Turf Development Bill, 1981: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Turf Development Acts, 1946 to 1980, to enable Bord na Móna to make grants, out of funds to be provided by the Oireachtas, to encourage more extensive private development of bogs for the production of turf for fuel.

The increasing scarcity and cost of energy, on the import of which we are so heavily reliant, makes it imperative that our indigenous energy resources be exploited as fully and effectively as possible. Bogland is a primary energy resource which offers an immediate prospect of more extensive development for fuel purposes; it is therefore an obvious source for attention.

The present situation under which Bord na Móna acquire and develop bogs has been, and will continue to be the major contribution of turf to fuel and energy resources. Bord na Móna's record of good planning, effective organisation and growing scale of output of turf products for electricity generation and for household fuel markets is impressive. It is my intention that Bord na Móna continue to develop and increase their production.

The board's new briquette factory at Littleton, County Tipperary, will start production shortly. It has an annual production capacity of 130,000 tonnes and when fully operational will provide direct employment for 120 workers, with a further 210 out on the bog producing the milled peat required for the manufacture of the briquettes. Bord na Móna purchased to date some 70,000 hectares of bog for the production of turf and turf products. The third programme of the board which commenced in 1974, will increase the board's acquisition of bog to about 80,000 hectares.

There are many smaller tracts of bogland which could contribute significantly to our energy requirements. Many of these would be of little interest for development under the large scale operations of Bord na Móna. But their value could be very considerable and I believe that they could be developed by private interests for the production of fuel. Balance of payments and market supply would be advantageously affected, and areas of hitherto useless land could be turned to profit and provide employment. Surveys carried out by An Foras Talúntais indicate that there is a remaining area of bog of about 1.1 million hectares, comprised of relatively small bogs spread throughout the midlands and western areas of the country. It is estimated that about 50 per cent of these boglands would be capable of development for fuel production. Essentially, the Bill is designed to get such of these boglands as are capable of economic exploitation for energy purposes into production as fast and efficiently as possible through the involvement of the private interests concerned.

I do not have to emphasise that the Bill is in no way intended to downgrade or prejudice the primacy of Bord na Móna as the key instrument of policy in the development of turf resources. Indeed, it is because of the confidence I have in the board's expertise and because I know of their dedication to ensuring that all the bogland of the country is carefully used and not wasted or rendered useless by bad work methods, that I am proposing in the Bill that the administration of this private scheme be given over to the board. The Bill also provides for a role for the expertise in the various counties in the administration of the scheme.

The main obstacle to private development of bogland for the production of fuel is the substantial development costs involved, and the cost of modern mechanical turf cutting machinery. This Bill is intended to provide financial assistance towards both of these. One of my chief concerns is to ensure that the now valuable resource of bogland is developed in a planned and careful way and that quick profit despoliation of our irreplaceable asset will not be a consequence. An efficient scheme of private bog development requires the observance of standards of operation. Cost is a major factor in orderly development. Drainage, including outfall drainage, access roads and efficient turf cutting machinery can amount to a financial investment which could impose an excessive burden on private developers, even allowing for the improved market for turf as a fuel. Given this situation and the inescapable need to exploit our domestic energy resources as fully and effectively as possible, it has been decided to introduce a scheme of grants on the lines proposed in the Bill to encourage more extensive private development of bogland for the production of turf for fuel.

To minimise the risk of the destruction or wasteful use of bogs in the growth in turf production which these financial incentives are intended to achieve, the Bill provides for delivery to Bord na Móna of a bog development plan with the grant application. The plan must contain such information as the board may require. Essentially the purpose of this requirement is to enable the board to assess a project and to make grants upon terms they consider appropriate to ensure orderly development, including proper regard to the subsequent use of the cut-over area. However, the board may dispense with a development plan where an application relates to a bog development adequately indicated on a plan received by the board in relation to another application or is in respect of minor works or minor equipment for a proposed development on a bog which is being worked.

I should perhaps mention also that the requirement to deliver a plan to Bord na Móna will not apply to persons seeking grant aid for machinery to cut turf under contract. Such contractors may have no direct connection with the bog area being cut and could not be expected to prepare a development plan. As I have said earlier, persons at local level with knowledge and experience in connection with bog development will have a role in the administration of the scheme. I have in mind here county engineers, county development teams and others with acquired expertise. Specifically, I see this expertise as being of particular immediate value to the board in regard to the examination of bog development plans and perhaps even in the preparation of such plans.

I have, therefore, included a provision in the Bill which enables the board to appoint persons to examine and approve, or indeed in some cases prepare bog development plans.

Turf production by the private sector is at present running at about 1 million tonnes per annum — 313,000 tonnes approximately of oil equivalent — representing a saving to the economy of the order of £47 million in oil imports.

It is not possible at this stage to give any firm indication of the likely effects of the proposed scheme in terms of increased turf production by private interests, but given suitable harvesting and other conditions it seems that an increased output of upwards of 500,000 tonnes annually would be a reasonable estimate.

Realistically, it must be acknowledged that this additional output may not be got in the first few years but the potential is there. As to employment, it is reasonable to assume that the anticipated increased activities in private bog development as a result of the scheme will mean extra jobs in areas where job opportunities are relatively scarce. Mechanised methods of bog development and turf extraction are essential for economic exploitation, so that, initially at any rate, additional employment as a direct result of the scheme may be limited but, when the scheme is fully operational, employment should be provided for upwards of 800. Some of these jobs will be of a seasonal nature but will fit in with the work pattern in the areas concerned, where farm work, which also has an element of seasonality, is the principal source of employment. Of course, every job in the principal bog regions is valuable but where the product is totally from a native and hitherto unused resource such employment is more valuable still and will have beneficial side effects also.

Likely expenditure under the proposed grants scheme is not readily estimated at this stage. Essentially, expenditure would depend on the number of acceptable schemes for grant assistance for private bog development coming forward and, of course, the amounts involved. Development costs will depend a lot on the physical characteristic of the bog being developed, terrain, drainage required and accessibility. Until there is some experience of the working of the scheme a firm estimate of the cost of funding it is not possible.

As Deputies will be aware, the Central Development Committee, knows the CDC, currently operate a scheme under which grants are made available to private operators towards the cost of turf-cutting machinery. It is planned that the CDC scheme will be absorbed in the wider scheme now proposed. The local improvements scheme operated by the Department of the Environment through county councils provides grants for the improvement of non-public roads. Most of the schemes relate to roads serving the local agricultural community, but a limited number relate to access roads to bogs. Minor drainage works, including those which serve a bog, also come within the local improvements scheme but such schemes form a very minor part of the total works undertaken. Roinn na Gaeltachta provide grants to cover the cost of certain roads in Gaeltacht areas. Such grants are not specifically designed to aid bog development but they have in the past been used for this purpose to a limited extent. It is not intended that the scheme now proposed should replace any benefits available under either the local improvements scheme or the Roinn na Gaeltachta scheme. However, the extent to which grants may be available for access roads under these schemes will be taken into account in determining what grant assistance should be made available under the proposed new scheme.

