Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 22 Mar 1979

Vol. 313 No. 2

Agriculture (An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta) Bill, 1978: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 22:
In page 5, before section 11, to insert a new section as follows:
"11.—The following section shall be substituted for sections 26 and 27 of the Act of 1977 and section 5 of the Act of 1958:
‘(1) The Board and the Council of the Institute shall have the same membership.
(2) The Board and the Council of the Institute shall consist of a chairman and twenty-two members.
(3) The Chairman and ordinary members of the Board and of the Council of the Institute shall be appointed by the Government in accordance with the following provisions:
(a) seven persons shall be nominated by such agricultural and rural organisations and in such manner as shall be determined by the Government,
(b) one person shall be nominated to be an ordinary member by each of the following:
the Governing Body of University College, Dublin, the Governing Body of University College, Cork, the Governing Body of University College, Galway, and the Board of Trinity College, Dublin, the Minister for Education, the Minister, the staff of An Chomhairle, the staff of the Institute, the Irish Veterinary Association,
(c) two members shall be nominated by the General Council of Committees of Agriculture,
(d) the remaining members shall be representative of institutions providing courses of study in agriculture mentioned in section 12 (1) (d) of the Act of 1977.
(4) The provisions of the Schedule of the Act of 1958 shall apply to the Board and to the Council of the Institute.
(5) The Minister may provide by order as regards the members who are to be representative of the staff of An Chomhairle and of the staff of the Institute for the selection for nomination of such members. Nothing done by or on behalf of the Board or of the Council of the Institute shall be invalid solely by reason of the fact that representatives of the staff have, due to unavoidable delays, not yet been appointed.
(6) The Chairman shall act as chairman both of the Council of the Institute and of the Board. He shall hold office on such terms and conditions as may be determined by the Minister from time to time.'".
—(Deputy Bruton.)

I am glad the Minister is in the House today. I gather he was not well and I am glad he is fully restored to health. I should like to outline the thinking behind this amendment. Before doing so I should like to outline the history of developments in this field. The previous Minister for Agriculture had before him reports which dated back for about ten years urging the reorganisation of the advisory, educational and research services of the State to streamline them and make them better servants of agricultural development. There were successive proposals for different forms of the reorganisation. It was felt that, while the existing system was working reasonably well, it was not the best possible system and that something should be done to co-ordinate research, advice and education into a more positive developmental role for agriculture.

The previous Minister, Deputy Clinton, took decisions on this issue. His decision was that the three areas of activity, the research service which was under the Agricultural Institute and some research which was also being carried out by the Department of Agriculture, the educational services which were being carried out by the Department of Agriculture directly or by private schools grant-aided by them, and the advisory services which were being carried out by the county committees of agriculture, should be brought together under one body which would give them a unified direction and a clear and unified management.

Objections were made in the course of the discussions that the autonomy of the Agricultural Institute should be preserved and that the Minister's proposals would create problems in this regard. The Minister went some considerable way in amending the proposals in the Bill to guarantee the operational freedom of the institute within the overall structure of the national agricultural authority, at least, to guarantee freedom of research within that overall authority. The institute would not continue to exist.

Deputy Gibbons was then spokesman on agriculture for the Opposition and he declared himself completely opposed to the proposals being put forward by his predecessor. He said that if returned to office he would reverse them and take the Agricultural Institute out from under the aegis of the national agricultural authority. Effectively that is what this Bill is doing. The name of the national agricultural authority is being changed to AnCOT but it is essentially the same body minus the Agricultural Institute.

This major change is the whole justification for the Bill. There are some other things in it but primarily we are discussing this Bill today because of the Minister's belief that the Agricultural Institute should be separated from any centralised body with responsibility for the overall development of research, education and advice on agriculture.

If the Minister had not taken this view we would not have had to have this Bill. We would have had the former Minister's Bill in operation now and development would be taking place under that Bill. We have lost about two years because of the present Minister's view that he had to undo the work of his predecessor in this respect. Time is money and we have lost time in the process. It behoves the Minister to have a good reason for what he is doing to justify the loss of two years in which developments could have been taking place and in which long-term planning could have been made. At present this is impossible because the bodies, in so far as advice and education are concerned, which would be carrying out such long-term planning do not now exist. Planning, which could have been taking place for the past two years if the previous Minister's programme had been allowed to continue, is not now taking place and probably will not take place for some time yet because there will be various delays in constituting a new Comhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta. In the meantime the precise situation of the Agricultural Institute is unclear because there are changes in this Bill in regard to their independence also which we will be discussing later.

We have had an unnecessary delay, although this view is not shared by the Minister. We have this Bill, we have to accept it as a reality that a delay has taken place and what is done cannot be undone. The purpose of the amendment we are advocating is to make the best of the Bill as it stands and to try to improve it, because we believe that there is an intimate connection between research on the one hand and advice and education on the other. Research in agriculture if it is to be relevant must be based on problems which farmers are actually facing in the field. There must be adequate means of getting the results of that research back to farmers in the field. Therefore there must be some unified strategy in regard to research and advisory activity and the channels of communication between advice in the field and research in the institutes of research must be guaranteed. Likewise it is vital that the education being imparted should reflect the latest research in agriculture.

Therefore I contend very strongly that there must be a close institutional connection between research on the one hand and advice and education on the other. The Minister for Agriculture says the only institutional connection necessary is for one or two members of each board to be members of the other board, that that is enough, that they are all reasonable men and they will share experiences and so on. They may be all reasonable men but they are all at the moment going to be working according to policies being laid down by different boards. They will be in separate institutions. There is no requirement for them to co-operate and in the absence of such a requirement it is the natural proclivity of all human beings to follow their own immediate interests, to respond to the immediate pressures on them and these are the pressures of their own institution.

Research people will be interested in the needs of research and follow that line. Likewise the people in the advisory services will be following their line. There is every danger of a divergence of strategy between the two institutions. The Minister will say he is responsible for both, he is providing the money for both and he can make sure that they do not follow divergent paths. That is not realistic because we all know that the Minister and his officials have many more pressing issues to be involved in than administrative problems, maybe at a fairly low level, in the Agricultural Institute on the one hand and in the comhairle on the other, as to whether co-operation is taking place on certain specific projects about development in relation to crop varieties or something like that. The Minister may be aware of one or two matters which come up in his own constituency but he cannot keep in continuing contact with these problems of liaison which could be occurring between the institute and the comhairle. He will not be able to do it. In practical terms we all know the pressures that Ministers are under and the pressures that higher civil servants are under. To suggest that they are going to be able to co-ordinate these two bodies, whose purposes are so intimately connected, and that that is enough is pie in the sky. We all agree that such co-ordination must take place. I contend that by separating the institute from the advice and education authority and having two separate institutions without any real means of making sure they follow a unified strategy the Minister is doing a bad day's work.

What we are putting forward is a compromise, and it is explicity stated to be a compromise, between the present Minister's position and the previous Minister's position. Perhaps the previous Minister, if he is in the House, will not agree with the compromise, but in the context of the Bill we have before us to advocate the position of the previous Minister would be to directly negative the position of the present Minister and that would not be an amendment and it would not be admitted as an amendment. Therefore, to have the matter discussed in an objective sense at all we have to put forward a compromise. In any event I think the compromise we are putting forward is a very reasonable one which was drafted after considerable thought. I believe the Minister for Agriculture would, if he were to accept it, be doing good for himself as well as for the country and for agriculture.

The compromise is that the Agricultural Institute will still continue to exist as a legal entity with its own staff, its own internal disciplines and management and its own director. An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta will also continue to exist as a legal entity with its own staff and its own director. Both agencies, in so far as their executive functions are concerned, will continue to exist independently and legally as in the present Bill. The only difference will be that there will be one board which will be responsible for both.

All of the people who are on either of the existing boards will be represented on this new joint board, which will meet one day as the board of the institute and another day as the board of the comhairle. The board will have a full-time chairman who will obviously be chairman of both boards. Therefore at policy level, but not at executive level, there would be one body responsible for making policies centrally. The execution of policy will be carried out by separate agencies which will continue to have a separate identity.

In my view that is basically what the previous Minister wanted to achieve and it is probably what the present Minister would like to achieve. I believe that this amendment achieves a degree of common ground in this controversy. The main objection to the amalgamation of the Agricultural Institute in the larger authority which was proposed previously was from the staff, who feared difficulties in relation to their position vis-á-vis independence, salary and so on. The staff of both bodies objected, as most staff would do. One can argue whether they were right or wrong, but staff in any institution tend to look at things from their own point of view, and why should they not? We all do that in our lives.

The amendment will meet the case of the staff because the institute will continue to exist and in so far as staff matters are concerned and so far as independence—independence from day to day interference—and the execution of policies are concerned, the institute will be independent. However, in regard to the setting of policies there will be one body for both advice and education and in this way we will have achieved a compromise which is realistic, valid and sensible between strongly-held points of view on both sides in this debate, a compromise which gives something to everyone concerned and which is the best possible compromise.

I would outline quickly precisely who would be on this joint board, which would be slightly larger than the board proposed in the Bill because it must encompass those who are already on the board of the Agricultural Institute and who are not on the comhairle board as proposed. The board we envisage would consist of 22 members and a chairman who would be full time. Of these members, seven would be nominated by the agricultural rural organisations and one would be nominated by each of the following: the Governing Body of UCD, the Governing Body of UCC, the Governing Body of UCG and the Board of Trinity College. There would also be one member nominated by the Minister for Education, one by the Minister for Agriculture, one by the staff of the comhairle, one by the staff of the institute and one by the Irish Veterinary Association. The latter is a new proposal because we are proposing in our other amendments to give this body responsibility in the area of preventive medicine, and if they are to have that responsibility we suggest representation from the Irish Veterinary Association who have the experience and the competence in the veterinary area that nobody else has. We propose that two members would be nominated by the General Council of Committees of Agriculture. This is an improvement so far as the county committees are concerned. We propose that the remaining members would be representative of the bodies concerned in providing education in the sphere of agriculture.

The board would have the same rules of procedure as those which apply to the present Agricultural Institute and as set out in the Schedule to the 1958 Act. Detailed provision is made in the amendment for staff representatives from both the institute and the comhairle. The final provision is that the chairman shall act as chairman both of the council of the institute and of the board and shall hold office on such terms and conditions as may be determined from time to time by the Minister.

