Some points were raised yesterday in reference to a ruling given by the Chair on amendments dealing with the arrears. That ruling was not given lightly or arbitrarily. I had given the matter very serious consideration, with the best expert advice available. I have since further considered the matter and am confirmed in my view. I am satisfied that those amendments, and others which I indicated to the Deputies concerned, cannot be moved. The cumulative effect of the amendments would be to increase the charge. The amendments in this series are inextricably inter-related, and it would not be possible to segregate specific amendments from the series. For instance, examination of amendment 32, which technically might be in order if taken alone, will show the absurdity of so segregating them. The effect of that amendment if carried would, as I understand it, be to give tenants no remission of payments until the cessation of the economic war—the date is defined in amendment 3 as one month thereafter. I am, therefore, ruling out of order the following amendments:— 24 to 30, inclusive, and 32, 33, which I mentioned yesterday, and the following:—36, 38, 40 to 49 inclusive, 51 to 56 inclusive, 58, 59, 60, 62 to 69 inclusive, 71 to 78 inclusive, 81, 83, 86, 89, 92, 93, 95, 96, 98, 99, 101, 102, 107; 125 (for slightly different reasons) and 156. 97 and 100 seem to be consequential on 95. I am prepared to allow Deputy Vincent Rice to put his case on amendment 59, regarding which I have some doubt.
Land Bill, 1933—Committee (Resumed—Amendment 14).
Do I understand that No. 156 was ruled out of order?
That nearly completes the Committee Stage.
Are we now resuming the Committee Stage on amendment 14?
I think the Chair decided that we were to discuss Nos. 13, 14 and some others together.
Yes, and possibly 15, 17 and 19 also.
It has been suggested that the terms of amendment 13 would result in excluding the existing Land Commissioners from eligibility for appointment. As far as I am aware, there is a decision of our Supreme Court that service in the Land Court set up under Dáil Eireann prior to the Treaty of 1921 is service for all purposes such as this amendment implies, and, therefore, so far as I am aware, those Land Commissioners who had service under those courts would not be excluded from eligibility for appointment as lay commissioners. If my reading of the relevant judgment is not correct I want to make it perfectly clear that the term "12 years" mentioned in my amendment should be withdrawn and the term "five years" substituted therefor.
Even if the Deputy substituted the word "five" for "12" I would not accept his amendment.
I take it amendments 1 and 2 are withdrawn? Nos. 1, 2, 13, 14, 15, 17 and 19 might be debated together, as was suggested yesterday, on No. 14.
The Minister's attitude is rather peculiar. He says he will not accept any qualification which will indicate, or ensure, that the particular officer had experience, in spite of the fact that when he spoke here yesterday—and the Attorney-General adopted the same point—he said that the object of the Government was to have officers of experience. I cannot understand the frame of mind which refuses to enshrine that in the Act. If he desires to have experienced officers, and notad hoc officers, why not put it into the Bill? Our amendment is somewhat different from the amendment of Deputy Dillon. It does not confine the officer to a man of 12 years' standing, but says the lay commissioner must be a man of two years' standing or another officer of the Land Commission who has had 13 years' service, and reached a certain status by way of promotion before he is appointed to the position of commissioner. I think Deputy Dillon proposes to change the term from five to 12 years, but that would not cover one of the existing commissioners. There is one who came into the Land Commission, in recent years, who was transferred from another Department of State, where he occupied a very high office, before being removed to the Land Commission. Our amendment would cover that case. Our amendment deals with a lay commissioner in the Land Commission of two years' standing. That would cover the commissioner I have in mind. I cannot understand the mentality of the Minister in this matter. He professes that he wants officers of experience and yet he refuses to accept that amendment.
Is amendment 14 agreed?
Yes, subject to amendments. It would be agreed if the lay commissioners are to be men of two years' standing.
Whether the House agrees to amendment 14 or not Deputies might consider how far amendment 14 meets them. The Chair would allow amendments to be moved on the Report Stage as we cannot now go back to amendments 1 and 2.
Arising out of the explanation given by the Chair may I ask is amendment No. 127 in order, and will it be moved?
I think so.
Is it competent for me to put down a further amendment on Report Stage?
We have not yet considered amendment 127. It is not yet before the House.
Is there any objection to deciding the principle either on amendment 13 or 15, as to whether the lay commissioner should have experience?
Amendment 13 may be moved now.
The principle could be tried out on amendment 13 or amendment 15. Could we divide on amendment 15?
I take it that if we divide on amendment 13 or 15 we would there and then decide the principle.
If a decision is come to on the matter, and the question is decided, on the Committee Stage, it cannot again be raised on amendment on Report Stage. That is why I suggest that the Deputies might take time to consider the matter and submit their amendments on Report Stage.
I ask leave, then, to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 13, by leave, withdrawn.
In sub-section (1), page 6, to delete all words from the word "any," line 39, to the word "behalf," line 42, and substitute the words "two lay commissioners nominated for the purpose by the Executive Council."—Aire Tailte agus Iascaigh.
Amendment 14 agreed to, and amendments 17 and 19 are withdrawn.
With regard to amendment 16 which is as follows:—
Before sub-section (2) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
The members of the appeal tribunal shall hold office as members of the appeal tribunal on the same terms and conditions of tenure, save as in regard to remuneration, as the judicial commissioner.
The Minister accepts the spirit of that amendment, I understand, and will introduce an amendment of his own on Report Stage.
I shall introduce an amendment on Report Stage giving the lay commissioner fixity of tenure so that instead of being removable by the Executive he shall be removable only by the Dáil.
My amendment is, of course, that a lay commissioner shall hold office on the same terms and tenure as other commissioners. Is there anything in that that the Minister would not accept?
I think the amendment will be acceptable. I have not the exact terms by me of the amendment that I will introduce. If Deputy Dillon withdraws his amendment he can put it in again on Report Stage and move it if my amendment is not acceptable to him.
I ask leave then to withdraw amendment 16.
I move amendment 17:—
In sub-section (3) to delete all words from the word "with" in line 51 to the word "tribunal" in line 52.
This amendment raises an entirely different point. When the question of the tribunal was first debated, in the House, the Attorney-General referred to the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888. He said that there a similar tribunal had been set up, and he explained that under the terms of the Railways and Canals Traffic Act a Commission was appointed consisting of three persons. Two of the persons so appointed were lay persons. Of these one had to be a man of railway experience and as the third person an ex-officio commissioner was appointed by, I think, the Lord Chancellor, who was to be a judge of the High Court in England. The constitution of the tribunal he said provided that the judicial person decided points of law, and there was an appeal from the tribunal on points of law and questions of fact were decided by the Commissioners. I do not think that there is any provision in the Railways and Canals Traffic Act referring to the description of procedure to be adopted where the issue arises as to whether any given point is a point of law or of fact. But by implication it is suggested in the statute that any aggrieved party, coming to the tribunal set up under the Act of 1888, should have the right of appeal from the tribunal to the High Courts on the particular question as to whether a matter is a point of law or a point of fact. I am not clear, after the most careful study of the terms of the Bill, as to whether an aggrieved party would have a right of appeal to the High Court on a point which the tribunal had decided was a point of fact. Sub-section (3) of Section 7 says "every question before the appeal tribunal shall be determined by a majority of the members of the tribunal save that, on any question which, in the opinion of the judicial commissioner with the concurrence of one or both of the other members of the tribunal, is a question of law, the opinion of the judicial commissioner shall prevail."
There is no doubt that under the previous Acts, to which reference is here made, there was an appeal from the judicial commissioner to the High Court on any point of law. I find it difficult to ascertain, from as careful a study of the relevant statutes as I am in a position to make, whether there would be under the Land Code, when it incorporates this Bill, an appeal from this tribunal to the High Courts on the question of whether a point is a point of law or a point of fact. Unless that appeal lies, there is no analogy whatever between this tribunal and the tribunal set up under the Railwayc and Canals Act of 1888. In my opinion, if it is perfectly clear that there is an appeal to the High Court from a majority decision of the appeal tribunal on whether a question is a point of law or a point of fact, a great deal of my objection is disposed of. In the absence of that right of appeal, I am of opinion that the provision contained in sub-section (3) is thoroughly bad. It is as well, at this stage, to recapitulate the exact significance of what that sub-section contains. Sub-section (3) provides that where an aggrieved party appears before the tribunal on appeal from the Land Commission the two lay commissioners can overrule the judicial commissioner on the question of whether the point raised is a point of law or not and, if the two lay commissioners take the view that the point raised is a point of fact, the judicial commissioner is immediately put to one side; he simply exercises the functions of an ordinary lay commissioner and no more.
My submission is that the very question of whether any point is a point of law or a point of fact is itself a point of law and that it requires a person trained in the law, and essentially judicially minded, to decide that question. I submit that the consensus of opinion in legal circles is that it is frequently exceedingly difficult to draw a sharp dividing line between what is a question of law and what is a question of fact and that there are occasions when the best authorities will say that a point raised is a mixed point of law and of fact. The matter is not easy of solution and it seems to me to be one pre-eminently suitable for consideration by a High Court judge. I submit to the Attorney-General that if there is no right of appeal to the High Court from the appeal tribunal on such a question as I have mentioned here, the decision at the appeal tribunal sitting should be reserved to the judicial commissioner and the judicial commissioner should be the only person to declare whether any point made is one of law or of fact. In the event of the judicial commissioner deciding that it is a point of fact, it may be decided by the majority vote of the commissioners sitting, but in the event of the judicial commissioner deciding it is a point of law, then it shall be decided in accordance with the terms of the Bill by the judicial commissioner, with a right of appeal to the High Court.
I am obliged to Deputy Corry for the suggestion that Deputy Holohan and myself might in some way be appointed to these vacant positions. Perhaps it would be an advance on the somewhat vague terms of the Bill if Deputy Holohan and I were appointed commissioners. Anyhow, members of the House would know where they are. With all respect to Deputy Corry, I am not at all sure that Deputy Holohan or myself would fill the Bill as efficiently as we would like it to be filled. I have no hesitation in saying that I would completely fail to be of any help in the matter of intelligently deciding what would or would not be a law point. I do not know if we are taking the three amendments together —1, 2 and 17.
Amendments 1 and 2 have been disposed of.
Then we are taking amendment 17 by itself. On different occasions I spoke at length on this section, and it has been amply debated by others. It seems to me indefensible that the rights and liberties of the tenants as regards their land are to lie in the hands of the two lay commissioners, the appointment of whom is undefined. There was an attempt made to regularise that matter. Amendments were proposed to limit their appointment to certain classes of land commissioners. As the section stands unamended, it means that on a question of law the two lay commissioners are to have the determination of matters, and the judicial commissioner is merely a figurehead. The Attorney-General rather implies, without speaking, that I am talking bosh, but he may find it necessary to get up subsequently to defend the position. It has been argued, and there has not been an intelligent refutation, that the final say on a question of law will lie with these two gentlemen, whoever they may be. Up to the present that has not been disputed; there has not been any honest case made against it. Our contention is that points of law will be finally determined by the lay commissioners and the judicial com missioner will be a mere figurehead.
I think we can meet Deputy Dillon's point. The Minister is satisfied, I think, to make it clear that there may be an appeal on a ruling as to whether a question is a question of law or of fact. That meets the Deputy's difficulty, I think, and it also meets Deputy Bennett.
Was it implicit in the Bill?
I do not think so.
Perhaps the Attorney. General would be good enough to say that, in the event of that not being implicit in the Bill, his analogy between this tribunal and the Tribunal set up under the Railways and Canals Traffic Act is not as good as he thought it was?
I do not want to enter on a further discussion of that matter. Deputy Dillon argued it without having read or studied it.
I did study it.
I think I made it clear last night that it was left to the Commissioners to say whether a question was a question of law or of fact, and there is no appeal on the question.
I challenge that.
I read the section to the Deputy last night. Is there any point in discussing that now?
It might be settled outside the House.
Who is going to appeal, anyhow?
The experience of ordinary tenants in the country in the past has been that they had to meet the law costs that hung around their necks once they attempted to look for any justice in this country.
On a point of order, I propose, with the permission of the House, to withdraw my amendment.
The question of appeal does not arise. When it arises, I presume an amendment will be brought forward to give effect to the Attorney-General's promise.
Did not the Attorney-General promise that an appeal would lie?
This amendment, which has been proposed here by three lawyers and a half is——
I do not know what the Deputy means by the expression "a half," but personalities should be omitted from the debate.
Well, might I say, three lawyer Deputies and a preparing lawyer Deputy?
On a point of order, sir, is the amendment withdrawn or is it not? If it is withdrawn, I respectfully submit that the Deputy has no right to speak on it.
The amendment cannot be withdrawn without the unanimous consent of the House.
Has Deputy Corry refused his assent?
Obviously he has.
I should like to have a few words to say before it finally disappears.
It has been accepted by the Minister.
