Land Bill, 1933—Committee (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment 23— to delete sub-section (2)—Section 12. (Deputy Dillon.)

At the conclusion of the sitting yesterday I was dealing with the arrears proposed to be remitted. Those arrears which accrued up to three years ago have been paid to the Land Commission indirectly, by the Local Government Department deducting the amount of arrears from the agricultural grant. The Minister in charge of this Bill, in his concluding speech on the Second Reading, said:—

"I do not stand for the principle that we should squash these decent people who got into arrears through no fault of their own, and put their families on the roadside in order to get hold of the waster who should be made to pay his land annuities."

I interjected on that occasion: "Why does not the Government bear the loss?" The Minister replied: "The Government is bearing the loss," to which I remarked: "No, the county councils are bearing the loss." The Minister then went on, and he said: "The Government is bearing the loss." He insisted that the Government is bearing the loss. I insist that that is not true, that the Government is not bearing one penny of the loss. The Government has not at any time indicated to this House any departure from the usual practice, namely, that the amount of annuities irrecoverable at the end of the financial year is computed, and the final payment of the agricultural grant is made to county councils less those annuities which are irrecoverable for the time being. If any of those annuities are subsequently paid to the Land Commission that amount is intimated to the Local Government Department, and the amount of agricultural grant against that piece of arrears is transmitted to the county council. I was well aware of the operation of those acts, but since last night I took an opportunity of checking my information, and I can state positively that as regards the arrears irrecoverable up to 31st March, 1932, the amounts have been deducted from the county councils. As far as the Land Commission is concerned there are no arrears of annuities, because those annuities have been made good out of the agricultural grant.

The information given the House by the Minister in charge of this Bill is not correct when he says that the Government is footing the bill for those annuities which it is proposed to wipe out. In his opening speech on the Bill he said: "The arrears which have accumulated under all the Land Acts over all the years to 31st December, 1932, amount to the sum of £2,972,000," all of which the Land Commission have been paid at the expense of the local ratepayers in every county, each county having to bear the loss that the Land Commission temporarily sustained by not being able to collect the arrears of the annuities. They simply passed the bill on to the county councils, and by the manipulation of the grants the county councils had to pay those bills. To carry the matter further, when the county council found itself, at the end of the year, short of its grant, it had to make up the deficiency on savings, or it had to budget increased rates next year. The Minister went on to say: "From this sum of £2,972,000 has to be deducted about £250,000, representing the arrears over the three years mark, which are now to be written off as bad debts;" bad debts of the county councils, not of the Government. I wonder is the Government going to make good to the county councils those arrears which by this generous gesture they say they will remit? We are not concerned whether a man should have paid or whether he should not have paid. It is not my business to know whether my neighbour has paid his annuities or not, but it becomes very much my business if I have to pay his annuities along with paying my own. The attempt to make an analogy between the remission of arrears of rent under the 1923 and previous Land Acts was an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of this country. Arrears of rent were always a concern between the landlord and the tenant owing those arrears. If the tenant did not pay his rent to the landlord but allowed it to run into arrears no other tenant farmer had to pay it. It was the landlord's loss. Under the annuity system if the tenant purchasers do not pay their annuities their neighbours have to pay them; that county has to pay them by increased rates. These arrears have been paid in respect of the counties. As far as I have been able to ascertain something like £8,000 was paid by the County Council of Dublin, and that money is due to the County Council of Dublin and to the ratepayers of Dublin. The Minister says we are going to forgive this and he further says it is the Government that is bearing the loss. I hope he will endeavour to prove that point.

In passing, I might remark that a member of the Cork County Council, who is a member of this House, stated yesterday afternoon that it was not true that the county councils had to bear the loss; that it was not true that the county councils had their grants stopped to meet this liability. I was speaking to another member of the Cork County Council since, and he informed me that, speaking from memory, the Cork County Council was at a loss of about £60,000. Before this Bill goes through its final stages, I intend to put down a question asking how much has been deducted, severally and collectively, from the county councils in the Free State on foot of land annuities and the dates that correspond with the dates of remission and funding in this Bill. Then we will be able to find out the truth and I hope the Minister will then stand up for the statement he has already made. The net amount withdrawn from the Guarantee Fund in connection with the Land Purchase Act for the year 1931 in the Free State was £581,790 13/3. The Minister in charge of this Bill wants to take credit for that money which the Government got at the expense of the ratepayers. The Government wants to pull the wool over the people's eyes and say the Government, by this generous gesture, is remitting that amount of money which they have already in their pockets.

The same applies to the proposed funding of annuities, from the three years mark up, roughly, to the 31st March of last year, or to be correct, to the 1st of July, but we can deal with the financial year. These annuities that are proposed to be funded are the proceeds of the funded annuities which will be paid by the farmers to the Government over a period of 50 years on an annuity basis of 4½ per cent. interest. It has been definitely stated in this House by the Minister for Finance that these funded annuities will be the sole property of the Government and will be paid into the Exchequer, whereas it is the local ratepayers that paid that amount. The Minister in introducing this measure said the total arrears will be £4,500,000 which he proposed to fund. The first part—remission—I have dealt with, the second part is that of funding up to the 31st March last. These have been paid by the county councils also and as the law stands, if these arrears were paid by the farmers into the Land Commission, then the Land Commission should make a corresponding allowance to the county councils concerned and let them have the benefit of the withheld grants. But this section proposes to wipe that out and the Land Commission is claiming this money that does not belong to it, while it tells the farmers that it is doing them a service by funding that money over a period of 50 years, notwithstanding that the Government has not the slightest claim to these funds any more than I have.

We now come to the next class of arrears that are proposed to be funded, namely those that have accumulated roughly from last year and are now accumulating. It is proposed to fund them. What right the Government has to fund them it is very difficult to understand, considering that England has been collecting these annuities from the farmers during that period. I put a question yesterday: whether there was any Deputy on the opposite side who would contradict the deliberate statement that England has been collecting those annuities during the last year. That challenge was not accepted. Perhaps Deputies opposite will accept the words of the President and I hope the Minister also will accept them. The President speaking in this House on the 12th May, 1933, is reported in the Parlimentary Debates, column 1004, to have said:—

"So far as the contributions from the agricultural grant are concerned, we are to give half and to give the farmers a remission of half the annuities during the whole period that they would otherwise have to pay. We have funded the annuities for the first half of this year and we have reduced them for the second period by one half. That means that we have given to the farmers this year in that way £3,225,000.

Mr. Belton: And you have taken £5,000,000 from them.

The President: We have done nothing of the kind, but the British have done it."

Will Deputies opposite accept the words of the President there that the Government did not take the £5,000,000. We never accused them and never suggested or insinuated that they took it. We said deliberately that the British did, and the President accepted that. The British have taken £5,000,000 and over the period during which the British were operating, extracting that £5,000,000 a year from us, the Land Commission wants us to pay that same debt to them; and they claim, as a generous gesture, the funding of an alleged debt incurred on foot of the land annuities during that period, and they are asking the farmers to pay that amount at the rate of 4½ per cent. for 50 years. That we have paid it to England in that time is accepted by the President. In view of all that, this is the most monstrous and iniquitous piece of legislation ever attempted on any people by a native Parliament. The British Parliament never had anything to its credit like it in the history of its legislation for this country. We paid that money to England; they extracted it from us. Why now does not our Government step in and stop them extracting it from us? They are not able. We admit that. But then why has our Government the audacity to come round and ask us to pay them again? I hope that everybody on this side of the House will, in debating this measure, from this day forward, not plead poverty even although we are poor but will put in the plea that we are not able to pay, and make the manly defence that as we have already paid we are not going to pay again.

It is admitted by the President that we have paid, and that should be good enough. During the period in which we were paying those annuities to England, a shower of civil bills was sent all over the country and costs were incurred for the very debt that the Government now recognise they should not collect. They incurred costs by making fools of themselves and now the farmers must pay for it. If a local authority did a thing like that the members of that local authority would be surcharged. Not only would their intended victims not have to pay, not only would the county council not have to pay, but the individual members would be surcharged, and rightly so, for their incompetence.

It is proposed under this section to reduce the land annuities by 50 per cent. If that were to happen, as the Minister would have us believe, we would all throw up our hats and we would be hurrying this Bill through. This section clearly indicates that we are to continue paying the £5,000,000 to England and while we are continuing to pay that sum which should liquidate all our obligations and all England's claims, just or unjust, our Government comes along and tells us they are going to halve the land annuities. In reality, they are going to create a tax on the land equivalent to the amount of annuities heretofore paid. The money when paid is going to go into the Exchequer. We have to pay the annuities indirectly to England in order to meet the claims of the bondholders. That amount, the equivalent of 50 per cent. of the old annuities, should be called by its proper name, a land tax.

It is provided in this Bill that the money collected should go into the Exchequer; there is no other provision made for it. British tariffs are to continue. That is the assumption in this Bill and in such an atmosphere this Bill has been formulated. It is proposed to pay an annuity for those arrears. The amount of that annuity is not specifically stated. The only intimation we get about it in the Bill is that it will be at the rate of 4½ per cent. The only intimation we got of the size of the annuity was in the Minister's opening speech, when he said that these arrears would be funded and paid over a period of 50 years at an annuity which would work out at 6d. in the £ every half year. It seemed a round-about way of stating that the annuity would be at 5 per cent. I wonder how he bases that calculation.

We are told in this section that an alleged debt will be liquidated in 50 years. I think they mentioned it would be amortised in 50 years at a certain annuity. How long is this annuity to run? We are told it will run for 50 years. If the Minister is going to lay claim that this debt that he wants to amortise is going to be paid exactly in 50 years he is going to stand over a statement that no British Minister ever stood over when introducing a Land Bill. I will give this quotation from the Irish Convention Report of 1917-1918:

"No period was fixed in that Act for the duration of purchasers' annuities; but if the sinking fund was uniformly invested in 2¾ per cent. stock the annuities would run for 68½ years."

If the Minister is banking on charging 4½ per cent. and is banking that the annuity will amortise the debt in 50 years, he must be prepared to show this House that the sinking fund can be invested in sound securities earning 4½ per cent. I would like to know where this can be got when the British Government is borrowing long term money at present at 2½ per cent. We do not know how long this will have to run, nor does the Minister know. He is, however, taking jolly good care that he is going to put the farmer in the soup by charging him 4½ per cent. He is making the farmer pay out of a bankrupt concern—the agricultural industry of this country.

A lot of criticism has been levelled at the 1923 Act. We know the rate that prevailed in 1923 and yet the 1923 Land Act was financed at 4½ per cent. This Government cannot do anything better than that, although the general level of interest is about one-third what it was then. If these bonds have good backing behind them the £1 bond will be selling at 30/-. Where is the profit to go to? Into the Exchequer. The farmer paying 4½ per cent. will be contributing the profit that the Exchequer is going to scoop in. The Exchequer will make the money out of the sweated labour of the farmer and the sweated labour of his family.

If we pass this section the principle of practically all the finance is accepted. If we agree to this usurer's rate of interest we are going to create the land problem of the future. It has been rumoured about that, because of the strenuous and the continuously hardening opposition to this section, the Government proposed to recoup county councils for the arrears that are going to be remitted and for the arrears that are going to be funded. I hope that is true. The House would welcome an assurance from the Minister to that effect. I hope it will be done and, if it is not done, there is nobody that will pay bigger dividends on the default than the Government opposite. Let us hope it will be done, and then I hope that the opposition will harden against paying anything on foot of alleged arrears for last year, because no arrears are due. The President stated that we paid them to the British Government. I could carry that on further to the local loans, but I am not going to deal with local loans now. That matter will come up on another section. But we have paid them also to the British Government, and we owe nothing to the British Government or anybody else on foot of these except what is owing to us.

I do not want to repeat what I have said already, but I would refer Deputies to page 1004 of the Parliamentary Debates here. I am not going to read it again but, when Deputies opposite read it, I hope they will obey their Leader and accept his word as gospel. I hope Deputies on this side will stand firm, and there is no doubt that if we stand firm here the country outside will stand firm. We should stand firm on the fact that we have paid our indebtedness on land purchase during the last 12 months. The British Government has collected it, and it is nothing short of plunder for our Government to attempt to collect a debt which we have paid twice over to the British Government.

We did not pay the British Government of choice, but if our Government blame us for doing so, we are paying them to protect us. We are paying them enough for protection. They tell us they do not want any more protection. They do not want "Blue Shirts." Perhaps they do not, but we did not get protection from the British in the last 12 months, and when our money was taken to pay a certain debt, we could not stop it. Our Government subsidised the sending of produce over to pay that debt and then they want us to pay that debt again. They are starting now to put a land tax on the people, and I hope that on this side of the House we will not any more plead poverty or plead pity for the farmers during the last 12 months, but let us stand up on our dignity and say that we have paid our debts on foot of land purchase once and that we will pay them no more.

We will see.

I intend to support Deputy Dillon's amendment, perhaps not altogether on the same grounds as Deputy Belton, but on somewhat similar grounds. Sub-section 2 of Section 12, as it stands, provides for the funding of the accumulated arrears during three certain years. I have no objection at all myself to the funding of three years' arrears. My objection is to the three particular years chosen for funding. As you are aware, sir, I had put down an amendment with a view to changing the three years from those ending on the first gale day of 1933 to those ending on the first gale day of 1932, and that was ruled out. It is, undoubtedly, inevitable that a person who, during all the years past, met his liabilities to the State and who, through no fault of his own, in the last 12 months found himself unable to pay, should find himself in the position that the one or two gales he owes will not be wiped out, but will be funded; whereas the person who deliberately avoided meeting his liabilities to the State for a number of years—we will say nine years, if there are any such—will have all but three years wiped out, and only those three years funded. It is not fair play to the man who pays his way, especially the man who fell into debt during the period of the economic war.

Every farmer Deputy in this House knows perfectly well that where payments were made during the last 12 months they were not made out of profits from the land. They were made out of reserves or out of other sources of income. These payments were not made out of the land or out of agricultural produce. There were very few persons who had reserves or other sources of income, and those who had not those reserves or other sources of income, were utterly incapable of paying, and through no fault of their own. While the section stands as it is, proposing to fund the arrears for the period 1932 and 1933, I think the Bill is utterly bad. There were even Fianna Fáil Deputies who opposed it. Deputy Cleary, for one, said that he did not like to see the arrears being wiped out in the years, as he put it, when Cumann na nGaedheal were in power. In fact, he used this choice phrase, which is rather a curious admission. "If he was not able to pay his rent when Cumann na nGaedheal was in power he should not be entitled to any reduction now." That, at any rate, is an admission that they were better times then; the farmer could have paid then and because of that Deputy O'Clery said that there should be no pity for the farmers now. That shows his mentality on the Second Reading reported at column 2451 of the Official Debates. I was not allowed to give Deputy O'Clery an opportunity of supporting an amendment which would meet his wishes in that matter, but I think he should have sufficient influence in the Government to get a member of the Executive Council to amend the Bill to that extent. I have no objection whatever to the funding of three years' arrears. I think it is quite reasonable and I believe that the county councils would have no grievance so far as that is concerned, but I believe the grievance is where the county councils have had deductions made from the agricultural grant. The arrears should be utilised to recoup the county councils for their loss from the deductions of the grant. I do not believe that it is strictly relevant to this section, but I would like to have an assurance before the Bill leaves this House that the county councils will be recouped the amounts deducted. The date for which it is proposed to remit the arrears should be changed. I am supporting the amendment for the deletion of the sub-section merely because of the date. I would not support the deletion of that sub-section if the three years for funding instead of ending on the first gale day 1933 were for the three years ending on the first gale day 1932. I will support the amendment because of the gale days it embraces.

On Sections 12 and 13 and 14 I put down a number of amendments which you very properly excluded, sir, on the ground that they would imply a charge on the Central Fund. These amendments were put down on those three sections and were substantially on the grounds that had been put forward here in the speeches and in the debates. In the Second Reading debate and also in the debate for the deletion of the sub-section a couple of errors have arisen that I would like to see corrected. In the first place, in the Second Reading debate and also on the debate on the Committee Stage when it took place yesterday we had what was apparently a complete misunderstanding as to the meaning of two terms. One of these is rent as it existed prior to any contract to purchase under any of the Land Acts. What is being funded here is interest on borrowed money. I would like to direct your attention, sir, to the speech of the Minister on the Second Reading when that point was put to him. It showed an ignorance on the part of the Minister that might be legitimate coming from any other person. On the Second Reading, page 267, Vol. 49, No. 1, the Minister said:

"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 have adopted that old principle."

Now the old principle he referred to is the principle which he said was contained in the earlier Acts preceding the Land Act of 1923. No such principle was ever adopted in any Land Act and I want that on record, because every previous Land Act dealt with the contracts for the purchase of land from the landlords. This section here of this Bill deals with the interest on borrowed money. Rent is for the use and occupation of land. The Minister dealing with this section here is dealing with interest on borrowed money. They are quite distinct and separate things. The farmer who purchased his land became a freeholder in every case. It was an amortising of arrears of rent for the use and occupation of land.

Now, sir, reference was made here by Deputy Hogan to what took place on the earlier Land Acts in the past on behalf of this country in the British House of Commons. The principal charge and the only charge that could be made against the principles of these measures in the British House of Commons was first, that it was confiscation of the landlord's property, and, secondly, a charge was made that the tenant farmers of this country would not pay the interest on the money. That was the capital charge made by the die-hards and Tories in England; by theTimes, the Morning Post, the Daily Telegraph and the members of the then House of Lords. The Irish leaders—happily they are all dead now —they have not lived to see the pledge that they gave on behalf of the tenant farmers in this country being broken. Happily they are all gone. During the years they lived the tenant farmers faithfully, regularly and religiously discharged the obligations given on their behalf by the then leaders of the Irish people. The second important objection to this is the funding of these arrears. I wish it to be understood that there are no arrears of rent but arrears of interest on borrowed money to purchase land to make the Irish tenant farmers freeholders. For the moment let us pass over the question of whether it is good business, and see whether it is a practical proposition. The second thing that I wish to emphasise is what has been stated here by Deputy Belton. That is, that it has been stated by the Minister on the Second Reading of the Bill that these moneys are due to the Government. Now, that does not want any argument to controvert. That statement is untrue, because it has been quoted here that every penny of this money has been retained from the local authorities out of the agricultural grant and the total amount retained from 1931 is £581,790 13s. 3d. This money is not due to the Government. If that be true, the second point I wish to make is this: let it be bluntly stated here and I do not mind what effect it will have outside. This is a land tax, certainly during the period of the economic war if the economic war is to continue. The speech made by the President has been quoted, but, even though it was never quoted, or even if it was never made, everybody acquainted with the farming industry and the agricultural industry knows quite well that each individual farmer is not only paying his annuities once, but three or four or five times over. I know cases where they have paid five times over. Is it fair, or is it right, under the pretext of increasing the revenue that a subterfuge of this kind should be adopted in order to further extract these moneys?

I have raised this question already and I asked the Minister for Finance last week on another Bill if he would recoup the local authorities for the amount of the remissions under these Bills, because this Bill here deals with the moneys advanced by the Board of Works and under the Irish Church Act and the Land Purchase Acts. The Minister said not, because they could only be returned to the local authorities when they would come in, and as they were being remitted they could not come in. I submit that the Government has no alternative but to return the moneys to the local authorities from which they have been deducted. We are supporting the deletion of the sub-section also because it includes the annuities falling into arrears up to 15th July last. A number of amendments which you, sir, have shelved cover that period and have that object in view. Whatever about earlier years, it is a gross injustice to the great majority of the honest, industrious farmers of this country who have not got into arrears for the past 12 months, who in all the previous years paid their own annuities and those of their defaulting neighbours by loss of the agricultural grant and who further, sir, have paid the rates of many of the defaulting annuitants because many of these defaulting annuitants also defaulted in the payment of rates. The deficit in that branch of the recovered rents in the previous financial year was met out of the rates. They have paid their annuities and rates and in many cases those of the defaulting annuitants, and they have paid the defaulting annuitants' annuities, and for the past year by the policy of the Government —whether rightly or wrongly is beside the question—they have been put into the position financially that they are unable to pay. Now they have got to pay arrears at 4½ per cent. over 50 years.

I am not to be taken as agreeing in principle to the remission of any interest that is chargeable on borrowed money and I want to make that distinct from the remission of rent that would be charged for the use and occupation of land because no rent is at least morally payable on land unless a profit is made on the land. That is a quite distinct and separate question, that when a man borrows money and enters into a contract to pay it back he should ask for a remission of it. They are two separate and distinct things. What he borrows the money for does not arise. It may be to buy horses as well as land but to mix up these things is quite wrong because they are separate and distinct. The Minister was wrong in this House last week when he spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill and compared these remissions to the remissions under the Act of 1923. That was a remission of rent. This is a remission of interest on borrowed money. You have been kind enough to allow the debate for the deletion of this sub-section to wander over the whole field covered by Sections 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 and I only wish to state now that we support the deletion of the sub-section.

I hope the House will agree not to duplicate this debate on the section.

Question put—"That the words proposed to be deleted stand put."
The Committee divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 40.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Browne, William Frazer.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Cleary, Mícheál.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Everett, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C. (Dr.).

Níl

  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Fitzgerald, Desmond.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Connor, Batt.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, The.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Rice, Vincent.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick James.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Holohan and Curran.
Amendment declared lost.

Deputy Dillon takes the decision on amendment 23 as covering the following amendments which will, therefore, not be moved. Nos. 31, 34, 37, 39, 50, 61, 70, 82, 84, 85, 87, 97, 100 and 105.

I move amendment 35:—

In sub-section (4), line 58, after the word "arrears" to insert the words "of rent or of interest on purchase money or," and in page 9, line 2, before the word "interest" to insert the words "rent, interest on purchase money," and in line 3 to delete the word "of."

This amendment is purely a drafting amendment and it is brought in, in order to make sure that all payments are covered by this section.

Is it all annual payments?

Does that include the rents payable under lettings for temporary convenience?

These are not purely grazing agreements, but it covers all these.

Mr. Hogan

I want that point cleared up. The position is that for the last three or four years a large number of tenants purchased their lands under a letting for temporary convenience until they are vested.

Those are covered.

Mr. Hogan

And those payments include rents and rates, I think. They are covered anyway, that is definite?

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 12, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
Deputies Keyes and MacDermot rose.

I have no desire to curtail the debate. It is admitted that the debate on this amendment has ranged not only over this section but one or two others. I think it was understood that there should not, at any rate, be a prolonged debate on the section.

I will only detain the House for a few moments. I should like to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that under previous sections we have many excepted matters, but under this section there is only one exception, the tenants of labourers' cottages. I wonder if there is any valid reason why the 50 per cent. reduction should be withheld from that particular section of the community. I wonder if it is legal for the Government to withhold those moneys? If it is legally advisable to make a reduction of 50 per cent. in the land annuities I should like to know by what process of reasoning this particular section should be excluded.

Does the Deputy mean tenants under the Labourers Acts?

They do not come within the scope of the Bill at all. There are special Acts, the administration of which the Local Government Department or the Department of Finance is responsible for.

Does the Minister want to make out that the moneys which are being withheld, and which represent the repayment of loans in connection with labourers' cottages, is being used for the purpose of reducing the annuities of landowners, or do we understand that a Bill will be introduced at a later stage——

No such thing. It is a different matter altogether. It is a special matter, and if the Deputy wants to raise it it can be discussed. Those people come under the Labourers Acts. This is a Bill dealing with land purchase and the distribution of land.

Surely the Minister does not object to the Labour Party doing its "stuff."

Whether there are objections or not we will do our "stuff."

And the Labour Party only won by a short head from Deputy MacDermot.

Those people are paying their rates and their rents, and in that way are contributing towards the debts of the defaulting ranchers in a great many instances. I would ask the Minister to look into the matter and see if he can give the justice which is due to those people.

