Private Members' Business. - Turf Development Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Earlier I was discussing the need for us in Government and in politics to take into account the social impact of management proposals to convert Bord na Móna production operations from a direct labour PECO system to a contract HAKU system. It should be remembered that the overriding reason for seeking full blown implementation of this system over a relatively short five year period is to deal with the £166 million debt that the company face at the moment, and one cannot minimise the size of that challenge.

It must be remembered that 70 per cent of the total cost of production relates to wages and salaries, and overheads related to wages and salaries. The reduction of the workforce by 1,200 should be of assistance in bringing costs into line, so that even as we stand at the moment the option of a direct labour HAKU system should not be totally discounted. It is crucial to have a good season in 1989 and 90 per cent of the production will be acquired by the well established direct labour PECO system which has operated in Bord na Móna for some considerable time.

To look at the short-term for a moment, streamlining of that system is of vital importance. The trade union movement accepts that rationalisation is necessary. Fairly fruitful talks have taken place so far and this will mean that the streamlining of this system will be very considerable in this coming year. The demarcation and controls of restrictive practices, some of which have been negotiated between management and unions and some of which have been imposed by management themselves, will be looked at very critically in an effort to ensure that the cost handicaps which are inherent in all those systems which have grown up in Bord na Móna's operations in the past ten or 15 years will be eliminated so that efficiency production, and reward for efficiency and production, will become the central feature of the PECO system's operations in the coming year and for whatever time the PECO system will be part of Bord na Móna's operations while the conversion is taking place.

The point has to be made at the end of the day that it is only by negotiated agreement to establish procedures with the trade union movement that the sort of morale that is necessary will be created to bring about the sort of response that is required from the workforce to lift the board out of the serious difficulties they now find themselves in. I am glad that substantive negotiations are taking place. It is unfortunate that we have had to wait until so close to the beginning of the production season for those discussions to get started. It is only in an atmosphere of co-operation and good faith that we will see the sort of changes that are necessary which do not constitute simply postponing the evil day but which address the real problems in the board. The primary responsibility for resolving the problems at the end of the day rests with the management and unions within the board itself.

I have focused my attention specifically on County Offaly, even though other counties in the midlands and the west depend on Bord na Móna for part of their economic infrastructure. It is clear that County Offaly depends to a far greater extent on Bord na Móna operations than any other part of the country. In trying to change the role of the semi-State company in our midlands economy it is important to realise that the proposed conversion to the HAKU system on a contract basis rolls back Bord na Móna's operations to a point where ultimately they are not involved in the primary production of peat at all. It is interesting to look at the long title of the 1946 Act which was set up to replace the old Turf Development Board. It was:

An Act to make better provision for the development, in the national interest, of the production, distribution and supply of turf in the State, and for this purpose to establish a board to be called Bord na Móna,....

It is to be noted that it was set up for the production and supply of turf. The contract HAKU system takes Bord na Móna out of the production of turf and they become a purchasing agent from contractors and they then market the raw material through meeting contractual obligations with the ESB power stations, or subsequently manufacturng briquettes or horticultural peat which would be a different operation. This is not simply a radical change in their operations, it is a revolutionary change. We have to tread very carefully to see to what extent and how quickly such revolutionary change can take place.

Having said all that, it is important to realise also that Bord na Móna supplemented the economic infrastructure of Offaly. Offaly has not been totally dependent on Bord na Móna; some manufacturing industry does exist there, thankfully. However, historically, the industrial base of the county was in traditional products. It is unfortunate to note that between 1973 and 1986 there was a drop of 400 in the number of people working in manufacturing industry compared to a net gain in the midland region in the same period of 4,600. Therefore we see that the reduction in jobs in Bord na Móna cannot be taken in isolation when we try to assess the impact it will have on the local economy. It is simply part of a retrogressive trend which has been there since the eighties and the seventies.

It is important to note that in a way the decision makers, the policy shapers of our national economy, by-passed Offaly in terms of industrial expansion on the basis that we had two mainstay industries — Bord na Móna and the ESB. Now that the time has come when a whole new apparatus is to be established for the exploitation of this natural resource there is quite clearly a great need for an alternative regional strategy to ensure that the area gets not just the percentage of job creation in the industrial sector that is its due but even more than that to make up for the serious depletion in the workforce that is envisaged and that has already occurred in Bord na Móna.

The IDA Developmental and Financial Policy 1988-1990 put forward a proposal that there would be job creation of 37,000 in the industrial sector in that period. On a population basis Offaly would expect 600 of those jobs, in the event of a status quo in the mainstay industries to which I have referred. It is quite clear that having lost 700 jobs with the voluntary redundancy programme, seasonal workers who have gained employment traditionally in Bord na Móna during the production season will also be affected by the contract HAKU system. There is need for a rethink on the regional strategy that applies to the midlands and I can speak specifically about County Offaly.

I know the Minister for Energy has a very real commitment to that area. He understands how serious the position is. It will not be strictly within the remit of the Department of Energy to deal with these problems but all the agencies concerned and all the Government Departments should co-ordinate in putting forward proposals that will meet the present needs. If the board can, on their own or through joint ventures with other parties who could provide some capital or technical expertise, develop and market new products commercially, the establishment of new industries would have to be in the same regions in which the depletion is now taking place. Therefore County Offaly should get a very high priority because that county is the main source of the raw material.

Rationalisation is necessary. An effort will be made to take personal political advantage of the changes that are taking place but clearly, those who seek to take it will have to come up with an alternative to deal with the specific problems. There is no point in talking about the status quo. If we are interested in the long-term viability of this company, if we are serious about them continuing to play an important part in the economy of the midlands and if we are really committed to a semi-State body being involved in the exploitation of this natural resource, that change has to take place. What we have to do is harness that change and the social change in particular so that the sort of economic dislocation that might result will not simply apply to one region as against all others.

This is the challenge that faces the Minister and the board of management and workforce of Bord Na Móna. As has been demonstrated in the past, this company can once again be a flagship of the semi-State sector. Ideologies and sacred cows must be left outside the doors of the negotiating rooms, and commonsense and a real commitment to the development of this industry will be required. I am confident that when the major decisions are to be taken the one party who have been committed to this semi-State body since its inception, the party who had the vision to set it up in the first place as opposed to a then Opposition party who regarded it as a white elephant in the red bogs of Ireland, will ensure that the socio-economic role of this company in the midlands region will increase and diversify. We will face the problems and put forward a plan for the future that will work. A job replacement strategy is needed in harness with the job reduction policy that we have seen so far and this Government, through their economic policies can bring about those conditions and the jobs that are so badly needed by the people whom I represent.

Initially I would like to welcome any positive proposal relating to any State or semi-State company at present, particularly in the run-up to 1992, the single market and all it entails and the great opportunities that are contained therein for all Irish companies, particularly Bord Na Móna. I would also like to pay tribute to the board for their activities in the past, the manner in which they conducted their business, provided fuel and gave employment, admittedly quite an amount of which was seasonal employment but which was the lifeblood of many parts of the country, particularly the midlands. Like the last speaker who referred to his own constituency of Laois-Offaly, I would have to, like other speakers, draw attention to Kildare which has a particular interest in Bord Na Móna and all related thereto.

