I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 4, Section 3 (1), lines 40 and 41, to delete the words "an officer of the Land Commission" and substitute the words "a lay commissioner."
Vol. 49 No. 12
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 4, Section 3 (1), lines 40 and 41, to delete the words "an officer of the Land Commission" and substitute the words "a lay commissioner."
I am sorry the Minister did not accept the amendment I moved in Committee. The Minister, during the Committee Stage, expressed agreement with the amendment. He admitted that any officer of the Land Commission acting on the Committee for the purpose of drawing up rules and regulations, should have a long experience and should be used to the working of the Land Acts. My amendment was intended to ensure that the officer of the Land Commission appointed to act on the Rule-making Committee, should have the requisite experience of the working of the Land Acts. My amendment was withdrawn on the Committee Stage to give the Minister an opportunity of considering the matter between that and the Report Stage. The official amendment the Minister now moves merely provides that a lay commissioner shall now be appointed to the Rule-making Committee instead of an officer of the Land Commission. My amendment provided that the lay commissioner appointed should have experience of the working of the Land Acts. In view of the admission which the Minister made during the Committee Stage when he said such official should have such experience, I cannot understand why he has not, in addition to the words that the commissioner on the Committee shall be a lay commissioner insert the words "of not less than two years' experience." At any rate, what I wanted to cover was that the person appointed to act on the Rule-making Committee should have satisfactory experience of the working of the Land Act.
I thought we already thrashed out this amendment. The Deputy may be sure that any person whom we appoint as a lay commissioner will be suitable for his job. This amendment of Deputy Roddy's would be restrictive. It presupposes that the Fianna Fáil Government is not as fit to make an appointment of an officer to the Land Commission as was the British or Cumann na nGaedheal Government, and that is an argument which I would not for one moment accept.
Though amendments Nos. 2, 6 and 11 differ in content, the same principle seems to run through them and they might be taken together.
I move amendment No. 2. This amendment is to ensure the appointment of a commissioner with experience of finance rules and regulations. My amendment to sub-section (4) of Section 7 provides for the appointment of a committee to make the rules and regulate the practice and procedure of the appeal tribunal. Is the Minister not even prepared to make a distinction in that case, and provide for the appointment of a land commissioner with experience of Land Commission administration? It is much more important that the commissioner appointed should have experience of Land Commission procedure and practice on this committee even than on the committee provided for in Section 3.
The Government in appointing the lay members of the appeal tribunal will have regard to the fitness of the man for the post. In no Land Act was it ever laid down that the men appointed to any post should be men of two years' standing.
Surely the Minister will admit that if proper rules are to be drawn up for the guidance of the appeal tribunal it is absolutely necessary that the persons appointed to draw up those rules and regulations must have experience of Land Commission work. If the person who is appointed has not that experience he will merely act as an automaton, and I am sure that is not the intention of the Minister.
Might I direct attention to what the Minister said on the Committee Stage of this Bill. In column 491 of the Official Debates, I asked the Minister if he intended to appoint an existing commissioner. The Minister's reply was: "If it was to be done to-day I would appoint an existing commissioner." I then asked: "And may we take it that it is not his intention to appoint a commissioner who has only just been selected?" The Minister replied: "Not the slightest." All that we are asking the Minister to do now is to put the words "Not the slightest" into the Bill. After all, if he said it here in the House can there be any valid objection to his putting it in the Bill? I urged on the Second Reading that the difficulty would be withdrawn from the Minister's way. I said (column 495):
"I know you can trip up words, but, broadly speaking, those are the Minister's words.... The Minister is prepared to accept the words ‘land commissioner,' and he says that if he had the appointment to-morrow he would appoint one of the existing Land Commissioners. I think we can safely assume that that is the meaning of the undertaking he has given here to-day.
"The Minister, unless deliberately guilty of equivocation—and I am not prepared to believe that—has clearly indicated that if the existing Land Commissioners are available when he is making his choice he will choose one of them."
All that Deputy Roddy's amendment means, so far as I can see, is that the Minister should put in the Bill what he undertook in the House. Why he should refuse to do that I cannot imagine. Personally, I will be just as well pleased if the Minister will say now that he intends to appoint a person with Land Commission experience. That is sufficient guarantee. If the Minister would say that now, I would strongly advise Deputy Roddy to withdraw his amendment. We have not heard him say that yet. He said it on the Committee Stage, and I should like to hear him confirm it on Report Stage.
I have already told Deputy Roddy that whenever we are appointing a land commissioner we shall take as great care as any previous Government took to appoint a man who is fit for the job. We are not going to admit for one moment that this Government is not fit to appoint a commissioner, or that a man whom they might appoint in the future would be a man who is not fitted to be a member of the rule-making or appeal tribunal, as the case may be.
Would the Minister not admit that, after all, experience is of some consequence in the matter?
I admit all that.
Well, then, would the Minister admit what Deputy Dillon has quoted from his previous speech? Will he repeat the undertaking he gave on a previous occasion?
There is no undertaking.
I thought as much.
What I gave to Deputy Dillon was an expression of my own thoughts at the time, and they are my thoughts to-day, but they are not to be put into the form of an undertaking. There is no undertaking except what is in the Bill, that a land commissioner will be appointed. That is the law, and if an undertaking were given it would be that the man appointed as land commissioner would be fit for the job. No Government would stand for appointing anybody as land commissioner who was not fit for the job.
The Minister knows perfectly well that the question of the right of the Government to appoint a fit and proper person does not arise at all. What we are anxious about is that the person so appointed should have some Land Commission experience—at least two years.
The Minister, of course, entirely misses the point. He is anxious to take offence and no offence is meant. There is a difference between the qualifications of a man who is to take up duties as a land commissioner and the qualifications of a man who is to make regulations for Land Commission procedure. There are a number of men who would make excellent land commissioners, and who after two years would be as well fitted as any man in the Land Commission to act on the Rule-making Committee, but there are a number of excellent men who might be appointed Land Commissioners to-morrow but who would be perfectly worthless on the Rule-making Committee because they have no experience of the kind of problems that arise on Land Commission procedure. I repeat that if the Minister will simply give an undertaking that the person he proposes to appoint will be a person with Land Commission experience, so far as I am concerned, that will satisfy me. Might I say with great respect that it is very silly to take up the attitude that if a suggestion is made from the Opposition Benches to improve a Bill that suggestion is a reflection on the integrity or competency of a Minister of Government. The Minister is always clamouring for helpful suggestions, but when he gets them he says that we are reflecting on his capacity as Acting-Minister for Lands and Fisheries. That is nonsense. If the Minister would give a personal undertaking, that would satisfy me. So far as I am concerned I have no desire to put any statutory bonds on him at all. It is only right and reasonable that we should ask at this juncture for a specific undertaking from the Minister that when he comes to make the appointment he will appoint a person who will have experience.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In page 5, Section 6 (1) (b), line 36, after the word "acquired" to insert the words "or resumed."
I accept that amendment.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 5, at the end of Section 6 (1) (e), to add a new paragraph as follows:—
the determination of the question whether any lands so proposed to be acquired are required for the relief of congestion.
On the Committee Stage the Minister promised to look into this question before the Report Stage. I do not see any amendment covering this point.
I am advised that the suggestion is fully covered by Section 28 (6) and Section 6 (1) (a) of the Bill. Section 28 (6) provides:—
The power of the Land Commission under sub-section (3) of Section 24 of the Land Act of 1923 to declare that any land therein referred to is required for the relief of congestion shall be exercised and performed by the lay commissioners and their decision shall be final subject to an appeal to the appeal tribunal on any question of law or of value.
The determination is definitely excluded from the Minister's jurisdiction by 6 (1) (a). The amendment therefore is unnecessary.
That is a point I was anxious to have explained. I understand the Minister to say that he is advised to that effect by his legal advisers?
That sub-section (6) of Section 28 covers my point?
I move amendment No. 5:—
In page 5, Section 6 (1), after paragraph (e) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
the determination of the new holding which is to be provided for a tenant or proprietor whose holding has been acquired by the Land Commission.
The reason for moving this amendment should be only too obvious. In Section 6 there are certain excepted matters which include the determination of the persons to be selected as allottees of untenanted land, the determination of the price at which the land is to be sold to any such allottee, the determination of the price to be paid for the land acquired or resumed, etc. What I am proposing to insert here is something that will ensure that another matter is included as an excepted matter. That is that where a holding is taken from a man under Section 28, the selection of the holding which he is to get in lieu of that holding will be a matter for the Commissioners and not a matter in which the Minister can interfere.
I do not mind accepting the amendment if the Deputy presses it, but I would like to point out that under sub-section (c) one of the excepted matters is the determination of the price to be paid for land so acquired, and the alternative holding is part of the price to be paid. The determination of the price is definitely excluded from the Minister's jurisdiction. The alternative holding is definitely to be the price paid.
I see the point.
If the Deputy presses the amendment, I will accept it but it is only adding unnecessary words to the Bill.
I am afraid that under sub-section (c) the determination of the price may not cover the exchange of holdings which a man may get. I think that is a matter that should be kept free from any Ministerial interference, in fact much more so than any other matter.
I take it as conceded that amendment 6 is covered by amendment 2.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In page 6, before Section 7 (2), to insert two new sub-sections as follows:—
(2) Every lay commissioner appointed to be a member of the appeal tribunal shall hold his office as such member by the same tenure as a judge of the Circuit Court holds his office as such judge.
(3) Whenever the Executive Council is satisfied that a member of the appeal tribunal other than the judicial commissioner is temporarily unable on account of illness, absence on vacation, or other sufficient reason to discharge his duties as such member, the Executive Council may appoint another lay commissioner to be a member of the appeal tribunal during such temporary inability, and every lay commissioner so appointed shall while his said appointment continues hold office as such member by the same tenure as a judge of the Circuit Court holds his office as such judge.
Would the Attorney-General mention the points of difference between the tenure of a circuit judge and a High Court judge?
The powers of removal are the same—a vote of both Houses.
The security of tenure is virtually the same?
Will their salaries be paid as at present or out of the Central Fund?
They will be paid as at present.
Before we pass from the point which Deputy Roddy raises, has anything been overlooked here in regard to the salary position? Can the salaries of these gentlemen be interfered with except on the same terms as a judge?
The Deputy will remember that we brought in this amendment to meet an amendment of his on the Committee Stage and he definitely excluded the question of salary from his amendment. We left out the question of salary as he excepted that question.
The Minister misses the point I am making. There is a certain proviso whereunder the existing salary of a judicial person cannot be altered except by a rather circuitous procedure. Will there be the same safeguard for a lay commissioner?
The Attorney-General states that their status is to be that of a Circuit Court judge, but I think the new section is intended to put the lay commissioners in the same position as the Estates Commissioners were by the Act of 1903. They were given the same tenure as a County Court judge.
I am afraid it is not the intention to give the same position as regards remuneration. It is only as regards tenure they are put in the same position.
What I say is that it is intended to give them the same security of tenure as was given by the Act of 1903 to the Estates Commissioners. They were given the same tenure as County Court judges. The analogous position now would be that of Circuit Court judge. I take it the intention is to give the same tenure to the new officers as was given by the Act of 1903 to the Estates Commissioners?
I think the meaning of the new sub-section is clear.
I am suggesting that it is clear that that is what it means.
What it means is that a lay commissioner appointed to be a member of the appeal tribunal shall not be removed except in the same way as a Circuit Court judge can be removed.
What is the difference then between the status of the Land Commissioners of to-day and the lay commissioners proposed under this Bill?
The Land Commissioners under the 1923 Act, as far as I remember, had their status altered. Until that Act was passed the Land Commissioners had the same tenure as County Court judges. We are restoring that tenure to the men who act as lay commissioners on the appeal tribunal and they cannot be removed except in the same way as Circuit Court judges. The present Commissioners can be removed by the Executive Council.
I shall quote the Deputy the section. It is pretty well known. Sub-section (4) of Section 4 of the Land Law (Commission) Act of 1923, says:—
"So much of sub-section (3) of Section 28 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891 as provides that each commissioner of the Irish Land Commission shall hold his office by the same tenure as if he was a County Court judge in Ireland shall not apply to commissioners appointed under this section."
They are appointed at the moment by the Executive Council and are removable by the Executive Council in the same way as any civil servant.
I admit that that particular section of the Act of 1891 was repealed but the remaining sub-section is still in existence and the Land Commissioners at present enjoy all the rights and privileges conferred on them by the remainder of the Act.
The same rights as civil servants.
No. However it is merely a debating point.
I take it that when the Minister used the expression that they had the same rights as Circuit Court judges he did not mean that they should have the same salaries. I do not think that we would be prepared to give the same salaries to them as are given to Circuit Court judges. I hope that he did not mean by saying that they had the same tenure as Circuit Court judges that we had no control on the question of salary.
The next amendment is No. 8. Amendment No. 9 seems to meet the points raised in amendment No. 8, and possibly in amendment No. 34.
I beg to move amendment No. 8:—
In page 6, Section 7 (3), to delete all words from the word "with" in line 49 to the word "tribunal" in line 50.
This amendment provides that from sub-section (3) of Section 7 the words "with the concurrence of one or both of the other members of the" should be omitted. That sub-section provides that every question before the appeal tribunal "shall be determined by a majority of the members of the tribunal, save that, on any question which, in the opinion of the judicial commissioner with the concurrence of one or both of the other members of the tribunal, is a question of law, the opinion of the judicial commissioner shall prevail". This amendment proposes that those words requiring the concurrence of one or both of the other members of the tribunal should be omitted. The Minister has put down an amendment which goes part of the way to meet the objection; but the objection, in my opinion, is fundamental to the sub-section as it stands. I do not wish to take up the time of the House by repeating the view which I put before the House on the Second Reading of the Bill as regards this question. The view which I then put forward is that the question of what is or what is not a question of law is primarily, essentially, and exclusively a question for a judge. A lay member of a tribunal is not a fit person to determine or to vote on a point as to what is or what is not a question of law. I think that to introduce the principle that a layman is entitled to dispute or argue with or to overrule a judge on what is or what is not a question of law is an essentially wrong principle. If both of the lay commissioners take the view that a certain point is not a question of law then, on this question, which, as I say, is primarily, essentially, and exclusively a question for a judge, the judge is overruled. Assuming that the Minister insists on carrying the section in the form in which it stands, or with his amendment included, it means that persons who are aggrieved by a decision of two laymen as to what is a question of law are put to the expense and trouble of going to the Supreme Court to have this thing decided in their favour. I hold that this is introducing a new principle into our law which should not be introduced. The situation can be perfectly well met by allowing the view of the judicial commissioner to prevail as against his two colleagues, and then, if the Minister thinks it right to give an appeal he can do it by altering the sub-section he proposes to introduce. I certainly urge that this principle should not be introduced.
In order to save time, I propose to ask the Minister to read from columns 601 to 612 in volume 49, No. 2, of the Official Debates. If he does so, he will know my views and the Opposition views on this particular question. I submit that if he gives way on the right of appeal he should give way on the other point.
This is different. I think that this tribunal, as it stands, is a tribunal which will be fair in every way and which will do the work that it will be called upon to do in the best possible way. It guards against a man becoming a crank and stating that every question is a question of law, because when the appeal tribunal decide that it is a question of law they will have to state it and the judicial commissioner cannot be overruled, as Deputy Rice said, by the two lay commissioners on a question of law.
What I said was that if the two lay commissioners decide against the judicial commissioner they may put the aggrieved person to the expense of going to the Supreme Court on an appeal, and that is often a very expensive matter. My suggestion was to consider it from the other point of view and to let the judicial commissioner determine the question but, if the two lay commissioners decide otherwise, to give the aggrieved person the right to go to the Supreme Court.
The fact that there is an appeal to the Supreme Court will act as a brake on the two lay commissioners taking the bit in their teeth and saying that there is no question of law involved in any question that comes before them. I think it is an evenly balanced tribunal.
My objection to the section is fundamental. My objection is that you are setting up persons to decide a question on which they have no qualifications to decide. You are setting up laymen to decide a thing that is outside their province. You are, in effect, setting up a plumber to make a watch.
I move amendment 9:—
In page 7, before Section 7 (4), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(4) An appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court from every determination by the appeal tribunal that a question before it is or is not a question of law, and for that purpose whenever the appeal tribunal determines that a question before it is or is not a question of law, the order made by the appeal tribunal on the said question so before it shall state the fact of such determination and whether the said question so before it was determined to be or was determined not to be a question of law."
I move amendment 10:—
In page 7, Section 7 (4), line 3, to delete the words "an officer of the Land Commission" and substitute the words "a lay commissioner."
I rule that amendment 12 is out of order.
I submit, with all respect, that this amendment could not be stated to increase the charges on public funds? It might be said that as a result of having the amendment passed there would be a loss accruing to public funds from this source. I put it to the Chair that in the case of a Finance Bill, for instance, I would be entitled to put down an amendment, proposing that the rate of income tax should be substantially reduced, and in that case the money coming to public funds from that source would be reduced. I submit that this amendment does not involve a charge on public funds. Money might be lost to public funds if the amendment was passed. It is only a case of "might," because it would only cause loss to public funds if the arrears for 1932-33, during the period of the economic war, were less than the period 1929-30. There is the possibility that there might not be a loss, if it were found that the arrears balanced in these years.
I have considered this amendment very carefully, and have obtained expert advice on the matter. The Deputy submitted that the two years in question might balance. They would not balance to within nearly £2,000,000. But ignoring that issue, if the amendment were passed it would entail a refund from the Exchequer of £400,000, and on that point alone the amendment would be out of order.
In connection with a refund, that could not be made unless the Dáil voted the money.
But it entails a commitment which must be met.
It could not be made unless the Dáil voted the money.
It has to be found in some quarter, and that would undoubtedly be by a charge, amounting to £450,000, on State funds.
Not necessarily unless the money is voted. I submit, sir, that you might put that point to the experts whom you consulted, whether any sum not voted by the Dáil could be recovered by any person.
The amendment is out of order.
I move amendments 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17:—
In page 8, Section 12 (2), line 26, after the word "proceedings" to insert the words and brackets "(if any) commenced before the 1st day of October, 1932."
In page 9, Section 12 (6) (c), line 25, after the word "sums" to insert the words "and additional sums".
In page 9, Section 13 (2), line 54, before the word "for" to insert the words and brackets "(if any) commenced before the 1st day of October, 1932".
In page 10, Section 14 (2), line 38, after the word "proceedings" to insert the words and brackets "(if any) commenced before the 1st day of October, 1932".
In page 11, Section 15 (2), line 44, after the word "proceedings" to insert the words and brackets "(if any) commenced before the 1st day of October, 1932".
All these amendments go together. They propose to relieve tenant purchasers of costs in connection with proceedings for the recovery of unpaid instalments commenced after the 1st October, 1932.
Why was that particular date, the 1st October, fixed upon?
That is the date that the second gale falls due, and any proceedings taken after 1st October would be taken in respect of the last gale of that year. The Government are going to pay the costs of any proceedings before the 1st October.
Does that mean that the Government is not going to bear the cost of proceedings in connection with the June gale?
They are not.
There are many cases in which proceedings were taken for the June gale in October and November. If the Circuit Court happened to be on the 1st November the tenant would be sued for the June gale.
I move amendment 17a:—
In page 11 at the end of Section 15 (3) to add the followings words: "without prejudice to the payments directed to be made by the Land Commission under sub-section (4) of Section 20 of the Land Act, 1923."
What is the meaning of the amendment?
Payment in lieu of rent arises under the Land Act of 1923, and is an annual sum equivalent to 75 per cent. of the annual rent to which the holding was subject at the passing of the Land Act of 1923. Sub-section (4) of Section 20 provides that the Land Commission shall pay to landlords a sum equal to the amount to be collected as payment in lieu of rent. Sub-section (3) of Section 15 of the Land Bill provides that after the first gale day in the year 1933 only 50 per cent. of the payment in lieu of rent will be payable by tenant purchasers, that is, only 50 per cent. is to be collected from them. The intention is to pay the landlords the same amount in lieu of rent as they would get if the Land Act of 1933 were not passed.
I move amendment 18:—
In page 12, Section 16 (2), line 38, before the word "for" to insert the words and brackets "(if any) commenced before the 1st day of October, 1932."
