I am anxious that this Bill should get through as quickly as possible, and I do not intend to say much on it. A point was raised by a Deputy here which I would like to support. I do not often agree with the Minister for Agriculture, but I do agree with him in this, that farmers now in straitened circumstances as a result of laziness or extravagance should not be put on their feet at the expense of the State; but the Minister is aware that many farmers have been hard hit by the ravages of fluke, and that banks will not make them any advances and the Agricultural Credit Corporation will not come to their aid. I suggest that such cases should be taken into consideration. There are considerable numbers of them in Galway and Clare. Such farmers are really bankrupt, if not so declared, and it would be bad for the nation not to consider individuals at all and allow them to clear out, as they will be compelled to do. In that connection I do not see what objection there could be to allow a loan being given by the Credit Corporation to be used, or partly used for, say, clearing one year's land annuities. That would help the farmer just as much as stocking the land, perhaps even more, and the need might be more urgent. The banks are well secured; in fact, they take priority, and when Deputy Jasper Wolfe praised the Bill so highly—he was right in praising it, of course—he argued that the equitable claimants are not quite as well secured as the banks. Standing on the Olympic heights of legal knowledge, he taunted us with not understanding the word "equities." If it was necessary for the Bill that the word should be explained I suggest it is the duty of the Minister whom he praised so highly to explain it, but the Deputy is not to assume that the average member of this House has not a fair idea of the meaning of the word "equities" in that connection. One other point. There is an arrangement which obtains fairly generally throughout the country, and it is this: That a farmer, being a registered owner when he is growing old and his son gets married, hands over the farm to his son subject to an annuity to himself for life. I have been told that the Agricultural Credit Corporation have refused sons so situated loans on account of the burden of the annuity. I would ask the Minister to explain this, and how this Bill will aid men so circumstanced.
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT BILL, 1928—SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).
I would like to say a few words of welcome on the introduction of this Bill, as I am aware that it is essential if farmers are to secure loans. I know, owing to the legal expenses that would be incurred in securing the discharge of the equities and other matters, that a good many persons who have been granted loans by the Agricultural Credit Corporation have, under the circumstances, declined to accept them. I am aware of that, because where £150 or £100 were granted to any farmer the legal expenses would be £15 in the case of £150, and £10 in the other. The result was that those persons, notwithstanding the fact that they were very eager and anxious to get the money, were obliged to refuse it. At present the Agricultural Credit Act has been disappointing. I believe that this Bill will allow the Corporation now to function in a proper way, and that there will be a considerable amount of money circulating. I believe that the Agricultural Credit Corporation and the banks should be a little bit more liberal. Now that we have turned the corner towards prosperity, and that much higher prices are being secured for live stock and agricultural produce, and that we have in the first three months of this year shown a very great increase in exports, the farmers are beginning to see some future for them, and if they can only get a little more capital I believe that this country will go ahead rapidly in the future. They were disappointed six months ago, and it is no wonder, because there did not appear to be any future for them. Now, everything is pointing the other way. If the weather conditions only mend I believe you are going to have prosperity in the future, and I hope this Bill will receive a speedy passage.
There are innumerable matters I could deal with which I do not intend to mention now, because I wish to see this Bill passed as soon as possible. I will conclude by saying that I hope the next applications—and there are innumerable applications—will be dealt with liberally and quickly, because it is a matter of the greatest importance that these people should receive assistance in order that they may be able to develop the prosperity which I say is coming rapidly.
Deputy Shaw speaks of the bright future before farmers. That may be true of the farmers in Westmeath, who farm on a very big scale, but I would like to support the plea of Deputy Fahy on behalf of the small farmers in the province of Connaught who, say, at the moment owe one year's land annuities. These men are precluded from obtaining any share of the Agricultural Grant in the present conditions, and it would be very essential for these people to make some provision whereby a loan could be granted to them even though they owe one or one and a half years' annuities. Unless that is done there is no prospect whatever before these small farmers except to clear out, bag and baggage.
Another point that might be worth considering is that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should make provision in areas struggling to get creameries established and that they should make provision without any delay to make loans to farmers who wish to buy in cows for creameries purposes. If this is done on a big scale I think the Minister for Lands and Agriculture will admit that more creameries will be established under the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society schemes. If these two points are attended to by the Agricultural Credit Corporation I think great service will be done to the small farmers in the West of Ireland.
When the original Bill, of which this is now an amending Bill, was introduced, the question of agricultural credit as applied to Irish conditions had not previously been dealt with in a legislative manner, and it was evident to those who took an interest in the passing of that Bill that any Act you could, at that time, produce would not be perfect. The example of the other countries in which agricultural credit matters had been dealt with in a legislative manner would be followed to a considerable extent by the legislation introduced here, but the Bill could not, under any circumstances, be an exact model of the existing legislation in other countries because account would have to be taken of the fact that agricultural conditions in this country in this case differ considerably from those in other countries, and also account would have to be taken of the fact that existing credit and banking conditions were also different. Therefore, it was plain to most of us that the Bill at that stage could only be regarded as experimental, and that in due course it would be found necessary to amend it. It became clear to those familiar with the working of the Agricultural Credit Corporation at an early stage that the obstacles which had become evident in regard to the clearing of title and which prevented registration of the mortgage, owing to the priority of the equities, would have to be removed if effective work was to be done by the Corporation, and we are glad to see the Minister took advantage of the first opportunity to introduce this Bill, and I hope it will pass readily through the House.
Some Deputies may be inclined to cavil at the delay that has taken place in putting the Corporation on an effective working basis. Personally, I am not in agreement with that idea. I think it is a good thing that some delay took place, because I think the effect will be to bring the society and the farmers in particular to a realisation of the real difficulties of the case and the real problems. It is a fact that the idea was altogether too common before the introduction of this Bill that money would be available for every farmer who wanted it and that State money would be given to farmers no matter what their circumstances were.
So you said.
I agree with Deputy Fahy about the policy that money should not be given to farmers who have by their own extravagance, wilful neglect and incompetence become failures at their business.
What is going to be done with them?
Hang them or export them.
On the other hand I think we should make this Agricultural Credit Corporation such a machine that any farmer who has proved by his work in the past and whose character is such that it warrants the granting of moneys, should be placed in the position of getting that money and any legal obstacle standing in the way should be removed. This Bill is dealing with artificial obstacles of a legal nature. A great deal of talk is being carried on in connection with the securities and placing the Corporation in a position to take securities on the making of loans. While I regard these provisions as essential to the successful working of the Corporation I want to say that the first security which must be in existence at all times is character. I think the character of the farmer and the inherent ideas of the farming community in general with regard to the redemption of loans are things that must be taken cognisance of in making loans. In that connection, I think it is advisable, as far as possible in dealing with matters of this kind, that politics should be kept out of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I would say that politicians who even by implication do sometimes and have sometimes conveyed to the farming community that certain obligations which they have contracted are not obligations which they are morally or perhaps legally bound to pay ought to take consideration of the effect that such propaganda may have on the farming community, because it is essential that a farmer shall realise that legal obligations contracted with the full knowledge of the validity of those obligations must be liquidated in due course.
The question of interest has been raised by other Deputies. At the time of the introduction of the original Act and during the initial working of the Corporation, I personally had the impression that the rate of interest was a matter of considerable importance, but I find that that is not of such importance as it appeared at first. I have changed my mind in that regard. I find that to the average farmer it does not really matter whether he pays 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. for his money. The real thing that counts with the farmer who wants a loan is to get the loan.
At any percentage?
If the farmer who borrows £100 has to pay £6 or £5 it is not going to make a great deal of difference to him.
On a point of order, is the Parliamentary Secretary in order at all?
My position about the Parliamentary Secretary's speech is, if I may say so, that I am afraid that he is in order. But if the Parliamentary Secretary is going to go into some of the matters he mentioned, and if the House by agreement sits until half-past ten, they will not then have been dealt with. Certainly the general question of the principal Act does arise, and according to our practice on Second Stages, may be dealt with. At the same time, if, as appears to be the case, the principle of this particular amending Bill is not going to be the subject of a division in the House, we ought not to get into too wide a debate on the principal Act, because it carries us very far.
I will bring my remarks to a conclusion very shortly. I think it must be recognised that this institution that has been established has been established as a commercial institution, as a self-supporting institution, with the credit of the State at its back. So far the State has not subsidised or made a grant to this Corporation, and while it continues to be a commercial institution it cannot be reasonably expected to advance money at a lower rate of interest than the State itself obtains money at. If a certain class of farmer cannot be dealt with in the ordinary commercial way, I think that ought to be dealt with as a separate matter and by means of a definite subsidy. We in the Dáil should be cognisant of the fact that we were making a grant under certain special conditions, but this is a commercial institution, and we ought to discuss it as such.
On a point of order, is it not correct to state that the State has contributed something over £200,000 in shares?
That is not a point of order.
The State has invested in this, and it is receiving interest on its investments.
The State has invested money on which it is receiving 5 per cent. interest. The Corporation has the credit of the State behind it. Deputy O'Hanlon made a few interesting statements. One of these was that this Corporation ought not to be an isolated institution, and that the directors of the Corporation or, as I understood him, some representative or, perhaps, Minister ought to be made accountable for the working of the Corporation in this Dáil. To my mind that is an extraordinary proposition. It is impracticable and impossible that we should have a Minister here answering such questions as to whether a loan was made to John Doyle. I think such a proposition is impracticable and unworkable; that it is really not one that ought to be sensibly entertained. As I said in my opening statement, I regard the Agricultural Credit Corporation as being in an evolutionary condition and that even this Dáil will not finally complete the legislation which will be necessary to place it in a position where it can altogether meet the requirements of the agricultural community. I think, by gradual experience of dealing with the farmers and coming into direct contact with their credit problems, that the directors of the Corporation will begin to realise the problem that has to be solved and if it is found that there are other difficulties in the way, I am sure the Minister will introduce, at an early date, further amending Bills if they are found necessary.
In that connection I want to say that, in my opinion, there is a very interesting avenue of development opened up by the statement made at the recent annual general meeting of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I think the avenue to which attention has been directed ought to receive attention, and in connection with the legislation that will be introduced at an early date I hope for the placing of the cooperative movement on a properly organised and legislative basis, that attention will be paid by the Minister to the remarks that were made at the annual meeting the other day by the Chairman of the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
We must remember that it was through no fault of their own that the farmers have had to seek loans. It was owing to the wet seasons, and especially to the existence of fluke disease amongst cattle, that the farmers have had to go to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for loans. It is not, as Deputy Heffernan wished to make out, because farmers did not work. I am surprised at the Deputy saying that.
I said nothing of the kind. My statement was that I was in agreement with Deputy Fahy that loans ought not to be made to farmers who by their own improvidence and neglect did not work their farms.
That is not a correct version of Deputy Fahy's remark.
