COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - MONEY RESOLUTION. LAND BILL, 1927.

I move:—

Chun críche aon Achta a rithfar sa tSíosón so chun an dlí a bhaineas le gabhaltaíocht agus le húnaereacht talmhan do leasú agus chun crícheanna eile a bhaineas leis sin, go bhfuil sé oiriúnach a údarú:—

I. Go geuirfar de mhuirear ar an bPrímh-Chiste no ar a thora fáis aon tsuimeanna is gá chun Ciste na mBannaí Talmhan do mhéadú sa mhéid nách leor é chun ús d'íoc agus fuascailt do dhéanamh ar aon Bhannaí Talmhan a tabharfar amach chun crícheanna an Achta san a rithfar sa tsiosón so; agus

II. Go n-íocfar amach as airgead a sholáthróidh an tOireachtas

(a) suimeanna a chaithfidh Coimisiún na Talmhan ar fheabhsú tailte;

(b) ús agus ciste fiach-laigheaduithe ar aon chailliúintí fé n-ar chuaidh Coimisiún na Talmhan in ath-dhíol (1) Talmhan Nea-thionóntuithe agus (2) Talmhan a cheannuigh Coimisiún na Talmhan fé théarmaí an Achta san;

(c) maidir le tailte atá dílsithe i gCoimisiún na Talmhan fé Chuid III. den Acht Talmhan, 1923, agus is abhar d'fhaisnéis o Choimisiún na Talmhan,

(1) aon riaráiste a bheidh dlite go dtí dáta na faisnéise, den tsuim bhliantúil is iníoctha ag cumainn no ag coluchtaí d'iontaobhuithe fé Alt 54 den Acht Talmhan, 1923, eadhon, pé méid de go ndeimhneoidh Coimisiún na Talmhan nách ceart é bheith mar mhuirear ar na tailte,

(2) ús agus ciste fiach-laigheaduithe go dtí dáta an ath-dhíola ar pé méid den airgead cheannaigh go ndeimhneoidh Coimisiún na Talmhan nách ceart é bheith mar mhuirear ar na tailte.

That for the purpose of any Act of the present session to amend the law relating to the occupation and ownership of land and for other purposes relating thereto it is expedient to authorise:—

I. The charge upon the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof of any sums required for meeting any insufficiency of the Land Bond Fund for the payment of interest on, and the redemption of any Land Bonds issued for the purposes of such Act of the present session; and

II. The payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of

(a) sums to be expended by the Land Commission on the improvement of lands;

(b) interest and sinking fund upon any losses incurred by the Land Commission in the resale of (1) Untenanted Land and (2) Land purchased by the Land Commission under the terms of such Act;

(c) in respect of lands vested in the Land Commission under Part III. of the Land Act, 1923, which are the subject of a declaration by the Land Commission,

(1) so much of any arrears of the annual sum payable by societies or bodies of trustees under Section 54 of the Land Act, 1923, due up to the date of the declaration as the Land Commission certifies should not be a charge upon the lands,

(2) interest and sinking fund until the date of resale upon so much of the purchase money as the Land Commission certifies should not be a charge upon the land.

Under Section 1 of the Bill, the Minister for Finance is authorised to create and issue land bonds for the purposes of the proposed Act, and the sums required for meeting the interest and Sinking Fund payments on the bonds will be charged upon the Central Fund in the event of the money to credit of the Land Bond Fund being found at any time insufficient to meet these payments. The purposes not covered by the Land Act, 1923, for which additional land bonds will be created and issued are three in number. Section 2 of the Bill deals with the first of these cases—compounded arrears of rent. Under Section 19 of the Land Act, 1923, the Land Commission had no power to fix the appointed day for a holding until all the compounded arrears had been collected from a tenant. This led to a great deal of delay and consequent inconvenience to the vendor in many cases, and this section provides for adding the compounded arrears of rent to the purchase money in cases where the Land Commission deem such a course expedient. The amount so added will be paid off by additional purchase annuities. It is estimated that the provisions of this section will lead to the creation of additional land bonds to the extent of £576,000. Some loss will fall on the Exchequer when land bonds are below par, owing to the fact that income tax due in respect of the holdings will be paid in land bonds instead of in cash in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (2) of the section.

The second case which will require the creation of additional land bonds is dealt with in Section 35, which enables payment to be made in land bonds in some cases for turbary rights. Under the Act of 1923 no provision was made for making any payment to a landlord in respect of any profit which he enjoyed before the sale of the holding from the right of turbary vested in him, as the price fixed for the tenant's holding was based entirely on the rent. Section 35 enables the Land Commission to make such payment as they may consider reasonable or just to the persons who were entitled to the turbary rights on holdings before the holdings vested in the Land Commission. It is not expected that this provision will involve a charge on the Exchequer, as the sums received by the Land Commission on the sale of turbary rights will approximate to the sums paid to landlords. The amount of land bonds issued in respect of turbary rights will be small. Another case requiring the creation of additional land bonds is dealt with in Section 37 of the Bill. Lands have been bought by committees in recent years for the use of owners of uneconomic holdings, landless men, and other people, at prices which cannot be recovered on sale to the Land Commission. In some of these cases the Land Commission has no power to acquire the lands so bought as untenanted land under the Act of 1923.

