Seanad Éireann - Volume 95 - 03 June, 1981

Turf Development Bill, 1980: Second Stage.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Energy (Mr. Colley): My apologies for being somewhat delayed. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Turf Development Acts, 1946 to 1980, to enable Bord na Móna to make grants out of funds to be provided by the Oireachtas, to encourage more extensive private development of bogs for the production of turf for fuel.

The increasing scarcity and cost of imported energy makes it imperative that our indigenous energy resources be exploited as fully and effectively as possible. Bogland is a primary energy resource which offers an immediate prospect of more extensive development for fuel purposes; it is therefore an obvious source for attention.

The present situation under which Bord na Móna acquire and develop bogs has been and will continue to be the major contribution of turf to fuel and energy resources. Bord na Móna's record [2086] of good planning, effective organisation and growing scale of output of turf products for electricity generation and for household fuel markets is impressive. It is my intention that Bord na Móna continue to develop and increase their production.

The board's new briquette factory at Littleton, County Tipperary has recently started production. It has an annual production capacity of 130,000 tonnes and when fully operational will provide direct employment for 120 workers, with a further 210 out on the bog producing the milled peat required for the manufacture of the briquettes. With this new plant, the board's total briquette production capacity is now of the order of 500,000 tonnes annually.

A new briquette factory is planned for Ballyforan, County Galway. This is expected to start production in about four years time and will employ about 220 directly and about the same number on the bog. This extra capacity will increase briquette production to about .75 million tonnes annually. Bord na Móna have purchased to date some 70,000 hectares of bog for the production of turf and turf products. The third programme of the board which commenced in 1974, will increase the board's acquisition of bog to about 80,000 hectares.

There are, however, many smaller tracts of bogland which could contribute significantly to our energy requirements. Many of these would be of little interest for development under the large scale operations of Bord na Móna. But their value could be very considerable and I believe that they could be capable of economic development by private interests for the production of fuel. Surveys carried out by An Foras Talúntais indicate that there is a remaining area of bog of about 1.1 million hectares, comprised of relatively small bogs spread throughout the midlands and western areas of the country. It is estimated that about 50 per cent of these boglands would be capable of development for fuel production. Essentially, the Bill is designed to get such of these boglands as are capable of economic exploitation for energy purposes into production as fast and efficiently [2087] as possible through the involvement of the private interests concerned.

The Bill is in no way intended to down-grade or prejudice the primacy of Bord na Móna as the key instrument of policy in the development of turf resources. Indeed, it is because of the confidence I have in the board's expertise and because I know of their dedication to ensuring that all the bogland of the country is carefully used and not wasted or rendered useless by bad work methods, that I am proposing in the Bill that the administration of this private scheme be given over to the board. The Bill also provides for a role for the expertise in the various counties in the administration of the scheme.

The main obstacle to private development of bogland for the production of fuel is the substantial development costs involved, and the cost of modern mechanical turf cutting machinery. This Bill is intended to provide financial assistance towards both of these. One of my chief concerns is to ensure that the now valuable resource of bogland is developed in a planned and careful way. An efficient scheme of private bog development requires the observance of standards of operation. Cost is a major factor in orderly development. Drainage, including outfall drainage, access roads and efficient turf cutting machinery can amount to a financial investment which could impose an excessive burden on private developers, even allowing for the improved market for turf as a fuel. Given this situation and the inescapable need to exploit our domestic energy resources as fully and effectively as possible, it has been decided to introduce a scheme of grants on the lines proposed in the Bill to encourage more extensive private development of bogland for the production of turf for fuel.

To minimise the risk of the destruction or wasteful use of bogs in the growth in turf production which these financial incentives are intended to achieve, the Bill provides for delivery to Bord na Móna of a bog development plan with the grant application. The plan must contain such information as the board may [2088] require. Essentially, the purpose of this requirement is to enable the board to assess a project and to make grants upon terms they consider appropriate to ensure orderly development, including proper regard to the subsequent use of the cut over area.

However, the board may dispense with a development plan where an application relates to a bog development adequately indicated on a plan received by the board in relation to another application or in respect of minor works or minor equipment for a proposed development on a bog which is being worked. I should, perhaps, mention also that the requirement to deliver a plan to Bord na Móna will not apply to persons seeking grant aid for machinery to cut turf under contract. Such contractors may have no direct connection with the bog area being cut and could not be expected to prepare a development plan. As I said earlier persons at local level with knowledge and experience in connection with bog development will have a role in the administration of the scheme. I have in mind here county engineers, county development teams and others with acquired expertise. Specifically, I see this expertise as being of particular immediate value to the board in regard to the examination of bog development plans and perhaps even in the preparation of such plans.

I have, therefore, included a provision in the Bill which enables the board to appoint persons to examine and approve, or indeed in some cases prepare bog development plans.

Turf production by the private sector at about 1 million tonnes per annum—313,000 tonnes approximately of oil equivalent—represents a saving to the economy of the order of £47 million in oil imports.

It is not possible at this stage to give any firm indication of the likely effects of the proposed scheme in terms of increased turf production by private interests. But given suitable harvesting and other conditions it seems that an increased output of upwards of 500,000 tonnes annually would be a reasonable estimate.

[2089] Realistically, it must be acknowledged that this additional output may not be got in the first few years but the potential is there. As to employment, it is reasonable to assume that the anticipated increased activities in private bog development as a result of the scheme will mean extra jobs in areas where job opportunities are relatively scarce. Mechanised methods of bog development and turf extraction are essential for economic exploitation, so that, initially at any rate, additional employment as a direct result of the scheme may be limited. But when the scheme is fully operational employment should be provided for upwards of 800. Some of these jobs will be of a seasonal nature but will fit in with the work pattern in the areas concerned, where farm work, which also has an element of seasonality is the principal source of employment.

Likely expenditure under the proposed grants scheme is not readily estimated at this stage. Essentially, expenditure would depend on the number of acceptable schemes for grant assistance for private bog development coming forward and of course the amounts involved. Development costs will depend a lot on the physical characteristic of the bog being developed, terrain, drainage required and accessibility, and until there is some experience of the working of the scheme a firm estimate of the cost of funding it is not possible.