The memorandum included with the Bill explains its purpose and that of its various provisions. I will, therefore, confine myself to the more important provisions in the Bill and to those which I think might benefit from further elaboration. As I have said, there are two main strands to it. First, those who own or have a lease of bogland or a right of turbary over it will, subject to an approved development plan for it, be considered for grants for development works and for bog development machinery, including turf-cutting machines. Second, persons wishing to cut turf, such as contractors, will be considered for grants for turf-cutting machinery.

The Bill indicates those who may apply to Bord na Móna for a grant towards the cost of a proposed bog development. Applicants must be either the owner, which includes the lessee, of the bog or have a right to turbary over it. It is proposed that the board will administer the grants scheme and will have full discretion except in a situation where a conflict of interest between the board and the applicant might be a consideration. The Bill lays down procedures for dealing with a proposal by the board to refuse an application in those circumstances. This I see as a necessary assurance for bog developers. I am satisfied that Bord na Móna would not act in an arbitrary or selfish way so as to put their own interest first and block an otherwise worthy private development. I have provided this safeguard, however. The application and all relevant documents have to be referred to the Minister, who may confirm the board's proposal to refuse the application or direct it to make a grant, having previously consulted the advisory committee, the establishment of which is provided for in the Bill. It should be noted that referral to the Minister is confined to the so-called conflict of interest situation; otherwise, as I have said, the board have total discretion.

It has been decided not to attempt, at this stage, to cover questions of bog ownership or rights, nor to deal with acquisition or allocation of bogland, nor with amalgamation of turbary rights held in small plots, not with division of commonage to facilitate turf production. These are important aspects; they raise difficult and complex issues which would require far reaching measures. Accordingly, it was felt that the introduction of a priority measure, as this Bill is intended to be, should not be held up while these complex issues are being pursued. I do not see the ownership question as a potential source of difficulty in connection with the operation of the proposed scheme. Indeed, the availability of grant assistance towards the cost of approved bog developments should be an inducement to those concerned to settle in a spirit of co-operation and to their own advantage, ownership and rights problems in relation to bogs, where these exist.

I commend the Bill to the House as a measure which provides a basis for the encouragement of more extensive private exploitation of the country's turf resources as a means of reducing our dependence on imported coal and oil, which this year is expected to top one billion pounds.

The party which I represent support this Bill, accept and agree with the spirit behind it and the purposes of it. We shall not delay or hamper it in any way.

I agree with the Minister for Energy that it is sensible to attract private enterprise and private capital into the energy field. I understand, of course, that it may be necessary to provide public funds to encourage that development. I also understand that the pace of turf extraction and exploitation must be stepped up, since our oil situation has become so bleak, and that Bord na Móna themselves have vastly increased their production over the last six or eight years.

I want to make one or two points. In particular, I want to say something about a point which, although it bulks very large in the Bill, the Minister in his speech did not really advert to and that is the distinction in the upper limit of the grant between private individuals, on the one hand, and co-operative enterprises on the other. I entirely share the anxiety which I thought I heard reflected in the Minister's speech ten minutes ago to encourage co-operative activity. The Minister will, perhaps, have the grace to recognise that I have been preaching this personally for many years and that it has not been too often heard from the Minister's party during that time.

I am not to be taken as in any way pouring cold water on the co-operative idea when I raise this point. I do so not in a niggling spirit but because I think it is important while doing our best to foster the co-operative idea to keep our eyes on the economic purpose of this Bill. The economic purpose of this Bill is to attract private money, whether co-operatively organised or not, into turf development. There will be cases, because of confused ownership situations and confused entries on title documents and so on, where it will facilitate the exploitation of a new bog if the owners instead of becoming entangled in disputes about ownership or trying to resolve these disputes simply operate a turf extraction and exploitation scheme co-operatively. While I agree that that is so. I am thinking also of the private individual who does not have these problems but who may be deterred by the by no means marginal difference between the upper limit of 45 per cent, which is all he can get by way of a grant under this Bill, and the 60 per cent to which a co-operative enterprise, whether new or long-established, will be entitled to. Is it sensible to make this distinction?

I have been approached by one individual in connection with this Bill — I must admit he has not made this point and I am not sure if it would be applicable to his case — who recently acquired a very large area of bog which he proposes to develop. This Bill must be an advantage to him, but he cannot understand why he is being kept to an upper limit of 45 per cent of a grant when he does not need to work co-operatively. I hope I do not need to explain that I am all for co-operation, but here is the case of an individual, an entrepreneur, who wants to develop this large area of bog himself. I hope we will not forbid him the right to do that. He has not said he will be deterred by the fact that the upper limit of his grant will be 45 per cent, whereas a co-operative will get 60 per cent, but suppose he were in that situation. Suppose he found it that last straw of impossibility to finance that development to the extent of an extra 15 per cent. Would not the Minister's purpose be defeated so far as that individual is concerned? As I said, I do not think this is applicable in his case but for all I know there may be other such cases.

If this makes a great deal of sense, seeing the Minister is willing to stake bog development to the extent of 60 per cent of the cost and the fact that this will not break him or the State, surely there would be a case for doing away with this distinction and making it 60 per cent all round? That would be a more sensible thing to do. I may be wrong about that because there may be some dimension I have not understood. If so, I cannot be blamed because the Minister's speech was silent on this point.

Another question I do not want to make a meal of because I do not see a lot of substance in it but I would not like this opportunity to pass without mentioning it so that it will be on the record, to use that phrase of doubtful value, is this: is it constitutionally permissible to draw a distinction between private money co-operatively organised and private money privately organised for this purpose? Is that consonant with Article 40.1 which asserts that citizens are to be equal before the law? I can tell the Minister — I do not expect him to be focused on this particular point — that in EEC countries which have a provision like Article 40.1, Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany, there has been very considerable litigation in which points of this kind have been raised. We have not had a point of this kind raised in the Irish courts yet, and I do not think there would be much substance in it here because it is true that a Government must be allowed to have discretion in constructing different categories for the purpose of policy, and they must be permitted to arrange citizens and potential beneficiaries of a scheme in different categories but — and this is the only area of doubt and I want to mention it in case it might be thought I should have done so — that distinction, or the drawing of distinctions, ought to rest on a materially reasonable consideration related to the purpose of the Act.

The purpose of this Bill is to encourage turf development and I cannot see that this distinction will encourage turf development because this is a distinction which will make it easier for some more than for others. The basis of the distinction does not seem to be related to the main object of the Bill. As I said, I do not want to make much of that point. I do not advance it as being a killing point and I am not sure I would stand over it if I had to argue the point in another forum. Casual distinctions of this kind ought not to be thrown into legislation merely because the Minister has a soft spot for one form of development rather than another, when the object of the Bill, to extract more sods of turf out of the ground, would be just as well served if the distinction was not there.