What I want to ask before we pass from this section is whether there is any chance of the Minister making a concession in regard to costs that are to be funded—the costs of the civil bills brought in since the beginning of the economic war. It seems to me there really is a special case for making a concession in that regard. The Government has withdrawn all those civil bills; therefore, by implication, they have suggested that they ought not to have been issued. The people who did not pay and who waited to have civil bills served on them had quite unusual grounds for doing so, because the legal position did appear very obscure to the great majority of the farmers of this country. A big number of them understood that there was great legal doubt as to their liability to pay. I suggest to the Minister that it would be just and reasonable and a gracious gesture if at any rate he wiped out the costs even if he cannot see his way to wipe out the arrears.

A decision has been taken to that effect.

In that connection I should like to point out that the Centre Party guaranteed to pay costs in a great many cases in my county. I think they should be made to honour their bond.

On the section——

In reply to Deputy MacDermot, I want to explain that a decision has been taken to that effect. The Government withdrew all the civil bills in respect of the first gale of 1932. The State solicitors had already taken action in a number of cases, and the Government is going to meet the costs.

The Government is going to meet them?

Is the Minister not being more than usually kind to some people as compared with others?

Deputy Brennan to resume.

I am glad that the Minister made that announcement. There were a good many amendments down to meet that situation I want to make a further suggestion to the Minister. In connection with the second gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933 I would ask the Minister to seriously consider why those arrears should not be at least forgiven to the extent of 50 per cent. The Government consider that for the future the annuities must be halved; and the people are not able to bear any more than half. As regards those gales our case on this side is that they ought to be remitted altogether, that there is really no case for collecting them at all, because the people have already paid them to Great Britain. Certainly if they are going to be funded they should only be funded in half.

I should like to support Deputy Brennan in that. It will be observed that the last amendments by Deputy Brennan and myself were put down with the object of obtaining a remission of the entire amount of those two gales, or alternatively, a reduction by 50 per cent. I think the Minister will admit that if the Government is justified in reducing the annuities in future by 50 per cent. that should equally apply to the two gales since the beginning of the economic war. As to the costs the same principle applies, because the Government thought it was not justified in executing those decrees in the circumstances. I should like if the Government could see their way to make that reduction. It would be accepting the justice of the claims of the farmers under the present depressed conditions, and it would be some relief to them in a period of this kind. I support Deputy Brennan in making that appeal to the Minister.

I just want to make one suggestion. Deputies Brennan and McMenamin have suggested to the Minister to fund half the annuities. I personally do not see any case for funding any of those particular annuities. The Minister has admitted just now, indirectly, that the tenants during the continuance of this economic war should not have been pressed for their rents, that the issue of processes was in fact a mistake, and that the tenants would not have been able to pay even if decrees were got against them. It is admitted that the annuities could not be paid and in these circumstances it is unjust that they should be funded and that people should be asked to pay them.

The Deputy says that because the Government is not going to exact the costs on the writs that were issued that is an admission that the annuities should not be collected. He also says that the tenants should not have to pay them. If we were discussing this really in a calm manner I am sure all Deputies interested in the country would be persuaded that that is not so. The criticisms of this section have fallen under three headings. The first is that the arrears should not be paid at all.

That case was not made.

Deputy Belton should remember that there are more people than he in the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. Deputy Hogan definitely stated that it was immoral that the arrears should be forgiven.

Mr. Hogan

What I said was that it was a disgrace to forgive arrears that had accrued up to 1930, and not to forgive arrears that accrued afterwards.

I do not want to make any point at all against the Deputy. I am only pointing out to Deputy Belton that one of the criticisms directed against the Government was that they were forgiving arrears, and that another was that if we were going to forgive arrears they should not merely forgive those prior to the year 1930, and fund those that occurred in respect of the period of the economic war. The criticism was that that was wrong. The third line of criticism was that the halving of the annuities was wrong; that no annuities should be collected during the period of the economic war. I think that is a fair general summary of the criticisms directed against the Government in these respects. I disagreed with the arguments that were put forward from the benches opposite, but if we could discuss them free from the atmosphere of the economic war I think we could get general agreement that it is a good thing that the arrears prior to 1930 should be forgiven. If anyone wants to rely upon the Ten Commandments I refer them to the power in the Bible: "Unto this last." I maintain also that it is right that the Government should fund the annuities that were not collected in respect of the first gale and second gale after the economic war commenced, and the further proposition I would make is that it would be a good thing that at least half of the annuities should be collected. If we could get into this position that this particular economic war which started on the 15th July of last year was in some way or other over——

We would be all very happy.

Let me put it in this way: That we could take it as settled in either of three ways: (1) that we surrender to the British and said: "here is your £5,000,000"; (2) or that we agreed with the British proposition and went before an Imperial Tribunal and the Imperial Tribunal said that we did owe the £5,000,000; or (3) that England accepted our demands for an International Court; that that court had sat and given its award in our favour, that we are not to pay the £5,000,000. Take either of these things as having happened, that we were in the happy position of this war being over no matter on what basis. Take it that yesterday this thing was settled and that we signed along the dotted line that we were to pay £5,000,000 to England and that we were in the position that we would have to tax the people in order to keep a lot of our public services going and to pay for a 40 per cent. tariff——

On a point of order, I suggest that the line the Minister is now taking would carry us into a very wide area of discussion. If the Minister is allowed to proceed on these lines it would be almost impossible for Deputies on the Opposition Benches to refrain from replying.

I think we should welcome the line the Minister has taken.

I have been sitting here for six days. I did not interrupt Deputies even once when they were speaking of the economic war.

I deplore repetition as much as the Minister, but my desire is to try and see this Bill proceeded with in a businesslike way.

My observation was only a preliminary or introductory remark in order to get down to the three propositions I put up. If we took it that the economic war, which was started on the 15th July was over, and that to-day I was coming into this House and had to announce that the British had made a further demand; that they were not satisfied with the £5,000,000 and had made a demand for a further £2,000,000 in respect of bridges or roads or houses or public buildings that they had built here in their time we might be up against a proposition whether we should pay that or not. If the British said that they would put 40 per cent. on our cattle if we did not agree to it, we would have to consider then, as the Government had to consider before, if we made up our minds that we were not going to pay, and that this further £2,000,000 was an unjust imposition, what we were going to do for the relief of the farmers if agricultural produce was to be taxed to the extent of 40 per cent. Personally, I put this to Deputies, that it is not every farmer who is paying for the economic war. There are certain farmers in this country better off under the economic war than before.

The fellows who do not pay anybody are.

The farmers who are producing things that are protected here are better off. Take, for instance, the dairy farmer producing butter. He is getting more under our Government than he got in the normal way when there were no British tariffs. The export bounty amounts to almost as much as he would have got then.

But the home consumer has to pay that.

I am only saying that there are certain farmers not feeling any burden from the economic war.

On a point of order, I was instructed by the Ceann Comhairle when I touched upon the economic war to get off it. He would not allow me to continue on that subject. The Minister, if he wants to get through this Bill with dispatch, will endeavour to avoid such a controversial subject. If he is going to enter into a long discourse on the economic war, I will find it necessary to answer him at great length. He, I am sure, desires, just as I desire, to facilitate matters in every way. The Chair ordered me to pass off the economic war when I was speaking and I immediately did so. If it is to be brought into the discussion now I, and I have no doubt Deputy Davin, who seems to be rearing to talk, will find it necessary to reply.

Where is the point of order?

Deputy Dillon will be talking anyhow, no matter whether it is on the economic war or not.

Is the Minister in order in discussing the economic war?

The Minister is in order in replying to points that were undoubtedly made, but I think it is most inadvisable to discuss all the aspects of the economic war now. I agree with the Deputy that such a discussion would inevitably lead to a prolonged debate on this section.

I have no desire at all to enter into a debate on the economic war. I think that is evidenced by the fact that I did not reply to the six days' debate on the question. Deputies made the point that the annuities should be wiped out. My preliminary remarks were devoted to setting aside altogether the economic war so that we could consider this matter from the real, fundamental point of view. I say that there are farmers who are not suffering because of the economic war.

Where are those farmers?

They are the farmers who are producing for the home market.

How much less are they getting for their calves?

There are certain farmers who are making most bones about the economic war and who are really not paying much towards it. I refer now to the grazing farmers.

You have some of them on your own benches.

The grazing farmers undoubtedly sold their cattle at a loss for the first year. They bought their fresh stock, however, at a lesser cost than formerly.

From the small farmers.

That is exactly the point I am coming to. They bought them from the small farmers at a price which gave them a reasonable chance. They knew the 40 per cent. was on. They bought the stock at a price which took into consideration the fact that they would have to pay the 40 per cent. or the £6 a head at the end of their period of grazing. The man who is making most of a howl about the economic war is the grazier, the man who pulls out receipts and says "I sold 100 cattle and it cost me £600. I have paid my land annuities ten times over." That man did not do it at all; as a matter of fact, it was the man below him.

What about the dairy farmer?

Might I suggest that the Minister should postpone these very contentious points until the Fifth Stage, if he must make them at all? Surely he knows that what he is saying cries out for an answer. Why introduce those matters at this stage?

Let him go on. We will answer him.

We are prepared to answer the Minister at very great length.

The Minister's statements are most interesting.

It would be wrong in those circumstances to forgive land annuities all round, because all the farmers are not suffering equally and it would be wrong to give a complete remission in respect of annuities to farmers who are not suffering. It would be wrong from the ordinary national point of view, if a man owed something to the community, to let him remain on his land free. There would be a temptation for any man to sit tight and to employ nobody. He could dig in his back garden with a spade and manage to keep himself alive. The fact that annuities have to be paid compels the farmers to produce, and that it what we want. We have not the slightest intention of forgiving the land annuities altogether. The arrears that have been funded in respect of the second gale of 1932 and the first gale of 1933 can be very well treated as a loan. There were some farmers who paid their annuities then. Some people will say that anybody who paid them during those years should get a refund. Instead of doing that we are treating the annuities that were not paid as a loan to the farmers. We regard the fact that they did not pay as a proof that they wanted a loan at 4½ per cent. If they do not want that loan they can pay the money to the Government. There is nothing to stop a farmer who does not want to pay 4½ per cent. on his arrears from paying up the arrears. There is no compulsion on him.

Except lack of capital.

If he wants capital he has got a loan at 4½ per cent. for 50 years and that is 1½ per cent. better than he can get it from the Credit Corporation.

Does the Minister not recognise that the farmers have paid those annuities already?

Some of them have.

I could agree with the Minister's argument if the economic war were settled, but while it continues, I cannot.

There are some farmers producing for the home market. They do not sell outside and they have not paid anything to England.

Surely the Minister knows that the effects of the economic war ramify through the whole of the population.

If it goes through the whole of the population, and if we are to say that it is spread out equally, then, if England were compelling us to pay the full £5,000,000 by means of taxation, we are no worse off than we were.

England is making us pay the £5,000,000 and you are insisting that we pay land annuities to your Land Commission. We are that much worse off.

The Deputy says that the effect of these payments is going through the whole community. I maintain that in those circumstances we are no worse off than if we were paying England £5,000,000.

England is making the collection and if you give a clean cut at that we are no worse off; but you want all the annuities up to the 15th July of this year and you want half the annuities afterwards. We who have to pay them will be that much worse off and that is our case.

Deputy Belton's point, therefore, is that it is a land tax.

It is, and I would like the Minister to prove that it is not.

If it is not collected on the land it will have to be collected on something else.

At last it is out.

I am not saying it is a land tax, but if Deputies want to call it a land tax, well and good.

Will the Minister deny that we are not paying the annuities to England through the economic war? Why should we be asked to pay them again to the Land Commission?

I did not go to the British Treasury to examine their figures, but, according to their figures, we paid £3,600,000 out of £5,000,000 in the first year.

That is more than the annuities; the annuities are not £3,000,000.

The Minister must be allowed to put his case. Deputies who are interrupting were not themselves interrupted and the Minister has as much right as any Deputy to make a case. That should be understood.

I think Deputies will agree that £5,000,000 a year is something worth fighting for. If any man here thought that he was owed £50 he would think it worth his while to spend a few pounds in seeking to recover it. That is what this country is doing. I think that all the Deputies in the House should keep it in mind that, if this particular economic war is over in the morning and if England can succeed by pressure of one sort or another in getting us to pay a debt which the majority of the people in this country think we do not owe and should not pay, that is only the beginning, and any time England wants to make us bow to her will and take off tariffs or sell our produce at a certain price, she can always threaten us with more taxes. We have got to stick our heels in the ground, and I believe that if Deputies in Opposition would put half the energy into helping us to make a success of this fight that they put into attacking us it would be over long ago. I know that the temptation of an Opposition is to seize on some particular point, particularly a point that is easily argued. They have been shouting "economic war" and "give us back our markets" and all the rest of it. They want us to give back the British market to the farmers of this country, and the British farmers themselves cannot get that market unless they take very drastic steps.

We are going to ask the farmers of this country to pay the 50 per cent. Look at it from this point of view: if the land of this country on which so much public money has been spent in purchasing and distributing it to certain people—or leaving it with certain people, if you like—if that land cannot pay anything, what right has one person to it more than another? A lot of the Deputies talk about Communism, but we want to see that the farmers of this country, who are utilising their land and who are paying what they can afford for it, are secure. If they pay nothing, then the temptation on the part of the men who have no land or no houses and who have nothing to eat will be to say: "Since that man is paying nothing to the State for the land, we have as much right to it as he has." This has been called a land tax. It is land security for the people who are working the land. That is what we want to see. We want to see the farmers who are working the land secure on it, and we want to see that they pay to the community what the community thinks they should. This clause is simply implementing the decision that was come to that the farmers should pay 50 per cent. of the land annuities. I do not care what arguments Deputies use down the country. I think that, if their supporters look into it, they will see that it is in the best interests of the country as a whole that half the land annuities should be collected, and that it is only right that people, who got so badly into arrears that they could not pay, should be given a chance to find their feet again.

If we started to collect all the arrears of land annuities that the Cumann na nGaedheal Government handed over to us as a bad debt we would be putting some 6,000 or 7,000 farmers out on the road. If it is immoral to forgive those annuities, why were they not collected when Cumann na nGaedheal were in office? They were handed over to us as a bad debt and if we were to enforce the collection of these annuities at the moment the only result would be that we would be rendering derelict a lot of land that is keeping families at the moment. No farmer will be called upon to pay more than 65 per cent. of his former annuity and I think it is a good thing to start with a clean sheet and give them a chance.

I want to deal, first of all, with that portion of the Minister's statement which referred to the fact that the Cumann na nGaedheal Government had not collected the Land Commission annuities. I have stated repeatedly in this House what the position was as regards the unpaid instalments as from the date when we took over the Land Commission in 1923. The sum then due, and due to the propaganda of the Front Bench, as I stated here before in this House, when, under the sign manual of the so-called Minister for Home Affairs of the Republic in 1922, people were threatened not to pay their Land Commission annuities, their income tax, and so on—when the Land Commission was taken over by this State in 1923, the total amount withdrawn from public bodies by means of the Guarantee Fund to make good the unpaid instalments amounted to £652,749. That was the sum owing, when we took over the Land Commission, in respect of the Land Acts from, one may say, 1891 to that time. After nine years the sum total of those arrears had been reduced to £526,095. That is to say, that not alone were the whole of the Land Commission annuities collected during those nine years, but there was £106,000 collected of the arrears owing. I have come to the conclusion, having listened to more than one Minister speaking on this question in this House, that they spoke without knowing what the whole thing really means. So far as the Land Commission is concerned, it is not at a penny loss. So far as the Central Fund in this country is concerned it has not contributed a single sixpence towards that. The farmers had paid in 1923 that £600,000 from the sums of money that were available for relief in rates on agricultural land provided by this State and provided, for some years before that, by the British Government when they were here. The sum and substance of the whole thing is that not alone was the whole sum paid but that £126,000 were paid off the instalments which had been unpaid when we took over the Land Commission.

There is a slightly different situation with regard to the 1923 Act. The situation is slightly different for more than one reason, and not the least of these reasons is the propaganda that had been carried on by this irresponsible Government when it was in a less responsible position than it is now in this House, when I heard in this House one of the back benchers—from Tipperary, I think—make the remark, Deputy Hogan having taxed the Opposition with having criticised the payment of Land Commission annuities, "Quite right; they should not be paid." The Minister, apparently, intended to deal with the question in a reasonable manner and asked the House to deal with it likewise. We are always prepared to do so. In the first place the Government proposal to deal with unpaid annuities is not a good business proposition. They wipe out £250,000 from the arrears. They are wiping it off the liability of the Central Fund. They will not put up 6d. towards that wiping out. They are simply saying to county councils: "we are wiping it off." I could agree that in this as in other matters we must look at it from a business-like basis. The Civil Service is not run on a business-like basis. Acts of Parliament are not on a business-like basis. Each must be administered by the State, the Executive Council of which has to report to the Dáil. There is practically no such thing as the wiping out of bad debts or irrecoverable debts. The proper course is for the State to come forward and put up each year a sum which, in their judgment, is a fair sum to regard as an irrecoverable debt in this case and relieve the county councils of the responsibility, that is if the Government think that a case for such a policy could be made. Unlike the gospel case which the Minister quoted, the gospel case I have heard of is that the person to whom the money was owed exercised the prerogative of mercy and charity. Here the Government is exercising that same prerogative of mercy and charity at somebody else's expense. If they knew anything of municipal finance they would know that they are not entitled to do it. The ratepayer of to-day may not be the ratepayer of to-morrow or next day.

The proper course to take in connection with it is to examine those cases not on a question of time, but on the question of the ability of the person to pay. No other system could possibly grow up than one in which we are going decade after decade to take into consideration people who owe arrears of instalments to the Land Commission, and every ten years we are going to wipe them off. We are going to invite defaulting annuitants, and particularly those with the Fianna Fáil financial complex, to allow their arrears to grow, seeing that the Government must come along after a period of years and wipe them out. It may be that people who are well able to pay may be allowed off. I have often heard of people well able to pay being slower in their payments than those much worse off. The only way to deal with instalments is on a business basis—examine each case on its merits. If you find a man is unable to pay through misfortune, illness or loss of stock, then, by all means, write off the arrears as irrecoverable, but let this not be done in an arbitrary manner, or in such a manner as to do injustice to somebody else. Realise that if you are going to take over responsibility for some other people's debts you have got to pay compensation to those who are deprived of money they are entitled to. The second point we were asked to consider is whether 50 per cent. was a fair reduction under the circumstances. We had from the Minister what he himself must know, and what every other member of the Executive must admit if they consider the case at all, that it is not an answer to the general body of farmers or annuitants of the country to say that a certain moiety, a certain small percentage of them have lost no money by reason of the conflict to which this Government lightly rushed this country. Not 1 per cent. of the annuitants has not lost for the past 12 months in the carrying out of their business and in the operation of their agricultural economy, even those farmers to whom the Minister has referred and described as graziers, and there are very few of them who devote themselves exclusively to grazing, or even those who bought cattle at the cheaper price which the Minister mentioned.

I have not heard, and I would be glad to hear, any of those who have made money even buying their cattle at a cheaper price. I have heard of people buying cattle at November, December and January fairs who had to admit that if they put them on the market again they would not get the price they paid for them. The country has been rushed into this conflict. I am prepared to sit down calmly and discuss the problem. Do we solve it by taking up a pen and saying: "You will only pay 50 per cent. in future?" Do we solve it by assuming for a moment that the State has a right to the ownership of the land? Do we solve it by saying that a man must pay something for the land he holds? When the Minister says that huge sums of money had been advanced by the State for the purchase of land he does not know what he is talking about. The only sum the State has provided since it came into existence was the money which was issued under the 1923 Land Act. The total sum outstanding is about £24,000,000, and the interest and the principal on that is the total liability of this State. I am taking it from the Minister's own point of view. I believe we are liable under the previous Acts under which we borrowed the money in Great Britain and that we owe it just as much, and I am prepared to assist them in any case they will make to the contrary or any negotiations he wishes to inaugurate with the British Government to point out that the country is not prepared to pay what it undertook to pay, but that it is willing to pay what it is morally or legally liable for. The situation here is that we are invited to ask the farmers to contribute annually towards the State a sum of money for the land they occupy based on some relation to the existing annuity. I do not agree the State owns the land. I take the line that if a farmer in this country undertook to purchase his land and buy out the landlord and met his obligation year after year that farmer does not owe that money to the State. The State is merely the agent for the collection of the annuities which go in their turn to liquidate the money advanced to enable land purchase to be accomplished. It is not to-day or yesterday we took up that point of view.

We have adhered to it all through. There is no such thing as an annuity which the farmer is not legally or morally bound to pay which does not go for the purpose for which it was originally collected — towards the reduction on the purchase price. If the liability under the Land Act from 1891 to 1909 falls and if there is no liability then the present holders of the land accustomed to pay their annuities have not a single penny to pay for the liquidation of that debt. It was to pay that debt that annuities were first inaugurated. If there was no debt then there is no annuity payable but there is quite a different situation in connection with the Land Act of 1923. There we owe the money. Quite a different situation ensues in connection with the Land Act of 1923. The person whose annuity is owed under that Act is liable for the amount. If it be beyond his capacity to bear the State applies its responsibility in that connection and is bound to step in; it is bound to see what can be done because agriculture is the main source of wealth in this country and unless it prospers there is no hope for the country. Would the Minister advert to the fact that in this conflict with England there are two Governments now trying to collect the same sum of money? Will the Minister remember that only £3,000,000 of the £5,000,000 are due in respect of annuities but on the farming community rests the full responsibility for the British duty? The British Government hold they are not liable for the Sinking Fund of the Land Acts of 1903, 1909 and possibly 1889.

The Minister has referred to the home market. What is the home market? Its prices are regulated by the price we get for our agricultural produce in the export market. A man gets the same price for his bullocks or cows or his sheep in the home market as he would get in the export market. If we get only 4d. a dozen for eggs from the British we might reasonably say that that regulates the price in the home market. We regulate only his loss in respect of the reduction of the sums we get for our agricultural produce in the export market. The other sum amounts nearly to the same figure, so that the position the farmer is in is that he is paying £3,600,000 to the British in respect of agricultural produce and he is practically paying the same amount here for home produce and nobody gets the benefit except perhaps the purchaser.

If we are to consider the question of the capacity or ability of the Land Commission annuitant to bear taxes of any sort we must take full stock of the present position of agriculture and even at this late hour the Minister would be very well advised to review the whole situation in the light of these circumstances and to say whether it is possible for agriculture—bearing in mind the present price for agricultural produce and live stock, to pay £2,000,000 a year in Land Commission annuities, and £3,600,000 to the British Government. That is £5,600,000 that the tenant farmer of this country is asked to pay and there is a further sum of over £100,000 for interest on something like £4,000,000 for the funded arrears. We have, then, three sums: £3,600,000 to the British, £2,000,000 to the Land Commission and £100,000 funded arrears. The agricultural industry is asked to bear nearly all that and the industry cannot afford it. Something in relief of these burdens must be given by the Government if they are going to continue this economic conflict. Economic conflicts are unwise between peoples, very, very unwise. If, as the Minister said, a man owes you £50 you will take great care to ensure that you are going to get back your money. A successful business man would ensure that the collection of the £50 would not cost £51 or £52. The time he crosses the line when it cost him more to collect a sum than the debt due is the proper time for him to trace his steps towards the mental home, and if in securing for ourselves this £5,000,000 it costs £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 a year it is not a sound proposition, and that is the sum and substance of my view. It would have been possible, in my view, during the last 12 months to have got a fair and equitable settlement of this transaction but that cannot be done unless it is approached in a commonsense, business-like manner and sound business acumen is brought in towards finding the solution.

In making arrangements for the reduction of the existing annuities and the funding of arrears due over the period mentioned in the section the Government are merely giving effect to public pledges given to the people of this country and, in supporting them, in so far as we are supporting them, we also are bearing the responsibilities that we pledged ourselves to do the same thing. Now Deputy Cosgrave, I will admit, has just made a moderate speech, more moderate than any I have listened to or read from him since the beginning of the economic war. If that type of speech had been made by Deputy Cosgrave at the commencement of the economic war I am inclined to say that from what I know of prominent public men on the other side it would have long since concluded to the satisfaction of the people of this country. If Deputy Cosgrave would not think so much about politics and would go on the lines of speeches like the moderate one he made to-day there may be some hope that some satisfactory solution of this dispute will result; a solution satisfactory to the people of this country, in the near future.

