Order of Business.
Committee of Selection: Twenty-First Report.
Committee of Selection: Motion.
Irish Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill, 1989: Committee Stage (Resumed).
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Birmingham European Council.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Structural Fund Assistance for Jobs Fund.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Live Register Numbers.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Services Identity Cards.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Insurance.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Social Welfare Regulations.
Adjournment Debate Matters.
Irish Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill, 1989: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Final Stages.
Electoral (No. 2) Bill, 1991 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).
Private Members' Business. - Midland Counties Development: Motion (Resumed).
Adjournment Debate. - Shankill (Dublin) Land.
Adjournment Debate. - Toxic Discharge into Lough Foyle.
Adjournment Debate. - Implementation of Environmental Protection Legislation.
Adjournment Debate. - Agriculture and Food and Industry and Commerce Matters.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers. - Equal Treatment Arrears.
Written Answers. - Currency Fluctuations.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers. - Injury Benefit.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Eligibility.
Written Answers. - Rent Allowances.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Eligibility.
Written Answers. - UK Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers. - Treatment Benefit Scheme.
Written Answers. - Social Insurance Eligibility.
Written Answers. - Employment Exchanges.
Written Answers. - Lone Parents Allowance.
Written Answers. - Education Opportunities for the Unemployed.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Eligibility.
Written Answers. - Rent Supplement.
Written Answers. - Heritage Project Funding.
Written Answers. - Employment Subsidy.
Written Answers. - Ratification of UN Convention.
Written Answers. - Single European Market.
Written Answers. - Tax Clearance Certificates.
Written Answers. - Adjudication on Deed of Transfer.
Written Answers. - Salmon Statistics.
Written Answers. - Summit on Crime.
Written Answers. - Education Levels of Prison Inmates.
Written Answers. - Criminal Justice System.
Written Answers. - Coláistí Oiliúna Múinteóireachta.
Written Answers. - Free Books Scheme.
Written Answers. - Class Sizes.
Written Answers. - Home/School Liaison Scheme.
Written Answers. - National School Closures.
Written Answers. - School Secretaries and Caretakers.
Written Answers. - Career Break/Job Sharing Schemes.
Written Answers. - School Facilities.
Written Answers. - Tallaght (Dublin) Regional Technical College.
Written Answers. - Caretaking and Secretarial Services.
Written Answers. - School Transport.
Written Answers. - Teacher Statistics.
Written Answers. - Jobstown (Dublin) Community College.
Written Answers. - Physical Education Facilities.
Written Answers. - Licence Application.
Written Answers. - Proposed Privatisation of Telecom Éireann.
Written Answers. - Airport Passenger Movements.
Written Answers. - Cancer Statistics.
Written Answers. - Chromosomal Abnormalities Risk.
Written Answers. - Establishment of Residential Centre.
Written Answers. - Controlled Drugs.
Written Answers. - Medical Card Statistics.
Written Answers. - Selection of Health Board Staff.
Written Answers. - Orthopaedic Services Waiting Lists.
Written Answers. - Eastern Health Board Statistics.
Written Answers. - Retention Permission Applications.
Written Answers. - An Bord Pleanála Fees.
Written Answers. - Kerry Recycling Co-op.
Written Answers. - Group Water Schemes.
Written Answers. - Group Water Scheme.
Written Answers. - Local Authority Funding.
Written Answers. - Ballina (Mayo) Water/Sewerage Schemes.
Written Answers. - County Louth Road.
Written Answers. - Mayo Road Funding.
Written Answers. - Mayo Sewerage Schemes.
Written Answers. - Grant Payments.
Written Answers. - Super Levy Liability.
Written Answers. - Land Drainage Scheme.
Written Answers. - Super-Levy Refund.
Written Answers. - Grant Payments.
Written Answers. - Beef Tribunal.
Written Answers. - Age Profile of Unemployed.
Written Answers. - Irish Centres in London.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Report.
Written Answers. - National Lottery Funds.
Written Answers. - Medical Referee Examinations.
Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.
Written Answers. - Security Industry Pay.
Written Answers. - Teamwork Scheme.
 Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 10.30 a.m.
The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 7, 16, 17, 2 and 3. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: 1. Nos. 1 and 7 shall be decided without debate. 2. The proceedings on the Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 16, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 7 p.m. by one Question which shall be put from the Chair, and which shall in relation to amendments include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Agriculture and Food. 3. In the case of the Second Stages of Nos. 2 and 3: (i) The opening speech of the Minister or Minister of State and the speeches of the main spokespersons nominated by Fine Gael, Labour and the Democratic Left shall not exceed 30 minutes in each case; (ii) The speech of each other Member called on shall not exceed 20 minutes; and (iii) The Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply not exceeding 15 minutes. 4. The time limits set out in 3 (ii) and 3 (iii) shall apply to the resumed debate on item No. 17. 5. Private Members' Business shall be No. 22 and the proceedings thereon shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: Are the proposals  for dealing with Nos. 1 and 7 satisfactory and agreed? Agreed? Are the proposals for dealing with Committee and Remaining Stages of No. 16 agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with the Second Stages of Nos. 2, 3 and 17 agreed? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with Private Members' Business agreed? Agreed.
Mr. J. Bruton: Has the Taoiseach considered extending the parliamentary timetable for consideration of the three constitutional referenda in view of the fact that Ireland is an adherent to the European Convention on Human Rights, of the fact that the European Court of Human Rights will be issuing a judgment on the information issue affecting Ireland on 29 October, and that both the Dáil and the Seanad would wish, in the interests of drafting the most effective and durable wording, to have had sight of this judgment before finalising the wording?
The Taoiseach: The Government will consider that judgment in the normal way when it comes out.
Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach not agree that at that stage the Dáil and the Seanad will, according to his timetable, have completed consideration of the referenda and that it will be too late to take anything that the judgment may say affecting the wording of the referenda into account? Is it not unwise that he proposes to finish parliamentary consideration of these three matters on the very day the European Court will issue its judgment?
The Taoiseach: Both the Deputy and the House are well aware of the time table required to fulfil the obligations of the Constitution to hold a referendum on 3 December. That is the agenda and it will be pursued.
Mr. Farrelly: Is that for Christmas shopping purposes?
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Why is 3 December set?
An Ceann Comhairle: Order, please Deputies. I am calling Deputy Spring and he must be heard.
Mr. Spring: In view of the importance of Friday's Special European Summit may I ask the Taoiseach if he will take the opportunity to outline to this House the Irish Government's priorities in relation to that meeting? I suggest it might be more appropriate if the Taoiseach would do that in this House rather than at the briefing for journalists on Thursday.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is one not strictly for the Order of Business.
The Taoiseach: I should like to point out there are a number of questions on today's Order Paper dealing with that subject, some of which are from the Deputy's own party.
Proinsias De Rossa: In view of the statement made by Mr. Maurice Doyle, Governor of the Central Bank, may I ask the Taoiseach whether it is the Government's intention either at national or European level to seek measures to have currency speculation restricted either by——
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy De Rossa, that is clearly not a matter for the Order of Business. The Deputy will have to raise it in another way.
Proinsias De Rossa: It is a serious matter——
An Ceann Comhairle: It may well be serious and that is all the more reason it should be dealt with in the proper manner by way of question or motion.
Proinsias De Rossa: ——for people in this country, and what action do they intend to take?
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy De Rossa, resume your seat. I am calling Deputy Quinn.
Mr. Quinn: May I ask the Minister for Finance, through you Sir, if the discussions which are ongoing with the various financial institutions in this city have been completed in respect of the second Finance Bill; and when we in this House, to which we have been democratically elected, will see that Bill?
The Taoiseach: I answered that question in the House yesterday. I expect it to be before the House early in November.
Mr. J. Bruton: For the sake of clarification and in regard to the Taoiseach's earlier reply, am I to take it that the Government propose to ignore entirely the European Court of Human Rights' judgment?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am afraid we are having repetition now, Deputy Bruton.
Mr. J. Bruton: Why has the Taoiseach chosen an artificial date, which is prior to the issue of this judgment to conclude consideration of the matters in question here, in view of the relevance of this judgment?
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy can raise this matter in another way. Deputy Pat Rabbitte has been offering.
Mr. J. Bruton: Did the Taoiseach know that this was going to happen?
The Taoiseach: No.
A Deputy: Obviously.
Mr. J. Bruton: Did the Attorney General tell——
An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy Bruton. Let us hear Deputy Pat Rabbitte.
Mr. Rabbitte: Now that he has been denied three times at Dublin Castle, may I ask the Taoiseach if he is going to go  ahead with his appearance on 19 October or whether——
Mr. Farrelly: It will interfere with the Christmas shopping.
An Ceann Comhairle: I thought Deputy Rabbitte had a responsible question to put.
The Taoiseach: I hope the Deputy is there to hear my answers; I look forward to meeting him there.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am proceeding to the business as ordered.
Mr. Harte: I seek your guidance, a Cheann Comhairle. Yesterday I tried to table a Private Notice Question about the difficulties traders in Border areas are experiencing as a result of the devaluation of sterling. In view of the deep concern being experienced by people along the Border, will the Government make a statement to show that there is some light at the end of the tunnel——
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy consults my office we shall be of the utmost assistance to him in dealing with this matter in the appropriate way. I am calling Deputy Byrne.
Mr. Harte: I should like the Government to make a statement on this issue.
The Taoiseach: I dealt with this issue last week.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Eric Byrne has been called.
Mr. Harte: It is not——
An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy Harte.
Mr. Byrne: With regard to promised legislation, the bus competition Bill is no longer included in the list. Has that Bill been scrapped or it is still in the pipeline?
The Taoiseach: It is still in the course of preparation.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Dempsey): The Committee of Selection reports that it has discharged Deputies Charles Flanagan and Pat McCartan from the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and has appointed Deputies Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte in substitution for them; that it has discharged Deputy Pat McCartan from the Select Committee on Crime and has appointed Deputy Eamon Gilmore in substitution for him; and that it has discharged Deputy Pat McCartan from the Special Committee on the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill, 1991, and has appointed Deputy Eamon Gilmore in substitution for him.
I move: “That the Report be laid before the Dáil”.
Question put and agreed to.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Dempsey): I move:
That Deputies Charles Flanagan and Pat McCartan be discharged from the Committee of Selection and that Deputies Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte be appointed in substitution for them.
Question put and agreed to.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 4:
In page 3, before section 5, to insert the following new section:
“5. —Responsibility for the division  of commonages is hereby vested in the Minister who shall, in particular, ensure that this responsibility is henceforth discharged by the Farm Development Service of his Department.”
An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister of State was in possession when we reported progress. I observe that Deputy Yates is anxious to resume. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
Mr. Yates: The musical chairs' nature of politics has meant that I am now dealing with this matter. Given the constraints which are obvious on Committee Stage and the remaining Stages of a Bill. I hope the Chair will allow me some latitude, which I certainly will not abuse. Some elements of the Bill have been dealt with.
An Ceann Comhairle: Have I not always been generous?
Mr. Yates: Absolutely, I would not deny that for one second. Amendment No. 4 deals with one of the central points to which I would like to refer. This amendment proposes the insertion of a new section in the Bill which would give responsibility to staff employed in the Farm Development Service to carry out some of the functions carried out by the Land Commission. A difficulty arises here in relation to the staff. If the Land Commission are abolished will there be adequate staff to carry out their land related functions?
I wish to make it clear that I am not opposed to the dissolution of the Land Commission. During the 111 or 112 years of their existence they carried out an historic job here. However, the issues with which they dealt are no longer relevant. I do not believe any tears should be shed about the dissolution of the Land Commission in so far as their performance over the last decade has been pretty abysmal, for example, no land has been acquired since 1983 and 2,500 hectares and 5,000 acres of bogland still have  to be allocated. This raises major question marks about the performance of the Land Commission. Their procedures were often slow, tedious, inefficient, cumbersome and even costly.
During the lengthy Second Stage debate reference was made to the scandal of the £1.6 million paid to people to do nothing. It is clear that the purchase and resale of land as carried out by the Land Commission would now perhaps be unconstitutional and would clearly be impractical given the way land is allocated. Political charges have been made over the years about the way land was allocated.
I am concerned that there has been such a delay in dealing with this Bill. The decision to abolish the Land Commission was taken in October 1984. My main concern is that the baby is being thrown out with the bath water. Hence the reason for the amendments in my name. In future there will be no State organisation with responsibility for the functions previously carried out by the Land Commission. I am mainly referring to their executive functions, for example, control of purchases of land and the sub-division of commonages.
I ask the Minister, from a practical point of view and to ensure that their work is continued — there are pressures on staff and there is a recruitment embargo generally in the public service — to accept amendment No. 4. This would ensure that there would be a continuity of service after this Bill is enacted and Farm Development Service workers, who are represented in every county, could continue to carry out the day-to-day executive work previously carried out by the Land Commission, for example, sub-division, folio consent, commonage division and so on.
Mr. Ferris: I agree in principle with the thrust of this amendment. The Land Commission have not acquired land for a long period — the death knell of this very useful agency, who carried out some excellent work in the past, had been sounded by various Governments. A previous amendment of mine which proposed that  another agency should be given responsibility for the functions carried out by the Land Commission was ruled out of order on the grounds that it would place a demand on public funds. Some of these responsibilities should rest with the Minister; somebody has to have control of the vast tracts of land throughout the country, particularly commonages, an issues which was not addressed fully by the Government before the introduction of this Bill.
This amendment proposes that responsibility for the division of commonages be vested in the Minister. Recently the Ceann Comhairle's office rightly ruled out of order a question I put down in regard to Coillte on the basis that the Minister has no responsibility in the House for that body. This body, who have acquired lands under various Acts, have made extraordinary demands on people in regard to the fencing of commonages, the subject matter of this section.
Coillte Teo have assumed unto themselves responsibility for sending bills to sheep farmers in disadvantaged areas who had been using commonages, necessitating colossal expense to fence off property for the protection of young trees. The provisions of the Forestry Act, however, place the responsibility on Forestry of protecting new plantations for a period of up to ten years. For some reason — perhaps under the provisions of the Control of Dogs Act — a decision has been taken to charge people for trespassing commonage into forest areas. There is a fundamental principle involved as to whom should be responsible in this area if the Minister is not. If the Minister is to be responsible then the provisions of this amendment suggest that the Minister's Department be adequately staffed and identify experts involved already in the farm development service and/or a number of officers in the Land Commission who have given tremendous professional advice over the years. If they cannot be absorbed elsewhere this would be indeed a useful role for them. Rather than waste taxpayers' money paying people to do nothing I contend this would  be a useful role for them, one the Minister might gainfully review.
The amendment is a good one in that the matter of commonage, responsibility for it, its usage, how it should be paid for, are matters which need to be addressed. We must remember that one of these days the farm development service and farm modernisation section of the Department, along with the payments section of the Department vis-à-vis disadvantaged areas, will be endeavouring to ascertain who are the owners of commonage, who are the owners of the relevant folio numbers and people will be floundering around local authority and old rates offices in order to ascertain how their grandfather, or great grandfather, had acquired grazing rights on commonages.
I should like the Minister to address all of those problems when replying.
Mr. Foxe: This amendment suggests that the former functions of the Land Commission be transferred to the farm development service of the Department. I contend that that function should rest with the officials of the Land Commission since they are conversant with the task involved. They may have to be employed by some other body — on the dissolution of the Land Commission — but it is my view that these officials should continue to have that responsibility as they are well conversant with such functions. They are the most suitable people to deal with the task. Rather than have that function undertaken by the farm development service it should be undertaken by people who were employed in the Land Commission.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Hyland): I thank Deputy Yates for the amendments he has tabled, for the thought portrayed in them. I might also welcome him on this occasion, his first as spokesperson, for his party, on agriculture. I might say to him and to the other two Deputies who have spoken that  we are all here to ensure that, at the end of the day, we put together the best possible package to deal with the many problems facing our agricultural industry at present, particularly vis-à-vis reform of our overall land structure.
This amendment deals with the division of commonages, the suggestion being that the work involved be transferred to the farm development service of my Department. There is absolutely no doubt that the farm development service is a very effective arm of my Department, all of its officers being excellent, dedicated and committed people. Of course, it is also a well known fact that, in many instances, they are over-worked in terms of the demands being made on their services.
I am extremely anxious to ensure that the division of commonages be dealt with as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this respect I might inform the House, and those Deputies present, it is my intention that a special unit be established within my Department to deal with the overall matter of the division of commonages and with the allocation of the national land pool remaining undivided. Deputy Yates can take it that I am most anxious that we adopt a co-ordinated approach in tackling this problem. It is my honest belief that the only effective manner to deal with it in a co-ordinated way would be to have such division of commonages administered within my Department by a specialised group of people.
Deputy Ferris referred to the existing Land Commission staff. I am not in a position to comment one way or another on the extent to which some members of the former Land Commission staff could or should be deployed on this work. I can assure Deputies, including Deputy Foxe, that I am taking steps that such specialised group be established to deal with all the remaining functions of the Land Commission.
It is important to remember that this Bill was designed to give statutory effect to the position which has obtained since 1983, a period of almost ten years, during  which the Land Commission, as a body, have not been as active or effective as they had been formerly. Therefore, it is only right to place on record — as we did on the last occasion on which this matter was debated — that the Land Commission and their officials have served this country extremely well. I might add that the policies pursued by successive Governments and their implementation led to the creation of the maximum number of farm families on our land. They were in a position to do so by the acquisition of large holdings and estates, redistributing such land among many smallholders. It must be said that what would have been regarded as an economic farm say, 25 or 30 years ago would require to be doubled today to enable people glean a decent livelihood from it.
Therefore, it was inevitable that the scope of the operations of the Land Commission would diminish. Even if we could have continued indefinitely with the policy of land acquisition, very quickly we would have found ourselves in conflict with our social policy, which is to retain the maximum number of farm families on our land. We reached a stage at which the opportunity for the acquisition of land no longer obtained. It is generally agreed in the House that for that reason eventually we would reach a stage at which that aspect of the operations of our land policy would be terminated, which is precisely what we are endeavouring to do under the provisions of this Bill.
It is important to note that, apart from the overall matter of land acquisition and distribution, along with the function of the commissioners, a considerable quantity of other work remains to be done and will be tackled by the committee for which I suggest Deputies should opt.
I do not want to be seen as unnecessarily opposing amendments which have been well thought out and tabled for a specific reason. I might add I gave much serious thought to their wording and to seeing if the proposals therein would do a better job than what I am proposing. I am satisfied that putting together a professional group of experienced people  within the Department will effectively deal with the remaining responsibilities which are being retained within the Department of Agriculture and Food. I will be extremely anxious and will convey to my officials that in the process of administering these remaining functions, including the division of commonages and the distribution of the remaining undivided land, there should be consultation with the Farm Development Service and with Teagasc. The kind of information which they could provide at local level would be of immense value and benefit to the expert group within the Department.
Deputy Yates might consider withdrawing his amendment. I do not want unnecessarily to twist his arm, but I am convinced that what I am proposing is a more effective, professional and coherent way of addressing an extremely important problem. There is considerable interest in the division of commonage and it is very much in the interest of agriculture that the remaining undivided commonages should be dealt with as quickly as possible. I am a believer in dialogue and discussion and I hope the remaining problems will be sorted out at local community level, with farmers agreeing among themselves as to what should be done to get the best results from this undivided land. In view of the current restrictions and the need to make the maximum use of every acre, especially on the small family farm, there should be a better community response to the overall question of land division.
I hope Deputies opposite will identify with what I have said. I take the point made by Deputy Yates in relation to the Farm Development Service. There must be dialogue, consultation and working co-operation with the Farm Development Service and Teagasc. These are all components of the overall administrative team for agriculture.
Mr. Yates: I thank the Minister for his kind remarks. I hope that my contribution will be constructive. Deputy Foxe said he would rather have specialised, experienced Land Commission staff  doing this work than laymen in the Farm Development Service. The Minister laid great stress on the special unit which is being established in the Department. Whether we are talking about commonage, sub-division control, controls on EC nationals buying land or the promotion of group purchase, the question arises as to how many people will be in this unit. That is the kernel. How many people are working in the Land Commission? How many will work in the special unit? If there is a genuine commitment to absorb into the Department the work that was done by the Land Commission, that is reasonable. My fear is that this will not happen, that there will not be a clear, definable budget and that the people in this unit will be submerged among the thousands of people working for the Department of Agriculture and Food. I fear that this unit will be lost sight of and that the whole question of land policy will become a nothing.
We are talking at present about the abolition of the Land Commission and the sale of ACC. There will be no State intrument left to deal with land policy, land mobility and structural reform. We agree that the old Land Commission acquisition methods are gone but we need new methods. We need incentives for young farmers, the promotion of group purchase and so on.
Will the Minister outline the staff of this special unit and how it will work? Will it be headed by a principal officer or somebody at assistant secretary level? Let us take the Minister at his word and put flesh on the bones of what he is proposing.
Mr. Hyland: Because the Land Commission has not been officially dissolved and because this proposed unit is not operational, I cannot answer specifically the question as to the size of the proposed unit or how it is to be administered. I have had discussions with senior officials in the Department and I have expressed my concern to them, as Deputy Yates has conveyed his concern to me. I am satisfied from my discussions at senior level in the Department that an effective  unit will be put in place to continue to administer not only the division of commonages but also the allocation of the remaining small amount of undivided land. There are a number of other very specific functions transferring to the Department. Members will have the opportunity of monitoring the effectiveness of the proposed new structure within the Department. Deputy Yates, Deputy Ferris and Deputy Foxe will be the first people to raise with me, if I am still around, the effectiveness of the structure I am promising today. There will be ongoing review of how this new unit is operating.
In fairness to the officials of the Department of Agriculture and Food and those within it who have been responsible for Land Commission administration, it would be wrong to suggest that they would not have the same commitment to the implementation of the remaining functions which now transfer to the Department as they had to administering a national land restructuring policy. Generous comments and tributes have been paid to the officials of the Land Commission. They had their feet on the ground and knew exactly the requirements of rural areas and individual farmers. There is a professional ethos, a commitment and dedication which might not be found in other services, to ensuring that the work which the Land Commission embarked on so many years ago is brought to a successful conclusion.
In fairness to Deputy Yates, he has tabled some well thought out amendments to other sections of the Bill and I do not wish to steal his thunder at this stage. I agree with the point made by the Deputy that there is a need for an overall approach to the co-ordination of agricultural matters, but I will let him raise that matter in his amendments. I am convinced that the unit which we propose to establish in the Department will be made up of people who have the knowledge to administer the new functions they will be taking on. Deputy Yates should accept that and he should also be mindful of the fact that he is welcome to come into the  House at any time and query or criticise, if necessary, the ineffectiveness — although I do not believe that will be the case — of this proposed unit.
I appeal to Deputy Yates not to pursue this matter. I am not fearful of division or anything like that but I believe consensus is the best way to approach a matter on which there are no real divisions. The views of Members of the House do not differ to any great extent on this issue. In fact, I would go so far as to say there is overall consensus in regard to what, collectively, we want to achieve from the transfer of the functions of the Land Commission to the Minister and the Department.
Having regard to the assurances I have given, I ask the Deputy to withdraw his amendment. He will be aware from assurances I have given in the past on some aspects of this legislation that I have not been found wanting in terms of living up to commitments I make. The same applies to the commitment I give here today in relation to the continuing administration of the functions of the Land Commission in the Department until a more effective way may be found to approaching the entire land structure problem here.
Mr. Ferris: The Minister has given a reasonable response to a reasonable amendment. I understand that this special unit will be identifiable for questioning by Members of the Oireachtas and many questions will arise in this regard. If this special unit can resolve problems in regard to commonage and ownership rights — by the end of the year the Minister proposes to have dealt with the 2,500 hectares he acquired — they will be a very effective unit. That will be a major task and nobody has any doubts in that regard.
Not alone is there a problem in regard to commonage but there are problems in regard to land owned by non-nationals in mountain areas of my constituency on which grazing rights have been established for centuries. Those people have not got clear title or occupation rights to that land and the people using that land,  who are beneficiaries of grants from the Department of Agriculture and Food, occupy it and some of them make no payments. This is a major problem and, therefore, we need to be able to question this special unit.
I welcome the provision that the unit must consult the Farm Development Service and Teagasc, but they should also be open to consultation with farming organisations and others who have an interest in what is a very thorny subject, namely, the question of commonage or land usage by occupation, squatters' rights or whatever legal terminology is applied to it.
Will the Minister clarify the real functions of this special unit, apart from those relating to commonage? Under existing legislation lands were acquired for sub-division with a specific purpose in mind regarding restructuring of holdings, the improvement of fragmented holdings and so on. What are the Minister's intentions in regard to the balance of that land? He has stated he intends to dispose of this land, sell it to the highest bidder or return it to the person from whom it was acquired. The Minister acquired this land with a specific purpose in mind and under specific legislation enshrined in the constitution. Therefore, if he does anything with that land, apart from the use for which it was acquired, we could be treading on dangerous ground. If the Minister acquired those lands for a specific purpose he should use them for that purpose in line with the regulations under which he acquired the lands. It required a strong constitutional power to take land from people for the benefit of the common good and redistribute it to those in need. I will deal later with the question of how great that need was and, indeed, how much it cost people in relation to not being able to repay Land Commission annuities and so on. In winding up the Land Commission there should be an opportunity for people to reclaim total ownership of such lands by forward purchasing or by other means so that people may get full title to land which was given to them on an annuity basis, similar to any property acquired from a local authority and so on.
 The Minister replied to some of the queries raised by Deputy Yates, but this special unit must be answerable to this House and they must consult experts in farming organisations if we are to achieve the consensus the Minister talked about.
Mr. Yates: I do not wish to labour this point, but it is central to amendments which may be ruled out of order in regard to the type of unit which will exist at the end of the day.
The Minister's heart is in the right place, but that does not apply to the Department of Finance.
Mr. Ferris: They do not have a heart.
Mr. Yates: That is correct. This is a pig in a poke. I should like the Minister to tell me the number of people who are working in the Land Commission at present. Will those employed in the special unit be working in the Department of Social Welfare or the Department of Agriculture and Food? Of course, the Minister must negotiate with trade unions and so on and I do not expect him to have all the answers. However, I would expect him to have a rough idea about whether it costs £1.5 million or £2 million a year to run the Land Commission because it is important that this special unit would be allocated a similar budget. The blunt reality is that this unit will exist in name only and will not have the staff or financial resources which the Land Commission have at present. All those matters need to be dealt with. I should like a specific answer from the Minister in regard to the number of people working in the Land Commission at present and his intention regarding the number which will be employed in this special unit.
The special unit will be set up and the Minister is committed to this; but that is not what is at issue here. I am not questioning the Minister's integrity or bona fides in this matter. I am aware that his intentions are good but I do not believe that the outcome of this unit will be satisfactory. Will the Minister state the annual budget allocation to the Land  Commission at present, the staff numbers and their grades and whether it is his intention to retain half or all of them?
Mr. Hyland: I will be happy to respond to the queries raised by Deputies Ferris and Yates. First, in regard to the unit and its accountability, the unit will be accountable to the Minister and the Minister will be accountable to this House.
Deputy Yates suggested that farming organisations and others who might like to meet with the head of the unit would not have that facility available to them. The tradition of the Department of Agriculture and Food has been and will continue to be that senior officials are ready and willing to meet interested parties at all times. It would not be reasonable to suggest that the unit should be exposed to the House in terms of accountability. The Minister of the day will be responsible to the House and will have to answer questions in relation to the unit. We are labouring this point. Because we are winding down the Land Commission we propose to put in place an effective unit in the Department to deal with the matters which will be transferred. I know the officials will do the job extremely well.
Deputy Yates wanted to know how many people were employed by the Land Commission and I am advised that it is somewhere in the region of 100. Reference was also made to funding. We must seriously consider the return we get from the Vote for the Department of Agriculture and Food and other Government Departments. We have a serious obligation to ensure the maximum level of cost effectiveness in Government Departments. I am committed to that. That does not mean that close monetary control in the Department will lead to an ineffective operation. If Deputies cannot take my word for it now I will have to try to convince them again that the unit will deal effectively with these issues.
In the debate we seem to be talking just about the division of commonage. For the benefit of Deputies I will give a brief outline of the functions we are now transferring from the Land Commission.  I know Deputies are anxious that the matter of the disposal of the small area on hands should be expedited. I can assure Deputies that this matter will be dealt with quickly.
Mr. Ferris: In what manner?
Mr. Hyland: The matter which the Deputy raised will come under another section. I presume that at that stage the Deputy will address the question of land division, the sale of land and the proposal to offer it again to the person from which it has been acquired. That is a very sensitive area which will be dealt with under another section. Another function relates to revesting of land in the names of people to whom land has already been allocated and so on. This function will be taken over by the people in the new unit in the Department. The Department will also deal with the exercise of statutory control over the subdivision of farms and the purchase of land by unqualified persons, namely, companies and non-EC nationals.
I have a personal interest in the availability of land particularly for young farmers. A scheme which has not been as successful as we would have wished it to be deals with group purchase and leasing of land as well as the provision of assistance for schemes for rearrangement and commonage division. I am disappointed with that scheme. The problem relates to the high cost of land which in many instances exceeds the potential farming profitability to be gained. The high price of land creates problems for young farmers who want to take part in group purchase schemes. I will be meeting with the banks shortly on other matters relating to agriculture and I propose to raise with them the possibility of providing serviceable funding to farmers, particularly young farmers who wish to acquire land through group purchase schemes.
Statutory and other obligations, such as the collection of annuities, are dealt with in another section of the Bill and I hope to deal with this later in the afternoon. The custody of title documents is an extremely important function, one  which in the short-term has been creating some problems for us. Later I hope to explain the present position. The transfer of documentation to a new centralised Department is well advanced and it should lead to the better protection of very significant documents. On the last day on which we were discussing this Bill in this House, my senior man, Mr. Tom Duggan, who many would regard as a father figure of the Land Commission, brought into the House a very ancient charter relating to land structures and I had hoped at some stage to be able to place it before the Ceann Comhairle or to put it on display. Unfortunately, we do not have that document today. Deputies will realise that the safe custody of documents which have a significant bearing on the lives and property of hundreds of thousands of farmers is very important. This matter will be dealt with by the people to whom this new responsibility is being given.
There is nothing more that I can effectively say. I believe what we are doing is correct and will, at the end of the day, give the best possible service to farmers and will lead to a more cost-effective approach to overall administration within the Department.
I do not want to be unduly critical. However, on the one hand we are told we are paying people for doing very little and on the other we are asked why we are taking approaches that will result in a greater degree of cost effectiveness. It is difficult to reconcile both of those points but what I am saying is that we must be cost effective in terms of our approach to national administration, and that cost effectiveness must be applied to the Department of Agriculture. Deputy Yates, more than any other Deputy, would look for the best return for the money being spent on public administration and, without wishing to put undue pressure on the Deputy to withdraw his amendment, I am absolutely convinced that we are doing the right thing in terms of the management of the functions that we are transferring to the Department now.
Mr. Hogan: I have a strong interest in the affairs of the Land Commission. I was rather surprised to hear the Minister conclude his remarks by saying that he did not want to pay people to do nothing.
Mr. Hyland: I did not say that.
Mr. Hogan: The Minister indicated that he would have grave reservations about any structure about which it would be alleged by some people that staff were being employed to do very little.
Mr. Hyland: On a point of order.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Sherlock): The Minister may reply in a moment. Deputy Hogan should continue to make his point and the Minister will have an opportunity to reply.
Mr. Hogan: I agree with the Minister. Perhaps I phrased it badly. The Minister indicated that he did not want a situation to arise where he would not be getting the best value for money in the Department of Agriculture. That has not happened in the past in the case of the Land Commission. The way estate officers were dealt with by the Department during their terms of office and in terms of their retirement package in 1988 left a lot to be desired. Deputy Yates's amendment seeks to establish an autonomous land use authority because of the changes that are taking place in land mobility throughout the country as a result of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the changing patterns of agriculture and the inability of many farmers to rear their families totally on the land. There is a huge move now towards part-time farming as a result of the changes that have taken place in Europe.
Land mobility is a key issue which has been long neglected by successive Governments. To demonstrate the commitment of the Government to land mobility an autonomous structure should be established to home in on the greater uses we could make of our land. I find it very strange that any Government would set up An Bord Glas to oversee developments  in horticulture which, in total agricultural and horticultural terms, are small. Nevertheless they are important. We need to find ways of displacing imported goods from abroad, to reduce our dependence on products coming into the country and grow them here. Yet the Minister fails to set up a separate authority that could include all those areas whether in agriculture, horticulture or forestry. That would be much more important to the development of agriculture and the economy. There would be nothing wrong with subsuming many of the services that exist at present, such as An Bord Glas, the farm development service and Teagasc, under an umbrella body that would cover all the activities the Minister must cater for at the moment in the case of rural development.
There is much more that could be done besides setting up a faceless bureaucracy in the Department of Agriculture. Something that is more user friendly should be set up. There is an impression abroad among consumers that services linked specifically to central Government and located in places like Dublin and Castlebar are not accessible to the general body of farmers or to the general public. A separate unit with proper structures is necessary to ensure that we get greater returns in terms of food purchase, division of commonages etc. Also there is much more activity in the land area now than there was a few years ago, particularly under the Leader programme.
I see a great role for a dynamic rural authority incorporating a land use authority to further the interests of rural Ireland. A hands-on approach is needed now more than ever. The Land Commission estate officers had a great knowledge of rural Ireland. The carried out a very important service for Ireland and were very often starved of resources to do more, particularly in the area of buying up land and redistributing it.
We hear all this talk about the need to give more land to young farmers and to give more land to existing farmers to make their holdings viable. This is all pie in the sky. We have been listening to  Ministers for Agriculture talking about that for generations and nothing has happened. It is market forces that are dictating what is happening and not the direct intervention of the State. There were experienced staff in the Land Commission in 1988 and 1989 who could have been redeployed to do much of the work the Minister speaks of. Instead they were moved into other Departments to collect fines for the Department of Justice and do other menial tasks that they had no experience of and had no interest in and many of them retired under the voluntary retirement scheme out of frustration. This is probably a thorny issue but the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture even said that he had no work for them. Now there is a recruitment drive for the employment of more agricultural officers. That is what is called wastage of resources. That is not being cost effective. When the Minister speaks about proper budgetary procedures and cost effectiveness he would need to examine the experience of the Land Commission iself in that regard to make sure that this does not happen again.
Mr. Connor: There is a danger of becoming repetitive here but this is in relation to the special unit to deal with the work remaining to be done on the dissolution of the Land Commission. I am reading from the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in which there were comments made about staffing which I do not agree with. There is 100,000 acres of bogland in the western and midland counties which will take about five years to dispose of. The Secretary of the Department told the Comptroller and Auditor General last year, too, that it would take up to two years to allocate the remaining pool of land. I take it that we are talking about arable farming land.
While it is necessary to carry out schemes involving the rearrangement of land and the division of commonages, surveys of disadvantaged areas and inspections relating to set-aside schemes, it is a great pity — we made this point before — that the work of the Land  Classification Office, where the Land Commission inspectors were employed for about a year and a half in 1986 and 1987, was not continued. They carried out some badly needed work to update our knowledge and information relating to the land. We should remember that our records date from the Griffiths Valuation in the middle of the 19th century. While some of its commentary still rings true 140 years on, we need to update this information. It is a great pity therefore that this will not form part of the work of this new unit.
The Minister of State commented that he is interested in controlling the purchase of our land by non-EC nationals and companies. I would like him to elaborate on this and to let us know what policy he intends to introduce whereby the purchase of land by non-EC nationals and companies can be controlled. How does he propose to do this?
The Minister of State also made some very good points about the records of the Land Commission. I think the records office closed in either the middle of July or August and the Minister of State proposed that it would remain closed for three months. This has proved inconvenient for people seeking records and documents for various reasons. I urge the Minister of State to ensure that this office does not remain closed for longer than the period mentioned in the press advertisements at the time because there is an inclination to postpone these matters. I would like the Minister of State to indicate today if the transfer of these records is on schedule; in other words, does he propose to re-open the records office on the date set down?
I am also interested in the Land Commission archives. They are tremendous historical archives which provide a social commentary on the position in Ireland in the 19th century. Unlike our nearest neighbour, if there was social change or unrest in Ireland it had to do with the question of land rather than with the question of industry. It is very important that these documents be preserved and located in museums such as the new Famine Museum at Strokestown which is  an extension of the National Museum. By and large, this museum will deal with the land question in the 19th century. One would hope that documents which would be suitable for display in that museum would be made available to it.
These documents are at present in the hands of the Land Commission and not with the National Archive. Very few of them are located in the National Museum and very few of those of historical importance are in private hands. The records of the old congested district boards and the Irish Land Commission amount to treasure trove. I urge that those records which are of historical importance should be made available to local museums, including the one I have mentioned, and to scholars who may wish to study them. They should not be transferred or stored, as happened in the case of the other records some of which had not been looked at for 50 to 60 years, at 23 Merrion Square. Those records were not well coded or indexed which made it difficult to gain access to them. One would hope under the new arrangements that it would be easy to gain access to the Land Commission archives and, above all else, that they would be made available.
I will return to the question of staffing later as it is not appropriate to deal with it on this section. I will beg your permission to return to it at a later stage.
Mr. Yates: To facilitate progress, I will be happy to withdraw amendment No. 4 after the Minister of State has had a chance to reply to the points raised by my colleagues. The Minister of State kindly gave me the information that there are 100 people working in the Land Commission today. However can he give me any indication of the number of staff that will be necessary to run this unit? Will it be 20 people or 100 people? I am not asking him to indicate a precise figure but the number of staff that he thinks would be appropriate?
Mr. Hyland: I am pleased that Deputy Hogan clarified the position in relation to my statement on the question of employment within the public service. I  wish to make the point briefly that it is not the fault of any individual within the public service that they have not been productively employed for whatever reason; in fact, it is the fault of the system. One has to be realistic — I do not want to be repetitive — but if we are to get the maximum results in terms of the amount of money available there will have to be an ongoing review of staffing levels within every Government Department. That is not an implied criticism or condemnation of any of the people employed. It is in that context that I would like to reply to the question raised by Deputy Yates. He asked if I could indicate the number of people that will be employed——
Mr. Yates: Roughly how many?
Mr. Hyland: ——but I regret to say that I am not in a position to do so; that will be a matter for the personnel section within the Department. My sole function is to take steps to ensure that there will be a unit in place which will be both capable and effective in carrying out the task we are talking about here today. It would be both foolish and irresponsible to start speculating about the number of people needed in any particular section. Within the Department we have a personnel section which is headed by an assistant secretary and I have no doubt, following consultations with the various sections within the Department, that an adequately staffed unit will be established.
Much of what has been said relates to another section or sections which we will deal with later. I have indicated already that I do not want to cut across some of the amendments which have been tabled by Deputy Yates——
Mr. Yates: Some have been ruled out of order.
Mr. Hyland: Having regard to the fact that he gave this matter considerable thought when preparing the amendments, even if they have been ruled out  of order, I take it that he will refer to them during the course of the debate and I would like to respond to them.
Deputies will recall that when I spoke on the last occasion on which we debated the Land Commission Bill I conveyed my thoughts to the House and assurances were sought from me that I would examine the need for a national body to co-ordinate what is happening in the agricultural sector and the national land scene in general. I gave an assurance that I would pursue this matter. That is what I have done and I am continuing to pursue it along with the committee who are dealing with the national programme for the development of agriculture. That is all that I will say about the matter for the moment because I do not want to cut across some of the points that Deputy Yates may like to make.
In relation to the disposal of land, there are about 1,300 hectares of agricultural land remaining in the hands of the Land Commission. Proposals for the allotment of about 90 per cent of this land have been approved. It is expected that the disposal will be completed during the coming year — that question was raised by a number of Deputies. In the event of agricultural land remaining on hands on the dissolution of the Land Commission it will be disposed of by tender or auction as provided for in section 8 of the Bill. That section provides that the Department of Agriculture and Food will deal with the remaining undivided land. There remain on hands also about 5,000 hectares of inferior land or bog. That point was raised by Deputy Connor and I know from listening to him in the House that it is a matter in which he has a particular interest.
Disposal of this land will be considered when the agricultural land has been alloted. In other words, we are operating a scheme of priorities, dealing first with viable agricultural land and its allocation to people who have been waiting for it. That matter will be dealt with very quickly. Inferior land can be disposed of as provided for in section 8 of the Bill. What we are doing today is, on the one hand, winding down the Land Commission  for the obvious reasons with which everybody agrees and giving the new unit responsibility for administration of all the remaining functions. I have an interest in this matter and have responsibility for it and I can assure the Deputies that it will be expedited.
In reply to Deputy Connor's queries in relation to the records office, every effort is being made to have the new office opened in accordance with the announcement made by the Department. This turned out to be a much more difficult task than we originally anticipated. Because of the unsatisfactory accommodation in Merrion Street it was not possible for officials of the Department to maintain the desired level of recording. Therefore much thought and care has to go into the refiling of all these records, their preservation, storage and display. It is our intention, following completion of that transfer, that the records will be available to the public generally and to the legal profession who have made some complaints, and justifiably so, in the past few months that they did not have free access, to which they are entitled, to official Land Commission documentation. These people have been very reasonable in their understanding of the problems we faced. All of us can take satisfaction from the fact that when the transfer is completed — as close as possible, one would hope, to the announced deadline — we will have an adequate records section in relation of Land Commission documentation.
Even historians can have access to these ancient charters. Like Deputy Connor and Deputy Yates I have an interest in the historical background of the Land Commission and the whole land structure problem. When you examine some of these documents you get a great feel for the traditions of our forefathers. Therefore it is very important not only that these documents be carefully preserved and protected but that they be available to all of us. As I said earlier, it is my regret that my senior man, Tom Duggan, is unable to bring into the House today the old charter which we had here the last day. It is a very interesting charter  and it would have been significant to put it on display on the day we are finally officially winding up this great national body.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 agreed to.
Acting Chairman: We now come to amendment No. 4a in the name of Deputy Ivan Yates. Amendments Nos. 4b and 4c have been ruled out of order.
Mr. Yates: I move amendment No. 4a:
In page 3, before section 6, to insert the following new section:
6.—The Minister may authorise that a monitoring unit be established within his Department to report annually on land mobility including—
(a) subdivision controls of land,
(b) group purchases of land,
(c) long term leasing of land, and
(d) the re-arrangement of commonage divisions.”.
I got the bad news earlier this morning about my amendments Nos. 4b and 4c being ruled out of order. The Minister alluded to these amendments which contain the meat of what I am trying to get at. I do not think we need to repeat the debate which is concentrated on amendment No. 4a, that is, that we should set up a land authority or special unit in the Department to carry out the functions outlined in this amendment. These include sub-division controls of land and group purchases of land, which need to be promoted in order to be successful. For example, a group of farmers could acquire land which any one of them could not afford to buy without borrowing money from a financial institution. Resources should be directed to that area. Another function would be the long term leasing of land and its promotion in  terms of ensuring that young farmers who cannot buy land could lease it. It would also guarantee the owner of the land a long term income. The opportunity to avail of long term leasing of land is under-utilised. Another function of the new unit would be the re-arrangement of commonage divisions, about which we have spoken at length.
I would like to take this one step further. I read very carefully the Second Stage debate — it took me a long time to read it all — including the Minister's reply. I hope I am paraphrasing the Minister correctly when he said that he remained to be convinced of the need for a land authority, although he did not rule out the setting up of such an authority. What I am trying to do on Committee Stage is to make the case for a land authority and I have set out three areas for which they should have responsibility. First is the day to day executive land-related functions that were carried out by the Land Commission — they are listed in amendment No. 4a — the day to day decisions that have to be made about the normal routine business of land in Ireland.
Their second role would be land usage for which no State authority have responsibility at present. I have outlined the specific functions that would be appropriate in this regard. For example, as regards the question of afforestation, I am told that there are one million marginal acres of land that could be considered for afforestation. Therefore should there be a code of practice or sub-controls in relation to afforestation and, if so, who would have responsibility for that? I suggest that a special unit in the Department or a land authority would deal with that matter. Similarly, there are mountain ranges that are barely grazed by sheep. Could these areas be developed in terms of agri-tourism, as wild fowl shooting reserves, or as recognised areas for such activities as hill climbing, etc. Would that be the best way to use that land in terms of employment and national income or who should decide on that  matter? I suggest that the land authority have that responsibility.
At EC level there have been two important developments: the designation of environmentally sensitive areas and the EC habitats directive. In both cases a State body is needed to rationally consider the matter. I hope the Minister will accept amendment No. 4a which simply states quite clearly the functions of the special unit referred to by the Minister. It does not interfere with new powers but sets out the functions in legislative form. I would not see any difficulty as regards acceptance of this amendment.
In relation to amendments Nos. 4b and 4c, while it is, technically speaking, out of order for me to move these amendments, it would not be out of order for the Minister to set out on Report Stage the functions in question. These points were brought to the Minister's attention on Second Stage. The first area of responsibility for the land authority would be the day-to-day executive land-related functions and the second would be land usage, including the subheadings outlined in amendment No. 4a.
Finally, in relation to amendment No. 4c, and this is an important point of substance in relation to agriculture, given the Common Agricultural Policy reforms and given that a young farmer who wishes to get into farming has every door firmly shut in his face — he cannot get into milk production because of the milk quota, he cannot get into ewes or lamb production because of the ewe premium quota and he cannot get into suckler cows because of the quota there — and regardless of which way he turns, there is no new entrant factor. Also, young farmers cannot get money from the banks to buy land because the cost is prohibitive. What is to happen to these young farmers?
There are approximately 20,000 farms owned by people over 65 years of age, principally in disadvantaged areas with very low productivity. We need a new package of policies to assist in allocating land to young farmers. It could be a package of incentives relating to long term leasing, but the principle needs to be  established that rural society in general, and agriculture in particular, require these young, qualified farmers to have access to agriculture.
I am sure the Minister has attended many presentations of the green certificate and is aware of the quality of this certificate which is one of the best in Europe encompassing five years training in some cases, agricultural college in other cases. What are the opportunities for these people? I understand that 84 per cent of all land transfers take place within a family farm context; therefore our tax code could make it easier for young people to inherit family farms.
I believe this special unit should prepare a report on the measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is land mobility because the Land Commission will not be there to do this work. I say to the Minister that, first, the executive functions of the Land Commission need to be incorporated into the special unit. Second, there should be a land use authority and a sub-division of that and third, there should be a yearly statistical analysis of land mobility and a policy unit. I am specifically asking that within a period of one year a report will be presented to Government by this special unit in the Department indicating the steps that are necessary to ensure this mobility. This is a reasonable and specific amendment and I ask the Minister to accept it.
Mr. Connor: I support the amendment put forward by Deputy Yates. As one can see it is divided into a number of sections. The unit for instance, would deal with the provisions of EC Habitat Directives. As the Minister knows, this country has not fulfilled its obligations under EC Habitat Directives. In recent years several areas have been designated in the directives as “preserved”, which is welcome, but there are probably 50 or more sites that remain unattended because the expertise is not available. It is a great pity that we remain in contravention of important EC Directives because of a lack of personnel or expertise to do this work.
This amendment affords an opportunity  to get over that shortcoming. In a world that is becoming more and more environmentally aware, it is not good enough that a Department responsible for the preservation of wetlands and certain habitats cannot carry out its work for the reasons I have set out. I hope the Minister will find in this amendment a way in which this issue could be addressed.
Paragraph 6 (b) of amendment No. 4b deals with the promotion of agri-tourism. Last year we adopted the grant regime for agri-tourism under the EC Structural Funds. It was very slow to get off the ground; almost a year and a half after the directive could have been applied in Ireland we actually dealt with potential applicants. A very small number of the applicants qualified for the agri-tourism grants although many worthwhile projects were put forward, and many of them have, unfortunately, been put on the long finger — into 1993 and beyond.