Yes. Is it legitimate to draw the attention of the Deputy to what has actually happened? He seems to be oblivious to what has happened.
Deputy Bennett seemed to be very anxious about facts. Is he satisfied that the judicial commissioner can say that the price of an estate——
I hope the Minister will not charge us with obstruction to-morrow.
The Deputy seems to be very troubled lest any light should be cast on this thing. Deputy Bennett is anxious about the point of law. Is he satisfied that the judicial commissioner could say that the price of an estate was a question of law, and rule out the two lay commissioners on it? That might very readily happen. There is no Deputy on any side of this House, who has had any experience for the last five years, who is satisfied to leave the judicial commissioner with any kind of control.
Is that in order, sir?
There is no special judicial commissioner in question here. As to the existing judicial commissioner his actions should not be discussed here.
I bow to your ruling, sir. If Deputy Dillon's amendment were to be accepted we might as well——
It has been accepted.
——do away with the two lay commissioners altogether. They would have no business there. I see no use in this State wasting money paying men to be there merely as figureheads, and that is what Deputy Dillon's amendment means. His amendment means that the two lay commissioners are to have no voice whatsoever in anything so long as the judicial commissioner, whoever he may be, says: "Oh, that is a question of law". Once he says that, the two other fellows can walk out and he will settle it. As I said, it is a lawyer's amendment brought in to try to make work for lawyers, and, God knows, the lawyers have got enough out of the tenants of this country without getting more.
We are all familiar in this House with Deputy Corry's statements, but people outside the House do not realise the type of man Deputy Corry is and I submit, sir, that the allegation, which Deputy Corry has made, that this is a lawyer's amendment put forward in order to get work for lawyers, is a deliberate charge of corruption. Outside this House Deputy Corry has about him the reputation of being a member of Dáil Eireann and his words, therefore, must carry weight with ignorant and ill-informed people. For that reason, I ask you, sir, to rebuke Deputy Corry for what he has said.
I hope that the Chair is aware that Deputy Dillon last night charged other members of this House, who are not lawyers, with corruption. He charged them with corruption, if not directly at least indirectly.
I absolutely repudiate that statement.
If Deputies would bear in mind the fact that members in this House act as the representatives of the people who elect them, it would make for better debate.
If my words were reported to Deputy Smith as reflecting any suggestion of corruption on him or on any other member of the House, they were incorrectly reported. What I said was that the Deputy used the expression "we" in connection with the administration of this Land Act and that the Deputy said that it was legitimate for them to use that expression.
I used the expression "we" simply because the people gave us that authority and that right and power. We are, for the time being, representing the majority of the people; and I hold that I am entitled to use that expression. I do not mind, of course, what Deputy Dillon attributes to me. I feel that I am as good a judge as Deputy Dillon of what is or is not correct practice, and I do not want any lectures from him on that point either.
I assure the Deputy that I said exactly what he has repeated now, and not a word more; nor had I a desire to impute anything to him other than what he has now said.
The matter in dispute is taken now as closed.
I gather from the Attorney-General that an amendment will be introduced to give an appeal to a superior court, probably the Supreme Court or some other court, that is to judge on the question of whether a question before the tribunal is a question of law or of fact. That is to say, that at some stage a judicial person will decide that question, and the undertaking is that the amendment will be introduced to give effect to that. If that is so, the shortest thing to do is to give the decision on that point to the judicial commissioner. He is a High Court judge, and you are only going to lead to what Deputy Corry and other Deputies are so concerned about. It seems to be a most extraordinary thing, to my mind, to leave the question to, let us say, a High Court judge who is not a judicial commissioner when, in fact, the judicial commissioner, who might be any High Court judge, is there to decide it. Why not give the decision of the question to the judicial commissioner? I do not press that point, I only put it forward because it seems to me that it will be important afterwards administratively. If, of course, the Government are against that point of view, and if the Government would prefer to have the question decided by some other High Court judge by appeal I do not make any objection; but I do suggest that it is a cumbrous method of doing it.
At the present time, there is an appeal to the judicial commissioner on questions of law, so it is not adding to it. We are definitely on the question as to whether, when matters come up from day to day, the first point as to whether it is a question of law or a question of fact, has to be decided by the majority. In the ordinary way the same appeal lies against the decision of the appeal tribunal as lies at the moment against the decision of the judicial commissioner. I think the Attorney-General agrees that even as the section stands when the appeal tribunal adjudicates as to whether it is a question of law or fact that the decision is challengeable in the High Court.
That is what we are trying to ensure.
If it is not clear we will make it clear on Report Stage.
The position is that there is an appeal on law at the moment, and you propose to extend the same appeal to the question as to whether the issue was one on law or on fact.
The Attorney-General has suggested that there might be some doubt—that it might not be right or clear in the statute as it stands. The Minister gives an assurance that he will make it explicit.
If it is necessary.
But once the Attorney-General is in doubt as to whether it can be read into the Bill as it stands, the safest thing is to make it explicit.
We have given an assurance on that.
Do I understand that an appeal will lie even when the judicial commissioner has been a party to the decision arrived at—even when the judicial commissioner has agreed with the decision of the majority?
Yes, in all cases.
Yes, if the farmer concerned will be able to pay the lawyers on both sides. Why not go straight and give the judicial commissioner power to decide on the spot whether it is a question of law or of fact? I take it that the judicial commissioner is a man of equal probity with his colleague in the High Court to whom you are allowing an appeal. If as you are promising to amend the section so that an appeal will go to the High Court from the decision of the appeal tribunal, why not give the judicial commissioner the status of the High Court judge in the matter of whether it is a question of law or of fact? Why not do that and not be driving a man whose land you are going to take at a scrap price to bring up an array of lawyers at 20 guineas each with 10 guineas a day refresher?
Deputy Corry is not in it with the Deputy.
I agree with the point that Deputy Corry has raised, and so will every farmer in the House agree with it. We want land legislation for landed people, for landless people and not for the lawyers. I am not imputing corruption but you are putting too many charges upon the owner of a farm that you want to acquire. You already have a High Court judge there and you will not accept his word as to whether a certain issue to be decided is a question of law or of fact, but if an appeal is made you will accept the opinion of a High Court judge, a colleague of that judge, on these matters. I am not a lawyer, but I know that is all nonsense. I wish this thing would be left to a free vote of the House. If it were I have no doubt as to the result.
I do not think that the Deputy knows what is being discussed. What he is proposing is an amendment of the Constitution to make some court lower than the Supreme Court the final arbiter on a question of law and fact.
That is not the point. It cannot be the final arbiter, an appeal must always lie, but leave that matter in the first instance to the judicial commissioner.
But an appeal lies from him.
Yes, to another court, but why not leave it to him to decide in the first instance?
There will be an appeal, anyway.
I agree, but if my land were being taken, and a question arose as to a point of law or fact, and the judicial commissioner decided that question, I would hesitate to appeal against his decision to a higher court, whereas I might not hesitate if I knew that laymen had overruled him as to whether it was a question of law or fact. I would be glad if that were left to a free vote of the House. We would vote down the lawyers, anyway.
I move amendment 18:—
In page 6 to delete sub-section (4).
Will the Minister say why?
I am trying to please the Deputies on the opposite benches. One of the criticisms they had against the Bill in the course of the Second Reading debate was the provisions of sub-section 4 of this section. That sub-section provides that no officer of the Land Commission shall sit or act as a member of the appeal tribunal for the determination of any questions relating to an order or thing in the making or doing of which he took part or was concerned.
If that is the object I accept the amendment.
I move amendment 19:—
In sub-section (5), line 3, to delete the words "an officer of the Land Commission" and substitute the words "a land commissioner having not less than two years' standing as such commissioner."
I moved a somewhat similar amendment to this yesterday. This section deals with the setting up of a committee for making rules regulating and prescribing the practice and procedure of the appeal tribunal. I made a point yesterday—that the Minister himself had made several times—that it was necessary to have an official who had experience of Land Commission practice on a committee appointed for the purpose of drawing up rules. It is necessary to have a land commissioner on a committee of this kind, because every land commissioner is familiar with the rules governing the procedure of Land Commission courts, and because the land commissioner is familiar also with the practice relating to Land Commission court work. For that reason, I move my amendment to have the substitution made.
I am prepared to meet the Deputy to the same extent as I met him in the matter of the amendment to the rule-making authority in sub-section 3, that is to substitute for an officer of the Land Commission a land commissioner. I will insert an amendment on the Report Stage.
I would be glad if the Minister would explain Section 8. I did my best in trying to understand its meaning, but I must confess that I failed to do so. I would like to get from the Minister a definition as to what is limited and unlimited.
You will have to get the judicial commissioner to do this.
Leave it to Deputy Corry and Deputy Belton.
Or Judicial Commissioner Cleary, who would not mind taking the salary.
In any case where at the moment a person has a right of appeal to the judicial commissioner, he will have the right of appeal to the appeal tribunal, and limited rights of appeal under Sections 28, 30, 31 and 33 of the present Bill.
I take it that this is a section expressing the right of a person to appeal, and that the language of the section is involved because the idea is to provide for every sort of appeal.
It is the draftsman's language.
There are certain sections upon which there is an appeal on certain aspects of a question, and it is provided by this that the word "appeal" shall not be interpreted to exclude a partial appeal. Before we pass from that, is (6) of Section 28 an instance of a limited appeal?
And it is merely to ensure that a limited appeal would not bring in those that are applicable in Section 8.
I propose amendment 20:—
To insert at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(3) In this section the expression "order of the Land Commission" includes an order of the Land Commission under Section 3 of the Forestry Act, 1928 (No. 34 of 1928), and a decision of the Land Commission under Section 4 of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1931 (No. 54 of 1931).
At the present time under Section 3 of the Forestry Act of 1928 applications are heard by the Land Commissioners with an appeal to the judicial commissioner in the matter of taking land for forestry. In Section 4 of the Mines and Minerals Act of 1931, decisions as to whether minerals are the property of the Land Commission or the State are determined. It is necessary to provide that these appeals be heard by the appeals tribunal in the future.
Will it be necessary to amend Section 10 to implement the undertaking given in respect of the right of appeal?
If necessary it will be amended?
I move amendment 21:—
To delete lines 47 and 48 and substitute the words "provided that the decision of the appeal tribunal on such application shall not be valid or effective unless the judicial commissioner concurs in such decision.
It is provided in the section that the right which the judicial commissioner hitherto had of granting resumption orders in certain cases shall, when this Act becomes law, be exercised by the appeal tribunal. The amendment provides "provided that the decision of the appeal tribunal on such application shall not be valid or effective unless the judicial commissioner concurs in such decision." The procedure up to the present was that before tenanted land was vested the Land Commission made investigation to find out whether the tenant in whom the land was about to be vested had already had an advance from the Land Commission. If he had an advance of £3,000 then automatically a form was sent out notifying him that it was proposed to retain the additional holding. There were other cases, I admit, where the Land Commission was satisfied that it was necessary to retain the holding for the purpose of improving it, or for the purpose of relieving congestion. The same form was also sent out to the tenant, notifying him that it was proposed to retain the holding. Following the sending out of that notice an inspection took place for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not congestion existed in the neighbourhood of the particular farm, or whether there was any reason why the Land Commission should not resume the holdings. The next step, the Land Commission having satisfied themselves that it was necessary to retain the holding for the purpose of improvement or for the purpose of relieving congestion, was that an application was made to the judicial commissioner for, in Land Commission phraseology, a resumption order. It was customary for the judicial commissioner to grant the resumption order. I have never known a case where it was refused. That power was conferred on the judicial commissioner by the Act of 1923, sub-section (3), Section 29, which reads:—
"On any application by the Land Commission for or in connection with the resumption of a holding, the powers of the Court under section five of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, shall be exercised exclusively by the judicial commissioner whose decision shall be final."
It is just as well that Deputies should be familiar with the extent of the authority exercised by the judicial commissioner. Section 5 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, states:—
"During the continuance of a statutory term in a tenancy, save as hereinafter provided, the court may, on the application of the landlord, and upon being satisfied that he is desirous of resuming the holding or part thereof for some reasonable and sufficient purpose having relation to the good of the holding or of the estate, including the use of the ground as building ground, or for the benefit of the labourers in respect of cottages, gardens or allotments, or for the purpose of making grants or leases of sites for churches or other places of religious worship, schools, dispensaries, or clergymen's or schoolmasters' residences, authorise the resumption thereof by the landlord upon such conditions as the court may think fit, and require the tenant to sell his tenancy in the whole or such part to the landlord upon such terms as may be approved by the court, including full compensation to the tenant.
"Provided that the rent of any holding subject to statutory conditions may be increased in respect of capital laid out by the landlord under agreement with the tenant to such an amount as may be agreed upon between the landlord and the tenant."
