andMr. Kitt asked the Minister for Agriculture the action, if any, he is taking to procure EEC financing for drainage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Drainage Scheme Financing.
The contribution which an accelerated drainage programme could make to the development of agriculture in this country has already been the subject of discussion with the EEC Commission. It is my intention to continue to explore all possibilities with the Commission in this regard.
Could the Parliamentary Secretary tell the House if the money he hopes to get from the EEC will be used primarily for minor drainage schemes?
We have not got approval for utilising the EEC funds for such schemes but I can tell the Deputy that the Government's view is that, given the importance of such schemes in making possible increases in regional incomes and in sustaining employment, arterial drainage schemes should qualify for regional fund assistance in any area where the regional fund operates. There are other systems of aid under the farm modernisation scheme for small drainage works and also such drainage works are carried out by county councils under the local authority scheme.
The Parliamentary Secretary is aware that there is very little money available under the two headings he has mentioned. Would he recommend that the money he hopes to get would be spent mainly in the western areas where drainage is very important at the moment?
Drainage is important in all parts of the country and I am sure whatever funds are available, whether local, national or EEC, will be distributed equitably as circumstances warrant.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary indicate the nature of the application that has been made for funds and the amount of money the Minister is looking for?
There is no fixed sum of money. The Minister is most alert in trying to get the greatest amount of money possible under such schemes.
What case has been made for the funds and is it the regional fund or a separate fund?
The Deputy can take it that the best case possible has been made. That is how this Government operate. All cases that the Government make, particularly to the EEC, are made in the best way possible.
Give some facts.
This question does not warrant details.
Has any case been made?
Of course, yes.
To the EEC.
What part of the EEC?
Order. Deputy Callanan, for a brief and final supplementary question. I shall go on to the next question after that.
Has the Parliamentary Secretary any assurance that we are getting any money, regional or otherwise, for the purpose indicated in the question? Secondly, is he aware that on account of levels, minor drainage cannot be carried out because larger drainage has not been carried out?
Senior officials from the Commission's agricultural structural side are expected here within the next couple of weeks to discuss this question.
May I ask——
May I ask——
Question No. 7.
This is most unfair procedure as far as I am concerned. I protest.
asked the Minister for Agriculture the drainage schemes that are now available to farmers for draining their lands; if intermediate rivers are covered by such schemes; and the money that is available from EEC funds for those purposes.
Under the farm modernisation scheme grant-aid is available for field drainage to all categories of farmers both individually and for joint works undertaken to improve common outfall watercourses. I am advised that intermediate river schemes refer to catchment type arterial drainage schemes and as such would be for consideration by the Commissioners of Public Works. Portion of the Exchequer expenditure in respect of field drainage carried out by development farmers is eligible for recoupment from FEOGA. The rate of refund on the eligible expenditure is 25 per cent.
I think the Parliamentary Secretary said that the money would be made available from the EEC and that they are seeking it for arterial drainage. Is it being sought also for drainage of intermediate rivers because as the situation is at present there is no fund out of which to provide such money at present?
We are particularly mindful of the question of the drainage of intermediate rivers but the carrying out of works on such rivers has more or less been abandoned over a number of years because priority is now given to main arterial schemes as it is the view of the Commissioners of Public Works that the main scheme should get priority. Of course, we are mindful of the position of what are termed intermediate rivers and in respect of any funds that will come to hand consideration will be given to making funds available for some of these schemes. The schemes I have in mind were the ones referred to by Deputy Gibbons, intermediate rivers. So far as the other works are concerned, land improvement works, field drainage, the grants vary from 40 per cent to 55 per cent of the cost, and such grants are obtainable without difficulty under the farm modernisation scheme by any farmer or group of farmers who make application and have their application approved.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us when negotiations started concerning funds for intermediate drainage?
There is nothing in the question I am answering requesting information as to when negotiations commenced.
The Parliamentary Secretary does not know.
If Deputy Allen wants specific information the way to obtain it, and the Deputy is long enough in the House to know this, is to put down a specific question.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that many drainage schemes cannot be carried out because there is not a sufficient outflow from intermediate rivers? Some years ago there was a scheme of intermediate drainage, which has nothing to do with arterial drainage, and would the Parliamentary Secretary not press for funds immediately for such schemes because they would result in bringing a great deal more land into cultivation and thereby benefit the economy generally?
As I have indicated, funds for the carrying out of works on intermediate rivers will get consideration.
Is it the intention of the Government to get more money to add to the Regional Fund or is it the intention to use the meagre amount available? If it is the latter, then that is the wrong approach.
The Government will get as much money as possible to carry out these drainage works because their importance is recognised.
But nothing has been done about it.
The necessity for carrying out these drainage works did not arise since 1973. Unfortunately we got a bad legacy from Fianna Fáil.
The Government have had four years to do it.