As the House will be aware, the Central Development Committee (CDC) currently operate a scheme under which grants are made available to private operators towards the cost of turf cutting machinery. It is planned that the CDC scheme will be absorbed in the wider scheme now proposed. The local improvements scheme operated by the Department of the Environment through county councils provides grants for the improvement of non-public roads. Most of the schemes relate to roads serving the local agricultural community but a limited number relate to access roads to bogs. Minor drainage works, including those which serve a bog, also come within the local improvements scheme but such schemes form a very minor part of the total works undertaken. Roinn na Gaeltachta [2090] provide grants to cover the cost of certain roads in Gaeltacht areas. Such grants are not specifically designed to aid bog development but they have in the past been used for this purpose to a limited extent. It is not intended that the scheme now proposed should replace any benefits available under either the local improvements scheme or the Roinn na Gaeltachta scheme. However, the extent to which grants may be available for access roads under these schemes will be taken into account in determining what grant assistance should be made available under the proposed new scheme.

The memorandum circulated with the Bill explains its purpose and that of its various provisions. I will, therefore, confine myself to the more important provisions in the Bill and to those which I think might benefit from further elaboration. As I have said, there are two main strands to it. First, those who own or have a lease of bogland or a right of turbary over it will, subject to an approved development plan for it, be considered for grants for development works and for bog development machinery, including turf cutting machines. Second, persons wishing to cut turf, such as contractors, will be considered for grants for turf cutting machinery.

The Bill indicates those who may apply to Bord na Móna for a grant towards the cost of a proposed bog development. Applicants must be either the owner, which includes the lessee, of the bog or have a right of turbary over it. It is proposed that the board will administer the grants scheme and will have full discretion except in a situation where a conflict of interest between the board and the applicant might be a consideration. The Bill lays down procedures for dealing with a proposal by the board to refuse an application in those circumstances. This, I see, as a necessary assurance for bog developers. I am satisfied that Bord na Móna would not act in an arbitrary or selfish way so as to put their own interest first and block an otherwise worthy provate development. I have provided this safeguard, however. The application and all relevant documents have to be referred to the Minister, who may confirm the board's proposal to refuse the [2091] application or direct it to make a grant, having previously consulted the advisory committee, the establishment of which is provided for in the Bill. It should be noted that referral to the Minister is confined to the so-called conflict of interest situation; otherwise, as I have said, the board have total discretion.

The Bill provides for a grant of up to 60 per cent for projects sponsored by co-operative groups, formal and informal, and for grants of up to 45 per cent in any other case. Essentially, the higher rate of grant for co-operatives is to encourage owners and turbary right holders of small bogs, of which there is a preponderance in the country and which, though individually too small for economic exploitation for fuel purposes, represent a considerable total area of our boglands, to come together to develop such boglands for fuel purposes.

Of course, the persons concerned are in general smallholders with limited financial resources and I think the House will agree that the more generous grant proposed here is justified and, indeed, necessary to ensure that all such boglands that are economically exploitable for fuel purposes are brought into production as fast and efficiently as possible. Indeed, failure to secure the participation of the small bog owners or turbary right holders in bog development schemes would significantly reduce the input to our energy needs from this indigenous resource and, to that extent, the proposed measure would be far less effective than otherwise would be the case.

It has been decided not to attempt, at this stage, to cover questions of bog ownership or rights, or to deal with acquisition or allocation of bogland, or with amalgamation of turbary rights held in small plots, or with division of commonage to facilitate turf production. These are important aspects; they raise difficult and complex issues which would require far-reaching measures. Accordingly, it was felt that the introduction of a priority measure, as this Bill is intended to be, should not be held up while these complex issues are being pursued. I do not see the ownership question as a potential [2092] source of difficulty in connection with the operation of the proposed scheme. Indeed, the availability of grant assistance towards the cost of approved bog developments should be an inducement to those concerned to settle in a spirit of co-operation and to their own advantage, ownership and rights problems in relation to bogs, where these exist.

I commend the Bill to the House as a measure which provides a basis for the encouragement of more extensive private exploitation of the country's turf resources as a means of reducing our dependence on imported coal and oil which this year is expected to top one billion pounds. Comments and discussion on the Bill up to this have been favourable. It has been well received on all sides, and has generated widespread interest in the turf-producing areas.

Mr. Staunton: Fine Gael welcome this Bill and also welcome the Minister to this House at this busy time when he can find time off to come to talk to us.

In principle, this Bill is very welcome. I am not aware of any Bill that has gone through the Oireachtas recently with such a consensus. It is obvious from the Official Report of the Dáil that the Bill was welcomed on all sides of the House in principle, and we support it. It is, as the Minister said, extremely necessary that the smaller size bog should be developed because since Bord na Móna became involved on behalf of the State in the developing of our bogs their development has been to a very large extent on the large midland bogs and with certain exceptions on blanket bogs in north Mayo and Donegal. To a very large extent it has been a very worthy development. The board have pioneered in an area that was very doubtful 30 or 40 years ago when the Turf Development Act was processed in 1946.

It is easy with hindsight today to suggest that the task was easy, but it was in an age when energy did not have the value it has today, when oil was very cheap and when the function of the board on behalf of the Government was to develop bogland resources which were regarded probably as less than valueless [2093] at that time. They pioneered in this industry and developed an international reputation around the world where bogland is of significance. People from Russia, Finland, the US and Germany hold the board in the very highest regard. In talking about this Bill and this further extension of turf development it would be appropriate to put on record the State's appreciation of Bord na Móna for the pioneering work they carried out in earlier years which makes the further extension of bogland activity capable of being brought to fruition.

There has been an entirely inadequate appreciation of the contribution that can be made by our marginal bogland to the energy needs of the country at this time. An Foras Forbartha estimated recently that if the marginal boglands were developed, independent of any other source of fuel including oil, they could keep this country self-sufficient for about a 40-year period. The scope is immense when you look at the facts from the recent survey which pointed out that there are one million hectares—about 2.5 million acres— of bogland half of which it is estimated could be exploited for fuel development. That amounts to 1.25 million acres of exploitable energy. If one relates that to the production of milled peat, for example, with an average yield in the blanket bog of about 60 tonnes per acre, it will give a potential of about 75 million tonnes of milled peat per annum over a 30-year spell which in turn would be the equivalent of about 10 million tonnes of oil or about 20 million tonnes of coal. This puts into perspective how extremely important it is that this indigenous and extremely valuable energy resource should be developed. It is regrettable that it has not happened before this because for some time we have been talking about developing these bogs. However, I am very glad that at this stage it is coming to fruition and I welcome this Bill.

