Local Loans Fund (Amendment) Bill, 1956—Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."

As I said a few minutes ago, we all appreciate the difficulties of the times. The remarks of the Minister just now, with regard to the possibility of making loans available for the development of technical and continuation education, are, to me, most disappointing. It might be as well if the opportunity were taken now or the opportunity sought in the very near future, to indicate to vocational committees throughout the country to what extent they are going to be facilitated in their work. I am thinking particularly of the Gaeltacht areas. We have, with a considerable amount of satisfaction, agreed to the setting up of Aireacht na Gaeltachta. That Department will find many fields in which to work, but no field more urgently calling for attention than the field of education, and particularly technical and vocational education.

All I can say is that the committee for which I am speaking now, and which is responsible for such a large Gaeltacht area, and for such a large Breac-Ghaeltacht area, will feel very disappointed at the Minister's statement. As I said already, I believe it is false economy to be saving and to be cheese-paring on education and, above all, I believe it is false economy to be saving on technical and vocational education. I hope the Minister will give further thought to this matter and see that these committees get something more in the way of financial assistance than they have been getting or are likely to get, according to the statement the Minister has just made.

I had not notice of the specific case which the Senator raised, and I do not know whether it was included in the allocations we made from the fund this year. The Senator will understand that I am not in a position to answer that "off the cuff". My remarks here were directed to education generally. I know the position last year was that there was an expenditure of some £93,000 on vocational schools and that the provision this year for the same service is in excess of that figure. If the committee to whom the Senator refers were in the original allocation, it may be possible to assist them to some degree; but if they were not, I wanted to make it clear that I could not accept any commitments on the Local Loans Fund this year beyond those for which I had already made provision. It would be dishonest of me to suggest that I could hold out any hope of exceeding the provision made. I will see if the case the Senator refers to is included and I will let him know at a later date.

May I direct the Minister's attention to one aspect of the matter in order to bring home to him the seriousness of it? We did get some accommodation from the Local Loans Fund some time ago. We wanted some more. We were directed to go to the bank. We went to the bank and the bank did facilitate us to some extent but not to anything like the extent we wanted. We appealed again to the Department and we were told we might go to the bank again. We went to the bank again, and the bank turned us down. Here we are with the work on hands and claims there for services we are not in a position to provide. I hope that, as a result of the resolution passed by the committee yesterday, the Department will do something to help us out. If they do not, the Minister can see what a grave difficulty the committee will be in. It is a difficulty which is typical of the committees operating along the sea-board in the Gaeltacht and Breac-Ghaeltacht areas.

The Senator has indicated the difficulty at his end, but the Senator can also see, perhaps, the difficulty at the govermental end. The plain fact, as I have stated earlier, is that, unless there is a marked change in the savings trend, there will not be sufficient capital for all the desirable projects we would all wish, and in those circumstances there is no option for any Government, whatever Government it may be, but to make a list of priorities in relation to the capital that can be made available and that is made available, and that particularly can be made available without causing inflation.

Any system of priority means deferment of projects dear to somebody's heart. Just as I have said before in relation to taxation that it should in relation to taxation that it should be changed; but when we come down to analysing how it should be changed, as is only natural and human, it is always to be changed in such a way that some other class should bear the burden that has to be found in the revenue. So it is also with priorities in relation to capital development. We would all have our own particular priorities, but it is the duty of the Government to select the overall priorities that are best in the national interest within the available resources. That is what we are endeavouring to do.

I am not anxious to prolong the discussion, but I want to make this comment. I hope the Minister will give this matter consideration and that he will see there is a good case for giving vocational and technical education a higher priority than it has at the moment for this reason: there is no service likely to produce dividends as fat or as soon as the service of technical and vocational education.

Could the Minister give us an indication of the rate of interest that will be chargeable on these issues from the Local Loans Fund?

Five and a quarter per cent.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill put through Committee; reported without recommendation; received for final consideration, and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.

I am grateful to the Seanad for their co-operation.