Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Loans to Farmers.

41.

asked the Minister for Finance why the Agricultural Credit Corporation are now restricting loans to farmers and pressing the collection of arrears and instalments; if he will arrange for the board to provide money where needed by deserving applicants; and if the board will in special cases exercise leniency towards borrowers who have many pressing commitments and who may be unable to meet demands.

I understand from the Agricultural Credit Corporation that no new restrictions on credit have been introduced and that there has been no recent change in the corporation's arrangements for collection of arrears and instalments. I am satisfied that the corporation are prepared to issue loans for directly productive purposes to all farmers who are likely to benefit from the use of credit, and in fact the total of loans issued during the year ended 30th April, 1969, was £6.0 million compared with £4.5 million in the previous twelve months period. Loans are issued on favourable terms as to interest and repayment. The corporation have always exercised considerable leniency as regards the collection of overdue instalments and there has been no change in this policy. I see no good reason for any modification of the corporation's present arrangements.

Is it not a fact that the loan issue to which the Minister refers or the amounts issued by the Agricultural Credit Corporation were issued prior to the 18th June this year? Has the Minister any figures as to what amount of money was advanced to the farmers who applied since 18th June? Further, is it not a fact that the Agricultural Credit Corporation are now devoting all their energies in endeavouring to get in the amounts of instalments and interest but that they are not bending their energies towards assisting farmers who have applied for loans in recent months? I have experience of that and I can assure the Minister that there is a restriction on credit by the corporation.

The Deputy probably knows that there is a history to this matter——

That is what we want to get.

Some few years ago we had to review the activities of the Agricultural Credit Corporation because we found they were lending money for the purchase of land which, in the view of many people, should have been directed into other channels. As a result of the examination made at that time certain restrictions were placed on the lending activities of the corporation. These restrictions were designed mainly to ensure that the resources of the corporation were directed to productive agricultural purposes and not to less desirable purposes. Since that time there has been no addition to these restrictions at all. In fact in some instances they have been mitigated. The resources made available to the corporation for the purposes as defined have been increased very considerably, with the result that they are now lending this year 50 per cent more than they did last year. I have not the figures for this operation between now and June but I am satisfied that there is no falling off in the rate of lending. If the Deputy has some particular cases which he considers meritorious and in which the Agricultural Credit Corporation have not been forthcoming, I would be happy to hear from him about them. My own experience with the corporation is that they have been adopting a very sensible and very flexible attitude towards lending to farmers in general.

Is it not a fact that every county registrar's office in this country is stacked high with files requesting action to be taken for the collection of both interest and instalments from people not now in a position to meet them?

I am assured there is no change whatever in their policy as regards collection. The fact that the Deputy mentioned county registrars' offices may give a hint of something. The Deputy knows we brought in legislation recently which changed the method of operation of the Agricultural Credit Corporation in regard to the mechanics of making loans in order to facilitate their operation. My recollection is that the county registrars' offices were involved in the simplification of procedure. There is no change in their policy or in the tempo of their operations.