Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Bill, 1988: Committee Stage.

SECTION 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, subsection (1) (e), line 39, after "nutrition" to insert ", animal health".

This amendment deals with the definition section. I propose a small addition to subsection (1) (e) which would allow for the inclusion of animal health in that definition. This inclusion is particularly important because advisory and educational activities will be a major function of the new farm body. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.

I said during the course of the debate on Second Stage that I would be amenable to considering reasonable amendments. I would certainly include this amendment in that category and I am glad to tell Deputy O'Keeffe that I will accept it. It is in line with my own views.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be taken together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, subsection (1) (f), line 1, after "economics" to insert "socioeconomics, farm forestry and agri-tourism".

The purpose of this amendment is to broaden the definition of agriculture so as to include socio-economic matters, farm forestry and agri-tourism. This would bring the terms of reference of the new organisation more into line with the existing terms of reference of ACOT and AFT. It is a change which has been specifically requested by one of the major unions representing staff. At a time when agriculture is facing enormous difficulties and when it seems that the days of the CAP are numbered, it is important that those who live on the land and want to remain there should have access to all the advice and training necessary to allow them to consider diversifying into what might be considered non-farming areas.

There is tremendous potential in this area. People must be made conscious of that potential and the best way to do that is to make provision in the Bill. At present there is a Bill going through the Dáil which provides for the establishment of a new commercial State forestry board, a development which we welcome very much. However, we have always made it clear that we have no objection to private enterprise getting involved in forestry. Indeed there are many generous grants and subsidies to allow them to do so.

When people talk about private investment in forestry they are usually referring to large institutional investment but there is also scope for individual small-scale farm development. In my area there have been a few small forestry developments. Land which is marginal for agriculture but suitable for forestry could produce valuable forest crops without reducing the agricultural potential of the remaining land. One of the problems for farmers interested in investing in forestry is the length of time taken to produce a return on the investment. However, there are now a number of quick growing trees becoming available which make this a more attractive proposition.

As so many farmers are facing an uphill struggle, the potential for diversifying into strictly non-farming areas such as agri-tourism is particularly important. Farmhouse holidays have been a considerable success in a number of areas but their potential as a source of income for farm families has not been fully developed. People who grow up in rural Ireland often do not appreciate the attractions of a farm holiday for urban families both in Ireland and abroad. Our amendment simply asks that the definition of agriculture be extended to include these areas so that the new unified farm body will be able to offer training and advice in these areas.

I am anxious that the definitions of the areas we are covering be broadened slightly to include the areas referred to in my amendment, farm forestry and agri-tourism. These areas are already within the remit of the amalgamated farm bodies. I ask the Minister to indicate that the references in the Bill are not exclusive and that we are not tightly confined to the words used in the Bill. If the Minister would indicate that, I would be quite happy.

Let me assure both Deputies that not only is that the intention but in fact I would like to think that I have demonstrated by action as well as words my commitment to rural development.

First, I want to assure the House that the definition of rural development and the inclusion of rural development in agricultural economics, as the Deputies will see, is intended deliberately to cover all other aspects of what we call farm development as distinct from agriculture. If we were to start to define such aspects now, such as agri-tourism — which is a very important part of it — something else might emerge later that is not included, for example, alternative land usage, such as conversion to golf courses or development of land for recreational purposes. I want to assure the House that by not indicating each of these in detail, and I totally endorse what has been said by both Deputies, I do not wish to exclude any such matters in the future.

This is illustrated by two developments which have been introduced recently. First, I negotiated a range of special actions across a whole range of activities in the western package and they cover the matters that have been referred to, and agri-tourism and forestry are specifically covered in the western package. I introduced as a pilot programme, in advance of anywhere else in Europe, the integrated rural development pilot programme. They extend to the areas we are talking about.

I want to assure both Deputy Sherlock and Deputy Stagg that if for one moment I thought these matters were to be excluded I would be rushing to include specific data. My worry is that if I included specific matters I would exclude something else by implication. Incidentally the function of the amalgamated body is exactly the same as the existing legislation on AFT and ACOT, and ACOT in particular, under the existing legislation carry out socio-economic programmes as part of their remit. There is no reason at all when we are repeating exactly the same functions in the new amalgamated authority that they would do other than carry on the socio-economic programmes. Deputy Sherlock can be assured of that point.

However, I acknowledge there is a slight change that forestry is not specifically mentioned in this section but I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to section 4 (8) where it is mentioned and I quote:

The reference in subsection (1) (a) to advisory services in agriculture shall be construed as including a reference to advisory services in relation to the growing of trees as part of a farming enterprise and the establishment of shelter belts of trees ..."

If that does not cover it, I do not think anything else will. I want to assure both Deputies that I am in total agreement with them and in my view the legislation covers these points comprehensively.

In view of the Minister's very positive reply, would he consider putting in some type of clause on Report Stage to cover any possibility of his wishes being circumvented at any stage?

The Deputy will be aware of the fact that there are other provisions in the Bill which give me power where necessary — not me, but the Minister of the day and that is more important because it is not the opinion of the Minister that is important but the actual function for whatever Minister will be there — to give direction, or recommendation at least, to the authority to engage in certain kinds of programmes. That is included specifically because it is anticipated that we are in a period of revolutionary change in land usage.

As we address the problem now in May 1988, no matter how far-seeing we want to be, it is more than likely that our successors in title in 1998 will be looking at a totally different scene. The people involved in 1968 or 1978 would not recognise much of what is happening in agricultural husbandry and farm development now. At this point I do not want to introduce specifics that can be interpreted in a court, and they are interpreted sometimes, as being so specific as by implication to exclude other things. That is the advice I have from the professional draftsman. I have a personal opinion on that but I do not like wearing two hats.

In section 40 there is a specific reference to the growing of trees as part of the farming enterprise and I accept that. Having agreed that it is important to have agri-tourism, what grounds has the Minister for not including some reference to this matter on Report Stage, as was pointed out by Deputy Stagg?

No one has the font of all knowledge on this matter. I have to go by the legal advice given to me. Rural development is included, which is the catchall in terms of rural enterprise. No one can tell a landowner that he is excluded from engaging in forestry, agri-tourism, fish farming or anything else, provided it is done within the law. "Rural development" is a very broad phrase. That is the best guarantee that is there. If you put in a phrase such as "agri-tourism," first, the phrase does not exist in legal definition. We all have an idea of what we know it to mean. Someday a court will define it, but until then it is the term as defined that will limit the scope of what is introduced here.

In relation to farm forestry, I would like to ask the Minister if there is a danger of duplication with the Department of Forestry. It has to be said that there is much talk not only about marginal land but also about set aside and I imagine that much more agricultural land will be planted. If an individual or a farmer wants to plant trees he will have to seek advice and research, which he will get from the new authority. I am a little concerned about the duplication factor.

That is the other side of the coin, and we have to try to get the balance right. The new authority, Coillte, will have exclusive responsibility for developing the forest programme. What this is doing is simply building on a relationship that already exists. There is already a very good, co-ordinated relationship between ACOT and the forestry service and we want to ensure that that will continue. No attempt will be made here to get into what you might call the area specifically covered by the Department of Forestry at present or the new body, Coillte. For example, if the new body want to suggest to prospective forest developers or farmers that they should seek advice as to the type of soil that will best produce trees, then they will have the capacity to give that advice. I do not think we want to block them from giving such advice. The new authority will not be engaging directly in anything of the nature of enterprise development. That will be left to the forestry board.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6 are related and I suggest that we debate them together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, subsection (1), lines 5 to 18, to delete the definitions of "agricultural research" and "basic veterinary research" and substitute the following:

" `agricultural research' includes research in relation to all aspects of agriculture, forestry, plant breeding and veterinary research;

`veterinary research' includes research in relation to diseases of animals and poultry;".

The purpose of my amendment — I think it is inherent in the other proposals also — is to somewhat broaden the definition of agricultural research. The second part of my amendment focuses on the references to basic veterinary research. I want to remove the word "basic" from that definition because this is not a meaningful distinction in Irish circumstances. As is proposed at present, the new farm body are excluded, by definition of basic veterinary research, from the diagnosis of disease and also from engaging in the investigations, tests, inquiries or trials for the purpose of schemes or programmes of the Minister in relation to the eradication of diseases of animals or the promotion, enforcement or control of animal hygiene. In general terms it would be accepted that the new farm body should not get involved in diagnosisper se but that they should have the opportunity of being involved in trials and tests thereafter. The purpose of my proposal is to establish a statutory provision which would enable that position to apply.