It is very important that this unit will be able to deal in an advisory capacity with people who wish to take the alternative step into agri-tourism. This is vital because a transfer to this country in terms of (a) grant assistance and (b) the spinoff from tourism to the national economy is great. We now find that the projected growth in tourism which was to double by 1993 — a projection made in 1988 or 1989 — will not now be realised; we probably will not reach 60 per cent of that target. If we set a target for 1993 to 1997 we must do everything possible to see that that target is realised.
In this amendment we are setting down areas where we can work towards that realisation because if there is any area which has growth potential it is agri-tourism. In an increasingly urbanised society, there is the huge, untapped potential to use the Irish countryside and not just our scenic sites, etc. for recreational purposes. I hope the Minister will take on board our suggestions.
Paragraph 6 (c) of amendment No. 4b deals with the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas. I believe we have not done enough in this area. I do not know how many ESAs we have  declared in this country but I represent a part of the country where a major area of great environmental sensitivity is located, namely, the Shannon Valley, the Shannon callows. To preserve that area certain measures will have to be put in place; many of which may not be popular, such as farmers having to go into extensification of present farming practices in that area. Here again, for one reason or another, we have not put the terms of these directives into place and these environmentally sensitive areas are being progressively damaged and for a relatively small amount of money we could preserve these unique areas.
Areas of unspoiled wetlands and wild countryside are more widespread on this island than in most parts of the Continent because we have not had an assault of industrialisation on these areas. Deputy Yates very eloquently made the point regarding the need to control afforestation. I have made this point in a number of debates: something must be done urgently in that area. In theory it is all right to say that the appropriate use for thousands of hectares of land is afforestation — this can be said about County Leitrim. A couple of years ago I heard David Bellamy giving a lecture in the National Library. He made a sweeping statement when he said that the west should be under afforestation. This was said from his own environmental protection preservation point of view. That is all very well but for every 10,000 trees planted, one person is being displaced. This issue must be addressed. There is a considerable amount of land the appropriate use of which would be afforestation.
Increasingly, in the constituency I represent, agricultural land of good quality, which would improve the livelihood of many young farmers, is being given over to afforestation purely and simply because the only customer for this land when it comes on the market — sometimes in quite large tracts — are the finance and other companies who operate in afforestation. Some of this is excellent agricultural land and, near where I live,  almost two acres have been planted with trees, which was not an appropriate use for it. Sometimes this is the only option open to farmers as they will not be given money by the lending institutions; the general attitude towards the economic condition of agriculture at present means that it is not a good time to be looking for money to engage in conventional agriculture. The Government need to intervene in this regard. I think the Minister of State agrees because when we were debating Second Stage he made that point. Let us have afforestation where it is appropriate — we must be careful about what we mean by “appropriate”— but there should not be afforestation on fertile agricultural land. I say that although I am in support of the need to increase afforestation because we have the lowest afforestation — at least we had five years ago — of any country in Europe. I do not believe the glowing figures in regard to a timber shortage in 30 years' time, its price and its value. We do not know what new product may come on the market which might replace timber. There is hardly any timber used in new houses for windows and doors, synthetic material or aluminium are used; 40 years ago Members speaking in the House might have heard about bakelite but they certainly did not know about the use and versatility of plastic. That is why we must be careful about talking in glowing terms about the need for afforestation.
Deputy Yates referred to the accessibility of land for young farmers and I cannot add much to his remarks. He made the point about the age profile of our farmers. It depends on how you look at the contribution of agriculture to our economy, 19 per cent of the total workforce is involved directly, if you exclude manufacturing, as a direct result of agriculture but if you include the industrial-manufacturing side which is allied directly to agriculture you will find that 30 per cent of the total workforce is involved. The age profile of farmers is extremely worrying; in County Roscommon — a western disadvantaged county — 80 per cent of farmers are over  50 years of age, 45 per cent are over 65 years of age, indeed many of them are 80 years of age. Something must be done to encourage these farmers to transfer their land to younger people. Alas, emigration has taken its toll of young farmers who do not see any hope for farming in future. They know that they cannot farm economically the land on which their parents survived and there is no accessibility to additional land. The definition of an economic farm has changed dramatically in a decade; in 1981 a person with 60 adjusted acres of good land had an income equivalent to the average industrial wage in that year. If you had the same number of acres today the income from it would be, at best, 65 per cent of the average industrial wage. Indeed that figure would apply to intensive farmers who worked very hard.
I hope the Minister will take on board the detailed remarks which my colleague and I made.
Mr. Hyland: I thank both Deputies for their constructive comments in relation to these amendments which were ruled out of order. I was particularly impressed by the thought which went into their formulation and, for that reason, I said it should like to deal with them. I do not want to be seen as someone who opposes amendments regularly.
Mr. Yates: Good.
Mr. Hyland: The amendment tabled by Deputy Yates referred to subdivision controls of land, group purchases of land, long term leasing of land and the rearrangement of commonage divisions, the control and purchase of land by non-EC nationals and the non-agricultural corporate sector. He asked me to set up a unit within the Department to monitor all these activities. Of course that is exactly what I have already announced here today in terms of the establishment of a special unit within the Department. It is my intention that this unit will deal with each of the very important headings which Deputy Yates identified. They are all significantly important to farming and  to land mobility. Deputy Yates also wanted the Minister to authorise a unit to be established within his Department to make recommendations in relation to optimum land usage. The question of optimum land usage is at the very heart of everything to which Deputy Connor and other Members referred. I have given serious thought to the need to have some form of body which would co-ordinate everything on the rural landscape. For example, Deputy Connor referred to forestry; it is not within my area of responsibility, Coillte do an excellent job in promoting forestry development and we have also benefited to a very large extent from funding from the European Community for a national forestry development programme.
I agree with Deputy Connor that there is a need for an overall national co-ordinated approach and to strike a reasonable balance between land which will be used for forestry and land which has potential for agricultural purposes. While, at present, the opportunities for expanding agricultural production — because of the Common Agricultural Policy reforms — has necessarily been limited, nevertheless in ten or 20 years' time there may again be the opportunity to expand some of the core agricultural products here. For that reason, at this crucial stage we need to think ahead and to plan and examine all the activities.
Deputies Yates and Connor referred to agri-tourism and alternative farm enterprises. In rural Ireland a new range of activities are taking place. We would all prefer if farmers could earn their livelihood through the production of food, that being the profession of Irish farmers.
Deputy Yates mentioned the policy of set aside. While the provision for set aside is a necessary part of the overall package negotiated under Common Agricultural Policy reform, and I have no doubt that our Minister endeavoured to minimise the impact of set aside on Ireland, it is a policy that I do not like. It is alien to the culture, the training and the professional ethos of any farmer, whose qualification is to grow food and assist in the development of our national  land resource. It is my sincere hope that the policy of set aside will not be a permanent feature of European agriculture or our national agriculture. We have a problem with accepting such a policy particularly at a time when on our televisions we view the appalling sight of world hunger almost every night.
It makes no sense that those who manage agriculture at international and European level have not been more successful in implementing international policies for the development of agriculture. I realise that much of the over-production in Europe consists of food that is not suitable for those who are suffering in the Third World countries. However, much suitable food could be produced and an international approach to agricultural production would more effectively address the problem of world hunger.
I am sure Deputies would not disagree that the long term answer to Third World hunger lies in allowing and assisting Third World countries implement their own development and food production programmes. We cannot walk away from our responsibilities in that regard.
Irish farmers have been contributing in a very generous way to the development of agricultural production programmes in many Third World countries. I was pleased in the past few weeks to be able to accept an invitation from one organisation to see the effectiveness of the programmes being implemented with the assistance of Irish farmers. We all need to be interested in and concerned about the development of such programmes.
Deputy Connor made an indirect reference to an issue I should like to bring to the attention of the House; it is a reflection on European Governments that they were not in a position to more carefully monitor the international agricultural development programme. We seem to be bedevilled with a cycle of peaks and troughs in production, with no co-ordinated approach to development areas. If in the past ten years the European Community had more effectively monitored agricultural development the  level of Common Agricultural Policy reform referred to today may not have been necessary. That is a matter in which we all have to be interested and it is something that must be examined in the long term.
Agri-tourism, referred to, correctly, by Deputy Connor, is part of the operational programme for rural development and although growing in importance, is under-funded. As the Deputy correctly stated, the amount of money available has not been adequate to meet demand. I am pleased to be able to inform the Deputy that the Government hope shortly to gain additional funding to give a further stimulus to agri-tourism.
Mr. Connor: Good.
Mr. Hyland: The Deputy made reference to environmentally sensitive areas. I remind him that we have in place two pilot projects, one is the Sliabh Bloom project in my area and the other is the Slyne Head Project in County Galway. Both schemes were launched about six months ago. The Sliabh Bloom scheme is well established and it appears that the results should be extremely promising. I am not so familiar with the Slyne Head project but replies to inquiries I made indicate that it is not so advanced. Those projects are extremely important in terms of a further expansion of the environmentally sensitive areas scheme. I have studied the application of the scheme in Great Britain and in other European countries and I recognise that it does have an important role to play in relation to land not directly involved in agricultural production. It is important for our national environment that the pilot schemes are successful and that we will subsequently be in a position to negotiate with the European Community a further extension of the scheme.
There is a capacity to achieve a reasonable balance between the core industry of agriculture, the production of food and the raising of livestock, and the need for an acceptable and pleasing environment. In that regard, I noted the comments made this morning by Deputy Yates  about wildlife. There is much work to be done in relation to our environment but we are moving in the right direction in the operational programme for rural development.
I do not intend to bore the House by going into detail about rural development schemes for which I have responsibility but I should like to comment on the Leader programme. Under that programme 16 rural development schemes are being carried out in 16 areas of the country. For the first time rural communities, and individuals within communities, are being given the opportunity to implement their own development programmes. That is an interesting experiment. It is too soon for anyone to judge the likely outcome of those programmes, but it is my hope that they will be successful. I assure the House that I shall be working extremely hard to assist communities to make a success of the programmes. It would be very unfortunate if the new community development programmes failed to encourage local communities or to assist them get projects off the ground.
The bottom line in all these instances has to be employment. In the Department of Agriculture and Food we attach much importance to the job potential of these programmes and for that reason we want to see them succeed. The Leader programme, which is relevant to what we are talking about today in terms of the rural countryside, is also a pilot project. There is a considerable onus on the people who are managing the 16 Leader groups to ensure their success because Leader II cannot be negotiated until the end of the current programme, which is in 1993.
I have dealt with most of the issues raised by Deputies opposite except, perhaps, the transfer of land. I do not have to remind Deputies opposite that the main deterrent to early transfer of land is the lack of a pre-retirement scheme for farmers. I have always held the view that if we could introduce an acceptable and attractive retirement scheme for farmers it would contribute more than anything else to land mobility in Ireland. An early  retirement scheme is necessary now more than ever before because we do not have a land pool available to us to enable us increase our holding or to make land available to young people who want to go into farming for the first time. Deputy Yates indicated to the House the percentage of farms which are family managed. Therefore, the opportunity for transfer to a large extent is confined to family farm units throughout the country. Farm families have a strong attachment to land and because of that attachment they have a great sense of security. If we are to make progress in terms of worth-while land mobility for young farmers then we must provide an attractive pre-retirement scheme for farmers.
Another problem relates to the absence of leasing as a normal form of land tenure. We do not have a very strong tradition of leasing on a long term basis, although schemes were introduced which received Government backing. It may be that the amount of land available was not sufficient to enable that scheme to be as effective as intended. The Deputy referred to the fact that stamp duty, tax and capital gains are also deterrents — I am prepared to admit that in the House — to land mobility and land transfer. I should like to say it is the intention to introduce a pre-retirement scheme for farmers over 55 years of age towards the end of this year. This scheme will provide a pension to a farmer who sells or leases his farm. That should help to increase land mobility. An incentive for early transfer of land is the young farmers' installation aid scheme which provides a premium of £5,600 to young farmers taking over a farm for the first time. Under the provisions of a recent amendment leased land is now eligible to qualify for this premium. I was pleased to have been associated with that new regulation. I hope the extension of the young farmers' installation aid scheme will encourage more leasing of land in Ireland and allow more young farmers into the system.
Reservations have been expressed in regard to the attractiveness of the retirement scheme. I hope the scheme, when  introduced, will provide a worth-while incentive to parents who, for whatever reason, wish to retire and would like to see their sons or daughters take over the farm. I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, who would like to see an improvement in the proposed retirement scheme. I can assure this House the Minister will be negotiating in Brussels to have the scheme made more attractive so far as farmers are concerned; the same will apply to the young farmers' installation aid scheme.
This brings me to the final point I wish to make on this section. Reference has been made to statements I made in the House on the last occasion on which we debated this matter, which deal with what Deputy Yates had in mind. I have already indicated to Deputy Yates, in relation to amendment No. 4a, that the unit being set up in the Department will do all the things he wishes to have done. On the other hand, there is a need for a broader authority as far as land use in Ireland is concerned. I favour a body which would monitor overall developments of land use in Ireland with particular attention to agricultural and rural development aspects. The point was well developed by the Deputies who contributed in the House this morning. The body could formulate ideas on the subject to be conveyed to Ministers and various Departments, including the Department of Agriculture and Food. I have asked that this idea be examined by the committee set up under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and that they draw up a national programme for agricultural development.
Following the debate on the previous day I immediately forwarded, as promised, the views expressed here concerning the need for some kind of a monitoring national committee to deal with every aspect of land development. This morning I checked with my senior colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, who informed me that this committee will be reporting to the  Department and to this House by the end of the year.
It would be advisable for us not to set up a short term structure which would undermine the establishment of a broader based committee. For that reason I assure Deputy Yates and other Deputies — I admire their sincerity so far as agriculture is concerned — that I am not opposing the amendments for the sake of opposing them or trying to score political points, I am merely doing it because of my conviction of the long term need to co-ordinate all activities in rural areas.
I expect the committee, which comprises representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Food and all the farm organisations, all of whom are participating in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, to report within the next few months. I have no doubt they will have given careful consideration to the point I have asked them to examine. For that reason I again say to Deputy Yates that everything he has asked me to do in the amendments tabled is of extreme importance. I should say that I have not received approval for the formula I am suggesting.
I am satisfied that the departmental review group will give very careful consideration to this proposal. We will then have to await the Government's response to it. I do not want anyone to think that I am making a nice cosy statement so that we can get away from the contents of Deputy Yates's amendment. In the meantime Deputy Yates and other Deputies can be satisfied that their proposals will be dealt with in the short term by the departmental sub-committee. It is with some degree of reluctance that I ask Deputy Yates to allow this alternative proposal to run its course and to see what can be done after that.
Mr. Yates: I will be brief as I am anxious to make more progress. At the outset the Minister of State said that his throat was not the best today. I do not want to be seen to be going for his throat but we need to look at the situation realistically. I found the Minister of  State's Second Stage debate about world hunger, Common Agricultural Policy reform, etc. interesting but the fact is that we are dealing with specific legislation. What we are saying is that a proper autonomous land usage authority and the land executive functions should be put into one building to ensure that there is a proper policy unit and an effective executive unit to deal with land mobility and land structural reform.
The Minister said, and I listened attentively to him, that he agrees with what we say——
Mr. Hyland: Yes.
Mr. Yates: ——but at the end of the day our proposal will be dealt with by a Programme for Economic and Social Progress committee. When Deputy Paul Connaughton was in the Department of Agriculture and Food he had lots of ideas about land reform but nothing ever happened; they were wasted on the desert air because either the Cabinet of the day or the Department of Finance did not support them. I am not reassured by the Minister of State's well meaning rhetoric, if I may call it that, because it does not count for anything. At the end of the day what we are doing is dissolving one body and not replacing them with anything of substance. The Minister cannot say what the budget, staff numbers and functions of any new body will be. All he has is noble and good intentions that all these substantive and specific points will be dealt with in some way.
It is time we reflected on the extent to which we have become totally irrelevant. It is an abdication of responsibility if the Minister of State is of the view — perhaps the Minister is of the same view — that we should depend on some Programme for Economic and Social Progress committee outside this House, whose members have not been elected by the people, to decide this issue. I will not labour this point; all I am saying is that this is no way for the Government to run the country. If the Minister of State was doing his job properly he would say to the Minister, “I have been given  responsibility for land policy, I will decide land policy and this is what it should be”. The Minister would then make a submission to Cabinet who would either agree or disagree with it. Of course, all the farm organisations could give their points of view on the submission — I would not be against them doing so. What I do not like are namby-pamby statements such as, “We are one committee away from a decision,” or, “we need more analysis”. The Minister of State is long enough in the Department of Agriculture and Food to know what needs to be done. This is quite clear. Having seen what happened to Deputy Connaughton when he was in the Department of Agriculture and Food during the eighties, I believe the same thing will happen to the Minister of State in this instance. This is very frustrating; it is merely going around in a circle.
I was interested in the Minister's comments about the need to encourage more young farmers. My party favour the introduction of a proper retirement scheme for farmers and the setting of the threshold for the capital acquisitions tax at the 1976 level. The addition of quotes has meant that farmers who want to transfer land to young farmers face a bill of £20,000. This is not very fair. The intention behind this tax was that bona fide family farm transfers would go through with the minimum of tax. As the Minister rightly said in the case of a farmer who dies at 60 years of age there is no stamp duty on the land transferred to the next generation but in the case of a farmer who transfers his land while he is alive there is stamp duty. That is a direct penalty on the transfer of land during the lifetime of farmers. I ask that the first £2,000 of stamp duty liability would be exempt in such family farm cases. This would be very simple; it is merely a case of making a decision and adhering to it. It is the large wealthy farmers who will still have to pay.
The Minister referred to the farmers installation premium. The problem here relates to flexibility in the labour units which need to be adjusted to half a labour unit and perhaps up to two and a half  labour units. I do not know what powers the Minister of State has in this area but the Minister could make the decision at the stroke of a pen. I understand there is no EC restriction on this issue but there is flexibility at national level, and the Minister should make the decision. In national terms, out of a total of 150,000 farmers only a few hundred would avail of the premium which amounts to only £5,500 every year. I am happy to withdraw amendment No. 4a. At the end of the day the buck must stop somewhere; it does not stop with some Programme for Economic and Social Progress committee, it stops with the Minister.
Mr. Hyland: I wish to respond briefly to Deputy Yates. I am sorry if the Deputy is frustrated at my replies. Nonetheless I have to say to him that even if the proposed new structure does not emerge, and I will encourage it to emerge, the setting up of a specialist unit within the Department will meet the proposals in the Deputy's amendments.
Mr. Yates: It does not meet the proposals in amendments Nos. 4b and 4c.
Mr. Hyland: I will request the new unit to deal not only with the operational matters which are being transferred to them but also to monitor — this is what Deputy Yates is proposing — land movement and activities in rural areas. If they were not to do so we would be left in a total vacuum — we would have no control and would have no idea about what was happening in terms of land mobility, etc.
I admit that I do not have approval for a broader measure. Despite this, I believe the points raised by Deputy Yates will be covered by the committee I am putting in place. If it is any consolation to the Deputy, I will tell the people heading up this committee that they will be required to exercise a monitoring role and to be in a position to tell us and, through us, the people of Ireland, what has been happening in terms of land  mobility since the famous Land Commission were disbanded.
Deputy Yates has referred to me as a man of good intentions. On the one hand that could be interpreted as flattery but on the other it could imply that I make pious platitudes and do nothing else.
In regard to the burning question of Land Commission annuities which accounted for two thirds of the debate on this Bill the last time it was before the House, I have given an assurance that I will vigorously pursue that issue. Deputies referred to the problems experienced by farmers who could not pay their annuities, to the need to provide a purchase scheme for farmers and to the high level of interest payments on annuities. I am not standing up here today claiming credit or anything else for what has been done. It was a Government decision. Nevertheless I took the issue on board and delivered on my promise.
The response from the agricultural community has been that while for years the matter was debated in every political circle, at last something worth-while and effective has been done by the Government in relation to it. I had to make that point in response to Deputy Yates's well-intentioned comment in regard to my good intentions. I like to believe that when I make promises I am capable of delivering on them.
Amendment No. 4a, by leave, withdrawn.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Hilliard): Amendments Nos. 4b and 4c have been ruled out of order. Therefore, we move to amendment No. 5 in the names of Deputies Deasy, Connaughton and Yates.
Mr. Yates: I move amendment No. 5:
In page 3, subsection (1), line 28, after “thereof” to insert “and shall, in particular, arrange that such records, deeds and documents shall be retained  in one central location and shall be made available for public inspection at all reasonable times”.
Section 6 deals with the transfer of records to which Deputy Connor and the Minister of State have already referred. Having listened to Deputy Connor make a case about the need to locate some of the records in museums in Roscommon I am not so sure that the proposal in this amendment — to retain all records in one central location — is such a good one. The principle involved here is that there be access to these records at all times.
If I understood the Minister of State correctly he said that, for a period this year those records were not available, that some offices were closed and physical problems were encountered in rendering them available in a nearby building. There is an historical aspect to this, that these records should be made available and that there be legal obligation — under the provisions of this Bill — to take whatever steps may be necessary to make them so available.
Mr. Connor: I support Deputy Yates in this respect. In so doing I may be repeating what I said, somewhat out of place, on an earlier section in relation to these records. As somebody who is interested in this matter — and the Minister of State has expressed his interest in it also — I want to place on record that these records or archives are of great national importance. There has been much comment about the social history of Ireland in the 19th century. I had been saying that the social history of our neighbouring island could be written around their industrial society whereas, on this side of the Irish Sea, we did not have those dark, Satanic mills leading to the Luddites and so on. What we did have was what was described by the people who researched the matter, agrarian unrest. The response to this was the establishment of the congested districts boards and the Irish Land Commission. Indeed, that question attracted the attention of one of the greatest Englishmen of the 19th century,  William Gladstone. The responses of the people who researched what had to be done about the great estates in Ireland to cure that particular kind of social, agrarian unrest have all been carefully recorded in writing. Many of these matters have not been examined or researched for over half a century.
For that reason I contend we should be very careful that they be made available to the national archives. Deputy Yates's amendment advocates their retention in one central location. I contend they should be made available at least to the National Museum or, say, an extension of it in my county, to the Famine Museum. The National Museum has no specific section dealing with that great seminal event in our history, that is, The Famine. However, a whole new annex is to be built onto Strokestown House to be devoted to that period and the documents in the hands of the National Museum will be transferred there. This will mean it will not be merely a local museum but an extension of the National Museum.
One would hope that in any arrangements to be made in respect of the documents in the Minister's care — we must remember that nationally they are probably the most important documents on the subject that we have — they would be made available to people who wish to interpret or study them or for people like myself who might not be very good either at studying or interpreting them but who would like to see them.
Mr. Hyland: I am delighted to be able to respond to the points raised by Deputies Yates and Connor. I fully agree with them in relation to the importance of these records from the point of view of their historical significance and the records comprised therein in relation to land ownership. Like both Deputies I gave much thought to these records and I had discussions with my senior officials about them. At one stage it was suggested to me that it might be possible to decent-ralise all of these records, perhaps locating them within each local authority area. I pursued that suggestion to the best of my ability but at the conclusion of my  inquiries I was convinced this would lead to considerable, excessive fragmentation of those records. The possibility was that, at national level, we might lose some control over their historical significance.
While not knowing how my officials would respond I would agree that, to the extent that we have on record ancient, historical documents, parchments or whatever relating to particular parts of the country, and to various regions I should like to believe it would be possible, backed-up by the necessary safeguards, that they could be put on display in county libraries, on a temporary basis. This would enable local historians who might not have an opportunity to travel to Dublin, to visit the new central archive now being established. It would be my hope that we could devise an arrangement under which a responsible statutory authority, local authority or whoever, would be in a position to have these valuable documents sourced from the central archive and displayed, even for short periods, throughout the length and breadth of the country.
We must endeavour to strike a balance between the importance of maintaining these records in safe custody while acknowledging that there may be no real benefit in having them locked away permanently in a dungeon, not accessible to those people who would benefit from their examination. It is a matter of striking some balance. I notice one of my officials is nodding his head, appearing to give his consent to my suggestion. I am glad to say that, to that extent, we will be able to respond to the suggestions made by Deputies Yates and Connor.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
Mr. Hyland: I move amendment No. 6:
In page 4, subsection (2), lines 7 to  11, to delete paragraph (d) and substitute the following:
“(d) any sum set aside on the redemption of land bonds issued as a result of the making of the vesting order or declaration the subject of the order and any interest that has accumulated on such bonds by way of dividends together with any deposit interest that has accumulated on such dividends and on any such sum before such commencement shall be paid to the Minister or the Minister for Finance as appropriate.”.
This is really a technical amendment as this is an enabling section providing for the revocation of orders vesting land in the Land Commission in cases where the Land Commission never took possession. The original text of section 7 (2) (d) provided for the cancellation of any land bonds issued in respect of the purchase of such land. As the House will be aware, in 1989 all land bonds were redeemed when cash was substituted for land bonds issued in such cases. That cash, plus the net interest which had accrued on those land bonds, was placed on deposit. Section 7 (2) (d), as amended, provides that the cash set aside, together with any accumulated interest thereon, shall be paid to the Minister for Agriculture and Food or, as appropriate, the Minister for Finance.
This is an enabling provision only, if you like, for the purpose of bringing legal order into the Bill. I hope the House will agree to accept it.
Mr. Yates: Perhaps the Minister would clarify the position in relation to land bonds. Have all land bonds been redeemed for their cash value? Would the Minister say what was the total cost of paying off those land bonds or, if they have not been paid for, what will be their ultimate cost? What is the price of implementing this legislation and wrapping up the Land Commission?
Mr. Hyland: On the question of the redemption of land bonds, all have been redeemed. I do not have the information  to answer the other questions but I will have the matter investigated to determine the final estimated cost. I suspect it will be extremely difficult to formulate an accurate estimate. It is a serious question and the Deputy would wish for a serious response. I will provide that information, if it is available to us. This amendment regularises the transfer from the Land Commission to the Department and the Minister.
Mr. Yates: I thank the Minister. This is a matter of substance. The Comptroller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee have made very scathing comments about the Land Commission over the past decade. I know of no State body where they have been more scathing. It is important to know the wind-up costs. Not all the 100 staff of the Land Commission will be retained to deal with land issues. There may be some settlement involved. I understand that about £16 million is the cost of the annuities deal, which I welcome. Then we have the balance of the land. The cost of implementing this legislation could well be in excess of £30 million. It is a very serious issue. The Minister gave us a lecture on cost effectiveness this morning. It is important that these statistics should not only be available to the House but to the public at large. This is taxpayers' money and there must be transparency and accountability. Perhaps the Minister will make a public statement of the total winding-up costs of the Land Commission.
Mr. Hyland: I appreciate the concern expressed by Deputy Yates in seeking information. I do not have it but to whatever extent it can be established, I will endeavour to make that information available to the Deputy as soon as possible.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
 SECTION 8.
Mr. Yates: I move amendment No. 7:
In page 4, subsection (2) (a), between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:
“but, in any event, the Minister shall when disposing of land in accordance with this section, have regard to the objectives and purposes of the former Commission.”.
This section deals with the disposal of land that remains and which will be vested in the Minister after the dissolution of the Land Commission. The Minister said there were 1,300 hectares of land, in respect of 90 per cent of which there are allocation proposals this year. There is a further 5,000 hectares of bogland. We need to see how this will be dealt with. It is either to be given to eligible smallholders, returned to its owners or given to the highest bidder. Perhaps the Minister will clarify how it will be done. Giving it to the highest bidder may be the simplest means of disposing of it but the whole purpose of its acquisition was to build up viable holdings. That would not necessarily be the case if the land went to the highest bidder.
Given that this land was acquired in 1983 or before, it is remarkable that it has taken so long to allocate it. It must have been given out each year on 11-month conacre leases. It indicates that the level of activity by the Land Commission over the past decade left a lot to be desired. Straightforward decisions could not be made.
There have been allegations over the years of political patronage in relation to the allocation of land. I welcome the change from that. It is incredible that such politicised activity could be possible in this State. This all lends itself to yesteryear, perhaps before I was born. I do not think anyone would get away with it today, and rightly so.
Our amendment seeks to ensure that land will be disposed of having regard to the objectives and purposes of the former  Land Commission rather than on the basis of who attended the Minister's clinic. It should be done having regard to the proper criteria of smallholders' interests. The land should not necessarily go to the highest bidder. It is the Minister, not the Land Commission, who will allocate the land. That is the purpose of this section. It is appropriate that we should insert this check or balance. Given that the Minister has rejected every previous amendment, it is appropriate that he be seen to act properly by accepting this amendment.
Mr. Connor: In the disposal of these lands objectivity and absolute fair play should be evident. The person succeeding should be the appropriate person. It is important to accept this amendment. I live in rural Ireland and it is part of the culture that political patronage was involved in the allocation of land. My colleague, Deputy Foxe, who comes from a similar area and has worked with the farming community, would be aware that this is part of the culture. It is a culture of belief, and generally there was good reason to believe it.
The remaining land should be divided properly. Many points have been made about accessibility. People who deserve land and could make good use of it may not have the means to acquire it. There should be an objective assessment of the potential and entitlement of applicants, so that the disposals are fairly made. I would urge that the lands be disposed of using the old resale methods of the Land Commission rather than by sale to the highest bidder. The social and economic concerns of small farmers are disregarded in the case of sale to the highest bidder.
Mr. Foxe: I support the sentiments in this amendment. I am surprised at the amazement of Deputy Yates in regard to political patronage. I would like to see this land being disposed of bearing in mind the objectives of the former Land Commission. It should not be disposed of using the criteria of the fattest purse or the biggest cheque book.
Mr. Hyland: I did not realise, until Deputy Yates informed me, that by the end of the day I will be one of the largest landowners in the country. I do not take any great satisfaction from the thought. However, I take seriously the comments made by the three Deputies, particularly in relation to the criteria for the allocation of the land on hands. I assure Deputies that the land will be allocated on the basis of the criteria the Land Commission operated up to now.
We had to include in the legislation a provision for the disposal of land by auction. This option would only be used as a last resort if there was no interest from neighbouring smallholders or from the former owners. I cannot envisage there not being considerable local interest in the remaining land stock. It would be difficult to envisage a situation in which small farmers would not benefit considerably from this land which will be allocated under strict criteria laid down by the Land Commission. I noted comments on the political allocation of land, but that was very often more imaginary than real.
Mr. Yates: The Minister would say that.
Mr. Connor: I bet the Minister took credit for allocating some land.
Mr. Hyland: There is nothing wrong with conveying the good news provided the decision has been soundly based on long-established criteria. I have no doubt that all Land Commission transactions were completely above board and without political influence. There is nothing wrong with people, not only politicians, endeavouring to make a case for a person whom it is felt deserves the land. It is not wrong to ask a democratically elected public representative to present a legitimate case to a respected body. It will be a sad day when public representatives cannot respond to requests from constituents and members of the public. It is often extremely difficult for people to get their entitlements and it sometimes takes a well argued case by a public representative  to have the case dealt with properly. This occurs not only in the Land Commission but in every Government Department. Even in the Leader programme, which has a bottom up approach, there are indications that people would like public representatives to make cases for them because they feel that due to our experience we have the necessary expertise to present their case. What is wrong with that?
Far too often it has been suggested that there has been political interference. I do not come from that type of background and I doubt if any Deputy would be associated with that type of thinking. By and large public representatives do a credible job and public officials respond in a credible way in accordance with the regulations they operate. I am glad to be able to assure the House that the auctioning of land will be a last resort. The system will be administered in accordance with Land Commission criteria and the land will be given to people who deserve it in the opinion of the Land Commission. The price will have to be related to the cost of acquiring land in the first instance. Everything will be above board and I have the utmost confidence that the officials in the Department will dispose of the remaining land stock in a credible manner. For that reason I am glad to be able to respond to Deputy Yates by accepting his amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: “That section 9 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Yates: Has the compensation been agreed by the commission?
Mr. Hyland: I am advised that the compensation has not been agreed.
Mr. Yates: I hope they are being treated fairly.
Question put and agreed to.
Mr. Yates: I move amendment No. 9:
In page 5, before section 10, to insert the following new section:
“10.—Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 2 and 9, there shall be retained from within the existing resources of the Minister one lay-Commissioner to oversee the disposal of lands on hand at the time of the dissolution of the Commission and to ensure the proper organisation and control of documents.”.
This amendment suggests that for the period necessary for the remaining allocation, one lay commissioner should be retained in order to allow continuity for the period in question. The expertise of lay commissioners is valuable. Deputy Foxe referred to this. The best people to deal with this are people with experience. The amendment requests the retention of one lay commissioner in the new unit. That would not be too big a burden and it would be a common sense approach.
Mr. Hyland: The Deputy can take it that by and large decisions have been reached on the available land stock or, if not reached, investigations have been carried out. The land will be distributed very quickly. If the Deputy's point was taken up, the lay commissioner would only be retained for perhaps a few months. The retention of a lay commissioner for the allocation of the remaining land stock is not absolutely necessary. The commissioner only becomes involved in controversial cases and my understanding is that at this time the Land Commission have a clear vision as to where the remaining land stock will be allocated. There is nothing to be gained by the retention of one lay commissioner. I cannot accept the amendment.
Mr. Yates: The last part of the amendment refers to ensuring the proper organisation and control of documents. The point I am making is that if the Minister has not reached redundancy golden handshake terms with some of the lay commissioners, it might be a good idea to retain them, or is there an absolute determination to get them out?
Mr. Hyland: There is no absolute determination to do anything in terms of commissioners. The Bill provides for the dissolution of the Land Commission. The question of staffing within the Department of Agriculture and Food is a matter for the personnel section of that Department. If the secretary of the Department decided that it would be a good idea to take on one of the commissioners, there is nothing to prevent him from doing that. However, I cannot give any commitment.
I cannot agree to Deputy Yates's amendment for the specific reason I have already given, that the Land Commission have a vision as to the transfer of the remaining small amount of land. I am sure the point the Deputy made will be noted by my officials here, that if for any reason the retention of a commissioner would be of assistance it would be considered by the personnel section of the Department.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 10 agreed to.
Question proposed: “That section 11 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Connor: Section 11 deals with transitional provisions. It affords me an opportunity to say something about staff transfers from the Land Commission, particularly Land Commission inspectors. In his report last year the Comptroller and Auditor General expressed some unhappiness about the deployment of Land Commission inspectors  who did not have adequate work to do. I am glad to hear the Minister say that he attributes no blame to Land Commission inspectors or to any member of the staff of the Land Commission. It was the fault of the system that this came about. The comments of the Comptroller and Auditor General were the result of a fault in the system rather than any fault in the staff. The work they were carrying out became redundant and the Government did not address the problem until now.
I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts and I was present at the hearing at which the secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Food was examined on this point. There was a wide consensus among the members attending that the Department must be very careful about the proposed transfer of these officers out of their local offices, to Dublin in many cases. There are 20 inspectors to be transferred and the original proposal was to transfer most of them to Dublin. There was an attempt to find work for these inspectors on headage duties and some of them were sent on temporary transfers to Dublin. That is operating at present. The transfers on headage duties became a complete joke because inspectors were transferred to offices where they found neither chairs, desks, telephones nor any of the wherewithal to carry out any administrative duty. The whole thing became a little bit Gilbertian so these officers transferred themselves back to their old Land Commission offices in Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballina, Longford and so on.
These officers are mostly agricultural graduates and they should not be transferred from rural Ireland to Dublin. I want to make that point very strenuously. Because of the changes that are taking place we need people with the expertise these officers have in rural Ireland. There has been a complete change in the orientation of agricultural policy as a result of the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy. There has been a move away from funding for marketing intervention and into rural development programmes and “bottom up” projects. This country has  been a major beneficiary from market intervention to the tune of about £1.2 billion. Maybe half of that will have disappeared by 1997. The Agricultural Commissioner, Mr. MacSharry, feels that Ireland will suffer no loss, that whatever we lose in market intervention we should be able to compensate for by the operation of rural development programmes, Leader programmes, agri-tourism and so on. If we were getting in 1992 £1.2 billion in market interventions we should, with proper updating of the figures, be able to have an equivalent amount in 1996.
However, we will not get these projects off the ground in a rural area unless we have leadership by properly qualified officials. We must keep these qualified agronomists and agricultural graduates who have worked for 24 or 25 years on the job, who know the countryside, who know farming patterns, who know what is needed. We need these people to get these programmes off the ground. We must not lose them to the Department here in Dublin because here they will be at far too great a remove to have any effective influence on what is taking place in rural Ireland. The economics of it need no proving. These programmes will not work unless there is leadership. In rural Ireland at the moment there is a dearth of leadership to get things off the ground. There is nothing wrong with the idea that from now on people will have to do a little more to help themselves but we must help them too. I say again to the Minister that these officers must be kept where they are. We should put them on the job now and not wait for two or three years. The funding can be drawn down for these projects now. Let us draw down some of that funding to pay salaries to these people to get these programmes off the ground.
Mr. Hyland: Section 11 is obviously a very important section. We would all have considerable sympathy with any officials of the Department who had to leave home because of restructuring within the Department. On the other hand, we have to proceed with the rationalisation  we are talking about. I have no doubt that each individual's position vis-à-vis his family and so forth will be given sympathetic consideration by the officials of the Department who have responsibility for dealing with this matter.
While I agree with the Deputy's sentiments and acknowledge that many of these people would make a very substantial contribution to some of the rural development programmes because of their local knowledge and expertise, this is purely a personnel matter over which I have no control and no jurisdiction. All I can say is that I know the personnel section of the Department of Agriculture and Food will deal with cases as sympathetically as they can within the framework we are talking about here today.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.
1. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he intends to have bilateral meetings with Heads of Government within the European Community in addition to the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major, to discuss the present difficulties within the Exchange Rate Mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
2. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the steps he has taken to ensure that at the Birmingham European Council there will not be a decision to apply the concept of subsidiarity in such a manner as to weaken the role of the Commission in advancing and protecting the interests of the more peripheral States which are at an earlier stage of economic development; and whether he is in a position to assure Dáil Éireann that there is no truth in reports that the Government agreed in COREPER to a proposal that a group of member states be empowered on grounds of an alleged breach of subsidiarity to halt the Commission preparation of, and thus prevent presentation of, proposals to the Council of Ministers.
The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.
Mr. J. Bruton: As those two questions bear no relationship to one another they should not be taken together.
An Ceann Comhairle: It has always been the prerogative of the Taoiseach or the Minister to enjoin questions.
Mr. J. Bruton: They are not related.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us take them together as announced.
The Taoiseach: The British Presidency indicated that the Birmingham European Council will deal with the Danish situation, the EMS and making the Community more open to its citizens.
Mr. Quinn: On a point of order, I find it very difficult to hear the Taoiseach.
The Taoiseach: In preparation for the meeting and to get across the Irish viewpoint I have met the British and Spanish Prime Ministers and there have been ministerial and diplomatic contacts with Germany, the Netherlands and France. In all these contacts, I have stressed that recent events underline the need for the strengthened integration in the monetary, economic and political spheres for which the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty can pave the way; and that Ireland does not favour a two-speed Community in the monetary or any other sphere, but that if such a Community did come about, Ireland would wish to be with the central core.
The continuing debate on the Maastricht Treaty in the member states has revealed a range of activities and concerns, which the Government recognise would suggest that more needs to be done  to bring the Community closer to its citizens.
The Government are prepared to cooperate to this end and to consider the appropriate application of the principle of subsidiarity set out in Article 3B of the Treaty but this cannot involve calling into question fundamental aspects of the Treaty of Rome, particularly in regard to the right of initiative of the Commission. The Government are exercising vigilance to ensure that subsidiarity is not used as a cover for rolling back Community achievements or heading off further integration in areas where this is desirable. Our viewpoint on this matter was clearly set out at the General Affairs Council last week and by me in replying to Prime Minister Major's message about the Birmingham European Council and there was also full agreement on these points when I met Prime Minister Gonzalez in Madrid.
There is no basis for the suggestion that the Government agreed that one or more member states would be able to veto, on the grounds of subsidiarity, a Commission initiative even before it was formally tabled. Any such idea was unambiguously rejected by the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, at the Council meeting, where we had the support of the vast majority of member states, and by me. We believe that COREPER acted wisely in rejecting such ideas when drawing up its report on procedural aspects of subsidiarity for that Council meeting. It also seems clear that no such proposal will arise at Birmingham, certainly not from the Presidency.
Mr. Quinn: I would like to ask the Taoiseach a question in relation to my question which I suggest is not related to Question No. 2.
Mr. J. Bruton: Hear, hear.
Mr. Quinn: I asked the Taoiseach specifically if he intends to have bilateral meetings with Heads of Government in addition to the meeting with the British Prime Minister and that he had on his visit to Seville with the Spanish Prime  Minister. Would the Taoiseach like to answer that question?
The Taoiseach: As the Deputy said, I met the Spanish Prime Minister and I am due to have a meeting with the German Chancellor later. If I feel ministerial representations need further backing from me that will be seen to.
Mr. Quinn: Would the Taoiseach agree that there is now more than ever a need for a concerted and sophisticated diplomatic effort to be undertaken by the Government in respect of all Heads of Government having regard to the chaos which exists within the EMS and the ERM and the vulnerability of the economy? What is the reason the Taoiseach has not undertaken such an initiative?
The Taoiseach: First, I do not think it is necessary to do so because this matter will be discussed at Birmingham next Friday, as the Deputy would be aware if he had listened to my reply. Second, at this stage the Irish economy is one of the few if not the only economy which complies fully with the criteria which have been laid down for inclusion in the economic and monetary union. While we would oppose any suggestion that there should be a two speed Europe, if such a move were to be made by the core currencies, which would be undesirable, we would certainly want to be included in the first tier.
Mr. J. Bruton: Will the definition of the concept of subsidiarity be discussed at Birmingham? Would the Taoiseach agree that there are some grounds for concern about the wording of his reply in which, in regard to the defence of the powers of the Commission, he only referred specifically to the preservation of the right of initiative of the Commision? Would he agree that it is extremely important to protect other aspects of the powers of the Commission, namely, the ability of the Commission to enforce within member states fair rules relating to competition, industrial subsidy in which Ireland has a major  interest because we cannot compete on that field, and environmental standards in that we do not want countries which have lesser environmental standards to outsell us on the market because they have cheaper costs as a result of applying lesser environmental standards? The only way that can be dealt with is by ensuring that the Commission has adequate powers of enforcement as well as powers of initiative.
The Taoiseach: I agree with what the Deputy said that, apart from the areas I mentioned, there are other areas in which Ireland, and other small countries, has a fundamental interest. In relation to the powers of enforcement, particularly in the area of competition policy, there is no question of us subscribing to any view that they should be rolled back. There is a need to provide more information to the ordinary citizen in Europe and to have less regulation but not in the areas to which Deputy Bruton and I have referred. Indeed, the large nations which complain so much about the principle of subsidiarity and refer to the need for it at times ask the Commission to introduce various regulations and directives. For example, the British Government requested the Commission to look at the concept of timeshare and to deal with it in a directive while the French Government asked the Commission to introduce a directive which would stipulate the point at which one should cut off the legs of a chicken. In my view EC directives are not required in relation to either of those issues. It would be better if those matters were dealt with by national governments. That is what the concept of subsidiarity is all about.
Mr. J. Mitchell: What about the Progressive Democrats' legs?
The Taoiseach: Let us have no fouls, please.
Mr. Quinn: Would the Taoiseach care to answer my question?
The Taoiseach: What I am saying is that the Commission is being burdened with requests from some member states. This can lead to opposition from the ordinary citizen and the Commission. We want the Commission to retain all its powers in relation to competition policy and the other areas that have been mentioned. We want to ensure that industrial subsidies do not run riot within the Community because we would suffer as a result. The issue of environmental standards transcends national boundaries and should call for directives. As the House is aware, we would not support anything that would lead to the powers of the Commission being rolled back. It is important that the Commission has these powers to retain the balance in the institutional framework within the EC.
Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach agree that he gave an impression, which was unfortunate from an Irish point of view, when he referred to his concern about the Commission legislating for “every fiddle faddle”, that the Commission was going beyond its powers and appropriate responsibilities and that he should take this opportunity to withdraw that remark?
The Taoiseach: I do not have to withdraw such an unfortunate remark. The international press reads: “Irish Warn Major Not To Attack EC Powers”, “Reynolds Against Commission Curbs”, “Irish Pre-Summit Talks in London”, all of which make our position clear.
Mr. J. Bruton: That was after I warned the Taoiseach to stop.
The Taoiseach: We wrote to the Presidency of the Commission making clear what our position is.
Mr. Quinn: Does the Taoiseach regret the remark?
The Taoiseach: If somebody wants to misinterpret what I said, so be it.
Mr. Quinn: Does the Taoiseach regret the remark?
The Taoiseach: The record is clear.
Proinsias De Rossa: On Question No. 1, which relates to the ERM, may I ask the Taoiseach if he intends to make proposals or if he has taken any initiative with other member states to restrict or end what have been referred to as currency raiders, who have to a large extent precipitated the current crisis here, in Britain and elsewhere?
The Taoiseach: Ours was the first of the Twelve Governments to raise the question of predators, currency speculators and raiders and the vulnerability of small member states in particular and, indeed, some larger member states in that situation. There is an urgent need in Birmingham to send out a very clear signal to international money speculators that the ERM is solid, that the members are fully committed to it and that they would use their total pooled resources. It would take that strength to resist some of the money speculation that has gone on in recent weeks. Happily it seems to be coming to an end.
Dr. G. FitzGerald: May I ask the Taoiseach whether the reports are correct that prior to the last Council meeting a proposal was put forward in COREPER that a group of member states — not one or two — could prevent the presentation of proposals to the Council of Ministers? Can the Taoiseach confirm that that proposal was rejected? There were reports in newspapers in other countries to the effect that the proposal had been adopted in COREPER, although it was subsequently rejected at the Council of Ministers. I would like to know whether that proposal was adopted and, if so, how did our representative think that was the Government's policy? Second, can the Taoiseach state whether there are proposals from the Germans in regard to subsidiarity which would have the effect that obligations would continue to be imposed on countries for new Community  policies, but the financing of them would have to be borne by the countries themselves with no Community assistance? Are there proposals that could be interpreted in that light and, if so, what position does the Taoiseach propose to adopt in regard to that matter in Birmingham?
The Taoiseach: I made clear in my reply Ireland's position on subsidiarity. There is no question of our supporting or having supported anything like that in the past. It is time everybody realised what Government policy has been consistently in this regard. I do not think I have to comment further on that matter. Can the Deputy repeat the second part of his question?
Dr. G. FitzGerald: It relates to the suggestion in British papers that the German Government have put forward proposals under which the Community would continue to adopt new policies imposing obligations on member states but the states would have to finance them themselves without Community assistance which is given in such cases when obligations are imposed beyond the means of certain member states?
The Taoiseach: I am not aware of such proposals. However, if there are any such proposals the Deputy can be certain about what my position and the position of the Irish Government will be in relation to them.
Dr. G. FitzGerald: Would the Taoiseach answer the question I put to him about the meeting in COREPER. Was agreement reached on such a proposal?
The Taoiseach: No.
Dr. G. FitzGerald: Therefore these press reports are incorrect?
The Taoiseach: That is correct.
