I regret the use of the word "juggling" in connection with the establishment of this fund. The £250 million over the next three years is in addition to the normal annual Estimates. It is not true that there is a decrease in the Estimates provision for 1998 compared to the Estimates provision in 1997. The figure for 1997 was £36.7 million, which was made up of £21.45 million from the European Regional Development Fund for the Dublin Institute of Technology and regional technical college sectors and £15.25 million for the Higher Education Authority sector. The comparable figure for 1998 is £41.4 million, which is made up of £25.087 million for the regional technical college, WIT and Dublin Institute of Technology sectors and £16.315 million for the Higher Education Authority sector.
In terms of outturn, I took certain initiatives to purchase land for a number of colleges which was paid for out of the Supplementary Estimates. We did that because requests were made to the Department. Some £2.5 million was made available to Galway Regional Technical College to purchase land because if it was not purchased, the college would not be in a position to expand. The Estimates show an increase on the 1997 Estimates. We also took an initiative in July to allocate an additional £5 million capital to meet the skills requirements mentioned in the Lindsay report which was published in July. The previous Government had made no provision for that. We decided to act by creating approximately 1,550 places in computer software and technician programmes starting in October. To do that we had to introduce a £5 million capital allocation over and above what was provided in the 1997 Estimates, but which was nonetheless required to create additional places to filter through the system.
The amendment is not necessary. I accept the Deputy's desire to ring-fence the fund as additional spending in the Estimate and this is also the Department's view. I assure him the purpose of the fund is to establish clear daylight between the money allocated to it and the annual Estimates process. There would be no point in creating a fund if it was to merely substitute for Estimates. Furthermore, the bottom line in terms of the funding identified by the Deputy for the craft and tourism sectors is that the money was not available to fund urgent capital requirements in them and that is why in the fund we have identified approximately £20 million to be invested in colleges that provide for the catering industry so that we can improve and modernise facilities and create additional places to meet the skill shortages and needs of the tourism industry generally. In many respects the genesis of the fund was in the identification of the skills needs of the economy and the sense of urgency required from the Government to send a clear signal that it was serious about dealing with them.
I do not see how the insertion of the word "appropriate" in the long Title is necessary or why "make available further" should be deleted in terms of achieving the objectives articulated by the Deputy.