Is the Minister quite sure that no proceedings were taken after 1st October for the recovery of the gales which he wants to exempt from the costs. This might not include all the cases.
Any proceedings taken after 1st October were taken in respect of the June, 1932, gale. There is an amendment by which the Government is going to pay the costs and to refund them. Costs incurred prior to that date will be in respect of gales prior to the first part of 1932 and they will be funded.
If proceedings were initiated on the 30th September is it not possible that they would be started for the same period as for the 1st October. Is there a definite line between the 30th September and 1st October?
Yes. Any proceedings started after 1st October would be in respect of the first gale of 1932 as well as any other gales that were in arrears. The costs in respect of proceedings for arrears due prior to the first gale of 1932 are going to be funded. We are taking power in the Bill to refund the costs in respect of proceedings for arrears for the first gale of 1932 and the second gale of 1932.
I think the Minister should consider that as a matter of fact the Government was not justified in taking proceedings during the economic war for any instalments due, or even instalments for 1931. During the economic war the people could not sell their stock or their produce. I think that should be considered in the same light as the second instalment of 1932 and the first instalment for 1933. For various causes the people could not pay their annuities in 1931 or the early part of 1932. Proceedings were then taken against them during the economic war period and the proceedings were abandoned by the Government. I think they ought to come within the same category as those who did not pay during the economic war.
These costs have been funded; the others are being refunded. I beg to move amendment 19:—
In page 18, Section 21 (e), line 60, before the words "the land" to insert the words "such funding annuity shall be deemed to be an annuity for the repayment of moneys advanced under the Land Purchase Acts for the purchase of a holding and".
In Section 21 there is no difference marked between the unpaid instalment due and payable on 31st January, 1922, and subsequent unpaid instalments—in other words, those arising out of directly or indirectly or close up to the imposition of British tariffs on Irish agricultural produce. There is a difference between these unpaid instalments—the instalment due in May and June, 1932, in November and December of 1932, and in May and June of 1933. These particular annuities which were unpaid on 31st January, 1922, plus a sum of money voted in this House, made good to the Land Purchase Fund the whole of the sum of land purchase annuities which should have been collected. In so far as the claim made by the Government on these moneys is concerned, it is an arguable point in connection with the effect of the British conflict. In so far as the other annuities, which were unpaid on 31st January, 1922, are concerned, the Government have no claim on them—none whatever. They have been made good out of deductions from the Guarantee Fund. So far as this amendment is concerned, the section would read:—
Such funding annuity shall be deemed to be an annuity for the repayment of moneys advanced under the Land Purchase Acts for the purchase of a holding, and the Land Commission and the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland shall respectively have, for the recovery of unpaid instalments of such funding annuity, the like remedies (including remedies given by this Act) as they respectively have for the recovery of unpaid instalments of a purchase annuity.
Has there been any advertence on the part of the Land Commission or the Ministry to the sums which have been made good by local authorities, amounting to something like £660,000, into possession of which the Land Commission now propose to enter?
I will put the Deputy right. On the Committee Stage I gave a definite guarantee that the sums that were withheld from public authorities would be given back to them; that is, the amount of the arrears funded under this Bill will be paid to the different local authorities.
In what way is it proposed to pay? Is it according as it is collected?
No; in lump sums, from time to time—not as it is collected over the 50 years period, but in lump sums. The Minister for Finance will announce from time to time what arrangements he is making in that regard. He has promised to give this money to the county councils before the 50 years period has elapsed.
But so far as this Bill is concerned, there is no power or authority given to the Minister in that connection. There is an amendment that an equivalent amount of land bonds shall be issued, but so far as this amendment is concerned, or any sections of the Bill, there is no power given to the Minister to issue lump sums. If that is the proposal, I am perfectly satisfied, but there is no reference to it in the Bill. Properly speaking, this money was collected after 31st January, 1922. It was first deducted on that date. The big block amounted to £642,000. An additional £21,000 has accrued since that date. At what date approximately is it proposed to liquidate that amount?
I am not in the position to state. It is a matter that should properly be discussed on the Budget or the Finance Bill. Anyhow, the Minister for Finance is going to make good those sums. At the present time the county councils are out of pocket for a period of 14 years in respect of some of the arrears. In a number of cases the Land Commission have not collected sums that have been due for 14 years. If the county councils have to wait a year or two it will not be any great hardship on them in the circumstances. The Minister for Finance realises it would be unfair to ask them to wait for 50 years. I suggest that when the Minister for Finance is making provision for refunding those sums, the Deputy could then raise that matter.
I would like to point out that it is not really a Budgetary matter. Here the Land Commission is entering into possession of the assets. It is from these assets that the moneys will be payable. I think it is scarcely in accordance with the facts that money is due for 14 years. The sum withheld on 31st January, 1922, was £189,000. The figure was as low as £330,000 in 1930. The larger amount is due since that date. It is not a Budgetary matter, and it is not a matter that the taxpayer should be called upon to discharge. The taxpayer does not owe the money. It is not a finance matter, because it does not come from taxation. It ought to find its origin from the sums which the Government is going to collect from the tenant farmers. In that connection, as provision is being taken here to collect that money and impound it, if one might say so, in the land purchase fund——
The Deputy stated that there was due to the local authorities in 1922 £600,000.
I told the Minister that the sum due in 1922 was £189,553. Now, has the Minister got that? If he has not I will repeat it for him again, £189,553, or £447 less than £190,000.
Does not the Minister think that the local authorities are entitled to some assurance beyond his word that the Minister for Finance will make good this money some time? When the Minister comes to the House to make arrangements for the carrying out of the financing of the Act, is not that the time to deal with it? The local authorities are entitled to some consideration. The fact that the money has been held over for years does not add anything to the Minister's case. That in no way makes his case stronger. I think the House ought to press for some assurance that the money will be forthcoming and that it will be forthcoming from its proper source.
I move amendment 20:—
In page 19, before Section 23, to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Where proceedings at the suit of the Land Commission or the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland were commenced after the 1st day of October, 1932, and were brought for the recovery of arrears of any purchase annuity, interest in lieu of rent, payment in lieu of rent, annual sum, additional sum, rent, interest, or other annual payment and such arrears or any part thereof are payable under this Part of this Act by means of a funding annuity, the costs and expenses of the Land Commission or the said Commissioners (as the case may be) in respect of such proceedings shall, if not otherwise paid before the passing of this Act, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas as part of the expenses of the Land Commission or the said Commissioners, as the case may be.
(2) Where a person, against whom any such proceedings as are mentioned in the foregoing sub-section of this section were brought for the recovery of any such arrears as are mentioned in that sub-section, has incurred costs and expenses in connection with such proceedings, such costs and expenses shall be refunded to such person by the Land Commission or the said Commissioners (as the case may be) out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas as part of the expenses of the Land Commission or the said Commissioners, as the case may be.
Is this the other portion of it—up to this? We have done with the procedure up to this?
Amendment 21—"In page 20 to delete Section 25 (3)"—is out of order. Does Deputy Roddy intend to move amendment 22?
Yes, but I understood that you did not consider it was in order.
I did not definitely rule it out of order.
I move amendment 22:—
In page 20, after Section 26 (1), to insert the following new sub-section:—
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.
This amendment was considered necessary because various Supplementary Estimates were necessary to recoup the Guarantee Fund for the various moneys taken out of it. A few moments ago the Minister stated that on the Committee Stage it was made clear the Guarantee Fund would not be completely recouped or something like that. Do I understand from the Minister's statement a few moments ago that he is not sure of his ground now and that he is still of opinion that there is some money due to the Guarantee Fund? Deputy Cosgrave said there was a sum of £400,000 due to the Guarantee Fund and that no Supplementary Estimate had been introduced for the purpose of recouping that amount of money to the Guarantee Fund. On the Committee Stage the Minister said it had been completely recouped, that we had three Supplementary Estimates, and that the money has been completely recouped. Apparently the Minister was under a complete misunderstanding at the time. Seemingly he did not have an opportunity of discussing with his officials the amendment we were then discussing. Otherwise he would not have made the statement he made. It appears the money is still due to the Guarantee Fund. I would be glad to hear the Minister's reply to my amendment.
Did not the Minister make a promise on the Committee Stage that something would be done to secure this money to the original owners? He will probably have in the morning a unanimous request from the General Council of County Councils for a refund of the money properly due and owing to them. It is easy to be generous with other people's money. At this stage it is a matter whether the Minister will do it or not do it. The Minister knows anything we could say now as well as when we have said it. The Minister knows that the moneys that he is proposing to have paid into the Exchequer have been paid already to the Land Commission and there is no money now due to the Land Commission. The money is due to the county councils. The money was deducted from grants in the beginning of each year. The county councils got their grants less these amounts. The procedure was that the money was deducted from the grants before any was paid to the county councils. There is a deduction made equal to the amount of the arrears. Now it is proposed to collect this money by funding it and to collect it presumably by the direct method so dear to the heart of the Minister. When it is got by that direct method he intends to keep it. What right has he to it?
It must go back.
It must go back! I take it then that the operation of the law as heretofore is not being interfered with by this Bill?
Will the Attorney-General tell us under what section in the Bill is that provided for?
The question of providing for the return of the money was considered. I do not think that the position is in any way altered. I understand that the Minister has already stated that the Minister for Finance intends dealing with the county councils in a more generous manner by providing from time to time subsidies——
What guarantee have we of that?
We will always be delighted at any generosity shown by the Minister to the county councils, but we want to get back to what is due to the county councils and back to where the deficiencies occurred first. We do not want propaganda by the Minister saying that £10,000 or £20,000 or £30,000 is due to a particular council. We want that £20,000 or £30,000 to go back to that council for the general relief of the burden of that council and not for some special relief work. We do not want it to go back to the council as a relief grant or for special works. We want it to go back to the ordinary revenue or expenditure of that council. It is money which should go back to the exchequer of the county council to be used for the reduction of the ordinary rates, just as any arrears heretofore paid would go back to the general fund of the county council to reduce the rates. Conversely, the county councils, as the Attorney-General and the Minister know, budget on the assumption that they will get the whole of these grants and if they do not get the whole of these grants from the arrears of Land Commission annuities, well then, they have to carry over a debit and to that extent they have to increase the rates the following year. All these withheld grants come back to the council. They must come back without being in any way compromised and they must come back in the ordinary course and not at the discretion of the Minister for Finance or of any other Minister. The Attorney-General has made a specific statement that these moneys must come back to the councils. Will they come back to the councils in the same manner as heretofore? I would like the Attorney-General to say if that is so. If the law governing that transaction is not interfered with by this Bill, then they must come back as similar moneys heretofore. I take it that that is the position, that in reality these arrears will come back to the council and that they will not be interfered with in any way by the Bill.
Except for the period over which they are funded.
Of course, the councils will get the interest on these arrears as well as the principal. We have the guarantee from the Attorney-General now and from the Minister.
Put it in the Bill.
The Attorney-General has stated what the law is and I am sure that any court will have to take cognisance of that and of what was in the mind of the Minister when this Bill was being passed. The law governing this transaction, we are told, is not being interfered with by his Bill. Though I am not a lawyer, I had a notion that that was the position but it is far better that the Attorney-General should state that it is the position. I know at least one county council which will hold the Attorney-General and the Government to that position.
I think that Cavan would be as anxious for a slice of this money as any county. I am sure they will not allow their bone to go with the dog any more than any other county.
We have no arrears.
Some of them forget when they paid last. Would not the Attorney-General consider it a more businesslike procedure for the Government to find these moneys in bulk, pay the arrears over now to the county councils, and take the annuities as they come in? That would save a lot of book-keeping. It was stated by either the Minister for Finance or the Minister in charge of this Bill that the funding of arrears was, in reality, a loan to the farmers concerned, spread over a period of 50 years. Let the Government treat that as a loan in the fullest sense. Let them get the money to pay the debts these farmers are not able to pay just now and transfer that money to the accounts of the several county councils. Then, you would cut out the county councils from the book-keeping altogether. If you consolidated the arrears annuity and the ordinary annuity, you would only have one payment into the Land Commission and there would be no further relationship with the county councils in that connection. That would save a lot of duplication. I ask the Minister if he can see his way to adopt that procedure, seeing it is now admitted that these moneys will go back to the county councils. Is there any use in raising the question of the remitted arrears?
That question does not arise on this amendment.
If the Government have got away with those and have shown themselves generous at other people's expense, they should, at least, come down to business, find the amount of these funded arrears and pay over the total of the withheld sums to the county councils. It is not a lot of money. The Government would be well able to borrow it. They are going to make the tenants pay at 4½ per cent. for it. That is good security. The £20,000 or £40,000 that would be handed over to the county councils, in some cases, would be very useful to these councils, especially in the present severe year— a year in which it is very difficult to get in rates and in which a high record in the matter of overdrafts has been made by practically every county council. Will the Minister give us an assurance that he will consider sympathetically the borrowing or provision otherwise of the moneys payable to the Guarantee Fund and the handing over of these moneys immediately to the county councils entitled to them.
If the Minister does not agree to accept this amendment by Deputy Roddy, the House ought to get some assurance beyond the word of the Minister that there is going to be some arrangement for the repayment of these moneys to the county councils.
He has admitted that.
Have you got it in the Bill?
Do not give him a way out.
This is an entirely new situation. Deputy Belton said that as long as there was a Guarantee Fund there was no departure from the old situation. But there is a new situation. The annuities have been halved. That, in itself, would create an entirely new situation. A sum of over £600,000 was deducted from county council grants in the past to meet liabilities to the Guarantee Fund due to non-payment of annuities. Under the new arrangement, these unpaid sums are to be funded and charged up to the tenant purchasers again. The same sums will be deducted, so to speak, from the county councils. Not alone that, but the Government propose to fund a certain amount of the costs and expenses incurred. Will the responsibility for non-payment of these be also placed on the backs of the county councils? Since the Minister has not made definite provision in the financial clauses of the Bill for the repayment of these moneys to the county councils so that the local authorities would have something to go on, I think he ought, at least, to accept this amendment by Deputy Roddy. Members of local authorities who have heavy responsibilities in these matters are not in a very secure position when they tell the people in the country that they have no guarantee except the word of the Minister across the House that the Minister for Finance will, at some time, make good these deductions. We have not even a guarantee that the Minister for Finance will not write in this strain to the county councils: "I am forwarding you so many thousand pounds as a relief grant, and you are to regard this as repayment of the sums deducted from you on previous occasions?" I think there ought to be a provision in the Bill for repayment. If not, we ought to press for acceptance of this amendment in the division lobby.
It is right to bear in mind, when considering this amendment, that this Bill began by taking £250,000 off the county councils. It then went on to fund the remaining deficiencies for which county councils had been made liable. We then had an undertaking that the Minister for Finance, some time, in some form, will refund so much of the defaults in the annuities as are to be funded, but if there is any future default on the funded arrears the county councils will be made liable again. I think it is perfectly clear that at an earlier stage of the Bill very few people in the House realised that the Government was going to take £250,000 off the local authorities. It was only after a very protracted debate that that fact was made clear. I think very few Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches at present realise that, while the local authorities have already been docked in respect of default in annuities for three years prior to the passing of this Bill, they are going to be made liable again for the same annuities during the entire period of the annuity fixed by the funding arrangement. I am perfectly certain that nobody in the country is aware of that.
I would ask the Minister to remember that at first glance it is not quite such an easy thing fully to understand it. I suggest to him that the proposal made by Deputy Roddy is a reasonable one, but I can see no objection to the alternative proposal by Deputy Brennan, that there should be a proviso put into the Bill compelling the Minister to restore this sumen bloc forthwith to the local authorities and then the position of the local authorities will be very much the same as before the Bill was introduced. There can be absolutely no defence for putting a double liability on the local authorities, as this Bill is doing, particularly when the Bill has plundered the local authorities of £250,000, and this at a time when the Government is providing moneys for the local authorities to enable them to do relief works of one kind or another up and down the country. With one hand we are giving them gifts, and with another we are taking from them enormous sums of money and placing upon them contingent liabilities for further sums. There is neither sense nor method in that situation. Above all, it is highly undesirable that local administration should be complicated by the uncertainty that will be created by this provision in the Bill. They ought to know where they are. There ought to be some definite conclusion to this operation and they ought to have a clear, statutory right to claim from the Treasury the full sum of the arrears funded or, in the alternative, a full discharge for any future default in respect of these arrears.
I do not know whether the present Minister will have any interest in the matter, but this has happened on various occasions up and down the country. I know it happened in my own county council. In framing the estimates in the early part of the year we never knew exactly where we were with regard to the moneys withheld and it created such a degree of uncertainty with regard to what we ought to do that there was a general discussion about the withheld grants for the unpaid annuities and there was always a resolution passed by the county council protesting against the unfairness of withholding the grants. Now that our own Government has the chance of remedying that, I am sure the local authorities will be very much surprised if the opportunity is now going to be let slip again—that they will not see that county councils are placed in some kind of a certain position with regard to the finances from these grants.
Deputy Brennan knows that the local authorities were in a very uncertain position with regard to arrears of land annuities.
I have said so.
They are at present no worse off than they were.
I want to better them.
They are no worse off in one respect and in other respects generally they are better off because the arrears are not going to be accumulating in future.
Is this amendment being accepted then?
It is not.
Because the Minister for Finance has undertaken to pay in a lump sum, within a reasonable time, the arrears that have been funded.
That is not here.
It is not but it is as good as if it were there.
We got promises from the Minister for Finance before that never materialised.
If the Government went back on its word in that regard it would be a very good and useful political argument for the Deputy and he is welcome to make whatever use he can of it. The local authorities are out of pocket to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds since 1922. The people who owe money to that pool changed from time to time and the net result to the county councils was that they were short of that fund. That position has gone on for ten years and under the ordinary procedure of the Land Commission I do not see how it could be got very much below what it was in 1932. It is difficult to get arrears up-to-date. The Minister for Finance has power and has promised to repay in a lump sum these arrears that have been funded. I do not think there is any use in debating it now at great length. It is a matter that should be debated on the Budget. I cannot say what sums will be coming to the county councils. All that I can say is that the money will be repaid in a lump sum.
The Minister will probably recollect that very grave objection was taken under the old Land Acts to this provision inserted by the British Government, that the grants to the county councils should be made responsible for the Guarantee Fund. Very grave and serious objection was taken to that. It was always held that the ratepayers ought not to be made responsible for the non-payment of annuities. Now we have an opportunity of dealing with the matter in some concrete way, and I think the Minister ought not to let it slip. He says that they are going to be much better off in future, that it is practically certain that they will not be deducted. Why will he not accept an amendment which will make sure that they will not be deducted?
I should be sorry to introduce into the debate a new note of discourtesy. It has been a pleasure to discuss this Bill with the Minister so far, so that I trust he will discharge me from any desire of being discourteous when I remind him, when he speaks of promises made by the Minister for Finance to refund the moneys, that the farmers of the country have had some rather bitter experiences. They were promised by the same Minister complete derating of agricultural land and an alternative was found. Possibly the Minister for Finance will find an equally attractive alternative for the restoration of these moneys. They were promised £2,000,000 economies in the annual expenditure of the country by the Minister for Finance. The alternative was found, but it meant an increase of £6,000,000 in expenditure. We are asking for a refund now of certain specific moneys amounting to £600,000. The Minister for Finance may discover that the way to implement that would be to increase expenditure to the tune of £3,600,000; so that the Minister will now understand our interest in the matter in desiring to have our claim made perfectly clear in the Bill. Those of us who are concerned in agricultural interests in the country, and who have had past experience of the Minister's idea of redeeming specific promises are, to say the least of it, not reassured. Deputy Brennan spoke of improving conditions. What I am asking is that matters will not be made worse. I differ entirely from the Minister when he says this Bill does not make the position of the local authorities worse. I think it makes the position of the local authorities infinitely worse than before. They have already paid, and they are being made liable to pay again, subject to the promise made by the Minister for Finance, which I have no doubt the Minister means to carry out, but which, on the evidence we have before us, he may not carry out. We do not doubt his faith, but we do his discretion.
The Minister says that these moneys are repayable. If that is so, what is the possible objection to the insertion of this in the Bill? If these moneys are repayable, why not have it specifically stated in the Bill? Why charge the Guarantee Fund with moneys repayable to them?
