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

SECTION 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, subsection (1) (f), line 3, after "products" to insert ", farm forestry, agri-tourism".

What Senator Ferris has in mind here is the broadening of section 1(a). It reads:

In this Act "agriculture" includes horticulture, dairying, the breeding and keeping of horses, cattle, pigs and other livestock, the rearing and keeping of poultry and bee-keeping.

The amendment seeks to include the words "farm forestry, agri-tourism". One can see the reason for this amendment. Basically it is a broadening of the scope or the meaning of this section. It is an amendment very much with an eye to the future. We all know there are major changes taking place in agriculture. We know that major changes will have to take place henceforth. We will have to move away from lines of traditional enterprise in agriculture, i.e., beef, milk, production, etc. because of the surplus situation on the market. The approach here is that we should broaden the meaning — it is important that we get the meaning correct from the beginning — to take account of farm forestry which will be a new area of enterprise in agriculture. We have so much land which is inappropriately used. It is used for stock raising, for dairying, and there are cases where it is used for cereal, when its only appropriate use is forestry.

There is also the area of agri-tourism which holds great potential. It has no place at all within the scope of agricultural policy, as enunciated or as carried forward presently by our Minister or by our Department of Agriculture and Food. We ask the Minister, while waiting for Senator Ferris and his colleagues, Senators Brian O'Shea and John Harte, if he would like to comment.

I agree entirely that we are in a period of constant change. I described it the last time as revolutionary change. It is for that reason that the broad definition of "agriculture" in the Bill is very extensive. I do not mind having to answer for what is not in the Bill but I find it difficult on occasion to answer for what is in the Bill, on the suggestion that it is not in the Bill. All of the things that are being suggested that I should include are already in the Bill. So, if we are to have a debate on the basis of what is not there, let us recognise it.

Let me point out where it is. We are talking about all aspects of rural development from the definition stage. At some point you have to say that is the end of the definition. It includes, as Senators see, in section 1 a whole range of definitions, but particularly section 1 (f): "farm management, agricultural economics, rural development...". That is a major element in the whole role of this new Teagasc authority.

Coming to the point about farm forestry, it is in the Bill already. Am I to go back to the draftsman every second day and tell him to put it in again and again? It is there in section 4 (8) and it is there in the terminology which is appropriate to this type of development:

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.

That is part of a farming enterprise. That is my case.

The amendment is not here at my behest but I see the need for it. We are talking about the introductory stages of the Bill. We are making the point that we should get it off on the right foot from the word "go" and that the broadest possible scope should be included in its descriptions at the beginning. For that reason we appeal to the Minister to make this simple technical adjustment which is just to add an extra line.

If it were not already there I would certainly be amenable to accepting it. I do not have to be persuaded on the substance of the amendment. The substance is already there. I was convinced of that when I introduced this legislation and, because it is there and is covered in the actual terminology and definition of the Bill. I could only agree with the spirit and the purpose of what Senator Ferris proposes. I am simply saying that it is covered already specifically in section 4 (8). I will repeat it for the benefit of Senator Ferris who has just come in:

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.

Farm forestry, as a term, as far as I have been able to ascertain, does not have any precise legal definition. Agri-tourism does not have any precise legal definition either. We know what we mean these things to be, but they do not have any precise meaning in legal terms. That is why what Senator Ferris proposes is already inscribed in the Bill.

Does the Minister mean there is no policy?

There is a policy.

I want to apologise to the House. I had to leave the House and go down for a brief break. I was here for four hours on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill and I did not have any lunch. I do not want to be discourteous to the Minister but that is the way the timing of the House went today. All the changes were without prior warning to me.

We wanted to include this because section 1 specifies a whole lot of areas which the Minister says are legally included in recognised agricultural enterprises such as horticulture, the breeding of horses and other livestock. We were anxious to ensure that the area of farm forestry and agri-tourism is included also. While in the past they may not have been defined as agriculturally orientated, the Minister, his Department, the Minister of State and his colleagues from his own constituency have an interest naturally in the development of these two sub-areas. Whereas the Minister says that another section includes these areas, I believe they should be specifically included in a subsection of the Bill.

In future — if there is to be a future in agriculture — people will have to be able to diversify into other areas and should be encouraged by the Minister's Department and the European Community to do so. Farm forestry is certainly one area and agri-tourism is another. The people in the industry who will be involved in advice and research in these areas are of the same opinion. If the Minister is absolutely sure that another subsection includes these that is fair enough, but the parliamentary draftsman should have taken that into account and recognised the changing trend in agriculture.

I appreciate the manner in which Senator Ferris has presented the case. His case is well made. It is an important element and will be an important element of rural development. We are not just talking in terms of agriculture in the conventional sense of the word, in the literal sense of the word agriculture. For that reason we are in a period of rapid change. Land usage is what we are really involved with here and it is for that reason that I accept the strength of the case made by Senator Ferris. I want to assure him that it is already covered in section 4 (a) which specifically says that the reference in subsection (1) to advisory services in agriculture shall be construed as including a reference to advisory services in relation to the growing of trees.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

May I point out that amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 39 are related and may be discussed together?

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 5, subsection (1), line 13, to delete "Teagasc" and substitute "ACOTT".

This relates to the title of the new body. Practically every speaker who spoke in both Houses on Second Stage of this Bill expressed unhappiness about the title of the Bill and that is the feeling of people outside of this House who will be operating the new organisation and the people it will affect, the farmers. Everybody believes that the word "Teagasc" is awkward. It has been described to me as incongruous, as being totally inappropriate and as being unattractive. The word "inappropriate" is the best one because somehow it does not lend itself to being marketable. This new organisation, like all new organisations, has to find its own feet. ACOT are well established and have been in place for almost ten years. They have been well established in farmers' minds for the past ten years as an organisation, more so perhaps than AFT, the ordinary farmer was in contact with.

Our party are proposing that instead of calling the body Teagasc, we go back to the old name of ACOT and, instead of spelling it "ACOT", that we now spell it "ACOTT". An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta, the one which we are replacing, were the council for advice on agriculture. We are merely seeking to add "Taighde" at the end, which means research. It would then be called An Chomhairle Oiliúna agus Taighde Talmhaíochta. We think that the argument for this is eminently reasonable. The Minister will remember that ten years ago the first title for ACOT was ANCOT which was changed later to ACOT. Presumably it was changed to make it more attractive and to make it a word that was more easily identified by the people who would be directly affected by the new organisation. As I have said, people find something totally foreign and totally inappropriate about Teagasc. We are asking the Minister not to get this organisation off on the wrong foot. All organisations starting up have their problems so we plead with the Minister not to let the first problem of this organisation be the name.

There are perhaps 120,000 farmers in the country at present and about 25,000 of those are being directly dealt with for advice by ACOT. That means that there are approximately 85,000 farmers who are not affected at all or who have no contact with ACOT or with the research services. We are making the argument that this new body must reach out to that vast body of farmers, many of them below the commercial line, but who have the possibility of becoming viable if they were in receipt of proper advice and if they had at their disposal the findings of new research and so on.

The new body must be aggressive in selling themselves and in getting across to a broader body of farmers because, as we said on Second Stage, of the huge importance of agriculture to this country and because such a large sector of agriculture is not making its contribution towards the national income or the national wealth. One of the instruments we must use to ensure that agriculture plays a more meaningful economic role in the total economy of this country is the advice of the advisory service which must reach out to these people. There should not be bars by name or by fees precluding the organisation from reaching out and the people who receive the advice and apply the research should not have any antipathy towards that organisation, particularly if that antipathy sprang from their name.

I support this amendment. The success or failure of the new body will not be very dependent on the name but, as Senator Connor stated, it would be best to start on a footing on which everybody could agree. He mentioned that most of the speakers last week, in their Second Stage contributions, expressed their disquiet over this new title of the body, certainly at county committee of agriculture level and I would also imagine at the level of the General Council of the County Committees of Agriculture. Most rural representatives are unhappy with the name of this body. It is a very cumbersome title and, as I remarked last week, if a competition had been set up among school children to find the best name for the new body, they would have come up with something far better than Teagasc.

Senator Connor stated quite rightly that this new institution must be prepared to reach out to the farming community. The farming community's success depends on that and there should be no barriers between the farming community and the body. I am sure that, as such, the title will not turn people away from the organisation but I would still feel that a return to a title more akin to something like the former ACOT and this new ACOT with the extra "T" which we are proposing would be the best option.