It is not owing to their own neglect that farmers have had to look for loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. While I welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction and as an indication that the Government are determined to hasten the granting of loans. I am nevertheless thoroughly dissatisfied with the provisions for giving credit, especially in the West, where the farmers are in such an uneconomic condition that they will get no relief under the present Act. The very people who expect to get loans are the people who will not get them. Take the case of farmers who are in arrears with their rent. Such farmers will receive no benefit. They are not to get any portion of these loans if they are in arrear with their rent for a year or two. What will become of them? Some statements have been made in the Press to the effect that only persons of such economic standing as would entitle them to extract credit from a bank are the persons who can expect to get loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. From what I know of the farming community I know that ninety cases out of a hundred will be refused loans from that point of view. If they are going to receive no benefit from it, what good will this Bill be to them? Again, there seems to be great delay in the granting of loans. The original Act was passed in 1927, so that a year has gone by, but not a single penny has been granted by way of loan to farmers in the Twenty-six Counties. Their farms will remain untilled, and some of the farmers, owing to lack of capital, will become a burden on the community. The rents and rates are unpaid.
I know seven cases in a district within a radius of ten miles in which the farmers have cleared out, bag and baggage, because they could not get a loan. So far back as 1926 they were promised loans. The Minister for Agriculture came to Leitrim and promised the people that they would get loans immediately. Deputies Dolan and Roddy were also there. The promises have not materialised, and these seven farmers have had to clear out and go to America. Another aspect of the loan question has been referred to by other Deputies, namely, the question of interest. Interest at the rate of 6 per cent. is altogether prohibitive. No farmer could pay 6 per cent. and at the same time pay back the principal and pay his rent and rates. That is an utter impossibility. Then, again, the term of years for which the loan is to be retained is all too short. Anything less than ten years is out of the question. Another matter has been referred to by Deputy O'Hanlon, and that is that there is no Minister responsible to the Dáil for answering questions relating to the Credit Corporation. That defect should be remedied. A short time ago I handed in a question asking for information respecting the Credit Corporation, but it was handed back to me by an official of the Dáil, who stated that there was no Minister or Department responsible to the Dáil for answering questions of that sort. It is absolutely essential that there should be close contact between the members of the Dáil and the Credit Corporation, and the only means for having that done is to have either the Minister for Agriculture or the Minister for Finance made responsible to the Dáil for this Corporation.
I was hoping to see this Bill going through rapidly, but it has now become necessary, owing to the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs, that we should disassociate ourselves from his attitude of mind and from that of people who will find various excuses later for the failure of this measure and who will associate us with that failure. We have no responsibility for this measure. It will do a small amount of good, and therefore we support it, and we trust that it will do that good quickly. On general grounds, however, it will be a failure, as there is not sufficient capital behind it. Secondly, the interest is far too high, and it is beyond the bounds of possibility for a considerable number of small farmers to pay interest at the rate of 6 per cent. and to make any profit for themselves. There is a large number of people who, owing to the fact that they owe a considerable amount in annuities through no fault of their own—I hear there is about to be a change——
I am glad to hear it.
It was mentioned in the newspapers yesterday.
I did not see it and, in any event, I do not always believe what the newspapers say. It is good to have the assurance of the Minister that that is so. The machinery of the Credit Corporation has not been sufficiently developed and there is not that contact between farmers and the Corporation which should exist. For example, where banks lack an intimate knowledge of the conditions of farming, they will not know where to give credit and where to refuse it. We have not yet found the missing link or a means of getting the right kind of people who will know where they can and where they cannot lend. Then there is the difficulty created by the establishment of an independent body. The Corporation is not subject to the control of this Dáil. That is not satisfactory. We should, at least, be in the position of shareholders who appoint a trustee to look after their interests. In this case that trustee would naturally be the Minister for Agriculture, who should be able to give us even a limited amount of information concerning the operations of the Corporation. We represent the people who put up the money, and the Minister is the person who is using the money which the people have invested. We should be able to go to him and satisfy ourselves that the institution to which the money has been given is administering it properly. I do not think that the subject of national credit and credit-giving to farmers should be put on the basis of a joint stock company, as there is a very big difference in principle. That is a large question, but there should be some way in which the representatives of the nation will be able to have some influence on the policy of giving credit to farmers, who represent 75 per cent. of our people. While we support the Bill, we are not in any way responsible for it, and we are not going to be responsible for its failure, which is inevitable.
You want to be safe.
The people responsible for this Bill have no anxiety whatever that either Deputy Little or his Party should take any responsibility for it. The people who are responsible for it will take all the responsibility. Deputies are inclined to attach more importance to this Bill than it deserves. State banking is a new departure, and it is only when we come to work it that the infirmities in the original Act will appear. This Bill, however, will not remove all those infirmities. The purpose of this Bill is to remove a particular obstacle which was unsurmountable. That is the reason of the urgency of this Bill. There are other infirmities in the Act and we will get other Bills to remedy these infirmities. There should be some elasticity and some discretion allowed to the directors in connection with loans. It is a peculiar anomaly that a person applying for a loan who owes a half year's or a year's annuity and who has his land fully stocked cannot get a loan, but if he sells a cow to pay the annuities which he owes he can borrow money to repurchase cattle. He is open to the risk of selling good cows and buying bad ones. That is one of the infirmities in the Bill. The rate of interest may also be an infirmity, but while we have the present method of securing money to finance the Corporation we must have a rate of six per cent. interest on the loan. If there are other methods, nobody on the Opposition Benches has suggested how the money could be got.
By a fiduciary note issue.
At whose expense?
At the State's expense—the credit of the State.
There was a provision in the original Act which was afterwards removed, which would secure that without any expense to the State.
It would only mean the cost of printing.
That is a very easy way of getting money.
Even though it only meant the cost of printing you were not here to recommend it. The Committee have not been able to recommend it. It is necessary that more discretion should be allowed to the Corporation in its judgment. The provision should be made elastic so as to give it free play to exercise that discretion. We have heard a lot of talk about the difference between five and six per cent., but surely the difference of £1 per year in a loan of £100 is not so serious as Deputies would have us believe.
It is the last straw that breaks the camel's back.
We have listened to too much of this foolery. Some of these old saws have developed into foolery and mummery, but the difference between five and six per cent in a sum of £100 does not amount to much. We will have to go much further than that if money has to be secured, and money will have to be secured at some expense to enable the Corporation to give loans at a smaller rate of interest. If six per cent. is too high what rate would Deputies consider fair?
Then £3 will save the whole situation. I do not want to curtail the time of the Minister but we want to get this Bill through as quickly as possible, as it is absolutely necessary that it should take effect at the earliest possible moment.
It appears to me that general support has been given to the Bill from all sides of the House and, I might add, that a spirit almost of enthusiasm is shown in favour of the Bill. I must say that as a practical farmer myself I cannot share that enthusiasm, and I am sure the House will want to know the reason why. As a practical farmer, as one who has been secretary of a co-operative society for the last twelve years, I know something about agricultural conditions, at least as they exist in my own county, Tipperary, and I know it has taken us all our time—even the very best farmers in it, with our farms fully stocked and fully equipped, with every class of up-to-date machinery for the production of milk, butter and bacon—it has taken the very best of us all our time for the last four years to pay rents, rates and household expenses. If that is so and I think no practical farmer who knows agricultural conditions as I have known them for the last few years can deny it, how can you expect a farmer who has practically to re-stock a farm, who has to purchase all necessary machinery for the equipment of the farm, to be able to pay you back at six per cent.—these are the conditions on which he is borrowing—to be able to pay you back all the money necessary to purchase that stock within a period of from five to seven years? In the case of farmers, from seventy to eighty per cent. solvent, there is a reasonable hope that they will be able to pay six per cent. on the amount advanced by the Credit Corporation within a period of five or six years, but when a farmer is practically down and out, what hopes can there be of his being able to pay back for five years a sum of £26 for every £100 that he borrows? These are the conditions on which he is going to get the money. He will have to pay back for five years a sum of £26 for every £100 advanced to him. I say as a practical farmer that that is absolutely impossible. I say that if on every side of the House we are honest in trying to build up agriculture—and we are told that seventy-five per cent. of the wealth of the country comes from agriculture—there should be general agreement and we should be in earnest in building up the agricultural community.
My idea would be that for the first five years at least none of the principal should be repayable by the people who are in a bad financial position to-day. There are some people who will want only small sums for re-stocking purposes and they can pay you back the principal and interest within a period of from five to seven years, but they are very few and far between. If we are to build up the agricultural industry in this country, there must be a freer flow of capital into the pockets of the farmers. We should trust them to a greater extent than we have trusted them up to the present. I do not want to stand up for the farmer who has not attempted to make good. I do not stand up for the thriftless farmer, or the lazy, idle farmer, because I generally work twelve or fourteen hours a day when I am at home and I believe there is no way of building up the agricultural community except by working our hands and brains to the greatest possible extent. There are plenty of farmers all over the country in a hopeless condition and they expect that we, as a Government, will try to do something through this Credit Corporation or otherwise to put them on their feet again. I maintain that you cannot do that if you insist on their paying back principal and interest within a period of five to seven years. The Agricultural Credit Corporation Act has been passed for something like a year and a half and according to a statement made recently a sum of only £1,000 has been advanced to build up the agricultural industry. That statement comes from the chairman of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I believe that there has been an expenditure of £5,000 or £6,000 to pay employees and general expenses to advance that £1,000.
If we are to build up the agricultural industry, we must be in earnest about it, and see that the farmers get this money rapidly and under fair conditions so that there will be some hope of being able to build up the industry. Up to the present, I understand there have been about 14,000 applications for loans. When are we going to have these dealt with at the present rate? The obstacle which this Bill is intended to remove, I think, would not prevent a much greater advance of money than £1,000, even if the Bill were not passed. That obstacle surely should not have prevented many people who have applied for a loan from getting it before this.
As to local credit societies, as the Act stands at present people cannot borrow less than £50 from the Credit Corporation. They have to go to local societies to borrow the money. This money I understand is to be lent to local societies at six per cent. As a secretary of one of these local societies for years, I can tell the Corporation that we will not accept money on these conditions. We can borrow money in the local banks at a cheaper rate and we have done it. We have enabled farmers to stock their farms through money borrowed out of the production of milk, etc., or through credit which we got in local banks. The Corporation can make up their minds that we are not going to take money from them at six per cent., as we can do better. If they cannot do better than that, they have no business saying, "We are going to give money to help everybody who is going to borrow less than £50."
Will the Deputy name the bank which advances money at less than 6 per cent.?
As a secretary of a creamery society, I can tell the Deputy that we have never had to pay 6 per cent. for any money borrowed.
That is right.
If any Deputy questions that, I have documents here which I can show him to prove it. I wish to put a proposition before the House, if I would be in order. The Minister for Finance stated here a few months ago that a saving of £300,000 would be effected as a result of the setting up of the Currency Commission by issuing our own notes. Could not some of that money be turned over to the development of agriculture by lowering the rate of interest to the farmers? I am convinced that there is not the smallest hope of building up the agricultural industry on a 6 per cent. interest basis. The Corporation will make a fatal mistake if they are going to insist on farmers repaying principal and interest on a five or seven years' loan at that rate.