While the board had considerable success down through the years their entire story was not successful. I would hope that this Bill and all it proposes, and the board's new proposals are successful and that the projections and foresight that are necessary to achieve the right outcome are employed. I hope we do not see a repetition of some of the nuisances we saw in the past. I can recall not so many years ago, and my colleagues from the Kildare constituency can do likewise, Bord Na Móna being in a position to sell their peat products to a firm that were engaged in manufacturing another byproduct but they did not see fit at the time to accommodate that company. Eventually the small company, Irish Ceca Limited in Allenwood, were forced into liquidation. Ironically, the board propose now, a few years later to manufacture the same product. I hope we do not see too much repetition of that kind of tactic particularly in the new slimmed-down, energetic, vigorous version of the board which is about to emerge under this new structure.

Another matter I would like to refer to in passing is a brochure from Bord na Móna entitled "Entrepreneuring the Midlands". It came with an invitation to a seminar in the Montague Hotel, Portlaoise. The foreword by the managing director states that the Programme for National Recovery has been tremendously successful and that it has succeeded in regulating Irish interest rates, Irish inflation rates and Irish wage rates. While I congratulate the captains of industry, and particularly those in the State sector, and accept that they should row in and enunciate Government policy whenever possible, I would like to see a little more accuracy than what is contained in that phrase. While on the one hand in recent times certain claims can be made that a new era has dawned, which started roughly about two years ago, I would like to remind those — and I hope there will be a correction at some stage in the future — that the recovery started some considerable time before the inception of the Programme for National Recovery. I would like to place on record my surprise that that kind of propaganda should be contained in a document of that nature.

I would like to revert back to the board's activities over the past couple of years. I fully support and congratulate them on their proposals in relation to the export markets they have created over the past few years and those which they propose to create and, in particular, the new and diversifying industries which they have brought under their wing and where they propose to create further employment. Diversification is extremely important so far as the peat industry is concerned and particularly with the coming of the post-peat era. That is particularly important to those of us who live in constituencies where there is a great dependency on the activities of Bord na Móna. Diversification is to be welcomed provided it does not extend into areas whereby it would put other smaller and competing industries at risk. While, on the one hand, I welcome the aggressive nature and the new slimmed-down version of the board, on the other hand we do not want to see the demise of, perhaps, some smaller associated industries. I sincerely hope that does not happen and that it will not be allowed to happen.

The horticultural industry is an area in which the board has taken a particular interest, and rightly so. It is in relation to that area that I would like to congratulate those involved. They have done tremendous work and research and have sought out markets of great importance both at home and abroad and particularly on the Continent. That is something on which they are to be congratulated and also in the area where they have produced peat products that have helped in the control of pollution. There will be an ongoing demand for products of that nature. It is not as if they are producing something which is likely to become obsolete in a couple of years time. Because of the emphasis on the need to protect the environment and so on at present, obviously they are on the right track and I hope they will continue.

The one thing that worries me about the new board is the hype that goes with it. When I refer to the new board, I mean the new look board. A certain amount of hype goes with it. I accept there is bound to be a certain amount of jubilation at a relaunch but cloaked within that hype is a certain amount of undesirable job shedding that will have a severe impact on the economies within which the board has located its activites. In counties such as Kildare and the adjoining counties, the dependency on the employment given by the board is such that unless the new proposals are very successful — at least as successful as anticipated at present in terms of employment and downstream employment — then a serious problem can arise over the next couple of years but it will not at that stage be possible or be of any benefit to people to look backward and say: "Why did we do that or why did we not do something else". At that stage it will be far too late because events will have caught up with us and we may be attempting to close the door when the horse has bolted.

The last speaker, Deputy Cowen, made reference to an area which is particularly important and which I want to deal with, however briefly. That is the section in this Bill whereby when Bord na Móna have ceased to utilise a particular bogland or peat area first preference is given to Coillte Teoranta before anything else can be done with it. Two or three problems arise immediately. First of all, Bord na Móna can by the condition in which they leave the post-peat bogland predetermine the uses, or the lack of uses, to which the land can then be put to afterwards by cutting to a certain depth or by not cutting to a certain depth.

I reject out of hand the theory that Coillte Teoranta should have the final say in deciding what happens to the boglands afterwards. There is no possible way that could or should be accepted and I strongly urge the Minister to consider that section and introduce amendments which would allow for discussions to take place, if necessary, with local authorities, Teagasc, Bord Fáilte and/or farming and other local bodies which would continue to have an interest in the post-peat uses of this type of bogland. For instance, in the constituency of Kildare the people in Teagasc, in the person of an executive, Mr. Andy Cole, produced a very extensive plan some considerable time ago——

I would much prefer if the Deputy did not refer to personalities as such.

It is by reference to a public document which he produced.

It is dangerous to be talking about coal when the Deputy is referring to turf.

It happens to be a public document which gave the post peat uses of the land in question and has been referred to in this House on numerous occasions in the past. The reason I mention that document is because it went to great length to point out the alternative uses to which the peatland could be put. It pointed out that there was a possibility for the production of grass or grassland, and ultimately beef production. There was provision for amenities for the flooding of a lakeland area and there was provision also for forestry. The difference there was that there were a number of options; there were options for everybody and those options would be available through consultation. Under the proposal as suggested in this Bill, only one particular body, or at the very most two, Bord na Móna, and on the other side of the diagram Coillte Teoranta, would decide between them to what uses that bogland would be put. That is totally unacceptable.

Likewise, Bord Fáilte still have a number of proposals which are extremely useful from the point of developing the tourism industry in the midland areas, all of which incorporate the use or partial use of the cutaway bogs. The local authorities, Kildare County Council, and I am sure the adjoining county councils have their own proposals for the development of alternative uses of cutaway boglands. The various trades councils in the various constituencies and counties have their own proposals as have the farming bodies. There should be some means of consulting with those bodies before anyone makes a final decision on how those cutaway boglands will be developed. That is an important and crucial element in the success of the likely end product as a result of the passing of this legislation

Again I ask the Minister to refer in particular to that section — which I recall from memory as section 7 — whereby Coillte Teoranta have the sole prerogative of getting first option on the post-peat development of boglands. I do not accept that they should have this privilege as there are many other agencies that have a useful input to make. This should be taken into consideration first and only then should a decision be made.

Incidentally, while on the subject, I think there is considerable scope at present to develop tourism and amenity facilities. I know this is incorporated in the Bill but as Deputy Power on the opposite side of the House and I have repeatedly pointed out to the board, even under present structures it is possible to develop amenities and incorporate them with the peat extraction activities. There is no reason that this cannot work hand in hand. For instance, if it is possible to bring coachloads of tourists around the Daimler Benz plant in Stuttgart in Germany I do not see any reason that we cannot bring train loads of tourists around our partially deserted boglands throughout the midlands or other parts of the country. This would be a simple operation as there is already in existence a rail link to virtually all of our boglands which could easily be utilised, inter-linking it with its current use in the area of peat production. One could be complementary to the other. We could attract people into the area. As well as generating interest in the bogland this would also generate interest in old steam engines and the use of the old railway lines. There is a whole host of areas that could be easily developed if we made the attempt to do so. I cannot accept any suggestion that Coillte Teóranta should have first option on the use of this land as naturally they would use it for forestry. This is only one option, there are others which should not be excluded just to suit their objectives.