My concern is that if the present statutory exclusion is retained in the Bill it would totally tie the hands not just of the farm body but also of the Minister, or any future Minister, if he wanted to make some administrative changes in the future. I can see changes occurring in relation to the new TB body. There might be the possibility of some co-ordinated approach between that body and the farm body. It is not a matter now to decide exactly what those administrative arrangements will be. I am just saying, let us not tie the hands of the Minister for the future; let him not be statutorily excluded from making such arrangements.

As I indicated on Second Stage, I do not want to impose undue or unnecessary restrictions. Having considered the matter, I am satisfied that this amendment will not cut across the purpose of the Bill and I am prepared to accept it. If we accept amendment No. 4 that will also embrace amendments Nos. 5 and 6. The intention was to ensure that we had the basic function of diagnosis, investigation and testing which has been, as Deputy O'Keeffe has rightly pointed out, and will continue to be, a function of the veterinary services of the department. I certainly would not want to risk an exclusion that would prevent the new authority, in the course of, say, a programme of genetic engineering such as is being conducted at Moorepark, from basic diagnostic research. On that basis I accept this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, subsection (1), lines 5 to 18, to delete the definitions of "agricultural research" and "basic veterinary research" and substitute the following:

" `agricultural research' includes research in relation to all aspects of agriculture, forestry, plant breeding and veterinary research;

`veterinary research' includes research into all areas of animal and poultry disease;".

I wish to make a few brief points in support of amendment No. 6. The amendment seeks the deletion of paragraph (b) of section 1 which states that basic veterinary research does not include investigations, tests, inquiries or trials for the purpose of schemes or programmes of the Minister in relation to eradication of disease of animals or the promotion, enforcement or control of animal hygiene. Our main objection to this paragraph is that it seems to preclude the involvement of the new organisation in the carrying out of tests in, for instance, the TB or brucellosis eradication schemes. Why should the new body not be given an active role in the campaign to eradicate bovine TB and brucellosis? The unsuccessful campaign to eradicate these diseases has been one of the greatest scandals in the history of agriculture in this State.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy, but I think he is speaking on amendment No. 6. Amendment No 5, which I understood we were dealing with, is in the name of Deputy Gibbons and amendment No. 6 is in the names of the Deputy's colleagues, Deputies De Rossa, Mac Giolla, Sherlock and McCartan. Am I to take it the Deputy is speaking on amendment No. 6?

I must ask how amendment No. 5 stands.

Because there was some delay, I understood amendment No. 5 was not being moved.

May I make a comment? I understand the reasons which prompted both Deputies to put down their amendments and I do not want to cut across their expression of those reasons, but I have already accepted amendment No. 4 which covers precisely what is mentioned in amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

I would like to see the new authority with more investigative powers into research and the application of the animal and poultry disease programmes. The Minister has indicated this will be looked after and, therefore, I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, subsection (1), lines 15 to 18, to delete paragraph (b).

We are making a case to delete paragraph (b) and I hope our amendment will be accepted. The campaign to eradicate the disease has been one of the greatest scandals in the history of agriculture in this State. More than £1,000 million have been spent in the past 20 years, and yet we are no nearer to a disease-free herd. Vets have made huge sums of money out of the campaign. Fees paid annually to private veterinary practitioners for testing under the disease eradication scheme over the past five years were: in 1983, £10.6 million; in 1984, £8.3 million; in 1985, £11.9 million; in 1986, £11 million and in 1987, £12 million. Are we going to allow this to continue indefinitely?

This is something I want to tease out. Why should not the new body be allowed to use the expertise and skill available to assist them in the campaign against these diseases? We hear a lot from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats about how the private sector should be allowed to compete with the public sector, for example, in the transport area. Why should not the private sector be allowed to compete with the public sector in this area also? There is no reason the simple task of taking a blood sample from an animal has to be done by a vet. I have been hearing that for the past 20 years since the scheme was introduced.

If a person goes to a hospital for a blood test, more than likely it will be done by a nurse. Why should blood samples under these schemes not be taken by technicians? The new body would be in an ideal position to provide these services. If we are serious about tackling disease eradication we should take the handcuffs off the new body and allow them to get involved in this area. I thank you for allowing me to make those points because I wanted to get them across very clearly.

The points the Deputy made would be more relevant to the new TB management board I have set up. I share the Deputy's impatience and concern and it was because of that that the Government authorised me to set up the new management structure to deal with tuberculosis. The board will be very conscious of the case the Deputy made. The mechanics of how blood tests are taken will be for them to decide, not for this Authority. I am sure they will use the resources of this Authority and the diagnostic services of the Department of Agriculture and Food to maximum effect. However, I take the point the Deputy raised.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

We now come to amendment No. 7 in the name of Deputy J. O'Keeffe. I propose to take with amendment No. 7 amendments Nos. 8 to 16, inclusive, and 82. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 5, subsection (1), line 22, to delete "Teagasc" and substitute "ACOTT".

All these amendments focus on the name for the new farm body. There has been considerable debate on this but one thing that emerged is that there has been universal dissatisfaction with the name "Teagasc". There have been difficulties with pronunciation, references to its literal definition and so on. The straight definition of "Teagasc" is "doctrine" as in Teagasc Chríostí but some more unusual definitions have been produced. In one old Irish dictionary I found "Teagasc" defined as magic spells or incantations. That gave rise to other stories about the new body which I will not go into.

While there has been universal criticism of the name, there has not been universal approval of a new name. I have examined different possibilities and my colleague, Deputy Gibbons, has also come up with a proposal. I eventually came to the conclusion that of all the names suggested, ACOTT was probably the one which would get the broadest support. Other names proposed like FIOS, FIOSRÚ, An Chomhairle Talmhaíochta or Forbairt, Cumas, or Comhar. All were looked at but problems arose with virtually all of them.

In relation to ACOTT, I accept in advance that it might touch on the sensitivities of the members of the Agricultural Institute, but let me assure the members and staff of the institute that there is no such intention on my part. We are including the "A" and "T" of AFT. The basis of ACOTT is taking the original name, An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta and adding "agus Taighde,""and research" to the original ACOT title. An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta becomes An Chomhairle Oiliúna agus Taighde Talmhaíochta, for short, ACOTT.

The brand name is important, the name with which people can identify, one that is widely understood throughout the community. The short name ACOT has been well recognised all over the country. It seems that it would only require a slight change for ACOTT to include research, giving a wider identification and acceptability to the new-found body.

This question of brand image and name is perhaps more important than might appear at first glance. I read lately a financial report based on a possible takeover of a very major chocolate firm. I noticed that the report did not concentrate on the assets, the plant or machinery, in relation to the value of the firm, but on the brand names which were associated with it — Kit-kat, After Eight, Black Magic. These are names which are well known, certainly in this country and in many others. That public recognition places a huge value on them. For that reason, in a similar way public recognition of the name ACOT is something which should not be thrown aside lightly. I suggest that my colleagues might consider this proposal to cover that situation.

I should like to support the sentiments expressed by my colleague on the basis that AFT and ACOT have already been established as being synonymous with research, development, education, etc. in the agricultural sphere. It would be unfortunate to depart entirely from those benchmarks that have been accepted by the agricultural community and the community in general as being fundamental to the industry. Also, with the introduction of a new Bill or a new authority, the purpose of which is to replace what were previously found to have been satisfactory authorities, recognition should be given to both outgoing bodies. Their name as well as their function should be incorporated, in so far as this is possible, in the new authority. The Minister may have differing views on that.

If for no other reason than to give recognition to the efforts of both outgoing bodies, in some way the Minister should try to incorporate the names of those two bodies within the new one. With all due respect of the meaning of the word, I do not think that Teagasc is likely to do that. I fear that there might be a certain amount of apprehension generated within the farming community and among those who were involved in the outgoing bodies of ACOT and AFT that perhaps much more might be involved than a mere change in the name, that there could well be a very dramatic change in the basic functions of the new body as compared with the old and that these might not necessarily be beneficial to the agricultural industry. I formally support my colleague.