This was discussed in the other House and the Minister was not very forthcoming there in relation to a name change. That means we have a battle be fore us here to try to get him to change his mind. The Minister should seriously consider our amendment because 95 per cent of the people at least who are involved in the institutes, the farming community and the public representatives who deal with agriculture would agree with us. The Minister should take that into account. I am sure he has received many representations and, while as I state the title will not make or break it, this would be a far better title. I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to our amendment even at this late stage.

Much has been made about the name given to this new body both in the Second Stage debate here and also in the Dáil when it was being debated there. I do not think the name is at all important. What is important is the type of service this new body will give when it is set up. When this debate started, Teagasc seemed very strange to a lot of us. The more often you repeat Teagasc, the more common that name becomes and the easier it is to get your tongue around it and to memorise it.

We were all taught Teagasc Críostaí going to school and I think that is the one thing that always sticks in our mind. If we can remember back to those days when we started school and learned our Teagasc Críostaí to the best of our ability, there is no reason why the farmers of Ireland could not memorise the name being given to this new body. The important thing is that the new body should provide the type of service the farmers of this country need to help them to improve our most important industry, that is, the agricultural industry. If this body being set up under the name Teagasc can help them to produce more food and more agricultural goods and make farming more profitable, the name will definitely stick in the minds of the farmers and they will be able to get their tongues around it without any problem.

De ghnáth bheinnse i bhfábhar téarma Gaelach más féidir in aon chor téarma Gaelach a chur in áit téarma Béarla. Ach sa chomhthéacs seo measaim go bhfuil sé amaideach ar fad, toisc nach é teagascóir atá i gceist sa Bhille — tá cúrsaí eile seachas teagasc i gceist. Níl an t-ainm atá molta sa Bhille cruinn. Táimse mar sin i bhfábhar an leasaithe atá molta ag na Seanadóirí Connor agus Bradford.

I would be the first to champion an Irish language term in any legislation. I only wish this cosmetic habit reflected a living reality, but let us have the cosmetic anyway. It is a long-established practice now in the State to devise a nomenclature which is in Irish and which has become acceptable to the public and, indeed, over a wide range of semi-State bodies. To that extent I accept the point being made by Senator Hussey and by other speakers on that side. Nonetheless Senators Hussey's attempt to defend Teagasc is totally unconvincing. I have no idea what the Senator's reference was to Teagasc Críostaí. I should imagine the tendency of every sane citizen into whom catechism was battered through the medium of Irish is never to hear a reference to Teagasc Críostaí again.

Senator Hussey also said the name is not important; it is the success to the project which is important. Well, of course, that is true then why are we debating it at all? If the name is not important, why not accept the suggestion to put in ACOT instead of Teagasc. The implications of Teagasc are simply that this is a Bill about instruction, about conveying information, and that is not a proper or accurate description of what the Bill is about. Surely section 5 of the Bill defines the functions of the new institution. Those functions have to do with other things than actually conveying information including, of course, the vital function of research.

One of the reasons why I do not like Teagasc is not alone that it is inaccurate and an incomplete description of the functions of the new institution but that, by implication, it downgrades the research dimension which, as I said in my Second Stage speech, is a danger that runs throughout the whole Bill. My objection to it is simply that it is inaccurate and an incomplete attempt to describe what the Bill is about. For that reason it is a nonsense. It is fatuous and any talk about farmers getting their tongues around it is really irrelevant in that regard.

I would accept Teagasc if it were an accurate attempt to describe the Bill. I would have no sympathy with people who could not get their tongues around it. I would be quite happy that foreigners should come to learn it because there is no reason why we should not use Irish language terms in our international dealings as well. In this connection it seems to me to be entirely unsatisfactory. The name is of secondary importance and I hope that the new institution will smell as sweet under whatever name it goes by. What is important is the sweet smell of success. This is important enough to make some fuss about. It is a sloppy piece of nomenclature and totally inaccurate.

Senator Murphy has put the whole argument in favour of changing this in a nutshell because it does not refer to the functions the new board will be involved in. That was the legitimate complaint of the people involved in the industry, the professional people who are doing the job already in two divided boards, the board of ACOT and the board of An Foras. The scientists involved in the research industry who have given a lifetime to the development of agriculture at the scientific research end are of the opinion that this name does not reflect the work they will be putting into it in future.

In my Second Stage speech I referred to the name as reminding me of an anthelmintic. Those who might have done research on that in the meantime will know that that is the name of a worm drench, it is a chemical description of a worm drench. That is as close as I could get to the word "Teagasc". For that reason farmers might remember it better than any other name. There is an over-riding consideration as well which the Minister has not alluded to, that is, the cost factor. The amount of property the Minister has taken to himself to give to this new board with the word "ACOT" already written on it is pretty considerable throughout the country and adding one "T" onto that would be a lot cheaper than excluding it altogether and writing Teagasc all over the place.

This Government subject themselves every day to a critical analysis of all the spending they carry out which is unnecessary. Let us look at it from that point of view. I am not sure how much printing has already been done on the presumption that this House would accept this name. If that is the case, the Minister has a counter-argument immediately. Perhaps he has a whole lot of things set up with this new name on them but certainly Senator Murphy has made the case. This name does not reflect the work which this new board and the staff involved will be doing in future in the area of agricultural advice, training and research.

My grasp of the Irish language is not as good as it should be. It was excellent at one stage but, using English so frequently, I did not keep the blas as flúirseach as I should. I bow to the Senator's expert opinion on this that it does not reflect the future role of the staff involved. That is a prime consideration when we try to explain to other people who do not understand the language what the word stands for. They know what the word "ACOT" stands for. It is an internationally accepted word now in the area of agricultural advice and training.

I did not put my name to this amendment because I reckoned that everybody had objected to the name initially and that amendments were likely to be forthcoming to change the name. I admire the ingenuity of Senators Connor, Bradford and Hogan in coming up with the addition of an extra "T". Luckily the original word to be used did not start with the letter "S" and finish with "T" because then we would have had to change it. Irrespective of what it might have stood for at the end of the day it would have been relevant to change it.

Tá sé an-tábhachtach ar fad go mbeadh téarma Gaeilge ar an chóras seo. Ní aontaím chor ar bith leo siúd a deireann nach mbeidh éinne in ann a thuiscint cad é an míniú atá ar an téarma anseo. Níl mórán Béarla ag muintir na hEilbhéise, ná muintir na Gearmáine, muintir na Fraince nó muintir na hIodáile. Más rud é go mbíonn téarma á úsáid ag daoine tuigeann siad san an téarma atá á úsáid acu.

We do not have to ask the Germans, for instance, to translate into English terms they use for their organisations in Germany. We do not have to ask the Dutch to do the same, to translate into English something that we do not understand. In fact, if they heard the view expressed that they do not understand the words we use, they would be rather surprised. As far as I understand it, they appreciate that we all represent something different, that we have separate cultures and languages and they do not want to see a common mould imposed on all of us in the name of something "that we all understand". I hope that, whatever else happens in Europe, that will not happen.

Senators

Hear, hear.

We are all agreed on that.

That is probably the first "hear hear" I will hear in this House today. After all, it has been described as, to use Senator Connor's terms, incongruous, inappropriate, unacceptable. I might ask: incongruous to whom, inappropriate to what, unacceptable to whom? I understand the meaning of those words very well. I suggest to the Senators on the other hand that ACOT is acceptable, appropriate and, I presume to that extent, congruous as well.

The important thing is that, to those who would suggest that this name or any name that is proposed is not acceptable, I should make a few points. There were reservations about the term when it was first introduced. One of the most important things about any name is that it should be known, identified and identifiable with a particular product if it happens to be a product in terms of a physical product or an activity such as we are concerned with here.

I have to say that, because of the amount of public discussion, analysis and objection, "Teagasc" has been launched in a way that I could never have expected it would be. It has commended the requisite amount of public attention and, as the weeks and months went on — because it is six months since this was first introduced — even a degree of public respect. I am satisfied that the change now to something else that is not acceptable — I do not want to make any point by trying to trump everyone's king with my ace — would overlook the fact that there are elements within the new authority in the research area and they would not find it acceptable to have a name like ACOT which is the same as a separate function of one element of the new authority, namely, the advisory service. The researchers would not be favourable to that. I do not want to attribute any wrong motive or disposition to them in that. I can just tell Senators that in fact it is not acceptable to them. I find it unacceptable, to use Senator Connor's own phrase, when he tells me that ACOT is a name that is widely recognised abroad. I was not aware of that. I do not want to denigrate what they have done up to this.