Earlier I said I had hoped that the development of the board as we see it will not result in creating competition against smaller industries which could ultimately go to the wall. I mention that for very good reasons. With the increasing competition that is likely to take place when the internal market is completed I think we are going to have an increased level of activity in all companies, and rightly so, but this should not be to the detriment of the long established indigenous industries which gave constant employment over a long number of years. We need to be careful that we do not create problems in that area.

I, too, would like to refer to the dependency of Bord na Móna on the ESB. Over the past number of years there has been great concern about smog, pollution, and its effects, and it should be pointed out that while peat is not entirely pollution free it is somewhat better than other fuels in this respect but not as good as gas. Nonetheless, a few short years ago peat represented a very useful alternative during the oil crisis and we were very lucky to be able to fall back on this resource and utilise it to the extent that we did. At that time, the then Minister decided to link the price of peat products to those of other fuels. This was a useful development from the board's point of view in that they were able to sell their products for a higher cost which was very useful in terms of revenue. The purpose of that measure was to allow the board to develop their activities. However, I am not so sure they were developed as much as one would have liked. I recall that this price increase took place in mid-1982 and while I agree it was a wise decision at the time, I do not accept that the real reason for which the increase was granted was ever justified by the board in terms of expanding and developing their activities. They are doing so now but this is some considerable time later. They could have shown a little more concern at that time for the consumer.

When we referred to the use of post peat boglands, we mentioned forestry, tourism, grassland and other amenities. The amenities are legion, and just would not involve guided tours through a vast bog but also the development of picnicing and fishing areas, water sport facilities and so on, all of which are useful, particularly at a time when there is such demand for amenities. In areas close to large centres of population it is essential that such areas be developed. What better time to do so than when Bord na Móna are likely to cease their activities and hand over the bog for other uses? We then have to ask how this can be fully developed, whether it be developed by the board, for which there is provision in the Bill or whether it ought to be developed in conjunction with other agencies. I would prefer to see the facilities developed in conjunction with other agencies such as the local authorities and various other bodies such as Teagasc and Bord Fáilte. I am quite sure it would not be impossible to come up with a board of management drawn from the agencies to supervise such activities, meet the requirements and satisfy the entire community. If there is one topic that generates a great deal of heat, it is the use to which bogland should be put to. It almost generates as much heat as the question of use of our rivers and lakes. For that reason it is imperative that the Minister considers carefully the uses of this land rather than allowing its use to be determined by one or two sectors.

The Bill will require the board to acquire other companies at home and abroad. This is to be welcomed as progressive in the type of activity that we desire in the run-up to 1992 and thereafter. I hope that the company will be in a position to compete aggressively particularly on the foreign markets because after all we depend a great deal on what happens outside our economy. For that reason, the companies we launch on the European and world markets will determine the level of employment whether at home or abroad. If they do their job well they will be rewarded and the economy will benefit as a result.

The new system of funding through the European Structural Funds presents interesting prospects, namely, the integrated development programme and those now being prepared by Government. While I do not agree with the manner in which the ground work is being laid, nevertheless if they are successful, and I hope they will be, that is an avenue that should not be overlooked when we consider the alternative uses of bogland. That avenue will be appreciated in Europe because Europe is amenity conscious and aware of the need to conserve boglands and other natural amenities. Whatever is done now should be done in the knowledge that funding will be available for the further development of activities in the boglands, provided we put down the proper framework.

Europe is also a heavy importer of timber.

It is, but if by that remark the Minister is indicating that Coillte Teoranta are likely to get a monopoly, there will be stiff opposition to it. That is what most of the interest groups with whom I have had consultation say. I could go on about that for a long time but I will not annoy myself by doing so.

The Deputy would need to be Solomon if he is going to divide it up amongst the diverse agencies to which he has referred.

If the option is that we give it to the agency which is the biggest and the most anxious to get hold of it, I will not accept that. We should do our best to ensure that a system is devised whereby the best possible use of land is achieved. That would incorporate a variety of uses. If there is an attempt to steamroll a single use through some parts of the constituency of Kildare it will not get easy passage, as all the voluntary agencies with whom I have discussed this have clearly indicated their total opposition to handing over the use of post-peat boglands to any one agency. I appreciate the Minister's wish to make a clean sweep and transfer the property to a particular agency, but I reject it as quickly.

We have made it clear on numerous occasions that we do not anticipate much more than 50 per cent of the cutaway land being made available for forestry, and there are plenty of options after that.

What I object to is that it has become the prerogative of Coillte Teoranta and of Bord na Móna to decide on the uses to which post-peat bogland is put. Bord na Móna can predetermine the use by cutting to a particular depth and Coillte Teoranta can say to any other agency and to Bord na Móna that they have a project in mind some time in the future without specifying when, and that they have the land earmarked. That means that all other agencies with useful proposals for the development of those areas are immediately told to keep their hands off. That is not acceptable. I cannot overemphasise my total opposition to the proposal to give that prerogative to Coillte Teoranta.

If we are to set up a new board which I hope will be benign to all of us in County Kildare, and with the due respect to my colleagues in adjoining counties, the headquarters for the new aggressive marketing board should be in the Kildare section of the Bog of Allen.

That is official Fine Gael policy?

It may not be official Fine Gael policy, but it is my policy.

The Deputy is in a strong position to influence Fine Gael policy.

They say that Fionn McCumhaill is buried there somewhere. I pay tribute to Bord na Móna for the development of the peat processing machinery that the board pioneered over the years and I hope that that development will continue. Boglands will not remain forever and there will be serious consequences in certain areas when some bogs are cut away. The important thing is to remember that there are alternative uses, labour intensive alternatives, to take their place.

In relation to Coillte Teoranta, I accept that forestry is desirable. A reasonable mix of forestry, grass land and amenity would be ideal. If we have that mix the best possible use of land will be achieved and we will create further jobs. Jobs, it is generally accepted, arise from the provision of recreational and amenity facilities. If we are serious about job creation we have to think about amenities in the context of this Bill. We must think about amenities such as the Bog of Allen which is within an hours drive of the capital city. We should not overlook that.

I hope the proposals of the Minister are achieved during the next number of years. I hope that what I and other Members envisage in terms of the after use of boglands and in terms of the provision of jobs through a variety of uses will be achieved. I hope that variety becomes the spice of life and that as a result we will be able to use to the best of our ability the natural amenities that are there for us to enjoy and that they will be further developed thus creating more jobs in the years ahead. If we do not use our boglands judiciously a great opportunity will be missed and we will decry the missed opportunity just as we now decry the closure of sections of canals which were closed years ago. Years afterwards we look back and say "in God's name, why did we ever do that?" When there is a natural amenity there we should not overlook the opportunity of developing it.

