I move amendment No. 1:
In page 12, line 40, after "Finance" to insert "and having taken into account the views and requests submitted to him by Teagasc".
I want to speak about the financing of Teagasc. I read into the record of the House that under section 11: "The Minister may from time to time, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, advance to Teagasc out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, such sums as the Minister may determine for the purposes of expenditure by Teagasc in the performance of its functions". We would like to have added to that "and having taken into account the views and requests submitted to him by Teagasc."
The purpose underlying this amendment goes back to the original announcement of the amalgamation of ACOT and AFT made prior to the Estimates by the Minister. In the Estimates for expenditure in 1988, we found that the amount of money allocated for financing both bodies was something like £20 million. In 1987 the separate budgets of ACOT and AFT were of the order of £38 million. The Minister was seeking a reduction in their budget of approximately 45 per cent which, of course, was quite a foolish assumption because as time went by it was found that the figure laid down in the Estimates was quite unrealistic.
The Minister, by his own admission, has to seek from the existing finances provided for the Department of Agriculture and Food between £10 million and £14 million additional money this year to finance Teagasc. We said in both Houses when we were discussing the Estimates — and we identified this Estimate as one prime example where the Government had got it completely wrong — that there was no way the joint staff of ACOT and AFT could be reduced by half which would need to be effected if the level of saving proposed in the Estimates was to be achieved. The Minister is now in the dilemma of having to provide an additional £12 million to £14 million out of existing moneys provided within his Department. What we said last October has proven to be true.
We felt that the minimum budget this year should be approximately £30 million to £35 million, that is, if we are to have a proper, realistic body dealing with research, development and advice in agriculture. That is what has happened.
In this amendment we are requesting the Minister to seek the advice of the people involved in the service before the budget for the coming year is determined. If the Minister had discussed that with AFT and ACOT last September, or whenever he was determining the figures for the Department of Agriculture and Food — and in particular the amount of finance needed for the amalgamation — he would have been told that the amount of money allocated subsequently in the Estimates was totally unrealistic. This amounts to nothing short of an absolute blunder. The Minister was quite lucky, and he is in the fortunate position this year that there are certain areas within the Department of Agriculture and Food where there seems to be a slack in expenditure or it would appear, at least, underspending on intervention storage, etc. That, of course, has more to do with the decline in our cattle numbers, but it gives the Minister leeway to provide money otherwise needed.
It would be an enormous blunder if the Minister had to bring before the Dáil a supplementary budget for an extra £12 or possible £14 million to fund the new amalgamated body. The Minister is in the fortunate position of being able, he hopes, to provide it out of savings elsewhere, in particular, in the area of intervention storage. For that reason we are saying that in future the budget for this research, development and advice organisation should not be determined without taking into account the views of the people who are in charge of running the service.