It is abroad in Ireland.

It is abroad in Ireland — thar lear in Éirinn. Sin atá á chur in iúl duit, thar lear in Éirinn. Aontaím leis sin go bhfuil a fhios ag gach éinne thar lear in Éirinn, mar a deirtear, an míniú atá leis seo.

That is one of the realities that I am faced with. It is not just a matter of adding one "T", as Senator Ferris said. He suggested that some mischievous person might add an "S" at the beginning and then we would all have some trouble. One way or the other the important thing is that we are dealing with a term that implies instruction. Far be it from me to take issue with someone from the academic life like Senator Murphy but he would acknowledge that an instruction implies basically the accumulation of knowledge in the first instance. If you have not accumulated knowledge you have not very much to instruct. I would assume that there is a certain precondition of accumulating knowledge involved before you convey what it is you have accumulated.

That is accumulated in this instance through research. It will then be imported through education and advice. I am not saying everyone would agree with this, but is that a feature of anything one proposes in this land of ours particularly when it comes to putting a name on something? I am encouraged by the disposition I find all round that the important thing is what they do and the name by which they do it will become even more acceptable if less important as the years go on.

I want to come back on a few points. I may not have understood the Minister at the beginning when he stated that by not using the word "Teagasc" in some way we did not want to use an Irish word. He made comparisons with Germany, France and Belgium and said that we would not be critical of them for using their words in their language. The word "ACOTT" is an acronym of the Irish words An Chomh airle Oiliúna Taighde agus Talmhaí ochta, the Council for Advice and Research in Agriculture. The Minister also makes the point that the people in the research sector, presumably the people in the Agricultural Institute, might not be too happy. The word "research" is included in the Irish form. We had An Foras Talúntais or the Agricultural Institute formerly but we have accommodated the sensitivities that might be found among the people in the research sector, in the sense that the word "research" in Irish is included in the title which we want to give it.

We would not have any disagreement with having the body called AFTA. That was proposed in the Dáil by another party. We object to the word "Teagasc" not because it is an acronym in the Irish language anymore than our own word is an acronym in the Irish language. We object to the fact that this it not a marketable word; it is not an easy word that people can identify with.

All the arguments Senator Murphy made are absolutely correct. We want this to be simple, to be something that is already identified in the consciousness and in the minds of the people who will have to operate it. Fair enough, the operators, the research and advice people may not have a great problem, but the farmers have. Farmers have a traditions resistance to lots of things. I honestly think that to make it acceptable, more marketable and more commercial, if you want to use a word, we should use a word they can readily identify with and which they find has a meaning. The very word ACOTT has something of an agricultural sound about it. Certainly the word "Teagasc" has not.

I do not want to hold the House up on this matter, but must say that I was totally in agreement with the first half of the Minister's comments in which he argued for the need for a richness of linguistic and cultural expression in the EC. I could not agree with him more in that regard. As I said in my first comments in the Irish language, normally I would be gunning very enthusiastically for Teagasc.

In the second half of his comments he failed utterly to convince me that anything I said in my contribution was wrong. For example, he said that Teagasc implies research, that you cannot have teaching unless you have research. The point is that you can have somebody else's research. This is what a lot of people are afraid of about the new regime which may come into operation in this Bill, that research will be down-graded and that Teagasc will mean handing on second-hand information. That is another reason for not wanting Teagasc, that Teagasc means teaching exclusively.

Quite clearly, section 4, which defines the principal functions of the new body, specifies providing advisory services in paragraph (a) and obtaining and making available practical information in paragraph (b). Even if we stopped there I would still maintain that Tagasc is not an accurate description of each and both of those functions. Certainly paragraph (c) is nowhere mentioned in Teagasc, to undertake, promote, encourage, assist etc. in research and development. That is totally lacking in the proposed new title. I must stand opposed to it.

It may well be that ACOTT is not terribly satisfactory. It may well be that those who drafted this Bill did not think hard enough to come up with a proper term which is probably the likely explanation. I am convinced that the argument to retain Teagasc in the Bill is at this stage pure inertia — not be bothered making us change, there is too much trouble, can you not take it as it is, will it not do us fine? That is the mentality behind it. For that reason I am even more opposed to it than when I spoke the first time.

I do not want to weaken Senator Murphy's opposition. He has made up his mind.

Question put: "That the word proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá. 22; Níl, 17.

  • Bohan, Edward Joseph.
  • Byrne, Seán.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Fallon, Seán.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Fitzsimons, Jack.
  • Hanafin, Des.
  • Haughey, Seán F.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lanigan, Mick.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • McGowan, Patrick.
  • McKenna, Tony.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mulroy, Jimmy.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • Ó Conchubhair, Nioclás.
  • Ryan, William.
  • Wallace, Mary.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bulbulia, Katharine.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cregan, Denis.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Harte, John.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kelleher, Peter.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDonald, Charlie.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Murphy, John A.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.
Tellers: Tá, Senators W. Ryan and S. Haughey: Níl, Senators Cregan and Fennell.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, not moved.
Section 1 agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3.

Amendment No. 6 has already been discussed with amendment No. 2.

Amendment No 6 not moved.
Section 3 agreed to.
SECTION 4.

Senator Connor.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, line 22, after "industry)", to insert "and to publish as it sees fit the results of such research and development".

Gabh mo leithscéal, a Chathaoirligh, is mise atá i gceist anseo. I think I am right in saying that amendment No. 7 stands in the name of Senator Brendan Ryan. I want to make it clear that I am not Senator Brendan Ryan. In fact, I would dearly love to call a division to delete Senator Brendan Ryan but, since that is not possible, I want to make it clear that this is Senator John A. Murphy speaking. What is in question here is simply to underline the importance of research. Research is of vital importance to the whole agricultural industry. It is an importance not recognised in the Bill but actually downgraded in the Bill. I need hardly remind the Minister how important research is and has been to agriculture over the past several decades. To mention one place familiar to me — it is by no means meant to reflect on any other institution — the excellence of the research carried out in Moore Park was essential for the phenomenal expansion of Irish farming in the sixties and seventies.

One cannot, even at the risk of being repetitive, over-estimate the importance of research and one cannot sufficiently disabuse ordinary people perhaps who may feel that research is something in the ivory tower, of the notion that it is an optional extra in a matter so bread and butterish as farming. One cannot disabuse such a notion frequently enough. Research is, of the essence, to further progress. From now on it is going to be a different kind of research. It will be research which will be adjusted to the intensely competitive situation in which we will be. Senators may recall that last week Senator Ryan and I quoted from an article by Professor Cunningham in which he emphasised that the level of research in Ireland, the expenditure on research, compares very poorly with those countries which will be our competitors in the near future. It is in that whole context, not wishing to make anything like a Second Stage speech, that I move this amendment which is to make explicit the importance of research. If this amendment is accepted, section 4 (1) (c) will read as follows:

to undertake, promote, encourage, assist, co-ordinate, facilitate and review, agricultural research and development (including research and development in relation to food processing and the food processing industry) and to publish as it sees fit the results of such research and development.

You cannot have research without independent publication.

It is important also to reassure those people involved in the change in this institution, researchers involved in our greatest industry who are concerned about the implications for themselves in this Bill, that this amendment will, among other things, ensure that their independence will not be curtailed, that research will not be down-graded, that their research will continue to be recognised at an international scientific level. Only thus can the quality of their research be guaranteed. It is an extremely important amendment and I suggest that we should recognise that an explicit function of Teagasc should be to publish as it sees fit, without any let or hindrance from vested interests, the results of such research and development.

I think Senator Murphy has made an excellent point on behalf of Senator Ryan.

On my own behalf. On behalf of the graduates.

It is vitally important that research be carried on independently and that the results of that independent research be made known to the public. That is the proper concept of research and that is the kind of work the people in Foras have been involved in. It is the kind of work they have been internationally recognised in the past as doing and much of their work was referred to by other scientists in the agricultural industry in other countries. If this new board are to have the commitment to research that was envisaged in the amalgamation of the two bodies and are to work in close liaision with those who are advising farmers, it is important that they should have the ability to publish without any restriction by the Government, the Minister of the day, or any other Minister who might consider that the publication of research would be detrimental in some way to some interests or other. I am totally in favour of the sentiments expressed by Senator Ryan in his amendment.