That is good news.

I read a famous speech, a speech that will go down in history, delivered by Deputy Cosgrave in the town of Naas three or four days before the conclusion of the last general election campaign. It was an offer to halve the land annuities but I have never heard Deputy Cosgrave since say or read in any speech from him how he was going to do it. Will he tell us now how he intended to do it? Where would the money come from?

It would be too much for you if I told you.

The Deputy said he could settle the dispute in three days, one day to go over to England, another day in negotiations and another day coming back. He said that he could make that settlement which would have reduced the annuities then payable by 50 per cent.

Will he tell us when he is speaking again on the issue how he proposed to find the money which would have to be found to give effect to that famous public pronouncement which he made in Naas during the last general election? I am in fairly close touch with the working farmers in my constituency and I am in fairly close touch with my constituents as a whole since I became a Deputy of this House 11 years ago, and it is five or six years since I said in this House and in the country as well that the fall in agricultural prices would compel some Government to reduce the annuities to a figure which the farmers would be able to pay. I was then satisfied that the head of any Government that would be put into office by the Irish people, or any Government in office to-day, even if no economic war had been started, circumstances so far as the land annuities were concerned would compel that Government to reduce these annuities to an economic level. Will anybody deny that except somebody who is not in touch with the farmers of the country in the last five or six years?

They are 40 per cent. worse off now.

That economic war was to be settled.

I am not going to deal with the interruptions of a Deputy who has been talking here for three or four days.

He was talking about something he knew.

I will say this, that I am in agreement with some of the points put forward by Deputy Belton.

And Deputy Davin would be in agreement with all the points if he understood them.

I never posed in this House as a person with so great a knowledge as to make me fit for the office of Minister for Agriculture, or the coming President.

Neither did I.

I have very strong personal objection to the policy of a Government which compels one set of honest working farmers or ratepayers to pay the private or public debts of others and allows another set off these payments. To that extent I am very strongly opposed to the proposal of the total remission of the land annuities. I think other ways or means should be found without granting total remission of these annuities to 7,000 or 8,000 defaulters and without having made some exhaustive inquiry as to the position of the persons concerned and their circumstances. They should be either made pay themselves or their successors should be compelled to pay them. I admit and I think every Deputy who knows the position will admit that it is very wrong that the idle ranchers —to use an expression I have heard on those benches—should get out of paying their annuities at the expense of the small hardworking farmers of the country and even at the expense of the people living in labourers' cottages. I very much object to the policy of these people being allowed to get off the payment of these arrears. If I could get any clear amendment which would give a clear right to vote against this policy of the Government I would go into the Lobby against the Government on such an issue.

That has already been ruled out.

There are numbers of people who will get rid of their responsibilities and obligations in that way. I should not wonder that these people would have the check later on to go to some members of this House and ask them to bring in a Bill to relieve them from the payment of their private debts. There is just as good a case as far as the idle rancher is concerned in asking the Dáil to give him relief against his shop debts and other local debts as to ask the local ratepayer to pay up this money for the idle rancher, and under this Bill he is being obliged to pay. I know there are included in these 7,000 or 8,000 some people who through some domestic or other reason might claim that they should not be pressed for an immediate payment of the sums due. Would it not be possible to arrange for some separate funding system which would enable the arrears of such people to be passed on to their successors or to posterity rather than compel honest farmers and cottiers to pay that money now? I would not make that statement if the Minister had answered the point raised by Deputy Belton.

Deputy Belton asked the Minister to say whether the sums deducted from the agricultural grant would be made good to the local ratepayers. The Minister did not answer that. If the Minister promised that or had given some explanation I would not be expressing myself now in the way I am expressing myself. I do not want in the course of this debate to discuss the question of the economic war. It is interesting to hear what are the views of a great many Deputies on this matter, but it would be much more interesting to me to see the time when the Ministers on the Government side and the ex-Ministers on the opposition benches would think more of their country and less of their Party. I would be more interested to see them big enough and patriotic enough to rise to that height and if they did the issue would not be one for discussion here to-day.

The note on which Deputy Davin wound up would be more appropriate in the beginning or middle of his speech than at the end. The Deputy began by heaping compliments on Deputy Cosgrave for his moderation and good feeling and then he proceeded to speak of Deputy Cosgrave and about the wrong agreements he made and the weakening influence he was having on the nation. It is fair to say of Deputy Cosgrave in connection with any undertaking which he gave about the settlement of the land annuities that he could have dispensed with the land annuities for the last 18 months since Fianna Fáil came into office at less than the increased expenditure of six millions, which the Fianna Fáil Government has imposed on the country.

When is Deputy Dillon going over to the Front Opposition Bench?

Perhaps not as quickly as Deputy Davin will move over to the back benches of Fianna Fáil. Perhaps the most important statement made on this Bill was the confession extracted from the acting Minister for Lands and Fisheries that it was the policy of the Fianna Fáil Party to impose a land tax. I invite Deputy Davin and other Deputies, who speak for the small farmers in the House, to go down and put this policy of the Fianna Fáil Party in connection with the land tax before their constituents.

Who is Deputy Dillon quoting?

I am quoting the Acting Minister for Lands and Fisheries.

I think the Deputy is quoting Deputy Belton's words.

No. The Minister was elaborating the resolution of this Government to extract land annuities in one form or another from the people regardless of the surrounding circumstances and he said they could just call it a land tax. What he said was "call it a land tax if you like."

On a point of order——

This is not a point of order.

On a point of explanation——

Very well, on a point of explanation I give way.

I do not think that Deputy Dillon wants to misrepresent me, but I think the Deputies here will recollect that what happened was this: Deputy Belton was arguing that this was a land tax and I said call it a land tax if you like.

That is exactly what I said the Minister had said.

It was Deputy Belton called it a land tax. From a general point of view I may say that I am not going to spend my time refuting every single thing said by the Opposition, and if they want to call it Bolshevism or Capitalism or any other "ism" they like I do not mind. I want to do the work here and not to spend my time refuting everything like that.

I do not want to call it Bolshevism or Capitalism but a land tax, what it is.

On a point of personal explanation. Deputy Dillon said that Deputy Smith could go down to the country and tell small farmers that the Acting-Minister for Lands and Fisheries had announced the Fianna Fáil policy of imposing a land tax. Now I think that the Deputy will realise that that is a wrong statement for him to make.

I shall not hesitate to withdraw this statement if the Minister assures this House that he had no such intention but just listen to what he subsequently said:

"A land tax if you like to call it, but whatever it is this Government will make the people who own land to pay in respect of that land what the community thinks the land should bear."

Is that a declaration that—no matter whether they are annuities or not—the community, acting through this House, will impose upon the people such tax on their land as they think the land will bear? I say that the Minister said that. If the Minister says he thinks that is not a land tax I say it is.

Call it that and claim credit for it.

I am quite prepared to let the Deputy look up the Official Report and see if he will not find a declaration by the Minister that in his opinion, call it what you like, this Government will make the owners of the land pay such sum as the community thinks the land can bear. You have the Minister beginning by saying: "If you choose to call it a land tax, call it a land tax," and he adds that paragraph. If that does not mean that the Fianna Fáil Government is prepared to impose a land tax upon the people of this country, then I do not know the meaning of the English language. I am quite well aware that the Minister is right in trying to save his face, because there is not a man on those benches who would attempt to repeat that statement in his constituency. He would be hunted out of it.

(Interruptions).

There are two or three Deputies here who persist in interrupting. I would like them to understand that the Chair does not consider it necessary to give a specific warning before taking action.

At an early stage to-day, when an amendment fixing a principle was rejected, I withdrew 15 amendments, on which I could have demanded a division, in order to facilitate the Minister in the Committee Stage of this Bill. I mention that in evidence of my good faith, and my desire to avoid obstruction. I want the House to remember that the Minister for Defence is the same Minister who got up here 12 months ago and told the members of this House and the country that the only result he could foresee from the economic war was that the farmers and the people of this country would get so fat through thriving on the economic war that a new industry would have to be started to widen the doors of Irish houses so as to let the people in and out. Deputies will remember that. That was the responsible declaration of a Minister of State, speaking from the Front Bench, when this country was being launched into the economic war. That was his contribution. This is the same Minister, who to-day had the effrontery to announce that the farmers are not suffering at all, that they buy cattle from the little farmer, that admittedly they sell them at a reduced price, but they also buy them at a reduced price. What about the little farmer from whom they bought them? What about the farmer who was getting a fair price for his eggs, for his cattle, for his pigs and for everything else that the small farmer produced in the congested areas of this country?

The Minister did not deny that that farmer is suffering.

Does he deny that they represent by far the greater bulk of the farmers of this country?

Does he deny that they represent the bulk of the people of this country?

He cannot deny it because it is true. I ask the Minister to correct me if I am wrong when I quote him as saying that the fact that the farmers have to produce the annuities makes them produce. Does he remember using that expression?

That is right.

What inducement is there to produce in order to pay our debts if the Government creates a situation in which production is made at a loss? The more you produce the more you lose. The more you produce the worse you are. The Minister is quite wrong. The fact that the farmers will have to continue producing their annuities during the course of this economic war will undoubtedly make them dependent upon Fianna Fáil doles, grants and bounties. They will have to come hat in hand to get bounties and doles from whoever they can get them from. If they do not get them they cannot pay annuities, rates or anything else. The Minister may disabuse his mind of the thought that the screw of the land annuities will make them work. They want no screw to make them work. They would be glad to work if they would be let work. They would be glad to earn their livings if they were allowed to earn them. All that the small farmers want is that the Minister, and those who are blocking their path and making it impossible for them to earn their livelihood, would get out of their way; they want no screw to make them work. They paid their land annuities ever since their fathers undertook to pay them, and they wanted no screw to make them work. They would be ready to do it again to-morrow if they were given a chance.

There are a good many more things that I should like to refer to as regards what the Minister had to say on this stage of the Bill. Perhaps it is as well for the dispatch of business that we should await another occasion. There were some things he said that had to be answered now. I think they have been pretty fairly disposed of, and I trust that if he wants to discuss the merits of the economic war again he will wait until the business we now have on hands is disposed of. He must realise that if he is going to get up and draw allusions of that kind across this discussion there are those on these benches who will get up and answer them.

After listening for six days to taunts from the two benches opposite about the economic war, the Minister took ten minutes to reply to them, and he was interrupted about 15 times while he was speaking.

That is a shock to you.

I intend to deal with a few matters. First, we are told that we are issuing a prerogative of mercy at somebody else's expense; that it is out of the ratepayers' pocket the money is coming for the three years' annuities. I grant it, in one way, but against that, what will the ratepayers gain by having those farmers put on their feet? You all know the position around your own constituencies. You know there are farmers there who have paid no rates for eight, nine or ten years, and there is no hope of getting the rates out of them. You all know that.

I, for one, do not know it.

I am not going to stick too many interruptions from you.

You put a question to us.

Put all your interruptions together and make a speech of them, and make it some time.

You will not be able to answer me when I do.

I should love to hear it. As a member of the Cork County Council, I have taken advantage of the fact that farmers were relieved of paying annuities this year. How? To make a settlement with those men who were four, five or six years' rates in arrears; to get them to pay two years' arrears and square up with them on that basis. That was all we could get from them.

That is all you could take from them in any case.

Yes, and we got those two years' arrears of rates out of them and squared up with them on that basis. We were very glad to get it, and very glad that the Minister gave us an opportunity of getting it. It is just the very self-same thing as when in 1924 we were compelled to get a loan to pay a portion of the rates in order that the Land Commission might get an opportunity of squeezing out the land annuities. It is the self-same thing; six of one and half-a-dozen of another. These people now, relieved of that expenditure, will be put in the position that in future they will be able to pay their rates and the ratepayers will gain to that extent. How could the ratepayers hope to get money out of a man who was four or five or six years behind with his annuities? They had not a ghost of a chance of getting it.

Make their successors pay. What about funding the annuities?

That is a different matter altogether. All that goes into the funding arrangement is one year's rates. That is a side of the question not looked into. When these arrangements are made it will mean that a large section of the community, who previously were not able to pay, will be able to pay their rates in future after being put on their feet. We have heard some of the old arguments about the economic war. It is the self-same story over and over again. I think Deputy Davin was right when he said if ever people opposite saw the least semblance or tendency of the economic war coming to a close they would be very anxious to wire to Mr. Thomas to prevent it. They were always ready to have the alarm bells rung whenever anyone made an attempt towards a decent settlement on this question. On all such occasions the alarm bells were rung and warnings given to Great Britain not to settle, and these warnings will be found in the official records of this House. We have seen Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney jumping up on such occasions and saying, before any arrangement could be made the half-year's annuity would have to be paid over. We had other gentlemen on the benches opposite echoing the same kind of cry. Every bullet fired by Mr. Thomas was prepared, welded and had ammunition packed behind it by Deputies on the benches opposite.

Owing to the inordinate length of the discussion of this section to-day, and yesterday, and the endless repetition of arguments about the economic war I put it to you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that you should accept a motion that the question be now put.

They do not like to hear what we have to say. Some Deputies in this House seem very anxious for the conclusion of the economic war but I will suggest as a special contribution towards that end that Deputy MacDermot should pack up his bag and leave the country.

You will not put him out of it anyhow.

We are not discussing Deputy MacDermot so I wish Deputy Corry would come back to the section.

It shows the kind of mentality that is behind this Bill.

I am not concerned much with Deputy Dillon's arguments here. He spoke about land taxes and we have been repeatedly told about the 50 per cent. taxes that the farmers are paying. When I came here first in 1927 I used to get an average of four or five farmers coming to me every month asking for a couple of months time to be allowed to pay their annuities. As a result of that I would go across and interview the Land Commission. I would say to them "if you wait until the August fair so-and-so will pay up." To give the Land Commission their due, they always gave time and acted fairly in that respect. In 1928 I had about 20 farmers following me with that kind of request. In 1929 I had about 80 and in 1930 and 1931, during the Recess, I had to come up here every week with a bag full of appeals from farmers who could not pay their land annuities. The value of the farmers' produce was taxed in these years not by 40 per cent., but it was taxed to the tune of £13,000,000, which is the difference between the 1924 and the 1931 prices.

How much are the farmers getting now?

I say that any Deputy who reads cross-Channel papers can see that even the English farmer to-day is not getting anything like for his produce what he was getting then. I quoted extracts from the Scottish markets some time ago for the education of gentlemen opposite but it does not seem to have done them any good.

They are getting 40 per cent. more than we are getting.

I am prepared to lay a level bet with you that if the economic war were settled to-morrow there would not be an increase of 20 per cent. in the price you would get.

Order. It has been pointed out to the Deputy before that he must only refer to other Deputies in the third person. These exchanges in the second person cannot be permitted.

I think Deputy Corry should be allowed to make this speech without interruption.

When I interrupted a few hours ago I was warned by the Chair——

I am referring to a different matter and the Deputy knows it. I am pointing out that there is a Standing Order which says that Deputies must be referred to in the third person.

I regret that I referred owing to interruptions and in replying to them, to Deputies in the second person. But as I was saying, the farmers were ground down year by year in their prices. Prices were falling all the time and have continued to drop. What efforts did we make during these years to give any chance to those farmers in the Free State? It does not seem to be a matter of concern to some people whether you can pay your rates or not or whether you can pay the shopkeeper or not. They do not mind that because they say: "We will make you pay it." That is their cry. That was the cry of the late Executive when they were in office. The result of it is that there are many poor fellows in the country to-day out on the roadside looking over the ditches at their derelict farms on account of that policy.

Apparently it was a crime for a man not to pay his annuities when they were being collected in order to be handed over to Britain, but it is no crime, in fact, it is the advisable and honourable thing, for a man not to pay his annuities now when the money could be used for the benefit of the Irish people. That is the policy outlined by the Opposition week after week. We would like to get at the root of this thing, to get some definite statement about the bargain to which Deputy Davin referred a while ago. Where has that bargain gone to? We were told by Deputy Cosgrave three days before the General Election that the farmers need pay no annuities until 1934 and there would then be a 50 per cent. reduction. What arrangement did he make in that connection? What pledge did he get from Britain to enable him to make that bargain? He was either honest or a rogue. If he was honest in offering those terms to the Irish people, then he must have made some agreement with Britain. It is his duty to hand over that secret agreement to the Executive Council. It might hold some advantage in settling the economic war. Where is that agreement? How was he going to do it and pay the £5,000,000? Was he going to get it out of home assistance, from labourers' cottages or from the old age pensioners? Where was he to get the money if the farmers were not to pay it?

Are we not paying the land annuities in another form to-day?

Where is Cosgrave's agreement, and who would pay the money if the farmers did not?

On a point of order. Ought Deputy Cosgrave be referred to as "Cosgrave" and, further, have these questions which Deputy Corry is asking anything to do with Section 12?

Nothing whatever. The economic war is entirely irrelevant to this debate. Further, Deputy Cosgrave should not be referred to as "Cosgrave."

Since you rule out the economic war, I am quite satisfied to let it drop.

The Acting-Minister is to blame for introducing it.

Since the economic war has been ruled out, I do not intend to refer further to it. I would like to emphasise that this section is giving the down-and-out farmer a chance of getting on his feet. That is a thing which any farmer's neighbours would be glad to approve of. If there is any honesty amongst Deputies opposite they will agree that every poor farmer is entitled to a chance. The only person who wants to see the poor fellows mulcted is the old gombeen man who lives in the vicinity and who watches to see if a man is thrown out so that he may snap up his land.

I know a few Deputies who are supporting that type of man.

There are not many. The Deputy can have a present of them. I think he already has his share of them.

We would not take them.

Deputy Corry should be allowed to speak without interruption.

I think I have put the arguments fairly. If Deputies opposite have any honesty they will demand the production of the agreement that little Willie made before the general election.

I welcome the statement made by the Acting-Minister. He certainly widened the discussion from what was strictly before the House. He mentioned that all farmers were not affected and that some farmers were doing better than before this trouble started. He instanced the case of the dairy farmer. I am sorry some of the farmers from the dairying districts did not take him up on that point. There is a very good representative of dairy farming here. If he were not here I would make an attempt to deal with the matter. As there is a Deputy here who knows the dairying business much better than I do, I will leave it to him to deal with. I do not think it is such an El Dorado for the dairy farmer as the Acting-Minister would have us believe.

The Acting-Minister made a general statement that those farmers who are producing for the home market are better off than ever they were. That is not so. I produce a good deal of stuff. Not an ounce of it was exported in recent years. Indirectly I am more affected than many people who are dealing in live stock. If I had an open field in order to go into details I could prove the statement I am making. To-day potatoes were sold in the Dublin market at 2/6 a cwt. and this is the month of July. The refuse of those potatoes is thrown out because it would not pay anybody to feed pigs, thanks to the economic war. If the Acting-Minister, who lives on the opposite side of the city to me, wants pig feeding I will give it to him at 15/- a ton, which is much better than the offals we were told by the Minister for Agriculture the other day are so valuable, the offals from sugar-beet. I will give him about 20 tons of old potatoes merely for the taking away. They would be useful for feeding pigs. He also stated that the people who are grumbling the most are the graziers. He said that, undoubtedly, they got a knock when the economic war burst on the country; that they had stock in for which they paid a certain price, and that they got a blow when the economic war came and depressed the level of prices of all live stock; but that when they cashed in and went out to buy new stock they got them proportionately cheaper. He did not go into the details, however, of how the economic war works now—that young stock are dearer proportionately than older stock. As a matter of fact, there is an increased export of calves this year over last year because of the discrimination in the tariffs in the ages of cattle. If the Minister's argument about the grazier, or the man who buys stores or weaning calves, were sound, then he would be in as good a position as he was in before the economic war, and perhaps a better position because he would be stocking his land with less capital.

The Minister should apply the principle that he wanted us to accept here one day about the bounties. Just on the question of bounties I will say this: if the grazier and the cattle exporter—they are pretty well one and the same persons—are as well off as they were before the economic war, and it is only the small farmer and producer who is hit, has the Minister not come a long way to the argument put up from these benches here that the bounty should be applied to the relief of the small farmer directly instead of having it filter down from the cattle exporter and the grazier who, the Minister told the House to-day, are better off now than before the economic war? He has made a case for it, unconsciously, perhaps, in dealing with another aspect of this question, but the Minister knows that the economic effect of a reduction in the price of the stuff we have to sell, say, 40 per cent., is not exactly a 40 per cent. imposition on a bullock, or on a heifer, on a cow, or on a pig. It is 40 per cent. reduction on the production of this country and on the raw material of this country. It is a 40 per cent. capital levy on this country. The value of the amount of food, let it be grass or hand feeding, that a bullock will require for six months, has been reduced 40 per cent. If the Minister will only think for a moment he will see the economic force of that. So that, the whole thing has been distributed in that way and no farmer is better off than he was before the economic war, nor could he possibly be. The dairying industry got an artificial fillip and that industry is better off now, or perhaps a little better off, than if nothing were done to it and there had been no economic war, considering the world price of butter.

I do not differ very widely from the Minister when he came to deal with the remission of annuities and said that if we made a good bargain with Great Britain on these annuities perhaps the State should benefit largely rather than individuals who held land —whether bought land or inherited land—subject to a certain annuity. What I should like the Minister to come closer to is the problem that is confronting us to-day and that was contained in and being dealt with in the section of the Land Bill that has given rise to this discussion; that is, that we are paying the annuities in another form to Great Britain. They are leaving our pockets. We have to procure them and when we discharge that liability, either by seizure or otherwise, how can the Deputy Minister in equity come to this House and claim that we should pay 50 per cent of those annuities again? I would not find much in which to differ with the Minister if he showed that we are not paying the annuities at all to England and that that portion of it is wiped out.

Sir, I desire to draw your attention to the fact that there is not a quorum at present in the House.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted and 20 Deputies being present

It should not be a question of making a man pay something for land. The case that has been made from this side is that we have been paying too much and more than we were bound, in equity, to pay— more than our contractual liability. I think the Deputy Minister has been somewhat shaken in the beliefs he held prior to this discussion. This discussion, obviously, has made an impression on him and shattered little idols he had set up to direct his line of conduct in these matters. It might be as well to leave those things to work themselves out in the mind of the Minister, or perhaps, the minds of the Ministers, rather than to push them through an open door. I will not deal with the question of whether the Minister admitted that this 50 per cent. which you cannot call a land annuity, is not being paid to liquidate any land purchase debt. The machinery is provided in this Bill and in the Land Bond Act complementary to this Bill and which must be read with this Bill, and the Land Bond Bill must be read with all the Land Acts, and all the revenue accruing from this 50 per cent. alleged land purchase annuity will find its way direct into the Exchequer. Provision is being made also for the redemption of that 50 per cent. of alleged annuity to anybody who wants to redeem his annuity. The redemption price will go directly to the Exchequer so that it has all the characteristics of a tax and none of the characteristics of a land annuity. Why should it have any of the land purchase annuity when these land purchase annuities are finding their way to the destination they always found their way to, only that the method of collection is somewhat different? The case put up here is that while these are being paid by the farmers, no other authority should ask to collect them either in whole or in part. I am sorry the Minister is not here to address himself to that point. He came very much closer to that than any Minister, including the Deputy Minister himself, that I have heard speaking in this House. He appealed for a better atmosphere, a quieter and calmer atmosphere, to discuss this matter. That calmer atmosphere will be always here if he would add to that a saner atmosphere, but from this side we are not going to support the paying of the debt twice, even a fractional payment—I will not say a vulgar fractional payment.

I do not intend to prolong the debate as I agree with Mr. McDermot that it has been prolonged, but the Minister has rather challenged us in regard to the dairy question. I have no intention of getting myself ruled out of order but I should like to deal with one of the statements of the Minister.

The Minister was bringing you on the milky way.

When a proper time did occur in this House in discussing the question of butter bounties the Minister for Agriculture definitely promised that a day would be given for a discussion of the whole dairy question and the Minister would make a statement. That day has not yet arrived nor have we heard anything more about it. We are prepared to discuss it with the Minister for Agriculture any day he likes but certainly not with the Minister in charge of this Bill who knows nothing whatever about the subject.

