What the Free State judiciary think about this legislation that the Minister is so anxious to rush through without anybody being allowed to speak about it. Some of it, a recent book says, might be held up certainly as a beacon light, more of it ought to be held up as a warning. I think that the original Agricultural Credit Corporation Act, no matter what the Minister himself may think about it, no matter how high his opinion may be of it, considering that it was his own baby, is not the be all and the end all of agricultural credit legislation. The Minister tells us that that Act was not alone highly successful, apparently in this country, but that it was the model for the English Agricultural Credit Act which was not passed until a subsequent year. It does not matter to us whether it was the model or not of the English Act as actually passed. What I say is that in regard to the administration of the two Acts there is no comparison whatever. The English Agricultural Credit policy is administered in an entirely different way, and when we criticise legislation here we are criticising it with reference to its effect on the administration.
In the first place, the British Government is lending the English Agricultural Credit Corporation a sum of money free of interest for sixty years; in the second place the administration of the granting of loans is being carried out through the English banks, which undoubtedly are giving far more assistance and far more support to the scheme in England than the Irish banks are giving here, although the Minister for Agriculture himself went out of his way before ever a credit corporation was set up, to eulogise the Irish banks and to say that they were going to do a lot of the work, and the Banking Commission, which is the Bible of the experts on the other side, said that if by any chance we failed to get money, as we have failed to get it apparently, for the working of our Agricultural Credit Corporation, we can certainly, with the State behind us, easily get money abroad. If that was so, why was not the money from abroad looked for? "In that event," the Banking Commission says, "it is to be hoped that a reasonable amount of them (that is, of the land bonds) will be purchased and held by the banks. As the investor becomes interested in them a genuine market for such bonds can be developed, and as it develops further the banks will be able to buy more and more of them until the amount so held corresponds roughly to the volume of the savings received in agricultural districts."
Then it goes on to say that the time will arrive when the total amount of loans which are granted by the Agricultural Credit Corporation will be represented by a corresponding amount which will be invested in the Agricultural Credit Corporation by the banks, but will, in the first place, be provided to the extent that they will have got rid of a large amount of their frozen debts and of loans which they were unable to collect, and, in the second place, because the additional security they would have, and whatever prosperity was reached among the agricultural community as a result of the operations of the Credit Corporation itself would have, of course, strengthened and have a very good effect upon the Irish joint stock banks themselves.
The Minister for Agriculture talked about the investors, and said there is not enough attention paid to the investors. I say the State is the investor in this case. The State is the only person who can lose, and when the Minister comes here and advances the hypothetical investor who up to the present has refused to invest, why does he not tell us what the Irish banks have done in this matter? Why have not they fulfilled the promises that were held out by both himself and their representatives on the Banking Commission, that when the Agricultural Credit Corporation got under way they would give the money, the only thing necessary being to get a certain amount of money in circulation through loans, and that the money apparently was to come along through the joint stock banks. If that process is being followed out, and if it is the case that the banks are in process of reaching a stage where they are going to finance the Agricultural Credit Corporation, because they are in the first place benefiting in the way I have stated, and in the second place the banks have reasonable security—they have State security and there is a reasonable yield—there is not the slightest danger, so far as I can see, of their losing on the transaction. Nevertheless, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance are not able to show us what the banks have done in this matter. We cannot got liquid resources, they say. The trouble with the Agricultural Credit Corporation, they say, is that they have their money invested in land. People do not want to invest in land. They are shy of these certificates of charge which are issued against land. The Minister himself foresaw that when he introduced the original Corporation Act. He said that other securities would have to be provided, and undoubtedly they will have to be provided, and the other backing which would enable the Agricultural Credit Corporation to go into a foreign investment market and get money there, will have to be provided either by the taxpayer or by the Irish banks. Up to the present the banks have not done their share. The taxpayer is the man who is responsible for the whole thing. He is the man who will have to foot the bill if the Corporation goes smash. He is the man who has to sacrifice income tax and stamp duty to pay the preliminary expenses and lose the interest on whatever money is put into it by the State, because although the taxpayer is supposed to draw interest like all the other investors up to the present, presumably there is no interest to draw.