I am glad the Minister has shown that soft spot, even though he has not put it in the most appropriate context, for co-operative development and I am particularly glad — perhaps I am flattering myself in assuming that this may have been the result of something I said — that the idea of co-operative energy exploitation or development has lodged in his Department. About a year ago I suggested in a fairly elaborate speech that we should be casting around for ways of encouraging the local formation of energy oriented co-operatives which would have much the same function in regard to energy as there was in regard to the exploitation of dairying in the early days of the co-operative movement at the end of the last century and at the beginning of this century.

The Minister is on to a good thing, something which could be a seed for infinitely more important developments on a larger plain, if he asks his Department to see if there is some way of encouraging this development of energy co-operatives in localities — small towns, big towns or stretches of countryside. I do not care what name they are given or whether it is in Irish or English. The kind of job a co-operative like that would do, and make money out of but not immediately, would be to conduct an energy consumption audit in the population of their locality and find out the total consumption of energy of all kinds — driving cars, lighting and heating houses, the operation of machinery and so on. Does that total seem excessive having taken the physical features into account by comparison with the national average? Is there any way of reducing it? They could also organise conservation efforts informally and in a way those people best understand because they are on the ground. I do not mean any disrespect to the Minister or his Department or any of the organs which have taken an interest in energy conservation, but a committee of a locality trying to decide how they could spare energy in all its forms in their own area would probably produce better results.

Another operation which the energy co-operative could carry out would be the gradual acquisition of marginal land and planting it with timber. I realise that biomass work is at an experimental stage and I am not flying away with great expectations of what biomass will deliver in terms of the generation of electricity through combustion. Some elements of forestry will increasingly contribute in that regard as the years go by and all forestry development, whether it is the rapidly growing species which will renew themselves every three or four years and which can be socially consumed, or conventional forestry, which still throws off a substantial proportion of biomass waste, it cannot be the case that development of that kind will not have a certain energy value. Energy co-operatives of this kind could audit or review the physical characteristics of a district to see whether they lend themselves to the kind of small-scale, almost one-farm-sized, hydrodevelopment in which the ESB are now taking an interest. For the execution of such projects a small-scale hydro plant is now being built and the relevant semi-State bodies should get into the business of developing for sale to other countries. The object of a small-scale hydrodevelopment of this kind would be to sell electricity into the national grid and receive payment from the ESB.

The same energy co-operative could make sure that not a speck of combustible waste in the locality is uselessly burnt. In every district at least one heating plant should be such as could be fuelled by combustible waste. There is at least one big store in this city which obtains all its heating by burning every morning all the waste packaging from the products which they sell.

Probably there are many other things which a technically more expert mind than mine would identify as being possibilities for an energy co-operative. I urge the Minister to consider the possibility of voluntary effort, particularly on the part of teenagers who are very open to popular ideas about trying to conserve energy and contribute to the national effort, the success of which will put further away the day when we may be forced into some form of nuclear development, little though we may like it. Young people will contribute voluntary effort to some of these unrewarding and crummy duties such as collecting waste. I emphasised that this form of effort ought not to be despised or thought beneath notice. Ni neart go cur le chéile, as the motto of my party has it. While one effort in a small locality will not have any impact on the national scene, a dense network of such energy co-operative throughout the country, even in areas which are not bog development areas, could make a substantial impact. I promise that if the Minister takes any interest in this matter I will give him all the support I can and I am sure I speak for my party in that.

There are a few points arising on the text of this Bill to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention. Some of them appear to be a bit questionable and I should like a week or two to put down amendments, unless I have Misunderstood something which can be pointed out in the Minister's reply. The Bill makes a claim that the grants which the board will be empowered to make will be for development and it does not specify that a developer must himself acquire machinery or anything of that kind. The Minister made clear in his speech that the development grants will be grants towards the overall cost and he has specifically envisaged the use of contractors. Does he envisage that the board, who have themselves pioneered the development of very sophisticated bog machinery, will expand their own manufacturing operations in that regard so as to provide for what must ultimately be an enhanced demand for such machinery? He is, after all, speaking of increasing production, via private participation, from 1 million tons to 1.5 million in a year. That must imply a very considerable mass of new bog plant and machinery. The Minister said this would not happen immediately but I should like to know whether he envisages the expansion of the board's own operations into the machinery manufacturing business so that it will not have to be imported from abroad, if there are other countries which make machinery suitable for the work here which the Bord na Móna machinery now does.

In section 2(3) the Bill contains provision regarding a case where the board propose to refuse an application. In such a case the application will be referred to the Minister who, along with a committee, will constitute a kind of court appeal. I can see the sense in that and I hope the board are not offended by it. The criterion mentioned in subsection (3) seems excessively vague. The application may be refused in the first instance if the development would to a significant extent be detrimental to the development of bogland by the board. In what way detrimental? I do not expect the Minister to go into any great detail about this but we might expect to hear what kind of practice would lead the board to decide that the proposed development would to a significant extent be detrimental to their own operations. I do not see anything sinister in that vagueness but it would be no harm, even for the board's own guidance to spell out what the Minister will regard as reasonable grounds for refusing.

I should also like to know whether the Minister envisages that a grant made under this Bill will be recoverable in the event of its being squandered, misapplied or diverted. I presume this must be guarded against to some extent by the provision which enables the board to attach terms and conditions to the making of a grant and it may be that the Minister intends that the grant will be paid in instalments as work progressed. It seems that the Bill as it stands contains no express provision for actually recovering from a person who has received a grant money which has been misapplied or for which value has not been obtained. I accept that every time we make a grant for a national purpose we are taking a risk. This Bill will involve quite a lot of money and for that reason the risk should be minimised. Either the machinery for making the grant, perhaps in instalments when the bulk of the work has been completed should be made plain in the Bill or the Minister ought to include a provision specifically for the recovery of money which has been misspent.

Section 6(2)(a) entitles the board to refuse a grant and that refusal, as far as I understand it, is not a subject to appeal to the Minister in the form in which the other refusal might have been. The board can refuse a grant where the application relates to bog which the board prior to receiving the application had decided to acquire or considered acquiring. If the board had decided to acquire it it would presumably be on written record so that it could be shown to the Minister but there is no certainty in regard to considering to acquire a bog. Would it be enough if a board official told the Minister that they had had their eye on that land for years and that they were thinking of taking it over? If the Minister's intention is to streamline the operation of this new scheme he should leave out this provision which unless it is construed with extreme goodwill and diligence on all sides would allow the board to sit on private development perhaps because of pressure of work or some other reason which allowed them to stifle its development because they had been unable to make a decision for a long time as to whether or not to acquire it. If the board want a bog they should decide to acquire it. But if the Minister thinks that is too tough on the board, the board should at least be required to produce some kind of concrete evidence that they are seriously considering and are actively progressing along those lines and that it is not simply a thought that flashed through somebody's mind a year or two ago.

The expression in section 7(2) is bad English. To say "shall be comprised of" is not correct. The committee appointed under the section shall either consist of or shall be composed of but "comprised of" is not a good usage. I am not an expert so perhaps I am wrong about this.

