementary benefit requires the official stamp or approval of the particular social welfare officer's supervisor.
Thirdly, the provision for an appeals procedure which is contained in the Act itself has not been properly implemented by the Minister for Social Welfare. There is provision under the Act for the establishment of an appeals system and for regulations by the Minister setting out the grounds and nature of the appeals system. This has not been done by the Minister. I would argue that the Minister has a statutory duty to bring in these regulations but he has not done so. All he has done is to provide that the programme manager of the health board in a particular area will, on a sort of ad hoc basis, be the appeals officer. That is a most unsatisfactory arrangement. The Minister has a clear  statutory duty to bring in regulations and establish a proper appeals procedure. Unfortunately, it appears that the section of the Act requires that the appeals procedure will be to one person, either a person in the Department of Social Welfare or another, rather than an appeal to a three-person appeal board which I would think would be a much better and more objective system.
Given that the Minister, as I say, had a statutory duty to bring in a regulation, and given that the Act did not come into effect until two years after it had been passed by the Oireachtas, it would have been expected that the Minister would have the necessary regulations ready and that these would be in operation. As I understand it, the Minister stated that the designating of the programme managers in the health boards for a period of six months would last from 1st July, 1977, to 1st January, 1978. It is my understanding that the system is just continuing and that there is no conscious, thoughtful approach to establishing a proper appeals procedure.
In any case, even if the Minister had done what I would maintain he is obliged to do under the section and established a proper appeals officer and appeals system, the existence of a right to appeal is not brought home to anyone applying for supplementary welfare because the forms being used are still the same forms as the old home assistance forms. A person is not informed of his or her right to appeal to an appeals officer or, as it is at the moment, to the programme manager. You have then a lack of adequate information about the benefits, in the first place, and about the scheme; guidelines which seem to detract from the legislative intent of the 1975 Act, no proper appeals procedure and no indication to those applying for supplementary benefit that they have a right to appeal.
Again, we must be very clear that we are dealing with people who are not well motivated and highly intelligent and able to pursue their rights with private lawyers at their  elbow. It is particularly necessary when we are dealing with people at the lower end of the scale, who are possibly suffering from a mental or physical inadequacy or defect, who are burdened with the deprivation of poverty, that the Department in the implementation of the scheme and the individual community welfare officers should lean over backwards to ensure that the benefits are understood by those for whom they are supposed to be available and that every step is taken to accommodate them, to explain procedure and to take the time to ensure that they not only know their rights but also know that if they are not satisfied initially they have a right of appeal and to whom they have the appeal.
There was supposed to be provision for non-financial aid—such things ar essential furniture, bedding, clothing, food, and so on. This seems to work on a very unsatisfactory ad hoc basis. Some health boards and offices are quite good. Some community welfare officers supply this assistance, others do not have this at all. Again, it creates in the mind of those applying for the particular benefit the idea that it is still the old discretionary home assistance; that they are still the beggars looking for a bit of public charity and that they do not have a right, as they are intended to have under the Act, to the particular benefits they are seeking.
This is an extremely serious situation. There have been specific instances—and I think that this is very grave and is a matter which should be of particular concern to the Minister—where even the statutory minimum as set out in the Statutory Instrument has not been afforded to an applicant for assistance. This blurs the distinction between the old discretionary home assistance and the right to a statutory minimum for an adult, and then for an adult with dependent children or with elderly dependants: a person should get all they are entitled to. I know examples of women who have had two or three small children and they have got less than they should have got; mathematically less than they should have  got as a minimum, apart from the fact that this was supposed to be a Supplmentary Allowance Act and that on the basis of need there would be the necessity to go on to consider the possibility of giving more than the minimum either in terms of further financial assistance or other types of non-financial assistance. The Act is based on a right rather than a discretion and that right is determined by need. If one looks at section 2 of the Act, it is very clear. It says:
Subject to the provisions of this Act, every person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet his needs and the needs of any adult or child dependant of his shall be entitled to supplementary welfare allowance.
The problem and the difficulty in implementation is that there is not an adequate, objective assessment of need. The applicant fills out a form, meets somebody behind a glass partition or behind a desk. There is no real assessment of need. If the individual applicant goes in without having the advocacy of a professional social worker they might as well go home as far as hoping to get a genuine assessment of their needs is concerned. The Act does not say that we must have the advocacy of a professional social worker but that is what is happening in reality. Professional social workers cannot be there to advocate in the case of every applicant for supplementary welfare. Therefore it is absolutely essential that a clear distinction be made between the home assistance system of discretionary aid and assessment of need under the legal provision in section 2 of the 1975 Act and a finding based on that assessment of need and the award of a statutory minimum as the very minimum and a supplement over that if the need is greater.
We should think about the kind of people who are affected by this Act and who suffer if it is not being implemented properly, as I maintain it is not. They are, to a very considerable extent, women—not exclusively, but to a very considerable extent. They are the deserted wives who have not been  able to get maintenance or who are in the process of trying to get maintenance, or in the process of trying to get a deserted wife's allowance or some other allowance, but in the meantime are at their most vulnerable; they may not even have a halfpenny at a particular time. There are prisoners' wives, unmarried mothers trying to cope with the problems of a single parent who have no insurance or who are not employable for mental or physical reasons. These people can very suddenly find themselves destitute and they are dependent on the proper operation and implementation of this scheme, similarly there are the homeless unemployable single adults.
There is a very real problem with the aged destitute. The thing that would strike anyone in certain parts of the city of Dublin is the fact that there are still many aged destitute people. If there is a right to have an assessment of your need and if there is a right to a minimum, and a supplementary to that minimum, why have we destitute aged people? How come we can pass a law and still have this grinding poverty and this indignity to the human person? If you are destitute it is difficult to have minimum cleanliness, minimum health standards and, in the end, minimum self-respect. This is something which should be of vital concern to us.
The problem is that if an aged destitute person is homeless and goes along looking for supplementary benefits, he does not qualify. They have to apply from a hostel and only certain recognised hostels can be a base for an application. There is a nice catch 22 in the implementation: if you are really destitute and homeless you do not qualify at all. This is something which should be very seriously looked into. If you apply as a destitute elderly person from a hostel and you get the statutory minimum of £10.30, you may very well pay £7 a week for the hostel. That is the standard rate in a number of hostels for destitutes in Dublin.
Is it expected nowadays that a person can feed and clothe himself for a week on £3.50? Anybody who would suggest that at the present cost  of basic foodstuffs is very far from reality. That is why there are people in the city of Dublin who do go without a hot meal over the weekend. They cannot get a hot meal in a hostel in Dublin over the weekend. almost without exception. It is this kind of contrast between the Government of the big spending, the specific provisions that have been made which are a relief to the better-off in our society, and the mal-implementation of a clear intent in the legislation that we would move away from the old discretionary home assistance. What a contrast!
One of the main problems arises when the health boards themselves furnish estimates to the Departments of Health and Social Welfare. In the estimates furnished by the health boards they are concerned to try to maintain an adequate level of services in a whole range of areas— including existing hospital services— and these take priority over the very poor and inarticulate destitute. Nobody is there when it comes to the estimates to argue their cause against the lobby for particular hospital services and other kinds of services under the health scheme. It seems as though there needs to be a mental change in those who are preparing the budgets for the implementation of the supplementary benefit scheme. It very often happens—and professional social workers will vouch for this—that there is no money by the time Friday comes in most of these community welfare offices. The only thing they can do if somebody comes in destitute on Friday is give them food vouchers because it is not budgeted for. This is an extremely relevant indication of the general approach of where the priorities are.
