RAILWAY AND CANAL COMMISSION (EXTENSION OF TIME) ORDER, 1923.

I beg to move the following resolution :—

"That this Dáil hereby approves of the Railway and Canal Commission (Extension of Time) Order, 1923, made on the fifth day of February, 1923, by the Executive Council, under Section 7 of the Adaptation of Enactments Act, 1922 (No. 2 of 1922), and laid before this Dáil on the twentieth day of February, 1923."

This Resolution requires a little explanation. The Department of Agriculture holds considerable areas of land at present which were acquired under the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916. The land was acquired compulsorily for the purpose of allotments and at present is set to plotholders. Under the Act the powers of the Department to hold the land only continues to the 31st August, 1923, unless extended by the Railway and Canal Commission. The Railway and Canal Commission was a United Kingdom body and is now gone out of operation in the Saorstát and it is necessary to provide some substitute for it to exercise the powers of the Railway and Canal Commission. This is what the Order does. This Order provides that a Commission composed of the Executive heads of the Ministry for Home Affairs, and the Ministry for Local Government, should exercise the powers of the Railway and Canal Commission in the Saorstát, and it is proposed that this body should make an Order extending the time during which the Department can hold the lands. That body will have power to extend the time for three years or for any lesser period. This Order has been made by the Executive Council and it is laid on the Table of the Dáil and it will be completed by resolution of the Dáil.

I was going to raise a question of the necessity of reading this Order, because I recognise that the next resolution would have to follow the same course. I think it better to take the Order as having been read.

I agree. It is pretty long as it is. It is quite simple. It sets up another body to exercise the powers of the Railway and Canal Commission.

This Order has been circulated to Deputies, I am informed.

Would the Minister enlighten us as to this? Have the two Ministers appointed to exercise the duties of the Railway and Canal Commission been appointed to exercise all the duties or only the duties with regard to this particular matter with which we are dealing to-day? The Railway and Canal Commission is a very important body indeed, and it has always been recognised as having judicial functions of the highest order and for that reason the head of the Commission was in each of the three countries formerly comprising the United Kingdom a Judge specially selected for his qualifications to deal with the grave legal questions that came before the Commission. They dealt with the legality of raising or reducing rates, providing reasonable facilities on railways and canals, and a vast number of very important and difficult legal questions. The Commission contained two permanent officials, one representing railway interests and the other representing traders' interests and they were presided over by a Judge whose rulings on questions of law were conclusive. That is to say, he ruled questions of law because he was a trained lawyer. They were all on equality when they came to questions of rates, and matters of that sort. Now, if two Ministers are to be taken away from the duties of their own Department to sit and decide questions, that may take a week or so or a continuous session to decide, the Ministerial duties of these Ministers are bound to suffer. On the other hand, surely the country is entitled to have a Commission dealing with these other matters belonging to the Railway and Canal Commission and have them dealt with by some properly qualified lawyer as President. Perhaps it is my own fault, but I have not read this Order and I would be indebted to the Minister if he would make it clear that these Ministers are only appointed to deal with these questions of land now in the hands of the Department of Agriculture, and not the general question of railways and canals.

This Order was considered by the Seanad last Wednesday and copies were circulated to all Deputies and Senators previous to that. If Deputies have forgotten the receipt of the Order it is not the fault of the officials.

I do not deny the receipt of it. I make a free confession and acknowledge the receipt of a large number of documents, but I do not read them all.

Before the Minister replies I would invite him, if he would, to give some indication to the Dáil and to the plot-holders in the country as to what is the intention of the Government in regard to the position of plot-holders. I do not expect from him a speech such as would be necessary in introducing the promised Bill, but I think it would be an advantage if he would take the opportunity that this Commission provides, at least to give some indication of the mind of the Government in regard to the allotment movement and whether they intend to continue to assist it, or rather to encourage it.

Deputy Fitzgibbon informs me that he read the Order and it is all right.

Yes, my question is answered.

This merely deals with the functions of the Commission in extending the time. I shall read the Section:—

"All the jurisdictions, powers and duties which on the 6th day of December, 1921, were conferred or imposed by Sub-Section (1) of Section 1 of the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, 1916, on the Railway and Canal Commission are hereby conferred and imposed on the Railway and Canal (Extension of Time) Commission."

All the functions of the Railway and Canal Commission under Section 1 deal with extending the time. With regard to Deputy Johnson's point, a Bill is to be introduced dealing with the general question of plot-holders. The main difficulty in the way is this. At present the Department of Agriculture acquire land and they have to acquire it at the market value. They have to let it to the plot-holders at a tillage rent, a rent which would pay them and which would warrant the sowing and selling of crops. There is a big difference between the market value of the land about Dublin and the land for tillage purposes, and the State has to pay it. Everybody wants to have everything paid out of taxation and we are trying to solve that problem as well as we can. We are endeavouring to make plot-holding a self-supporting proposition. These are the real difficulties and the Bill will be shortly introduced.

Question put: "That this Dáil hereby approves of the Railway and Canal Commission (Extension of Time) Order, 1923, made on the fifth day of February, 1923, by the Executive Council, under Section 7 of the Adaptation of Enactments Act, 1922 (No. 2 of 1922), and laid before this Dáil on the twentieth day of February, 1923."
Agreed.