Amendment No. 23 is out of order.
I move amendment No. 24:—
In page 21, Section 28 (1), lines 50 and 57, to delete in each line the figures "2,000" and substitute the figures "4,000."
The section, of course, is the one dealing with the question of the relief of congestion. It deals with the case where the tenant or proprietor is not the owner of land (other than the declared land) the market value of which exceeds the sum of £2,000; then the Land Commission shall, if he applies, provide him with an alternative holding. In putting down this amendment I had in mind the case of an owner who had a holding the value of which, before any portion of his land was taken from him, was considerably in excess of £2,000. He has buildings which may then be worth £2,000. Under the section as it stands he may be left with a small portion of land with buildings on it which alone are, perhaps, value for £2,000. He is left without a sufficient quantity of land to make those buildings economic. When it comes to a question of whether he is to get an alternative holding or not, in considering the value of the land left to him the buildings will be taken into account. Those buildings may be the principal portion of the value of what is left to him, but would then be wholly uneconomic. I think it was not intended, in drafting the section, to leave a man in that position. I therefore propose that £4,000 should be substituted for £2,000.
Is the Deputy correct in saying that the value of buildings will be taken into consideration when assessing the value of the land?
There is nothing in the section to suggest otherwise. Land includes everything on the land unless otherwise stated.
The same argument which the Deputy has used against the £2,000 figure could be used also against the £4,000 figure.
Would the Minister indicate whether the Deputy is correct in the contention that where there are buildings on land they will be taken into consideration in assessing the value of the land?
Yes. In assessing the value of the holding, lands and buildings come in.
Then a very peculiar situation arises. You may have a man, as Deputy Rice pointed out, having little more than out-offices. His holding is divided for the purpose of leaving him with a holding to the value of £2,000. You take the land from him and leave him the out-offices. I must say that I think a much more sensible provision would have been that, for the purpose of assessing the value of land under this Bill, buildings should not be taken into consideration. It must be perfectly manifest to the Minister that while buildings may have a certain value in association with land, if you withdraw the land the buildings, far from having any value, become a substantial liability; instead of being worth plus £1,000, they are worth minus £800, because you have to pay rates on them. I think the Minister and Deputy Rice are quite satisfied in their minds that the buildings would be taken into consideration, but a very pretty question would arise. You have buildings and so many acres of land, together worth £3,500. The Land Commission comes along and takes away land worth £1,500, leaving, as they say, £2,000 worth, whereupon the tenant replies: "Yes, this piece of land was worth £2,000 when associated with buildings worth £1,500, but now that it is dissociated from the land worth £1,500, this land, instead of being worth £2,000, is worth minus £1,000. It is a horrible white elephant. I think Deputy Rice is satisfied that the buildings would be taken into consideration——
I am quite satisfied, and so is the Minister.
——but I should like to have the dexterity of those sitting on the Front Cumann na nGaedheal Benches brought to bear on the argument that the buildings, when dissociated from that land, are worth nothing at all, and that you cannot say, for the purposes of this Bill, that the Land Commission is leaving the man with £2,000 worth of land at all. I am not altogether sure that the intention the Minister has in mind can be ensured by the wording of the Bill as it stands.
I am afraid that it is so long since Deputy Dillon learned the elementary principles of law that he has forgotten that land includes everything under it and over it, apart from any expressed definition. Here the only word used is "land," and the figure £2,000 includes everything under the land and over the land, and unless something is done to amend this section, a man may be left, as Deputy Dillon pointed out, with buildings which in themselves may be held to be worth £2,000, but with very little land. He may be left with land which, having regard to its acreage, makes the buildings wholly uneconomic. He may be rated, as Deputy Dillon pointed out, on the value of the buildings. I am sorry the Minister for Finance is not here, as he might have something to say in regard to this white elephant.
As far as the first answer of the Minister is concerned, it seemed to me that it was given without complete advertence to the situation. If the Land Commission take into account the value of the buildings, that must considerably reduce the acreage of land which will be included in the £2,000 market value. The other point which Deputy Dillon has put up is of considerable importance. If the valuation in respect of the buildings be high and if it is not possible for the farmer in the reduced circumstances in which he finds himself, having regard to the fact that he has a very much smaller area to farm than previously, to pay the rates on these buildings, he might be forced into the position of having to dismantle them. That certainly would not be a wise proceeding having regard to the high cost of building to-day. He could not, however, be expected to maintain buildings which provided far greater accommodation than he required for the reduced size of his holding. There is another point that the Minister should bear in mind. Let us assume that the market value of a holding is held to be £4,000. Half that holding may be taken off the tenant. He is left in possession of the buildings, with a certain area of land and he is paid £2,000 in bonds. The value of these bonds will be £90 a year assuming that money values remain as at present. Will anybody say that £90 a year is any compensation for depriving a man of £2,000 worth of land?
The ex-Minister for Agriculture recently pointed out here the grave inconvenience that would be occasioned in the case of a farmer who would have to alter his entire agricultural economy by reason of a reduction in the size of his holding. While we fully appreciate the difficulties and complexities of dealing with the problem of congests, we are certainly not going to make any impression on that particular problem by creating bankrupt farmers all over the country. While it may be said that when we give a man £2,000 worth of bonds, there is no danger of his becoming bankrupt, it is a very nice question as to how many farmers will be in the position that they can keep these bonds or how many of them will have to dispose of a considerable portion of them to meet their liabilities. They will not have the means of getting credit which were formerly at their disposal. That credit will be denied them in the new circumstances. In other words a man with a holding worth £4,000 was in a position to get an advance from banks or other sources in order to work that land. If you deprive him of £2,000 worth of his land, though he still has another £2,000 worth, he is not in the economic position that he formerly occupied. I think that to fix a value of £2,000 arbitrarily in this way is not the best way of dealing with the problem.
We had a case quoted here of an ex-Deputy who paid £2,300 for a holding for one of his sons. Assuming that that holding is in the name of one of his sons, you are entitled to take £300 worth of land from him under this Bill and to give him land bonds for that £300. That would bring him in about 5/- per week. It may be that the portion of the holding of which he is deprived is absolutely essential to the economy of the holding. While theoretically it may be said that to deprive such a man of £300 worth of land is not a very serious matter, it might be a very serious proposition for a man who is accustomed to dealing with a larger amount of land. It might be difficult to make a case for the £4,000 holding, but it would be a grave injustice to a man if he found himself left with buildings which were far in excess of his agricultural requirements and if he was nevertheless called upon to pay rates in respect of these buildings.
It strikes me that a greater injustice may be inflicted in this way. Suppose the holding of a man worth £2,000 is acquired for the relief of congestion and he is given another holding in exchange, his first holding might be one of 200 acres, on which there were not very many buildings, and in exchange for that he might be given 50 acres with buildings entirely out of proportion to his requirements. That man would be very badly off. He would have a white elephant in the shape of a very large number of buildings on his hands which he did not require. I think that the Minister must see that the fixing of that rigid figure of £2,000 may lead to a very grave injustice to farmers in both classes.
I think the Minister should state clearly what the position is. Deputy Cosgrave's remarks have given point to the contention which I made. The standard of value under this Bill is to be the market value, and the Minister says that buildings are to be taken into consideration for the purpose of assessing the value of the land. If a man is left with buildings out of all proportion to the requirements of the land of which he is left in possession, will the Land Commission take into consideration the liabilities represented by these buildings in assessing the value of the land?
The Land Commission will be compelled to leave a man with a holding the market value of which is £2,000. If something happens such as the Deputy and other Deputies fear, the holding would not be worth £2,000. If the man were left with all these buildings on a small farm, it would be a liability. The land, instead of having a market value, would be a liability.
That is a very important dictum on the part of the Minister. If the Attorney-General confirms the Minister in the view that there is something in the statute by which effect can be given to that intention, I shall be content, but the Attorney-General might remind the Minister that intentions here in this House are of very little value before the appeal tribunal. If the present wording of the Bill is open to the interpretation that buildings can be valued for the purpose of assessing the value of the holding, a situation might arise in which it would not be open to the appellant to represent to the appeal tribunal that the holding allotted to him by the Land Commission was not worth £2,000 because the buildings were out of proportion to the requirements of the holding. The Land Commission might be free to plead "Are not the buildings worth £1,500? Is the land not worth £500, and as £1,500 and £500 make £2,000, is not the holding worth £2,000"? The Land Commission can make that reply under the terms of the Bill as they stand at present. It should be made perfectly clear in the Bill that that is not the intention of the Legislature, and that in arriving at the value, the holding is to be taken as a whole.
That is so.
Is it clear in the Bill? I do not think it is.
I understood the Minister to say that the cost of the buildings is not the index of the value of a holding with a considerable amount of buildings on it. The market value of the holding would not be affected by the fact that the buildings would cost a lot of money.
Suppose that I am a farmer with £2,000 worth of land in Mayo and the Land Commission take it into their heads to transfer me to Cork. I have a modest house with modest stabling and a considerable tract of land. I am moved to a holding which has a considerable mansion on it with three coach houses, stabling for 75 horses, numerous out-offices and 35 acres of land—I know that this is areductio ad absurdum, and I am only using it to make my point clear—is it open to the Land Commission to say that the house and stabling and out-offices are market value for anybody who wanted such accommodation for £1,500 and the land, which is excellent quality, is worth £500? £1,500 plus £500 is £2,000. As I say, that is a reductio ad absurdum which I am putting forward merely to make it perfectly clear. But here is a situation where a man, instead of getting a valuable holding, is, in fact, getting a perfectly worthless holding which is more of a liability than an asset.
The holding would have to be takenen bloc—buildings and land combined.
If the holding has been assessed by the appeal tribunal as being of a market value of £2,000, how could it be suggested that they would assess as value for £2,000 a holding worth nothing?
It might be worth £2,000 to such a person as Lord Powerscourt, to a hunting man, to a breeder of bloodstock or such people, but not to the ordinary farmer.
Market value, as I understand it, means the price which a willing purchaser will pay for a holding in the open market. We can only act on the assumption that the Land Commissioners will act reasonably, because they are taking a working farmer from a holding which he works himself and, in transferring him, will try to find him something—although the words are not in the Bill—as nearly suitable as possible.
Yes, but, as the Attorney-General admits, the words are not in the Bill.
We must act on the assumption that the Land Commission or the lay commissioners, or whoever in the first instance proposes the exchange, will act reasonably in suggesting such a change for the man and furthermore we must assume that the appeal tribunal will act reasonably in assessing whether the market value of a place is £2,000 or not.
It is the law they will be interpreting and not reason.
The term "market value" in this Bill has the same meaning here as it has in common sense. The suggestion being made by Deputies opposite is that the appeal tribunal will act unreasonably.
Not at all.
Deputy Dillon put forward the suggestion that the appeal tribunal will have jurisdiction to give to a man a new holding which, by reason of the fact that the buildings on it were so out of proportion to the land, would not have any value at all. Is not that what Deputy Dillon put to me?
Would they be acting legally in doing that under the Act?
I think it is quite obvious to Deputies that if a holding is absolutely worthless it cannot be suggested that the man is getting a holding worth £2,000 in the open market.
Can he get £2,000 under the statute?
Where is the part of the statute which talks about reason? It is not there.
It is there. Market value is there.
I take it that the intention of the Government in introducing this section is to see that a man is left with a holding, that is to say, land, value for £2,000 with, if you like, the appropriate buildings on a holding of that value. All the buildings on whatever land is left to him must be taken into account. That is not a matter that can be controverted, I think. You may have a holding on the edge of the Curragh on which the buildings may be worth £3,000 and the land itself worth only £300. Under the section as it stands, there is nothing to guide the Land Commission in dealing with a matter of that kind. They are bound in law to find what is the market value, and they must have regard to the evidence of people who tell them that the buildings alone are worth £3,000 and the land worth only £300. The Minister agrees that the value of land includes the value of the buildings on it, and there is nothing in the section to correct the Land Commission on that. Under the section, as it stands, the Land Commission would be right in deciding, and, in fact, would be bound to decide, that if a man had a holding where the buildings were proved to them to be worth £3,000 and the land £300, he was not entitled to a new holding. Therefore, I submit that the section, as it stands, does not carry out the intention of the Government if their intention is that the man should have a holding of land with the buildings appropriate for that land.
If I held the opinion of of the Land Commissioners which has been expressed by Deputies opposite for the last half-hour, I would have them all cleared out inside of 24 hours. I have seen several farms sold, and I never yet saw the buildings on any farm realising in the purchase of a holding more than one-fifth of the cost, or less. No farmer, no matter what buildings you put up, would ever expect to realise more than one-fifth of the cost for the buildings. The idea that the Land Commission will go outside of that and put a new value on buildings is nonsensical. That is the argument which is being brought forward. There is no doubt that many of the legal gentlemen seem to know a lot more about land than the ordinary farmers. The idea that the appeal tribunal, consisting of the judicial commissioner and two lay commissioners, are going to judge along the lines suggested by Deputy Dillon and Deputy Rice is nonsensical on the face of it. I cannot see it, at any rate. As far as the amendment itself is concerned, I consider £2,000 low enough.
It is too low.
I do not consider it too high either. I consider it fair enough at the present day for any farmer if he is going to make his holding pay.
What size farm would it be?
It would all depend. If they were growing rhubarb on it they would not want too much.
Would the Deputy talk business? It takes a man to do that.
We have seen holdings throughout the country that were taken for congests given to people of this description. I think that was grossly unfair and so do the people all over the country. We have seen men getting 300 and 400 acres of land in the case of holdings that were taken over for the relief of congestion: the owner of a particular farm that was taken over getting an alternative holding somewhere else, and the holding that he was taken out of given to some other fellow—the whole farm handed over to him holus bolus. I have seen that happen repeatedly in the county Tipperary during the last four or five years. I think that is grossly unfair because, after all, it is the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill to provide alternative holdings for these people. Take it that a holding say of 1,000 acres is taken over for the relief of congestion. Some fellow may come along and say that he is being put out of a holding that is worth £4,000, and demand 500 acres of this land as an alternative holding. That will only leave another 500 acres for the relief of congests in that district. Are they to be asked to look on at him getting acres while they will have to be content with holdings of 40 or 50 acres of the same land?
For £4,000 as the amendment moved by the Deputy's colleagues suggests. I consider the amendment a ridiculous one. I regret that the Deputy had nothing more serious to talk about than to waste the time of the House in speaking on an amendment of this kind.
May I make a suggestion to the Minister that, if accepted, would I think go some way to meet the objections that have been raised with regard to the character of a holding that might be offered? Supposing that after the words "consider to be" in line 56 of sub-section (1) of Section 28 you were to insert the words "suitable to the tenant or proprietor" it might meet the objections raised to the section as it stands.
But is it not the commissioner's opinion that would hold all the time?
As the Bill is drafted there is no obligation put upon the commissioners to form an opinion as to whether it is suitable. They might, for instance, give a man something of equal market value that was entirely unsuitable.
The Deputy is assuming that the commissioners will not consider the matter at all prior to offering him a holding.
I am assuming nothing, but I am asking that an amendment on the lines I have suggested should be inserted for the purpose of pointing out to the commissioners that there was a duty on them to try and give a man something suitable. I see no reason why that duty should not be indicated in the Bill itself.
I think that Deputy Smith is leaving out of account that under the section as it stands the commissioners will be bound in law to take into account not merely the value of the agricultural part of the holding but of the buildings as well, and that the buildings may greatly exceed in value the value of the land. In law they will be bound to take that view if the section is left as it is.
I think Deputy Rice is taking the view that the commissioners will have to consider the rateable value of the land separately.
No, the market value.
The commissioners will have to take into account the market value of the holding, the land, plus the buildings, and leave a man with a holding worth £2,000 or give him in return an alternative holding worth £2,000. As Deputy Dillon pointed out when the ratio for buildings goes up in proportion to the land, then the value of the holding goes down. The commissioners will have to leave a man with a holding worth £2,000, that is inclusive of land and of buildings. If the value of the buildings is too high in proportion to the land, then the value of the holding goes down to vanishing point.
I agree that they will have to take into account not merely the value of the land but the value of the buildings. I tried to illustrate that distinction. Supposing a man had a holding on the edge of the Curragh. The buildings on it might be very valuable indeed, while the land itself might be of very little value. By leaving the section as it stands, what the commissioners will have to take into account is this: What is the market value of this holding. People will be brought in to give evidence as to value. They will refer to its position on the edge of the Curragh, and put its value at, say, £4,000. If they are asked to segregate the value of the land and holdings they may say that the land is only worth £1,000, and that the buildings are worth £3,000. I do not think that is what the Government intends, and I suggest they ought to bring in an amendment to the section segregating the land and buildings. By leaving the thing as it stands, the market value of the land includes the value of all the buildings on it. You might have buildings on a holding that would be worth ten times the value of the land.
Surely the commissioners if they decide to remove a man from a certain area where he had say 300 or 400 acres of land will have present to their minds the kind of buildings that he had on that holding to enable him to carry on whatever type of farming he was engaged in. They will realise that a holding of the particular type that Deputy Rice referred to, where the value of the buildings might be about £3,500 and the value of the land £500, would not be suitable for a man who had been removed from a holding of 300 or 400 acres on which he had suitable accommodation to meet the needs of whatever class of agriculture he was engaged in.
Does the Deputy realise that they are not being asked to consider suitability at all.
What I am trying to convey is this, that should the commissioners remove a man from an area, after seeing what type of farmer he was, surely they would not attempt to offer him a farm such as Deputy Rice referred to. There was never a Bill introduced to cover every little crotchety point that could be dragged up by an Opposition Party. In all these matters you will have to depend on the commonsense of those who will be in the position of lay commissioners. Deputy Cosgrave referred to a case where, if land was taken away from a holding, it might depreciate the value of the remainder of that holding. For instance, if a farm was worth £2,500 and had on it suitable buildings and if portion of the land, value for £500, was taken away I take it that the commissioners, who will be men of commonsense, would take such points into consideration.
They cannot. Look at the Bill.
Surely a measure of this kind was never introduced in which it was not necessary to depend on the commonsense and good judgment of those who are capable and experienced in its operation.
They are not directed to consider suitability.
I do not wish to disturb the harmony that has thus far characterised this debate, but I should like Deputies to bear in mind the fact that the House is not in Committee and that some Deputies have spoken three times and others even four times on this amendment.
Was not an undertaking given by the Attorney-General on the Committee Stage that the Bill would be re-committed?
I do not think I gave it.
These are amendments which we were not permitted to discuss on the Committee Stage.
Realising that, the Chair allowed Deputies to speak three or four times to these amendments, while I have no desire to adhere strictly to the Standing Orders, Deputies should not forget that this is the Report Stage of the Bill.
I should like to remind the Attorney-General, according to an undertaking given to me during the Committee Stage, that I understood the Bill was to be re-committed.
I do not think so. There was a discussion about re-committing a particular section. I am not in a position to give an undertaking.
Anyway the Ceann Comhairle is going according to commonsense.
As to Deputy Smith's reference, may I remind the Deputy that recently when we passed a tariff on containers for treacle and jam, the Revenue Commissioners decided that it referred to portmanteaux. When I submitted the matter to the Minister for Finance he said that he was sure the Revenue Commissioners would use commonsense.
There is nothing about treacle in the Land Bill.
And nothing about portmanteaux in the Finance Bill. We thought we were describing treacle containers, but the Revenue Commissioners thought we were describing portmanteaux. What we want to get into the Bill is a proviso requiring the Land Commission to examine this question from our point of view; to look at it as we would look at it, and not as they would look at it; to look at it from the ordinary, commonsense farmer's point of view; to consider the suitability of a holding, from the point of view of the man for whom it is lesignated. In the Finance Bill when we put a tariff on containers we meant containers for jam and treacle, not some containers in which you put a night-shirt.
Or a blue shirt.
I understand blue shirts and green shirts are not put into portmanteaux; they are worn. All we want is to put in such words as Deputy MacDermot suggests, which will place upon the appeal tribunal or the Land Commissioners an obligation to examine a holding they propose to give to a man under this Bill, from the same point of view as we examine it.
There is nothing to prevent them doing it.
There is nothing to compel them to do it. When we invited the Revenue Commissioners to do it they did not do it.