First, I would have to agree with the two last speakers about the name of Teagasc. I consider it very inappropriate. After giving this a great deal of consideration, I decided to introduce, for a couple of reasons an English version, that is, the Agricultural Research Development Authority. The first is that the amalgamation of ACOT and AFT is a dramatic change and we need a definite, new name. If this name is to have English and European recognition, it is important that it be something that people understand. On that account I am proposing ARDA. Not only did Europeans not understand ACOT, but our own farmers, for whom all these services were provided, did not and do not understand what ACOT means today.

Very briefly, I support the last three speakers. This is not the weightiest matter to be considered under this Bill — I consider it a minor matter. I suggest to the House that we should deal with it as quickly as possible.

I should have wished Deputy O'Keeffe to have elaborated a little on the definition of Teagasc and to have made comparisons. Deputy Gibbons now has put forward his amendment. I want to make the point that people are confused about the word ACOT and how much more confused will they be about ARDA? There is, however, need for a name other than Teagasc. I should like to put it on record that I favour ACOT at this point as the name.

There is not anything like unanimity as to what the name should be. I have no total commitment to any name but let me say, not with tongue in cheek, that one of the matters that are important is that the name should be known, identified and actually acknowledged to be the name. The first reaction to the name that I proposed was in some instances amusement and in some rejection, but because this debate has been going on for some time and the name has been repeated very often, I must admit now that Teagasc has the first precondition — it is well known, certainly at this stage, where it would not have been known before.

Secondly, it has an Irish flavour, which is a very important element. I do not understand the case made by Deputy Gibbons about Europeans not understanding this or that. If there is one thing that Europeans expect from each country within that greater European family, it is that it will present and vindicate its character and culture as part of the wider European family. We do not have to do something so that the Germans, British, French and others will find it acceptable to them. I do not want to go into this argument too widely. I do not want to dismiss either ACOT or ARDA. They are very reasonable attempts on the part of both my colleagues. However, would they be any more amenable to European understanding than Teagasc? There is no case that would suggest that they would. In fact, the case has been made already this morning that the farmers did not understand what ACOT meant, but they used it.

One of my colleagues mentioned the brand name of Kit-kat. If ever one were to think of a name that would seem, on the face of it, to denigrate the notion of wholesome food, I would have thought that it would be Kit-kat, with the implications of kitty-katty. Still it is, as has been mentioned, one of the better known brand names and obviously one of the most acceptable. As Deputy O'Keeffe has pointed out, research into the philology of the Irish term will show that Teagasc can mean a variety of things. I hope from now on that it will mean something like applying the basis of learning and research to our most fundamental function — agricultural production. I do not want to seem to be rigid about this but there is no better alternative. Tá a fhios ag gach éinne go bhfuil an t-ainm seo "Teagasc" á chur againn ar an chomhairle seo. Os rud é go bhfuil a fhios sin ag daoine, I am inclined to think that it is the best available and it has the flavour of being very Irish.

It is not something that we should get hung up on and I will not go overboard on this. The name should have been evaluated on the basis of marketing criteria. The case now being made by the Minister is that there was so much criticism of the name Teagasc that it has become well known and qualifies on that basis. If the Minister feels that the alternatives put on offer are not good enough, I will not press my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Since it is now 11.30 a.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the House of this day. The question is: "That section 1, as amended, and sections 2 and 3 are hereby agreed to."

Question put and agreed to.

We will now deal with sections 4 and 5 within the prescribed time limit.

SECTION 4.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 6, subsection (2), line 28, to delete "34 and 36" and substitute "34, 36 and 59".

This is a technical amendment to delete "34 and 36" and to substitute "34, 36 and 59". The reason for this is that section 4 (2) provides for the transfer to Teagasc of all of the functions enjoyed by AFT and ACOT under the original 1977 Act immediately before the establishment day, except sections 34 and 36 which provided for staff schemes for ACOT and functions for the committees of agriculture. The Attorney General has advised me that the intention of section 58 of the 1977 Act which deals with consideration to committees of agriculture from property transferred would, strictly speaking, require Teagasc to have an entry made in the annual estimate submitted to the Minister regarding local contributions, even though the Minister will now no longer have a function in this. Accordingly, the Attorney General has advised that section 59 should be included with sections 34 and 36 as functions excepted in the general transfer of functions. It is purely technical.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 6, subsection (3), line 36, after "industry" to insert "and any further matters as may be decided by ACOTT with the consent of the Minister".

This amendment deals with the priority functions of Teagasc. The section sets out the principal functions and subsection (3), without prejudice to the generality of subsections (1) and (2) provides that Teagasc shall have particular regard to certain areas. The areas selected by the Minister are ones with which I have no quibble. They are very important areas. They are the areas of agricultural training and education for young persons and research and development in relation to food. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that those priorities are not set in concrete for all time. In years to come another area may be of top priority. It would be appropriate for the Minister of the day and Teagasc to be entitled to give that area priority rather than having their hands statutorily tied.

My amendment is to leave the door open in the future to cater for another major priority area. Under the Bill as presently framed it may not be possible to give another area that priority. I know that at the moment rural development is in its early stages but in ten years time, the concept of rural development might be of much greater importance and there might be a lot more funding for it both nationally and from the EC. It might be the thinking at that time that rural development should be given top priority. The Bill should be framed in such a way that the board of Teagasc at the time, with the consent of the Minister, should be able to establish rural development as such a priority.

This relates to a matter we have already dealt with in an earlier amendment to which I showed a positive disposition. Deputy O'Keeffe makes the point that, if we make specific reference to two or three areas now, the Minister of the day could be precluded from extending this Bill to cover other areas. There is not any risk of that. The reason for the specific reference to the training of young farmers and to research and development in the area of food processing is to reflect the importance which the Government of the day attach to those areas. That is not to suggest that there will not be some other areas of development that cannot be envisaged now. This provision is merely meant to be indicative of the current priorities and, I hope, a signal to succeeding Ministers for Agriculture and Food that the priorities of the day should be reflected. If I as Minister could not give some general direction or sense of priority to the new authority as to where I would like them to focus, I could be said to be leaving things very vague without any sense of policy priority, particularly as that policy priority is shared universally in this House.

The purpose of section 13 is that Teagasc should make a report on their activities to the Minister at the end of each financial year and the report shall include information in such form and regarding such matters as the Minister may direct. The Minister has certain powers having regard to that report. There is scope in that for Teagasc to put forward in their annual programme of activities any other matters they feel should get special attention. I hope they will use that scope in each year to put forward proposals on areas which warrant special attention. I am not going against the spirit of what Deputy O'Keeffe says, but the amendment is unnecessary.

One example to illustrate my point is ACOT where the demand for services from ACOT has changed dramatically even over the past three years. Up to about two years ago or less, most farmers went to ACOT in relation to what would be regarded as normal husbandry, in relation to soil development, in relation to increasing milk yields, the weight and conformation of animals and the yield in cereals. All of these things were a first priority and understandably so. I have been informed that the greatest demand is for the effluent control service in silage, a service which did not exist up until a few years ago. That is what most farmers are looking for now. There is also a demand for the service on financial management of farm enterprises, and again such a service was not provided effectively by ACOT up until almost two years ago. I only mention those as examples to show how the pace of change is so rapid, if not revolutionary. The provisions outlined in section 13 will be used. I accept the spirit and the rationale behind what Deputy O'Keeffe is saying, but I hope he can also accept that another general phrase like that is not necessary.

If the Minister feels that the subsection as presently framed would not pre-empt the options for Teagasc in the future, that is OK by me. I was worried that, if there were to be a national consensus that special priority should be given to another area in the future, there should be the possibility of it being included within the terms of this subsection. However, I take the point which has been made by the Minister that, either through a direction from the Minister or a request from the board, the provisions are such at present that any such priority area could be accommodated. Therefore, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

I accept the point which the Deputy has made. But, even going beyond that, Teagasc itself would also be able to make recommendations.

A Cheann Comhairle, I seek your guidance. May I seek clarification on the section without referring specifically to the amendment?

We are dealing with the amendment; but if the Deputy wishes to have a point clarified I would like to facilitate him, provided he does not stray too far from the subject matter before us.

