Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Purchase of Fishing Vessels.


asked the Minister for Tourism, Fisheries and Forestry the number of applications for the purchase of white fish vessels up to 33 metres in length which have been lodged with him; if applications for aid for such vessels have been made to the EC; and when decisions will be made on the application.

The closing date for receipt of applications for financial assistance from the EC was 31 May 1986 and a total of 53 applications were submitted by Ireland in respect of construction and modernization of vessels between nine and 33 metres between perpendiculars. Of these, 31 were in respect of vessels involved primarily in catching white fish. Decisions will be made by the EC on these applications by 30 November 1986 at the latest. All the applications have been approved for grant-aid under the Marine Credit Plan operated by BIM.

How many of the grants were for new boats? Can the Minister give a breakdown in regard to new and refurbished vessels? He said there were 53 applications.

That question was not asked and I have not got the information. A large amount of money has been spent for new and refurbished boats since our accession to the EC. We have received a total of £22 million from FEOGA, out of which £17 million went for construction and modernisation of fishing boats.

The number of applications is not very significant, particularly since many of them were for refurbishing and the lengthening of boats. Would the Minister indicate if he is satisifed that the severe conditions applying to these grants, particularly in the 24 metre and the 34 metre classes, are preventing many people from applying? I am referring particularly so to the condition which lays down that new boats must go after white fish only.

The scheme of grants from national and EC sources is not so bad. It would be quite easy to say they should be improved but that is said of any scheme of grants ever introduced.

I am not satisfied with that kind of a reply. The Minister is saying we should accept any sort of conditions. Is he satisfied with the conditions attached to the scheme which prevent fishermen from catching fish other than the white variety. I do not know if the Minister wishes to be offensive but he does not appear to credit us with any degree of intelligence by giving us an answer like that.

I said the scheme in operation and the level of grant aid available are, in my opinion, quite satisfactory. I was not being offensive when I said that I never saw a scheme of grants introduced for any sector where the people were totally satisfied. They always look for higher rates.

Will the Minister not accept that the grants as they apply at the moment are rather restrictive? Will he undertake to discuss this matter with officials of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to see if there could be a more liberal approach to the way grants are paid? Many fishermen would avail of the grants if the terms and conditions were not as rigid as they are are the moment.

That is something I have done already.

Are An Bord Iascaigh Mhara happy with the situation?

I do not know.

We are trying to further the interests of fishermen and answers like that do not help. If the Minister met with BIM, surely he must know if they are satisfied? Deputy Denis Gallagher asked a reasonable question. The Minister has met with BIM and, therefore, he should know if they are satisfied.

I have talked to BIM in relation to the point raised by Deputy Gallagher with a view to providing grants for boats that are not now included. We have talked about a possible extension of the existing scheme.

Therefore, they are not happy with the situation.