Question—"That Section 12 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.

With regard to Amendment 39, I notified the Ceann Comhairle that there were certain amendments consequent on Section 23 which I did not propose to move.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 13 stand part of the Bill."

I assume this relates to annuities under the Acts of 1881 to 1891. I should like to know what is the position of a tenant on whose holding there is an annuity in respect of a drainage rate. I do not know if such annuities have been consolidated with land purchase. In the Land Commission I heard of some cases where they were consolidated and I am wondering how it is proposed to deal with them in this particular section.

The Attorney-General

I am not in a position to say whether there are such annuities and I will have it looked into, as I am sure there is no intention of differentiating.

Shall we come back to this section again at a later stage?

I will call the Minister's attention to the matter.

He will deal with it on the Report Stage?

Question put, and agreed to.
SECTION 14.
(4) The Land Commission shall, at such times and in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct, pay to the several persons entitled thereto the following sums in so far as they shall not have been otherwise paid to such persons, that is to say:—
(a) all arrears of interest in lieu of rent proceedings for the recovery of which are prevented by this section from being commenced or from being further prosecuted or proceeded with or a judgment or decree for the payment of which is by this section rendered void; and
(b) a sum equal to the amount paid by each tenant purchaser in respect of each gale of interest in lieu of rent accruing after the first gale day in the year 1933.
(5) This section does not apply to arrears of interest in lieu of rent payable in respect of a holding which was vested in the purchaser before the 15th day of July, 1933.
Amendments 50 and 57 not moved.

Mr. Rice

I move amendment 59:—

In sub-section (4), (b), line 19, to delete the word "paid" and substitute therefor the word "payable."

The position as regards that section is that the Land Commission take the sole right to collect annuities and the sub-section as worded provides that the owner is to receive only the amount of money paid to the Land Commission. The hardship I see in that case is that the right is taken away from the owner to collect himself, and the only money he is entitled to receive under the sub-section as it stands is the money actually paid to the Land Commission. The right is in the Land Commission to collect, therefore, and in them alone, and the money can be collected because they have the machinery to collect it. Nobody else has and nobody else can collect it. My amendment is that they should get the amount of the money legally collectable and payable. Under the sub-section they will not get it if the Land Commission did not collect the full amount. The owner has no remedy—he is deprived of his rights of collection himself and at the same time he is deprived of his right to the amount. I think the difficulty there ought to be met because the right to collect is taken away and the only thing he can receive is a sum paid to the Land Commission. I think the Minister could meet the point by accepting my amendment or by making some other amendment; perhaps he could think of a better one to meet the difficulty.

The Attorney-General

I imagine this amendment is out of order but the position with regard to payments of interest in lieu of rent is there are 151 tenants who are liable for payment in lieu of rent and they are collectable in half-yearly instalments amounting in the aggregate to £358. They are a very small class. As the law stands the Land Commission are only bound to pay over what they actually collect. What will happen now is that this payment will be reduced by 50 per cent.; 50 per cent will be payable by the Government and if the other 50 per cent. is collected it will be paid over.

Mr. Rice

If it is not collected the owner has no remedy. Will the Attorney-General consider the point and if he sees that we are right will he introduce an amendment on the Report Stage?

The Attorney-General

I do not think I can give such an undertaking.

Mr. Rice

The owner is deprived under the section of his right to collect himself money that is collectable and still he has no remedy if the Land Commission fail to collect.

If the Attorney-General is correct that the Land Commission is only liable for the amount of interest in lieu of rent that is actually collected, then, of course, his position is logical, but that is not the view I take. I thought that the Land Commission was liable for the actual interest whether it was collected or not. Has the Attorney-General any reference?

The Attorney-General

Section 35 of the Act of 1899.

Mr. Hogan

Under the 1909 and the 1903 Acts it is also collectable as far as I know and the Land Commission is liable for the full amount of interest.

The Attorney-General

I do not think there is any difference in the provisions under the later Acts, the 1896 Act is the basis of the later Acts. I have not got the Section with me.

Mr. Hogan

If the Attorney-General says that the Land Commission is liable only for the amount of interest in lieu of rent that they collect, it is news to me. I always thought that the Land Commission had to pay the full amount of interest whether they collect it or not, and I would like to be sure on that point.

The Attorney-General

I think that I am in a position to assure the Deputy on that point. Perhaps the Deputy is confusing that with payment in lieu of rent.

Mr. Hogan

That is under the 1923 Act. I am talking of interest in lieu of rent.

Mr. Rice

Will the Attorney-General look into the matter on the Report Stage if he is satisfied that our view is right?

Mr. Hogan

I am certain almost that interest in lieu of rent is payable to the full. It was collected on a receivable order before vesting in the 1903 and 1909 Acts and paid direct to the owner of the lands until such time as it was vested. I am certain that the full amount was always paid.

Mr. Rice

I take the view that what Deputy Hogan said is right. Will the Attorney-General introduce an amendment if he finds that our view is correct?

The Attorney-General

I do not think so. The number of cases is very small.

This amendment will impose a charge on State funds.

Mr. Rice

I submit no. This is a proposal that money which is legally payable and collectable should be paid to the persons who are entitled to receive it. There is no proposal that a State should make good any deficiency in funds. It is only for the State to ensure that the money collectable should be handed over to the persons entitled to it.

The Ceann Comhairle decided to hear the Deputy on the point as to whether it was or was not a charge on the State funds and not on the merits of the amendment and I cannot say that the Deputy has convinced me that it would not come as a charge on State funds if this amendment were accepted.

The Attorney-General

That is quite clear. State funds would be liable in the event of failure to collect.

Mr. Hogan

Assuming that it was admitted that they did not; as the law stands at present the Land Commission before this Act——

Before the Deputy goes further, there is a Standing Order and as the Deputy is not a member of the Executive Council he is not entitled to move an amendment that will impose a charge on State funds.

Mr. Hogan

I think it is existing legislation that is doing it. If I am right, what you are doing here is you are taking a charge off the State that used to be on it. If it is out of order to move an amendment that that charge shall remain I have nothing further to say. I think you are taking a charge off State funds that was there already.

The Attorney-General

I can assure Deputy Hogan that he is wrong in his view.

The Deputy had not convinced me that it would not ultimately come as a charge on State funds.

Mr. Rice

I wish that the Attorney-General would go into the matter before the Report Stage and if we are right would introduce an amendment himself. There is an alternative course here that people who are deprived of the right of collecting money that is due to them by an Act of this legislature might be given the choice that if the Land Commission do not collect them they ought to get the right to collect them themselves. There are alternatives to the course suggested here.

Amendment ruled out of order.

I move amendment 59a:—

To delete sub-section (5).

Amendment agreed to.
Section 14, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 15.
Question proposed: "That Section 15 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Dillon is not moving amendment 61, to delete sub-section (2)?

Amendment 61 not moved.
Section 15 agreed to.
SECTION 16.
(3) The amount payable by the tenant or allottee in respect of any gale accruing after the first gale day in the year 1933 of any rent or interest on purchase money to which this section applies shall—
(a) in the case of interest payable by an allottee in respect of a parcel of land purchased under the Irish Land (Provision for Sailors and Soldiers) Act, 1919, or under the Land Act, 1923, or any Act amending or extending that Act, be 45 per cent. and no more of the full amount of such gale; and
(b) in every other case, be 50 per cent. of the full amount of such gale.

I move amendment 79:—

In sub-section (3), (a), line 6, after the word "land" to insert the words "which was" and in line 7, after the word "or" to insert the words and figures, "was, on the 28th day of June, 1933, vested in the Land Commission."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 80:—

In page 13, before sub-section (4) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(4) The next preceding sub-section of this section shall apply to rent or interest on purchase money notwithstanding that the price at which the Land Commission is prepared to sell the holding in respect of which such rent or interest is payable in an enhanced price owing to expenditure by the Land Commission on improvements, but the said sub-section shall not apply to any rent or interest on purchase money payable wholly in respect of expenditure for improvements sanctioned specifically after the 28th day of June, 1933, for the improvement of a holding or parcel of untenanted land, nor to so much of any rent or interest on purchase money (payable partly in repayment of such expenditure) as is attributable to such expenditure.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 16, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Hogan

Is it clear that the term "rent" there includes rent payable under lettings for temporary convenience? Sub-section (1) says that "the following provisions shall have effect in relation to proceedings by the Land Commission," and so on. This is a point similar to what I made before. Most of the tenants who have not their holdings vested are holding under lettings for temporary convenience. Are these covered?

The Attorney-General

We are satisfied that these are covered.

Section 16, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 17.
(g) in every case to which the next preceding paragraph does not apply, the amount so ascertained of the said costs and expenses together with so much of such arrears as is equal to three times the yearly amount of such rent shall be a funded debt within the meaning of this section and shall be payable in the manner provided by this section and not otherwise and the residue of such arrears shall not be payable by the sub-tenant;
(h) if a funding annuity is charged on the holding, then—
(i) if the sum payable by means of the portion of such funding annuity charged on the separate holding of the sub-tenant is equal to the funded debt, the sub-tenant shall be entitled to credit for the funded debt as against the sum paid by means of the said portion of such funding annuity, or
(j) the Land Commission shall, at such times and in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct, pay to the person entitled to the said arrears of rent and costs and expenses a sum equal to so much (if any) of the said arrears as is not included in the funded debt, together with that part (if any) of the funded debt for which the sub-tenant is not entitled to credit under the foregoing paragraphs of this section;

I move amendment 88:—

In paragraph (g), lines 13 and 14, to delete the words "by the sub-tenant."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 90:—

In paragraph (h), line 15, after the word "holding" to insert the words "the Land Commission shall apportion it between the separate holdings into which the holding has been divided and."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 91:—

In paragraph (j), page 14, to delete all words from the word "so" in line 50 to the word "with" in line 52.

What is the significance of that amendment?

It enables the Land Commission to apportion the funded annuity or the undivided portion of annuities into the amounts applicable to the parts in occupation of the sub-tenant.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 18.
(1) Where the owner of land applies to the Land Commission in the prescribed manner for such order as is hereinafter mentioned and satisfies the Land Commission that such land—
(a) is substantially agricultural or pastoral or partly agricultural and partly pastoral in character; and
(b) is in such owner's own occupation; and
(c) is used and cultivated by such owner as an ordinary farm in accordance with proper methods of husbandry; and
(d) is subject to an annual payment to which this section applies, the Land Commission shall ascertain the amount (if any) of the arrears of such annual payment due and owing in respect of such land on the first gale day after the passing of this Act and shall make an order declaring the amount so ascertained of such arrears to be payable by means of a funding annuity to be set up by such order and (whether any such arrears are or are not due and owing as aforesaid) revising such annual payment by reducing by 50 per cent. the amount of all gales of such annual payment accruing after the said gale day.

I move amendment 94:—

In sub-section (1), line 39, after the word "arrears" to insert the words "or an amount equal to three times the amount of such annual repayment, whichever is the less."

Amendment agreed to.
Section 18, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 19.
(1) Every advance made under the Land Purchase Acts on or after the date of the passing of this Act to a purchaser in pursuance of an agreement to purchase entered into or deemed to have been entered into by him (whether before or after the passing of this Act) shall be repayable by means of a purchase annuity of such amount as would have been payable if this Act had not been passed.

I move amendment 103:—

In sub-section (1), to insert at the end of the sub-section the following words "and such purchase annuity shall be deemed to be the first or original annuity referred to in Section 5 of the Finance Act, 1923 (No. 21 of 1923).

What is the significance of that? What is the point of bringing in Section 5 of the Finance Act of 1923? Is it for income tax purposes?

The Attorney-General

The Deputy will remember that Section 5 of the Finance Act of 1923 was introduced to meet the position which was created by the annuities. There was formerly income tax payable on land purchase annuity or the rateable value, and the situation arose under a case which was decided in the High Court. The insertion of that would make the income tax payable on the original purchase annuities.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment 104:—

At the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(4) In this section the expression "purchase annuities" includes annual sums and additional sums payable under either Section 9 or Section 27 of the Land Act, 1931.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Hogan

Sub-section (1) is clear enough that the annuities will be fixed in the future as in the past. Sub-section (2) deals with the question of the percentage of the annuity to be paid in the future. The sub-section specifies that the annuity shall be either 45 per cent. or 50 per cent of the full amount of the old annuity. That is clear enough. That the future annuities will be 50 per cent or 45 per cent. of the actual annuity fixed. Then it makes a certain exception. That exception is in regard to annuities fixed under Section 11 of the Land Act of 1927. That is one of the Acts which deal with fee farm grants and long leases. There are other sections and other Acts which deal with fee farm grants. In fact fee farm grants are dealt with now to a very great extent under Section 44 of the Land Act of 1931. They are dealt with if the rent of the lessee or grantee is not less than a third term judicial rent and I suggest to the Minister that that particular section of the Act of 1931 should be quoted here as well.

That is repealed by Section 28.

Mr. Hogan

No, only one clause of it is repealed. Section 44 is a very important section. Section 44 will be in use after this Act is passed. It is clearly the intention there to give a certain benefit to fee farm grantees and lessees. That was clearly the intention, because Section 11 of the Act of 1927 is quoted, and it gives those benefits to people who purchased under Section 11. That section is now practically out of date. It is out of date we will say. All the fee farm grantees can now apply under Section 44. I suggest that it was clearly the intention of the Minister to give those benefits to a fee farm grantee or a lessee who purchased under Section 44 of the Land Act of 1931, and I would suggest for the Minister's consideration that there should be inserted there "otherwise than under Section 11 of the Land Act of 1927 and Section 44 of the Land Act, 1931." That is only a minor point. The real point I want to draw the attention of the House to is that under that section every annuitant in the future will be paying only half the annuity that is fixed on his land, with one exception, and that exception is the annuitant who owns land in fee simple, who sells that land to the Land Commission, and who repurchases that land.

Or part of it.

Mr. Hogan

Or part of it. That is a most extraordinary exception to make, and I want to put this matter very seriously to the Ministry, because I think they are doing a very grave injustice, and the amount of money involved is practically nothing. I know farmers who since 1931 purchased fee simple land. They purchased 50 or 100 acres. They purchased it when times were fairly good, in 1921, 1922 or 1923, and they purchased it to some extent with borrowed money. They hold that land now, and have to pay interest on the overdraft in the bank. This Bill does not relieve them in any way—good, bad or indifferent. Some of them are men who own other small farms, on which they live,—maybe 20 or 30 acres—and they have 50 or 100 acres of fee simple land which they bought with borrowed money. That money is, to a great extent, owing still. It is open to them, perhaps, to offer that land to the Land Commission. The Land Commission might buy it, and resell it to them. They would resell it to them unless it was required for the relief of congestion. I do not mind what safeguard you put in to empower the Land Commission to hold land, if it is offered to them, for the purpose of relieving congestion or any other legitimate purpose under the Act. Suppose they resell that land to the owner, he pays the full annuity. He is the only annuitant in the country who must pay the full annuity on his farm.

If a lessee is given the right to purchase his land it becomes tenanted land.

Mr. Hogan

Certainly.

And therefore he gets the benefits under Section 12.

Mr. Hogan

Certainly. That is the reason I dealt with that point first. I admit that there the lessee or fee farm grantee gets all the benefits. The point I suggest is that as well as quoting Section 11 of the Land Act of 1927 you should quote Section 44 of the Land Act of 1931, because that is the section under which most grantees and lessees repurchased their lands. I admit that if you do that, so far as grantees and lessees are concerned my point is absolutely met. They get all the benefits. Now I am dealing with another class. That is the class who are not lessees or grantees, but who own land in fee simple, small holdings of 50 or 60 acres which they purchased recently. It was open to the Land Commission to buy that land from them, and resell it to them. If it does resell to them the full annuity is fixed, and they will be in the invidious position of being the only annuitants in the country who are paying the full interest and sinking fund on the full purchase money.

The Attorney-General

They will have the purchase money in their pockets.

Mr. Hogan

In fact they have not the purchase money in their pockets. Not at all. That is, if you like, a valid point, and we will examine it from that point of view. What is the position? The full purchase money will go to the banks—to the National Bank, the Bank of Ireland or the Munster and Leinster Bank. The money will go there. Not one penny of it will go into their pockets in most cases. For the last eight or nine years they had to pay 6 per cent. interest on that money, while the annuitants had to pay only 3½ per cent. They get no relief. They are not big landowners at all; they are simply small and middle-sized farmers such as you will find in Wexford, Kilkenny, and in Waterford to a great extent, with 50, 60 or 70 acred farms. They bought that land to a great extent with borrowed money, perhaps long before 1921 or 1923. For the last nine years they have been paying interest on that money. I will come back to that section which we dealt with before, it says:

Where the owner of land applies to the Land Commission in the prescribed manner for such order as is hereinafter mentioned and satisfies the Land Commission that such land—

(a) is substantially agricultural....

It is substantially agricultural;

(b) is in such owner's own occupation;

It is in such owner's own occupation.

(c) is used and cultivated by such owner as an ordinary farm in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry;

It is. That land exactly satisfies all the regulations set out in that section. If you like to safeguard the Land Commission by putting in this clause well and good, but I do say that that particular class, who are ordinary farmers, who have been paying 6 per cent. interest on the money since perhaps 1920, and who are getting no benefits at all under this Act, should not have taken from them the very small benefit which you might give them under the general scheme of the Act by reducing the annuity to half. As a rule they are very enterprising farmers. They bought a bit of land for their sons or for themselves. They hold it now, and have been paying interest during the last ten years. They get none of the advantages which you are giving the annuitants under this Act, but you are taking away the advantage which they might get from the Land Commission by putting in that clause.

I put that very strongly to the Minister. Why should you discriminate against them? What is the reason for discriminating against them? The amount of money involved is relatively small; there is a big number of them, but they do not own a big lot of land. They should, at least, get that benefit from the Land Act. I know people who have come to me and said: "Look here! We have a small bit of land, 50 or 60 acres. We are getting absolutely nothing. We are working this land as ordinary farmers. We cannot complain about our 6 per cent. interest; we have to pay it every year and pay a bit of the principal as well." Why should they not be considered?

The Deputy realises that in the ordinary process of the acquisition of untenanted land the Land Commission bought out a landlord who had a large amount of land and sold a portion of it back. He has paid the full value and he gets an advance from the Land Commission to purchase. He gets the full value of his land. Why should the annuities be halved in the case of the landlord?

Mr. Hogan

Might I not say the same thing in the case of the tenant who buys his landlord's interest in the land? He bought it under the Act of 1903 and he bought it at 2½ per cent. interest. Where are the landlords you mentioned? For every case of the landlord who is going to be resold his land, there are 50 cases of what would be ordinary farmers—men with 20, 50 or 100 acres of land. You are ruling them out because who do not want to bring in what you call a landlord. I think that is most unfair. If the Land Commission approached this question from the point of view of trying to solve it you could get a section similar to Section 18 giving preferences, where the land is substantially agricultural, where it must be in the owner's occupation, and where it must be used and cultivated by the owner as an ordinary farm in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry. You have all these fee-simple farms. I am concerned with a very big number of fee simple owners, farming as ordinary farmers and who got no concession from any Government for the last ten years. Imagine their position; they have got absolutely no concession.

They have no annuities to pay.

They have bank debts to pay.

Is not a bank debt a completely different proposition? There are bank debts not alone on fee-simple farms but on annuity farms as well. Bank debts raise a very much bigger question. But these people have no rents or annuities to pay.

Mr. Hogan

That is a very technical way of putting it. These are people who bought their lands with bank money. While they have no payment to make to the Land Commission, instead of 15/- and 16/- an acre they are paying 35/- and 40/- an acre. They are paying that undoubtedly. They never felt they would get anything from the Land Commission or the State. They were self-reliant people, and they did their work. After all you have your interest in the working farmer, and these are the best type of working farmers. I am not insinuating anything revolutionary. The Land Commission have always the power to buy and resell to the farmer. Is that admitted?

They have done it in this case.

Mr. Hogan

They have done it if you like for what you would call the landlord. I find it hard to define a landlord of the kind you mean. Why should they differ from that other class? Previous acts did not make a distinction between landlords and farmers. They gave power to the Land Commission to do this. They exercised this power, and, to a great extent, for any type of fee-simple owner giving employment, tilling his land and so on, and who had not too much of the world's goods. I am asking you to extend the principle. Remember that and realise it! I am asking you to extend this principle. What you are doing is this: You are limiting it in fact. You are taking certain powers now in regard to all annuitants under this Act, and after taking this power you are going to make exceptions against a certain class. That is my answer when you say I am raising a bigger question. I do not think I am. I am asking you to take these powers in regard to a class you could have dealt with already. I am not insinuating any new legal principle or opening up any liabilities for the Land Commission that they have not already. I am asking you why are you limiting these powers you are now taking by excluding a certain deserving class.

Who are already excluded.

Mr. Hogan

If that is the attitude there is no use in my talking.

The Attorney-General

It seems to me always that when an owner got an advance from the Land Commission to enable him to purchase his land he got, as a fact, money at a very cheap rate. He got it at just 3¾ per cent., and that was a very great benefit. In many cases owners of estates got considerable sums, under one of the Acts up to £20,000. The effect was to put at the disposal of the landlord, an owner of a demesne, say, who might be in difficulties, money to the extent of £20,000 at a much less rate of interest than he could borrow from the banks. I am not impressed by the suggestion that the Deputy is making that we should go much further than we are going, and put at the disposal of the owner of land money at half of 4½ per cent., for that is roughly what it would mean. He argues that a good many of these fee-simple owners are burdened with bank debts. They have borrowed money from the banks, as I said in my interruption, but when they sold to the Land Commission they had the purchase money in their pockets, and they can at least do this with the purchase money: They can go to the banks and either considerably reduce their debts or wipe their debts out altogether. It is true that in substitution for bank interest they will have annuities, which will be payable to the Land Commission. What they will be able to do is this: Many of them will be able to reduce their bank liability, which at the moment is at the rate of 6 or 7 per cent. I do not think it is much less than 7 per cent. They will substitute for that liability to the bank, a 4½ per cent. payment to the Land Commission, and that is a very considerable advantage.

I suggest to the Deputy they are not at all in the same position as a tenant, although he makes a very ingenious case. We did consider this particular case, and it was deliberately excluded considering all the circumstances I have mentioned. Even though you do suggest that the small man should be considered and should get some benefit, I suggest that when he gets the purchase money into his pocket, and is enabled to reduce his liability to the extent of that amount, and has only to pay 4½ per cent. afterwards, he is doing quite well, and that it is quite unreasonable to ask the Government to give him any further benefit. Certainly I do not follow the case of the Deputy that he should be put on the same level as annuitants who are now to have their annuities cut in half. I see the same objection to this amendment as against the amendment of Deputy O'Sullivan.

Mr. Hogan

You say he is doing quite well. Of course, the whole basis of this Bill is that the farmers are in considerable difficulty now and cannot pay their annuities. For that reason all farmers' annuities are to be reduced by half. There is sufficient agreement between the Government and the Opposition to see that you must, at least, give that assistance, but we say you must go further. It is agreed that as a concession to the bad times, at the moment, they must be reduced by half. But here is the only man who gets nothing. The Attorney-General mentioned the man who gets £20,000. How many of them are left in the country? They were big landowners who got advances up to £20,000. Are you dealing with a situation like that just now? If you think there should be a limitation to the amount of the advance put it down in the Bill. Make it £2,000, the amount you mentioned in another section of the Bill. There is no question of £20,000 now. I suggest it is unfair to deal with the case I put, by dealing with it on this basis that only one class of persons will get benefit. I think that is most unfair. You can rule a man out if you like by putting any limitation you like into the Bill. You can rule him out by making £2,000 or £3,000 the limit of your advance. You can further ensure that you are dealing with the particular class that I am concerned to deal with by putting in provisions regarding a residential holding or working the farm as an ordinary farm. I am not arguing the case of the man with £20,000 worth of land. I am arguing the case of the comparatively small man.