There will be no Revenue Commissioners here because they are lay commissioners.
I suggest that we should insert some words, purely from the point of view of seeing if the holding is suitable to a man's station in life. That is all the security we are asking.
I appeal to the Minister to consider the matter. I am sure that appeal will bring confidence to ordinary farmers if the Minister gives a guarantee that the lay commissioners will be neither Revenue Commissioners nor lawyers, but people of commonsense.
If the Minister can guarantee, or can explain how he is to estimate any farm at a value of £2,000 at present, the country would know where it stood.
How did ex-Deputy Gorey value it?
The Deputy has seen plenty of land bought that he would not consider was value for the money. When the State is going to value land it must have some formula on which to value it. How £2,000 is going to be fixed as the value of land I do not know. Is it going to be fixed on the outgoings, on the income, or on maintenance, in order to arrive at the net value, and to give so many years' purchase of that value?
Does it matter if the standard is the same in each case?
That is one way of arriving at a standard, but the way the Minister proposes to have that standard has not been disclosed.
How are you going to ascertain the market value? Does not the Minister realise at once that the market value of the biggest farm in this country is £2,000 now?
Ex-Deputy Gorey could do it.
Would any man give more than £2,000 for a farm to-day?
Deputy Rice is asking for £4,000.
There should be a little intelligence in an answer to the question.
I do not pledge myself to be very intelligent, but I think I can read plain English. I see that Deputy Rice suggests £4,000.
No Government Department has ever attempted to use market value for property, especially landed property. They always went on the basis of valuation. This is a new departure. How they are going to fix on £2,000, as the standard value for a farm, I do not know. People should be aware of this, that a farm with a £2,000 valuation this year will not be up to that standard next year and it might not have reached that standard last year. The market value of a farm fluctuates, just as does the market value of a bullock or a horse. I wonder are the Government going back to the penal days, when they got £5 for a horse and the Papist had to get out. Is there not a terrible similarity?
How are they going to arrive at the proper price for land? They talk about market value, but who is in a position to indicate the market value? You might get a professional valuer to say that land is worth £2,000. Surely the Government, if it intends to set a standard size in respect of farms, should have a definite formula to work upon.
We have an empty formula, according to the Deputy.
We all know that. I told you that seven years ago and it was from me you learned it.
It is not the only thing that is empty.
It would be interesting to know from the Minister how he intends to arrive at his market price. Deputy Dillon raised an interesting point about the splitting up of a farm worth £3,500. Of course in the case of a combined farm of that sort a good deal of the value would be applied to the buildings. There is another important element that enters into the economy of a £3,500 farm. The size of the fields on such a farm would be too big for a farm of £2,000. In most parts of the country a farm of that size contains land of varying value. Many farms worth £3,500 would lend themselves badly to sub-division. Land might run on to a bog or a river and it might contain a certain element of bottom, moor, cutaway bog and upland.
If the Minister works on the basis of valuation he will have a sure basis and a definite check both in regard to land and buildings. If he does not work on the basis of a poor law valuation I do not know how he will arrive at an equitable figure. You could overload a farm with a lot of buildings that might look substantial, but on examination they would show many defects. If things are ever going to come back to what they were a few years ago, a farm of 80 or 90 Irish acres of fair land is going to be the maximum farm of the future. We should not be talking about something of a nebulous character, something that we cannot correctly visualise. There is a danger, if we are going to have farms of £2,000 market value, that that value will be calculated in accordance with the mentality acquired a few years ago when land was much more valuable than it is now.
If we want the real value we should accept the figure of £4,000. Farms of that size would be useful in the country. If we had an agricultural economy with a profitable tillage bias, such a farm would be very useful from the point of view of the development of tillage. If we are going to have, as we hope to, a proper tillage development in this country, the Government should think seriously before they cut down farms to a low standard. They should realise that there can be no better training college for young farmers than a large farm well run.
We know what is happening in the case of the Glasnevin farm. It is well run. Nobody will deny that it is well run. If you go there you will see that everything is in apple-pie order. But what is the ordinary farmer's reply to that? He will tell you, "we cannot afford to do what is being done there". That is true. He will say: "we cannot afford to run a farm like that at a loss". That is true. It was not intended to be run at a profit, this college farm at Glasnevin. But if you had a good farm out in the country run by a man who had a practical and theoretical training in agriculture, if you had such a man running that farm, paying his way and not run like the farms of people who sow their turnips and never thin them as some farmers who are now smiling in the opposite benches do their farming——
What has this to do with the amendment?
If the Deputy has only intelligence enough to follow me I will show him.
I want to know how what is happening in Glasnevin has anything to do with the amendment before the House?
The Deputy has wakened up. It is not my fault that he has not followed the sequence of my arguments. The sequence of my arguments is that I am making a claim for bigger farms. I instanced the Glasnevin farm because usually farmers fling back the taunt and say: "In running our farms we have to meet our bills. If the Albert College farm is not able to meet its bills the Faculty of Agriculture will meet them." But the ordinary farmer has no faculty but his own faculties to meet his bills. There would be no better model farm than the farm run by a private individual on the national economy conditions formulated by the Government. Whether that economy will be tillage or grazing will depend on the Minister for Agriculture. If we have such a big farm well run it will be the centre for the whole district. But if you wipe all such farms out you are wiping out the possibility of any educational development in agriculture.
If this amendment were adopted I do not know what size farm it would be. But it would be double the size of the farm which the Minister is thinking of at the moment, double the size of the farm whatever it is that the Minister wants to standardise. For the sake of agricultural science, and for the sake of the introduction of new methods of agriculture, I ask him not to cut down the size of the farms to a low level. The Minister should know that the introduction of new breeds of stock, the introduction of improved agricultural machinery, the introduction of new agricultural seeds and the breeding of new strains of seeds were all done on the larger farms in this country and on the larger farms in England and other countries. Otherwise the effect will be to destroy initiative in research in agricultural science and in the providing of such research in agricultural science. You will also drive away the best brains in the country from adopting agriculture as a profession. You will drive them into some other calling because no man is going to adopt a profession in which there is a clearly defined limit, a profession that says that the man can go thus far and no farther. The doctor, the lawyer, or the teacher or in fact anybody else is not going to take up a profession knowing that he or she can go a certain distance and no further. The same thing applies in business. There is no such limit in business or in industry.
But by this section you are putting a definite limit on agricultural development and this is a thing that is going to react detrimentally on the development of agriculture, on the employment of up-to-date agricultural machinery and most certainly on the development of corn growing in this country. You will arrest that development if you are going to limit the size of the farms in the manner suggested in this Bill. I submit to the Minister that he should specify clearly a definite standard for the maximum farm. I do not know what the Minister means by a £2,000 farm. I have roughly in my mind what a £2,000 farm is. But if that is going to be the standard the £4,000 standard suggested in this amendment would err on the small side in the matter of agricultural development. I am not thinking now of the man and dog £4,000 farm. I am thinking of the tillage farm where you have a proper standard of agricultural trend in running that farm as an agricultural farm should be run and not as a ranch should be run. That is the type of farm I have in mind. I do not know what size it would be for the simple reason that in this Bill from start to finish there is no base line to suggest the size of the farm that the Minister and the Government appear to visualise. We should have some figure in the Bill. Is it a £50 valuation farm or a £100 valuation farm. What is it?
Once you say that the farm shall have a poor law valuation of £x then you have an idea of what the size of that farm will be in any market in the Free State. You will know what the size of it will be abutting a bog or river with cutaway bog or moor on that farm. Then when you come to Meath, where the farm is of good land you know what the £100 valuation farm would be. You know what it would be in Dublin or Wicklow or in any of these counties. You have a mental idea of what the size of the farm is. But where are you with a £2,000 market value? If this war develops what would be the value of that farm? What would the value of the farm be in the Great War? Would it not be a farm of 20 or 25 acres? What would be the value of the farm in the Callows along the Shannon? This Bill gives no idea of what the size of the farm will be. But the poor law valuation standard would give every man an idea of what the size would be. I would strongly suggest that something definite on that line would be given. Say we get a standard of £100 poor law valuation and the Minister said: "Now that is enough, that farm would be worth £2,000." Then we would know where we were. How does the Minister arrive at it with the present price level? If the Minister would reduce the £2,000 farm to £100 poor law valuation we would know what he meant. How will the Minister justify this for an extension of corn growing? I would appeal to him to give us a definite standard, a full formula standard as against an empty formula for arriving at the price. I would appeal to him in the interest of agricultural development and in the interest of tillage development not to cut down the size of the farms. No job in this country or any other country requires more intelligence than progressive farming, if the farm be of sufficient dimensions. Room should be left for farms which would attract university graduates. Was not the idea behind the setting up of a Faculty of Agriculture in the National University to attract university graduates to work and supervise farms? If you have only small farms, if you reduce all the farmers to the position of crofters, you will get no man of outstanding intelligence and education to take up agriculture as a profession. I strongly suggest that the size of farms ought, at least, to be doubled—that is, to conform with this proposal—but before I would be enthusiastic about that I should like to know what the size of a farm of £1,000 market value would be in present circumstances. To start off with, I should like to have a poor law valuation base line.
Of all the ridiculous proposals put forward here, Deputy Belton's proposal as to a poor law valuation basis is supreme. In the last five or six years we heard complaints made——
We have heard the question of poor law valuation discussed for three-quarters of an hour. There is no reference to poor law valuation in the Bill or in the amendment.
You should have objected then.
I am raising a point of order and the Chair will rule on it. I want to ask if there is any means by which further reference to poor law valuation can be ruled out of order.
I am afraid not, if we are to decide on a standard of valuation. Deputies are entitled to refer to the poor law standard as well as to any other standard.
Is the question of the standard of valuation under discussion at present?
The Deputy is quite right. Deputies have wandered far from the amendment and the Chair intends to keep them more closely to it henceforth.
Deputy Belton wants the Government to adopt a standard of valuation introduced in 1852. If Deputy Belton were residing in County Cork he would see in one portion of the county a farm which would carry 20 cows valued under the poor law system at £20, and a farm which would carry the same number of cows in another portion of the county valued at from £150 to £200. He would know the difference if he were paying rates there. In the last five or six years we had appeal after appeal made to the late Minister for Finance to have a revaluation made in order to bring valuations up to the present standard——
With great respect, I suggest that a discussion of Griffiths' valuation cannot be brought within the scope of this amendment.
It certainly cannot.
Deputy Belton spent at least 20 minutes already talking about Griffiths' valuation.
I never mentioned it.
You said the basis should be a valuation basis. There is only one standard of valuation—the poor law standard—in this country at present. I am not going to allude to Griffiths' valuation, but I can allude to the poor law valuation which, I suppose, is just the same.
Did Deputy Corry mention Griffiths' valuation? I think that it was Deputy Dillon who mentioned it.
Whoever mentioned it, the history of Griffiths' valuation and its relation to the present circumstances is not in order.
What I am pointing out is that it is, unfortunately, in operation and that it is the standard of valuation referred to by Deputy Belton. We cannot get beyond the fact that the poor law valuation is Griffiths' valuation. The poor law valuation should be the last thing on which any Government would base operations. While I admit that the present Government are bringing things back to a position where the poor law valuation will have some relation to the value of the farm, if the people of this country were idiots enough to put the last gentlemen in power again and to go back to the Department of Grass instead of the Department of Agriculture, we would find the same old story. I do not think that valuation should be taken into consideration. Deputy Belton told us that the £4,000 holding was usually the holding on which experiments in strains of seed and matters of that description were carried out. That is not my experience. Our County Committee of Agriculture finds that the farmer who is prepared to make these experiments is the man with about 40 acres who has a couple of sons. He does a great service to the community by carrying out these experiments. I have never yet seen a farmer of the £4,000 type bothering about experiments. In my county, the £4,000 farmer, with very few exceptions, is a rancher.
He gave you the Carlow sugar factory.
No. Deputy Belton alluded to that point last week.
I quoted it.
I can tell Deputy Belton that I grew beet for sugar about 15 years before these experiments were made.
With great respect, I submit that the discussion of sugar beet and when Deputy Corry grew it, cannot be brought within the scope of this amendment.
A sweet interjection.
I am answering the point made. We were told that it was the £4,000 farmer who carried out all the experiments. I want to point out that that is not so. If I may go back to the sweetening period again, 15 years before Deputy Belton carried out experiments, I carried out experiments with sugar beet. While he was well paid for it—Deputy Kent knows this— we were not paid at all.
Deputy Belton was never paid for it. Deputy Corry did not carry out these experiments, paid or unpaid.
The question as to who experimented with the growing of sugar beet 15 years ago is not relevant to this amendment. Deputy Corry will please come down to the merits of the amendment.
I bow to your ruling but I have made a statement and Deputy Belton has denied it. Is it in order for a Deputy to suggest that a statement made by another Deputy is false?
If contradiction of statements was not in order, we could not get on at all.
As I said already, I would only look for one guarantee—a common-sense guarantee that would be accepted by everybody, with the exception, of course, of those who know nothing about land. If we could get a guarantee from the Minister that he is not going to appoint lawyers on this tribunal with the mind that we have heard developed for the last couple of hours on this amendment, lawyers who look for every riddle——
Is the composition of the tribunal in order on this amendment?
On a point of order. This amendment was moved by me. There was no discussion whatever of the constitution of any tribunal with lawyers or otherwise.
Or beet sugar.
There was a very decided discussion as to what the commissioners would do. It was pointed out that this was not put in the Bill to make the commissioners do this and that. What I am saying is that if commissioners of that type, the lawyer who does nothing without being paid, or the person alluded to by Deputy Dillon, the gentleman who has a portmanteau, are kept out of it, I think we would arrive at a very fair valuation without those amendments at all. That is the only suggestion I make to the Minister. It is a suggestion which would carry confidence all over the country with the ordinary farmer. We have had enough of that kind of judgment by lawyers for the last eight or ten years and are anxious to get rid of it. That is why we are trying to do it in this Bill. That is why people are anxious that two ordinary common-sense people would be appointed. I have heard lawyers getting up here one after another for the last hour to tell us about the commissioners, and if I had their opinion of commissioners I would not have moved an amendment such as was moved to-day, that commissioners, with not less than two years' standing should be appointed. They must, surely, have some experience of it and they must have found something very wrong about it. If I had the viewpoint that they hold as to the manner in which this valuation would be carried out by commissioners I would not have moved that. In the first place, I consider the amendment as to £4,000 ridiculous, considering the way things stand at present. In the second place, I consider that we ought to have confidence in the commissioners who will be appointed, that they will do their business in a common-sense manner. I hold that they will, at any rate, and I see no reason for these amendments brought in here.
There were some criticisms advanced by Deputies opposite that I should like to deal with very briefly. Deputy Jordan is surprised that I put down a figure of £4,000, which he seems to regard as a figure in excess of the value of any farm in the country at present. When I put that figure down I had in mind that there might possibly be a change of Government very soon, in which event the value of farms would increase very considerably and £4,000 would be a moderate sum. Deputy Corry spoke about a farm bought recently by a former member of this House. He referred, inaccurately as usual, to the amount he bought it for. I remember seeing the figure myself. He bought 285 acres with buildings for £2,300. He held that up as an extraordinary example of the steadiness of the value of land in this country. Of course everybody who knows anything about the value of land knows that that is about one-third of the value of the farm three years ago, before the Government came into office. As regards Deputy Corry's remarks, I do not want to be out of order by following him in his out-of-order speech. He expressed the hope that no lawyers would be appointed in the place of lay commissioners on this tribunal. May I say that I cordially agree with Deputy Corry? My view is that commissioners who have a knowledge of the value of land, as distinct from lawyers, should be appointed to this tribunal. May I express this opinion also? That I am afraid Deputy Corry will be disappointed. He will find that lawyers will be appointed on it—I am afraid he will. I know Deputy Corry hates lawyers. He talks about the experience of the last ten years. He has much more recent experience of a certain court, and I can understand why he dislikes lawyers. He was not treated with the great respect that he himself thought he was entitled to.
Deputy Smith criticised this proposal. He put forward his view sincerely and I wish to deal with it from that point of view. He relies on the fact that the discretion of the tribunal would be there and that they would do the sensible and right thing. I should like to point out to him that under the section as it stands it is not open to the tribunal to exercise discretion. They are put within a certain limit as to what they must do. They are given certain standards to which they must conform. The standard set for them there is the market value, and in arriving at the market value they are not allowed any discretion in the matter. They must act on evidence brought before them in a legal way as to what is the market value of a particular holding.
There is nobody going to drum them into believing that the market value is something different from what they themselves think it is.
I am pointing out to the Deputy that they are bound, as every other court is, by standards of interpretation as to the meaning of the section they are acting under. They have put before them there the word "land." That word in our law has a certain meaning. It means not only mines, if there are any mines under the surface. In the old legal phraseology it means everything from hell up to heaven. Land includes everything above and below the surface of the land. Therefore they must in valuing the land take into account the value of all the buildings on it. As I pointed out before, they must take into account the evidence given. Those buildings may be useful as stables and they might come to be worth considerably more than the value of the land. If the Minister would consider accepting the amendment of Deputy MacDermot as to bringing in suitability, I think it would be a valuable suggestion. Then on the question that I am dealing with particularly, namely, that the buildings might in fact be of a value altogether out of proportion to the value of the actual agricultural land, he might bring in a definition which would safeguard the position of the tenant from this point of view, that the value of the buildings should not be considered when it was out of proportion to the value of the land. Taking the £2,000, we will say that three-fourths of that should be land alone and make one-fourth buildings. From that point of view it would be a safeguard. If the Minister would consider accepting Deputy MacDermot's amendment and taking the definition that I suggest now, I would be willing to withdraw the amendment.
I think the suggestion worthy of consideration is that made by Deputy MacDermot but I do not think I am in the position to say that the Government will accept his amendment. Personally, I consider it is quite unnecessary. This particular section deals with a very limited class of persons. It treats in a particular way a particular type of farmer who perhaps does not do his work in a husbandlike manner and who is going to be given an opportunity of carrying on elsewhere on a holding of not less than £2,000 valuation. I quite agree with what Deputy MacDermot said that a man being transferred should be transferred to a holding suitable to him as a farmer. Deputy Rice, in criticising Deputy Smith, said that there was no discretion in this matter. I do not know whether he meant the appeal tribunal. But the first discretion rests with the Land Commission to whom is committed the administration of this very complex question of the re-distribution of land. There are hundreds of matters upon which they can exercise their discretion and their commonsense is relied upon.
The question of another holding will not arise at all if the Land Commission holds that what is left to the man is value for £2,000. Therefore the question of buildings is very material.
I do not follow the point. I am talking of a case where there is an exchange.
We must know what is to be exchanged first.
I wish the Deputy would not interfere.
I was only trying to clarify your meaning.
I have been following the discussions with a view to meeting the difficulty and we were getting on very well without the presence of the Deputy at all.
Not as well as if I was here possibly.
There are two points on this matter. One is the question of assessing the market value, and the other is the question of providing a suitable holding elsewhere. I was dealing with the question of providing a suitable holding elsewhere. I was dealing with Deputy Dillon's point.
There is a third point. Supposing a man has £3,500 worth of land. The Land Commission determines upon taking so much from him as will leave him with £2,000 worth of land. If they did that he has no right to demand an alternative holding. But the Land Commission will take the pick of the land with no buildings upon it. That is the kind of land they want for the purposes required. The man will be left with a holding worth £2,000 but the buildings on it will be worth £1,200 and the actual arable or pasture land left will be only worth £800. That is a third point. Here is a man with £2,000 worth but with a building worth £1,200 and land only worth £800 and he has no right to ask for an alternative holding. Our point is that he should be assured of being left with the holding or provided with an alternative holding suitable for his general purposes. That would entitle him to say that a holding consisting of £800 worth of land and £1,200 worth of building is not suitable for my purpose. Does the Attorney-General follow the point?