I would like to seek clarification on subsection (3) but, as I am very new to this sort of thing I would also like to ask can we raise points on sections on which there are no amendments tabled?

I will facilitate the Deputy in every way.

I wish to refer to the use of the term "young persons" in subsection (3). It is an unusually ambiguous word to see used in legislation. Does it refer to young persons under four years of age? I would regard someone aged 36 years as being young. Other people would regard people aged 50 as being young.

It depends on your own age. It is very subjective.

I would regard people aged 36 as being very young. It is an unusually ambiguous term. It is a term which I would expect to see in a political programme rather than in legislation. I ask the Minister to clarify what is intended by the use of this term?

I would prefer if we would deal with the amendment before us first. Before we pass from the section, the Deputy would be entitled to make a comment.

Thank you.

May I take it that amendment No. 18 in the name of Deputy Jim O'Keeffe is withdrawn?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

We now come to deal with amendment No. 19 in the name of the same Deputy, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

I move amendment No. 19.

In page 6, lines 39 to 47, and in page 7, lines 1 to 13, to delete subsection (5).

The Minister has been very fair with us in regard to the proposlas we made in an effort to unlock the statutory shackles when discussing the definitions and what is and what is not veterinary research and agricultural research. The purpose of this amendment is to further unlock those shackles; but, as I see the Minister smiling, let me say that I am not suggesting that we throw away the key altogether.

I want to get into the House sometime.

I do not want to appear to be anti-Civil Service, but basically it appears that the subsection is framed in such a way as to protect their own research and testing functions. I can well understand why they would seek to protect them; but, on the other hand, I do not think this subsection has any place in legislation. At the end of the day it would be a matter for the Minister to decide on the allocation of the functions as between his Department and Teagasc. The Minister is aware of my views on this issue. I believe, in so far as it can be done administratively, that it would be far more cost effective to have many of the research and testing functions of the Department carried out by Teagasc. That is a substantive issue which I am not going to go into. In regard to the legislative framework for Teagasc which we are now discussing, I think it is inappropriate that there should be an exclusion section. Quite bluntly, I think this subsection has been included to protect the departmental empire. Other ways and means would be open to the Department to fight their corner as between themselves and Teagasc. I do not think it is appropriate for such an exclusion section to be included in the Bill.

This subsection specifically excludes Teagasc from engaging in a wide area of testing of livestock or poultry, testing of grass, cereal, root or vegetable seeds, potatoes or plants for the purposes of certification schemes, testing samples of seeds or testing or analysing samples of fertilisers and so on unless authorised by the Minister in writing to do so. It is inappropriate to have that subsection included in the Bill. The Minister may correct me and say that it has been inserted for another purpose. But essentially my view is that it should not be there at all and for that reason I have moved this amendment.

The Deputy has anticipated my response. If I were to concede on this I would be throwing away the key and saying in effect that I had no right to get into the House at all. Let me give him the reason why this section was included. If I were to adopt this amendment it would allow Teagasc to become involved in the testing of livestock and poultry under our national breeding programmes for which the Minister of the day must certify standards, not just national standards but also European standards. It is a requirement under European law that the Minister of each country would certify standards and this would also extend to the testing of seeds and plants. As I have said, there is a statutory responsibility on the Minister to certify these standards on a national level and, as we will be dealing with an internal market in 1992, for the broader European domestic market, if one could call it such and I believe we should. That is why that responsibility is on the Minister of the day alone. It has to be done on the basis of the testing carried out on his behalf. I am not saying that other people are not competent to do this testing, but this is purely a certification and testing function.

We should remember also that the provisions contained in this subsection would allow the Minister to authorise Teagasc to carry out such activities should the need arise in the future. The responsibility would have to remain with the Minister. The Deputy may reasonably say that this is another cover for the determination of the officials of the Department not to concede part of their empire. We are all jealous of whatever it is we control. But I think I can assure you — and it is evident — that that has not been the approach at all. A lot has been happening. I have to say that I have not seen another group of officials who are so ready to look at their functions in relation to tomorrow than the officials in my Department. When I discussed the TB problem with them there was no battle. There may have been before——

That is not what I heard.

I can tell the Deputy that there really was not, that the battle was outside between the vets and the farm associations. When they came back and said to us: "We cannot agree it, we then agreed it". The same applies here but I do not want to go into that. They do not need to be vindicated by me. No matter what is said, there will always be that suggestion. I do not think the Deputy needs to be concerned about that. This simply confirms the provisions contained in the 1977 Act which, of course, would not be sufficient justification for inserting them again. I might put it to the Deputy on this basis, that it will enable the Minister of the day to engage the services of Teagasc where necessary. Let us suppose that a farmer came along and said: "I got this test done by Teagasc and this certificate says it is different from your test". I am not saying that one test has to be better than the other but all kinds of problems can arise. Somebody must have responsibility in regard to this, that is all, and we will engage the services of Teagasc where appropriate.

Notwithstanding what the Minister has said, I would make the point that, while the same section was incorporated in the 1977 Act, times have changed considerably since then. There are greater pressures and needs for research and development now than there were then, particularly bearing in mind the need to eatablish ourselves on the world scene to an even greater extent.

We are dealing here with testing for certification only.

I accept that, but it is still an integral part of the testing and certification service that falls within the ambit of the Department one way or another. As my colleague suggested, perhaps the Minister should have considered omitting that subsection in order to ensure healthy competition within the agencies falling within the ambit of his control.

I have to say that the Minister came a lot more than halfway to meet me when he removed the statutory exclusions in the Bill in subsection (1) which were my main concerns. It was in considering those statutory exclusions that I raised this issue. I am not as concerned at all about subsection (5) because the Minister does have the power, in writing, to ask Teagasc to engage in any of these activities. We will let the battle between the Department and Teagasc run on. There will not be a statutory exclusion and, from that point of view, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.

We do not want unnecessary duplication. I do not suggest that they will engage in that but it could happen. We want to see money being used to the best effect.

All the testing should be transferred to Teagasc.

Something should be left to us.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 20 in the name of Deputy J. O'Keeffe. I observe that amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are related. Therefore, I suggest that they be debated together if that is satisfactory. Agreed.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 7, subsection (7) (a), line 33, to delete "that is wholly owned by Teagasc".

I regard this amendment as a serious one because it goes to the root as to whether Teagasc will be able to have a commercial face in the years ahead. Because of the restriction on Exchequer funding, obviously Teagasc will have to be able to use their resources to best effect to raise what revenue they can in the years ahead. There is such a shortfall in funding that that will have to be a major function of Teagasc. I am not suggesting that they are being set up as a commercial body. What I am saying is that they will need to be able to use all the instruments available to them to exploit commercially some of their resources, in particular in the research area. It seems to me that, because of the vast wealth of expertise and experience developed over the years, there will be possibilities for commercial exploitation in such areas as bio-technology and embryo transfers in the area of plant breeding, indeed possibly even from the National Food Centre.

Of course Teagasc themselves could engage directly in such commercial exploitation, but let us bear in mind that that will not constitute their principal function. Also they may not have the kind of expertise needed in the marketplace — that is not advanced as a criticism — but it should be said that that will not be their principal function. I would envisage that Teagasc may involve themselves in joint ventures with other State, semi-State bodies or with private interests from the point of view of the commercial exploitation of such resources.

The problem arises because the Bill, as drafted at present, will not permit of that. That is why I tabled a series of amendments to loosen the position in regard to subsidiaries. The first is the requirement in the Bill, as drafted, that a subsidiary be wholly-owned. Quite frankly, from the commercial point of view, that makes any joint venture operation a total non-starter. The ability to form subsidiaries, normally understood in commercial terms, would be non-existent. It would mean it would have to be wholly owned. In these circumstances the question may well be posed: what is the point in forming a subsidiary at all other than for administrative reasons? I can foresee the possibility of considerable amounts of external finance being available to invest with Teagasc, to invest venture capital in such subsidiaries. That will not be possible unless we change the requirement that such subsidiaries be wholly owned. Nobody with venture capital will invest in a subsidiary of Teagasc that is wholly-owned by Teagasc. If they want to make a venture investment they will want to share the equity. That is normal commercial practice and I see nothing wrong with it.