I have spoken about the Bord na Móna issue but, of course, the problem really relates to management and delegation, semi-State issues and issues that relate to the private sector. There is obviously a limit to the size of bog to which the State through a semi-State company can [2094] address itself due to factors that have to do with overheads, capital and all the other factors that relate to industry of which we have seen many examples in many other areas. If you are talking about marginal bogs where you have 100-acre units, 500-acre units or 2,000acre units isolated from areas where Bord na Móna are working it would be impractical for the State to try to urge Bord na Móna to get into the management and development of such bogs. It is not going to work, due to the State structure of overheads and all that goes with that. This Bill is extremely important because it is coming into the area of support for initiative from the private sector or from the co-operative sector to develop these boglands.

With the establishment of Bord na Móna under the Turf Development Act, 1946 we are now coming back to one of the primary functions for which they were set up at that time. The board have a function which they have not been carrying out to a great extent. Part III, Chapter I of the Turf Development Act, 1946 says:

It shall be the duty of the Board—

(a) to produce and market turf and turf products—

which of course they have been doing.

(b) to foster the production and use of turf and turf products,...

In terms of that paragraph (b) the board will have an extremely useful role to play now that this Turf Development Bill is becoming law. A function of the board, apart from the question of they themselves as a board carrying out works and development and the harvesting of turf and milled peat on Irish bogs, will be a very necessary consultative role. If people in the co-operative movements or from the private sector are to get into professional development of these boglands they are going to need professional advice. On our doorstep in this country Bord na Móna are geared to do this, and I am presuming that when they are setting up the section of the board to administer this scheme as intended by the Minister, they will also see themselves in the board [2095] as having a consultative role to play in having a section which can help the private sector or the co-operative movement in terms of advice on the type of development which should be carried out on these bogs.

In this country to a very large extent, apart from turf cut by the sleán, which is still done a great deal, we have seen recent useful developments with turf-cutting machines. We are beginning to mechanise the bogs. Another development in recent years is the Lilliput machines which can be attached to standard tractors and thence can go out on bogs and cut at a very substantial rate and increase dramatically the level of output per hour in comparison with the old fashioned methods. There are other methods of production of milled peat which again will be necessary on many of these bogs if we are to get professional development there.

I would like to broaden the scope of my remarks to talk about some points of energy development. There is room for a certain amount of disquiet about national policy at present concerning peatland development in the sense that in a previous age when it was the board's function in extremely difficult times and in an age of cheap oil to develop bogland, there was an extremely useful national role to be played by the ESB. The ESB as the generator of electricity could absorb a huge proportion of the milled peat produced in the bogs for electricity generation. When the ESB were doing this up to three or four years ago the shoe, economically, was very much on the other foot in the sense that they were helping both the national economy and Bord na Móna to absorb such a huge proportion of milled peat for which the board would have had difficulty in finding a market in this country. It is not many years ago since Bord na Móna found it difficult in some seasons to find a sale for their turf. The full circle has been turned to the degree that the board today are not producing an adequate amount of fuel for the domestic market. The domestic market has to be supplied, to a very large extent, by imported fuels in the [2096] form of imported oil and imported coal. This means an enormous increase in the cost of fuel to the consumer, if he is not fortunate enough to live in the west of Ireland where he has bogland or is fortunate enough to get briquettes from Bord na Móna.

There is another important national factor as well in so far as the peat resource of this country is concerned. There are vital industries today where the cost of energy, which traditionally has been oil, has put many companies out of business. If you are in an energy intensive industry today and if you are using the traditional source of energy, oil, it has become such a critical factor that it has put industries to the wall and is continuing to do so. It has done it, for example, in the grassmeal industry and an industry which I have been associated with, the seaweed industry. Unless there is a fundamental shift to solid fuel, that industry will go to the wall. It has practically crippled the glass-house industry, and the horticultural industry, where subsidies had to be introduced to help industrial consumers.

It is time for a change in policy. The energy resource we have in our bogs, apart from being a domestic fuel and a fuel suitable for electricity generation, is also a perfectly suitable source of energy for industry. An infinitesimal proportion of industries in this country are using peat as a source of fuel. It is since the oil crisis that all of these problems have developed and, of course, we cannot expect the wheels of State to move overnight. They move a little bit slower than the private sector. All of this has really turned into a revolution.

It is sensible policy by Bord na Móna today that about 80 per cent of milled peat production is going into electricity generation and only about 20 per cent is used as a raw material for the production of briquettes. Milled peat in its raw state off the bog, without even going through the stage of being produced into briquettes is used in some other countries very successfully as a source of fuel for industry. I will not be technical, but there is a system called a fluid ice bed system. For example, in Finland, a country which [2097] does not have any oil and coal, major industries such as the paper and pulp industries are using this fuel as their source of energy and it is proving to be much more economical than imported oil or imported coal. This indigenous source of energy, in this age of very high priced imported energy should be a factor in solving the problems the IDA apparently have had in attracting manufacturing industry—for example, to the midlands. We know there has been a lot of satisfactory development in the west and in the east. One of the cries one hears in the midlands is that they are caught in between and have not had this level of development. This energy could be used to a much more significant extent than it is at present, for example, by the Industrial Development Authority in promoting industry in this country. These types of industries located right beside the bogland ensure an indigenous cheap fuel for the future, something which I think is very valuable.

Apart from the midland issue, in so far as the west of Ireland development is concerned, where we have blanket bog from Donegal all the way down to west Cork, if this source of energy is tapped it makes possible viable energy intensive industries along the western seaboard and makes for a positive advantage for the location of certain industries there in comparison with the east coast, south east or southern locations. The Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann factory in Tuam is probably the largest industry in the west of Ireland. I understand that their equivalent needs, it they were to use peat, would be about 12,000 tons of briquettes a year. It is interesting to note that the complete supply of energy for a company such as Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann Teoranta in Tuam could be produced annually from about 400 acres of bog. It shows the potential there is when, in this age of expensive energy, this country has this rich indigenous source of energy. It is illogical to have such a huge proportion of the national resource of milled peat going into electricity generation—77 per cent as against 23 per cent. There is a need to re-examine this policy and have a better order of priorities. The kind of [2098] thing I am thinking about is the recent major ESB generating development in the Shannon basin. In that case coal will be imported in very large quantities in huge ships with bulk offloading into the generating station. I approve of that completely because it is a relatively cheap means of producing electricity. This generation of electricity on coastal locations from imported coal in very large carriers at an economic price points to where the future should lie. Peat should be a resource for the domestic market and, particularly, for industrial development.