Mr. J. Bruton: May I ask the Taoiseach whether there are proposals for consideration at Birmingham in regard to a  definition of subsidiarity and, if so, from whom did they emanate? Would the Taoiseach not agree that there is an inherent danger in dealing with matters of this complexity at a summit meeting in that that is the one instance where the European Community makes decisions whereby the power of initiative does not rest exclusively with the Commission? The Taoiseach should resist the taking of any binding decisions in regard to subsidiarity at this Council because to do so would run directly counter to the principle of the Commission initiative, which he has said he wishes to preserve.
The Taoiseach: I will take that stand and I am totally in favour of what Deputy Bruton has advised in relation to the question of rolling back the powers of initiative.
Mr. J. Bruton: I thank the Taoiseach very much.
Mr. Kenny: The Taoiseach should listen to Deputy Bruton on other matters also.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have dwelt at length on these two questions. I see two Deputies who are anxious to intervene. I will hear them and I hope they will be brief.
Proinsias De Rossa: May I ask the Taoiseach with regard to his reply on the ERM, to indicate if he intends to make proposals to the Birmingham summit other than on the question of pooling the resources of the various central banks to fight currency speculation? Does the Taoiseach have any fiscal proposals with regard to the taxing of profits arising from such speculation? Does he have any proposals with regard to assistance to peripheral economies, such as our own, with regard to moving on a much faster road towards European Monetary Union generally?
The Taoiseach: I am sure the Deputy understands quite clearly that the question of financial help on the road to European  Monetary Union is what the Delors II package is all about. It is hoped that agreement will be reached on the level of funding and the future financing of the Community budget in Edinburgh at the end of December. Proposals in that regard have been put forward and let us hope that between now and the Edinburgh summit we will make sufficient progress to ensure that decisions can be taken at Edinburgh. In relation to the whole question of ERM, that is a matter of discussion. One would not shout from the rooftops what one might or might not do at this stage. The Twelve member states have signalled very clearly and determinedly to the outside world that they will support and protect the ERM and they will see what other measures can be taken to ensure that the level of speculation and the success of speculators in recent times is not repeated.
Mr. Quinn: I am aware that a deliberate decision was made that, for obvious reasons, Finance Ministers will not attend the Council meeting to be held at the end of this week. May I ask the Taoiseach if it is his intention to bring to the attention of that Council the fact that our currency has been revalued upwards as against that of 80 per cent of our trading partners and that there is a need to restore the ERM to its original status — a semi-fixed mechanism of exchange rates? Finally, in view of the urgency of this matter and its critical impact on strategic thinking within the Irish economy, can the Taoiseach give an indication at this stage that he will report back at the earliest possible opportunity — next Tuesday — to this House from that European Council meeting?
The Taoiseach: I will report back in the normal and appropriate way. It is dangerous to start about realignments of ERM in advance of any meeting. That is not the way business is done. I have no intention of adding to anxieties which could result in the markets taking a jaundiced view as to people's intentions. I reject the suggestion that our currency  has been revalued upwards by 20 per cent. Yesterday and this morning we saw the position of sterling relative to the punt. Everybody is very clear on our exchange rate policy and we are determined to maintain that policy.
3. Mr. Hogan asked the Taoiseach the role he envisages for the new County Enterprise Boards and their likely impact on job creation.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. N. Treacy): I would refer the Deputy to the Government statement which was issued by the Taoiseach on 1 October 1992, to the statement which I issued myself on 6 October and to contributions to the debate on employment made in this House on Thursday and Friday last by both the Taoiseach and myself confirming details of the new County Enterprise Partnership Boards. These statements outline the specific decisions, which have been taken by the Government on the objectives, strategy, funding, staffing and the process of establishing the County Enterprise Partnership Boards.
The partnership boards will play a major role in job creation at local level. They also represent a significant step forward in the devolution of power to local communities. Ordinary people will have the opportunity to participate in decisions affecting their lives — decisions which up to now have been made at national level. Each board, with directors drawn from all our main industries and State agencies will provide for the close co-operation of the private sector and the public service.
The chairperson of the boards will be an employer representative. The other members of the boards will include the chairperson of the local authority, the county manager and representatives of local communities, social partners and public agencies.
The partnership boards will have three key objectives, for the development of small and start up enterprises, employing  up to 12 people; for training and education, especially as linked to enterprise development; and for local community development. The partnership boards will prepare action plans for their counties and areas. These plans will set down specific proposals, to be implemented through decisions of key sub-committees of the boards, in the areas of small and start up enterprise development, of training and education and of local community development.
A forum of relevant local organisations will be held in each county quarterly, to ensure an exchange of ideas and feedback to local communities on the boards' activities. The process of establishing partnership boards will start immediately and will be undertaken in consultation with all existing interests at both local and regional level.
Mr. Hogan: Will the Minister agree that the establishment of new county partnership boards will not have a tangible effect on the creation of new employment opportunities at local level? This is a new layer of bureaucracy between the applicant seeking aid from the State and the various agencies which will be implementing such aid. Will the Minister also agree that this work is already being done by regional tourism organisations, regional development organisations and local authorities and that the establishment of a new agency will not help the creation of new jobs at local level?
Mr. N. Treacy: I do not agree with the Deputy's negative attitude. Far from being another layer of bureaucracy this is a clear decision by the Government to have a demarcation on the whole job creation system, the first time it has ever been done.
Mr. Kenny: Bless your innocence.
Mr. N. Treacy: New projects, up to and including 12 jobs, will in future be considered and decided at local level by the new enterprise partnership boards. Funding will be made available, bureaucracy  will be eliminated and decisions will be taken. The Government have acknowledged the contributions made successfully since 1965 by the county development teams and — since the seventies — by the regional tourism organisations. Taking their expertise into account, the Government have decided to amalgamate them so that there will be a smooth transfer of decisions, a new board put into position and decisions taken quickly in relation to the small indigenous industries to eliminate unemployment.
Mr. J. Higgins: Is the Minister of State aware that he is setting up an elaborate talking shop consisting of the chief executive officer from Teagasc who is the liquidating officer for agriculture in rural areas? He mentioned the regional representatives of the IDA and FÁS — two agencies which have gobbled up billions of pounds of taxpayers' money. Is the Minister of State aware that several local authorities, including Mayo County Council, with Deputy O'Toole and Deputy Morley present, unanimously rejected the document as nothing but a meaningless talking shop which should be referred back for further consideration? They adopted the Fine Gael policy, which advocates a regional structure, comprised of consolidated, hard-nosed business people, who could do a better job——
An Ceann Comhairle: A question, please. I want to facilitate other Deputies and I appeal for brevity.
Mr. N. Treacy: The Deputy's remarks are not factual. He should read the document in great detail and consult his brother who is the head of a very good local organisation. He is very enthusiastic in relation to the decisions we have taken and is very positively in favour of them. He reflects the views of many people who are anxious to have a say in the decision-making process to create job projects.
Mr. J. Higgins: They do not listen to me on the county council.
Proinsias De Rossa: It proves you can never be responsible for your brother. How does the Minister intend to relate this community enterprise board to the greater Dublin area which at present has two local authorities and whose county area is about to be split into three areas? Indeed some of the reserve functions have already been transferred to sub-bodies which are embryo local authorities for the county area. It is intended to establish four county enterprise boards in the greater Dublin area?
An Ceann Comhairle: Later questions in the name of the Deputy's colleague deal with that matter.
Proinsias De Rossa: I understood they were taken with this question.
An Ceann Comhairle: No, we should wait until we come to the question of dealing with that matter.
Mr. Kenny: What will the relationship be between the proposed new county enterprise boards and the existing structures in operation under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and Leader pilot programmes in various parts of the country?
Mr. N. Treacy: The relationship will be one of co-operation and there will be common membership of both bodies. At least some of the public sector members on the new boards are on the other boards. The new bodies will be allowed to fulfil their mandate and will be absorbed into the new structures in due course if it is feasible.
Mr. J. Mitchell: Does the Minister of State recall the enactment last year of the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act in which it was declared Government policy to restore more and more local democracy? Will he accept that the proposal, the subject of this question, runs counter to local democracy? Far from getting rid of bureaucracy, the Government are getting rid of democracy.
Mr. N. Treacy: I reject the Deputy's remarks. We are creating a new structure which will include five people from the public sector, ten from the community sector and an employer — 11 from the community sector — who will be elected by developmental and commercial community groups. This fulfils the provision of the Act as it is developing power from national to local level. It will be a new partnership between the State, the public sector and the people——
Mr. Quinn: They used to have that system in Eastern Europe.
Mr. N. Treacy: This is a new partnership, a new concept and there is tremendous goodwill in relation to it.
An Ceann Comhairle: I will now call Deputy Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) and I will hear a final question from Deputy Hogan.
Mr. Browne: (Carlow-Kilkenny): I anticipate rejection from the Minister because he has rejected everything so far.
Mr. N. Treacy: I only rejected the negative proposals.
Mr. Browne: (Carlow-Kilkenny): Does the Minister feel that tourism — our real potential growth area — can be projected in a better fashion at county level instead of at regional level?
Mr. N. Treacy: Absolutely. There is tremendous goodwill for the decision taken in regard to tourism by the people in the industry. For far too long the focus has not been at county level but at regional level. Areas in many counties have not got the attention they deserve because regional tourism organisations were hamstrung for resources. We are now creating a new structure which will involve the appointment of a county tourism manager in each county. He, in consultation with the local tourist interest and all the tourism bodies, will have to create a county tourism plan which will be adopted by his tourism sub-committee  and the county enterprise partnership board and submitted to Dublin as part of a national tourism strategy. There will be liaison round the country through the national management company which we are setting up and a much greater focus on the county promoting tourism equally in all areas instead of concentrating on present growth areas.
An Ceann Comhairle: We should realise that we have dealt with only three questions in almost half an hour, which is most unsatisfactory progress. Let us expedite matters; I will hear a final and brief question from Deputy Hogan.
Mr. Hogan: Will the Minister of State agree that the establishment of county partnership boards and basing them in the Department of the Taoiseach is very unusual? Normally they would be based in the Department of Industry and Commerce who are responsible for matters of industrial policy. In view of the commitment given in the documentation circulated — that these boards will be reviewed in one year — will he agree that the boards will, effectively, be just another temporary little arrangement?
Mr. N. Treacy: As far as we are concerned this is positive progress. There is nothing unusual about locating them in the Department of the Taoiseach because the whole Programme for Economic and Social Progress structure is located there——
Mr. J. Mitchell: Goodman was located there.
Mr. N. Treacy: This is a result of a consensus reached between the private sector and the State, indeed the whole commercial system. This is a new partnership and an evolution and expansion of the tremendous initiative which has been shown since the Programme for Economic and Social Progress structure was created.
Mr. J. Bruton: How will the county enterprise boards relate to the proposed  regional structures that the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, has announced he will create and how will they relate to the European Committee on the regions to be established under the Maastricht Treaty?
Mr. N. Treacy: The Government are in constant consultation with the European Commission in relation to the whole structure we have created. Those discussions have shown the structure proposed to be the ideal structure. The European Commission are prepared to support major job creation initiatives in each member state, provided there is a major community dimension. The new structure is what is desired by Europe. The Government are fulfilling the requirements laid down. Any necessary changes and linkages with the proposed regional structures being created by the Minister for the Environment will be taken on board.
4. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach whether an application for approval of the use of Structural Fund assistance for the £100 million jobs fund was lodged prior to the announcement by the Government on 26th August, 1992 that this jobs fund would be backed by EC Structural Funds; and, if not, if such an application had been lodged prior to 30th September, 1992.
Mr. N. Treacy: The Government have decided that additional funds for the county enterprise partnership boards will be provided as follows: from an additional £50 million of public funds provided by the Government from savings already made by the National Treasury Management Agency; from contributions of over £100 million from the financial institutions by way of loans and equity; and from the reallocation of unspent existing EC programmes, from the proposed EFTA fund and from the  global grant for local development, subject to the specific agreement of the European Commission.
The position on EC Structural Funds is that, on foot of discussions which commenced at the end of January 1992, the European Commission formally decided on 24 September 1992 on the allocation of a global grant of 10 million ECU for local development in Ireland. The Irish side indicated, in the discussions I have just referred to, the Government's intention, as stated in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress Section VII, to extend the area based approach to development nationwide.
Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission to make the detailed arrangements necessary for additional EC structual funding which, as set down in the Government statement of 1 October, requires the specific agreement of the European Commission. I am satisfied that this matter will be finalised very soon.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is it not correct that Ireland had made no application to the European Commission for approval to spend European money in that way as at 30 September 1992?
Mr. N. Treacy: I do not know where Deputy Bruton is getting his information from. Perhaps he has been to the wrong office. The Government have been in discussions since January. We have a firm commitment on global grant funding and we have received a commitment to have that increased; we are discussing the Structural Fund position and we have got a commitment on that; we have a commitment on the EFTA fund and we have received commitments here at home. The Government are seeking to create an enterprise culture in this country. Heretofore there was absolutely no money available in this country or outside it for an enterprise initiative on the ground. The Government are now putting the funds in position. The European Commission have committed those  funds, the Government have committed funds from the Exchequer, financial institutions have committed funds, the employers are committing funds, and I am sure that local communities will be delighted to respond.
Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Minister know that a European Commission official has stated publicly that no such application had been received by 30 September? Would he agree that such a statement throws a considerable degree of doubt on the Government's fixity of intention in this matter? What proportion of the £100 million jobs fund does the Minister expect or hope to be provided from European funds?
Mr. N. Treacy: I do not accept that applications have not been made for European funding. If Deputy Bruton refers to a specific kind of application for a specific programme I should be delighted to give him a direct answer on that.
Mr. J. Bruton: I am talking about the £100 million fund that the Minister announced.
Mr. N. Treacy: The Deputy has said that no applications for funding were made to Brussels. I do not understand that. What is the Deputy talking about? To which heading and to which programme does the Deputy refer?
Mr. J. Bruton: That information is contained in the question.
Mr. N. Treacy: When the Government went ahead with the initiative the funding had already been agreed and was in position; there is no difficulty whatsoever about that. So far as I am concerned, the Government have from Brussels a commitment on 10 million ECU for the global grant, to be extended, a commitment in relation to the EFTA fund of about £16 million and further commitments on the Structural Fund. There is also £50 million from the Exchequer  and £100 million from the financial institutions.
Mr. J. Higgins: That is different.
Mr. N. Treacy: That is huge money. There has been a demonstration of a tremendous amount of goodwill and support and the Government are confident that the money will be spent wisely.
Mr. Quinn: May I take it from what the Minister has just said that the money announced at the end of August when the package was unveiled by the Government in respect of the moneys that were to be financed from the EC, was money that had already been pledged by the EC and was not, therefore, new money, and that perhaps the Government in their enthusiasm may have misled the public into thinking that there was new money?
Mr. N. Treacy: I detect an effort by the Opposition to say, first, that there is no money available and that the Government have no money available and, second, when I say that the money is available, that the money was always available and is not now available.
Mr. Quinn: It is not new money.
Mr. N. Treacy: Of course it is new money. Never before was there a global grant. We are talking about a firm commitment from Europe to the member states on a global grant for job creation on the ground. That is a new fund. The EFTA fund is a new fund——
Mr. Quinn: We know that.
Mr. N. Treacy: The money available to this structure is coming in new.
Mr. Quinn: But it was not new in August.
Mr. N. Treacy: It was all agreed. I told the House that it had been agreed in September.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am going to  bring this question to a close. There is too much unnecessary argument.
5. Mr. Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he intends to establish separate county enterprise boards for each of the three new local authority areas, Fingal, South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, in the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
6. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he will outline the proposed construction of the partnership board for the Dublin region, having regard to the existing local authority structure and the intentions to establish three new local authorities in addition to Dublin Corporation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. N. Treacy: I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 6 together.
As set down in the Government statement on 1 October, the process of establishing the new county enterprise partnership boards throughout the country will be undertaken in full consultation with all existing interests at both local and regional level.
With the officials concerned, I am now making the necessary arrangements to give effect to the Government's decision, including that for Dublin. I have specific proposals to put to the relevant Dublin interests. I can confirm that the establishment of new local authorities in Dublin has been taken into account in those proposals. I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to anticipate the outcome of the consultation process.
I would be happy, in due course, to report back to this House on the outcome for Dublin and to communicate that outcome to the Deputies who put down these questions.
Mr. Quinn: I appreciate the Minister's response. He will recall that last Friday in the House he had a debate on the matter with both myself and Deputy Gilmore. I wish to ask two specific questions. With whom will the Minister and his Department be consulting in relation to  the proposed structures for Dublin? Would he be prepared to receive representations from the economy committee for Dublin city and their counterpart in Dublin County Council?
Mr. N. Treacy: The Government's decision is very clear. The establishment committee, which will put the new structure in position, is obliged to consult the county and city managers in all cases and consult anyone nominated by the managers for consultation. That will be done and is being done. As I said in the House last week, the Government want to get this right and I should be delighted to receive for consideration any submissions put forward by Members of the House. The Government are moving very quickly in this regard. Consideration of the provision of structures for Dublin will be given plenty of time so that they will be got right because those structures are very complex in comparision to the existing county structure. In Dublin there will be several area partnership boards. The Government will be delighted to receive a submission from the economy committee for Dublin and from any Member of the House who is interested in putting forward a submission.
Proinsias De Rossa: I thank the Minister for his reply. It is obvious that he realises that the greater Dublin area accounts for about one million of our population and has a substantially higher proportion of unemployment than any comparable area in the rest of the country. In relation to the partnership committees that existed under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress in both Finglas and Ballymun, is it intended to create an area board that would cover those two areas specifically?
Mr. N. Treacy: The Government have not yet worked out the details in that regard but that will certainly be taken into account before the making of a final decision.
Mr. J. Mitchell: In the Minister's  earlier reply he said that he is required to consult county managers. What is the position of elected public representatives? Will elected public representatives, whether in Dublin or elsewhere, be consulted in any circumstances? Secondly, in respect of Dublin, would the Minister accept the argument that Dublin is one region and that if there is to be a county enterprise board of that nature there should be one board rather than four? There is a need for an overall organisation for all of Dublin. Will the Minister agree that in Dublin, at least, the regional tourism body should be kept as a separate entity?
Mr. N. Treacy: I note what the Deputy said but what was said last week in the employment debate would seem to be at odds with what is being suggested by him. There was an expectation that we would impose a single board on Dublin, which is not our intention. People in Dublin would like to have more than one board. If we are to fulfil our mandate and make a contribution to job creation in the capital city one board would not be sufficient to do that and to discharge the obligations which this new initiative should provide. We are having consultations with all the tourism interests and I am confident that at the end of the day the correct decision will be taken which will be to the satisfaction of the people of Dublin.
Mr. Ferris: I do not want to broaden this question. The Taoiseach has given a commitment that where there is a necessity for more than one board structure it will be provided. There are historical reasons, particularly in my county where there are two structures, north and south riding, for providing two boards. I was pleased when the Taoiseach said he would not rule out boards if necessary in an area where they want to achieve the Government's target. I hope that what applies in Dublin will apply in other regions where it can be shown that more than one board is necessary. I should say that there has been no consultation with local authority members. It was at my request that my council  put this item on the agenda for public discussion. There has been no dialogue with the members.
An Ceann Comhairle: I should say that these questions relate to the Dublin region and I cannot allow any extension of that area.
Mr. N. Treacy: In response to what Deputy Ferris said there are many reasons one should have more than one board in County Tipperary, a very historic place. We will take all those reasons into account before making a final decision. The House will agree that we have provided for the chairperson of each county authority to be involved in these boards. Obviously, there will be consultation between the manager and the chairman which will be transmitted to us. At the end of the day we will do what is best in the interests of each area.
Mr. J. Mitchell: I am rather dismayed by the announcement by the Minister of State that there will be more than one board for Dublin. Would he accept that this proposal is silly in view of the needs of Dublin? We have two, and shortly we will have four, local authorities. The development of Dublin requires for instance, an airport in a county area and a port in the city area. We need a plan for a convention centre for the entire city. If there are four development boards they will be in conflict with each other. Would the Minister accept, therefore, that in the case of Dublin special arrangements are needed?
Mr. N. Treacy: Most definitely special arrangements are needed but if one was to provide the capital city with only one board one would not be focusing on the problems in different parts of the city. We have to address the unemployment problem. There are different types of unemployment in the city. There are major differences in the infrastructure, topography, population structure and demographics in the city all of which must be taken into account. We must take into account the four area councils being set  up and the fact that they will have an administrative structure comparable with any other local authority in the country. Those councils must be given a role. The people in the new structures must have a role to play in implementing this initiative on the ground. There must be co-ordination, co-operation and involvement by as many as possible to address the serious unemployment problem.
Mr. J. Mitchell: Would the Minister accept that he is not giving the local authorities any role?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Deputy Byrne for a final brief question.
Mr. J. Mitchell: The Minister is contradicting himself.
Mr. Byrne: Would the Minister agree that the way Dublin Tourism learned from friendly journalists who discovered the press statement they were being disbanded and absorbed into area enterprise boards was insulting? That was not the way to convey the message. Second, would the Minister agree that it would be crazy, in the extreme, to divide the city into areas for tourism purposes? The only logical way to develop tourism in the capital city is through a single agency.
Mr. N. Treacy: I reject entirely what Deputy Byrne said about how Dublin Tourism learned of the decision.
Mr. Byrne: I am a member of the board.
Mr. N. Treacy: I am aware the Deputy is a member of the board but let me tell him the facts. The Government took a decision at a meeting which concluded at 2.10 p.m. The Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications, on the instructions of the Minister, communicated that decision to the chief executive officer of Bord Fáilte. As it happened there was a meeting of the regional managers of the tourism organisations in progress and that decision was transmitted to them. What they did  immediately afterwards is their business and I will not comment on that. However, several people in the tourism business were fully aware of the decision before the Taoiseach announced it that evening at 5 p.m. I had consultations that night with people from tourism interests in Dublin, Donegal and other parts of the country. Since then we have met the chief executive of each tourism authority and the consultation process is proceeding. I note what Deputy Bryne said about the promotion of tourism in our capital city. Obviously, in any new structure the overall development of tourism in the city is of vital importance to the economy not only of Dublin but of the country and that will be taken into account.
Mr. Byrne: Are the boards being abolished?
An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Question No. 7.
Mr. N. Treacy: I should like to clarify one point. If you abolish something you get rid of it forever; if you amalgamate something into a new structure you give it a new role in a new operation which means that funding is available to them which was not available previously.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have called Question No. 7 and let us have a response.
7. Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if his Department retains any role for the promotion of Dublin as a cultural venue of international significance following the nomination of Dublin as the European City of Culture; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. N. Treacy: My Department exercise an overall role in the promotion of Ireland as a whole, which of course includes Dublin, as a cultural venue of international significance.
The cultural image of Dublin was greatly enhanced by the range and quality  of the events which were staged to celebrate its year as European City of Culture.
The year has left behind a number of permanent contributions to the cultural life of the city, including the revival and development of the Temple Bar area, the opening of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the restored Custom House and the Dublin Writers' Museum. In addition, the hosting of a number of major international art exhibitions at the National Gallery and the launching of the National Museum's permanent exhibition of Irish Gold were enormously successful.
A Dublin arts report project was also initiated by the promoting company for Cultural Capital 1991. The Arts Council have participated with Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation in this enterprise and it should provide for them a clearer picture of their priorities for cultural action and cultural projects in the Dublin area for the future. The Government are totally committed to the promotion of culture, historic and artistic tourism and our capital city, Dublin, has a key role to play in this ongoing development.
Mr. Quinn: I thank the Minister for his reply. Is the Minister aware that many people involved in cultural activities in the Dublin area, and particularly in the support services such as hotels, are perturbed that due to Government indecision a decision to locate the Eurovision Song Contest here next year has not yet been made and that this causing problems in terms of cultural promotion for Dublin?
Mr. N. Treacy: We always like to have major international events hosted in the capital city and in this country. Obviously that is a very complex matter to decide and I hope the relevant interests will soon reach a final decision.
8. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Taoiseach the numbers on the live register for September, 1992; if he will also give the figures using the same method of compilation and categorisation which was used up to March, 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Dempsey): The number of persons on the Live Register on 25 September, 1992 was 287,099. This did not include (a) 5,200 persons who were removed from the register in May 1992 following a statistical review of the coverage of the series or (b) 14,640 persons on pre-retirement allowance and pre-retirement credits schemes. The sum total of all three figures is 306,939.
Proinsias De Rossa: Is this not an admission by the Government that they have misled the public by trying to indicate that our unemployment figures are 287,099 when the reality is that there are 306,700 unemployed? Simply giving people different titles does not result in their being employed.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy's question is essentially statistical.
Mr. J. Mitchell: A Cheann Comhairle:——
An Ceann Comhairle: Please Deputy Mitchell, restrain yourself. I repeat, the Deputy's question is essentially statistical and therefore, matters of policy should not arise. If he wants to seek replies appertaining to policy he must put down appropriate questions.
Proinsias De Rossa: May I rephrase my question? Would the Minister agree that the figure of 287,099 is not correct, that it is an inaccurate reflection of the number of people unemployed in this State and the real figure for the number of people unemployed is 306,000-odd?
Mr. Dempsey: I would not agree. Every month since these changes occurred the Deputy has put down the same question and asked the same supplementaries. Each time I have replied that the statistical review——
Mr. McCormack: The Minister of State should get a new reply.
Mr. Dempsey: ——which led to the change was carried out by an expert group established under the aegis of the Central Review Committee of the Programme for Economic and Social progress. The group recommended that the statistical treatment of persons on week-on-week-off working arrangements and self-employed persons formerly on the register should be regularised. In reaching their recommendations the expert group had regard to internationally accepted principles on the measurement of unemployment. Those on the PRETA and the PRECS schemes which were introduced in March and August 1990, respectively, make a declaration that they have retired from the labour market and are removed from the register on this basis. Therefore, I could not accept the Deputy's statement.
Mr. J. Mitchell: The Minister will not deny that 306,939 people are paid the equivalent of unemployment assistance each week. What percentage of the workforce is represented by that figure?
Mr. Dempsey: I suggest that the Deputy put down a question and I will answer it in due course.
Mr. J. Mitchell: Will the Minister not tell us?
An Ceann Comhairle: A final question, Deputy De Rossa.
Proinsias De Rossa: The Minister has again tried to justify massaging the figures by reference to the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and to international norms. Will he admit to this House that the 14,640 people on pre-retirement payments do not have jobs, that they are unemployed?
Mr. Dempsey: I do not have to admit that. Anyone who knows anything about either of those schemes would realise that  these people have no jobs as they have retired from the labour market.
Mr. Byrne: They retired in order to get a pension, not a pre-retirement pension.
An Ceann Comhairle: We come now to deal with Priority Questions addressed to the Minister for Social Welfare. Question No. 9 in the name of Deputy Jim Mitchell. We are embarking now upon Priority Questions. Let us try to dispose of the five questions therein within the 15 minutes provided for in our Standing Orders.
9. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the fact that at least one health board has received legal advice to the effect that his recent directive to them restricting certain supplementary welfare payments is illegal; and, if so, if he will now withdraw the directive.
16. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the severe difficulties caused by the implementation of social welfare Circular 14/92 which severely restricts the ability of community welfare officers to make discretionary payments to those in need; if his attention has further been drawn to the strong criticism of the circular made by caring organisation; if his attention has been drawn to doubts as to whether he was within his powers in issuing this directive; if he will place a copy of the circular in the Library of Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
17. Mr. Garland asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the fact that at least one health board has received legal advice that the Circular No. 14/92 could be ultra vires; and if he intends to implement the circular despite this advice.
41. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for cutting the access of people on very low incomes to the support provided under the exceptional needs discretion given to community welfare officers, in the light of doubts as to whether he has the power to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 16, 17 and 41 together. Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, health boards are empowered to make a single payment to meet an exceptional need. The essence of such payments is that they are occasional and, therefore, should arise only under conditions which are out of the ordinary.
One of the main items for which payments under this heading are made is electricity or gas. In certain areas such payments have been made regularly to the same clients. This is not in keeping with the intention of the scheme.
The fact that regular payments in respect of electricity or gas are made in certain areas and not in others has also resulted in considerable inconsistency between different health boards in the administration of this aspect of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.
Under the legislation, I am responsible for the general direction and control of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. It was clear to me that measures were required to introduce greater consistency in relation to this payment by drawing up guidelines to provide a reasonable level of assistance to people in need while at the same time achieving the necessary consistency across the country. The issue of Circular 14/92 was designed to achieve this.
The circular indicated that exceptional needs payments for electricity or gas should be limited to one per client, per year and should not exceed a maximum of £100. There was no intention, in issuing the circular, to remove the basic discretion or responsibility which health boards have to make payments under the supplementary welfare allowance  scheme, nor indeed could it, as this discretion is built into the legislation. The circular was intended as a first step towards introducing a more comprehensive set of guidelines for health boards to assist in the administration of the scheme.
In this connection I recently established an advisory committee, including representation of all the health boards, to assist in achieving consistency in the operation of the scheme. This committee is working, inter alia, on a comprehensive approach to new guidelines on all the discretionary aspects of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.
I would envisage publishing these guidelines when they are completed and making them available to groups or individuals who wish to have them and supplying copies to the Library of the House. I am also reviewing the legislation and, should changes be required to ensure greater consistency in the application of the scheme, I will bring forward appropriate proposals in this regard.
In the meantime, following consultations which I have had with SIPTU, which represents many of the staff administering the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, I propose to remove any doubts which may have arisen regarding the intention of Circular 14/92 and to clarify that the limits provided for are intended as guidelines and not to override the basic discretion which health boards already have. Where circumstances warrant it, health boards have the discretion to exceed the guidelines in particular cases. At this point, however, I am satisfied that the general limitations set out in the circular are reasonable having regard to the original intention of the scheme and the increases in basic levels of social welfare payments since them.
Mr. Byrne: Be a man and withdraw the circular.
An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy.
Mr. J. Mitchell: The Minister has capitulated to a certain extent under  pressure — it is only to a certain extent. Would he acknowledge that what he has done is illegal?
Mr. McCreevy: I do not. In order to remove any doubts about Circular 14/92——
Mr. Byrne: The way to solve the problem is to withdraw it.
Mr. McCreevy: ——I will issue new clarification to the health boards, as announced yesterday at the meeting with SIPTU, to ensure that discretion is not removed from the community welfare officers. It was never intended to remove the discretionary element from the community welfare officers. It is my intention to introduce some sort of uniformity into the scheme. It is fair to point out that only 88 per cent of the exceptional needs payments are made in the Eastern Health Board area which comprises only 34 per cent of social welfare recipients.
Mr. Byrne: This is a poverty stricken city.
Mr. McCreevy: There is no consistency with the other health board areas and it is my intention to bring uniformity into the scheme. At no stage did I intend to remove the discretionary element from the community welfare officers. To ensure that this is clarified, I will communicate with the health boards, as announced yesterday.
Mr. Byrne: The Minister should resign.
Mr. J. Mitchell: I have with me the circular which is categorical. I also have details of the Kershaw and McLaughlin cases in the courts and the text of section 212 of the 1981 Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act. Will the Minister not admit that the Eastern Health Board have been advised by their legal advisers that to implement the Minister's directive would be illegal and it is under that pressure that he has capitulated?
Mr. McCreevy: The Deputy and I would be very brave if we attempted to guess what the court might decide in any particular instance.
Mr. Byrne: There are precedents in cases like this.
Mr. McCreevy: It would be a brave and foolish person who would guess what would be decided in court. I am satisfied that the supplementary welfare allowance scheme and the exceptional needs payments discretion within that scheme are not being run in a uniform way throughout the country or in the different health boards areas. It is my intention to try to bring some uniformity into the scheme. I recognise that the discretion must be left with the community welfare officers in cases where there is exceptional need. But the basic purpose of “exceptional need” is, by definition, to provide for exceptional need. An “exceptional need” cannot arise on a recurrent basis. Deputies here know as well as I do that each time a bill arises in respect of gas or heat certain people participating in this scheme refer it for payment. We must remember that the majority of social welfare recipients nationwide do not resort to “exceptional need” payments continuously or have them paid continuously. But in certain areas of the country it is regarded as a regular payment which is not the purpose behind the “exceptional need” payments. Some uniformity must be introduced into the system.
Mr. J. Mitchell: Would the Minister not accept that always it has been regarded as an exception if a mother with five or six children is having her electricity supply cut off, especially if she has no other means of cooking or heating? That has always been regarded as exceptional. Why would the Minister want to take away that discretion on the part of health boards to help such people?
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us not forget that brevity should be the keynote of our proceedings at this time, when 15 minutes  is allocated for five questions. I am now calling Question No. 10.
10. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans he has regarding the issuing of electronic plastic identity cards and the purposes for which the card can be used in (1) the short term and (2) the long term; whether PRSI data will be used for means testing and the payment of benefits; if so, if he will give details of the subjects which will be means tested and the benefits which will be so paid; if legislation will be introduced to ensure that cardholders are safeguarded by a confidential control mechanism; if so, if he will outline the system which will be used for such control; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
22. Mr. McCartan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to reservations expressed by the Data Protection Commissioner regarding his Department's proposals to introduce a State identity card; if he will outline the circumstances in which letters were sent by his Department to parents allocating RSI numbers to second level school children; if he had any consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner, Teachers' Unions or parents groups before this letter was issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
50. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will outline from whom he or his Department obtained information containing the names of all parents whose children were commencing post-primary school in September, 1992, for the purpose of advising the parents of such children of their child's tax and social insurance number; and where such records are maintained by the State or his Department.
110. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of letters forwarded by his Department to families throughout the county stating the tax and social insurance number to be given to children commencing post primary education; the number of letters sent out by his Department cancelling the original; and the cost to his Department of the correspondence sent to parents.
Mr. McCreevy: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 22, 50 and 110 together.
My Department is responsible for the issue and control of the Revenue and Social Insurance numbers, known as RSI numbers.
In April 1991, my Department took over this responsibility from the Revenue Commissioners. A person's RSI number is of vital importance for social welfare and revenue purposes. Under this number a person's pay-related social insurance — PRSI — details are recorded. These form the basis for determining entitlements to social welfare benefits and pensions in the future. My Department has made significant strides in recent years in improving the integrity of the RSI number system so that difficulties that people had experienced in the past would be avoided in the future.
In the past, when a person registered for revenue and social insurance purposes a cardboard registration card was issued to him or her setting out the RSI number. This is now being replaced by a more modern plastic card to be known as the social services card. The first issue of these cards will start early next month. The new card will be more durable and will be a more permanent and convenient record for the person of his or her RSI number.
In order to improve the efficiency of the whole system my Department now issue RSI numbers to individuals before they enter the labour force. Last year RSI numbers were issued to people then aged between 16 and 20 years, who did not already have an RSI number. It is to this group of people that social services cards are to be issued next month. They will be able to use them in connection with taking up employment, seeking tax-free allowance certificates, visiting their local social welfare office, etc. Each year it is intended to issue social services cards  to individuals when they reach 16 years of age.
The social services card will have the person's name and RSI number embossed on the front. There will be the familiar magnetic stripe and signature strip on the back of the card. The person's RSI number, date of birth and sex will be encoded on the magnetic stripe. There will be no photograph on the card and it will not be compulsory to carry the card as some commentators have suggested.
The social services card will be used as a registration card initially. However, the Department is working with An Post on the development of more modern payment methods for social welfare clients. The social services card, because it has been designed to banking standards, will be capable of being used as a payment card as alternative methods are developed and introduced.
The introduction of the social services card has been planned for many years as part of the modernisation and streamlining of my Department's services. The Department have embarked on a major programme for the development of its services. For example, services are being gradually localised, new payment methods are being introduced to give people an element of choice, a new regional management structure has been put in place etc. Plastic social services cards are simply part of this process. For years, my Department have issued various cards to individuals showing name, address and number. The social services card is the latest in a long line of such cards.
In relation to the more general and different question of a universal identity system, I am aware of the reservations expressed by the Data Protection Commissioner. The commissioner's concerns, as I understand them, relate principally to the wider issue of the possible use of the RSI numbering system outside the Revenue, social welfare and related areas. However, as the RSI numbers and the accompanying social services card are intended for Revenue, Social Welfare and related services only, they are not a universal identity system. As I mentioned,  there will be no photograph on the card and it will not be compulsory to carry the card. These issues were made clear in discussions between officials of my Department and of the Data Protection Commissioner. Consequently, there would not appear to be an immediate requirement to introduce legislation in relation to the new social services card itself. However, I will be keeping the matter under close review and, if the need arises, legislation will be introduced in relation to the use of the RSI number.
Earlier this year the Department of Education requested my Department to issue RSI numbers to children who would be starting post-primary school in September 1992. The Department of Education was anxious to use the RSI number for each pupil throughout his or her educational career. It was intended that schools would request the RSI number along with other details from individual children.
My Department allocated RSI numbers to over 200,000 children, aged between 11 and 13 years and for whom we had a child benefit record. These RSI numbers were notified to the parents and guardians of the children. The cost of issuing the notices was of the order of £80,000. The Department of Education subsequently decided to postpone the use of the RSI number for their purposes pending clarification and resolution of a number of issues that had been raised. Schools were not required to seek the RSI number from children. Consequently, there was no need to issue separate letters cancelling the original notifications. In any event, these children will need their RSI numbers in a few years time when they enter the labour force and the numbers allocated to them remain valid. They would have been issued with them in the normal course when they reach 16.
This matter was among those raised in the consultations to which I referred with officials of the Data Protection Commissioner. My Department did not have any contact with teachers unions or parents  groups as this would be more appropriate to the Department of Education.
Mr. Bell: I thank the Minister for the detailed information he has supplied in his reply. As somebody who called for this system to be extended in the course of a number of debates, including those on Social Welfare Bills over the past few years, naturally I am happy to know that that is now on the way. Would the Minister clarify whether the main thrust of my suggestion — namely, that such social services cards could be used for payment purposes at post offices the same as the Banklink system and, further, could be used outside of employment exchanges to obviate the necessity of people having to queue will allow them to withdraw money at any time of the day or week?
Mr. McCreevy: Deputy Bell has been pressing for these cards for some time and has a somewhat more enlightened approach to them. It would be my hope that in the near future, that is next year, in conjunction with An Post, these cards will be able to be used as an alternative payment method. Indeed in the longer term, as modernisation and computerisation continues, it would be our hope that people would have a choice of payment methods through the usage of these cards without having to queue at employment exchanges and so on. As the Deputy will be aware, we have been eliminating cash payments at such offices for some time past. An Post are modernising their counter services. We are in negotiation with them continuously. I hope that, at least on a pilot basis within the next 12 months, one method of payment will be through the usage of these cards, just as Banklink automatic machines operate and so on. In the longer term one of the advantages of this social services card for social welfare recipients will be that they will be able to obtain payment by its usage.
Mr. Bell: In view of the substantial numbers of robberies at post offices and subpost offices may I suggest to the Minister that the sooner this method of payment  can be implemented the better in the interests of security.
Mr. McCreevy: Yes, the first experimental pilot payment office will be introduced within the next 12 months. We hope that, in the longer term, that will be the normal practice.
11. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total amount of social insurance which will be raised in the current year from both the employer's and employee's contributions for a person on the average industrial wage; his views on whether this is an acceptable tax on jobs in the current unemployment situation; and whether he has any plans to reduce this payroll tax and find an alternative source of social insurance funding.
38. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he is considering any overall, or partial exemption from, or reduction in, employers PRSI for any categories of employers; if so, the implications for the funding of social welfare benefits; if he will give an undertaking that social welfare benefits will not be further reduced due to any such reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. McCreevy: I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 38 together.
The pay-related social insurance contribution rates applying to employees and employers generally are 7.75 per cent and 12.2 per cent, respectively. This includes a health contribution of 1.25 per cent and an employment and training levy of 1 per cent which are normally levied on the employee. The latest date for which data on average industrial earnings are available is June 1991 when average earnings were £237 per week, or just over £12,300 per annum. On this basis, the annual contribution made by an employee on the average earnings is £935 while his employer contributes an additional £1,500.
 These contributions are by no means excessive by international standards. Among our EC partners, employee contribution rates are as high as 18 per cent in Germany and employer contributions rates are as much as 50 per cent in Italy, for example.
I have no plans to reduce the level of social insurance contribution rates generally. A reduction in the contribution rate of even one percentage point would cost in the region of £80 million, which would have to be made good by the Exchequer through increased taxation.
The scheme to exempt employers from employees' PRSI which was recently announced by the Government will not impose costs on the Exchequer. Under this scheme employers who take on additional full-time employees in the period from 19 October 1992 to 19 March 1993 will not be liable for an employer's contribution in respect of those employees for a period of two years from April 1993. To the extent to which additional employment is created, PRSI income will be increased. In addition, as the workers will be drawn from the live register there will be a saving in unemployment payments. There will, therefore, be a double benefit to the Exchequer. The question of a reduction in social welfare benefits to finance this scheme does not, therefore, arise.
Employees taken on under the scheme will be insured for the full range of benefits, even though no employer's contribution will be paid.
Mr. J. Mitchell: Would the Minister not accept that our unemployment problem is of an exceptional degree, even given the recession in Europe, in that about 22 per cent of the workforce are unemployed and there has been emigration of about 108,000 people over the past five years? To impose a tax of £2,453 on every job before a worker pays a penny in income tax or towards his pension contribution, trade union dues and transport costs to work is crazy. We are taxing jobs out of existence. The Minister did not reply to part of my question. Has he considered any other base for raising  social insurance contributions other than payroll? Has he considered, for instance, company turnover, so as to lift the tax off labour-intensive industry and shift it to some extent to capital intensive industry?
Mr. McCreevy: The high rate of unemployment is self-evident. It costs the State an extraordinary amount of money each year in social expenditure, especially when there are 290,000 people on the live register. The 1992 estimate for unemployment payments was £946 million; the outturn will be at least £1,000 million. Only a certain proportion of social expenditure is raised from PRSI; the rest comes from general taxation. Any changes in this regard would have to be decided upon by the Government. I, as Minister for Social Welfare, rely very much on PRSI to part fund the system. The cost of reducing it by even 1 percentage point would be about £80 million. The idea Deputy Mitchell put forward can be considered. I am sure it was considered by the Government of which he was a member and by various Governments in the past.
At present there are no proposals to change the system in that way. I accept that PRSI is a burden on the employer but compared with other countries we are at the bottom end of the scale. It is not true to say that we are out of line with other countries.
Mr. J. Mitchell: We are very much out of line if we combine PRSI and PAYE.
An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 12.
Mr. Byrne: I think Priority Questions started a little after 3.20 p.m.
An Ceann Comhairle: In this situation the Chair cannot win. Sometimes I am criticised for not giving enough time but if I go slightly over the time I am also criticised.
Mr. Byrne: “Slightly” is a bit of an  exaggeration. I would be happy to take Question No. 14.
12. Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the drastic effects on the casual workforce on the docks in Foynes, County Limerick as a result of the recent changes in the social welfare regulations affecting those on unemployment assistance and the fact that considerable financial hardship is now being caused to these workers and their families as a result of its implementation; if he will clarify the way in which these families can now be assisted under the social welfare code; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. McCreevy: The assessment of income from insurable employment as means for unemployment assistance purposes was introduced to remove unjustifiable inequities between the treatment of self-employed persons and those under a contract of service. While the income of self-employed persons was taken into account as means, that of employees working under a contract of service, irrespective of the amount, was heretofore totally excluded from assessment. This disparity in the treatment of insured persons working part-time and claiming assistance for the remainder of each week was indefensible when considered in the context of equity.
The new provisions for the assessment of insured income came into effect on 29 July but they have been structured so as to contain an incentive to persons to accept offers of part-time employment. This incentive is provided by the disregard of an amount equal to the maximum daily assistance payable for each day worked plus a weekly amount of £10. For example, a married man with three children working three days a week will have £74.50 of his weekly earnings disregarded. The balance of earnings will then be assessed as means in determining the rate of unemployment assistance for days of unemployment.
 I have made inquiries regarding the position of the casual workforce employed at Foynes Docks and the information available to me reveals that certain dockers employed at Foynes are earning between £11,000 and £18,800 per annum or £207 to £360 per week while also in receipt of unemployment assistance. Clearly this is something no one can justify. There are others who have received only short periods of work and whose earnings are correspondingly less.
The whole basis of the unemployment assistance scheme is that persons unable to find employment and who do not have entitlement to unemployment benefit receive a payment from the State, funded out of taxpayers' money and determined on the basis of a means test. The intention of the recent change is that all claimants should be treated in a more equitable fashion.
Mr. Finucane: I accept that what the Minister says is partially correct. I was responding to workers who earn small amounts of unemployment assistance. The Minister is aware of the casual nature of docks work. At certain times of the year docks tend to be busier than others and they depend very much on casual employees. Many of those employees have been drawing unemployment assistance. Would the Minister not agree that he has created a poverty trap and blocked any incentive to employment for people on unemployment assistance? Is the Minister aware that many of the dockers in Foynes were exceptionally busy because of the meat boats in the summer? Does the Minister not consider that many of those people should be rightly restored to full unemployment assistance if they are unemployed?
Mr. McCreevy: I have a fair amount of information regarding the dockers in Foynes. There were up to 200 dockers employed at Foynes Port and only 62 who were in receipt of unemployment assistance had their earnings assessed; 22 lost all entitlement to unemployment assistance, 23 suffered a reduction in unemployment assistance and 17, who  had an underlying entitlement to unemployment benefit but who had opted for unemployment assistance due to the higher long term unemployment assistance rates, reverted to claiming unemployment benefit. I do not agree in this case that the application of the rule has caused any unnecessary hardship.
Built into the regulations I announced on 29 July I have given an incentive for people who work for some days and have some part-time insurance employment. I cannot make a case for the dockers at Foynes Port. The earnings of some of these people are quite substantial.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given to the Ceann Comhairle under Standing Order 20 (3) (a) and the name of the Member in each case:
(1) Deputy D. Ahern — The measures the relevant State agencies can take in order to alleviate potential job losses in the customs clearance section with the abolition of tax frontiers on 1 January  1993; (2) Deputy Harte — The discharge of toxic matter into Lough Foyle by a company (details supplied) in County Derry; and the action he proposes to take in that regard; (3) Deputy Taylor — The proposed redundancies in Airmotive, Baldonnel; (4) Deputy Dukes — The danger to our environment arising from the Government's delay in implementing the Environmental Protection Agency Act, as evidenced by the emission of chlorobutedane into Lough Foyle on 6 October and the accidental mixing of hydrochloric acid and water near Listowel on 11 October 1992; (5) Deputy R. Bruton — The plans, if any, he has to avoid any threat to ESB supplies from an industrial dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter; (6) Deputy Ferris — The implications for the Common Agricultural Policy reform in the light of the breakdown of the GATT talks; (7) Deputy Rabbitte — Whether the Minister for Health has made a recommendation to the Government concerning the construction of the regional hospital at Tallaght, and whether the Government have agreed to make the necessary provision in the Estimates; (8) Deputy T. Ahearn — The closure of the integrated pre-school in Clonmel, which is run by the local branch of the mentally handicapped association, due to lack of sufficient funding by the Department of Health; (9) Deputy Allen — The withdrawal of solicitors from the criminal free legal aid scheme and the failure of the Minister for Justice to reach an agreement with the Incorporated Law Society; (10) Deputy Fennell — Whether the Minister for Justice will take emergency action on the lack of legal aid in the Dublin area; (11) Deputy Cotter — The need to pay adequate compensation to customs clearance agents who are being forced out of business by the completion of the single market; (12) Deputy Garland — The continued failure by the Minister for the Marine to adequately address the virtual disappearance of sea trout in Connemara and south Mayo with the consequent disastrous effect on employment in these areas; (13) Deputy  Gilmore — The sale by the Office of Public Works of a portion of Chantilly Stud Farm, Shankill, County Dublin; (14) Deputy Deenihan — The urgent need for the Government to provide funding to the Irish Hockey Union to develop a playing pitch for the Hockey World Cup in 1994.