Tied in with this approach are the restrictive provisions in relation to how such subsidiaries should operate. In framing my amendments I have endeavoured to bear in mind the anxieties of the Minister and those of his colleague, the Minister for Finance, to have the ability to ensure that such a subsidiary would not, as it were, run away with itself. My amendments have been designed in order to leave the overall power in regard to policy and expenditure remaining with the Minister and the Minister for Finance. However, I have not gone quite that far. From the point of view of the share capital we must at least remove the requirement that a subsidiary be wholly owned. From the point of view of the ability of the Minister to issue directions as to the programmes and activities of such a subsidiary, that would be entirely inappropriate to a body that might have a commercial face and in which there might be external investment.

Amendment No. 21 relates to the question of the disposal of any assets of such a subsidiary requiring the consent of the Minister for Finance. Again, that would be inappropriate to a subsidiary that might be involved in the marketplace. I urge the Minister to open the door to enable Teagasc to have the power to capitalise on their resources, either directly or jointly with others, in the marketplace in the future. As the Bill is presently framed it would be well-nigh impossible for them to run a commercialised service on a business-like footing. That is the purpose of my amendments and I strongly urge the Minister to accept them.

It is interesting that the issue Deputy O'Keeffe addresses arises because of the new scope being given to Teagasc, which the institute did not have up to now. Under the legislation I am proposing that we can set up wholly owned subsidiaries under Teagasc to act, and that is very important, in the same manner as Teagasc are conditioned and equipped to act in respect of the activities of those wholly owned subsidiaries. I think all of us would agree that this is necessary.

Deputy O'Keeffe is asking me, having gone that far, to go further and I think this is where we get into some difficulty. This would involve the setting up of commercial ventures, possibly in association with outside interests, and, as I understand from him this would clearly involve the production and marketing of products that would not be appropriate to a non-commercial State funded organisations. We must remember that we are talking about a non-commercial State funded support body. We are not talking about a commercial State funded body. If commercial bodies, State funded or otherwise, want to get involved in joint ventures or whatever else, as is happening at present in relation to Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann and many other bodies like that, there is no bar on them because they are in the commercial arena and they operate there on the same basis as anybody else. Of course, there will be considerations of risk and prudence but, subject to that, they are not prevented from getting involved.

This amendment is asking me to break out into completely new ground which, incidentally, is not there either for the other promotional bodies like FÁS. They are not allowed under the legislation which gives effect to them to get involved through partly owned subsidiaries in commercial activities by way of joint ventures of one form or another. There are a good many reasons for this. It will not surprise the Deputy to know that permanent responsibility for this resides in the Department of Finance — it is not just the view of the current Minister for Finance — and they would not be able to accept that a promotional body, with a State guarantee could get involved in a commercial activity by way of joint venture. You are either one or the other and that is the view that exists.

I want to make it clear that I want the authority — and I have said this many times — to be more commercially orientated in respect of their functions and in the actual provision of services. I want them to be much more commercially orientated than has been the case. This legislation is intended to apply that in the area of research, education and advice, which is really their fundamental function, and not in the area of commercial enterprise in the marketplace. If they were to engage in joint ventures of one kind or another this could deflect the Authority from their primary purpose and could lead to a dissipation of resources. I also want to tell the Deputy — and this will not surprise the Deputy because it is not a matter that would occur to me only — it has been made known to me that many people in the private sector would have very serious reservations — if not very strong objections — about a State sponsored promotional body, with all that that means, being able to engage in competition with people in the private sector in an area where they have to compete without any State sponsorship or support. That could give rise to problems.

I accept — and I do not think there is any difference between Deputy O'Keeffe's thinking and mine on this — the need to make Teagasc as commercially sensitive as possible. That can be achieved if the Authority enter into licensing, royalty or franchise arrangements so that they can exploit effectively the results of research. I want them to do that and I want them to engage in hard bargaining in relation to contracts and consultancies. It is not just what I want; I think it is what all of us want and I hope they want it also. Any genuine lack of resources to bring promising lines of research to the stage of commercial viability could, for instance, be met by using Teagasc's borrowing powers under this legislation.

The Deputy might say: "This power, of course, can only be exercised with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance". That is the position in respect of all borrowing conducted by these bodies. I think Deputies could reasonably expect that if these bodies go in the direction we want them to go, the Minister of the day, and certainly this Minister, would not prevent them from engaging in a commercial approach to their primary functions and they could reasonably expect to get consent for that in the circumstances. This is a fundamental issue and the Government are conscious that if they once allow promotional semi-State bodies, with all the guarantees and special protection they have, to get involved in joint ventures in competition with the private sector who have no such advantages and if they allow them to be distracted or have their energy and resources dissipated by commercial enterprises as distinct from what their fundamental role would be, this would be a major change and it is not one the Government and I, at this time at least, can see our way to making.

I am disappointed at the Minister's reaction. In fact there is a fundamental contradiction in the Minister's approach to this issue. He accepts the need for Teagasc to have a commercial face. That is obvious from the point of view of the huge reduction in Exchequer funding. If they are to operate effectively, obviously they will have to have recourse to alternative sources of revenue. If we accept that there should be a revenue raising aspect to the new farm body, it seems to be madness to deny them the normal commercial forms and instruments available to others. How can they compete for revenue in the marketplace when they are so restrictively tied down by the terms of the legislation? It will be a major disservice to Teagasc to continue with the provisions in relation to subsidiaries as presently framed. Furthermore, it closes off major possibilities of revenue raising by Teagasc in the years ahead.

As I mentioned earlier, they clearly have vast resources in terms of technology and research into bio-technology and so on. In some instances it may be a question of competing in the market but in others it is not. There may be an element of competition in regard to research into embryo transfers, but is it not mad that Teagasc should be left to compete in future without being able to compete on level terms with the rest of the market? On the other hand, does it not close off entirely the possibility of external investment in the kind of developments we are talking about if there is a continued insistence on having the subsidiaries wholly owned by Teagasc?

I am aware that already such possibilities are under consideration and they could be of major benefit to Teagasc from the revenue point of view. It does not really make sense to insist that subsidiaries would have to be wholly owned, thereby closing off all such possibilities to Teagasc. I understand the attitude of the Minister and the Minister for Finance in wanting to keep a strong element of control from the expenditure point of view. For that reason I would be prepared to leave the restrictions on subsidiaries tighter than I had envisaged in my series of amendments. I wanted to loosen the position in regard to subsidiaries so that Teagasc would be in a position to exploit the resources it has and have reasonable revenue-raising capacity in the future.

The most fundamental issue is in regard to being wholly owned. If the Minister will not go along with me on the question of permitting Teagasc to establish subsidiaries other than those that are wholly owned, the other considerations do not arise at all because the question of subsidiaries would not be relevant in the context in which the Minister and I have been discussing them. I urge the Minister to rethink this if only in relation to the requirement that subsidiaries be wholly owned. If the Minister does not accept that a change is needed on that issue, he will bear the responsibility for closing off a major window of opportunity for Teagasc in the years ahead. Whatever about the other amendments in relation to subsidiaries — and I am prepared to accept that some are not as relevant as others — the fundamental principle that subsidiaries be wholly owned is central. Again, I strongly urge the Minister to accept that that should not be a requirement, at least from the legislative point of view.

If the Minister is prepared to delete that requirement both he and the Minister for Finance will have a whole range of controls available to them to ensure that such a subsidiary would not go astray in any way. Some views offered to me are to the effect that the various controls in the Bill would seriously damage the prospects of any such subsidiary, but the question does not arise at all unless the Minister is prepared to accept the possibility that such subsidiary could be other than wholly owned by Teagasc.

I am not prepared to accept an amendment which would delete the condition that a subsidiary be wholly owned and I will again give the reasons. We are dealing here with a body which is to provide a service; it is not a commercial body. Because it is essentially a service body there is no question of it competing in the marketplace for revenue. That is not its function. They are not meant to be out competing in the marketplace with other commercial organisations, be they semi-State or private. They are meant to be commerciallyoriented in respect of the service they provide and they are meant to provide value for money and to guarantee, when they undertake consultancy contracts or royalty arrangements with the meat industry, for instance, to apply sound hard-headed commercial criteria in respect of the service they provide. Equally, the body for whom they provide the service can feel assured that there is no risk of the people providing the service becoming involved, through a back door, in a joint venture with a competitor of theirs. If one is going to provide a service specifically limited to advice and research, then it follows that one should not engage in something that could be inconsistent with that service.