I believe that the provisions proposed in this amendment could work provided there is the will to make them work. It is perfectly feasible for policy to be unified in one body and for execution to be separated into two bodies, namely, the institute and the comhairle. The Minister has gone a little way towards recognising our position because he is proposing that some members from the board of the institute be on the board of the comhairle and that some members from the board of the comhairle be on the board of the institute. Therefore, he is accepting that co-ordination at board level is the appropriate place to have co-ordination, because it is at board level that policy is determined.

The Minister is not saying that the boards must be entirely different and separate. This amendment is merely going a step further and proposing that the people of both boards meet in one room with one chairman to discuss advice and educational research but that the execution of the recommendations and decisions be left to separate institutions. In that way we should have the best of both worlds. We should have the independence in respect of research that the Minister requires so much—I have not attacked him for his convictions in this regard—and we would have also co-ordination at policy level. This is important in the national interest. I trust that the Minister will consider the amendment sympathetically in the light of the arguments I have put forward.

I would remind the House that, as amendment No. 23 is related and as amendment No. 36 is consequential, the three amendments may be discussed together.

I wonder whether we should take them separately. Basically, No. 23 concerns a different principle. It may relate to the board but it involves an entirely different issue.

It depends on the outcome of No. 22.

I accept your ruling, Sir.

It is a drafting position.

I am grateful to Deputy Bruton for having said towards the end of his rather long address on this amendment that he did not wish to rehash the pros and cons of the argument about the different functions of research on the one hand and training on the other. We have gone through that argument ad naseum not only during the Second Stage debate but during discussion of the predecessor of this Bill. The amendment seeks to resurrect the controversy enshrined in that other Act in proposing to create an almost absurd situation. Can one imagine a board, in conformity with this amendment, going on a Monday morning to An Foras Talúntais wearing a Foras Talúntais hat and discussing the business of An Foras Talúntais from, presumably, the foras point of view and then trooping in on the afternoon of the same day or perhaps the following day to the AnCOT headquarters, wearing a different hat and discussing matters from the point of view of training and advice? This proposition is so grotesque that I do not think anybody else would entertain it.

I would not agree.

Regardless of what Deputy Bruton has just said, the amendment contains the basic thinking that was enshrined in section 10 of the last Bill, that was, that An Foras Talúntais be abolished. It enshrines the idea of the abolition of the concept of research. That is something I would not be prepared to agree to and, consequently, I cannot accept the amendment.

It was not my intention to intervene again on this Bill. In making the case for his amendment, Deputy Bruton said that perhaps this amendment might not be acceptable to me, that it might not be going far enough. The Deputy is right in that assumption. Nothing short of the full amalgamation and full integration we have provided for in the last legislation would satisfy me. However, I accept the amendment as a very sincere attempt to undo some of the damage being done by the Minister in relation to the segregation of the services concerned. He isolated the Agricultural Institute from the areas of advice and education. In that way he has gone in the opposite direction to what every other enlightened country is doing. As evidence of this I suggest that the Minister have regard to what has been done in the USA since the National Agricultural Authority Act was passed here. I would ask the Minister to look at what has been done in Scotland. Since our Act went through this House I came across references to this in two magazines. One was the June-July issue of the American magazine Crops and Soil which contained the following paragraph:

A new set of initials face you for the first time in our pages in this issue. Those letters are SEA which stand for the Science and Education Administration, created earlier this year within the US Department of Agriculture. The new agency is made up of the old National Agricultural Library (NAL), and three agencies, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Co-operative State Research Service (CSRS), and the Extension Service (ES). The merger of the three agencies and the library became official on January 24, 1978.

That is what the Americans think should be done.

I was glad to see that the Minister visited Scotland since taking office and I am sure he was as impressed by the set-up there as I was when I paid a similar visit. The Arkleton Trust made the following statement in 1978:

One of the most favourable features of agricultural training in Scotland lies in the characteristics of our three Colleges of Agriculture. Their peculiar strength, not now found very often elsewhere, is that they combine research, teaching and advisory roles. Thus the college lecturer is kept in touch with current farming realities, the farmer has a better opportunity to be told of the most recent trends and innovations, and the student benefits from both these aspects.

In this amendment Deputy Bruton is trying to get as close as possible to this but the Minister is not prepared to admit that he was wrong. The previous legislation was an attempt to provide a fully comprehensive service in order to get the best value for money spent and to use the various centres throughout the country to do a better job for farmers. This amendment seeks to undo some of the damage which has been done by having a single board who will be responsible and will administer the affairs of the three organisations. If they are not to be together, it is important that one section should know what the other is doing. It is an attempt to break down barriers which have been reerected. Those barriers have existed for far too long. In the previous Act, not only were we bringing together education, research and advisory work but we were providing for their development.

It is most regrettable that two years later we find ourselves arguing in this House about legislation which should never have been introduced. Deputy Bruton is a far more patient and tolerant man than I could be and I admire him for this. Of course, he was not involved to the same extent as I was because I put a lot of thought and work into the attempt to provide a fully integrated service which could provide all that any farm would need. There has been disruption during the past two years and nothing has been done. I support the amendment because it is an attempt to get closer to the position we felt we had reached with the National Agricultural Authority. Such a position is badly needed and anything which inhibits the coming together of these three agencies is doing a serious disservice to agriculture. It would be an improvement if we had one board responsible for all the services. The Minister speaks about the work of An Foras Talúntais and then speaks about education and advisory services as if these things were unrelated. It is important that they should be closely related and working together.

This amendment is a salvage attempt and even at this late stage I hope the Minister will go this far in trying to get these services to work together.

I wish to add my voice to the plea of compromise this amendment puts before the Minister. We must be rather disappointed at the Minister's attitude during his short reply. This amendment is carefully thought out and is a definite attempt to reach a compromise with the Minister's ideas, while attempting to integrate the research and advisory services.

I have already referred to the cost to the taxpayer and the Minister did not see fit to mention that in his reply. According to the latest report of An Foras Talúntais, expenditure was in the region of £8 million and the Minister must justify this to the taxpayer. The cost of the advisory service of the county committees of agriculture is in the region of £6.8 million. The Minister did not think it worth while to say how he justifies separating these two boards while justifying the cost to the taxpayer, nor did he say how to achieve the greatest growth in agriculture.

It is my belief that the research work of the Agricultural Institute should be carried out in the country and this cannot be done without the co-operation of the agricultural advisers. Is it the Minister's intention that the Agricultural Institute should continue to carry out research entirely within their own premises? I would bring to the attention of the Minister the amount of research already being done behind locked doors. We dealt with that on Second Stage. I do not accept the Minister's argument and believe that the two people he intends to have on each board will not help to integrate the services.

I intended to move amendment No. 36.

We are dealing with amendment No. 22. We are taking amendments Nos. 23 and 36 with amendment No. 22. When we come to amendment No. 36 it can be moved.

If we are dealing with them together we can hardly put one of them before the other is moved.

There can only be one amendment before the House at a time.

We have not discussed amendment No. 36.

The Deputy is entitled to discuss it but it cannot be moved until we reach it. When we reach amendment No. 36 there can be no discussion on it but it can be moved at that stage. For the sake of the record of the House, I would ask Deputies to do everything through the Chair.

I am sorry that the Minister did not take the opportunity of replying to the contributions of Deputies Clinton and D'Arcy. One point he made in the course of his argument against my amendment was that he thought it would be silly to have people meeting on Monday as the board of the institute and to have them meeting on Tuesday as the board of the comhairle. As Deputy Clinton said, agricultural advice, research and education are allied subjects and there is nothing silly about the same people being involved in the policy-making of both boards. In response to questions in this House the Minister might be dealing with advice one day and with research the next day. If there is nothing absurd about the Minister doing that, why should it be absurd for a board to have responsibility for a variety of subjects.

He suggested that they might have to go home after one meeting and return the following day for a different meeting. The Minister is suggesting that the members of these boards would be lacking in ingenuity. It would be possible for them to hold a meeting on the same day in the same place, the first part of which could be devoted to the business of the institute and the second part to the business of the comhairle. If there was any jealousy, they could alternate the venue. The Minister seemed to suggest that there was a practical objection to the amendment. I think we should dispense with that non-argument. The real issue is that the Minister is not prepared to listen to any argument. He will brook no argument other than the holy tablets of stone which he is handing down in regard to this matter. That is bad politics. This amendment is a serious attempt to reach a compromise on an issue which is dividing agriculture. That sort of division only leads to controversy and lobbying and is not good for agriculture. This amendment seeks to put an end to the controversy and to satisfy everyone. I am surprised that the Minister cannot do better as he is known for his ingenuity in these matters.

Amendment No. 36 is a more controversial amendment. It reads:

In page 6, before section 14, to insert a new section as follows:

The annual estimate of expenses of An Chomhairle and the Institute referred to in section 44 of the 1976 Act and section 12 of the 1958 Act, shall not be submitted to the Minister without the approval of the members of the Board and of the Council of the Institute referred to in section 11 (3) (a).

The members of the board referred to in section 11 (3) (a) are seven persons nominated by such agricultural and rural organisations in such manner as shall be determined by the Government. The effect of this amendment, which was inserted since the budget, was to give the farming representatives a veto on the expenses of the comhairle and the institute. This amendment was put in because the Government proposed a levy to finance agricultural advice, education and research on farm products. If the farmers were going to pay the cost, it is our view that they and they alone should determine what is to be done. The purpose of this amendment is to give them control over the finances of the institute and of the comhairle. We would not be proposing it if there was no levy. Such a veto would not be justified if the money was provided by the State. As the present position in regard to the levy is uncertain, we do not know whether this amendment is appropriate. We have been told that the levy is not being introduced immediately and that negotiations are taking place on farmers' taxation. We have been told that there will be no levy if agreement is reached. If agreement is not reached before 1 May there will be no levy. I am not going to become involved in the issues concerned in the negotiations.

The Chair has already ruled. I have allowed the Deputy to mention it, but we are not going to debate taxation and the methods of raising it on this Bill.