I too would like to express my support of the sentiments expressed by Senator Murphy acting in proxy for Senator Ryan. The Agricultural Institute published annually one excellent document which was quite unique in that it revealed everything that was important about agriculture. I refer to theFarm Management Survey. The Minister's Department have their own survey of agricultural income and other related matters which is published annually, but the document to which I refer was researched independently by people within the Agricultural Institute who did not have to have any politico looking over their shoulder. There was no political flavour in their findings, unlike, I would have to suggest, the Department's report.

I do not wish to reflect on the civil servants, but the report on farm incomes and the state of of agriculture by the Department of Agriculture was published annually by the Minister for Agriculture. All Ministers for Agriculture naturally would take from it what they would see as being politically to their own advantage. That was not the case with theFarm Management Survey as carried out by An Foras Talúntais. This was a totally independent piece of work which went on all during the year to scientific standards, including farmers in every category, by size, by enterprise, by age and so on. They produced this excellent type of integrated document every year and I am particularly worried about the independence of that publication after the setting up of this new body.

I would also like to compliment An Foras for that excellent quarterly bulletin which they used to publish. I do not know what its future will be. That wasFarm and Food Research. In a very compelling, readable fashion they published the findings of their research on a quarterly basis in relation to agriculture, both nationally and internationally. Senator Ferris has referred to the fact that the value of their work was recognised internationally.

I voice my concern that the publication of research and development results might be down-graded upon the enactment of this legislation. It must be realised that information is power. Each enterprise requires more research and development and more information flow than heretofore because of the tightening margins in agriculture in each sector and the increased competition, not only from our European partners but from outside Europe, particularly America and New Zealand. If agricultural devlopment in this country is to keep pace with international developments it has to be the forefront in agricultural research and development. If this merger is to bear any fruit, the greatest communication possible between the new organisation and the farming community is of utmost importance. For that reason I support the amendment.

I support the case being made in substance by those who have spoken. Not only do I agree with what they have said, I promoted the implementation in this Bill of the idea that has been suggested. It is there in the Bill already. I am all for dissemination, publication and communication. I feel as strongly about that as anybody who has expressed himself. That is why it is provided for in the Bill.

It is a little difficult to have to answer a case that I oppose something because of a misunderstanding of what this Bill does or, as someone suggested, does not do. I know that Senators are genuine in their conviction that this material should be available for publication and disseminated. I am not saying Senator Hogan has not read the details but let me remind him of section 4 (1) (b) which provides that one of the principal functions of Teagasc shall be to obtain and make available to the agricultural industry the scientific and practical information in relation to agriculture required by it. That involves dissemination of information. Its fundamental function is to obtain and make information available to the industry. You do not make it available unless you disseminate it. I have to refute the charge that there is a major change here, that I am down-grading the service, although I cannot stop people from saying it if they choose. Section 4 (2) says:

Teagasc shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, also have and enjoy all those functions (other than those conferred by sections 34, 36 and 59 of the National Agricultural Advisory, Education and Research Authority Act, 1937) that immediately before the establishment day, were vested in the Institute, the Council, An Chomhairle and the Board and are not specified in subsection (1).

Let me reassure the House that the range of functions in relation to research is very clear and all of those enjoyed by the institute will now be incorporated here. They are contained in section 4 (2) of the Agriculture (An Foras Talúntais) Act, 1958. Primary among them is the obligation to procure and disseminate the results of agricultural research to interested persons including in particular, persons engaged in providing advisory services in relation to agriculture.

If anyone thought that any Minister of any colour at any time would introduce legislation to ensure that reports such as have been referred would no longer be published and would try to censor information obtained from research for no reason, Senators would have good cause not just for worry but for a full frontal attack on whatever Minister would do it. The bad news is that this Minister is not doing that. The good news is that he is doing something different.

As far as the report to which Senator Connor referred is concerned, there was no attempt ever on my part to tamper with any information — I hope the same is true of my predecessors — in terms of departmental reports. The income review the Senator referred to from the Agricultural Institute which is, as he said, independent, would give perhaps an even better picture of just how well farmers are doing right now. If the Senator waits for another few weeks he will find that the independent Agricultural Institute will bring forward the latest review of agricultural income, with which I have nothing to do. The bad news or good news, depending on which way you look at it, is that 1987 was much better than was thought. It was a much more enhanced and improved experience over 1986. I do not tamper with these things.

Sitting suspended at 4.40 p.m. and resumed at 4.50 p.m.

I was going to refer to what the Minister presented as a virtue but which totally defeats his argument. He referred to the earlier paragraph in the same section, where he said that Teagasc would "make available to the agricultural industry". That is the weakness of his whole argument. The agricultural industry is not the be-all and the end-all of the development of agriculture. I hope that when I sit down the Minister will explain to me exactly what is meant by the agricultural industry.

I did already.

No, the Minister did not. He then went back to the Act which governed the setting up of one of the other bodies. He asked if he should read all the various things it might do and because nobody asked him not to he went ahead and read some of them. On the particular part of relevance he said; "and shall publish and circulate to interested parties". That is the very weakness of the argument and that is the reason why he must accept this amendment here today because it relates not just to the agricultural sector.

A very bright student in a third level college might see a development, a movement or research on which he or she might be able to develop some portion of the industry, some industry dependent on agriculture, or some aspect of agriculture. That is one part of it. The other question is: who decides on the interested parties? This is the weakness of the Minister's argument. We are saying in the amendment that it should publish as it sees fit. "As it sees fit" does not commit the new body to presenting a glossy report and sending it around to a million people every time they come up with a piece of research. It should be available in published form, even if only for research purposes, so that other people might develop it.

I am not convinced by what the esteemed Senator has said and the point he makes. He says I am confining the publication to interested parties. I would tell the Senator that I am not. If he wants to add, having got this next assurance, he may do so for the purpose of the dialectic but not for the purpose of enlightenment. The next subparagraph in section 4 (2) of the 1958 Bill states: "publish, or procure the publication of, the results of agricultural research". It does not limit the publication to interested parties. I do not expect to satisfy Senator O'Toole because I know that Senator O'Toole does not wish to be satisfied. If he wants to play games he can play them at someone else's expense.

A Chathaoirligh, I presume you would find those remarks irrelevant. We need to make the results of research and development available. If the Minister is saying he will do that, I would ask him to stand up and say so and I will then sit down totally and completely satisfied.

The Bill says it.

What we are looking for here is an assurance of something that is not covered in the Act. The Minister is saying it is covered in the previous Act, which is referred to by a section. That is fair enough. I would like to hear it.

In case one or other of us is suffering from a degree of abuseness which I am afraid will reflect on the intelligence of one or other of us, when Senator O'Toole says it is not covered in the Act could I refer him to section 4 (2). If we want to have a serious discussion let us have it. If we want to play games let us play them, so long as the world out there knows what we are doing. It says:

Teagasc shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, also have and enjoy all those functions (other than those conferred by sections 34, 36 and 59 of the National Agricultural Advisory, Education and Research Authority Act, 1977) that immediately before the establishment day, were vested in the Institute, the Council, An Chomhairle and the Board and are not specified in subsection (1).

Among all those functions that Teagasc shall have, there are in addition the two I have referred to in section 4 (2) of the 1958 Act which clearly confer on them the following functions:

(j) disseminate, or procure the dissemination of, the results of agricultural research to interested persons, including, in particular, persons engaged in providing advisory services in relation to agriculture,

(k) publish, or procure the publication of, the results of agricultural research.

If that does not incorporate the functions the institution had before this for publishing and providing for dissemination research, I do not know what it does.

The Minister should read the amendment in front of him, rather than having an argument across the House about what we mean. The Minister is talking about a function that "may be" exercised. That is what we have just heard. This amendment makes it a requirement. If the Minister says that what is required in this amendment is covered in the Act——

The functions of Teagasc shall be — I put up with this until 3.30 a.m. one morning last week from this Senator and if he wants to play games he can——

I am asking a simple question: are Teagasc required to publish the results of all their research and development? That is the simple question. If that is the case, then it is done. The Minister has put forward to us what Teagasc might decide to do. There is no argument about this. The argument is that, under the new legislation, Teagasc may or may not decide to publish. This amendment says that Teagasc are required to publish. There is a clear distinction there and, if the Minister cannot see that distinction, perhaps it should be spelled out very simply. This is a requirement to do something. The answer he has given gives us the potential of what Teagasc may decide to do. This should be acceptance that the point I make is a correct one.