We welcome this Bill for a number of reasons. If you want to get the private sector or the co-operative movement into bog development you simply will not be able to do it unless there is a State scheme, because attractive as it might seem to be to produce energy, there are all kinds of problems concerned with the acquisition and development of bogland. It will not be a generator of cash flow for three, four or five years, because drainage has to take place, levelling has to take place, roads have to be built and harvesting machinery has to be got for the bogs. If there is to be industrial development of peat resources factories have got to be built. People in the industrial world and the co-operative world going into this field are going into an area which will absorb a great deal of funds over a number of years before there is any cash flow at all. Obviously, therefore, a Bill of this nature is very welcome.

I would like to put to the Minister some of the remarks that were made in the Dáil concerning the levels of grant. The Bill states that the co-operative movement should get grants of 60 per cent whereas other sectors, be they limited companies or individuals, should get a 45 per cent grant. There is an anomoly here. I know the Minister has made the point that the co-operative movement represents, to a large extent, self help among farmers in developing a bog resource and that they deserve a larger level of assistance. Over the years the private sector has been very successful in a great deal of this type of development.

There have been certain problems in the co-operative movement. I am not [2099] suggesting that the grant level should be any more than 45 per cent: the point I want to make is that a more even-handed report would suggest to me that whatever grant level is available, be it 45 per cent or 60 per cent, the broadest terms should be available to those who wish to avail of the scheme and who have plans which are acceptable under the scheme. The distinction is not a very good idea. It does not seem to have been an original thought in so far as this Bill is concerned because the Central Development Committee in their scheme of grants over the past three to four years, through which they assisted certain projects on boglands such as the purchase of turf cutting machines, had this identical idea of a 45 per cent grant for the private sector and a 60 per cent grant for the co-operative movement. This apparently has been copied and inserted practically word for word into this Bill. I think it is a carry-over from the development committee scheme.

Another point in relation to the Bill, apart from the grant level, is the question of the administration of the scheme and we note that the Minister is giving this function to Bord na Móna. No doubt from a technical point of view they will be extremely competent in administering it because of their basic knowledge of Irish bogs. From an administration point of view there is a structure there that can be used to do it, but one of the aspects that might not be all that satisfactory is that if the private sector is getting into certain developments on bogland there may well be certain circumstances where there would be a conflict of interests. The Minister in this Bill is, if you like, the final court of appeal in the sense that should the board refuse to grant aid to a scheme submitted to them the court of appeal is the Minister. The Minister is empowered under this Bill to appoint a committee to investigate such claims, but I do not know if that will be altogether satisfactory and it would seem to me that the Minister for Energy of the day to a large extent would be guided in terms of the fitness of things as seen by the board to which he has delegated this duty or this responsibility. I would think that the [2100] individual appealing to the Minister in a case which has been turned down by the board might be on a very sticky wicket because the natural will of the Minister might well be to back up Bord na Móna.

On the composition of the independent board to be established by the Minister to help them, if you like as a devil's advocate in looking at the thing, presumably the nomination of all of these members is at the will of the Minister: there will not be vocational representations, for example, on this board. I do not question in any way the integrity of the Minister, but depending on the composition of this board, all kinds of issues could arise.

A point I would make on this Bill, which no doubt is going through this House today, is that it would have been more fitting if a group such as the Industrial Development Authority, for example, had been asked by the Minister to administer the scheme. Of course they do not know boglands and there would be many broad areas of industries in which they would not have a specialised record, but they use consultancy services. It would seem to me that a body as objective as the IDA should be delegated by the Minister to administer this scheme. They could do so very competently and could use the services of Bord na Móna in a consultative role, and they could use the services of people involved in peat-land development in other countries to balance up views that exist here. This is just my personal view.

One or two other points before I conclude include matters concerning the purchase of bogland. Farmers in some cases sell to Bord na Móna or to others because they wish to sell bogland; in other circumstances they are not keen to sell for reasons that have to do with their heritage and the fact that they see this land as theirs and do not see why it should be compulsorily acquired by Bord na Móna.

On the other hand, if the nation is to have this development of turf, the nation obviously must have some system under which Bord na Móna can get hold of this bogland, because if the State does not get hold of the bogland it cannot be developed in the first place, and we would not [2101] see the remarkable developments that have happened, particularly in the midlands, under Bord na Móna.

Another point I want to make is about acquisition. There is a compromise between these two situations and it is very simple. It is all right for the farmer to say that he does not want to sell to Bord na Móna because it is his land, but of course the State has to develop that resource. It is all right for Bord na Móna to say that they need that bogland to develop energy, and unless the board have compulsory powers the greater interests of the nation will not be served. The very simple compromise which happens in some other countries is that there may be a State fuel agency such as Bord na Móna interested in acquiring bogland. They do not have compulsory powers. What they tend to do if they want such bogland is that they lease it.

Leasing is a very interesting option where bogland is concerned because it means that the State's interest is served in the sense that if Bord na Móna, for example, were to get into the business of leasing bogland that bogland would be drained and levelled and the energy skimmed off and used in the nation's interest. On the other hand, the farmers' interest would be served because if that bogland is leased farmers will get a proportion of the value of the milled peat every year for a 20 or 25 year period, which is a few bob coming into the kitty for virgin bog which is 95 per cent water and which farmers cannot develop unless they drain and level it. Bord na Móna serve their function under the Minister by producing the fuel, but what makes the scheme of leasing advantageous for the farmer or for three or four farmers who might own a commonage is that from their point of view they are leasing to Bord na Móna or perhaps to some other agency in the certain knowledge that their bogland, when the peat has been taken from it and when it is down to about one, two or three feet above the sub-soil level, is going to revert to them, maybe not to themselves but to their sons or their daughters or their in-laws. I think, therefore, that that is important, rather than going on forever having [2102] major bogland development, taking thousands of acres from the farming community and ending up with the cutaway bogland fit for farming purposes but with the farming carried out long-term by a board established in the first place to produce fuel and not to get into the farm game. Looking to the future, therefore, the possibility of leasing is something that should be considered. In the light of a recent court case where one farmer took Bord na Móna to court on this very issue of the acquisition of land, I think leasing as an option holds out a certain future that serves the various interests involved in this.

I have said what I wished to say other than to congratulate the Minister on his initiative in bringing in this Bill, and I re-echo the consensus there was among all parties in the Dáil and which I am certain there will be in the Seanad. There are a few other comments we might like to make but we will make them during the Committee Stage.