The six working months we have had of the new Supplementary Welfare Act have highlighted inadequacies and inefficiencies in it. First of all, it was to replace the old home assistance but it has done this in name only, not in ethos, not even in the basic treatment of applicants. There is still a tendency for them to see their application as being one of  looking for some discretionary assistance, some charity from the public purse. They do not question the amount they get because they do not know their rights. They do not appeal because they do not know they can do so. If a woman with three young children who has not a penny, gets food vouchers she does not complain because she does not know she has a right. She does not understand that her rights are being transgressed in the same way as anybody else's legal rights might be transgressed, but they can go to a lawyer or they have various other ways of asserting their rights.
There are very serious deficiencies in the way in which the Act is being implemented. There are serious deficiencies at Ministerial level in not having regulations providing for appeal and in having the operation of guidelines which appear to contravene the intent of the Act. I would argue that the ceiling of £5 in the statutory instrument setting out the conditions on which a supplementary allowance can be applied for over the minimum —unless the Minister authorises further payment—is beyond the terms of the Act. It was not the legislative intent that there would be in all cases a ceiling of £5. The reason I say that is that there is provision for urgent need in the Act. Apart from an assessment of need there is provision for special and urgent need. I do not think anybody can argue that urgent need can always be met within the parameters of £5 unless the permission of the Minister is obtained.
Psychologically, it is going to be very rare for a community welfare officer, a supervisor or inspector to bother the Minister, which means bothering somebody very high up the scale, to actually get an authorisation to pay more than £5. It is strange and weird that there should be such a global, tight, rigid ceiling on the whole legislative intent that this would be a Supplementary Allowance Act and not just a minimum one.
Another area which is of deep concern and where there has been a considerable passage of time in talking about it, is the implementation of civil legal aid and advice. I tried  to raise on the adjournment this evening the question of the publication of the Pringle Report. Unfortunately, I was not able to be here at 2.30 p.m., but I was informed by letter by the Cathaoirleach that this is a matter which I can raise here on the appropriation debate and therefore it is not a fit subject for the adjournment today.
The specific point which I want to make in relation to the urgency of publication of the Pringle Report is that this committee was established in May 1974. It was given terms of reference which asked it to examine and advise the Minister on the introduction of a free legal aid system. The committee have now reported to the Government and I understand the report is ready for publication, if the Government would authorise publication. There was some delay in delivering the report in order that it could be presented as a report ready for publication. There is no reason for further delay on that ground of publication of the report.
Moneys were provided in the Estimate of the Department of Justice for the work of the Pringle Committee. I would submit that the report of that committee, apart from the Government's attitude to the report, for which the Irish people have waited nearly four years, is a matter of intense public concern. The report should be available, if necessary prior to a Government statement on what way or to what extent the recommendations of the report will be implemented. That is a separate question.
The publication of the report is of very real public concern and interest. Many barristers, solicitors, social workers and those interested in the implementation of the law are tired making the point that unless we have a system of free civil legal aid and advice we do not have justice, we do not have equality before the law and we do not have access to our courts. We also build up an extraordinarily serious problem by driving people with legal problems to drugs, and to relying on the health  service to an undue extent. As any doctor working in Dublin will say, there are far too many women who are unhappy in their family circumstances using drugs to cope with a situation which they cannot resolve because they cannot get access to advice to resolve it. I am far from suggesting that the law will solve all the thorny and complex aspects of a family problem but it can help if people have access to advice.
I should like to emphasise that in my view it would, in fact, be an inadequate and, indeed, a discriminatory response for the Government to introduce civil legal aid solely in family law matters. In my view that is not a valid distinction because although those in need of advice can have very serious problems in the area of family law they can also have immensely serious problems in the area of landlord and tenant. in the area of property rights where, in the case of a tenant, the landlord may have the benefit of a solicitor and barrister and the tenant may have no written agreement, may not know his rights and may not know what the possible remedy is. That is as serious as a family crisis, and just as serious as trying to resolve the complex problems where there is a breakdown of the marital relationship. It would be a most inadequate and discriminatory response to single out the area of family law, which is an immensely important and serious area but which is only one of the areas where people seek and need legal advice and need access to competent legal services.
Despite the fact that individual barristers and solicitors, and from time to time the president of the Incorporated Law Society, or somebody else in a position of responsibility, mentioned the need for civil legal aid and advice this has not been tackled with the real seriousness of purpose that it should be. There is lacking a real appreciation of the hardship, discrimination and unfairness in a most basic way of a structure and system of courts and lawyers where if one can pay one has access to legal advice and if one cannot one is dependent on the operation  of voluntary free legal aid centres if one happens to be lucky enough to live near enough and to know where to get such help. Also, the free legal aid centres operate under very difficult conditions because they have a very large number of cases, have limited resources and depend to a fair extent on students manning them with some professional barristers and solicitors assisting. This is not an adequate response. Ironically, the changes made in 1976 in the area of family law have highlighted the inadequacy and the unacceptable situation of not having a system of civil legal aid and advice. Under the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976 and the Family Home Protection Act, 1976 there are some useful remedies in the area of family law but they are remedies which are quite complex and difficult. Some of them are very far reaching with provisions like barring a spouse from the home for violent behaviour and the improved grounds on which one can bring maintenance proceedings in the case of a deserted wife, or affiliation proceedings in the case of a single mother. They are, undoubtedly, improvements in the law but they remain to a considerable extent paper rights: a legislative intent which is not being fully implemented. To that extent there is some analogy to the points I was making on supplementary allowances.
We can create fine looking legislalation and we have done it for example, in the area of equality legislation. We can create what appear to be legal rights, what appears to be equality of opportunity, equality of access to the courts and what appear to be remedies for deserted wives, for single mothers in our society; but in reality these remedies are no good if the individuals involved cannot get access to professional advice, cannot get an advocate in court and cannot resolve the problem in that way. The human misery caused, the mental and physical strain and strong dependence on our other services, like our health services and our child care service, are the ultimate price we pay for not facing up to this reality. On that, too,  I have specific questions for the Minister: when are the Government going to publish the Pringle Report which they have had since early December? When are the Government going to publish their own response to the recommendations of the Pringle Report and, hopefully, bring in a comprehensive system of free legal aid and advice?
Business suspended at 6.05 p.m. and resumed at 6.45 p.m.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: Before the tea break I was about to draw attention to another very important area in considering the Government's involvement in administration and in providing services, that is the area of education. It is striking, looking at the historical development of our approach to education, to note that the young emerging Irish State in the 1920s and 1930s, did not place the kind of priority on education that might have been expected of a state which had won its freedom and its responsibility for its own resources and how these would be distributed, and a state which had known so deeply and was to know during the 1920s and 1930s and up to the late 1960s the terrible evil of emigration. It is striking that we did not at that stage—nor ever really since— place an adequate priority on education.