In this context — and I was looking at the earlier part of the Bill again, the section on interpretations and definitions — I am sorry now that I did not spot in time the definition of "research" on page five of the Bill, lines 23 and 24 in which it says:

"research" includes investigation, test, experiment, analysis and study;

I am sorry I did not spot that before — it is my fault — as I would have certainly added "publication" to that because the essential distinction which I did not really bring out in my first contribution to this amendment is that publication is of the essence. It is possible to conceive of research being made available in a limited context. It is possible to conceive of research proceeded with but somehow repressed or discouraged for particular reasons. There is a distinction here between research and publication. Publication means publication in both scientific and popular forms, available not only to this or that section of the industry or to vested interests, but to the international scientific community at home and abroad which is the only way in which research can be conducted and published in internationally referred journals. This process should be given recognition and explicit encouragement in the Bill.

I am not playing games. To the extent that I play games, I play them elsewhere. I am quite serious in putting forward these amendments and I am expressing the genuine unease of the researchers who have given the food industry such service over the past three decades. They fear that what they see as their vocation would be curtailed or made subordinate to other purposes. Therefore, what they are looking for and when I am asking for on their behalf is an explicit guarantee of commitment to publication. I accept the Minister's personal assurance. Earlier the Minister assured us that he was as passionately committed to research as any other Members of the House but, of course, he does not exist in the context of what we are arguing about, or rather he exists in a very different and nonbenign Michael O'Kennedy fashion. It is whoever is the embodiment of the Minister who presents the threat we are taking about.

If the Minister and his advisers have no objection, and indeed encourage all aspects of research, why then does he not accept this amendment to which he could have no possible objection, to which he has said he could have no possible objection? It will make re-assurance doubly sure. It will allay the suspicions that prevail among the researchers themselves and it will help to arrest the lowering of morale at a time when there is a general decline in morale in the public service.

The amendment does not achieve what Senator Murphy says it would achieve. Senator Murphy suggests that the amendment will require publication, etc. The amendment if he reads it — although it is not in his name, but he has adopted it by proxy as has been said — states: "and to publish as it sees fit the results of such research and development". That is not mandatory in any sense. That gives exactly the provision as it was in the original legislation. Researchers would like to have the discretion to publish as they do, in the institute as they had, the results of their research but I would have thought that researchers, be they academic in a university or in an institute, would resist — and if I were tempted to do that here I could hear Senator Murphy arguing to the contrary — being forced to publish. What was never done before should not be initiated now in that they should not be forced to publish A, B or C. They are given exactly the same discretion as they had previously. May I suggest — although Senator Ryan is not here — that if he were aware of the details contained in the original discretion which is incorporated exactly in this legislation, he would not have seen it necessary to put down this amendment?

I find it difficult to listen to the implication — and I hope it is being made in good faith — that, because there is a certain interpretation put on this which is not in my view a reasonable and fair interpretation, I want to censor the publication of research, or I want to introduce a new limitation on research and want to bring a heavy hand on academic researchers. That is not the case. If people want arguments to sustain that, they will have to go further than this legislation because it will not be sustained by this legislation. It is contained in the Bill which incorporates all that was already there. It not only embraces and involves all that was done in the original agriculture institute legislation, but also strengthens it.

Nobody has ever suggested that the original legislation in some way prevented An Foras Talúntais from issuing and publishing reports, from disseminating information, from conducting research, or from making available the results of their research. If I were to start doing that now, I do not know what would happen. In so far as Senator O'Toole's main professional preoccupation is communicating on a basis of perceived knowledge to those who are in a position to understand it, I hope there is not the same blockage of understanding between Senator O'Toole and his pupils as seems to exist between Senator O'Toole and me because to me it is straightforward. It does not give me any great sense of reassurance to know that what is so clear and straightforward cannot be understood by someone whose basic professonal obligation is to communicate simple things in a straightforward way.

Could we go back to where we were half an hour ago when we were discussing this. The Minister said he was committed to research, development, publication, communicating knowledge and so on. Every time he speaks on this amendment he concedes the amendment and then says it is unnecessary because it is included in other areas.

Senator Ryan in his wisdom put in a preclusion on an obligation to publish everything in that he said here "as it sees fit". Obviously that is removing a statutory obligation by law to publish everything because some of it might be irrelevant. The researchers might consider it unfit or unwise for any reason. If they publish everything except what they consider to be unfit, obviously they are agreeing with what the Minister has said in all the other sections of the Bill. I can see nothing wrong with accepting Senator Ryan's amendment. Because the parliamentary draftsman did not insert it does not mean that it is not right for us to insert it now.

The Minister is going back to the other House with an amendment at some stage and possibly it might be as well to include an obligation to publish if the research done is relevant. The Minister agreed that all communications should be published among researchers and people who are communicating. I do not see an argument between us. It is an argument about the reasons. The reasons advanced by this side of the House are legitimate enough, particularly when we have discussed this with people who are engaged in research and who would hate to feel that they were precluded in some way from publishing. The Minister reassures us that they will not be precluded, that they have the same powers they had under the Act.

The Bill reassures the Senator, not me.

I accept the Minister's assurances but I also accept the fact that the Minister has conceded this amendment in principle. Let us put it into the Bill and we will be finished arguing about it.

It always bothers me — but I am quite used to it at this stage — that when people run out of decent arguments, they become personal instead of answering the issue and addressing the facts as they are delivered. When people decide to take a very personalised line, it always assures me that they have run out of argument and do not know where they are going. I in no way personalise my remarks to the Minister or, indeed, impute that he would wish in any sense to censor one thing or decide not to publish another.

I am quite aware that being a Minister is a very transitory and transient occupation. Ministers come and go but legislation stays forever until somebody decides to change it. That is the nature of the discussion we are having here. I wish the Minister would see this as something bigger than himself and his Department and his own personal commitment. It is not an issue for me and, if the Minister decides to make it an issue, please let him make it with somebody else.

As to the imputation that I might be particularly dense, that may well be. People can decide that. How effectively and efficiently I might communicate depends on two people. One person can say the other is not communicating too well and, the other person might just as easily say that the person on the receiving end is not assimilating the information being put forward too well and not able to grasp the core of what is being put forward. I advise the Minister to go back over some of the cases and arguments that have been made so far. Apart from playing games, I have a meeting 100 miles away from here in a quarter of a hour and I put it off in order to deal with this, having discussed it with the named proposer. I consider it quite important.

The Minister has already changed his position on two points. He said earlier that the present legislation and the proposed legislation encompass what was envisaged by this amendment, but now the Minister is saying that it does not. The Minister said clearly "it may" under the legislation and that we are seeking to make it a requirement. That is the Minister's objection to it. That is a very understandable objection and that is the reason the amendment is down there. It is not due to a lack of understanding of what is possible under the proposed amendment but there is a clear understanding of what may or may not happen. The reason it is proposed is so that there will not be a choice.

Far be it from me to lecture the Minister and far be it from me to hark back to my own first profession as referred to by the Minister, but the words "as it sees fit" are an adverbial clause governing the word "publish". They determine the type of publication and do not apply to what may or may not be published. It is the form of the publication that is referred to.

Any simple interpretation of semantic analysis of the sentence will make that quite clear to the Minister. I wish to reassure him that what is meant by the words "as it sees fit" in that amendment is the form of the publication, not what may or may not be published. What is intended by this amendment is that all the results of research and development should be published in some form and available for those people who wish to use them. It is different; it is not covered in the legislation. I ask the Minister to accept it.

As an ordinary being in this House, a little of what is being said is over my head, about all our CVs, what we understand and what we do not understand, so could we get back to the good atmosphere of the Seanad for the benefit of all and so that I will know what you are at?

Section 4 (2) of the 1958 Act, which is now fully and totally incorporated in this legislation, provides for the dissemination of the results of agricultural research and for the publication of the results of research and all other things that the new authority Teagasc will be required to do in relation to the dissemination of publication. Accordingly this amendment is not necessary.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 24.

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bulbulia, Katharine.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cregan, Denis.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Harte, John.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kelleher, Peter.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDonald, Charlie.
  • McMahon, Larry.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Murphy, John A.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.

