andMr. Harte asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (a) the date upon which the National Agricultural Council was set up, (b) its present members, (c) the number of meetings held, (d) when it is proposed to hold the next meeting and (e) the functions of the Council.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Agricultural Council.
The National Agricultural Council was established for the purpose of providing a forum for discussions between representatives of the farming community and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries on agricultural policy matters, including the carrying out of an annual review of the position, progress and prospects of agriculture. The council held its inaugural meeting on the 4th and 5th April, 1967. Members were appointed for a period of two years and their term of office has accordingly expired. The council met on 21 occasions and its work has proved most valuable for the farming community.
As Deputies are aware, one farmers' organisation refused to join the council and the Government have indicated their willingness to explore with the principal farming bodies the kind of consultative machinery which would be acceptable to all. I am informed that discussions on this question are taking place between a number of the organisations concerned and, pending the outcome of these initiatives, I have not taken any steps to reconstitute the council.
Can the Minister instance one good thing that this organisation did? A year and a half ago, the Minister told this House that this organisation would succeed, despite Fine Gael and the NFA. Will the Minister not agree that he would not now co-operate with the farmers' major organisation in this country if we were not facing a general election? Would the Minister not have them sitting outside in Merrion Street for 21 days, as was the position before? The Minister is co-operating now only because there is a general election in the offing.
Lest anybody outside might still be foolish enough to take any notice of what Deputy L'Estrange says, the first thing I would say is that this council did a great deal for the farming community. The fruits of their work are to be seen there physically during the years 1968 and 1967 which, successively, have been the two best years, put together, we have ever had in the history of agriculture in this country.
You cannot deny it. The figures are improving, according as the final figures are coming in.
Thanks to John Bull and the British market and no thanks to Fianna Fáil.
Will Deputy L'Estrange please restrain himself?
The second point is that in so far as my co-operating with one farming organisation in particular is concerned, at this time, this is not at all an unexpected happening in so far as I am concerned. It has been, and always was, the policy of this Government and of this Party to co-operate with all farming organisations.
Carry the joke further.
If co-operation is now developing, the Deputy or his Party should not breathe that that is so: they certainly should not take any action by word or act to try to prevent its succeeding—because this is what they are afraid of.
If it was always Government policy, why did they not carry out the policy of the Government?
Would the Minister tell us what they would do if they were not co-operating with them?