I have selected for discussion the matters raised by Deputies Gilmore, Harte and Dukes.
Question again proposed: “That section 11 stand part of the Bill.”
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I understand that the Minister of State was in possession.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Hyland): I had concluded.
Mr. Yates: We have had a fair discussion on section 11. Deputy Connor has made a good case for individual well qualified agriculture inspectors. Will the Minister give a commitment to the House that these people will be looked after as far as is humanly possible?
Mr. Connor: My appeal was on the basis that these officers were needed in the locations in which they live to carry forward certain agricultural programmes which will be crucial to the development of the industry here in the future. The Minister replied as if I was only representing the interests of a number of Land Commission officers who find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to be transferred. The more important basis for my appeal is that these people must be retained in order to implement a certain policy which is crucial to the agricultural industry and to the new developments which will replace market intervention and so on. That is the spirit in which I want the Minister to take my appeal. We all wish to be sensitive  to workers who have worked in rural locations for most of their lives. About six of those people have been told that they will now have to move to Dublin. None of them should be moved to Dublin as we need their qualifications where they are located. They are well qualified for the kind of advisory work needed in relation to these programmes. That is my point and I hope the Minister will take it on board.
Mr. Ferris: During the lunch break and off the record we discussed this Bill. I support Deputy Connor's contribution. Everyone including the Minister, agrees that these are special people who have acquired skills which cannot easily be duplicated. When the abolition of the Land Commission was first mooted I spoke to some of them and they were unhappy at the prospect of being suddenly redeployed into work that would be alien to them. Before the lunch break the Minister committed himself to being sympathetic with regard to the upheaval which will be caused to families if these officers have to be moved. As Deputy Connor said, there is sufficient work in all the rural areas in which they live. Certainly, pending the disposal of all the land, there is enough work for them. I know the Minister is in consultation with them and their representatives but I need an assurance that the position of the staff is secure, or that agreement has been reached. This situation has arisen because of a policy change announced by a previous Government. We had plans for an alternative policy and other structures.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am sorry to have to interrupt Deputy Ferris, but I must insist that in the matter of a Committee Stage debate we must confine ourselves to what is provided for in the section.
Mr. Ferris: I was attempting——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Off the record comments, however, desirable, and even though on this occasion there  might be a mutual understanding and acceptance of something, are not in accord with the best order of the House. I would ask that we conclude whatever understanding we assumed was in order prior to lunch.
Mr. Ferris: We were trying to progress, and as a matter of fact we had reached a good measure of consensus at the lunch break. The Minister was about to reply to these points. I was concluding by making a point in support of Deputy Connor and other Members. Indeed, the Minister has already intervened and it was his intervention that has caused me some problems. I am entitled on this section to try to elicit further information and a reassurance——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is not entitled to do anything other than what is appropriate to the section. The Minister is not excused from the rules of the House, no more than anybody else. I am indicating to the House now that we must confine ourselves to what is provided for in section 11. The comments I have heard here are not appropriate to the section. I would ask that we conclude on section 11 as quickly as possible.
Mr. Ferris: I rest my case and I hope that the Minister in his reply will take account of the points I have made.
Mr. Hyland: I am not sure if I am in order in replying in view of your ruling, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, except to say that prior to the Adjournment I acknowledged the contribution made by the Land Commission officials who for one reason or another will now have their present employment terminated. Employment within the Department is the responsibility of the personnel section and I can assure the House that that section will deal sympathetically with the people referred to by Deputy Connor.
Question put and agreed to.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I should like to tell Deputies that it will be in order under the question, “That the Bill do now pass” to deal with the matters that have been referred to off the record. This is not the last opportunity Deputies will have to refer to matters that are not in the Bill.
Sections 12 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: In accordance with the order of the House today Report Stage will be taken now. As there are no amendments we proceed to Fifth Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”
Mr. Yates: A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in your absence this morning we debated in some detail the faults and failings of this Bill. As it has now reached the Fifth Stage I would like to recap on my party's view. We accept that the Land Commission have not been effective for the last decade. They have acquired no land since 1983. It is remarkable how slow and tedious they have been in disposing of the remaining land. They have been the subject of an inquiry by the Committee of Public Accounts. Why did it take so long for a decision by the Government in October 1984 to be implemented? The difficulty we have is that the Government are throwing out the baby with the bath water. In simple terms, by selling the ACC and dissolving the Land Commission they are putting no proper structure in place to observe and implement land policies relating to structural land reform and land mobility. It is obvious from the Minister's contribution today that he can give no assurances, and in relation to the staff of 100 he cannot say how many will be retained in that unit. He cannot say what the budget or functions of the unit will be. It is all subject  to some Programme for Economic and Social Progress committee that is not accountable to this House. That is unacceptable in our view.
A proper autonomous authority should have been set up that would, in the first instance, carry out the day-to-day functions that the Land Commission did in recent years, such as the sub-division consent, the controls on the purchase of land by non-EC nationals and by the corporate sector, the promotion of long term leasing and group purchases which cannot work effectively without the staff on the ground. The Land Commission also dealt with the division of commonage and gave annual statistics in relation to land sales and so on. Those day-to-day executive function will be carried out by some faceless bureaucracy within a large Department, which is unacceptable. Secondly, as was argued very strongly on Second Stage by all Members, we need a land usage authority to decide on the optimum usage of land, to decide, for example, in relation to mountain land that if it should be used for agri-tourism, wild fowl, game development or whatever.
Thirdly, we need an authority that would set controls in relation to forestry developments on the one million marginal acres that could be used for that purpose. We will have to consider if that will totally depopulate rural Ireland and whether we need controls on zonings or a code of practice for the acquisition of such land. We also need to have a State agency to implement the EC Habitats Directive and to designate enviornmentally sensitive areas which, as the Minister stated, is only at a pilot stage at present.
More important we need some vehicle within Government to be a policy engine to help young farmers. We know that the door is now shut firmly in their faces with quotas in ewes, sucklers and all breeding animals. The dairy herds already have milk quotas, and there is no possibility of their acquiring the capital to get into farming. We need a package of measures to facilitate the transfer to younger farmers within the 84 per cent of transfers  which take place within a family environment and to facilitate the moving on of land from the 20,000 farmers who are over 65 years of age. The Government have no policy in this area.
It is shameful that a living farmer who transfers land to his son has to pay stamp duty when there is no stamp duty payable on land inherited by a son on the death of his father. That anomaly makes no sense. It makes no sense that the thresholds for capital acquisitions tax are still effectively the same as they were in real terms in 1976, leaving aside the addition of quotas. The Minister has the power to change the flexibility of the agricultural installation premium scheme as regards labour units.
On the question of policy, executive land functions and land usage we will be voting against this Bill. The Minister has not given cast iron guarantees and has no legislative proposals to replace the Land Commission. While the Minister has accepted our arguments on this debate, words are not enough. The Minister has not given any personal assurance that the Cabinet are committed to such a change. To be depending on some Programme for Economic and Social Progress committee to give the green light to this proposed unit is to treat this House with contempt. The original intention that when the Land Commission was abolished some other agency would be put in place has been lost sight of since 1984. This position is unacceptable and we will be voting against the Bill because there is now no vehicle for State policy on land.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister and Deputies may speak only once and the Minister will have to give an omnibus concluding speech rather than speak after every Deputy.
Mr. Ferris: I am sure we will bring this Stage to a very orderly conclusion even though it will end with a division. There will be a division because we have been unable to get a commitment from the Government about a land agency, a land authority or a land usage authority.
 There is a question of principle involved in the abolition of Land Commission. In spite of all the criticisms and the problems that some people had with the Land Commission, they had, it is appropriate to say at a time when their death-knell is being sounded, played an extraordinary interventionist role in rural Ireland over the last 70 years. They allotted about 2.2 million acres of untenanted land since 1923, acquired more than 12,000 estates for the purpose of land distribution and made nearly 100,000 separate allotments. It is that kind of performance that made the Land Commission an important instrument for smaller landowners, for people in disadvantaged areas and those suffering as a result of the fragmentation of land. The face of agriculture is changing under the Common Agricultural Policy and we are allowing the land of Ireland — unlike the Danes who have rejected the Maastricht Treaty — to be bought by anybody who has a cheque book big enough to acquire it. We have now subjected ourselves totally to the market place as far as land is concerned and that is contrary to stated Fianna Fáil policy. Fianna Fáil have said always that they would like to be involved in the development of land as an instrument of economic development in rural Ireland. They published a White Paper in 1980 in which they said that the Government at the time, a Fianna Fáil Government, intended to introduce legislation at an early date to give effect to the new measures outlined in the White Paper and that in arriving at their conclusions they had been conscious of the economic and social importance of land tenure and the complex and sensitive nature of the subject. The Minister of State agreed with me today about how complex this whole question of land is, particularly land that is considered to be commonage or which has been occupied by generations of people for up to two centuries. The White Paper went on to say that the Government were satisfied that the policy proposals put forward had significant economic and social effects and would make an important contribution  towards creating conditions in Irish agriculture that could be developed in the years ahead. That was just 12 years ago and we have come a long way since then.
We accepted that changes had taken place. We accepted that the whole concept of agricultural development had changed. There are quotas for farmers, payments to farmers for leaving land fallow against a background of hunger and deprivation in countries like Somalia. It is natural for people in rural Ireland to work their land and to produce food and it is almost impossible to explain to them why there should be an incentive to grow weeds and bushes when we could use the land to contribute towards alleviating the problem of world hunger.
It is for this reason that the Labour Party want to see a regulatory authority put in place. I am concerned that we are losing the powers we had under the Land Commission to acquire land for redistribution from people who did not want to sell it to us so that it could be used for the common good. Much good work was done in the area but today we have come to the end of that road. Apart from the commitment from the Minister that a particular group in his Department will be answerable to this House for their performance or lack of it in this area, there is no other commitment to the type of structure that people would aspire to. Such a structure was advocated not specifically by political parties but by organisations outside of this House such as the Irish Farmers' Association, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association, Muintir na Tíre, the General Council of Committees of Agriculture on which the Minister served as a member when this whole idea of a land agency was being promoted. It is a pity that we have somehow lost sight of that. I have a feeling that the dead hand of the Department of Finance was against the idea of any new structure.
I am also concerned about the level of staff still remaining who have no idea where they are going or what they will be doing. I hope the Minister will tap into that expertise and that if they are not  available for transfer within the public service because of possible disruption to their lives, adequate compensation will be made available by Government in compliance with the formal representations that will be made on their behalf at trade union level. The Minister has given a commitment in so far as it is possible for him to do so.
It is important that we put on the record of this House our sentiments expressed in these final hours of the Land Commission. No words of mine can pay sufficient tribute to all the staff members in the Land Commission who worked under difficult circumstances, often in hostile territory, to try to come to grips with fragmented holdings and locate farmers in new areas. Much useful work has been done in this regard. I look forward to the distribution of the balance of the land in accordance with the regulations under which we acquired it. I hope that in that way some justice will have been done to the people from whom the land was acquired and who at the time did not want to give it up.
Now that we are coming to the end of the Land Commission's existence I would like to feel that all of the people who have held land on annuity will have an opportunity to redeem their annuities and rid themselves of some of the high costs of repayments. With the possible privatisation of the ACC the possibility of financial assistance to farmers is quickly disappearing. They will have to compete in the market place for funds and we all know how difficult that is. The ACC treated with farmers because they understood the nature of farming. We should look at the possibility of facilitating the thousands of landowners throughout the country who have thousands of acres of land on annuity from the Land Commission by giving them the opportunity to acquire the full title to those lands so that the swan song of the Land Commission will have been to see that justice is seen to be done.
I must oppose the principle of abolition simply because I am not convinced that the necessary structure is in place to redistribute land and to impose some  order, not the order of the cheque book which unfortunately, will now come into play when we have taken away the only regulatory body in which there was State intervention in this area of small holdings throughout rural Ireland.
Mr. Foxe: Today we witnessed the demise of the Irish Land Commission. Some of us can look back with nostalgia. The reason it is being abolished is because it has effectively completed its task. From 1881 up to the present time the Land Commission acquired many holdings. Up to 1930 it acquired 400,000 holdings totalling 14 million acres of land. Irrespective of the criticisms we have heard and criticisms we may ourselves have made about the Land Commission, it has done a good day's work. During the thirties it was responsible for giving some semblance of stability to life in rural Ireland.
Nineteen eighty-three was the last year in which land was acquired by the Land Commission. What have we been left with in their absence? In relation to the question of land mobility, this matter has been left to market forces. This is one of the main issues that we will have to address in the future.
In 1983, when the abolition of the Land Commission was first mooted it was agreed by the then Fianna Fáil Government that they should be replaced with some other authority or body, possibly a land authority. When the Coalition Government came to power — of course, nowadays this can mean many things; in those days it meant only the Coalition parties—
Mr. Yates: The Deputy will be able to take part himself.
Mr. Deasy: The Deputy forms part of it; they gave him Roscommon hospital.
Mr. Foxe: It is the Land Commission and not they who are being abolished. As I said, when an inter-party Government came to power they decided to use some of the staff of the Land Commission to carry out a soil survey, which was then  deemed to be a worthy project. However, 18 months later, by which time between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the soil had been surveyed, the Coalition Government were ousted and the single party Government that took over decided not only to stop the work that was being carried out by the staff of the Land Commission but also to collect the files on the soil survey and destroy them. It was one thing to stop the work that was being carried out but it was shameful that the survey files were discarded. We may yet live to regret the day that decision was taken.
I understand that between 80 and 100 staff remain in the Land Commission. These people are highly educated, indeed most of them have a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree. Some of these men have worked for 20 to 30 years in rural Ireland and it would be a pity and most unfortunate if the expertise which they have acquired during ten years in dealing with problems not only in rural areas but also in towns, were to be lost. These people could still make a huge contribution in the future provided they are not transferred to Dublin as that is the last place where use would be made of their expertise. Indeed, people who have worked for over 30 years in rural Ireland would be very confined in some section of the Department of Agriculture and Food in Dublin. Therefore a place should be found for them, not for the sake of providing them with employment but to tap their expertise.
I wish the Minister luck in relation to what he was suggested here today. No doubt he will give it his best shot but it remains to be seen whether this will be good enough — only time will tell — and if it is not, it will not be his fault. The Land Commission have done a good job and have served the country well. We wish the staff well irrespective of where they go next.
Mr. Deasy: When the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government instigated this legislation in 1984 they stipulated that the Land Commission should be replaced with a land authority to finalise  the work which remained to be done. Both Deputy Yates and Deputy Ferris referred to this matter. It is a serious fault that no authority was set up or will be set up. The Minister of State should communicate this to his senior Minister and to the Cabinet. Indeed, it is unfair that the Minister for Agriculture and Food is not present in the House to oversee the demise of the Land Commission with all due respect to the Minister of State, Deputy Hyland, because this is a momentous decision and a major step. Even though it has been in train for eight years we would still like to express our views to somebody in the Cabinet on the necessity for a replacement body which would have a lesser and narrower role.
For Deputy Foxes's information, that Coalition Government were also called an inter-party Government. It is amazing what politicians can do with words; indeed, the Taoiseach described the present Coalition Government as “a temporary little arrangement”. We have, therefore, moved from an inter-party Government to a Coalition Government to a temporary little arrangement. I do not know the reason, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you are looking at me so sceptically because at one stage we did not think that you would be a Member of this House.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is not a member of anything except that which requires him to see that order is carried out. Seeing that we are dealing with something that is fixed and permanent now in the matter of the demise of the Land Commission we will take appropriate comments on it.
Mr. Deasy: For all practical purposes, the Land Commission were dead 20 years ago when the then Minister for Lands, the former Deputy Séan Flanagan — there was a Minister with specific responsibility for the Land Commission — announced that he did not see any function for the Department of Lands because he felt that he was virtually redundant. He was honest enough to  admit at the time that the Land Commission was a fading light.
While this legislation is necessary it is also necessary that we replace them with a land usage authority — the words I used on Second Stage. I would envisage that land usage authority embracing a number of Departments, in particular the Department of Energy who are responsible for forestry, the Department of Finance who are responsible for the Board of Works who, in turn, are responsible for the protection of wildlife, the Department of Marine who are responsible for inland fisheries and the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications who should have a considerable say in relation to how our land is used for amenity purposes. Therefore, apart from the Department of Agriculture and Food, four other Departments would be involved in a land usage authority.
As Deputy Yates said, we need such an authority. Indeed, I think he was reading from my Second Stage speech when he said that. We need to know how wildlife is going to be protected, how habitats are going to be preserved, what land should be used for grazing, tillage, forestry and amenity purposes. The question of using land for amenity purposes is increasingly becoming more important, yet no provision is being made to ensure that such an authority would be set up, following the abolition of the Land Commission.
I agree fully with Deputy Ferris when he says that the problem is that the dead hand of the Department of Finance is in action once again. The Department of Finance have only one objective and that is to squeeze as much money as they can out of the system and not to create any bodies which might cost money. This is a horrible way to run the country. The Department of Finance operate purely on a monetary basis without considering what should be done in the interests of the common good. This is a sad reflection on both our system of Government and our society.
I will conclude by asking the Minister what will happen to the buildings which were occupied up to quite recently by the Land Commission in Merrion Street?  They have become derelict and are an eyesore. They have become overgrown with weeds, particularly at the front of the building. They are part of our wildlife habitats, although not of the type that is desirable. They are a disgrace and a blot on Dublin. What hope has Dublin of winning the Tidy Towns Competition if the Department of Agriculture and Food are going to allow growth of noxious weeds in the centre of the city, for which they should be prosecuted? The Minister should let us know what is happening on the other side of Merrion Street.
Mr. Connor: We will have another Georgian mansion.
Mr. Hyland: It is, as Deputies have suggested, a momentous and historic occasion for me to have the last say in relation to the final winding down of one of the greatest national agencies ever established in this country. That agency did an excellent job in creating the maximum number of economic family holdings. There are many farm families throughout Ireland who bear testimony to the success of the operations of the Land Commission down the years. On behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Minister, Deputy Joe Walsh, I would like to pay tribute to those people who have done an excellent job for the nation. We have had today a very interesting, constructive, objective and, in many respects, politically united debate. All of us assembled here have a common goal, to maximise the potential of our national land resources for the overall betterment of the country.
To respond to some of the points raised — I will not be too aggressive in my use of words at this time in view of the historic occasion——
Mr. Deasy: There are some funny fish around.
Mr. Hyland: Deputy Yates expressed disappointment that I am not putting in place an effective structure to deal with the outstanding problems arising from the dissolution of the Land Commission.  When he was speaking I looked at the wording of his amendment, part of which was not in order.
Mr. Yates: It would have been ruled out of order if I put down anything else.
Mr. Hyland: The Deputy suggested in that amendment that the Minister may authorise the establishing of a monitoring unit within his Department.
Mr. Yates: If I mentioned an authority it would have been ruled out of order.
Mr. Hyland: If the Deputy's amendment had been in order he would have been asking me to establish a monitoring unit. That is in conflict with the point made by his colleague, Deputy Deasy, in his request for a land authority. As I informed the House today, we are setting up within the Department a special unit to supervise and monitor all the activities which are being transferred from the Land Commission to the Department of Agriculture and Food and to the Minister. Effectively I am doing what the Deputy was asking me to do in his proposed amendment.
In addition, I expressed the personal point of view, which I also expressed during the debate on the Land Commission Bill some months ago, that there is a need for the establishment of an umbrella authority for the purpose of monitoring everything that takes place in the natural environment. That point was correctly made by Deputy Deasy on the last occasion and again today. When I spoke on the last occasion I gave an assurance to the House that I would forward that proposal, which coincided with my own, to the expert review group under Programme for Economic and Social Progress who are examining and preparing plans for the future development of the agricultural industry. That recommendation from me, and supported by my senior colleague, Deputy Joe Walsh, has gone to that committee.
Mr. Deasy: The Department of Finance will shoot it down.
Mr. Hyland: That remains to be seen. I checked today the timescale involved for that committee to report back and I am informed that they hope to report before Christmas. I cannot anticipate the committee's recommendations in relation to that proposal but I am committed to the view that we need an overall co-ordinated body dealing with agri-tourism, the natural environment and forestry. I dealt with all these matters at length this morning in the House. I am committed not only to the establishment of a group within the Department, to which I have given a commitment and which has been accepted by the officials of the Department of Agriculture and Food, but also to the establishment of a broader umbrella group for the purpose of dealing with the matters mentioned by a number of Deputies.
With reference to the Department of Finance, that Department have to exercise strict monitoring control of public expenditure. I have to give credit to the Department and the Minister for Finance who assisted me in my efforts to bring about a resolution of the Land Commission annuity problem. I have discovered from this debate that no matter how many good things you do in public life——
Mr. Yates: The Minister will not let us forget that.
Mr. Hyland: ——not many people are willing to come into the House to give you credit for them.
Mr. Yates: There is a sufficient number of PR people in the Department for that purpose.
Mr. Deasy: They decided that half a loaf is better than no loaf.
Mr. Hyland: Considerable doubt was expressed on the other side of the House whether I was serious about dealing with the problem of Land Commission annuities. I gave a categorical assurance on that occasion that I would, to the best of my ability, try to find a resolution to that problem. In co-operation with the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Joe Walsh, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and the Taoiseach, we brought forward what is generally regarded as one of the most practical, radical policies ever introduced in terms of dealing with the massive problems facing farmers. I was delighted — I am not claiming personal credit for it — in the early days of my appointment to be able to find a solution to that national problem. Similarly today I am doing my best to establish an overall national monitoring committee. I cannot say categorically that eventually it will be set up but time will tell.
Mr. Deasy: The Minister deserves credit for what he does and we give him credit for it.
Mr. Hyland: I thank Deputy Deasy. I appreciate that. I have dealt as best I can with the many matters raised by the Deputies who spoke here this evening. I thank all the Deputies who contributed to the debate. From the commencement of the debate — it has taken quite a long time — the contributions were always practical and certainly not over-politically orientated. On that fitting and proper note I will pull down the blind on the Irish Land Commission.
I hope that the dissolution of the Land Commission will eventually lead to better things in terms of new structures as far as agriculture and rural Ireland are concerned.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 64; Níl, 52.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Kitt, Michael P.
Noonan, Michael J.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Higgins, Michael D.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
Sheehan, Patrick J.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Kenny and Howlin.
 Question declared carried.
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”
Tomás Mac Giolla: As I was speaking for just a few minutes last evening I had the opportunity only to outline the substantial areas of the Bill with which I agree and to list the few issues with which I disagree. It is my opinion that the Bill will be of immense benefit, first, because it brings together all of the electoral practices and Electoral Bills in a fairly simple measure which includes all provisions concerning elections. Several proposals, arising from experience in other elections, have also been brought together in the Bill and that will be very helpful.
Last night I referred to the matter of polling booths and polling day. In regard to most polling stations there is not much real problem but outside some polling booths there is very vigorous activity. At least one polling station in my constituency is notorious in that it attracts huge crowds compared with other polling booths and voters have quite a struggle trying to get through the crowds both when going to the gate of the polling booth and when coming away from it. Because of the experience of that particular polling booth, I believe that the proposed 50 metre limit is not at all sufficient. The polling booth to which I refer is situated on a very short road — I suppose that the length of the road is about 100 metres each side of the polling station. On polling day the whole of that road is clogged with people handing out leaflets, shouting and encouraging voters. Large crowds of children gather also and they run up and down, creating mayhem. In order that voters may be able to move peacefully into a polling booth without hassle or pressure from anybody it is essential to impose a greater limit. I suggest that a distance of half a mile from a polling station should be the minimum limit set to ensure that there  is no harassment of voters going to the polls.
Deputy Cosgrave suggested that all electoral activity should cease on polling day. I do not agree with that suggestion. It is acceptable in countries where voting is compulsory but where it is not compulsory voters need some encouragement to come out and vote. If there is no political activity on polling day it would be very quiet and there would be a low poll. It is essential that it be known that an election is taking place on the day by having some political activity, but it should be kept away from polling stations and possibly should be confined to a number of areas in constituencies such as shopping centres and whatever. I do not think it would be a good thing to have all political activity banned on polling day. It would not encourage people to come out and vote, which is what is required in Ireland. Where voting is compulsory in a number of continental countries then it is acceptable to ban all political activity on polling day but I do not think it should happen here.
The Bill provides that all political activity must be at least 50 metres away from the polling station. I consider 50 metres to be unreasonable because the polling station can still be clogged up at that distance. I can give the Minister examples in my own constituency where that can happen.
I welcome the provisions for changing the compilation of the register. Many people have problems with the register on polling day. On the occasion of the last election in my own constituency a whole section of voters who had been on the register for 20 to 25 years were dropped because apparently a page slipped out during compilation of the register. The proposal to have a supplement is an excellent one. The register of electors must be complied and completed by 5 April; that is the register for the following 12 months. The vast majority of people do not check the register. If they are on it this year they expect to be on it next year and the year after or until such time as they move  from that particular place. That does not always happen. It frequently happens that people who have been on the register for many years are omitted because of some error.
The idea of producing a supplement of people who have been omitted from the register is an excellent one because people have an entitlement to vote and have a constitutional right to do so. If for some reason they are deleted from the register, through no fault of their own, I am sure they would have a case if they took it to court. I welcome the idea of the supplement and also the idea of having a list of additions and deletions to the existing register. That should be the way forward for compiling a register but I suggest that in the beginning both methods be used. At present officials are going around attempting to compile the new register. When the whole area is computerised the supplement for deletions and additions is the way forward; it is the fastest and most efficient way of compiling a register.
I am pleased to see the requirement whereby special voters had to be certified as being of sound mind is being deleted. That was a dreadful insult and was a terrible hindrance to special voters whereby they alone had to be certified as being of sound mind whereas everybody else on the register could be stone mad.
I come now to the one point on which I have a major difference with this Bill: that is the raising of the deposit from £100 to £500, an increase of five times the current deposit. The reason given for the proposed increase is to prevent frivolous candidates from contesting elections. Who is a frivolous candidate? We do not have experience of frivolous candidates in this country. We may read of them in other countries but it is not a factor in Ireland. There may be raving loony parties in Great Britain — I presume that is what is meant by frivolous candidates. Even if such frivolous candidates contest an election surely it would not seriously upset or disrupt the whole electoral process. That is not a justifiable reason for increasing the deposit from £100 to £500. At present what we need is more democracy and more participation. The last  thing in the world we need — this is a very bad time for this move — is to turn this Dáil into a more elite or exclusive club. Any idea of that nature should be nipped in the bud. This is the worst possible time for that idea to be pushed in this Dáil. A frivolous candidate is anybody who does not belong to a certain type of politics.
It is much more difficult for people today to find £500 than it was at the time of the last election, three years ago. Deputy Dukes gave an excellent example of temporary interest groups who may wish to draw the attention of the electorate to their problem and who use the electoral process for furthering their campaign. That is quite legitimate. That is part of the democratic process. He gave the example of spouses of members of the Army who contested elections to raise an issue which has since been resolved. They will no longer be contesting elections. It was a particular issue at a particular time and was dealt with democratically and very well at that time. Nobody could say they were frivolous candidates. They did not all expect to win seats but they expected to draw the attention of the electorate to a particular matter and succeeded in getting a substantial number of votes. Who is to say they were frivolous candidates? Certainly they were not frivolous candidates. They, or a similar group, would have had great difficulty in raising £500 for each of their candidates. Similarly, a group of unemployed people contested elections over 40 years ago. They campaigned during the fifties and managed to put up a candidate. They had great problems in collecting the £100 necessary for the deposit but their candidate was elected. That was a great boost to the unemployed. It showed that if unemployed people stood together they could get their candidate elected. Unfortunately, their candidate eventually went to Canada, probably to take up a job.
The unemployed may wish to contest an election in the future. They are the big issue in this country; the Taoiseach, the Government and everyone else in this House has said that they are the big issue.  Do we really want to stop these people from contesting elections? They may regard the proposal to increase the deposit from £100 to £500 as an attempt to prevent them contesting an election. It would be very wrong if that impression went abroad. I believe it would be perfectly legitimate for the INOU, the National Organisation for the Unemployed, or any local group of unemployed people to put up a candidate in their area. This is part of the democratic process. They are entitled to make their point about the failure of the Government and all of us here to provide jobs for them and to put up a candidate who will speak for them in this House. They might wish to put up a candidate in every constituency, giving a total of 38 candidates who would have to pay £500 each. Where would they get the money to pay their deposits? Even if they wished to put up a candidate in each of ten constituencies, the would have great difficulty in collecting £5,000.
No good reason has yet been put forward as to why the deposit should be increased to £500; there has been no disaster which would impel us to increase the deposit. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider this proposal, as it is the worst possible time to increase the deposit. The Government will get a very bad image if they push through the proposal to increase the deposit from £100 to £500; it will be seen as an attempt to exclude certain people who might be regarded as frivolous.
Mr. Callely: I welcome this Bill which deals mainly with the election of Members to the Oireachtas. I wish to refer to some of the provisions in the Bill.
I believe most of us recognise that our electoral register is of the utmost importance. The proposed changes in regard to preparation and the new timetable are welcome. I believe we would all put down the marker that such changes are welcome as long as they work and the electorate can be registered and exercise their right to vote. In this regard I welcome section 15 and Part II of the Second  Schedule which deal with a situation with which many of us are familiar. We all know people who have gone to the trouble of taking a half day off work, altering their hours at work, arranging a babysitter or arranging care for a relative at home in order that they can cast their vote at the polling station where they voted at the last election, only to be told they are not on the register and are not entitled to vote. If the election — a referendum, local election, general election or presidential election — is of particular concern to them they will wish to exercise their right to vote. Unfortunately, when they present themselves at their normal polling station they are advised that they are not on the register, can not be accommodated and are not entitled to vote, even if someone in the polling station or a member of a political party knows who they are and knows they are entitled to vote at that polling station. I hope the provisions in section 15 and Part II of the Second Schedule will ensure that such individuals are facilitated and will prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. I know there is a deadline and everybody cannot be facilitated at the 12th hour or on the day of polling. Nevertheless I welcome the supplement to the register of electors.
I recognise that the Department of the Environment use the media to advise people of their right to vote. Perhaps most of us take our right to vote for granted. It is very important that some programme is undertaken to ensure that the general public are made aware of the importance of the register and the need to check on an annual basis that they are registered to vote. I am very pleased to note the Minister has accepted that a medical certificate is only required in the case of a first application under the special arrangements for voters. This is a very welcome move. Previous speakers have already referred to this issue.
There has been much talk both in this Chamber and the Seanad Chamber about the proposed increase in the deposit from £100 to £500. I have to say in all seriousness that I do not think a £500 deposit for a Dáil election, which is refundable if  the individual is elected, is too much in this day and age. As the Minister said, if the deposit had been index-linked from the time it was first introduced it would now be £3,000. I think most people would agree that £3,000 would be somewhat over the top. I know the Minister is under pressure and calls have been made not to increase the deposit. I note that these calls have been made mainly by Independent Members of this House. I am in the happy position — I say this openly — to have had my deposit paid by my party. I think Members of most of the other large political parties are in the same position.
Mr. Deasy: Not really.
Mr. McGahon: Not on this side of the House.
Mr. Callely: Obviously the Members on this side of the House are fortunate in this regard. I do not think a deposit of £500 is too much to ask of people who put themselves forward as candidates for election to this House and who are serious about their business. As the previous speaker said, we do not wish to be seen as an élite or exclusive club; no-one wants this House to be tagged in this way. Even if the deposit is increased to £500 I do not believe this House will be regarded as élite.
One could make many comparisons in regard to membership of elite clubs, for example, some elite golf, rugby or football clubs in some parts of this city and one would be talking of a membership fee of double the £500 deposit stipulated in this Bill. We must remember that we are talking about a refundable deposit. It is important that that be borne in mind. I should like the Minister to adhere to the figure specified in the Bill. While recognising that many members have asked the Minister to reconsider this matter and reduce the deposit I would advise him not to reduce it, to stick to his guns; £500 is not too much to ask. Indeed, I would ask other Members contributing to this debate to support me, giving the Minister the courage and confidence to  adhere to his proposals as specified in the Bill before us.
With regard to section 147, which deals with obstruction of or interference with electors, perhaps the Minister would clarify this provision when replying. I hesitate to use the verb “enjoy” but, on occasions, it has to be said we have all participated in political activity at polling stations.
Mr. McGahon: Vincent is gone now; the Deputy will not need to.
Mr. Deasy: Perhaps the Deputy could carry a placard saying: “I did not shoot Vincent”.
Mr. Callely: We have all engaged in some political activity in regard to various political issues on polling day when tension can be raised; there is no doubt about that. We have all experienced the heightening tension as we approached the eleventh and twelfth hours. In the course of one of the first election campaigns in which I participated — I was not a candidate at the time — I took it on myself to arrange to have three ugly black litter bins located about ten feet behind the spot where I stood canvassing handing out excellent Fianna Fáil election literature only to see it disposed of ten feet behind me. Electors, as they passed me, said they had already made up their minds, knew which way they would vote and contended such literature was being forced on them. Of course I took the literature from the bins which mean that, in the best environmentally friendly fashion, I was recycling it.
Our electorate have been seen to be intelligent, knowing well in advance of their arrival at the polling station how they intend voting. If anything, it may annoy them when a number of political parties, Independents and so, perhaps a multiple of political parties — because of our multi-seat system — canvassing for individuals at polling stations adopt stances on various issues. We all know this has taken place.
In all fairness, one must welcome the provisions of section 147 which constitute  a necessary move in the right direction. I question the prohibition on canvassing to within 50 metres — 50 metres from where? Perhaps the Minister would clarify that. One must also question if 50 metres is sufficient? I do not believe it is. When proposing to prohibit this type of activity we should not merely move the marker from the gate or door of the polling station to 50 metres down the road because that is what we will be doing if we adhere to the 50 metres prohibition. Rather we should specify a prohibition within, say, half a mile or a quarter of a mile of a polling station, dependent on the rural-urban divide. I should be grateful if the Minister would say whether he would be prepared to adjust his proposal vis-á-vis the 50 metres marker.
The provisions of the Bill specify that electors, having marked their ballot papers, must present them to a presiding officer before dropping them into the ballot boxes. It is my understanding that that is the case under the law as it stands, that we are merely copperfastening that proposal in this Bill. I question whether this requirement is correct. When I vote I know I do not present my ballot paper to the presiding officer at the polling station or, if the clerk at the table from which I have obtained my ballot paper is busy, I normally tend to return to the same table and drop my ballot paper in the box located beside that polling clerk. Therefore I question whether it would create something of an upheaval were we to implement all the provisions of the Bill to the letter, in other words, requesting all electors to present their ballot papers to the relevant presiding officers before putting them in the ballot boxes. If such is to be the case may I ask the Minister whether he is considering appointing a presiding officer over each table, which I predict would be necessary. From experience, we will all be familiar with peak voting hours, whether immediately after ten o'clock Mass in the morning, during lunch time, the hours during which children are collected from school or as people drive home from work. There are peak voting hours in all polling stations  nationwide. If there were to be a cluster of people queuing up to present their ballot papers, duly marked, stamped and folded, to a presiding officer, it would cause unnecessary confusion and delay. While acknowledging that that requirement is specified in the law as it stands, I acknowledge that it is not carried out to the letter. Therefore, I question its inclusion in this Bill.
Another facility I would recommend is that people who act as presiding officers, polling and personation officers be given a right to vote even though their vote may not be cast at the polling station at which they are performing those duties. I will not touch on the emigrant vote as that is an issue for another day. I raised this question some six months ago prior to the last referendum as I recognised that a number of people were prohibited from voting at the polling station at which they are registered because of their duties.
On occasion, when working as a sales representative, I had to travel many miles to exercise my right to vote. Sometimes I had to travel the length of the country to return to my polling station to exercise my franchise and then returning to Cork, Donegal or wherever I happened to be working to continue my duties in that area. I do not want to recite a long list but we are all aware that many such people are prohibited from returning to the polling stations at which they are registered in order to cast their vote on polling day. Some special arrangement should be made for such people which could be easily implemented if the will was there to do so. I welcome the Bill and look forward to the Minister clarifying these matters when replying.
Mr. Deasy: I might refer initially to the second sentence of the Minister's introductory remarks which reads:
The purpose of the Bill is to consolidate, with amendments, the law relating to the election of Members to Dáil Éireann.
Perhaps the Minister would clarify whether the remaining 11 pages of his  introductory remarks refer to Dáil elections only or whether to local elections, European elections and referenda.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Wallace): Dáil elections.
Mr. Deasy: In that case, the provisions of this Bill deal only with part of the problem, whether in regard to the compilation of the register or activities outside polling booths. In the past nine years we have had two Dáil elections, two local elections, two European elections and at least three referenda. The Dáil elections constitute less than 25 per cent of elections in general. On certain occasions the European elections and local elections or general elections coincide, but that is not very frequent. The scope of the Bill should be broadened to cover general elections, local elections and referenda. Let the practice apply to all of them. The Minister might bring in an amendment to implement this practical suggestion.
Mr. Wallace: I will respond to that.
Mr. Deasy: This legislation is certainly necessary and welcome. It is probably a little tentative in places but it is a desirable attempt to do what needs to be done. Probably it does not go far enough but initial legislation introducing change hardly ever does. People have to be cautious. If I seem to be nit picking at times, I am not in any way being disparaging. I am encouraging the Minister to reassess the legislation.
The compilation of registers is a very significant element in the Bill. The way the register has been compiled in the past leaves much to be desired. If a candidate were defeated by two or three or perhaps 50 or 60 votes in an election he or she might have reason to feel aggrieved. There may be up to 1,000 errors in the register of a constituency. Under the old system, rate collectors compiled the register and we were dependent on the conscientiousness of the person in question. If he did a good job there were very  few mistakes, but even the best compiler made mistakes. The best of clerks make mistakes. If an indifferent rate collector was supposed to be compiling a register, then there could be 100 or 150 mistakes in a register of 500 people. In recent times with the elimination of rates, other than on business premises, the compilation has been done by officials of the council or corporation. They do a better job because they can easily be removed if they do not compile the register efficiently. It was not so easy to remove a rate collector; it was seldom or never done.
While the compilation is probably somewhat better, there are still mistakes. The ratio of mistakes varies considerably from the city and town to the country. In country places the element of mistakes is quite small because everybody knows everybody else, but in city areas where there are lots of flats, such as Rathmines or Rathgar, the element of mistakes is enormous. There is a wide variation. If I were defeated in an election by a few dozen votes, I would feel aggrieved. The system outlined here is definitely an improvement, particularly the idea of having a list of deletions and additions. A person can see at a glance whether he or she is on the list.
While there is an onus on the voter to ensure that he or she is on the register, people tend to leave it to the politicians and political parties to do it for them. The unfortunate politician who encounters a would-be voter leaving a polling station because he or she is not on the register will be roundly abused, no matter which party he or she represents. People of 50 or 60 years of age who have been voting since they were 21 may discover that they have been omitted from the register because of a printing error. The system of listing deletions and additions is to be commended. It is also an excellent idea that people can be restored to the register up to 12 days before polling day. It is a very generous concession that this can be done at such short notice.
The issue of postal votes is a vexed question. The present system is an  improvement whereby people who are certified by a doctor as being physically incapable of going to the polling booth can have the ballot box brought to them. It is a very cumbersome method. A very lax system was introduced at the local elections in 1974. In that election people were allowed for the most frivolous reasons to use a postal vote. The concession was abused to an enormous extent and it obviously cannot be repeated. It is reliably stated that a councillor, who is still serving in a county in the north which I will not name for the sake of prudence, got 400 postal votes. If you had the organisation you could get yourself elected by postal votes alone. We all know individual cases where there was abuse of the system.
The recommendation in this Bill that a disabled person should have to produce only one certificate is a considerable improvement. People do not want to ask a doctor year after year for a certificate stating that they are physically incapacitated. There might be further streamlining of the system to allow people who are away from home, such as commercial travellers, sailors and others with a genuine reason for being away, to use the postal vote. The Minister should not let the bad experience of 1974 put him off. We should reach a happy medium. There might be a panel of medical practitioners in each electoral area who could draw up a panel of people who are physically disabled.
People will not register themselves. They will have to be helped. The returning officer in conjunction with medical people dealing with these cases might draw up a panel of disabled voters who should be added to the register without having to go through the process of getting medical certificates or getting politicians to invoke a favour by going along and getting them to sign a form and then bringing it to the GP. That type of canvassing should be eliminated as far as possible. We should be more objective in drawing up the list.
I have a distinct bias against the way names are put on the ballot paper.  Deputy Richie Ryan was right some years ago when he suggested that there should be a lottery to determine where one's name would appear on the ballot paper.
Mr. Kenny: The Deputy is at the top of the poll and that is even better than being at the top of the ballot paper.
Mr. Deasy: Although the former Deputy Abbot's name started with an “A” he did not get elected. It has been suggested that the army wives were responsible for that.
Mr. Kenny: What about Doctor John O'Connell who changed his name?
Mr. Deasy: There is invariably a number of people ahead of me on the ballot paper. People whose names start with later letters in the alphabet are at a disadvantage. That has been proved statistically.
Mr. Kenny: What about George Bush?
Mr. Deasy: There is a point to be made for having a lottery to decide position on the ballot paper. If I could continue without interruption I might be able to make some valid points.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is mainly from your own side.
Mr. Deasy: Chief Whips are supposed to organise the business of the House, not heckle.
There is fairly unanimous agreement that canvassing near the polling station is not being adequately addressed in this Bill. The 50 metre restriction will just mean that the crowd will move a little further away. Canvassing in the general vicinity should be banned completely.
We should have information on the type of operation that takes place in other countries. I understand that in Sweden the only type of electioneering allowed is through radio, television and the written media and that canvassing and electioneering as we know it is completely banned. Policy documents can be distributed  through the post but other types of pressure on voters is banned. If we had a model of each system used in Europe we could draw conclusions which might be much better at the end of the day. Here we are trying to modify a very imperfect system. It might be better to start from scratch and it might be a good idea if canvassing in general was banned. It would eliminate the risk of blood pressure problems, heart attacks, anquish, insults, abuse and threats of assault at election time.
The present system of voting means that polling booths are open for 12 or 13 hours. Polling booths should be closed, for instance, between 10 a.m. and 12 noon and between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. which are times when few people vote, in order to give presiding officers and polling clerks a break. It is inhuman to incarcerate them in polling stations for 12 or 13 hours. If people want to vote they will make it their business to vote in the hours during which the station is open.
Are personating agents and sub-agents barred from inside and outside of polling stations under this legislation? The sub-agent can still canvass for votes under the present law. Is there anything to say that the sub-agent can no longer operate, because if there is not it will defeat the purpose of the Bill?
People will get around the postering ban by floating printed baloons over stations.
Mr. Deasy: There will be devices to get around the ban. This Bill does not cover Seanad elections. Canvassing for Seanad elections should definitely be banned. We all have to run the gauntlet in voting in a general election but the gauntlet for Seanad elections is far worse. Will the Minister consider banning canvassing for Seanad elections? The election process would be simplified if the Minister banned canvassing after Mass, meetings and public meetings as well. When sending out a polling card we should sent out a list of candidates for each area and  that would eliminate the necessity for parties to send out sheafs of election literature. I hope the Minister will take on board some of the proposals I have made with regard to general and other elections.
Mr. M. Brennan: I would like to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Fitzpatrick.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. M. Brennan: I welcome the Bill and I intend making only a few brief comments on it.
I am concerned particularly about patients in geriatric homes who are not on the postal voters list. I have sympathy for patients from such places as St. John's Hospital, Sligo, when I see the efforts they have to make to get to the polling station at the time of an election. I submit that every patient in a long-stay institution, such as a geriatric home, should be automatically entitled to a postal vote. Patients who are hospitalised for longer than, say, six months should be entitled to a postal vote in any event because on many occasions such people are taken to polling stations by car on a journey of perhaps 20 miles and that can be an ordeal for an elderly person who may be unwell. I am asking the Minister to allow all health boards to register voters who are patients in geriatric homes to ensure that these people are allowed a postal vote on the day of an election.
A number of Deputies have suggested that polling take place at a weekend. My preference would be to have polling on a Friday, rather than a Thursday. This would give young people who are away from home attending third level institutions an opportunity to vote. Many of them would have to travel long distances, 140 miles or more in some instances, to vote but with polling on a Friday, and polling stations open until ten o'clock at night such people would make it home in time to vote. I am asking the Minister, therefore, to ensure that in future people be given the opportunity to vote on a  Friday, a Saturday or a Sunday, but preferably a Friday.
Some speakers referred to the possible imposition of a 50 metre exclusion zone in terms of political activity around polling stations. In many rural areas if one were 50 metres away from a polling station, one would be so far down the road as to be looking, perhaps, for the shelter of a tree. A 50 metre limit in a town or city would probably be workable but in rural areas such distance would be impractical.
I welcome the provision in the Bill whereby a person's name may be added to the register 12 days before polling day. That is a step in the right direction. Up to now names have been omitted from the register due to clerical errors or for some other reason and it was only when people arrived at a polling station that they realised their name was not on the register. This provision will give everyone an opportunity, as late as 12 days before an election, to ensure that their names are included on the register.
I would like to see also the names of our emigrants retained on the register for at least two to three years after they emigrate because these people often return on holidays from the United States, Britain and so on and would like the opportunity of voting.
Mr. Deasy: They are allowed 18 months.
Mr. M. Brennan: I am glad to hear that but I would like to see their names being left on the register for an even longer period.
Mr. McGahon: You are thinking of Mr. MacSharry.
Mr. M. Brennan: In conclusion, I hope the Minister will allow people in geriatric homes to vote with dignity, in other words, by postal vote and that there will not be a polling station in any institution.
Dr. Fitzpatrick: With regard to the cutoff point for late registration I wonder if the 12 days timescale is too short? In  constituencies where the balance of votes is very tight, this provision could allow some sharp individual to tilt the balance by registering people right up to the 12 day time limit. I ask the Minister to consider this aspect on Committee Stage.
I welcome the provision concerning postal voters and special voters. I think it was Deputy Deasy who suggested that there be a panel of general practitioners in each polling area who would advise the appropriate persons as to who would be eligible for postal votes. An easier way would be for the appropriate person, the sheriff or whoever, to consult the directors of community care in each area since they have lists of people in receipt of disabled persons maintenance allowance. It should be quite easy to refer to such list and to arrange postal voting without those concerned being put to the expense of obtaining a medical certificate. Perhaps the Minister might consider this suggestion for Committee Stage.
Almost every Deputy in the House has spoken against the practice of canvassing outside polling stations. While a distance of 50 metres from a rural polling station may be significant, in urban areas a distance of 200 metres may represent only, as in my case, the distance from the gate of the polling station to the polling booth. Therefore, there could be no objection to canvassers standing at the gates because they would still be within the law. However, I regard canvassing on the day of an election a waste of time. Members have spoken about the heat rather than the light that can be generated outside the gates of polling stations. I would like to see each political party putting up one poster with the names of their candidates which would be left in place without there being any necessity to guard it or to canvass people going into the polling station. In addition to the other points that have been raised, this is another issue which will have to be addressed at Committee Stage.
Mr. Kemmy: This is a good Bill but it could be improved by way of amendment. I welcome the Bill because I regard it is a measure of the agreement among  all Deputies and parties in this House as to how we should deal with this area.
There have been good contributions to this debate. Those of us who have been involved in various campaigns have experiences to relate concerning general elections, local elections and referenda. Some of our experiences have been pleasant, others painful and unhappy but we are all speaking from first hand knowledge. That is the reason so many Deputies have contributed to this debate. They have spoken from the heart and from their experiences of having been on the various campaign trails going back a number of years.