Níl

  • Bohan, Edward Joseph.
  • Byrne, Seán.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Doherty, Michael.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lanigan, Mick.
  • Lydon, Donal.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • McGowan, Patrick.
  • Fallon, Seán.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Fitzsimons, Jack.
  • Hanafin, Des.
  • Haughey, Seán F.
  • McKenna, Tony.
  • Mooney, Pascal.
  • Mulroy, Jimmy.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • Ó Conchubhair, Nioclás.
  • Ryan, William.
  • Wallace, Mary.
Tellers: Tá, Senators, J.O'Toole and Murphy; Níl, Senators W. Ryan and S. Haughey.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 12 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 7, subsection (6), lines 14 and 15, to delete "and the Minister for Finance".

Having regard to the fact that last year the Department of the Public Service were taken into the Department of Finance it is reasonable to find in any Bill where remuneration, salaries and conditions of staff are concerned that the Minister for Finance would have an input. In this Bill I very much regret that in almost half of the total of 31 sections the Minister for Finance has a superior role, with the Minister for Agriculture, who is the Minister named in the definition section. This, to me, as somebody engaged in agriculture is entirely reprehensible. As public representatives we all know the great difficulty there is in getting permission from any semi-State organisation if ministerial approval or departmental approval has to be soug it from any Department of State. But can you visualise the way agricultural education and research will be delayed and hampered in the years ahead under this legislation when, in every second section, the Minister for Agriculture and the Department, if they wish to act, have to get the permission of the Department of Finance.

This will slow down development in the agricultural research and advisory services. I believe that this kind of restriction which will be imposed by the Department of Finance is coming at a time when we need, if we want to compete with the agricultural service sectors and the agricultural processing sectors in the greater Europe, not just top-class agricultural produce but an advisory and research service that will be second to none in Europe. I do not see the new organisation, Teagasc, being able to provide that if there are so many restrictions in every second section of this Bill.

I made the point on Second Stage that this Bill clearly emanated from the pen of the draftsman of the Department of Finance rather than Agriculture. This Bill is replacing 16 Agricultural (Amendment) Acts going back as far as the 1931 Agricultural Act which set up the agricultural committees. That is over half-a-century of considered agricultural legislation being replaced by a relatively small Bill with 31 sections and most of the power and control being vested, not in the Minister for Agriculture, but in the Minister for Finance. In the last 30 years, in my experience as a Member of the Oireachtas, the Minister for Agriculture of the day in every Government was one of the most senior Ministers in the administration, and the Department of Agriculture was one of the most important Ministeries to the economy of the country. It is regrettable and extraordinary if the powers that the present Minister and future Ministers will have as Ministers for Agriculture and Food are going to be subject in half the sections of this Bill to the say-so of the Department of Finance.

The civil servants in the Department of Agriculture, as in every other Department, know exactly the constraints that come from their colleagues in the Department of Finance. I would like the Minister to tell me what independent role his Department is going to have in the future. I put down three amendments here but the Minister for Finance is mentioned in 13 of the 31 sections. I readily admit, but I do not accept as any answer, that in sections which are dealing purely with remuneration and staff it would be appropriate that the Department of Finance, or the section of the Department of Finance which was the Department of the Public Service, should have an input to look after the remuneration and conditions of service of public officials whether it is in a semi-State organisation or as civil servants. That is acceptable. But in the day-to-day running of this new organisation there is no place for the Department of Finance to have an overriding say on the decisions that the Minister for Agriculture must take in the interests of the agricultural industry. It is the one area of this legislation in which I am sorely disappointed. I am sorry that the Minister is not here to take this point. I fully accept that his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Walsh, is here and that he is fully equipped and briefed, but, nonetheless, it is a point that is very important and it means that the entire agricultural advice and research sector is completely degraded in the area of public administration in this country.

I suppose if it were possible we could all agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator McDonald but I do not think there is anything new in the this particular section. In fact, the consent of the Minister for Finance is necessary in so many things dealing with this board. I am sure the Department of Finance will have no say in the day-to-day running of this new organisation. That will be up to the board themselves and to the Minister for Agriculture of the day. It has been the tradition, as far as I can remember and I think since the foundation of the State, that the Department of Finance are always consulted in matters affecting other Departments, particularly where the question of finance arises. If any new schemes are initiated in other Departments it is always necessary to get the consent of the Department of Finance because at the end of the day they are the people who will have to provide the wherewithal for those schemes. For that reason it has always been necessary to get the consent of the Department of Finance. I am sure that is what is asked for here under this legislation. It does not necessarily mean that the Department of Finance are going to be involved in the day-to-day running of this new board but I think that when the Department of Finance are providing the money for this new organisation it is necessary that the Minister for Finance of the day would know what is happening because he is the person who will be responsible in the end for providing the money. That is merely all this is asking for. I do not see anything wrong with having the consent of the Minister for Finance included in this new legislation.

Would it be possible for the Minister of State to give us an assurance that the Minister for Finance would have no say in the ordinary day-to-day decisions, as enunciated by Senator Hussey?

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator McDonald. In my Second Stage speech, which is relevant to these amendments, I made a passing reference to the influence of the Department of Finance in all matters and particularly in the area of agriculture. I knew from the Minister's reaction to me at the time, which could not go on the record, that he agreed with the sentiments that I have expressed because I am quite sure that each move that is made by the Department of Agriculture, particularly when they need assistance to top up anything that might come from Europe, the dead hand of the Department of Finance is always there to ensure that we may not be able to avail totally of everything that might be on offer in Europe because it needs topping-up here. We would like to feel also that the day-to-day running of this new Authority would not be subjected to Department of Finance restrictions but because of the way the Bill is worded it is obvious that they will have an over-powering input into anything the new board may do.

We know from our experience in dealing with ACOT in particular over recent years that they were frustrated in carrying out some of the projects they wanted to carry out simply because finance was not forthcoming through the Department of Agriculture and through county committees because of the restrictions put on them by the Department of Finance. Agriculture is an important economic industry and is probably one of the biggest generators of income into the country and into the Exchequer. There should be a more liberal approach from the Department of Finance in all things agricultural. I think that underlines Senator McDonald's concern in this area. I support the idea he has that it is certainly perceived "out there" that there is too much influence from the Department of Finance in matters concerning agriculture.

Senator Mc Donald's amendment seems to reduce the powers of the Minister for Finance in relation to the activities and expenditure of Teagasc. This is not a realistic view, given the considerable public funds which will be at the disposal of the new Authority. For that reason these amendments cannot be accepted. In reply to Senator McCormack, I have no difficulty in giving an absolute assurance that the Minister for Finance will have no function whatever in the day-to-day decision taking of Teagasc. That is a matter for the director under the council of Teagasc. The Department of Finance in the present administration embodies the Department of the Public Service as well as Finance itself. The function of the Department of Finance here is an overall controlling interest, but the day-to-day decision taking and the day-to-day involvement is a matter for the director and the council of Teagasc.

I would like to be able to accept the Minister of State's response verbatim but would the Minister explain, if he half believes anything he has just said — I very much regret putting it so strongly — how it is that the Minister for Finance has pride and precedence of place in 13 of the 31 sections of the Bill which replaces 16 pieces of legislation from 1931 up until last year? I would like the Minister to show me in any one of the Agriculture (Amendment) Acts from 1931 up to 1974 more than one reference to the Minister for Finance. It is a point where the agricultural industry is again going to be absolutely——

The Senator is constantly coming back to the one point. Does he not agree that he is being repetitive?

The Chair might have a good point but I would like to make the point, with due respect, that I put down amendments to just three sections. Therefore, I have to confine my remarks to section 4 of the Bill. Nevertheless they hold for each of the other sections. The Minister has not even attempted to answer any of the points I raised. This is most unsatisfactory.

I, too, was pleased with the Minister's assurance, but I would like to ask him if in view of the fact that the overall budget has been reduced from approximately £38 million to £20 million — the overall budget of what was ACOT and An Foras Talúntais — for the new body indicates that the Minister for Finance would have a very big say in the matter of the running of the new body?