Take, as an instance, the cases of two men. One bought a holding subject to an annuity. He purchased it, to some extent, with borrowed money. He is very lucky. His arrears are either funded or wiped out and his future annuity is reduced to half. The other man bought fee-simple land, also with borrowed money. They are exactly the same type of farmer, but under this measure they are treated differently. One gets all the advantages and the other is penalised. Why should that be done? What I would like the Attorney-General to do is to drop definitely the case he is making of the man with £20,000 worth of land. Put in any provision you like that will rule him out, and that will ensure you are dealing with the ordinary farmer.

The Attorney-General

I did not intend to make that a typical case. I merely instanced it.

Mr. Hogan

The Attorney-General's argument rested largely on that type of case. He said such a man would get cheap money and should be content. Any man with £20,000 worth of land who could get cheap money ought to be content. Let us come down to the ordinary farmer in exactly the same position as his next door neighbour, who is subject to an annuity. The man living next door and subject to the annuity is getting these concessions. Why should he? On what basis is he getting the concessions? Is it that he is a better farmer? I hold that he is no better farmer. He got borrowed money also. Why should not the type of man I mention get the concessions as well? He is as good a type of farmer; he is hardworking. Even if you do as I ask, he will not get anything like the same concessions with regard to arrears. His concessions will only be in the future. I cannot understand why the distinction is being made. The Government can put in any preliminary conditions they like so as to ensure that these particular concessions will go to the type of farmer for which they are intended, the man who is getting them as an annuitant.

In dealing with this point, has the Deputy considered the position of persons who redeemed their annuities?

Mr. Hogan

That will arise later.

The Attorney-General

Ought not all those amendments be taken together?

Mr. Hogan

I agree.

Is it the desire of the House to deal with all analogous cases or wait until various amendments arise?

Mr. Hogan

The suggestion from the Government Benches is that we should deal with this and Deputy O'Sullivan's amendments together, amendments 161-2-3.

If the principle is accepted, it might be necessary to have an amendment to the section.

It is better to have the matter discussed now. If a division is challenged, it can be taken on the section. If the section passes, we may take it that other amendments of that description fall.

Mr. Hogan

The suggestion apparently is that we should discuss the principle I have raised on Section 19, and also amendments 162 and 163.

The point that occurs to me is that all these farmers originally belonged to one class, the tenant farmers of this country. Some are purchased annuitants. They are paying annuities in the process of purchasing their holdings under the various Land Purchase Acts. Others of them acquired fee-simple land. A variety of circumstances has produced a state of affairs in which you have two neighbours who, under the provisions of this Bill, will receive entirely different treatment. The man who borrowed money from the Government and is repaying it by way of annuity is getting a very substantial concession. For exactly the same purpose and under very similar circumstances a man who was a little more enterprising than his neighbour bought a piece of land to add to his holding and he borrowed money from the bank to do it. He is going to get no concession at all. As I understand the reservation that is made here, he is going to be debarred from applying to the Land Commission to acquire his holding and pay him the purchase price of it, and then allow him to rebuy it by way of annuity under the advantageous terms described in this Bill.

I am concerned with another type of person, of whom there cannot be very many in this country. I refer to the tenant purchaser who redeemed his land annuity at the earliest possible moment he could. When the Land Acts were passing through, one of the great difficulties was to finance them. It was then deemed the patriotic thing, if you were in a position to do it, to redeem your land annuity so as to relieve the burden of borrowing as much as possible. It was a difficult thing to extract money from the British Government to finance these operations. The less money it was necessary to dig out of the Government, the less public credit that had to be pledged, the easier it was to get the job done. I think the Attorney-General will confirm me when I say there was a time when it was considered in the best interests of the country that any farmer in a position to redeem his land annuities ought to do it.

A great many well-meaning men did that. If these men said "We are not prepared to do any more than our neighbours are doing", they would be getting benefits under this Act. I think I am right in saying that; but simply because they were anxious to help and to do their part in speeding up land purchase and facilitating the operation of the Land Purchase Acts— they stepped into the breach and paid up all they owed—they are going to get nothing at all. They are going to get no concession at all. I imagine that a concession similar in principle to the one advocated by Deputy Hogan should be made available to these people also so that they might get the benefit of this Bill. These people made this patriotic gesture although we are told nowadays that in those days there were not any patriots at all. Of course, in the 19th century people were able to prove their patriotism through their pockets. They are not always quite so ready to do so now. These persons, however, who did give a proof of their patriotism through their worldly goods, now find that, having done that, they are called upon to pay, not a half of their annuities now but the whole of their neighbours' annuities, because, remember, that these unfortunate people are all sharing the burden of the economic war.

The Attorney-General

Do not let us get back to that.

I do not want to. I will not make another reference to it except to ask that, considering these people's case, the Minister will bear in mind that whatever burden is falling upon the tenant purchaser, this class to which I refer is sharing that burden too. I do not think it is a very large class. I think they are a peculiarly deserving type of people and that they are entitled to expect some special recognition from the State after the fight is over. They were the very best type of people in the land war. They were ready to take all the knocks in the fight and, when the time came that they could help by redeeming their land and pledging their worldly goods, they were willing to do that. All I ask is that there should be as much consideration shown to the men of the 'eighties and the 'nineties who pledged their property in order to help on the good work as the Government is so anxious to show to the industrious farmers of 1927, 1928 and 1929. On the same ground, Deputy Davin asked for consideration for the evicted tenants and I join with him on that. I am even willing to go two years more than the Deputy.

Why not 500?

No. The boys who took the first wallops are the best. They showed the way.

That amendment is not being discussed now.

I hope we do not wander into the question of evicted tenants.

I was only drawing an analogy between the evicted tenants, who were the best quality of those who fought in the land war, and the persons of whom I speak here, who were the best quality of the annuity payers and who were willing to lend a hand with their worldly goods after they did their part in the land war itself. I ask for special consideration for this deserving class of people.

Deputy Hogan's suggestion on this section is covered by the amendments which Deputy O'Sullivan has down to insert two new subsections later on. One is to the effect that where the annuity on land has been redeemed and the land is held by an ordinary farmer and farmed according to the proper methods of husbandry the Land Commission may purchase such land and re-sell it to the owner. The other is that where land is held in fee simple by an ordinary farmer and farmed according to the proper methods of husbandry the Land Commission may purchase it and re-sell it to the owner.

These are amendments 162 and 163?

Yes. Where it is held by an ordinary farmer and farmed according to the ordinary methods of husbandry the Land Commission should be empowered to purchase and re-sell it. Automatically, land in fee simple is vested in the Land Commission on the appointed day, and if they do not want it they have to offer it to the owner for sale.

I wonder would the Minister agree to have the principle raised by Deputy Hogan discussed on these amendments rather than on the section?

I think we had better finish it now on this section.

All fee simple land is automatically vested on the appointed day in the congested districts. As a matter of fact, the Land Commission do not appoint a day unless they want the land. Where they do declare that they want the land—it may be a large demesne or a small demesne or even a small farm—they sometimes give the owner the option of purchasing portion of the estate back, but if we are going to do that all over the country it is going to be a big strain on the public purse. It is another way of advancing credit to farmers. There are several types of farmers besides the fee simple farmers who are going to get very little out of this. You have the fee simple owner and you have the man who redeemed these land annuities. He has no annuity to be halved. The people who were fortunate enough to purchase under the first Acts have now very little annuity to be halved. The principle we are going on is that the Government is trying to do something to meet the needs of the situation. The man with a heavy annuity to pay is in a worse position to meet life than the man who has a very small annuity or none at all to pay. If Deputy Hogan wants advances made to farmers to pay their bank debts in respect of lands they purchased, I think, if that is going to be argued, he could hardly stop at that. The Land Commission would have to make advances to farmers to repay other bank debts or shop debts or any other debts.

After all, the Land Acts are concerned with land annuities and we are only concerned in this Bill with halving land annuities, not with making advances such as the Credit Corporation does and if Deputy Hogan wants us to make advances—that is what it amounts to—at 2½ per cent. interest, to enable people who borrowed in order to purchase fee-simple land, it should be discussed on another day and on another occasion and if he says then that we will have to face the whole general principle whether or not the Government should make advances for 50 or 60 years, whether we should give long term loans to enable farmers who are in difficulties to pay their debts and recoup the Government by annual sums over 60 or 70 years——

Mr. Hogan

Does the Minister say that it will be necessary to insert Section 44 as well as Section 11?

Legal advice in the matter is that it is not necessary, but if it is, we will go into it again.

Mr. Hogan

It will be examined from that point of view?

I should like to say a few words in connection with this particular amendment and to point out specific cases in connection with this particular amendment. I bought a farm myself on which there was a land annuity, and, like many more farmers, I went into the bank to buy it. A neighbour of mine who is an equally good, hard-working farmer purchased a freehold land at a big price. He says now, and rightly so, that he is getting no benefit from his land, on the same terms as the man who is paying a land annuity. I stress the point that he paid a bigger price. Would it not be possible to do something for a man like this who is as good and as hard-working a farmer as anybody? I bring this question before the Minister in the hope that he will see reason in connection with the amendment. I have put it very briefly. I am getting some concession myself and I should like to see my neighbour getting something too, no matter what his brand of politics may be. I do not think the Government considered that and if they did they would be willing to do justice. If there is any advantage or remission it should, in my opinion, be distributed as evenly between all sections of the farmers as possible.

It was agreed, sir, in your absence, that amendments 62 and 63 would be discussed on this particular section. Deputy Hogan has already put the case clearly and fully before the House. I must say that there would appear to be a misunderstanding on the part of the Government in this matter. This particular section which we are dealing with— Section 19—relates to the remission of land annuities. Remission of land annuities is for one reason, namely, to give the farmers some relief and whether a farmer is an annuitant or a holder in fee-simple or a fee-farm grantee, he is still a farmer, provided as Deputy Hogan said, he carries out his work as an ordinary farmer as set out in the section—"where his holding is substantially agricultural or pastoral or partly agricultural or pastoral in character and is in such owner's own occupation and is used and cultivated by such owner as an ordinary farmer in accordance with proper methods of husbandry and (d) is subject to an annual payment to which this section applies." In other words, this section is in the Bill with one object, namely, to relieve the farming community in this country of something or another. Some people say that the farmers should be relieved by de-rating, others say by halving the annuity and others say by removing the annuity entirely. As a result of this section, a number of the farmers who carried on their work in that particular way as ordinary farmers and who have to take the risk of the ordinary farmer—I will not mention the economic war, because I am sure everybody is tired hearing about that, especially the Government.

I am anxious to talk about the economic war.

The economic war is in the Deputy's blood, the war against the farmers.

Question.

I will answer you outside.

Blue shirts.

Then I will answer here if you like—there is no battering ram associated with the O'Sullivans. It is necessary that this relief should be given to every class of farmer. There may not be necessity in the case of the landlord type or the £20,000 farm but the Government by an amendment can reduce the relief to certain limits. I think it is equitable and proper that the relief that is given to the annuitants should also be given to persons who possibly five or ten or 20 years ago redeemed their annuities on their farms, or the farmer who bought in fee-simple. After all, they suffer the same. The desire is, I take it, in this particular section to relieve the farmer, and I think that it is regrettable, and I am sure undesirable, that one particular section should be selected for treatment, and another important section omitted.

I do not think that I need stress this case, either to the Acting-Minister or the Attorney-General. Both know very well what are the particular conditions of the two types of those with whom the amendment deals. After all, why should the hard working farmer who redeemed the purchase annuity whether he had the money himself or whether he got it from America, or whether he paid it out of his farm, be now punished? Why should he be now punished to the extent that his next door neighbour, who is paying an annuity and continues to pay, gets off one year and is relieved of half the annuity? Why should the person buying in fee-simple, as everybody knows at a very high sum, provided as I say, that he carries out and fulfils these particular conditions, not get the relief that the Government is giving?

I put in these amendments with the desire that the Government themselves would realise the importance of the question. Why should not all the farmers be relieved, big and small? You can limit it if you like. You can ensure they are farmers, even the fellow looking over the hedge, as somebody said at the Second Reading. But I consider it is inequitable and unfair that one particular section should be relieved while another gets no benefit though their annuities are paid for by me and by non-farmers. Can we not extend it somewhat by taking the example, let us say, of an Act introduced in this Oireachtas for the purchase of houses? Why should I have to continue to pay rent while my next door neighbour, who has not paid it, is forgiven? Why should I be subject to a certain penalty simply because I have to pay rent? I do not think it is proper or legal or just. Why should I who have paid my rent regularly pay for my next door neighbour who has not paid at all, and why should I have to suffer simply because I paid? I think that the Government ought seriously to consider these amendments, and I would especially ask them to allow the particular section to pass, but to consider the matter before the Report Stage, so that amendments could be brought in giving relief to the good farmers of the country.

It is rather amusing at this stage to hear some Deputies sympathising with farmers who have no annuities at all to pay. That is what this proposal is. A landlord who got 300 or 400 acres and a mansion house is now going to get money from the Land Commission and he is going to pay them back by instalments. I met a man a few months ago and he told me he was paying four rents. I was surprised, and I made it my business to find out how. I found he bought a farm for £350. Then under the Ashbourne Act he became a tenant to himself. He got £350 from the Government at the time and he paid an annuity on the whole thing. He was then paying an annuity to the Land Commission. He was paying the rent to the landlord. He was paying a tithe charge and another charge. He was a tough boy. He turned round then and got his brother married on the farm. He got £300 fortune and put it in his pocket and went off, leaving his brother to hold the sack. There were quite a lot of them did that. Are you going to have a repetition of that here?

This Bill is a Bill to relieve the farming community who have heavy annuities to pay. It is rather amusing to find amendments brought in by gentlemen who refused unfortunate farmers relief, farmers living near cities who happened to get farms on which there were fairly good houses, with exorbitant rents, and prevented them from participating, or benefiting, in any of the Land Acts they brought in. It was only on Tuesday last that I had to stop over in Cork to appear before a judge to get time for one of those kind of men to pay. He got none of the benefits of the Hogan Act. He was outside the pale. Then we have the other type, the tenant who is being brought in now under this Bill, the man who happened to have land near a town or a city who did not benefit at all under the Hogan Act. He was excluded from it and that man had to pay for ten years. He was kept under the hammer and did not get the benefit of the moratorium given the tenants here for the last 12 months. He was kept out of all these benefits. It is rather amusing to see those gentlemen opposite who excluded these men from the benefits of the Land Acts now coming in looking for benefits for people who have no annuities at all to pay. The men who did not benefit before ought to be brought in now, and I do not see how the Minister could give relief to gentlemen who pay no annuities at all. Had these tenants to become tenants to themselves and be paid out of taxpayers' pockets? That is what these amendments mean.

As for Deputy O'Sullivan's allusions, my grandfather was an evicted tenant, evicted for a half year's rent. He had to fight it, and it took him 20 years to get back with my father's help and I get very little satisfaction from the sneers I get from tuppeny-halfpenny lawyers. I cannot see any reason why the taxpayer should be asked to bear any burden for gentlemen of that description. We are anxious to give the ordinary working farmer relief, and we are forgiving him 50 per cent. of his annuities; we are giving the benefits of the Land Acts to the farmers shut out under other Land Acts. Mind you, there are quite a number of them. I brought up a list of 130 here, of all classes, shapes, descriptions and forms, during the last month, farmers who were shut out under the various Acts. We are anxious to bring them in now, to give every farmer who is paying rent relief and by Jove we are not going to give the fellow who is paying nothing a whack out of the taxpayers' pocket. The Government is not going to him, and saying, in its generosity, "here is something for you," and let him get away with the loot. I have seen farmers in my constituency who held farms on which there was no annuity, and I saw them come in under the 1903 Act. They came in and the mother made the son the tenant and turned around and put the coin down in her pocket. I think it is time to bring in those who are excluded under the 1923 Act, but apparently Deputy Hogan wants to keep them out. We shall see that they get the benefit, and I advise the Minister not to have anything at all to do with the kind of gentlemen that the people opposite want to bring in in this amendment.

Question—"That Section 19, as amended, stand"—put and agreed to.
SECTION 20.
(d) when the amount of a revised annuity has been ascertained in pursuance of this section, the Land Commission or the said Commissioners (as the case may require) shall forthwith certify to the Registrar of Titles the amount so ascertained of such revised annuity, and the said Registrar shall enter the said amount in the appropriate register kept by him and such entry shall be conclusive evidence for all purposes of the amount of such revised annuity;
Amendment 105 not moved.

I move amendment 106:—

In paragraph (d), page 18, line 6, after the word "shall" to insert the words "where the holding is registered under the Local Registration of Title Act, 1891, or where the registration of the holding is compulsory under the said Act."

The registration of lands was not effected in many cases in the past, as it was not compulsory. This amendment makes it mandatory.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 20, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 21.
Question proposed: "That Section 21 stand part of the Bill."

Section 21 provides the amount, duration and recovery of the funding annuities. Does this deal with the rate of interest to be charged on the funded arrears?

That is interest at 4½ per cent. I wonder does the Minister think that it is reasonable in all the circumstances to ask these people to pay 4½ per cent. on these funded arrears? Are not the terms stiff? It is admitted by the Minister and by the Government that these people were driven into arrears by circumstances of peculiar distress. The presumption is that generally they could not help getting into arrears, that it was not their fault. Many of them were encouraged to get into arrears, and they were told not to bother to pay, that arrangements were to be made in good time to fund the annuities. They are now to be debited with the annuities and not only that, but 4½ per cent. interest over a period of 50 years. Does not the Minister think that that is pretty stiff? Could he not see his way to reducing that rate of interest?

I agree with Deputy Dillon that it is pretty stiff. I think anything over 1 or 1½ per cent. is pretty stiff to pay for money if you want it for a certain purpose, but if you size up this rate of interest with the interest which was payable by people who got loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation you will see that it is not so high. I grant the Deputy it is pretty high. I should like to see money for purposes of general development lent at a much lower rate of interest and I hope it will. But in the present circumstances, where the only loans available to farmers are at 6 per cent., I do not think that this particular rate of interest is too high. We are not saddling the farmers with this loan if they do not want to accept it, or if they can pay it off. They can redeem it any time they like. If a farmer has a sum of money in the bank at a low rate of interest, it will pay him much better to pay his land annuities or to pay these funded annuities. By doing so he will be getting a return of 4½ per cent. on his money rather than allowing it lie in the bank at 1 or 1¼ per cent.

Deputies must remember that there are quite a lot of farmers who did not pay their annuities, not because they had not the cash, but because they would rather use the money in other ways. Anybody who wanted to apply for this money in the ordinary way for 50 years would have to go through a lot of legal formality in the case of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. If a man wants a loan from the Agricultural Credit Corporation, he will have to prove title, undergo certain costs and prove to the corporation that he is an agricultural worker. This is a much simpler way of getting a loan, and I think, on the whole, this will operate to do a lot of good throughout the country. Generally speaking, annuities that were not paid by people who could pay them were utilised to a good purpose. Some of these farmers built extensions to their houses; some of them bought stock, others implements and others again got into tillage. The money that would have gone to the Land Commission in the ordinary way was used to capitalise these activities. It was a good way to give a general loan to whoever wanted it. While I should like to see the interest at a much lower figure than 4½ per cent., this is as low as can be fixed at the moment.

The Minister has mentioned the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I should like to say that our Party has already taken steps to ask the Minister for Finance to make money available through the Agricultural Credit Corporation at a much lower figure than it is available at present, and I would say that the figure that we had in mind was not more than——

Is the Deputy in order in speaking about the Agricultural Corporation on this Bill?

The Deputy is not discussing the Agricultural Credit Corporation. He has made a passing reference by way of illustration.

The figure we were aiming at, as regards the rate of interest to be charged by the Agricultural Credit Corporation, was 3 per cent. or, at the outset, 3½ per cent. We had hoped that this Bill would operate to make a beginning which would help the farmers to pass through what is admittedly a period of stress.

I submit that all our sympathies should be, not so much with those who have to pay 4½ per cent. interest, but with those who paid their annuities in the last three years. These are the people who really deserve consideration. Many of them had to part with their cattle. Many of them are greatly hampered, because of the straits into which they were driven in the last two or three years. They have received very rough justice, and to think now that we are giving fine justice to those who have been lucky enough to evade the obligation to pay is going too far. I think the people in arrears are getting off very well. All our consideration should be for those who have made sacrifices and paid their annuities in the past few years.

I wish the Deputy would propose something to help the people who have paid.

Would the Deputy agree that the same consideration should apply to those who have housing loans?

In paragraph (b) of this section it is stated that this loan will be repaid in 50 years at 4½ per cent. interest. Is there to be any sinking fund in respect of the arrears?

It will be roughly 1/- in the £. That will be about 5 per cent. It has not been worked out yet.

Will it work out at 4¾ per cent., that is 4½ per cent. plus ¼ per cent. for the sinking fund, or will it be a ¼ per cent. or a ½ per cent. in respect of the sinking fund component of the loan?

Whatever it will be it is to be paid off in 50 years.

We can at any rate assume that at this rate it is repayable over 50 years.

Yes, the loan will be wiped out entirely in 50 years.

So that if a man is £100 in arrears now he will have added to his annual payments a sum of £5 and in 50 years he will have discharged the whole of it. In other words for this £100 he will pay about £250.

If somebody lent a penny at the time of Noah he would be entitled now to ten million billion pounds.

Question proposed: "That Section 22 stand part of the Bill."

I assume that this section has been drafted for the purpose of adapting the sections in the existing Land Acts relating to the repayment of land annuities to the funding arrangements under this particular Bill?

Nothing more than that?

Nothing more.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 23 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 24 stand part of the Bill."

I should like the Minister to explain that section a little. I am not quite clear about the actual machinery which it is proposed to adopt in regard to annuities under the Ashbourne Act. The wording of sub-section (1) is not very clear in that respect, and I should be glad if the Minister would clarify it a little so that it will be intelligible to every Deputy in the House.

The situation is that the decadal reduction period comes at various dates. In order to enable the Land Commission to make up their books we are taking the date as the 1st May, 1933.

Whether it has expired or not?

Even if it is to come in the future. We are taking the date as the 1st of May, 1933.

As the Minister is dealing with this I should like to know whether, supposing the third decadal period does not expire for, say, two or three years, is it covered by this sub-section as well?

So it does not matter when it expires? It is brought within the ambit of the section?

Instead of the Land Commission having to make up their books in future when the decadal date occurs, for the simplicity of book-keeping we are taking it that this decadal date occurred on the 1st of May.

Do those decadal deductions apply only to the Ashbourne tenants?

That is all.

What is actually going to happen is that all the Ashbourne tenants are going to be given their three decadal reductions on the 1st of May?

And they will be cleared off on that date?

That seems a very reasonable arrangement.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 25.
Question proposed: "That Section 25 stand part of the Bill."

From the wording of sub-section (3) of Section 5 it appears to me that there is a new charge imposed on the Guarantee Fund. I am not aware that arrears of annuities under the Land Acts from 1881 to 1889, or 1891, when the Guarantee Fund was first instituted, were a charge on this fund. Under this particular section it is now proposed to make the unpaid land annuities under those Acts a charge on the Guarantee Fund. That would be a new drain on the Guarantee Fund for the future. I should be glad if the Minister would explain that point.

The Deputy has explained the intention of the sub-section. The annuities under the Acts of 1881 and 1885 were not covered by the Guarantee Fund, so it is simply to secure uniformity. They are all covered now by the Guarantee Fund.

Has the Minister thought of the consequences?

I do not think the Guarantee Fund will be called upon to any great extent under these Acts.

How was the Land Bond Fund recouped in respect of the Acts of 1881 and 1885 if there were arrears outstanding?

They were paid from the Purchase Annuity Fund.

How is that made up then?

All collections under the Land Acts prior to 1923 were paid into the Land Purchase Annuities Fund.

There was no Guarantee Fund in respect of the Acts of 1881 and 1885. How was that fund filled?

It was not filled, I think.