In any event, that is the machinery chosen for the purpose of dealing with resumption cases. Notwithstanding what has been said about the judicial commissioner, and the way he discharged his duties in the past, I am perfectly certain that the Attorney-General does not agree with any of those remarks, but will agree with what I am about to say, that so far as his authority was concerned in relation to the granting of resumption orders he certainly discharged that duty fairly, justly and equitably. No one can make any charge against him in that connection. As I say, the Land Commission could do nothing more than apply to the judicial commissioner for the necessary resumption order; in other words, for the necessary authority to proceed with the acquisition of the holding in order to distribute it for the relief of congestion.
Under this Land Act it is proposed to go very far in the direction of securing additional powers for the relief of congestion. It may be that there will be several holdings on an estate. In the past it was customary for the Land Commission, as a mere formality, to vest those holdings in the tenants. It was practically only in cases where the tenant had already got a Land Commission advance amounting to £3,000 that they retained the additional holding, and that holding was utilised for the purpose of relieving congestion. Under the additional powers which the Minister is asking for under this Bill it is possible for him to retain any holding, no matter what size and no matter what valuation. He may even, as a matter of fact, under the power asked for in Section 1 of this Bill, resume a holding or retain a holding of five acres in area. He can retain any holding of any size or of any area. I want to safeguard the small tenants. I did not put down this amendment for the purpose of giving the judicial commissioner certain powers which the Minister wishes to withhold from him. I put it down for the purpose of safeguarding the small tenants, and for the purpose of giving the judicial commissioner in regard to resumption cases more or less a continuance of the authority which he has enjoyed up to the present, and which he has discharged as I said, justly, fairly and equitably. There is still a very big number of holdings throughout the country to be vested in the tenants. There is a certain number of estates at all events to be dealt with. Even in the cases where those holdings have been vested in the Land Commission, the Land Commission has identically the same authority and the same power with regard to resumption proceedings as they had under the Act of 1923. That power was given to them under the Land Act of 1931. Up to the present that power has been exercised fairly, justly and equitably. If the Minister had given us an undertaking that two of the present Land Commissioners would act along with the judicial commissioner as the lay tribunal under this Act, I would be perfectly satisfied to let the tribunal exercise all the powers relating to the resumption of land. In the absence of any such undertaking from the Minister, I want to retain a certain authority for the judicial commissioner in respect of those resumption cases, because it is only by the retention of that authority by the judicial commissioner that the small tenants whose holdings are still to be vested in them can have their interests safeguarded. For that reason I move this amendment.
What I said on the last amendment applies also to this. You might as well get rid altogether of the two lay commissioners as accept this proposal. The judicial commissioner can sit tight and say: "I do not agree with that", and it is thrown out automatically under this amendment. Under the amendment nothing shall be valid or effective unless the judicial commissioner concurs. I do not agree with Deputy Roddy as to the functions of the judicial commissioner in the past. The small tenant that Deputy Roddy is particularly interested in could be met by the question and answer I quoted in this House on the Second Reading of the Bill—the question as to why 61 acres of land which were applied for for the relief of congestion were refused even though the individual concerned held 5,722 acres. It was decided by the commissioners that this man, with 5,722 acres, should not lose 61 acres; he could not afford to part with 61 acres for the landless men. I suppose that is one of the small tenants for whom Deputy Roddy wants to get the judicial commissioner to exercise such functions as are applied for under this particular heading. I consider that a mistake has been made, and if I can I think I will rectify it. I think I will bring in an amendment on the Report Stage abolishing that judicial commissioner altogether. I think it is the proper course to take. Deputy Roddy and those associated with him seem to have a terrible dread of lay commissioners. I was accused here last night of making an attack on the Land Commission officials. I did not. I had personal experience of the Land Commission Court, and I was agreeably surprised at the fairness with which they met cases brought forward. I cannot say the same about the other court that I went to afterwards; I found that the case was tried before ever it went into it.
The Deputy has already been told that he is not to discuss any decision of that judicial commissioner, on this or any other amendment.
We have been repeatedly challenged, I might say, by Deputy Roddy and others as to the decisions that have been come to. Comments have been made by some Deputies here on their fairness, and if comments on their fairness are right——
The Chair has said that personal comments on and criticism of the judicial commissioner are not to be made, and that ends it.
Well, a Chinn Comhairle, I confine myself to this, that apparently Deputy Roddy and those associated with him have a terrible dread of what the lay commissioners will do. I happen to have an entirely different opinion of lay commissioners, as compared with lawyers of any class, shape, form or description.
What about those on the Front Bench?
Of any class, shape, form or description. Deputy Dillon awhile ago accused me of accusing the three lawyers concerned in the previous amendment with corrupt practice. I did not, and I wish to disassociate myself from that here and now. I said that the amendment had been brought in by three lawyers, and I passed no comment. As for the weight of my opinion, I do not grudge Deputy Dillon or anyone associated with him to test the weight of my opinion in my own constituency any day they like.
There is nothing about Cork in this amendment.
This amendment is an endeavour, and a very definite endeavour, to overrule and set aside the changes that we are making in the tribunal. It is a very definite attempt in that direction, and I for one would sooner see the appeal tribunal wiped out altogether, because I do not believe in paying men for nothing, or for acting merely as figureheads who would have to go on their knees to buck-shee lawyers and let them tell them all about it. That is why I consider that Deputy Roddy's amendment should not be considered here.
Does the Minister propose to give us his views on the amendment?
My view on this amendment has already been expressed in relation to other amendments. I think we are as fully competent to appoint a lay commissioner as either the British Government or the Cumann na nGaedheal Government.
I think perhaps the Minister attaches undue significance to one aspect of this amendment. If he would look at Section 11, to which this amendment is moved, he will see that this is one of the odd cases which marks out this tribunal from the tribunal referred to by the Attorney-General. This is one of the cases in which there is no appeal from the tribunal. Section 11 reads:—
On any application by the Land Commission for or in connection with the resumption of a holding, the powers of the court under Section 5 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, as amended by subsequent enactments (including this Act) shall be exercised by the appeal tribunal, and the decision of the appeal tribunal on such application shall be final.
There is no means of getting that reviewed by a court of law.
Before this, the decision of the judicial commissioner was final. What we are trying to do through this Bill, is, on questions of fact, to substitute the judicial commissioner by the lay commissioners; that is definite. We have given our views on that matter. Deputy Roddy objects to that. He wants the judicial commissioner left as the final word in this matter, simply because he says he cannot get an assurance from us that this tribunal would consist of two lay commissioners of two years' standing in the Land Commission. I said, as far as this concerns appeals, we are not going to listen to it. I believe we are as fully competent to appoint land commissioners as anyone else, either the Cumann na nGaedheal Government or the British Government.
I draw the Minister's attention to one point. I do not profess to be familiar with the whole land code from 1881 down to the present time but I am not clear on this; whether a point of law or the interpretation of a point of law might not arise under the Land Act of 1881. I put that to the Minister.
I believe it could not, because if that was so an appeal would lie from the decision of the judicial commissioner.
Not necessarily, because he is a High Court judge. The terms of the statute would suggest that normally there would be such an appeal, and here we are passing a Bill which deliberately, in this case, provides that there should not be an appeal, which would rather confirm my suspicions that a point of law might arise. If a point of law arises there would be no hope of any appeal here. I do not know whether a point of law can arise or not, but I am suggesting that there is a possible way of dealing with the case whether the tribunal is final, whether the High Court should, by statute, be prevented from functioning in such a case, or whether it should give the judicial commissioner power to invalidate a decision when the decision of the lay commissioners is made on a point of law. Perhaps the Attorney-General would inform the House whether under Section 11 a point of law can arise on appeal?
I do not think that arises, because the mind of the Executive Council is made up that this section must go into the Bill in this shape. They will not yield to making it a subject to appeal.
I want to make this statement to the House. The Attorney-General is a member of the Executive or of the Government. We have all a warm regard for him personally. His courtesy is invariable but I have not yet heard a precedent for a statement that because the Government is determined to ram something down the throats of the House, and because of that, the law officer of the Government declines to explain the section. I asked him as a responsible officer of the Government, and of this House and one who advises the Government, whether an appeal on a point of law might lie from this tribunal under Section 11, and his answer is that because the Government is determined to ram it down the throats of the House he will not concede an explanation here. Surely the Attorney-General will agree that that is an impossible position. If Deputies cannot turn to the law officer of the Government— and I wish to discharge myself of the least suspicion of being offensive— who is a public servant and the custodian of the legal rights of the people to whom shall they turn for information? That is the position. Nobody else can know as well as he can. We put the question to him, can that position possibly arise, and he must defend it in the light of that possibility if it exists.
It appears to me that Deputies opposite cannot be serious in this amendment. I do not think they would force it to a division. It asks us to declare that the lay commissioners shall have no authority to decide questions of fact. Deputies opposite would not give the lay commissioners any rights at all. What is wrong with the lay commissioners? Are they to be men who will not be allowed to deal with matters of any kind? The case was made by Deputy Roddy that on this amendment he was defending the rights of the small tenants with five or six acre farms. That was a ridiculous suggestion. Deputies do not mean a bit of it. Their argument now is that the lay commissioners will be biased in favour of the small farmer when dealing with the owners of the ranch lands. But they cannot have it both ways. The lay commissioners on questions of fact will be much more experienced in dealing with such matters than the judicial commissioner. They will be men of experience. Surely the Government has no intention of appointing men who have no experience of these matters. I take it that they will have a greater ability and knowledge in matters of this kind than the judicial commissioner himself. Why then try to put these men out of bounds? I am going on the argument of Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies now who seem to say that if there is anyone biased in favour of the small farmer here it will be the lay commissioners. That is what Deputy Roddy now wants to say. It is absolute nonsense, and he is talking just for the sake of putting up a position of some kind.
I did not intend to suggest that we should ram this down the throats of the House, as Deputy Dillon suggests. I merely want to make clear that we do not see any point in discussing this amendment. The amendment is not what Deputy Dillon has been striving to prove it is. We have already agreed that where a question comes before the appeal tribunal as to whether it is a question of fact or not the decision may be appealed against. This question before the appeal tribunal will be in the same position. I am informed that there is never or hardly ever any question of law in these cases. I do not know whether there is any suggestion to the contrary but that is my information from officials of the Land Commission. If there is a question of law the decision will be exactly the same as in other cases.
There will be an appeal to the Supreme Court?
That is quite all right, but it is important that it should be put on record that the Attorney-General says that there is an appeal on a point of law. Arising out of Section 11 there will be an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Under the new section there is clearly an appeal on questions of law, and as to whether the question is one of law or of fact. But there is a very wide question dealt with here. The whole scheme of the Bill is to give the tribunal power to resume land. Deputy Roddy's amendment would confine that power, so far as the acquisition of tenanted land was concerned, to the judicial commissioner. I think that is the real purpose of his amendment apart altogether from the legal questions arising out of the Land Act of 1881. The effect of the amendment would be this, that when it is a question of the resumption of tenanted land the last word shall be left to the judicial functionary. That is a point we want to press on this amendment as well as the other point that will be dealt with on the amendment promised by the Attorney-General. I do not think the House should pass by this without realising the significance of what is going to happen if none of the safeguards is left. What is really happening is that all the safeguards under the Land Act of 1923 are being wiped out. The House will have to remember that it is possible here under this Bill to take land, not only for the relief of congestion but for any purpose at all. The House must remember also that not only can land be acquired for any purpose at all but that any class of land can be acquired for any purpose at all.
Under the Land Act of 1923 land could only be acquired compulsorily for the relief of congestion and certain other purposes, and could not be acquired at all if other lands suitable for these purposes could be acquired. Both these safeguards are wiped out. There is absolutely no safeguard at all left to the landowner whether he is a tenant, lessee or an owner in fee simple. He has no safeguard whatever, good, bad or indifferent. There were ample safeguards under the Land Act of 1923. There were safeguards with regard to the taking of public land or preventing the Land Commission from acquiring land absolutely except for the relief of congestion. There were safeguards that prevented the taking of residential holdings and other holdings. Under the Land Act of 1923 these could not be taken if untenanted lands suitable for the purposes for which they were required were available in the neighbourhood. All these safeguards have been completely swept away.
The position now is that the Land Commission may take any land of any kind and for any purpose. The purposes for which these lands may be taken are absolutely unlimited; that is the purposes defined by appealing to the section, which says that land may be taken for the relief of congestion or for suitable persons. There is absolutely no safeguard of any kind, good, bad or indifferent, given to the owner of land and there is no safeguard that any one portion of the land may not be taken for any of these purposes. Therefore, Deputies who think that the provisions of this Bill are about to establish a pleasant state of affairs have not really realised what the position is. I think that when it is fully realised what the position really is people will wonder why any Government should propose that such vast powers should be given over to the tribunal in question. I could understand this point of view if the Government said we must do this and take these powers, and we propose to do it and to ram it down the throats of the people if they left even this one safeguard which applies not only to the question of acquisition but also the question of price and a hundred and one cases which arise, and which are bound to arise, although not specifically pointed out in the Act, that the owner of land—a man, say, who might own £1,000 of real property which he earned hard by the sweat of his brow —was allowed this safeguard, that he would have the benefit of having a judicial personage to say the last word. Whether you remove all the considerations which I have mentioned in the Land Act or not, if there is any sense of justice left in the tribunal they must consider some such considerations.