The main thrust of the Turf Development Bill is good because it will give a new lease of life to Bord na Móna. Morale in the company has been very low — there have been many redundancies, there was no great sign of expansion and workers were very unsure of their futures. Many employees wondered if there was any future for Bord na Móna and whether they should get out now. I should like to compliment the Minister on introducing the Bill. It is a breath of fresh air, a midland breeze perfumed by the heathers, as the song says.

The Bill can only be helpful to the future of Bord na Móna. I do not mean that as a criticism of the old Bord na Móna or their predecessor in the forties, the Turf Development Board. I should like to pay tribute to the hardy pioneers of Bord na Móna who cut the first drains in our bogs and worked hard to make a success of a far sighted enterprise. They filled our fuel needs when we had no other fuel and they brought prosperity to the midlands. They were the people who changed the term "bogman" from meaning Yeti or Abominable Snowman to a term of endearment which we now associate with the haunting music of the Marino Waltz.

Many of the early Bord na Móna workers have retired, were made redundant or have gone to their eternal reward. I want to pay tribute to them for their toil and effort. They built the railways, mechanised turf production and their engineering expertise designed and produced the type of machine best suited to our terrain. They branched out into the production of turf briquettes and machine won turf, peat moss, horticulture and agriculture and they even undertook pilot schemes despite the restrictions which were placed on them under the old Act.

When I speak of the Bord na Móna pensioners and praise them for the great work they did, I am tempted to say that talk is cheap because the Bord na Móna pensioners who retired before July 1984 have not got any increase in their pension for the past four and a half years. I believe a committee are considering this issue and it is high time that injustice was remedied. I ask the Minister to convey our wishes to the chairman of the committee. We should not wait for all the pensioners to pass on to their eternal reward before a decision is taken to increase their pension. Too many medals are presented posthumously and it would be nice if an increase in their pensions was granted while they are still alive.

This Bill places many restrictions on the board because of the provision to refer back to the Minister. The phrase "Subject to the approval of the Minister" appears far too often in the Bill. Because Bord na Móna have proved that they are capable of carrying out their core business — the production of turf and peat moss in whatever form, and marketing it at home and abroad—we should let them continue to do this. I understand why some check has to be kept on the company if they engage in activities which are not strictly related to peat or if they engage in new ventures. I must ask a question in this respect: will the sub-boards be constituted without any managerial staff? The existing company have six worker board members and one in management. Will these members be represented on the new board?

I know the company can operate abroad and I believe there have been inquiries, even from the USA, about availing of the expertise of the company. We may have to go to Finland to find out how best to produce turf but the Americans still come back to us for the know-how: they return to the old sod to find out about peat. I see wonderful opportunities for expanding our peat moss exports and giving them greater added-value on the Continent. Some years ago I attended a Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg. When we visited a nursery I was delighted to see a green bag with a shamrock on it. Bord na Móna's new acquisition in France is a welcome venture. It is well intended, it will bring benefits to the country and will enable us to expand in what is a very large and lucrative market. We have a good product in peat moss and it is needed all over the Continent. Up to now this product was not marketed to the extent that it should have been and we should now expand the market to hold on to our customers and to keep them happy. It is said that a rolling stone gathers no moss, but I expect the moss now being exported to France gathers a lot of French francs for Bord na Móna.

The previous speaker said that Bord na Móna are toying with the idea of going back into the production of carbon. That may be a more lucrative venture for Bord na Móna because they will have control over their costs and production. I hope the private producers of peat moss will not be eased out of the market as a result of this Bill and the new management in Bord na Móna. Today big ventures in, for example, the bakery trade are in a position to squeeze out the small man. Some of the people I know involved in the production of peat moss have made a success of their business, and it is good that there is no monopoly in that sector. Perhaps Bord na Móna could privatise to the extent of building roads because roads will be needed into new forests. Roads have never been so badly wanted — there have never been so many potholes in "The Old Bog Road"— and I believe Bord na Móna would be prepared to accept such a challenge. They have the expertise to undertake this task; they have built railways and I see no reason why they should not build roads.

I compliment Bord na Móna for acting as agents in the grant scheme for private turf production. As a result of their efforts co-ops have been set up all over the country and communities have become involved in turf production again. This is particularly laudable because Bord na Móna were cutting a stick to beat themselves — they were helping private producers to produce turf and these people would no longer be Bord na Móna customers. They did their work well. I would like to see that scheme continued because there is still a lot of work for them to do in this area. I believe the scheme is being phased out but I should like the grant system which was established, executed and implemented by Bord na Móna to be continued.

Mention has been made of setting up a new process to eradicate effluent from sewage systems and it has been proved that peat moss can be used as an agent in the eradication of effluent. Bord na Móna are developing this process in conjunction with Wavin Ireland. I realise it is early days yet to declare this process a complete success, but all the early reports have been very good. Kildare County Council have set up a scheme in Donore. Up to now this scheme has proved very successful and this could well be the answer to difficulties in relation to septic tanks in areas where there is a very high water table. It even opens up possibilities for sites which could not have been used for housing purposes before. Above all, it will have a revolutionary influence in the anti-pollution drive. I hope that farmers will avail of this process to cure silage effluent problems. This new use of peat now being pioneered could eventually be the chief agent in clearing up our rivers and watercourses and I have high hopes for the success of that process.

As other speakers mentioned, experimental horticulture work has been carried out in Lullymore for many years. This work has been quite successful but there have been some drawbacks because there can be pockets of frost in midland areas which are not in areas nearer the coast. Because of this experimental work nurseries have sprung up all over County Kildare which are fit to take their place with any other nurseries. Groups of nurseries are forming co-operatives and are growing in bulk to fill big orders. These nurseries put on shows every year. In 1987 the venue for the show was SAP; in 1988 the venue was Dunne Brothers in Allen and next year — and I hope the Minister will find time to attend — the shows will be held in Kilcock. Incidentally, a nursery man in Kilcock won the first prize for a garden layout at the international show in Scotland last year. This proves that there are canny people in Kilcock as well as in Scotland and is a measure of the expertise and competence in this area.

Apparently up to now Bord na Móna could not be commercially orientated or involved in marketing, but this Bill will give them the go ahead in this area and will open up great possibilities for them. They will be in a position to give initial training and guidance. The nursery in Lullymore has proved to be the nursery of nurseries, the crème de la crème, as it were. Nine or ten years ago there were moves to discontinue that nursery, but I am glad that did not happen. Thanks for its not happening can go to our party. Beside Lullymore we have Teagasc, formerly An Foras Talúntais, and the Peat Interpretation Centre. These institutions have carried out extensive research and experimentation on all types of bog. This paved the way, laid down the guidelines and charted the pitfalls for the future of our cutaway bogland.

This year those of us who attended the seminar and workshops in the RDS on the subject were fortunate enough to see on our field trip, the successful growing of vegetable crops, carrots, onions and potatoes and even grass for the laying of instant lawns, playing pitches, golf greens and so on. We saw excellent pasture on cutover bogland and a wonderfully viable farm with a suckling herd, run by Bord na Móna in Offaly. On that day we also saw unusual crops that could be grown on acid soil, such as blueberries which found their way into the most prestigious supermarkets in England and were widely acclaimed.