I follow the point, but as Deputy Smith says we cannot meet every possible case. We have committed to the Land Commission a great many matters in the exercise of which judicial discretion will be called into operation. Take the particular difficulty the Deputy raises. Here is a holding of a certain size, and with buildings appropriate to it. If you cut it down the buildings may become an encumbrance. In such a case as that the market value of the holding changes. In the case of the difficulty just quoted of a £3,500 farm with buildings £1,200 and land £800 left to the owner there is one thing that might be put forward in answer to that. I do not say it is conclusive but it is this. If you have a farm, or a unit valued at £3,500, to which certain buildings are appropriate, if you take the £1,500 part of it by itself the buildings will be inappropriate to it, but that cuts across another point in regard to market value. From my experience of valuers I think they will take into account that buildings lose a certain amount of efficiency by reason of the fact that they are accompanied by a lesser quantity of land. There is no difficulty in the matter at all. The buildings must be taken as appropriate to the holding, and if they are inappropriate to the holding they become useless and are not valued in with the holding. All these difficulties will be met by practical valuers in a practical way. I do not see the anomalous position that Deputies contemplate. If they should happen it is within the competence of the Land Commission to deal with them. I do not think that amendment after amendment here will ever cover all the practical difficulties that will arise in the administration of the section. The word "suitable" is not welcomed in the Land Commission. I already explained on Second Reading that the words "equally suitable" in Section 24 of the Land Act of 1923 created enormous difficulty which was not foreseen by Deputy Hogan when he accepted these words in the Seanad. These difficulties were not foreseen and could not reasonably have been foreseen until it came to a matter of practical working. That is one of the reasons why a section with these words would hold up the practical administration of the Land Commission as it did in recent years. Supposing we were to accept Deputy MacDermot's amendment and to put such words into the section it is conceivable, I do not say it is probable, that this particular word might be construed to mean "equally suitable" and the whole trouble would arise over again.
You could use the words "reasonably suitable."
I do not think that the fears expressed here as to the maladministration of the Land Commission, I do not mean vindictively——
I understood the suggestion to be that under the guise of protection the Land Commission would deliberately work an injustice.
Not at all.
That is Deputy McGilligan's suggestion.
Not at all. I never said it.
If there is no suggestion of that kind the difficulties do not arise.
Take a farmer with a £2,000 holding who showed himself to be competent to work his farm, who showed himself to have been a practical farmer, and should get the protection of this section. If it is not suggested that the Land Commission is going to take that man out and put him on a holding which is not a farm at all what is the point of asking us to amend this section?
That is not vindictiveness. What you have said could happen without any vindictiveness.
It certainly would be obviously contrary to what was the intention of the framers of the section.
The intention must be construed by the wording of the section as it stands.
Unless Deputies are prepared to accredit some commonsense to those who will administer the Act I do not think we should commit this legislation to them at all. I do not suppose it is necessary to deal with the elaborate argument about value.
I quite agree with the Attorney-General that you cannot provide beforehand, by legislation, for every conceivable case that might arise. I always claim to take an unpedantic point of view in approaching those matters, and I hope I am justified in that claim. After all, is it not every bit as natural and sensible to mention here the question of suitability as it is to mention the question of value? If it is foolish to put in anything about suitability it is equally foolish to put in anything about value. One is every bit as relevant as the other. The two considerations are on a parity. It is not true that to put in the few words I suggest here would raise the same type of difficulty that has been experienced in the past. People could wrangle for ever about whether things are "equally suitable." It is not so easy to wrangle as to whether or not a thing is suitable for a farmer at all. In any case you have here provided that the decision of the appeal tribunal will be absolutely final, so it could not be carried any further than that. I suggest "which the lay commissioners consider suitable," or, if you dislike the word "suitable" what they consider appropriate. Those words do not go one inch further than what the Government have declared to be their intention. That being so, it is only reasonable to embody them in the Bill. They cannot possibly hurt anyone or anything.
I propose to accept "what the lay commissioners consider suitable."
That is perfectly satisfactory.
Would the Minister put them in at the end instead of where Deputy MacDermot suggests? I think they are misplaced.
I think we could put in "of not less market value than £2,000, which the lay commissioners consider suitable." We might put it that way.
I move amendment 25:—
In page 21, Section 28, line 50, after the figures "£2,000" to insert the words "or if such tenant or proprietor is not the owner of lands exceeding in extent 150 acres; or if such tenant or proprietor is the owner of lands the purchase annuity of which has been redeemed."
This amendment embodies two amendments which were down on the Committee Stage of this Bill. In consequence of the acceptance of an amendment of the Minister which practically deleted the whole section, discussion of those amendments was rendered inopportune on the Committee Stage. The Minister assured us that we might bring them in on the Report Stage. In the limited time at my disposal when this Bill was sent forward for Report, perhaps I rather hurriedly put in the amendments. It was difficult to get them in, having regard to the fact that the Minister had wiped out the sub-section, but I put them in to the best of my ability. The original intention was that included amongst those farmers who would have the option, if their land was declared, of getting an alternative holding would be two classes; first, the owner of land not exceeding in extent 150 acres, and secondly, a tenant who, being a purchase annuitant under previous Acts, had redeemed his land.
I do not want to make a long speech in support of my amendment, because in regard to the first point, that is the size of the holding, there was a particularly long debate here which rather met that point. On the question of value, debated on Deputy Rice's amendment, there was a lot said about the extent of the holding and perhaps this amendment of mine would set out pretty clearly what was in the minds of many Deputies who spoke on the last amendment—that at least the tenants would have security to the extent of 150 acres. That would be, in Irish acres, 92 or 93, which is not a very large farm to secure to them. The second portion of the amendment deals with the purchase annuitants who redeemed their holdings. If there is any section of purchase annuitants to whom the Minister ought to give some privilege under this Bill it is the redeemed annuitants. They are practically the only section of tenants who will gain no benefit from any portion of this Bill. They are precluded from any benefit from the halving of the annuities. They are precluded from any other possible benefit from this Bill, but they are in danger of losing their land. The industrious farmer who in the last 15, 20 or 25 years scraped and saved so that he might afterwards give his son a secure holding, without the anxiety of maintaining the rent, can get no possible advantage out of this Bill. The least he might get is the advantage of being included in this class of tenants who will have the privilege, if their land is declared under this Bill, of getting a holding somewhat similarly suitable. I think any Deputy in this House will not deny that that is the least privilege one could ask for this class, who after all are not a very big class in this country, men who scraped and saved to wipe out their annuities. I do not think any long speech is necessary in defence of this amendment.
I do not think there is much necessity to debate this amendment at length. The 150 acres really mean nothing. It might be bad moor land, not worth anything, or it might be very rich land. I think £2,000 market value is a better standard of value than 150 acres. Deputy Belton spoke also on the last amendment about the rateable value. The rateable value is not as good a standard as the £2,000 market value.
I do not mean to substitute it for the £2,000 value. The £2,000 value still remains.
I know. The Deputy is also asking about redeemed purchase annuities. Redeemed land which has been purchased, whether the annuities are redeemed or not, is purchased land, and they are all treated equally.
Then, is the Minister suggesting that holders of purchased land have the privilege which I am asking for redeemed tenants?
They have. It is purchased land.
Then the holder of purchased land has the right to demand an equivalent farm?
Which section covers that point?
It is purchased land. It has been purchased under the Land Purchase Acts.
Is the Minister quite sure it is covered?
I made sure of that. It is purchased land.
I move amendment No. 26:—
In page 21, at the end of Section 28 (1), to add the following proviso:—"provided that such proprietor or tenant shall not be put out of possession or deprived of the receipt of the rents and profits of such land until the Land Commission shall have provided him with such new holding."
According to the wording of Section 28, it is not obligatory on the Land Commission to provide a tenant, whom they propose to migrate, with a new holding before taking over possession of the original holding. The object of my amendment is to ensure that the tenant shall not be deprived of his holding until the Land Commission is in a position to provide him with a new holding, that he shall be allowed to retain possession and shall not be deprived of whatever rents and profits he normally would make out of that land until such time as the Land Commission is in a position to put him into possession of a new holding. As the section is worded it is not obligatory on the Land Commission to provide him with a new holding simultaneously with taking possession of the original holding. I want to ensure by this amendment that he will not be deprived of possession of the old holding until the Land Commission is in a position to provide him with a new one.
There was no such provision in the Land Act of 1923 or any of the other Land Acts, and I do not think that anybody was aggrieved at the way in which the Land Commission handled the matter. The Deputy will remember that in the original draft of the Bill, as introduced, the wording was "the Land Commission shall, as soon as practicable, provide the tenant with an alternative holding." There was some criticism of that. We saw the point of it and we cut it out, and the section now reads: "The Land Commission shall, if within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner such tenant or proprietor requires them to declare and acquire his entire land and to provide him with a new holding, provide such tenant or proprietor with a new holding." I grant the Deputy that it does not say at what time they shall provide him with a holding, but the custom has been to provide the tenant with an alternative holding long before the original holding is taken over. That will be the practice in future. If the Deputy would insert in his amendment after the words "shall not," the words "without his consent," it might meet the case. The amendment would then read, "provided that such proprietor or tenant shall not without his consent be put out of possession or deprived of the receipt of the rents," etc.
That is really what the amendment means.
I know it is. I do not know whether we could put in these words now or not.
Do the words really make any material difference?
I do not think the amendment needs the words "without his consent."
I think the amendment is very important. I quite agree with the Minister that he took out the words "as soon as practicable," but I assumed that when he did that it was his intention to ensure that the tenant would be provided with a new holding immediately he relinquished possession of the old one. It seems to me that the words "without his consent" are not necessary.
The original words "as soon as practicable" were taken from Section 24 of the Land Act of 1923, which read: "The Land Commission shall as soon as practicable provide the tenant with a new holding." As the law stood the words were "as soon as practicable" but actually in operation, before a man was disturbed in his original holding, he got the alternative holding.
Does the Minister accept my amendment?
I do not see the point in it because he has to be provided with an alternative holding, and as that may be the subject of an appeal to the appeal tribunal, the holding must be pointed out to him. The Land Commission must have it on their hands to give it to him before they can disturb him. The price is to be fixed before he is disturbed and part of the price is the alternative holding. I do not think there is any point in putting in this amendment.
As long as I am assured by the Minister that it is the intention of the Land Commission to provide a man with a holding before he is deprived of possession of the original holding, I am satisfied. It is true that in the past the tenant was supplied with a new holding before he reliaquished possession of the old holding but, presumably, it is the intention of the Minister to carry out migration schemes on a much more rapid scale than the Land Commission did in the past. For that reason I was afraid that an unfortunate tenant might be deprived of his means of livelihood for a period of a month, six months or even 12 months, until the Land Commission could find a new holding for him.
There is no danger of that.
I move amendment No. 27:—
In page 21, at the end of Section 28 (1), to add the words:—"and provide further that if such proprietor or tenant shall not within the prescribed time or in the prescribed manner require the Land Commission to provide him with a new holding the Land Commission shall pay to such tenant or proprietor in land bonds the market value of the declared lands."
I want the Minister to clear my mind on the point involved in this amendment. It appears to me that there is no provision in the Act to pay land bonds to a tenant who does not demand an alternative holding. It may be that it is the intention of the Minister or his advisers to relate this Act to the Act of 1923 and the subsequent Acts, but that point certainly is not clear and I want the Minister to explain the point and to show me that the owner will be entitled to land bonds.
The point in this amendment seems to be a change in the method of calculating the value of declared lands. At present by sub-section (2) of Section 25 of the 1923 Act the price is fixed by the Land Commission or by the judicial commissioner on appeal and in fixing such sum regard shall be had to the fair value of the land to the Land Commission and the owner respectively. The amendment, it will be seen, would substitute payment of the market value of the declared lands.
The existing provision in Section 25 (2) of the 1923 Act is undoubtedly a vague and indeterminate one and was probably so intended. It results in a price perhaps sometimes less than the market value and sometimes greater. Taken as a whole, the acceptance of market value as the guide would increase costs to the Land Commission, and it is not clear why Deputies propose to depart from the method laid down in the 1923 Act—a method which was, no doubt, a compromise and which was intended to secure a price which would be as fair as possible to all parties. The Land Commission pay their price on the maximum amount which the lands will bear by way of annual charge. The owner estimates his price at the value of the lands to him and the judicial commissioner, to whom practically all these cases have gone, as owners appeal in almost every case, endeavours to hit upon a price which will be fair to both. There is nothing to prevent the appeal tribunal from being guided by the market value of lands wherever they are provided with evidence that the lands concerned, in fact, have market value. It is possible in some districts to state fairly closely what lands would sell for if offered in the open market; there are other districts in which it would be equally safe to assert that lands if offered in the open market would not produce a bid.
As regards the opening portion of this amendment, it would not seem to be necessary to provide specifically that if the proprietor or tenant does not within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, call upon the Land Commission to provide him with a new holding, the Land Commission shall pay him for his land in land bonds. That is implicit in the section and the only method by which the Land Commission can pay for land is by means of land bonds.
The Minister does not seem to be very clear about the extent of the authority which he has at the moment to pay such proprietor or tenant in land bonds. I am not going to press the point unduly here to-day. Will the Minister undertake to look into the matter again?
It has been looked into.
Is the Minister thoroughly satisfied that he has the power to pay in land bonds?
This is the first time one is entering into possession of a purchased holding for which an equivalent or suitable holding will not be given and the question arises there, in the case of a person who, having bought a holding for, let us say, £3,000, and the value of it having gone down, or one or other of those things mentioned by the Minister having taken place, as to what basis of value is going to be taken. Up to now, any person in the occupation of a purchased holding had what one might call the last word in being rooted in the soil. Under this section that is gone. Is there going, with that, the corresponding value which that person had in mind would have to be paid for the land? In other words, will the judicial commissioner and the appeal tribunal simply assess a value upon one of those purchased holdings in the same way as on untenanted land?
No. It is quite clear. It is on the market value. The resumed holders had holdings in no way distinguishable to the ordinary person from a vested holding. You had two farms, side by side, of equal acreage, one of them vested and the other unvested. Under the 1923 Act the unvested tenant could be completely taken up and paid in land bonds. We are not applying that to the best of land. We are giving alternative holdings up to £2,000 and the surplus over that, if taken, will be paid for in land bonds.
Let us assume that the Land Commission is taking a holding on which, say, 30 years' purchase money is paid off, say, under the 1891 Act; and let us assume that a holding equivalent in size, buildings and so on is bought under the 1923 Act. Is the assessment of value going to be the same in both cases? Will there be advertence to the fact that in the one case half the purchase money has been paid and that in the other case the whole of it has to run?
It has to be assumed that where a holding has 60 years' purchase money on it to run as against 30 years on another holding, it would be one of the points which would be considered by a purchaser in the open market when land is put up for sale. Part of the consideration would be what rent is on it and how long it has to go; and, therefore, in taking over land from a man the appeal tribunal in the last analysis and the Land Commissioners in the first case, would have to advert to the rent that was on the holding which the man was giving up and the rent on the holding they were giving to him in assessing the market value of both holdings.
I have listened to the debates on the various sections in regard to market value and I have yet to find any sort of a clear definition of what market value is. I passed by a farm on Sunday last that originally cost £10,000. I should like to know what would even Deputy Corry consider would be the market value of that farm at the present time.
It depends entirely on whether a man is buying or selling it.
I know of another farm bought for £1,900 and auction fees which went for £300 a couple of weeks ago. I have no doubt that it is in the minds of Deputy Corry and his colleagues to acquire land at that value. Anybody who knows the condition of affairs at the present time knows that there is no market value, so to speak, and there will be no market value on land if things go on as they are at present. I am giving two concrete cases which I know; and then we are told that in this question of market value commonsense will be the whole dominating factor in connection with putting this Bill into operation. I am not prepared at all, even in the case of lawyers and lay commissioners, to say that they have so much commonsense. My opinion is that they will interpret the Act as they see it and when you ask for commonsense you will not get it. You will get what is there. This question of market value is a very serious thing for a good many people throughout the country. Land has no market value in comparison with what it ought to have at the present time. Nobody knows that better than the Minister, probably. Whatever about the Minister, I know that most of the farmer Deputies know that the market value of land has been reduced under the present régime, or during the present state of affairs in this country.
Yes, and in other countries also.
Very well, but we do not do things just because other people do them. It seems to me that the Deputy, from the nature of his remark, is rather pleased because it has gone down so low.
I know what it is in other places, too.
I know that the average industrious farmer who made a success of his land tried to acquire additional land. I am sure that is what most reasonably good farmers would do and it was a good sign; but now, under this section, the whole question of market value has been taken into consideration. I appeal to the Minister that there should be a better interpretation of what is market value than I have heard from anybody on the Government Benches in connection with this Bill.
Deputy Curran is very anxious for an interpretation of the words "market value." Deputy Curran knows, as we all know, that the value of land has gone down for the last 12 or 14 years. For instance you cannot expect to get the same price for land to-day as at the time when land was bought in Deputy Curran's constituency and in mine, when you had the two local bank managers attending the sale and saying: "Give another £1,000 and I will stand by you." We all know it. I knew of a case in Deputy Curran's constituency of a farmer who had purchased land and who got the money from the bank. The bank manager was present at the sale and guaranteed the money. This man had two securities. The three farms together—the farm that was bought with portion of the money from the bank and the farms of the two securities—would not make the money that is due to the bank. Deputy Curran probably knows similar cases, but that is not the particular class of land that we are dealing with here. Those are not the farms that we are dealing with.
We are dealing with all kinds of land.
We are dealing with a situation in which the provisions in previous Land Acts to deal with land proved a failure. The provisions in previous Land Acts led to one of two ends: either an estate was not taken over at all, or if it was taken over it was at a price that the incoming tenants found it impossible to pay. The result of that was that the land went back to the former owners on the 11-months' system. In the case of estates that have been divided up during the last ten years that has been the result in nine out of every ten cases.
The Deputy knows that to be absolutely untrue.
He knows it to be absolutely true, and Deputy Roddy knows it to be true as well as I do.
It is absolutely untrue.
I gave Deputy Roddy instances time after time that it was true. What about the Barrymore Estate at Watergrasshill that was divided up? The best off tenant on that land in 1931 owed four and a half years' arrears out of seven years. Deputy Roddy knows that the price that was paid by the Land Commission for that estate was five times its actual value. What price was paid for the Gubbins Estate at Carrigtwohill? What is the amount of the annuities that are being paid by the people who hold that land?
Is this relevant to the section at all?
I consider it is. We are dealing with the value of land.
I thought it was with bank managers you were dealing.
With both, because both created a situation which made it absolutely necessary to bring in a Bill of this kind. We are no longer going to have the Irish taxpayer paying five times the value of land and of people being put into it as a joke because that is what happened. People were put into possession of land as a kind of joke. It was said to them: "You are all right now; we will give you 50 acres of land at 40/- or 50/- an acre," while their neighbours outside the ditch were paying 4/6, and they were expected not only to compete with them, but to be able to hold the land as well. That happened in the past, but it is not going to happen any more. I know that in my own constituency the sale of one farm was held up. Why? Negotiations were practically completed when our Party came into office, and to my knowledge the price that was being paid for that farm of 350 acres was four times what it would fetch in the open market at the time. It was a matter of loot. We all know what land hunger is, and that if an estate is being divided up and a farmer with land outside the ditch is offered 15 or 20 acres he will take them, no matter what the price is, but in the hope that he will never have to pay for it. That happened in many cases that I know of. People took land without any hope of being able to hold it. I have seen men who, in the ordinary course of events, could hold land and hold it well, but these were men who had received a bounty of £800 or £900 with a pension of £100 a year. They should be fairly well able to hold land, but they were not able to do so. They were the fellows who got a good deal of land.
People have not been able to hold land that they got following the division of estates because it was purchased at five or six times its value. The purpose of this section is that the owner of such land will get the fair market value for it. You had three or four different clauses put into previous Land Acts. First of all you had one dealing with the landlord's interest, one with the tenant's interest, and then a clause dealing with compensation for disturbance. Then you had these clauses interpreted by various lawyers and different types of land valuers. By the time they were finished with their end of the job the unfortunate man who went into one of these holdings soon discovered that he had no hope whatever of holding the portion of land given to him. We are going to see that in future when land is divided up the man who gets it will at least have a fair chance of making a living in it. In the past such people did not get that chance. No man should expect more for his land than the fair value he would get for it in the open market.
Why do not the Government go into the open market and buy? There is plenty of land on the market.