At two General Elections I have heard grand promises made by Ministers and Cumann na nGaedheal candidates as to what they were to do for the farmers. They told the people that the agricultural industry was the only industry left. If the only thing that can be done by the national Parliament for that industry is to lend money at 6 per cent., I should like to know where we are. I wonder would the Minister tell us what farmer who cannot get money from the bank is going to get it from the Credit Corporation. You will get money from a bank just as cheaply as from the Corporation. When I heard Deputy Gorey and the Parliamentary Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs speaking of the interest on money and saying that it did not matter what amount of interest was charged, that it was all right——
I said nothing of the kind.
I said nothing of the kind, and I am sure Deputy Gorey did not.
The Deputy should quote accurately.
I quoted as accurately as I could.
Speak of the ex-R.I.C.
Or the ex-bull-dogs.
Let us keep to the Bill.
Let the bullies conduct themselves; they will not bully me. When we hear a statement of that description made, and when, at the same time, we have the Parliamentary Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs telling us about moral obligations, I wonder would he go down to County Tipperary and tell the farmers to pay what they owe the banks and see what they will say to him.
I was not talking about the banks.
Will he tell them of the interest they have to pay, and that it does not matter whether it is five or ten per cent.? I think the farmers who borrow money and who do not care what amount of interest they have to pay are farmers who have no intention of ever paying back the money.
Will the Deputy go down and tell the farmers in County Cork to pay their land annuities?
There is only one thing necessary to keep this debate going on for ever, and that is the introduction of land annuities.
So far as I dealt with land annuities, my statements have been made public. Deputies tell farmers to meet their obligations, and to continue to meet them, and, at the same time, turn round and say they are too lazy to work. I expected the Parliamentary Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs to say that nobody should get money. I suppose what he meant by his statement was that no one should get money except he was a member of the Farmers' Union.
I quite agree. We will have an amendment put in the Bill to that effect.
That is what I thought, when I heard him talking about the character of the persons getting money. I consider that lending money at six per cent. is practically useless to the farmers. I challenge the Minister to deny that 50 per cent. of the applications made up to the present for loans came from farmers who owed land annuities. It is an astonishing state of affairs that the farmer who owes £1,000 to the bank can get a loan from the Corporation, while the farmer who only owes £20 land annuities can get nothing. That is an amazing state of affairs. Practically every farmer who is in difficulties owes a certain amount in land annuities. I hope that defect will be remedied. There is also another defect. Owing to the agricultural depression of the last few years, many farmers who owed land annuities came to an agreement with the Land Commission to repay their annuities by instalments. I consider that in these cases also the farmers should be able to get loans. Otherwise fully half the farmers of the country will be wiped out.
This Bill, as it stands, is not going to help the farmer in the least. Any Corporation which charges six per cent. interest is not going to be of any use, particularly when provisos are put in under which the farmers who are really hard hit and want money are the farmers who will not get it. I should like the Minister to tell us definitely what farmer can get money from the Corporation who cannot get it from a bank. I am glad that the question of equities has been settled, because, in addition to what was said by other Deputies, I think it will be found that it takes about six months, if not longer, to get equities through. As it is now twelve o'clock, I suppose I had better move the adjournment of the debate.
Is there any chance that I might get Private Members' time to reply?
I was expecting that question, and I think that considering the question at issue, as far as we are concerned, we are prepared to give way if other members of the House are prepared to do the same. I think it would do the Minister for Agriculture a great deal of good to hear from his own benches some more of the criticism that he has got to-day. I believe his education might be greatly improved in that way.
I agree with the Deputy; I am pleased whenever I do get criticism from both benches which is intelligent.
Is the Minister then to conclude the debate?
Not that the Minister should conclude, but that we should give more time to the debate in order that the Minister may hear some more intelligent criticism.
May I call attention to the fact that there are very important motions on the Order Paper which can only be taken in Private Members' time. For instance, there is the motion in connection with widows and orphans. If the House is prepared to give Private Members' time to discuss this Bill, can the Minister for Education, or the Minister for Agriculture, give us an assurance that this Widows and Orphans' Motion will be reached before the Recess?
How could I?
Would the Minister be prepared to give Government time to that motion?
I do not think there is any Government time to spare at the moment. Is there any chance the House would agree to allow me to reply now?
Not yet. Your education is going to be improved considerably.
I do not wish to intervene much further in the debate. I do not wish to add anything further to the education of the Minister than he has already had. I do say that the statement of Deputy Hassett, from the benches opposite, was one of the best I heard for a long time in this House. I must give credit where credit is due. This Bill, as it stands, is useless. I wish the Minister would look into this Bill and remedy it in the first place as regards land annuities and farmers who owe them. There is no farmer who has got into difficulties who does not owe a share of land annuities. When we hear of this rate of interest and remember that the rates in the different counties have gone up 200 per cent. and that prices of farm stock have gone down, we know every pound in interest means a lot. It is rather amazing to see one farmer from the County Tipperary, who had been leader of the Farmers' Group, standing up and praising this Bill, and seeing another practical farmer, on the same benches getting up and delivering a most masterly attack upon the Bill. I think it really shows that the late leader of the Farmers' Party is no longer in touch with the farmers of this country.
There is another aspect of this case that I wish to bring forward. Is there any hope that the Government would do the generous thing by the only industry that is left in this country, and finance this Agricultural Credit Corporation in such a way that this money could be lent at a lower rate of interest than 6 per cent? If they are not going to do that they might as well remain idle, because they will find that in a few years they may have to sell out the parties they are lending money to at the present time. Unless they lend the money at a reasonable and a fair rate of interest there is no use lending it at all. I urge the Minister at least to make some effort to save agriculture in this country by lending this money at about 3 per cent., which will render it of some use to the agricultural community.
I am very pleased to have an opportunity of speaking on this Bill, and I am further pleased to say that I connect this Bill with the original Act of 1927. No one will agree with Deputy Corry that the Bill is a bad one. I consider it a very good Bill, most important and essential to the welfare of the farming community of Ireland. What I certainly object to is the way in which that Act is administered. The Act as originally passed in this Dáil seemed to give every facility to the parties who were going to administer it, and to give them every opportunity of doing what was reasonable and right. I cannot find anything in the original Act that calls for this amending Bill, and the only way I can recognise the need for an amending Bill is to place those people in the dock and let them account for their management, and how they handled the Act for the last five or six months. There is nothing in the Bill asking for mortgages on farms so far as I can trace. Yet I think it is a reasonable proposition to ask for a decent mortgage on property as security for the repayment of a loan. This has been imported, I think, into this Bill by the management of the Credit Corporation. After that matter had been completed to some extent they went a little further and asked, having been given a mortgage on the farm, that all equities should be discharged.
Equities throughout the country are not discharged in the ordinary way by farmers in general, as we know. They may be discharged by business men and by people in large farming districts, but usually they are not discharged, and they have not been discharged, for a number of years, with the result that considerable delay has occurred and the prospect of farmers has been blighted. They have been banking considerably on getting this money at an early date. After having secured mortgages on farms, and discharged the equities, they ask for title.
I understand they have gone further and asked for personal securities, in some places, and they have gone a little further still, and asked from Deputies who made representations—I do not know of this myself personally—on behalf of farmers applying for money, personal security, together with the mortgage on the farm. That is making the Act an impossible proposition and treating this Act which was passed through this House as a farce. I do not think it is reasonable or fair that the Corporation, or any set of men should be given such powers to treat this Dáil in that manner. I regard this Bill certainly as a vote of censure on those people and I hope everyone in this House will vote for it, and demonstrate to the Corporation and to the men who were carrying out the Act that they are not doing it in the spirit in which that Act was passed here. As to the loans, it has been agreed here that the loans should be granted to the people, particularly to the small farmers who suffered losses through the fluke and otherwise. I know myself cases where small farmers lost three or four cows and lost three or four small cattle through fluke. This was really their stock in trade in 1924-25. That was their source of revenue, and the source by which they could pay their land annuities. They failed to pay those annuities because they were not in a position to do it. Those who owe a year's or two years' annuities have been denied the privilege which this Act was supposed to give to the farmers. In North Leitrim and in North and South Longford there are cases of honest, hard-working farmers who have paid their way all their lives; men who have paid their land annuities and their rates are now in arrears and it is utterly impossible for them to secure a loan to stock their lands again. That is the condition that this Dáil will certainly have to take some responsibility for and put those people in a condition to start again.
took the Chair.
These farmers, as far as I know, are quite satisfied to pay the interest; they are quite satisfied to give their lands as security for any loan they get and I think the farmer who gives his land as security and offers to pay 6 per cent. interest should be entitled to get that money irrespective of his present financial position. These men have during a considerable time paid their way. If there is any doubt about that, it is very easy to trace it up. It is easy to trace the financial record of most farmers throughout the country. That record can be traced in the Land Commission—it can be traced in the collecting department of the Land Commission.
Having regard to the statement that was made here in connection with the Agricultural Credit Corporation yesterday, if that statement, coming from them, is expected to placate the feelings of the members of this Dáil and the country in general, I certainly say that I do not believe it will. I do not agree with that statement. If it has taken six months to have distributed or lent out a sum of £1,010, I would like to know at what cost this money has been handed out. What is the cost for administration of this £1,010 that has been lent out in six months? If that state of affairs is to continue, I certainly say that what the members of the Fianna Fáil have failed to do against this Government will be done by the Agricultural Credit Corporation owing to the way in which they are administering the loans. They are striking down the hopes of everything that we expected to come through the working of this Act. The Chairman says that they have received applications for something like £1,000,000. That looks a very fine statement to the ordinary man reading it. But anyone could say: "I received an application for a million of money." But what is the intention? The thing reminds me of a certain gentleman, a member of a county council. Last November a grant was being given for the relief of unemployment. He was at a meeting of the county council. After the meeting he turned out in the public street and said: "We have done a great day's work; we made application for a free grant of £12,000." When the people in the street did not pat him on the back for making application for a free grant of £12,000, he was very much disappointed. That is just a facsimile of the statement that has been made on behalf of the Chairman of the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
The Act under which they are working was handed out to them in 1927. At that time it was considered, and the public were prepared and satisfied to accept, that the Act was to be a means of relieving the extraordinary condition that prevailed in the country amongst the farmers. When that Bill was passed here, those people to whom its administration was entrusted had a right to administer it in the way in which it was intended. I do not think that, at any rate, they had a right to look around and find as much red-tape as was possible to prevent the useful working of that Act. They seem to try to make it impossible for farmers to make an application for a loan or to get a loan. They virtually made it impossible to get loans. As to the responsibility for the Agricultural Credit Corporation, I do not know where that is to be placed, but I think in all seriousness we should face this as a business proposition and say that this Dáil would be responsible for the working of the Act, and that we should have some redress when grievances of the kind I have mentioned arise, and that we should be able to bring up here before the Dáil those grievances. If we are not able to do that, if a certain sum of State money is voted, and if officials or men appointed at salaries without responsibility to the Dáil are allowed to carry on the administration of the Act in that way, I do not think it is at all reasonable or fair.
