Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 19 May 1987

Vol. 372 No. 10

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Disadvantaged Areas.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the reclassification proposal for less severely disadvantaged areas presently before the Commission in Brussels will be ratified this year; if he will provide the necessary funds to allow the decision to be immediately implemented; and in particular if he will allow increased headage payments to suckler cow herds in the present less severely handicapped areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when he expects the proposal for reclassification of disadvantaged areas to be completed; whether he has raised the issue in the context of the current EC price negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions No. 28 and priority Question No. 36 together.

As stated in my reply to a parliamentary question on 1 April last, a submission was lodged with the European Commission on 4 February 1987 concerning the reclassification of all the existing less severely handicapped areas as well as areas where mountain sheep headage grants are paid to more severely handicapped status. While we are pressing to have these proposals approved, the final outcome will largely depend on the attitude adopted by the EC Commission. It is not possible to say at this stage when the final response from the Commission will be forthcoming.

No funding was committed in the Estimates for 1987 by the previous administration to cover the costs of reclassification which must be fully met by the Exchequer in the first year. In this situation, the necessary provision for the additional headage payments could not be made in this year's budget. However, I can assure the House that I will continue to press the case for reclassification of areas as I am most anxious to have the matter finalised so that the accruing benefits can be enjoyed by Irish farmers.

Is the Minister not going to deal with the question in so far as it relates to an inquiry as to whether the point has been raised in the context of the current price negotiations?

Can the Deputy repeat that question?

The question related to whether the point has been raised in the context of the current EC price negotiations. That point has not been replied to.

The application for reclassification is proceeding in the normal way.

Is it not obvious that the Government are now sitting on their hands after three months. That point is corroborated by the fact that it seems clear that, as has been done in other countries, this request has not been made in the current price negotiations.

As I have told the Deputy, the matter is being pursued in the normal course in which these matters are processed.

Is the Minister not aware that in price negotiations in respect of other countries — I recall Germany in particular — where the Government sought such a concession from the Commission, this request was granted in about a week. If that is possible for another member state why is it not possible for this country?

As I stated in my original reply to the Deputy, provision was not made in the 1987 Estimates to cover the cost of reclassification during the period 1987. I am sure the Deputy is well aware of the very severe budgetary position at present and the severe difficulty we have with the national debt problem. Unfortunately, this has been greatly increased in the past four years and, as a result, very severe restrictions have been placed on the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for Finance in relation to the extension of schemes such as this.

Is that the excuse now being offered by the Government for not pressing the case for reclassification? If so, is the Minister not aware that in previous years when changes were made in regard to the disadvantaged areas it was normal procedure that any extra funding was not provided in advance but rather was provided by way of Supplementary Estimate?

The reclassification of new areas involves a very detailed survey of those areas to establish what townlands and what areas will meet the criteria set down by the EC Commission in that regard.

That is not what I asked.

Let us hear the answer.

We will have regard to these matters in any negotiations with the Community. In the case of Germany — I assume that is the case the Deputy referred to — the matter was facilitated because land classification in that country is so much different from that here.

Ours is much worse.

It is now clear the Government are sitting on their hands in relation to this application. Will the Minister clarify one further point? When the Government get around to pressing for the acceptance of this reclassification request, will the Minister confirm we will be insisting on full headage payments, that the rate at present applicable in severely handicapped areas will be applicable to those areas now less severely handicapped but which we hope to reclassify?

I cannot anticipate what the final agreement will be between the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Commission. Because of the variation in soil types and of physical handicap from one area to another, it is very difficult to anticipate what the practice will be at the end of the day in relation to that matter.

The Government are doing nothing about it.