The Deputy may have misunderstood me, although I did not think I could have been misunderstood, when I said I wanted them to have a commercial approach in respect of the service they were to provide. That is not to say the Government would want to see a change of direction where semi-State bodies engaged in promotional services would, for the first time, be cleared to engage in joint ventures in competition with people who do not have the benefits and advantages they have, the people who would normally be calling on their services. That is the distinction.

If we were dealing this morning with a commercial State body I would not be making this case but we are dealing with a service body. I want to see them maximising the revenue they get from the service they provide, but only from the service they provide, and not for risktaking in regard to any other enterprise that is not appropriate to a service body. I hope they will be hard-nosed in respect of the service they provide and the criteria they apply and I will give some evidence of that later on. I do not want to see their whole function being changed by risk taking.

As a result of what the Minister has said we will have to redefine what was previously regarded as the service sector of the public service. What we are looking at now is a mixture of commerce and service. Teagasc will not simply be providing a service funded from the general Exchequer but will be selling their services in various forms in the marketplace in competition with the private sector. In what circumstances would it be necessary for Teagasc to set up a wholly owned subsidiary? What is the reason for that? Why could not Teagasc assign duties to some of their staff and say: "That is your job; you carry out that particular function"? What is the necessity for setting up the wholly owned subsidiary we are talking about? Without having the benefit of the Minister's reply, can he see a case in which a joint venture type of activity could be carried out by Teagasc and the private sector?

It is implicit in one of the later sections. An example of a wholly owned subsidiary would be a consultancy service overseas where it would be necessary to have separate registration for the purpose of consultancy arrangements by way of contract with the country or the body concerned. There would be others as well. I hope it is clear to the House that I do not want to be restrictive or rigid, much less authoritarian, in respect of this legislation but it does raise fundamental issues. When we are dealing with a service body which is funded by the State to provide that service the approach I am adhering to is the appropriate one.

Incidentally, because we are breaking out into new territory and are providing, for the first time, for wholly owned subsidiaries the question has arisen as to why it should be confined to a wholly owned subsidiary. In the sense I am a victim of my own innovation in that we are doing something very new. I do not see any problem in respect of a wholly owned subsidiary which will be conditioned and regulated under the same circumstances as Teagasc themselves. An agent should be in a position to act in the same manner and under the same conditions as the principal. That is a fundamental condition of law in any event and that is all I am trying to translate into the new provision.

I will not anticipate what might happen with wholly owned subsidiaries. If it happened in practice that somebody were to come back in a year, two years or whenever in the course of the annual reports, I would not close my mind to what might be reasonable at that time. I cannot envisage such a case but the principle across the whole range of service bodies in the semi-State sector would then automatically change. That is a very important principle at this point.

I have made the case and I thought I had made it logically and fairly. Deputy Stagg focused in on the fundamental issue of what is the point in having subsidiaries if they are to be framed in the fashion proposed in the Bill. I believe the Minister is making a major mistake on this issue. I can see that my proposal conflicts with an essential principle not just of the Minister but of the Government. I do not see that I can make any further headway by logical argument. I predict that it is a question that will have to be returned to in the years ahead by way of amending legislation.

I conclude by reiterating that it is a fundamental major mistake on the part of the Minister and the Government. The new farm body which is suffering from many disabilities at birth, particularly from the point of view of funding and personnel who have left, will now find that they will be more restricted in the future. The Minister and the Government are not prepared to concede on this point and on that basis I do not intend to push my amendments any further.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 23 to 25, inclusive, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 8, subsection (8), lines 4 to 6, to delete ", but the reference in that subsection to educational service shall be construed as not including a reference to services in relation to higher education".

My amendment is similar to the Minister's amendment.

It is and we do not have any problem with it. It restores thestatus quo under ACOT. On Second Stage Deputy O'Keeffe made the point that we did not want unduly to restrict the new body from becoming involved in third level education, should the need arise. I am prepared to accept the point and that is what is involved in my amendment also.

I do not see that this particular provision will be availed of immediately by Teagasc. My purpose in raising the issue on Second Stage, and putting down the amendment, was not to have unnecessary legislative shackles on Teagasc and I am glad the Minister is prepared to accept my proposal.

I am not sure if the Minister has indicated that he is accepting the amendment which I put down as well. I put down the amendment in this form — it is in the same wording as in the National Agricultural Advisory, Education and Research Authority Act, 1977 — in the hope that the Minister would accept it. The Minister has gone beyond that by deleting all reference to it and my amendment which was intended to meet a strong opposition by the Minister is not now required.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos 24 and 25 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Stagg asked about the reference to "young persons". The reason it is there is to specify that this is a priority area. The development of the education and research service and its application to young persons is a priority. That is agreed not just by all parties in the House but by all parties outside the House. There is a need for a reference to "young persons" as many more young girls are becoming involved in farm enterprises or agricultural enterprises than previously and therefore I am truly socialist——

What was that word?

The Deputy was objecting to the word "young". There are different interpretations of the word "young". There is a general understanding of what is meant by "young". It is translated into effect in different statutes under different grants like installation aid for young farmers. It has often been joked that there are some people in Macra na Feirme who seem to have the gift of eternal youth. There is an understanding as to what is meant by it.

And in this House also.

Are we dealing with the section?

I am talking on the section.

Acting Chairman

It was agreed that at 12.30 p.m. debate on sections 4 and 5 would conclude.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 5 agreed to.
SECTION 6

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 26 in the names of Deputy De Rossa, Mac Giolla, Sherlock and McCartan is out of order.

May I make a point?

The amendment provides that where the authority provides services — I just make the point.

Acting Chairman

The Ceann Comhairle ruled this amendment out of order. Therefore, I cannot allow any discussion on it. You are entitled to raise the issue on the section.

After the amendments are dealt with?

Yes. It is not for me to say but if an amendment is ruled out of order the Deputy can make the case for it on the section. Any amendment that would involve an extra charge on the Exchequer is not within the competence of anybody but the Minister to put. That is why it is out of order. I had that frustration so often in Opposition.

All that is required is where an activity is engaged in by Teagasc that provision be made for that. That is the purpose of the amendment. In addition to providing services for which charges would apply, the new authority have responsibility for delivering services to assist and encourage. All that is set out in the amendment is that provision be made and I refer to section 33——

Acting Chairman

I cannot allow you to discuss the amendment. As we have said, when the amendments are disposed of you can raise this matter on this section.

Amendment No. 26 not moved.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 27 is in the name of Deputy Jim O'Keeffe and amendment No. 30 is related.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 8, subsection (2), lines 43 and 44, to delete "or a subsidiary".

In relation to amendment No. 27, my colleague is anxious to hear the Minister's views and perhaps we could take amendment No. 30 separately. I would like to hear the Minister's views before coming back on that.

Acting Chairman

We will take amendment No. 30 separately.

I am asked to give my views on amendment No. 27. If we were to accept this amendment it would remove ministerial control on the numbers, grades, pay and conditions of the staff members of Teagasc andipso facto subsidiaries of Teagasc. Not surprisingly, I cannot agree to doing that.

These controls are standard in legislation of this kind and have been introduced also in the FÁS legislation. The Deputy will be aware that the Minister and the Minister for Finance of the day have responsibility in relation to the funding and for that reason an obligation in relation to the amount of the funding, the grades and numbers involved that would be paid out of that funding. The Government should not repudiate that as part of their responsibility. It is important to assert that each Government obviously will want to be able to exercise that function. If they do not the function of the Minister of the day is going to be totally undermined.

I am not one who wants to see unnecessary interference in any way by any Minister. On the other hand, powers are there and can be used effectively, or sometimes slightly misused — I will not say wrongly used. This is not a way of imposing bureaucratic control. I do want to imply that public servants are always indulging in bureaucratic control; that is not the case. However, this is not just a way of someone putting a dead hand on the new authority, their grades, numbers, pay and conditions. It is the guarantee that the elected representatives in Government will have both the responsibility and the opportunity to be able to control how the money is spent to the extent of the numbers, grades, staff and questions of that kind. If we were to concede this amendment our successors in title, whoever they might be, would have major problems down the line.

