Ceisteanna—Questions Oral Answers. - Farm Apprenticeship Scheme.

1.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries if he will provide £34,000 for the year 1977 for the training of apprentices under the farm apprenticeship scheme; and if he will consider issuing a supplementary sum of £15,000 to keep the scheme going until the end of the current financial year.

An additional grant-in-aid of £15,800 has already been paid to the Farm Apprenticeship Board to enable them to meet their commitments to the end of 1976. The amount of grant to be given for 1977 will be determined following full examination of the board's estimate of anticipated expenditure in that year.

I thank the Minister for coming to the assistance of the Farm Apprenticeship Board. Can it be taken that the board can go ahead with planning for 1977? Had the Minister not come to their assistance the plan they had for 1976 would have had to be abandoned. Can we take it that they will not be stuck for cash because, as the Minister knows, this is a very important board for the education of farmers, whether they work on their own farms or have to look for jobs? This is a very important scheme and I would ask the Minister to assure the House that the board will not be in financial trouble again.

I could not possibly give the Deputy the assurance that it will never be in financial trouble again. As the Deputy is aware, it is an independent organisation. We propose to try to put the arrangements for the Farm Apprenticeship Board on a better footing than it has been up to the present. We would like to treat it in the same way as any other semi-State board, even though it is an independent body, in that it would submit an estimate of requirements for the year ahead and have them examined in time so that the board would know where it stood for the year ahead.

That has been acceptable to the board. My interest is not with regard to the type of board. I am interested in the scheme—I played a big part in starting it—and I am anxious that it would be continued. It would be a tragedy if the scheme had to be abandoned for want of finance.

I can assure the Deputy that there is no intention of abandoning the scheme.