Now, we have a challenge of similar dimensions to that which faced the young Irish State. We have the challenge of a large, young population, of a unique demographic structure in western Europe which will require us as a people to take a conscious decision —and it is up to the Government to make that decision clear—that we will devote that proportion of the overall budget which declares our identification of the importance of adopting a qualitatively different approach to education and to the resources we put into it. If that is a valid statement, then there can only be immense disappointment at the Estimates for 1978 for Education. As I said, we have never treated it seriously enough. Even at the political level, the Minister for Education in successive Cabinets has not had the political importance that  he warranted if we have a sense of the real priorities of the State. The role of education in Ireland now is one of the real priorities.
Fianna Fáil, prior to the election, and the Minister for Education, placed an emphasis on the importance of improving the teacher/pupil ratio in primary schools, but now it appears the Government do not think they can achieve the target of a ratio of 1:40 overall in primary schools. That is an extraordinary retreat from an attempt to come to serious terms with the kind of budgeting for education which we need. It is depressing to see that the increase for higher education appears to be only a 5 per cent increase on the Estimate for last year. This increase, in a highly inflationary period which coincides with the enormous challenge of pressure of student numbers and competition for student places, is derisory. It files in the face of the commitment to the creation of jobs because, speaking as a member of a law faculty, I know the crying need for new places in the law school at Trinity. It is the same situation in the law faculties in UCD, in Cork and Galway, so that there is a crying need for new law staff, for new facilities to cope with this very welcome demand and interest in studying law and of students wanting to follow that particular discipline and career. The same applies in so many other faculties. Quite indefensibly, adult education is treated as the total poor relation in the Estimates for education, and appears to be left static which means a substantial decline in real terms in investment in adult education. Again, what is the thinking behind this? What are the priorities? This is a time when we need to create a climate of ongoing education, when we need to invest very substantially in adult education and in the basic principles behind a continuing education of our people, in particular, those who have been deprived, under the still privileged access to third-level education by their background or who may not have been eligible for the very limited number of student grants available.
It is striking that the overall Estimate for education is below the average  overall Estimate; it contains an average estimated increase of 15 per cent; the overall estimated increase is 18 per cent. That is a very serious indictment at a time when we must cope with this unique demographic structure, at a time when we have the youngest population in the European Community, at a time when we should reflect this reality in a qualitative expansion in education and not a lower than overall average increase.
Another urgent problem is the need to revise the eligibility criteria for grants to third level education. Some improvement was made by the Minister by raising the amount of the grants available, but this only aggravates the injustice and unreality of the eligibility limits. For those caught just above the limit, who cannot afford the fees for their children to go on to third level, it is infuriating to see that for those just below there is an even larger grant for their children to go to third level education. Indeed, there is the ridiculous situation of a fairly comfortably well off farmer whose child may qualify for a grant for third level education whereas an agricultural labourer employed by him may not qualify, to send his child because he may be above the absurdly low eligibility limit. There is an urgent need to revise upwards the eligibility criteria, which is another specific matter which I would ask the Minister to deal with in his reply. When are the Government going to revise the eligibility criteria for student grants for third level education and when are they going to be brought to a realistic level?
I would also welcome a specific response on why the professional course which is to be introduced by the solicitors profession as of next September does not qualify for State granting? There are very serious implications in this. The implication is that only those whose mummys and daddys are rich enough to be able to afford to support them for the three-year solicitors' course will be able to become solicitors. It is extremely important to realise the inevitable streaming and the reinforcement of an already restricted profession that this  is going to perpetuate. It is going to make it impossible for somebody from a working-class background to become a solicitor. It is going to perpetuate a cycle of privilege. It is going to close that particular profession to the broad spectrum of people.
When one considers that the solicitor—as well as the barrister, the judge and the law teacher—has such a significant role in our society in advising people on their legal rights, very often, in reinforcing the status quo, it is extremely important that we ensure that access to the professional course for solicitors, and access for that matter to the course for barristers, be visibly open to any person who is seeking to follow a career as a solicitor or barrister without disqualifying him on financial grounds, and ruling him out because he cannot afford the financial burden and there is no State grant available.
There are specific questions to be answered about unwarranted discrimination in access to education, and there is the crucial question of when the Government are going to review the eligibility limits.
I would like to move from education to the general position of youth in our society. It is a much talked about problem; it is a problem that any working politician cannot be unaware of, and we all now have useful phrases and cliches. However, it still appears that the scope and immensity of the challenge—a challenge which in many ways I welcome because I would far rather see a young and vibrant Ireland than a decaying, ageing, declining population which was far too often the problem of the country —has not been grasped. Although we talk about it, we do not respond to it with anything like the degree of urgency that is required. That is evident on walking through streets in Dublin and seeing so many 15- and 16-year-olds hanging around street corners. They are becoming more and more resentful, more and more alienated from society; they may be watching their ten and 11-year-old brothers and sisters become involved in fairly profitable petty crimes and vandalism  and either joining them, leading them or following them, as the case may be.
I do not think we have faced the qualitative difference in coping with that problem from, say, four or five years or ten or 15 years ago. It is of unique proportions. I, for that reason, would not knock or decry any steps that the Government may take. I would be prepared both to welcome and so far as possible support any steps taken by the Government or by a particular Department to encourage the employment of young people, involvement of young people, job opportunities, career opportunities, educational opportunities for young people. I regret, however, that the response—for all the talk—has been very slow and minimal, and that the Government have not yet been prepared to identify and articulate and to create a change of climate to meet the social challenge to us as a people.
Would the Minister be prepared, in his reply, to indicate whether the Government have considered the possibility of some type of voluntary service for a period of two years between the ages of 16 and 18, which would be funded by the State and which would create a possibility for job opportunity and training for young people within those ages, specifically paid for by the State as part of a State job creation policy? The terrible flaw in the present gamble—and I call it that because that is what the Minister for Economic Planning and Development called it—of the White Paper approach to job creation is that it depends for an expansion of jobs on the private sector. It depends on the willingness of businesses to expand under the stimulus of incentives with the 5 per cent wage restraint that the Government are hoping for and pinning their package on.
This seems to me to be flying in the face of economic reality. I do not spend a great deal of time talking to business people—I am sure I do not spend anything like as much time at it as the Minister does—but in so far as I have talked to employers in the last year or two they are definitely not interested in expanding employment. They are not going to create  further jobs lightly. Specifically, they are concerned about wage costs, about employment protection legislation and about how quickly and efficiently they can introduce technology to replace the employees, replace the human beings with the machines. These are fairly simple points, but they need to be emphasised again. There is a drift away from industrial jobs.
I believe that the Government, by pinning their hopes on a gamble—that somehow this will be reversed and there will be an expansion in jobs in the private sector—are taking a terrible risk. The business community will thank them for the incentives and go on replacing human beings by technology, and go on making themselves more competitive by reducing the amount of their overall budget which is wage costs and avoid the difficulties of the employment protection legislation on equality legisation. That is their approach and we are now in a cycle which is comparable to the cycle of drift from agricultural land not very long ago, which is of course still continuing. There is a drift from industrial jobs which we must realise will not be reversed simply by incentives to the private sector. As a community we must think more deeply about how we are going to create jobs using the resources of the State.