When an issue comes before the appeal tribunal as to whether certain lands are to be taken, what will they have to consider? They will have to consider the circumstances of the owner, whether he is an ordinary farmer, whether he is married and has children, whether he is farming his land properly, whether he employs labour, whether he has other land and whether there is other land in the neighbourhood more suitable for acquisition. If a case comes before the tribunal for the acquisition of 100 acres from a man who has only 200 acres, the members of the tribunal should ask themselves why such a proposal was made and whether it was a fact that there were 1,000 acres in the neighbourhood available which it was not proposed to take. Considerations of this sort are vital. More genuine injustice can be done by treating any one of these issues lightly or inefficiently than can be done by 100 civil bill prosecutions. Lawyers will realise what feeling there is in a Circuit or High Court as between citizen and citizen on an ordinary unimportant issue, a comparatively unimportant issue. If a man does not get fair play on some small point it poisons him all his life. Hundreds of these issues involve very material and social considerations for the family owning the land. Why, in such circumstances, should not the tribunal be judicial? Give all these powers if you like, but at least let them be exercised by a judicial personage. It is absolutely the negation of all law to give these immense judicial powers to non-judicial persons.
I did not follow Deputy Corry or Deputy Cleary or, indeed, the Minister. They talked what appeared to me to be nonsense when they said that Fianna Fáil was as well able to appoint a land commissioner as Cumann na nGaedheal. That is admitted. Cumann na nGaedheal would have no right to send these issues before anybody except a judicial personage. A land commissioner is a civil servant, a very honourable and useful profession. Why is the judicial function hedged around with safeguards, not only in this but in other countries, where there is any conception of law? The answer is because it is realised—and this is no charge of corruption or inefficiency in respect of civil servants—that in these matters if you want impartial justice you must have a functionary who has a certain very special type of tenure. The experience of this and other countries has been that where you have not that functionary you will not get the justice you expect to get. That is no reflection on civil servants. I assume that Deputy Corry and Deputy Cleary are incapable of realising that distinction, but educated and civilised people have always understood it. People with any moderate sense understand that sort of thing. It is accepted by the ordinary man in the street in every country in the world and it ought to be accepted here. It is accepted almost as a universal principle that these considerations should be decided by a judicial personage. That has been the experience of generations of people in this and other countries. You are departing from it here and I consider it is a shocking departure.
What happens? Let us say I have a dispute about £25 worth of property and I get a judge, with all the independence and prestige of a judge, to decide that dispute. If I have a dispute in connection with £300 worth of property I go to the Circuit Court. These are comparatively small issues for an individual. They may be material to him, but they affect only one aspect of his life. In the case of land one's whole livelihood is at stake. It may be £1,000 worth or £500 worth of property, but to the man who has only £500 or £1,000 worth the issue is all-important. You will have 101 different issues arising. It makes all the difference in the world whether you take one end of a man's farm or the other, whether you leave him a certain right of way or take it away from him. It will affect his life and the lives of his family for generations afterwards. It makes all the difference in the world whether you leave a man to maintain the buildings which he has placed on his lands out of the overdraft on which he is now maybe paying 6 per cent. All these questions are to come, not before a judicial tribunal, but before a tribunal the members of which must be the servants of whatever Government be in power. I think that is a shocking state of affairs.
It would be wrong to say that I would not mind what provisions you put in the Bill. Of course I would. But if there is any conception of law amongst Deputies on the opposite benches they would recognise that though a definitely written law may be drastic it has advantages—you know where you are. You do not know where you are now. You cannot get the benefit of the law as you should get it if you have a tribunal like this.
Is the Deputy not overlooking the fixity of tenure the Government are now proposing to give?
I am not.
The Deputy's speech is certainly on that line.
I understand they are to have fixity of tenure, but the same as civil servants.
No, the same as judges.
The same as judges— irremovable except by the Oireachtas? Are they to have a legal training?
They will be two Land Commissioners.
With fixity of tenure the same as judges have and they can only be removed by vote of the two Houses? I admit that goes a long way to meet my point.
When Deputy Hogan talks about the safeguards of the 1923 Act, surely he has realised by now that the safeguards he mentions were the greatest evils so far as the congests are concerned, and it was for them that Act was supposed to cater. If anything is done under this Bill which goes back to what he calls safeguards, but what I call evils, it will defeat the whole intentions of the Bill. What the Deputy calls safeguards were played fast and loose with by the people from whom it was intended to acquire land and it defeated the intentions of the 1923 Act. When the Deputy speaks of safeguards he must close his eyes to the fact that the 1923 Act, so far as dealing with congests was concerned, was an absolute failure.
It must be remembered that congests have rights, too. For the last two days we have been listening to the rights of people in possession of large tracts of land. The people who are in need of land have rights too. They are entitled to be catered for. The Deputy should remember that there are other people for whom there should be safeguards—the small congest farmers living on the verge of starvation for a number of years. I have as much respect for the rights of property as Deputy Hogan, but I have greater respect for the lives of human beings. You will be conflicting those two rights if you have safeguards for the man with the large tracts of land and take no interest in the man who wants a little land.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Blaney, Neal.
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- Brady, Brian.
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- Corry, Martin John.
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- Dowdall, Thomas P.
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- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
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- Keyes, Michael.
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I move amendment 22:
At the end of sub-section (1) (c), line 20, to add the words "and the defendant in such proceedings requires the proceedings to be heard and determined."
Section 12 deals with the question of arrears and the revision of annuities payable to the Land Commission. Sub-section (1) says: (Sub-section quoted) Of course, I cannot imagine that, in the case of default, the Land Commission would be very anxious to continue the proceedings. For that reason, I have added the words: “and the defendant in such proceedings requires the proceedings to be heard and determined.” The object of the amendment is that such proceedings shall not be continued unless it is the express desire of the defendant in the case that they should be continued.
In the ordinary way, the defendant can withdraw his case. In that way, we could accept the amendment, but it amounts to nothing. At the present time, if the defendant has entered a defence he can withdraw it.
This is a case where he does not want to withdraw it. He thinks he has a good defence.
If he thinks he has a good case, let him go ahead and fight it. If he thinks he has not a good case, he can withdraw it. There is nothing here to prevent him from fighting his case and, if he wants to withdraw the case, he can do so. Deputy Hogan should read the section.
I have read it. Supposing the defendant has a good defence. He wants his costs. He goes before the court and enters a defence in the ordinary way. He wants the case to be heard and to get it dismissed with costs, which he is entitled to do. If the section remains as it stands, can he do so?
Of course he can.
I do not think so.
The last lines in paragraph (c) say:—
shall be further prosecuted or proceeded with... unless a defence was filed or entered in such proceeding before such passing.
Surely, the Minister does not suggest that the defendant in such a case would be anxious to continue the proceedings. Why not withdraw the proceedings unreservedly?
The Land Commission have withdrawn proceedings unreservedly except where the case has been entered, and they will withdraw unreservedly if the case has been withdrawn. Suppose I am before a court and I have filed a defence against the Land Commission assessment, I can withdraw the case.
And pay your costs?
The costs would be funded in the same way as anything else.
I move amendment 23:—
To delete sub-section (2).
Amendment No. 23 is cognate with a number of other amendments standing in my name. It is cognate with amendments 31, 34, 37 and a number of other amendments of that character. Now, sir, when a private Deputy puts his hand to the amendment of legislation of this kind, it is sometimes difficult to draft an amendment which will produce the exact effect desired. Accordingly, it is not uncommon for an amendment to be put down in order to raise the issue of a particular principle, and, in the event of the Government accepting the principle, to withdraw the amendment and allow the Government to redraft it in the best and most effective way. The purpose of these amendments is to draw the attention of the House to the injustice of requiring arrears of Land Commission annuities that have accrued during the last two years, while arrears that accrued in the previous years are being remitted. It seems to me that whatever excuse there was for a man falling into arrears in the years prior to 1930, there was a far better excuse for a man who fell into arrears in 1931 or 1932.
As I understand the Bill at present, the purpose is to forgive arrears which were fallen into prior to 1930, and to collect arrears into which tenants fell in the years 1930, 1931 and 1932. Now, the tenants who fell into arrears in 1932 are people, many of whom were doing their best to keep the ship afloat and pay their rent and who found their means of livelihood swept away by reason of the economic war and were driven back to a very hard tussle to keep themselves and their families in food and clothes. They were forced by the circumstances of the time to fall into arrears—many of them falling into arrears under the belief that they had paid their land annuities two or three times over at the fairs which they attended. There are many men in the West of Ireland whose land annuity is £1 or 30/-. They went to a fair and on the sale of one beast they lost——
Surely, the Deputy does not intend to enter into a discussion of the economic war once more?
I should be very sorry to abuse the patience of the Chair.
What about the 1932 election?
I deem it a privilege to be instructed by the Ceann Comhairle but I resent being instructed by the Deputies behind me.
It is not instruction we are giving you but advice.
Does the Deputy want me to dwell on the kind of advice he gives the public?
I do not really think that I can deal with the problem that this amendment raises unless I dwell briefly on the circumstances under which these people fell into arrears with their annuities.
Is the Deputy aware that the effect of this amendment is to prevent any arrears being funded or that the effect is to prevent people who are paying purchase annuities to the Land Commission getting the benefit of the 50 per cent. reduction? That is the effect of his amendment, however. I do not mind if the Chair allows him to talk on anything he likes but the effect of the amendment is to prevent people taking advantage of this section which will entitle the Land Commission to give a 50 per cent. reduction on land annuities.
I should be surprised if that were the effect because I went through this section with meticulous care with a view to avoiding any such contingency as that. Amendment 23 proposes to delete sub-section (2) of Section 12 and that section reads:
(2) As soon as may be after the passing of this Act, the Land Commission shall ascertain the amount of the arrears of every purchase annuity to which this section applies which were due and owing on the 15th day of July, 1933, and the amount of the costs and expenses (if any) incurred by the Land Commission before the passing of this Act in proceedings for the recovery of such arrears, and immediately upon such ascertainment—
(a) where the amount so ascertained of such arrears does not exceed the aggregate amount of such purchase annuity payable during the three years ending on the first gale day in the year 1933, such arrears together with the amount so ascertained of the said costs and expenses shall (if not otherwise paid before the passing of this Act) be payable by means of a funding annuity and not otherwise; and
(b) in every other case the amount so ascertained of the said costs and expenses together with so much of such arrears as is equal to the said aggregate amount shall (if not otherwise paid before the passing of this Act) be payable by means of a funding annuity and the residue of such arrears shall not be payable.
I am sorry. The amendment proposes to delete a section which deals with the arrears and not halving the land annuities.
I was more careful than the Minister thought. I was trying to raise this matter on an amendment which would not be ruled out of order, as some other amendments were, very properly, ruled out. The suggestion I make is this: That if the principle of the remission of arrears is to stand, and if it be just to remit arrears of persons who fell into arrears prior to 1930, then all the more is it just and equitable that persons who fell into arrears during the continuance of the economic war should have their arrears remitted too. I and every Deputy in this House know of individual cases in which people were literally unable to raise the requisite money to pay the land annuities and for no other reason than this that the cattle they had laid by for that express purpose did not realise a tithe of what they expected. Many people in the country run their economy on the basis that they buy a couple of beasts. They carry these beasts over for a certain period and feed them and they rely on paying their shop debts, their land annuities and other such commitments as they have to meet on the difference between what those beasts cost them and what they afterwards realise at the fairs. Now, during certain years to which this proviso about arrears applies, these people put in a pair of beasts, fed them for a certain period, and when they brought them to the market they discovered they were going to get less for them than what they cost. As a result they discovered that the provision which they had made for the payment of the land annuities had evaporated. When such a man is asked afterwards to pay his land annuities he is bound to say what the reason was; the answer was bound to be this: "I am not able to pay these land annuities because the cattle dealer at the fair collected, not only my land annuities but the land annuities of two of my neighbours out of the money he paid me for my cattle. Having paid, not only my own land annuities, but the land annuities of two of my neighbours as well, how can I be expected to pay again?"
When people ask me what they should do about the payment of these land annuities I say to them: "In my opinion, so long as the law is made by an Irish Government in our own Parliament, it is the duty of every man and woman in this State to obey it. The proper method of procedure, if you deem the law to be unjust, is to join a political organisation and put that Government out of office at the earliest possible opportunity; but so long as any Government is the Government of this country that Government should be obeyed by the citizens of this State. If you do not like the kind of Government you have it is your duty to do all you can to turn it out and put in a Government that you consider a just Government." Where a person came to me and told me that he was unable to pay his land annuities owing to his inability to get a proper price for his farm produce I said to him: "take a pen and paper and write to the Land Commission and tell them that with your best endeavour you cannot pay this money; explain the reason for your inability, and place the full facts before them."