I thank the board for the most interesting experience which they made possible for some colleagues and myself not long before Christmas when they kindly arranged for us to see the biomass experiment and the briquette factory at Clonsast. I was deeply impressed by the evident efficiency of the board's operations so far as these two sites revealed then and I am grateful for their courtesy and the way in which the board's personnel were willing to take time off to explain what was going on.

The biomass experiment, even to somebody as technically backward as I, has to work, and something tells me that it will be a success. Even though the experiment is on a small scale it is laid out in such a way that it is possible to see which varieties are doing better than expected, which are doing well and which are failing. That is as an experiment should be. There is something about the look of that cut-away bog covered with the varieties of elders, willow and so on which cries out that from this form of bog exploitation important resources will eventually accrue to us and that the thing will be a success. I hope the Minister in producing this Bill will bear in mind that either himself or his successor will have to incorporate the statutory authority to make grants for bog development proposals, and also statutory authority to make grants for biomass proposals on areas of cut-away bog. I and my party support the measure and wish the board every possible success in the future.

There are, in my constituency, many bogs of the type the Minister referred to. These smaller type bogs were not viable for Bord na Móna to develop. I welcome this Bill and compliment the Minister on his tour throughout the country in an effort to educate the people on the energy needs and cost of energy. It is frightening to think that the energy cost of this year will be £1 billion. This Bill is a step in the right direction. It is an effort to cut back on the huge export of £1 billion each year for energy. The Minister will face many difficulties but he is well aware of the situation.

In my constituency the Littleton briquette factory will open shortly and when it is in full production it will contribute considerably to the national energy needs. Over the years Bord na Móna have made great strides in their efforts to produce enough energy but this Bill will cover boglands which were never viable for Bord na Móna and I welcome it. However, there are many problems one of which is the accessibility of bogs. Many of the bogs in my constituency have not been worked since the emergency when an emergency force worked there to produce our needs because due to the war we could not import coal. The bogs are still viable but the roads are not there. The Minister referred to the local improvements scheme operated by the Department of the Environment. That scheme is in operation but if the Minister's plan to develop the bogs is to be successful the money towards these schemes will have to be increased considerably. There will be a substantial investment in machinery but the main concern is the condition of the roads. On foot of a Bord na Móna survey in my area it was found that the greater portion of the bogland is not serviced by roads of a sufficient standard. These roads will have to be improved especially when we consider the type of machinery that will be needed. This will require considerable finance. Much more money than is provided now will be needed for these local improvements schemes if the Minister is to be successful in getting this scheme off the ground. In my area there is a great interest in the idea in the Bill but unfortunately people have found that the money required to develop the roads into the bogs is not available.

There is a need for liaison between the Minister's Department and the Department of the Environment to ensure that in future budgets, when this Bill is implemented cognisance will be taken of the need for additional and substantial moneys to enable groups of people who are prepared to develop bogland and contribute to the national energy grid to have the resources to provide access roads.

The Minister said:

It is proposed that the board will administer the grants scheme and will have full discretion except in a situation where a conflict of interest between the board and the applicant might be a consideration.

I accept that Bord na Móna are the natural body to carry out the scheme, but to ensure the success of the Bill there must be the maximum liaison with county engineers, county council development officers, agricultural committees and rural organisations. I know several groups who have come together in my area and who are prepared to produce turf to an extent which will contribute to the national needs. In my constituency we have had long discussions at county council level about this matter. In the past few years energy costs went out of control and looking around us, we could see the untouched bogland which was not viable for development by Bord na Móna. It was too big a task for the local small holders or cottiers to develop it.

The first necessity is accessibility. A big investment will be needed in machinery afterwards. Unless the local improvements schemes are given sufficient money to develop these roads, we will be wasting our time. In my constituency groups of people, co-operatives and rural organisations will welcome this Bill. Money is a problem, but my top priority is accessibility to the bogs. After that the local people will contribute to making a substantial reduction in oil imports by the development of small bogs.

Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo, mar le roinnt bliain tá muintir na tuatha ag lorg cabhair airgid chun na bóithre chuig na portacha a fheabhsú. Like other speakers I welcome this Bill. Since the oil crisis hit us, people in rural areas have been clamouring for turf development. At every county council and regional development meeting the question of bog development has been raised. When oil was cheap, 90 per cent of the people in rural Ireland switched over from solid fuel to oil for heating and cooking. It was a much cleaner fuel for cooking and heating. The tide has now turned. We saw the mad rush for grants for conversion from oil to solid fuels. I am sorry those grants were discontinued because only those who applied early on got the benefit of them. Some help in this direction is needed.

I hope the Bill gets a speedy passage. The Minister wants to get it enacted before the next turf-cutting season. The bones of the Bill are very simple. It will be administered by Bord na Móna. There must be a proper development plan. In some areas there are hundreds of acres of bog which are not viable for development by Bord na Móna but which could be developed by local co-operatives. The plan will ensure that these stretches of bog will not be ruined.

The most necessary development is the provision of access roads and drainage. We have roads which need to be improved, but because turf was not cut for the past 15 years the drains have become clogged. In many areas drainage is the only problem. When the Bill was mooted many of us were surprised because we did not hear enough about the involvement of county engineers, county managers and county councillors. The Minister has dispelled any doubts we may have had. He said that persons at local level with knowledge and experience in connection with bog development will have a role in the administration of the scheme. He said he has in mind county engineers, county development teams and others with acquired expertise. He went on:

Specifically, I see this expertise as being of particular immediate value to the board in regard to the examination of bog development plans and perhaps even in the preparation of such plans. I have, therefore, included a provision in the Bill which enables the board to appoint persons to examine and approve, or indeed in some case prepare bog development plans.

That is a very important statement. One such person should be nominated in each council area to take complete responsibility. Otherwise the scheme will not get off the ground as fast as we should like. I have an area in mind where a group of people have formed a co-operative. In this group there will be about 600 people and there will be turf for at least 20 years when this area is developed. There are other areas where there might be only 50 to 60 people. To a certain degree they will be groping in the dark. I should like to see a special engineer in charge of small sections like that.

Minor works will not need a plan. They can get an exemption from Bord na Móna. Everybody will welcome that. There is one contentious issue and I hope we will hear something from the Minister about it, that is, the planting of virgin bogs. It was all right when we had a surplus of cheap oil to use bogland for planting when it was not being used for turf cutting. The forestry people have done great work. We compliment them, but at the same time we would ask the Minister to try to freeze the planting of virgin bog until such time as it has been cut away. We cannot stand by while hundreds of tons of fuel go to waste at a time when people are clamouring for bogs to cut. Available bogs should be handed out for local development and the Department should restrict planting to areas of cutaway bog. Peat is a fine source of energy during the crisis we will have with us until the energy source other than imported oil has been developed.

Again I compliment the Minister on this Bill. We have all been asking for action in this field, but now we are wondering how quickly the turf can be got out of the ground. I can assure the Minister of the wholehearted co-operation of county councils and their managers.