In talking about creating jobs through attracting industry from outside, one of the real problems on the ground about attracting large industries from abroad is that the jobs they offer are very tedious, repetitive and boring and the Irish school leaver is not culturally equipped to stay at this type of industrial job. First of all, the whole conditioning in secondary education is all too often away from industrial jobs, away from an approach to technology and training of a vocational nature and towards a white collar job, preferably in the larger town or city away from rural Ireland. There is that kind of bias towards white collar jobs. As well as that, if the youngster takes a job in a factory it may be such mindless, mind-bending work that the turnover is very high.
It is important to give specific  examples when making a general observation of that sort. A specific example I would use is a firm like Asahi. There has been a great deal of talk about union problems in Asahi and of a potential Ferenka situation there. One of the problems in Asahi which is less noticed is that they cannot seem to hold girls there to do the spinning work. They have had a very high turnover and they now probably have somewhere between 50 and 70 jobs available if they could get girls to fill them.
This is another dimension of the type of problem we are up against in this rather glib talk about job creation. We need to look at the kind of jobs, at the environment of the jobs and the preparation for industrial life. All of these aspects need to be considered in talking about providing a future in this country for the numbers of younger people coming up. This will hopefully force much greater impetus towards worker democracy and participation in decision-making about the work environment in which younger people find themselves. Otherwise they will not stay, and there will be the tragic situation of unemployed young people in an area where there are, on paper, jobs available but where they are rightly unwilling to do totally mindless kind of work where there is no structure of job satisfaction, no career structure and no participation structure; where they are only cogs in a machine. This is something which should be a matter of very real concern in trying to create the types of new jobs which are going to be necessary. It must not be just any job. It is necessary to look carefully at the quality of the work environment and the preparation of younger people for this type of responsibility and career. There is a need for a very rapid and radical change in the whole industrial community.
I would like to turn to another area which again involves young people and which would come more within the responsibility of the Department of Justice than the Department of Education, but there is some overlap. I refer to my very real worry about the response at the political level to what is  undoubtedly an increasing problem of vandalism, particularly in our cities and large towns. As I see it, there appears to be a very worrying right-wing backlash on this problem of vandalism. I can understand the pressures. Old people are afraid on the streets; they are locking themselves into their homes or flats. They are fed up having their handbags snatched and being pushed around and put in fear by young thugs. They are terrified to go out at night. Their social life has ended, except perhaps in a very small area around their own homes. These are very real problems and very understandable pressures. They stem from a very complex situation. The trouble with a right-wing backlash is that it is, of all things, a simplified response. It is a simple response to an extremely complex problem. As such, it needs to be resisted.
I am afraid that the Department of Justice appears to go for a simplified solution in the case of the under 16-year-olds in the recent decision to convert a prison into a high security centre for under 16-year-olds. I cannot say I know precisely what the Department's intention is on the matter, because there appears to have been considerable change in the decisions taken, but I do know it is of very real concern to CARE and other organisations and people concerned about the welfare of children held in care and in custody. It shows evidence of an over-simplified response to what is, of course, a real political problem on the ground and a real human problem for the people who are the victims of vandalism.
Vandalism is only an outward indication of a cycle of deprivation, of lack of educational opportunity and bad family circumstances, and we need to be acutely aware that these factors are related to what I was talking about earlier. This pattern is related to the absence of proper procedures for resolving deep and intransigent family problems—family breakdown problems where husband and wife are no longer communicating, where the husband may be beating up the wife, where the children are shunted out of the house into the street and the  street becomes their natural habitat which they adapt to. It is these very complex and varied underlying factors which seem to be swept aside in a backlash response of building centres to hold these under 16-year-olds in an institutional environment, of calls for bringing back the birch and other types of responses which have the easy saleability of simplicity. They are viceral responses to a problem which we are perpetuating if we do not create educational opportunities, community centres, outlets, play schools and if we do not create an adequate court process to deal with situations where there are serious problems and where there is a need for appropriate adjudication.
Here we come to the other major defect in the whole area of family law. I have dwelt at some length on the question of civil legal aid and advice. The other pillar we must create if we are going to have a decent system for resolving legal problems in the area of the family is a proper system of family courts or tribunals. In the constituency of Rathmines I know the contempt most of the citizens—and, it would appear a number of the gardaí working in that area —have for the present system and, in particular, the children's court. They do not believe in the system. They do not think it works. They think it sends those brought before that court back as slick, smart, young escapers from justice. They pride themselves on having beaten the system. They have got round it. There is no attempt to ensure on-going responsibility on the part of the parents or guardians in the particular circumstances, and the inadequacy of the whole system accentuates the right-wing backlash. We are failing to cope with the problem by having proper procedures, by having a well-structured approach by a family court or tribunal which has the resources of social workers and psychiatrists, plus the follow-up by welfare officers who know the community's background and circumstances.
It is not the eight-nine and ten-year-old who should appear alone in the court because parents do not turn up. The parents must be involved in the  court process. Talking about a court process is itself inadequate, because we need a broad process of assessing what is the best resolution of the problem in the particular circumstances. If we go on allowing the court system, and specifically here the children's court system, to be so inadequate, so lamentably failing to meet the needs of people in urban Dublin, then I think we are building up a resentment which will reflect itself in vigilante groups and visceral responses to vandalism, a right-wing reaction from a community which feels itself besieged. I am very well aware that the more you go into working-class areas the worse the problem becomes. It is not at all as bad in better-off suburban areas. There may be a certain amount of housebreaking but there is not the same terrorising of the community. There is not the same problem of no outlet for energetic youngsters.
The question that we basically have to ask ourselves is why should a 14- or 15-year-old who has no job prospects, who has no prospect of continuing in education, who is shunted out of his home because there is not enough room for him, or because his parents are basically in a dispute they have no decent way of resolving and he is told to get out, why should he have any faith in our society, abide by any of our rules or conventions? There is absolutely no reason why he should. It is perfectly understandable why such young people become criminals, why they create their own underground culture. This is a problem which is manifesting itself, a problem for which the simplified law and order response is totally inadequate. It is one of the real challenges to us as a community. It is a challenge to provide an adequate family tribunal procedure, to provide adequate community facilities and community participation, to provide the possibility of job creation by the Government in a meaningful way in areas where there are pockets of very high youth unemployment. There is not an even spread of the problem. In some areas of high density population the parents went into a particular estate at a particular age so that most of the children in that particular area are between the ages of 11 and 17. In  another area where the parents are younger the children are younger, but you can have very high pockets of teenage unemployment, resentment and all the consequences of that. I think this is something which merits a very serious response from the Government.
I would like, just to concentrate my own and hopefully the Minister's mind before concluding, to refer to the specific questions I have raised. A number of these questions relate to the operation of the Social Welfare (Supplementary Allowance) Act, 1975: When will the proper appeals procedure be introduced by the Minister as, I would maintain, he is required to do by regulations under the 1975, Act? When are people going to be properly notified about their right to appeal? When is there going to be proper publicity about the benefits and when are the guidelines to the community welfare officers going to be withdrawn and rewritten so that they conform to the spirit of the Act? The present guidelines do not conform to the spirit of the Act. Will the Minister remove the overall ceiling of £5 on any supplementary allowance on top of the minimum allowance provided for in the statutory instrument so as to allow for more flexibility? There are two ways of doing it. He can either make a higher overall ceiling or he can abolish the idea of an overall ceiling altogether. Nothing in the Act says he has to have an overall ceiling. Will the estimates prepared by the health boards reflect the seriousness of the priority for those on the poverty line, those who are destitute, those who are most vulnerable in our society? Will that be a priority area in preparing the budget of the health boards, so that there is not a shortage of money week by week, so that there is not a bare subsistence amount furnished to community welfare offices?