Now is the time when that apparent injustice can be rectified by the Government. They have been told by a farmer that he made his very best endeavours to comply with the law and that, being unable to do so, the Government should come to his relief and remit his arrears. Even at the eleventh hour the Government should remit these arrears. I trust they will and thus give effect to the proposal we made in this House some time ago. That was to suspend the payment of the land annuities until the conclusion of the economic war. If the Government, even at the eleventh hour, do that it will not be the first time that it has implemented its intentions and acted on second thoughts. This Government has shown no reluctance on other occasions to do what they wanted to do by retrospective legislation. Indeed on some occasions I have had grave fault to find with them on that account. But this is one of the rare cases where the Government should realise that second thoughts are best and that if they have not accepted and implemented the resolution suspending the collection of the land annuities during the economic war here is a means now of doing it. Let them announce that those people who fell into arrears during the period of the economic war will have these arrears remitted. Let them take steps to deal equitably and fairly with everybody. By the Bill as it stands we are only considering the case here of persons who have actually fallen into arrears before 1930. We are not considering the case of those who have fallen into arrears in the last year and a half. It is only the case of annuitants who fell into arrears more than three years ago that this Bill is now dealing with.
What about the future?
The future of this State is in the hands of the Fianna Fáil Party at present. I have no responsibility for Fianna Fáil policy. As far I can judge the Fianna Fáil Government are going to do even more detriment to the country than that. If the Deputy wants me to suggest a policy for them, the best policy I can suggest to them would be to resign and make way for a Government that would not lead the country into the bog into which they are leading it. I think this country can stand very little more of Fianna Fáil policy. We are doing our best to save the country some of the most disastrous results of the Fianna Fáil policy, but we are having a hard time, and our very best endeavours cannot protect the country very much longer. I am providing the means by this amendment to enable the Fianna Fáil Party to give effect to their second thoughts. I trust that as they must have at last begun to realise the distress and injustice that the unfortunate results of their policy are bringing upon the country, they will accept my amendment. When I have brought the Fianna Fáil Party that far I trust they will go further. When I have got them to that extent, perhaps I could persuade them to go a step further. If I could make a match between them and commonsense it would be a good thing for the country. If I could marry the Fianna Fáil Party to commonsense I would be entitled to retire from public life as one of the greatest men in Irish public life. I think it may be clear to the Minister what the purpose of this amendment is and why I put it down. Whether it was quite so clear before I elaborated by amendment is another question. I am quite content to have the decision on this amendment taken on all the analogous amendments which stand in my name.
I said that the effect of Deputy Dillon's amendment would be to prevent the Government funding any of the arrears. I also said that this amendment would prevent the Government halving the future annuities, but that is not the effect of this particular amendment.
It would be better if the Minister would deal with this particular amendment.
I withdrew too hastily my accusation against Deputy Dillon that the passing of this amendment would prevent the Government halving the annuities. We can discuss the economic war or anything you like on this Bill, but I think all the country is concerned with is and what we should confine ourselves to is whether or not this section is to carry out the Government's intentions. The Government are forgiving all arrears over three years in the annuities. I think in doing that they are doing a good thing. They are giving an opportunity to people who got into several years' arrears and giving them a chance of finding their feet. A similar chance was given in all Land Acts. That chance was given to those heavily in arrears. Three years was mentioned in the 1923 Land Act. There are some people who are going to be forgiven arrears, and if we could prevent it in the ordinary way without doing more harm, I would like to see them being called upon to pay up. But for one waster who should be made pay up there are 100 or 200 people who got into arrears through no fault of their own. It would be impossible for the Land Commission to adjudicate between the two. We are forgiving all the arrears over three years so that in future no tenant paying his debts will have to pay more than 65 per cent. of his old annuity. That is to say, half the annuity plus the funding of those arrears will not amount to more than 65 per cent. roughly of the annuity he paid formerly. If we were to fund the arrears or to collect the arrears on this 50 per cent basis and to include all the arrears we would find that the annuitants would be called upon to pay a sum which would be in some cases more than the rent which they failed to pay formerly. The Government made no promise whatsoever at any time that the annuities due in the second gale of last year and the first gale of this year would not be collected. However, we are making their collection easy by extending the payment over a period of 50 years. It will come to only 6d. or 1/- in the £ per year, on the arrears due up to three years. I think this is a fair proposal. The effect of Deputy Dillon's amendment, if carried, would be to prevent the Government funding the arrears, and therefore to put on them the duty of collecting those arrears in some way, not through a funding proposal.
I have to correct the Minister on that point. My amendment would not put on the Government any duty at all. It would simply dispose of the proposal that arrears, where due by persons who fell into arrear during the last three years, should be funded at all. There would arise, in the event of the Minister accepting that proposal, consideration of the question as to how those arrears should be dealt with, and consequential suggestions would be made. The issue clearly raised there is the justice of collecting arrears from persons who fell into arrear as a result of the economic war. If you admit the justice——
You are a bad matchmaker after all.
The sum of money which was in arrear in 1930, under the pre-1923 Acts, was £336,338. That closely approximates to the sum which the Government proposes to write off —the arrears which they do not propose to collect. Those arrears are not the property of the Government; they are not the property of the Land Commission. The Land Commission is in the position of an agent only, and whatever arrears are being forgiven are being forgiven at the expense of the local authorities, who voluntarily made good any deficiencies there were in the collections during the last ten years. What the Government is doing in this case is telling the local authorities that they cannot collect and need never expect that £250,000 which they are wiping off. The collections which were made during the years previous to that had been very good. There had been more money collected than the ordinary annual liability on the Land Commission annuities. Some £642,000 was outstanding in 1923, when this State took over the Land Commission. In 1930 the sum outstanding was £336,338 for the pre-1923 Land Acts. When the Minister states that they are forgiving £250,000, that amounts to saying to the local authorities: "You cannot collect and you need never expect that £250,000"; but there is more in it than that, in so far as it is proposed here to collect the arrears and in so far as the Bill is constructed at the present moment the local authorities have provided over £600,000 of uncollected annuities up to the 31st March, 1932. The Government is presenting that money to the Land Commission, although the local authorities have already made it good.
Members probably know—with the exception of the Deputies who came in at the last general election and who had not previously been members of the House—that the provisions in respect of the funding clauses of the Land Acts secure or endeavoured to secure that the State is at no loss in connection with whatever deficiency might arise in connection with the Land Purchase Fund. The Land Purchase Fund is supposed to fill on the 31st January, and I presume at a corresponding date in July, but not necessarily. Normally it must fill on the 31st January each year, and there must be in that fund in respect of the Land Acts previous to the Land Act of 1923 a sufficient sum to discharge the obligations—£2,900,000 odd. If that sum of money is not in the Land Purchase Fund it must be made good from the Guarantee Fund. The Guarantee Fund, in turn, is fed from the Agricultural Grant and other moneys made available by this House for the relief of rates on agricultural land. The sum so far made good out of that fund is over £600,000. The Government proposes to collect that £600,000, and to pocket it, or to put it into the Land Commission to use it for any purpose they wish. In so far as they do not do that, in so far as they wipe off £250,000, the local authorities are being told that they are not going to get that sum in those circumstances.
There is a good case for the amendment that has been proposed by Deputy Dillon, apart altogether from the question that the people who did not pay when 90 per cent. of the Land Commission annuitants were called upon to pay are not now in a position to pay any funded arrears in the much more difficult times we have at the present moment. If it be conceded that it is an act of justice or discrimination or genius or wisdom or anything else to wipe off £250,000 which cannot be collected now, arising out of the year 1930, or coming along from any previous years, how in the name of commonsense is it going to be collected now when the profits of agriculture are nothing to be compared with what they were at that time? Not alone that, but any arrears that accrue in the meantime are to be added, with costs and expenses. The Minister told us here the other day that in one case where the annuity amounted to 16/3, the costs were 19/11; 19/11 on three years at 16/3 equals £2 8s. 9d. I do not know whether two particular years were free of costs, but supposing there was only one set of costs at 19/11, it means that £3 8s. 8d. is going to be funded in this particular case. I do not know whether the 4½ per cent. arises in this connection or in another. It is being charged at 4½ per cent., and for months past we have been listening to statements made by Ministers that they were in a position to borrow money far cheaper than we did. That arises out of no virtue of theirs; it arises from no act or series of acts of theirs; it is not by reason of the policy of the Government that that is the case. It is by reason of the fact that money is cheaper now than it has been practically in living memory, certainly not since 1894. At a time when money is at its cheapest, and having boasted of having borrowed on short-term bills at 2½ per cent., the Government is going to charge those unfortunate people, for whom they profess considerable sympathy, two and a quarter times the percentage that they themselves were charged by the banks a short time ago. There are two very strong reasons for objecting to this. In the first place nobody here can make the case that if a man were unable to pay his annuity during the last 12 months he can afford to pay it in the future. Having regard to the statements we have heard from the Government Benches within the last week or fortnight that the present economic conflict is to continue, is it likely that he will be able to pay half the annuity plus whatever arrears may be funded at 4½ per cent. plus the costs?
I think it would be a pity to let those particular sections pass without at least some comment in an effort to make them somewhat clear. I daresay they will be passed, but I do not believe they will last. I do not believe that that scheme could possibly last. There is more immorality concentrated in these two sections than in any other sections of any Bill ever introduced in this Dáil.
Which two sections?
Nos. 12 and 13, or we will confine ourselves to 12; there is enough in that.
Are we discussing the amendment now?
We are discussing immorality.
Yes, we are discussing your amendment, and immorality. What does this amendment come to? The arrears up to 1930 are to be forgiven, and after 1930 and up to 1933 they are to be funded at 5 per cent. The years 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929 were all good years. In any one of them a man could pay his annuity, unless he met with misfortune. Cattle were 50/- a cwt. in some of those years. Everything the farmer had to sell was at least 75 per cent. dearer than now. During those years most of what he had to buy was cheaper—flour, Indian meal, everything he had to buy. On the other hand, lambs were 47/6, 50/-, or thereabouts; they are now 12/-. Even Deputy Smith knows that much.
I have that off by heart.
He will not forget it so.
He will hear more about it.
Pigs in those years were not less than 80/- a cwt. live-weight. Deputy Smith is getting serious now. Pigs were actually 80/- live weight in those years, and Indian meal could be bought during some of those years at £5 a ton.
Without any sawdust in it!
Exactly, without any sawdust in it. It was under those conditions that the farmers were operating then, and it was under those conditions that those arrears were contracted— the arrears which are now to be forgiven. Those arrears, contracted under those circumstances, are to be wiped out. In those times the ordinary Galway farmer could pay not only his annuity but his rates out of his lands. He did pay his annuity out of his lands, for he was an honest man, and his rates as well; which rates were lower then. He paid them out of his lands alone, apart altogether from his cattle and pigs. He was able to do it and he did it. The same thing applied in every other county in Ireland. The men who did not do it, the men who put that money in their pockets in those times or allowed their sons and daughters to spend it foolishly, or spent it foolishly themselves, are now going to be forgiven. Honestly, it is a shameful proposal.
Did you not do the same yourself?
No, I did not.
It is the first time an annuity was forgiven.
Absolutely. That attempt to establish an analogy between an annuity and a rent is exactly the attempt which President de Valera made three or four years ago.
As that point has been raised, I remember the time when people used to say to us: "Look here! If you go on advocating those measures which you are advocating the time will come when people will not pay their annuities." That was said in 1920, but it was also said before that. It was said in the British House of Commons any time between 1880 and 1900, as Deputy Dillon knows well. Before those Acts were passed the English Government and the English credit that was being put behind all land purchase had those critics. There were plenty of people in the English House of Commons who got up and said: "The Irish will not pay anything. They will not pay rent; they will not pay annuities." The ordinary members of the Irish Party and the leaders of the Irish Party said: "No. The Irish people are capable of distinguishing and discriminating. They realise that money lent must be paid back, if lent on reasonable terms." They absolutely refused to agree with the suggestion that there is any analogy between rents established in the old days and annuities established under new Acts. Anybody who talked in that fashion in the House of Commons was told that he was defaming the Irish people, and so he was because, as Deputies know, they paid up in those days. That was before Mr. O'Donnell started his game in connection with the land annuities. The general commonsense and financial morality of the country did realise the distinction, and did realise that annuities and interest at 3 per cent. on money lent was in a totally different category, and that anybody who attempted to make a distinction between interest repayable on money lent, and old rents in the way we knew them, would be an enemy of the country.