The Deputy knows very well what happens at a bull sale when it becomes known that the Department of Agriculture is going to buy a particular animal. In reply to his question I need not give him a clearer case than that. The Deputy is not half as dull as he pretends to be. Apart from that altogether, the Government could not go into the open market and buy the estates that we have in mind. If they had to confine themselves to buying in the open market how could they get a hold of Captain Moore?
He is giving you a lot of trouble.
I will have great pleasure the day we are splitting it up.
You may have to wait for that.
I will not. The Centre Party will not keep me out of it anyway. They are not going to save him, no matter how much he pays to their funds. In future land is going to be bought at its market value and no more. The Land Commission is not going to be used as a sort of scapegoat for the purpose of extracting money from the Irish taxpayers for loot for landlords.
I do not propose to follow the line that was taken either by Deputy Curran or Deputy Corry. I do want to say that I have had some little connection with the resumption of land. I did not find the Land Commission anyway soft. The argument they used was that they were going to pay a price that they thought they could get back from the land from the people they were going to put into it and as Deputies know in every case that price is much less than the average price of land in the district. In regard to this amendment, would the Minister say if that is the standard that is going to be adopted? Will the standard price be the price that the Land Commission can give so that the allottees will be able to pay, or will it be the average price of land in the district purchased in the open market?
This matter should properly have been discussed at an earlier stage. As the Deputy seems anxious I might mention that land taken under this section will be taken over at market value. Untenanted land is taken over at a price which the Land Commission think is fair to the incoming tenant, as well as to the landlord. In this case it will be taken over at the market value. That market value has been spoken of in Land Acts since 1881. Deputy Roddy's amendment sought to clear up a point, whether or not the Land Commission has power to pay in land bonds. The Government advisors in the Land Commission say that there is power to do so.
I move amendment 28:—
In page 21, at the end of Section 28 (1), line 58, to add the following words:—
"provided also that in the event of the tenant or proprietor being dissatisfied with the new holding he shall be entitled to refuse to accept such holding and, in lieu thereof, to be paid the full value of the holding required from him in land bonds."
This amendment more or less seeks to safeguard the tenant who agrees to accept an alternative holding, and who finds subsequently that that holding is unsuitable. The amendment is designed to cover that type of case and to ensure that instead of the land he will get land bonds. A tenant may ask for an alternative holding, and later on may find that it is unsuitable to the type of economy to which he has been accustomed. The Land Commission always take into consideration the type of economy followed by a tenant in the district in which he lives, and in which his people, probably, lived before him. In providing an alternative holding they also consider whether or not it is really suitable for enabling him to continue the same kind of economy. It has often happened that a tenant had to be shown two or three holdings before he decided on a suitable one. Now I believe the Minister intends to short-circuit that procedure and, as far as possible, to get the Land Commission to assign a particular holding, when the tenant would have very little redress if not prepared to accept it. It is only fair if a tenant finds that a holding he has selected is unsuitable, as a result of further information that he may have obtained, that he should be given the right to withdraw his undertaking to migrate, and if he demands it, be given land bonds instead.
Surely he has the right to withdraw before he signs the agreement. If he signs the agreement to take a holding there must be some finality to the transaction. The Land Commission cannot have the matter fixed up. If a man is prepared to accept an alternative holding they must get through with the transaction. If he is not satisfied he simply refuses and the Land Commission pay him in land bonds. If he signs, there is finality.
I move amendment 29:—
In page 21, before Section 28 (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
"The Land Commission shall not acquire such lands in cases where the owner of the lands proposed to be acquired directs attention to other unacquired lands in the locality suitable for the relief of congestion which do not come within the exception mentioned in Section 24, sub-section 2 (a) of the Land Act, 1923, and the acquisition of such unacquired land would provide sufficiently for the relief of congestion in the locality."
This amendment was discussed to a certain extent on the Committee Stage when I understood the Minister to say that he would consider it before this Stage. The amendment really proposes to re-introduce a section of the Act of 1923, providing that no lands shall be acquired under Section 38 as long as there is untenanted land in the locality suitable for the relief of congestion, and as long as the Land Commission are satisfied that the untenanted land is sufficient to relieve whatever congestion there is. It appears to me that the amendment is fair and that no steps should be taken to acquire the land of a purchased tenant so long as there is sufficient untenanted land available in a district.
Amendment 36 has been brought in as a Government amendment and, I think, it fully safeguards anyone who is working his farm. The only objection I have to this amendment is that it does not cover the Deputy's point, to give more safeguards to owners where they are working the land properly. The Deputy's amendment would have the effect of delaying the work of the Land Commission. It gives another reason for an appeal. There have been appeals to the judicial commissioners where the Land Commission proposed to take over the land on points which are covered by the Deputy's amendment. Some stated that there were other lands not protected by Section 24 of the Land Act of 1923 and that held up the Land Commission for months. When they view land in a district the Land Commissioners always look at the vested land. If there is untenanted land they would not dream of going for a judicial or a vested holding. The amendment is unnecessary and would simply give reasons for delay and for appeal in cases where speed is necessary. Some people will appeal when there is really no good ground for doing so, but simply to cause delay.
I do not know why the Minister suggests that the amendment if accepted would cause delay. The Minister has a return of all the untenanted land in the Free State. The inspectors have reported on perhaps every acre of untenanted land. The amendment suggests only what is fair to a purchased tenant, who has a certain guarantee with regard to title, which the owners of untenanted land have not. From the beginning it was intended, when land was vested, that it gave the tenant a certain guarantee over untenanted land. It is only fair to the purchased tenant that that guarantee, which is implicit in the title, should be recognised, and that, so long as there is untenanted land in a district, which is adequate for the relief of congestion, the owner of registered land has the right to direct the attention of the Land Commission to it, and furthermore to insist on the Land Commission acquiring untenanted land before acquiring purchased land. That seems to be but elementary justice to a tenant by virtue of his title to his land. I ask the Minister to reconsider his attitude and to accept the amendment, which is only just and equitable. If later on the problem of congestion increases in a particular district, there is nothing in the Bill to deprive the Minister of the right of acquiring land from a registered tenant and utilising it. Until it can be demonstrated that such land is required for the immediate relief of congestion, I submit that registered tenants should not be interfered with. I press the Minister to accept the amendment.
Deputy Roddy's remarks would give the impression that he has suddenly lost all confidence in the machinery of the Land Commission, and in the machinery set up under this Bill, to deal with the acquisition and distribution of land. Surely the Deputy does not mean to suggest that the appeal tribunal would proceed to acquire tenanted land in any district, as long as there was untenanted land equally suitable for the relief of congestion, or otherwise. I am surprised that Deputy Roddy, with the experience he must have, should have changed his mind so suddenly, by seemingly suggesting that he has no confidence in the machinery of a Department, of which he was the head for a number of years. If Deputy Roddy were in our position and was sponsoring this measure he could not understand an Opposition, not possessing even his experience, raising such points as he has raised on this amendment. I think it can safely be assumed that the Land Commission will not proceed to acquire tenanted land in any district so long as there is untenanted land equally suitable for the purpose for which the land is being acquired.
This is not purely a question of having confidence in the administrators of certain legislation. I am not denying that the Land Commission will possibly interpret this just as the Minister says they will; but we want something more definite than confidence in the persons who will be responsible for administering this measure. Confidence alone should not be sufficient for any representative of the farmers. It is not enough to be told by the Minister or anybody else— of course the Deputy is very sincere in his own way—that we are only to have confidence in the Land Commission and they will do the things that we expect them to do. I want to feel assured that the section is going to do the thing this House intends it to do. I think there is too much advocacy of the confidence principle here. We should stick more to detail. Every section should be set out so that the ordinary, intelligent man will know where it is leading. To my mind, this amendment is very necessary.
Deputy Smith is surely not very serious when he suggests that I have not confidence in the justice and fairness of the Land Commission. The section which safeguarded tenants is being removed. What is the Minister's object in removing it? The Minister mentions that the Land Commission will proceed to acquire untenanted land.
There might not be untenanted land in many districts, as the Deputy well knows.
Then you can rely on Section 28.
There is one very important point. Under Section 24 (2) (a) of the 1923 Act unvested holdings are not protected and judicial holdings are not protected and the Land Commission have found, in the course of their operations, that when they want to acquire land in a district in order to relieve congestion they are pushed on from the large vested tenants who do not use their land, who do not live on it, and who have been letting it on the 11-months' system for years, to judicial tenants who have small well-worked holdings. If this amendment were to go in the Land Commission would be left in the same position; they could not deal with vested tenants who do not work their land and they would be compelled to go after judicial holdings which are not protected by the 1923 Act. I think that is wrong. We are treating them equally. We are giving the judicial tenants a certain security that was not given to them by the 1923 Act.
I would prefer to leave this Bill as it stands. The Land Commission, when they come to acquire land for the relief of congestion, do not examine merely one farm or estate; they examine all the estates in the locality. To my mind, if they want land for the relief of congestion they should take over land that is not being worked, even if it is a vested holding, as distinct from taking over well-worked land that is only subject to a judicial tenancy and is not protected by the 1923 Act.
I think the Minister has wandered away from the point, or rather talked around it. He will see that my amendment asks him to deal only with untenanted land in districts where that land is sufficient to relieve congestion before he starts interfering with registered land.
The Deputy has not specified untenanted land. He refers to unacquired land.
The intention in the original draft was to specify untenanted land. It is not intended to go beyond that. Quite early to-day the Minister admitted that registered tenanted land has a certain prior right as against untenanted land. It is only right in the matter of land acquisition that the special claims of the purchased tenant should be taken into consideration. Those claims should be placed in proper order and the Land Commission should first acquire untenanted or unregistered land. There are fully 750,000 acres still to be dealt with. The Minister stated that, at the moment, they are dealing with 500,000 acres of untenanted land. There are many districts where you have untenanted land side by side with registered or purchased land. I think my amendment is perfectly fair and reasonable. Of course, there are districts where there is no untenanted land and no unregistered land. In those cases the Land Commission will have to acquire registered land in order to deal with acute problems of congestion. I realise the difficulties and the peculiar conditions that exist in various parts of the country. The Minister has made no case against the acceptance of my amendment, which is aimed at covering a special type of case.
If Deputy Roddy had specified untenanted land I would seriously have considered whether we should not have accepted the amendment. As it stands, he alludes to unacquired land.
I really think I had untenanted land in the original draft of the amendment.
Only the other day I was looking at a map prepared by the Land Commission in the course of their examination of land needed for the relief of congestion. I observed that there was a fringe of tenants along a bog. I may mention this was a very congested district. Adjacent to them was a farm of about 700 acres—vested land. The owner has not seen that land for the last 14 years. He lets it on the 11-months' system to these uneconomic holders along the bog. Three miles away across this stretch of vested land is a rather medium-sized judicial tenancy holding, not protected by the 1923 Act. As the law stands the Land Commission have to jump over this large vested ranch, which is never worked by the owner and on which he does not reside, and go after the medium-sized holding which is worked by the owner, who gives employment in the district. I certainly want to take the power to deal with vested land like that and I do not want to accept the Deputy's amendment because it would preclude the Land Commission from taking over vested land from a tenant who is not working his land, but simply becoming another landlord and forcing the Land Commission to go and take the land of a small or medium man who is working his holding.
I move amendment 30:—
In page 22 at the end of Section 28 to add a new sub-section as follows:—
In respect of the foregoing provisions where a farm is valued for less than £2,000 the owner's consent must be obtained before acquisition.
This amendment is perfectly reasonable, and I assume it will be acceptable to the Minister. Section 28 provides that land the market value of which exceeds the sum of £2,000 shall be available and shall be acquired for the purpose of the relief of congestion. This amendment safeguards the man whose holding is value for less than £2,000. It safeguards the tenant in this way, that the owner's consent must be obtained before the land can be acquired.
The point at issue is covered by amendment 36.
I was not quite clearly satisfied that amendment 36 covers it. I do not quite interpret amendment 36 as safeguarding my point.
I am going as far as I can to meet the point raised by the Deputy in this amendment and by Deputy MacDermot in another amendment.
Shall we leave it over until amendment 36 is disposed of?
This amendment must be decided one way or another now; amendments must be disposed of in order.
This bears on amendment 36.
Why not discuss amendment 36 with it?
It is as broad as it is long.
The House cannot leave an amendment undecided.
I want to be quite clear as to what extent amendment 36 bears on this and on four or five other amendments besides this one. Perhaps the Minister would indicate how far it does or to what extent amendment 36 covers the particular point which I want covered by this amendment of mine. I realise it has a bearing on it, but the wording of 36 is somewhat difficult to understand.
What the Deputy wants to achieve is quite clear. If a man has a holding valued for less than £2,000 he wants to see that that holding cannot be compulsorily acquired no matter under what tenancy he holds. The amendment as it stands would cover untenanted land.
It does not.
Amendment 36 sets out that "notwithstanding anything contained in this section... the Land Commission shall not acquire compulsorily for any purpose other than the relief of congestion in the same locality or the provision of sports fields, parks, pleasure grounds or playgrounds... any land in respect of which the lay commissioners are satisfied... such land is producing an adequate amount of agricultural products and is providing an adequate amount of employment...." The Deputy's amendment would prevent the Land Commission acquiring a holding value for less than £2,000 in a congested district even though that holding were very badly worked and were giving no employment.
Except with the owner's consent.
Yes, I mean compulsorily. We want to have power left to the Land Commission to acquire land compulsorily in a congested district even where that land is not worth £2,000 in cases where the land is worked badly. To that extent we are restricting our power to relieve congestion in the locality. Amendment 36 as it stands will be a good safeguard to all the people who are prepared to work their land and give employment. In view of that amendment, I do not think there is any great ground for the Deputy's amendment.
With regard to amendment 30 the point that Deputy Roddy raises is not at all met by amendment 36. As far as I am personally concerned I do not think that amendment 36 goes even a short way to meet it. Where Deputy Roddy's amendment holds the advantage is that a person with land worth under £2,000 shall for all practical purposes be eliminated from this Bill. I think that is a very reasonable demand. The Minister gave certain privileges in this Bill to people with under £2,000 worth of land. I think as an extension of that privilege the least they might ask for, if their land is to be acquired, is that it should be acquired with their consent rather than compulsorily. After all a £2,000 holding is not a very big holding and what it would provide in the way of relief of congestion would not be a great deal. If a man has a holding well worked up, with a good comfortable house on it, the State should at least ask for his consent before they take his land compulsorily. Perhaps the owner would migrate to another place.
I think this amendment of Deputy Roddy's would in fact provide safeguards for the small farmers against compulsory acquisition where the small farmers had worked their holdings. The Minister in his reply seemed to suggest that small farmers' holdings could not be taken unless the holdings were worked very badly or unless there was some reason of that kind. That however is not correct. A small farmer's holding can be taken from him whenever the Minister requires it for the relief of congestion or when under Section 31 the Minister issues the certificate referred to there. I argued very strongly when the section was under consideration on the Committee Stage against the extension of the powers of compulsory acquisition and when I made that argument I referred it to registered land. Deputy Roddy will correct me if I am wrong. I think this amendment simply means that compulsory acquisition should not be available to the Land Commission in the case of what is ordinarily known as a small tenant purchaser. The Minister spoke of farms in the hands of tenant purchasers, farms which are not being well worked. Deputies who know the country will agree with me that the only farms that come under that heading are farms that have fallen into the hands of people who are growing old and have really given up farming. In most cases they are of the class of people who will not make the land over to their children and will not work it themselves. You will have one or two odd old people living on a farm which admittedly is not properly worked. Then the Land Commission can come and take that farm away from them and distribute it amongst the neighbours for the relief of congestion. That may seem a very reasonable thing to do but I warn the House if it is done—and any Deputy who knows the country knows this—it will give rise to a most unthinkable state of things. The children of these old people who were expecting to have that farm come to them later on, philosophically wait until the time comes when the old people will make it over to them or until the time comes when the old people will die. If the land is to be taken away from the old people or rather away from the people to whom it would normally come or devolve on their death, then the children of these old people who might legitimately anticipate that that land would be theirs, could with every reason look upon the people amongst whom that land had been divided as landgrabbers, and so would I look upon them as landgrabbers. Any person who would go in and take land from old people in these circumstances, the land which the children of those old people expected to be theirs in due time, are common landgrabbers in every sense of the word. I warned the Minister at an earlier stage that if the Land Commission officials are to go down to the ordinary small holdings and to start to acquire land compulsorily, the Minister will be starting something in this country the end of which nobody can foresee. He is going to upset the whole sense of security and peace that pervades the land settlement all over the country amongst the small farmers. What puzzles me is that the ordinary Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party cannot themselves visualise that. What do they imagine would happen if the Land Commission were to take one of their neighbours' farms and to start to divide it up amongst three or four persons in the locality? What do they think their neighbours would say? Do they not know very well that if the Land Commission went in on a small holding and divided it up amongst three or four neighbours, the person whose land was taken would regard them as landgrabbers and fight them as landgrabbers? A few days ago, an old man came in to me—a man well on in the seventies. He had received back his receivable order. The receivable order had, apparently, been cancelled for the usual reason and he came in to me to know if that contained any suggestion that his land was going to be taken from him with a view to dividing it amongst his neighbours. "If it is," he said, "I fought for it before and am ready to fight for it again." I said: "There is no necessity to get so warlike. You can go home. There is no danger. Nobody is going to touch your land." I knew that in that particular case there was no danger. But here is an amendment being offered to the Government to secure that I shall be in a position to say to every small farmer who comes to me with that story: "Nobody can touch your land unless you give them leave"—that is the purpose of this amendment and nothing else—and the Government will not accept it. Why?
You have been told.
Because they propose to touch their farms. If a man comes to me to ask if there is any danger of the Government taking his land, I am no longer in a position to tell him to go home and not worry about it, that nobody can touch his land. I can only say "I cannot tell you." I do not want to introduce a note of acerbity. I could say a lot of provocative things but I want deliberately to avoid them. The old people—and middle-aged people, for that matter—are in real trepidation lest their land be taken from them. Their interest in the discussion is whether the threat is made that their land is going to be taken from them. When they come in and ask if there is any danger that their land will be taken from them once this Bill is passed, I can only say "Yes; the Government can take it to relieve congestion."
Do not speak legally to them—speak common sense.
I assure the Deputy that that is my intention but here is the acid test whether or not they can be reassured. If it is fair to reassure them, surely the Minister should accept this amendment. If he does not mean to disturb them, why does he not accept this amendment? The fact is that the Minister has made up his mind that it is desirable and necessary, in certain cases, to disturb tenant purchasers on comparatively small holdings. In that, in my opinion, he is entirely and fundamentally wrong. He believes it is right to do a slight injustice in order to achieve a greater good. I am profoundly convinced that the evil he will do by this kind of transaction will far and away outweigh any good he will do. Anybody who lives in the congested areas—Deputy Jordan or anybody else—understands the way the tenant purchasers feel about their land. If you go in to a small tenant purchaser, take his land from him, offer him land far from where he was born and reared as compensation, it will create ill-feeling in that district which will far outweigh the value of any additional patch of land you will be able to give to the congests.
That is not the way to solve the problem. It is a problem requiring care, tact and patience. Those people who have been congests for years deserve every consideration from the State. If the State wants to solve that problem by the transfer of certain tenants, instead of doing that compulsorily they should do it by inducement. If they wanted to solve that problem, they should have resumed to the Irish Land Commission the powers of the old Congested Districts Board and given them even a wider latitude. They should have given the Land Commission the right to send an inspector down to any congested area to say: "The average value of your holdings is £200 or £400. We are prepared to give a holding worth £600 or £700 to any half dozen in such and such a place, if you will consent to go and help in the solution of the problem in this area." That is the only effective way to solve it. It might not be as rapid as the compulsory way but it would be enduring. It would be an effective settlement and would give rise to no ill-feeling.
It could have been done if it had been gone about in the right way. If this goes forward without the acceptance of that amendment this Bill is going to be a catastrophe. It is going to be a catastrophe that future Governments will have a long and difficult business in repairing. So far as I am concerned, if it is ever in my power, or if I ever belong to a Party which has the power to shape Government policy, the right compulsorily to acquire a small tenant purchaser's registered land will be taken from the Government. The law will be amended at least to conform to the terms of that amendment. I venture to say that the time is not far distant when the Minister will come back to this House to divest himself of the powers he is looking for now, because he will find that they are an instrument not only of destruction for his own Party, but for the public peace of congested areas.
