Agricultural Credit Bill, 1987: Report and Final Stages.

There is an amendment in the name of the Minister for Finance and recommital is necessary in respect of this amendment.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 3, to delete "20" and substitute "25".

I argued earlier on Committee Stage that the Agricultural Credit Corporation suffers from the fact it is unduly confined to lending to the agricultural sector and that some of its financial problems have arisen from the fact that it is tied to a sector which is prone and which will always be prone to cyclical problems in terms of profitability. Therefore, it makes sense that if the corporation is to develop it should be allowed to move into other areas. I propose in my amendment, which is amendment No. 2, that there should be no limit on the proportion of the corporation's business which the Minister could determine could be non-agricultural. That is a sensible arrangement.

I believe that the Minister at this time is not disposed to accepting that approach but I am glad that in response to arguments which were made by me and other speakers — presumably elsewhere also — he is prepared to raise the proportion of the corporation's business which can be non-agricultural. I believe that by raising the proportion from 20 to 25 per cent the Agricultural Credit Corporation will now be able to engage in somewhere in the region of another £25 million worth of non-agricultural business on top of the amount it is currently allowed to engage in. That is welcome and it means we are postponing the day when we will have to come back into the House to have this limit raised. I hope the corporation will use this facility constructively.

It is extremely important that the corporation do the following things. First, it should have a corporate plan which sets out where it is going over the next five or six years and, secondly, it should seek to get involved with other corporations in the banking area to whom it can sell some of its shares or with whom it can enter joint ventures so that it could expand its operations both here and internationally. That is the way to get out of its current difficulties. Ultimately, I would like to see a situation created as a result of a profit oriented performance by the Agricultural Credit Corporation wherein its shares could be made available for sale to the public. It should be the objective to reach the point where it would become a truly publicly owned company, not publicly owned in the sense of its being owned by the State but rather by the public. That can be achieved if we follow a strategic development plan for the corporation which would use this new freedom to go into non-agricultural lending.

I would like to thank the Deputy for what he has just said and for the contribution he made on Second Stage. I feel that we are going most of the way to meet the points raised by the Deputy. Now, as he has said, let us hope the situation will improve dramatically.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment reported.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.

When is it proposed to take Fifth Stage?


Agreed to take Fifth Stage today.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Can the Minister tell us when he expects the accounts for the most recent calendar year to be presented?

The annual general meeting is fixed for the end of April or early May. They will be presented at that meeting.

Question put and agreed to.