Ruairí Brugha: The present energy crisis provides a very suitable climate to call for a more widespread individual and co-operative interest in private turf development. There will be many hours of daylight during this present summer when people will have the energy usefully to engage in winning turf and providing fuel for the coming winter. The scarcity and cost of energy resources promote the idea that anybody who has the time to engage in this kind of exercise between this and the winter will be engaging in something in the nature of a patriotic endeavour.

The Minister's figures here are very interesting and prove the value of the effort to win turf. The figure of 313,000 tonnes of approximate oil equivalent in the winning of one million tons of turf in a year is equal to £47 million in oil imports. If it is possible to increase this by upwards of 500,000 tonnes we would have a substantial saving in import costs in addition to providing upwards of 800 jobs at a time when jobs are very necessary.

We all welcome this Bill because it provides a mechanism whereby private [2103] owners and co-operatives can be enabled to produce schemes for Bord na Móna in order to extend turf development. I doubt if any of us or any of those who can remember back to the beginnings of Bord na Móna could have appreciated the value of the contribution of the board since their foundation many years ago. I compliment Bord na Móna for the work they have done.

It is right that the development of this scheme should be placed under Bord na Móna because naturally they have the experience and they are best qualified to study any applications that may come to them. However, I also think it is wise of the Minister to include a provision whereby, in the event of any conflict, application could be made to the Minister who would consult before deciding whether or not to direct the board to approve of an application. It is understandable that a semi-State board may be a little jealous of its own involvement and that therefore there should be a provision of this kind. I welcome this provision which will, so to speak make it unnecessary to apply it and it does away with any danger of any private applicants being refused.

Could the Minister tell me what his reference to recommendations regarding cutaway areas in the case of private schemes involves? What would the board have in mind as regards the use of the cutaway areas? Can the Minister tell me what sort of developments the board is engaging in at the present time with its own cutaway areas?

Mr. Harte: I do not intend to put down any amendments even though our own party had submitted a considerable number of amendments in the Dáil and for some reason they were not pursued or moved. In the interim I wonder if the Minister has had a look at them and if he has taken notice of them in his Second Stage speech.

I want to make comments of a specific nature because I am interested in the fact that the Minister says in his speech that they want to keep Bord na Móna as the primary body responsible for the overall [2104] situation. There are one or two points that are rather puzzling but perhaps at the end of the day the situation will be clearer.

On balance this is a good Bill. It recognises the need for the improvement of marginal bogs and recognises that this depends on grant-aided schemes. Is there any good reason why Bord na Móna could not be given grant facilities in the area of the development of peat lands and cutaway bogs? Is there any reason why Bord na Móna, who have done a very substantial and a very successful job over the years, should not be allowed to qualify for the grants for bog development on the same terms as the grant-aided entrepreneurs? If we are anxious to enable the board to extend development of the marginal bogs should we not have made provision in the Bill for the same measure of grants to Bord na Móna as is made available to private developers? If this were provided for in the Bill it would enable Bord na Móna to continue developments in areas where deep bogs have been exhausted and where marginal bogs could be exploited. I do not know if the Minister has given any consideration to this area.

Section 2 of the Bill should be modified so that the Minister, in looking at the grant-aided development plans for private interests, could not discriminate against Bord na Móna proposals which are not grant-aided, especially proposals in respect of employment. They have done a very good job over the years in protecting employment. It seems that section 2 of the Bill in its present form has not taken account of proposals which Bord na Móna cannot put forward because they are not grant-aided and which would be a very substantial contribution towards increasing employment.

The question of the county councils' involvement in promoting peat production could have been taken into consideration and they could have qualified for the same range of grants. That does not appear to have happened. Particularly in the present state of the country in regard to employment and so on, the county councils could have played a major role. Many remote boglands could and should [2105] be exploited by county councils. During the Emergency I understand turf was produced by county councils under the county production schemes, which could be revived if the Bill was suitably amended.

There is an advisory committee which it appears the Minister would be obliged to consult in making decisions in relation to conflicting interests as between Bord na Móna and private entrepreneurs or grant-aided entrepreneurs. I feel as a representative of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and because we are involved in the social content in the national understanding, that when we are talking about the question of jobs and so on it is desirable to have a nominee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on that advisory committee.

If amendments, could have been dealt with in the other House we would have sought that the grantee should include county councils because they have experience in peat production. We would have sought to give Bord na Móna permission to make application to the Minister for Energy under the same conditions as private enterprise. We would have expected that Bord na Móna, and the Minister, would be obliged to discourage private enterprise intervention if it is detrimental to employment in Bord na Móna or detrimental to any development plans of the board. I have not been able to develop that argument to the effect that it is detrimental, but it seems that if one starts grant aiding entrepreneurs and making matters a bit loose, things have a happy knack of developing in such a way that the primary body begins to take the secondary role. That is the reason I make that observation.

On the question of directions from the Minister to Bord na Móna I should like to know why they should not be laid before the Oireachtas like many other directions are. The question of the grant aid to entrepreneurs being directed to the areas of peatlands which may be unsuitable for development by Bord na Móna by reason of size or remoteness is another area where the Minister should have gone a little further. In my comments I have covered the question of what is actually [2106] wiggling us, the question of Bord na Móna not having the same opportunities of getting into the grant-aided situation and also county councils not being brought into a much fuller role. After all, we are talking about the development of our energy resources. County councils have experience. When one looks back at the record of Bord na Móna one will see that they are masters of the art and they should be given a greater opportunity to compete and to see that their situation is not eroded by the value of help given to grant-aided entrepreneurs for further development.

We do not intend to put down any amendment. The Bill is, on balance, a good Bill, but I should like to ask the Minister to make some observations on the points I raised. We are concerned about the whole question of energy. It is very desirable that the Bill be brought in now and while I have been critical of many things I should like to compliment the Minister on a lot of things that are in it. Our views, if adopted, would have improved the Bill. If there is a good reason why they were not included I would be grateful to hear it from the Minister in his reply.

Mr. O'Toole: I should like to welcome this Bill. Indeed, any development at this time when nationally we need to tap any resources we have as regards the production of additional national fuel for home consumption is to be welcomed. The price of oil and other fuels which we are importing has a very severe impact on all the commodities within our State that we use from day to day. There is a greater awareness of the need for some alternative national fuel and to utilise our national resources to the full. In the coming decade our own resources and our policies will have to be reviewed with a view to providing as much fuel and energy in our own State as possible.

Senator Staunton covered a very comprehensive range in this debate. Coming from the same region I endorse all that he has said. He has a great grasp of what is required, especially in regard to the western region. He may have omitted a few points.