I, too, compliment the Minister on the Bill. In the west and north-west particularly we have been talking about this sort of action for years because we have seen the tremendous potential of our wastelands — I am sure the Minister in his travels in the country realised that great potential. It makes one shudder to think of our enormous bills to foreign oil producers when we realise the vast reserves of turf undeveloped within our shores.

I have a few criticisms and points of clarification which I will put to the Minister and to which I hope he will reply. To be realistic, what the Minister is talking about is a 60 per cent grant to co-operatives and a 45 per cent grant to private bog developers. When he refers to "co-operatives" does the Minister mean groups formed in the same way as those in the farm modernisation scheme under which three, four or more farmers will get together to cut bog? All people from the poor areas in the west and north-west realise that we have not got there co-operatives in the generally accepted use of the term. I hope the Minister is not referring to properly registered co-operatives. He did not make it clear, as far as I am concerned, whether this 60 per cent grant will be given to three, four, or more farmers who get together to form local groups. If the Minister has been referring to big co-operatives he is making a mistake because they will not utilise the bogs to the best advantage.

The 45 per cent grant will not appeal to most of the people I can think of who might be inclined to cut turf because they would have to make up the vast balance of 55 per cent and many small farmers, most of whom are on unemployment assistance as a back-up, would not have the finance to avail of such grants.

When the Bord na Móna officers go to view the bogs I hope they will allow a certain amount for development work because we must appreciate that wages will have to be paid for this work, particularly where bogs are in a bad state and not easy to develop. Some of those bogs should have been cut years ago. The Minister's idea is to encourage people to cut more bog. It is probably the first good idea we have seen from Fianna Fáil in a long time. The Minister is on the right track and we hope he will not make it impracticable for small farmers to avail of these grants.

The Minister spoke about a plan, the requirement to submit a plan. We are dealing with simple people and all they will understand is a simple plan to show the area of bog they intend to cut. Now is the time to spell out all these things because none of us wants to see complicated plans being required from the small farmers. There are too many such plans, such as planning permissions and so forth. What should be required is a simple application form giving full name and address, the area and the site plan of the bog in question. If such application forms are simple the response will be much greater.

The Minister spoke about 1.1 million hectares of waste land in the country, that is, 3.3 million acres of bogland that can be developed in areas which are no good for anything else. The Minister spoke briefly of commonage. A person who buys a turf-cutting machine for, say, £6,000, will get 60 per cent of the purchase price but he could run into difficulty if he begins to cut commonage bog of which there would be joint owners. I should like clarification on what such a man would be entitled to because there are many problems in the west and north-west in regard to commonages. There might be 30 owners but perhaps only five or six people would be willing to cut turf on a commonage. The others could object if a man wanted to take in a machine, though the owners might be living in Dublin or Glasgow. It is not a simple matter.

Perhaps the Minister would consider at a later stage taking over turf banks that have not been cut say within a three-year period and allocating them to people who would make use of them. The Department of Lands own a considerable amount of bogland that is not being utilised. It is quite common to have up to 100 people looking for turf banks but the Department are not making such land available to them. I hope the Minister will use his influence in such instances and ensure that the Department make the land available to local people.

All of us are concerned about the amount of oil and turf being imported. People in small towns and villages know the value of peat and they should be encouraged to cut as much turf as is possible. Contractors should cut turf and sell it to their customers in towns and villages, as is done in the case of coal. I hope the Minister will deal with those points in his reply.

There is no point in introducing a scheme like this unless the grants are made attractive and in my opinion the 45 per cent grant is not an attractive proposition. One way around this matter is for three or more people to get together to cut turf and they could be called a co-operative. Their labour should be taken into account in determining the amount of grant. My major complaint is that the grant is too small. The kind of people we are trying to encourage with regard to this scheme will not have finance of their own.

Land owned by the Department should be made available to the people. In addition, considerable work should be done on roads leading to bogs. There are many such bog roads in western areas and for the hundreds of people who cut turf the 45 per cent grant is not sufficient. If they were given a grant of 60 per cent and if account were taken of the labour element some progress could be made on road work.

The idea behind this scheme is right but the amount of grant is not sufficient. We should not forget that the people we are talking about do not have resources of their own. If the suggestions I have put forward are adopted, in five or six years time the Minister of the day will be able to say this was a good scheme and it should be expanded.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill. It meets a definite need in regard to the production of energy and also the development of rural areas. The Minister mentioned that upwards of 800 jobs would be provided but I think he was being too modest in stating that figure. As the scheme develops I am sure the number will increase.

The previous speaker mentioned the tour undertaken by the Minister regarding energy conservation. He generated an awareness among the public of the need to conserve energy. One worry I have is with regard to the extent to which private interests and individuals will avail of the facilities provided. Bord na Móna are the only organisation involved in turf production. The exception was during the time of emergency in the forties when local authorities were engaged in turf production. The lack of expertise in the production and handling of large quantities of turf at that time left people wary about going into turf production in a large way. I am rather concerned that large organisations may fight shy of becoming involved.

The Minister referred to involvement by local authorities. It is important that they be involved in bog development and in work on the roads serving the bogs. Bord na Móna should operate pilot schemes in areas where it is anticipated that there might be private development subsequently. This would be particularly important in my constituency where there is no Bord na Móna involvement.

It would be difficult to praise Bord na Móna adequately for their work during the years. Their work has been a prime example of how Irish skills can be successful. However, I can see the development of the proposals put forward by the Minister as quite different from any of the massive operations carried out to date by Bord na Móna. This scheme will help areas where the bogs have only been partially developed. It will be of special help to areas that have not benefited directly as a result of Bord na Móna operations. The local authorities should shoulder part of the burden. Their initial involvement in the drainage and provision of roads will be essential. I hope that private interests will move in afterwards and share the burden.

Local authorities with their engineering and technical staffs should be well placed to develop bog roads. They are involved in making roads. While the county councils can channel money from the local improvement schemes for the development of roads and drainage, in County Monaghan and in County Cavan they have so many applicants that it would be impossible to do this. In County Monaghan we have over 400 applicants. It would not be feasible to divert that money from the local improvement schemes, so it is not likely that money will be available from those schemes for either drainage or road making.

There is adequate road material available near bogland areas, especially those in mountain regions. A lot of shale and rock can be found in those areas. The county councils could use this. Deputy Kelly referred to the utilisation of waste materials. There is a lot of thinnings and forest waste in general which could be used. There is an area in north County Monaghan where there are roughly 2,000 acres of virgin bog. This bogland has never been developed because the roadways were only made a certain distance. The turf was harvested by the county council and later by local farmers. This area is along the Border and there are large forests in the area. Some of the thinnings from those forest areas could be used in generating plants. Energy is costing a lot of money at the moment but there are millions of tons of forest thinnings and forest waste in many parts of Europe which is not used even by local people for firewood. Something should be done about this.