I accept the ruling, but the Government have said that if the levy is introduced it will be used to finance agricultural advice, research and education. The reason given for the introduction of this levy was to save the State the money that it is now spending on these and transfer them to the farmers. If the farmers are going to pay, the farmers should have the say as to what money is to be paid and where it goes. If they are not going to have to pay, this amendment is not relevant. We are hoping that the Minister will give some indication of the position so that we will know whether the amendment is relevant.

As has been pointed out, the House is otherwise put in a very difficult position. We are being asked to discuss a Bill in order to provide for services without knowing how and by whom these services are to be financed. We are discussing the Bill because the House has responsibility for the financial resources of any State-sponsored body. The reason primarily that the Bill has come before the House—apart from detailed arrangements about who is on boards and so forth—is that authority will be created by the Bill for the issues of moneys. How one can discuss this Bill without knowing whether these matters are to be paid for by a levy on farmers or by general taxation is difficult to understand, yet we are being asked to decide on this Bill and on this amendment without knowing what is going to happen.

When the Bill was introduced we reviewed the position at that stage. There was no talk of a levy then. We passed Second Stage of the Bill as a measure that was going to be financed primarily—not exclusively—by the Exchequer. However, when this Bill reached Committee Stage there was a radical change in the position and by then the proposal was that it would be paid for entirely by the farmers through a 2 per cent levy on their sale of products. This rendered the Second Stage debate irrelevant because it had been carried out on different premises. That was when Committee Stage started. Now we are half-way through Committee Stage and we have not yet got as far as that in the Bill. Even when Committee Stage started there had been another change in the position and the whole matter was thrown into the cauldron again. We are told maybe it will be paid by a levy and may be it will not. I am sure the Chair——

The Deputy is getting very much away from his amendment now.

I am relating what I am saying to the amendment.

The amendment deals only with:

The annual estimate of expenses... shall not be submitted to the Minister without the approval of the members of the Board...

The Deputy is now getting into taxation matters which are appropriate to the budget debate.

I agree. One cannot decide on the amendment without knowing how these institutes, the research, advice and education service, are to be paid for. I have said that the amendment would not be relevant and would not be moved if we had a firm assurance that there would be no levy from farmers to be used for paying for these services. We would not be interested in the amendment if that were the case. There is a strong possibility that there may be a levy. There is no guarantee that there will not be a levy, because the Government have said that this is part of their policy, it is a contingency they are prepared to use, and they are prepared to impose it straight away without consultation with anybody, and their minds were subsequently changed by—the Minister will tell us what their minds were changed by. It is not for me to speculate how the Minister's mind works on this issue, but work it did, belatedly.

We may well have another change before Committee Stage is over, another change before Report Stage is reached, and yet another change before we get the Bill into the Seanad, and maybe the debate we are having now will be rendered completely irrelevant by something that will happen next week, the week after or in May or June, perhaps on 9 June or some other appropriate day when we have safely run for cover.

The Chair asks the Deputy to get back to the amendment before us. We are discussing taxation or possible taxation and that cannot arise on an ordinary Bill. Taxation is really a matter for the budget and the Finance Bill.

I am discussing an amendment the relevance and appropriateness of which——

We are on Committee Stage of a Bill and we are dealing with a small amendment here. The Deputy wants to discuss the whole question of farmer taxation on it. He may not do that. He will have to keep to the amendment before the House.

I do not want to discuss farmer taxation. I only want to know whether this amendment is necessary.

The amendment before the House deals with the annual estimate of expenses of the comhairle and whether it should be submitted, and nothing else.

The amendment is conditional on where the expenses are coming from. If they are coming from the Exchequer the amendment does not arise, and I would not press it if we knew that for sure, but we do not. On the other hand, if the position is to be as it was when Committee Stage commenced, that the expenses are to be paid for by the levy, then the amendment is essential. If the farmers are going to pay they must have the final say. I hope the Minister will clarify that and that we will know whether this amendment is necessary. If we have a firm statement from the Minister that there will be no levy, I will withdraw the amendment.

The Deputy's amendment does not deal with how the money is to be raised. It deals only with the estimates of the board. Am I to put the amendment to the House?

Could I have an answer from the Minister to the points I have made in relation to both amendments 22 and 36?

Deputy Bruton is asking me to give him a thumbnail sketch of Government finance policy, and that I am not prepared to do. I cannot understand how the question of general taxation should come under this.

It does not and cannot arise under a Bill of this nature.

What else has Deputy Bruton been discussing for the last half-an-hour?

That is what I am trying to tell him.

Regardless of whether there is to be such a levy, can the Minister give me any indication as to whether, if there were, it would be in order to finance agricultural advice, research and education? I am not asking him whether there is to be such a levy. I have asked him that and he has declined to answer. All right, let us forget about that, but if there were would it be used to finance these services?

That is a hypothetical question.

It was not a hypothetical question at the time of the budget.

It is a taxation matter and cannot be raised on this Bill.

The Minister refuses to answer a hypothetical question. Let me ask him a factual question which he cannot avoid on the grounds of it being hypothetical, though he may try to avoid it on some other grounds. It is a fact that a levy was proposed. How was it proposed at that time to allocate the profits to advice, education and research? Was there to be a separate account?

The Chair must rule that that is a taxation matter and may not be raised on the Bill.

It has a direct bearing.

It may not be raised on this Bill. I am asking Deputy Bruton to get away from that, please.

It has a direct bearing because the amendment would be relevant only if the money was coming from the farming community exclusively.

There is nothing in the amendment as to how the money is to be raised, nothing at all——

It is the estimate of the expenditure——

It is a taxation matter and the Deputy cannot use this amendment to deal with taxation matters.

It is not a taxation matter. We were told by the Minister for Finance that the levy was not a tax; he told us in an interview that it was not a tax. We have the Minister for Finance's specific assurance on this point. He said it was not a tax.

When the Chair refers to a taxation matter, it is a levy that arises under the budget. It has no relevance to this Bill and cannot be discussed on it.

When asked was the levy a tax the Minister for Finance specifically said it was not a tax. With the utmost respect, the Chair cannot rule out discussion on the issue on the grounds that it is a taxation matter when we have the one Member of the House in a position to know whether or not it is a tax, namely the Minister for Finance, on record saying that it is not a tax.

Please, Deputy. I have explained the position. There is nothing in this amendment under which the Deputy can raise the matter of the levy. The Deputy is raising the question of the levy.

I will tell you, Sir, what I am interested in. I am interested in ensuring that if the farmers will have to pay for this service they will have control over how the money is spent. One can only know whether or not they need to have control over how the money is spent if one knows whether or not they are going to have to pay for it; that is simple logic. I shall outline the position here as I see the amendment. The way the amendment would work in the event of the farmers having to pay for the services would be that the board as a whole would prepare the estimate and they would do so in consultation with their staff.

The annual Estimates being prepared by the Department of Finance will be examined by the board of AnCOT.

I am talking about the Estimates in so far as the expenses of the comhairle and the institute are concerned. The initial expense estimates for their expenditure are prepared—if I am not mistaken—by those bodies, by the institute and the comhairle. They are then submitted to the Department sometime earlier in the previous year. Then they are submitted to the Department of Finance and the Government as part of the Department's Estimates. But the original estimates of the bodies themselves would be and are prepared initially by themselves. That is a fact and if the Minister does not know that he should not intervene to try to contradict me. Of course the position is that, for instance, if the board were to agree to double the expenditure of the comhairle in a given year, if those expenses were being met by some form of charge on farmers obviously that would have the effect of doubling the charges the farmers would have to bear. That would be grossly unfair, without giving the final say in the matter to the farmers who are going to pay.

What we are proposing is that if the board does propose to double the amount of money to be allocated to advice, education and research—and thereby double the levy that would have to be raised—the people who will be using these services and who will have to pay for them, namely, the farmers, should have a veto on any such proposal. The amendment here would mean that the whole board would draw up the estimates. If in the view of the farming representatives those estimates were too high they could veto them, they could come back and say: no, you must go back and prepare lower estimates because we do not want to have an increased levy resulting from your decision in this matter. If there is to be a levy that is a very reasonable amendment. I hope to God there is no levy. It would be a very bad policy for the country if there were. But, if there is, that is why the amendment is necessary and I should like the Minister to deal with the points I have raised.

The Deputy is using a simple amendment here to try and debate the levy which is not before the House in any way. I am putting amendment No. 22.

I understand that May Day is D-day as far as the levy is concerned.

Deputy D'Arcy, I have ruled that the levy may not be discussed; this is only a roundabout way of bringing it in.

Is the Minister prepared to defer this whole issue until such time as the matter is clarified, when we would know whether or not——

No, Sir, I am not so prepared.

If the Minister is not prepared, then will he stand up and tell us what is the position as far as these issues are concerned? The levy is the number one issue. As was stated by the Minister for Finance, are the farmers going to be asked to pay for these services—research, advice and so on?

I am not going to pay any attention to Deputy D'Arcy's antics or to Deputy Bruton's antics because they are quite absurd.

This is the danger and the reality as far as the farmers are concerned. We do not yet know. At this stage the Minister should be prepared to say that he is prepared to defer this whole matter until all these issues are clarified on May Day. That is not asking too much; it is only one month and a few days away. Certainly if the case is as stated by the Minister for Finance, we shall have different amendments to put down on this Bill. It is only fair that we should ask the Minister to defer the whole issue until such matters are clarified.

The Minister referred to absurd antics. There is nothing more absurd than the conduct of the Government at present; they are not a government at all.

I am putting amendment No. 22.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 55.

  • Barry, Richard.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Bermingham, Joseph.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan.
  • Clinton, Mark.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Cosgrave, Michael J.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Griffin Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Paddy.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • D'Arcy, Michael J.
  • Deasy, Martin A.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Donnellan, John F.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom.
  • (Cavan-Monaghan).
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Toole, Paddy.
  • Taylor, Frank.
  • White, James.