Surely that does not arise on this Bill.
I am connecting this Bill with the 1927 Act, and in that respect I hold that the responsibilities are enumerated in the Act of 1927. I think Deputies said that there was no grant by the State. But there is a contribution of money for the financing of the Corporation. That money will have to be accounted for by the community in general. As to the future prospects of the farmers and the country people who have been obliged to contribute largely for the maintenance of this State and to contribute to the expenses of this State, I would think, from the instances I have given, that they will be prepared to say that this Agricultural Credit Act should be put into operation as published and printed, and they are further prepared to say that a reasonable time should be given to the farmers for the repayment of the loans. They are satisfied, at the same time, that they will not make one hundred per cent. success. The country, as a whole, is at the back of this Bill now before the Dáil. It only remains for the people in charge of the Agricultural Credit Corporation to put the wishes and the will of the people into operation and give those people who want the loans a fair start in life again I hope that we will have no necessity for a division on this Bill. Certainly those people who were put in charge of administering the Act have not discharged their duties or obligations either to the State or to the country.
I think the Government should be complimented on their great attempt to try to create new hopes amongst the farmers of the country, and especially amongst the farmers who were not able to meet their obligations for the last ten years. This Bill is an encouragement to them. A great many of them suffered losses in their cattle, and suffered these losses through no fault of their own. I think it is our bounden duty to recognise that. It is a proud thing to see that every member of the House, and all Parties in the House, are united in joining together to try and uplift the principal industry in the country. I agree with my friend, Deputy Hassett, when he pointed out that it was a hardship to call on the farmers who got a loan to start repaying the principal for the first five years or, at least, for the first three years. I think that six per cent. is an extravagant price to charge. The Government, I believe, has explored every avenue to get the money at a cheaper rate.
There is only one thing left to them in order to help them, and that is a subsidy out of public funds, which could be issued at four per cent. It is nonsense to be talking about three per cent., because perhaps it could not be done. Anyhow, I am sure there are no Parties in the Dáil who would object if such a thing as a subsidy were advanced, together with reducing the six per cent. to four per cent. At the same time it would merely be giving to the right hand from the left hand. It would only be prolonging the agony. Still, it would be a ray of hope and of encouragement to the farmers who, I might say, are heartbroken at the moment. A great many farmers go out on their land and they can see no cattle there, through no fault of their own. Then they have no hope of tilling the land through lack of money in order to purchase seeds. For that reason they should be immediately helped.
There is another thing I would like to draw attention to. At present if a farmer owes a half-year's annuities, and a great many of them owe that— there are only a few exceptions—that barrier should be removed. The whole thing is inconceivable. If a farmer wants a loan surely to goodness he is one of the class who owes annuities. A man who wants a loan is not able to pay his annuities, and that is one reason why he wants the loan. If he gets a substantial loan and pays the annuity right off and has a little left over with which to stock his farm he is in a good position, and I think he should be encouraged in that direction. I hope the Government will remove that obstacle. I am delighted to see all Parties joining hand in hand to wish the Minister for Agriculture and his Corporation God-speed. This is a noble endeavour to relieve the downtrodden poor people.
I do not know why Deputy Daly started off by congratulating the Minister and the Corporation because he has certainly given them a fairly decent cutting-up, but I think he was inclined to hold himself back a good deal. I would like the Minister to take into consideration the position in Connaught and especially in Mayo. Under the present circumstances I am convinced from what I know of the Corporation that not more than five or ten per cent. of the people in Mayo who would take loans from the Credit Corporation will be allowed to do so because of the fact that the Corporation will not give fifty pounds or under except through a credit society. The Minister should know very well that you have very few credit societies in a county like Mayo. Perhaps there is not one single credit society there. We have not even a creamery society, and when you have a position like that in a county the position of the people will be well understood. Amongst the small farming community, the uneconomic holders in the congested areas, you have no credit societies and no creamery societies. How are the small farmers to get loans up to fifty pounds? Many people in Mayo have applied for loans to the Corporation, but very few of the loans are over fifty pounds. Small farmers might want to purchase stock and would require fifty pounds to do so, and even though the interest is six per cent. they would be quite agreeable to pay that and to give whatever security the Corporation would require. They are prepared to give sufficient security even for a bank. Under the present system they cannot get fifty pounds or under through the Corporation.
The Minister should consider that position before this Bill goes through. Let him try to make some arrangements under which small farmers will get fifty pounds or under on sound security, if they have not a credit society to get it for them. As conditions exist, I believe the farmers who benefit most are those in creamery societies. The creamery areas are going to benefit because a creamery society is really a credit society. There is no provision at all worth talking about made for the farmers who are not in creamery areas. A guaranteed milk supply is taken as security. The creamery areas are in a fairly satisfactory position to a certain extent, but the areas that are not milk-supplying areas have very little provision made for them. Unless some change is made we can take it that in Connaught, and particularly in Mayo, very little good will be derived by the farmers from the Credit Corporation. Not more than ten per cent. of the farmers who want loans will be able to get them from the Corporation because of that barrier. If farmers are prepared to give fairly decent security, some provision should be made to get loans direct from the Corporation, seeing that the farmers have no local society. In country districts it is not so easy for the people to organise credit societies. They are not able to manage the societies in the efficient manner in which they would need to be managed. They are not trained in that respect and some provision should be made by which money could be given directly from the Corporation to those people.
As regards the six per cent. interest, I think there is nobody in the House who will not agree that it is certainly too high. I am of the opinion that money-lenders and banks are very jealous of the Corporation, because it is a very good money-lending business. It is a very good paying proposition. If the Government tell us that they are going to put the agricultural community on its feet, and the only way they can do it is by making a good business proposition out of the money they lend, there is very little thanks due to the State or to the Minister. Very little thanks would be due for bringing forward a measure under which the State will be so very benevolent that the industry which it is sought to build up will be broken down. There is very little thanks due to the Government because it is giving this money at six per cent. That interest should be lowered if the State is prepared to meet the agricultural community. If they are going to assist the farmers in a manner just like any money-lender or bank, then they do not deserve much thanks, and there is very little need for the great urgency in passing through a Bill in the manner that Deputy Shaw would wish this Bill to be passed in.
Deputy Heffernan says that it does not make much difference whether it is five or six per cent. I was surprised to hear that, and I was more surprised to hear Deputy Gorey say the same thing.
I do not approve of it at all, but I think the difference between five pounds and six pounds is so small that it does not matter a great lot.
Very well, but it is £1 extra for £100 in one year, and if a man gets a loan for twenty years it is £20 extra.
I quite agree.
I think that the farmers in the West could not be in as good a financial position——
My object was to point out that there were matters of much more importance than that.
I think that is one of the most important things for the small farmer. I was not much surprised, indeed, at Deputy Heffernan making that remark, because we know that he has farmed more in telephones and telegrams recently than in anything in connection with land, so that I am not surprised at him making such a remark, but I would certainly be surprised at Deputy Gorey making it. The real point in connection with this Corporation is the rate of interest, and the Minister should take it into consideration. If he says that they must charge 6 per cent. he certainly should try to make some arrangement in the Bill whereby farmers can get loans of £50 or under where there is no credit society. If that were done a good many farmers in Mayo would avail of the Corporation.
I realise that the Minister is not answerable to this House for the administration of the original Act, but I think that he would be very well advised to take serious notice of some of the criticisms, with a view to giving some direction or inspiration to the Corporation to adopt some of the suggestions put forward here. One of the principal things that should concern them, and which, I think, does concern the people who are looking for and who are entitled to loans from the Corporation, is the question of the rate of interest which they are asked to pay. We know that the money has to be borrowed for the Corporation at 5¼ per cent., and we also know—and I was surprised to learn it originally— that the Corporation is prepared to lend money only at 6 per cent. That means that the administrative expenses of the Corporation amount to three-quarters per cent. of the amount of money that has been made available.
Three-quarters per cent.?
Yes, that is sticking out to anybody who has made any examination of the position.
That is what you call economy.
I think that the Government, through the Corporation, should, in the existing circumstances, make money available for people who are badly in need of it at a much lower rate of interest than 6 per cent. The Minister knows quite well that through the operations of the Land Act, industrious workmen, small farmers and uneconomic holders are being given land, or are being given additions to their existing holdings. In my constituency I know of many cases where land has been divided up, where industrious men, some of whom were ploughmen and herds, and who were good managers for the landlords in the past, have been given allotments, but they have failed to work them simply because they have not the working capital at their disposal. I thought when the Act was introduced that the intention was to make money available for people to work their lands in the best way possible, but the rate of interest is a very serious matter for the people concerned. At any rate, I firmly believe that the initial expense in connection with the floating of the Credit Corporation should be found by way of a State grant—a grant-in-aid. The British Government have given assistance in that direction, and while we might not like to follow the example of the British Government in many matters, I think it would be a good idea to follow their example, in this particular case at any rate.
I also believe that a certain amount of the money that is, and will be, made available should be made available to a certain type of farmer or landholder free of interest for, say, a minimum period of three years. People who have got land under the 1923 Act will either fail to work it or they will succeed in the working of it in the first three years, and if they are going to succeed the type of people I refer to must be given the necessary working capital in my opinion, free of interest for a certain period of years. I realise that any money-lending institution—and the Agricultural Credit Corporation is nothing more or less than a money-lending institution—must have good security for the money it lends, whether that money in this case be the taxpayers' or that of the people who subscribed the capital. I also think that the Minister would be well advised to take note of the suggestion put forward by Deputy Hogan and by Deputies on the Fianna Fáil benches in regard to the minimum period for which loans are being made available. It may be all right to fix, say, a period of five years for money lent under the chattel mortage section of the Act, but I think it is absolutely ridiculous that money should be made available for a period of five years only when the security is a mortgage on land. In my opinion, the period should be increased from five years to not less than ten years, if the people who are to get the money are to make proper use of it and if the security is a charge upon the land.
I hope that the Minister will take note particularly of the point in regard to the rate of interest, and also of the point in regard to the period for which the money will be made available if the security is a charge on the farm, and that he will make recommendations to the directors of the Corporation to amend the regulations in these respects. The Minister can say that he knows nothing whatsoever about the administration of this Act, that he is not answerable to the House for that, but at the same time we are the people who put him in a position to make the money available for the Credit Corporation, and I think if that money has been made available by an Act passed through this House, Deputies are entitled to make suggestions which would lead to a point where the Act would be administered in a better manner than at present. Deputy O'Hanlon gave us very valuable information when he said he had it officially that up to the present time only £1,000 had actually been authorised to people who had applied for loans. I wonder where he got that information from officially.
They published their statutory report, I think, the day before. It was in the statutory report.
That was the source of his official information?
I do not know where he got the information. I merely point out that it is in the statutory report which was published.