We have heard a lot of talk about the biomass scheme by Bord na Móna. When bogs are harvested biomass production could take place. It has been accepted in many European countries that elders and sallies can be grown in such areas. Bord na Móna should put on an exhibition of the type of plant and equipment they have available for bog development. As well as exhibiting turf-cutting machinery they should also show drainage equipment and trailers and tractors which can be used in bog work.

We have heard a lot of talk about draining bogs but there is not that problem in mountain areas. There is not the same problem with regard to outfall as in lowland bogs. The most important thing required in mountain bogs is roads. An examination should be made of all the unharvested bogs throughout the country. There are many areas in the west where under the farm modernisation schemes a lot of drainage can be carried out. It is important to assess the amount of turbary which is available. Coal now costs £5 a hundredweight, so turf development is very important. We now find that many people who have bogs of their own are very anxious to develop them. I hope more people will become involved in turf development.

I welcome this Bill. The Minister is on the right line in so far as he is ensuring the development of areas in which Bord na Móna up to now have not shown any interest. I hope the provisions of this Bill will result in the opening up of large tracts of bog which for a variety of reasons Bord na Móna did not see fit to develop — perhaps because the pockets were too small for their type of development or because the depth of bog was not suitable for their operations. There may be many reasons why Bord na Móna have not moved into certain sections of bog all over the country.

The introduction of this Bill shows beyond doubt that the era of cheap imported fuel is over. We are very fortunate that we have this resource available. I was amazed when the Minister told us that there were 1.1 million hectares of undeveloped bogland. I did not realise there was this area of undeveloped bogland until I saw it in the interim report of the interdepartmental committee on cutaway bogs. One cannot but be struck by the potential of the area of bogland we have. That same report states that only one-third of the area has been developed by Bord na Móna to the extent that fuel has been extracted while the remaining two-thirds is left undeveloped. In addition, as I said we also have 1.1 million hectares of undeveloped bog.

Like every other Bill introduced here this one does not indicate that everything in the garden is rosy. There are a number of things I hope the Minister will look at and take corrective action on when detailed discussion of the provisions takes place on Committee Stage. It may sound generous to give 60 per cent grants in certain circumstances. Those who have read annual reports of Bord na Móna know that attention has always been drawn to the enormous cost of bog development from the time drainage is commenced to the time the finished product is extracted. There is a substantial input of capital necessary initially before one can see any project being fruitful. When one looks at that amount of work the level of grant is not so generous.

The Minister should also consider the question of the level of grant, 45 per cent, applicable to cases other than a qualified society, which I assume is a co-op. The 45 per cent grant categories include individuals or qualifed companies. I am aware of individuals in my constituency, which, fortunately, has a lot of bogland, who are interested in purchasing fairly substantial tracts of bog and this Bill will help them enormously. However, where two or three people are prepared to come together to purchase large tracts of bog it is unfair that the grant in such cases should be 15 per cent below that which applies to a co-op. Those people are engaged in the same type of development.

The Minister has told the House that the provisions of the Bill are to encourage the establishment of co-operative socities. That is a good thing and I do not have any objection to that, but there are many cases and places where this kind of co-operative approach may be impossible for a variety of reasons. The straw that may break the camels back in such cases may be the difference between the 45 per cent and 60 per cent grant. The Minister should try to remove that anomaly when he comes to finalising the provisions of the Bill.

A number of other factors may deter development. For example, under section 4 an application for a development grant must be accompanied by a plan indicating the bog development to which the application relates. That plan must be in such form and contain such information as the board may require. That all depends, as Deputy White stated, on the amount of information the board may require. What type of plan must an applicant submit? How sophisticated must it be?

Because of the capital input and slow return until the end product becomes available for sale if individuals, small companies or co-operatives are expected to produce grandiose plans of a sophisticated nature to satisfy the requirements of Bord na Móna they will be deterred from participating in such development. That is not envisaged in the Bill, which seeks to encourage the development of bogs by private enterprise as opposed to a semi-State type of operation.

In pointing to another problem that may arise — hopefully it will not — I do not wish my remarks to be interpreted in the wrong way. Down the years Bord na Móna have done a fantastic job and provided employment for upwards of 7,000 people. The board have also saved the country an enormous amount of money by providing native fuel. They have carried out their function admirably, and the programme of expansion in relation to the acquisition and development of additional bogland is ahead of target. However, because of the nature of their development down the years the board have become selfish in relation to the acquisition of bogland. If the board were to be successful, that was one of the characteristics they had to express.

I should like to know if under this Bill a company, a co-operative society or an individual will have an opportunity of gaining possession of what Bord na Móna regard as viable pieces of bog property with adequate depth of bog to produce turf for those involved. The areas I refer to are on the periphery of bogs that are being developed by the board at present. There are many such locations. Hundreds of thousands of acres have not been touched by the board although they are situated on the periphery of their development work. I am thinking of the development at Bellacorick. I should like to know if an individual or a company can acquire sections of such bog for development.

At the end of the day my fear would be that applicants for bog development under this Bill would be left with tracts of bog not too attractive in relation to the kind of operation that is needed. For example, they might not have the requisite depth, or there might be difficulty with drainage and so on. It is important that Bord na Móna — here I am sure the Minister will impress on them and that they will react in the right way — realise the need to operate under this Bill with all the goodwill in the world towards the people who will approach them for tracts of bog. Secondly, I hope the kind of development plans needed will not be of a type that will frighten or deter people from getting involved in these development projects in order to produce fuel.

I am glad to note that the Minister has included both drainage and road building as part of the development plan but might I put a small point to him in relation to these? Speaking as a member of a local authority, the local improvements scheme — to which the Minister referred — undertakes drainage to some extent and, to a larger extent, road building. It is well known — and I say this against myself as a member of a local authority — that in any county where the local improvements scheme operates this work can be done much more cheaply by a private contractor because of all the bureaucracy involved in a local authority operation, be that in relation to drainage or road building. I would ask the Minister to examine this question and at least consider the implementation of a pilot scheme in relation to road building and drainage under which he would not automatically hand over road building to the local authority in the area. He might at least establish how the costings would bear up as against the same task undertaken by a private contractor. Naturally standards must be applied and adhered to and, at the end of the day, the local authority would lay down these standards. For maintenance purposes and so on I would hope that these would become local authority roads subject to grants from the Department of the Environment. The same would apply to drainage. We should examine the saving that might be effected by having drainage undertaken by a private contractor. Such would generate employment and I hope that would prove to be the case under this Bill.

I might mention one point that came across in a Minister's speech in relation to the difficulty of estimating the expenditure involved under this Bill, when enacted. The Minister said it was difficult to estimate, that it was dependent on the number of applicants who became eligible for grants under the provisions of the Bill. I can foresee a situation arising in which Bord na Móna, through severe scrutiny of plans and so on and the strict application of certain regulations, could keep the number of eligible applicants to a minimum and dictate the amount of money required in any given year. I would hope it would operate from the other end. While appreciating that at present one cannot estimate the amount of money that would be needed, for example, this year, or for the first year of the operation of the Bill, a certain amount of money should be made available, a minimum amount, which should be topped up in accordance with the increased number of applicants that would come on stream rather than have the amount of money applied relating to the number of eligible applicants from the other end. In that event one would be allowing the board to dictate the amount of money spent regardless of what the Minister and his colleagues might feel ought to be spent.

