Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Turf-Production Finances.

asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware that when the schemes for turf production were first embarked upon the county councils in the turf-producing areas were assured that any loss incurred on the schemes would be made good by the Government; if he will state the amount expended on turf production by the Mayo County Council up to November 1st, 1942; the amount of turf produced, and the amount realised on sale of such turf; and if he is now in a position to give a definite assurance from the Government that any deficit will be provided for by the Central Exchequer and not at the cost of the local ratepayers.

On June 16th, 1941, the Government issued the following statement:—

County councils will be recouped loss on production of surplus turf produced for sale outside the county provided that they comply with all Government instructions and take reasonable precautions to ensure that turf is produced at a reasonable price.

There is no present intention of varying these assurances, which will be fully carried out.

The statistical information requested is as follows:—

1. Production 1941/1942—Until the weight is actually ascertained the best estimate that can be furnished is between 185,000 and 200,000 tons.

2. The quantity sold so far is 134,247 tons.

3. The expenditure to the 1st November, 1942, was £225,657.

4. Receipts from sales to date of both crops was £161,362.

All the 1941 turf—88,754 tons—has been disposed of as follows:—

Local authorities

5,006 tons

Fuel Importers

78,381 tons

Other producers

5,367 tons

Total

88,751 tons

1942 production is estimated between 85,000 and 95,000 tons, of which 45,493 tons have been sold.

Arising out of the first part of the Parliamentary Secretary's reply, did I understand him to say that if turf was not produced at a reasonable price the county councils would not be recouped?

No, but that, if they did not take reasonable precautions to ensure that turf is produced at a reasonable cost, they would not be recouped.

That is different.

asked the Minister for Finance whether he has seen statements in the Press to the effect that 85,397 tons of turf produced by the Kerry County Council are still unsold, of which over 62,000 tons are likely to be non-exportable, and that the present overdraft of this county council due to the turf scheme expenses amounts to over £150,000, and whether he will state what steps he intends to take to come to the assistance of the council in this matter; and further to ask the Minister what rate of interest is paid on this overdraft, and whether it is proposed to have this rate reduced.

I have not seen the statement referred to, but I understand that such a statement was issued.

In March, 1941, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health authorised county councils to cut turf for use and sale, and to hand over their powers in these matters to their county surveyors.

The Kerry County Council did not exercise the option to transfer these functions but retained all authority and responsibility in relation to turf production and disposal to themselves, through a turf committee appointed by and responsible to them. Under the aegis of this committee there were cut in the year 1941, on the basis of the returns made and at ten cubic yards of raw turf to the ton, 121,000 tons, of which by March, 1942, 2,400 tons had been disposed of by the committee to the Department of Defence and some 19 tons for the council's own use.

For the purpose of helping the Kerry County Council to realise the remainder of this asset and to liquidate its overdraft the Minister for Local Government and Public Health on the 27th March, 1942, under Emergency Powers Order, brought the administration of the Kerry County Council turf production and disposal into line with that of other counties by transferring the responsibility for its further administration to the county surveyor. Since that date 50,000 tons have been sold and steps are being taken in the interests of the county council's finances to liquidate as rapidly and as profitably as possible the saleable remainder of the turf whether by export or local consumption.

The rate of interest on turf overdrafts for all county councils up to 4th November, 1942, was 4 per cent. and has since been reduced to 3 per cent.

The Parliamentary Secretary states that steps have been taken to liquidate the sale of the remainder?

Everything possible is being done.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary any idea as to whether there is likely to be a considerable quantity non-exportable and unsaleable?

Not unsaleable. I do not think—at least I hope—that there is not going to be anything like 62,000 tons unsaleable. We are going to stimulate the local consumption of turf. There are certain light turfs, as the Deputy knows, which one does not like to transport a couple of hundred miles.

That is done though, judging by the turf I have.

The intention is to dispose of that as far as possible.

Has the Government any intention of taking responsibility?

That is another question. At the moment our business is to dispose of the turf.