There is a saying among politicians that polling day is the longest day. One is up very early in the morning ensuring that the election workers are out, that posters are up and that all the polling stations are manned by election workers. These election workers sometimes stand at polling stations for 12 or 13 hours in all kinds of weather. That is why we have spoken so much about activities outside polling stations.
Those activities should be ended for all time. There should be no canvassing whatsoever outside polling stations. Indeed I would end all canvassing from 10 o'clock the evening before. I would also ban all posters, all loudspeakers and other activities of that nature. It brings democracy into disrepute to have a tunnel of election workers outside polling stations and people running the gauntlet through that tunnel being cajoled, heckled and sometimes pulled and dragged and asked to vote for a candidate or a party. It is most uncivilised and it is time it was ended. It was different in the last century when elections were fought on a different basis but let us not forget that we now have universal democracy and people have the right to vote. We also have television, radio, the local press as well as three national newspapers, so there is no reason for people not to know who is standing for election and who to vote for at an election. Local radio especially has been able to put across the message to all voters. No one should have  to run the gauntlet of election workers outside polling stations. That is not an unfair description of what happens. Indeed many old people are nervous about going out to vote, because they know they will be pulled and dragged and harassed on their way in. It is no way to do business in this day and age. It is also a bad example to young people, especially school children. It is no way to introduce children to democracy. By-elections are especially bad when there is a lot of excitement and tension and people sometimes get carried away and get het up about the whole issue. I hope this will be ended for all time and that we will have no more of these activities outside polling booths, no more loudspeakers and no more posters.
There is some dispute about posters. Some people say that each party should have just one poster but I think that would be no good. I would banish posters altogether. The limit of 50 metres is not satisfactory either. I would allow no election canvassers near a polling booth on election day. The limit of 50 metres would be open to abuse. If one were to use a measuring tape from the polling station, what part of the polling station would one measure from? It is too ambiguous, too vague, too arbitrary. We should do away with canvassing altogether on that day.
Money can distort the democratic process. Democracy is most important and it is essential to preserve that. Sometimes, however, it can be distorted through excessive spending of money at election time. I would like to see accountability by parties and candidates for what they spend.
I would also extend postal voting to students, presiding officers, seamen, commercial travellers and people like that, also with built-in safeguards. I would also try to end the personation that has gone on in the past that has disgraced our electoral system in Ireland. In the past election workers have often gone around flatland collecting notifications to vote and passed them out to people and told them that they can vote accordingly. Some people have been known to vote  many times. One well known director of elections in Limerick was a past master of this. The days of personation should go for all time.
There are also abuses at hospitals which Deputy Brennan referred to. We have a large geriatric hospital in Limerick, St. Camillus' Hospital, also in the city, and the savagery that has taken place there on polling day would have to be seen to be believed. Old people who never get a visitor from one end of the year to the other are descended upon by people with big rosettes in their coats from all over the country and some of these patients are frogmarched down to vote. Some of them are senile; others are in wheelchairs and many cannot understand what is going on. It is a gross abuse of democracy when that happens. I am no plaster saint, but I have never once put election workers into that hospital. I would rather forego all the votes than get involved in that savagery and malpractice. That should be ended. There should be no votes in that hospital. No election workers should be allowed in there. It is a terrible abuse of democracy. It is also a terrible insult to the old people to be frogmarched out and brought down to vote and have people vote for them because they are incapable of voting themselves. It is a cynical disregard for democracy and an abuse of our electoral system. I would end that. I would banish all those people not only outside the polling station but also from within the walls of that hospital. I would banish them from the streets entirely on that day because I have seen too much abuse.
There has been a big discussion about the proposal to raise the deposit from £100 to £500. Let us not forget that it costs only £10 to stand in a local election. It is therefore quite a big jump from £100 to £500. Perhaps £200 or £300 would be more reasonable. It has been mentioned also that we have had no abuses in that regard here. There have been no frivolous or eccentric candidates as in Britain. There is no incidence of “rent-a-candidate” with candidates going around like a travelling circus from by-election  to by-election. That has never happened here. Broadly speaking, all our candidates are serious candidates so there is no need to increase the deposit by so much.
This is a good Bill. A few amendments would improve it. I hope those amendments will be made on Committee and Report Stages. I hope the Minister will take note of everything we have said because it is spoken from the heart. We have been down the road of elections and we know what we are speaking about. That is why so many of us on all sides of the House agree on those points. Canvassing outside polling stations on polling day is a useless exercise and should be ended for all time. I would favour a more civilised approach to voting. That is something people are entitled to. We are entitled to it also as candidates. It is a step forward, but let us not lose the opportunity — because we might not get one again — to have a good Bill. I will give only two cheers for the Bill in its present form, but I will give three cheers for it if it is amended along the lines I have suggested. It will be a good day for democracy in the electoral and political history of Ireland and of this House. I will support it if the Minister will take on board the points that I and some of the other speakers have made.
Mr. McGahon: I wish to share my time with Deputy Jimmy Deenihan.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. McGahon: I have been listening to this debate over the last few days. Not for the first time I find myself out of line with some of my colleagues on both sides of the House who, in some cases, rode every strand of popular opinion in relation to many issues. I want to commend the Minister for bringing this Bill to the House. It is long overdue. I share many of the sentiments expressed by fellow Deputies in calling for the curtailment of the circus that presents itself outside every polling station in this country  on election days. Deputy Kemmy referred to the intimidation, aggression and truculent attitudes that many people have to face at election times. Many members of the public regard this as an affront. In my short time in politics I have witnessed many unsavoury scenes and I believe that many a vote has been lost due to over-zealous pushing by party representatives on behalf of candidates. This activity should be restricted.
I share Deputy Kemmy's view that the use of posters should also be severely restricted in view of the fact that each party have failed to remove posters after an election and have been guilty of despoiling the environment for many months afterwards. The public should be protected from the over-zealous selling of various candidates at election time.
I would now like to comment briefly on the question of voting rights for emigrants. Unlike most of my colleagues, I do not believe that people who leave this country and are now residing in another country should have a vote. I do believe, however, that non-nationals who have been living in this country for over three years should have a vote. People who have left this country for one reason or another should not have a vote because it would be both unwieldy and costly to do this. However, they should have a vote in the country in which they are living.
I applaud the Minister for introducing proposals that will make it easier for handicapped people and people in hospitals to vote. However, I would ask him to look at the position in which students find themselves, because undoubtedly many young students, many of whom will have an interest in voting in the upcoming abortion referendum, cannot vote on either a Wednesday or Thursday because they are at college.
I would also like to avail of this opportunity to ask the Minister to look at the question of funding for political parties. If the people of Ireland want a democracy then the Oireachtas should pay. This would lead to the removal of the spectacle of political parties asking for funds  and currying favour with industrialists and large farmers. This certainly gives rise to cynicism. I should say that it is both humiliating and demeaning that we have to collect outside church gates and I resent it. The people who come out of the churches and see us standing outside the gates also resent it. The people want to give their money to charitable organisations, such as Concern, who are raising funds for Somalia, and not to political parties. Recent events which unveiled large scale funding of political parties, including my own, have not helped in eliminating the cynicism to which I have referred.
Many of my fellow Deputies across every strand of political opinion, including my handsome young colleague from Leitrim, Deputy Reynolds, appealed to the Minister to give people every opportunity to vote but, not for the first time, I would like to express the other view. People tell us daily that they have rights but I would like to tell them that they, too, have their duties. They have a duty to vote and it is not enough to sing “Kevin Barry” in a pub through an alcoholic haze and feel that they are being patriotic.
I do not think it is too much to ask people to give five minutes of their time every four to five years to vote, be it for Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or the loony-Left. In Australia people are fined if they do not vote. I am not suggesting that people should be fined but I am suggesting that there should be some deterrent and that people who, for no valid reason, do not give five minutes of their time to their country every four to five years should lose their vote. That is the only way by which they can be made to appreciate it. I do not believe we should pander to the public because if there was a free fiver for everyone in the audience on a certain Thursday everyone would want it. People have a duty to give five minutes of their time to vote and this should be enforced.
Mr. Deenihan: I am glad to have the opportunity to address some aspects of this Bill. I should say at the outset that I disagree with my colleague as regards voting rights for our emigrants. I firmly  believe our emigrants should have a vote and a say in how the country is run. One of the flaws in the Bill is that an effort has not been made to address this question of voting rights for emigrants, be it in Dáil or Seanad elections. I will refer to this matter later in my contribution.
I am glad at the number of contributions, as I am sure the Minister is, that have been made on the Bill in this House and in the Seanad. There is considerable interest in it. Given that it is the mechanism by which we are elected to this House it is important that we have a streamlined electoral system. This Bill attempts to avoid the mayhem which can occur at election time at polling stations and when canvassing for votes. I am sure the Minister will accept that the Bill is not all-inclusive. Consequently, I hope he will accept some amendments at a later stage to improve the Bill and to make it more effective.
I welcome the provision which will enable a supplement to the register of electors to be issued because we have all witnessed major injustices. Many speakers instanced cases where people who had been on the register since the foundation of the State suddenly discovered for no apparent reason that they had been struck off. In allowing a supplement to the register of electors to be issued we will ensure that those who are entitled to vote can do so. If the Bill succeeds in doing nothing else, it must be welcomed for this.
Section 32 (3) in Part V of the Bill states:
The Minister for Finance may, if he thinks fit, before payment of a returning officer's charges under this section apply to a judge of the Circuit Court having jurisdiction in any part of the constituency concerned for the taxation of the account submitted by the returning officer and such judge shall tax the account and determine the amount payable thereunder.
This is an outrageous provision and I fail to see how it is relevant. I would like the Minister to explain to the House the  reason this subsection has been included in the Bill. As I said, I fail to see how this provision is relevant and I ask the Minister — perhaps there is a good reason for including it — to satisfy my curiosity and let us know the reason it has been included.
I would like the Minister to clarify the provision under which a registered voter may be alleged by a companion to be suffering from mental incapacity. Does that mean that anybody may accompany a person into a polling booth and declare, without proof, that the person is incapable of voting because of mental incapacity? Will the Minister clarify section 103 which deals with this matter. That provision could be abused. The Minister should clarify “companion” and also “mental incapacity”. He should explain what proof that the person is suffering from mental incapacity is required.
The 50 metre distance from the polling station provision is absolutely irrelevant. In several locations canvassing is banned up to 100 metres from the polling station. This provision will disimprove matters in these cases because canvassers will move even closer to the polling station, thereby causing mayhem and putting pressure on people. I suggest that canvassing be banned altogether on election day. If people want to be active on polling day they could drive others to the polling station. The practice of obstructing people on their way to polling stations is unfair and must be discontinued. The only way to solve this problem is to totally ban canvassing on election day. This matter was mentioned by some of the Minister's colleagues and I believe it would be welcomed by most parties. The Minister should give serious consideration to this suggestion. It would be welcomed by canvassers and members of our families who feel under pressure in having to compete with the families of other candidates. Clarification of that matter would be welcome.
As regards the special voters list, I welcome the abolition of the requirement to submit a medical certificate each year, which was a major obstacle to voters.  People registered on the special voting list one year in the following year may have had to request a doctor to sign a form, but, because of the inconvenience of visiting a doctor they may forget about it only to discover on voting day that they had no vote. It is pathetic to see people who are suffering from various illnesses and incapacity having to be lifted into polling booths. It reduces politics to a low level and demonstrates a very uncaring attitude on the part of candidates. All of us put pressure on our supporters to bring people to vote for us. I welcome this provision and I would encourage more people to re-register on the special voting list.
In regard to postal voting I am a little disappointed that people working away from home — students and others — are not facilitated in this Bill. I know that it would be difficult to control postal voting, but nevertheless this facility should be available to those living away from home. I agree with Deputy McGahon that there should be a penalty for not voting unless the person has a very good excuse. For example, in Australia if people fail to vote they lose their vote. Commercial travellers and students who may not be in their constitutency on polling day should be facilitated in so far as possible. Sunday voting would be very welcome and would solve many problems.
I would like to refer briefly to emigrant voting. It is unfortunate that there is no provision in this Bill for emigrant voting. The citizens of Spain, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the UK who are living abroad may vote in different ways in elections. Greek and Italian citizens living abroad must return home to vote but they are compensated for doing so. Portuguese citizens living abroad may vote by post or people who specifically represent them may vote for them. For example, there are four representatives for Portuguese emigrants in the Portuguese Parliament. In Denmark, and particularly, Belgium there are more restrictive voting practices in parliamentary elections but nevertheless they make provision for emigrant voting.
 I was amazed at Deputy Molloy's criticism of the absence of a provision in the Bill for emigrant voting. I would make a strong case to the Minister to consider this whole matter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is in error in referring to Deputy Molloy.
Mr. Deenihan: I have an article which states: “Minister Molloy angry at no emigrant vote”.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: From what is the Deputy quoting?
Mr. Deenihan: I am not quoting the Minister.
Mr. Kemmy: He was not speaking on this Bill.
Mr. Deenihan: He was speaking outside the House. I am sorry if I upset the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The order requires that where a Deputy refers to comment made by a Member of the House ordinarily he quotes the source of that comment.
Mr. Deenihan: It was an article in The Irish Press of 7 June 1991. I am glad of the opportunity of speaking on this Bill and I did not intend to speak for so long. I welcome the Bill as a good initiative but there is more that can be done to improve the democratic process as regards voting.
Mr. Belton: I welcome the opportunity of speaking on this Bill. I would like to emphasise, as some of my colleagues have done, the importance of Sunday voting. Sunday voting should be seriously considered because it would enable commercial travellers and people working away from home during the week to vote. Students in university, regional colleges and other education institutions find it extremely difficult to vote on weekdays. If we want to preserve democracy we should not take a slap-dash, half-hearted  approach to this matter. We should take every opportunity to ensure that people, especially young people are allowed to vote. That is why I strongly advocate Sunday voting. Many young people cannot vote because they are attending a regional college far from home. We should facilitate everyone to vote, that is the purpose of democracy. In Eastern European countries new democracies have been set up and all voting takes place on a Sunday; they realise how important it is.
As some of my colleagues said earlier, there is nothing worse on polling day than to meet someone — perhaps an elderly person who has voted in every election — whose name is not included on the register. The attitude is that it is just too bad and that a mistake has been made somewhere. However, the county registrar should ensure that if a person's name is taken off the register there should be a check to make sure that the person has been notified. This would enable the person to call attention to the error; democracy is about everyone having the chance to vote. In this regard in the past, too much emphasis was placed on politicians and party supporters and people felt they had to consult a politician or party supporter to have their names included on the register. That attitude should be scrapped, everyone who is entitled to vote should be on the register.
There has been strong lobbying from emigrants in relation to casting their vote. It will not be easy to put a process in place whereby this will happen but if the will is there there are various ways to ensure that they can. For a start, emigrants could vote in presidential elections because there would not be the complication of different constituencies. As Deputy Deenihan pointed out, we are one of the few countries in Europe whose emigrants are denied a vote.
The provision relating to cavassing 50 metres from the polling booth recognises that there is a reason for keeping people away from the entrance to a polling booth. However, this provision will not really help. When individuals arrive at a  polling booth it is very annoying for them to be approached by a group of people handing out leaflets and posters. That is not the way it should work. People should be allowed to enter a polling station without any interference from party supporters. The Minister should further examine this provision because, as it stands, it will cause even more confusion. I am in favour of a ban on lobbying people entering polling stations. Generally, I welcome the Bill as it is a step in the right direction.
Mr. Garland: First, I congratulate Deputy Dukes on making his maiden speech as the Fine Gael spokesman on the environment. I warmly welcome the new time limits which, I hope, will be applied to all Second Stage debates. This will represent a considerable improvement in the way we deal with our affairs and will, in particular, facilitiate me and the other Independent Deputies in contributing to all Second Stage debates. Incidentally, I notice that Deputy Dukes disagrees with this, which is a pity.
I must also mention another rather alarming example of what seems to be the policy of the Labour Party on these long and complicated Bills. I note that Deputy Kavanagh requested that Committee Stage of this Bill be sent to a special committee. I have a great deal of sympathy for the arguments he made; however, he was not correct in saying “full representation is given to all sides of the House” in this regard. That does not apply to a special committee; certainly no representation is given to me or other Independent Deputies. Accordingly, unless provision can be made for representation of the Independent Deputies, I will strongly recommend to the Minister to allow Committee Stage to be taken in the House.
Section 47 provides for an increase in the candidate's deposit from £100 to £500; in a long and complicated Bill this is the nub of the issue. This is an absolutely scandalous increase and is not justified. It is clearly an attack on small parties, such as the Green Party and on Independent Deputies. In fact, it is an attack  on democracy. While I accept the Minister's comment that £100 indexed back to 1923 would amount to perhaps £3,000, that is not the point.
No financial obstacle should be put in the way of any bona fide candidate seeking election to Dáil Éireann. The Minister has made the point that there has to be some mechanism to provide a deterrent to those he describes as “non-serious candidates”. I agree that in theory the present system, with provision for a small deposit, leaves itself open to such candidates but we should examine what really happens. For the 1989 elections there were 49 Independent candidates standing in 41 constitutencies; that is only a little more than one Independent candidate per constituency. Surely the Minister would recognise that that is not a great burden for us to bear. Surely that is not a grave inconvenience for us to put up with in order to ensure the democratic rights of small parties and Independent candidates to nominate themselves for election. There is no question of the ballot paper being cluttered up with the names of ten, 20 or 30 Independent candidates. If that were the case I should be the first to admit that something would have to be done about it, but it is clear that that is not so. Does the Minister suggest that by merely increasing the deposit by £400 he would eliminate the “joke candidates” and the odd person who is on a massive ego trip? It would still be good value for money for a rich, eccentric person without any pretentions to a serious political platform.
If the Minister is convinced of the need for change in that area, he should consider the implementation of a signature system which would provide for perhaps 0.5 per cent of the electorate in a constituency having to vouch that in their view the candidate was a serious candidate. It is obvious that considerable safeguards would have to be built into such a system but I have little doubt that that could be done relatively easily. There are many precedents for such a system in the United States and in some European countries.
I would argue that a registered political  party should have the right to nominate at least one candidate in each constituency. I remind Members that it is quite difficult to become a registered political party, and I speak from experience as someone who was involved in the registration of the Green Party. I am sure that everyone would agree that registered political parties have a serious political platform. On Committee Stage I shall table amendments on this matter.
The fact that there is no public funding available for political parties with fewer than seven members elected to the Dáil exacerbates the position and gives a built-in advantage to the major parties. Certainly the Green Party — and I am sure I speak for all the small parties and all the Independent Members in the House when I say this — receive very little resource funding from big business, big farmers or trade unions. I am surprised that the Labour Party do not appear to be opposed to the proposed deposit increase. The slight reduction in the percentage of the quota required to redeem one's deposit, while welcome, is a very small step. In a three seat constituency one would still need to obtain 6 per cent of the vote to get back one's deposit.
The next most important provisions in the Bill undoubtedly deal with canvassing at polling stations. Almost every Deputy who has contributed to this debate has made a comment — mostly unfavourable, and rightly so — on what goes on outside polling stations. I should certainly like to add my voice to what has been said. I am glad the Minister at least recognises that there is a problem. He speaks of electors having to run the gauntlet, and that is the position. At a personal level, I have always been very uncomfortable outside polling stations. Having admitted the existence of the problem, I am most disappointed at the Minister's inadequate response.
As previous speakers have said, the proposed 50 metre limit is of little use. It would affect only those living within 50 metres of a polling station, which would be a very small percentage of the electorate. I have no doubt that the barricades would go up 50 metres from the polling  stations and it would be business as usual. Perhaps it would be difficult legally to ban canvassing on polling day altogether. However, in the spirit of what the Minister is trying to achieve, it would seem reasonable to increase the limit to a distance of 200 metres.
What is needed is the provision of a public notice board outside polling stations. The public notice board would contain one poster for each candidate standing in the election. It is my understanding that that system is available in France. It is a very good system and it would also eliminate posters around polling stations. Indeed, it is my opinion that a strong case could be made for the elimination of posters everywhere. Posters are a rather mindless form of advertisement; they do not really convey information, unlike an election leaflet or a person canvassing from door to door. At least in canvassing some effort goes into communication, an election poster does not communicate at all.
Mr. Belton: If they are good looking they are all right.
Mr. Garland: I am glad that the use of loudspeakers outside polling stations is to be banned. We could go further and ban them completely. They are a most obnoxious intrusion into privacy. Loudspeakers are even worse than canvassers, and that is saying a lot.
I should like to refer to some of the more detailed provisions of the Bill. A very important area is that of voting rights. We always have to consider who does or does not have a right to vote. Islanders are one group who have to be considered in this regard. Their voting rights are covered under sections 85 and 86. I suspect that those sections have not been revised. They should have been revised. Every Member in the House cherishes the inhabitants of our offshore islands. Their isolation creates many difficulties in their lives. At election times they suffer the great disadvantage of having to poll sometimes up to five days before polling day. If there are any late  developments in a campaign — as frequently happens — the islanders are very much at a disadvantage. That problem could be solved in many ways. Islanders, like everyone else, should be able to vote on polling day. There are air links to many of the islands, there are helicopters, boats are now much faster than they used to be and, if all else failed, perhaps some system of electronic voting could be introduced. I ask the Minister to re-examine that area.
I should now like to refer to postal voting. While there are special provisions — and rightly so — for members of the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána, there is nevertheless a substantial number of civilians who, because of the nature of their work, are invariably away from home on polling day. In this regard, I think particularly of merchant seamen, commercial travellers, oil rig workers and so on. While I recognise that there are certain dangers of the voting procedures being abused, I feel that the Minister has made insufficient effort to meet the needs of those people.
There are two other categories of people who need special consideration, the travelling community and our emigrants. Surely there is some way in which those people could be accommodated. If travellers who are not on semi-permanent housing halting sites can be accommodated for social welfare purposes, surely they could also be accommodated for voting purposes. Our emigrants pose a more difficult problem and I do not think there is any consensus in the House as to the best way of dealing with it. However, I feel the balance of advantage lies with a limited franchise, perhaps for a period of four or five years. In particular, I would ask the Minister to study the arguments put forward during the debate on the Labour Party Private Members' Bill earlier this year.
Another problem area not addressed is that of third level students, many of whom live away from home. Surely it should be possible to provide that students register at their colleges and at home and exercise their preference when the election is called.
 A problem arises also in regard to voters who are house-bound due to physical incapacity. Many of these people — who are usually elderly — are intimidated when the special registrar and a member of the Garda Síochána knock on the door for them to vote. Surely there is a better way. If the requirement to have a member of the Garda Síochána present were lifted some of the undoubted pressure these people feel would be alleviated. I am sure it is irrational but that is how people feel about it and they have mentioned it to me. I am aware that many people have opted out of the special voters' list for this very reason. Even though the number of people involved is small we should make more of an effort in this area.
Disqualification for membership of the Dáil is another issue. The minimum age for membership still remains at 21, which was the same as the voting age until that was reduced to 18 some years ago. This is an anomaly and it should be addressed. There is no reason people of 18 years and upwards should not be allowed to be nominated for Dáil elections. I appreciate this would require a change in our Constitution but this could easily be made in conjunction with the forthcoming referenda. There is a reference also to the disqualification of people of unsound mind. Anybody who is nominated to the Dáil is, by definition, of unsound mind, but that is an aside. There are disqualification provisions for people who are undergoing a sentence of imprisonment for any term exceeding six months. This is an area that should be examined. There may be good reasons for it of which I am not aware.
In regard to independent candidates, the current situation is that all they can have printed on the ballot paper is “non-party”. I see no reason why they cannot have whatever they wish on the ballot paper, provided it is not so close to the names of registered parties as to confuse the electorate. For example, a person should be able to put “socialist”, “environmentalist” or, indeed, “raving loony party” beside their name. This is done in the UK and in some other countries.
 Another simple improvement would be the provision of a list of candidates, showing their party affiliations, to be distributed with polling cards — the names being in the same order as on the ballot paper because there is no official provision to notify the public of those people standing in an election. There have always been accusations of personation, especially in urban areas, where there is a highly volatile population. The time has come to give serious consideration to a mandatory form of identification, such as a driving licence, a passport, bank statement, ESB bill and so on. Such a system operates in public libraries.
I am disappointed the Bill does nothing about the unsatisfactory situation in regard to the order of names on the ballot paper. If this matter is not tackled the House will eventually end up with people whose surnames begin with A, B or C. Clearly names should be drawn out of the hat.
The arrangements for the counting of transfers should be examined because it is not satisfactory and should be computerised.
In conclusion, I should like to deal with the question of funding of political parties. In a number of countries parties are funded on the number of votes gained in the previous election. This would mean that political parties would be less dependent on large private donations which are often, unofficially, linked to certain policies. One thing which is absolutely clear from the proceedings of the tribunal of inquiry into the beef processing industry is that certain companies in the industry have given substantial donations to major political parties. That in itself is bad enough but what compounds the problem is that this information would not have been made available to the public were it not for this tribunal. That is not good enough. It would make sense to restrict the expenditure of candidates at election time or if there was some type of expenditure control at national level. There is no doubt that a large amount of money is wasted at election time. I refer in particular to large advertisements in the national press which. I am sure, do  not attract a single extra vote. Unfortunately, at present there would be public opposition to the funding of political parties because of the perception of the way they squander their money. However, the Green Party is small. Our budget for general purposes and for election purposes is extremely modest. We do not wish for substantial public funding. We have no intention of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in an election campaign but we, along with the other small parties and independent Deputies require some funding to enable us to carry out work during the year and to have something over and above to cover our minimal election expenditure.
An Ceann Comhairle: I would be grateful if the Deputy would now please bring his speech to a close.
Mr. Garland: I can put my hand on my heart and say that I am beholden to no one and no organisation. I would like to think every Deputy in the House could say the same.
Mr. Power: Good man.
Mr. Kenny: In a modern democracy it is obvious that this Bill is long overdue. Politics today, in many ways, has become the instant response to the circumstance of the day. While there does not appear to be much interest in the Bill this evening either from the press or representatives, when the bell tolls sooner or later, the effect of this Bill will be of acute interest to a great number of people.
I have listened with interest to the contributions made by Deputies from all sides. They have ranged over a wide area in terms of elections, political canvassing and campaigns to represent the people of the country from this Chamber. Most of the discussion has centred on the provision of posters, polling stations, registers, disabled persons' registers, the right of people to vote and their general reaction to previous campaigns.
Elections in the modern day are becoming prohibitively expensive for  registered political parties. The amount of energy put into paying off interest debts by representatives of the major parties in this House from year to year is incredible. Every single elected representative in this Chamber spends a substantial amount of their time annually trying to involve themselves in the hated job of trying to raise money from people who are constantly persecuted by fund-raising events. It does not do the principal House of the Oireachtas any good that this amount of effort has to be put into it instead of dealing with legislation and the problems of the people.
The following motion was moved by Deputy Dukes on Tuesday, 13 October 1992:
That Dáil Éireann deplores the neglect by the Government of the Midlands, as evidenced by the serious population decline in rural areas, the loss of employment in natural resource-based activities, the total lack of a structure for planning for the future use of cutaway bogs and the fact that no concrete action is likely to result from the review of the disadvantaged areas before mid-1994 at the earliest:
Calls on the Government immediately to put forward proposals whereby local communities will get access to State funds to develop plans for their areas which would
—exploit the potential of cutaway bogs, including conserved environmentally sensitive wetland areas;
—develop industrial, tourism and service growth centres and
—develop the necessary road, rail and inland waterways infrastructures.
 Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:—
“Dáil Éireann supports the Government in its efforts to develop and secure the vitality and economic well-being of all of our rural areas including those in the Midlands and recognises the contribution being made by State and EC Structural Funds towards the achievement of these objectives.”
—(Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food)
Mr. Ferris: Before the debate was adjourned last night, I was referring, in the presence of my colleagues from Couny Kildare and the midlands, to the fact that direct action taken by the Government, particularly in regard to Bord na Móna and privatisation projects, had given rise to many job losses. These job losses have lead to an increased burden on social welfare, health, education and local authority resources. I also said that the cuts being introduced in the social welfare area by the Minister for Social Welfare are a direct result of the new Social Welfare Act.
The implications of the changes in the social welfare code will become obvious to anyone who tries for the first time to gain entitlement to the contributions they have paid during their working lives. My colleague, Deputy Bell, referred to many of the areas where changes have been introduced by the Minister for Social Welfare. Today SIPTU published a detailed list of some of the changes which have been introduced in the social welfare code. I am sure that many people in the midlands and elsewhere will soon find themselves in a position where they will not be able to avail of unemployment and sickness benefits, to which they contributed during their working lives, as a result of the changes introduced by the Minister for Social Welfare, a person from the midlands. One of the Minister's  answers to the present problems was to send us a copy of a very colourful and expensive booklet which was published today by the Social Welfare Appeals Office. This booklet, entitled Leaving Ireland and Returning to Ireland, tells people their rights.
The major problems in the social welfare area need to be addressed as soon as possible. At Question Time today the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach confirmed that more than 300,000 people are now unemployed, if we take into account those in pre-employment schemes, people who are no longer signing on the register, who are not retired but have no work. The present unemployment level is now the highest in the history of the State. The Government cannot afford to continue their complacent attitude towards job creation and unemployment. The Government, and in particular local communities in the midlands, cannot afford the loss of 100 jobs in the Bord na Móna plant in County Kildare. Rather than accepting the Government's stark decision in relation to their livelihood, the people of Lullymore have set up the Lullymore, Ballydermot, Timahoe, Allenwood Action Group. They are to be commended for doing this. This action group are making representations in regard to the proposed 120 megawatt power station to be built by Bord na Móna somewhere along the Kildare-Offaly border. The siting of a new power station in this area will make use of the vast stocks of peat which remain in the local bogs and will help in some way to offset the huge job losses in the area over the past six years.
The Culliton report threatens the continuation of the strong relationship which has evolved between Bord na Móna and the ESB. It specifically recommends that steps should be taken to eliminate the cost imposition involved in peat generation by the ESB either by reducing peat costs to the ESB, if this is viable, or by closing down on a phased basis the most uneconomic elements of peat fired capacity. The Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, who is responsible for these two areas is not answerable on the  floor of the House for any action taken on Bord na Móna or the ESB. The Minister is more than aware of the specific focus of the Culliton report. It would be impossible to implement the recommendations without some very strategic thinking and assessment of the relationship between the ESB and Bord na Móna. This could not be done without taking into account the huge overhanging debt problems which have been faced by Bord na Móna and which were referred to last night by Deputy Enright. I share his concern. Anyone who has met the management and workers of Bord na Móna will know a similar message is coming through from them about restructuring and the way in which that magnificent organisation, which has used our natural resources to tremendous effect, has been financed.
The Government still have to give a guarantee in regard to the future viability of Bord na Móna and their operations in the midlands area. I hope the Minister will be able to give that guarantee tonight. The workers and the people dependent on their wages, their families and people in the service industries, will want to hear assurances from the Minister and not just the pious platitudes outlined in the Government amendment to the Fine Gael motion.
In the context of the specific problems in the midlands area, the establishment of the new enterprise partnership boards was disappointing in that there was no prior consultation with the councils of the regional tourism organisations. This was confirmed today at Question Time when the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Noel Treacy, answered questions put down by Members of this House in regard to the consultation which took place to abolish the various regional tourism organisations and their incorporation into the new enterprise partnership boards. The key role tourism will play in job creation in the enterprise partnership boards does not appear to have been discussed with any of the local tourism organisations or elected representatives who will be  affected by the change announced by the Government which is supposed to take effect within the next month. As I said today at Question Time, it was at my insistence that my council put this document on their agenda for discussion. Apparently it is sufficient to talk to the county manager and then throw a sop to the chairman of the council telling him he will also be involved. I hope this involvement is not the same as the involvement of regional chairmen in the preparation for the next tranche of EC funding, or Structural Funding, particularly as it related to the Delors II package. There was relatively little, if any, consultation in this respect and relatively poor acknowledgment of the local input. In fact, when the final plan was published it was difficult to see where the Government had included any of the regional submissions. Obviously, this money was redirected back through the Department of Finance.
The midlands do not need competition between the various enterprise boards for investment in the region. Irrespective of the structure which might finally be decided by the Government, that region has something to offer in its own right to the tourism industry — the tremendous facility of the canal which flows through most of the region. An issue which needs to be addressed is the putting in place of an effective mechanism to monitor the performance of these partnership boards. Central Government Departments must also have an involvement in this area. There is a danger that direct access to EC funding will simply result in a proliferation of projects to attract available finance, with a high failure rate and potentially disastrous effects on the morale of the localities in the midlands region and other regions also. If tourism is to be effective at local level there is need for a co-ordinated mechanism to avoid wasteful duplication, which objective can best be achieved by operating through the existing regional tourism board's framework.
It needs to be pointed out that regional tourism organisations with a permanent staff of 102 and seasonal staff of over  300 have played a major, central role in tourism at local and regional level at a net cost to the Exchequer of £400,000. These organisations have in excess of 7,500 members representing all sections of the tourism trade and they contribute £450,000 per annum to tourism at local level. We are all directly involved with them in a voluntary way. These organisations also operate a network of 76 tourist information offices servicing 2.5 million visitors annually. Therefore, it will clearly be seen that regional tourism organisations engage in a very intensive marketing and development programme. We should ensure that the councils of those regional tourism organisations represent tourist interests at all levels of the industry and, in addition to their chairment and county manager, include public representatives.
The concept of these new partnership enterprise boards places a question mark over the future role of county development officers because, in addition to tourism and industrial development, their positions will be defunct.
I rest my case on the basis that it is important for all of us that the midlands and all other rural regions receive a fair share of the cake when divided. It has been our experience in the past that these areas have been neglected by Government.
Mr. Nolan: I have pleasure in speaking on the Government amendment No. 1 outlining the efforts made by this administration to develop and secure the economic well-being of all rural areas, not merely the midlands as appears to have been suggested in the motion tabled by the main Opposition party.
Since the return of a Fianna Fáil administration in 1987 there have been major advances in the development and improvement of the quality of life and well-being in rural areas. An overriding concern of all of us is the question of employment creation and the problem of unemployment. The jobs issue was recognised by the Taoiseach recently when he called a special meeting of the Central Review Committee. It was clear  then that the commitment on the part of all the social partners was to ascertain in what way they could address this issue in the short term by measures that would underpin the long term economic strategy of preparing ourselves for economic and monetary union in the new, single market.
It was recognised that by maintaining budgetary discipline and a low level of borrowing, consistent with a low inflation economy, we would allow for continued economic growth and greater employment. Indeed the Taoiseach and his Cabinet colleagues have been at pains to emphasise that they will not be deflected in the short term by introducing measures which would have long term, harmful effects in our economy.
In the Programme for National Recovery and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress— from which all participants have benefited — we have a framework which should be maintained if we are to implement a long-term strategy against unemployment. For example, we must retain the competitive advantage we have built up over the past four to five years. All economic indicators, with the exception of employment, are extremely positive.
Before the recent international recession hit us we had achieved rapid economic growth and a net increase in employment of 40,000. Obviously, a small, open trading economy like ours will be affected by the international recession in the countries to which we sell our goods and services. We lost out to a certain extent because of the problems they are experiencing. To that extent we lose some control over our well-being and must depend, to some extent, on the health of our international trading partners. We must continue to seek an increase in our market share even in these very difficult international trading conditions in order to secure existing jobs at home and provide a prospect of an increase in employment to be funded by that export growth.
The international recession has meant that a number of our industries have felt a chill wind and, regrettably, have had to  cut back to their workforce. That has been reflected, on the one hand, by the increased numbers on the live register along with the double effect of emigrants returning home because of the problems being experienced by our international counterparts. This latest international recession has had an effect on both urban and rural communities.
However, we must ensure that past mistakes are not repeated. For example, by attempting to spend our way out of the problems of the seventies, we were left a legacy of debt and growing interest payments. This year alone we will pay something in excess of £2 billion in interest payments in servicing our national debt. What happened in the seventies was sinful and must not be repeated.
It is important to highlight some of the measures taken by the Government to develop and secure the economic well-being of rural areas since that is what this motion is about. The first of these with which I should like to deal is in the agricultural sector, the decision to extend the disadvantaged areas scheme and its effect on our rural communities. This scheme was designed specifically to encourage farmers to remain in farming by compensating them for some of the natural handicaps associated with living in rural areas. The provisions of the scheme recognise that permanent, natural handicaps, such as poor quality of soil, the degree of slope of land and so on — placing such farmers at a competitive disadvantage — must be compensated for in some manner.
The income from various headage grants payable under the scheme constitutes a significant proportion of the income of sheep and cattle farmers in disadvantaged areas. For example, last year some 82,000 farmers received payments under the cattle headage payments scheme, in excess of 15,000 farmers received payments under the beef cow scheme and an additional 34,000 farmers received assistance under the sheep headage scheme. The extension negotiated and approved in 1991, covering an  additional 1.9 million acres, has been of great benefit to rural Ireland. The Ministers involved in the negotiation of that extension are to be complimented since it was the largest extension we secured since our accession to the European Community, bringing the total amount of our land now classified as disadvantaged to 72 per cent of our total acreage.
Rural development is another matter worthy of mention. I congratulate the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food with special responsibility for rural development, Deputy Hyland, who is present this evening. Indeed, the foresight of Commissioner MacSharry should not go without mention on this occasion.
It must be remembered that a healthy rural economy and environment constitute an important part of the quality of Irish life. In that context the success of the recent Leader programme, as an instrument in promoting a better economy and environment, has been important. The European Commission put this Community incentive in place under which funds are allocated to local development groups throughout the European Community who have designated integrated rural development plans for their areas. In Carlow-Kilkenny Avonmore have played a pivotal role in the promotion of this initiative. It is hoped that the result of this initiative will be witnessed over the next two years.
The forestry operational programme 1989 to 1993 is the third development to which I should like to refer, which programme is funded jointly by the EC, the State and private sector. Over the life of this programme it is expected that the rate of tree planting will double from approximately 15,000 hectares per annum to more than 30,000 hectares per annum. This increased production and planting is expected to create approximately 1,800 extra jobs. The principal measures included in this programme are afforestation, improvement of woodlands, the reconstruction of woodlands and improvement of forestry roads. Grants of up to 85 per cent of approved  costs are available under those headings. Coillte Teoranta are to be complimented on their work in this area. For example, they opened recently a new state-of-the-art nursery in County Carlow which must be the envy of many forestry boards throughout the Community.
The operational programme for tourism, 1989 to 1993, is a major component of the Government's five year strategy for the expansion and development of tourism. Tourism has been identified as one of the growth areas of our economy and it is hoped that it will prove to be a major contributor to our economy and to our job opportunity prospects. Specific interests such as angling, sailing, golf and equestrian sports have been identified as activities which, if given the proper support, can and will lead to improved facilities and employment prospects. The Government have also identified specific interests areas such as genealogy and English language training as areas of interests to tourists.
The recently announced Government decision to establish county enterprise boards, or development boards, as they are sometimes known, is a major step in the development of rural Ireland. I compliment the Government on this initiative. The development boards will play a major role in job creation at local level. Every sector of local communities will have an opportunity to participate in the decisions affecting their lives, decisions which up to now have been made at regional level or at national level.
The funding of the boards has been agreed. In addition to the drawing together of funding from the IDA and other State agencies, an extra £100 million has been committed by the Irish financial institutions, who are to be complimented on coming in so readily. Public funds of £50 million will be provided by the Government and there will also be additional EC funding.
It is important to point out the positive advantages to rural Ireland of the urban renewal scheme. This scheme has been a major success in large towns in rural Ireland. Under this scheme a generous  package of tax incentives and rates relief is available to promote new construction and refurbishment works undertaken in specific designated areas.
Mr. Dukes: Not in Monasterevan, not in Newbridge, not in Athy.
Mr. Nolan: The Government since 1987 have twice extended the scheme and I can testify to the positive aspects of this scheme as a result of the extension to Carlow, Kilkenny and Portlaoise.
Mr. Dukes: Not Monasterevan, not Newbridge, not Athy.
Mr. Nolan: The result of this investment is not only the renewing of the physical fabric of the town; it also helps to breathe new life into parts of urban areas which up to now have been neglected. It has the effect of creating both once-off construction jobs and permanent jobs, mainly in the service sector.
Local authorities have played their part in making this scheme a success. Carlow Urban District Council are to be commended on the work they are currently carrying out on the Presentation Convent site in Carlow town, where the first phase of a major development is currently under way. This scheme will enhance the status of the town by improving its appearance and increasing the potential to attract further investment.
Another area of investment is waterways. Since 1987 this Government have put in place a continuous programme of investment to restore and develop the inland waterways system and promote it as a viable tourist and amenity resource. The potential for improvement in this area is huge. Since 1987 this Government have provided mooring facilities, jetties, marinas and harbour facilities at a number of locations on our major rivers. In County Carlow the Office of Public Works have carried out some much needed reconstruction and remedial work at Graiguenamanagh-Tinnahinch. This work has been very well received by the local community and it is hoped that  a continuation of this programme will be of positive benefit to the counties which straddle the River Barrow.
The Barrow navigation has been the recipient of substantial investment. Extensive dredging and lock gate renewal and the provision of new facilities, such as at Graiguenamanagh, have vastly improved the potential for waterway and tourist related employment in the area. Since assuming responsibility for the canals and the Barrow navigation in 1986, the Office of Public Works have made major strides in developing these waterways, both as amenities for the local community and as a major part of the tourism infrastructure of the country. The personnel involved in these projects are to be commended on the quality of the workmanship involved and also the fact that all developments have been undertaken in an environmentally sensitive manner.
I commend the Minister on the work he has been carrying out for the benefit of the rural community in a very difficult climate. I have no doubt that with the continuation of current Government policies we can succeed in improving the lot of our rural community.
Mr. Power: I think Deputy Nolan meant to share his time.
An Ceann Comhairle: When there is an intention to share time, the Chair prefers that the request be made at the commencement of a Deputy's speech.
Mr. Power: The Deputy felt he was speaking among friends when the midland Deputies were here together.
An Ceann Comhairle: That may be so, but the House is entitled to know these things in advance and the Chair usually puts it to the House for approval.
Mr. Dukes: This side of the House will stretch a point for Deputy Power.
An Ceann Comhairle: Thank you. I take it that it is agreed that the time  available to Deputy Nolan should be shared with Deputy Power. Agreed.
Mr. Power: I should like to share my time with Deputy Connolly.
An Ceann Comhairle: This is becoming quite irregular. However, there seems to be a host of goodwill here this evening. Is it satisfactory that Deputy Connolly be included in the time? Agreed.
Mr. Power: I listened attentively to the debate on this motion last night. While I could identify with much of what was said from the Opposition benches, regrettably none of these contributions could be regarded as balanced. It is very easy to get up in the House and criticise the existing Government for all the ills of the midlands, and I listened to Deputy after Deputy blame the Government for the number of people leaving the land. One could almost be excused for believing that this was only happening in Ireland. We must accept that the flight from the land is happening worldwide, despite the best efforts of different administrations.
There was also criticism of the Agricultural Commissioner, Ray MacSharry, and our Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Joe Walsh. If ever criticism was undeserved it was in this instance. The Common Agricultural Policy to a large extent had outlived its usefulness. It was crying out for reform. Successive Commissioners refused to grasp the nettle, thus creating much uncertainty throughout the industry. I accept that agriculture has been going through a very difficult period, but we must accept that this was happening before any reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
We should be grateful to Ray MacSharry for the courage and commitment he showed in reforming the Common Agricultural Policy and to the Minister for protecting our national interests in these negotiations.
A healthy agricultural industry is vital if the midlands are to prosper. Changes in the special beef premium, the suckler cow premium and the special slaughter  premium will put farmers in a more secure position. This, in turn, will remove much of the uncertainty that has hung over the industry in recent years.
While I am not unaware of the problems confronting the midlands, we must always remain optimistic and realise that we have the tools at our disposal to deal with the situation. Enormous progress has been made over the last few years and this cannot and should not be ignored.
Anyone listening to the debate here last night could be forgiven for believing that the area had been totally neglected for the last number of years. The motion is a long-winded one, covering a number of areas, and I am delighted to have an opportunity to take part in the debate tonight.
I must ask the Opposition Deputies who tabled this motion one question: If the Government have neglected their constituencies to such an extent, why is it that Fianna Fáil hold a majority of the seats? Did the electorate get it wrong? I am sure that they did not.
Mr. Durkan: That question will be answered shortly.
Mr. Power: I am sure they will give the same answer on the next occasion. If any fair-minded person was to look around the midlands they would have to be impressed with the amount of progress that has taken place.
The urban renewal scheme was extended to include towns such as Tullamore, Portlaoise and Athlone. This scheme has brought new life into these areas and at the same time is creating much needed employment. We have witnessed enormous improvements in our major roads during the last few years, and the majority of these schemes have taken place and are taking place in the midlands.
The Newbridge by-pass is well under way and should be completed in the middle of next year. The Kilcullen link should be finished 12 months later. The estimated cost of this project is estimated at £58 million. Work is also under way for the Lucan-Kilcock by-pass, and it is  expected that this project will be completed in 1993 at a cost of £60 million.
The Athlone by-pass was successfully completed last year, and progress is well under way in providing by-passes for a number of other big towns such as Portlaoise, Longford, Roscrea, Nenagh and Mullingar. When concluded, these projects will prove very beneficial. They will reduce journey times and costs. They will also reduce traffic congestion and allow towns to develop in a more civilised manner. When the Naas by-pass was first mooted there was an outcry from a number of business people in the town; they felt that business would deteriorate. The opposite happened and Naas is now a much busier and more prosperous town as a result of the by-pass.
I do not wish for one moment, to give the impression that we have a wonderful road network. Our non-national roads are in a disgraceful state and unless we can transfer some of the European money which is being spent on our national primary roads to the non-national roads we will never be able to get on top of the problem. Local authorities simply have not got sufficient funds to carry out the necessary repairs. I call on the Minister for the Environment to give this issue the attention it deserves.
Perhaps it is a case of great minds thinking alike, but the movers of this motion are saying now what we in Kildare have been repeating for years.
The future of our cutaway bogs has been analysed for many years. I know of no other area which has been the subject of such exhaustive research and experimentation but to date very little action has been taken. No thoroughbred, one might say, has been so groomed, trained and galloped like a good thing and has yet to appear on a racecourse, never mind getting into the parade ring.
Over many years early warnings were given that a day would come when Lullymore, Allenwood and all that area, which depend too much on Bord na Móna and the ESB would need alternative employment. Lullymore is closed despite the fact that it was viable and able to produce and sell briquettes; the ESB  generating station was due to close too, but got the kiss of life from Minister Molloy at a very opportune time, before the local elections.
Mr. Dukes: These Progressive Democrats are letting you down all the time.
Mr. Power: Since then, there have been signs of a relapse, so perhaps a further bout of passionate embracing is called for. A very well thought-out programme for the use of cutaway bogs was submitted by Kildare for the Leader programme. I do not believe any other project was as well researched or presented. A week before the date for announcing the successful applicants we were sure we would be among them, but when the list was published there was no mention of the cutaway bogs — despite the project having the advantage of helping all the midlands, particularly Kildare, Offaly and Laois.
Mr. Dukes: I would be annoyed about that, if I were the Deputy.
Mr. Power: Recently a Council of Europe delegation came to this country to discuss how rural areas can be helped and not one of the successful Leader programme applicants spoke at the conference. We could talk for a week on the potential of the midlands to regenerate growth and employment, give back hope and a future to villages and small towns that will be left to wither away and die.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry to interrupt Deputy Power, but in case he is under a misapprehension in respect of the time I said was available to him, that was up to 18 minutes to eight. I was not aware then of the intervention of our colleague, Deputy Connolly. I hope the Deputy realises that the token amount of time available to the three Deputies expires at 18 minutes to eight.