While the taxpayer, therefore, who is an investor, has to suffer the loss of the interest on the State money invested, he will have to pay the interest to the bank and to the other people for whom principal and interest are guaranteed by the State. So that this is simply a State transaction, a State institution from beginning to end. What we want to know is why? Because the banks do not like the Agricultural Credit Corporation to be given a fair chance to make good. We, as well as any other party in this House, are anxious that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should make good. The only way in which it will make good is through the men on the opposite side of this House. Quibbling or talk about competition with the Irish banks is not going to help us. If we feel that Irish agriculture is in a sufficiently bad position, and if we feel that big action will have to be taken by the Corporation, let us do it. If we do not the position will become worse later on and eventually steps will have to be taken. There is the alternative. The Agricultural Credit Corporation should have been allowed to take deposits the first day. The Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Finance came in here and proposed that that Credit Corporation should be allowed to take deposits, and then because the banks, through the representatives of Trinity College in this House, said they should not be, they swallowed the pill. They allowed the fifteen who are dominating them in their Irish language policy, and every other policy, to dominate them in this. Of course the fifteen have another thought, and how could they be expected to do the right thing by the State, the taxpayer and the farmer? They swallowed it and withdrew clause 9 of their original Act, which said that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should be allowed to take deposits. Here you have the Banking Commission saying that the only way in which we can get credit for the farmer, the only way in which finance can be placed at the disposal of farmers for agriculture, will be first by getting the deposits from the farmer. But the deposits, of course, must go into the joint stock banks. They must not in any circumstances be allowed to go to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, although the taxpayer has to face the losses if there are losses.
He has to pay the interest and the principal as well. The one moneymaking side of the whole business, the one thing that could enable the Corporation to work properly, naturally and well, and to put it on a firm foundation, like the credit corporations of other countries, Germany and so on, which really have the State behind them, and the commercial banks working with and for them, is not given an opportunity here. That kind of thing is going to be prevented. I would remind the Minister for Agriculture, also, when he is jibing at the Fianna Fáil Party, at their audacity and impertinence in discussing this question and pointing out the defects of his mighty, original Bill which, we are told, is the model for legislation in the Imperial Parliament, that the officials of the Agricultural Credit Corporation say it is so unworkable that there is hardly a single clause of it that is not utterly impossible. Even at this hour of the day it is so bad that, as regards the memorandum of association and the articles of association, things which an ordinary joint stock company has power under the Companies Acts to change and adapt to altered circumstances, the Agricultural Credit Corporation has to come here and ask us to pass a special Act so as to enable them to change their memorandum of association or the articles of association in order that they may do as they want. Still we are told this is a model piece of legislation and that it is a wonderful contribution to statesmanship.
Before ever the Minister for Agriculture became a member of the Dáil the National Land Bank was set up by men who certainly were not experts any more than we here are experts, but who decided to set up an institution which, in the first place, should be national, and, in the second place, should have a definite aim. Though the institution did not turn out as satisfactorily as it might have—the bank had very hard and unsettled conditions to strive against in the country—the work was still carried on.
I am sure Deputy Gorey would be very anxious to point out the particular transactions where it paid too much for land. So it did, undoubtedly, but it had men behind it who were determined to make it a success, and in spite of these huge difficulties the Land Bank held its head up, it kept its head over the water, until better times came along. When better times arrived, and when the bank, which was the real kernel for the future agricultural development of this country, because it had the power to accept deposits and it had good-will and a trained staff which had some familiarity with land legislation and with transactions concerned with land, was doing well, the whole thing was swept aside and handed over to the Bank of Ireland, which has found it a very profitable transaction.