When will the Government publish the Pringle report? When will it indicate its attitude on introducing a comprehensive scheme of civil legal aid and advice? When will the Government introduce a realistic programme of job creation for the young not dependent on the goodwill of private enterprise? That is contrary  to the drift away from industrial jobs, contrary to the expressed opinion of business people in their response to coping with the problems of remaining competitive, of expanding or, at least, maintaining the level of business they are doing. It is no good pinning the major hope on job expansion in the private sector. When will the Minister for Education introduce a realistic eligibility limit for grants to third-level education? The increase in the amount of the direct grant has actually aggravated the injustice of an unrealistic eligibility level. I would be grateful to the Minister if he would respond specifically on these points and I hope that the responses will enlighten and, hopefully, encourage the Members of this House.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: It would appear from what Senator Robinson has said that she has not been talking to very many business people lately.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: I have.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: The pessimism that she has spread here this evening has to be heard to be believed. There are areas certainly in which high technology can play a part in increasing company profits but the majority of the jobs are not in highly technological industries. They are in industries which support very high employment rates and that workforce is necessary to provide profit. Senator Robinson's mood of pessimism pervades the Opposition benches.
Mrs. Robinson Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Robinson: Realism, not pessimism.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: It is not realism. At the outset we heard Senator Cooney suggesting that anybody who would see a social significance in the abolition of car tax would be wrong. He stated that there was no social significance in that. This was taken up by Senator Robinson. She stated the abolition of car tax helped the rich. She obviously has not been through the countryside very much lately where the car is no longer a luxury. In country areas the car is the only method by which people can get their children to school. There  is no public transport in many areas. People have to use cars to get to their employment and the abolition of car tax has helped to an invaluable degree the life style in the country. If we cannot subsidise people who cannot afford the luxury car we are failing in the aid we should give to these people. There certainly is a social significance in the abolition of car tax. It may not be apparent in Dublin city but it is definitely apparent throughout rural areas.
Senator Cooney and Senator Robinson also suggested that the abolition of rates was something which helped the rich. The latter has obviously not had any dealings with local authority tenants or with ordinary people. If she had she would know that the abolition of rates has a very significant effect on their weekly budget. No mention has been made by the Opposition party of the reduction in the cost of the stamp for those earning less than £50 a week. This gives people an extra £1 into their pockets and it is not a taxed £1.
One would imagine from the Opposition side that this will be a gambler's budget, but a plan for national development was produced, which is a lot better than what was not produced by the last Government. There is no suggestion that it is anything but a guideline. We as a nation will progress if we understand the problems within the nation. If it suits our social philosophy we can run down the efforts being made by private industry but the social philosophy of the Irish people has not gone so far left or is that pessimistic that we are not as a nation prepared to get ourselves out of the morass into which we have got.
People are prepared to work. Senator Robinson made great play about the fact that people have become cogs in big machines. This philosophy is being spread not by the workers in factories but by people with philosophies opposed to the workers. Senator Robinson mentioned specific factories. How many of the people in these factories have told her that they feel like cogs in an international machine? From where is the Senator getting her information? We need industries such as Asahi and the bigger industries  coming into the country at present. The people who are working in them need them and the State needs them. I, and I would hope the Government, would make no apology for bringing in this type of industry.
I am not here to criticise what has been said but there are a couple of items that I would like to raise in the field of health and social welfare. In one of the last budgets a retrograde step was taken when in the field of taxation the price of the pint was increased but not the price of the short drinks which became cheaper than the pint. This has a social significance which is not fully understood by many people. The incidence of young people going into pubs now and drinking spirits as opposed to beers is increasing every day. It has an effect on the social fibre of the future generation in the sense that young girls are drinking spirits at a much younger age than any previous generation did. They are not able to cope with these spirits. I am not suggesting that they should drink beer, but if they are going to drink I suggest that beer would be better than spirits because they would drink less and they would not become addicted to drink. Many girls are going into institutions every day because of their drink problems. This area should be looked into in the budget. The cost of the health services is growing at an enormous rate and the more we show that growth, the better.
We must look at education in the outside classroom context. A lot of the faults mentioned by Senator Robinson which are appearing in our society at present are appearing because of our educational system, which has become much too competitive. Our system is too competitive in the exam situation, in the games situation, and is competitive in that anybody wanting to go on to third level education must have so many points. Because a high number of points are necessary to get into a certain faculty people with high numbers of points wish to get into that faculty, irrespective of whether they are suitable for the faculty or not. A person with 36 points want to get into medicine because 36 points are needed to get into medicine; he might be suitable for arts or for commerce, but  because he has the points he will go into medicine. If this is allowed to continue we will have a very bad situation in the future.
I would like to dwell on the small industries situation. Not enough help is given to small industry. I am talking about the very small industries employing 20 and under that cannot afford the sophisticated accounting methods and the staff that the larger industries have. As a result they get behind in their payments to the Government, whether it is VAT or PAYE. Interest must be paid on late payments. This interest rate, which is basically paid by companies who are in trouble or the smaller companies, has not decreased even though there has been a downward trend in interest rates here and all over the world over the last 12 months. The smaller companies are not in trouble but they have difficulty getting their VAT and PAYE paid in time. Any accountant in the country will tell you that his office is full of cases where people are trying to get these interest rates alleviated. Apparently it cannot be done because of the Act.
On the economic field in the future we must consider things in social and in economic terms, but we cannot mix the two. A social objective must be treated as a social objective and people should not crib about paying taxes for it. In relation to a commercial objective, it must be stated quite categorically that we pay a commercial price for it. We must consider in the future whether CIE either is a commercial or a social service. If it is a social service it must be subsidised to a large degree, but if it is a commercial enterprise it must compete with private sources and must charge the economic rate.
In the few months that the Government have been in office we have seen a change in the industrial climate. I hope that out of the coming budget we will see a further increase in the confidence that we have in the future of this country, which is opposed to anything that I have heard from the Opposition benches today.
Mr. Connaughton Mr. Connaughton
Mr. Connaughton: I find myself agreeing and disagreeing in the one  breath with what Senator Lanigan said. To get back to his opening remarks on Senator Robinson, Deputy Martin O'Donoghue, the Minister for Economic Planning and Development, either said that the economic plan was a gamble or he did not. According to the three newspapers on the morning after the Press interview, he said that it could be regarded as a gamble. There is nothing particularly wrong about a gamble as such, but one section of Fianna Fáil say that it is not a gamble and another section say that it is a gamble. I wonder which section we are to believe.
The abolition of car tax has certainly suited certain sections of the community. We have heard about all the goodies from the Government benches but about some of the baddies they were not too forward in telling us. From the point of view of paying for all the goodies that have been handed out, the agricultural community are not feeling too happy in the past two or three weeks. They have been got at on no less than four occasions, maybe in a small way, but it is certainly a pointer to what is to come. We will see as time rolls on how equitable the tax will be. We will see who will be paying for what, and then we will be able to decide whether it was good legislation.