The upshot of this four day workshop on the utilisation of midland peatlands was a decision in favour of a divergence of uses to which bogland can be put. Forestry would rank high here. There was a strong case for the preservation of certain types of bog, like a particular bog in Clara, County Offaly, various types of bog in County Kildare, Lullymore and the Robertstown area. There was mention that the amenity area in Robertstown could be flooded to provide lake-lands, water sports and sailing. Tourism was mentioned, too. Farming on marginal land was widely discussed with the possibilities of making small farms more viable. This is something to which much thought should be given.

We should think of how best to use all the land. Our Minister has a particular interest in this. Some years ago he was widely responsible for forming party policy in this regard. I have faith in him. Bord na Móna have only a small portion of the bogs of Ireland. Most of the bogs are in private hands and much of the bogland is non-productive. We should view the future of our bogs globally as a big unit. There is now no such thing as the Land Commission they are not dead, but sleepeth. We need a body to take overall responsibility for restructuring and making small farms at the edge of the bog and marginal holdings viable. This is all right if there is a dry lie on the home farm. Extra pasture might be obtained and possibly some hay or silage would make a huge difference to these farms.

We should embark on a policy of leasing land to prospective young farmers for some years. In the Land Commission days, farmers were given land willy nilly and some of them did not prove that they deserved it. A leasing system would enable us to segregate the sheep from the goats before outright ownership was given. An overall body would be needed to manage drainage. It would be possible to carry this out on a phased basis. It is not such an insuperable job to deal with 100 hectares in a year, the acreage that Bord na Móna would have, and a bit of private bog that might be restructured, also.

With regard to horticulture, there is a need at this stage of the experimental work done in Lullymore for a pilot scheme on a commercial scale. We can thank Bord na Móna and Teagasc for providing an area for a pilot scheme at Lullymore. A very large firm with marketing expertise are prepared to embark on growing vegetables and training young people — giving them an insight into what is needed and a knowledge of the pitfalls to avoid. I hope this might lead to private growers in the Carbury area, as happened in the Kildare area with mushroom growing. There is a central marketing system, with storage, a co-operative and guaranteed prices. There are private individuals growing mushrooms in tunnels. I hope the same thing might happen with regard to vegetable growing because that type of thinking will create jobs in areas which would otherwise be derelict when Bord Na Móna and the ESB pull out.

My interest in this subject is not new. I expressed it ten years ago when for a short time I was a Member of the European Parliament. I saw EC funding being given — for worn out coalmines in Germany and Britain to produce a fuel that was available on the Continent. I made a case for our virgin bogs, cutover bogs and blanket bogs. The interpreters thought I had engaged in fantasy and they were not sure of the translation of virgin bogs. When grants can be got for the slag heaps in Wales or worn out mines in Germany, we can make a case for EC funding for what should replace the cutover bogs. This would provide jobs in the area of restructuring. I hope we get a grant for this.

Before the ESB and Bord na Móna pull out — in Allenwood there is mention of the year 1991 as a definite year for closure and they have already departed from areas in County Offaly — it is the duty of the IDA to show the will to set up industry there. This is a very serious problem. We have talked about it for ten years and I have not seen any sign of action as yet.

The growing of vegetables should not be dismissed lightly. There is a feeling in this country that because Erin Foods was a failure vegetables cannot be grown here or marketed. That is wrong. I have my own ideas as to what happened in the case of Erin Foods, but we have proved that we can grow vegetables to the extent that we can provide a canning industry, at least enough for our own needs.

We also have the mechanical and technical expertise in Bord na Móna, technicians, mechanics and electricians, to form the nucleus of employment for heavy industry. That must be utilised in the midlands. It is better that these technically qualified people would use their expertise in the midlands than in Manchester or Manhatten, and that is what I hope will happen. All these items I have mentioned could knit nicely into an integrated rural development programme with each divergent use of the land complementing the other. This would provide us with a pleasant landscape that would be conducive to tourism, agribusiness, afforestation, waterways, farming, horticulture and, above all, jobs for the next generation at home.

Taking all that into account I am amazed and saddened at the reply Minister Burke gave on 20 October, at columns 456 and 457 of the Official Report:

Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Energy if he has made any definite decisions regarding the alternative uses of cutaway bogs, with particular reference to County Kildare; if his attention has been drawn to proposals made by Teagasc at Lullymore, County Kildare, in the matter; if he foresees the inclusion of the development of cutaway bogs within the ambit of integrated rural development programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Energy (Mr. R. Burke): The Government, in July 1987, decided that cutaway bogs in Bord na Móna hands which are suitable for afforestation should transfer to the Forest Service. Some 1,000 hectares of cutaway bogs transferred to the Forest Service in 1987 have already been planted. Negotiations are in progress for the transfer of further areas and these will also be planted as soon as possible.

I am aware that experiments are being conducted by Teagasc and Bord na Móna in County Kildare and elsewhere in relation to grassland and horticultural uses for cutaway bogs. The results achieved to date would not support any reversal of the basic decision taken by the Government, bearing in mind, in particular, the state of Bord na Móna's finances and its inability to endure any expansion of its loss-making activities.

I was very surprised at that reply because the results do not bear it out. All our efforts have been in vain if that thinking prevails in the Department of Energy. It is ironic that Minister Burke has now gone, but I have every confidence in Deputy Smith as Minister for Energy. I know him well. The case was made by experts at the RDS and bodies representing various interests at the seminar were prepared to give co-existence a chance. The Bill however, contains a provision which would madden me. Where Bord na Móna have 1,000 hectares of cutaway bog, they are required to tell the Department of Forestry each year in advance what will be available. If they want the lot they can take it; if any crumbs are left, other interests are welcome to take them. This has obviously been dictated by the Civil Service and I am glad the Minister is prepared to amend it. The Forestry people attended the RDS and were very critical of anybody who questioned their claims. Instead of making their case in the presence of us all, they wrote to us later. I have no doubt that much of the cutaway bog should be planted but not all, as was intended, according to the Minister's reply. If that attitude prevailed there would be no properly planned amenity scheme and very few jobs would be left after planting of the trees. We cannot wait until the year 2010 for these jobs.

The recommendations made at the RDS were, first, that irreplacable virgin peatlands must be preserved, the extent of representative examples being in the order of 10,000 hectares. The second recommendation was that there should be an overall authority to determine the future of the midland peatlands, based on the region, and with direct access to Brussels. The third recommendation was that an area of viable size and peat depth should be set aside to determine the potential for commercial vegetable production over peatlands. Lullymore would be a suitable site. The fourth recommendation drew attention to the need for the development of the amenity potential of the midland peatlands, to include interpretative centres. In this context the implementation of the Robertstown plan should proceed as a pilot scheme. The fifth recommendation was that the future use of cutover peatlands should be determined on the basis of a regional cost-benefit analysis.

The Minister has a great interest in this subject and has adopted a sensible approach to these suggestions. He is a practical farmer who has a thorough knowledge of his brief. I know he will ensure that the Bill will allow for all interests to be accommodated in our bogs. Forestry should perhaps take up 50 per cent, but that would allow room for many other activities. The midlands will be grateful to the Minister.