The Minister seemed to be optimistic in his statement to us that there will be money readily available to the new Authority. I am sure that nobody would be more pleased than those of us on this side of the House to learn that this money was available. We have had a promise from the Minister that it will and indeed the Minister for Agriculture and Food said almost the same thing in the House on the last occasion. But we have to go on the facts. The facts are that in this particular year the allocation in the budget for the two Authorities has been slashed. We see no evidence whatsoever in the present Book of Estimates that there is to be any change in that attitude. We would need more than assurances from Ministers in the House, as part of the legislation, which basically will fail unless there is funding. When you consider that the amount of funding available to agriculture is only about 2 per cent of the total cost to the Exchequer of all other services this sector is not looking for anything over and above its fair due. That is our reason for disagreeing, even if we are repeating ourselves. We disagree with too much restriction by the Department of Finance.

Senator Hussey made the point that it is nothing new. But he was part of a resolution, which was passed by Galway County Committee, proposed by himself. I quote:

We, the Galway County Committee of Agriculture, request the Department of Agriculture and Food to maintain the present level of staff, that special concessions be given to advise on disadvantaged areas....

These were all things we would like to see. That was passed unanimously.

There are no politics in Galway County Committee of Agriculture.

That is good. But when you are in this House enacting legislation you must ensure, through the Chair, that the interests of the industry are protected. We are all agreed that the interest of the industry we represent here should be protected. One way it can be protected is to ensure that the Department of Finance would have as little intervention in it as possible. We know from experience what they can do. In any committee ever formed for the industry, whether national or otherwise, the Department of Finance insisted on having membership to ensure that there was no liberalisation of the State funds which were available. Senator McDonald is quite right; there is nothing unreasonable in trying to exclude the Minister for Finance from some sections. Naturally, in the overall, we would expect that as the Cabinet works, there will have to be agreement between Ministers. The Ministry for Finance is all-powerful and it can strangle other Departments, irrespective of the commitment of Ministers and Ministers of State, and the work you want to do and are doing within the constraints placed on you at Cabinet level. We are trying to release the purse strings. I am sure the Minister would welcome the fact that we can pass an amendment like this in this House.

I think the debate on this amendment has highlighted how necessary it is to have the Minister for Finance included in this legislation because when we look for money for an organisation such as this it is to the Minister for Finance we have to go. When we are not given that money, or when finance has been curtailed or services are being curtailed, the first man to get the blame is, the Minister for Finance.

There is nothing new in having the Minister for Finance included in legislation such as this. If we go back to other legislation introduced in this House or in the other House over the years we find that the Minister for Finance has overall responsibility for providing the finance to service an organisation such as this. It is only right and proper that his name be included in the legislation. No matter who is Minister for Agriculture and Food he has to go to the Minister for Finance for the money to run the services. The Minister for Finance has to impose the taxes in order to get the money to run this kind of service. As long as the Minister for Finance has no responsibility for the day-to-day working of the organisation, I am not in the least concerned about having his name included in the legislation. If he were to have responsibility for or any say in the running of Teagasc it would be another matter, but the fact is that the responsibility for the running of this organisation is left to the directors and the members of the board. We will certainly be needing the Minister for Finance to provide the money and we will be making representations to him. If he does not provide that money he will come in for a lot of criticism from the Members of the Opposition and from myself. The fact that I was responsible for moving the motion that has been read out by Senator Ferris in Galway County Committee of Agriculture shows that my overall concern is for the farmers of this country.

The Senator should be proud of the fact. That is why I put it on record.

Acting Chairman

Is the amendment withdrawn?

No, it is not withdrawn. Senator Hussey raised the whole nub of this issue. In every piece of legislation the last one or two sections deal with expenses. I quote section 30 of the Bill which says:

The expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of this Act shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas...

That is a section common to every Bill. I challenge my colleague, Senator Hussey, to find me an Agricultural Bill out of the 16 Acts that are repealed in this legislation, in which, other than in the section dealing with the expenses, there is reference to the Minister for Finance. That gives scope over 50 years of legislation.

Acting Chairman

Is the amendment withdrawn?

No, it is not withdrawn.

Acting Chairman

The question is "That the words proposed to be deleted stand." The question is carried and the amendment defeated.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 17.

  • Bohan, Edward Joseph.
  • Byrne, Seán.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Doherty, Michael.
  • Fallon, Seán.
  • Fitzgerald, Tom.
  • Fitzsimons, Jack.
  • Hanafin, Des.
  • Haughey, Seán F.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Lanigan, Mick.
  • Lydon, Donal.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • McGowan, Patrick.
  • McKenna, Tony.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mulroy, Jimmy.
  • Ó Conchubhair, Nioclás.
  • Ryan, William.
  • Wallace, Mary.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bulbulia, Katharine.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cregan, Denis.
  • Kelleher, Peter.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDonald, Charlie.
  • Murphy, John A.
  • Norris, David.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Harte, John.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Toole, Joe.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ross, Shane P.N.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Ryan and S. Haughey; Níl, Senators Cregan and Fennell.
Question declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Government amendment No. 10:
In page 7, subsection (7) (a), line 33, to delete "that is wholly owned by Teagasc".

This amendment is being proposed as a result of the Government's recent decision not to insist on subsidiaries being wholly owned. The Minister for Agriculture and Food indicated this in his Second Stage speech on the basis that this would enhance Teagasc's prospects of forming joint ventures with commercial interests. I have great pleasure in commending this amendment to the House.

We would like to welcome the Minister's announcement here. It has been announced prior to this. Our party moved an amendment along these lines in the Dáil and it was not accepted. We are delighted now that the Minister has seen the light, albeit at a later stage, and has accepted the principle of our amendment as enuniciated by our spokesperson in the Dáil.

I, too, would like to support the amendment. I said in my speech last week that it is very important that the new body should branch out into developments which seem to have been beyond the scope of ACOT and AFT in their former days. Anything that makes them more commercially aware and commercially active is to be welcomed. I am sure that any ventures they think of involving themselves in will produce good results and will be helpful to the overall research and development agency. I welcome the Minister's amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 7, subsection (7), lines 42 to 46, to delete paragraph (c).

The principle of what we have here has been well discussed on earlier amendments and in earlier contributions. We are worried about this. I would like the Minister to give more detailed comment as to what he has in mind here. I am talking about section 4 (7) (c) which states:

The Minister may give a direction in writing to Teagasc on any matter relating to a subsidiary or the policies, programmes or activities of a subsidiary and Teagasc shall comply or, as may be appropriate, secure compliance with the direction.

First, it smacks of an inordinate degree of ministerial interference in the work of Teagasc. Earlier today the Minister said in a very ebullient and outgoing way, as he outstretched his arms, that he was all for openness, communication and dissemination etc., a form of glasnost or perestroika. Here again we have very clearly implied the intention of the Minister to take within his power a good deal of the independence formerly enjoyed by ACOT and An Foras Talúntais. The principle of this has been dealt with in many of the contributions so far. Perhaps the Minister would tell us in detail what he has to fear about subsidiaries and their policies. With your permission, a Chathaoirligh, I might deal with paragraph (d) afterwards.

The controls in subsection (7) (c) I believe are reasonable, given that there is the use of very substantial public funds at issue here. In relation to that section it says that the Minister may give a direction in writing to Teagasc on any matter relating to a subsidiary or the policies, programmes etc.

Section 7 (2) reads:

The Director shall carry on and manage and control generally the administration and business of Teagasc and perform such other functions as may be determined by Teagasc.

In other words, the day-to-day control and management and business functions of Teagasc are the responsibilities of the director. But I think it is reasonable that the Minister for Agriculture and Food should be in a position to have ultimate control, particularly in relation to subsidiaries of Teagasc. I see nothing wrong with that subsection. It is an important subsection of the Bill and it should be allowed to remain as part of the Bill.

I would be opposed to this provision in the Bill. The Minister for Agriculture and Food would have a power whereby he could direct Teagasc to a particular programme which might or might not suit the management and day-to-day operations of the new body at the time. If the board of Teagasc decided on a programme of activities the Minister for Agriculture and Food would have supreme authority over and a veto on the direction which the board or its subsidiaries would take. The level of ministerial power in the overall operation of the Bill indicates a significant lack of autonomy in the day-to-day activities of the board and the new body. I would not be happy about that.

I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision to allow such ministerial authority. In most Departments at the moment we see a situation developing where the arm of the State, or the aspect of the Department or the organisation which is operating away from the Department in a so-called autonomous body, has been usurped in its authority because the Minister of that Department has so much control over it. The very nature of the ministerial control would indicate to me that there may be no need for the body to be established in the first place. If the Minister for Agriculture and Food, in this instance, is to have such wide-ranging powers of control over Teagasc it could compromise the director and the board of Teagasc in drawing up a programme of activities. They would be conscious of the fact that the Minister of the day would have to be satisfied that their activities would accord with his thinking on the matter. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this amendment.

