"That the Bill be received for final consideration."
Vol. 49 No. 11
"That the Bill be received for final consideration."
I do not know whether this point arises on either the Land Bill or the Land Bond Bill, but I have not seen in either Bill anywhere mentioned the period of the amortisation of the annuities, so to speak. Usually on this basis, it would be 68½ years. That was the period stated, I think, in the Land Act of 1923. That was the term in which the annuities would cease or the advances would be paid off, but I have not seen that term stated in either the Land Bond Bill or the Land Bill.
The Deputy is aware, I presume, that this Bill has nothing to do with the Land Bill which was before the House last week. This Bill deals with the finance of Land Acts prior to the Act of 1933.
Is the position then, sir, that we have not considered any finance for the Land Bill which we have been discussing?
I think the Minister should give a little more attention to the points that are being raised in Bills rather than to attempt to score points of opponents in a way that ought to be beneath the Minister. It is very important that we should know, and that the people who will be taking these bonds should know, in what currency they will be redeemed when it comes to the time of redemption. I wonder was the Minister's mind so obsessed by counterfeit tokens as to feel that there was something counterfeit in this Bill which he was ashamed or afraid to disclose to the House. A man is asked to part with property worth £1,000 and he gets £1,000 worth of these bonds at their face value. It is not stated—at least it has not been disclosed by the Minister during the discussions on this Bill—if those £1,000 worth of bonds will be redeemed in sterling. That is a very important point. Say, for example, they were not redeemed in sterling but in a Free State currency that has not yet been adopted in this country, and that a period of inflation set in around the 30 year period so that the Free State pound was devalued with regard to gold or to sterling or to dollars——
The House is considering the Report Stage of this measure and the purpose of that Stage is to discuss the Bill as it emerged from Committee. No alterations were made in this Bill in Committee and the line of argument that is being pursued by the Deputy would be relevant on the Second Stage—possibly, on the Fifth Stage—but not on Report Stage.
I bow to your ruling, sir.
I ask the permission of the House to take the Fifth Stage now.
I move: "That the Bill do now pass."
I presume I am in order now, sir. Supposing that under the new currency we still adhere to the pound but that we devalued it, so to speak, or took a lower standard of value as our unit of currency——
I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy, but I should like to know, sir, are you taking the Fifth Stage as being moved?
——and that our pound was devalued, as the French franc or the Italian lire was, to, I think, about one-fifth of their former value, this pound would still hold to pay internal debts as French and Italian currency are held to pay internal debts. It is very important to people who are asked to take a price to know if this will be paid in sterling. I am not going to say that it should; but, as a business proposition, the public should know whether the bonds will be redeemed in sterling or in new currency. If they will be redeemed in new currency, it is only fair to this House and to the country, and to the people whose property will be taken up at a nominal price, that they should know that—and by "nominal" I do not mean a price at the time it is taken up as only a nominal value, but a price fixed at a denomination that may not have that value when it comes to be redeemed in terms of the currency to which we are now accustomed. If we had a period of inflation or devaluation it would amount to the confiscation of those bonds and the confiscation of the land that will be taken for which those bonds to be issued will be offered in payment. There is no use in pursuing a discussion on what might take place if we had a new currency, but I think it is only fair to the House to know where they are going and to the country to know what is being given for the property that is changing hands, or rather what those tokens of currency will be worth 30 years hence. If there is a change contemplated in that time, then I think an outline in broad general terms should be given to the House; but, as we stand at present and from the knowledge that we can collect in ordinary commercial life even in this city, we know that any payments that are promised now are promised in Free State currency, whatever that currency may be. I wonder if the Minister and the Executive Council contemplate redeeming those bonds in Free State currency whatever it may be in the future, or are they adhering to sterling? If they are adhering to sterling and that there is a change in our currency this side of 30 years, has the Minister taken into account the possible and, perhaps, inevitable strain it would be on the finances of this country? I say that because I cannot see circumstances obtaining here in which a separate Free State currency could be at a higher exchange value than sterling. The reason is that we could not afford it because we are a large exporting country to Great Britain. In fighting for our place in the market there we will have to keep our currency, if we have control of it, slightly below the nominal exchange value of the British currency, just as the countries round the Baltic do in order to secure for themselves a good market and an advantageous position in the British market.
Another point that will arise if we have a separate currency is this: it must of necessity, or in wisdom at any rate, be slightly below the exchange value of the British currency, and the question is: who is going to make good the deficiency? Will it be the Exchequer, or will it be the people who have got the land? Will they have to continue paying their annuities for a longer period than would otherwise be necessary in order to redeem that margin that would be lost in the exchange due to the different values of the currencies when the time for redemption comes?
I do not want to go into the general question of currencies, but would the Minister tell us the exact circumstances in which the British guarantee came to an end? I am a fairly careful student of public affairs, and all that I can remember is that sometime, I think, last year a statement was published in the Press to the effect that the British guarantee would cease under the 1923 Act. I do not know the circumstances in which that guarantee was given at the beginning, but in view possibly of our having changed our currency it would have an appreciable effect on the value of the land bonds issued under this Bill as distinct from the land bonds that were issued under the 1925 Act. Perhaps the Minister could explain to us exactly the circumstances in which the British ceased to give their guarantee.
I do not intend to take up the time of the House in dealing with the various figmentary points made by Deputy Belton in a somewhat rambling and incoherent speech. They do not really arise on this Bill. The Deputy's speech indicates that he has not read the Bill, and particularly Sections 4, 5 and 6 in which these points are dealt with. With regard to the point made by Deputy Esmonde, the British guarantee covered an issue of £30,000,000 worth of land bonds. On the completion of that issue on the 18th December, 1932, a renewal of the British guarantee was not asked for because it was felt that the Saorstát credit was just as good as the British credit in the world to-day.
Does the Minister refuse to answer the question I put: whether it is contemplated to redeem all these bonds in sterling or in some other currency? It is due to the country to know. The Minister need not answer if he does not like, but it is treating the House and the country with discourtesy not to give the information.
I do not propose to waste the time of the House if Deputy Belton has not read the Bill.
I have read the Bill, and the information that I ask for is not in it.
This Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 35 of the Constitution.