Section 37 enables the Land Commission to purchase and resell these lands where it is considered desirable. Some of these "committee" cases come within the scope of the Land Act of 1923 while others do not. The total amount of bonds to be issued for all such cases is estimated to be between £360,000 and £450,000. Additional land bonds will also be required under Sections 6, 7, 9, 10 and 34 of the Bill. Section 6 enables the Judicial Commissioner, in the case of building ground, to exclude only so much of the building ground as is suitable for building. In the existing state of the law he is bound to exclude the entire holding, though only part of it may be suitable for building. Section 7 brings holdings with disused mill buildings upon them within the scope of the Act of 1923, provided that the holding is substantially agricultural or pastoral.

Section 9 admits to the benefit of the Land Act, 1923, tenancies on purchased holdings. As the law now stands they can neither purchase nor get fair rents fixed, and this section is introduced for the removal of the hardship involved in such cases. The sub-tenancies are not numerous, but as they are scattered and only come before the Land Commission in individual cases, no estimate of their number or of the amount of land bonds required for dealing with them is available. The amount is not likely to be large, however, as it was the exception to leave sub-tenants on purchased holdings and permission to sub-let subsequent to purchase has been given in comparatively few cases. Section 10 deals with the question of fee farm grants, renewable leases, and leases for long terms, in the case of land situate in non-congested districts counties. These already come within Section 38 of the Land Act of 1923. Under the latter section, however, the grantees and others had only power to redeem their rents by means of advances in land bonds.

The Judicial Commissioner fixed the redemption price and allowed certain costs and an equivalent sum of land bonds was advanced, which was re-payable by the proprietor of the parcel of land by means of annuity. Under Section 10 of the present Bill the Land Commission may now, by order, declare that a parcel of land shall vest in the Land Commission on the appointed day. The effect of this will be that the proprietor of the parcel of land so vested in the Land Commission will receive the price of the parcel in land bonds. Some of the land bonds will be used to pay off superior interests, and the remainder will be retained by the proprietor, who will repay the whole amount of the advance by means of a purchase annuity. It is estimated that the extra amount of land bonds which will be required as a result of the provisions of this section will be very small.

Section 34 enables the Land Commission to purchase labourers' cottages from local authorities for a price payable in land bonds. It is not expected that a large number of labourers' cottages will be acquired under this section, but the cottages so acquired will relieve the Land Commission Vote of the cost of erecting new houses for purchasers. The only charge upon public funds as a result of the provisions of the sections referred to will be the State contribution to price in certain cases and the total amount involved is estimated to be of small dimensions.

Coming to the second part of the Resolution, it will be noted that Section 21 enables the Land Commission to expend money on the improvement of lands sold under any Land Purchase Act. It has been held that the Land Commission has power to expend money on improvements only in the case of lands bought under the 1903 Act and subsequent Land Purchase Acts, and it is considered desirable to extend those powers in order to enable the Land Commission to exercise their powers under the Land Act of 1923, where rights of way may have to be given, and for drainage and turbary schemes and the like. The Land Commission are not in a position at present to give even an approximate estimate of the expenditure that will be involved, but the money expended under this section will, as far as possible, be repayable by the proprietor of the lands by means of additional annuities. In some cases an additional annuity, when added to the purchase annuity, would make the holding uneconomic and power is taken to make free grants to meet such a situation.

Section 24 deals with the cases of losses on re-sales of untenanted land in congested districts counties. The Land Commission has no power to withdraw from the sale in such cases if they consider the price fixed by the Judicial Commissioner for the land too high, and they cannot ask the purchasers on resale to pay more than they think the land is worth. The section also deals with losses on the resale of lands which the Land Commission have deemed it necessary to acquire for improvement or enlargement, or the relief of congestion and the like. The section is a necessary one, as the existing provisions of the Land Purchase Acts with regard to losses on resale are not suitable in the case of operations under the 1923 Act.

A different class of case is dealt with in Section 37. In recent years committees, bodies of trustees and societies, assisted in the purchase of lands for the settlement of landless men, uneconomic holders, and the like, in order, largely, to prevent a land war cutting across the national struggle. These lands were mostly bought at a time when land was fetching enormous prices. With the slump in land values it would be quite impossible to recover the original prices paid for the lands from the people who are settled on them, unless by fixing purchase annuities at an uneconomic figure. Section 37 enables the State to come to the rescue of these people by contributing the difference between the present value of the lands and the original price. It is estimated that the aggregate purchase money originally paid for the lands which will come under this section was between £360,000 and £450,000, and that the loss on resale will be between £120,000 and £150,000. The land bonds representing the loss on resale will be amortised by annual payments from voted moneys of between £5,700 and £7,125, when all the lands in question are vested.

Section 41 is designed to meet the similar case of lands purchased by means of advances from the National Land Bank. There were 49 estates bought by these means, and the purchase money fixed under the Act of 1923 is estimated to amount to about £360,000 without taking into account the State contribution. The actual value of the land is, however, about £100,000 less than this sum, and the land bonds representing this difference, which will be the loss on resale, will be redeemed by annual payments of about £4,750 from voted moneys. This section is retrospective in character, and it is proposed to relieve societies and bodies of trustees from the necessity of paying up so much of the arrears due in respect of the annual sums payable by them from the appointed day as the Land Commission certify should not be a charge on the lands. It is not expected that the arrears so certified will amount to more than about £7,000. Generally, it may be stated that the annual charge on public moneys necessitated by the provisions of the Bill is not likely to exceed £20,000, exclusive of expenditure on improvements.

Question put and agreed to.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Resolution reported and agreed to.