Mr. Power: I will allow Deputy Connolly to make his contribution now.
Mr. Connolly: I am glad of this opportunity to speak. It is strange that the Opposition have put down this motion because when they were in office and Deputy Dukes was in the Government, they deserted the midlands. Neither Deputy Dukes nor his Government wanted to know about the midlands. It was only when we returned to Government in 1987 that action was taken to rectify a deteriorating situation.
Mr. Dukes: You abolished the committees of agriculture, the county development teams and now the tourism organisations. With friends like that who needs enemies?
Mr. Connolly: Deputies mentioned earlier that urban renewal did not come to Kildare. It was because some of the urban councils——
Mr. Connolly: Take your medicine. These are the facts. They said they did not require urban renewal.
Mr. Connolly: Deputies must remember that the urban councils in Kildare are controlled by their own party, so they should not come along and blame us now.
An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear Deputy Connolly without interruption.
Mr. Connolly: I did not interrupt anyone. The urban council in County Kildare said that they were not interested in urban renewal. What more could we do? The Deputies should not blame the Government of the time or me, although I had responsibility for urban renewal.
With regard to land annuities, I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Hyland and the Government on the measures adopted to tackle the problems of many farmers in the midlands and elsewhere. Land annuities were an enormous burden on many farmers. I am very pleased with the package which has been brought in.  The writing off of small annuities will benefit approximately 19,000 farmers. The buy-out discount is a very attractive option for many other farmers. Nobody can deny that help in this area is welcomed by many farmers who were heavily burdened with annuities.
The urban renewal programme, the farm improvement programme and the roads programme created 14,000 jobs in the building industry and many more jobs in the retail business on the completion of many of the projects. That is the reality. It is very much appreciated in the towns and corporations that took advantage of the very attractive incentives. I compliment the corporations and the local authorities who became involved in urban renewal on the manner in which they carried out their duties and got many projects up and running, giving permanent employment.
My time is up, but I would like to say more on many of the issues involved. During the terms of office of the Government the Department of the Environment have done everything possible within the financial resources available to them, but the Opposition have not stated what programme they would implement, from where they would obtain the necessary finance and how they would carry out the work. I would like this spelt out.
Mr. Dukes: We would rather have Deputy Connolly than the Minister of State, Deputy Harney.
Mr. Connolly: I have listened to Deputy Dukes for a long time.
Mr. Dukes: I have listened to the Deputy and I wish him many more years of listening to me.
Mr. Connolly: I welcome the Deputy back to the Front Bench. Unfortunately, the Deputy sometimes suffers from a fairytale imagination. When people like him return after being away for a long time the figures two and two often do not add up. When the Deputy was a member of a former Administration and in charge of the Department of Finance his projections  never materialised. I always doubted them and it turned out that I was correct. That was the reason he was removed from the Finance portfolio and given another. That is why I would be interested to hear the Deputy spell out his and his party's programme. He should tell us how the programme will be implemented and where the finance will come from. I am waiting and listening very carefully.
Mr. Dukes: The Deputy's party are in Government now.
Mr. Connolly: At least we have a programme——
Mr. Dukes: Where is the programme?
Mr. Connolly: ——but I have not heard any programme from the Opposition parties, especially the Fine Gael Party.
Mr. Dukes: Where is the Government's programme? The Minister told us last night what the target was.
Mr. Connolly: Fine Gael made a tactical error, not for the first time, in not joining the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment and putting forward their views. I have no doubt they would have had many worthwhile proposals to put forward.
Mr. Dukes: Were we not right? The three Ministers would not even meet the joint committee. They turned their back, would not talk to you.
Mr. Connolly: As usual Fine Gael were wrong-footed and chickened out. The party would not join the joint committee and put forward their views.
Mr. Dukes: We should bring back Deputy Connolly; the Minister of State, Deputy Harney, has not got the same class.
Mr. Connolly: That is one of the reasons Fianna Fáil in the midlands hold  the majority of the seats and no doubt the same will be the case in Laois-Offaly.
Mr. Lowry: I would like to share my time with Deputies Connaughton, Durkan, Connor and T. Ahearn.
An Ceann Comhairle: Is that satisfactory? Agreed.
Mr. Connor: The Deputies will provide a variety of views.
Mr. Lowry: I am sure Deputy Connolly is looking forward to the day when he will make a return to the Fianna Fáil Front Bench.
Mr. Connor: We need entertainers like Deputy Connolly.
Mr. Connolly: I had a great innings.
Mr. Lowry: The motion we are discussing is an important one in terms of its implications for the region mentioned which includes north Tipperary. That region in effect is as large and as demographically important as any of the provinces and yet it has no recognisable identity of its own. In the region many of the ills of modern Irish life are allowed full rein. It contains, for example, a number of key environmentally important areas. Its huge segment of agricultural acreage is trapped in a no man's land in relation to the disadvantaged areas scheme and it has a great potential resource in the form of many thousands of acres of cutaway bog which, for want of a positive development plan, are little more than a reminder of the past and of what might have been. In this, as in so many other areas, an overall strategy must be developed to allow for the utilisation of this great natural resource on a phased and structured basis instead of the piecemeal present approach.
The thrust of this motion is towards the preparation of a comprehensive plan which would cater for the varied geographic needs of a very diverse region of the country, not simply by making funds  available, but by laying down definite and properly constructed guidelines which would allow the development of the many individual components as part of the overall fabric of the region.
As an example of the concern which has prompted us to bring this motion before the House, let me cite the example of tourism which forms a significant element of the life of the region we are discussing. It is apparent to most people by now that the Government simply do not take the tourism industry seriously and the fragmented approach to our tourism policy is causing serious concern among those directly involved. Tourism is a major element in Irish economic life and yet, as seen through the clouded vision of Government, it was not considered worthy of conclusion in the Culliton report.
The region under discussion, which includes my constituency of North Tipperary, has an abundance of inland waterways, scenic routes, historic sites, an excellent network of accommodation and many ancillary services in place. It is crying out for a development plan which would see an integration of the facilities and services and it would benefit enormously from having a properly structured approach to solving its needs and preparing it for the future. It must surely be evident that there is enormous potential there waiting to be developed. There is little point expending enormous resources in terms of finance and human resources in attracting tourists if we are not presenting all of our physical attractions which are many and varied and must have enormous international appeal. Lough Derg and the River Shannon are God given resources which benefit all the midland counties in one way or another and yet only the tiniest hint of their potential as a tourist attraction has been achieved because of Government inaction.
Our region has suffered from a serious decline in population which is allied to the loss of employment in resource based activity, particularly in agriculture. Unemployment levels are above the national average. In Tipperary we have  10,000 people out of work representing 13 per cent of the workforce in the county. While this level is unacceptably high it would be horrendous if the figures for emigration or urban dispersal were taken into account. This is happening while the great natural resources of the region are being allowed to decay through lack of Government policy. Our cutaway bogs have enormous potential not just for job creation but for the contribution they can make to the environmental well-being of the country.
After a recent visit to a tract of bogland in north Tipperary the overall impression left was one of desolation. The bog like many of its kind in the midlands, has yielded up practically all its peat and is now a spent force. Sporadic planting of trees has been undertaken in the past with little apparent thought put into it or any later husbandry which might have helped those trees realise their full potential. Instead a lack of proper follow-up procedures with regard to culling and thinning has resulted in hundreds and probably thousands, of trees which will have a market value of only a fraction of their real worth. There are still huge tracts of cutaway which is devoid of growth of any kind and, as a consequence, is almost barren of wildlife of any description. It is, and will be for the foreseeable future, an environmental desert which will haunt us in years to come. It is a travesty that this is the legacy we will leave to the next generation and all for want of a cohesive Government policy.
Combined with this is the total indifference to the many environmentally important wetland areas. There is no indifference on the part of dedicated individuals and voluntary organisations. In my town of Thurles, we had a recent example of this when a section of wetland at Cabra, a valuable wildlife resource, would have suffered irreparable damage were it not for the actions of a concerned group of private individuals who have done marvellous work in wildlife preservation. It should not be left to individuals to do this on their own and it is a mark of shame for the Government that  this and so many other resources are being neglected.
The key to success is to have an overall policy. It is Government by default simply to say that funds can and may be made available while nothing is done to lay down the framework on which future progress can be built.
Mr. Connaughton: I support my colleagues from the midlands. I am sure the occasion will arise when we will wish them to support a west of Ireland issue. I wish to speak this evening about a matter involving the midlands and the west, namely Bord na Móna. As I have but five minutes I will deal specifically with this matter although there are many other issues I would like to mention.
Bord na Móna are now but a shadow of the force they once were for development and job creation in the midlands and the west. Worse still is the manner by which they got themselves caught offside by changing times; and an ever-increasing burden of debt could yet leave totally devastated many areas currently dependent on their activities.
The uneasy relationship Bord na Móna have with their main customer, the ESB, has left many questions unanswered. No other company have had all the basic requirements to be successful. They had low cost native raw materials, which replaced or at least could replace expensive oil imports, coupled with a workforce that combined a mix of skilled, unskilled and managerial jobs available in great quantity in this country. However, for a variety of reasons Bord na Móna are now a debt ridden company, owing £179 million. The recent currency upheaval resulting in the 3 per cent increase in interest rates is a nightmare for Bord na Móna. Whatever the reasons for this accumulation of debt — be it either faulty company management or inconsistent, short sighted Government policies over many years — the company are now prevented from positioning themselves to take a meaningful role in the development of rural Ireland. A Bord na Móna without the £179 million debt would be  an extremely different kettle of fish to the Bord na Móna of the present day.
I understand that the ESB are unhappy with the price being charged for milled peat. This Bord na Móna price has to reflect the cost of servicing this borrowing requirement. Despite Bord na Móna's disengagement from the production of sod peat and withdrawal from the Galway-Roscommon area, the debt is now almost out of control.
Some experts suggest that there is now Finnish technology available which can equip peat fired power stations to compete with any other source of energy. How galling it is for thousands of families and local communities to see Bord na Móna activities being restricted to the extent that jobs are being lost all over the place.
Can Bord na Móna, on their own or in partnership with private concerns, do anything to help in the drive to beat unemployment and to reduce costly fuel imports? Take the tragic case of Ballyforan. The inability of many past Governments to harness the 18,000 acres of bogs is inexcusable. The final curtain is coming down on 1 December this year on a project that was designed to employ 400 people. The board are disengaging from Derryfadda for the last time. The 30 employees, who supplied milled peat to Ferbane by road for the past number of years, are being made redundant or relocated.
The great dream of the late seventies and eighties, when full employment in the proposed new power station and subsequently in the briquette factory seemed to be a reality, is now a nightmare. All that is left now is an 18,000 acre prairie of bog which was acquired from local farmers, under- and overground bridges a half-developed railway track system, miles of fencing and about £6 million of a factory foundation and infrastructure. Total cost to Bord na Móna is in the region of £20 million — a monument to bad planning, bad management and hopeless research strategies.
Bord na Móna say that they will maintain the parts of the bog that are currently  being worked and that the remainder will be sold to the Wildlife Service for conservation purposes. The curlew and the snipe will be back in business; but 20 years on, with £20 million squandered, there is not a single job to show for it.
It is ironic, when the new enterprise board in Galway-Roscommon is coming on 1 December, that the curtain will fall on what was to have been one of the finest projects on the Galway/ Roscommon border. There is something terribly wrong that we were not able to translate development of the bogs of Galway and Roscommon into jobs. It is nothing short of a disgrace.
Mr. Durkan: I was deeply conscious of the confidence and capability that seemed to exude from the speeches of Members of the Government benches. It would almost appear that they emanated from the same author, if not from the same typewriter. All the speakers seem to have forgotten that the demise of the midlands in terms of employment did not start last week or the week before. It has been growing steadily for a while and they have been doing absolutely nothing about it. There have been many changes in the midlands. Industries have become obsolete as a result of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and now there are large tracts of land set aside, growing nothing but weeds. People will get grants for doing that, provided they set the land aside and the following year set some other land aside. This is going on while half the world is starving. It could only happen in Ireland. It has all the marks of bureaucrats.
The bogs have been steadily cut away for several years and everybody knew there would come a time when they would have to be replaced with industries, but what do we get from that side of the House? We get committees, and we all know that a camel is a horse drawn by a committee. The time for committees and talk is long since past. When is all this inspiration going to reach fruition? When are the people on the other side of the House with all these ideas going to come forward and put them into action?  We heard about the Leader programme and about the rural development programmes, but we never saw them. All we have heard about are programmes, committees and schemes, which give hope to people, but nothing more. That is the saddest part of all.
I worry about the schemes that are emanating from that side of the House now. I have a sneaking suspicion that somewhere in the back of the minds of the people putting forward these proposals is the notion that a general election may not be too far off and that it might be a good thing to sow some seeds of hope in the minds of the people of a country that has the highest unemployment rate not only in Europe but in the world. It must be a strange accolade for this nation that it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Then the Government come forward and invite people on this side of the House to join committees. To do the same again — to produce nothing, to go over the same ground they went over before, to repeat the mistakes they made before. Some of them had the audacity last night to mention the doubling of the National Debt between 1981 and 1986. Nobody on that side of the House mentioned what happened to the National Debt between 1977 and 1981, but that is where the answer lies. The people on that side of the House would do well to visit some of those sins on their own and not try to hive off the responsibility for those disastrous times onto somebody else.
I hope that the Government parties will get their heads together and, instead of trying to outwit each other as we have seen here tonight, combine their resources, such as they are, and try to do something positive. They did not do this when the Lullymore briquette plant in my own constituency closed, despite manifestations of attention and activity on the part of various Government backbenchers and Members of the other House. That plant folded despite their best efforts. If those were their best efforts, I would hate to see their worst efforts.
Time does not permit me to go into  all the options that are available to the Government. Suffice it to say that the Fine Gael resolution is sufficient to set the Government parties, both of them, on the proper course. I hope the Government parties will not embark, as they have done over the last couple of weeks, on a diet of positive economic forecasts. Hardly a day goes by without some promising forecast emanating from some quarter stating how positive it is to be in Ireland at present, but they should tell this to the 300,000 people who are unemployed.
Mr. Connor: This motion deals with the issue of industrial decline and the attendant social decline in the midlands. I would like to speak about two of the counties in the region addressed by the motion, Roscommon, the county in which I live, and Longford, which is the home county of the Taoiseach. It is proper and germane that we should discuss the problems of that county in this House. It is regrettable, however, that the Taoiseach is not present to listen to some of the comments that we would like to make about it.
If one carries out a social and economic analysis of counties such as Roscommon and Longford one will see the reason that major remedial measures need to be applied to cure the economic and social ills which are deeply rooted and which indeed are getting worse. We were promised that EC Structural Funds would be provided for areas in decline.
In County Roscommon, for instance, 35 per cent of the total workforce are engaged in agriculture whereas the national average is about 18 per cent. Most of the farms in County Roscommon and indeed in County Longford are well under 20 hectares and by any definition nowadays they are uneconomic holdings. Over 60 per cent of the total population of Counties Roscommon and Longford live in rural areas, whereas the national average is just over 30 per cent. It is against that background that the economic problems of the region must be viewed.
 According to the national plan which was drawn up by the Government and submitted to the EC Commission in 1989 in connection with our application for Structural Funding, average income in the two counties to which I have referred is about 43 per cent of the EC average and about 75 per cent of the national average; yet, little or none of the £3 billion transferred to this country by way of grant aid and other investments — and this regime will come to an end at the end of 1993 — has been allocated to either of these counties or indeed to the midlands. Certainly no attempt has been made to improve the economic lot of the region. This cannot be contradicted. These funds have been allocated in a hamfisted and unsympathetic way to counties such as Longford and Roscommon within this region.
While one may say that a certain amount of money from the Regional Fund has been spent on road development within these counties, when we compare these figure with expenditure on roads in the years 1986 and 1987, before the Structural Funds regime had an effect or influence on the amount of money that we spent on roads, we will see that hardly an extra penny has been spent. The only thing that has happened is that Exchequer funds have been displaced by Structural Funds and no additional funds have been made available to address the problems. This amounts to a great betrayal having regard to the fact that the Taoiseach, who was then Minister for Industry and Commerce, travelled all over the country, including my own county, to outline the economic impact this transfer of funds would have during the period of this regime.
If there is anything we want to highlight in this motion it is the fact that there is a unique and peculiar, deep-seated economic and social malaise in this region. We also want to remind the Taoiseach that his own county, where he seeks the major proportion of his votes, is at the very centre of the region where the statistics show this malaise exists. For example, there are more people aged 65  and over in this region than in any other region in the country, the reason being emigration and the lack of job opportunities.
Earlier today the Minister of State, who is present in the House, listened to me as I outlined the age profile of the farmers in the region. I highlighted the fact that 65 per cent of farmers in the area are aged 65 years and over, while a large proportion are over 70 years of age. The reason for this is that there is no land mobility policy, yet, the land is supposed to be the major natural resource in that area. The peatlands in Counties Roscommon and Longford which are harvested by Bord na Móna are also considered to be a major natural resource; yet there has been a population decline and a decline in output from that source of about 50 per cent during the past four years.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I would remind the Deputy that he must now cut the last sod as his time is up.
Mr. Connor: I wish I had more time as there is much one could say on this issue.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am concerned about the Deputy's colleague, Deputy Ahearn.
Mrs. T. Ahearn: I thank you for your thoughtfulness, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. It is with pleasure that I join with my colleagues from the midlands in supporting the motion before the House tonight which calls on Dáil Éireann to deplore the present neglect of the midlands and on the Government to put forward proposals for the development and viability of the central plain of Ireland. Like many of my colleagues, I am absolutely astounded that the Government have found it necessary to table an amendment to this motion, but then they are doing nothing other than keeping in tune with their general attitude towards any proposals, regardless of their merits, made by the main Opposition party: they reject, object to them and oppose them at all costs.
 I would like to remind Members on the opposite side of the House, especially those from the midlands, that in voting against our motion tonight they are voting against a motion which calls for the exploitation of the potential of cutaway bogs, the development of industry, tourism and service growth centres and the necessary road, rail and inland waterway infrastructures in the region. The amendment merely recognises the work that is supposed to have been done to date and calls for no improvement or extra resources in the future. Clearly, that is what Members from the midlands on the opposite side of the House are going to do tonight. This is a disservice to the people who have elected them to represent their area.
In the brief time at my disposal, I intend to dwell on the potential of cutaway bogs because to date sufficient concentration has not been focused on them nor has adequate regard been had to the prospect of employment in this area. One of the most exciting and important land use changes that can be made in the midlands is the development of cutaway bogs over the next few decades. Since the forties the economy of the midland counties has been sustained and enriched by the harvesting of our major energy resource, our peatlands. Two generations of people have worked on these bogs.
However the first of the bogs to be exploited will soon be exhausted of peat and alternative uses must be found. In the rush to conserve raised bogs intact few people have considered the potential of cutaway bogs for other uses. Throughout the eighties research has been conducted into alternative uses. Agriculture and horticultural crops have been tested and experimental forestry trials have been established. Unfortunately, the results of many of these projects have been disappointing to date. The complexity of the problems encountered, the many factors influencing the best afteruse, is daunting. However 79,000 hectares is a lot of land and it must not be allowed to revert back to a wilderness.
The two most feasible options for cutaway bogs have proven to be commercial  forestry and agricultural grassland, but they can only be a major source of income if Bord na Móna are allowed to obtain the full market value of these lands as they become available during the next 40 years. The Minister agrees with this principle and is also anxious to make arrangements to ensure that a proportion of the cutaway bog considered suitable for conversion to grassland will be specifically designated for disposal in small lots in order to ensure that every opportunity is given to farmers to acquire land close to their farms. This is essential to ensure the survival of the communities in areas like the midlands where there has been an alarming decline in the population during the past few years.
Coillte Teoranta should be encouraged, too, to continue to acquire significant areas for their forestry programme, thus increasing the employment potential in the areas concerned. The report of the independent expert committee on the future uses of Bord na Móna cutaway bogs pointed out that ensuring that this unique land resource is used to its best advantage is an affordable and complex challenge. However the report clearly indicated that if these bogs are utilised for alternative uses in a cohesive, planned and balanced way they can become a valuable resource capable of generating considerable benefits locally and nationally. The future of the midlands depends to a large degree on the Minister's response to this report. It must not be left to gather dust on the shelves of his Department as the future livelihoods of many people depend on his action or inaction on the proposals put forward in the report. No action means no jobs and no jobs mean no people. The vicious circle will sadly turn our midlands into a desert.
Mr. Ellis: I have heard so much about bogs since I came into the House 20 minutes ago that I will try to avoid the muddy waters and the muddy ground.
Mr. Dukes: The Deputy should not get side-tracked in the boreens either.
Mr. Ellis: Whoever put down this motion must not have looked to see what Government action has taken place in a number of areas concerned. We are all in favour of exploiting cutaway bogs and conserving environmentally sensitive wetland areas.
Mrs. T. Ahearn: The Deputy should vote for the motion then.
Mr. Ellis: Deputy Ahearn, who, like myself, lives on the fringe of the area, will find that other areas have been more than adequately dealt with by Government policy in the last few years. Money has been provided for tourism by way of schemes and incentives introduced by various Ministers for Finance in the last couple of years and have been of enormous benefit. We could all point to a large number of businesses that exist in the midlands which would not exist had it not been for the BES and other schemes. Development which is taking place in my own area at present will be of enormous benefit to the midlands. I am referring to the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell canal works which will add an extra incentive to the Shannon boating facilities and will create a new venue for people to explore from 1994 onwards. These are major incentives. I was glad to be informed by the Minister for Agriculture and Food that Teagasc are committed to developing their centre at Ballinamore for research into grassland management and afforestation. That centre could be used to examine the possibilities of further forestry development in the midlands. If we look back at the action taken in the midlands, we find that the resources available were not used to the maximum to ensure that benefits accrued to the communities. That is something that everyone in the House will accept. In the development of the boglands in the midlands down the years peat was extracted without making preparations for the long term effects of supplies running out. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. This is no more the responsibility of this side of the House than it is of that side. If we look back  we will find that over the past 20 years Coalition Governments were in power for as long a period as were Fianna Fáil.
The initiative taken by the Minister of State, Deputy Hyland, regarding the Leader programme benefits many areas. I was surprised Deputy Connor did not point out that part of his constituency is included in the Leader programme. I believe that somebody is trying to embarrass Government Deputies in regard to particular areas. People may say that the midlands have been neglected but they should also realise that improvements have taken place in these areas. Improvements have been made by building bypasses such as that in Mullingar. A by-pass is also proposed in Deputy Dukes' constituency, a by-pass of a road that has given us all headaches, namely, the Kilcock-Leixlip road.
Progress has been made in these areas and therefore people should not come into this House and say that the Government are doing nothing. They are doing what they can within existing financial constraints. I think that no-one would accept that quicker than Deputy Dukes. In 1987, when he was leader of the party on the opposite side of the House he realised that there should be a commonsense policy, and there was consensus in this House on the development of the country.
Finally, the changes in regard to disadvantaged areas have benefited the midlands enormously in the past few years. Progress has been made, although it may not be fast enough for Opposition Deputies. It should be remembered that just as Rome was not built in a day, Ireland cannot be developed in the lifetime of any one Government.
Mr. Dukes: I would be delighted if I found that a result of this motion before the House was, as Deputy Ellis suggested, that it embarrassed a number of Deputies on the other side. I believe that embarrassed Deputies on the Government side would be the best guarantee that the Government are waking up to the problems before them. If the Deputy is embarrassed——
Mr. Ellis: I am not in the least embarrassed.
Mr. Dukes: ——he should tell the Minister of State, the Taoiseach and the other Ministers. He should make life hell for them and make them wake up to what needs to be done to revitalise the midland areas. If this debate has shown any one thing clearly it is that the Government have no focused interest whatsoever on any of the problems in the midland counties or on any of the solutions that need to be found to those problems.
The amendment put forward by the Government refers, for example, to rural areas, including those in the midlands. The Minister of State spoke last night about general areas of Government policy. Even Deputy Power, Deputy Nolan and Deputy Connolly, all midland Deputies, spoke in generalities about Government policies and vague Government ambitions. There was not one word about any policy in the midland areas, except from Deputy Connolly, whom I congratulate for being successful in his most recent incarnation in the Department of the Environment, making sure that a couple of towns in his constituency received special urban development status. Those towns now have the tax advantages that go with that, which other towns do not have. A great many towns in the midlands which could make a case for having that kind of advantage do not have it. They look with envy at their neighbours in the east, the south, the south-east and the west who enjoy this advantage while they are left to fend for themselves without any assistance.
It is amazing that the Government should be so lacking in focus on the midlands because, after all, the Taoiseach is from the midlands, as are three members of his Cabinet — The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, the Minister for Labour, Deputy Cowen and the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith. All these people are from the areas covered in this motion. There are four Ministers of State from these areas — the Minister who is in the House at present, Deputy Aylward, Deputy Dempsey, who  is Government Chief Whip, and, possibly the jewel of them all, Deputy O'Rourke. In spite of the fact that all these Deputies are from the midlands there is no focused interest by the Government on the problems in these areas and no particular attention to what is going on there.
The other party in Government seem to show no interest in this area either. As far as I can remember the only involvement of the Progressive Democrats in any of the concerns we on this side of the House have been talking about was when an activist, an office holder of that party tried to con the people of north-west Kildare into the belief that the Lullymore peat briquette factory would be kept open. However, that has gone up in smoke. My great fear is that the same fate awaits the Allenwood power station. That will be the test. If the Minister for Energy does as badly in relation to the Allenwood power station as he has done in relation to the Lullymore briquette factory we will know that the Progressive Democrats cannot be relied upon to deliver anything worth a tráithnín to the people of the midland areas.
Reference was made here last night and tonight to another proposal that looks very much to me like a rabbit out of the hat. I think it was Deputy Ferris who first mentioned it. Bord na Móna are now proposing that another power station be built on the Kildare-Offaly border. I would be delighted to see a new enterprise opening up there, but what local standing have Bord na Móna to enable them to propose the construction of a new power station? I suspect that somebody in Bord na Móna is looking for a way of taking some of the heat, so to speak, off his board and generating interference by suggesting that a power station should be built by someone else. That is not the kind of playacting I should like to see and I do not believe it will make any constructive contribution to the solution of the problem.
I do not like having a go at a decent man like the Minister of State, but his speech last night consisted of a series of platitudes. For example, he told us that each region must develop within the  ambit of a national development plan. With the greatest good feeling and respect, it must be said that that is hardly a blinding flash of insight, especially since the Minister was not able to tell us what kind of development programme would be appropriate for the region, either inside or outside the ambit of any national development plan.
The Minister said almost nothing about the specific interests and problems of the region. Because he was faced with an Opposition motion he had to pretend that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. We heard the old story that is repeated these days from the Government side of the House. They do not like political discussions in the House; they want consensus. If you look at this and other issues where the Government claim to be looking for consensus, we find the same thing: every time the Government say they want to develop consensus it means they have met a difficult problem which will be complicated to deal with and they want somebody else to get them off the hook. That is the Government's definition of consensus. On this side of the House consensus means agreement, not just on whatever it is possible to agree on — the highest common factor — but some agreement on a purposeful movement towards a given objective.
That is not what the Minister said last night. He spent some time indulging in the old Fianna Fáil cant, if I may use the expression, which rewrites the economic history of the period from 1982-87. Of course, he did not tell us that during those years inflation was reduced from the 20 per cent at which their erstwhile Taoiseach had it to 3 per cent. During that period employment finally expanded and our balance of trade moved into surplus. It was the creation of what Fianna Fáil now call the fundamentals of our economy. That happened because we beat, kicked and forced Fianna Fáil to agree with it. They did not want to know about it when it was being done but they are enjoying the fruits of it now, although  they frittered the gains away in the last couple of years.
The Minister did not offer any solution to our economic and social problems in the midlands. For example, we were told that two out of 16 of the Leader programmes are in the midlands area. I know of proposals for the Leader programme in my county and other parts of the midlands which have been waiting for a decision for well over a year. I know that the people promoting these programmes will be old and grey — I may well be old and grey myself — by the time a decision is made. That is not any great contribution to development in the midlands.
The Minister of State also waxed eloquently about the review of the disadvantaged areas scheme, the greatest con job ever perpetrated on the country. The Minister knows as well as I do that the level of applications for that will exceed by a factor of about ten or 20 the amount of leeway which the Government have. The Government do not have a notion about how they will make the selection. As far as we understand it, 90 per cent of the applications, will be rejected. Then they will solemnly go through the next stage, an appeals procedure, which will need another appeals board to sit and examine them. The Government will then assess the recommendations of the appeals board, the whole lot will then be put together, a submission made to the Commission in Brussels and decided by the Council of Ministers. I had thought we might have seen some results from that by the middle of 1994, but when I heard the Minister talking about it last night I came to the conclusion that I was being impossibly optimistic because it would take a lot longer than that. Those applications mean that many farming communities in the midlands are saying quite plainly to the Government that they feel and are every bit as disadvantaged as their counterparts in the north-west, the west and the south-west. They do not see any other route to salvation. They do not see any other way that the midlands will come out of the agricultural recession  without that kind of assistance. The Minister told us last night that they will have to wait for quite a long time. He kept saying that the whole project was on target but he was not able to tell us what the target is. He does not have a date or any idea of a timescale. He got quite vexed last night because I kept interrupting him to ask for a date.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Hyland): I listened attentively to the Deputy, but he certainly did not listen to me last night. He has some cheek——
Mr. Dukes: The Minister must not know much about shooting; but I can tell him that if he is playing any game which requires an objective and does not even know where the target is, he has no chance whatsoever of scoring.
Mr. Hyland: The Deputy has some neck. When his party had the opportunity of doing something about disadvantaged areas they did nothing.
Mr. Dukes: Am I wrong in thinking that it will not be until after the middle of 1994——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Dukes, I am surprised that you and the Minister of State would engage in practices which bring down the standard of the House.
Mr. Dukes: I was quiet and composed. The fact that the Minister of State is now so vexed and excited indicates that I was right in thinking that none of these——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Dukes was not too calm.
Mrs. T. Ahearn: He was excited.
Mr. Dukes: This is another case of live horse and you will get grass.
Mr. Hyland: The farmers will not be impressed by empty rhetoric. The Deputy had a chance to do something  when he was in office but he did absolutely nothing.
Mr. Hyland: The Deputy has a cynical smile on his face. We will be judged on our performance. I will certainly be judged on my performance and I will be happy to be judged on it.
Mr. Dukes: There are three decent roads in the midlands taking people from Dublin to Limerick, Cork and Galway. However, if you get off those roads things are very different. If you want to travel from Nobber to Newport or from Athlone to Athy you need a jeep and in the winter you will need an amphibious vehicle. There is no decent north-south road link anywhere in the midlands. Look at the waterways. It is not so long since a whole section of canal bank crumbled just beside Edenderry, taking a big section of the canal with it.
What about the rail service? On All-Ireland Final day the All-Ireland special train was 45 minutes late arriving at Portarlington. It arrived into Heuston Station at about half time in the minor game. Yesterday morning the 8 o'clock train from Kildare to Dublin disappeared — it might as well have gone into the Bermuda Triangle. That means that there are no communications worth a damn in our midland areas. That is because the Government recognise the midlands only as a place to be got across on one's way from the east to the west or from the east to the south. For so long as the Minister keeps taking the view of the midlands that he is taking of the area now, the midlands will continue to suffer. The present Government have no notion of what the economic interests and what the peculiar requirements of that region are. If the Minister wants to save some shred of reputation he should withdraw his amendment and vote for the perfectly sensible motion, a motion which, I know,  all Government midlands Deputies want to vote for.
Mr. Lowry: Hear, hear.
Mr. Hyland: Give him a clap.
Mr. Dukes: The Government have a set of historians over there. Government Deputies should be worried about the future.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputies, this match is now over and I am putting the question.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl 57.
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Kitt, Michael P.
Morley, P. J.
Nolan, M. J.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Belton, Louis J.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Connaughton, Paul. Flaherty, Mary.
Higgins, Michael D.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Finucane, Michael. Noonan, Michael.
Sheehan, Patrick J.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Kenny and Boylan.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”
The Dáil divided: Tá, 66; Níl, 56.
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
de Valera, Síle.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Kitt, Michael P.
Morley, P. J.
Nolan, M. J.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Belton, Louis J.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Higgins, Michael D.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
Sheehan, Patrick J.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies Kenny and Boylan.
Question declared carried.
Mr. Gilmore: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. The Office of Public Works are attempting to sell off to private interests eight-and-a-half acres of land in Shankill which is needed by the local community for amenity purposes. The land is part of the Chantilly Stud Farm which was cut off by the Bray-Shankill bypass. It is located between the bypass and St. Anne's primary school.
For some time past the local community in Shankill have been seeking this land for amenity use. Specifically, a local football club — Vale View Football Club — wished to locate their permanent home on the lands. In addition, St. Anne's primary school have been seeking part of the lands for playing facilities. In response to these wishes, Dublin County Council had been engaged in discussions with the Office of Public Works with a view to acquiring the land. Negotiations had taken place between Dublin County Council and Office of Public Works valuers. Those negotiations broke down in February last because the Office of Public Works were seeking the full development value of the land. I understand they were seeking £100,000 per acre. However, Dublin County Council were seeking to purchase it at its amenity value. The Office of Public Works suggested arbitration, a worthless suggestion, because agreement had not been reached on the basis for arbitration, that is whether it would be at amenity or development value.
About two months ago the Office of Public Works put the lands on the open market for building purposes. At that time the Office of Public Works may not have been aware of Dublin County Council's zoning intentions for the land.  However, they can be under no illusion about it now.
On 13 May last Dublin County Council decided to rezone the land from residential to amenity use. Because the review of the development plan is not yet complete this rezoning has not been confirmed. It will almost certainly have been confirmed by the time any potential planning application is lodged. It is virtually certain that planning permission would be refused for any development on this land. Therefore, there is no point in attempting to sell the land unless, of course, the Minister is endeavouring to make a present of it to some property speculator who, having failed to obtain planning permission, will then take Dublin County Council to the cleaners for planning compensation.
The sale of this land makes no sense since it is needed as an amenity by the local community. Dublin County Council are still interested in acquiring it at amenity value, confirmation of which I obtained as recently as 5 o'clock this evening. It is being rezoned for amenity use and so cannot be built on. If the Minister proceeds with its sale, ultimately it may result in a net loss to the taxpayer.
I now repeat the plea I made previously to the Minister of State — which he has so far rejected — to withdraw this land from sale and instruct his valuers to reenter discussions with Dublin County Council valuers to sell this land at amenity value.
The Minister cannot claim that he was not aware the land was intended for amenity use. The Minister for Finance, in a written reply to me to a parliamentary question on 27 November 1990 stated:
The question of the possible use of portion of the lands for sports facilities has recently been raised and this matter will be taken into account in considering the sale proposals made by the County Council.
I must ask what has changed the Minister's attitude since then when, exactly two years ago, it was known this land was intended for use as a sports facility, at which time apparently the Minister was  prepared to take that into account in reaching agreement with Dublin County Council in relation to its price.
However, the Minister now tries to deny that Dublin County Council were even interested in the land. It does not make sense for one public body to sell out of public ownership land which is needed by another public body, especially when the whole transaction could ultimately cost the public purse much more than would be saved.
The land was up for public auction last week and no bid was made. Indeed, any potential purchaser, given the circumstances surrounding this plot of land, would be well advised to steer clear. I would ask the Minister of State to withdraw the land from sale at this stage, have his valuers consult Dublin County Council valuers again and seek to agree a price. Dublin County Council are still interested, still willing to acquire the land which I contend would be the best method by which to deal with what has now become a very controversial plot of land.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. N. Treacy): I am very pleased to be given an opportunity to respond to Deputy Gilmore and to put the facts on the record.
The land at Chantilly stud farm, the subject of the Deputy's motion, has been occupied by the State since 1865. The land is State-owned and has been leased in the past to UCD as a veterinary field station. The creation of the Shankill-Bray by-pass a few years ago divided the Chantilly lands and rendered two sites, one to the east and one to the west of the new road, surplus to requirements. These lands are zoned for residential development in the 1983 development plan.
Dublin County Council first expressed an interest in acquiring the surplus lands in 1989. Negotiations took place between the relevant officials of the property branch of my Department and the Dublin County Council on the matter, but agreement could not be reached on price. The Office of Public Works offered to go to independent arbitration to try to settle a  price, But I understand this offer was not taken up by Dublin County Council.
I should like to put the record straight, that we have made this land available for sale — we are obliged to do so — we have made it available to Dublin County Council and Dublin County Council have not made any offer for this land.
Mr. Gilmore: That is not true.
Mr. N. Treacy: We cannot be both vendor and purchaser. Dublin County Council, and Deputy Gilmore, in particular, want the State to provide free, land which is the property of the State, for both themselves and the local community. We are not in that business nor can we be in it.
Dublin County Council finally withdrew from negotiations in February 1992. With no obvious buyer in sight, the Office of Public Works, in accordance with Government policy on the disposal of surplus property — designed to generate income to help deal with our national debt — offered the lands for sale on the open market. As the Deputy is no doubt aware, an auction for the Chantilly lands was organised by estate agents appointed by the Office of Public Works and was held on 6 October last. There were no bids at the auction. I understand an effort was made to deter people from bidding. The property remains for sale. The Office of Public Works and their estate agents have already received one good offer since the auction. We are still open to further offers. When an acceptable offer is made the property will be disposed of.
I want to assure Deputy Gilmore that I am familiar with these lands. I visited them along with my officials the week prior to the auction. I did so at the request of my colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, and Deputy Hillery. I saw the lands for myself and instructed my officials to proceed with the auction. I want to inform Deputy Gilmore also that I am fully aware that both he and another local representative frustrated the sale, spoke at the auction and deterred people from bidding.
Mr. Gilmore: I will do so again, if necessary.
Mr. N. Treacy: I want to warn Deputy Gilmore that a Member of this House has a certain responsibility to discharge the laws of this country and may not intimidate or may not frustrate a decision by any agents of the State to proceed to dispose of property. The Deputy would want to be careful how he proceeds in future.
Mr. Gilmore: The Minister of State should not threaten me.
Mr. N. Treacy: I am just giving the Deputy good advice. I can appreciate the Deputy's interest and that of his Oireachtas colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Hillery, in seeking to have these lands made available for amenity purposes in the Shankill area. However, I must put on record the fact that the Office of Public Works are not the authority with responsibility for providing public and amenity areas at a local level. Their brief in relation to national parks is well known but in this instance what is at issue is entirely different. In this case they can have regard to the land only as a property asset, deal with it on that basis only, in accordance with prudent management of the State's portfolio and, on the basis of the State Property Act, 1954, subsequent Government decisions — more particularly one taken in 1988 which directed the commissioners to dispose of all State property which becomes surplus and lodge the receipts against the national debt. That is our mandate and we must fulfil it. We are not in the business of giving away taxpayers' property free of charge to any organisation——
Mr. Gilmore: Except to a speculator.
Mr. N. Treacy: I beg the Deputy's pardon. We do not deal with speculators. We act in a bona fide manner, as designated in the State Property Act, which specifies how State property is to be disposed  of, either by public auction or public tender. On this occasion, the commissioners decided to proceed by public auction, which was frustrated. That will not be tolerated.
If Dublin County Council wish to acquire this property — there is an offer on the property — we are still open to receive offers from them. If we receive a decent offer we shall be only too delighted to do business with them.
Mr. Harte: A Cheann Comhairle, I propose to give some of my time to Deputy McDaid.
My intention had been to table a Private Notice Question to the Minister to ascertain what action he proposes to take to ensure there will not be a recurrence of this awful leak of toxic matter into Lough Foyle.
I take grave exception to this because the Minister of State at the Department of the Marine, a Donegal man, should have made clear to all and sundry that the white fish being caught by the Greencastle fishermen — involving three hours steaming north of Inishowen Head or seven hours to Tory Island — and which constitute a major fishing industry in Greencastle, were tarnished by the overspill by Du Pont in Derry. The Government did nothing to clarify that position, which I hope the Minister of State will do this evening.
The discharge from the Du Pont plant calls into question their control over storage of the chlorobutedane acid that spilled into Lough Foyle. The spillage of 1.5 tonnes of this substance into Lough Foyle was hidden for three or four days because they thought the amount was smaller. To the surprise of everyone on both sides of the Border a major statement was made. One wonders how safe are the containers at Du Pont.
I understand the authorities in Northern Ireland have given the all-clear to the Lough this evening. The Minister of State might comment on that.
The shellfish industry in Lough Foyle  started from nothing 10 years ago and is now a major industry. Many families earn their living from it and they are at the mercy of a multi-national company like Du Pont, who should have some regard for these matters. They should be more concerned about accidents than they appear to have been on this occasion. I protest about this matter and I ask the Minister to take it up directly with Du Pont. I would also ask him to clarify the position regarding the white fish being caught by fishermen at Greencastle and to assure the shell fishermen of Lough Foyle that their industry will be protected in the future. A better relationship between the authorities on both sides of the Border and Du Pont, together with more regular inspections, might be to the benefit of all.
Dr. McDaid: I thank Deputy Harte for allowing me to share his time and to express my concern at this unfortunate spillage into Lough Foyle. I am glad to hear Deputy Harte state that testing to date has been clear. I hope this will continue to be the case. In view of the toxicity of the spillage I would ask the Minister to ensure that his Department exercise caution. They should not allow the Lough to be opened up and then find they have to close it again.
The Foyle has had a rather turbulent history because of its geographical situation. It is controlled by the Foyle Fisheries Commission which consists of two people from Northern Ireland and two from the Republic. Those from the Republic are based in Dublin. The Minister might consider whether it would be more satisfactory if somebody from the area were appointed as one of the commissioners, somebody who knows the history and problems of the area. I also express my concern at the delay by Du Pont in this serious matter.
Minister of State at the Department of Marine (Mr. P. Gallagher): I thank Deputy Harte and Deputy McDaid for their contributions. I fully share their concern in relation to the discharge of this substance into Lough Foyle last Tuesday.
 My Department were not officially informed by Du Pont of the spillage on Tuesday, 6 October into Lough Foyle from its factory in Derry. I understand that the Northern Ireland authorities were not themselves informed of the incident until Friday morning. My Department were alerted by the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture on Friday afternoon, but the full significance and scale of the incident did not become apparent until late on Friday night.
As a result of urgent inquiries by my Department on foot of the report, the following steps were taken on the morning of Saturday, 10 October: As a precautionary measure, harvesting of shellfish on the Donegal shores of Lough Foyle was stopped; samples of shellfish were taken from the Lough and sent for detailed analysis, the result of which are expected tomorrow. Sampling will continue for as long as may be necessary. I established that no shellfish from the Lough had been placed on the market from the date of the incident on Tuesday, 6 October. I directed that the ban on harvesting should continue until we were satisfied that it was completely safe for it to be lifted; the Department of Health in Northern Ireland have lifted the ban this evening, but we will not do so until we are satisfied that it is fully safe; we can take this a step further when we have full details of the samples which were taken by officials of the Department of the Marine over the past few days. The North-Western Health Board were informed by my Department through the local environmental health officer.
The perception may have been that all fish were involved. Only shellfish are harvested there. There is no question of white fish, demersal or pelagic fish being affected since they are caught quite a distance away. I hope there will be no doubt about that.
I made immediate direct contact with the Chief Chemist, Donegal County Council, as soon as I was advised of the matter on Saturday morning to ensure maximum co-ordination of monitoring  efforts. The council set in train a monitoring programme on marine life along the shore of the Foyle and are in close daily contact with my Department. In statements issued on Saturday and Sunday, 10 and 11 October, the Minister and I expressed serious concern that the Du Pont company did not notify the authorities here about the pollution incident. The salmon and shellfish industry in Lough Foyle is a valuable source of jobs locally and this pollution incident could have had serious economic and public health consequences.
So concerned were we by the failure of the company to notify us of this incident that arrangements have been made for a special meeting of the Foyle Fisheries Commission tomorrow, together with technical officials of my Department, Donegal County Council and the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland. The Foyle Fisheries Commission is a joint North-South body with representatives from both administrations and has responsibilities for administering fisheries in the Foyle area. My officials will meet representatives of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment to establish the cause of the pollution and to seek to prevent a repetition. The Minister has also been in contact with his Cabinet colleague, the Minister for the Environment, to see what measures can be taken to prevent pollution of Lough Foyle in the future.
Both my Department and the Department of the Environment have well-established working relations with the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland. In relation to the Foyle, the two Departments of the Environment and Donegal County Council liaise on water management and protection for Border areas. They are currently engaged in drawing up cross-Border water quality management plans.
What disappoints me is that there was a structure in relation to the Foyle and there was no reason why the company could not have informed their Department of the Environment, who in turn could have informed Donegal County Council and the North-Western Health  Board. The structures are there and we want to ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again.
In relation to the water quality management plan, a contract for the preparation of the Lough Foyle plan is expected to be placed shortly. In the light of the spillage, a review will be undertaken of the channels of communication between the respective authorities, North and South, in incidents of this kind. There is a discharge licence from the DOE in Northern Ireland and I would be very disappointed if there were not a condition in that discharge licence whereby the company involved in a spillage should immediately alert the local authority or the health board in the area. That should have happened on Tuesday of last week. I hope there will never be a recurrence but if so, there should be an early alert.
As regards compensation for fishermen, it is a matter to be pursued directly between the fishermen concerned and the company. I have noted reports to the effect that the company is prepared to listen to compensation claims if damage to the fishing industry can be proved.
I can assure the House that I will do everything possible to protect the fishing industry in Lough Foyle. The incident which occurred last week in the Foyle will be fully investigated and whatever measures are needed will be taken to protect this valuable marine resource.
Deputy McDaid referred to having a local person on the commission. I will deal with this at a later stage because I would not want to give the impression that the presence of a local person on the Foyle Fisheries Commission could have averted this incident. I will consider the matter at a later stage.
Mr. Dukes: If the circumstances were different, I would almost say that it was a happy coincidence that these two issues have come up this evening, but in fact it is an unhappy coincidence. The two  incidents to which I refer give rise to serious concern not only because of the incidents themselves but because of what they tell us about the need for a rigorous approach to plant design and to the setting up of adequate moitoring procedures to deal with cases like this.
The functions of the Environmental Protection Agency as set out in Part III of the Act include the running of an environmental monitoring programme, the monitoring of the activities of public authorities and also environmental audits, all relevant to the concerns inspired by these two cases. Part IV of the Act deals with integrated pollution control. They are vital functions underlined by the concerns we have just been talking about in relation to the pollution of the Foyle and indeed the incident in Listowel. We have gone to the trouble of legislating to put an Environmental Protection Agency in place to look after these things, but unfortunately the agency does not yet exist.
There are anxious questions about the Lough Foyle incident. It happened on a Tuesday. The company involved first said that they thought the spillage initially was small. It was not until Friday, some three days later, that they found that one and a half tons of Chlorobutedane had been spilt, which made it a major incident. It raises very serious questions about the internal controls and information within the company about what is going on in its plant. Although it is not strictly in our jurisdiction, it certainly raises questions about how the Environmental Protection Agency can carry out its functions.