All that is changed now. It is patriotism in comparison with what the British talked about 20 years ago, when they said that the Irish were incapable of discrimination, and that the agitation against landlordism in this country was dishonest because, they said, the same thing will be done again when it comes to ordinary financial obligations. They are being proved to be right now. Here in the year 1933 we have patriots on the benches opposite making exactly the case that was put into their mouths by anticipation 20 years ago in the British House of Commons. Of course, most of these people opposite have no national tradition and do not understand what they are doing. That is the real trouble. But that is a digression due to Deputy Smith's attempt to establish an analogy between rent and annuities. What has happened now? The rotter or waster who did not pay his annuities in 1928 or 1929 is to be let off free. He is in a glorious position, because, remember the honest man who is penalised here has already paid his annuities which are now being funded. If you analyse this section it is a priceless piece of legislation. Not only does the laggard and the waster, who failed in 1928 and 1929 to pay his annuities, be let off, for he might have paid these annuities at that time, when he failed to pay them, but his annuities are now to be paid by the honest farmer who himself only failed to pay when his land became profitless and when his production had to be sold at tremendous loss. Not only has that man now to pay the annuities since 1931 and 1932, and which accrued during those catastrophic times, but that man has to a great extent to pay the annuities of the gentleman who did not pay in the years 1928 and 1929, when he could have paid. For instance, we find now that AB, who is a hard-working farmer, and who while times were good paid his annuities, and in his rates paid his neighbour's annuities, because he was too lazy to pay them himself, has now to pay that man's annuities as well, which that man did not pay because he was too lazy to work. There may, of course, be exceptions amongst those who could have paid their annuities at that time and did not pay, but, generally, the position is as I have stated. The honest man paid his annuities all the time, and paid those of his neighbour who refused to pay.
Now when it comes to the year 1931, the honest farmer, no more than anyone else, cannot pay. No one can pay his annuities. It is no use to say that they are only called upon to pay one-half. We cannot get half the price for our produce at the present time. It is no use to say only half the annuities will have to be paid. The farmers are now forced to pay all these annuities, at 4½ or 5 per cent. interest, whereas the gentleman who did not pay in 1928 and 1929 will get off free. This is a disgraceful section. It will get through, no doubt, but all the same, I do not think the Government will get away with it. I do not think it possible in any country that so sinister a section as that could last. You will not be able to collect these annuities. No doubt you will collect them from some people. Deputies know the people from whom they can collect. I know people who will pay because they work like slaves; they do not give in easily; they always try to pay their way. You will make that few pay up. But do you think that you will make the general run of people pay? I say you cannot do it, because the money is not there. You cannot collect it. There is not a single farmer in this country who is farming in the average way, producing live stock, and live stock produce, who is in a position to pay out of the profits of his land. There are farmers who have other ways of living—shops, professions, and so on. They will pay. But there is not a single farmer living on the land who is able to make his annuities out of it. A young farmer whose father and mother are living with him and drawing 10/- a week each in pensions may pay. A farmer whose sons are getting 26/- a week on the road, at the expense of the working farmers, may be able to pay. But taking the general run of farmers, you will not be able to collect the half annuities, and this section will, therefore, not be operative.
There is no doubt whatever that Deputy Dillon's point in regard to the man who has to pay the funded annuities is absolutely sound. That man has paid already, not only his own annuities, but he has helped to pay his neighbours' annuities. He has paid in the reduced price he is getting for his stock. Mr. J.H. Thomas, the British Dominions Secretary, has collected a lot of it. These men have paid 100 per cent. in that way of the annuities that are to be funded at 5 per cent. I do not care what majority you may have for this section. You will find in the end it will never work.
Most of us here, enjoy listening to Deputy Hogan. I remember when we were in Opposition and he occupied a seat on the Government benches on this side of the House, he used to irritate me very much. I could barely sit and listen to him. But now the position is changed, and I would rather listen to Deputy Hogan now than attend a concert. Deputy Hogan referred to our attitude in regard to the matter of wiping out arrears, and he says we are legislating for the rotter and the weakling, and the man who will pay nothing. He was a member of the Executive Council for ten years, and in many matters in relation to legislation passing through this House, he legislated for the rotter and the weakling and the man who would not pay his rent.
You are advocating the same thing now.
I am trying to make my own case. Deputy Dillon had his own say, and he should try to keep his mouth shut now for a while. I was saying that Deputy Hogan had referred to the way that we proposed to treat that type of farmer. In every piece of legislation introduced here by his Party, they put a premium on laziness. The man who did not work his farm got 10/- a week, the man who did not pay his rates, got likewise; and the man who did not pay his annuities was treated in the same way. That is the Deputy who now says that we are the people who are establishing a precedent in this way by our proposals in connection with the wiping out of certain arrears. He tried to make a point against me for saying that there is no substantial difference between arrears of rent and annuities. But while there may be a substantial difference between arrears of rent and arrears of annuities, does it not all boil down to this, that the man who has eight years arrears against him, whether they be in the shape of rent or annuities, and who is not likely to be able to meet them in actual practice, is in the same position whether you call the arrears, arrears of rent or of annuities?
Why not then give every fellow the same terms?
Deputy Hogan also referred to the man who works his farm and has been industrious and said that he has also paid the annuities or rent of the waster for whom now, for the first time in his life, he has so much contempt. Surely that is a matter in which the local authority must be interested, and in which every farmer who is working his land must be interested. This contribution to which Deputy Hogan has referred must be a matter of importance to them. It must be a matter of importance to them also to know that every man who was in arrears in the payment of his annuities or his rent will have these arrears wiped out and will be given a new start on a more or less clear footing. We know Deputy Hogan exaggerates when he says that every man was a rotter and a weakling who fell into arrears.
I said nothing of the kind. I said there were exceptions.
You said there were exceptions, but you said the majority of them were of that class. I do not think the Deputy had any right to say that. The Minister admitted there were certain types of individuals that it was not desirable to forgive arrears, but it was impossible to select them and distinguish them from those in regard to whom it is desirable to take this course. I gave an instance where the Party opposite, when they were in power, penalised the industrious and energetic small farmer who worked his land, painted his doors, and got his house thatched, by not giving him his old age pension. These are the people now who talk of the immorality of Sections 12 and 13 of this Bill. I say the proposal contained in Section 12 of this Bill is a reasonable proposal. We are always inflicting some injustice on those who work and always pay. But even if you inflict that injustice in the interests of the people generally, it must be admitted that they are still better off than the man answering to the description which Deputy Hogan gave. I say this section is a perfectly reasonable one, and is less entitled to be criticised from the point of view that it was criticised by Deputy Hogan and other Deputies than any other part of the Bill.
Let us examine the reasonableness of this section. As a matter of fact, I myself have put down many amendments to this section, but they were ruled out. I am not cavilling at the ruling of the Chair, because the Chair ruled them out of order on the ground that if my amendments were carried they would impose a charge upon the public funds. Lest there might be any misunderstanding about it, I want to say that it is not impossible to have those amendments put in. If the Government want to insert them, they know they can do so. If the Government want to impose a charge on public funds, they can do it. I know some Deputies in the Government Party have an idea that because these amendments are now ruled out it is not possible to have them reintroduced. That is not the position, and if the Government want to insert the amendments they can easily do so.
Let us examine sub-section (2). Is it reasonable to ask any man to pay the same debt twice over? Is not that what sub-section (2) asks? The Government proposal is to fund the second gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933. The British Government have collected the annuities at their ports; the annuitants have paid them. People in this country have suffered considerable loss in relation to agricultural produce by reason of the depression at home. If the Government are to fund any arrears the amounts involved in the second gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933 are the amounts that should be funded, because the people have already paid them over to Britain.
They are being funded.
What I meant to convey was that if any arrears are to be forgiven, the amounts involved in the second gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933 should be forgiven. Deputy Smith says the whole thing is quite reasonable, and Deputy Corry tells us he agrees with every section of the Bill. Does Deputy Corry agree that when the tenant farmers have already paid the second gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933 to Britain they ought to be asked to pay it all, or even half of it, to this Government? Will Deputy Smith agree with this?
As soon as may be after the passing of this Act, the Land Commission shall ascertain the amount of the arrears of every purchase annuity to which this section applies which were due and owing on the 15th day of July, 1933, and the amount of the costs and expenses (if any) incurred....
Is Deputy Smith convinced that that is a reasonable thing for the Government to demand, after instructing the State Solicitors all over the country to institute proceedings and then to withdraw them? By so withdrawing them they admitted they were wrong.
Why then did they not continue to institute proceedings? After admitting they were wrong in instituting proceedings, they are now going to fund the costs against the unfortunate annuitants. We have all this coming on top of the people as distinct from the hardships they are suffering by reason of the economic war. Is there any sense at all in the Government's attitude? By the abandonment of the legal proceedings the Government admitted that the people were not able to pay. They said in effect: "We will not ask them to pay." Some people say that the reason the Government did not institute proceedings was because they were looking for support in the general election. It looks rather suspicious now that having abandoned legal proceedings, they now propose funding moneys that have already been paid over to Britain. The plain fact is that our Government abandoned the collection of the money. In the circumstances, is it fair that they should now fund those arrears?
The most glaring injustice is the funding of the costs and expenses incurred in the attempt to collect those annuities. What did the Minister for Justice say on this question a few days ago? I would like Deputy Smith and Deputy Corry to give us their opinions on this matter. The Minister for Justice said:—
"I will give an example of the costs that are incurred. A man owed one year's arrears to the extent of 16/1. The costs amounted to 11/-, drawing the certificate 2/-, lodgment fees 7/-, making a total of £1 16/1. That is to recover 16/- the unfortunate man had to pay 19/11 in addition to the 16/- that was the ordinary proper legal cost. (Vol. 48, col. 2435, Parliamentary Debates).
How much of that did the lawyer get?
The lawyer got none of it; that is the peculiarity of the whole case. According to the Minister, the lawyers got none of it; the State solicitors did not get the costs; they were irrecoverable. We have no evidence that there is machinery in operation whereby the Minister can pay the State solicitors' costs in cases like that where they are really irrecoverable. I understand the Minister stated here yesterday that he does propose paying the solicitors those costs and he proposes to fund the cost in the case of the unfortunate people against whom proceedings were taken. I do not think there could be a more glaring injustice than that. Deputy Corry, speaking on the 18th July, said:—
"I remember seeing unfortunate tenants in my constituency decreed by the Land Commission repeatedly —decreed for what annuities? For annuities that were 10 per cent. and 15 per cent. higher than the rent they had been paying to the landlord." (Vol. 49, col. 111, Parliamentary Debates).
Those are the annuities and costs that Deputy Corry says ought to be funded against the people who paid them to the British Government last year or the year before. Deputy Corry thinks it is a proper thing to charge all this up to the people at 4½ per cent. Personally, I think the proposal to fund the last gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933 is absolutely immoral. The funding of the costs and expenses is immoral. I do not think there is a precedent for it in any part of the world. If there are people in this country unable to pay the annuities that were due in 1930 and 1931 or previous to that, I wonder how does the Minister expect they will be able to pay even half their annuities in the future? Conditions in the country are certainly deplorable. We have increasing rates, falling markets, diminishing exports and we have an increase in home help. Within the last year the people on public charity increased by 33,000.
And it is all our fault?
Of course it is. Our resources are fast dwindling away, but of course the Government does not see that; their eyes are closed to that. How do they expect the people to continue? We are drawing on our resources at the present moment just the same as if a man were drawing on whatever money he might have in the bank. Just imagine if you were to withdraw the old age pensions, the grants, the bounties and the subsidies, what would you then have in this country? Would you have anybody who would be able to continue? That is evidence that we are absolutely living on our resources. I agree with Deputy Dillon that the Minister ought to withdraw those sections and replace them with something that would be in accordance with morality and justice and in accordance with the people's ability to pay. I protest against the inclusion of a section of this kind.
It seems to me ridiculous and absolutely wrong to have the costs in connection with land annuity decrees funded. Deputy Corry spoke here recently and his whole speech was against the costs which lawyers impose. This Bill proposed by Fianna Fáil proposes to make the farmers pay these costs.
It will be for the last time. We are going to amend that system.
It is absolutely wrong, but the Deputy tells us it is going to be for the last time.
Who said it is wrong?
I did not say it is wrong. I said it is going to be done for the last time.
Now let us come to the question of funding the arrears. If there is any justification for funding arrears there is certainly justification for suggesting that the arrears that accrued this year and last year should be the first to be wiped out altogether. Does Deputy Corry agree with that?
I know that honest, hardworking farmers were able to pay their annuities until Fianna Fáil came into power and started this economic war. I hold that under the present circumstances arrears are not due either legally or morally because we have already paid them to the British Government by way of tariffs on cattle. I know there is absolutely no chance of getting arrears which have accrued longer than three years. I know well too who owes them—all the wasters in the country, and they are supporters of the Fianna Fáil Party in my district anyway. You might as well have it straight out. That is the reason you are anxious to forgive them.
What about the supporters of your own Party? Have they paid them?
I know supporters of Deputy Curran's Party who have owed them for years.
The Deputies opposite apparently do not like straight talk.