[2107] I want to speak on the acquisition of turbary rights. The failure of the Land Commission, or indeed any body, to acquire further turbary rights for turf development in the western region will have to be looked into as a matter of priority. Farmers in my area utilising the old traditional method of sleán cutting are unable to get sufficient turbary rights and bog plots to have their own private supplies. The new committee being set up by the Minister must ensure, with design engineers, that the new tracts of bog will afford the new bog developer the necessary access for high production with technical, mechanical machines. Such machines are coming on stream, are being designed and patented and while some of them do not give the desirable output they are good experiments. New plots should be designed so as to take all modern technical machinery with a very high output. We will have to have them for future bog development, especially in the western region. It is sad to see coal being brought, so to speak, to Newcastle. Many tonnes of turf are being transported from Longford and Offaly to Mayo, Galway and Sligo where we have such a vast amount of blanket virgin bog that could be developed with modern techniques to produce the requirements of the Connacht region. It is a waste of fuel, energy and haulage to have to buy at an exorbitant price commercial loose turf that is being produced by Bord na Móna in the midlands. That should be curbed and it is something the Minister should give serious thought to in doing something about the provision and acquisition of suitable tracts of bogland. That land is there in abundance and is being acquired by people from foreign lands for other types of development. There should be a certain liaison with the Forestry Division when acquiring land for planting as to the type of bog they require for forestry as against the type of bog required for bog development.

Drainage is important. I say now what I said to the Minister privately on previous occasions. The outlets on these major tracts of bog will have to be deepened, the water courses, rivers, loughs [2108] and streams will have to be deepened to give proper outfall to the major development of the bog that will be acquired in the eighties. Most of the bogs in the west were cut, but the remainder holds the best quality turf. However, because of lack of drainage we had to cut over the best of the turf and what we got on the top was not of the same quality as that left in the bog. With proper drainage that could be utilised to give the best quality turf.

We should get down the gravel so that transportation of the product of the new development would be much easier. Roads are very essential. These, together with drainage, are the first priority in any bog development. If people are to be able to get in and extract turf from large tracts of bog, whether in a dry state or in the cutting, they need to have easy access on roads designed properly to take the traffic of the eighties and of the years that lie ahead.

I would not like to see the CDC devoured in this takeover. They did a good job and a lot of research on the type of machine suitable to the bogs we have here. I understand that unless one buys an Irish made machine at this point one will not qualify for a grant. If one buys one of of these Japanese machines or machines that are being designed to give greater output and which are not Irish, I understand no grant is being made available and co-operatives and private entrepreneurs that are trying to get into turf development are at a disadvantage.

I am delighted that there is some safety valve in relation to applications for these grants in that the Minister will have the final say rather than Bord na Móna because it might well be that there would be a certain unwise screening of applicants with a view to competition and otherwise. The fact that the Minister will have a say in the final decision in regard to applications for these grants is a welcome safety valve, in my view.

As Senator Staunton said, briquettes could be sold. The market is here in Ireland. They are not available in any shop in the west. They may be available on one day a week and if one is not quick to be there and have the purchase carried [2109] out on that particular day, they are not available at other times. Bord na Móna could do more to provide us with commercial loose turf plus additional briquettes. There is a market here and Bord na Móna could do a lot more. While they are mainly producing power for generating stations, there is a large market to be tapped in that field. It would reduce the amount of imported coal if we could produce sufficient briquettes and commercial loose turf. There is a need for a major briquette producing factory in the west. If transportation costs can be cut to a minimum because of the location of the manufacturing unit in the Connacht region, it should be possible to give that region briquettes and loose turf at a price that would be suitable to the people in that area.

There should be some sort of review into the type of heating system that now operates in our institutions throughout the State. During the emergency in the forties and fifties when we were unable to get sufficient energy from abroad we had to revert to a very primitive method of production and in those days we produced sufficient turf to keep the furnaces in the institutions of this State ticking over. In this day and age that should not be too hard to do. We have this virgin national resource and it can be utilised. We could convert our furnaces to use this type of fuel. This would give a vast amount of employment in rural areas and would add to the off-farm employment for small farmers along the coast and throughout the whole western region. Turf-fired furnaces can produce and, according to statistics have produced very high quality heating at a minimum cost. We can do something in that field. It is something that would give a measureable amount of employment at a time when employment is needed in those areas.

I wish the Bill every success and compliment the Minister for bringing it in at this time. He said at the outset that it is subject to review and that we are on a trial spin. We will have teething problems, but nevertheless, the Minister has plenty of power in the Bill to change in midstream, if necessary, to ensure that this venture is profitable at a time when [2110] we are awaiting the flow of oil from the Porcupine.

Dr. West: I also wish to support this Bill. Because of its importance I would like to compliment the Minister on the forceful work he has done in his Department. The importance of this Department ranks only next to the Department of Finance in the impact it can make. The Minister deserves a lot of the credit for putting the energy problems and the options which are available to both private and public enterprise here to the people in such a forceful and intelligent way. He has made a great success of his Department. I hope this success will be continued because of the tremendous importance which energy now plays in our national life. I can make this nonpolitical comment as an independent; if I was a member of a party it might be interpreted in a different way.

Mr. Colley: Especially at this time.

Dr. West: Exactly. I am pleased to speak on this Bill because it marks a part of the evolution of thinking on our semi-State bodies, because this Bill specifically links the public with the private sector. That is an important new way of thinking that we are coming to appreciate. It can be applied in many other areas in the semi-State sector and it may be one of the ways of solving some of the more intractable problems in the semi-State sector. It is pleasing to see that this policy is enshrined in this Bill.

There are all sorts of ways of linking public and private enterprise and this Bill deals with one very specific case in which a public body are empowered to give grants to private developers. The thinking is in the right direction. It is the sort of thinking that has many applications to the whole range of our semi-State sector.

One of the matters that was mentioned is the connection with forestry and the involvement of the Forestry Division in the development of cut-over bogs and particularly in woodland development in which the Industrial Development Authority have played a major role. There again the whole emphasis is on [2111] linking the private developer with the public sector. This is important and will be accepted as a major step forward in the evolution of our semi-State side.

There are a few points to which I should like to draw attention. The Minister referred to putting the emphasis on co-operative development because many of these small bogs are not economic for Bord na Móna to develop. If the various owners of the turbary rights can come together and work an actual or a loose form of co-operation they will find it profitable to develop, given the grants that are available to them. It is right for Bord na Móna to have the actual operation of the scheme with the caveat that the Minister can, if necessary, intervene in the case of conflict. Many people have already paid tribute to the pioneering work, not only in the development of our turf lands but also in the development of the appropriate machinery to work these turflands, that has been carried out by Bord na Móna since their inception. This is a large organisation which, at peak time last year, had more than 6,000 employees. The board are coming into their own in an era of expensive energy.