In the Listowel incident the failure of a water tank allowed a large quantity of water to invade pipelines and tanks holding hydrochloric acid. That mixture is a very dangerous one, but perhaps the most disturbing aspect of that incident is that it was in many ways a repeat of an incident that had happened two years earlier when another tank burst and some difficulties arose as a result. I am not blaming the company as the company followed the recommendations made in order to make the whole installation safe; but it appears in the light of this most  recent incident that those recommendations were not adequate to deal with the problem because the water burst over two concrete dams and other works designed to prevent water getting into the hydrochloric acid. That raises very serious questions about plant construction and design. Although it is not my function now to say it, it raises questions about what the Minister of State described during the debate on the Environmental Protection Agency Bill as the BATNEEC procedure — the best available technology not entailing excessive cost. That appears to have failed in this case.
I hope the Minister of State avoids the temptation given into by the Minister for the Environment to make the childish allegation that I was saying that these two incidents happened because the Environmental Protection Agency has not yet been set up. That was not my point. My point is that these two incidents again show how vital it is that we have an agency with teeth to fulfil the kind of functions that are allocated to the agency, particularly in Parts III and IV of the Act, and to impress on the Government the urgency of getting this agency up and running so that we can be sure that proper measures are taken, first, to avoid the kind of incident we have had and to monitor what is going on in plants where potential hazardous substances are present.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney): I thank Deputy Dukes for raising these issues this evening. I welcome the Deputy to his Environment portfolio. This is the first opportunity I have had to do so since his appointment. I know the Deputy has had a deep concern and interest in environment matters for some considerable time and that indeed he contributed very ably to the Environmental Protection Agency Bill when it was going through the House early this year.
I share Deputy Dukes' concern that we should have the Environmental Protection Agency established as quickly as  possible. Nobody is more impatient than I that this has taken so long. The long passage of this complex legislation through the Dáil and the Seanad made me impatient too. However, I can assure the Deputy that since the passage of the legislation a number of practical measures have been taken with a view to expediting its establishment. Last July the Government decided that the agency would be located at Johnstown Castle in Wexford. Obviously, until the Government made a decision with regard to its location it was not possible to start recruiting a director general and directors. Since then the selection committee has been appointed and the appropriate regulations made to ensure that they can carry out their work effectively. The committee recently advertised the post of director general and the four other posts of director and the date for receipt of applications is at the end of this month. I hope a large number of people will apply for those positions.
If we had chosen that the director general and the directors be appointed by the Minister the Agency would be up and running by now, but all sides of the House wanted the fair and independent system we have selected to ensure that the Agency would be independent. For that reason it takes much longer than might otherwise have been the case.
In addition to the selection committee being in place and the regulations having been made, in so far as it is appropriate, given that it will be an independent Agency, my Department have been working to get much of the housekeeping arrangements in order. Under the Stride Programme we have got agreement from the European Commission to upgrade the laboratory facilities which we have taken over for the Agency. We have also got agreement to the establishment of a new environmental research fund. My Department are currently negotiating with the Commission on a new environmental information project which will be for the benefit of the Environmental Protection Agency. I hope the selection committee will be in a position to put forward names for appointment to the Government  before the end of the year and that the Agency will be up and running at the beginning of next year.
Deputy Dukes rightly deplored the two incidents that occurred and I share his concern in relation to both. As the Deputy acknowledged, even if the Agency were in place it would not mean that either of the incidents would not have occurred. It indicates the need for proper monitoring, for high standards and to ensure that major industry operates to the highest possible standards. That was the driving force behind the establishment of the Agency in the first place. When established it will be a priority of the Agency to ensure that major industry with the potential to pollute is licensed properly in accordance with the highest possible standards.
As the Deputy acknowledged, the Lough Foyle incident was outside of our environmental jurisdiction. We do not have any direct control in that area. The question of when the company notified the Northern Ireland authorities is a matter for the Northern Ireland authorities. However, in relation to the notification of the incident to authorities in the Republic, my Department have already been in touch with their equivalent Department in Northern Ireland and it is the intention, if felt necessary, to improve the notification arrangements. Indeed, the Minister for the Environment has indicated to me that he intends to speak with his counterpart, the Minister, Mr. Howard, at the Environment Council in Luxembourg next Tuesday.
In relation to the incident in Kerry, it was not really any breach in environmental standards or any breach of emission control standards which led to the incident but rather the issue of plant safety. That is primarily, in this jurisdiction and in almost all developed countries, a matter for health and safety authorities. Issues are not always so simple that one can separate health and safety matters from environmental matters. It obviously did have enormous implications for the environment but I understand that the Health and Safety  Authority have visited the plant and intend to review the procedures.
It is not correct to say that no improvement has taken place since this incident happened two years ago. Since that incident, Kerry Co-Operative have bunded the hydrochloric acid tanks and as a result no acid was released and, therefore, no water was contaminated. There was no discharge of any substance into the environment in that sense although I realise there were implications from a vapour point of view and so on.
Obviously, it is the intention of the Health and Safety Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency to work in tandem in relation to many of these issues because they cannot always be seperate, but I do hope that the Health and Safety Authority will be in a position, together with Kerry County Council, to ensure that appropriate safety standards are put in place so that we do not have a recurrence of this incident.
Finally, it is the case that we require improved monitoring arrangements. That is one of the main functions that the Environmental Protection Agency will have and when it is in place it will have a major role to play as a supervisory body in relation to the kind of incident that occured in Listowel. On this occasion may I compliment both Kerry County Council and the emergency services for acting very speedily on Sunday evening. I understand they acted very promptly indeed and, as a result, any dangers that could have occurred were avoided, and within six hours most of the major problems were rectified.
I thank Deputy Dukes for raising these issues. I wish him well and I look forward to working opposite him. I am sure he will be a very active Opposition spokesperson on environmental issues. I hope the agency that he and I wish to see established will be in place very quickly.
Mr. Ferris: My statement refers to a subject which after six years finally disintegrated  this week, and that is the GATT negotiations and the implications for the Common Agricultural Policy reform package which the Minister has put in place. I welcome the fact that Commissioner MacSharry, is on record as saying that he is not in favour of conceding any more to the GATT negotiators. However, he went on to say that finally it is a matter for the Council of Ministers. What are the implications for the Council of Ministers and the national economy if we are pressurised, because of political considerations elsewhere, to concede more in order to achieve a consensus in the GATT negotiations?
This pressure is coming from an administration which supported its farmers with thousands of dollars every year. In 1988, the latest year for which we have figures, the amount was £20,000. Recently they gave a further £20,000 and in their farm Bill there is a proposal to assist farmers to the tune of £80 billion. The Minister in the reform of Common Agricultural Policy should not give further concessions to achieve a consensus on the GATT negotiations.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): I thank Deputy Ferris for raising this very important issue. As the House will be aware, negotiations under the Uruguay Round have been ongoing since 1986. The present position is that following the failure of the various contracting parties to reach agreement, the director general of the GATT produced a draft final agreement last December. This proved to be unacceptable to a number of parties including, in particular, the European Community.
Since December last, negotiations to reach a final settlement have been continuing at various levels, including at a bilateral level, between the Commission and the US. In these negotiations the Commission negotiates on the basis of the Community's position as established in the Council and in the knowledge that any final agreement that it might enter into will have to be approved by the Council of Ministers.
 In this context, there were bilateral talks earlier this week between the Commission and the US in Brussels. The talks at Commissioner/Secretary of State level have been suspended while technical discussions continue. They will be resumed if and when progress is made.
I want to state that I have, of course, at all times kept in close touch with developments in the negotiations. In this regard I have regularly discussed the GATT issue bilaterally with Commissioner MacSharry — including last Friday and, in fact, again today — and with my other ministerial colleagues.
Indeed, the issue is discussed by the Agricultural Council at virtually every meeting.
Ireland's position in the negotiations which at all and every opportunity is brought to the attention of the Commission is that while we would like an early conclusion, the outcome must be one which fully protects our interests. This means that the outcome must be one which fully protects our interests. This means that the outcome must not call into question the recently completed Common Agricultural Policy reform measures. As the House will be aware, the reform outcome represented a major achievement and will be of significant benefit to Ireland.
I can assure the House that the Commission, and the Council, is fully aware of our position.
Mr. Nealon: Every year around this time, the Minister for Agriculture and Food solemnly promises that approximately 95 per cent of all cattle headage payments will be paid in time for Christmas. Just as consistently, every year the Department dismally fail to deliver on this promise. For the next six months of the following year the pay-outs continue in dribs and drabs without any pattern or order known to man or computer. For the farmers desperately depending on this headage payment, it is a lonely wait looking for the postman. Why, for instance, should a farmer in Aclare in County Sligo not receive his headage payment when a man in the  exact same position in Ballintrillick, at the other end of the county, can get his? Why should a farmer in Killaragh not receive his payment while a man in Coolaney gets his? Naturally, farmers get very frustrated and vexed.
Mrs. O'Rourke: There might be a woman farmer.
Mr. Nealon: Farmers ring the local district office of the Department — there is no blame attached there — or the Department in Dublin on the IFA, the ICMSA and their local TDs. Telecom Éireann annually make the price of many a good bullock on these telephone calls of frustration.
As the Minister knows headage payments are not a luxury. For the farm homes in disadvantaged areas it is an essential part of the household budget. Without it they could not get by and, as with any other payment, it should be paid when due.
There is a general view around the country that the holding up of these cheques is a deliberate ploy by the Department, a book-keeping exercise, to save money until the EC contributions come in. The Department deny this and, if they are right in their denial, why can they not get their house in order and pay farmers their headage payments when they become due? With all the experience the Department have in this area, all the modern technology at their disposal and with the excellent staff in the district offices who handle this work very well and with great courtesy, surely the Department can get their act together and prevent a recurrence of this annual chaos.
I appeal to the Minister with much confidence because I have heard him express his concern, frustration and desire to improve the situation and I hope he will act this year. Nothing short of full payments by Christmas should satisfy him.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): Deputy Nealon has summed up the situation accurately. I will have my  reputation judged on whether I will be able to improve the situation. There is no good reason why farmers should not be paid their due entitlements on time. It is of no benefit whatsoever to the economy, the Department of Agriculture, the Exchequer or anybody else not to make these payments on time.
I assure the House that the steps necessary to ensure payment before Christmas of all cattle headage grants due on foot of applications lodged by farmers in June of this year were taken by me some months ago. Farmers will be assisted and there will generally be a more user friendly attitude on the part of staff in relation to applications. I have personally visited a number of the agricultural offices around the country and have asked the staff to assist farmers with these applications in a consulting room so that people will have the opportunity and the facilities to talk to their agricultural officer and get the kind of assistance and friendliness they are entitled to in relation to these headage payments because they make up a very substantial part of farmers' incomes nowadays.
The processing of the 1992 livestock grants is progressing satisfactorily and as proof of this the 1992 sheep headage payments issued this week, two months earlier than last year's payments. I hope that next week a fair number of the cattle headage payments will be made because it is my view that leaving the whole lot until the run up to Christmas and then trying to get them all out causes problems. I hope to get those payments out from next week onwards. I am confident that all eligible cattle headage scheme grants that were applied for last June will be paid on time. There will be some in relation to which there are queries etc., but all the eligible applications will be processed. As I said earlier, I will stake my reputation on that. There was a considerable delay in making the 1991 payments. Delaying payments until the middle of the following year is just not good enough.
It is intended that more applications for the 1992 EC special beef premium and suckler cow schemes will be taken  later this year. It will not be possible, of course, to process these until next spring.
Mr. Yates: The significant deal and great benefits that the Minister announced in his Common Agricultural Policy form have thrown up a great injustice to about 30,000 small farmers. In the small print of this deal it is provided that if one has a milk quota of anything over 12,800 gallons one could not get one suckler cow premium. For the uninitiated, beef cows, non-dairy cows, are an ideal opportunity for these small farmers to knock out a living and if they are 20 gallons over the limit they cannot claim for one suckler cow premium. This is totally unfair.
The Minister knows from his long experience in the dairy industry that the minimum level of viability would be a quota of 30,000 gallons. I cannot understand how the Minister agreed to this injustice. I suppose if one reads this propaganda often enough one starts to believe it. The fact of the matter is that these young small farmers are being screwed. Not alone that but even their sons or daughters cannot get the suckler premium — even a “farmerette” cannot get it — and that is totally unfair. The national average of a milk quota is somewhere around 18,000 gallons. Up and down the country these small farmers are being denied.
We know we have lost out our special position under the Common Agricultural Policy deal. We know we are not going to get the forage subsidy that others are getting on May silage and so on. But I would ask the Minister to rectify this injustice and to raise the threshold from 12,800 to 30,000 gallons so that, before it is too late, these small farmers will have some basis for earning a living. We know all the rhetoric about retaining the maximum numbers of family farms, but when it comes to details they are denied. They cannot get into ewes and they cannot get into grain because there are quotas and everything else. The Minister should give them a chance to make a living by changing this ridiculous rule.
Mr. Walsh: First I want to welcome Deputy Yates to his elevated position as spokesman on agriculture.
The position relating to the small farmers he talks about, that is, those with less than 12,819 gallons is as he outlined. It is not a result of the Common Agricultural Policy negotiation. However, during the Common Agricultural Policy reform negotiations the Council of Ministers undertook to review this figure upwards. I am hopeful that the Commission will take into account the acute income position of those small farmers. I expect that at the minimum that figure of 12,819 will be doubled, bringing the quota up to around 25,000 gallons. It would not be particularly in Ireland's interest to have the quota go too high because suckler cow farmers are entitled to an income on their own. I would not like to see farmers with other reasonable sized quotas in milk or anything else getting too far into that area.
The main decisions related to the dairy sector which were taken in the context of Common Agricultural Policy reform were that (1) the proposed 1 per cent quota cut for the current year did not go ahead and (2) the cuts of 1 per cent due to apply from April 1993 and April 1994 must be preceded by a Commission report to Council on the market situation, accompanied if necessary by proposals to revive these decisions. In view of the relatively buoyant state of the dairy market in recent times it would be difficult to justify quota reductions and I am hopeful that this will remain the case. The buoyancy in the market has resulted substantially in increased milk prices being paid this year to producers in this country.
A decision was taken also in the context of Common Agricultural Policy reform to postpone the review of the existing milk quota regime until later in the year. This is now well under way and is scheduled to be agreed by Council by the end of December. In this context, it is my objective that the new system will take full account of the needs of small scale milk producers and will allow for  the flexibility needed to continue to give them priority under the various quota related schemes.
All in all, small scale milk producers in Ireland have been given priority treatment in relation to restructuring, temporary leasing and access to unused quota. They have also been given priority treatment under the scheme of grant aid towards the purchase of on-farm cooling equipment for which I have secured a total of 10 million ECU.
I am very well aware of the needs of Ireland's small scale milk producers and in particular of that category of producer to which the Deputy refers. I have in the past shown my commitment to improving their position within the industry and will continue to do so.
Mr. Allen: In the last number of weeks there has been major uncertainty on the economic front because of the devaluation of the British pound and the increase in interest rates in this country. Here again Seán Citizen, the ordinary person, has been the victim of the uncertainty of recent weeks and the speculators and the greedy have been the winners.
The outfall of the overall uncertainty was an increase in our interest rates. Mortgages have gone up and AIB have announced a 2 per cent increase in their mortgages. People on overdrafts are finding money far more expensive and industry has been badly affected.
We did expect that there would be some compensation for the devaluation of the British pound. Almost three weeks ago I made a public statement asking for vigilance, especially in areas where multiple chain retailers were bringing in goods from Britain. Many of these multiple chains are importing goods almost daily. However, a survey which was carried out in Cork by my own organisation found no evidence of price reductions. To be fair to the Minister, he announced, although belatedly, last week that a new mechanism was being put in place to protect the consumer. However there is no evidence that this is proving to be effective because neither I nor anybody else I have spoken to can see any evidence of  real price reductions in our shops for the consumer.
I should say to the Minister that, possibly, her officials were asleep during the first week or two——
An Ceann Comhairle: No blame should be attached to officials; the Minister is responsible.
Mrs. O'Rourke: I can promise the Deputy that I was not asleep.
Mr. Allen: Let us say then that the Department were asleep. The consumer believes that he was caught, on the one hand, and did not gain, on the other. As I said, the consumer suffered while the greedy and the speculators profited during the past few weeks. The public were caught while Government structures were found badly wanting.
Mr. Hogan: It is a fact that suppliers of good and services which are being imported into this jurisdiction at present are not passing on the price reductions quickly and efficiently to consumers. I have been carrying out my own checks and monitoring the position during the past few weeks in respect of some essential household items, such as clothing, household utensils, footwear, electrical goods and furniture. While there has been a marginal reduction in some instances, it is nothing like what is demanded of importers, wholesalers or retailers given the currency fluctuations.
In addition, there have been only marginal reductions in the price of some luxury items, such as biscuits and sweets, while the price of Scotch whisky has not stirred. It is totally unacceptable that the importers of goods are seeking to make windfall profits at the expense of the consumer who, as Deputy Allen has said, is suffering enough and under enormous financial strain at present, given the hike in interest rates, particularly mortgage interest rates, which has resulted in an increase of £80 per month on a £40,000 mortgage.
A wide range of goods should be 15 per cent cheaper given the currency fluctuations but the only places where one can see any major price reductions are  in the multiples and supermarket chains which are waging a price war and undertaking great advertising campaigns to show their bona fides in respect of price reductions in goods imported from the UK in particular. I am disappointed that the Confederation of Irish Industry are seeking to defend those firms which have not passed on the price reductions quickly to consumers. I would have expected them to adopt a more responsible attitude and recognise the need to pass on these reductions quickly in this instance.
I am calling on the Minister to ensure that more rigorous inspections are carried out in the marketplace. She could do this by assigning some of the staff in the Customs and Excise who will be surplus to requirements as and from 1 January 1993 to the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trade to carry out more inspections in the marketplace.
Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce (Mrs. O'Rourke): Even at 9.50 p.m., this is the most important matter that has been raised in the Dáil today, given that it affects every man and woman. Each one of us is a consumer; they are not an amorphous body. I thank both Deputies for taking the trouble to raise this issue so late at night in the House.
I am concerned that the benefits of the strong Irish pound relative to sterling should be passed on quickly and in full to the consumer. During the past few days there has been a number of reductions in retail prices and I expect further considerable reductions in the coming weeks. Now more than ever the consumer should only purchase goods from retailers who are passing on the benefits. By doing so and enhancing competition we can achieve a lower inflation rate. I am always amazed at the great alacrity with which prices go up and at the tardiness of the system when they should come down.
Two weeks ago I had a special meeting with the Director of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trade regarding the monitoring  of the reductions in prices and I indicated to him my wish and that of the Government that the full benefit of any price reductions should be available to the consumer. Having spoken about this issue publicly by exhortation, I now realise that this is clearly not going to be enough. I have therefore had a further meeting with the director. He is now carrying out a price monitoring exercise, which started this week, in relation to certain goods. These services include food, clothing, magazines and electrical goods. Indeed, if either of the Deputies wishes to present direct evidence I shall be glad to pass it on to the Director. This monitoring exercise which is being carried out by the Director and his staff is not limited, it is very thorough in that he is speaking to managers and looking at the price of goods on the shelves. It is a very intensive survey. The Director will attempt to establish from both importers and distributors what the likely developments will be in the foreseeable future, particularly in the event of sterling strengthening dramatically against the punt. We shall then be able to see immediately if the time lag works the other way.
The House can be assured that whatever action is necessary or appropriate to protect the consumer's interest and the wider national interest, including, if necessary, price control orders, will be taken. It is simply not good enough that those consumers who are paying high mortgages are not sharing in the benefits arising out of the turmoil in relation to currency rates. They are not gaining as they should. I am very determined, on behalf of the consumer, to see that they do.
Again, I thank Deputy Allen and Deputy Hogan for raising this issue. The more we raise it in public the better. Indeed, I was amazed at some of the remarks made yesterday by a reputable organisation.
Mr. Allen: The Minister should crack the whip.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 15 October 1992.
13. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will give details of the weekly pension payable to a widow living alone; the way in which this compares to an old age pensioner living alone; if, in respect of such a widow with no other income he accepts that she is at a severe financial disadvantage compared to those aged 66 and over; whether he has any plans to extend the living alone allowance, the free travel allowance, the free electricity allowance, the free television licence and the free telephone rental allowance to widows in these circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): The higher rates of entitlements for old age pensioners where they arise and the various free schemes are in recognition of the special needs of the elderly. We as a society have always given special recognition to the position of the elderly and the social welfare system reflects this approach. Old age pensioners generally receive the highest rates of basic payments, additional supports where they are living alone and allowances in respect of heating, transport, and other needs. We can be proud of our achievement as a country in this regard.
 Widows have also been afforded special recognition in our social welfare system. The rates of payment for widows compare favourably with the payments to old age pensioners and increases for dependent children in their case are at the highest rates. Furthermore the contribution conditions to qualify for a Widows (Contributory) Pension are quite easy in that a widow can qualify for a pension on the basis of three years insurance on either her own or her husband's insurance record.
A widow with no means who is not eligible for Contributory Widow's Pension can be entitled to a non-contributory widows pension of £57.20 for herself plus additions for children.
This pension is at the same rate as the non-contributory old age pension and attracts the same allowances of £4.50 for persons aged 66 living alone and of £4.40 for those aged 80 or over. The increases for children at £14.60 where payable are somewhat higher than those payable with the Old Age Pension which are £12.50 a week.
The maximum weekly personal rate for Widow's Contributory Pension for a widow under 66 years of age is £60.50 as compared with a maximum rate of £66.60 for Old Age (Contributory) Pension. Again in each case the Living Alone Allowance and over 80 allowances are payable where appropriate.
A widow, on reaching the age of 66 and provided she can satisfy the qualifying criteria, can switch from widow's contributory to old age contributory pension.
People aged 66 and over are eligible for the free schemes and the living alone allowance, subject to satisfying the relevant qualifying criteria. Extension of these schemes to people generally under 66 years of age, or in particular to groups such as widows, would have substantial cost implications which would have to be considered in a budgetary context. I am very conscious of the particular needs associated with widowhood and will bear this in mind in the context of further developments in the social welfare system in the future.
14. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will give details of the new regulations, if any, which he has introduced governing the eligibility for disability benefit of applicants who are on unemployment assistance; and the options, if any, which are open to persons on long term unemployment assistance.
47. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for his recent decision to effectively disqualify the long term unemployed from disability benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 47 together.
Social insurance benefits, such as disability benefit, are intended to provide a source of income for people normally in employment who are temporarily unable to work for reasons such as illness. Until recently, people who had left the workforce for some considerable time were still able to claim such benefits, based on contributions made years previously. The contribution conditions were changed with effect from July to this year to ensure that only those with a fairly recent attachment to the workforce would be entitled to benefit. In order to qualify for disability benefit, a claimant must now have paid at least 13 social insurance contributions in the relevant contribution year, or in either of the two contribution years preceding the relevant contribution year, or in a subsequent year. People on unemployment assistance who meet the new contribution requirements can apply for disability benefit, as before. Those who do not meet the contribution conditions for disability benefit can apply for supplementary welfare allowance during periods of illness or for disabled persons maintenance allowance from their local health board where they are seriously incapacitated.
I do not believe that people who are no longer contributing to social insurance should be able to retain an entitlement to short term social insurance payments  indefinitely. If the idea of social insurance cover for short term incapacity for work is to have any meaning the incapacity must relate to a recent period of work. I think that the new condition provides a reasonable level of insurance cover for sickness having regard to the nature of social insurance and to the capacity of the Social Insurance Fund to meet its ongoing commitments.
15. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of claims paid to date under the 1984/1986 EC Equality Directive; and the total amount paid to date.
20. Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will give details of (a) the amount of benefit paid to social welfare recipients under the equality payments scheme (b) the number in each social welfare category (c) the total amount paid to date and (d) the percentage paid of the total due; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
36. Proinsias De Rossa asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of women who have applied for payments of arrears of social welfare, arising from the delays in implementing social welfare equalisation during the 1980s; the number of applications approved; the total amount paid out so far; the average payment made; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 20 and 36 together.
The provisions for paying Equal Treatment arrears to married women for the period December 1984 to November 1986 are contained in the European Communities (Social Welfare) Regulations, 1992 (S. I. No. 152 of 1992). The Regulations provide for (a) the payment of a higher personal rate in the case of certain social welfare payments, (b) the extended duration of unemployment benefit, (c) payment of a household supplement  in respect of a dependent husband and/or dependent children and (d) payment of unemployment assistance. Payment of arrears due is being made on a phased basis in 1992, 1993 and 1994. The total cost is estimated at £62 million.
Payment of arrears due under Phase 1, that is the higher personal rates and extended duration of unemployment benefit, commenced last August and are expected to be completed by February 1993 at an estimated cost of £22 million. Arrears under Phase 2, that is the payment of household supplement and unemployment assistance, will be made in two equal instalments in 1993 and 1994 at an estimated total cost of £40 million.
Claimants with potential entitlements were identified from my Department's records and were issued with claim forms last June and July. To date some 78,000 completed claim forms have been returned. A total of 19,306 claimants have received payments under Phase 1 at a cost of £4.51 million — the average payment per claimant being £234. The following is a breakdown of the numbers of claimants paid in each social welfare category:
|Unemployment Benefit (including Pay-Related Benefit)||2,346|
|Occupational Injuries Benefit||76|
|Combination of Benefit (mainly Disability Benefit and Unemployment Benefit)||3,743|
The expenditure to date of £4.51 million represents 20.5 per cent of the allocation of £22 million for Phase 1 payments and 7.3 per cent of the total allocation of £62 million.
18. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will have arrangements made for the immediate re-assessment of means of persons in receipt of British pensions who have suffered a loss in income as a result of the present exchange rate difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
25. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will take into account expenses such as the conversion of sterling to Irish punts when assessing a claimant's means for old age non-contributory pension purposes when such applicants are in receipt of British pensions paid in sterling.
108. Mr. Moynihan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if, in view of the very substantial loss of income in respect of British retirement pensions paid to Irish citizens, he will now arrange for the immediate re-assessment of all non-contributory widows' pensions and non-contributory old age pensions, in respect of which British retirement pensions have been assessed as income.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 25 and 108 together. I understand that the Deputies are concerned about fluctuations in the Sterling/Punt exchange rate and the adverse effects which this might have on British pensions which are assessed as means for old age non-contributory and widow's non-contributory pension purposes.
In assessing an applicant's means, account must be taken of any income which he or she receives, including income from outside the State, for example a British pension. In calculating the means, any such income the applicant receives must first be converted to Irish Punts.
Even within the EC Exchange Rate Mechanism, there are frequent and sometimes wide fluctuations in EC exchange rates. It would not be fair or equitable to pensioners to calculate their means based upon the rate of exchange prevailing at the particular date an old age non-contributory pension or a widow's non-contributory pension application is made. Nor would it be administratively possible to anticipate any future fluctuations in exchange rates with any degree of accuracy. In order to reflect a reasonable pattern of exchange rates, an average exchange rate system is used for converting EC pensions to Irish  Punts. For this purpose, my Department use figures of average exchange rates for each EC currency, which are provided by the Administrative Commission of European Communities on Social Security and Migrant Workers. These are published quarterly by the Commission in the Official Journal of the European Communities.
For pension means assessment purposes, the Sterling/Punt exchange rate used is the average of the daily exchange rates in the first month of the previous quarter. This rate is then applied to all new pension claims made throughout the succeeding quarter.
Some people who are in receipt of British pensions and who apply for or are currently receiving an old age non-contributory pension or a widow's non-contributory pension may feel that their means should be reduced in the light of recent movements in sterling/punt exchange rates. However, the average exchange rate basis used by my Department avoids the need for frequent reviews of existing entitlements. It also gives an important degree of security to persons who qualify for pension by protecting them to a large extent from short term adverse movements in exchange rates.
Having said that, it is open to any existing pensioner to request a review of his or her means assessment at any time. My Department will employ the appropriate exchange rates in reviewing the means assessment, using the method I have just outlined. If current significant sterling/punt exchange rate fluctuations persist, then these will be reflected in the average exchange rate used for the purposes of means assessments during the quarter commencing January 1993. Pensioners should also notify my Department of any increase in their means, for example if their British pension is increased, as the current level of all a pensioners means must be taken into account when a reassessment is carried out.
Deputy Allen may also have in mind the separate question of bank transaction charges for sterling pension conversion  to Irish punts. Between 60 per cent and 65 per cent of all recipients of British retirement pensions who are resident in Ireland have their UK pensions paid directly into their Irish bank accounts. My Department has been in contact with the four major banks in regard to transaction charges for converting British retirement pension payments to punts. Each has confirmed that no transaction charges are applied to persons over 66 years of age provided their bank accounts are kept in credit.
Under existing social welfare legislation, there is no provision for allowing transaction charges relating to currency conversion which may be levied by financial institutions to be offset against a person's means for the purposes of determining entitlement to any of the means-tested schemes of my Department. Given that the main Irish banks do not levy a charge generally on pensioners in these circumstances, I do not see a need at this time to amend the legislation to allow for any such bank charges in making pension means assessments.
If the Deputies will let me have details of any particular cases which they have in mind, I will arrange to have the circumstances investigated.
21. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Social Welfare when it is intended to implement the budget proposal announced in January, 1992, to extend maternity benefit to adoptive parents; and the reason for the delay in implementing this proposal.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): As announced in the budget, the Government intends to promote legislation to provide for leave from employment for the purposes of adopting a child and to make a benefit payment available to people who qualify for such leave.
Legislation for the provision of adoptive leave from employment is the concern of my colleague, the Minister for Labour. The function of my Department  would be to provide a social insurance payment for those who would qualify for such leave. I understand that the legislative proposals for adoptive leave are currently under consideration at the Department of Labour. Once the leave arrangements are finalised, arrangements for providing a benefit payment will be brought forward by my Department.
26. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will make a statement on a recent decision given by the Southern Health Board in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork to disallow her social welfare supplementary allowance on the grounds that the assistance is not paid towards the purchase of a house under the tenant purchase scheme and in view of the fact that this person could revert to tenancy; and if he agrees with the judgement in this case.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Tenant purchasers are normally advised by health boards to contact the local authority with a view to renegotiating the terms of their agreements or reverting back to tenancy.
It is understood from the Southern Health Board that the person in question made inquiries with the local authority regarding the possibility of reverting to tenancy but decided not to do so because the rent could exceed her current weekly mortgage repayment of approximately £15 per week.
Where the question of a mortgage supplement arises health boards assist only with the interest element of a mortgage repayment less a contribution of £5 per week from the claimant. In this case, a further contribution would be required from the applicant's son as he is in employment, and is residing with her. The health boards have advised that, in these circumstances, the applicant would not qualify for assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.
28. Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of people who are receiving family income supplement in (a) the whole country and (b) County Carlow.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): There are currently 7,341 families in receipt of family income supplement, of which 154 reside in County Carlow.
30. Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) asked the Minister for Social Welfare whether suspicion without proof, justifies refusal of unemployment assistance to applicants who are suspected of working or own stock.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Claims for unemployment assistance are decided, in common with claims for other social welfare entitlements, by statutorily appointed deciding officers who are required to make their decisions objectively in the light of all the evidence available to them. The evidence is usually in the form of the information supplied by the claimant in the application form supplemented where appropriate by a report of a Department's investigating officer. Claimants dissatisfied with decisions are entitled to appeal to the independent social welfare appeals office.
Suspicion alone cannot form the basis for disallowing unemployment assistance or other social welfare payment. Standing instructions to deciding officers require them to ensure that decisions on entitlement are decided in accordance with the principles of natural justice. In practice this means that an applicant should be aware of the evidence on which his or her entitlement will be decided and where this evidence has come from a source other than the claimant, that the claimant be given an opportunity to comment upon it. Where existing payments are being reviewed, an applicant is advised of the review and of the specific conditions under scrutiny. The procedures already outlined are followed.
Where information is received by the Department that a person receiving payment may not fulfil the statutory conditions  the person is normally interviewed and the allegations are put to the person who has an opportunity to refute them and present any additional evidence desired before any decision on entitlement is made.
In relation to smallholders, similar procedures are observed. Where the payments of smallholders are being reviewed an opportunity if given to the person to present all facts and figures necessary to establish means. No entitlement should be disallowed or means increased without the person being aware of the basis on which the decision was being made.
If the Deputy has a particular case in mind I will be happy to have the circumstances investigated.
31. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has any proposals for changes in the social welfare code so that all children are treated equally; if, in regard to universal child benefit and child dependant's allowance payable with all social welfare payments, he has any new policy proposals; his views on whether, in the absence of a child tax allowance, the present social welfare system is creating an anomaly whereby workers with children are frequently worse off than on the dole thus creating a major poverty trap; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
45. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Social Welfare if students in second level education who have reached the age of 18 years and are being maintained by their parents are entitled to continued payment of child benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
111. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Social Welfare his views on whether there is a case for a substantial increase in child benefit.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions No. 31, 45 and 111 together.
Child benefit is a universal payment made in respect of children under 16 years and in respect of children aged 16  or 17 who are in full-time education or who are physically or mentally handicapped. Child benefit is not payable in any circumstances in respect of children over age 18. The fact that child benefit is paid irrespective of income or contribution record, means that it represents an equitable measure in terms of the treatment of children and, therefore, is an effective way of directing resources to families.
The relative importance to be placed on child benefit and child dependant allowance in providing support to children raises fundamental issues for the social welfare system. Not the least of these is the possible role which a greater reliance on child benefit could play in increasing the incentive to work. These are matters which are under consideration in my Department at present. Because the child benefit scheme is universal, increases in the rates of payment have substantial financial implications.
As far as child dependant allowances are concerned there have been a number of changes in child dependant increases paid with social welfare payments in recent years. The rates of child dependant allowancs have been increased significantly. From July 1992 the minimum allowance has been increased to £12.50 per week. The number of separate child dependant allowances has been reduced from 36 to 3. This has simplified the rates structure considerably and is aimed at ensuring that families and children with identical needs are treated similarly.
Under the terms of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress additional expenditure of £69 million in 1990 terms will be devoted to child support over the ten years of the programme.
I accept that in a minority of cases workers can find themselves better off claiming an unemployment payment. This arises because of the additional payments for children under the social welfare code which are not fully mirrored in the income tax system.
In recent years the Government have addressed this problem by increasing the tax exemption limits in respect of families with children. This has mitigated the  problem for those at the lowest income levels.
The family income supplement scheme provides a cash payment to workers with families on low pay. The purpose of the scheme is to ensure that such workers are better off in employment than claiming an unemployment payment. In recent years the rates of payment have been set at a high level to ensure that such workers are better off in employment.
I intend to continue to look for ways to improve the family income supplement scheme. I am also examining the question as to how resources can be made available for assistance to families, with particular reference to the need to combat the disincentive to work as it affects workers with large families.
32. Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will clarify the reason for introducing the regulation which effectively cuts injury benefit by £15 a week; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Until recently, injury benefit and disability benefit were paid at different rates. Both payments are made in respect of short term incapacity for work. Injury benefit is paid where the incapacity is due to an employment-related injury or disease and disability benefit is paid in respect of other illnesses. In both cases, the person's income-maintenance needs are similar. For this reason, this year's Social Welfare Act provided that the two payments would be at the same rate, with effect from 6 April 1992. This affected new claims only; people who were receiving injury benefit at the time of the change did not face any reduction in their payment. Since the change, the rates of disability benefit and injury benefit for the vast majority of recipients have been increased by 5 to 6 per cent which is well above the rate of inflation.
In my view there is no justification for different rates of payment for short term incapacity for work, depending on  whether or not the incapacity arises from an accident at work. One of my objectives is to simplify the range of social welfare schemes. This measure is a step in that direction.
33. Mr. Kavanagh asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for introducing the regulation which effectively penalises workers who received redundancy payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Section 29 of this year's Social Welfare Act provides that a person aged 55, who receives a redundancy payment in excess of a prescribed amount, may be disqualified from receipt of unemployment benefit for a period of up to nine weeks. I made regulations on 20 July 1992 which prescribed an amount of £12,000 for the purposes of that disqualification.
The necessity for this measure was prompted by evidence that the Social Insurance Fund was being used to top up redundancy packages, based on the premise that there would be an automatic right to unemployment benefit for 15 months. Indeed, I am aware of situations where severance packages were being openly advertised within companies on the basis of an automatic right to a weekly top-up payment in the form of unemployment benefit.
It is not appropriate that the Social Insurance Fund be used in this way. The fund is financed by PRSI contributions and the unemployment benefit scheme is intended to compensate people for loss of income when, through no fault of their own they become unemployed.
In the circumstances, I am satisfied that my approach with regard to this measure is a reasonable one, namely, that some account be taken of the amount of redundancy paid when determining entitlement to unemployment benefit in post-redundancy or voluntary severance situations. The limit of £12,000 fixed in  regulations is well in excess of average statutory redundancy payments and the measure does not apply to persons over the age of 55 years.
34. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total amount paid by the various health boards throughout the country by way of rent allowance in respect of private rented dwellings in the last twelve month period for which statistics are available; the total number of single persons accommodated under this heading; the number of families of two or more included in the total; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
118. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total amounts paid through the health boards in respect of mortgage interest relief in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
119. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the total amounts paid through the various health boards to families in respect of rent supplement for private rented dwellings in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 118 and 119 together.
Health boards do not maintain statistical records in such a way as to provide the information requested by the Deputy. However, by way of illustration it is estimated that total expenditures on rent and mortgage supplements under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme were in the region of £14 million and £5 million respectively in 1991. The average number of recipients in receipt of a rent supplement was approximately 9,300 in any one week in 1991. The average weekly number of recipients in receipt of a mortgage supplement was approximately 2,200.
The question of health boards providing more detailed statistical and  expenditure analysis in respect of the various elements of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme is currently being pursued by my Department in consultation with the boards. Arising from these discussions it is expected that improved data collection procedures will be in place early in 1993.
35. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will clarify the reason for introducing the regulation which restricts the eligibility criteria for maternity benefit, and effectively reduces the minimum payment under the scheme by £25 a week; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Prior to the Social Welfare Act 1992, the Department of Social Welfare operated two maternity schemes. The scheme for women in employment covered women who qualified for leave from work under the Maternity Protection of Employees Acts, 1981 and 1991 and the general maternity scheme catered for women workers who did not so qualify, along with women claiming unemployment benefit or disability benefit who satisfied the relevant contribution conditions.
The Social Welfare Act, 1992 rationalised the maternity schemes, making maternity benefit available for the first time to women in employments not covered by the Maternity Protection of Employees Acts, 1981 and 1991. Arrangements were made at the same time for women on unemployment benefit and disability benefit, who had hitherto availed of the general maternity scheme, to remain on those payments for the period immediately before and after confinement.
In the same context the minimum weekly payment for maternity benefit was reduced from £76 to £60 in order to cater for the fact that part-time workers earning £25 or more per week were becoming eligible for maternity benefit for the first time.
 The current arrangements are that any person qualifying for maternity benefit whose rate of payment as calculated in accordance with the regulations would be less than £60 per week, will receive the minimum payment of £60. Anyone whose rate of payment would be more than that, will receive a higher amount up to a maximum payment of £154 a week.
37. Mrs. Taylor-Quinn asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the hardship currently being experienced by British social welfare recipients resident in Ireland; and if he will introduce immediately a scheme to alleviate the difficulties.
107. Miss Coughlan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will increase social welfare payments to those who are in receipt of UK and Northern Ireland benefits in order to bring them on a par with Irish benefits, due to the drop in sterling.
122. Mr. Connor asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the value of old age pensions and other health and security payments from the British Department of Health and Social Security to recipients in Ireland, have fallen in value by up to 20 per cent in recent weeks as a result of the currency crisis; and if he intends to make increases in reduced rate Irish pensions and other payments payable to these recipients to compensate them for their severe financial loss.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 107 and 122 together. Persons in receipt of incomes from the United Kingdom by way of pensions or otherwise can experience either gains or losses depending on the ongoing exchange rates between sterling and the Irish pound. Those in receipt of such pensions have experienced for some considerable time an improvement in income, as their pensions  gained in value during the period when the Irish pound remained below parity with sterling. It is only in very recent weeks that this advantage has been eroded.
Any person in receipt of a United Kingdom retirement pension whose means has changed as a result of the change in value of sterling may be entitled to an old age non-contributory pension from my Department depending on the amount of their UK pension and other means. A United Kingdom pensioner who is already in receipt of an old age (non-contributory) pension and whose means have dropped as a result is entitled to request a review of his or her means assessment at any time. In either case, if current unfavourable sterling/ punt exchange rates persist, these will be incorporated in an average exchange rate system used by my Department to assess means.
People in receipt of United Kingdom pensions who are experiencing difficulty as a result of their income falling below the appropriate rate of supplementary welfare allowance for their family size should contact the community welfare officer at their local health centre.
40. Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to give continuing cover under the treatment benefit scheme to widowed dependent spouses of insured workers and their dependent children; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): The treatment benefit scheme operated by my Department comprises dental benefit, optical benefit and medical and surgical appliances benefit for insured persons who satisfy certain PRSI and income conditions, and for their dependent spouses.
Under regulations which were introduced earlier this year widowed dependent spouses whose insured spouse dies aged 60 years or over remain qualified  for benefit for as long as they remain a widow or widower.
Where the qualified insured person dies before reaching 60 years of age, the dependent widowed spouse continues to be entitled to benefit for so long as the contribution conditions are satisfied by the deceased person's insurance. In effect, this means that a dependent widow may continue to be entitled to benefit for up to two years after the insured person's death. I have no plans to further change these conditions. The treatment benefit scheme does not cover the dependent children of qualified insured persons. Primary dental care services for national school children are provided by the health boards.
42. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will clarify the reason for the implementation of the regulations which state that employment as a member of the FCA or Slua Muirí is not insurable for social insurance purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Prior to 6 April 1991, employment as a member of the FCA or An Slua Muirí for any period not exceeding 21 days was regarded as subsidiary employment and not subject to full social insurance cover.
When social insurance was extended to part-time employees in April 1991, the number of employments designated as subsidiary was substantially reduced. This was to ensure that the benefits of full insurance were extended as widely as possible. As a result members of the FCA and An Slua Muirí became insurable under Class H which applies to members of the Defence Forces generally.
Young people who join the FCA or Slua Muirí generally do so at a young age and in most cases long before they take up regular employment. Making them fully insurable for the short periods of employment involved has the effect of diluting their contributions average for  pension purposes. Furthermore, those on training activities who are already in employment would continue to be insured for the periods in question through their normal employer, and contributions made on their behalf by the Defence Forces would have no additional value in conferring entitlement. Accordingly, regulations were introduced with effect from April 1992 to remove employment with the FCA and An Slua Muirí from full social insurance cover.
43. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has satisfied himself with (1) the physical conditions of employment exchanges and (2) the locations of the exchanges vis-à-vis the community they are serving; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): I am fully committed to a policy which ensures that my Department's local offices offer a high standard of accommodation for the staff and members of the public alike. I am satisfied that very significant progress has been made on this front in recent years.
My Department is engaged, in co-operation with the Office of Public Works, in an ongoing programme to improve the general standard of accommodation at local offices. In the five year period ending this year over £13 million will have been spent on this work. To date 17 new offices have been provided and 11 existing offices extensively refurbished. At present, there are three new offices under construction while one is being extensively refurbished. Immediate plans include an early start on building a further two new offices and one major refurbishment project. The programme will continue to be advanced as quickly as financial and technical resources will allow.
There is a very extensive network of local offices involved mainly in the provision of my Department's services for the unemployed. The main expansion of the network has occurred in the Dublin  area where new offices were opened to reduce the very large numbers attending the centre city offices and to provide a more localised service in the suburbs. There are 14 offices serving the Dublin area and nine of these are located outside the city centre. Generally speaking, I am satisfied that the network is extensive enough to serve our client base adequately. Arrangements are already in place to pay unemployed clients not convenient to local offices through the post office system.
More comprehensive use of computerisation will enable my Department to operate a system of alternative payment methods and less frequent signing for many of those receiving unemployment payments. This has already begun and will be extended, over time. As a result, many clients will not have to attend my Department's local offices on a weekly basis. This will facilitate the provision, at local level, of a more comprehensive service which will be extended as circumstances allow.
44. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he has any plans to review the criteria for eligibility of unmarried mothers for the lone parents allowance.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): The lone parents allowance scheme in common with all others is kept under continual review in the light of changing circumstances.
A significant feature of the scheme is the increase in the numbers of unmarried mothers in receipt of lone parents allowance in recent years. The numbers have risen from around 7,500 in 1982 to over 21,000 in 1991. Expenditure has increased from approximately £16 million in 1982 to over £79 million in 1991.
A significant increase in the numbers of unmarried parents have been occurring in recent years in all OECD countries, with the households involved being greatly over-represented at the bottom of the economic scale. The trend in this  country is in line with what is happening elsewhere.
Clearly if these trends continue, the implications for social welfare expenditure will be very significant, particularly in the light of the increased resources required to cater for other categories of welfare recipients.
One of the issues which has arisen in the context of the ongoing review of the scheme is the desirability of encouraging unmarried mothers back into the labour market. I am examining the general question as to how the social welfare system affects the incentive to work and what measures may need to be taken to increase these incentives and I will be examining the lone parents allowance in this context.
48. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will extend the educational opportunities for the unemployed to cover postgraduate courses in view of the fact that such courses are now covered by mature student funding.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): There are a number of schemes currently operated by my Department which allow unemployed persons to attend full-time education courses while continuing to receive an allowance equivalent to their unemployment payments. Generally speaking, to be eligible to participate in those schemes, an applicant must be long term unemployed and be at least 21 years of age for second-level courses and at least 23 years of age for participation in the third level allowance scheme. The question of whether or not the courses involved are subject to mature student funding is not taken into account when determining eligibility.
Courses of post graduate studies are not covered at present under the third level allowance scheme operated by my Department. However, in consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Education,  I will be considering the inclusion of such courses in the context of the commitment in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress to extend the range of options available to the long term unemployed, among other groups, with a view to their return to the workforce.
49. Mr. Taylor asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason for his regulation to revise the conditions for entitlement to treatment benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): The qualifying conditions for entitlement to treatment benefit were amended with effect from 6 July 1992 by changes in the contribution requirements and by the introduction of an earnings limit.
The minimum number of contributions required by persons aged 25 and over has been increased from 208 to 260 in order to bring the treatment benefit scheme into line with other contributory benefit schemes. However, an exception was made in the case of persons in the age group 23 to 25. In their case, the minimum number of paid contributions required will be 39 weeks as for claimants under age 23.
The position of widows has also been improved. The widow of a qualified person who died after age 60 will now retain entitlement to Treatment Benefits for as long as she remains a widow.
A further qualifying condition now requires claimants to have a minimum of 39 contributions in the relevant tax year, of which at least 13 must be paid contributions. However, persons who do not have 13 paid in that particular year can still qualify if they have 13 paid in either of the two preceding tax years or in any subsequent tax year. In practice, this will mean that a person who has 13 paid contributions in any one of the last five contribution years can still qualify for benefit.
The introduction of an earnings limit means that benefit is no longer payable  to an insured person whose aggregate earnings in the relevant tax year exceeds £25,000. In the case of single income couples, however, a dependent spouse can still qualify provided the insured person's earnings do not exceed £50,000.
The changes which were made in the treatment benefits scheme were necessary in order to ensure the continuing viability of the scheme by directing limited resources towards those in greatest need including dependent spouses of insured workers. The measures also seek to establish a more realistic relationship between entitlement to benefit and a continuing or recent attachment to the workforce through an active PRSI contribution record.
51. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will clarify the reason for introducing the regulation which cuts the income of people living in rented accommodation on supplementary welfare by £1.50 a week; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Entitlement to a rent supplement is determined by the Health Board and is calculated so as to leave the client with a disposable income, after payment of rent, equivalent to the rate of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance appropriate to the family size, less £5. This £5 is the minimum contribution which a client is required to pay towards housing costs and it was increased from £3.50 at the end of July 1992. The last increase in this minimum contribution took place in July 1990.
