Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - VHI Staff Mortgages/Loans.

3.

asked the Minister for Health the number of staff who have been allowed loans or mortgages by the VHI Board; the amount of money involved in each case; the rate of interest charged; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Under section 13 of the Voluntary Health Insurance Act, 1957, the terms and conditions of employment of VHI staff are a matter for the board to determine. The board must, of course, have regard to Government policy in the exercise of their functions.

I understand that the availability of preferential rate loans dates from 1968 and is part of the terms and conditions of staff as negotiated during normal pay bargaining between the board and the trade union representing the staff. However, all aspects of the board's operations and practices will be reviewed in my consideration of the board's corporate plan.

I have sought additional information from the VHI Board on the matter. I will communicate further with the Deputy.

There was no great effort in the Minister's response to afford me the details in relation to the numbers and the figures involved. Can the Minister indicate the percentage of the total outgoings of the VHI which is taken up by administration which would include wages and so on? If he has not got the information here perhaps he would forward it to me.

I have no difficulty in imparting to the House whatever information becomes available to me but this practice has apparently been going on since 1968 and is agreed from time to time in various semi-State agencies.

Is the Minister satisfied that this is normal practice for a semi-State company? What are his opinions on the matter?

The practice has been there since 1968. I have only become aware of it recently. We are looking at all aspects of the board's operations in the context of the corporate plan and without the benefit of the additional information that I request I would be unable to give a definitive answer to Deputy Howlin.