asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will state, in respect of Section A of the land rehabilitation project, (1) the number of holding in the Counties of Carlow, Wexford and Wicklow, in which work has been in progress for three or more years, (2) the total acreage of land improved on each such holding, (3) the cost per acre to State funds of land improved on each such holding, (4) the amount contributed towards improvement by the occupier in each such case, and (5) whether there is any limit to the amount which may be expended from State funds for the improvement of a particular holding.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Land Rehabilitation.
The information asked for in Parts (1) to (4) of the question is not available and could only be obtained by an exhaustive survey. Statistical returns in regard to land project operations are furnished quarterly for the information of members of the Oireachtas. As has already been indicated in replies to previous similar questions, the provision of special statistical data other than as given in the quarterly returns would entail a volume of work on the part of the land project staff which would not be justified.
For the information of the Deputy I might mention that delay in the completion by farmers of work under Section A of the project is not a matter for which my Department has any responsibility. If, however, the Deputy has any specific cases in mind and furnishes me with the relevant names and addresses, I will arrange to have them investigated.
As to Part (5) of the question, the maximum grant per acre under Section A of the project is £30.
I cannot get any information in the quarterly returns which I received yesterday as to prices per acre or the number of holdings. There can be only a small number of these in the counties concerned. Would it not be possible for the Minister to give us those figures?
I would be very happy to give the information to the Deputy if it were possible for me to do so. Perhaps the Deputy would recall the opening paragraph of my answer, which stated:—
"The information asked for in Parts (1) to (4) of the Deputy's question is not available and could only be obtained by an exhaustive survey."
What I meant to convey was that if I were to try to extract that information for the Deputy it would take so much time and labour that therefore it would not be justified.
Is the Deputy entitled in any particular case to ask for and receive information as to the average cost per acre?
In particular counties?
In any particular county.
That is a different question. I do not know. If the Deputy would put down a question to that effect I will see if any information can be got without unreasonable investigation, in order to help to clear up the whole proceedings. I think we have all been agreed that specific inquiries about specific holdings should not be dealt with in the House.
I am prepared to accept that, but is it not reasonable to expect that there are times when it may be necessary for a Deputy to ask what is the average cost per acre in any particular case? What I am seeking to secure from the Minister is an assurance that a Deputy is entitled to ask a question and get such information, not, of course, unreasonably.
Certainly the Deputy is entitled to get any reasonable information in regard to any matter relating to public administration which he asks from any Minister of the Government.
Number 3 of this question specifically asks what is the average cost per acre.
There is no need for misunderstanding. Number 3 asks: "the cost per acre to State funds of land improved on each such holding". If you want to refer back to each such holding would you look to number 1, which says: ""(1) the number of holdings in the Counties of Carlow, Wexford and Wicklow in which work has been in progress for three or more years". It is perfectly clear that an investigation as to the number of holdings which are finished or in course of progress, and the average price per acre, would take infinitely more time and employ more personnel than could conceivably be justified.
The number of holdings involved would not be more than ten or 12.
That is as may be, but I can assure the Deputy that any question which seeks to elicit information which can reasonably be got must, of course, be answered by the Minister to whom it is addressed.