We certainly object——
Deputies ought to have learned by now that every member of the Dáil is entitled to express himself without interruption. Deputy Curran is entitled to make his speech in his own way and he should not be interrupted. Other Deputies may reply to every statement Deputy Curran makes, if they have any desire to do so.
Deputy Curran charges people outside the House with being rotters, rogues and robbers, because they do not pay annuities.
I did not say they were rotters, rogues and robbers.
I could make some references as to how supporters of the Deputy's Party stand in that respect.
I think Deputies ought not to be so thin-skinned in matters of this sort. Statements are made from every side of the House regarding the political supporters of every Party, and Deputies must not stand up to defend them every time statements of that kind are made. Deputy Smith will have an opportunity of saying what he wants to say when Deputy Curran is finished.
I so very seldom stand up to say anything here in this House that I really thought I would get a better hearing. I wonder on whose corns I trod? As as a rule, I do not tread on anybody's corns. However, I am saying what I know to be a fact in connection with this problem of funding arrears, and I say again—and I am sure that any reasonable man will agree with me—that if any arrears are to be wiped out, the arrears accruing in 1932 and 1933 should have first consideration. These are the first that should be wiped out, and Deputies know it well. I have sympathy for farmers who cannot pay, and I know some hard-working farmers who cannot pay. Even if they are supporters of Fianna Fáil, what is wrong about that? I know some genuine cases.
I thought they were all landless men who supported us.
If the Deputy would only listen to reason! I never like to be personal. I am stating what I know to be a fact. I know farmers who have not been able to pay the last rates that were due. I know cases where they have been brought to court in connection with it, and I know of cases where they got facilities from the rate collector in connection with their rates. How will these people be expected to pay annuities? They certainly will not be able to pay them, and they will be in the same position in which a good many people were before, and that is that they will not be able to pay. I appeal to the Minister and to the Fianna Fáil Party to look at this thing from a reasonable point of view. I think they should agree, and I hope the Minister will agree, that the annuities which should be remitted altogether are the annuities which accrued in 1932 and 1933. They should have the first consideration because, as other Deputies have said, these annuities have been paid by the farmers already. As regards arrears of annuities due prior to those years, what responsibility is on the Government at all, or on any fund in connection with these arrears? They have been paid by the ratepayers of every county, and well the Fianna Fáil Party knows it, and well the Minister knows it too. Any deduction or remission in connection with the annuities was paid or made good by the ratepayers through the grants. They were deducted from the estate duty grant and from the agricultural grant. Any arrears that were due in the past had to be made good by the ratepayers. These are the ratepayers and the farmers against whom you now want to turn around and charge up costs and to whom you do not want to give any remission in connection with any arrears that have accrued.
As a last word, I appeal to the Minister to be reasonable in this case and to agree that the first annuities that should be remitted altogether are the annuities for this year and last year. I do not think that anybody can cavil at that. As regards the other annuities, they must be wiped out, whether anybody likes it or not. They cannot be collected. They are not there to be collected, and there is no good thinking about them.
I do not see any objection to the section whatsoever. I think it is a most essential section because I think it is better to put people in a position to be able to pay something than to leave them in such a way as not to be able to pay anything, which has been the case up to the present. Deputy Curran made a reference to the funding of costs. We have no responsibility for the incurring of those costs or for the system under which the costs were incurred, and it is now proposed under this Bill to end that system.
Except the sheriff's fees.
That is a different matter. With regard to Deputy Hogan's previous point. He made a reference to the fat years of 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929.
Comparatively they were fat years.
I deny that. I should like to bring Deputies' memories back to 1926, when that disease called fluke came in and killed the cattle of this country wholesale. Instead of the then Government coming to the aid of the farmers they swept away whatever cattle they had left. I think that the Cumann na nGaedheal Government would have been well advised at that time if they had introduced some such measure as this instead of sweeping away whatever cattle the farmers had. I think this is a very wise section—this section by which it is proposed to cancel the arrears—because, if the situation were allowed to continue as it is, there would be a further burden placed on the people who are trying to pay. I submit to the House that in this section we are covering casualties that were incurred, to a great extent, during the Cumann na nGaedheal régime.
I have two or three points to make. The first is to repeat what Deputy Curran said, that there is no justification whatever for collecting any annuities from tenants for the greater part of 1932 and all of 1933 so far. The tenants have paid their annuities more than double, to put it at the least, and they should not be called upon to pay anything further. There is only one other thing to which I should like to refer relating to this section, and that is the forgiving of the arrears beyond three years to certain people. I do not think any Deputy would argue against the forgiveness of arrears to certain people— people who cannot pay, or who find it difficult to pay. There will be others who could have paid. We would not cavil at any tenant farmer being forgiven anything if the cost did not fall upon other people who made efforts to pay and who did pay their own arrears and, incidentally, had to pay his. The Minister is going to forgive these annuities. I think that is the wrong word, because he is forgiving what is not his to forgive. This is the ratepayers' money and it is due to them. If the Minister is in this forgiving spirit, I suggest that he should provide some way in this Bill by which this money that is being forgiven will go back to the people who have already paid it—the ratepayers of this State and the tenant farmers who are now being called upon to pay rents or annuities which they have already paid themselves, as well as the annuities of the defaulter who is being forgiven here, which they have contributed to in their rates. Personally, I have no objection to any tenant farmer being forgiven his arrears. In fact, I would argue as far as I could that he should be forgiven; but if the Minister is forgiving these we should make some provision in the Bill to see that somebody else besides the ratepayer will be asked to foot the Bill and that the money the ratepayers contributed to pay these arrears must be in some way refunded to them.
First of all, we had Deputy Hogan's argument. He told us there was a very substantial difference between rents and annuities. Yes, there is; and some of the unfortunate tenants know it to their cost. The tenant, who was paying £15 a year rent from 1919 until Deputy Hogan blessed him in 1923 and increased his annunity by 15 per cent., knows it. I suppose the unfortunate tenant did not care very much whether it was annuity or rent or rates he was paying. All he knew was that he had to pay £2 extra.
Deputy Brennan alluded to his case a while ago, but Deputy Brennan was one of the Deputies who, when there was an amending Act brought in here to remedy that case, walked into the Division Lobby in favour of letting that dirty landlord get away with that loot. He was one of the Deputies who did it. So was Deputy Roddy, who led the van. The tenant who was paying £12 from 1919 to 1923, who went up before a final tribunal and was there told that until his land was vested he would only have to pay £9 but that on the day it was vested he would have to pay £13, or the unfortunate tenant who got a reduction in 1919 and enjoyed that reduction to 1923 and who then, under the blessings of the Hogan Act, had to pay 15 per cent. more and to pay up his arrears and all the rest of it—those poor fellows came in here looking for justice. They went first to the famous tribunal for justice and got kicked out there. Then they came in here and every Deputy on those benches opposite, and the scattered members of the Farmers' Party who are still left to us, marched into the Lobby here in favour of compelling the unfortunate tenant to hand that money over to the rack-renting landlord who had admitted in 1919 and 1920 that it was 40 per cent. too high. Those tenants have been paying it for the last ten years and those are the unfortunate tenants of whom Deputy Hogan now stands up here and says with his usual sarcasm that they are lazy, they are robbers and thieves and they would not pay their annuities. It would be hard for them to pay them. That is the mercy Deputy Hogan had for them.
Another argument that has been made here is that, if anybody is to be forgiven arrears, those who owed last year's annuities or the year's before should be given first consideration. I do not agree with that, and I will tell the House why. Take those tenants who came up here before the Land Commission Court and who fought their case here to get a 15 per cent. reduction in their rent. They would chance putting five or six years' rent into the pockets of the lawyers. They chanced it. They would chance it again before the appeal tribunal and would have to pay the lawyers' fees and the refresher to which my friend Deputy Belton alluded a while ago. They had to pay all that. They chanced that for a 15 per cent. reduction.
Does that justify this proposal?
The farmers of this country are making a big fight. They gave us a mandate to make the fight for them.
You are doing it well.
We are doing it well, but if we had not so many judges we would do a lot better. Even if they have to pay a little extra bit now, even with that burden upon them, I say it is well worth it. They had to face a lot more to get very small concessions in the past. Now they are getting a 50 per cent. concession. We hear a lot of talk about democracy and all that, but we should remember that the value of the farmers' produce was reduced from 1924 to 1931 by £13,000,000. That represents the fall in the prices they suffered between 1924 and 1931, and yet Deputy Cosgrave says they must pay their debts. When he was asked for relief what did he say: that "agriculture is a decaying industry and where is the use of bolstering up a decaying industry?" These were the famous words used by Deputy Cosgrave.
The Deputy might give me the reference. I have no recollection of saying that good, bad or indifferent.
I thought the Deputy knew them so well that I would not have to give the reference, but I will get it for him.
The Deputy has not got it now?
I have not at the moment. I usually come prepared, but I did not think you would deny it.
Has he got it at home?
I certainly have it.
No. I keep these things handier than that.
When will the Deputy give it to me?
I will give it to you before I go back; you may be sure of that. You told a deputation that it was a decaying industry and there was no use in bolstering it up.
Nonsense. We remember all about that.
Told a deputation?
I take very good care that any statement I make in the House I am able to support. The truth is bitter.
Would the Deputy state to what deputation, in what year or what month I made the statement?
I have guaranteed to produce the quotation, the month, the day and the hour.
And the authority?
And the authority. The authority did a lot to put you here.
Where was the Deputy on the occasion the statement was made?
Dang it, I was not with you. That is the kind of thing we get, you know, and the facts bear it out. We got £13,000,000 less for our produce in 1931 than we got in 1924. We were unable to pay the annuities then. We found it very hard to pay the annuities but we got no relief from Deputy Cosgrave. All he was troubled about then was to see that the rack-renting landlord got enough going away, to see that he got loot for Monte Carlo. He did not care what happened the tenants. Nothing amuses me as much as Deputy Hogan's talk about the difference between rent and annuities. These unfortunate fellows found it when they had to pay 15 per cent. more in annuities than they had to pay in rents.
There are some matters here on which I find myself in certain agreement with Deputies who have already spoken. I honestly do not think that the lawyers' costs should be charged, but admittedly some of the rogues get away with it. For instance, there was a case tried in the Cork Circuit Court recently in which a father-in-law sued his son-in-law for certain moneys.
What has that got to do with the Land Bill?
It has everything to do with it as I shall show if you will allow me to proceed.
I am going to allow the Deputy to proceed as far as I think he should. Is he going to refer to a decision given by the courts regarding costs?
No, I am not.
Has the case any reference to proceedings regarding rent? I have warned the Deputy that he will have to be very careful.
Very decidedly. Portion of the money claimed was for a half year's annuity which the father-in-law alleged he had to pay for the son-in-law. The son-in-law stood up in court and swore that there was no occasion whatever for that, that the father-in-law had no right to pay. He said that he could have paid it himself, "but," he added, "my organisation advised me not to pay it and that is why I did not pay it." That is a statement that was sworn to by a tenant farmer in Cork within the last three months, that his organisation had advised him not to pay his land annuities.
Was that Fianna Fáil?
It was not; it was yours.
I thought they had no such organisation in your constituency.
They have not. This was an organisation in West Cork. You know the West Cork fellows were always fighting that way. You should know that. That is a fact and that is why I am very slow to advocate that they should be relieved of costs. I am very slow in advocating that members of organisations who conspired together not to pay their annuities, and who incurred costs on account of it, should now be freed of these costs.
Did not you tell them at the Cork County Council that they had them in their pockets and to keep them there? Will you deny that?
Make your speech when I have done. That statement is not true.
I will find it for you.
The day, the date and the hour.
I denied that statement when it was made before in this House and I deny it now. It is only what one would expect from a paper that has been subsidised——
The Deputy on the section——
I am not responsible for what appears in theCork Examiner, or I could never be responsible for it.
I did not see any contradiction from you in it.
Did you not? Look up the files and they will give it to you.
Does the Deputy state that he wrote to the paper contradicting that report?
I cannot understand you. You will want to get another accent. As regards the tenants who are being relieved of their arrears, tenants who owe more than three years' annuities, there is no tenant farmer in the Free State to-day who is not anxious to see those unfortunate tenants at least getting a chance of getting on their feet again. There may be an odd, lazy fellow like the rogue who would not pay his land annuities a while ago, but the vast majority are men who have worked hard and who did their best but who, through no fault of their own, found themselves unable to pay. There are a large number of them in that position. What was the Cumann na nGaedheal cure for them? Leave the farms derelict with no rates and no annuities out of them. They were thrown there with the fences falling all round them. That was the only cure for them, and we have them dotted like leper's sores here and there throughout every county in the Free State. The tenant who had so many years arrears was thrown out and the land was left derelict. Give these unfortunate fellows a chance of getting back on their feet. Their neighbours would like to see them getting back on their feet and they do not grudge the few pounds they lose to enable them to get on their feet. Give them their chance. They are entitled to it.
