Adjournment Debate. - Western Development Commission Report.

The lack of a response from the Government on the Western Development Commission's report, "State of the West", is proof that it has failed miserably to provide the infrastructural development necessary to give the western region a reasonable chance of providing employment for its people. The report made two key recommendations. The first related to reaching the western region. The Western Development Commission recommended the establishment of a western regional road infrastructure consultative group chaired by a senior official in the National Roads Authority and comprising officials from the National Roads Authority, the Department of the Environment and Local Government, Forfás and the Western Development Commission.

Their second key recommendation was powering and connecting the western region. The Western Development Commission recommended the establishment of a high level strategic working group on power and telecommunications in the western region. It said both these groups should be set up by September 2001 and should have reported their findings, together with a costed development schedule, by February 2002. That has not happened and, obviously, it will not happen.

According to the Western Development Commission, the finance currently being provided for

the western region through the national development plan would need to be increased by an extra £750 million to provide the type of road, rail and telecommunications infrastructure that would allow the region to compete on an equal basis with the rest of the country.

The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, has introduced the Clár programme with money being taken from the existing national development programme. His Department will provide £20 million over a two year period but it is a far cry from the £750 million deemed necessary by the Western Development Commission. Also in the Clár programme, the Minister is establishing another level of administration, whereas there are already numerous bodies in the region that could administer that money.

The Minister of State also stated that he is carrying out other initiatives about which nobody else seems to be aware. No one has been informed about these initiatives. I do not know when they will be implemented – perhaps it will be during the hours of darkness.

It was with regret that I learned of the imminent resignation of Mr. Liam Scollan, the chief executive of the Western Development Commission. Mr. Scollan has worked tirelessly on behalf of the commission and the people of the western region. He has produced many fine documents and has outlined in great detail the steps necessary to develop the region. All that is missing now is the political will to implement the recommendations of the Western Development Commission. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Scollan's departure has been brought about by a deep-seated sense of frustration and despair at the inertia that has gripped this Government. It has failed to provide the necessary funding for the radical programme of initiatives set out in the Western Development Commission's "State of the West" report. I hope, when Mr. Scollan makes public his views on his resignation, he will outline in great detail the reasons he has felt it necessary to resign. I wish Mr. Scollan every success in whatever future endeavour he chooses. I hope he will have more success in obtaining Government funding there than when he was chief executive of the Western Development Commission.

My colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív, the Minister of State with responsibility for rural and western development, issued a statement last week welcoming the "State of the West" report. He pointed out that it is a very useful document as it outlines in detail the work that needs to be done to level the development playing pitch and to ensure that the west achieves its full potential. The report makes three key recommendations: one concerning roads, one on power and telecommunications, and one in relation to an investment programme in towns.

The Clár initiative, recently launched by the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, focuses on may of the areas and issues highlighted in the report, as well as on the further prioritisation of spending under the national development plan. This is proof of the Government's commitment to the issue of rural and western regeneration. In his statement, Deputy Ó Cuív fully accepted the need for a strategic response to the provision of infrastructure. In that regard, as part of Clár, and in response to the report, he is re-establishing the interdepartmental committee on rural development. Urgent work is now under way to ensure that the objectives of the "State of the West" report are implemented.

Deputy Ó Cuív also accepts the need to address the third recommendation, namely, to invest in town infrastructure. As part of the Clár initiative, £20 million has been made available to underpin the success of the programme. A portion of that money, along with finance from other statutory agencies, will be used to progress this objective.

Deputy Ó Cuív met the chief executive and another senior staff member of the commission on 9 October when he explained in detail his approach to the report's recommendations. In its report, the Western Development Commission has clearly stated the agenda and the present baseline position. The performance of the Government and the Clár programme now have a tangible target against which to be measured.

I understand the chief executive of the commission, Mr. Scollan, has decided to take a career move. Ar mo shon féin agus ar son an Aire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, I thank Mr. Scollan for his efforts and commitment on behalf of western development over the past four years, and wish him every success in his new career.

A career move how are you.

The Minister calls that a career move?