The level of the contribution is increased periodically in line with the increase in social welfare payments. I believe the current contribution to be reasonable given the present level of such payments.
52. Mr. V. Brady asked the Taoiseach if he has had an opportunity of examining recent representations from Deputy Vincent Brady on behalf of an establishment (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if a decision on this particular application has issued.
The Taoiseach: I understand that the National Heritage Council has received a request for financial assistance from the establishment to which the Deputy refers.
The National Heritage Council distributes national lottery funding to heritage projects subject to my approval. The assessment of any project and decision about whether or not to recommend grant assistance are matters entirely for the National Heritage Council. This application is still under consideration by the council.
53. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce the criteria for exporters to qualify for Government subsidy to maintain employment; the number of companies which are expected to qualify; the number of jobs which will be maintained; the budget which has been allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley): As I indicated to the House on 7 and 10 October 1992 the Market Development Fund will be administered by a special management team drawn from the relevant State bodies. The establishment and management of the fund will be supervised and directed by a management board which will comprise the managing directors/chief executives of An Bord Tráchtála, the IDA and FÁS, together with representatives from the Departments of Agriculture and Food, Finance, Industry and Commerce, Labour and the Marine, and a representative from the industry-employer bodies and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Details of applications for assistance from the fund and the criteria which will  apply to applicants are day-to-day matters for the management board and management team. I have made arrangements for the Deputy to be provided with a copy of an application form and the guidelines which accompany it.
The Government have decided that a total of £50 million will be provided for the Market Development Fund for the period up to the end of March 1993. The operation of the fund will be monitored regularly and there will be a formal review at the end of this year. It is not possible at this stage to indicate the number of companies which will qualify or the number of jobs which will be maintained.
54. Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he intends to bring forward a Bill allowing Ireland to ratify the 1980 United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods before the end of the year given that a majority of our trading partners have already ratified the Convention.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley): I have no proposals at present to ratify the Convention.
55. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the measures which have been put in place for the advent of the Single European Market in January 1993; the effect that this will have on our tax free trade; if there will be job losses in this trade and in the areas of customs/customs agents; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern): Over 90 per cent of the 282 proposals required to give effect to the internal market have been agreed at Community level. Details of these measures and those which have yet to be agreed can be found in the Seventh Progress Report on the  Completion of the Internal Market published by the EC Commission.
Under the Directives on indirect taxation adopted as part of the Single Market programme, member states may opt to permit the continuation of duty free shopping for intra-community travellers until 30 June 1999; the position of third-country travellers is unchanged. Duty free shopping here can continue, provided a satisfactory control system can be found. Discussions are taking place at present on devising a system based on control of the duty free outlet operators rather than on individual travellers.
While there are no specific arrangements in place to compensate customs clearance agents directly for loss of earnings due to the internal market, there is a broad range of training schemes available from FÁS, as well as advice and grant support schemes from industrial promotion agencies, which are available to individuals and firms wishing to diversify into other areas of business. The EC Commission has put forward proposals for assistance in this area through existing Structural Funds and through further ad hoc measures. These proposals concentrate on retraining and assistance for developing new businesses and for local development initiatives.
56. Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the numbers in the different categories (details supplied) of intoxicating liquor licences that make up the total of 16,000 liquor licences as quoted by the Revenue Commissioners and which now require a tax clearance certificate for renewal; the number of the 16,000 who have applied for tax clearance certificates; the number of tax clearance certificates which have been issued; the number of applications which have been refused; and the number of cases in which a decision has been deferred.
Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern): I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that tax clearance certificates  are required under section 156 of the Finance Act, 1992 for any licence commencing on or after 1 October, 1992 which is a spirits retailer's on-licence, a spirits retailer's off-licence or a wine retailer's on-licence. “Spirits retailer's on-licences” include publican ordinary licences, publican 6-day licences, publican early closing licences, publican 6 day and early closing licences, hotel licences, special restaurant licences, railway refreshment room licences and theatre licences.
In the period 1 January to 31 December, 1991, 13,786 licences were issued for which tax clearance certificates are now required under the new regime and these are categorised as follows: Publicans Licences, 10,214; Hotel Licences, 608; Special Restaurant Licences, 95; Railway Refreshment Room Licences, 6; Theatre Licences, 9; Spirits Retailer's Off-Licences, 339; Wine Retailer's On-Licences, 2,515.
Tax clearance certificates are not required in relation to intoxicating liquor licences issued in respect of Clubs, Greyhound tracks, military canteens and railway refreshment cars. Separate figures are not available for Cash and Carry premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor. Where they hold a spirits retailer's on-licence (publican's licence), a spirits retailer's off-licence or a wine retailer's on-licence, the numbers of such licences are included in the appropriate category shown above.
To date, 10,379 applications for tax clearance certificates have been received, 4,739 certificates have issued, none have been refused, 4,086 are being processed  and decisions have been deferred in 1,554 cases.
57. Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Finance when a case will be processed for a person (details supplied) which is currently with the adjudication section of the Revenue Commissioners, taking into consideration the serious illness of one of the parties involved and the fact that an urgent extension to their house cannot be completed without the case being adjudicated.
Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern): I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a deed of transfer was submitted for adjudication on 30 September 1992. It is not possible for them to proceed with the stamping of the instrument until some essential queries have been answered. These queries were raised on 6 October 1992 with the solicitor who made the application. On hearing from him, the matter will receive further attention from the Revenue Commissioners without delay.
58. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for the Marine the number of salmon caught on the River Moy (a) on the rod by anglers and (b) in traps and nets by the State owned fishery company for each of the months February to September in 1991 and 1992.
Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods): The information sought by the Deputy is as follows:
|Month||Rod Ridge Pool||Traps||Nets|
 The decrease in catch returns for the 1992 season is due to the suspension/ curtailment of the commercial operations of the fishery (nets/traps). The measures taken have been outlined to the House in my reply of 2 July 1992. As a result of these measures there was increased escapement upstream. The North-Western Regional Fisheries Board have stated that up to 8,152 salmon were caught on the Moy by anglers in 1992, compared with 3,621 in 1991.
59. Mr. Garland asked the Minister for Justice when he intends to hold the summit on crime.
Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn): I indicated last April that I intended to hold a high-level conference involving the law enforcement agencies in relation to the growing problem of urban crime when I had received the Report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Urban Crime. I expect to receive that report in the near future.
In the meantime, however, I have taken a number of important initiatives in this area. Apart from on-going consultations with the Garda Commissioner in relation to crime problems generally, I held high-level conferences with senior gardaí and officials from my Department to discuss the drugs problem and crime in Dublin city centre. At those meetings I gave my full backing to the Garda authorities to the use of all the resources necessary to tackle these problems. I have also announced proposals for legislation to tackle certain aspects of urban crime that are of particular concern. This legislation will increase the powers available to the gardaí in dealing with such crime.
In addition I have just hosted an important national conference dealing with issues relating to crimes of violence against women. When I have received and considered the Inter-Departmental Committee's Report on Urban Crime I will decide on what action, including the  question of holding a conference, requires to be taken in relation to its implementation.
60. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice the number of prison inmates at present who (a) have primary level education only; the number who have primary and second level education but who dropped out from second level education; the number who attended third level college; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn): Information in relation to the educational attainments of prisoners does not become available as a matter of course and cannot always be elicited. Consequently, it is not possible to provide the precise information sought.
Sampling exercises conducted by education staff in prisons indicate that less than half of all prisoners receive any formal education beyond primary school and that perhaps one quarter to one third of all prisoners have serious reading and writing problems.
A wide ranging education programme is made available in all prisons and priority is given to prisoners who are most educationally disadvantaged. The courses provided range from basic literacy and numeracy to third level education. At present the Department of Education provides 130 full-time teacher equivalents to work in prisons and places of detention and prisoners who wish to participate in education are accommodated irrespective of their ability or attainments.
61. Mr. Barry asked the Minister for Justice if, in view of the escalating crime figures, he proposes to bring in legislation to reform the criminal justice system to make it more difficult for criminals to escape justice and to strengthen the hands of the gardaí in combating crime; and if he proposes to increase Garda strength for this purpose.
Minister for Justice (Mr. Flynn): It goes without saying that I am fully committed to taking all steps necessary to combat crime. The Deputy's question relates specifically to legislation and Garda strength. On the legislative side there are a number of important developments in the pipeline.
I recently published a Criminal Justice Bill which will enable the Court of Criminal Appeal to review unduly lenient sentences and allow a court to order an offender to pay compensation to a victim in certain circumstances.
A Bill to provide for the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of serious crime is in the course of being drafted as a matter of priority.
A Juvenile Justice Bill is being prepared which will repeal the Children Act, 1908, and replace it with a modern Bill. I am also considering specific proposals to update the law in relation to certain public order offences. These proposals include the possible creation of new offences relating to public drunkenness, the use of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in public and disorderly conduct generally. I want to strengthen the law in this area to make our streets as safe as possible. The proposals are based on recommendations by the Law Reform Commission and will be included in a proposed Criminal Justice Bill which I hope to be able to publish in the near future.
As I said in reply to a similar question on 9 July other very important legislative proposals I have in the criminal law area are a Criminal Law Bill, an Extradition Bill, a Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill, a Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill and a Criminal Procedure Bill.
I have also set up an Advisory Committee on Fraud to review the legal, technical and operational aspects of that type of crime. The Committee will report before Christmas and the Law Reform Commission Report on Dishonesty is also expected shortly. I intend that any legislative changes found to be necessary in this area will be dealt with as a matter of priority and introduced with a minimum of delay.
 As regards Garda numbers, 1,000 gardaí are being recruited to the Force at present. The first group of those commenced training at the Garda College in April of this year. The number of civilian staff now employed in the Force is almost 650 and this will rise to 700 by the end of the year thus relieving gardaí from administrative work so that they can do the outdoor operational duties for which they were trained. I want to assure the Deputy that all available Garda resources are being fully utilised to fight crime.
Mr. McGinley: don Aire Oideachais cad é an líon iomlán ar glacadh leo i ngach coláiste oiliúna múinteoireachta i mbliana; agus an uimhir ón nGaeltacht a glacadh i ngach coláiste.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): Is é seo a leanas an t-eolas a d'iarr an Teachta.
|Coláiste Oideachais||Líon iomlán||Ón nGaeltacht|
|Coláiste Naomh Phadráig||115||3|
|Coláiste Mhuire gan Smál||121||1|
|Coláiste Mhuire, Muirinne||28||4|
|Coláiste Froebel, Cnoc Síon||28||1|
|Coláiste Eaglais na hÉireann||19||0|
63. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education if he will give details of the funding allocated to the free books scheme at primary and at post-primary levels over the past five years; if he will give the present level per pupil figure; if he will give an assurance that proposals to link this scheme with the social welfare clothing and footwear scheme will not result in any diminution of funding for the books scheme in the future.
67. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education the number of children at each level who benefited from the free books scheme in each of the past five years.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 67 together.
Details of the funding allocated to the  Book Grant for Needy Pupils and the number assisted for the last five years was as follows:
|Year||Total Expenditure||No. of Pupils Assisted|
The current rate of grant is £9.25 per pupil for standards I-VI and £4 per pupil for infant classes, at primary level and approximately £18.50 at post-primary level.
The linking of the books scheme to the clothing and footwear scheme has no implications for the level of funding which will be available for the book scheme.
64. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education if he will give details of the average class size for the school year 1991/92; the number of classes; and the numbers of classes containing over 30, over 35 and over 39 pupils in primary schools.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): The information required by the Deputy is given in tabular form underneath. To give a complete picture of the situation as regards class-size in national schools and to illustrate the improvement which has taken place in recent years, I have provided a size distribution of all ordinary national school classes for the 1990-91 and 1991-92 academic years.
Number and Percentage of National School Classes (Ordinary) by Class-Size and Average Class-Size for the Years Indicated*
|Class-Size||1990/91 (%)||1991/92 (%)†|
|Total Number of Classes||17,576||17,683|
|Total Number of Pupils||532,240||522,797|
|Average Class Size||30.3||29.6|
*Excludes special classes for handicapped pupils.
†Data in respect of 1991-92 are provisional.
Note 1: Due to rounding, percentages may not total to 100.
Note 2: Classes in excess of 39 pupils are in breach of my Department's guidelines on maximum class size. The allocation of teaching posts to schools is sufficient to enable schools to remain within the guidelines.
65. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education the number and proportion of schools designated as disadvantaged which are in the home/school liaison scheme.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): A total of 211 primary schools  are in the disadvantaged scheme, all of which receive additional funding for home/school/community liaison initiatives. This includes 80 schools which are also in the home/school/community liaison scheme.
Schools designated as disadvantaged but not included in the home/school/ community liaison scheme also receive additional funding to assist them in pursuing local home/school/community liaison initiatives.
In the post-primary sector my Department has allocated an additional teaching post each to 120 schools to assist them in making special provision for pupils affected by social and economic disadvantage. Twenty six of these schools are participating at present in the home/ school/community liaison project. My Department initiated the project in the primary sector in 1990 and extended it to the post-primary sector in 1991.
66. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education the number of national schools closed each year for the past five years; and the amount returned to the State on the sale of such buildings for each of these years.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): The information requested on school closures is as follows:
Number of National Schools Closed in the period 1988-92.
|Year||Closed||Closed to form Amalgamation||Total|
Most closures result in an amalgamation of two or more schools. In many such cases some or all of the existing school buildings will continue in use.
It is not possible in the time available  to assemble the data on the receipts by the State from the disposal of the Minister's residual interest in former national school premises over the past five years but I will arrange to have the information forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible. As the Deputy is aware, the sites of national schools generally are not the property of the State and the return to the State on the sale of former national school premises would be related to the unexpired value of any capital grants given in respect of construction and/or improvement, in accordance with the standard lease.
68. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education the number of schools which have secretaries and caretakers paid by his Department at each level; and the proportion of schools this number represents.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): In the case of primary and secondary schools, the normal source of State funding, other than for teachers' salaries is the annual capitation grant. This grant is used towards recurrent costs including cost related to secretarial and caretaking services. The Department does not have information on the number of schools which provide for such services in this way.
Under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the capitation grant is being augmented on a phased basis, which has begun this year, to assist schools expand their provision in this area. This will benefit 175 schools (4 percent) in the current year.
In addition, there are also grant schemes specifically for the purposes of employing secretaries and caretakers. The capitation grant will increasingly augment and ultimately improve the present grant scheme. Under this latter scheme, currently 371 (11 per cent) of primary schools and 269 (56 per cent) of secondary schools have secretaries and 358 (10.6 per cent) of primary schools have caretakers.
 In the case of vocational schools, arrangements for caretaking and secretarial services are a matter for the appropriate vocational education committee within their annual staffing and financial allocations. All, or virtually all, vocational schools are provided with caretaking or secretarial services. All community and comprehensive schools have secretaries and caretakers.
69. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education the number of teachers currently on a career break, on teacher exchange and on job-sharing schemes.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan):PRIMARY
|(a) Career Breaks||2,497|
|(b) Teacher Exchange||46|
|(c) Job Sharing||NONE|
70. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education the number of general purpose rooms/PE halls built with State funds in (a) primary and (b) post-primary schools over the past five years; the number of new schools built without such facilities; and the location by county of schools where such facilities were built.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and its compilation within the limited time available would require the redeployment of staff from more urgent duties which, in the circumstances, would not be justified. However, I will arrange to have the information forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.
71. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education the number, by department, of students admitted to Tallaght regional technical college in 1992 to date.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): The number of whole-time students enrolled at Tallaght regional technical college for the 1992-93 academic year is 650. The breakdown by department sought by the Deputy, is not yet available to my Department.
72. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education the schools in the Tallaght, Templeogue and Clondalkin areas of Dublin which are to be allowed caretaker or secretarial help under the scheme for larger schools outlined in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): The arrangements agreed under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress provide for an increase in grant to schools over a minimum size to assist them in providing caretaking or secretarial services where assistance is not already available. The arrangements are being implemented on a phased basis.
The schools receiving grants in the current year towards either caretaking or secretarial services in the areas referred to by the Deputy are as follows:
1. Moyle Park College, Clondalkin.
2. Presentation Convent, Terenure, Dublin, 6.
3. Our Ladys School, Templeogue Road, Dublin, 6.
1. Deansrath Community College.
1. St. Killians Junior NS, Castleview, Dublin 24.
2. Deansrath NS, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
3. St. Thomas SNS, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin 24.
4. St. Bernadette SNS, Quarryvale, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
 5. Sacred Heart NS, Sruleen, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
6. St. Mark's SNS, Tallaght, Dublin 24.
7. St. Mark's Junior Mxd., Springfield, Dublin 24.
8. Scoil Treasa, Firhouse, Dublin 24.
9. St. Martin's Aylesbury, Dublin 24.
73. Mr. E. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education if he will make free transport available to a student (details supplied) in County Cork.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): Under the terms of the School Transport Scheme, the student in question is ineligible for school transport.
74. Mr. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education the number of teachers in (a) primary (b) secondary (c) vocational and (d) community and comprehensive schools who have retired on grounds of ill health each year since 1977; the number of teachers in each of the above categories who are currently in receipt of early retirement pensions on grounds of ill health; and if he will give comparative figures for teachers who retire on grounds of ill health with other categories of public servants.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): 1. Information on the number of teachers awarded superannuation benefits on retirement on grounds of ill-health under the National and Secondary School Teachers Superannuation Schemes in each calender year since 1977 is set out in tabular form. 2. As cessation of pensions is not recorded by category, cumulative figures for the number of pensions awarded on ill health grounds and currently in payment are not readily available. 3. Vocational teachers who retire on grounds of ill-health are awarded benefits under the Local Government Superannuation Scheme administered by the Department of the Environment. Details on these retirees are not kept by my Department. 4. Data on comparative ill-health retirements in the public service are not recorded in my Department.
Following is the table:
|Year||Pensions awarded (by calender year) on ill health grounds under the:|
|National School Teachers Superannuation Scheme||Secondary Teachers Superannuation Scheme|
75. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education the stage planning is at for phase two of Jobstown Community College, County Dublin; if his attention has been drawn to the acute problem of accommodation facing this school in 1993; and when building work on phase two is expected to commence.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): The examination of the application from County Dublin Vocational Education Committee for additional accommodation at Jobstown Community College is now being finalised within my Department and a report will shortly be submitted to me on the matter.
I am aware of local concern regarding accommodation difficulties which may arise in the school in 1993 but my Department must also take into account surplus pupil places which may be available in adjacent schools within a reasonable travelling distance.
Until I have received and considered my Department's report I am not in a position to say what decisions will be taken in relation to the application.
76. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education (a) whether there is a priority listing of second-level schools which are in need of physical education facilities (b) the number of such schools where such facilities are to be built in 1992-93 (c) whether St. MacDara's College and Willington and Firhouse Community College, both of which have over 900 students enrolled, are on a priority list for PE halls and (d) when he envisages that building of halls for each of these schools will go to tender.
Minister for Education (Mr. S. Brennan): No priority list has been established of second-level schools requiring physical education facilities.
Due to demands on the capital resources available, priority has been given for some time to the provision of  essential teaching places. As a result, it is not possible to make funding available at this stage for the provision of physical education facilities at the two schools in question.
As indicated in the Green Paper, Education for a Changing World, the policy of providing indoor sports accommodation in schools, in the form of a general purpose area at primary level and a hall at secondary level, will resume as soon as pressure on available resources for urgent classroom accommodation has eased. In the meantime, additional emphasis is being placed on the adjacent siting and common use of school and community recreational facilities and schools should make maximum use of other sports facilities in their areas.
77. Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be notified of the decision on his application for a road haulage licence submitted to her Department on 3 July 1992.
Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): The Deputy will be pleased to learn that a National Road Freight Carrier's Licence No. 3578/92 was issued to the person in question on 12 October 1992.
78. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications the position in relation to the proposed privatisation of Telecom Éireann; the research or assessment, if any, which has been undertaken; if her attention has been drawn to the position of the Communication Workers' Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): I would refer the Deputy to a  previous question on this matter on 9 June 1992 (Dáil Debates Volume 420, No. 9, Question No. 121) and more recently on 13 October 1992 (Question No. 134).
The position remains unchanged.
79. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications the number of passenger movements through the airports at Dublin, Shannon, Cork, Knock, Galway, Sligo, Waterford, Farranfore and Carrickfinn for each of the months May to September in each of the years 1989 to 1992.
Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Details of passenger numbers in the months May to September in the years 1989 to 1992, inclusive, at the three State airports are as follows:
The regional airports are operated by private companies. It would not, therefore, be appropriate to disclose information related to their commercial activities.
80. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health if there are statistics available for the occurrence of cancer in the various parts of the country; if there is any abnormal incidence of the disease in (1) Waterford city and (2) Waterford county, and more particularly in the Abbeyside/ Dungarvan area of County Waterford.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): The Annual Reports on Vital Statistics which are compiled by the Central Statistics Office include a table which classifies deaths by principal groups of causes (including cancer) of residents in each county and county borough. In regard to Waterford, this table gives a breakdown of deaths from cancer in Waterford County Borough and in County Waterford but not in relation to the Abbeyside/Dungarvan area of County Waterford.
The following table sets out the age standardised death rates from cancer per 1000 population nationally and for Waterford County and Waterford County Borough for the period 1984-1988 (1988 is the most recent year for which final figures are available).
 Age standardised death rates from cancer per 1000 population
|Nationally||Waterford County||Waterford County Borough|
Source: Annual Reports on Viatal Statistics (CSO).
There is no national information available currently on the occurrence of cancer but the National Cancer Registry Board (which at present covers counties Cork and Kerry only) is in the process of drawing up plans to extend its area of coverage to the entire country and this will eventually allow detailed information to be assembled on the incidence and prevalence of cancer.
81. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Health if there is any evidence of a connection between the occurrence of the Down's Syndrome condition and the involvement of one or both parents with x-ray and/or radio-active material.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): There is no conclusive evidence of any such connection but, in the case of excessive exposure to radio-active material, the possibility of chromosomal abnormalities (including Down's Syndrome) in the children of persons so exposed cannot be ruled out.
82. Mr. S. Barrett asked the Minister for Health if he intends to allocate funds to the Lillie Road Centre Limited to establish a residential centre for deprived boys in or near Dublin.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): I am aware of the proposal by the Lillie Road Centre Limited for the establishment of a residential unit for adolescent boys.
Representatives of the company have discussed the project with my colleague, Deputy Flood, Minister of State, and have also met officials of the Eastern Health Board and of other statutory bodies.
Over the last few months, the Eastern Health Board, in association with the voluntary sector, has developed a number of new residential services for deprived children and homeless youngsters. These include a new emergency hostel for homeless girls in Dublin city; a new residential unit for deprived boys in Dalkey; a new therapeutic unit for difficult adolescents in Naas, County Kildare; and other short term accommodation such as digs, sheltered flats and semi-independent living accommodation.
In addition to these developments, the Eastern Health Board is currently involved in negotiations with Focus Point and the Salesian Fathers regarding the establishment of a further residential project for homeless youngsters.
When all of these services are fully operational, the Eastern Health Board will be in a better position to assess whether the level of provision is adequate to meet demands. The Lillie Road Centre proposals will be considered in the context of any gap in current service provision which this assessment might bring to light.
83. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health if he proposes to introduce a narcotic number for general practitioners in order to clamp down on irresponsible prescribing of controlled drugs.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): As part of the implementation of the Government strategy to prevent drug misuse, consideration is currently being given to the introduction of measures which would better identify potential problems regarding the prescribing of controlled drugs.
84. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health the number of medical cards in circulation on 1 June in each of the years 1990, 1991 and 1992; and the percentage of the population covered by medical cards on each date.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): As information regarding the number of medical cards and the numbers of people covered by them is collated by the General Medical Services (Payments) Board at the end of each quarter, I do not have the figures exactly as requested by the Deputy. However, the position as on the 30 June for the relevant years is as follows:
Position as at 30 June
|No. of Cards Current||Percentage of Pop. Covered|
85. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health the reasons the health boards, as the employment authorities do not have representation on Local Appointments Commission interview boards for the selection of their own staff; and if he will take all the necessary measures to change this unsatisfactory situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): The constitution of interview boards in connection with such appointments is a matter within the competence of the Local Appointments Commissioners and it would not be proper for me to interfere with their discretion in this matter.
86. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health the measures, if any, he is taking to reduce the long and unsatisfactory waiting lists for both inpatient and outpatient orthopaedic services at Merlin Park Regional Hospital, Galway; if he will grant the necessary additional resources to alleviate the great suffering of these patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): I am aware that difficulties have been caused by the death of an orthopaedic surgeon recently. The Western Health Board is endeavouring to recruit a replacement as quickly as possible. I also have under consideration a request for additional revenue and capital funding to allow commissioning of two new clean air theatres at Merlin Park Hospital for orthopaedic work. This request will be considered in the context of capital and revenue funds available in 1993.
87. Dr. Lee asked the Minister for Health the number of patients on the waiting list to be assessed for occupational therapy in district care areas one to eight, inclusive, in the Eastern Health Board area; the number of patients for each area; the average delay in assessing patients on the occupational therapy waiting list for each area; the average delay from when the occupational therapists make their recommendations until the work and aids recommended are completed; the number of occupational therapists employed in each area; the number of occupational therapists made permanent by the Eastern Health Board in the years 1988 to 1991; the number of occupational therapists involved in job-sharing schemes in each area; if he will list these separately; the number of physiotherapists employed by the Eastern Health Board in community/primary care medicine in each area; the number of nutritionists employed by the Eastern Health Board in community/primary care medicine; and the number of senior citizens on the register for the elderly in each area.
Minister for Health (Dr. O'Connell): The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. I have referred the question to the chief executive officer of the Eastern Health Board with a request that he reply directly to the Deputy.
88. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to restrict applications for retention permission under the planning laws; his views on the number of applications for retention permissions; if he considers this to be a major abuse of planning legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): The power of planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission includes power to permit retention of structures and uses. Retention applications account for about 12 per cent of applications received.
I consider that a retention permission procedure is necessary, inter alia, to allow the position of development which departed inadvertently from the terms of the original permission to be regularised. The existence of this procedure does not, however, entitle a person to proceed with development without the necessary permission and to seek permission subsequently; anybody who carries out development without the necessary permission is liable to prosecution and the substantially increased fines provided for in the Local Government (Planning and  Development) Act, 1992. The making of an application for retention permission does not, in law, confer any immunity from such prosecution or from conviction.
89. Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment the plans, if any, he has to provide for the return of fees paid to An Bord Pleanála for the purpose of seeking an oral hearing when an oral hearing is refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): The fee paid to An Bord Pleanála in respect of a request for an oral hearing is a contribution towards the costs the board incurs in considering, by reference to all the circumstances of the case, whether a hearing should be held. I have no proposals to require the refund of this fee where the board decides that it would not be appropriate to hold an oral hearing.
90. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment if he has any plans to ensure the survival of Kerry Recycling Co-op, Tralee, County Kerry.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney): As stated in reply to Question No. 66 of 5 February 1992, this operation has already benefited from recycling grants paid by the Department of the Environment. There is no proposal to allocate further grants to it.
91. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment if he will provide, as a matter of urgency, funds to enable group water schemes which have been with his Department for selection for some time to commence so that farmers who now feel that their earnings will be severely diminished because of new EC regulations concerning milk will have their fears allayed.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): Grant levels and overall Government financial support for the Group Water Schemes Programme have been maintained notwithstanding the termination of FEOGA support for this Programme in April 1991. Applications under the scheme are being approved on an ongoing basis and subject to overall budgetary resources.
92. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to the anger and frustration felt by residents in the catchment area of the Castle Connor Group Water Scheme at the delay in sanctioning the scheme; if his attention has further been drawn to the expense incurred by the group because it took into account suggestions made by his Department at different times in the preparation of the scheme; and if he will sanction this scheme in the very near future.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): Group scheme grants and estimated local contributions would together provide only some 40 per cent of the financing required for this scheme. Its financing would, under present arrangements, require a substantial further grant from the budget for public water and sewerage schemes. Having regard to existing commitments under the water and sanitary services programme, it is not possible to indicate when the scheme may be approved.
93. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment when funds will be made available to Galway Corporation for the commencement of the western distributor road to relieve the very serious traffic situation in Knockacarra and Kingston, County Galway.
94. Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment if he will agree to the request from Galway Corporation to have the proposed western distributor road at Knockacarra, County Galway declared a national primary route.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 94 together.
I have received no request from Galway Corporation to declare this proposed road to be a national primary road. However, having regard to the criteria set down for the classification of roads as national primary routes, the road would not warrant such classification.
Responsibility for undertaking any works to improve this road, including the provision of the necessary finance, is a matter for Galway Corporation which may, at its discretion, use the discretionary grant for roads paid annually by my Department to supplement expenditure from its own resources on such works.
The question of providing a special grant for this proposed road will be considered when the road grants for 1993 are being determined, having regard to the overall level of funds available for special grants and the competing demands of other projects throughout the country.
95. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment his proposals, if any, in relation to water and sewerage schemes or extensions submitted by Ballina UDC; the present position in these matters; and when they will be sanctioned.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): There is a proposal with my Department from Ballina Urban District Council concerning the Ballina town water supply stage 3. The council has been requested to submit additional technical information and the scheme will be further considered when this is received.
96. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for the Environment when he proposes to open the NP2 section of road south of Aclint Bridge in County Louth.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): I have recently approved the award of the last surfacing contract for this scheme and it is now a matter for Louth County Council to complete the necessary formalities and ensure that work gets under way. I am advised that the new road will be opened next spring.
97. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment if he will refund Mayo County Council the cost of urgent repairs to the bridge on the N57 at Cloongullaune, Swinford, County Mayo; if he will make a statement on the need to upgrade the N57 to national primary standard; the number of projects submitted by the Mayo County Council which relate to the N57; if his attention has been drawn to the continuous representations made by Deputy Calleary on behalf of organisations in the North Mayo area concerning the upgrading of this road; if he will ensure that this road is included in the national programme; if he will sanction the new bridge at Cloongullaune; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): I am aware of the representations made on behalf of organisations in the north Mayo area in relation to the N57. The case for reclassification of this route has been examined but, having regard to the criteria set down for the reclassification of roads to national primary status, it has been concluded that circumstances do not warrant such upgrading.
Over the past number of years Mayo County Council has submitted a total of five projects for funding on the N57, viz., Foxford-Ballina Phases 1, 2 and 3; Irish-town-Foxford  and Swinford-Cloon-gullaune.
The major improvement projects on National Primary routes which are scheduled to be commenced and/or completed in the period to 1993 are identified in the Operational Programme on Peripherality, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library. Other improvement works to National roads are determined annually in the context of the road grant allocations for that year. The grants already allocated absorb all of the funds available to me for distribution in the current year and there are no further funds available from which additional grants may now be made.
The question of providing a grant towards the cost of works to the bridge at Cloongullaune will be considered when the road grants for 1993 are being determined or in the event of savings emerging on grants already notified this year.
98. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment when the preliminary report on Bonniconlon Sewerage Scheme will be sanctioned; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that raw sewage is being discharged into a stream near the national school at Bonniconlon; and if he will sanction the report.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): The preliminary report for a sewerage scheme to serve Bonniconlon is under consideration in my Department. Having regard to the existing level of commitments under the Water and Sanitary Services Programme, I am not in a position to indicate when a decision on this scheme may be made.
99. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment if he will make a statement on the need for a sewerage treatment plant for rural housing organisation houses at Meelick, Swinford, County Mayo where an inadequate sewage scheme poses a threat to residents and the children attending the nearby Meelick national school.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): The original sewage treatment system, provided as part of a private development of 16 houses at Meelick, has fallen into disrepair and Mayo County Council have submitted proposals to rehabilitate the treatment plant. Having regard to existing commitments under the Water and Sanitary Services Programme, I am not in a position to indicate when there may be a decision on the scheme.
100. Mr. Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment if he will outline the sewage and water schemes proposals submitted by Mayo County Council in the Foxford, Swinford, Ballina, Bonniconlon, Crossmolina, Killala and Ballycastle areas; the length of time since they were submitted; and the action if any he proposes to take with a view to sanctioning them.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): Proposals received by my Department from Mayo County Council for water and sewerage schemes in the areas outlined are as follows:
|Schemes||Documentation||Date received in Department|
|Ballina Regional Water Supply — Stage 4.||Report from Mayo County Council further to contract documents submitted in September 1991.||October 1992.|
|Ballina Regional Water Supply — Stage 2 (Pumping Installation at Wherrew).||Contract Documents.||July 1992.|
|Ballina main drainage — Stage 2.||Preliminary Report.||July 1992.|
|Ballina main drainage (Killala Road Extension).||Response to queries further to contract documents.||July 1991.|
|Crossmolina Sewerage Scheme.||Design Brief.||March 1991.|
|Bonniconlon Sewerage Scheme.||Preliminary Report Technical Drawings.||July 1990.
|Foxford Sewerage Scheme.||Extension of sewage collection system.||March 1992.|
|Tower View Estate, Meelick.||Upgrade Sewerage Treatment Works.||May 1991.|
These schemes are at varying stages of planning by the local authority and of consideration by my Department. In view of this, and of the existing level of commitments under the water and sanitary services programme, I am not in a position to indicate when decisions may be made on them.
101. Mr. Noonan (Limerick East) asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment of a special beef premium will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): This applicant has already been paid his grant under the 1991 Special Beef Premium Scheme. My Department is unable to trace any application from him under the 1992 Special Beef Premium Scheme to date.
102. Mr. Noonan (Limerick East) asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will give details of the recalculation of super levy liability for 1990-91 for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): The examination of super levy liability in respect of 1990-91 is in progress and it is expected that it will be concluded shortly. In the event that an adjustment to the super levy liability of any individual milk producer is required, this will be notified to the co-operative/dairy involved immediately after the conclusion of that examination.
103. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will reintroduce, nationally or through the EC, a land drainage scheme for land in current use.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): Having regard to recent EC policy in relation to agriculture grant aid for drainage is at present limited to works of a minor nature which form an integral part of a dry land reclamation project.
I am aware of the importance of maintenance drainage on farms and in the submission being made by the Government to the EC on the post 1993 allocation of Structural Funds I will be pressing for aid for such work.
104. Mr. Crowley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will refund the super levy to farmers who are producing under 20,000 gallons in view of the fact that the Italian Government have not recovered any super levy quota from their own farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): The question of Italy's application of the milk quota system and its request for a revised milk quota is at present under discussion within the  Council of Agriculture Ministers. No decision has yet been taken on the matter.
105. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be awarded a farm installation grant.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): This application cannot be determined until the applicant furnishes the documentation which was requested of him in August last.
106. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will outline (a) the detailed cost of the beef tribunal to date (b) the names of the legal teams, the interests they represent and their total fees and expenses to date (c) the total number of days the tribunal has sat; and the average length of the sittings and the total daily cost.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): (a) The total expenditure up to 30 September 1992 of the Beef Tribunal is £3,564,932 as follows:
|Legal Expenses, Salaries, etc.||2,755,167|
|Miscellaneous Expenses (accommodation, office supplies, stenography services, telephones and witnesses' expenses)||809,765|
|(b) For Tribunal||Mr. Eoin McGonigal, S.C.|
|Mr. David Byrne, S.C.|
|Mr. Ray Fullam, B.L.|
|Ms. Angela O'Reilly, B.L.|
|Mr. David Barniville, B.L.|
|For Attorney General and all State authorities||Mr. Henry Hickey, S.C.|
|Mr. Conor J. Maguire, S.C.|
|Mr. Gerard Danaher, B.L.|
|Mr. Colm Ó hOisín, B.L.|
|For Goodman International and subsidiary companies||Mr. Dermot Gleeson, S.C.|
|Mr. Michael Collins, B.L.|
|Mr. Ian Finlay, B.L.|
|For Larry Goodman||Mr. Seamus McKenna, S.C.|
|Mr. Donal O'Donnell, B.L.|
|For Granada Television Ltd. and Brendan Solan||Mr. Niall Fennelly, S.C.|
|For Deputy Dick Spring||Mr. Brian McCracken, S.C.|
|Mr. Gerard Durkan, B.L.|
|Mr. Finbarr O'Malley, B.L.|
|For Zacharia Al Taher||Mr. Frank Clarke, S.C.|
|Mr. William Shipsey, B.L.|
|For Mr. Barry||Mr. Brian|
|For the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union||Mr. David Hamilton, S.C.|
|Mr. Barry Hickson, B.L.|
|For S.I.P.T.U.||Mr. Ercus Stewart, S.C.|
|Mr. Richard Kean, B.L.|
|For United Farmers Association||Mr. Paul Callan, S.C.|
|Mr. Denis Vaughan-Buckley, S.C.|
|Mr. Gray, B.L.|
|For Mr. Pat Rabbitte T.D. and Mr. Tomás Mac Giolla, T.D.||Mr. Adrian Hardiman, S.C.|
|Mr. Seamus Woulfe, B.L.|
|For Liam Marks||Mr. Barry White, S.C.|
|Mr. Eamonn Coffey, B.L.|
|For Stokes Kennedy Crowley||Mr. Colm Condon, S.C.|
|Mr. Peter Shanley, S.C.|
|Mr. Michael Cush, B.L.|
|For Patrick McGuinness||Mr. John W.T. Judson.|
|For Mr. Sean Sheelan and Mr. Kevin John McDonald||Mr. James MacGuill, Solicitor.|
|For Mr. James Fairbairn||Mr. Reginald Weir, Q.C.|
|Mr. Kevin Haugh, S.C.|
|Ms. Geraldine Connolly.|
|For Mr. Nobody Quinn||Mr. Gareth Cooney, S.C.|
|Mr. James Connolly, B.L.|
|For Eamonn Mackle||Mr. Sean Moylan, B.L.|
|Mr. Richard Lyons, B.L.|
|For Gerry O'Callaghan||Mr. Niall Fennelly, S.C.|
|For Autozero||Mr. Kevin Feeney, S.C.|
|For Mr. Barry Desmond||Mr. Brian McCracken.|
|For Mr. J. Bruton, T.D., Mr. Barrett,|
|T.D., Senator Raftery||Mr. James Nugent, S.C.|
|For Mr. Sean Clarke||Mr. McKechnie, S.C.|
|Mr. Bob Hastings, B.L.|
|For Deputy O'Malley||Mr. Adrian Hardiman, S.C.|
|Mr. Diarmaid McGuinness.|
|For Mr. Augustine Fitzpatrick||Mr. McEnroe, S.C.|
|For Mr. Pascal Phelan||Mr. O'Keeffe, S.C.|
|For Mr. Owen Patton||Mr. Byrne, B.L.|
|For the European Community||Mr. James O'Reilly S.C.|
|For Mr. M. O'Kennedy, T.D.||Mr. Paddy Geraghty, S.C.|
|Mr. Michael Hanna, B.L.|
|For Mr. Oliver Murphy||Mr. Colm Allen, B.L.|
|For Agra Trading||R. Nesbitt.|
|For Mr. T. Boland||Mr. Geraghty. Ms. Flanagan.|
|For Mr. Pat Farrell||Mr. Paul Byrne, B.L.|
|Mr. Liam Reidy, S.C.|
|For Ms. A. Magee||T. O'Sullivan.|
|For Mr. T. O'Reilly||Mr. Humphries.|
|For Mr. Brian Britton||Mr. George Bermingham, B.L.|
|For Mr. J. Stanely||M. McCann.|
|Total legal fees (including withholding tax) paid to date:||£2,352,039|
Legal fees refer to Counsel for State and Counsel for Tribunal only. The Department does not have information on the fees being paid to other Counsel and the question of how these are to be charged is a matter for the Chairman in his final report.
(c) At 30 September 1992 the Tribunal had sat for 125 days, of these 25 were half days.
Total daily cost = £31,688.
These costs do not include the basic salary costs of the Department's staff who have not been assigned to the Tribunal but nevertheless spend a significant proportion of their time engaged on this work.
In addition several other Government Departments and agencies (including Departments of Finance, Energy, Industry and Commerce, Taoiseach, Justice, Office of the Revenue Commissioners, EC Commission, IDA, and CBF) are  incurring expenses in connection with the Beef Tribunal. As of now these costs are not being charged to the Tribunal subhead in my Department's vote.
109. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will outline the age profile of the total number of unemployed persons; and the number of unemployed persons who are under 30 years of age.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): The age profile of the total number of unemployed persons is as set out in the table below. Information regarding the specific number of unemployed people under 30 years of age is not available. However, from the information below, it can be seen that 79,967 people, or 28 per cent of the total unemployed, are under 25 years of age and 162,662 people, or 57 per cent of the total unemployed, are under 35 years of age.
Total Live Register by Age Groups, 25 September 1992
|Age Group||Number of Persons|
*Source: Central Statistics Office.
113. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will give details of the itinerary of officials from his Department who visited Irish centres in London recently; the centres visited and numbers of people interviewed; and if it is intended that they should visit other centres in the United Kingdom.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): Staff from the Information  Service of the Department of Social Welfare visited a number of Irish centres in London on 6, 7 and 8 October. The centres visited were the Brent Irish Cultural Centre, the Irish Support and Advice Centre, Hammersmith and the London Irish Centre in Camden Square. Approximately 1,000 queries were dealt with in total.
Officials from the Department's Information Service were able to provide information on a first-hand basis to those interested in their entitlements. Those inquiring included persons considering coming or returning to Ireland to live or to look for work.
The visit was a first step in providing information to those considering returning to Ireland. It was made as a result of a request from the Brent Irish Advisory Service (BIAS). The numbers of inquiries greatly exceeded expectations. A number of people who were unable to attend in person phoned or wrote to the centres and this included callers ringing from as far away as Wales, Brimingham and Manchester. This indicates a widespread interest in the service provided and the question of further visits to London and/or other parts of the UK is being considered.
114. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the extent, if any, to which the Social Welfare report, with particular reference to pension entitlements, will be published and/or otherwise made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
115. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare when he expects to be in a position to report further on any revision/review of old age contributory pensions with particular reference to pro-rata entitlements for those with contributions prior to 1953; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): It is proposed to take Questions Nos. 114 and 115 together.
 I presume the Deputy is referring to the final report of the National Pensions Board on the future development of pensions generally.
I have been advised by the Board that they will complete the report by the end of November. The report will then be published as soon as is feasible.
The matter raised by the Deputy in relation to contributions prior to 1953 will be considered in the light of the recommendations contained in the report.
116. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the extent, if any, to which he has awarded grants from the proceeds of the national lottery to voluntary organisations throughout the country in 1992; if he is considering further awards; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): In 1992 the Government allocated £1,850,000 from national lottery funds for schemes of grants to voluntary organisations. Grants amounting to £1,701,180 have been allocated to 715 organisations throughout the country. In 114 cases payment of the grant has not yet been made pending compliance with certain formalities.
The remaining funds will be allocated as soon as possible.
Sums of £1,250,000, to fund my Department's Community Development Programme, and £260,000, to fund the five pilot moneylending projects announced in September, have also been allocated to my Department this year from national lottery funds. At present there are 29 projects being supported under the Community Development Programme.
117. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of sick or disability benefit cases referred to the medical referee in the past 12 months; the number of instances where in the referee overturned the previous decision; the number of instances in which the medical referee's decision was seriously at variance with the independent medical opinion submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): A total of 67,857 persons were referred for medical referee examination in the twelve months to end July 1992 — which is the latest date for which figures are available. However, of this total, only 51,033 claimants were in fact examined by a medical referee, the remaining 16,824 having either failed to attend the examination or having ceased to claim disability benefit beforehand. Of the 51,033 claimants examined, 38,019 were found incapable of work and 13,014 were found capable of work.
In the same 12 month period, 5,125 claimants who had been found capable of work and had their benefit entitlement disallowed appealed the decisions and were examined again by a different Medical Referee. The outcome of these examiantions was that 2,666 claimants were again found capable of work and 2,459 claimants were found incapable of work by the medical referees.
I am satisfied that the medical referee examination system works in a satisfactory manner. The role of the Medical Referees is to provide my Department's deciding officers and appeals officers with advice on matters about which they have professional expertise. I believe they do this in a conscientious and impartial manner.
120. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Social Welfare the number of school-going children at primary and at post-primary level, in respect of whom grants under the back-to-school clothing and footwear scheme have been paid each year since the introduction of the scheme.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): In 1990, approximately  125,000 primary school children, and 60,000 post-primary school children benefited under the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance scheme. In 1991 approximately 141,000 primary school children and 74,000 post-primary school children received assistance under the scheme.
Figures for 1992 are being compiled by the health board and are not yet available.
121. Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Welfare the plans, if any, he has to further assist those persons who care for elderly relatives at home other than the means-tested carer's allowance already in existence.
Minister for Social Welfare (Mr. McCreevy): The carer's allowance introduced in November 1990 provided, for the first time in this country, a direct payment to a full-time carer on a means-tested basis. It is directed at persons who are providing elderly or incapacitated social welfare pensioners with full-time care and attention and whose income falls below certain limits. From July 1991, the scheme was extended to include carers of recipients of disabled person's maintenance allowance.
The scheme as it stands is directed at people on low income who satisfy the means test. Any extension of the scheme to cover other categories of people providing care, would have major financial implications. The means test for the allowance is, however, being examined in the context of a general review of means-test arrangements within my Department.
123. Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Labour if his attention has been drawn to the deep disquiet within the security industry that a large number of cowboy security firms are not paying their staff the minimum hourly rate of pay as set out in the registered agreement of 1 May 1984 as updated by the sixth variation in June 1992; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that some of these companies have received State contracts despite their non-compliance with the registered agreement; the steps, if any, he has taken to ensure compliance with the agreement; and if he will monitor the rate of pay received by employees of companies that have been awarded State contracts.
Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen): Responsibility for ensuring compliance with the terms and conditions of the Registered Agreement is a matter for the employers concerned in the first instance. However, the Labour inspectorate of my Department carries out inspections of Security companies covered by the Registered Employment Agreement for the Security Industry to ensure compliance with the Agreement, and where infringements are detected necessary enforcement action is pursued.
In 1991, the Labour Inspectorate carried out 69 inspections of security companies covered by the Agreement and recovered arrears of wages of £4,608 in respect of eight employees in three companies. Legal proceedings have been instituted and are currently awaiting hearing against four security companies which appear to have breached the Agreement. In two of these cases, hearings have been adjourned pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the validity of the Registered Employment Agreement concerned. The challenge, which has been made by the National Union of Security Employers, was heard in the High Court from 7 to 9 July 1992 and the judgment is awaited.
As Minister for Labour, I have no statutory responsibility for the terms and conditions applied by State and semi-State bodies, other than those bodies for which I have direct responsibility. However, I would naturally be especially concerned if security companies which hold contracts from State and semi-State bodies were in breach of the Agreement. It has been brought to the notice of all relevant Ministers that companies covered  by the Agreement should be required by all State bodies granting contracts to give undertakings that they complied fully with the terms and conditions of the Agreement and that an appropriate clause should be included to that effect in all contracts being granted to private sector companies covered by the Agreement.
If the Deputy is aware of any security company in respect of contracts undertaken, either in the public or private sectors, which is not in compliance with the Agreement, I would appreciate it if he would give me the name of the company responsible and I will ensure that the matter is investigated and appropriate action is taken.
124. Mrs. T. Ahearn asked the Minister for Labour if the Teamwork scheme will be continued; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen): I have no proposals to discontinue the type of projects funded under Teamwork.
Teamwork and the other employment schemes operated by FÁS including their funding are kept under review. It is possible that the source of funds for Teamwork type projects could be changed in the future.
The level of participation on projects is dependent on the funds made available by Governments in the context of the annual estimates process.