I have a dream for my county. I have worked in the bog for the past 40 years and my family still cut their own fuel. Although I am unlikely to see that dream realised, I hope my children and my friends will. I want to see an amárach for the midland peatlands, with thriving happy communities who can live and work there. There is a saying that sometimes one cannot see the wood for the trees. I want the Minister to understand what would happen if we had nothing but trees. He has shown perception and consideration in this matter.

In the main there is a welcome for this Bill among Bord na Móna employees and others, but there is concern too, which I have raised in a constructive manner. My motives are reasonably pure. I do not seek to perpetuate my position in politics as some might do, as they seek to preserve their position in ailing companies or outdated Departments. I want to see happy, healthy families continuing to live and work in the quiet midlands. For those of us who live there, the lines of the Rathangan poet, William A. Byrne, could never have been more relevant than some months ago when we endured smog in this Chamber and throughout the capital city. He wrote:

The purple heather is the cloak

God gave the bogland brown,

But man has made a pall of smoke,

To hide the distant town.

I leave it in the capable hands of the Minister to ensure that a patchwork of different land use will be a future feature of the midlands. I should not like to see an unbroken green mantle of Sitka spruce. It might be very patriotic but it would not be very profitable in the short term. At a time of high unemployment and emigration the provision of jobs must be the priority in our party. This Bill will copperfasten the remaining jobs in Bord na Móna and give a viable future to the board. In the slimming down process there has been much early retirement and redundancy. That might provide short term relief and give a breathing space to the firm and former employees, but we must plan to provide replacement jobs in these areas. The ideas I have proposed may be helpful and I am confident that the Minister will act for the best on this matter.

It is noticeable that a number of Deputies from the midlands who have a specific interest in this matter are among the contributors to this debate. We must have regard to the origins and purposes of the 1946 Turf Development Board and the situation which existed before that board came into operation. I am aware of the tradition of turf use and development, the manual nature of turf extraction and the near slavery-type conditions involved, with children working long hours in very hard conditions, and then the long haul, particularly from my own area, by horse and canal to the Dublin market, with very little return. Despite the very hard labour of these people they lived in the direst poverty. The Turf Development Board, looking at the social needs of the midlands community and knowing it was the most deprived area of the country, took specific action to create real employment where none was before. They created infrastructures and economic activity. Bord na Móna effectively transformed the midlands from an area of dire poverty to a thriving economic community.

I am firm in my belief that Bord na Móna is the jewel in the crown of the commercial public sector. In their research and development and engineering they were world pioneers. This was the pride of both management and workers. A grave mistake was made initially with regard to Bord na Móna and that has continued through its history. They were effectively thrown to the wolves and the vultures in the private finance houses. The State, as shareholder, did not invest with equity. It simply told Bord na Móna that when they wanted equity they would get a loan and that has been the most crippling aspect of the structure of Bord na Móna since their foundation. It was a dire mistake which has led over the years to the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds in trading profits being returned to the commercial banks and the finance houses to pay back loans. If the initial investment had been made in Bord na Móna this would not have been necessary, the profits would have come back to the board, the State and the people. That loss is now running at about £20 million per year, a continuing haemorrhage on the activities of Bord na Móna.

The board have been involved in many areas of production within the turf area, sod peat, milled peat, briquettes, peat moss, nursery products and diversifying into sheep, cattle and vegetables. There has been a constant trading profit from the activities of Bord na Móna and it should be noted that £20 million per year is at present paid by the employees of Bord na Móna in PAYE and PRSI to the State. At the same time Bord na Móna are forced to hand over £20 million in interest to the banks and, more recently to the State because of the lack of investment in this fine State industry.

The Turf Development Act, 1980, brought about the ludicrous situation where Bord na Móna were obliged, not alone to directly assist people to come into competition with themselves, but to make grants available from their own resources to their competitors. If a company in the private sector were told that they would have to fund competitors and make their expertise available to them I wonder where the ideology would come from, the Right or the Left? It is quite certain that there would be an outcry from the Right against interference in competition and fair play for the private sector. However, under the 1980 Act, Bord na Móna were forced by the State to make their expertise and money available to create competitors, to make bogland available to them and to show them how to extract the material so that they could compete directly with them. The effect of that disaster was that four peat sod works closed down, jobs that previously existed were transferred to the black economy area, child labour was reintroduced for the first time in many years in the bogs, there was a high cost to the national economy, a loss of production, a loss of tax and PRSI payable by employees and, because of the ineffectiveness of the schemes, there was a loss of the essential energy source of turf which was no longer being extracted as it should have been. I am pleased the Government have phased out this scheme and — unlike my colleague from Kildare — I do not shed any tears for it.

It is true that there were bad seasons because of the weather when the stockpile was reduced but it should be acknowledged that the efforts of the workforce and the management in Bord na Móna have turned events around. During the bad period when investment was needed the State again gave a crippling loan to add to the already huge burden on the shoulders of Bord na Móna. It is important that we look at and are aware of the record of reduction of employment within Bord na Móna.

In 1984 Bord na Móna had 5,000 full-time employees and 1,000 seasonal workers. In 1987 that had been reduced by redundancies and other measures to 3,000 full-time employees and 1,000 seasonal workers. Let it be said that the unions, on behalf of the workers, agreed and reluctantly accepted the need for that trimming in the interest of efficiency and productivity. It should also be said that most of this reduction from 5,000 to 3,000 full-time workers came about among the general operatives and the technical staff.

The headquarters of Bord na Móna is referred to by their workers as "the palace in Baggot Street". The reduction of numbers in the palace in Baggot Street was a very small element in the total reductions in the workforce. The management — not necessarily the board — are not satisfied with the agreement they have secured from the unions in regard to trimming the workforce. There is an unreasonable and near fanatical pursuit of privatisation. There are plans at present for a reduction of a further 2,000 jobs, leaving Bord na Móna with 1,000 full-time employees. However, they will not be made redundant in the normal sense. There is a new trick to get rid of permanent jobs. New, private companies are to be set up and this has been hailed by the chairman of Bord na Móna as the ultimate in worker democracy. I profoundly disagree with the chairman's estimation and I reject the notion that privatisation on the scale proposed is anything near worker democracy or has anything to do with it. What is proposed is straight, undiluted Thatcherism and has nothing to do with worker democracy.

It will result in the shedding of permanent, pensionable jobs; it will result in the control going to gombeen men who will be set up — not out of their own pockets — but out of the pockets of the taxpayers and those of Bord na Móna workers. The so-called entrepreneurs will not be financed from private sources but from public funds, a new form of privatisation. The people taking over the public sector will now be funded by the public sector for doing so. It will result in the scandal of funds being made available from the public sector to finance a new uncontrollable private sector.

What will be the conditions for the employees under these new gombeen men who will be set up by the State? I submit that the workers will be back to square one and all the things for which they fought down the years will be gone in one fell swoop. Will they have pensionable employment with the new contractors? Will they have permanency? Will they be allowed to join a union? What will be their rates of pay? If the weather is broken will they get wet time pay? The answers to all these questions are obvious. They will not have pensions or permanency or be allowed to join a union. Their rates of pay will be very bad, they will not be paid during wet weather and they will be thrown out if they attempt to protest about it.