I believe this section is reasonable. At present ACOT are obliged to submit their programme of activities to the Government of the day at least three months before the start of each year. I would like to remind people that the Minister for Agriculture and Food has a statutory responsibility to the people, the electorate and the taxpayer. For the time being, any Minister for Agriculture would be entitled to know what any State body or subsidiary of a State body was proposing to do. You could not have a State body or a subsidiary going off in a different direction from the overall Government and ministerial policy for a particular sector. This section is quite reasonable. I do not think it would be in the best interests of the Bill or the future of Teagasc to have it withdrawn.

The Minister is introducing a vocabulary I did not use. I am not suggesting that the Minister for Agriculture and Food would preside over a body that would be leading off in a different direction from the overall agriculture policy. The Minister knows quite well that I never suggested that. Nevertheless, I think the Minister will realise that the level of autonomy the board will have and the discretion the body will have,vis-á-vis the supremacy the Minister for Agriculture will exercise over the board, is something that would inhibit the board from carrying out a more imaginative and realistic programme of activities from the point of view of the direction of agriculture and its enterprises that they would perceive. This would all depend on the various members of the board. I am sure the Minister for Agriculture will appoint competent people to the board, people who will know the agricultural industry fairly well and will have a particular view on the development of the various agricultural enterprises, in the light of the competition from Europe and the tightening margins under the budgetary policy and the financial situation in Europe. I question the muffling of the activities on a day-to-day basis of the new body with the supremacy the Minister for Agriculture will have. I am aware that ACOT have to submit a programme of activities to the Minister for Agriculture three months in advance of that programme commencing. An overall programme of activities and policy direction could be given by the new body, Teagasc, to the Minister three months in advance of its commencement but I do not see why the programme of activities and events in the subsidiaries and in the local areas should be submitted to the Minister. In other words the discretion within ACOT and AFT allows local autonomy. They can exercise discretion within an overall financial expenditure given to them by the Minister for Agriculture. I agree with that. That does not alter the fact that the Minister for Agriculture should not have so much control over this new body.

The point we want to make is that we agree with the Minister that the board will have control over the day-to-day running and of course the Minister must have overall control but there is something here which smacks of draconianism aimed at subsidiaries. Perhaps the Minister could give us a situation — I know he would have to speak hypothetically — where he would be unhappy about the policies, the programmes or the activities of a subsidiary which would be working with Teagasc. It is a kind of Sword of Damocles held over the head of what will be an important part of the activities of the new body, that is their relationship, co-operation and the work they will do with subsidiaries.

I want to assure the Senators — I think this is accepted all round — that the director and the council of Teagasc have responsibility for the day-to-day activities of Teagasc and their subsidiaries. But subsidiaries are a new dimension to State bodies. We have only just passed the amendment here allowing the establishment of subsidiaries. In particular, subsidiaries under Teagasc have a facility for the establishment of joint ventures. In this new area it is only prudent that the Minister would have overall responsibility and would seek a programme of activities from these subsidiaries. I do not see anything draconian about this. Ministers are very humble people, particularly the present Minister. We are grilled regularly by the Members of the Seanad and the Dáil in relation to our activities, not to mention the media grilling us from time to time. That is more than I can say about some of the State bodies I know of. Some of them cannot even give you a civil answer to a query. The only thing we hear from some State bodies from time to time in the Dáil or Seanad is a request for a Supplementary Estimate when they have over-reached themselves.

ACOT and AFT could do with more.

Indeed. I think an assurance has been given as well that there will be adequate finance available to ACOT and AFT and the new body Teagasc. There is no difficulty in this and there should be no apprehension on the part of any Senator or anybody else in relation to this subsection. I believe that it should remain a part of the Bill.

Amendment No. 14 goes back to what has been well discussed and voted upon, that is, the principle of the independence of the new body and the principle which the Government wish to establish here of rather undue interference by the Minister for Finance. For the benefit of the House paragraph (d) reads:

A direction under this subsection in relation to the disposal of any assets or surpluses of a subsidiary shall not be given without the consent of the Minister for Finance.

We on this side of the House cannot see why a decision like that cannot be taken by the board of Teagasc in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture and Food. We find something suspicious about the fact that authority should be given to the Minister for Finance in a section which we believe is not particularly relevant to his functions.

I do not propose to annoy Senators any further but just to say again that I think this is quite reasonable. In the disposal of assets or property of the State and of the taxpayer and the electorate it is quite reasonable to have the consent of the Minister for Finance who, after all, is the custodian of the taxpayers' money.

On amendment No. 14 and the powers that have been vested in the Minister for Finance, in view of the fact that the Minister for Finance is short of cash in most Departments at the moment, he could see an opportunity arising under this merger to sell off some ACOT centres. That goes back to my original point that, when there is ministerial authority over this area, there is always the tendency to use it for a net cash gain to the Department involved rather than to have the board, who would be more sensitive to the operations and sensitive to the essential location of these centres, decide on these matters.

The fact that the Minister for Finance will now have control over where the money comes from and goes to means that he could have an influence over what centres could be rationalised and what centres might remain in the overall rationalisation programme that will inevitably take place under the new body Teagasc. Could the Minister assure us that the director and board of Teagasc and the personnel involved in the various organisations will have an input into the implementation of whatever rationalisation will take place in the sale of assets or in the cashing in of various resources at present under the auspices of ACOT or AFT?

I would prefer to see ministerial control and responsibility in the case of boards such as this because the Minister is responsible to the Houses of the Oireachtas if something wrong is done. If a mistake is made, he can be brought before the House and the matter can be debated. He is responsible to the Houses of the Oireachtas and, of course, to the electorate. Those of us who are public representatives realise the difficulties involved in dealing with bureaucrats. I suppose it would be wrong to name particular boards, but there are a number of boards we have to deal with in making representations for our constituents and it is very difficult to get any reply or acknowledgment from them, whereas if it were a Minister who had responsibility you could deal directly with him and get a reply. It might not be the one you wanted to get but at least you would get a reply and the Minister would be able to deal with it.

I see nothing wrong with the Minister having responsibility for the activities and the disposal of assets or surpluses of a subsidiary of this board. I am sure those assets or surpluses will not be disposed of except on the recommendation of the board. They will be disposed of after very serious consideration by the board and, if the consent of the Minister for Finance is requested, I am sure it will be forthcoming on the recommendations of the board.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 14 not moved.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 8, subsection (8), line 4, after "trees" to insert the following:

"but Teagasc shall not without prior approval of the Minister provide courses in higher education which in the opinion of the Minister are of an equivalent standard or make grants to institutions providing such courses.".

This amendment which follows the 1977 ACOT wording is necessary so as not to preclude the new Authority from becoming involved in diploma courses. At present ACOT are involved in joint courses with the Waterford Regional Technical College and Thomastown VEC in horse production. The Botanic Gardens run diploma courses on amenity horticulture and green-keeping which could be affected. While there should be no competition with third level institutions, this amendment would retain the certainty of thestatus quo.

The Bill as initiated in Dáil Éireann had a provision in section 4 (8) that the reference to educational services should not be construed as including higher education but an amendment was accepted in the Dáil on Committee Stage to delete that provision. This amendment was originally put down to delete the reference which had already been deleted and is not now in the Bill, that is, the Bill as passed by the Dáil. In the circumstances, the amendment as proposed is not now relevant because it has been covered by the amendment which was accepted in the Dáil on Committee Stage.

I accept the Minister's undertaking that the situation which the Labour Party sought to protect is covered and on that basis we withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

On section 4 as amended, in relation to an amendment which we could not move could I say that that section sets down the principal function of the new body, that is, to provide education and training in the agricultural area? It provides for such training and advice to the industry as may be specified by the Minister. It provides that the body must obtain and make available to agriculture nationally, scientific and practical information in so far as the state of research, knowledge and practical information is available and up to date and to promote, assist, co-ordinate and review agricultural research, education and development. With all of this we agree. We were proposing the amendment which we could not move because we felt that section 4 (3) is too restrictive, given the bewildering change in the agri-food industry in the last decade and in the even faster kaleidoscope of changes that we can expect over the next decade.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.