The Bank of Ireland has found it, perhaps, a more profitable transaction than any other bank in the thirty-two counties. The Minister for Agriculture, the Executive Council and the Government Party were responsible for handing over the bank which ought to have been the genesis of the whole thing, and from which everything concerned with agriculture should have developed, and the Minister says here that there was nothing known about agricultural credit until he came with his Bill. As a matter of fact, at the Banking Commission a statement was made that the really authoritative Commission, on the whole question of agricultural credit, was the Commission which sat in Ireland under Mr. Cahill in 1914. There is nothing to stop any member of the Fianna Fáil Party or the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, be he Minister or back bencher, from consulting the report of that Commission and learning what has been done in other countries.
The Minister says: "What can you do when you cannot sell out the farm, "and he pushes aside the whole question of what is to be done with the down-and-out people, the 200 farmers who are derelict in County Wexford, and points to the hundreds of thousands due to the banks in Tipperary and other counties. We said here before, and it was said by the farmers when the original Act was introduced, that steps ought to be taken by the Government to approach the banks and clear off the old loans. One of the worst things the Agricultural Credit Corporation is suffering from, and one of the biggest obstacles it has to face, is the whole question of taking over old loans which are hanging on and which make it impossible to approach this question from any new angle.
When it was suggested here that the bankers ought to be made accept the position on account of deflation and of the particular circumstances in the country, and on account of the fact that if prosperous conditions follow, as they certainly would if the banks were reasonable, that the bankers would be the first to profit and they would profit a great deal more in the long run than the farmers who would get away with some of their obligations or responsibilities, we were told that that was embezzlement and bankruptcy and it was preaching dishonesty. We were told that that was actually telling the farmer not to have all the civic virtues and not to be honest. Now we find in almost every county the banks are making arrangements of their own free will. What was wrong and what meant embezzlement and bankruptcy when it was preached from these benches is quite right from the point of view of the banks. I do not understand that sort of policy in regard to banking. When part of a national assembly here says a certain thing ought to be done, we are told it would amount to bankruptcy and embezzlement; but when the banks see fit to do it we are told that is good commercial credit.
Let us know where we stand in regard to the banks. Are they or are we the masters as to the future progress and development of the agricultural industry? If the Minister got in touch with the banks I believe he could have got at them by telling them that this thing was an obstacle in the way of the successful working of the Corporation and he would have got them to come to a general arrangement so as to enable the old debts to be liquidated and so give the farmers a chance to start off again. The Minister for Agriculture also said, when he was introducing his original Act, that one of the principal objects he had in view in regard to the part of the Act which dealt with chattel mortgages was to give a chance to the congests and landless men in the West of Ireland and other areas. I would like to have some figures that would show us the valuations of the counties in which the £400,000 has been distributed.
Under the original Act, this precious Act which is to be the model for all future legislatures all over the world, Section 17 sets out: "The Agricultural Credit Corporation shall keep all such accounts and other records and in such form as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Minister under this section." I think it is one of the blots of the present Bill that no attempt has yet been made, after so many years, to frame definite regulations in regard to the manner in which those accounts are to be published. Deputies from all over the country have asked questions in the House as to the amount of loans that were granted and the areas in which they were granted, and other matters like that. There was no information given, although the taxpayer is the man who has to foot the bill for the whole thing, as to the amount of loans, the areas in which they were distributed, or the type of farmers who have benefited, or the reasons why loans were refused. Deputies got letters saying that loans were refused, but the reasons could not be stated. At least we might have been told here if the loans were refused because of inherent difficulties in regard to title and so on, or whether they were refused because the man had no security to offer. We have not the remotest idea into what categories those refusals were placed. We are told now that it is cheeky and impertinent for us, having been refused on so many occasions the most elementary information from the Minister about the working of the Corporation, to speak here on this matter. If that is representative of Parliamentary Government, then the sooner we get a Mussolini here the better.