That report is not a very illuminating one to the people who have been making applications in thousands, even since the date of the last general election. I know that in my constituency—and Deputies Gorry and Boland on the Fianna Fáil Benches can bear this out—canvassers went round before the general election on behalf of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party and said: "If you vote for us instead of for Davin, Gorry and Boland you will get everything you want from the Agricultural Credit Corporation." They are stewing in their own juice since last September. I am getting sheaves of applications, and I am directing the people who apply to me to apply to Deputies Dwyer and Aird in the hope that they may get, through them, the money that was promised. Leaving Party considerations out of the matter—and we know that these things went on, and that such things will go on till the end of time at general elections—so far as my constituency is concerned there is a shortage of working capital for farmers. I had hoped that this Act would have meant a change and that money would have been made available. I have seen applications for loans where there was reasonably good security, but where the applicants were turned down without being given any reason whatsoever. As far as I can gather or observe—one cannot get at the inside of the brains of the supermen on the Board—any person who can get a loan from any joint stock bank can get it in the same way from the Agricultural Credit Corporation—that there is no difference between the methods of the Corporation and of the joint stock banks in lending money at present. As far as I can see from my own constituency there was an effort on the part of the joint stock banks to cripple agriculture. They went round in 1918. '19, '20 and '21 and they competed against one another in throwing money at farmers all over the country. They helped to inflate the price of land, and the managers of the same banks are now sending the sheriffs to the doors of the people to whom they lent the money to put them out of their homes, after putting them into their homes at inflated prices by lending them this money.
There is nothing about that in this Bill.
I am coming back to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. Deputy Gorey knows that is a fact as far as Carlow and Kilkenny are concerned also. He cannot deny it. I know that the Minister knows it. I hope that the Minister will be able so to amend the Act, and at the same time give the necessary inspiration to the Corporation, so that people who want money and who have good security for the amount will get it and be enabled to increase the productivity of the land without going through all these red-tape regulations that they have to go through under the existing administration of the original Act.
I think Deputy Clery called attention to the important fact that if the Agricultural Credit Act, as it now stands, is not amended, it is not going to benefit the small farmers of Mayo. Neither is it going to benefit the majority of the small farmers in the country—99.9 per cent of them. Surely the Minister is aware of that. Surely the Minister is also aware that agricultural credit societies do not exist throughout the country through which small farmers can get loans of £50 or £100. They are not in existence in Mayo nor in any other part of the country. If the Minister really wanted to benefit small farmers, the first step he should have taken would have been to organise credit societies, through which small farmers could obtain loans in order to carry on their business. There is no use in coming here with a Bill for avoiding the necessity for discharging equities for small loans; the small loans are not available. We believe that the whole policy of the Agricultural Credit Corporation is a short-sighted one, that it has not the proper outlook on the agricultural situation.
There is plenty of working capital to be got, there is plenty of money in the banks. Half the land is idle, and the other half is being worked very badly. The farmers who can get loans through the Corporation, or through this scheme, will be the large farmers. They will be the farmers that the Minister has encouraged to stick to the very bad national policy of half-working their land; farmers who will go in for summer dairying and have their land half idle and not used to the fullest extent. There are the 200-acre farmers who go in for grazing, who will not grow wheat that could be and should be grown in this country. That is the type of farmer that is going to get money through this scheme. If the Minister for Agriculture really wanted to develop this country and to make it self-contained, to grow its own wheat and keep the greatest number of people possible at home, he would have done something other than to produce the Agricultural Credit Corporation Act and this Bill. These will do a little to ease the agricultural situation. Not being in a position to put through Bills that would cure the present situation, we have to accept these Bills, but, for goodness' sake, let it not be taken for granted that in welcoming them we admit that the policy of the Minister is the correct one for this country. It has been altogether wrong, and although we must welcome the Bills as doing a little amongst a few people in alleviating the distress that exists, they are certainly not going to cure the evil or to make this country as self-contained as it should be, or even half as self-contained as it should be, in the production of foodstuffs. I believe that if half a million was spent in giving seed-wheat free to the farmers, with a leaflet telling them how to grow it, more would be done than will be done by these Bills. Enough has been said about the rate of interest. Deputy Hassett, from Tipperary, has dealt effectively with Deputy Gorey's remarks, and I think that having listened to him everybody will agree that Deputy Hassett knows more about the farming situation than Deputy Heffernan or Deputy Gorey.
You are putting a different construction on my remarks. What I said was that this Bill was different altogether from the Act, and that it set out to do a certain thing, to remove a difficulty which was a bigger one than the question of percentage. That was what I meant to say. I did not agree at all with the percentage, and never did.
I am glad to hear that. and I wish that you had made some effort to put your wishes into effect.
I did so long ago.
You have done it long ago! The way Deputy Heffernan and Deputy Gorey put their wishes into effect was to join with the Party that is making agriculture impossible——
Have tried to scuttle the ship.
The land of this country is going back into grass, is being half wasted, and our people are going out, while there is still money in the banks.
These Bills are not the correct way of bringing working capital to the farmer, so that land can be worked in the proper way in the interests of the nation. We have got to welcome these Bills, because they will do a little to alleviate distress. The policy is altogether wrong, and is as wrong as the policy of outdoor relief or the policy of doles. We have to welcome outdoor relief and doles for the people, but we consider when people are idle, when there is work to be done, and capital available to give them work, that doles and outdoor relief should not be given. Methods should be adopted to provide work for the people other than Bills such as these. Deputy Heffernan hoped that attention would be paid to the opinion of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, that steps should be taken to put co-operative credit societies on a proper basis, or something like that. That sounds like the sham battle put up by some Deputies when they hoped that next year the Minister for Finance would take some steps to reduce the duties on beer and spirits. I think this was a little bit of a sham fight. If Deputy Heffernan hoped that the Minister for Agriculture would take steps to organise credit societies, why does he not take steps to see that is done?
He did not say that.
I suggest that it is impossible to explain to the Deputy as he does not understand the principle involved at all. I suggest that the Deputy should read the report of the Chairman of the Agricultural Credit Corporation in reference to my remarks. The Deputy is dealing with a different matter altogether.
Will the Deputy repeat what he said?
I have no record of my exact words.
The Minister for Lands and Agriculture is afraid.
Does Deputy Heffernan wish to have credit societies organised or not?
I was not talking about co-operative credit societies at all in that reference which I made.
You were not talking about them to-day. You did not mention them to-day.
On a point of personal explanation, might I make a statement? It is of some importance that I should make it, not because the Deputy either deliberately or unintentionally is misrepresenting what I said, but the point is that the Chairman of the Agricultural Credit Corporation recommended, in regard to loans to small farmers, that in his opinion they could best be met by setting up certain machinery in connection with the existing creameries. In my opinion that machinery cannot be set up without new legislation. I am suggesting to the Minister that new legislation should be introduced for that purpose. Deputy Aiken has missed my point altogether. I think that he should read up the whole question of agricultural credit and of co-operative credit societies.
I think that the members here present have listened to you pretty well now. You have repeated practically exactly what I said.
The Deputy must address the Chair.
The Deputy has repeated the substance of what I said: that he hoped that the wishes of the Agricultural Credit Corporation would be put into effect sometime in the future, and that things would be so organised that the small farmers could obtain loans through co-operative societies.
The co-operative creameries and the co-operative societies are two distinct things. They are different altogether. If the Deputy does not know the difference between the two I cannot educate him, but he ought to educate himself before coming here.
I know a lot more about co-operative societies than Deputy Heffernan.
I was chairman of a co-operative society twelve years ago, and I do not believe that Deputy Heffernan was ever a member of one.
I would like to know if Deputy Heffernan was ever a member of a co-operative society.
I am prepared at any time to put my work for the farmers against the Deputy's, and have a comparison made.
I challenge Deputy Heffernan to say whether he was ever a member of a co-operative society or not.
I am prepared to put my work for the farmers side by side with the Deputy's at any time.
Deputy Aiken will have to make his own speech on this Bill. Deputy Heffernan has already spoken on it, and cannot speak again.
Much to his regret.
The Deputy pretends to know something of what he is talking about, and the fact brought out here is that he was never a member of a co-operative society in his life. The fact is this, that Deputy Heffernan put up a little bit of a sham fight here to-day for the farmers. He hopes that at some time in the future, although the Minister has not said that he is going to do it——
I made a most definite statement on that.
He hopes that at some future time, when all the Constitution (Amendment) Bills that England wants have been put through the Dáil, and when everything has been done to please a small Unionist minority that should be done to please it, and when we and the next generation are in our graves, and when practically all the Irish people are in America, some Minister will introduce legislation whereby the small farmers can get the loans that are necessary to keep themselves and their families at home in Ireland. That is what Deputy Heffernan hopes. How real is that hope, how real is the hope of those two late leaders of the late Farmers' Party, we can judge by the fact that they are joined up with the people who have put agriculture out of existence in this country. Deputy Heffernan talked about farming. I suppose he thinks farming to be putting a few bullocks on grass land and letting them trample it down for a few months in the year.
Yourself and Hugo make a nice team.
That is all Deputy Heffernan and Deputy Gorey know about farming.
That is farming.
That is the sort of farming that Deputy Heffernan, Deputy Gorey and the Minister for Agriculture want: a few bullocks put on the long grass to trample it into the earth.
To a great extent it is farming in County Louth.
It is not in County Louth or the County Armagh where I come from. Farming there means tilling 50 per cent. of the land.
Keep that talk for the next general election.
I am keeping it for you here now, and you have not a word to say for yourself. It has turned out in this discussion that Deputy Heffernan never was a member of a co-operative society, and he knows nothing about farming. He agrees with the Minister in his 200-acre farm policy. That is the sort of gentleman that goes around the country fooling the people by telling them that he got up in the Dáil and made a great fight for them to get small credit societies organised, and made a great fight to get this Bill put through in a way that would benefit the farmers of the country. What great fight did he make? He got up and hoped that some time in the future the Minister for Agriculture would see his way to introduce legislation whereby the small farmers could get small loans from the co-operative societies. That is the great fight he made. I wish to say this, that we know that this Bill is only a drop in the ocean. We know that all it and the Agricultural Credit Corporation Act can do is to alleviate a little of the distress that has been caused by this policy of the Minister for Agriculture. While we are going to vote for this Bill because it will alleviate a little of that distress, we absolutely dissociate ourselves from the policy of the Minister for Agriculture, as well as from the agricultural policy of the two late leaders of the late Farmers' Party.
As one who gave enthusiastic support to the Agricultural Credit Corporation Act when it was going through this House in 1927, I must confess that I am deeply disappointed at the way in which the administration of that Act is being carried out. It is not being carried out in the spirit in which it was passed. In fact, from the time it saw the light of day it has not been carried out in the spirit in which it was passed. One of the important sections in that Act was that chattel mortgages would be taken as security for a loan, but that is not being done. Not alone is that not being done, but mortgages on holdings and farms for twenty times more than the value of the loan are being extracted from people before they are able to get a loan. I maintain that this Bill is only trifling with the difficulty and that it is not going to relieve the situation one iota. Might I just cite the case of two applicants from my own area who made applications for loans? In the case of one man he was one month in arrears in regard to one instalment of a Land Commission annuity, the arrears amounted to £1 1s., and because of that the man was refused a loan.
