Dáil Éireann - Volume 395 - 14 February, 1990

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

8. Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if sufficient funds are available to cover adequately all areas [1790] seeking inclusion in the disadvantaged areas scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

39. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food whether the rate of reimbursement has been increased from 50 per cent to 65 per cent for headage grant payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Kirk): I propose taking Questions Nos. 8 and 39 together.

The EC Commission has recently fixed a 65 per cent recoupment rate for horizontal measures in Ireland, including the headage payments schemes in our disadvantaged areas. It is Ireland's intention to meet the additionality requirements laid down by the EC in relation to this increased recoupment rate on a broad front so as to achieve the maximum draw-down from EC funds. When the full extent of the new areas is known and when the cost of their inclusion is quantified we shall ensure the necessary funds are provided as they are needed for the extension and reclassification of our disadvantaged areas.

Mr. Sherlock: I welcome the increase of the 65 per cent recoupment rate. May I ask the Minister to state if the applications that have been made by the different areas — where the people know the criteria that is to be applied inside out — have been scrutinised and agreed according to public statements by other people in his own party? Has he made provision in the Estimates for adequate funding for those areas which are to be included? When can we expect a statement on the decision on the areas to be included?

Mr. Kirk: The processing of the survey work which has been going on for some time is in its final stages at present and we hope it will be going to the Commission in the not too distant future. I would say, [1791] and I am sure that the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy, if he was here would wish me to say, that he is more than pleased that he has negotiated the new 65 per cent rate of recoupment. Obviously, it will be beneficial to the operation of the scheme. In the past there had been a problem where the recoupment did not come back for a 12 month period. Through his negotiations he has ensured that we will get it back in a much shorter period. That, of course, will leave the financial provision for the extension and reclassification in a much more satisfactory position.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Deputy Deenihan, who has a question tabled on the subject, No. 39.

Mr. Deenihan: I thank the Minister for his reply and also welcome the fact that the rate of recoupment has been increased from 50 per cent to 65 per cent. However, I would like to ask the Minister if the withdrawal of the £5 million Exchequer funding, announced in the budget, will affect the overall level of funding from the EC for Ireland and the way in which the Government intend to fulfil the additionality rule requirement?

Mr. Kirk: The Deputy will have gleaned from the reply to Deputy Sherlock that the changes to be effected in that area will be catered for with the recoupment coming faster from the Community funds.

Mr. Connaughton: I should like to put on the record that I was very disappointed that my priority question on that topic was not allowed. It is in exactly the same terminology as that used by other Deputies and it was not allowed. I cannot do anything about that now.

An Ceann Comhairle: It was not a question of it not being allowed but that time did not permit despite the admonitions and the appeal of the Chair to [1792] Deputies to co-operate. The co-operation was not forthcoming and the time was exhausted.

Mr. Connaughton: I want to put on the record that I was disappointed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Naturally.

Mr. Connaughton: I should like to ask the Minister why the file has not gone to Brussels. The Minister told us in November that it would be going to Brussels in December. It is still in Agriculture House while all our competitors, throughout Europe, have their files sent. How does the Minister gel the figures in the Programme for Government between his party and the Progressive Democrats when he said it was Government policy to extend the areas, where possible and to increase the headage to those already in receipt of headage over the next four years, whereas, in the Community framework support scheme there appears to be a shortfall in the amount of money sought and what he actually received from Brussels? Where will the actual funding come from for the extension which the Minister and his Deputies are telling the whole country is coming? Will everybody who is successful in this review be paid their headage in 1990?

An Ceann Comhairle: May I say that progress on questions today is particularly sluggish. We have been able to dispose of only seven questions in over 35 minutes. That is not good enough. It is not fair to the Deputies who have other questions tabled.

Mr. Connaughton: We will speed it up.

Mr. Kirk: I should like to say to Deputy Connaughton — I am not sure whether it is his original observation or whether it is his original question in the matter — that the survey which has taken place for this extension has been one of the most thorough and extensive that we have had to date.

Mr. Connor: What value is it?

[1793] Mr. Kirk: The processing of it takes time.

Mr. Connor: The Minister knew that in November.

An Ceann Comhairle: Let us hear the reply of the Minister of State.

Mr. Kirk: The processing of it within the Department of Agriculture and Food naturally takes time but, as I said earlier in reply to Deputy Sherlock, it is entering the final stages and we hope it will be with the Commission in a very short time. In relation to the financial provision the recoupment from Community funds will be much faster under the newly negotiated arrangements which the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy, is putting in place. That will leave the funding in a much more satisfactory position and it will cater for the extension and reclassification of our disadvantaged areas.

Mr. Connaughton: Will that be paid in 1990?

An Ceann Comhairle: Order, I will call Deputy Stagg and Deputy Creed if they will be very brief.

Mr. Finucane: I want to ask a supplementary.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will call Deputy Finucane also.

Deputy Stagg rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: It depends on your brevity, Deputy, whether the other two Members will be called.

Mr. Stagg: I will be brief. Is it true that the criteria for the disadvantaged areas have not changed? Can the Minister confirm that the reason we did not have the additional areas included previously was that the Government were not prepared to put up the local contribution?

Mr. Connor: That is true.

[1794] Mr. Stagg: Where is the local contribution coming from now? That question has been asked repeatedly but it has not been answered. As the surveys have been completed——

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, I am appealing for brevity.

Mr. Stagg: ——The information is there already.

Mr. Kirk: As I have said in reply to previous supplementaries, the survey work has been the most extensive ever undertaken for the extension of the disadvantaged areas and, of necessity, because of the nature of the survey work it takes considerable time. After the survey information became available in the Department, the processing of that information has been under way at an accelerated rate for some time past.

Mr. Creed: This is a very brief supplementary which underpins not alone this question but all questions on the Order Paper. Is either or both of the Ministers present this morning representing Irish agricultural interests at the Cabinet table in the absence of Deputy O'Kennedy?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should put a specific question to the subject matter of No. 8.

Mr. Finucane: I want reassurance from the Minister that the areas which qualify under the criteria nationally will be included in the disadvantaged areas because recently a prominent Fianna Fáil MEP stated that they would and that the business would be done before St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps the Minister could reassure us on both points.

Mr. Kirk: Some of the Deputy's colleagues on the other side were in Government when previous reviews of the disadvantaged areas were undertaken and could tell the Deputy that all these matters must be worked out with the [1795] Commission when the survey is completed. It would be unrealistic of me to anticipate what the final outcome might be.