I beg to move:—
"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
In order to give the Dáil and the country an opportunity of discussing the Bill on its merits, I wish to give, firstly, an outline of the general situation out of which the necessity for its introduction arose; secondly, the objects which it is hoped to achieve by means of the Bill; and, thirdly, a general explanation of the various sections.
In regard to the general situation, it is well known that there is a large number of uneconomic holdings in the country on which large families have to eke out an existence, and that, on the other hand, there is a very big number of ranches and estates on which there are very few people employed. If farms of 100 acres and upwards were to give employment to one man for every 40 acres, work would be created for an additional 100,000 men on the land. All over the congested districts there are large numbers of people living on farms the poor law valuation of which is £2 or £3. Heretofore the children in these families emigrated and helped to keep their parents by sending back portion of the wages they earned abroad. Emigration has ceased completely, and an outlet must be found for the 15,000 or 20,000 additional young boys who are reaching the age when they must seek employment. In present circumstances a strenuous effort must be made to provide a livelihood for them on the land. The utter impossibility of satisfying the desires of all the people who wish to get possession of land sometimes is a nightmare to those who are immediately responsible for the division of land, but, looking at the matter broadly, we have a right to be thankful that in this age, when people are deserting the land by the million in other countries, our people are still animated by the virile and healthy desire to till the soil.
There are two ways of securing increased livelihoods from the land— one is to divide it among uneconomic holders and landless men, and the other, to encourage such use of the land as will induce the owner to employ agricultural workers. For a number of years the Land Commission have been engaged on the division of large estates. Deputies from all sides of the House have been urging the Land Commission to speed up this work, but very few realise the legal and other difficulties which the Land Commission have to surmount before they can divide even a single estate. If the Land Commission were to divide one million acres under the existing system, it would take about 30 years to complete the work.
Apart from the division of land, the Land Commission is overwhelmed with other vast and intricate problems, such as the rearrangement of rundale holdings and the vesting and completion of land purchase. At every step which they take to solve any of their problems they are met with serious obstacles. For the information of the Deputies I am circulating a map of a number of typical rundale holdings which the Land Commission have been trying to rearrange, and on which one official has spent almost two years without getting agreement. The clearing up of these congested slums has been neglected for ten years. Whenever the Land Commission propose to take a few families out of a congested district they are met with bitter opposition in their efforts to secure alternative holdings for them in other districts. In many cases they endeavour to relieve congestion by the acquisition of a large farm, subject to land purchase annuity, in the immediate neighbourhood. Before they can acquire this vested farm, if the owner declines to sell to them, they have, as the law stands, to secure for the owner a farm in another district, equally suitable and of not less market value. In many instances they have been years trying to find an alternative farm which the owner would accept, and then only to find that the people in the locality were "up in arms" at the idea of a stranger getting a large tract of land in their midst. Section 28 of this Bill will enable the Land Commission to acquire vested land for the relief of congestion much more easily and speedily. It restricts the privilege of demanding an alternative holding to residental owners who work the lands on which they reside as ordinary farmers. Where the farmer is the vested owner of a holding valued £2,000 or over the Land Commission can take the surplus over £2,000 without being compelled, as heretofore, to provide him with an alternative holding equally suitable and of equal market value. If, however, they desire to acquire a holding under £2,000 value, or the whole of a larger holding, the owner can demand that he shall be provided with an alternative holding of equal market value to the holding he is surrendering, up to the maximum of £2,000 market value—the balance (if any) to be paid for in land bonds.
At present, failing agreement with the owners of untenanted land which the Land Commission desire to acquire, a lengthy procedure is necessary: declaration that the land is required for the relief of congestion; publication inIris Oifigiúil; hearing by the Land Commission of owner's objection; decision (after further inspection if necessary); appeal by owner; hearing of the case by the Judicial Commissioner; examination of the land in most cases by the Judicial Commissioner's assessor; decision of Judicial Commissioner and fixing of the price; consideration of the price by the Land Commission and decision as to whether to go on with the case or withdraw from the proceedings. All this takes a very long time even under the most favourable circumstances. It is necessary to make sure that legal requirements are complied with in every detail, and legal business is always slow.