This Bill should prove to be a very worthwhile one. Hopefully it will bring into use a massive area of this country at present lying fallow. It will provide energy, hopefully cutting down substantially on the amount of money we must spend on imported fuel. For that reason it is a very good Bill. I would ask the Minister to examine the few points I have raised. I can assure him that he will have the co-operation of this side of the House in having the Bill put through the House as soon as possible.

I shall be brief because this is a Bill into which one can go in more detail on Committee Stage. I congratulate the Minister on its introduction and on all he is doing at present to provide alternative energy so that we will not be so dependent on oil. Hardly a day passes without his researching other ways of generating energy. Of course our bogs come to mind immediately. I would differ with Deputy O'Toole on the question of allowing the same grants to companies to buy up bogs or to co-operatives who would be the actual owners. I should like to see our bogs properly developed under this Bill. Many bogs not at present developed are owned by farmers, shopkeepers and others around the country. These bogs have been destroyed through the improper cutting of the turf. In years gone past the Land Commission allocated, say, 500 or 1,000 yards of frontage of a bog to perhaps ten, 12, 15 or 20 people. Five of those people may have cut turf on it and the remainder may not, the result being that, when one progressed three or four banks in, the turf could not be cut at all.

I am somewhat wary about Bord na Móna being too elaborate in their development thereby frightening off the ordinary individual. There must be an organised development of our bogs. To date, our bogs have been destroyed because of this practice of cutting a bit here and there. The result is that water is retained in the middle. Bord na Móna will develop the larger bogs. Indeed, in passing I might say that they do not pay anything like a reasonable price for such bogs. However, the Bill has to do with bogs not suitable for development by Bord na Móna, many of which are held by private individuals. As the Minister said, there is a problem in regard to the title of bogs. Indeed, if one were to go into that question one would be left without any Bill. In the west there are old banks of bog acquired originally from the Land Commission and owned by a number of individuals. I should like to see those individuals forming a co-operative society. I would not like to see such individuals being got at by any private company, with a cheque book, going out to buy up their bogs as cheaply as Bord na Móna are doing, developing them and in turn selling the turf back to them.

At present those smaller people cannot cut turf in those bogs because they are not drained and there are no roads through them. The people have to buy from Bord na Móna turf which is needed for factories and other areas for which energy is needed. So I am trying to get it across to the people in my constituency in Galway that it would be much better for the people who own the bogs to come together and form a co-operative and get a 60 per cent grant. I would even like the grant to be higher for that sort of development. But I would not be keen to see speculators with plenty of money buying up the bogs from small farmers and small businessmen and so on and getting the same grant. If I am right, the principle behind the Bill is that people who now have to go to Bord na Móna to buy turf will be able to develop their own bogs. If the speculators are allowed in we are going to end up with three or four Bord na Mónas and I would not like to see that happen. The purpose of the Bill is to give the ordinary turf producer an opportunity to do it properly.

According to the Minister, if a co-operative is formed Bord na Móna will have the administration of the scheme. I do not know how that will work and I have certain reservations about it. I know Bord na Móna should be involved as advisers because it is important to advise people. But a certain amount of money could be channeled through the county councils to make roads. I et us suppose a grant of 60 per cent is paid to about 30 people who come together to develop bogs. Bord na Móna come along with their machines and tell them how to cut them. I understand there will be grants for machines as well as for roads and drains. But who is going to make the roads? I would like the Minister to clarify that. In other words, who does what when a scheme is laid out and roads must be provided and drains made and machines got? Do the co-operatives give the making of the roads to whoever they like or is there to be a grant to the county council to make the roads as laid out by Bord na Móna when laying out the bog? I would like some more details on this.

This Bill is badly needed. It is a shame to see what is happening at present with machines being hired out from the Sugar Company and various other people and brought into a bog, and when a person sees a handy place to cut a bit of turf he cuts it, and the result is that there are a lot of lakes in the middle and there is no such thing as leaving the bog in such a condition that land could be made of it afterwards. I never agreed with the idea of developing a 16 or 18 foot virgin bog to grow crops because if there was a wet year it would be flooded and if there was a dry year and the drains were too deep nothing could be grown because the turf would be too dry. But cutaway bog, cut down to about three or four feet from the bottom of the bog, could be reasonably well developed. So it is important that if we go into bog development in a big way, it will be done in such a planned way that the bog will be left afterwards in such a condition as to be of some use. The land around most of these bogs is comprised of small farms and when the bogs are cut away they could be a great addition if they were left in a reasonable condition where the drains have a reasonable distance between them, as is done by Bord na Móna.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to go into this Bill in more detail on Committee Stage. We have to sell this Bill. It will not be hard to sell it because turf is very dear now. Many farmers, shopkeepers and business people who have bogs will go in and develop them and will not have to buy turf needed for other businesses from Bord na Móna. This is what I think the Bill is going to do and I will be very disappointed if it is not a success. I have some reservations about handing the scheme over to Bord na Móna who might well make all sorts of conditions before they will approve of the scheme. But there must be some control and the bogs must be developed in an orderly way. This Bill can be discussed on Committee Stage without making a political football out of it and I am sure the Minister for Energy will accept any constructive amendments put forward.

This Bill is one of the most important Bills to come before this House because of the price of energy at the moment. The Minister is to be congratulated on the efforts he is making to get an alternative source of energy to oil. We have the bogs, a huge amount of undeveloped bog. It is going to take time to get the co-operatives going and very little is going to happen this year. So in the case of places where people are cutting turf already and the turf often cannot be taken out because of water. I would appeal to the Minister to consider giving some type of grant to the county councils to make roads into those bogs so that the turf can be taken out without having to drain the bog.

Does the Deputy mean to improve existing roads?

Yes. There are people all over the country cutting turf in bogs which have bad roads and no drainage. The Minister should consider giving a grant to the county councils to improve the roads in bogs that are being used at the moment so that the turf can be taken out without having to drain the bog.

The LIS was referred to. Preference has not been given to bog roads and the amount of LIS money being spent in my county on bog roads is small. If one builds an LIS road where there are farms involved, payment is in accordance with valuation. If one builds an LIS road going into a bog one does it at only 10 per cent, and the same goes for drains. However, it would not create much impression because the roads that are being done under the LIS are going into land and to houses and afterwards they are made public roads.