No Government that intends seriously to deal with the problem of congestion could accept amendment No. 30. To my mind the Minister could not go any further than he has gone in amendment 36. Why should the Government not have power to acquire land in a congested area of less than £2,000 in value if that land was not properly worked? What objection is there to it? What objection should there be to it? Deputy Bennett referred to the fact that £2,000 worth of land might not be very large in extent. That is so in certain places. It depends on the location of the land. In some places £2,000 worth of land might be very considerable in area. I do not see what objection there can be to acquiring land of less than £2,000 in value, if it is not being properly worked, for the relief of congestion. Of course it all depends on the view you take of these things. Deputy Dillon has one view and we have another. We believe that a serious effort should be made to relieve congestion and that where land is available, whether it be £1,000, £1,500 or £2,000 in value where it is not being properly worked, and where there is acute congestion, the Land Commission should have power to acquire and distribute that land. You cannot have it both ways. We could not accept your point of view and deal with the problem we have in mind. I know the small farmers as well as anybody else. I know the view they take and how they like their holdings and what they think of them. I am as much in touch with them as Deputy Dillon, and I have not heard farmers refer to the fears that have been given expression to by Deputy Dillon. There will be no question about this, or about land grabbing and all that kind of thing. People will see the sense and the reason and the justice of the Government coming forward and taking £2,000 or £1,500 worth of land in a congested area where it is obvious to everybody that the land is not being worked properly. You cannot relieve congestion and accept amendment 30. I am sure the Minister could not go any further than he has gone in amendment 36 to meet the situation.
At the outset I wish to say that I was misrepresented in this House by Deputy Sheridan with regard to my attitude to congestion. I do not suppose he meant to misrepresent me and that he spoke in ignorance of the facts. It is well known that I was the first in County Cavan, and I challenge anyone to deny it, who raised the question of making part of County Cavan a congested area and giving to it the privileges that other districts are getting. That is my attitude with regard to congestion and I have not changed my mind. I am as much in sympathy with relieving congestion as anyone on the Fianna Fáil Benches, but I think that when we come to solving the problem of congestion there should be a limit. There is no limit in this Bill. In a congested area any man's land may be taken, so far as I can read the Bill, even if he had only £200 worth. There is no limit at all. It is not limited to £2,000 or to £1,000. It all depends on whether it is worked in a proper manner. Who is to be the judge of how it is worked? As a rule it is the hardest working farmer who buys an outside farm to put some of his family upon it. The Minister has not put anything definite in the Bill to protect such farmers. Is it intended to take farms from these working farmers to give them, perhaps, to lazy men? I hope no lazy man will get land. It would not be right to take land valued, say, at £1,000 from a working farmer who has proved successful and bought land in the vicinity for some of his family. There is no safeguard in this Bill for such farmers. Deputy Dillon referred to the taking of such land as land grabbing. It certainly would be nothing short of land grabbing to take it from people who bought it, perhaps, at a high price and probably reclaimed it and built upon it and intended it for a residential holding. There should be some provision in the Bill to protect such people. There should be a limit somewhere. We have heard a great deal about patriotism. What is patriotism really but love of country? If you remove people from where they were born and reared where is the love of country? Supposing you transferred Deputy Corry from Cork to Donegal, where is the love of country? Supposing I was sent to West Clare, what friends would I have there any more than I would have if I went to New York? Perhaps there would be plenty of my kith and kin in New York but I would be quite a stranger in Clare. It is a serious thing to remove a person from his holding, especially if he happens to be a small farmer. There is no justification for removing a man with £1,000 worth of land—removing his family wholesale, rooting him out, so to say. I am prepared to go as far as anybody to relieve congestion, but the proper way is the way Deputy Dillon suggested— to induce people, by offering them an advantageous exchange. A small farmer may be glad to get a change and be put into a better position.
There is another matter as to which the Minister should relieve the minds of the Deputies and the people of the country. If people are removed, into what sort of atmosphere are they to be removed? I heard Deputy O'Reilly speaking the other day on this matter and I heard other Deputies speaking on the same lines. Deputy O'Reilly talked a great deal about monkey wrenches and he made it quite clear that he did not want congests brought into the County Meath. He said they wanted the ranches there for the landless men in the towns of that county. If that is the atmosphere into which these congests would be removed they would be very unwelcome and would be regarded as landgrabbers after having their own land grabbed and having been removed compulsorily themselves. That is a matter which I should like the Minister to make clear.
I would like if the Minister would make clear whether congests or landless men are to be dealt with first. He cannot have it both ways. One Deputy cannot get up here who represents a ranching county and promise that every man in his own constituency, who is a landless man will get land, and other Deputies promise the same land to congests in their constituencies. The land would not be sufficient to go around. I think the Minister should make it clear how these men are to be dealt with and who is to get first preference. We heard a good deal about leaving all to the Land Commission and the Minister. The Commission are really the nominees of the Minister. If the Minister has good intentions, as I do not for a moment doubt he has, if he wants to make these intentions permanent, he can put that into the Bill and give the necessary safeguard, and ensure, when he leaves office, that his intentions will be carried out. Then there will be a monument to his memory in time to come. There is no reason why these things should not be put into the Bill. It was said by an eminent divine that the road to a certain hot place is paved with the wreckage of good intentions. These should not be merely left as expressions of good intentions but should be put into the Bill. If the Minister thinks that £2,000 is too high a figure let him fix a lower figure. I think it is a particularly hard thing compulsorily to move anybody from where he was born and reared into another county where he will be looked upon as a stranger and a monkey-wrench in the machinery. This kind of thing will lead to difficulty. The Minister should make his intentions perfectly clear in the Bill and then people would be in a position to judge whether his intentions are right or wrong.
I am sorry the Minister is not here, at the moment, because he interrupted me in my statement introducing this amendment, and drew attention to the fact that in his view amendment No. 36 covered, to an extent, the point raised in amendment No. 30. I have read amendment No. 36 very carefully, and I find it only touches the point very slightly indeed which my amendment covers. No one, in the course of this debate, has attempted to give any estimate of the extent of the problem of congestion. I tried to draw the Minister on an earlier amendment, and get some statement from him as to the extent of the problem of congestion he proposes to deal with in this Bill. The Minister is dealing, at the moment, with 700,000 acres of land. Farms over £2,000 in value will give approximately over another 1,000,000 acres, so he will have when this Bill is in operation 1,700,000 acres of land to deal with. I am assuming now that he accepts my amendment and does not interfere with land under £2,000. In the normal course of events it would take ten years to deal with that land even at the rate he is prepared to go when this Bill is in operation. If it takes ten years, in the normal course of events, to deal with that amount of land when this Bill is in operation which will give another addition to the land already in hands, why, I ask, was it necessary to upset the title of almost every small farmer in this country? Surely the sensible way to proceed, in dealing with this problem of congestion, is to make some estimate of the extent of the problem. Surely the Minister should try to find out what exactly is the nature of the problem; and he should ask himself, having found that out, how much land have I in hand and how much more will I require.
The problem of congestion cannot be dealt with in any haphazard and speedy way. I am certain the Minister will not be able to proceed to distribute the land at the rate of 100,000 acres per year. If he does, no matter what staff he may have, he will only do it in a haphazard way. The Minister has not attempted, at any stage, to give any idea of the size of the problem of congestion that has to be dealt with or the amount of land he would require to deal with the problem. There was no justification, to my mind, for the Minister to proceed to destroy the title of almost every tenant in the country to his land in a Bill of this kind. The Minister should proceed slowly; he should try to form some pretty accurate estimate of the problem, and then proceed to legislate in order to get by easy stages the amount of land to deal with the problem. I do not think there was any justification for the Minister causing the insecurity that he has undoubtedly caused in the country at the moment, creating the impression that he is interfering with the title of every capable farmer to his land. There was no occasion to produce these things for a long time yet. The Minister is anxious, I admit, to deal urgently with the problem of congestion. After all, there is a good deal in what Deputy McGovern says. Every man believes that this Bill hits his title to his holding, no matter what year, or under what Land Act he purchased. I made that quite clear to the Minister when introducing this amendment. I have some slight idea of the problem of congestion, and some slight idea of the machinery of the Land Commission for dealing with it. No matter what pressure the Minister may exercise, the Land Commission machinery can only work at a certain rate of progress, and deal with a certain number of acres of land each year. If the Minister proceeded sanely and sensibly in the work of dealing with this problem of congestion, he would have waited a great many years before giving the violent shock he has given to the tenant farmers of the country by this Bill.
In amendment 36, the Minister tells us that he proposes only to take land that is not properly worked. Who is to decide whether the land is properly worked or not? Assuming that you found land that is not properly worked at the present time you might be doing a very grave injustice to people if you took it over. The Attorney-General is acquainted with conditions in the West of Ireland. He knows that there are certain holdings that probably were very badly worked in one generation but were splendidly worked in a succeeding generation. I am sure such holdings came under his notice frequently. The Minister, or the Land Commission, may say that land should be acquired because they are satisfied that the present owner is not carrying it on as it should be carried on. But in taking the land away from such owner you may be doing great injustice to the man's son. If it was left in his possession it might deteriorate for a few years, but when it came into the hands of the son who would probably succeed him, he might bring it back very soon to its proper condition of husbandry in the next generation. Cases of that kind have occurred quite frequently. No matter how you try to regulate the acquisition of land it would very likely give rise in such cases to greater injustice than the injustice caused by the congestion you want to relieve. The Minister in my opinion has no idea of the problem he has to deal with, or as to what steps or means are necessary to adopt in order to deal with that problem. This Bill, as I say, should not have been introduced for at least another eight or ten years. There was no occassion to give the farmers of this country the jolt which he has undoubtedly given to them, or to cause the feeling of insecurity which he has undoubtedly succeeded in creating by the impression that has got abroad that he is interfering with their title to the land. There is no doubt that the Bill does interfere with their title to the land, and to that extent it does interfere with the industry and, in some cases at all events, with the ability of those farmers to make good.
I consider that my amendment is a perfectly reasonable one. After all, there should be some recognised limit, beyond which the Minister cannot and should not proceed in acquiring land compulsorily, especially registered land, for the relief of congestion. In fixing a limit of £2,000 I have fixed what I consider to be a reasonable one. The Minister should have no right to acquire land below that limit, without first of all securing the owner's consent. On the grounds of urgency there is no justification for it; on practical grounds there is no justification for it. The Minister has more lands on hands even at the present time, without this Bill going into operation at all, than he can hope to deal with in the next four or five years. Why is it necessary to create a feeling of insecurity amongst farmers throughout the length and breadth of the country? There is no occasion whatever for it. In justice to himself and in justice to the farmers of the country the Minister should accept this amendment.
I think that Deputy Roddy forgets that under former Land Acts the Land Commission had power to compulsorily acquire vested land for the relief of congestion. The owner had a right to get an alternative and equally suitable holding. They had also the right to acquire judicial tenancies outright, giving the owner land bonds in exchange. If the Deputy's amendment were accepted it would result, in a number of cases, in the Land Commission being forced to acquire small, well-worked, judicial tenancies, instead of acquiring vested holdings that are not being worked at all by the occupiers.
It has been said that we should view the whole problem of congestion. We have done so, and we want to proceed with the relief of congestion in an orderly way. The best way to relieve congestion is by giving additional holdings to uneconomic holders, additional holdings adjacent to their original holdings, where that is possible. In a large number of congested districts there is a new type of landlord, that is, the owners of vested holdings who do not reside on their holdings but let them on the eleven-months system for years upon years. If the Deputy's amendment went through we could not touch vested land upon which the owner did not reside, and we might be forced to take over judicial tenancies well-worked by the owners. As far as the relieving of anxiety amongst small-holders is concerned, I think amendment 36 does it. Deputy Dillon was very wise, and I hope he will always continue to be as wise, when he told the congest who came to him to go home and not to worry. He was wise, but he was not within the law, because as the law stands, whether that man is a judicial tenant or a vested owner he could be disturbed.
No. I was quite prepared to take a fee to go before the judicial commissioner.
He could be disturbed.
No. The judicial commissioner was there.
If the Land Commission said that his holding was required for the relief of congestion they could, with the sanction of the judicial commissioner, take over his holding, whether vested or unvested.
And give him one equally suitable.
If it was a vested holding they would be compelled to give him an alternative holding of equal market value and equal suitability. If he is merely a judicial tenant——
He is not. He is a vested holder.
Might I interrupt for one moment? The Minister has referred several times during the debates on the various amendments, both on the Committee and Report Stages, to judicial tenancies and the power of the Land Commission to acquire them. I think in ten years only about 100 judicial holdings were resumed. I do not think the number is quite that.
There were some judicial holdings resumed. It went against the grain of the Land Commission to resume them, because there were vested lands which were much more suitable, and which from an ordinary human point of view should have been divided instead of the resumed holdings. It is for those reasons that I am refusing to accept the Deputy's amendment. Everything in the way of security that should be given to the owners of land is given under amendment 36.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
I move amendment No. 31:—
In page 22 at the end of Section 28 to add a new sub-section as follows:—
Nothing in this section shall empower the Land Commission to declare that any land coming under clause (a) of sub-section (2) of Section 24 of the Land Act, 1923, which is land held by a religious community and which is being utilised in connection with a branch of any such community, shall be required for the purposes of sub-section (1) hereof.
This amendment is to exclude land held by religious communities from the operation of Section 28. I do not think that the Minister should have any objection to the amendment. Perhaps it will be argued, as it was argued on other amendments, that there is no necessity for the amendment, that it is not the intention of the Minister to operate the Bill in that way. Personally, I do not believe that the Minister would operate it in that way or that the Land Commission would apply the Bill to religious communities. I have not any great fear that such a thing would happen under the present Government but it is possible that while this Bill is on the statute book, some future Government might exercise its provisions to the detriment of religious communities. It does not look probable, but the power is there and some anti-Christian Ministry may succeed the present Ministry and they may desire to deprive these communities of their lands. It might be argued that they can do that if they like, if they come into power, but I suggest they ought not to be allowed to do it on legislation enacted by this Government. If such a body gets into power at any period in our future history, let them make their own legislation but do not let us make legislation entitling such a body to deprive religious communities of their land. As I do not think there can be any serious opposition to this amendment, I do not intend to make any further remarks about it.
It is not apparent that the Deputy has given any serious consideration to this amendment before introducing it because he purports in his amendment to safeguard religious communities who have vested lands, but religious communities who have untenanted land or hold land under judicial tenancies are not protected by the amendment.
If the Minister thinks the amendment does not go far enough I am prepared to accept the addendum to it.
I do not believe religious communities require to be protected in this way. I do not know that they have any great desire to be treated any differently in this matter from the rest of the community.
Amendment 31a is out of order.
I move amendment 32:—
In pages 22 and 23, Section 29, to delete sub-section (5).
This amendment covers amendment 33 in the names of Deputy Rice and Deputy Roddy. The deletion of the sub-section leaves the provisional prices in regard to guarantee deposits in the same position as all other purchase moneys. They will be subject to 10 per cent. retained instead of the 25 proposed, and it is at the discretion of the judicial commissioner to retain another 15 per cent.
I move amendment 35:—
In page 23, before Section 31 (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:
(2) Where the circumstances of any land are such that if such land were acquired by the Land Commission the tenant or proprietor of such land would be entitled under this Act to require the Land Commission to provide him with a new holding, the Land Commission shall, notwithstanding anything contained in this section or in any other enactment, not acquire such land compulsorily for any purpose other than the relief of congestion or the provision of sports fields, parks, pleasure-grounds, or play-grounds, for the inhabitants of villages, towns, or cities or for schools or the provision of gardens for schools.
I move amendment 36:—
In page 23, before Section 31 (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section or in any other enactment, the Land Commission shall not acquire compulsorily for any purpose other than the relief of congestion in the same locality or the provision of sports fields, parks, pleasure-grounds, or play-grounds, for the inhabitants of villages, towns, or cities or for schools, or the provision of gardens for schools any land in respect of which the lay commissioners are satisfied that, having regard to the area, situation, and character of such land, the amount of congestion and unemployment existing in the district in which such land is situate and the country generally, and the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies, such land is producing an adequate amount of agricultural products and is providing an adequate amount of employment, reckoning in such employment any children of the tenant or proprietor of such land permanently employed on such land.
I think that amendment 37 could be discussed with this. If amendment 36 is inserted, then I think amendment 37 will probably fall.
I do not think it would.
I welcome amendment 36, which has been moved by the Minister, because it goes some way towards meeting the suggestion contained in amendment 40, which I had previously submitted to the House on the Committee Stage and withdrawn, pending the introduction of an amendment by the Minister. But without going over again the points that I made earlier and of trying to persuade the Minister to do what I would like him to do, to withdraw his amendment and to accept mine, I just want to make one suggestion for improving his amendment as it stands; that is, to take out the words in it which refer to the question of food supplies and to the amount of agricultural products which are produced from the land. The principle that I wanted to emphasise was that the amount of employment given should be a consideration of enormous importance in the minds of the Land Commissioners when they were considering whether to acquire land or not.
Now that we are going to enact that land should not be taken compulsorily, except for certain specified purposes, the relief of congestion, pleasure-grounds, play-grounds, sports fields, parks, schools in towns, etc., I put it to the Minister that the introduction of this extraneous matter, with regard to food production, is undesirable and out of place; that there is no need for it, and that the result of its being there will produce in the minds of a good many tenants and proprietors of land feelings of unrest and insecurity, which the amendment is designed to eliminate. I put it to the Minister, that no matter what way a man is using land, even if not producing food supplies, for horse breeding, as a stud farm, or even in some eccentric way, as long as he gives a proper amount of employment—and in these circumstances he may be giving much more than a proportionate amount of employment—he ought to feel secure from compulsory disturbance. I therefore suggest to the Minister to leave out the words "and the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies," and the words "producing an adequate amount of agricultural products and is." The latter part of the amendment would then read:
"any land in respect of which the lay commissioners are satisfied that, having regard to the area, situation and character of such land, the amount of congestion and unemployment existing in the district in which such land is situate and the country generally, such land is providing an adequate amount of employment, reckoning in such employment any children of the tenant or proprietor of such land permanently employed on such land."
That gets rid of the element of food supplies altogether which, I suggest, is entirely unnecessary.
We discussed Sections 31 and 28 at great length both on the Second Reading and on the Committee Stage. Section 28, which has a big bearing on this matter, has also been discussed at some length to-day. At all stages we announced what the Government policy would be in regard to the acquisition or distribution of land. We were told "That is all very well, but it is not in the Bill." I endeavoured to put down in black and white the policy of the Government and the policy which the Land Commission would carry out under the direction of the Government. Fianna Fáil and the Government are as anxious as Deputies in any part of the House could be to relieve the minds of people who might be disturbed by talk of disturbance. We have in Section 36 a declaration of policy that will hold good permanently. That is a rather tall claim, I grant, but I am convinced that it is a declaration of policy which will hold good permanently. We set out that so long as a man is providing adequate employment, taking the situation of the whole country into consideration, or is producing a sufficient amount of food supplies, again taking the situation in the country into consideration, that that man shall not be disturbed in the use of his land. Deputy Hogan and others talked at length about the hardship it would be to disturb the ordinary hard-working farmer. We pointed out that while the Deputy was fighting for the hard-working farmer, who was a vested tenant, he had left absolutely unsecured the hard-working farmer who was a judicial tenant, or the owner of untenanted land. In this amendment we have given security of tenure not only to the vested holder but to the non-vested holder, of whom there are, roughly, about 80,000, who were left unprotected under the 1923 Land Act. We definitely state that notwithstanding anything in this Bill, or in any other Act, a man shall not be disturbed for any purpose other than the relief of congestion in the same locality in which the farm is situate, or for the provision of sports fields.
Subject to Section 31.