It has been found that the safegaurds given to home farms and demesne lands have operated to impede the work of the Land Commission in the relief of congestion. In one case the Land Commission failed to obtain some 600 acres, on which only a few men were employed, of a protected estate consisting of 1,320 acres of good land situated in a district where the lands were urgently required for the relief of congestion. Sections 28, 29, 31 and 33 will prevent such as state of affairs arising again. On the whole, the Land Commission officials—particularly those engaged in the acquisition and distribution of land—have the most arduous work assigned to them of any body of civil servants I know, the difficulties of which are not appreciated by those who do not know it intimately. It is absolutely necessary to enable them to expedite their work, and the proposals in this Bill will sweep away a number of the legal and administrative technicalities that clog progress.
One of the principal objects for which Fianna Fáil was founded was to establish on the land as many families as practicable. This was also one of the fundamental objects of the old Sinn Féin Movement and of the First Dáil. The Bill is designed to meet the needs of the present situation and to rearrange the administration of the Land Commission so that the object which the Government have in view may be achieved with the shortest possible delay. The Land Commission was set up here when the people had very little contact with their governors, and when the Ministers in London had neither the desire nor the opportunity to supervise in detail its administration in the interests of the Irish people. Before the setting-up of the Free State there were a number of other Departments operating on the same basis; notably the Intermediate Education Commissioners, the Commissioners of Education, the Department of Agriculture, the Forestry Commissioners, and the Local Government Department. Since 1922 the six Departments I have mentioned, and seven others, have been reorganised to conform to the new situation. The Bill proposes to bring the Land Commission into line with all the other Government Departments, and to give to the Minister whom the Dáil holds responsible for it the same authority over its administration and general policy as other Ministers have over the Departments for which they are responsible. The power to determine the individuals from whom land is to be taken or to whom it is to be given or the price to be paid for it, is expected from the powers given to the Minister and will be exercised by the Commissioners. A new appeal tribunal is being set up to hear appeals against the actions of the Land Commission in all cases except such as a majority of the tribunal agree are matters of law. In the Committee Stage it is proposed to amend Section 7 so as to provide that the lay members of the appeal tribunal shall be Land Commissioners appointed by the Executive Council instead of by the Minister.
In order that lands may be divided more quickly it is proposed to give the Land Commission power to acquire lands on the basis of a provisional price so that when it is definitely decided that lands shall be acquired for the purposes of the Act, these lands can be entered upon at once without waiting for a year, or three years, or five years, until all the legal technicalities have been overcome. When the lands are taken over the price will be fixed provisionally by the Land Commission, and on this price interest will be paid to the apparent owner, until all matters of price and title have been finally determined. Allotments can be made forthwith and provisional rents fixed pending the settlement of the price which the owner shall be paid. It is anticipated that this will enable the Land Commission to distribute land quickly and give the people who need it access to the soil. It will be a vast improvement on the present system whereby the Land Commission are compelled to spend years wrestling with legal difficulties, while the people who should be using the land are standing idle looking at it going to waste.
Part III of the Bill, dealing with arrears and revision of Land Purchase Annuities, is introduced in consequence of the Government's promise to halve all land annuity payments and to give additional relief to the lands acquired and sub-divided under the Soldiers and Sailors and 1923 Acts. It offers to every tenant-purchaser, actual or prospective, far-reaching benefits by way of reduction in the amount of his annuity and funding his arrears. Tithe Rent charges will also be halved where the payer is also a land annuity payer. An additional 5 per cent. reduction is given to the tenants who acquired allotments under the Soldiers and Sailors and 1923 Acts, giving them a reduction, all told, of 55 per cent.
In order to relieve a large number of people who have got into arrears and give them a chance to "find their feet," it is proposed to fund arrears and make them repayable in equal instalments over 50 years. It is also proposed to forgive all arrears over three years—the result being that in very few cases will the payment of the funding annuity, plus the land annuity, amount to more than 65 per cent. of the annual payments due heretofore, no matter how many years' arrears the payer owes.
So much by way of general introduction and explanation. I shall now deal in a little more detail with a certain of the provisions of the Bill which, as Deputies will see, is divided into four parts concerned respectively with (1) general matters such as definitions; rules and provision for expenses; (2) changes in the Land Commission organisation; (3) changes in respect of purchase annuities and other payments, and (4) mainly with the extension of the powers of the Land Commission in regard to the acquisition and division of land. I do not intend at this stage to take up the clauses of the Bill seriatim. That will come later, on the Committee Stage.
Part I calls for no special explanation at the moment. It is made up of the usual necessary clauses regarding definitions, the making of rules and the payment of expenses.