We are endeavouring in this section to give every man the opportunity of getting back on his feet and let us agree to give it to them. If Deputies opposite consulted their constituents in regard to these three years' arrears or if they consulted their own minds, they would certainly return a verdict in favour of giving these unfortunate men who, through no fault of their own, ran into arrears, a chance of getting back on their feet. Who knows what happened? You have the case I mentioned a while ago of the unfortunate men who came up here in 1930 and had to pay two or three bunches of lawyers here—and you know what those fellows are—and then had to launch all that money out to a rack-renting landlord in the end. Surely, if they are in arrears to-day, it is not through any fault of theirs but through the fault of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government, which left so many loopholes in previous land legislation that every lawyer fattened and battened on them for the past ten years. They could not turn out lawyers fast enough to take the money, the expenditure of which was necessitated by all these legal loopholes in previous Land Acts.
I think the lawyers on both sides agreed about that.
Now, do not draw me. These are certainly cases for which I should like to see fair play. I submit that there is a case for not funding the law costs and I would appeal to the Minister if it can be done to let it be done on Report Stage.
And the annuities during the war.
The annuities during the war are part of a fight. Stand up to it like men and do not be always growling. I know a lot of your crowd and, by Jove, they refused to pay the June annuity before there were ever any tariffs put on. They started howling before the war ever started. The like of you never won a war.
A lot of them are sorry that they did not start five or six years before——
Why did they not?
If they had thought they would get the same benefit as the others——
We had the Public Safety Act then and you would take damn good care about what you would do if they did start.
That was a very good institution.
You might not like a taste of it if you got it and certainly from the evidence of the gentlemen in the court the other day there would be very good reason for it. However, in regard to these law costs, I would appeal to the Minister. I do not think it fair that these should be clapped on even though there may be an odd person who should pay. We must give the honest fellows a chance even if we have to allow a rogue to slip off. So far as the other portions of the section are concerned, I entirely agree with them. They give the down and out man a chance of getting back on his feet and it is time he got it. If Deputies opposite consulted their constituents they would find a 99 per cent. majority in favour of giving him that chance. I challenge any Deputy opposite to say that he would find many people amongst his constituents who would say "There is Mick So-and-So who is being forgiven two years' arrears; he should be made pay." You will, however, get an odd mangy fellow who wants to grab the land to say that he should pay but the majority will be in favour of and will be glad to give him a chance.
I think there is very little left to be said by anyone speaking in favour of this amendment after Deputy Corry has spoken for at least half an hour in favour of it. Deputy Smith also spoke in favour of a remission of arrears, so that I think it is up to the Minister to accept the amendment or, at least, to accept that portion of it that deals with annuities which ran into arrears during the economic war. During the entire debate not one single word was said to justify the collection of or to prove that it is morally right to collect, that part of the arrears which have run since the commencement of the economic war. With regard to the older arrears, Deputy Corry and others have spoken in favour of their remission and the best thing, therefore, that the Minister can do is to do graciously what must be done in the end, that is, to accept the amendment. Whether he accepts it or not, it will be impossible, while conditions continue as they are, to collect those moneys.
What about the people who did not take advantage of the moratorium and who paid their annuities?
The moratorium for the last year?
They are being paid directly to Great Britain.
They were paid to the Land Commission.
It has been stated here that 50 per cent. is being remitted under this Bill, but so long as the economic war continues, we are paying more than 100 per cent. That has been proven a hundred times and never refuted.
There is no use in telling these people because they do not understand anything about it.
Tuigimid i bhfad níos mó ná tuigeann sibh 'na thaoibh.
Put all those interruptions into one speech.
Eist do bhéal. Ná bí ag cainnt.
The farmers are losing much more than the amount of these arrears. Nobody has attempted to disprove that, and, seeing that Fianna Fáil speakers are in favour of remitting the long-standing arrears, and that justice demands a remission of the arrears which have accrued since the commencement of the economic war, the Minister would be well advised to accept the amendment in its entirety. After all, this is a sort of war debt that has accrued during the economic war, and whether it is admitted that it is being paid over, or whether it is paid willingly or unwillingly, it has been collected from the farmers. Nobody has denied that and it is only fair and just that the money should be remitted. As Deputy Corry and all the other Fianna Fáil speakers have spoken in favour of remission of the long-standing arrears, the best thing the Minister could do is to accept the amendment in its entirety.
Deputy Corry is coming on by degrees. He told us that he is convinced that the law costs should not be funded or be demanded of the annuitants. He also told us that his Government is coming to the rescue and giving us a reduction of 50 per cent. in our annuities. Now, Deputy Corry is too astute altogether to believe one word of that. I put this to any Deputy opposite: is England collecting the annuities, or is she not? The President admitted here that England was collecting them, and that the Land Commission were not getting them. It is immaterial to the farmer who is getting them so long as he has to pay them. This 50 per cent. alleged reduction is not a reduction of the annuities, and this whole Bill is a confession of the failure of the Government to carry through negotiations to end the economic war. They are not going to use the annuities, and they tell us, notwithstanding the fact that we are paying nearly twice the amount of the annuities to England through tariffs, that we are getting a remission of 50 per cent. We are not getting anything of the kind.
The proposal of the Government that the Land Commission is to collect 50 per cent. of the annuities is really a new imposition, a land tax amounting to 50 per cent. of the old annuities. That proposition has been put up here before and it has not been controverted. No attempt was made to controvert it. We have the advantage of the Attorney-General being present now, and I hope he will controvert it. When the Minister in charge of the Bill was making his concluding speech on the Second Reading I asked him: "Why does not the Government bear the loss," that is of the arrears that are proposed to be remitted, and the Minister replied, "The Government is bearing the loss." Now I notice that since I got up to speak a member of the Party opposite, Deputy Gibbons, who is chairman of a county council, has returned to the House, and that Deputy Corry, who is also a member of a county council, is present.
May I ask the Deputy this: Will he give a guarantee that he will continue speaking while I am at my tea?
Deputy Corry will sit down and not engage in further frivolous interruptions of that kind.
I did not expect a remark like that from Deputy Corry. I want to put this to these two members, who are both county councillors. I am speaking now of the arrears that are proposed to be remitted. Has the Land Commission not got those arrears by a deduction of the grants payable to county councils? Will Deputy Corry or Deputy Gibbons deny that? Any arrears that will be remitted in the County Cork have been paid by the Cork County Council, and there is not one penny due to the Government. Yet, when the Minister in charge of the Bill was concluding on the Second Reading these statements were made:—
"Mr. Belton: Why does not the Government bear the loss?
Mr. Aiken: The Government is bearing the loss.
Mr. Belton: No, the county councils are bearing the loss.
Mr. Aiken: The Government is bearing the loss."
I challenge Deputy Corry or Deputy Gibbons to get up and prove that one penny of the arrears that will be forgiven in the County Kilkenny or the County Cork is still owing to the Land Commission, because every penny piece has been paid by the ratepayers of the respective counties.
The Minister will justify his statement.
I am putting it now to these two representatives of local bodies.
They cannot deny it.
That is the point that I want to bring home to the representatives of Cork and Kilkenny.
I am also a member of a county council and I can say that we have not lost a shilling from the grants payable to the county council.
And the position is substantially the same in Kilkenny.
Deputy Flynn is speaking for the Leitrim County Council. I presume there were some arrears in the County Leitrim. Am I to understand now from Deputy Flynn that to his knowledge the Leitrim County Council got the agricultural grant in full in every way?
Yes, to my knowledge that is so.
And yet we were informed by the Minister for Finance only a couple of weeks ago that the only years in which the Government did not recoup themselves for defaulting arrears of annuities was the year ending the 31st March, 1933. That was the statement of the Minister for Finance, and it is now contradicted by Deputy Flynn.
We lost nothing in 1931 or 1932.
Then the Minister for Finance and his predecessor must have made a special case for the County Leitrim, and did not deduct anything from the agricultural grant on foot of arrears of annuities. I am not going to say that Deputy Flynn is a man who, to his knowledge, would make a statement that he believed to be wrong, but I think the Deputy has been badly informed on that particular point.
I asked the secretary of the county council the question.
Any deduction that was made was temporary.
I would be glad if the Deputy would repeat that.
The position in Kilkenny, and I am sure it is the same in other counties, is that when the annual budget is being prepared, credit is taken for the full amount of the agricultural grant. That is done at the time of the striking of the rate.
I must ask Deputies to keep to the point. They have already tried to side-track it. Let us take it that the position was this: that at the 31st March, 1930, the arrears due to the County Kilkenny, Dublin, or any other county, amounted to £5,000. Has it not been the practice, and is it not still the practice, supposing the agricultural grant payable was £20,000 or £30,000, to deduct the £5,000 arrears from the agricultural grant payable to that county?
Practically all these arrears came in afterwards.
But I am talking of the arrears that never came in, and these are the arrears that have been remitted. If arrears came in afterwards, then there was nothing to remit but this Bill proposes to remit arrears in respect of which deductions were made to county councils in the agricultural grant. I say that these arrears have never come in. Now who is footing the bill for these arrears? The county councils, of course. Yet you have members of county councils getting up here and supporting a Government to rook their respective county councils of moneys that are legally due to these bodies. As the law stands at present, if those arrears that are now proposed to be remitted were paid to the Land Commission by the present-time defaulters, would not the Government be bound to release the amount of the grants that had been deducted for those arrears? There is a little more than that in it. The county councils were at the loss of these grants for three years and members of the county councils here are going to support their county councils being deprived of that money that, by law, is theirs and going to pass a law to alienate their councils from possessing what is rightly theirs. You have the Minister in charge of this Bill making a wrong statement that the Government is footing the bill for the losses sustained by remitting these arrears, whereas they are indisputably due to the county councils. There is nothing due to the Land Commission. Did the Minister in making these proposals ask the county councils were they prepared to remit these arrears? Of course he did not. Why should he when he claims that they are due to the Government and not to the county councils. So much for the arrears.
Has the Deputy considered the desirability of allowing us to divide on this amendment, or does he intend to move to report progress?
I am going to continue until I have made my case, which will take more than six minutes. This section means more to the country than all that has been debated on this Bill in Committee up to the present. We are down to brass tacks in this. We are down to what I might describe as the bread and butter of this Bill. Deputies opposite do not take this matter seriously enough. The Minister in charge of the Bill speaking on this —he was addressing Deputy Hogan more or less—said:
"Why did he not put that principle into the 1923 Act? In that Act the arrears over three years due were forgiven, but the farmers had made money from 1920 back to 1914, all over the country. That was an easier time to make money for the farmers than from 1920 to 1922, yet prior to 1920 the arrears were forgiven. In every Land Bill introduced by the British the same principle was followed. We have decided to give the people a clean start in this country and not to have them burdened with a volume of arrears. We adopted that old principle."
The principle then was the forgiveness of arrears that were due on foot of what were original rack rents and due to an individual. If the individual tenant or tenants did not pay the rents their neighbours had not to pay in the same circumstances. I am sorry to hear farmers to whom the section applies being so frequently called tenant farmers. Farmers who have purchased their holdings are no longer tenant farmers. They ceased to be tenants the day they purchased their holdings. They agreed to purchase and they are the owners in fee when they pay off the mortgage to the Land Commission. Why should their neighbours, who had to struggle in similar circumstances to them and under precisely the same conditions and meet their obligations in respect of rates and annuities, be burdened with a debt due by the defaulters? The epidemic that came over the country a few years ago was referred to by a Deputy opposite, but he did not attempt to prove that the arrears had all accumulated as a consequence of the fluke.
The Deputy did not say "all." He said to a great extent.
The Deputy took good care not to try to prove the case that the arrears originated because of that epidemic of fluke.
They did originate in many circumstances.
This deals with arrears in general all over the country. The Deputy did not correlate the epidemic of fluke to the starting of these arrears.
You are getting away from the point now.
I am not getting away from the point. The Deputy knows that every Deputy in the House has sympathy with people who lost their stock through the fluke. If the arrears were segregated in certain districts where we knew the epidemic of fluke was severe, then a good case could be made for a remission of these arrears. I am not speaking against the remission, but I am speaking against other farmers having to foot the bill for the remission. If the Government want to do the generous thing we will not oppose them if the Central Fund will meet these losses, but the county councils should not have to meet the losses. We have no objection to the arrears that accumulated prior to three years ago being remitted.
There was an objection put forward by several Deputies over there. They pointed out that it was immoral and unwise.
And that they were wasters and rotters.
There is a tinge of immorality accentuated by the fact that, because one man does not pay his annuities, the law is going to be invoked against his neighbour, who has paid his annuities to make him not only pay his own, but to pay those of his neighbour, who did not pay them. Is there not a tinge of immorality in that?
If that principle is to obtain, why pay home assistance then if it is going to wasters or people who will not work the same as their neighbours?
I wonder does the Deputy stand for the man who pays his way willingly being persecuted to pay his neighbour's way as well. That is what it boils down to.
I move to report progress.