Privatisation will result in workers being driven into the black economy because the rates of pay will be such that they will not be able to survive in the midlands. Child — I stress the word — labour will be reintroduced under these contractors and children will again be taken out of school to work on the bogs to replace men who had previously worked there as permanent pensionable employees in a State company. This will not be worker democracy, but a reversion to the bad, sad ways of the past. The workers, through their union, must fight to retain the rights they have won and for future workers in that company.

The privatisation we are speaking about is of a new type and goes further than all previous attempts at privatisation I am aware of. Normally we have seen privatisation of what could be described as the fringe activities of companies with contractors being brought in to do things not part of the core activity. Under its present chairman Bord na Móna are now attempting for the first time to privatise the core activity of the company, the production of peat. Under this proposal and previous speakers agree entirely with me on this, Bord na Móna would no longer be involved in the production of peat. Instead they would be the organisers of gangs of private contractors with no control of the conditions under which they employed people. Former workers would no longer be employed by Bord na Móna, and workers would be reduced to what has been described as "yellow pack seasonals".

We got a foretaste in the 1987 pilot scheme of what they call "selling on the spread". I saw young children being taken from school by the people who took these contracts to save turf. Do we want to reach the position where a charter for the black economy and child labour would be reintroduced in the midlands? That would have nothing to do with worker democracy and anybody who says it would and who says they have a socialist conscience should strictly examine that socialist conscience to clearly show themselves how much they are in error.

I have serious doubts about the intentions behind this measure. I question the need to break up the single board which now exists into a number of separate companies or boards. This would have the effect of reducing their activities, responsibility and effectiveness. It would also undermine the strength and cohesion of the commercial State company, Bord na Móna and I am certain it would lead to the privatistion of the profitable sectors, for example, the peat moss sector, and further premature closures. I am also certain it would have serious consequences for the economy of the midlands.

Break up, and I use that word purposely, is incompatible with the broad economic and social objectives of the 1946 Turf Development Act parts of which were quoted by a previous speaker. I ask the Minister why is there a need for the sub-boards we are talking about? Why can the functions of these boards, not be delegated through normal management structures? Is it not true that, as a result of this proposal, there would be costly bureaucratic exercises with new boards and executives and a new layer of top management positions in Bord na Móna and their new subsidiaries? At a time of cutbacks in the number of jobs in the area I believe it would lead to serious resentment among workers who would be told that there is no work available for them.

It is notable that in the Turf Development Bill, 1988 there is a failure to provide any proper financial structure for the board. As I said earlier, no equity investment has been made in Bord na Móna. All they have ever received are loans from what can be described as the vultures of the finance houses who take their pound of flesh every day. This Bill should amend the 1946 Act to allow for the conversion of the Exchequer loan at least, recently given to Bord na Móna, into equity investment and to allow for a further injection of State equity into the company. Such restructuring is vital for the recovery and future success of Bord na Móna. This would lead to permanent, well paid jobs and the creation of wealth in the midlands and continued economic activity. The planned use of the valuable resource we are talking about would only be possible in that way. Only the State, through Bord na Móna, would be able to undertake this major job and we should not simply leave it, as I said earlier, to the private sector who are incapable of doing this except for taking the fat pieces for their own hungry needs.

The Bill is not what it seems, certainly not all of what is seems. The intention is, and the effect would be, to divide and weaken. Some sectors would be fattened up at the expense of workers and taxpayers for handing over to the greedy private sector, a private sector let me stress which would be heavily subsidised for the privilege of taking over the well developed public sector.

Diversification, as proposed in the Bill, away from purely peat activities would certainly be welcome. Taking the shackles off the commercial public sector, allowing them to develop and compete, to enter joint ventures and carry out active marketing would also be welcome but I ask what is happening on the ground? Are Bord na Móna not aware that this Bill is before the House? Do they not know what is being proposed by the Minister and, if so, why is what is happening on the ground occurring? Let me give two small examples of what I am talking about. We are talking about diversification away from the main peat areas, yet the shrub nursery at Lullymore is being sold off to the manager without going to tender, and there is notice of an intention to sell a farm at Clonsast in an extremely productive area without the grants or subsidies which would normally be available to the agricultural sector. What is happening? Does what we are witnessing in this House amount to shadow-boxing and do Bord na Móna not know what we are doing about it?

I have very serious doubts and reservations and I would caution the unions and workers to be on their guard as I believe that this Bill would result in their long fought for rights being attacked and undermined and being set at nought. I await the Minister's reply with interest and, if not satisfied with the Minister's reply, I will be pressing my party to table suitable amendments so as to have the effects of the Bill changed.

I welcome this opportunity to speak on the Turf Development Bill, 1988 and I preface my remarks by congratulating Deputy Smith on his appointment to this very important portfolio. I have no doubt he will bring to his new Department the same capacity for dedication and hard work which was the hallmark of his work while he was junior Minister with responsibility for forestry. It is appropriate and encouraging that his new area of responsibility brings under one umbrella the related enterprises of peat and forestry development.

I would like to think that the Minister, coming as he does from an adjoining county, in dealing with this important area of national administration will display the good old Irish characteristic of concern for one's neighbour as we in Laois-Offaly are faced with serious difficulties arising from the declining operations of Bord na Móna and the understandable rationalisation programmes necessary to ensure the future of the company. I do not have to remind the Minister that the resulting job losses undermine in a very serious way the social and economic structure of both our counties. The opening point I want to make is that there is a duty on the Minister and the Government to put in place an alternative economic development programme with the purpose of providing alternative employment and preserving the social structure of a vast area of our country.

There is a degree of urgency in dealing with that matter because of the time factor involved in getting new projects off the ground, and particularly in forestry development we may not have taken the necessary corrective action in time. However, there is nothing to be gained by looking at the past and we must now move forward in a positive and constructive manner for the purpose of maximising the potential of our bogs — not only in the national interest but in a particular way for the now devastated midland region — whether in terms of unharvested peat or of our cutaway bogs.

Many people look on the midlands as a prosperous agricultural region. While I agree some excellent agricultural land and some of the most progressive farmers are in the area, the fact remains, particularly as far as Laois-Offaly is concerned, that all the important economic indicators, such as per capita income and population figures, are that our overall economy is more depressed than in some counties west of the Shannon which enjoy considerable economic support from the Government. That has been so over the years, yet up to this time we have failed to make any real impact in convincing the Government that we are a seriously disadvantaged area. For that reason I express here tonight a great deal of confidence in the new Minister. I recognise him as a practical man. Coming as he does from a sound agricultural background, he realises the problems of small farmers, particularly in the disadvantaged areas of the midland region. I have the utmost confidence that given time we will be able to tackle the anomalies which have beset that region for such a long time.

I should like to make a broad and generalised statement in the context of this Bill because of our dependence in the past on an expanding Bord na Móna operation in County Offaly and, I suppose I must admit, to a lesser extent in County Laois, for the purpose of impressing on the Minister the urgency of taking corrective action now. Perhaps the greatest area of Bord na Móna development so far as the two counties were concerned was centred in County Offaly; nonetheless, many Laois workers travelled daily to many of the Bord na Móna operations in County Offaly and redundancies arising from the operations there had a serious spin off on the economy of County Laois as no doubt they had also on County Offaly.