Part II I have already dealt with. Its seven sections embrace just two points—first, the definition of the duties and responsibilities of the Minister and the Commissioners; second, the establishment of an Appeal Tribunal to hear and decide appeals and objections such as have hitherto been heard and decided by a single authority, the Judicial Commissioner. The tribunal will be composed of the Judicial Commissioner as Chairman and two other Land Commissioners nominated for the purpose by the Executive Council. I want to call the attention of Deputies to this change from the wording they will find in the Bill before them. I shall introduce the necessary amendment at the Committee Stage.
As regards Part III, I need not deal at any length with the funding of unpaid instalments of Land Purchase Annuities and other annual charges or with the permanent reduction to be granted in the amounts of annuities and other annual charges from the second gale day of 1933 and thenceforward, as Deputies are already familiar with the announced policy of the Government under these heads. One innovation, however, which will be good news to some heavily involved annuitants, is the proposal in Section 12 to wipe out such arrears of annuities as exceed three years' accumulation. This is a generous gesture intended to encourage defaulters, many of whom are deserving and were unable to meet their liability because of circumstances outside their control. Any attempt to recover debts so long due would merely have the effect of putting a recurring decimal on the default of the tenant purchasers concerned, and the Government propose to write them off. We propose to apply the privilege of funding to arrears up to three years' accumulations so as to cover all sums in the nature of purchase annuities, actual or prospective. The method of funding arrears of annuities is that the Land Commission shall ascertain the amount of arrears of annuity due on the 15th of July, 1933, in respect of each holding, together with the appropriate costs of any proceedings for their recovery, and so much of the sums so found due as shall not exceed three years' annuities with appropriate costs shall be repayable with interest at 4½ per cent. from the gale days of May-June, 1933, by means of a "funding annuity" payable for a period of 50 years. The funding annuity will be consolidated with the existing annuity, so as to avoid duplication of payments.
The same method is to be applied to Sections 13, 14, 15, 16, to arrears of payment in lieu of rent, interest in lieu of rent, and rent and interest payable by tenants or allottees of the Land Commission and to annuities collectable by the Commissioners of Public Works under the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act 1870. In all cases of default we have stayed proceedings and the costs of decrees are to be funded on the same basis as the principal debt. It must be understood, however, that these provisions do not apply to persons who are not tenants or allottees of the Land Commission—for example persons who have taken grazing lettings of lands in the hands of the Land Commission pending division.
The arrears which have accumulated under all the Land Acts over all the years to the 31st December, 1932, amount to the sum of £2,972,000. From this has to be deducted about £250,000 representing the arrears over the three years' mark which are now to be written off as bad debts. This leaves some £2,722,000 of "old arrears" to be funded. But the funding proposals also apply to those tenant-purchasers (actual or prospective) who find themselves unable to pay the first gale of the current year. The collectable charge for this gale under all the Land Purchase Acts and under all heads amounts to about £2,160,000, but it is expected that an appreciable proportion of annuitants will be able and willing to pay the instalment rather than have it funded. The total, therefore, of sums to be funded will probably come to over £4,500,000, the repayment of which will be spread over 50 years at an annuity rate which works out at about 6d. per half year for every £1 of debt so funded.
So much for the past. As regards the future, tenant purchasers generally will under Section 12 be called upon to pay only 50 per cent. of their present liability as from the gale days May-June, 1933, and this applies also to future annual payments under the heads of payment in lieu of rent, interest in lieu of rent and rent and interest payable by tenants or allottees of the Land Commission, so that tenants will not suffer any disadvantage by delays which may be necessarily incurred in putting them on a purchase annuity basis. An exception, however, is made to the general scheme of having annuities, etc., in favour of two classes of allottees of parcels of land purchased by the Land Commission at such prices as involved disproportionately high annuities. It is felt that in equity such exceptional annuities should be brought nearer to the common level, and accordingly it is proposed to reduce them by 55 per cent. instead of by 50 per cent. The classes who will thus benefit are allottees of lands purchased under the Act of 1919, when the price of land was greatly inflated, and allottees of lands purchased under the Land Acts, 1923-'31, who have also had to bear a disproportionately high annuity on the prices of their parcels of land purchased at a time when agricultural prices and consequently land values were much higher than at present.
It is proposed in Section 12 (3) to revise not only all existing annuities, etc., but also to revise future annuities to be set up under the Land Purchase Acts, excluding however annuities created on resales to owners. The Bill includes a proposal in Section 24 to give to annuities subject to a third decadal revision under Section 25 of the Land Act, 1896, the advantage of enjoying such revision as from the 1st day of May, 1933, notwithstanding that the decadal period would not have been reached by that date. The revised annuity will then be subject to the general reduction of 50 per cent.
