Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Rural Electrification.

42.

asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he will make a statement concerning the future provision of rural electrification when the present programme is finished.

I have asked the ESB for a comprehensive report on this subject and I will review the position on its receipt.

Would the Minister indicate when this might be available to him?

As the Deputy knows, the rural electrification scheme comes to an end on 31st March, 1975. I hope to have the report before then.

Some areas are now finished. New houses looking for electricity are asked to pay from £300 to £400 to have it installed. This is a situation on which we would like a statement. The people cannot be expected to wait until 1975 for an answer to this problem.

I cannot make a statement until I see what the ESB have to say on the subject.

If it is brought to the Minister's notice that certain individuals have difficulty, will the Minister take up their case with the ESB?

I will, but the ESB are a commercial undertaking. Under the laws under which they are established they are expected to earn enough money each year. They must charge what they consider to be a commercial rate. There are great areas in this country which have been offered subsidised electricity twice or three times under the rural electrification scheme. I appreciate Deputy Gibbons's point about new houses being built. People building new houses inquire how much it will cost them to lay on water and to build a road into the house but very few ask the ESB how much it will cost to bring in electricity. They presume it will be supplied at the same cost as in a built-up area. The cost of bringing electricity any distance is quite considerable.

They get grants to bring in water. Will the Minister arrange for grants to bring in electricity?

The cost to the State of rural electrification has been very considerable in the years in which it has been in operation.

The Minister is aware that this is a pressing problem. There is sometimes a charge of £500 or £800. The ESB cannot do anything about it. They are a non-profit making concern but they have to charge it. The money must come from Government sources.

I am sure if this is the pressing problem which the Deputy says it is the ESB will take it into consideration when they submit to me their review of rural electrification.

I should like to ask the Minister if he would not consider that the time is opportune for an increase in the Government subvention to the ESB?

Next question please.

There is need for a complete review.

Question No. 43, please.

I can only repeat the answer I have given already.

43.

asked the Minister for Transport and Power if he will implement a Government decision of 18th May, 1971, to provide a subsidy for rural electrification and for special treatment of Gaeltacht areas; and, if not, why.

44.

asked the Minister for Transport and Power whether the provision of a subsidy for rural electrification involved the granting of special treatment to Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Question Nos. 43 and 44 together.

On 18th May, 1971, the then Government approved the Electricity Supply Board programme of expenditure of approximately £18 million on rural electrification and the provision of £10 million subsidy for rural electrification and for special treatment of Gaeltacht areas.

This decision did not specify the nature of the special treatment to be afforded to Gaeltacht areas and made no financial provision for such treatment. The Electricity Supply Board are precluded by statute from discriminating in favour of any particular class of consumer in the matter of charges and the Government decision was implemented by the board subject to this constraint. Special treatment is extended to Gaeltacht areas in that precedence in providing supply is given to these areas within the priority categories of industries, hotels and guesthouses.

The Minister must be aware from the factual statement of the decision which the Government took at that time that the moneys were provided on the condition that special treatment would be given to the bringing of electricity to homes in the Gaeltacht. Will the Minister ensure that that decision is carried out? He is aware that persons in the Gaeltacht areas are being charged £900 to have electricity brought into their homes which are not that far removed from the main supply. These persons cannot afford such high charges. In view of the recognition of this in the Government decision, will the Minister not take some action to ensure that that decision is carried out?

I do not agree with the Deputy, who was then a Minister and a member of the Government, in his interpretation of the decision. The decision by the then Government was to provide £18 million for the ESB to spend, of which the Government would provide £10 million for a specific programme of rural electrification as submitted to them by the ESB. The then Government added to that the words: "and for special consideration and treatment for Gaeltacht areas" but they passed no money for it. This is a typical example of Fianna Fáil hypocrisy towards the language. They paid lip-service to it but they would not provide the services, whether electricity or anything else.

The Minister is an arch-hypocrite.

This is no way to behave at Question Time.

(Interruptions.)

It applied to the £10 million provided. The Minister should not display such hypocrisy.

The decision was to provide £18 million. The Government added the words "and for special consideration and treatment for Gaeltacht areas" but they provided no money.

It was in the money provided.

I should like to ask the Minister how he interprets the sentence about special interest for the Gaeltacht?

Could I ask the Minister whether it is true that the Department of the Gaeltacht feel fully competent to advise him on how this special treatment can be given to the Gaeltacht areas but that he, the Minister for Transport and Power, and the Minister for Finance refuse to cooperate on this?

The Deputy abuses Question Time.

I am not sure if it is the correct thing for a Minister of a previous Government to refer to decisions by date and ask questions about them?

We have had the Minister reading——

The previous Minister for Transport and Power made the position quite clear to the then Government. The Minister for the Gaeltacht at that time was also the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Transport and Power then would not agree to part of the £18 million being given for special treatment for the Gaeltacht. The Minister for Finance, who happened also to be the Minister for the Gaeltacht, did not supply the money.

That is not so. It was the Minister for the Gaeltacht who was responsible for having that provision included in the Government decision.

That is correct.

It is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Government. It is disgusting.

No money was provided.

Words and no actions. Trick-of-the-loopery. Would the Government do some decent work for the people?

That is right. Words but no actions. No money.

The Minister did not provide the money in his own Estimate.