I agree with the views of the previous speaker about small industry. We must get more people to work. It is very important that small rural industries get a better crack of the whip than they have been getting heretofore. It is very important that the local boy who gets on well will be helped in every possible way. The IDA and the Government have initiated a new scheme whereby the man who had the idea but no money would be helped along the line. However, there are certain stipulations in it. Some of the traditional industries in various parts of the country might have been grant-aided to a large degree over the past few years. In the pre-cast concrete business, for example, if a chap in the disadvantaged areas could give work to 30, 40 or 50 people he is entitled to an IDA grant because he is giving  work in an area where there might not be work if he was not there. Maybe a case can be made that that product might be over-produced. Nevertheless, one cannot beat free trade. If a man like him can beat the best and the biggest, I do not see any reason why he should not be helped along.
It is imperative that more money be allocated to the local improvement schemes carried out by the county councils. Successive Governments have not seen the light in so far as these schemes are concerned. At a time when we want to get more people back to work I cannot understand why we would not have an increase in expenditure on this scheme. There are a number of very good reasons why we should. First of all, we are putting a great many more people to work, and more important than that is the work they are doing, particularly in relation to rural Ireland. We have a tremendous number of roads, fences, drains and so on that could and should be improved. I see no reason why this should not be done at a time when we want people back at work. I understand from the Estimates that there is an increase for this in the forthcoming budget, but at a time when the Government are handing out goodies on all sides the increase here should have been much greater, as it should have been greater from other Governments also. This would be a very good way of getting people back to work, and at the end of the day, we would have a better country and we would be giving people a certain pride in working in their own areas. Besides that, the scheme is structured in such a way that community involvement will have to be there, so that people will know what they are paying for and they certainly will not have a scheme unless it suits them.
I would like to refer to the Farm Modernisation Scheme as it is presently constituted. There are certain things that should be changed fairly quickly, because the scheme is not geared to suit the needs of the majority of farmers. It is important that more farmers be eligible for greater grants, and this would mean the various categories would have to be changed. However, the biggest bug in the directives as we know them is the retirement  pension scheme. There is a great opportunity here, with the budget just a week away, for a major piece of surgery to be carried out. Irrespective of what people in industry might say, the real wealth of the country lies in its land. The millions of acres in the hands of elderly folk who are unable, for one reason or another, to use that land, could be put back into production. We have the young people to do it, and now that the scheme has got off the ground the time is ripe for a monetary reward to get several elderly farmers into the category where they will want to sign over the land and retire.
There are two important points here. First of all, the pension at present bears no relationship to the cost of living today. As well as that, for reasons that are well known, we have a problem regarding the old age pension. If my city friends will bear with me, I have to say that in rural Ireland one of the things most looked forward to is receiving the old age pension. Great emphasis is placed by all rural people on getting that pension. It can be proved by the Land Commission at the moment that people would nearly forgo monetary awards greater than would entitle them to the old age pension in order to say that they qualified for it. A number of people handed over their land under the retirement pension scheme and found that they were not entitled to the old age pension. Several of their neighbours who were contemplating a deal of that type then decided they would have nothing to do with it. I will be asking the Minister to look at that scheme. There is a huge area to be covered and I have no doubt that if we got into full production the land that is locked in the hands of elderly folk who are unable to use it, it would be an area in which we would get several more people back to work.
I would like to mention a matter concerning the ESB. One of the greatest bugbears for a young man in rural Ireland today is building a new house. Naturally he has to have the electricity supply connected to his new house and as the months and years go by this is becoming a huge burden. I regard the ESB's method of arriving at  the cost of the actual installation of the supply as being totally unfair and loaded against a young man and his wife, possibly recently married, who are facing the greatest expense in their lifetime. The ESB decide that electricity will be connected after payment of a certain sum by the householder and, if another house is built in the area, a refund is made to the original house owner. In my opinion, the original house owner is acting as a banker for the ESB. They should be in a position to provide their own banking facilities. This is an unbearable burden and every day we meet people who have to pay anything from £500 to £1,000 or £1,200 for ESB connection. This is highly unfair and I would ask the Minister to have a look at it.
I want to come to another vexed question to which no Government seem to have the answer, that is, the question of school transport. There is a free scheme but is it free in the strict sense of the word? Through no fault of their own many parents in backward areas or in areas where there are not enough children are very heavily penalised. Perhaps some day everybody attending school will pay some small sum and, where practical, everyone will be provided with transport. It is a very vexed question. Some families are living 50 yards the wrong side of the two mile barrier and many children are walking to school because of that 50 yards. I cannot see the justification for this and I would certainly call for a change. Possibly anything would be better than what is going on at the moment.
Finally, there is a great deal of urban versus rural controversy at the moment particularly with the budget coming next week and talk about taxation and so on. The Government seem to think there is plenty of money in agriculture and that a fair amount of taxation will be forthcoming from agriculture. The difference between average earnings of farmers and industrial workers remains much the same as it has been over the years. Farmers, on average, are £7 a week behind their industrial brothers and, until such time as that gap has been closed, for the vast majority of farmers the type of taxation now envisaged by the Government  is unjustified. They are reneging on their election promises and on what farmers expected from them. This is plainly shown in the incidents of the past fortnight. I would hope that whatever may be in the budget it will not deter farmers and others from increasing production.
Mr. Lyons Mr. Lyons
Mr. Lyons: In common with practically every other Senator I should like to add my few words of criticism of the actions of the Government. It can be said, of course, that Fianna Fáil have sufficient strength now, if they so desire, to ignore any criticism and say: “We have a supreme and superb mandate from the people and why should we pay much attention to itty-bitty criticisms from other parties?” I am not saying the older members of the Fianna Fáil Party would ever adopt that attitude but there might be such a temptation. At any rate even after this short time questions will be asked as to whether or not Fianna Fáil in Government are proceeding along the lines they designated, whether they did the greatest “con” job ever known on the electorate, and whether their manifesto, which was responsible to a large extent for their massive majority, was based on cool reason, on definite plans, and on a recognised target to be achieved in a specified time. Time alone will tell whether or not these things are true.
In the meantime we all hope Fianna Fáil have a plan which will bring the country out of the mess of unemployment in which it finds itself. It might be no harm to realise that, whatever verdict the electorate passed on the National Coalition Government, they weathered the storm and came through it with the country relatively unscathed considering the tremendous worldwide recession in their period of office and all the other things that happened. The Minister knows as well as anybody else that there is this upturn in the economy, to use one of the hackneyed phrases of the economists, because of the fact that, in their final year or two in office, the National Coalition did what was vitally necessary in order to bring the country through the recession and provide hope for our  young people and for everybody else. In the next couple of years Fianna Fáil will have to prove that the massive confidence placed in them by the electorate was deserved. If they do not achieve the targets set out in the manifesto the people will give their verdict just as massively against them when the time arrives.
Many things remain to be done for the old as well as for the young. Most people think in terms of unemployed youth at the moment because they are vociferous, they are a danger, and if they get together they can cause trouble on the streets and trouble for the Government. This makes an impact on most people. There are other people whose voices are never heard, the old, the decrepit, people who are mentally and physically handicapped, young people who are physically and mentally handicapped.
We all admit that a good deal has been done for them over the years, but a massive amount remains to be done. If we consider ourselves as a Christain people, a Christian Government, a Christian Parliament, we must ensure that in the future we do more for the people who are deprived by force of circumstances or by act of God and who are not able to take upon themselves the risks and the works necessary to survive by their own efforts in this world. This is something about which we must be much more concerned. I am not saying we should not be concerned about the unemployed and the youth, or that we should not be concerned about education and a different system of education.