Section 17 deals with arrears of rent due by sub-tenants on holdings vested in the Land Commission under Section 9 of the Land Act, 1931, so as to give them the same benefit which their immediate landlord is to receive under the revision clauses of the Bill. Section 18 deals with the funding of arrears and the revision of tithes payable by annuitants and perpetuity rents and mortgages on agricultural holdings payable into the Church Temporalities Fund by occupying farmers, so that practically every class of farmer coming within the scope of the Land Acts is included in its proposals.
Redemption of the new revised annuities may take place under Section 22 on much the same lines as hitherto. The amount of the redemption value will be calculated on the annuity payable prior to the revision and then reduced proportionately to the amount of revision. The redemption money of annuities under Acts prior to the 1923 Act will be disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer as may be directed by the Minister for Finance. Funding annuities may be redeemed in whole or in part by payment in cash of the value of the outstanding instalments.
As regards the financial provisions consequent on the funding and revision of annuities, it is proposed that the deficiency in the Purchase Annuities Fund or in the Land Bond Fund arising from the revision of annuities shall not be a charge upon the Guarantee Fund, while not relieving the Guarantee Fund from liability to make good any other deficiency in either fund. That is to say, the Guarantee Fund will remain liable for any arrears of the reduced annuities payable in future. It is further proposed that the provisions of the Land Purchase Acts relating to the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund shall cease to have effect, as they have become obsolete.
It is proposed in Section 26 that the charge on the Guarantee Fund in respect of deficiencies arising from the funding of annuities under the 1923-31 Acts due on the first gale day of 1933 shall be made good to the Land Bond Fund out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, to such extent as may be determined by the Minister for Finance. All deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund arising from the revision of annuities and other annual payments are to be made good out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas; and, on the other hand, so much of a revised annuity paid into the Land Bond Fund as represents a funding annuity is to be paid thereout to the Exchequer.
I now come to the general provisions of the fourth portion of the Bill. In the first place we propose by Section 27 to add to the remedies for the recovery of land purchase annuities the power to issue direct to the under-sheriff a warrant for the recovery of sums due by defaulters. This will result in a saving of time in the District and Circuit Courts and will ease considerably the burden of costs on defaulters. Under the present system the defaulter is often burdened with costs which amount to two or three times his debt to the Land Commission. The section fully safeguards the rights and interests of the citizen, to which a man is entitled even when he fails to pay his annuity, and at the same time it saves his pocket considerable further expense.
Next come some very important provisions in Section 28 as regards the acquisition of land for division by the Land Commission. Under this head, the Bill proposes to repeal subsections 4 and 5 of Section 24 of the Land Act, 1923, and to amend subsections 2 and 3 of that section. These sub-sections restrict the general powers of the Land Commission to acquire untenanted land for division and have become in practice a serious impediment to progress. Under shelter of them individual owners of extensive lands in badly congested districts have either successfully resisted all the efforts of the Land Commission to acquire much-needed areas or have delayed their acquisition for years, and in many cases these lands were outlying farms on which there was no residence and which were being let for grazing year after year. The right under the existing law of the proprietor or tenant of land declared to be required for the relief of congestion to demand an alternative holding equally suitable and of not less value, instead of accepting payment in Land Bonds, has been particularly difficult to meet, as of course acceptable alternative holdings are rarely available and the phrase "equally suitable" which occurs in clause (b) of sub-section 4 of the Land Act, 1923, has presented an almost impregnable line of defence for the owner. The Bill proposes to eliminate the point as to an alternative holding being "equally suitable" and to limit the right of the provision of an alternative holding of equal value tobona fide resident farmers, whose holdings of land do not exceed in all £2,000 in market value, but a concession is made to proprietors of holdings valued higher than this in that they may require to be provided with an alternative holding up to the value of £2,000 and receive the balance of the price in Land Bonds. Thus, the genuine farmer who lives and works on a holding of reasonable size is fully protected, and the right of appeal to another tribunal in case of dissatisfaction is preserved.
It is proposed further in Section 28 (6) and Section 28 (5) that the declaration of the Lay Commissioners that land is required for the relief of congestion shall suffice for the purposes of the Acts and that where land is so declared publication of a provisional list as prescribed by Section 40 of the Land Act, 1923, shall no longer be necessary. The double procedure of the declaration and provisional list is cumbersome and costly and simply slows up the work by requiring two operations to effect the one result. The declaration of the Commissioners that land is required may be appealed against on questions of law or value, but it is to be final as regards the fact that the land is necessary and must be acquired.