Was he not able to pay the guinea?
Yes. He had two receivable orders in respect of two small farms. The instalment due on one farm was a guinea, and the instalment on the other £9 14s. 9d., the latter instalment being due in November and May and the other in October and April. In order to get a loan one of the first conditions was that he should send receivable orders to the Credit Corporation. On the 2nd April he applied for a form but he did not receive it. He applied again on the 12th April, and on the 15th April he received the form from a man in Cavan. He wrote and sent a stamped and addressed envelope, and two days later he got a form of application, and later he got another form. They held the receivable orders from the 2nd of April to the 19th May. He received a letter from them saying they could not give him a loan because he was in arrears with his annuity instalments—that is one guinea, or one-twentieth of the instalment for one month. Certainly that was not carrying out the Act in the spirit in which it was passed. They stated in their letter: "We are returning your receivable orders," but they did not return them for four or five days afterwards. He had to make another application for them. That is not carrying out the Act in the spirit in which we voted for it after long discussion. There is another case of a gentleman whom I know well. He owns a farm of 65 acres and a neat house with out-houses, and he is one of the most industrious farmers in the district. Some years ago he borrowed a few hundred pounds to buy a field of seven acres. He bought this field because it was very convenient for him, as there was water on it and there was none on the farm he held. He reduced the amount he borrowed to £300. The bank took his own security and the security of the field he bought. He thought he could do better by applying to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, and he did apply to them for the loan of £300, but he was told that he had first to discharge all equities; secondly, that he must insure his house and out-offices against fire, and thirdly, that he must give a mortgage on his holding of 65 Irish acres of land. Roughly, his farm, house and out-offices are valued to-day for £3,000 or £4,000. All that mortgage was to be given for a loan of £300. I say that no money-lender, no gombeen man, no usurer would ask a greater security than that. These are instances that come under my notice every week-end of the way applications for loans are received. When I was supporting this Act in 1927 I did so chiefly because I knew that we were approaching bedrock, that soon the farmers would be more prosperous and that it would be a good thing to relieve them at a time when they were improving. They have improved, I am glad to say. Regarding the inspired statement by the Chairman of the Corporation yesterday respecting credit societies and co-operative creameries and the loaning of money to farmers, co-operative creameries can lend money to farmers at a lower rate of interest than the Credit Corporation. Deputy Heffernan challenged a statement that banks would lend at a lower rate of interest than 6 per cent. I can give a case where banks are lending at 4½ per cent. to creameries.
The Deputy knows all about co-operative creameries. With regard to the co-operative societies that obtain 4½ per cent. from the banks, would the Deputy inform us is that a result of an agreement existing pre-war? I understand that in cases of loans made in recent times by the banks to co-operative societies they are charging from 6 per cent. to 6½ per cent., but where old agreements existed they continued them.
When this 1927 Act was going through. I understood that Deputy Heffernan knew all about the arrangements between the joint stock banks and the farmers, and he was an able defender then of the Farmers' Defence League in Tipperary, whose policy was to take the interest they had paid off the principal and then pay the 25 per cent. of the balance. Now, he tells the people to be aware of politics and let the farmers realise their liabilities. That is the policy that brought about the conservatism of the joint stock banks. Why should they not close their banks to loans to farmers when they saw the policy that was sought to be carried out by the Farmers' Defence League in Tipperary? I wondered why depositors in the banks were not forming queues outside the banks at the time to withdraw their money, for, after all, the money the banks lend to the farmers or other people is the money deposited in the banks by others—thrifty people. I suppose the fact that they did not do so was due to ignorance of what was happening more than anything else.
That has nothing to do with the Bill.
As the Deputy gave a challenge, I wish to bring him back a few years. I welcome his conversion in more ways than one. He is now lecturing the farmers to realise their responsibility, but it is he and his Farmers' Party in Tipperary who were responsible for the joint stock banks closing to the farmers.
There is nothing in the Bill about joint stock banks or the farmers of Tipperary.
I think we have gone a long way from the Bill, and I am following on the lines of other Deputies who have spoken. Other Deputies spoke last night about giving a mortgage on lands for a small loan. I have advised people not to give the Agricultural Credit Corporation a mortgage on their lands and tie up their lands for the next twenty years on a loan, because they would expose their financial condition all over the country. To give a mortgage of £3,000 or £4,000 for a loan of £300 is a thing that no money-lender or usurer would expect. A man must have very bad credit if he is to mortgage £3,000 or £4,000 for a loan of £300. If he gave that mortgage, until he clears it off he could not dispose of his land or any part of it, or anything in connection with it. With regard to title deeds, we know that those title deeds and those liabilities on holdings are very often handed down for generations from father to son, and have never been discharged, but at the same time these people are looked upon by the traders in the town as being the real vested owners, and they have never been asked to discharge those liabilities in the past, but if they have to be discharged now I am afraid it will weaken their credit very much. With regard to Deputy Davin's suggestion, it would be better to carry out the administration of the Act at the expense of the Central Fund. In that way farmers will be able to get money one per cent. cheaper, at all events, and that would be something. It would bring it down to five per cent., and at the same time the State will not be doing a whole lot for the farmer or what was expected from them and as I thought would be done when the Act was going through. I am not going to hamper this Bill in any shape or form. I am sorry that it was held up as we held it up here for an hour or two to discuss it. I maintain that it will not help the percentage of the farmers the Minister expects, because of those difficulties in the administration of it. It is no use to pass Acts unless we administer them as they have been passed. The spirit is one thing and the letter is another.
It has been rather interesting to watch the chickens of the Minister for Agriculture coming home to roost to-day. I remember that a little over a year ago he went down to Clare and in a speech there led the people to believe that once the Government were returned again and had an opportunity of bringing this Agricultural Credit Bill into the Dáil there was going to be a new heaven on earth for the farmers.
Would the Deputy quote me?
I have not got the quotation here, but I have seen it recently and know the tone of it.
I doubt if I referred to the Agricultural Credit Act in Clare. I think the Deputy is in the same position as Deputy Aiken and is mixing up two things.
I am dealing with the credit facilities that the Government are going to offer to the farmers to relieve the depression that exists. I think it is unfair that criticism should be turned on to the Agricultural Credit Corporation and the work they are doing. The criticism should not be levelled at the Agricultural Credit Corporation, but at the policy of the Ministry generally. During the period preceding an election when there was a boost on for Cumann na nGaedheal all the members of Cumann na nGaedheal led off by the Ministry raised extravagant expectations through the country in the minds of the farmers as to what was going to happen once they were returned again to office. Anyone who considered the question even then could know full well that there were two problems. There was the problem of dealing with the depression which existed, which you might call an abnormal problem, and then there was a problem of adding to the credit facilities for agriculture, which I might call the normal problem. The Ministry set out by the Agricultural Credit Corporation to solve the normal problem, to give what would be more or less permanent facilities. Once it could be got going and properly established it would be given facilities over and above those available to the farming community from the joint stock banks, but they played upon the people who were expecting quite a different thing. They led them to expect that they were going to get a solution for the abnormal problem, that they were going to get loans which would enable them to pass through the period of depression which they were passing through and which would enable those who lost their cattle by the fluke to restock their lands and get working capital. It is most unfair that the mixing up of these two questions should result in bringing unfair criticism on the Agricultural Credit Corporation. It was intended, at least, if we examine the basis on which it was built, to solve the normal problem, to enable extra facilities to be available for the farmers under ordinary conditions, and I would say that if the members of Cumann na nGaedheal who have criticised the working of the Agricultural Credit Bill to-day were to direct their attention to the Ministry and get them to give a solution here of the abnormal problem they would be on much safer ground. They have passed the Act which they are responsible for as if expecting out of it things which could not come out of it. The Agricultural Credit Corporation was started with a State guarantee to be run almost as a private banking enterprise could be run.
The safeguard private enterprise would require is to be demanded by the Agricultural Credit Corporation and as I say if you are going to blame anybody for the fact that this Agricultural Credit Bill has not come up to expectation you have to blame those who passed that Act believing it would do what it could not do or blame the Ministry that has not set out to solve at all the real problem. You could wait to solve the normal problem. That was not the immediately hard-pressing problem. It is the abnormal one that is pressing and there is no solution of it in the Agricultural Credit Act or in this amendment which is a comparatively narrow matter. The members of Cumann na nGaedheal who have expressed their views so very clearly to-day on this whole question should use their influence with the Ministry to try and induce them to change their policy, solve the abnormal problem and do a little bit of the helping of lame dogs over stiles. The Minister for Agriculture says he is not to do that at all. It is only those who can help themselves that he will help. Those who can help themselves do not want the help of the Minister for Agriculture or anyone else. The fault is not theirs that the present depression exists. I think if the Government will realise their responsibility to the community at all, particularly to the producing part of the community, the agricultural community, they will adopt a very different attitude from that of the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture hopes that time will solve everything for him. He will get his 200-acre farm in time by the simple process of driving out everybody from the small farms. The one thing that will help small farmers he is not attending to and that is the establishment of credit societies. I was delighted to hear one of the Deputies on the Cumann na nGaedheal Benches pointing to the fact that through credit societies, if they were properly organised, the farmers could get cheaper money than they could get from the Agricultural Credit Corporation or that they are likely, of course, to get through the Joint Stock Banks. It stands to reason, because the farmers' deposits at present are being sent by the Joint Stock Banks over to England and are being used to build up enterprises in foreign countries. An effort should be made to keep that money at home and the only way that some of us who have been interested in this question can see for doing it is to try to build up in the country credit societies where the farmers' deposits will be used directly to help the agricultural community. I know that agricultural societies and co-operation in general have fallen a good deal into disrepute in the past. It is no wonder at all, because supervision that should have been exercised was not exercised. Nothing of the kind. I have a note here that in the Interim Report of the Commission on Agriculture in 1923 there was this recommendation:—
"We recommend that the registrar of Friendly Societies be furnished with the necessary powers and funds to enable him properly to perform his duties in respect of co-operative societies and to take legal action, where necessary, against societies and officials who fail to comply with the regulations."
They were supposed to comply with the regulations. They were supposed to submit their accounts for audit. That was not done. If the Ministry was really anxious and really set itself about solving the problem that needs the most immediate solution—I call it the abnormal problem—they would at once try to have these credit societies established on a proper and sound basis. The existing Acts are not sufficient. There are two Acts. There is, first of all, the Friendly Societies Act of 1896. Under that they cannot establish limited liability societies at all. It can be done, I believe, under the Provident Societies Act of 1893, but that was intended for societies of quite a different kind and is not suitable for the building up universally throughout the country of the Agricultural Credit Societies which are necessary for the farming community at the present time. I am glad on account of the criticism that has come to the Ministry from the supporters of their own Party that this debate was not closured as quickly as the Minister wanted it on Friday. I should not use the word "closured." I mean it was not terminated by agreement. A good deal of good has come out of this debate. I hope there will be a general understanding as a result of it throughout the country that this Agricultural Credit Society could not, and cannot deal effectively with the present period of depression and that it cannot be used as an instrument for meeting the present need.