  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, Niall.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Colley, George.
  • Cowen, Bernard.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Farrell, Joe.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Filgate, Eddie.
  • Fitzgerald, Gene.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom.
  • (Dublin South-Central).
  • Fitzsimons, James N.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Gibbons, Jim.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Keegan, Seán.
  • Killeen, Tim.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lemass, Eileen.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leonard, Tom.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Loughnane, William.
  • Lynch, Jack.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Murphy, Ciarán P.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Donoghue, Martin.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Woods, Michael J.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelly and B. Desmond; Níl, Deputies P. Lalor and Briscoe.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 23 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 11 stand part of the Bill."

I would like to have some explanation from the Minister about the way this section will work. Does he consider that a full-time chairman is appropriate for a board of this sort? How much time does he expect the chairman to spend on the job? It is appropriate in an agency of this sort that the chairman be full time. As far as I know, the ESB are the only semi-State body where the chairman is full time. I feel there is a strong case for appointing a full-time chairman who will be responsible to the board in relation to policy. There is a danger that boards become so absorbed in the execution of policy that the overall public interest will not be given the time it should get. The people directly involved, whose head is the managing director, are full-time people committed to the institutional existence of the body and have not the wider responsibilities which the chairman and the members of the board have. They spend much more time on the job and have far more information about what is going on. They are in a position to blind the chairman of the board with science and can get him and the members to agree to anything. Members of the board may be coming to meetings once or twice a month and they get documents which they read at home at night after their day's work, documents which they cannot absorb very fully. The chairman may spend a few extra days in the office but it is usually only to sign documents. No member of the board is in a position to grasp fully all the issues involved because he is not spending enough time in the office.

There is a case for having a full-time chairman on a body such as this. I do not mean some person seconded from the public service to be a full-time chairman. I mean somebody coming in from outside who will become a full-time chairman and who will have responsibility to the board in his capacity as chairman. I know that the ESB are a different body from this and possibly there is a better case for having a full-time chairman there than there is in relation to this board. The Minister should at least consider this matter. He may have good arguments against this.

In relation to paragraph (b) there is a new provision that in the case of the board of the comhairle two of the members shall be members of the council of the institute. There is a similar provision that two of the members of the institute board shall be members of the board of the comhairle. How will those people be selected? Will two people be members of both boards or will there be four people involved?

In relation to paragraph (c), the Minister is deleting all representation of the universities from the board of the comhairle. I do not know if that is wise. The universities are responsible for the training of the officers of practically all the advisory services. The people universities usually put on boards have a very good general view of what is needed in the particular field. They are useful additions to any board. The board, in relation to their responsibilities for education, will want to know what is going on in the universities. If they are setting up a course in some aspect of agricultural education it would be very useful for them to have information as to whether or not a similar course was being run in one of the universities or what has been their experience in relation to running such a course for graduates, farmers or farmers' sons. The experience of the universities in the educational field would be of great value to a body like the comhairle, which will be responsible for agricultural education.

I know the comhairle will be able to get this information by sending memos to the universities, but they will only get back a memo which will probably not answer all their questions. If the comhairle had a member who was full time involved in the university he would have the information and this would save a lot of bother writing to the university seeking advice. Such a person would be able to tell them what was going on in the universities. There is a strong case for retaining the universities on the board of the comhairle.

There is another point in this section which I find objectionable, that is, that the General Council of County Committees of Agriculture will only get "at least one member". When a Bill says "at least one member" that is all such a board get. I believe there is a case for giving a larger representation to the General Council of County Committees of Agriculture. The Minister knows that there are men on those county committees who have good practical experience in agriculture and they have been elected by the public. If one is elected by the public one has to acquire a knowledge of what the public are interested in. One needs to have on a board of this sort somebody who represents the public and has had to have his representation of the public validated by having stood for election and been successful. Having only one representative of the General Council of Committees of Agriculture is a bad day's work. There should be two or three at least, particularly in view of the fact that this legislation will diminish the functions of the county committees so far as advice is concerned. It would have been sensible to have given a quid pro quo in this regard by giving larger representation to the General Council of Committees of Agriculture.

The Minister will provide by order the means whereby the staff of the comhairle and the institute providing courses for study shall be elected to the board. What has the Minister in mind in this order? I know it is not ready yet and that the Minister could tell us to wait and see, but if the Minister is asking us to give him power to make the order he should give us some idea how he will go about the staff representation problem. Will it be by an election of all the staff under a proportional representation system, as in general elections, where everybody's voice would be equal, will a system of electoral colleges be used, or will the unions have some determining say as to how the election should take place?

I note also that representation will be provided for by order in relation to insituations providing courses of study in agriculture, as in section 12 (1) (d) of the original Bill. What institutions are involved? Could the Minister give us a list of the institutions that will have a vote and say how they will vote? Will it be a vote of all the staff involved or just a vote of the headmasters, or is there some representative organ in agricultural colleges which will do this election? If so, what is the name of this body? We are entitled to this information before we agree to the order. I know the Minister will not be able to give precise details, but he should be able to give a general outline of the principles on which he will approach this system of election.

In relation to the procedure of filling casual vacancies, how are casual vacancies filled on the Agricultural Institute board at the moment and does the Minister intend to follow the same procedure? If the Minister intends to do that, there is no dispute; but if he does not know what he intends to do, we will have to insist in getting some information. So far as the institute are concerned the procedures for filling casual vacancies are set out in the Schedule of the 1958 Act in paragraph 5, which reads as follows:

5. (1) A casual vacancy occurring among the ordinary members of the Council shall be filled by appointment by the Government and, where the vacancy occurs among the members nominated under subsection (8) or subsection (9) of section 5 of this Act, the appointment shall be of a person nominated by the organisation or body which nominated the member occasioning the vacancy.

(2) A person appointed under this paragraph shall hold office for the remainder of his predecessor's term.

In the 1958 Act precise details are given as to the way in which casual vacancies will be filled. Those details could have been discussed openly in the House. The House had something definite before it. In this, the lazy way out is being taken by saying that they will be filled by order. We are not being told how it will be done by order and we are being denied an opportunity to discuss it. It is not an issue likely to cause a great deal of controversy, but at the same time I am puzzled that the Minister, with this model from the Schedule of the 1958 Act available to him, failed to include that in this legislation. The Minister could have put that in instead of going about it in this mysterious way of doing it by order.

I did what my predecessor did—the lazy Clinton way, as the Deputy said.

Deputy Bruton, on the section please.

I accept that. I know this was not done by my predecessor either, but it should have been done as it was done in the 1958 Act. I am sure Deputy Clinton does not mind criticism. He can take and answer criticism in a reasonable fashion, unlike his successor who seems to run for cover whenever criticism is voiced and satisfies himself with silence. I do not wish to provoke the Minister into further silence and I hope he will answer the points I made on the section.

This section says that there will be at least one representative from the county committees of agriculture. That is farcical, having regard to the various types of farming carried on. There should be representation on this board from the different sectors of farming. Representatives should come from the committees of agriculture. As I see it, it is more than likely that there will be only one representative from the general council. Their representative could be a person with an interest in grain growing who would have no knowledge of or interest in beef. More than one representative is necessary. I know that there is provision for more than one representative if deemed necessary, but because one is specifically mentioned I imagine that it will only be one. There should be at least four representatives from the General Council of Committees of Agriculture. Because of the variety of interests, the variety of areas and the different types of farming, it is vital to have more than one. The political reality is that the one appointed has a political ideology. That would be a pity. We might not be able to define it exactly in areas, but there could be one from the grain-growing sector, and one from the beef sector, that kind of representation——

Practical men.

Practical men who would know what they were doing, and would be able to talk about the various aspects of agriculture better than one person from the General Council of Committees of Agriculture. I know there can be more than one under the Bill, because it provides for at least one. The general experience is that if a Bill provides for at least one we will have one. The Bill is not clear on what kind of representation the staff will have on this board. Maybe it is clear but it is not clear to me.

It is not clear.

It is included in a conglomeration of other things. We are setting up a State body. The Minister says the worker participation Act did not cover this kind of organisation. That may well be, but we should consider it as a basis for the representation. That would mean one-third of the board would be composed of people from the workforce. In this instance, they would be the advisory people who would have a lot of knowledge and would be capable people to have on the board.

It is necessary to spell out what representation we will have from the General Council of Committees of Agriculture. It is necessary to spell out what representation the employees of the board will have. It is necessary to know exactly from what areas the representation will come. Various agricultural interests are mentioned. That is very indefinite. We want to know what kind of rural organisations we are talking about and who will decide who will have the representation. Will the Minister pick out certain organisations? Will they rotate? I do not know. The manner in which the board will operate seems very inconclusive to me.

Deputy Bruton spoke about the possible desirability of having a permanent chairman.

Full time.

I understand that to mean the same thing.

Not necessarily.

I do not see any necessity to introduce this into the Bill any more than Deputy Clinton did a couple of years ago. I see a difficulty in having a person as chairman of this very important and practical board who by accepting a full-time post as chairman of the comhairle would ipso facto cease to come from the farming world. He would be a functionnaire, as they say in the European Community, and not a person from the farming world. In the divorce of his mind from the practical men about whom Deputy Bermingham and Deputy Bruton spoke so approvingly, he would begin the process of ceasing to be, if he ever had been, a practical producer. It is important that he should be a practical producer and that he should not be selected for any reason other than his excellence as a suitable person to chair this important board. I accept Deputy Bermingham's contention that he should not be picked for his political allegiance. I fully subscribe to that.

It is very hard to ensure that.

I do not wish to ascertain what the man's political allegiance is. Nor do I wish to deny any political allegiance he may have. If you introduce a merely party political basis into the formulation of a board as important as this board, you begin to destroy it. There will be certain fields in which the political allegiance of the people is a self-confessed fact and, being self-confessed, it has a certain honesty of its own. To take exception to that is to take exception to the people involved having a political allegiance and declaring it openly. I see nothing wrong with that, but it is important that selections made are not made for the advantage of the Government party or any other party. Governments change, as we have seen in recent years, and may well change again after the lapse of a long period, such as 16 years.

The Minister added that quickly.

That was an aside.

That does not take from the validity of the whole argument. I am not attracted to the idea of a permanent chairman.

I will not press it.