Section 29 contains proposals for avoiding delay in the taking possession of untenanted lands by the Land Commission in cases where the provisional list or declaration has been duly published and any objections disposed of, by way of the Land Commission declaring the appointed day for the lands before the price is finally agreed upon or fixed. A provisional price would be declared, and any necessary financial adjustments made later when the final price was fixed in accordance with the existing provisions of the Land Purchase Acts (as now to be amended). Deputies who have had experience of a long interval between the provisional list stage and the actual division of untenanted lands urgently required for the relief of congestion will appreciate the necessity of such a provision as this, even though it may give a certain amount of administrative inconvenience.
In Section 30 power is being sought to simplify Land Commission procedure in regard to the resumption of unvested holdings. Here again, the principle we are adopting is that if the Land Commission require these lands in the public interest they must be enabled to get them, and speedily. A declaration or certificate by the Commissioners will in future be acted on by the court as sufficient warrant for authorising the resumption of a holding or part of a holding, and if the Commissioners require the land for immediate distribution the court will give possession even before the resumption price is settled. In such a case, of course, interest will be payable on the purchase price as from the date of possession.
It is next proposed to extend the powers which the Land Commission already possess for the compulsory acquisition of land for the relief of congestion so as to cover acquisition with a view to division among the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923. That is to say, that the Land Commission is not to be restricted by a technical definition such as "relief of congestion," but may, where necessary and possible, acquire lands throughout the State for division amongst uneconomic holders, evicted tenants, discharged employees, migrants, trustees for turbary, pasture, etc., suitable landless men, and so on. And their jurisdiction in this respect is to be absolute and not subject to reference to the Appeal Tribunal, except on a question of law or value. If the Land Commission are to distribute land rapidly and on a large scale, they must have a freer hand than they have hitherto had, and it is the purpose of this Bill to give them greater scope for their land settlement operations.
Yet another restriction under the present law which needs removal is that contained in the last sentence of Section 24 of the Land Act, 1927, by which the Land Commission is stopped for a period of seven years from renewing proceedings for the acquisition of lands from which they have withdrawn from purchase or resumption, because the price fixed on appeal was too high to make resale to allottees practicable on reasonable terms. Section 32 proposes to remove this restriction in so far as it applies to proceedings prior to the passing of this Act.
Another restriction on progress which Section 33 seeks to modify is the exception made in Section 24 (2) of the Land Act, 1923, in favour of "residential" holdings, or demesnes, homeparks and the like. In the absence of a precise definition as to residential character, evasion has been possible on the score of a residence or mansion house which was practically derelict. This section proposes that such derelict residences shall no longer protect lands required for division. It further lays down that whether a holding has been let for a residence or not is now to be determined by reference to its user at the date of the passing of this Act and at five yearly intervals afterwards. Hitherto the character of one of these residential holdings and the question of whether it came within the Land Code or not had to be settled by reference to its user in August, 1923, a provision which, owing to the altered circumstances of many holdings, has been giving rise to difficulties and injustice.
The remainder of the Bill is concerned with a number of points of varying degrees of importance on which further legislation is required in order to amplify existing powers of the Land Commission or to provide for certain technicalities, and I need not refer particularly to them all at this stage. I would mention, however, a few of the more important proposals.
The loss of land by erosion has given rise to considerable complaint on the part of tenants who were liable for payments in respect of land which they no longer possessed. Power is now sought in Section 34 to relieve both tenant purchasers and ratepayers by wiping out entirely the annuity charged on lands which have been permanently submerged.
It is proposed under Section 35 to empower the Land Commission to review the amounts of the standard purchase annuities published under Section 9 of the Land Act, 1931, in cases where the Commissioners are not satisfied on investigation that these annuities bear a just relation to the value of the holdings and the Land Commission is being authorised to fix the annuities at the amounts for which the holdings afford security. As the law stands, it is not open to the tenant, landlord or Land Commission to seek a variation of the standard purchase annuity on a judicial holding, and the Land Commission cannot on their own initiative reduce the standard purchase annuity on a nonjudicial holding except where that annuity has been agreed upon by the landlord and tenant. It is not expected that the Land Commission will find it necessary to exercise in very many cases the discretion now proposed to be given to them alone, but it is expected that the conferring of this power may benefit an appreciable number of cases of known hardship.