As the matters I had intended going over have been pretty well dealt with I do not wish to go on the general lines. I think we might come down to the particular amendment. This particular amendment, has, of course, a very narrow and limited scope. It is only intended to remove one of the obstacles that the Agricultural Credit Corporation has met with in its work. That is the case of dealing with undischarged equities. The moment that difficulty appeared I suppose anybody who was interested in the question of agricultural credit tried to think out a solution of it. We have been trying it too and we were interested when this Bill came forward in the solution that the Minister for Agriculture, with his advisers, had proposed. We are not satisfied that this particular way is better than the way we had in mind. Possibly the Minister has considered the one we had in mind too and will be able to tell us what particular considerations determined him to have this amendment rather than the other one which would suggest itself. He gave an example. Perhaps it would be well to deal with it before I come to deal with the amendment as it appears here. First of all the cases are divided into two classes. The first is where the priority charge has been given in respect of permanent improvements. It is only natural to believe that interests of the equitable claimants will be improved also, and that, therefore, there is not much necessity for making any special provision for their claims. I take it that is what the Minister for Agriculture has actually done. He says, in effect, that we need not bother about the equitable claims in respect of any charges which are for permanent improvements, because all the parties who have interests will be benefited accordingly. With that, personally, I have no great fault to find. There was a criticism, I think, levelled at it or a possible injustice was pointed out by Deputy Moore. I did not catch quite at the time what was the point. As far as I am concerned, I am satisfied that it is not unjust. On the other hand, we have the case of equitable claimants whose interests may be affected by a loan which is given for other than permanent improvements. The whole point is to get a solution for the problem that is presented there. The Minister, yesterday, gave us an example. It was chosen—I do not say it was done deliberately—to fit in nicely with the theory he was advancing. It fitted in nicely and worked out admirably. Suppose he had taken a slightly different sum. Suppose you take the case of land that is valued at £400 and that we have four parties that are interested: three as well as the mortgagor. The interest of each of the four parties in this is £100. According to the law, as it stands, and as it would be amended by this Bill, it would be possible for one of the four—in this case the mortgagor—to get a loan of £200. It is, of course, to be understood that it is not for permanent improvements; it is for some casual, passing, ephemeral purpose. Suppose it is sold out. Four hundred pounds is got for the farm; £200 of that will be taken by the Agricultural Credit Corporation to satisfy their claim and £200 is left of which the mortgagor gets nothing because in fact more than his interest is used up. You have only £200 to satisfy three claimants, when the total claim would be £300. The question is how are you going to deal with that?
They are only protected to the extent of £60.
We cannot completely deal with it; we have an approximate solution to it, and that is the best we can do. I quite understand that there are questions to which you can only get approximate solutions. The only thing is whether it is not possible to protect them somewhat better. I think most people will agree that there is a difference between equitable claimants who will be living in the house with the mortgagor and would know that this transaction was taking place and those who would be absent, and the question is whether any right should be given to those who see their interests being affected and who would like to object. Does the Agricultural Credit Corporation propose to take cognisance of objections of that kind? I think it is only fair that they should. I think that objections of that kind do not come in from those who are residents. It might fairly be regarded that it was with their knowledge that the loan was obtained. I think there should be some provision by which it would be possible for those who object to a loan being given to object. Their interests are interfered with, and there should be some provision to protect them or to make it impossible to have their interests mortgaged without their consent. As I said, we were considering this, too. The question is whether you are decided on a sum like £200 or whether there should be a scale. Perhaps the Minister for Agriculture has considered the possibility, instead of having a fixed sum, to have a scale, say a multiple of the poor law valuation of the farm. If you fix a multiple, taking into account what would be the ordinary number of claimants—I suppose three or four would be about the average. In cases where you have a small number, you may take it that the average would be about four. Suppose that instead of fixing the sum of £200 you were to fix a multiple of the poor law valuation, could you not arrange to protect more equitably the rights and interests of the equitable claimants? We, at any rate, have come to the conclusion that that method would be better than fixing a definite sum. It is possible that the Minister may have some argument against it that we would like to hear. I think that particular way, if there were not some insuperable objection to it, would be a much more equitable way of dealing with it. That is as far as the Bill itself is concerned.
We are anxious to have this obstacle in the way of the Agricultural Credit Corporation removed in the right way. It is not going to solve the problem, and to pretend that any series of amendments within the general scope of the Act will do what the people want is nonsense. Those who hold out any prospect of that kind before them are only playing the old game of putting the carrot before the donkey's nose. It will not be of any great benefit to the community. While we are not inclined to dissent to the Second Reading of this Bill we are anxious that the whole problem of agricultural credit in its widest sense will be tackled by the Ministry, particularly with a view to meeting the case of small farmers who are not able to look for loans of £50, but for smaller loans. Let the Ministry set about that at once in a practical way, and build up, if necessary, agricultural credit societies. The I.A.O.S. has not devoted itself properly to that particular work. It may be necessary to stimulate activity by the I.A.O.S. by making it conditional on certain grants given to them that they do this work properly. Other legislation would be required, and it is not in any party spirit that we hope that the Ministry will set itself to one of the most important questions with which anybody concerned with the economic side of national life could deal.
I am afraid it will be almost impossible for me to deal with all the points raised in the course of the debate, but I will try to cover most of them as briefly as I can. I want to make it quite clear, first of all, that I have absolutely no skeletons in the cupboard in this Bill. I was responsible for the Agricultural Credit Corporation. Even though we were before an election on every occasion on which I referred to the Agricultural Credit Corporation I made it perfectly clear, in answer to questions which I received, what would be the rate of interest, that while I could not say exactly what the rate of interest would be I said that money would be borrowed at a minimum of five per cent., and that the rate of interest would be five per cent. plus whatever expenses would be incurred.
There were others who were not so careful.
There might be. I was responsible for the Act, and I made that abundantly clear in every speech I made. I wish that Deputies on the opposite benches would be as scrupulous. Before and after the election I made that perfectly clear. Further, I made it perfectly clear in the Dáil and outside that this Bill was not a Bill to deal with what Deputy de Valera calls the abnormal problem. It was to deal with the credit-worthy farmer. I made it perfectly clear that we had to borrow money, and so far as we, the State, invested money in the Corporation, and in so far as the Corporation got money by the issue of certificates or otherwise, they got it from people who earned it hard, and that it was their duty to return it to them with interest. For that reason the Corporation could never attempt, nor was it intended, to deal with the down-and-outs. There are Deputies here—Labour Deputies and others—who were in the last Dáil, and they all know what was my attitude. I challenge any Deputy to quote anything I said inside or outside this Dáil that is contrary to that. I was in Clare and had an extremely good meeting there. I went down there to deal with a totally different matter, namely, in connection with the loan that had been passed by the Dáil for the erection of new creameries. I am glad to say that a large number of new creameries have been erected there. £100,000 was voted by the Dáil on special terms to erect new creameries. Deputies who have some experience, even those on the Fianna Fáil Benches, will agree that every applicant who complied with the conditions under which the money was voted got a loan. As I say, that money was passed, it was spent, and every promise we made was carried out. We put up money for the erection of creameries. We got the money and spent it expeditiously, with the result that a great number of new creameries have been put up. The vote is still there, the money is available, the terms are available, and any promises we made in that connection have been fulfilled, and they have been fulfilled particularly in Clare.
Now, as regards this Bill, I really do not know where to begin, because the whole question of agricultural credit has been touched on in one way or another. I entirely disagree with the point of view that the majority of the farmers are down and out. I entirely disagree with the point of view that a big majority of them are not credit-worthy in a commercial sense. They are. I entirely disagree that the urgent problem is that of the down-and-outs. The down-and-outs form only a very small minority of farmers. A man who has a farm of 25 or 30 acres, not fully stocked is still security unless he is otherwise heavily indebted. As I say, he is still security for a considerable loan which would in time put him on his feet. Do not misunderstand me when I say that the business of the Agricultural Credit Corporation is to deal with the credit-worthy farmer, to deal with the problem in a commercial spirit. When I say that, remember I mean that the Corporation is fully capable under existing regulations, with its existing organisation, of dealing with 90 per cent. of the farmers of the country, and 90 per cent. of the farmers are in a position to give security for as much money as is good for them.
As regards the other problem, I cannot deal with it. Will someone tell me how? If a man has no security and is absolutely down and out, there is only one way of dealing with him and that is to ask the taxpayer for money and to give it to him as a grant. I know no other way. All this philanthropy for him is very fine. All this concern for the man who is down and out is all very well. I heard mention made about fluke by some Deputy. I come from Galway, and the people whose stock died there are not down and out. Many of them have sent in applications for loans. Many of them are credit-worthy. If a man lost five or six ewes and a few yearlings he is not down and out, but, if he is, it may be for other reasons. So far as farmers who are credit-worthy are concerned, there is only one way of dealing with them, that is, for the Dáil to pass, say, a sum of £500,000 which Deputy Aiken wants for seed wheat and make them a present of it. Half of it will, however, be wasted and will be of very little good for three-fourths of them, because in the case of 75 per cent. of the class who are down and out, you can take it, it is through their own fault. They are, however, only a small minority. I am not dealing with them. Do not blame me for not dealing with them. I never suggested that I would.
You are going to make more of them if you continue on much longer.
The point of view in the Dáil that everybody in the country is crying for doles and credit and that credit, unlimited credit as, I think, Deputy O'Hanlon suggested, is what is needed is a point which I certainly cannot accept. Unlimited credit would be a greater disaster to the country than no credit at all. I believe that the considerations which really are important are these. Give a man just the amount he is able to economically handle and to repay. You can do a man as much harm by giving him too much as by giving him too little money. You can, in fact, do more harm. You can only give unlimited credit on one basis, because we are all human and we will hope for better days to come——
I did not say that individuals should get unlimited credit. I said that in this State agriculture should have unlimited credit.
That is the same thing, because if agriculture should have unlimited credit the agriculturists should also have unlimited credit. If they have an opportunity of getting unlimited credit we will all apply for it and we will hope for better days to come. We will do what we did during the war. We will borrow money which undoubtedly we will not be able to repay and the State must then come in and repay the people who gave the money. Who are these people? They are farmers also who are working hard and who put a little money by, not so much large farmers as small farmers. Look at all the credit the Irish farmer has got. He has had £130,000,000 lent to him at a rate of between 2¾ per cent. and 3¾ per cent. for the purchase of land. Look at the credit he has got in the way of livestock. Look at the credit he has got for building haybarns and so forth. I say that the Irish farmer, as he stands to-day, has far more credit than the Danish farmer.