Therefore, I see no reason for departing from the present concept of what the chairman's duties ought to be and the manner of their performance. I regret that in the past we have not seen a selection made on purely objective grounds. I would be very anxious that the person selected would have a high degree of competence and that, if at all possible, he would come from the producer sector of farming. In that I include farming itself, farm processing, farm manufacture, and so on. There should be representation on the board from what is now our enormous food-processing industry to ensure that the proper evolution of our advisory and training services will take full cognisance of that interest within the industry itself.

We are talking about a rather small board. The former board consisted of 23 people and the chairman. This board will consist of 15 people and the chairman. There is a reduction in numbers proportionate to the reduction in the number of functions being performed. The research council will be removed from the concept of the NAAERA Bill. If you begin to talk, as Deputy Bruton does, about increased representation for the general council or for the universities—and his amendment envisages the appointment to the board of four people from the universities, one from each of the constituent colleges——

I did not propose that. That was in the context of my other amendment which has been defeated.

I feel that the requirement of a university presence on the board would be met by the presence on the ground on the AFT board of university representation. I would prefer to see the comhairle keeping to its adjusted purpose and that is becoming a work-a-day businesslike organisation since there is no academic content in their activities. Certainly the young men coming in as advisers are the product of our universities but within their own work I do not see any reason for the inclusion of universities on the board of the comhairle and I would not like to see a competitive spirit developing as to who should be represented and at whose expense. There are a given number of seats to fill and the task of any Minister formulating this Bill is to ensure that we get the optimum kind of board which will carry out its job in the best possible manner. This cannot be done by staffing it with one kind of organisation rather than another. Obviously the organisations must be connected with the production and processing of food, because that is what the industry itself is concerned with. The inclusion of staff which Deputy Bermingham recommends again must be made to the exclusion of some of the producer interests and I am not aware of any strong belief that the presence of that representation would in any way enhance the board itself. It might create a situation which would be less than satisfactory.

In general, and having regard to the reductions in the number of tasks which are to be undertaken by the comhairle, the differences between this Bill and the 1976 Bill are minimal. There will be some changes in that I would possibly include the intention to give the processing industry—the co-operative interest—representation on the board. This is of the greatest importance because there is wide acceptance of the fact that agricultural efforts in the future, including advisory work and training work, will have to be related more to a particular production objective as it has not been in the past. In that regard I would like to see the inclusion of the General Council on the board and this has been mentioned. I would like to see this happen in the way that the Waterford Committee of Agriculture worked out a highly satisfactory collaboration with the Waterford County Co-operative in the provision of a specialist advisory staff to Waterford Co-operative through the committee of agriculture. That seems to me to be an eminently sensible arrangement which might well be copied in arrangements to be made in the future under the tutelage of the comhairle. In that way totally unnecessary frictions will be avoided. I consider that the presence of a co-operative interest on the board would be a constructive and progressive development.

Deputy Bruton inquired about the filling of casual vacancies. As the AFT Act outlines the Government makes the appointment after consultation with the group who suffered the casualty. The usual practice is for the Government to go to the body who has suffered the casualty and to ask for the names of one or two possible candidates for the vacancy. That is the accepted procedure. In the case of An Foras Talúntais I am not sure whether this procedure has had to be followed or not but it is well to recognise a certain procedure if this situation does arise.

I think the Minister will probably follow it in this case.

I do not see any reason why it should not be followed. The information I have given is as precise as the directions given in the preceding Act and to give any more details at this stage of the precise formulation of the board would be to inhibit to some degree the freedom of the organisations. It is up to them to put up the people they consider best and most suitable for membership of the board. I think that for the industry itself the shedding of this idiotic party allegiance would be a good thing. It behoves political parties with enough gumption and confidence in themselves to eschew this kind of attitude. It is not of any assistance at all either to the parties themselves or to the organisations that they are providing for. Most political credit will accrue to the people who do the best thing and it falls to me as Minister, within the limits set out in this section, to procure the best board possible for the industry itself and that is my intention.

This is a very important section of the Bill concerning the constitution of the boards themselves. The Minister, in answer to Deputy Bruton on the question of the chairman, stated that a decision is based on the excellence of the individual. I accept that but I wonder about the advisability of having a whole-time chairman. There is a whole-time chairman on the Dublin District Milk Board and he is chairman of two boards, Dublin and Cork; he has another function which he carries out on behalf of the Department as well.

That is a very highly specialised position.

I do not agree there. I served on this board for some time. They have a chief executive and a full staff. The position of chairman is not highly specialised and it could not be described as such. Is the Minister prepared to consider at this stage the concept of one chairman for both boards who could be a whole-time chairman. This has not been mentioned yet but I think it would have terrific advantages.

I wish to move to an area which Deputy Bruton mentioned and which the Minister did not reply to. Are there two members of each board who are members of the other board?

There are only two members involved. Two members of the comhairle serve on the AFT Board and two members of the AFT Board serve on the other board. It does not have to be the same two people.

Therefore it need not necessarily be just two. I would ask the Minister to consider the question of the chairman. The Minister may say that the fact that the chairman is full time means that he will lose touch with reality; but if his function were to be that he would serve as chairman of both boards he would be at a tremendous advantage in that he would know what was happening both in the areas of research and of advice. Consequently, he would be able to co-ordinate the efforts from both sources.

The point is academic.

I would not accept that. What we are attempting to do is to bring about a co-ordination of the efforts of both boards. To that end we have explored every avenue possible but we have been turned down by the Minister in each instance. At least he might give this proposition some consideration. I am sure that the Department have evidence of people who have served in dual capacities on two boards to the advantage of the boards concerned and also to the advantage of the chairman concerned.

I am disappointed, as I was disappointed also at the time of the last Bill, with the representation proposed for county committees of agriculture. The Minister has stated that this representation shall not be less than one but it is not possible to have less than one. I disagreed with the previous Minister, Deputy Clinton, in regard to the representation he provided for in respect of these committees.

I do not recall that.

I was not in the House then but I disagreed privately with the then Minister on this issue. There are 27 county committees of agriculture but the representation proposed for them is a scant recognition of the services provided by them on a voluntary basis down through the years. What is the reason for removing from these people the small bit of democratic process exercised by them, by their going first to the county councils, then to these committees and then to this board?

They are being given the same representation as was given to them by Deputy Clinton.

What was done by the previous Minister is not an excuse for the Minister to follow the same line. He should consider giving representation to at least three people from the county committees of agriculture.

At whose expense?

Perhaps membership of the board could be increased accordingly.

I am not suggesting that the representation of any other body should be reduced in order to give a representation of three to the committees I am talking of. I have served on boards of up to 30 people.

The bigger a board are, the less useful they become.

I do not accept that. Will this board be a public board at which the press will be present at all meetings?

I do not think that would be a good idea.

I have the greatest respect for the press but if they were to be present at meetings of the board there would be bound to be people who would take advantage of the situation to make speeches from the political point of view.

That would make a farce of the board.

I accept that. The point I am making is that the expertise and knowledge of the county committees of agriculture would be of tremendous benefit to the type of board we are proposing and that is why I am asking the Minister to consider a representation of three from these committees.

Is that on the basis of specialist knowledge?

They have that specialist knowledge. Is the Minister stating that these committees have not been doing good work down through the years? Is not the development and growth in agriculture due mainly to the work of these committees so far as most counties are concerned? I am prepared to accept that in some counties the committees have not the slightest interest in agriculture, but by and large the greater number of the county committees of agriculture have done an excellent job in promoting growth in agriculture and in the expansion of the services generally. There are education centres in almost every county. I am not familiar with the level of activity of some of these committees in the west but they have never got any encouragement. Neither have the farmers nor the public representatives got any encouragement in those areas. In addition, they have the problem of bad land.

We are hearing it now.

We had to press the Minister very hard in relation to sanction for our last office in New Ross.

The Chair understands the Deputy's wish to discuss the problem of Wexford but such discussion hardly arises on the Bill.

Having served with me for such a long time in that county, the Chair will understand what I am talking about. Another point is that there are numerous farmer organisations throughout the country and, while the previous legislation did not specify exactly who was to have representation on the board, perhaps the Minister can give us some indication of the organisations he has in mind in this regard and of the representation he intends giving to each. There is bound to be much jealousy in respect of who is represented.

I should hope not.

It always happens. In our county committee of agriculture we did not succeed in getting agreement on who should have representation. Consequently, we did not provide for representation for anybody. Perhaps the Minister would let us know what he has in mind in this regard.

I have already told the Deputy what my intentions are.

The Minister says he is not inclined to increase the representation of members of the county committees of agriculture. This is not exactly the point of view he took when the other legislation was going through the House. On 23 March 1977 the Minister, who was then spokesman on agriculture for his party, said, as reported at column 207 of the Official Report for that day:

I may have misunderstood my informant when he said that the Minister, when he met a deputation from the General Council of Committees of Agriculture, said that this section was capable of amendment and that he would not object to an amendment if one were put down. If the Minister is of such an opinion I suggest that he make an amendment himself or, at any rate, if this party make such an amendment that he would look favourably on it.

Therefore, at that time he was considering an amendment to increase the representation.

That was fairly mild stuff. I am capable of being more trenchant than that.

I wonder whether the Minister is still of the opinion that this representation should be increased. His remarks on the date I have referred to were followed by remarks from Deputy Callanan, Deputy Noonan, Deputy Hussey and others who made eloquent pleas for increases in representation for the county committees of agriculture. I do not know what has happened in the Minister's mind since then.

The Deputy will find that I have been fairly consistent.

The Minister was being very cute. He referred to the possibility of the then Minister introducing an amendment and suggested that if Fianna Fáil were to introduce one the Minister would look on it favourably. That suggests that Deputy Gibbons wished to increase the representation but did not actually propose an amendment to this effect. He seemed then to be in favour of increasing the representation of public representatives, which he does not now favour.

In regard to nominations by the staff, I asked what electoral system would be in use and who would be entitled to vote. I also asked about the representation of institutions providing courses of study in agriculture. I asked what institutions would be represented and how their representatives would be elected. I think the Minister is reproducing parts of a section which existed in the 1978 Act but it is not clear exactly how these institutions are to be selected and I would ask the Minister to give us that precise information.