In Section 36, mill holdings which are substantially agricultural are to get the benefits of land purchase although the mill may be in use; so also tenanted lands excluded from previous Land Acts as being suitable in future for building ground, if not already resumed by the landlord, are, under Section 42, to be brought forthwith within the Land Purchase Acts.
It is proposed in Section 37 to apply to land purchase the maxim that husband and wife are one, and so prevent evasion of the law by family ownership.
It is proposed in Section 38 to amend some of the provisions of Section 44 of the Land Act, 1931, dealing with the purchase of lands held under fee-farm grants or long leases, in accordance with practical difficulties found in the working of that section. Experience has shown that some of the annuities, if fixed under this section as it stands, would be beyond the amounts which the holdings could reasonably bear, and it is now proposed that powers should be conferred to vary such annuities by fixing them at the amounts for which the holdings afford security. It is proposed to repeal Section 38 of the Land Act, 1923, which dealt with the redemption of head rents, in order to bring this class of tenure under the one procedure in future.
It is proposed in Section 43 to extend the powers of the Land Commission for the acquisition of bogs, in view of the anticipated development of the peat industry.
I think I have now said enough to indicate the main purpose and provisions of the Bill, but perhaps it may be well to sum up a few of the principal features.
(1) The organisation of the Land Commission is being placed on a more definite and better working basis, and the powers and responsibilities of the responsible Minister and of the Commissioners are more closely defined and a new appeal tribunal is being established to deal with appeals from decisions of the Land Commission in those cases in which the law provides for appeals.
(2) All proceedings for the recovery of arrears due to the first gale day of 1933 (save in the case of the Church Temporalities Account payments where it is the first gale day after the passing of the Act) are to be stayed, unless a defence to such proceedings has been entered.
(3) The amount of the arrears and appropriate costs ascertained and a sum not exceeding three years' arrears and the costs, with interest at 4½ per cent., is to be made repayable by a funding annuity.
(4) Existing and future annuities are to be revised by 50 per cent., save in the case of annuities on resale of lands purchased under the Land Act, 1919, or vested in the Land Commission under Acts 1923-31, at the date of the introduction of this Bill, when the revision is 55 per cent.
(5) Powers are given to under-sheriffs to levy for arrears on warrant from the Land Commission without court proceedings.
(6) The Land Commission is given wider powers of altering the standard purchase annuities of holdings fixed under the 1923-31 Acts, where the question of security for the advance arises.
(7) The Land Commission is given the same compulsory powers of acquiring land for resale to persons or bodies to whom they now can resell lands acquired voluntarily, as they have already for the purpose of relieving congestion—and the powers of acquiring land for these purposes are enlarged by the removal of certain restrictions on such acquisition contained in the Land Act, 1923.
(8) Power is taken to fix a provisional price upon acquired holdings so that the new tenants can be producing the fruits of the soil while the legal gentlemen are carrying through the necessary legal formalities.
I believe that the speedy enactment of this Bill is a matter of national importance and that the underlying principles should have general support. We wish to give the annuitants and other payers the immediate benefit of funding and revision. We wish to speed up and enlarge the scope of the acquisition and division of untenanted land and to grapple energetically with the problem of congestion. These are vital matters for the agricultural community and will not brook delay. The Land Commission will have to face the big and urgent task of overhauling all their collection accounts and issuing new receivable orders in time for the November gale. They must also make provision for a large scale distribution of land. We shall, of course, welcome any constructive criticisms, but we are satisfied that the proposals contained in the Bill are the minimum that will enable the Land Commission to proceed effectively with the task entrusted to it and yet are the maximum that can be carried through expeditiously in present circumstances.
Deputies do not need to be reminded that agriculture is still the mainstay of our national economy. By various enactments we have striven to encourage an increase in tillage. Some of the proposals in this Land Bill may be considered as complementary to that policy.
We must distribute the available land so as to provide a livelihood for the greatest possible number of our population and to produce the greatest amount of national wealth. In this task we must be guided not so much by the size and value of farms as by their use and method of production. The day of the large and lazy rancher is over. The future lies with the industrious and intelligent farmer who is alive to modern needs and conditions. He has nothing to fear from this Bill, but, on the contrary, will get every encouragement. We look forward to a time not far hence when the land of Ireland will be economically and justly distributed and worked to the limits of its capacity for the benefit of the whole nation.