I should like to refer to the problem of the development of cut-over bogland. Bord na Móna have done interesting experiments. I notice from their last annual report that they have planted 80 hectares in their biomass project and that that is developing. We anxiously await the finds of this first experiment. Also they have allocated 400 hectares of cutaway bog which by 1983 will be planted with short-rotation forestry. These schemes are of tremendous importance. Perhaps the Minister will make some reference in his summing up speech to what will be the situation when these bogs have been developed by the private operators. When the turf has been cut off what will then happen to these boglands? Will they still be developed privately under the Bord na Móna umbrella or will the board directly do the development? These cut-over boglands are now recognised as a very important resource. They can be used for the growing of biomass, for dairy farming, and for forestry, depending on [2112] the type of land one is talking about. An added impetus to turf development is the fact that cut-over bogland is not now just a wasteland. It can be all put back into some important agricultural or agricultural-industrial use. So far as farming is concerned, as one of the speakers mentioned, the reclaimed land could be leased to farmers. It could be leased by the board or it might well be sold off in various sections. Bord na Móna are not in the farming business and farming should be carried out by private interests. Perhaps it is a question of leasing the land or selling it off, but it is important that the whole of the cut-over bogs come back into production in another side of our agricultural industry.

The Minister made reference in his speech to minimising the risk of destruction or of the wasteful use of bogs. That is a wise precaution and the board are to have a look at the development plans and approve them or not, as the case may be. This is important. We always want to see red tape kept to a minimum but we do not want the type of cowboy development that can take place if the private operator is given a free hand. It is a question of finding the right balance, cutting down the red tape and yet keeping some sort of control on the development of the bogs. Legislation in one of the Fisheries Acts comes into play here because the drainage and outfall drainage from bogs now has to be worked out with the fishery authorities. We cannot have outfall drainage ruining spawning beds in important fishing rivers. That is something that occurs here and which would have to be taken into account.

In common with the other Senators I welcome this Bill and consider it to be an important step forward in the development of our turflands.

Professor Doolan: During my summer holidays as a boy, on my uncle's farm in Kilshanny, County Clare, I had the task and the pleasure of spreading and footing the turf and of bringing it home by way of donkey or horse and cart. That traditional method of providing fuel for the typical Irish family farm has been dwarfed by the winning of turf, particularly [2113] by Bord na Móna, in thousands of tons by methods far more technologically advanced by machine and in milled form. One salutes the achievements of Bord na Móna. One might apply to the Irish scene what the poet in the Bible applied to the desert, about making the desert bloom in that it can be said the bogs of Ireland, long despised, have become significantly productive. We now address ourselves to another phase of this development. In doing so, we salute Bord na Móna's achievements in the past, and in my own part of the country more recently the very significant developments on the Galway-Roscommon border are to be referred to and welcomed.

Since the Bill seeks to enable Bord na Móna to make grants out of funds to be provided by the Oireachtas it seems to me to be appropraite to examine the context in which we as Members of the Oireachtas are being asked to permit Bord na Móna to make grants. It seems to me this can be justified only if there are sound economic or social grounds for doing so. The basis for presenting this Bill to the House is not on social but rather on economic grounds. There is a slight reference in the Minister's speech to certain social aspects, but in the first instance what is sought here should stand on its own feet, looked at from a strictly economic point of view. Accordingly, I am going to address myself briefly to a number of the economic considerations which must be considered before grants are made for this scheme that is envisaged.

First of all, the asset itself which is proposed to be won, turf, it is not something that can be thought of as wasting. The question before us is not only whether grants should be made to assist in the development of the winning of this particular asset but why it should be done at this particular time, because I submit it will not be a wasting asset. It is there to be won in years to come, but we now seek in the Bill to bring this forward, to win more turf now and to win it by providing what is effectively a subsidy to private interests. It seems to me that it is only justified if those interests would not [2114] otherwise exploit the assets which they have at their disposal and that it is only by providing a subsidy to them that this will take place. We have to answer that question before we are really justified in providing public funds to see that an asset is won and that it would not be won without these subsidies.

I just want to refer to what I might call a deontas mentality which one must be careful not to encourage, whether it is in the area of agriculture, industry or turf development, where it is only with additional State encouragement that interests are provoked into developing something they have available to them to develop. It seems to me the very antithesis of real Sinn Féinism that to develop something one inevitably in the first place looks to some other source and the State to provide funds to carry out that particular development. It is only if the development would not otherwise take place that we are really justified in providing these funds, funds which the Minister in his speech refers to as being necessary because of the substantial costs that are involved and the cost of modern mechanical turf-cutting machinery. I am not making judgments that this kind of Bill should not be put before us or that funds should not be provided in grant form but the questions I raised must be answered to our satisfaction before we can lend our full support to the measure before us.

There is one final question which has already been referred to by Senator Staunton which I would like to put in the following terms. If one is looking at this Bill and considering the economic justification for it, the distinction between grants of 60 per cent for groups as opposed to 45 per cent in other cases may have more of a social than an economic justification, because almost by definition a group will address itself to a somewhat larger scheme than that which the average individual would address himself to and certain economies of scale will act to the benefit of the group. In strictly economic terms the differential between the two levels of grants is a question that needs to be answered.

Minister for Energy (Mr. Colley): I [2115] should like to thank the Senators who welcomed the Bill and for the various points they raised, which in the main could be described as constructive criticisms. With regard to a point raised by Senator Staunton, the answer is yes, I envisage Bord na Móna having the role of giving technical advice especially to co-ops, whether formal or informal. I would specifically regard that as a function which Bord na Móna would carry out. As the Senator said, they have technical expertise which should be made available in this way. I was interested in the general observations on energy policy which Senator Staunton made. I am tempted to follow him but I will resist because I would be straying rather far from the terms of the Bill. However, his observations were of considerable interest.