The Minister criticised my suggestion that the universities should be represented. I suggested four such representatives in relation to the earlier amendment to constitute a board which would be responsible for research, advice and education. We are now talking about a much narrower board and in that context I would be satisfied with one university representative. There is a case for such a representative and the Minister has not answered it. The board and the universities are dealing with agricultural education, one in relation to students and the other in relation to student farmers. A university representative would provide a practical means of liaison between the two bodies concerned in education. This would mean enlarging the board.

It would not be my intention to intrude in the selection of representatives from the organisations.

Who will be entitled to vote?

I will confine myself no more than to say that I would not see the function of any organisation on the board unless they were a producer organisation concerned with production.

I am not talking about them. I am talking about the representation of the staff and of the educational institutions. How are they to select their representatives?

What educational establishments does the Deputy mean?

Those referred to in the Bill, which I take it the Minister has read.

The table to section 11 states:

...The remaining members, who shall be representative of agricultural and rural organisations, the staff of An Chomhairle, institutions providing courses of study in agriculture mentioned in section 12 (1) (d) and such other agricultural interests as may be prescribed, shall be selected for nomination in accordance with the provisions of an order made for that purpose by the Minister and any such order shall indicate the procedure for filling casual vacancies in the membership of the board.

How are the representatives of the staff of An Chomhairle to be selected? What method of election is to be used? The Minister is to make provision for that in an order. What educational institutions are to be included and how will they be entitled to vote? I am not referring to the farmers' organisations but to the staff and the agricultural colleges.

The manner of selection will be set out in the order bringing this section into operation and until then it is unnecessary for me to inhibit myself in any way in the preparation of that order. I do not wish to accept any confines except the one I have spoken of—the anxiety I feel to use all available means to get the best possible board to carry out this important work.

I must protest. The Minister should at least answer reasonable questions on this issue. The Minister is making a nonsense of this House if he will not answer. He is saying that the staff are to have representation and he will make an order providing for that. They will be selected for nomination in accordance with the provisions of an order made for that purpose. Why will the Minister not tell us his intentions? I am not asking that he should insert provisions in the Bill which would tie him up in regard to the exact procedures for nomination.

He is asking us to give him power to make an order to provide for the representation of staff and the representation of institutions providing courses of study in agriculture. In the case of the staff, he will not tell us how they are to elect representatives. Will this be done by a vote of all staff or will there be a selection by their union? Will people involved in a clerical capacity have a vote or will it be confined to the advisers? In my opinion every member of staff should be involved and there should not be discrimination between those who have degrees and those who have not. Everybody who is employed, whether typists or cleaners, should be entitled to vote in the election. The Minister will not tell how this election will be carried out.

When we said that the order should come before this House the Minister said it was ridiculous to suggest that such an order should need the approval of the House. Now we see that the Minister is not prepared to tell the House what arrangement he will make in relation to one of the matters to be provided for in the order. He does not want us to discuss this later and he will not let us discuss it now. We are to be denied an opportunity of discussing this matter unless we are prepared to reject the order outright and put down a motion to annul it.

The Opposition would need a better number than they had today.

We will see what number the Government can muster later on. The Minister should give us the information we are seeking. It is intended to provide representation for institutions providing courses of study in agriculture. What institutions has the Minister in mind? Does it include all the agricultural colleges or other institutions as well? How will they be selected? How many votes will be given to each one? If, for instance, Ballyhaise Agricultural College has twice as many students as some other agricultural college, will more votes be given to Ballyhaise? We should know the answer to that question. We should also have some idea of the institutions that will be included.

I am not asking the Minister to tie himself up by putting all the answers to my questions into the Bill. I realise that there is a process of consultation and that the Minister wants to keep a reasonably free hand in the matter, but he should at least give this House information as to his present general intentions in this matter. I suspect that he has not given the matter any thought. To come in here without having given the matter any thought is making an ass of the House. I hope the Minister will prove me wrong by answering my question.

Deputy Bruton, as is his custom, is talking about a situation that does not exist. He is talking about a staff that does not exist. He goes on to suggest that we should determine the means by which they would select representation. The Deputy went on and on about this matter and a great deal of what he said appeared to be moonshine. When there is a need, as there will be, for staff representation it would not be my intention to intrude into their manner of selection any more than it would be my intention to intrude in the manner of selection used by the farm organisations for their representation, except to exhort them to consider the constitution of the board and to select a member who would be more suitable for that job.

Is section 11 agreed? We have spent four hours on this section.

We are entitled to discuss this section.

Deputies are entitled to discuss the section as long as they like so long as there is no repetition, but the Chair must point out that the same arguments are being repeated over and over again. The Chair has a duty to ensure that that does not happen.

I asked the Minister if the chairman would act as chairman of both boards and how he intends to select representatives from the farming organisations. Is the Minister prepared to accept three representatives from the county committees of agriculture?

Why are the county committees of agriculture being pushed aside?

That is not true. The representation proposed in this Bill is greater because the numbers are smaller than provided for in the 1976 Bill. Dual chairmanship would not be a good idea and I am not going to accept it.

The Minister said that he would let the staff decide the selection of their representation. The reality of the situation is that there will be five categories of staff represented by different unions. How will the Minister decide their representation? As this will be a public board established under statute it would not be fair to allow one group to dictate to another. The Minister should indicate how he intends to cope with that problem.

The Minister said that representation would be given to institutions providing courses of study but has not told us what institutions he has in mind. Will they be agricultural colleges?

We seem to be entering into the realm of hypothesis again. Therefore, it seems to be necessary to repeat everything again with the obvious objective of wasting the time of the House. There is no staff because there is no comhairle. One of the reasons for that is that Deputies D'Arcy and Bruton persist in wasting the time of the House in silly objections of this kind. They have asked me how staff representation on the board will be determined. I have already said that it is not my intention to in-therfere in their selection any more than I would interfere in the selection of farm organisations. I hope that the representatives elected to the board will be suitable people from the producer organisations and suitable people for the comhairle who are a producer-oriented body. Deputy Clinton mentioned some people who would be unlikely to be suitable for membership of the board because they are not from a producer organisation or even remotely connected with it. It is not reasonable to expect——

I am talking about the staff.

I have no doubt that Deputy Clinton will get great mileage on this matter up to Question Time and I have no doubt that that is his intention. He will probably look upon delaying the Bill as much as possible as an heroic feat of parliamentary art.

At first I had difficulty getting an answer from the Minister in relation to the county committees of agriculture, then he told me he was not prepared to consider the matter.

That was inadequate, too, was it?

It was inadequate. I understood that this section goes through this process. We got all the answers about what was in the Minister's mind but a direct no is not an answer to me as a member of the county committee of agriculture and the general council. He is giving scant recognition to these people. He stated that a result of the reduction in the numbers on the board was that they were getting greater representation, but he has that down to one member.

Proportionately greater representation.

They always wanted to get some representation on the research side of agriculture. They have never got into the Agricultural Institute. Is the Minister prepared to consider that they will get representation on An Foras Talúntais?

I do not think that An Foras Talúntais is before the House.

We know it is not.

We are dealing only with the composition of the board.

The Minister made the point that he was reducing the board. He also reduced the areas of representation on the board by taking away the research side. He is denying them any representation on that board. It is reasonable to ask him if he is prepared to consider giving them further representation on An Foras Talúntais. It is not before the House——

It is before the House. Section 18 to——

It is irrelevant.

It is irrelevant when the Minister does not want to answer it.

Question put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 have been ruled out of order.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 5, to delete lines 39 to 53 and substitute the following:

"12.—Section 33 of the Act of 1977 is hereby amended by the addition of the following subsections:".

This is an amendment that I referred to on the Second Stage debate. It was then my intention to introduce this amendment. It has the effect of adjusting section 12 so as to remove the provision giving direct control to the Ministers for Agriculture and the Public Service in relation to staff numbers and trades and relating to leave and hours of working. The Government have felt that this amendment would be a desirable rectification of section 12 and would give adequate freedom to the board of AnCOT to have more meaningful functions in those areas.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 12, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Would the Minister say something outlining the purpose of section 12? Could he give us any information about the provisions of the section?

Does the Deputy wish to ask any question on section 12?

It is up to the Minister. He is asking the House to agree with the section. He should give an outline of the purposes of the section.

That was given on Second Stage of the Bill. We do not go into that on this Stage. If the Deputy has questions to raise on matters in this section it is up to him to raise them.

I should like to know generally the position in relation to the influence which the Department of the Public Service have on staff numbers and remuneration in bodies such as this. Is it true that they exercise informal control? They may not have formal control under the provisions of the Bill as now amended, but I understand that they exercise continuing supervision of remuneration in bodies such as this. I would be grateful if the Minister would let us know how this operates and whether the amendment makes much difference, given that the Minister controls the finances anyway and therefore has a very strong say in what the bodies do. Does the amendment we have just agreed to make much difference in practice?

I think it does. The board themselves will assume this function which formerly would have fallen to the Ministers named in the section, the Ministers for Agriculture and the Public Service. I would have thought that the practical benefits of agreeing with this amendment would be self-evident. To tie the comhairle as the unamended form would have done would be unnecessary, would limit their function and would concentrate unnecessarily obligations in the hands of the Ministers for Agriculture and the Public Service. The control of the overall expenditure of both of these bodies, An Foras Talúntais and An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta, naturally is a matter for the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance, but within those contexts the more freedom of operation that the governing boards of the comhairle and the foras have, the better and more freely they will be able to exercise the control over the operation of the staff.

I do not understand fully how the amendment works and how it affects the section which we are now discussing. The amendment says:

Section 33 of the Act of 1977 is hereby amended by the addition of the following subsections:

It does not say what subsections. I cannot see what effect that amendment has. The Minister has told us what he believes the effect is. Of course, he is going to delete those words. Sorry, I do understand now.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 27 has been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 28 to 31, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 32 has been ruled out of order.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 6, between lines 50 and 51, to insert the following:

"(j) other activities provided for in subparagraph (i) of this section may include the carrying out of research on specific topics as requested by the Minister, cooperating with the Institute in the carrying out of such research jointly and making such enquiries as are necessary to enable it to provide advice to the Minister in accordance with section 10 of the Agriculture (An Comhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta) Act, 1979' ".