Some of the problems of finding employment for our youth will be aggravated by the fact that over the years we have placed emphasis on academic education instead of technical education. We need technicians. We need people who are able and willing to work with their hands, and that need is becoming more apparent as we become more industrialised. We are not ready for it because over the years our educational system was not designed to ensure that we would have these people. We are going to have that problem in the future. It is not an easy one to solve, but it must be solved. We must publicise at every level that  we will not be training people for the world of the future if we are going to place too much dependence on academic education. We will only cause more problems for ourselves if we continue to do so.
With regard to the price of failure, if the Government fail to achieve their target, the frustration that will be involved for everybody is a price I do not like to contemplate, but the nation will have to pay that price. There are economists in this House, business people and people who know more than I do about money markets, the shift of money, its value and devaluation, but I have rarely heard two economists agree whether borrowing or increasing taxation, or a mixture of both, was the best method of dealing with a situation and how far one can go in one direction or the other. These are matters which trouble economists and must trouble a Minister for Finance. They certainly must have loomed large in the mind of the present Minister—perhaps not now because I am sure his decisions were made during the past few months with regard to what action he was to take, knowing, as I have said earlier, that the price of failure is that we all lose. It is not that the Opposition or the Fianna Fáil Party lose, but rather that the country loses. In the years ahead we cannot afford to lose anything.
If we are going to provide a standard of living for our people such as we all desire, it must be a standard of living that will give them a good, clean life and prevent them from emigrating. Because our neighbouring country, England, is not “flying”, we have many unemployed here. In the past the problem was solved for Fianna Fáil Governments by people emigrating to England, America or elsewhere. That day is gone. I do not regret it because it may have made us examine our consciences and try to solve the situation in a far better way than we would have had to do if the emigrant ship was still there taking our hundreds of thousands of young people out of the country. It makes us think and say we have to have a solution.
I do not know what the ultimate end will be. I am not asking the Minister to tell us the secrets of the budget  because we know very well that there are people in every country, and particularly in this one, who could make a fortune overnight if they knew what the Minister intended doing on a particular day. The fact that they were born Irishmen, or had an Irish name, would not prevent them from doing that and they would have no qualms about it. Therefore, budgetary secrecy is necessary for the effective policy of a Government.
The provision of viable employment is another problem. The target should be that the employment provided is viable and long term. Stop-gap employment at a particular point just to throw people into dead-end jobs or jobs that will close at a certain point is useless. It may be that under certain circumstances and under grave pressure a Government may have to do it in a particular year but it is something which none of us can look forward to without qualms. It is worthwhile examining the situation to ensure that the people who have to be employed are employed in viable jobs, in worthwhile employment. Even if it costs more thought, money and delay, it is more worthwhile than shifting people into jobs just for the sake of having a job for six months or a year, because there is no return from that except a loss and the money is thrown down the drain. It is tempting to put people into that kind of job. There is a great deal of work for people who can do manual labour. There is drainage and forestry and so on but we have not the people to do that. Our young people are so educated that they would not like to be seen with a pick or shovel in their hands. That is to the eternal discredit of the education policy of government after government, over the years. It is about time we realised that.
I do not want to delay the House but some people have gone into the working of the health boards and our policy with regard to health. As a member of a health board since they were established I realise that members of local authorities have been consistently blaming the health boards for the rise in costs. They have also complained that even with the amazing rise in costs the services being provided have not improved. I disagree with that because  there is no doubt that they have improved. There is no doubt that there is a better awareness of the problems that exist and that the machinery to solve them is there. There are tremendous gaps in the services, gaps in the dental services for school-going children, for the old, the weak, in the orthopaedic services where people must wait for as long as two years before they can get replacement hips or even get minor fractures looked after in some cases. There are gaps at hospital level in the provision of other services that the people need and should have. People in Dublin city, for instance, do not realise how well off they are compared with people in remote areas.
In Dublin city people can reach hospital in minutes and they can have specialist and consultant services in that time also. They do not have to travel in ambulances over 90 or 100 miles of bad roads to avail of these services. Therefore, people in Dublin do not realise what people in rural or remote areas have to endure. I could never imagine a time when people in remote areas would be as well off as people living in cities. People living in cities do not realise how well off they are. They have footpaths and street lighting and they are only minutes away from essential services. People living in country areas do not have these facilities. Yet, if they ask for them nobody listens to them. I may have been deviating slightly but there are so many gaps in the health services in rural areas that I wanted to explain the situation so that when the Minister for Health goes to the Minister for Finance the money bags will be opened and he will be given whatever money he requires to ensure that people who need these services will get them in the shortest possible time.
Mr. A. O'Brien Mr. A. O'Brien
Mr. A. O'Brien: I should like to second what Senator Lyons has said with regard to deficiencies in the health services. I wish to draw attention to children between the ages of 12 and 16 years when they come under the health services. Adolescents between those ages should have adequate  medical and dental attention. I am sure the Minister for Health is considering this problem as it is one which, as Senators will be aware, has come up for discussion at the regional health boards throughout the country in the past four or five years. I hope the Minister for Health will be in a position to remedy the situation soon.
I should like to refer to an article published in the Irish Independent on 29th December, 1977 by former Senator Brosnahan, general secretary of the INTO, in which he draws attention to the relatively low investment per child in primary schools compared to that of a child in post-primary schools. This matter has been drawn to the attention of various Ministers for Education in recent years at INTO congresses. It has been referred to consistently by the Central Executive Committee of the INTO during a period of years. While I admit that the new Minister for Education is taking some action towards improving the pupil/teacher ratio, the general feeling is that progress is too slow.
Another matter of grave concern, not only to members of the INTO but to parents, educational committees and representatives of the managerial associations, is the age of transfer from the primary to the post-primary branch. Experience has shown that the age is lower with each succeeding year. Children under 12 years of age are transferring to the post-primary schools and it is found that these children are not sufficiently mature for the post-primary programme. This practice manifests itself at the other end of post-primary education because a high percentage of secondary school pupils are found to be immature when they enter university.
A recommendation was made by a committee of the INTO, other teaching organisations, representatives from the Department of Education and representatives from the managers' association in 1975, and it was agreed at that time that steps be taken to delay the passage of pupils through the primary school by one year. Nothing has come of that recommendation since then.
In the same article of 29th December, the General Secretary of the INTO  drew attention to the fact that there are still a number of insanitary schools in the country. We should be ashamed of that situation existing in the late seventies. I ask the Minister for Education to solve that problem immediately and remove that blot from the educational area.
I want particularly to draw attention to an area that has been neglected by successive Governments, that is, the north-west region. I have figures with regard to Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. People will be astonished to learn that, in the 1911 census, the population of County Cavan was 91,173, in 1926 it had fallen to 82,452 and in 1971 it was 52,618. That is a fall of 44 per cent in the population of that county in the 60-year period between 1911 and 1971. The percentage drop for the same period in County Monaghan is 35 per cent, Donegal 35 per cent, Leitrim 55 per cent. The Leitrim figure is a startling figure. In 1926 the population of County Leitrim was 55,907 and in 1971 it had fallen to 28,360, a drop of 96 per cent. Such a figure points to the failure of successive Governments since the State was established.
