Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Rural Development.

9.

asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has any proposals to set up a rural development division within his Department to take account of current trends in EC thinking, as exemplified by the fact that the Commissioner for Agriculture also has the additional responsibility for rural development.

Adequate administrative arrangements are in place for the operation of the pilot programme for integrated rural development which was launched in October 1988 and which is designed to provide the knowledge and experience that will be necessary for a full nationwide scheme at a later stage.

The EC Commission's thinking on policies and on implementing proposals for development of rural areas is still at the formative stage. However, it is likely that the Commission will be presenting its proposals on the subject later this year. Meanwhile, the structural policy division of my Department under an assistant secretary have the responsibility for monitoring the pilot programme and liaising with the E. C. Commission on Structural Policy.

Would the Minister give the House a commitment that when the Commission fomulates detailed proposals in the area of rural development he will reciprocate those detailed and important proposals by establishing the rural development committee within his Department? May I suggest that it is only in that way we will be able to take full advantage of the significant changes taken in the Commission in this regard?

First, it is important that the House would know that in this instance we are ahead, so to speak, of the Commission. I got permission, and I am the only member of the Council of Ministers who got such permission to launch a pilot programme in advance of the proposals from the Commission. These will not be ready until late this year. This is just not for our own benefit but indeed for the benefit and information of the Commission and to inform them of the consequences of our experience. That is a major break through on our part. Second, I agree that when the total programme is put in place, we will obviously review our structures, but at this point, as the Deputy will appreciate, I am not in a position to say when that will be but I assure him that there is a separate structural policy division in my Department under an assistant secretary, who has recently been recruited, and how has responsibility for monitoring the pilot programme. However, I assure the Deputy that it is a major priority in the Department.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I would like to ask the Minister if he is aware that the rural economy research centre in Teagasc has been decimated by the present board and in fact that its resources have been reduced by 75 per cent over the past 18 months? Is the Minister aware that this is the centre with the brief for rural development? What is the relationship between the rural development division of Teagasc and the structural policy division of the Department which the Minister has just referred to?

Obviously the question about Teagasc is a separate one and is a matter for that body. However, so far as their role in rural development is concerned, I am very glad to assure the Deputy that when we published theNational Development Plan, and rural development is a major element of that plan, that the chairman, the director and the board of Teagasc were enthusiastic about the role that they were being given in the implementation of the rural development programme. I assure the Deputy that their enthusiasm will be recognised and matched by adequate resources.

There is a number of Deputies offering, I call Deputy Doyle.

In view of the fact that under the so-called voluntary early retirement scheme, the rural development officers in the rural development section of Teagasc were driven out——

The Deputy is injecting new matter. She is expanding out of all proportion to the scope of the question.

What is the point of reestablishing the unit at Athenry and training other technical advisers? What is the point of this duplication?

I want to put on record that nobody was driven out of Teagasc and I could not allow any Deputy, much less the spokes person for the Opposition, to make that assertion without it being corrected.

They were driven out into other sections.

Any consultations that gave rise to decisions on the part of the staff themselves formed the basis of their voluntary decisions.

I stand by what I have said: they were driven out of Teagasc. The Minister is driving them from Johnstown Castle.

Please, Deputy Doyle.

The Minister has no commitment to integrated rural development. It is a total farce.

The Minister mentioned how enthusiastically the chairman and the board of Teagasc——

I have ruled earlier that Teagasc does not arise on this question.

(Interruptions.)

The Deputy should put down questions appertaining to Teagasc.

(Interruptions.)

It is relevant.

Deputy Farrelly, I have no control over Ministers' replies but I have control over questions. I ruled earlier that matters appertaining to Teagasc require separate questions.

It is rural development. It is relevant to the question.

Let the Deputy not lecture the Chair as well as lecturing me.

What does the Minister think is necessary?

Were the two people the Minister mentioned aware of the drastic reductions in the amount of money he made available over the preceding 18 months? Were they as enthusiastic when he told them the amount of money that was made available as they were before he told them about that reduction?

The level of intelligence and capacity of the two people concerned is such that of course they are aware of all relevant factors. Despite statements such as that made by Deputy Doyle — that I have no care for rural development — I am the first Minister to launch a programme for rural development. It comes strange from that side of the House who did nothing about this to tell me, who is doing something about it, that I have no care for it——

(Interruptions.)

The Minister decimated the——

They are down on record for it.

(Interruptions.)

Question No. 11

It is one of the greatest scandals of Teagasc——

Noise is some kind of substitute for activity on the Deputy's part. That is her only problem.

(Interruptions.)

Order. The Chair must be obeyed by both sides of this House. I have called the next question.