I will deal with these amendments together since they reflect the basic recurrent theme of land acquisition by the company. I agree that Coillte Teoranta, given the scale of proposed activities, must have the power to acquire land. I agree with the sentiments of the Deputies on that score. The power will be provided for in the memorandum and articles of association of the company. It is not customary in the case of the establishment of a new State-sponsored body to provide for the detailed activities of that body in its relevant legislation. Such legislation, as section 12 sets out here, normally sets out the general thrust and objective of the new body and detailed functions are specified in its memorandum and articles of association. These powers will include the purchase, or taking on lease or otherwise acquiring any land or right over land required in connection with the company objectives, together with the power to plant, manage and supervise.
I understand the concern of Deputies who put down these amendments. If we were establishing a State corporation instead of a company it would be absolutely essential to make provision in the legislation and to stipulate accurately the functions and obligations. The company system, however, has much wider freedoms and the normal practice is to make provision for these matters in the memorandum and articles of association. That will be done and I have clearly indicated the area it will cover.
I was absolutely astounded at the remark made by Deputy Sherlock that the rate of planting had declined in recent times. It is no harm to put on the record of the House that last year we had a record national planting, between State and private, and this year it will be very close to 14,000 hectares, which is 4,000 hectares above any previous record achieved in this country. It is obvious from the funding figure in the Bill and from the historical pattern of forestry involvement in Ireland that public planting will have an important role to play in implementing the major forestry programme which this country needs. The need to maintain an even age forestry estate and of guaranteeing supply is also obvious.
These factors will be taken into account by the Government in deciding, as an ongoing evolutionary process, the best way to achieve national forestry planting targets. All in all, Deputies can be satisfied that the powers which they seek to put into this legislation are incorporated in the memorandum and articles of association. That is the normal practice. All of the areas which they have referred to are adequately catered for by those provisions.
Another point raised by Deputy Kavanagh was that he wanted Coillte Teoranta to have the powers of compulsory land acquisition. That presents a difficulty. Because of the unfair advantage which the power to compulsorily acquire land would confer on the company vis-à-vis other private forestry companies, I am proposing to retain those powers at ministerial level for use at the discretion of the Minister.