While I appreciate the Minister's views in this regard and take into account that the Minister and the Minister for Finance must have overall responsibility and the final say in relation to the determination of amounts, charges etc., in discussing the last section we talked about the commercial nature of the enterprise. The Minister envisaged as per the discussion on the previous section giving Teagasc a commercial thrust and, as it were, having them operate on a commercial basis while keeping within the general ambit of the Bill. Would he not see that running into conflict with the subsection in the sense that it might well come to pass that the Minister may for very good reasons such as keeping control of public expenditure etc., impose a restriction which would be contrary to the opinion he expressed on the previous section or, on the other hand, he might well have to impose a restriction whereby the commercial thrust he expected Teagasc to have would be negatived by virtue of a decision he might have to make?

Let us look at the subsections. They provide that Teagasc may appoint such numbers or persons to be members of the staff of Teagasc as they may determine — that is going a long way — with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance. Again, because it is there, the same provision is made for the subsidiaries. The board of a subsidiary may appoint such a number of persons to be members of the staff of the subsidiary as they may determine with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Finance.

The Deputy has made a good point. The purpose of that provision is that if — taking this commercial approach to the services they provide and going out there and selling the services as they are doing — it emerges that they can identify a need in the market for those services and then claim they need an extra programme to provide this and to recruit an extra consultant staff to back it up, that is for them. They would then come along and claim that over and above the staff complement and grades they had needed to recruit one or two others for a particular purpose in the short time or on a permanent basis. To do that they come to the Minister and the Minister for Finance. That is why I envisage a possibility the Deputy refers to. If the occasion arises I hope they will come looking for such consent in respect of such new ventures in regard to the provision of these new services. I hope they will and that is why it is in there and for no other purpose. That said, after all, if they want to recruit someone and claim the grade at which they want to recruit him is that of deputy director, at that point someone has to have the authority to say, "Wait", and that is where the Minister and the Minister for Finance come in.

I am disappointed at the Minister's reaction particularly in relation to the position of subsidiaries which restricts their possible activities. If such a subsidiary were set up, even with all the restrictions now imposed on it from the point of view of exploiting research activity, it could be said that if it wanted to increase its charge from 10p to 11p for a photocopy——

We would charge more than that.

——the sanction of the Minister for Finance would be needed. There could be more commercial orientation in the subsidiary area but it seems I am running into rock solid opposition. There is a fundamental difference of opinion as to how such subsidiaries should operate. I will not press the point further except to repeat that it is unduly and unnecessarily restrictive, particularly in relation to subsidiaries.

If the principle is to be applied to the principal then it follows, by definition, that it must apply to the subsidiary as well. The subsidiary could not be in a different position from that of the person from whom the subsidiary derives the authority.

I accept the Minister's thinking although there is a difference of opinion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.

I move amendment No. 30:

In page 8, subsection (3), line 48, after "not" to insert ", save with the approval of the Minister,".

This proposal is not related to the subsidiary concept although it has connections with it. I wish to focus on a different point and, unusually for me, I am proposing an addition which requires the approval of the Minister. Subsection (3) refers to the possibility of activities carried on by Teagasc outside the State and it provides that such activities shall be charged for at a figure which shall be not less than the cost of the performance of the function. I propose that the Minister should retain power to enable Teagasc or a subsidiary to perform such a function for a figure which, in certain circumstances, could be less than the cost of the performance of the function.

In some ways I am relating this to my own experience in overseas development and I can envisage major opportunities in the developing world for Teagasc to use their expertise in Africa, Asia and other places. There are major contract possibilities through the European Community and the United Nations agencies which could be open to Teagasc to bid for. Very often these contracts are based on an initial feasibility study with, perhaps, a major contract following. Teagasc should be in the same position as any other organisation from the point of view of being able to bid for these contracts. That might, of necessity, mean that at the initial stage a degree of investment would be necessary — sometimes referred to as seed capital — to enable them to be effectively involved in such activities. Perhaps the European Community might establish a feasibility contract in Lesotho and Tanzania for which Teagasc would bid with the idea that on completion of the feasibility study a major contract would follow.

It might make commercial sense that the initial bid would be at a figure less than the cost of performing the function because it would be a calculated investment, the return on which could be the securing of the post-feasibility contract. Without unnecessarily giving total freedom to Teagasc to engage in international activities, at the same time it would be appropriate for the Minister to retain the power to enable him to make such an investment and to provide seed capital in an overseas operation where, in the Minister's view, such an investment makes sense because of the possibilities arising thereafter. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment.

I wish to seek guidance and direction of the Chair. We have dealt with the only amendment acceptable to section 6. Two amendments in my name were disallowed on the basis that there were costs involved. I wish to raise the content of the section and to discuss it.

Could we deal with the amendment first?

The amendments to section 6 have been dealt with.

No, they have not.

I am sorry.

I am obliged to Deputy O'Keeffe for bringing this matter to my attention.

Acting Chairman

Are we dealing with amendment No. 30?

Yes. I am disposed to accept this amendment because there can be circumstances where, in respect of external contracts of consultancy overseas, there will be great scope for this and other Irish authorities but it could happen that you would need to engage in a different level of charge from that obtaining in the first instance at home. The point the Deputy made is in accord with my own experience in the Department of Foreign Affairs and, obviously, he has been there more recently. The scope is very considerable and I am obliged to Deputy O'Keeffe for bringing the point to my attention. I am prepared to accept the amendment because it will enable the Minister of the day to look at any proposal and to decide whether it would warrant consent.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 6, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

In regard to the section, I am very disappointed that the amendments in my name were considered inappropriate and disallowed on the basis that there were costs involved.

Acting Chairman

The Ceann Comhairle ruled amendments Nos. 28 and 29 out of order.

I accept his ruling.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy realises they can be discussed in the same way as was amendment No. 26 in the names of Deputies De Rossa, Mac Giolla, Sherlock and McCartan.

We have dealt with the amendment to the section, but I am anxious to raise a number of points on the section and I presume that is in order. This is one of the core sections and if it is passed the services to farmers will be seriously undermined. Already there has been a serious privatisation of the service outside the control of ACOT and that will be accelerated when staff accept voluntary redundancy and set up shop outside the door of ACOT offices. I have no doubt that a majority of farmers who up to now have availed of the services of ACOT will, as a result of the decision to impose a charge for such services, no longer seek advice from ACOT. That is the most serious outcome of the Bill. I am not referring to the large farmers engaged in high productive farming but to the small farmers. I appreciate that I am not allowed develop this issue at any great length, but it is my intention to oppose the passage of this section and I am seeking support from other opposition parties.

I should like to make a number of observations about the section. According to the terms of reference for the new body they, in addition to providing services for which charges can be applied, have a responsibility for delivering services to assist and encourage farm families to make the best use of their resources and to adopt systems of practices of particular national importance. Subsection (3) provides that not less than three months before the end of each financial year of Teagasc, it shall furnish to the Minister a report in writing. In our amendment we wanted adequate financial provision so that any services in the national interest would rank as an expense of the authority. We wanted that taken into account in determining the amount of the annual grant to the authority. However, I accept the ruling of the Chair in regard to that amendment.

I should like to point out to the Deputy that there has been a welcome and positive development in relation to the services provided by ACOT and the Institute on the basis of the value of the services. If they are worth getting they are worth paying for. There is no unlimited pool of money available. If the people seeking the service do not make some contribution towards the cost of it the only option left is that the taxpayers, who are not benefiting directly from the service, will be asked to pay. Deputy Stagg should consider the implications of that. If a farmer who is getting a service that is worthwhile, useful and beneficial does not pay for that service the only option left open to the Government is to ask the factory worker in Kildare, or elsewhere, who may not be directly benefiting from the service, to pay for the service. There is no fairy godmother around who will throw money at us.

I am sure the new authority will operate the system in a measured and reasoned way. Last year ACOT, despite all the statements made when I presented these proposals that this would not be possible, that it would be placing an intolerable burden on farmers, collected more than expected. I understand that they collected more than £1 million. I am pleased to be able to say that small farmers were not derived of the services they required. I do not have any evidence that people could not get that service because they did not have the means to pay for it. It is a tribute to ACOT that that was the position. Secondly, because the scheme was introduced in a measured way it established a very healthy relationship between the beneficiary — namely, the producer — and the professional person providing the service.