Some Deputy mentioned that £2 per acre was not enough for Irish agriculture. What occurred to me was this: Supposing I had got £2 per acre, and that the rents and rates amounted to thirty shillings more per acre, making £3 10s. per acre in all, I wonder would a farmer think that too much? I think he would find his land very dear, and find it very hard to make money and to pay back that loan. I think it would be far better to give him less money and let him go on as best he could. I do not accept from Deputies on any side of the House the view that it is the business of the State to come to the rescue of a person who has no security for anything with the taxpayers' money.
Except his ability to make good.
Yes. I could not, and I will not, accept the other point of view, that the country needs unlimited credit and that we should dole out public money without security.
I did not suggest that.
The Deputy did not suggest it, but that was the implication and the suggestion that came from the Benches opposite.
I think it was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs who talked about the first security being character.
That is a security, of course.
The Minister is putting up points himself to knock them down.
I am trying to deal with the spirit of the debate first, and I will come to the points later.
Does the Minister suggest that this Party suggested that farmers should not give security and get loans?
That is what I understood as the "abnormal problem," because if it is not, the Agricultural Credit Corporation can deal with it. It can deal with it by giving them as much money as they have security for. That is a simple position. I have no sympathy whatever with the point of view put forward by Deputy Nolan, who knows the value of money—the idea that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should not ask for security in the way of a mortgage. Here is a Corporation operating in Dublin trying to carry out its operations as economically as possible. In fact that Corporation will succeed in carrying out its operations at one per cent. overhead charges. One per cent. will pay the overhead charges. That is the answer to Deputy Connolly, who wanted to know the cost of a loan of £1,000. That is thrift and economy. A bank of that sort cannot have agents through the country. It cannot have branches through the country. If it had it could not operate as cheaply, and the overhead expenses would be much more. You would have an unlimited number of inspectors. Therefore, the only way in which the Corporation can carry on is by dealing through a central office with the farmers through the country—that is, to have, for long-term loans, a simple security like a mortgage on land. A farmer does not want to be coming up to Dublin and sending up a man to sign bills. The bank does not want to be looking into the question of the character of the securities. Moreover, a personal surety is not security for a long-term loan. One of the very many recommendations made by every Commission that ever sat to deal with the question of agricultural credit was that so far as the farmer was concerned we should get rid of personal security and collateral securities—get rid of the system by which the farmer had to bring his neighbour to town to go surety and to stand him drinks. It is much better to ask from the farmer some simple form of security which will cost him little. Of the 8,000 applications for loans, which await the passing of this Bill, I should say that 90 per cent. are in respect of loans to farmers with valuations of between £10 and £25. The big farmers are not affected and have not to wait for the Bill. The big farmers can and ought to discharge equities.
Is the Minister aware that the Agricultural Credit Corporation has advised farmers to get personal security instead of a mortgage?
That would be in respect of short-term loans. I thought I had made it clear that I am dealing with the Agricultural Credit Corporation—that is, with long-term loans. The function of this bank, as long as it is dealing with the productive farmer, is to give him long-term loans, to give them to him on a simple long-term security and give them cheaply. There are 8,000 applications and at least 90 per cent. of them are from farmers with valuations of from £10 to £25. Everyone of them will get a loan on the spot without any legal expenses and the maximum cost will be one per cent. That means that a loan of £50 will cost ten shillings, or of £75, fifteen shillings. That is what I call a really satisfactory institution. It shows that the Agricultural Credit Corporation is going to be a really successful body for the purpose for which it was set up. I do not agree with Deputies who say that the minimum term should be ten years. Suppose I am a small farmer, that I have six cows and that I want two more. I want to get money for that purpose. Again, it is absolute nonsense to say that the farmers who are getting money from this Corporation could get it on the same terms from the banks. I know of my own knowledge that they could not, and I know they could not get loans, especially on long terms, which is the whole point. Suppose that I want £40 to buy two cows. It is suggested that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should not ask for any instalment of that for three or four years. That is not business, as Deputy Hassett knows.
That is not my contention. My contention was that where a man was 70 or 80 per cent. to the good, he would be able to repay, but where a man has lost all his cattle he could not repay so promptly.
A man who has lost all his cattle practically could not pay?
He could not.
Does not the Deputy know very well that that is the odd case, the abnormal case? The real case, the important case, and the case I am trying to deal with, is that of the small farmer who wants to buy cows and who has his land half stocked. It is suggested that we should not ask him to pay back anything for five years. In five years the two cows which he has bought will have a number of calves. There will be four or five more cows. Does not the Deputy know that if this farmer is not asked to pay back the money he will spend it? It is to his own interest to pay "with-and-with." Do Deputies not know that the Agricultural Credit Corporation has a certain amount of elasticity and that it will not take a man by the throat if he is a year in arrears or if he is not able to pay up-to-date?
Let us talk business for goodness sake. We all know that if I went out on a platform, or any other Deputy, and said, "We will give you all loans, and you need not pay a penny back for three years," everyone would cheer and throw up their hats. But it would be twice as hard to pay at the end of three years. It is in the interests of the farmer to tell him that he has to pay "with and with," to pay bit by bit as he can, and leave it to the good sense of the Corporation, in the genuine cases, to try and meet them without making it a general rule.
As to credit societies: There is another problem to be met there that has not yet been met. I have no excuse to make for introducing this Bill. I said, time and time again during the discussion of the Agricultural Credit Act, in this House, that it was a tentative and experimental measure. Various Commissions, in various countries, have sat to deal with agriculture, and every one of them made recommendations. In every country they funked putting these recommendations into operation because they bristled with difficulties. When I got the draft of the Banking Commission's report, on agricultural credit, I could see hundreds of detailed objections to various recommendations, but I came to the conclusion that there was only one way to build up an institution to deal with agricultural credit, and that is to go ahead, pass some Bill, set up a body and improve as you go along—the system of trial and error—that is the only sound way. This is not going to be the last Bill.
Then the other problem was mentioned, of the farmer under £50. Deputy de Valera and Deputy Aiken have different methods of solving that. Deputy Aiken said that credit societies would never do it and Deputy de Valera said organise credit societies. Of course, the problem is there. Can an institution in Dublin deal with a number of small farmers of from £10 to £40 valuation without incurring very big overhead expenses? Of course they cannot without having very big overhead expenses. It is said that it was absurd to ask for a mortgage for such a small loan while they can have any other security. There are a hundred-and-one reasons why a body like the Corporation cannot deal with small owners directly.
I did not say that credit societies could not issue small loans.
If it is agreed that the way to do it is through credit societies we are at one——
Credit and co-operative societies. We are at one with the Agricultural Credit Corporation. It is not my business to organise credit societies—that is the business of the I.A.O.S. The Department of Agriculture, both in the interests of co-operation itself and of the Department, should not be asked to take on the work of organising credit or co-operative societies.
Take means indirectly to cause them to do it.
Our connection with the I.A.O.S. is simple. I do believe that they are entitled to a grant from the State. They got one, and it was increased very much. It is their business to organise credit societies. In fact, a scheme is being prepared between the banks and the I.A.O.S. at present for the purpose of organising societies. All the difficulties do not lie with the I.A.O.S. People are very slow to go into societies, as Deputies know. I doubt if credit societies will be the solution of it. I know it is the sound solution, but I know it will be extremely difficult to get people to organise themselves into societies. Moreover, it has to be remembered in connection with co-operation and organisation that there has been more done in the last two years than has been done for the last fifty years. The I.A.O.S. or the Department cannot do everything on the same day. I am not defending the I.A.O.S. at all—they do not need it—but I am indirectly defending myself through them, if you like. They have to deal with the transfer of these creameries, the building of new creameries, the preparation of the Co-operative Bill—all huge projects which take a tremendous amount of thought, which cannot be rushed and done all in one day. A year or two years is a small thing in the life of a nation.
I am extremely glad that the Agricultural Credit Corporation did not lend money last spring. I ask Deputy Nolan, as an authority, does he think that cattle and sheep bought last spring will pay a lot next October?
Fifty per cent.
I hope they will. It was an accident, I admit, but it was rather timely. It shows that rushing things is not always right. Cattle and sheep were abnormally high, in my opinion, during the spring.
It might have been the other way.
I do not think it was at all bad business even from that point of view, that a large amount of money like £250,000 was not put into the buying of cattle and sheep last spring. I think it is far more important to go slowly, soundly, conservatively in a matter like credit than to rush things and make mistakes. There is another point. I heard a lot about red tape. Where is the red tape? What is really the meaning of all this talk? Is the Agricultural Credit Corporation to lend money without asking questions? Are the questions impertinent? I have a list of them numbering 22. I am told that it would take a solicitor to fill up the form. Eight thousand have been sent in already correctly filled. I wonder, if Deputy Nolan was lending his own money, would he ask many questions.
I did not say anything about the questions, and I never mentioned red tape.
You talked of procedure. All this talk about what the unfortunate farmer is asked is absolutely irresponsible and shows that people have no respect for the taxpayers money. Surely the Credit Corporation is entitled to get full particulars. Surely it is not too much to ask a man who is expecting other people's money to give full particulars. I have a similar document here from other institutions in other countries and I should like, if I had time, to read some of them. There are 158 questions in the American form for the unfortunate farmer. There are 22 in ours.
They do things big in America.
They ask many more questions. There is no difficulty about these questions. We are told by Deputy Nolan of the pathetic case of a man who owed one guinea land annuity and would not get a loan. That is too thin entirely.
I will give the particulars.
I am accepting the Deputy's facts. This man had two holdings, on one of which the annuity was one guinea and on the other £13 odd. He sends up the receivable order for the £13, but the guinea is not paid. He will not get a loan until he pays the guinea. He ought not to. If he is not able to pay the guinea he ought not to get a penny. The guinea would not stop him unless there was something else wrong—that is practically certain.
That was the only excuse given by the Corporation.
Then, again, it is an insult to a man to ask for a mortgage. What security should be asked for?
Not twenty times the amount.
The man wants £300 and they ask for a mortgage on his land not for £3,000, but £300. I did not know, by the way, land in Co. Limerick was so dear. He has 65 acres worth £3,000—that is, £45 per acre. Things are looking up all right. Deputy Nolan knows as well as I do that any bank must have security and that the simplest security would be to give a simple mortgage. He knows as well as I do that the moment the mortgage is paid off the land is free. I think these are the important points raised.
What about chattel mortgages?
That is a very difficult question, Deputy O'Hanlon will agree. In every country except America they refused to put chattel mortgages into operation. The procedure is ready here and they have in fact accepted some chattel mortgages. They will take them either as collateral or direct security. I think the Corporation is going to be a really useful body. It will not deal with the problem that Deputy de Valera mentioned but it will deal with the credit needs of agriculture proper, productive agriculture. I think it is going to be a really useful body and that their organisation is extremely good. If they are able to carry out their functions at 1 per cent. and deal expeditiously with the giving of loans to farmers they will be doing very well. I realise that there will have to be further legislation to make their position right, perhaps to deal with the question of chattel mortgages and other difficulties but I believe that the body is established on a sound foundation and that it will succeed.
What about the amending Bill?
I explained that twice.