It is customary to draw attention to Mayo with regard to figures of decreasing population but the decrease in that county from 1911 to 1971 was 43 per cent and between 1926 and 1971 was 37 per cent. Therefore, Mayo is no worse than Cavan and a lot better than Leitrim. County Roscommon is about identical to Cavan in all figures. In 1911 the population was almost identical with that of Cavan; we had the same drop between 1911 and 1926, and between 1926 and 1971 a drop of 43 per cent. The county in that north-western region with the smallest decrease but nevertheless a very significant one was Sligo with a drop of 30 per cent, almost one-third of the population.
Figures like that must be an embarrassment to people in public life here. Whatever merits were to be found in policies introduced with regard to different parts of the country by various Governments—and there were merits in policies introduced by successive Governments—every Government in  this State must be embarrassed to some degree and take a share of the blame that the drainage of population from the north-western region continued unabated from 1911. I have not gone back any further than that. The bleeding of that area probably set in in the famine years. At any rate it has continued unabated from 1911 to 1971. In the period of native Governments from 1926 to 1971 that region dropped in population ranging from 30 per cent in the best-off counties and 55 per cent in the worst-off. This is something calling for the wholehearted and enthusiastic attention of people who are determined to build up the country. We cannot continue to have a decrease in population of that magnitude in these areas and hope they can be developed later. If these figures are broken down one finds one is left with an inordinately high percentage of very old people and perhaps a relatively high percentage of very young people. But the producing sector of the population, the young and middle-aged, have moved out of these counties. They may now be working in Dublin—which is an improvement on having to go to Britain—but they are not based at home and the structure of that society will break up. This demands immediate and urgent attention because it is the region demanding attention most.
I am not in a position to suggest all the remedies. I merely draw attention to the facts. We have a Minister for Economic Planning and Development, a Government charged with the development of the country, hopefully with fair deals for each section of the community and each area. This is something worthy of the attention of the people most interested in bringing to fruition the policies on which the Government were elected.
With regard to the counties of Cavan and Monaghan—both of which are included in the list of the largely depopulated part of the country—it is beyond understanding why these areas were not included in headage payments from the outset. Farms in these areas are small; the land is not good; the best of it is probably second-class, ranging into third, fourth and fifth classes. Everything should be done, with the help of EEC moneys, to put  some life and hope into that area, in the form of making available to these two counties every benefit that can be got through the Regional Development Fund or other moneys from the EEC. The figures I have given indicate that they are entitled to that sort of preferential treatment as are some of the counties beyond the Shannon, to whom I do not deny this right, but Cavan and Monaghan are in the same bracket with regard to diminishing population.
Another matter of great concern in that area is drainage. These are the counties with the highest rainfall and where the nature of the soil is such that drainage constitutes a difficult problem. The size of the farms are such that even a small area of a farmer's land may be subject to recurring flooding and means that a farm otherwise viable becomes uneconomic. In examination and application of the cost/benefit factor involved in this drainage work special account should be taken of the problems prevailing in that region. If the cost/benefit figure turns out to be not as favourable as in the more fertile parts of the country, nevertheless, because of the need to sustain the structure of population there and ensure future development, it should be given something in the nature of preferential treatment.
I am a member of the Cross-Border Committee promoting liaison between the district councils in Fermanagh and Tyrone and the county councils of Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim. The question of the drainage of the River Erne was unanimously placed at the top of the priority list at a meeting of that committee held in November last. That meeting consisted of representatives, of county Tyrone, which would not benefit directly from the drainage of the river Erne, and of County Monaghan which at maximum would benefit only marginally. Because these people could see the crucial importance of an arterial drainage scheme of the River Erne and its effect on that region they supported it wholeheartedly while they might have ideas in their minds that the drainage of other rivers would be more beneficial to their individual counties. Taking into account the future prospects  and the structure of the whole area these people living outside the Erne basin were unanimously in favour of awarding it top priority. I hope that in the near future the Government will get down to examining the importance of a scheme of that nature for this region.
Tourism has great potential in the area about which I am speaking. I admire the work of Bord Fáilte enormously. I would like that the Director General, Mr. Malone, and his officials in the various sections be congratulated by this House on the work they have done in bringing tourism back from the valley period which followed the outbreak of the troubles in 1969. They have done tremendous work and the revenue from tourism is on the increase. We all know that next to agriculture and the manufacturing industry tourism is of vital importance to us.
Unfortunately, speaking about my area, I am of the opinion that certain parts of the country, the maritime counties in particular, get more than their due share of tourist publicity. We all know the attractions of counties like Kerry and Cork, and I do not wish to detract from them, but it is a fact that a high percentage of all the tourists who come here from abroad spend their holiday period in that part of the country. That is a good thing and all honour to the people of Kerry and Cork, to the hoteliers and the people interested in tourist promotion if they can, by their initiative, attract so many people to see the beauty provided by nature. However, inland counties should get a greater share of Bord Fáilte publicity. The greatest coarse fishing areas in the Twenty-six Counties are in Monaghan, Cavan and Leitrim.
Recently Members of the Oireachtas were treated to a film show and talk by Bord Fáilte with regard to the promotion of tourism and we were given copies of literature being used to attract tourists. The publication Welcome to Ireland, 1977, deals very creditably with all the 32 counties. A number of pages are allocated to each county but I found, to my dismay, that while some counties were given ten pages, some eight, some six and so on  down to five, Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim got two pages each. The three counties taken together got only half of what was given to each of the other counties.
Bord Fáilte are falling down in that they are not exploiting sufficiently the attraction of the coarse fishing districts in these counties. A high percentage of our tourists, from Britain and Europe, are interested in coarse fishing. Game fishing, sea angling and so on get sufficient prominence in all tourist publications but there is a bigger market for coarse fishing. It can attract visitors for a long period each year. I would like to see more attention paid to that and a greater effort made to highlight the attractions of the areas I named.
I should like to draw attention to the telephone service in different areas. I realise that the modernisation of the telephone service was undertaken recently and that the service must improve as time goes on. I give credit to those responsible for that but in areas in rural Ireland where the population is sparse applications for telephone kiosks are turned down one after another by the Department. That was going on during the term of the previous Government, to be fair to this Government. The solution arrived at by some county councils is that a telephone kiosk is erected in a rural  area, at a crossroads, convenient to a chapel or the local shop, areas that best suit the people but if the revenue from that kiosk does not reach a stipulated figure laid down by the Department, and if the county council wants that service retained in that area, the council must meet the difference. If, for instance, the figure demanded by the Department is £120—I am not certain what the figure is but it is something like that—and the revenue from the kiosk is only £80, the county council who authorised the erection of that kiosk must pay the balance. There is a limit to what some county councils can afford to spend in that area. The attitude of the Department in this, the last quarter of the 20th century, should be to provide telephone services as far as reasonably possible, even in the most remote areas. There is a new scheme under which old aged pensioners or those living alone can have a telephone. That is a good scheme and I compliment the Minister who introduced it. However, the fact is that life being as it is, with the demand for vets, doctors and various services of this kind, it is not good enough that people in remote areas are deprived of this convenience.
The Seanad adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 26th January, 1978.
Seanad Éireann 88 Appropriation Act, 1977: Motion.