The cash was advanced out of the Local Loans Fund.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 26.
(1) The deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund arising from the provisions of this Part of this Act in relation to the payment of arrears of purchase annuities by means of funding annuities shall, to such extent and at such time or times as the Minister for Finance shall direct, be made good to that fund out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas and thereupon the charge on the Guarantee Fund in respect of those deficiencies shall cease.
(2) The charge on the Guarantee Fund in respect of deficiencies in the Purchase Annuities Fund arising from the provisions of this Part of this Act in relation to the payment of arrears of purchase annuities by means of funding annuities shall cease on the passing of this Act.
(3) All deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund arising from the revision of annuities or from reductions made by this Part of this Act in the amounts payable in respect of other annual payments shall, to such extent and at such time or times as the Minister for Finance shall direct, be made good to the said fund out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
(4) So much (if any) of every sum paid into the Land Bond Fund in respect of a revised annuity as is attributable to a funding annuity included in such revised annuity shall be paid out of the said fund into the Exchequer at such times and in such manner as the Minister for Finance shall direct.

I move amendment 108:—

To delete sub-section (2).

This is an amendment from the Department of Finance. At the time the Bill was being drafted the Department of Finance had not taken the decision to recoup the Guarantee Fund by introducing a supplementary estimate. Deputies will remember that we have introduced and passed in this House three different supplementary estimates in relation to the Guarantee Fund. Since the last one, for £1,420,000, has been introduced and passed by the Dáil this sub-section is not necessary. It is, therefore, proposed to delete it.

Am I to infer from the Minister's statement that the Guarantee Fund has now been completely recouped of all the advances made out of it to the local authorities?

Completely recouped?

Is there not still a balance of £400,000 odd which has to be paid into the Guarantee Fund?

No. It has been completely recouped. We had three supplementary estimates, and the Guarantee Fund has been completely recouped. The Government did not collect the second gale of 1932 or the first gale of 1933. In order to pay the bondholders under the 1923 Act, the Guarantee Fund had to be recouped out of the Central Fund, which was merely a book-keeping transaction. The Minister for Finance paid it into the Guarantee Fund and paid it back into his own pocket again. It was legally necessary to do that in order that local authorities should not be called upon to pay it. The whole idea was we wanted to keep the Guarantee Fund in being to cover any deficiency that might arise in respect of the halved annuities, and, since we were keeping it in being, we had to go through the form of paying the moneys out of the Central Fund into the Guarantee Fund in respect of the land annuities of 1923.

That point arises in the earlier operations in regard to the remission of annuities prescribed in this Bill. The Minister suggested this was done at the expense of the local authorities. It was subsequently suggested the Government intended to provide money from the Central Fund wherewith to recoup the local authorities for the sums collected from them, to keep the Guarantee Fund in funds. Would the Minister say now, before we depart finally from the question of the Guarantee Fund, if the Government has already provided, or intends to provide, money to recoup the local authorities for the £260,000 approximately of which they have been deprived by the terms of this Bill in so far as they remitted annuities more than three years due?

The Government will provide funds, from time to time, to pay the local authorities the sums which are being repaid to them by means of funding the annuities over a period of 50 years.

That is the three years' arrears.

The situation was this. We are funding arrears, and forgiving arrears, amounting to between £700,000 or £800,000.

The Minister is forgiving about a quarter of a million?

Yes, we are forgiving about £250,000. I will come to that later. The sum we are not forgiving, that is being funded and spread over 50 years, has been withheld from the local authorities for a period of, say, ten years. The local authorities have had withheld from them over a period of ten years a sum amounting to about £1,000,000. That is admitted. Some arrears were paid off but some were accumulating. The sum was roughly the same at the end of the period as at the beginning. The moneys that will come to the Exchequer by means of funding the annuities will be paid to the local authorities. The Government recognise it would not be fair to the local authorities to keep them out of that money for 50 years, and the Minister for Finance will take steps to pay the local authorities that £600,000 in advance of the period of 50 years over which he will be recouped. With regard to the £250,000 referred to as forgiven altogether, we are treating that as a bad debt. It is a bad debt. A number of Deputies and a number of county councils—I may say all of them—want to have this debt treated as a bad debt and have it wiped out, so that these people will get a chance of finding their feet and be able to pay their rates. At the present time you have a number of farms which are simply derelict. The occupier is simply a squatter. He owes land annuities and he owes rates. He has not the heart to pay his rates because he is up to his ears in debt with his land annuities. If his land annuities were reduced to an amount that he could pay it would give him heart and he would pay both land annuities and rates. He seems altogether in a desperate situation at present. That man cannot hope to meet the arrears of the land annuities that have accumulated, and he holds on to any cash that comes into his hands and pays nobody, neither the shopkeeper nor anybody else. On the whole, I think it is a good thing to forgive this £250,000 and treat it as a bad debt.

I hope the Minister will not be disappointed in his high hopes. I can see this tenant rushing out to the rate collector anxious to welcome him in and pay his rates. I am afraid someone will be disappointed and so, perhaps, will the rate collector, but it is clear that the remission is being made. Let us not comment upon it. A remission of £250,000 is being made at the expense of the ratepayers, not at the expense of the Central Fund. It is necessary to get that clear because, remember, that Deputies in the Minister's own Party were under the impression that that was not the case. In fact I was taken sharply to task for suggesting that it was the case. I want to have it clear, before we pass from Part III, that the remission of £250,000 arrears of land annuities, which accrued due prior to 1930, is being made by this 1933 Land Bill at the expense of the ratepayers of the country and the local authorities, not at the expense of the Central Government.

It is all the same.

That may be right or wrong but at least we have it definitely established that it is a fact.

Do I understand from the Minister that the funded arrears will be paid at some time to the local authorities?

Can the Minister give any indication of when?

From time to time. There has not been a definite decision as to whether it will be one year or five years but they will be paid from time to time. That is a matter that can be raised on the Budget statement each year. I am not in a position to state anything more definite at the moment.

Will the Minister make a promise that at least a substantial payment will be made before another Budget? Would the Minister give any indication of hope for payment in the current year? The Minister knows that things are in a bad way.

I do not think I can say anything more but perhaps the Deputy might hope for next year.

I am appealing to the Minister to try and have something paid this year because as he knows a pound when you are hard up is worth five pounds when you are not. A payment would count for a terrible lot this year. We may be worse, but I hope not. We will live in hope. I will ask the Minister not to make his answer a final answer.

Amendment 108 agreed to.
Section 26, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 27.
(1) Where any person (in this section called the "defaulter") has failed to pay money due and payable by him to the Land Commission, in respect of a purchase annuity, an annual sum equivalent to a purchase annuity, an additional sum, payment in lieu of rent, interest in lieu of rent, interest on purchase money, rent of a holding, or rent payable under an agreement for the letting of a parcel of land for temporary convenience, it shall be lawful for the Land Commission, if and when the Land Commission thinks proper, to issue to the county registrar of the county in which the lands are situate or to the county registrar of any county in which the defaulter resides or has a place of business, a warrant in the prescribed form certifying the name of the defaulter, the amount of the money so due by him as aforesaid, and (as the case may require) the residence or place of business of the defaulter or the situation and description of the lands in respect of which such money is due, and authorising such county registrar to levy, in accordance with this section the money aforesaid.
(3) Immediately upon receipt from the Land Commission of a warrant under this section the county registrar shall, after serving such notices and doing such acts as may be prescribed in that behalf by regulations to be made by the Minister for Justice, proceed to levy the money therein certified to be due by the defaulter in the same manner as execution orders at the suit of the Land Commission are by law leviable, and such county registrar shall, for that purpose, have all such rights, powers and duties as are for the time being vested in or imposed on him by law in relation to the execution of an execution order.

I beg to move amendment 109:—

In sub-section (1), lines 49-50, to delete the words "if and when the Land Commission think proper to" and substitute the words "to issue a summons in the prescribed form requiring the defaulter to appear before the district justice and show cause why a warrant in manner hereinafter mentioned should not be issued to the county registrar and if on the hearing of such summons the district justice shall so determine, the Land Commission may thereafter if and when they think proper.

Before the Deputy begins to address himself to this amendment, might I inquire from the Minister if it is the intention of the Attorney-General to be present while this section is being discussed?

I think the Attorney-General is getting something to eat.

I hope he will come back.

He has been sent for.

My amendment has the effect of giving the District Justice a much wider discretion than in the past in relation to Land Commission cases. To that extent it will reduce the costs very considerably. This section was discussed at very great length during the Second Reading debate. Many of the legal Deputies dealt exhaustively with the main objections to the inclusion of a section of this character in a Land Bill. This proposal was under consideration in the Land Commission for a great many years. The proposal was submitted to myself on at least three different occasions. After consultation with the ex-Attorney-General and with other legal experts, I decided to turn it down. I was advised, first of all, by the ex-Attorney-General that it was entirely unconstitutional, contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and I was later advised that, even assuming it was adopted and put into operation by the then Government, it would bring no tangible relief whatever to the unfortunate defaulters.

I had a personal dislike to this section from the beginning, because I felt it was really an inhuman piece of legislation. If the Land Commission are about to take proceedings against a defaulter in any part of the country for the non-payment of annuities, it is only right, just and equitable that the defaulter, if he has any case to enter against the proceedings, should have an appeal to some court. Consequently I insisted, during the whole time I was in the Land Commission, that the defaulter should have the right of appeal to the courts. In the discussion on earlier amendments to this Bill the Minister displayed great anxiety to preserve all the legal formalities which have been maintained in the Land Commission for a great many years past. In fact, in certain directions he was inclined to go very much further than any of his predecessors in order to safeguard the interests of the vendors and owners of land. I appreciate his anxiety to preserve what the tenant farmers have won through the efforts of the people who fought their battles in the past.

In this particular case the Land Commission is, or should be at all events, in identically the same position as is an ordinary business man or trader who may be suing for the non-payment of a debt. There is no reason why the Land Commission should be treated differently to the ordinary business man or trader. A business man or trader, if he has to take proceedings for the non-payment of a debt, has to go through the courts. I could never quite see why the Land Commission, if they have to institute proceedings against a defaulter, should not proceed in identically the same way. I realise perfectly well that there has been a difficulty in the past in collecting annuities from a certain class of people. We have heard a great deal here about the difficulty in getting a certain class of tenant purchaser to pay annuities. I admit there has been difficulty in that respect. It is inevitable there should be a difference amongst tenant farmers. There are some very industrious men, keen men, who avail of every possible opportunity in order to improve their position and standing in the country. There are others here, just as there are in other countries, who are indifferent and inclined to be negligent. They inevitably get into arrears, not alone in respect of Land Commission annuities, but in respect of the payment of rates and shopkeepers' accounts.

It has always been a problem in the Land Commission to find ways and means of dealing with these people. In any event, the problem never reached such proportions that it was necessary to take the extreme step which is proposed here in order to collect instalments. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney referred to the fact that already, under the Act of 1891, it is possible for the Land Commission, even assuming a defaulter may be in arrear for one gale, to apply to the High Court for a decree. If that decree is granted, then the Land Commission can proceed to execute it and secure possession of the farm. I do not think that the Land Commission, in the last ten years, at all events, has ever applied to the High Court for such a decree.

It is quite unnecessary for the Land Commission to take such powers as are proposed in this Bill. The Land Commission have all the powers they want to proceed against defaulters. If the Minister examines the files relating to Land Commission defaulters, he will find that 95 per cent. of the cases are cases of genuine default, where the unfortunate annuitant is unable to pay. Why is it necessary to introduce a section like this for the purpose of taking such extreme powers in order to deal with the other 5 per cent. who may, or may not, be in a position to pay? At all events, in their cases there may be a certain element of doubt as to whether they are able to meet their liabilities. This section will, undoubtedly, inflict a grave hardship on many unfortunate Land Commission defaulters. It will inflict a hardship on the type of person willing and anxious to pay his annuity, but who, owing to the circumstances of the last 12 months or two years, is unable to meet his liabilities. I do not think that the Minister could have selected a more unfortunate time for the purpose of introducing a section of this character into a Land Bill.

In the past, as the Minister knows perfectly well, before the decrees were granted by the district justice, he invariably went into the individual merits of each particular case and, in the majority of cases at all events, when he was satisfied that the defaulter was not in a position to meet his liability at the moment, he invariably gave time or he made an alternative arrangement to enable the defaulter to pay by instalments, probably extending over a period of 12 months. The State solicitors, even before the case went into court at all, made arrangements themselves with these defaulters and agreed to accept payment from them by instalments extending over a certain period of months. All that is to be set aside by this section in the Bill and instead of the reasonable, humane way in which these defaulters were dealt with in the past, we have this drastic section introduced which will give a certain official in the Land Commission the right to issue a warrant to the sheriff and, on the receipt of that warrant, the sheriff must proceed out to the place of residence of the defaulter and seize whatever he has on the land. It was stated here that the Revenue Commissioners and the rate collectors have the same powers, but the fact is that the rate collectors have not exercised those powers and the Revenue Commissioners do not exercise them and have not exercised them for some time past. Why is it necessary to take these drastic powers? The Minister professes in this Bill to be treating the annuitants, who are not in a position to meet their liabilities, generously, and yet, although in other sections of the Bill, according to his own statement, he is treating them very generously—particularly in regard to the funding of the arrears and so on—he proceeds in another section to mete out the most drastic treatment to these people that it is possible for a Government to mete out.

I think there is no justification whatever for introducing a drastic section of this character into the Bill, and I would ask the Minister, in the name of ordinary humanity, to introduce an amendment before the Report Stage which will do away with the drastic character and nature of this section. I am sure the Minister realises as well as any other Deputy in the House the sort of abuses that may arise if this section is passed into law. He must realise it as well as any other Deputy in the House. I wonder would the Minister feel perfectly happy in the knowledge that this section can be operated by an official of the Land Commission—I do not care how highly placed that official may be. Civil servants in this country are, undoubtedly, a wonderfully efficient body and, there is no question at all about it, this State owes a great deal to the civil servants in the country, but does the Minister for one moment think it is right or fair or just to the ordinary people of this country that such extraordinary power and authority as is undoubtedly embodied in this section of the Bill should be placed in the hands of one individual civil servant, or even two or three civil servants? I feel that it is unjust and, although I am not a lawyer, I feel that it is contrary to the whole spirit of the Constitution. I was advised three or four years ago, by the ex-Attorney-General, when this proposal was submitted to me for consideration, that it was contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and that no Government could possibly stand for a proposal of this character. I feel that it is unjust and utterly unreasonable. I feel that it is entirely unwarranted by the circumstances of the time and I feel, furthermore, in view of what has happened during the last 18 months— happenings, due largely to the Government, whether through good or bad judgment I am not going to say at the moment—but in view of all these happenings I think it is really an insult to the decent and honourable purchase tenants of this country who are prepared to meet their liabilities, if they are in a position to do so, to introduce a section of this kind into the Bill and to impose upon them such a threat as is embodied in that section.

Before the Minister speaks, I should like to ask him if the words in line 45, "an additional sum," are correct, or is it a misprint? They do not appear to make sense.

"An additional sum" is simply the name of one of these annual payments. There are various payments. The Deputy will have noticed that in an earlier part of the Bill relating to the revision of annuities there were sections almost identical, such as revision of interest in lieu of rent, revision of purchase annuities payable to the Commissioners of Public Works, and so on. There are various payments to the Land Commission. This additional sum is a payment under Section 28 of the 1923 Act.

Deputy Roddy's speech on this sheriff's clause reminded me of what used to happen before modern anæsthetics came into fashion. Before that time, when there was an operation to be performed, one of the people engaged for the operation was a man to keep the patient engaged in pleasant conversation. Deputy Roddy's amendment to put this thing back to the District Justice is, I think, of a somewhat similar character. I would agree with Deputy Roddy and with the other Deputies who are violently opposed to this section if there was any fear that the Land Commission were going to disturb a number of people in the wrong. The fact of the matter is that at the present time there is hardly ever a case of the Land Commission demanding payment from a farmer in the wrong.

I do not wish to interrupt the Minister, but surely it is inevitable that mistakes will arise. I believe that you have in the Land Commission as efficient a Department as you will find anywhere in this country, but no matter how efficient it is or how well it is manned, it is inevitable that mistakes will occur.

I grant that it is inevitable that a mistake may occur and if there were going to be many of these mistakes I would feel very different about introducing a section such as this. Supposing that a mistake does occur and that the Land Commission send out a warrant or a demand note to, say, John Murphy in a certain townland, and that John Murphy is the wrong man and does not owe the money, what will happen? John Murphy, when he gets the warrant, will communicate either with the Land Commission, in the first instance, or, if he does not communicate with them, surely he will tell the sheriff, when the sheriff sends him a notice, that he is not the man who owes these annuities or that he does not owe the amount he is charged with, as the case may be.

The one person who will be aggrieved under the section so far as I can see, will be the sheriff because the sheriff will have to deal with annuitants in the same way as the State Solicitor had heretofore. The sheriff will be the negotiator. He will try to extract the land annuities with the least possible friction from the defaulting annuitants. All that happens in 999 cases out of 1,000 when defaulting annuitants go to court is that the justice simply signs his name to the Land Commission warrant certifying that the amount is due and the defaulter has to pay a few pounds more simply for getting the district justice's name at the bottom of the paper as well as the name of the Land Commission. There is nothing more than that in it. Supposing we take it that a farmer gets a notice from the Land Commission that annuities are due by him. If he should not have got it, surely he will write to the Land Commission to say that he does not owe them any annuities or that he does not owe all the annuities charged up to him. After all, there is sufficient education in the country. There is practically no household left in which there is not somebody who can read and write and the Land Commission are pretty well aware of the fact that people in the country can read and write, because they are bombarded with letters of all sorts and descriptions. The tenant will write to the Land Commission and say that the assessment is wrong. If he does not write when he first gets the warrant from the Land Commission, he will do so after he gets the six days' notice. If he does not do it then he will surely do it after the sheriff in his own locality sends him a notice. If there is a man who will not do it even then, and who simply lets the thing go through until the sheriff sends out the bailiff, then if the Land Commission has made a mistake that man has a right of action against the Land Commission. The Land Commission in these circumstances will take good care that there are no mistakes made because I am sure if the Land Commission made a mistake and took cattle from a man who owed no rent the costs given against them would be very heavy indeed.

Damages, if you want the legal phrase. The damages that would be given against the Land Commission for taking a man's cattle wrongfully would be very heavy. As I say, I do not fear any injustice under this section. If there was any great danger of injustice being done or any great danger of disturbance at all we would not have brought it in. I think Deputies who are opposing it are unduly alarmed.

Mr. Dillon rose.

On a point of procedure, is it possible for anybody but a lawyer to talk on the section?

The Minister has just spoken.

Deputies will get every opportunity.

The situation created by this section reminds me somewhat of the situation that might arise if you put a two-year-old child sitting on the floor with a delicate chronometer and a hammer and then waited to see what would happen. Eventually, after fiddling with the chronometer for some time trying to get it open and to find out what was inside, the child would resort to the hammer and that would be the end of the chronometer. The Land Commission are impatient with the ordinary process of law in this country. They cannot see why, if they want to collect any sum from 6/8 up to £200 from a citizen of the State, they should not grip him by the throat and squeeze it out of him. There is to be an end to all this nonsense about going into court and proving that the money is due. When they say it is due, it is quite enough and let the defaulters pay up. Of course, that is the rule of law that prevails in the African jungle. When I think that my neighbour owes me something, I cut a club and start after him, and if I can catch him I beat him to the ground and strip him of whatever skin is tied round his middle. Civilisation has, however, laid down that there should be another means of settling differences as to our liabilities one to the other. It has been generally accepted that it is desirable to have an impartial third party to decide a matter of that kind on any issue joined between individuals.

And between countries as well.

Hence the economic war.

President de Valera has been dancing the "can-can" all over Europe and America calling for the interposition of a third party between two States who are at variance as to their respective claims, one from the other. That is all right so long as it is a matter between Great Britain and Ireland but when it is a matter between the Land Commission and Pat Murphy——

There is a doubt in that case.

——not at all, it is no longer necessary. Once you set out, to establish in this country the principle that any body of civil servants, no matter how exalted a body they may be, have a right to abrogate the duties of the judiciary there is no knowing where it will end. The Revenue Commissioners have extraordinary and, in my opinion, scandalous rights. The rate collector has extraordinary rights. Now we are going to extend the principle and confer this right on the Land Commission. What do we want the courts for at all? Why not get rid of them? One of the most essential functions the courts have to discharge in this country is to stand between the individual and the State. The most formidable antagonist one can have is the State. Whatever hope there may be of inducing a fellow-citizen to compromise in a matter of litigation there is no hope that you will get a Department of State to do so. It is the most powerful antagonist that an individual citizen can possibly have. There is no individual in the State against whom the citizen requires as much protection from the courts as he does against a State Department. Remember that if you once admit the principle that a State Department should be given this right, it is not going to stop here. Other State Departments will want it. There are people in this country who do not understand the meaning of the word "liberty". They never understood it and I do not think they ever will understand it.

There are people who never look for it.

I do not think the Deputy had better draw me on that question, because I saw enough liberty on the streets of Macroom last Sunday. There were people there to look for it, people who got it, kept it, and secured it. If the Deputy would like a description of it I would be very glad to give it to him. In the course of the proceedings I may say that we wiped the Square of Macroom with 80 supporters of the Deputy's Party, and before we could secure liberty of speech or liberty of any kind in Macroom that day, it was necessary to wipe the Square of Macroom with 80 of the Deputy's supporters, and to put them up a side street behind the cordon of police.

Had you the "Blue Shirts" with you?

Never mind whom we had with us. We had enough with us to do that. That is what I mean by liberty. When I am dealing with the Deputy's supporters, there is only one way of dealing with them, and that is to wipe the Square of Macroom with them. I cannot wipe the Square of Macroom with the Land Commission.

It is a pity you did not deal with the foreigners that way.

Perhaps you will.

I take it that I would not be in order in discussing the differences this country had with Great Britain and other foreign countries since 1798?

It is hardly relevant.

I cannot adopt those methods towards the Land Commission and, therefore, it is very necessary, if we are to maintain the principle that the body to interpose between the individual citizen and the Department of State shall be the courts that this section should not pass. It may be argued that in this particular case, it does not make very much difference. The principle is now at stake and it is for this House to say now whether that principle is to be adopted. If it is, it is not going to stop here and this precedent will be up-cast to us again and again. What is the excuse for this —that the costs imposed on the people by these proceedings are out of all proportion to the sum of money that is to be recovered? I quite agree. Law costs in this country are preposterous. They are far too high and, in my opinion, are operating to deny justice to the people who stand in greatest need of it. If the Minister will prevail on his colleague, the Minister for Justice, to introduce legislation or, preferably, to set up a committee with a view to examining the whole question of law costs in this country, I shall do everything I possibly can to support him. I quite agree that law costs are too high. They ought to be reduced, and the law ought to be made available to the humblest in the land. That is not what we are doing here. We say that if the poor people are to go to the courts they will have to pay so much that it will cripple them. That is not a good reason for keeping the poor out of the courts. Nobody wants the protection of the courts more than the poor. Let the costs be cut down, and let the courts be thrown open to them. Do not let us meet them on the threshold and say: "The gentlemen who own these institutions demand too high a fee to permit of your entering here." Our job is to bring down the price of admission, so that the poorest man in this country can go into the courts and get justice from the richest man or the most powerful Department of State.

People talk about the Land Commission never making a mistake. I know a case in which the Land Commission switched receivable orders between two men with the result that A.B. had the receivable order which was right for C.D.'s land and C.D. had the receivable order which was right for A.B.'s land. Under this Bill, the sheriff could march down and seize A.B.'s property because he refused to pay annuities that were due on C.D.'s land. As it was, when they made an attempt to do it, the man was in a position to go into the court and explain to the district justice that although, apparently, he owed this sum, for this peculiar reason it was not due at all. He was being asked to pay annuities on another man's holding. It was a case in which a father had sub-divided his holding with the consent of the Land Commission between his two sons and new receivable orders were issued but in some peculiar way, they were switched, so that while the Land Commission very rarely makes mistakes, like everybody else, they can make mistakes. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that instead of interfering gravely with the whole system of legal administration in the country and the rights of the poor people to go into the courts for justice, he should insist that the Executive Council should ask the Minister for Justice to set on foot an inquiry immediately to reduce law costs in this country so as to make the law available to the poor. If he does that, he will achieve the purpose set out in Section 27 much more effectively and, besides, he will do a useful public service and if the name of Fianna Fáil is associated with the reduction of law costs in the country, it will not go down to destruction altogether unwept, unhonoured and unsung.

