I propose to take Questions Nos. 77, 91, 97 and 120 together.
Rural areas will benefit from a broad range of expenditure under the national development plan, including water, roads, sanitary services, housing, regional airports and so on. The national rural development strategy is a small element of the total rural spend. It sets out national priorities for rural development programming over the seven-year period to 2013 and was submitted to the European Commission in autumn 2006. The strategy was broadly welcomed by the Commission and, following a period of public consultation, a detailed national rural development programme, based on this strategy, was prepared by my Department, working together with the Department of Agriculture and Food.
This programme was submitted to the European Commission at the end of 2006. Officials from both Departments are working closely with the Commission to ensure the programme is approved in a timely fashion to facilitate an early implementation date. Over the lifetime of the programme, my Department will provide €425 million in public funding to support measures aimed at developing the economic and social infrastructure of the wider rural community. This level of funding incorporates 10% of the total EU finance available under the European agricultural fund for rural development and represents a significant threefold increase in support for the rural economy over that available under the current programme, which is now coming to an end.
It is important to stress that this programme, while significant in itself, represents only one aspect of an integrated investment package in rural areas by my Department. Over the lifetime of the national development plan, almost €400 million will be provided directly from the Exchequer to support complementary rural initiatives by my Department alone. The CLÁR programme, for example, which is targeted at supporting small infrastructure projects in rural areas will attract €141 million over the lifetime of the NDP. In addition, the rural social scheme, which provides community-centred employment opportunities for farmers and fisherpersons, will benefit from national funding of the order of €214 million over the same period.
My Department is developing proposals to establish a pilot night-time rural transport scheme, and I hope to make an announcement in the coming weeks in this regard. In addition, I have already put in place several measures for the development of countryside recreation. I will continue to support and enhance such measures in 2007.