I have not much more to say on the Bill at the moment. I will be very interested in Committee Stage because people have been asking me about the Bill. I have spoken with a lot of people about this bog business and some points came up. People were afraid that the Bord na Móna process would be very elaborate, that they would have to go to a lot of expense for grants and that the contributions they would have to put up themselves would be very high, perhaps 40 per cent. Secondly, they wondered whether some grants would be given in the initial stage for those people who are already users of the bogs and who have very bad bog roads. Why are co-operatives being formed in regard to the bogs that are not being used? Would anything be done with the bogs that are being used at the moment that could be done through the local authorities giving the grants? The Minister mentioned the engineers of the county councils and they could be used because they are well qualified to look after this.

All in all, the Bill should be and is welcomed by every side of the House. I believe that when it is fully discussed on Committee Stage we will have a good Bill. I congratulate the Minister on everything he is doing to try to get away from expensive energy sources such as oil.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The introduction of this Bill at this time is very opportune indeed and I would like to join with the other speakers who have welcomed the Bill and complimented the Minister on introducing it. I say it is opportune now because one of our problems in the country at present — not the only one — is the cost of energy. Most of our energy, by far the greater percentage of it, is imported at a price that makes its use nearly prohibitive, whether it is coal or oil. Therefore, in my opinion it has become economic once more to exploit our own native fuel, turf and the bogs. Over the years, when oil was available for practically nothing compared with its present price and when coal was reasonably priced comparatively speaking, it was not an economic proposition to use turf as a fuel. It was not economic to develop the bogs and in many cases to draw the turf long distances. Many people who harvested turf for their own use had to draw it several miles. All that has changed and it is economic to exploit and develop our own bogs, and that should be done. It is up to us as a nation to cut down the cost of imported energy as much as we possibly can.

Many people were caught in the trap ten years ago or thereabouts of building new houses and providing oil-fired central heating and electricity for cooking. These things have become exceptionally dear at present and I think it was a retrograde step on the part of the Government to cancel the grants which were available for the conversion of heating systems from oil to solid fuel. People who in all good faith built houses and installed oil-fired central heating were entitled to assistance from the Government in switching over from that type of central heating which then became very expensive. It was wrong that the grants should have been terminated. Maybe it was necessary to adjust them but the Government simply axed them without any alternative or amendment and that was a very bad day's work.

Before I go on to another few things that I want to say about the Bill I would like to express the very sincere hope that the introduction of this Bill at this time would not have the effect of cutting back on turf production this year as I fear it will. The Bill is now going through the House and by the time it gets through Seanad Éireann and Bord na Móna get authority to operate it, I am afraid we will be well into the summer. I know from a brief discussion that I and a constituent had with the Minister for Energy on his tour to promote energy conservation that the Minister is of the opinion that the introduction of this Bill will not in any way prejudice the other grants which have been available and which were being operated by the Central Development Committee quite successfully. My information is that already applicants for grants and promoters of turf production are being advised that everything is virtually at a standstill until the Bill goes ahead. I am giving that information, which I consider I have on reliable authority, and I am urging the Minister to see to it tomorrow morning that this policy is stopped and that people who produced turf last year and are producing it this year if they get road grants will be told to go ahead, will get the green light.

This Bill properly operated could do a lot for the production of fuel in this country. Indeed, Bord na Móna have over the years done a very good job and have produced a very good commodity in turf briquettes. But it is a fact that Bord na Móna are not able to meet the demand on them for either briquettes or turf, and that is the complaint that I have been getting from people who wanted to purchase ordinary turf over the last couple of years. Bord na Móna advertised that they were accepting orders and then closed the list on very short notice. The fact is that Bord na Móna over the last few years are not able to meet the demand upon them. I was rather surprised to see that the capacity of the new briquette factory at Littleton, County Tipperary, will be 130,000 tons. Frankly, I regard that as comparatively small for a national production agency. A small co-operative in my own constituency told me that last year, in their first year of production, they produced 7,000 tons of turf. This year they hope to produce 14,000 tons if they get the grant to continue the road. If one compares 14,000 tons from a little co-operative in County Cavan ——

They are not briquettes, I presume?

(Cavan-Monaghan): No, they are producing the best of turf. At the same time, 14,000 tons of turf is formidable when one compares it with 120,000 tons of briquettes.

It is proposed to make grants of 60 per cent to a qualified co-operative society and 45 per cent in any other case. The Minister should make a grant of 60 per cent to every applicant who is qualified. It is difficult to see the merit of the co-operative society as against a partnership or a few people coming together. I was not here for the Minister's opening speech and I do not know if he spelled out the virtues of the co-operative as against the private individual. If he did not do so, he should spell it out for us. One of the reasons for the production of turf falling off was because of the cost of making roads into bogs to get turf out and the cost of drainage. They are costs of a capital nature and I am glad they are covered here.

As Deputy Callanan pointed out, there are two categories of roads — the access roads which are there for decades, perhaps generations, leading into the bogs which have fallen into complete disrepair over the years. They would need a considerable amount of money spent on them. There is no point in talking about county councils doing that at present, because from the allocation of funds to them in the estimates, there is no possible way they could do so. They are not national primary or secondary roads or roads for which local authorities get direct grants. If they are to be repaired it will have to paid for out of the 12 per cent increase allocated to the county councils this year, which is totally inadequate. I hope the Minister has some plans for the repairing of these public roads, apart from the roads leading into the bogs. It has been suggested that the local improvements scheme could be used. As Deputy Callanan also said — he has a wide knowledge of rural Ireland — funds from that scheme are not available for this. The counties in which there is the biggest demand on the local improvements scheme for making access roads into houses constitute the same area where most turf can be developed — the 12 western counties. I will give the Minister an example of the way the local improvements scheme works. I do not think it is exaggerating to say there is a waiting list of at least five years for this scheme and in some places it is up to seven years. In most counties the scheme is confined entirely to lanes, as they are called in County Cavan, roads which have not been taken over by the county council which lead into three, four or more houses. Those unfortunate people have to wait for several years to avail of this grant. There is no question, therefore, of this money being used for the purpose of repairing bog roads.

I agree with those who said there has to be planning in regard to bog development, because, if not, there is no hope of the bog being reclaimed. Some of the best land, known as cut-away bog, is used for growing early potatoes, potatoes in general and vegetables. It is the best for the production of these vegetables. It would be a great pity it if was developed in such a way that the land would be useless afterwards.

I appeal to the Minister and to Bord na Móna to make the plans and specifications as simple as possible. To insist on elaborate documentation will simply frighten off applicants and it will not work. In section 5 it is provided that the board may appoint a person or persons to prepare and examine plans. It would be a good idea to have such a person in the locality who would be available to prepare the plans and to lay out the work for farmers or other people who would be developing the turf. There is a lot to be said for having such a person available for those who want to develop bogs, but I hope that such a person would be available to do the work quickly and that it would not be a question of requisitioning a planner and waiting an unreasonable time for him to come.

Queries have been raised in regard to who builds the roads. Under the scheme up to the present time there was no stipulation from the Central Development Committee as to who should do so. The society in County Cavan which I have been talking about constructed their roads, apparently sufficiently well to pass the inspection which was necessary to receive the grant.

Debate adjourned.