Everybody who knows Deputy Dillon and who has listened to his speeches and, particularly, the speeches he has been delivering in this House since the last general election, knows that no Deputy is more capable of working himself into a fit of rage whenever the rights and liberties of lawyers are challenged. Deputy Dillon is much more concerned with the rights, the liberties and the fees of lawyers than he is with the question as to whether defaulting annuitants should be called upon to continue to pay the highly excessive fees they have been called upon to pay by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government in the past. The Deputy waves his hand and talks about the courts being called upon to stand between the citizen and the Government of this country. I wonder how the Deputy could so conveniently forget having voted so recently in this House for a section of a Bill which gave this Government the power by retrospective legislation to take from the servants of this State moneys they had no legal right to take from them. The Deputy has gone away. He cannot, of course, hear that and he does not want to hear it either, I am sure, but I invite his Leader who is left with one follower in this House if he speaks in this debate, to justify the action of Deputy Dillon and to compare it with the plausible appeal he now makes.

How many followers has the Deputy's Leader in the House?

The lawyers again.

So far as I can recollect, it is only quite recently that the lawyer Deputy came into the House. I am not sure if he was here when Deputy Dillon started his speech.

Mr. Rice

I was here all last week, when the Deputy was away on a fruitless mission.

I am supporting this section of the Bill with the greatest possible pleasure, realising as I do that it is going to obviate the necessity for defaulting annuitants in future to have to pay the highly excessive fees for recovery of the sums due. We had the Minister for Justice on the Second Reading debate making a statement to the House which proved conclusively that it cost 19/11 to collect a sum of 16/1 in a case in which the annuitant had not, presumably, been brought to court. I can quote a case, and I can produce the receipt for Deputy Vincent Rice or any other lawyer Deputy, who may defend his colleagues in the profession on an issue of this kind, showing that for the collection of a sum of £5 1s. 5d. the State solicitor charged a sum of £1 12s., in a case in which the annuitant had not been brought to court, and in which a friend of the poor person concerned had sent the sum due to the Land Commission direct four days after the expiration of the six days' notice. I am sure many Deputies could quote similar cases. It is only necessary to learn about a few of them in order to justify the arguments in support of the section as it stands, and in opposition to the amendment. If Deputy Roddy speaks again, I would like to hear from him, or from Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, who I know is anxious to jump up to justify the amendment, what is unconstitutional about the section as it stands. Deputy Roddy said it was entirely unconstitutional, and that when he was in charge of the Land Commission he was so advised by the ex-Attorney-General. Can we hear the arguments of the ex-Attorney-General to prove that?

Judicial acts must be performed by judges.

The Deputy will have an opportunity of speaking, and it will be a pleasure to hear him justify that statement.

I gave it in one sentence. Judicial acts to be constitutional must be performed by judges, and not by officials of the Land Commission.

I do not like to engage in any argument with Deputies who are lawyers, but I think even a lay Deputy could answer that very quickly, by referring to certain actions of the late Executive in regard to the Public Safety Acts that were passed in this House.

What lawyer would be the dearer?

Is the Deputy defending the power of the sheriffs? I am not prepared to agree with the Minister that it is impossible for the Land Commission to make mistakes. I have a distinct recollection of listening to a question being raised in this House on the adjournment, by ex-Deputy White who, at one time represented Donegal, and he proved conclusively that during the régime of the late Cumann na nGaedheal Government, people were prosecuted and decrees given against them in court for annuities which had been paid previous to the issue of the civil bills, or in some cases before the cases went to court. For that reason I would like to hear the Minister developing a little further the argument why the Land Commission should get this power. Are we to understand that they will only proceed further when they are perfectly satisfied from reports received from Land Commission inspectors, or from other persons, that the amount was due in a particular time, that they are perfectly satisfied the person could pay at a particular period, as a result of reports from reliable officers? When speaking later will the Minister state under what circumstances the Land Commission will proceed to issue a warrant as defined in this section? Apart from that trivial point in connection with this section, I say, in view of the limited experience I have of the costs charged for the collection of annuities from people who, in some cases could and did not, and invariably in cases where people could not pay, I have no hesitation, between the amendment and the section, in strongly supporting the section.

I should like, if I may, at the start, to deprecate the needless introduction of personalities, of which Deputy Davin gave us an example. The suggestion was that Deputy Dillon supported this amendment, and was against the section, as it stands, because he happens to have legal training; the suggestion being practically that he was looking after his own interests in doing it. I think that is a suggestion the House should not tolerate. It is becoming increasingly common, and it is certainly a most undignified and improper attitude for Deputies to take up. Undoubtedly the suggestion was there, that when Deputy Dillon spoke of the liberty of the citizen, that was being infringed, as a whole, by the section as it stands, the reply of Deputy Davin practically was: "You are looking after your own profession, after your own class, and you do not care twopence about the people".

Was the Deputy here when Deputy Dillon made allegations against members of this Party?

I am speaking of what Deputy Davin said now. The mere fact that a man knows something about law has certainly no bearing on his being able to speak on the legal aspect of the matter, or even on the constitutional aspect of it. I am not aware that Deputy Dillon is a lawyer in the sense that he practises. I do not know whether he is or not. I mention this in his particular case, owing to charges of that kind being levelled across the House. I can quite well understand the attractiveness of the section as it stands, from some points of view, to the Minister, to the Department and to the Government. When I say attractiveness I do not necessarily mean it in an objectionable sense. I can quite understand this consideration. We know that the Department, the Government and the Minister can in this way claim that a certain amount of money will be saved to people who are proceeded against. Undoubtedly that might be one of the things that makes this attractive to the Government. There are other reasons still that make it attractive to the Government. I suggest that it is precisely in that very attractiveness the danger of this section consists because, though Deputy Davin has the greatest possible pleasure in supporting it, I noticed that in the last couple of weeks he had the greatest possible pleasure in supporting things that cut away fundamental rights. He had the greatest possible pleasure in supporting that. In reality, it does cut away the ordinary rights of the individual citizen. That was the sole reason why this proposal, having been considered, as has been indicated, by the late Government, was rejected by it. We realised that what could be said against it was much greater than what could be said in its favour. That is the reason it was rejected. It was a solid reason for rejecting it.

When you deprive—as you are practically depriving in this particular case—the ordinary citizen of his right to the intervention of the court, I suggest that you have to put up a much stronger case, and that a much greater crisis would have to arise than has been indicated in the present case. The mere loss of money is not sufficient to do away with the principle that this section does away with. It is because the amendment tries to restore these primary rights to the individual that we are supporting it. I understand quite well how this could make an appeal from some points of view. That is the danger of it precisely. What you are doing, and what has been evident from many speeches here, the whole trend has been "sweep away the judges. They are bound up with red tape. Government Departments are much quicker, much more efficient, and less expensive." That is the line taken up, not merely on this particular matter, but throughout this Bill. If you look at it from one point of view there is a good deal to be said for it, but, remember, it is depriving the individual citizen unnecessarily of the protection of the courts. There is not sufficient reason for doing that. The tendency of Government Departments will inevitably be in that direction. If it is done here in the case of the Land Commission, I do not see how you are to stop short there, and why other Governments should not be given the same powers, why the private citizen should not be given them, or the ordinary shopkeeper, whose books are sometimes kept as carefully as those in the Land Commission. It would save expense in the ordinary case of private debt collection.

Why is not that power being used? I understand that it is a power that was at one time in existence but was swept away. Examples have been adduced of the power, theoretically, at all events, in the hands of rate collectors and in the hands of Revenue Commissioners. But it has been pointed out that this power has to a large extent become dormant. What use is made of it in practice? If use is not made of it in practice, is not that proof that the sense of justice of the community is against the practice and against legislation of that particular kind? At all events, this was power that was there always. What are you doing here? Introducing something for the first time, and apparently not merely for the purpose of having it, but for the purpose of using it on a large scale. I suggest in these circumstances that any appeal to the example of the Revenue Commissioners or of the rate collectors' power to distrain cannot be allowed to weigh in any way. I say that, although I am perfectly aware that a particular case could be put forward for this particular clause. I suggest that the case is not nearly strong enough to deprive an ordinary person of his rights to the protection of the court. There was a further advantage that was enjoyed. I understand that a person could go to the district justice and get a stay on the proceedings so far as his claim was concerned. I may be answered that he can get that now from the Land Commission. Quite so. We have all had a fair amount of experience in these matters. I think it is a much preferable thing that a judge should have the decision in a case of that kind rather than the Land Commission, or in having Deputies going to the Land Commission. I was rather amused by the references made on the Second Reading of the Bill, and this evening, to this particular power: that the Revenue Commissioners were looked upon, more or less, as the ideal. Well, it is pleasant to hear, at least, in one short debate, at all events, that much abused Government Department looked upon as the ideal to be striven after. I never heard them elevated to that particular pedestal before. But, apparently, powers similar to those possessed by the Revenue Commissioners should now be entrusted to the Land Commission, and such powers are to be the ministering angels to deal with the wounds of the unfortunate land annuitants who are incapable of meeting their demands. I can well understand, from another point of view, why this might be attractive to the Government. I will just give one view why what has been said in favour of this clause might be attractive to the Government and to a number of people in this House. There are other reasons why it could be attractive to the Land Commission. It will enable them to deal with these cases much more quickly. They can proceed much more summarily and much more stringently with defaulters, and, possibly, in view of the economic situation that presents itself to us, I can well understand why the Land Commission should be anxious to get that particular power.

Now mistakes may be made just as they may be made by a private individual, by an ordinary shop-keeper having shop debts, but certainly if a person is willing to risk the expense he should not be deprived of his right to appear before the court. Supposing, for instance, that there are, in the cases that Deputy Davin brought forward, grounds for complaint as to the percentage amount of the costs in comparison with the amount of a debt itself, is the proper way for dealing with abuses of that kind that it is suggested may exist, to cut away the root principle, or at least the spirit, of the Constitution in this matter without grave necessity? Is that the method of doing it? I suggest that the Deputy who plunged in with great delight to support this clause is going further than he intends. I stress that because undoubtedly the tendency of many of the speeches on this Bill has been this: "Away with judicial decisions, with judicial authority and judicial consideration. Put bureaucracy in its place and you will have more efficiency, more economic and more satisfactory, results." That is a very big change. I suggest that the House should not give its assent to such a principle as is involved in this section before it considers well what it is doing.

If this proposal of the Government is intended mainly or entirely for the purpose of reducing expense to the people who are proceeded against, why would it not be possible to limit it to those who admit liability? If a man does not admit liability it seems only right and proper that he should be given an opportunity of proving his case in court. If he has got absolutely no grounds for denying his liability and is not paying merely because he does not feel inclined to pay or because he is not able to pay, well then summary procedure without the intervention of the court, and without subjecting him to additional expense, may be the more suitable.

May I intervene for a moment? The passage of this section will not compel the Land Commission to proceed for the recovery of annuities from defaulters in the manner laid down in the section. But the section enables the Land Commission to do so if they think fit. The Government or the Land Commission are not out to establish bureaucratic government in any way. If they think that the person who is assessed for land annuities has any legal claim, or that he is assessed in the wrong, they would be quite prepared to have that issue tried out in court, and would do so. No Government would stand over the Land Commission trying a legal question in the Land Commission offices in Dublin. But in the ordinary case where a tenant does not dispute his payment, we do not want to see him mulcted in additional costs. In 999 cases out of 1,000 or even in 9,999 cases out of 10,000 the tenant never disputes his assessment. If he disputes his assessment on legal grounds, then definitely the Government would insist that the Land Commission would have that tested out in court.

I welcome that assurance from the Minister, but would it be impossible to introduce something into the Bill itself that would give that protection? Would it be possible to put something in the Bill that where a man had aprima facie defence he should not be deprived of access to the court?

The question is, who would decide whether he had or not?

Could not something be devised on those lines? I followed the law for a short time in my youth, and I seem to remember that in certain classes of cases you could get a summons to proceed byex parte methods provided you could tender a certain kind of evidence of a debt that was considered to be good enough to enable you to go ahead by summary procedure. Possibly something of that kind might be devised in the case of persons alleged to be indebted to the Land Commission. As I say, I welcome the Minister's assurance, and I do not at all take up a pedantic attitude in these matters, but I think that more protection ought to be given than is given in the wording of this section, and that it ought not to be beyond human ingenuity to insert something that would ensure that where a man has a prima facie case he would be able to protect himself in the courts.

I want to point out to the House again that the Land Commission in this are not the last word. If the Land Commission act wrongly in seizing a man's cattle they are subject to the legal penalties that a district justice or a court of law may impose upon them for that action. I give the House the assurance, on behalf of the Government, that if there is really a doubt about the matter we will let it be carried into court, but if we find that the person is only play-acting we are not going to allow it to be tried in court.

I have often heard it said that the Revenue Commissioners always take the view that in the particular cases they are dealing with frauds, and I am afraid that the Land Commission would discover always that the people are play-acting.

After the assurance of the Minister I do not think it is necessary to reply to the arguments advanced against the section. Deputy Dillon and Deputy O'Sullivan seemed to speak against the section on the assumption that there would be a doubt as to the amount due by any tenant.

I never mentioned it.

The Deputy gave some sort of analogy between the position we are trying to create here and that of a shopkeeper to whom certain moneys would be due. Surely there is no analogy between these two cases at all, because where it is a matter of annuity the tenant knows the amount, and in the matter of another debt you know the amount in the same way. Now Deputy Dillon referred to the fact that poor people should be given an opportunity of defending themselves and having such matters tested in court, but as the Minister has said, and as every member of this House knows, you never in a case for the recovery of annuities see the annuitants making any defence, or attempting to deny that the annuity is due, and that being so, I do not see why or what right there is in having a judge adjudicate on cases of that kind. Deputy O'Sullivan referred to the fact that it may be necessary to get a stay, and that by having cases tried in court the judge could put on a stay for one month or two months or three months, but the Deputy proceeded to give the reply to his own argument when he said that the tenant making the application could make the application in writing to the Land Commission asking for a stay. He also referred to the fact that in this Bill there is an effort being made to sweep away judges. No such effort is being made. As far as we can see, and I think that every one in this House who knows the position with regard to the collection of these annuities should know, costs have been imposed on people who in many cases have neglected to pay.

A Deputy

What are the costs?

I believe that in many cases people neglected to pay in time and in other cases they had not the ability to pay what was due. They were not in a position to pay. If the Land Commission know that in cases where the money is due that it is due through inability to pay they will be dealt with sympathetically. I do not know any member of this House who intends to support this section who wants to do it by cramming things down the necks of the people of the country. We know in this section we are interpreting what is in the minds and would be in the minds of the majority of farmers if they were here and I think especially after the assurance given by the Minister in charge that the section should be accepted.

I support the amendment for the simple reason it seems to me to clear one of the worst defects in the Bill. Deputy Davin seems to think it an extraordinary thing that anyone should think that Section 27 is unconstitutional. One need not have any great learning in the law to know that under the Constitution the judiciary is provided with the object of having judges, to sit in judgment on disputes between citizens in the State. But, to put it in a more rough and ready way, the object of the judges is to stand between the people and the under-sheriff. To put it in that way brings to mind more clearly what one's opposition to this section should be. This section proposes that a creditor— because the Land Commission is nothing more in this matter—should be able to get into direct contact with the under-sheriff and put him in on the defaulting annuitants to seize the goods. The criticism which has been chiefly levelled at the present procedure from the Government Benches is chiefly on the matter of costs. I made inquiries since the Second Reading and I have learned from authoritative sources that the present procedure is somewhat as follows: First, the Land Commission sends out its demand note; when it is not complied with the charges are sent to the State solicitor and he issues a civil bill. I understand that the civil bill is served in about 40 per cent. of the cases. The money is then paid by the defaulting annuitants. In another 40 per cent. of the cases the money is paid out after the case has been entered but before it actually comes on for hearing. In the remaining 20 per cent. of the cases decrees are made by the district justice or the Circuit judge, as the case may be. The State solicitor then gets the decree and it is only in about 2 per cent. of all cases that the decree is actually lodged with the sheriff. The instances which have been given here of the heavy costs incurred by these defaulting annuitants are instances in which the sheriff's fees must have been included. I know of no other way in which the heavy cost of these cases could be explained. I am told that the chief item of costs is the sheriff's costs. The sheriff has to send out his court messengers, very often 20, 30 or 40 miles. They go to the land. They cannot get the money and they take cattle off the land and drive them away. These cattle have to be kept for several days and then sold far away from the county from which they were taken. They have that power now, I believe, under fairly recent legislation. The chief item of costs, as I have said, is the sheriff's part, and that is the very part which is being retained in this Bill. In conclusion, I should like to say that I see no reason whatever why the Land Commission should be placed on a different plane from any other creditor in the State. It seems to me just as much an injustice to put this power into the hands of the Land Commission as to put it into the hands of any shopkeeper, trader or creditor of any kind in this State.

I hope the Minister will seriously consider accepting the amendment. This proposed change in procedure is no doubt induced mainly by a consideration of the hardship on defaulting annuitants—that they put themselves to a certain amount of costs by resisting payment. That is one consideration in the mind of the Government in introducing this. Another consideration, no doubt, is on the part of the Department that it will facilitate their work to have this summary process. It is introducing a new principle to enable a Department, who are creditors themselves, to issue an order for collection without any intervention by any court. I do not think it has been mentioned in this discussion so far that this proposal by the Land Commission was put forward three or four years ago in evidence by one of their prominent officials before the Joint Committee on the Courts of Justice Act. That Committee included representatives of every Party in the House, including the Party for which Deputy Davin spoke this evening. That Committee, having heard the evidence of the official who advocated the issue of a warrant, unanimously refused to recommend that proposal.

We have heard a lot of cheap gibes on the part of Deputy Davin about the rights, liberties and fees of lawyers and that was referring to what Deputy Dillon said. The whole of the profession that Deputy Dillon belongs to do not, in my opinion, receive one guinea amongst them in three years from these disputes about the payment of land annuities. It is time that Deputy Davin stopped that kind of cheap gibes in this House. The Minister for Justice last week referred to the cost of collection of these annuities and he did mention a sum of 16/- costs on the collection of an annuity of 19/-. Of course, that is an excessive sum and I do not justify it. I do not know how it has occurred. Instead of depriving the annuitant of the right to defend himself and show that he is not a defaulter, the Minister should consider how these costs could be reduced. There are obvious ways in which that could be done. Speaking from recollection, I think that some recommendation of the kind as to reduction of these costs was made by the Committee of which I was a member, and which sat about three years ago.

It is attempted to justify the giving of these powers to a Department by saying that there is another Department that has these powers already— the Revenue Department. Two wrongs do not make a right. My opinion is that the Revenue Department have no right to have these powers, and should not have them. That the wrong exists already is not an argument in favour of extending that wrong, and giving those improper powers to another Department. I think that the Minister, if he considers the matter, will be able to devise a process by which the costs of these decrees on people who have really no defence could be reduced. The Department should not be allowed, because it says a sum of money is due to it, to issue a process at once as the judge in its own case. A great many instances have occurred where annuitants have been sued for annuities which they did not in fact owe. The Minister will, no doubt, be aware that that has occurred in some counties so often that the district justice has commented upon the fact that processes have been issued against persons who had already paid. I do not say that by way of a charge against the Land Commission. I know that it is a highly efficient Department. It is, however, a very big Department, and it has an enormous number of cases to deal with, and, inevitably, no matter how efficient it is, cases must occur in which mistakes of that kind would be made. Think of the impression you make on the public mind when a person who has discharged his liabilities is hauled up in court—I am talking now of the present proceedings before a district justice—and comes up and says that he paid his annuity already and produces a receipt. That has happened in many cases. But think of the far worse impression on the public mind when, without any process of the kind at all, the sheriff walks in on a man's land and takes his cattle, or, his cattle being of no value at present, takes his furniture, if he has any, for an annuity which he has paid already. That is the substitution that it is proposed to make now—to allow the sheriff to walk out and, on theipse dixit of the Land Commission, take a man's chattels whatever they may be, in payment of a debt that he does not, in fact, owe.

I suggest to the House that this is a wrong extension of a wrong principle. We all know the origin of this idea that the Revenue should be able to walk into anybody's premises and take what is there for a debt that they say is due, and do that without any process of court. Of course, it is the growth of the old idea that the debt is due to the king, and that the king can do no wrong; that the king is entitled to walk in anywhere without any process of court; that the debt is due to him, and that he can collect it. I do not think that principle should be carried any further. I am very much surprised to see Deputy Davin and his Party standing for this principle, that the king can do no wrong, for this is an extension of that old principle. A revenue debt is a debt due to the king, and, therefore, can be collected without any order of a judge.

I suggest to the Minister that he might consider this matter from this particular point of view and give the defaulting annuitant an opportunity of defending himself if he has a defence. If he has not a defence, or if he has only got the ordinary human principle that he will chance a summons and wait for it, he should get this opportunity of coming into court. Let the Minister cheapen the process of the court. Give the annuitant a short time and cheapen the process, but give him an opportunity of making his answer; give a smaller sum to the State solicitor for appearing in court, but do not take away from the annuitant the right of coming into court. He is entitled to do so. Do not take that right away. Where he has no case at all cheapen the process. That can be done by reducing the costs, but give him the right to come into court and to say, where the money is not owed, "I do not owe this money."

I think the proposal contained in this section is a splendid one. I have had a number of cases in my county, which includes a number of small farmers, and I have instances there where the costs incurred were alarming, so much so, that the tenant had to pay a sum twice as large as the amount originally sued for, when the amount was finally assessed and levied by the sheriff. These are ordinary cases that one meets with very frequently all over the country. I fail to see where there can be any injustice at all in the operation of this part of the Bill. On the contrary, I can see in the Bill quite great benefits to the tenants. The only point against the section is that, possibly, the Land Commission may make a mistake. That has occurred in the past, but nobody will deny that that danger is comparatively small as against the entire number of tenants involved. It would not be right for the sake of a few to jeopardise and punish the whole body of tenants by applying to them a system of costs with which they should not be saddled. The same principle applies to the ordinary collection of rates in various counties. Nobody has suggested that has been unduly harsh on the ratepayers. It has worked out satisfactorily.

Anything that can establish a saving of expenses in law costs, particularly to the small farmers, is a good system. Where can the hardship come in? I suppose there will always be a certain number of tenants who cannot afford to pay their annuities. Processing these men and handing over their cases to the State solicitor very often costs a great deal and the money involved is not secured though it falls ultimately to be paid by the tenant. There is no suggestion in the present proposal to do more than collect the annuities as they become due. If those annuitants are not able to pay the amount, the cost involved under the new system will be infinitesimal as compared with the system up to now. These people have been harassed with the burden of costs. I can see nothing against this Bill. I have listened to the speeches from the Opposition Benches and the only point I can see against the section is that it deprives State solicitors, their officials and the sub-sheriffs of certain emoluments that they have been getting in the past. That may be a loss to these people, but so far as they are concerned I do not see how they can come into this measure at all. This measure is conceived with the idea of securing the best possible benefits and bringing a saving to the small farmers. This will be done without any undue hardship. A certain amount of revenue will be taken from State solicitors, civil bill officers and sheriffs. These are the only people that will be aggrieved. There may be some way of meeting their grievances, but I suggest that it is unfair to make the case that the interests of the tenants are not being served by removing from them the liability for these costs, which are undoubtedly a great hardship on them. That is my opinion, and I have a very wide experience. I say that the proposal is one of the most democratic in the sense that it endeavours to serve the best interests of the poor of the country and saves them from legal charges that have been very excessive in the past and that have borne heavily on them. In the interests of the farmers I am supporting the proposal.