This more or less amplifies the power of the comhairle to carry out other activities at the request of the Minister. The other activities may include the carrying out of research on specific topics as requested by the Minister. The comhairle are not going to be the research body, but the situation can arise where joint research might be carried out between them and the county committee of agriculture. In many cases there will be a situation in which research is being carried out on farms where individual farmers are trying out particular methods in consultation with the research agency and reporting on what is being done. Obviously the person who acts as a link between the private farm where the research is being carried out and the Agricultural Institute is the local adviser. He is the man who passes the information from the one to the other and keeps an eye on what is happening on the farm. This would be what I would describe in the amendment as carrying out research jointly—that the comhairle, represented by the adviser, is involved in some way in the carrying out of the research. That should be provided for.

The possibility should exist for the Minister, if he wants, to ask the comhairle to carry out research on some specific subject which he feels they have the expertise to do and which perhaps the institute do not have—for example, perhaps research in the area of educational methods or extension methods—when he might want some matter investigated in relation thereto. The institute would not be suitable for that purpose because they do not have people concerned directly with extension or education. The comhairle would have a substantial staff, all of whom would be concerned with education or extension. If the Minister wanted research carried out on a particular subject relating to education and extension, unless he were to go to the universities the appropriate people to ask would be the comhairle. It is in that narrow area that the functions of the comhairle should be extended, allowing them in certain circumstances, as and when requested and only when requested by the Minister, to carry out research.

The amendment is a non-contentious one and might be agreed.

In the final analysis this amendment is related to the by now worn-out attempts on the part of the Opposition to resurrect and marry into the new comhairle the research function by all or any means, none of which will succeed any more than they have done in the past. If this amendment or anything remotely resembling it were to be adopted, then as well as hopelessly confusing and complicating the functions of the different services in regard to research, advice and so on—as, indeed, did the old Bill: that was what was wrong with it—it would also hopelessly misunderstand the functions that I would hope An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta would assume in the future: a somewhat improved approach to the general question of research and advice.

I have referred already under another amendment to the business of having advisory and training work of the staff of the comhairle related to some production objective. Already we are having working examples in the case of the dairy industry in Avonmore in County Waterford and elsewhere. These specialist advisory efforts are being quite dramatically successful and would seem to be the way that advisory work in the future ought to go. The willingness of farmers to participate in an advisory service of this kind by contributions, in some cases per cow in a herd, is a very eloquent testimony of the satisfaction of the participants in this method of specialist advisory work.

It is all very fine to have reference to what is loosely called "research". This is a very loose and inaccurate use of the word "research". I think I know the type of thing the Deputies have in mind: trial cereal plots, the trial fertiliser application in plots and pastures on crops. This relates more to the opening up of the propagation of certain basic information and may still have an application in that case. But on the whole the farmer demand for an advisory service now is far more sophisticated than is the provision of what must necessarily be, except in some exceptional cases, a rather primitive little exercise carried on by a man who does not in any way specialise. In the Bill as it stands, without amendment, there is no intention to inhibit in any way this type of what is inaccurately termed in the amendment "research", because these things have been done always by advisory officers, by individual farmers, sometimes on a county basis. Sometimes they are very useful. But to bracket that under the general aegis of the word "research" is a misnomer and creates unnecessary confusion.

The business of research itself is a matter for specialists, just as is the matter of increasing pig production, or the matter of augmenting the profitability of pig keeping. It will become, under AnCOT, a specialist service. It is not necessarily research, but simply the application of known facts, facts known to modern practice on a general basis. This is the business of the advisory service—the propagation of the ideas determined by research. I would hope that would be done more speedily and accurately by the operation of a growing degree of specialisation. As it happens the primary movers, as it were, in this type of advisory work are the staffs of committees working in various fields. There are now in the committee structure individual advisers specialising in calf and beef production, in fat lamb production and in nutrition. They are specialising in various fields. This is the way it must be. The concept that seemed to be enshrined at the back of this, the old misconception of the parish agent, the little general practitioner, is essentially an irrelevance here, a nonsense and should be abandoned. It should be recognised for its shortcomings now, as it needed to be 20 years ago, because it was a basic mistake. Therefore, the amendment seems to enshrine an understandably historic attitude. The amendment, in my opinion, is unconstructive and unacceptable.

I was interested to hear what the Minister had to say on this amendment and I should like to take issue with him on his views on specialists. Has he taken into consideration the number of farmers who specialise and the number engaged in mixed farming? Is the Minister's view that a farmer involved in three enterprises should have a specialist for each enterprise? A lot of work remains to be done before we reach the stage the Minister is providing for. In my view not more than 11 per cent of our farmers specialise. The Minister dismisses lightly the research work being carried out by agricultural instructors on small plots in rural areas.

That is demonstration and not research.

But it also has an element of research in it. The greatest benefit that can be got from research is by example, where people can see what is possible within a short distance of their farm. It is in this area that agricultural research is falling down. It is all locked up in offices miles from the farms.

I do not believe that.

A good research project carried out on a farm will influence farmers within a wide radius of that holding. Instructors can explain the work involved to local farmers and show the results. The value of such small trials, which can be described as research, is great. The Minister should accept the amendment because it will not affect the Bill but it will give advisers a little authority as far as research is concerned. The Minister has told the House that he will retain this for the Agricultural Institute but will he lose the benefits of the research I have spoken of?

The Bill does not say anything of the kind.

The Minister expressed the view that we were mixing this up. His views on this matter are warped. I have carried out this type of research on my farm and it proved of great benefit to farmers in the area.

The Deputy has a different understanding of the word "research" to mine. The provisions made for that in the NAAERA Act have been carried over into this Bill; they were not touched at all. It is a misnomer to try to gild that lily.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Question proposed: "That section 13 stand part of the Bill."

This is an important section because it sets out what the comhairle may spend money on. I would be obliged if the Minister would give us some information about how he envisages the comhairle going about their work in this area and if he intends to amplify in any sense the criteria under which the comhairle must give out the money above and beyond what is contained in the Bill. The comhairle will have power to give grants to educational institutions but at present such grants are given by the Department. If a Member feels that not enough is being given to one college while another institution gets too much, such a Member may question that action in a parliamentary question to which the Minister must reply. If this will in future be a matter for the comhairle will it still be possible for Members to get information from the Minister in relation to such queries?

The comhairle will now be responsible for local advisory and training programmes, the amount of money to be given to different counties for advisory work. If the comhairle decides to make a dramatic increase in the allocation to Meath, for example, and a small increase to County Leitrim, will it be possible for a member to ask the reason for such a decision and, if so, will the Minister answer such a question or will he state that this is a matter for the comhairle and decline to answer? Presuming that public funds will be involved, Members should be in a position to ask questions about such an issue and get replies from the Minister. While the making and execution of policy may be delegated to the comhairle, Members should be permitted to ask questions about the spending of the public money involved and expect an answer from the Minister. What is the Minister's interpretation of the likely position in that regard?

I would have thought that the conditions of section 13 were fairly manifest. Arising from the Deputy's general remarks, I should like to state that I was astonished at the dichotomy of his approach to this whole affair. The NAAERA and AnCOT were introduced for the same purpose: to assign to a special body rather than the Department of Agriculture the direction of our research and training programme and to make them responsible to a great degree for the implementation of that programme. That was sought for decades by farm organisations. Deputy Bruton seems to be harping back, with some nostalgia, to the days when a Deputy from County Leitrim could ask a question about that county.

I do not foresee any rule of the House precluding any Member asking any questions he wishes. One of the hardy annuals here for most Deputies is the tabling of questions in relation to Land Commission matters. We all know that matters of land division concern the Land Commission which is, or at least used to be, a non-political body. They carry out their functions totally independently of this House, but that does not preclude any Member seeking information about the operation of the Land Commission and it is customary for representations made through the medium of questions in the House to be conveyed to the Land Commission. I do not see why that pattern and that conveyance of representations by the appropriate Department to AnCOT should be abandoned or dropped. It is worth saying that a great many of the questions asked in this House are unnecessary. They are not put down on the Order Paper for the information they ellicit but for the effect they have if they get some mention in the newspapers. I hope that the time of this House will never be wasted in that way in relation to questions on AnCOT. If Deputies are so disposed and so willing to waste the time of the House, there is nothing in the rules that I know of to stop them.

I thought that the demarcations of section 13 are set out fairly carefully and alphabetically up to the letter (i). I do not see why there should be any persistence in the view of the Opposition. There is a dichotomy of approach if Deputy Bruton persists in the idea that eventually Dáil Éireann, through the Minister for Agriculture, will control every little tittle tattle in County Leitrim and every where else. We are trying to get away from that and get a large measure of independence for this service to give it more freedom to work and to deploy its advisory and specialist staff in the way it best sees fit. There will, of course, be local representation and county representation available to individuals who have problems with the advisory service. That can be made through their committees of agriculture. I know of no reason why there is any need to expand on the subject. To do that is to assume the functions which AnCOT will be taking up later on and to pre-designate the course they will take. I would not want to do that because if we are giving them the independence they wish to have and so tie them up in courses that have been set already, then they do not have any real function at all.

I believe Deputy Bruton is on very uncertain ground in saying there is some encroachment on the rights of Deputies to ask questions. I do not believe there is any such encroachment. If the policy of AnCOT should be determined to any degree in the House, then the functions of the comhairle are frustrated and put at nought.

I should like to make it quite clear that I was not proposing that there should be any encroachment on the policy-making functions of AnCOT. I was concerned that the traditional rights of Deputies to get information about what was happening from the Minister, who would come in here to the House and answer questions, should not in any way be impaired. I hope the Minister has said that there will not be any such encroachment because I do not want to see a situation arising whereby in three years' time, if somebody puts down a question about the amount of money being provided for agricultural education in a particular area and whether it is enough or fair, the Minister will come into the House saying he has no function in the matter, that this is a matter for AnCOT. That is not an answer to the question. I want to make quite sure that we will not arrive at that type of situation. Will the Minister assure us that he will be able to give replies to questions of that sort? Will the Minister answer that question?

The Deputy may be unfamiliar with the rules and he is not cross-examining anybody. I hope he does not think he is. I cannot expand on what I have said because the thing is reaching the point of absurdity. I am being asked to assure Deputy Bruton now that, whatever the board of AnCOT may or may not decide, I will give an assurance to him now that I will have to conform with the views——

I am talking about answering questions.

