When the debate was adjourned yesterday afternoon, I was endeavouring to draw attention to the very serious financial consequences involved for the taxpayers in the event of Clause 37 being passed in its present form. That clause gives power to the Commissioners to issue land bonds in the cases of estates or lands purchased by trustees to the extent of the present value put on the lands by the Commissioners. It further gives very drastic power to the Minister for Lands and Agriculture and to the Minister for Finance to meet the difference between the value placed on the land by the Commissioners and the price originally paid out of the taxpayers' pockets. I regard that as a serious blot on this very important and necessary measure. The banks which have been responsible for encouraging foolish people to pay fabulous prices for land during the European war are relieved from liabilities which they would otherwise have to shoulder. In the case of ordinary citizens who were foolish enough to secure advances from the banks at ridiculously high prices in the years 1917, 1918, 1919 and 1920, they must put up with the consequences of their action, but people such as trustees or those who come under the terms of this measure will be relieved of all financial obligations. The point I desire to make is that the value of land now held by people to whom it was given by trustees is not more than half the purchase price paid in 1920. I have been told by two auctioneers who do extensive business that land would not now fetch more than one-third of the price paid for it during the period referred to.
If such land is not worth more than half of its original value, why should not the banks cut half their losses and the State meet them half-way? Why should the State and the Minister relieve the banks which showed bad banking capacity? I protest against this clause giving these powers to the Minister for Lands and Agriculture and the Minister for Finance, because I believe, if such powers are given, a similar case could be made for giving relief to individual business men who incurred financial obligations in the years referred to. We have heard a good deal from Ministers, both inside and outside the Dáil, about the economic blow struck at the State by the Republicans in the years 1922 and 1923. From what I see going on in the country, my personal opinion is that the joint stock banks have struck, and are still striking, a far greater blow economically at this State than the Republicans did in the years referred to. Deputies should not lightly pass on to the Minister for Finance the responsibility of relieving the banks concerned from their own bad banking business. I want to know from the Minister whether he or the Minister for Finance has had any negotiations with the banks in regard to this matter. If he has are we to understand that the banks definitely decline to meet the Government in regard to the financial obligations under this clause If the value of land is only half of its value in the years 1919 and 1920 I do not see why the Minister should take over all liabilities from the banks. If the banks are to be relieved of liabilities, caused by their bad business methods during that particular period, the Government should not meet them more than half way. Take the case of an estate bought by the Land Bank, which is now really the Bank of Ireland, the bank, which so far as I can see dictates the financial policy of the Government. There is such an estate in Offaly which was sold for £10,000, and people have been paying interest in connection with it, but that estate to-day could not be valued by the Commissioners at anything higher than £4,000. The State, or the taxpayer, has therefore to come to the assistance of people in occupation of the land and shoulder £6,000 of the £10,000 originally paid for the land. I suggest that it would be reasonable to ask the banks to cut their losses by half. Let the State shoulder one half of the loss and the banks the other half. Has the Minister put up such a proposition to the banks, or did he go to them as a good fellow and say, "here is a present of £6,000"? These lands which were bought for £10,000 are, as I point out, now only worth about £4,000. If a Division is called on the measure I will have to vote against it. I like some of the clauses, some are urgent and necessary, but I will vote against the Second Reading for the reasons I have just stated.