I do not suggest for a moment that Deputy Maguire is not completely honest and sincere in the speech he has made to the House, but his speech suggests that he has not read the amendment, or if he has, he has read it without understanding what it means. He says nobody will be aggrieved by the passing of this section except the State solicitors, civil bill officers and sheriffs. I can assure the Deputy that out of every sheriff's office and from every sheriff's bailiff there will go up a chorus of gratitude for this section. These people will know of no man so admirable as the present Minister for Lands and Fisheries, because there never has been such a gold mine opened before them as is opened by this section.

Mr. Maguire

Is the registrar the sheriff in all counties?

Mr. Maguire

I suggest that he is not.

I will explain that. In a few counties there are still sheriffs left, and they are provided for by this section, but in the ordinary county the registrar does the duty of the sheriff, and when the existing sub-sheriffs die or leave office there will be no sub-sheriffs left. The sub-sheriff is merged in the registrar.

Mr. Maguire

My point is that there are in existence sheriffs who are not registrars.

There are in some counties. There are existing sheriffs and these sheriffs make the seizures in the counties where they exist. In the sub-section here, sub-section (6), the sheriff will make the seizure in the counties where there are sheriffs. In the counties where there are no sheriffs the seizures will be made by the registrar. The sheriff's bailiffs and the registrars are the persons who are going to find this section, as I said, a gold mine. This is a sort of Sheriffs' Relief Bill. This is a Bill to give employment to the sheriffs and the sheriffs' bailiffs. This is a section designed obviously for the purpose of finding jobs for some unemployed persons, because if this section is put into force the number of sheriffs' bailiffs will want to be very substantially increased. It is a sheriff's bailiffs' Bill; it is a Bill for the relief of sheriffs' bailifs. That is the way in which it might be accurately described. I do not believe that if Deputy Maguire really understood what the section meant he would have given it the encomium which he did. I do not know about Deputy Davin, because I must confess that Deputy Davin is an absolute mystery to me. When he stands up I do not know on God's earth what he is going to say or how he is going to say it. I am very sorry he has left the House at the present moment. He talked about Deputy Dillon running away, and then proceeded to skedaddle himself. Even in his absence, in the great hope that he may read what I state or that his two colleagues may convey something of the kind to him, I should like to point out that at any rate a great number of the things he said were absolute nonsense. He said the tenants had to pay sums of money fixed by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government. The Cumann na nGaedheal Government did not fix scales of costs, neither did the Fianna Fáil Government. The scales of costs in the District Court, Circuit Court, and the High Court are fixed by an independent body called the Rule-Making Committee. That Committee fixes the costs, and they are not controlled by the Minister for Justice at all.

Is it not the Incorporated Law Society which fixes them?

No, it is not. It is the Rule-Making Committee.

At the suggestion of the Incorporated Law Society.

It is not the Incorporated Law Society. It is the Rule-Making Committee. The Rule-Making Committee settles the amount of the costs. Deputy Davin referred to costs of 19/11 to collect a 16/- decree. I should like to point out that the costs in Land Commission cases are not in the slightest bit different from the costs in any other class of case heard before these courts. They are not the slightest bit different from shop goods cases. The scale of costs is exactly the same in Land Commission cases, and if there is a case for revising one there is a case for revising all. Deputy Davin challenged me, why I do not know, but I happened to be here, and I suppose I caught the impetuous, mediæval mind of the Deputy, because Deputy Davin is extremely mediæval and wants to go back to mediæval systems. I am glad to see that he has now returned to the House. He likes something old-fashioned; he likes something mediæval. The only thing that surprises me is that Deputy Davin has not come in clad in a suit of armour or mounted on a horse clad in armour generally. He wants to go back to the Middle Ages. He wants to give a power of seizure, as Deputy Rice pointed out, to the Land Commission, which the Revenue Commissioners have. The debts that are due to the Revenue Commissioners, as Deputy Rice pointed out, are debts due to the King. He wants to put the Land Commission in the same position. Deputy Davin, with his passionate love for royalty and kingly power, and steeped as he is in mediævalism, is entirely in favour of this section. He was quite wrong when he said that it would be of some advantage to my profession, which is the same as Deputy Dillon's profession. Not in the slightest. Those cases are heard before the District Court or before the Circuit Court or in big cases before the High Court; the number of cases in which barristers would be retained, unless there was some very big issue indeed, would be very few. I do not think there have been any within the last few years.

Who has been getting the loot?

I do not know what the Deputy calls the loot. If he means the costs, the sheriff has been getting the most of those expenses we have been hearing about here. Deputy Davin, who is the sheriff's Guardian Angel, Deputy Davin who wishes to see the sheriff and the sheriff's bailiffs in affluence, is in favour of the section. It is the sheriff and his bailiffs are going to have the loot if this particular section becomes law. As far as the costs in court are concerned, the persons who receive them in undefended cases—and I presume that cases which it is expected would be undefended are the cases to which this section would be applied— are the State solicitors, and the State solicitors only. I can assure Deputy Davin that neither I nor any member of this Party or of the Farmers' Party is related to the State solicitors. I am not in the slightest bit interested as to whether the fees of the State solicitors go up or down. If they are not adequately paid by the State for the work they do, the State can pay them a larger sum. I am not interested in the State solicitors in the slightest bit. I am interested in seeing that the persons who are land annuitants get fair play. To get down to some of those very curious points which have been made; the Minister intervened as if he had made some marvellous discovery. He satisfied Deputy MacDermot, seemingly, but I must confess it was a bit too deep for me. The keener intelligence of Deputy MacDermot seemed to have grasped that some very real grievance was being done away with by what the Minister said, but I could not grasp it.

I am not conscious of being satisfied. I do not know what the Deputy is referring to.

The Deputy expressed that the Minister had cleared away some doubt in his mind.

I said that his assurance carried us somewhat further; which it did.

I am afraid his assurance did not carry me one yard. Nobody has ever suggested that the Land Commission is corrupt. Nobody has suggested that given those powers the Land Commission is going deliberately to misuse them. Nobody has suggested that if the Land Commission knows a person does not owe a debt they are going to issue a warrant under this section. What is the good of the Minister getting up and saying: "Oh, the Land Commission will never issue a warrant when they know the amount is in dispute"? How does that carry us any further? Who, from this side of the House, ever suggested that those very competent and very honourable gentlemen who are carrying out the duties of the collection branch of the Land Commission are going to act consciously dishonestly? It has never been suggested. What we have said is, in the first place, that they are capable of making mistakes. Of course, they are capable of making mistakes. There could not be any men who are collecting an enormous sum of money as those are, £5,000,000 a year, who do not make or could not make mistakes from time to time. What is the use of getting up and telling the House that the Land Commission are not consciously going to make mistakes? How does the Land Commission know the cases that are going to be defended and the cases that are not going to be defended? The Land Commission has got at the present moment a privilege that the ordinary litigant has not got. Its certificate that money is due isprima facie evidence in court. They need not produce any witness. Anybody else who goes to court in a defended case must produce his witness, but not the Land Commission.

At any rate their certificate isprima facie evidence that the amount is due. They do not know what case will be put in defence; they could not know. In a case in which there is going to be a defence, and in fact a complete bona fide defence, even though they may be completely in error, they will issue their warrant. A man who owes nothing, and who has paid his annuities may inevitably, if this section is put through, find that the sheriff has issued a warrant against him and that his stock is being seized. I think this section is appallingly impolitic if nothing else. I have dealt with a case where a mistake is made. Let me deal with a case where no mistake is made. Suppose a man owes his annuity and gets a solicitor's letter, and after that a process. He knows there is time yet, plenty of time. He is prepared to make a payment. He may borrow the money from his friends, or by any other method collect it rather than have a seizure. That is what happens now. What is going to happen under this Bill suppose it becomes law? Within a single week, a single annuity being due, the Minister, because this is under his own control, may say to his officials in the Land Commission, and they must obey him: “Go and seize so-and-so's stock.” His annuity may be only a week due, but he may be somebody that the Minister does not like, and he has power to have his stock seized. This power ought not to be in the Minister's hands. It is very well for the Labour Party and the Fianna Fáil Party to sneer at such things as the rights of the individual and the liberty of the individual, but the individual has his rights.

What about the kicking cow in Clare?

What about the kicking cow in Clare? If the Deputy refers to a case in which a certain young man was knocked down by a cow, and endeavoured to make out that the Guards had assaulted him, and, thereupon, made a false charge against the Guards, he, and people who dislike the Guards, and believe these false charges, may object to have these false charges investigated.

Is this an agricultural discussion?

It has nothing to do with the amendment.

Deputy Davin was irrelevant in his interruption, but when he made the interruption I submit I am entitled to say that Deputy Davin has insinuated a falsehood.

The Chair has no knowledge of the case referred to and does not see the relevance of it.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is, of course, not always in the House and could not be aware of references made from time to time in his absence. But when Deputy Davin makes this statement he shows he is the type of man who believes anything that is said against the Guards.

That is quite wrong.

This Party supports the Guards as much as any one else in this House.

You did not support them in this particular matter.

We are not discussing the Guards on this amendment.

I pass from that and come back to the particular matter under discussion. I say that the rights of members of the Civic Guards would not get much consideration from people if they are minded as Deputy Davin is in regard to that. But that the rights and liberties of the ordinary citizens of this State should be subjected, as they are subjected by this Bill, to a Department of State which is practically under the control of a Minister, is absolutely wrong, and those who support this measure and, particularly this section as it stands, are people without any regard for the ordinary farmers who pay land annuities in the country. It is sought here to put the payers of land annuities under the feet of a Department which can trample upon them if they wish. If a man does not happen to be able to pay his debts within a week or so after they are due, you are putting him absolutely at the mercy of a particular Department; that is what some Deputies in this House think is right. They cannot increase the central power sufficiently and they must decrease the ordinary protection of the individual as much as possible. I know that is the view of Deputies opposite and it has been expressed not for the first time in this debate.

As far as this amendment goes it simply insures that the bare certificate issued by the Land Commission must be followed by a summons from the Department to the individual who if he likes can go into court. Where does the question of solicitor's fees arise there? When the Department sends out a summons it gives an opportunity to the individual to come before the district justice. Where are the fees there that frightened Deputy Davin so much? If a man does not wish to go to court then he takes no steps, and does not give a reply because under this section certain rules will have to be drafted. If he makes no reply a summons can be issued. Yet that very simple sending of a summons is too much trouble for a Government Department, and Deputy Davin, who does not wish to see a Government Department put to any trouble, will not accept this amendment, and will vote against it. There has been more sham and hypocrisy talked about this section than was ever talked in this House before. What is the use of anybody, with an ounce of brains, getting up and saying that this section is going to save costs and expenses? Does not every single person who reads this section, and is capable of understanding it, know that it is going to increase the costs and to increase them heavily upon the annuitants in default? Is there a single person in this House who does not know that ordinary legal expenses are trivial in comparison with sheriff's fees? Is there a single person who does not know that, once a decree gets into the sheriff's hands? Here you are making provision for decrees and substituting the sheriff for the court decree which means getting into the sheriff's hands. As I said at the outset this is a sheriff's relief bill and nothing else. It is going to increase, out of all recognition, if put in force, the costs upon the annuitants. As far as this section is concerned I certainly have one hope and it is this: that the Land Commission will try this section for about a fortnight, or a month, and if they do the outcry will be such that the section will become a dead letter. That is the only hope I have got. If this House has any respect for itself, then it should not leave it to the ordinary man in the street, to the public, to the outcry which the passing of this section must evoke, to set things right. The House should not do a thing which, in its heart of hearts, it knows is utterly wrong and then trust that the public outcry will be so great that the powers which the House is giving to the Minister and the Department dare not be used.

I have great pleasure in supporting this section. I have had a fairly long experience of proceedings in the Circuit and District Courts and I think there is nothing more pitiable than to see in those courts hundreds of civil bills presented by the Land Commission and scarcely any defence entered against them. Decrees are issued as a matter of form by those courts simply for the purpose of mulcting unfortunate tenants in costs. I have had tenants coming in to my office and asking me to enter a defence. The defence was really only a plea for time. The mere fact of asking to enter a defence really meant that I also would be entitled to costs, additional to the costs already incurred. I have seen thousands of decrees issued and I have never yet seen a successful defence offered in the case of Land Commission processes.

Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney has said that extra costs will be imposed and he laid great emphasis on the point that the sheriff will have to be called in. In addition to the costs previously incurred in the courts the tenants heretofore were also obliged to pay the sheriff's costs.

What percentage of the decrees in court reached the sheriff?

I will deal with that later. I am sure that under this section the very same facilities will be given to tenants to pay by the Land Commission, as in the past. I am sure as long a time as formerly will be given to tenants to meet their liabilities. I am certain the Land Commission will give very favourable consideration to applications for time to pay. I do not see how any tenant derives benefit from having the civil bill officer calling on him. The hearing of the case in court only involves heavy costs. As a lawyer, accustomed to pity these tenants in the past, I say that there is no section in the Bill that appeals more to me than this section.

There is a certain element of danger in connection with the payment of annuities to which I would like to refer. In the very recent past there was a certain system of collection in vogue. I do not know if that system still obtains. I do know that that system exposed annuitants to very grave danger. An annuitant might pay his annuity at the local bank. He would probably pay in cash, but before that cash would be accepted he had to hand in his receivable order. He was not entitled to a receipt from the bank at the time. I know one instance in which very grave hardship and injustice were inflicted on annuitants because of that system of payment. One cashier of a bank, in a moment of weakness, gave way to temptation and absconded with a lot of money lodged by annuitants. This occurred at a time when the annuities were being paid and a considerable amount of money passed into the cashier's hands. The annuitants paid cash and got no receipts.

This man absconded and, as a result, there was a considerable amount of litigation. These people had no receivable orders and no receipts for their cash payments. How were they to defend their cases? The man who had received the money had left the country. That is one instance of the grave danger to which annuitants are exposed. That system was a very detestable system and I do not know if it still holds good. The man who would pay by cheque would, at all events, have the protection afforded by crossing his cheque and that could be cashed only through a person who had an account in the bank. If made payable to the Land Commission it would have to be endorsed by a Land Commission official. In a matter of that sort the annuitants require protection. If there has not been an alteration in that system, I would be glad to have an indication from the Minister that that whole matter will be thoroughly investigated.

I do not desire to cast any reflection on Land Commission officials. I know they have great difficulties and trials in dealing with the collection of annuities. Often when a man sends a cheque, together with his receivable order, several months elapse before he gets his receipt or receivable order back. If you send a money order and anything happens to it in transit you run the risk of losing the whole amount, together with your receivable order. If your receivable order is mislaid you have to apply for a duplicate. I confess I have no sympathy with lawyers in a matter of this kind. Our chief concern here is the annuitant and how best to protect him. In the case I have referred to grave injustice was inflicted on the annuitants. They handed their cash to this young man, who subsequently absconded and the annuitants had to pay their annuities all over again. What are we going to have to indemnify the annuitants against a repetition of that, unless the system is completely altered with regard to the manner of collection? Doubtless, it was voluntary on the part of the annuitant when he went in with the receivable order and handed in his cash to the bank, but he got no receipt and was not entitled to get it. That was the system that held good.

At the present time the banks all have instructions to give receipts whenever money is handed in with a receivable order.

The Minister knows that, as a matter of practice, these receipts are not given in many cases unless they are asked for.

That was the system for a while, but recently the Land Commission has given instructions to the banks that they are to give receipts whether requested by the annuitants or not.

Might I ask when were these instructions given by the Land Commission to the banks?

About two years ago.

I am very glad to hear that the system has been altered.

I have never known of a bank to refuse to give a receipt.

As a matter of fact, they had special receipt forms in the bank.

I have mentioned a case here where, to my own knowledge, the people had to pay over again as a result of not having receipts. I am very glad to hear the Minister say now that that system has been altered. I think that in a matter of this kind it is rather high-handed and autocratic that the only opportunity an annuitant has now is to have to pay the sheriff. If he misses the date now and the sheriff is sent in with his document to seize his cattle we have, in that way, revived a system of tyranny, to my mind, unparalleled and unprecedented in the whole history of this country since the days of Cromwell. We have heard of many kinds of tyranny in the past, but they were mild forms of tyranny in comparison with this. We are talking about the sympathy we have with the poor, but if, when a man is in such circumstances of financial difficulties that he cannot overcome them, the only remedy held out to him now is that the sheriff will be sent in to distrain, I wonder what message that will convey to the struggling people of this country? Certain people will not fear this because they will be people in a good financial position who will be able to meet their liabilities and discharge them. I think I can say—and the officials of the Land Commission have full knowledge of it— that as far as the annuities are concerned, they have been met and paid. The annuitants have discharged their liabilities in a most creditable manner and I think their action in the past should be given the fullest consideration. I feel that they are deserving of very great credit, and they should receive the greatest consideration, rather than rushing them into the position now with this sword over their heads that they will have no opportunity of defence when the sheriff is sent in, as I said before, to seize their chattels. I do hope that the matter will receive consideration. I am not suggesting that the Minister or the Land Commission are desirous of acting in a harsh or tyrannical fashion as far as these people are concerned, but I hope there will be some protection, something that will be held between the Land Commission, with all due respect to them, and those people who, in trying circumstances, may not be able to meet their obligations. The judicial court would be the one and only remedy that I can see.

If this debate this evening has done nothing more than extract from a lawyer-Deputy, in this House, the admission that the scale of charges for law costs in the past has been out of all proportion to what the country can bear, it will have done one good turn for this country at any rate. I am glad to hear the lawyers crying out over what will happen to the poor farmers. I think we in this House who belong to that class of the farming community should at least make our voices heard. I agree with Deputy Dillon that the scale of costs which was allowed to be fixed under the Cumann na nGaedheal régime was out of all proportion to what the country can bear. As a practical illustration of that, about five years ago I bought a farm of land and the solicitor who had been acting in the sale sent me a bill of costs. I asked him how it came about that he had done similar work for a neighbour of mine at half the money and his answer was that there was a new scale of charges which permitted the costs to be doubled. As I say, if this debate brings about the admission that the scale of charges is too high it will have done one good work for Ireland.

I was amazed to hear the argument that the registrar of a court will be more harsh and severe than a district justice. I have no acquaintance with either class of gentleman, but I fail to see how one of them cannot understand the feelings of the Government and of the country any more than the other. With regard to State solicitors, I heard Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney say that there are no costs. My experience is that there were always costs.

Did you ever get them yourself?

I did not myself, but I saw them with the neighbours. I heard Deputy Davis say something about mistakes in the banks. Undoubtedly, there were mistakes in the days gone by. I knew of a case of a poor woman who went into the bank and paid her money, but she threw receivable order away. The next thing she knew was that she got another demand and had to pay again. It does not follow at all that because State solicitors costs were added to the decrees the thing was more favourable to the tenants then than now. I support this clause in the Bill, and I support it as a farmer, knowing the hardships inflicted on farmers, and I do hope and expect that they will get as much mercy from the registrar of the court and the Land Commission as they ever got from the State solictors.

I am opposed to this section in principle. Deputies in this House will recall that an attempt was made in the British House of Commons, when the Land Act of 1903 was introduced, to insert a similar clause, and the Irish Parliamentary Party of that time so strenuously opposed it that it was withdrawn. Here the same principle is going to be accepted in this Bill. There has been a lot of what I can only call "tosh" talked in this House about costs. Not a solitary speaker here has told you, sir, and the House, what are the costs here. I am opposed to this in principle. It is a violation of the Constitution and of the rights of the citizen that his property can be taken from him without the operation of law. On that account, a proposal to insert a section of this kind in the Act of 1903 was defeated in the British House of Commons. I oppose this section for a similar reason.

Are the powers given to rate collectors a violation of the Constitution?

Two wrongs do not make a right.

If Deputies would refrain from answering interruptions there would be fewer interruptions.

Perhaps there would and I am sorry for answering. Deputy Davin burst forth into a regular tornado in an attack on Deputy Dillon as representing a certain branch of the legal profession. To test that attack I challenge Deputy Davin to name one solitary case in the Free State where counsel has earned a fee from the Land Commission. I have been 17 years at the Bar and I have never seen counsel earn one penny from the Land Commission. I would ask Deputy Davin to name one case for the House or withdraw his statement and so put an end to loose talk of that kind.

On that point, what I referred to was the excessive charges by State solicitors.

Deputy Dillon is not a State solicitor.

Is not Deputy Davin against the section?

No, I am supporting the section.

He is in favour of the bailiffs.

This section is going to enrich one class and one class only—the sheriff and the sheriff's bailiffs. The sheriff and the sheriff's bailiffs are going to be the wealthiest class in the country under this section. Let there be no mistake about that, and let it not be said hereafter that it was not stated. I am sure that the Minister does not intend that this section should have the unfortunate consequences that undoubtedly will be involved in it. What has been the practice in the past? When the half-year's rent became due and was not paid, the schedule was sent down to the State solicitor. He had printed forms available, he put in the name of the tenant and the amount of the annuity, and sent out the demand to the annuitant. What did that cost? 2/6. This House ought to look upon these matters as if they were ordinary debts. Society, as regards debtors, at all events, is divided into two classes, people who are negligent in paying and people who cannot pay. These people, as I say, receive a printed intimation from the State solicitor which costs them 2/6. In the case of a private debt, if the debtor receives a solicitor's letter, he has to pay 6/8, but all it costs the land annuitant is 2/6. He has then got seven days within which he can pay or, perhaps, he is allowed even a little longer. If he does not pay within that period a civil bill is issued. What does that cost? I have the figures here. If the amount of the annuity is under £2 and if it is paid before entry, the cost of the civil bill is only 5/-. I am taking these figures from the scale of costs. If it is paid after entry the cost is 6/-, and then the costs of the decree are 11/-. Where the amount exceeds £2 but does not exceed £5, the cost of the letter sent out by the State solicitor is the same, 2/6. In the case of an ordinary debt it would be 6/8, or perhaps up to 10/-, according to the status of the solicitor. If the amount of the annuity is over £2 but does not exceed £5 the cost of the civil bill is 8/-, if it is paid before entry, and, after entry, it is 14/-. These costs were not fixed by Cumann na nGaedheal or by the present Government. These are the costs as drawn up by the rule-making committee. They apply to private debtors as well as to the Land Commission. This system may be costly and you can try to cheapen it if you like. I said last year myself that there should be some means of reducing the costs, but in principle I think this is the best method of collection you can get.

Might I ask the Deputy if the State solicitor lives 14 miles away from the District Court in which the case is to be tried, will he not get additional expenses?

No, not a penny. These debts in certain respects are in the same category as shopkeepers' debts. You have got to deal with a similar class of persons. You should remember that they are human beings, and you should approach the collection of these debts in the same way as you would the collection of ordinary debts. If you think that the costs at present paid to the State solicitors are too high, reduce them by all means. I spoke last year in favour of reducing them. I think, as one who spent a part of my life in business and who has some knowledge of the machinery employed in the collection of debts, that the machinery that has been in operation by the Land Commission in the past is the best and most efficient. The Minister has got the figures before him, and I am sure he will admit that about 75 per cent. of the arrears are paid after the first typewritten letter is received from the State solicitor by the annuitant. About 20 per cent. more would be paid after the civil bill is issued. In my experience I have never known of a case of seizure by the Land Commission in County Donegal. It is where the sheriff is sent out that the costs mount up. The law costs are not so great, taking them on the whole, and they can be reduced if you wish to reduce them. I think that if the Government adopt this section and try the new system, they will be compelled to go back to the old system of collection after a while, because they will find that it is the most efficient and the best for the annuitants. Again I say to the Minister that you can divide these people into two classes. We have, of course, the people who pay half-yearly, the moment the annuity falls due. Then you have two other classes—the people who cannot pay and those who are negligent in paying. This latter class will pay the moment they get the letter. Then there is the class who cannot pay, and they are deserving of all mercy. Look what will happen to these people. Their annuity will be in arrears, the Land Commission will send down a warrant to the county registrar, and the sheriff will be put in motion. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.
The House adjourned at 10.30 p.m., until Friday, 28th July, 1933, at 10.30 a.m.