Having said all that, it is appropriate that we pay a tribute to Bord na Móna, their workers and management. Over the years they built and expanded an indigenous industry which provided a valuable fuel resource. They diversified into added value products in the form of many successful and world recognised horticultural peat products referred to earlier in this debate by my colleague, Deputy Power, and other speakers. If we are to succeed as we want to succeed nationally in tackling the problem of unemployment we can achieve that only through maximising the potential of our national resources like peat and other agricultural products in the process of value added.

Day after day the demands indicate the need for greater efficiency in all areas of economic activity. I am happy to put on record one example of the board's successful achievement in that area. I refer to the Coolnamona factory at Portlaoise which is vital to the local economy and is making a very valuable contribution to the overall success of the board's operation particularly in relation to exports which must be the base on which all future expansion takes place. Let me welcome the most recent development in that area, the acquisition of the distribution firm in France for the purpose of promoting peat moss in the French market. I spoke to the Minister in relation to that matter recently. I hope that the continuing expansion of Bord na Móna will result in a corresponding increase in employment in that factory. This is important to the economy of County Laois and certainly important to the economy of the town of Portlaoise and all the surrounding towns and villages in that area. A great tribute must be paid to the management in Coolnamona and the workers involved there because they have made a tremendous impact in generating and creating an efficient operation which is now recognised as part and parcel of the success of the overall Bord na Móna operation.

I hope sincerely that the Bill before the House will assist the board in expanding their range of activities, particularly employment intensive activities of value added and exports, the only sound basis on which new jobs can be created. Far too often we were guilty of creating artificial jobs sustained by increased borrowing or increased taxation. Now we realise that the only jobs that can be sustained at the end of the day are jobs which are regarded as productive and which of their very nature generate further economic activity resulting in further employment. That is the basis on which all worthwhile development should take place, and it is the hallmark of the present Administration. The successes which have been achieved in the past two years must be regarded as encouraging. The results being achieved are a direct result of the very positive policies being pursued by the Government.

The free European market of 1992 presents the board with a new challenge and a new opportunity. We must ensure that they are given a free hand with the least interference in exploring and capitalising on the opportunity that large new market presents to our country. I am fully satisfied that Bord na Móna have not been aggressive enough in exploring the full potential of the new European market. This is reflected in the deteriorating financial situation of the board. Of course I recognise that there are marketing and other considerations, including weather conditions, which invariably are reflected in the board's financial accounts. If the board are to meet the challenges of the future and play their full role in the economic development of this country they will have to apply to their operations sound commercial management criteria which, properly applied, should not conflict with the social requirement of job creation which is of vital importance to the midland region. Bord na Móna have demonstrated their capacity for diversification.

I am pleased to note that the provisions of the Bill afford an opportunity for a continuation of these activities particularly in the export market. It is important that the board be given the opportunity to maximise their operations and profits through an ancillary or related project. However, such ancillary operations should be engaged in only for the purpose of making their main operation more viable which is the harvesting and processing of peat and such enterprises as will eventually be developed on our cutaway bogs. Any profits gained from such ancillary operations should be devoted to developing the potential of job creation in the base industry, peat and peat products, entailing the regeneration of employment in areas affected by the board's declining operations in recent years. In this respect Clonsast is an excellent example. To a large extent the economy of the midlands was based on the operations of Bord na Móna in towns such as Portarlington, Tullamore and the smaller villages of the region, some totally dependent on the earnings of their employees. As a result of diminishing peat resources in Clonsast the ESB generating station at Portarlington has closed with considerable job losses. The closure of that station, with a corresponding loss of jobs on the bog, has had a serious effect on the overall economy of the area. The Minister, his Department and the Government will have to consider seriously a development strategy for the region, particularly for the Counties of Laois and Offaly, resulting in the creation of new jobs to replace those already lost. These points have been adequately made by my constituency colleague, Deputy Cowen, who spoke earlier.

It is also important to the operations and economy of the board that they exploit the potential that will arise from a full, free European market. In this respect the provisions of section 17 and 20 are somewhat contradictory and restrictive in relation to the freedom of the board to extend their remit beyond the area of their main operations. The Minister should re-examine these provisions with a view to ensuring that the operations of the board are not inhibited through unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions. Indeed a hallmark of this Government has been the fact that they have endeavoured to shake off the shackles of unnecessary bureaucracy and administration. Knowing the practical man the Minister is, the board will have nothing to fear from him in that respect. It is my belief that the board's operations will be approached by him in a constructive and objective manner. I can assure him that I will be monitoring their operations under the provisions of this Bill.

I am pleased to note that there is provision for the establishment of sub-boards because delegation of responsibilities by way of good organisational structures is now an accepted part of good management. However, the provision which excludes employees from being members of such sub-boards somewhat inhibits their potential for development. It is fair to assume that management would appoint workers with the greatest expertise in their areas to the new sub-boards. To do otherwise would be a reflection on the overall performance of the board, which must be a priority of management and which I am sure will be kept under close scrutiny by the Minister and his Department. I see nothing wrong with a mix of board employees and outside expertise which would assist in promoting maximum efficiency. The Minister should re-examine the provision which excludes board employees from the proposed new sub-boards.

The section which will generate the greatest interest will be that dealing with the future of cutaway bogs. There have been many reports written and much research conducted into the potential of this natural resource and its capacity for development. It is time all concerned now made up their minds. We should have been phasing in an ancillary industry on cutaway bogs over the past ten years. We must be objective in planning for the future. Had we been more objective and constructive over the past ten years we would not have experienced the same environmental shock in terms of job losses in recent months, particularly in the Counties of Laois and Offaly. Such job losses are being cushioned in the short-term by redundancy payments but, in the long-term, will have devastating effects on the social structures of the communities affected, in turn highlighting the urgency of finding alternative employment enterprises. I must confess to having reservations about the benefits of voluntary redundancies in areas of enterprise which have a capacity for development and further job creation. Forestry development is a good example in that respect. I might bring to the Minister's attention the development potential in forestry. It is recognised at present that the Minister's Department is under-staffed when it comes to the maintenance of existing forests and plantations. I would contend that there is a total imbalance vis-à-vis the staff of his Department and the forestries coming within his jurisdiction. For example, in some areas there are almost as many foresters as there are forestry workers. The Minister must examine this problem and endeavour to restore some balance between them. I am not contending that we do not need the number of foresters we have but there is potential for additional jobs, by which I mean the employment of additional manual forestry workers in the expansion of our planting programme and the maintenance of existing ones. It is false economy to invest in forestry development while not being in a position to maintain that development, particularly when it could create much needed jobs.

As a nation we have been guilty of complacency not only at Government level but also in the area of productive employment. We have been prepared to tolerate inefficiency on the understanding that, at some point, the Government and taxpayers would come to the rescue. In the last two years under a Fianna Fáil Government that myth has come to an end. Government action has brought about a realisation that inefficiencies and bad management cannot be tolerated and that the all too easy lifeline of falling back on the taxpayer through increased taxation is no longer an option.

Debate adjourned.