What is the Deputy saying?

I am asking if the Minister will be prepared to answer questions on the matter or if he will refuse to answer them on the grounds that it is the function of AnCOT. The Minister has not answered the question. He understands it perfectly well and is distorting it into saying that I am proposing that the House should control detailed administration, which I am not. I am merely asking if the Minister will give answers to questions or will he refuse to give such information on the grounds that it is the function of AnCOT. He is not answering the question.

I ask the Minister to convey this suggestion to AnCOT. In granting scholarships consideration should be given to granting scholarships tenable outside the State. The French Minister for Agriculture is initiating a programme whereby 100 scholarships for young French farmers are tenable outside France to enable those young farmers to obtain experience abroad. That matter should be considered by AnCOT. I also feel that, in the granting of scholarships and making arrangements for agricultural education, consideration should be given to arranging for the joint holding of courses and for scholarships being tenable in Northern Ireland. I would like to see a situation where a number of places in Northern Ireland colleges would be filled by people from the South and a number of places for students from Northern Ireland would be available in the South.

Under this section the entire control of the distribution of the moneys for almost all agricultural purposes will be taken over by AnCOT. Where do the county committees of agriculture stand in relation to this issue? They have always had a fair amount of freedom in relation to small amounts of expenditure. They did not have freedom to take on extra staff or issues of that nature. We brought down a Department official who went through the Estimates with us once a year. We put forward different schemes and he gave us the Department's views on all the schemes, but we had the authority each year to put certain schemes into the estimates. This is a new board with a completely different system from that of the Department of Agriculture. Where exactly do the county committees stand in this matter in relation to money as far as those schemes are concerned or have all these schemes to be passed by the comhairle before the county committees can operate?

Deputy D'Arcy would have been discontented with Deputy Clinton's provisions in this regard just as he appears to be unhappy about mine. The old committee functions are retained in the new Bill. I hope that committee proposals in the future will be the subject of consideration by the comhairle and that they will take up various matters with the individual committees, and that committees will accept that the old county, "home rule" as it were, was an unsatisfactory arrangement. There was a certain imbalance inherent in the situation which was bad for the service as a whole. There were difficulties in the past, such as the uneven distribution of staff and the limited availability of specialist staff. That will be overcome by the new national organisation. No encroachment on the older functions of committees is enshrined in this Bill any more than there was in the NAAERA Act.

Can the county committees still draw up their programme of expenses? The Minister said he hoped that the comhairle would consider what the county committees put forward. That is a different situation to that which obtains now, where they have the authority to draw up their programmes of expenses which have seldom been interfered with at the end of each financial year. The Minister may say that conditions were unsatisfactory in certain counties because of uneven distribution of staff and so on, but the comhairle will bring in major changes. Will the county committees of agriculture end up as a rubber stamp? If they do they will be diluted and that will be the end of them. I accept that the Minister must give power to the comhairle but I am worried about this. At present where a county is progressive the Department of Agriculture did not interfere to any great degree with the progress made. How will this sort of thing operate in a new set-up with a new set of conditions? Will the county committees be allowed to draw up any programmes at all, or will the comhairle draw up the programmes and send them on to the county committees to be carried out?

There is no necessity for Deputy D'Arcy to be so worried. I exhort him to put these worries behind him. There is nothing enshrined in the Bill that was not enacted by his predecessor, nor is there any intention to damage the service in any way. It is the intention that the council of AnCOT, which is not a political organisation or a puppet organisation of the Department of Agriculture, will make a more meaningful approach to the business of agricultural advice on behalf of the agricultural community. If county committees, for the sake of their own interests or the interests of a particular county, put the well-being of farmers in that county or in other counties at stake, the comhairle should not allow this and I am sure they will not allow it. The comhairle will, in the end, have control over the advisory services and this highly laudable end is what was aimed at in the NAAERA Bill and what is aimed at here. I supported this approach when I was spokesman for Fianna Fáil in Opposition, when the NAAERA Bill was before the House.

Deputy D'Arcy has an ambiguous and ambivalent approach to this question. Deputy D'Arcy champions the hardy individuality and strong independence of Wexford farmers on the one hand but champions the autonomy of An Chomhairle Oiliúna on the other. There has to be a compromise there. AnCOT does not exist for the sole benefit of any particular county, and neither does any committee of agriculture operating in a certain county. There is a bigger object in mind, the advancement of the whole of Irish agriculture. There is nothing sinister here. The Deputy is standing, trembling and looking at section 13 in which he sees all kinds of will o' the wisps that did not exist in the NAAERA Bill. To a large extent, it is a transfer of one section from the old Act into the new Bill.

Under this Bill and under the old Bill the county committees of agriculture will have the power to make recommendations and look for reports and in addition they will have any functions they had immediately before the commencement of the section, except those transferred to the authority under sections 12 and 15. Under sections 12 and 15 of the old Bill practically all the functions of the county committees were transferred to the authority, including all matters relating to organising courses——

The Deputy does not want that to happen?

I am just clarifying the position which is that county committees henceforth will only have the power to give advice and ask for reports. That is about it.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 6, before section 14, to insert a new section as follows:

"Section 51 of the Act of 1977 is hereby amended by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (2):

‘(2) Accounts kept in pursuance of this section shall be submitted annually by the Authority to the Comptroller and Auditor General for audit and immediately after the audit, a copy of the income and expenditure account, the balance sheet and any other accounts kept pursuant to a direction of the Minister, together with the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the accounts, shall be presented to the Minister who shall cause copies thereof to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas not later than three months after the end of the year to which the accounts apply.'".

The purpose of the amendment is to get the report of AnCOT presented quickly to this House. The fact of the matter is that the only power this House really has over a body such as this is the power to receive reports. I will illustrate that by referring to the Agricultural Institute which is analagous to this body we are talking about. Recently I asked the Minister the extent to which he is answerable to the Oireachtas for the activities of An Foras Talúntais. The Minister said the Agriculture (An Foras Talúntais) Act, 1958, requires the Minister to present the audited annual accounts and annual reports of An Foras Talúntais to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The only guarantee we have of Oireachtas supervision of An Foras Talúntais is that their reports are presented to us. Since this House votes them money each year, we must give considerable thought to the promptitude with which their reports are submitted to this House. I have discovered that the reports of An Foras Talúntais have been submitted deplorably late, in my view, to this House over a period of years. The situation is getting worse.

In 1967, the report was not submitted until ten months after the end of the year. In 1968, the report was submitted eight months after the end of the year to which it applied; the 1969 report after 12 months; the 1970 report after nine months; the 1971 report after eight months; the 1972 report after ten months; and the 1973 report after nine months. The 1974 report was not submitted until 13 months after the end of the year to which it applied. The April-December 1974 report was not submitted until 16 months after the end of the year to which it applied. The 1975 report was not submitted until ten-and-a-half months after the end of the year and the 1976 and 1977 reports were not submitted until 13 months after the end of the years to which they applied.

A body of this sort should present their reports promptly to this House. The information is all available at the end of the year and there should be no excuse for a delay of 13 months in An Foras Talúntais presenting their reports to this House. Such a delay is not acceptable. I know we are not discussing An Foras Talúntais on this section. As they are the nearest similar body to the one we are setting up, the experience with An Foras Talúntais and the delays in submitting their reports are relevant.

This amendment proposes that the report must be submitted within three months of the end of the year. Perhaps three months is going too far. Perhaps it would be too severe. I would be prepared to argue about that, but if the Minister is prepared to agree to six months, I will accept that. There should be a clear time limit on the delay in presenting the reports of a body of this sort to the Oireachtas. They are receiving public money and the only guaranteed control we have over their activities is a requirement on them to submit their reports.

It is no use to this House or to the public to say we have any control over a semi-State body if their reports are not submitted until 16 months after the end of the year to which the reports applied. That is not taking responsibility to the Oireachtas seriously. I believe AnCOT should be a lot better than An Foras Talúntais in the matter of presenting their reports in time to the Oireachtas.

I do not think this amendment is acceptable in any way. It is quite impracticable. Deputy Bruton spoke with great disapproval about what he considered to be the tardiness of An Foras Talúntais in presenting their accounts. They have many organs and research centres throughout the country. In the case of An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta there will be 27 separate county areas and four large colleges. To say that their accounts should be not only prepared for presentation to the Comptroller and Auditor General, but accepted and processed by him and sent to the House within three months, is not practicable.

Why should the accounts of AnCOT be singled out as against the accounts of any other semi-State body functioning under the general aegis of the Irish Government? I do not know of any case where the delay is intolerably great. There may be cases where there could be a bit of expedition. In some of the figures Deputy Bruton gave, the Coalition years were the worse years. It would be easy to score a cheap debating point about that, but I would prefer not to.

It is the report of the institute and the Minister does not control the institute. If they do not submit their report in time that is their responsibility.

The Deputy is being difficult today. I do not think it could be done, and Deputy Bruton knows that too. Nor am I persuaded that there is any culpable tardiness in the presentation of accounts by existing boards, including An Foras Talúntais.

There are analogous private companies, for example, Cement-Roadstone Holdings, with subsidiary holdings at home and abroad. Their shareholders would not accept that the accounts for 1977 should not be presented until half way through 1979. If a private company would not be allowed to present their report to their shareholders 13 or 16 months after the end of the year to which they related, why should public representatives in this House be asked to accept delays of that length in the presentation of reports?

I feel very strongly that bodies of this sort who are in receipt of public money need to be supervised more closely in general by the Oireachtas in the public interest. One way in which that supervision can take place is by their annual reports being examined by the Oireachtas or by a special committee of the Oireachtas. If these annual reports are to be presented 16 months late, when the information they contain will be almost entirely out of date and useless, that guarantee of accountability is set at nought. It is worth nothing. There should be a definite time limit on the date on which reports for a particular year should be submitted.

As I said, I would not necessarily insist on three months. That may be a bit short. I would be happy with six months. I would even be happy with a guarantee of nine months because that would be better than the record of An Foras Talúntais so far in the presentation of its reports; in most cases it has been ten or 11 months before its reports were presented. I would be happy with some definite limit because there is no time limit at the moment within which reports must be presented.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.