The basis of a charge or fee is as long established as professionals are, going back thousands of years, to the classical period of the Greeks and Romans. I do not intend to deal with that at any great length now. When one pays for a service one has a guarantee that one will get something worth paying for. If that service is not adequate or good, one has a right to protest; but, if one does not pay there is no privy or consideration, as they say in law, to enable one to take any action in respect of any negligence that may arise. In my view a very healthy relationship has been built up because of this. The same applies to the Institute. When one looks at the non-Exchequer receipts in respect of the Institute and ACOT one will see that they show a fairly healthy progression. I want that to continue. It is important that both organisations can prove that they can give an excellent service and, for that reason, that it is worth paying for. I cannot imagine small farmers not getting the same service in the future as they got in the past. I expect that to be a feature of the approach of Teagasc.

I do not wish to get involved in a philosophical argument with the Minister at this stage, but I am concerned that we are setting up a new body that has commercial orientation. Their requirement will be to get in money for the services they are providing and that will mean that persons other than those who can afford to pay — I am talking about a big number of people — will not be able to pay at the coal-face for the service. They will be excluded under the terms of reference given to the new body. We are telling that new organisation that they must become viable. Who will the local director send the adviser to? Will he send the adviser to the farmer who is in a position to pay or will he send the adviser to the farmer who cannot afford to pay for the service?

Where is that in the Bill? Will the Deputy tell me where it says in the terms of reference that the new body must be viable?

Many matters concerning the new body are not included in the Bill. For example, we do not know where the new body will get funding from. What proportion of the funding will come from the State? They are important matters. In this section we are dealing with the question of raising funds from the people who will be availing of the services at the coal-face, at the point of delivery of the service.

It might be more appropriate for the Deputy to use the word "field" as distinct from "coal-face".

We do not need to quibble unduly about that. I contend that farmers who can afford to pay will get service because we need to get in the money but that farmers who cannot afford to pay will be second rate. We will have to twotier service. I come from a rural area and am the son of a small farmer. I am conscious of the fact that farmers will not go cap in hand for a means test to get the service they cannot afford to pay for. That attitude is widespread throughout the country. People are very proud and do not want others to know if they are in financial difficulty. Small farmers simply will do without. It is estimated by the professional staff of ACOT that 60,000 fewer farmers will be contacted than before these measures were introduced. A total of 80,000 were contacted in 1986 and they estimate that under this legislation they will be contacting 20,000. The charges are not the only reason, but I will deal with that at a later stage. I take the point that there are no free dinners and that everything must be paid for.

Who will pay for it if they will not?

The Minister's colleague should be tackling the problem of devising an equitable tax system so that farmers who can afford it pay their fair share. The services we are talking about could be provided through a collective tax system. The regressive system proposed here means that tax will be charged at the point of delivery of the service. It will have the effect of stopping people who most need the service. I would ask the Minister to consider this matter seriously.

The Minister gave a very clear indication that people who could not afford it would not be charged for the service. I share the views expressed by Deputy Stagg. Could the Minister be more specific in outlining the criteria to be applied in assessing whether a person should have to pay for a service?

I invite Deputy Stagg to look at the terms of the legislation. Section 6 (1) provides that Teagasc or a subsidiary may make such charges as it considers appropriate in consideration of the performance by it of its functions. It goes on to say in subsection (2) that the determination of the amounts of charges by Teagasc or a subsidiary for educational, training and advisory services shall be subject to the approval of the Minister and the Minister for Finance. There is no point in making general statements to the effect that the small farmer will be crucified. The charges will be drawn up by Teagasc, who will consider what will be appropriate for customers in special circumstances. I cannot give a guarantee that people will pay nothing for services at a certain level; but it is unfair to estimate, as Deputy Stagg has done, that so many thousand will be left without service. It has not happened so far. If there are people ready, willing and able to pay for the service, surely it is reasonable that they should do so. If they do not, then the factory employees in Athy, Naas or Newbridge will have to pay.

I am suggesting that the Minister's colleague should ensure that farmers who can afford it pay their fair share of taxation.

A whole range of services is being provided, such as farm walks, together with instruction. Talks, seminars and discussions are taking place related to a whole range of matters. They are all provided without any question of charge. People are benefiting greatly. This is a very important part of the whole programme being conducted by ACOT. There is a valuable exchange of information at seminars. Charges are not an issue. There might be some admission charge but not such as will break anybody's back. Leaflets are being distributed regularly. Videos are also used. Deputy Stagg can be quite satisfied. We are talking in terms of group consultation and a whole range of things which were not the practice ten years ago. I am glad the service is using modern means of communication, providing discs and videos for farmers who want to avail of them. I hope Deputy Stagg will not overstate his case by saying the small farmers are to be devastated, I was reared among small farmers. I am part of them. The only member of the family in the generation before me who did not continue in farming was my mother. I have more first cousins in small farming than Deputy Stagg has. I have some sympathy for them, to say the least.

The small farmers of North Tipperary have looked after the Minister very well, not just politically but in every other way. We are talking about means testing for farmers before they get services. I should like the Minister to be specific about the criteria. Another question which arises is the amount of money the Minister envisages will be raised from the proposed charges. What percentage of the budget of Teagasc will these charges represent? It is important to have this information.

It does not appear to be relevant now. Means testing would be a matter for the new authority and I would be pre-empting them if I were to lay down the means criteria in each case. I can assure the Deputy that I will — I think the House would want me to do this, and I think the Authority would expect that I would do so — in terms of general direction and policy indicate to them very clearly that the scale of charges which they deem appropriate, that is in the legislation and which I would have to approve, should be such as will take account of the specific character of farming in the different areas and the specific condition of individual farmers.

I am not satisfied with the Minister's reply. If he has nothing further to say, I wish to call a division on this section.

I was about to put the question: "That section 6, as amended, stand part of the Bill". I merely do so lest Deputy Stagg might come to me afterwards and indicate that he was not fully aware of the position. He realises that, if there is a division, it will end discussion on the remaining sections.

If the matter is to proceed on that basis I wish to make it clear that because the legislative provision already exists for charges I do not intend to participate in any such division. I am more concerned that we will have an opportunity of debating the other sections of the Bill which were to be dealt with before 1.30 p.m. I take on board the point raised by Deputy Stagg that consideration has to be given to small farmers and, indeed, farmers with financial difficulties. We discussed this at length in relation to the order before the House about three or four months ago. We received concrete assurances at the time that small farmers and farmers in financial difficulty would be given full and proper consideration in the graduation of any scale of charges. While the legislative power for charging obviously has to continue in the Bill, I would expect from the Minister an assurance that any scale of charges proposed by Teagasc for the future would not receive approval unless the existing system is continued under which full consideration is given to small farmers and those in financial difficulties. If the Minister is prepared to give me that assurance I will not oppose this section.

I certainly am prepared to give the Deputy that assurance. That is the action that I have taken already this year. The charges that were imposed by ACOT this year had to be submitted to the Minister for approval and they were introduced taking account of the criteria we have applied. I will give an assurance to the Deputy that I will certainly take into account the priorities that we have for small farmers and those in special conditions before granting approval for a scale of charges.

Deputy Stagg has asked that I put the question and that is his right. Whether he calls a vote or not is for his judgment.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 83; Níl, 11.

  • Abbott, Henry.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Matthew.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burke, Ray.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Colley, Anne.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary T.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Paddy.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Swift, Brian.
  • Gibbons, Martin Patrick.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hilliard, Colm Michael.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keating, Michael.
  • Kennedy, Geraldine.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lynch, Michael.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Mooney, Mary.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J.
  • (Limerick West).
  • O'Dea, William Gerard.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Malley, Pat.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wright, G.V.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Bell, Michael.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and Browne; Níl, Deputies Howlin and Quinn.
Question declared carried.

I am now required to put the following question in accordance with the resolution of the Dáil today: "That sections 7 to 10, inclusive, are hereby agreed to."

Question put and agreed to.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended at 1.33 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.