With regard to the question of the higher grants being given for co-ops, whether formal or informal, as against individuals or companies, the point at issue is one which has been raised in one form or another by other people, including the very last point made by Senator Doolan, although he approached it in quite a different way. First, I should say that I am advised that 200 to 250 acres of bogland is about the minimum on which one can effectively utilise mechanical production. As we all know, in this country a great bulk of ownership and turbary rights relate to much smaller areas. Consequently, if we want to get the benefit of mechanical production of turf, which is what we want to get, because the object of this Bill is to produce more turf, we want to get it by encouraging the mechanical production of turf and, taking account of the general pattern of ownership and turbary rights, we have to take steps to encourage joint and co-operative development of bogland. It is as simple as that, and that is the primary reason for the higher level of grant for co-ops, formal or informal.

Mr. Staunton: Would the Minister allow me to make one point? I take his point completely but, if the co-ops are getting into the larger acreage, he is giving [2116] them a big advantage over the private sector.

Mr. Colley: That is a problem we might worry about if and when it occurs. The House will be well aware that we are a long time away from large scale co-ops working on a huge scale in the production of turf. If that situation arose, I would see it in the first instance as a plus in the sense that the object is to produce more turf. If it resulted in unfair competition, that would be another day's work and we would have to look at it, but there is no fear of that for quite some years to come.

I think Senator Staunton is mistaken in assuming that the Minister for Energy, whoever he might be, would be inclined in the case of an appeal under the Bill to back Bord na Móna automatically. What is envisaged is that, although he is not bound to take the advice of the advisory committee, he would normally take the advice of that committee. I should say perhaps that it is envisaged also that the members of the committee will be drawn from the best available expertise. The committee will be broadly based to reflect the many social and economic aspects of bog and land use and certainly will not be loaded in favour of Bord na Móna. I envisage one representative of Bord na Móna on the committee. It is right that there should be such a representative to present the point of view of Bord na Móna, but the committee will not be dominated in any way by Bord na Móna. It is a mistake to assume in such cases that the Minister will automatically be inclined to back Bord na Móna. I would hope that the Minister would have available to him disinterested advice from the committee and that he would act on it.

Senator Staunton's suggestion in regard to leasing by Bord na Móna rather than acquisition in fee simple, which is what they have done up to now, is interesting. He had quite a number of good arguments in favour of it, but there are arguments against it as well, as I think the Senator is well aware. I will have a look at the Senator's suggestions. He will appreciate that I do not wish to go too [2117] deeply into this topic because of the possibility that there may be a court case pending. There was a court case recently and there may be an appeal. I do not wish, therefore, to go into too much depth on that. I take the points raised by the Senator and will examine them.

I agree fully with Senator Brugha in the tribute he paid to Bord na Móna. On the question he asked in regard to the use of cutaway bog, perhaps I could refer the Senator to the interim report of the inter-departmental committee to consider the possible uses of Bord na Móna cutaway bogs issued in May 1979 and which brought the position up to date at that time. Perusal of that report shows that the matter is extremely complex and that, in fact, the experts are not at all agreed as yet on what is the best use of cutaway bog. The real answer probably is that there is no best use as such. It should be realised that there are differing qualities in cutaway bog in different parts of the country. The composition is different depending on the subsoil, and so on. In some cases horticulture may be the right answer and in other cases agriculture in the sense of cattle grazing, or crop development, or biomass. Some other developments are being examined. The truth is that we do not know yet what is the ideal and optimum use of cutaway bog. That work is being pursued by the various experts available to us, including An Foras Talúntais.

I do not wish to pursue the points made by Senator Harte because he may not be aware that the amendments in the other House which were put down by his party, and to which he referred, were moved although not spoken to on behalf of his party. They were moved and I spoke on each one of them and set out my views in that regard. I do not think there is any point in my going back over that ground again. If the Senator is interested he will find it in the record of the other House.

On the point made by Senator O'Toole about new types or sizes of turf holdings, that is another version of the point I was making earlier about the size of holding necessary to make economic use of mechanised turf extraction, that is, 200 to 250 acres. I want to assure Senator [2118] O'Toole that there is liaison with the Forestry Division and, indeed, it has been increased in strength in recent times. I accept fully that that liaison is important, and becoming more important by the day almost, as the development of bogland for fuel purposes becomes more important. There are some difficulties and some conflicts of interest which arise, but the liaison is becoming more and more close, and I do not think any insuperable problems will arise.

I want to tell Senator O'Toole that the cost of draining rivers would normally be outside the scope of this Bill. It is only in cases where such drainage is a necessary or integral part of the overall bog development plan that such works would be eligible for consideration for grants, and then only to the extent necessary to develop the particular bog.

Also on the question of producing more briquettes in particular in the west, I should like to reassure Senator O'Toole that, as I said in my opening speech on Second Stage, a factory for the production of briquettes has been erected at Littleton, County Tipperary, and went into production last month, I think. Plans for another factory are on the drawing board. The site for it is being located. Boring is being carried out to identify the precise site but it will be in Ballyforan on the borders of Roscommon and Galway, as Senator Doolan mentioned. With the production from those two factories, the present output of briquettes will be more than doubled.

I thank Senator West for his kind remarks and for his welcome for the Bill. With regard to the developments on cutaway bog I refer him to the report I have mentioned. With regard to what is going to happen to cutaway bog left after the provisions of this Bill have been applied, by definition virtually all the bog in question will be privately or co-operatively owned, but at least it will not be owned by the State. I assume therefore that in the absence of any further developments the cutaway bog will revert to the individual owners or the co-ops and the use to which they will put it will depend on their own view of the situation [2119] and presumably on the best technical advice available from Bord na Móna and An Foras Talúntais.

I agree with Senator Doolan that the primary purpose of this Bill is economic rather than social. It may and I hope will have social advantages, but that is not the purpose of the Bill. That will be an incidental bonus if it happens. The basic economic purpose of the Bill is to produce more turf and fuel from within our own jurisdication to give a greater security of supply and to reduce the drain on our balance of payments for imported energy.

Perhaps if we waited many years we might discover whether, with the rise in the price of fuel, that would be good enough to produce a spurt from the private sector as distinct from Bord na Móna to produce more turf. We cannot afford to wait that long. I cannot say that there are specific studies available which would show the level of these grants being so calculated as to ensure the increase in turf production we would like to see. The best estimates that we are able to make suggest that these grants are necessary and will continue to be necessary for some years at least if we are to get the private sector to realise anything like its potential for the production of turf. When one considers it is estimated that there are approximately one-and-a-quarter million to one-and-a-half million acres of bog in private ownership which are capable of development for fuel, one realises we have a huge natural resource which, under present economic circumstances and in regard to the present trend in the energy field worldwide, it would really be criminal of us not to encourage its production. That is the basic thinking behind the Bill which I hope will be successful.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.