This amendment will be part of Section 31. It will be before sub-section (2) of that section as the Bill stands. Notwithstanding anything in Section 31, or Section 28 of this Bill, or of the powers conferred on the Land Commission in Section 34 of the Land Act of 1923, with regard to judicial tenancies no man shall be disturbed who gives adequate employment, or provides an adequate amount of agricultural produce, when the situation of the country is taken into consideration. In the reckoning of that employment the man's children who are permanently employed on the land will be taken into account. I stated on the Committee Stage that I had sympathy with Deputy MacDermot in trying to get something down in black and white. Those who have knowledge of the operations of the Land Commission know that there is, in fact, no necessity for it. It came out on some other amendment that only 112 farms were resumed since 1923. What does that mean? Although the Land Commission had power over 80,000 holdings and could have dispossessed 80,000 tenants, and given only land bonds in exchange, these powers were not utilised. The Land Commission had regard to the contents of this sub-section, and the principle outlined in it, whenever any case came up for resuming a judicial holding. The Land Commission always look at the land and ask: "Is there any grave congestion in the locality? If so, we have got to hold on to this land. Is this man giving adequate employment, considering the situation of the country? If the man was a normal farmer, working his land, the usual routine was to vest the holding in him, unless there was grave congestion in the locality. We have taken powers over vested land which were not contained in the 1923 Act. We are giving protection, definitely, to judicial tenants and holders of untenanted land who are ordinary farmers, who work their land, who give employment and are producing food-stuffs. We are giving them the protection that was not given to them under the 1923 Act.
I think the principles outlined in this measure will last and that in any situation in which this country may find itself the Government of the time will be compelled to have regard to the use to which the land is put. If the land is being used to the best advantage for the community, and the owner can show that, then that is the best tenure that he could possibly have. No one will dream of disturbing him. I trust the result of sub-section (2) will be to encourage those who are owners of land to give employment, to produce the food that the country requires. I trust that large numbers of the farmers who, at the moment, are making poor use of their land will get busy, produce more food and give the employment on the land that the country so badly requires.
The Minister says that this new sub-section which he is introducing will have a permanent value. If that is his idea I put it to him that the wording is not altogether fortunate. He speaks here of the Commissioners having regard to the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies. He may think that is desirable at the present moment, but he surely does not think that it will inevitably be permanently desirable to increase food supplies. There might be over-production, even of the kinds of food he now wishes to see produced; there might be terrific over-production.
They must have regard only to some things.
Desirability is stated as a permanent fact. It can only be read as relating to something permanently desirable. That is the way it is worded. I put it to the Minister that it ought to read: "having regard to the public needs in the matter of food supplies."
It is exactly the same phrase as is used in Section 29 (1) of the Land Act of 1923, which says:—
"and in exercising the powers aforesaid (the Land Commission) shall have regard to the necessity of relieving congestion, the desirability of increasing the food supply of the country, and the manner in which the holdings have been used."
I am aware of that fact, but that does not recommend the phrase to me a bit more strongly. I submit, in spite of that phrase having appeared before, grammatically it does mean what I say it means. It means the desirability of increasing food supplies is of a permanent nature, and I suggest it is not necessary. Probably the Minister may think in some respects there has been over-production and he would like to see other things produced instead. The day might come when food supplies of every kind would be over-produced here. I think the Minister would do well to change the words to "the public needs in the matter of food supplies." That might leave it open to him when the proper time came to discourage people from producing too much, just as they are doing in America at the present moment.
In the next line we have the phrase: "Producing an adequate amount of agricultural products." I suggest that is too narrow. That ties the Land Commission down to pushing people on to the production of more agricultural products when, perhaps, the country might not want them. If the Government insist on retaining that principle at all, they might put it more generally by saying the land is advantageously, productively or reasonably used. The Minister has not really given us any reason for introducing the question of food supplies in this amendment. I do not want to seem ungracious, or ungrateful, because I do think the Minister has done an excellent thing in introducing this amendment, even as it stands.
How can land be used for any other purpose except producing foodstuffs? If you till you produce stuff for man or beast. If you keep cattle, cattle are foodstuff for man. You might breed horses, but if you till your land and produce oats, then oats are foodstuff for horses.
You could have a cemetery.
But that would not be using the land for agricultural purposes. You can use land for non-agricultural purposes, I completely admit. Deputy Norton might like to have a field in which he could address public meetings, and keep that particular field solely for public meetings, but that would not be using it for agricultural purposes. I fail to see how you can use land except for producing foodstuffs. I am aware, of course, that it can be used for raising horses.
A stud farm.
If you have a stud farm you probably have to grow a considerable amount of food for the horses.
The Minister is not going to modify amendment 36?
I do not think I can accept the Deputy's suggestion.
I beg to move amendment 37:—
In page 23 at the end of Section 31 to add a new sub-section as follows:
The powers conferred by this section shall not be exercisable in the case of any land whether purchased under the Land Purchase Acts or otherwise the proprietor whereof proves that the said lands constitute a main source of his livelihood.
This amendment was put down in order to protect farmers who own lands and use them in their own interests. The sub-section introduced by the Minister does not cover such people. It does not eliminate the compulsory powers from the point of view of relieving congestion, providing parks, sites for schools, etc. There are many cases where it might be highly unjust to take land from a man in a district where, for instance, he has always lived and reared his family. If he is changed to another district, even if he gets a farm that may otherwise be suitable, it might not meet his purposes in the same way as his old farm.
I cannot accept that amendment.
This amendment was put down to Section 31 as it was originally drawn and Section 31 proposed to extend the powers of the Land Commission in relation to the ten different sub-sections of the Land Act of 1931—some of the powers which the Land Commission have for the relief of congestion, for the resale of lands to any of the persons mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act of 1923. In essence, what it would come to is this: there is a whole list of them given including amongst others "(e) trustees for the purposes mentioned in Section 4 of the Irish Land Act of 1903 as extended by the Act of 1923 and (f) any other person or body to whom in the opinion of the Land Commission an advance ought to be made." As the section was drawn before the introduction of the amendment which to some extent sterilises the operation of that section it was open to the Land Commission to exercise all the powers which they had under Section 28 for the relief of congestion to be employed in the distribution of lands for any of the persons mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act of 1923. What would happen is that a person has a small holding say of 30 acres value from £500 to £1,500. It would be open to the Land Commission to acquire that holding no matter where and to distribute it to any of the persons mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act of 1923.
The purpose of this amendment is to express in terms as nearly as an Act of Parliament can express it, the ordinary working farmer, the person whose main source of livelihood comes from the land, the person who gets his living and that of his family, as has been mentioned by Deputy McMenamin, from the land; that such a person will not be disturbed by reason of the fact that his main source of livelihood comes from that holding. Before the two Government amendments were introduced that man was liable to be dispossessed of his farm and to have that farm given to a single individual or to have it broken up or at least have portions of it broken up and distributed in various directions.
I will put it to the Minister that while a very hard-working industrious farmer may be successful in one part of the country it might well be that he would not be successful in another part of the country. It may be that he is accustomed to a particular light class of land and on getting into a heavier class of land he may not be quite as much a success on the better land as he was in his own holding. Then there is the question of disturbance. There is the inconvenience to his family, there is a change of schools, there is a change from the district, from the people he knows. All these are disadvantages. While I feel that the Land Commission will not lightly interfere with a man of that sort nevertheless as the section stands it is possible for them to do it.
I was rather struck by the Minister referring to the fact that of something like 80,000 persons whose lands were vested under the Land Act of 1923, and that while these were in a very weak and vulnerable position, only 112 of them had been interfered with. It seemed to imply that the vulnerable position they held was strong enough to keep them rooted in their holdings. Something less than one-eighth per cent. of them have been interfered with. Section 31 as it was drawn gave the Land Commission powers in connection with the various persons mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act of 1923. It gave them all the powers which they have for the relief of congestion and the acquisition of land for distribution to those persons. While we are prepared to admit that congests are a very deserving class we nevertheless must bear witness to the desirability of not disturbing those rooted in the soil, those whose main source of livelihood is derived from the land.
While this amendment may err in one direction, and while its scope may be wider than was originally intended, it nevertheless secures for persons in occupation of holdings whose people were there for more than a century, that tenure which practically every landholder in the country desires. It does that in that portion of the amendment which says "the proprietor whereof proves that the said lands constitute the main source of his livelihood." That is the mainspring of the amendment and I think the Minister would be well advised to consider the acceptance of it. It interferes in no way with the section having regard to its practical sterilisation by amendments 35 and 36. But surely if there is to be any evidence of security for landholders it is only by the express terms such as are there in that amendment that they can have that security. Let us assume that a man is in occupation of a holding and that he derives the greater part of his income from investments of his capital in various companies, then the holding of such a man is not protected. But where the main source of his subsistence and the subsistence of his family is derived from the holding he has, then he is to get security of tenure. I think that the Minister ought really to consider that case.
I think that Deputy Cosgrave is quite unaware of the scope of this amendment. Under amendment 36, which we have just passed, the hard-working farmer, no matter what his legal tenure of the land is, is protected. If this amendment, in the name of Deputy Roddy, were passed, very great powers at present in the hands of the Land Commission would be taken from them. The amendment says: "The powers conferred by this section shall not be exercisable in the case of any land whether purchased under the Land Purchase Acts or otherwise the proprietor whereof proves that the said lands constitute a main source of his livelihood." That means that no untenanted land could be touched, no judicial holdings could be touched and no vested lands could be touched if the proprietor proved that they constituted a main source of his livelihood. "A main source of his livelihood" would be, I suppose, anything over 50 per cent. There are still a lot of untenanted lands—Deputy Roddy mentioned a figure of a million—and, if this section were passed, the powers conferred on the Land Commission under all the Acts to acquire untenanted land would be abolished.
May I draw the Minister's attention to the words "The powers conferred by ‘this section'"?
This section is a continuation of the other sections with which we have dealt.
No. Section 28 dealt with congested areas—the relief of congestion and so on. Section 31 widened out the scope and brought in all the various persons mentioned in Section 31 of the Act of 1923—any other person or body to whom, in the opinion of the Land Commission, an advance ought to be made.
The powers of the Land Commission at present are to acquire land for the relief of congestion and for certain other bodies or persons. If they acquire land for that purpose, they may relieve the local congestion and then have a large surplus on hands. They have power to do what they like, within the terms of the law, with that land. If we were to allow this amendment to go through, we would have no power to take land from a man using his land for letting on the eleven-months system year after year—we would have no power to take that land from him for any of the purposes of the Act. There is no reason at all for the amendment. We have debated this question time after time. The Deputy was not here for the whole of the discussion but we are almost tired debating the principle involved.
The Minister, if he reads the two sub-sections he has himself inserted, will find that he is taking power under this Bill to take up land for the purpose of sports fields, parks, pleasure-grounds or play-grounds from any hard-working, industrious farmer whose main source of livelihood is derived from the land. I put it to the Minister that that is a nice position in which to place a man whose main source of livelihood or subsistence depends upon his land. I quite admit that that is not going to be done lightly. It is most unlikely that the Land Commission will take up lands to use them for that purpose where the livelihood of a farmer's family is concerned. But that is how the statute is drawn and that is what we are dealing with.
I am prepared to accept from the Minister a modification of this amendment to such an extent as will ensure that the ordinary farmer he has in mind—the farmer using his land to the best purpose possible for his family and for the country—will not be removed from one district to another, entailing upon him enormous costs. It may mean removing him from a farm which is economic into one where he cannot make good. Surely the Minister does not mean that to be done. Though these two amendments he has brought in divert to some extent the Land Commission from any abuse of the rights of landholders, nevertheless the statute, as drawn, will leave a danger of dispossession. The provision of land bonds or anything like that will not compensate the dispossessed person for his long association with his particular holding. The amendment, as drawn, simply deals with this particular section. It does not limit and will not restrict the Land Commission in the acquisition of land for the relief of congestion. Its restriction, if any, simply refers to the persons or bodies to whom the Land Commission, in its judgment or wisdom, may wish to hand over the lands. Notwithstanding the amendment which has been referred to, any landholder can have his lands taken from him, as the provision stands. From what I have heard from the Minister, it is his desire to endeavour to increase the security of the tenure of the landholder.
Is the Deputy's only objection that the land may be taken for sports fields?
No. That is only one portion. My real objection is that Section 28 gives you all the powers you require to deal with the relief of congestion. Section 31 brings in clauses (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) of Section 31 of the Act of 1923. Land can be taken from the working farmer and given to any other person or body to whom, in the opinion of the Land Commission, advances ought to be made.
Is not that cut across by amendment 36?
To a certain extent.
To a very big extent.
Then what is the section for? The section, as drawn, gave the Land Commission the powers in respect of all these persons under Section 31 which it had for the relief of congestion. Now, if that is paralysed by the introduction of the two amendments we have made, what use is the section at all? Is it put in for the purpose of filling in a gap? It is not required for the relief of congestion. That is provided for under Section 28. It must be inserted for some other reason. "Where the lay commissioners certify before the appointed day that any land is required for the purpose of resale to the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923, as extended by this Act..." There you take power, and surely the Attorney-General is not holding that, having taken that power, he has introduced two amendments which sterilise it.
Only so far as the lands are held by working farmers which, I take it, are the men the Deputy has described in amendment 37. It seems to me that we have met a great deal of the Deputy's amendment in amendment 36. The owner of lands which constitute a "main source" of livelihood would be, I take it, the ordinary working farmer. He would be covered by amendment 36. His land can only be taken for the relief of congestion or the provision of sports fields or of playgrounds. Is that right?
The only point the Deputy can reasonably say his amendment covers is the taking up of a man's land for the provision of sports fields or playgrounds.
I want to know what is meant by "persons or bodies" mentioned in the first portion of the section. The first portion, I take it, is the dominant portion. The other portions are restrictive only in a certain sense.
We are notad idem. Perhaps I am not apprehending correctly the Deputy's argument. I understand he is contending for protection for the man the working of whose land provides the main source of his livelihood.
That is covered by our description in amendment 36 of a working farmer using his lands to give employment and so forth. If he comes within that description then his lands can only be taken for the relief of congestion or the provision of sports fields or playgrounds. Is that right?
The only thing such a man has to fear is the right of the Land Commission to acquire his lands for the provision of sports fields or playgrounds.
I want to know from the Attorney-General, if that be so, what is the purpose of the preliminary words of Section 31: "Where the lay commissioners certify before the appointed day that any land is required for the purpose of resale to the persons or bodies mentioned..."
Because lands other than those now covered by amendment 36 may be required for this purpose.
Is there not power to acquire these lands already? There was power to acquire land for any one of these purposes. This section, as originally drawn, extended the power of the Land Commission to any purchased land—to use a simple term. We pointed out the dangers of that. That was, to some extent, modified by the two amendments referred to. But there is still the case of the person who, so far as I can judge, is not protected— the person whose land can be taken, though it be a main source of his livelihood, for one or other of two purposes (a) resale to the persons or bodies mentioned, or (b) for the purpose of playgrounds. I am not satisfied that protection is afforded him by reason of these two amendments.
I wonder who drafted this gem—I cannot call it anything else. I cannot imagine it being drafted either by the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands and Fisheries or the former Minister for Lands and Fisheries. They used to joke at the manner in which things were drafted. Look at the manner in which this is drafted and see whom it is going to cover: "The proprietor whereof proves that the said lands constitute a main source of his livelihood". I shall give an instance. I shall take a thousand-acre ranch in Westmeath owned by an old lady living in Piceadilly. She would have her land let on the 11-months' system and the main source of her livelihood would be the rent out of this land. This amendment would cover a case like that. It is there to protect that lady, the main source of whose income comes out of land let on the 11-months' system while she is living away from it. There is no question of a working farmer or even a resident landowner under this amendment.
Will the Deputy read the amendment? How does it begin?
I will. "The powers conferred by this section shall not be exercisable in the case of any land..."
What are they?
——"whether purchased under the Land Purchase Acts, or otherwise the proprietor whereof proves that the said lands constitute a main source of his livelihood".
"The powers conferred by this section." What is the section?
What are the powers?
"That any land is required for the purpose of resale to the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923."
Just observe the marginal note: "Extension of the powers of the Land Commission to acquire land compulsorily". May I ask the Deputy if he is aware of the fact that it is possible to acquire the land of the lady he mentioned, if there be such a person, by the powers under the 1923 Act?
I am very well aware that owing to the legal quibbles and the loopholes left in that Act it was impossible to take the land from anybody whatever; that all Land Acts were a fraud up to the present. I am also aware that this amendment is so loosely drafted that it enables a lady of that type to escape. I shall give another instance, an instance of a landholder with an estate let on leases which has not come under any Land Act up to the present. That landlord is probably a solicitor in the city or some gentleman living in England. The main source of his income would be the rent out of the land. It is in order that that gentleman should escape that this amendment is brought in.
Does the Deputy know that the lady he is talking about would lose her land under Section 28? She is out of order as well as he.
I am afraid she is very much in order under this amendment. Under this amendment anybody whose main source of income is out of the land can escape. I give that as one specific case that will be covered by the amendment.
Under Section 28 that land is gone.
That lady would escape and the other person I mentioned would also escape.
The Deputy has not read the Bill.
Would the Attorney-General be prepared to accept the amendment if the word "whether" in line 2 and the words "or otherwise" in line 3 were taken out?
I am putting up these cases.
That is for the Ceann Comhairle. You shall never get that job.
I do not look for jobs.
I put up these as cases that would come under the amendment. The amendment is the most ridiculous one yet moved and a lot of ridiculous amendments have been moved.
If the word "whether" is taken out from before the word "purchased" and the words "or otherwise" are also taken out, would there be any objection to that?
That would still leave the man who has purchased land let on the 11-months' system, living in Piccadilly as Deputy Corry said——
Purchased land. Are there many people living away on the receipts from purchased land?
I told the House to-day that about three days ago in the ordinary course a case came before me where an area in Meath was surveyed. There were about 20 or 30 congests living along a bog and adjacent to them was a very large farm of purchased land vested in the owner who had not seen it for about 14 years. It was let on the 11-months' system all the time.
Does the Minister agree that such land could be acquired under Section 28?
As a matter of fact, if this amendment were passed, instead of restricting the powers we have, it would wipe out a lot of the powers we have at present under the Land Acts. As well as wiping out the powers we have at present under the Land Acts, it would wipe out the power to take vested land for sports fields. If there is one point in the Bill on which I am not prepared to give way it is the power to take land when necessary for sports fields for towns and villages. I have had a long experience of the great need for sports fields throughout the country. I came across a case recently in Westmeath where there is nothing but ranches for about 20 miles and they could not get a sports field near a fairly large town. I know it from my own experience ever since I was a child.
The same applies to rural Ireland.
The same applies to rural Ireland. Wherever there is a village, there should be a sports field.
I am afraid the Minister did not follow me as to the powers conferred by this section. Section 31 confers certain extra powers and it does not interfere with Section 28 under which powers are already given. The amendment minimises the powers under Section 31, not Section 28.
The effect of this amendment would be to put such holders in a much better position than they were in under the Land Act of 1923. Under the 1923 Act, a holding of purchased land could be acquired if an equally suitable holding was given to the private holder. It was found that that would not work in practice and that it held up the Land Commission, as I explained over and over again. If this amendment were put in the holder could not be disturbed at all. Deputy Hogan, when Minister for Agriculture, I remember when the Seanad was dealing with Section 24 of the Act of 1923, strenuously resisted any invasion of its power to take tenanted land. He said in the West you would have 30 congests all round a fair-sized holding, and he said you must have power to tackle such a problem of congestion.
Precisely. We are in possession of all these powers at the moment under Section 28. What is this Section 31? It simply means an extension of the powers for the acquisition of land for the persons whose object I have mentioned. We are still in possession of all the powers we require for the relief of congestion. Now we are taking power to deal with other persons or bodies.
I quite appreciate that. May I point out the only man Deputy Cosgrave can be anxious to protect is the man who gives full employment and who is an advantage to the community? If he does that he comes in under amendment 37 and gets more protection than ever before.
May I point out we may have such men? Deputies opposite are not very laudatory about them. They are people whose incomes are derived from other sources than the land. The rich man is protected by these two sections. I am interested in the poor man who is dragging his living from the soil.
He is covered.
No, it is the rich man who is covered by Sections 36 and 37 plus a small section of the others. But there is no absolute security for the man whose main livelihood is derived from the soil.
I have been defending from the beginning of this Bill the question of security of tenure, and consistently with that position I support this amendment. I think the powers conferred upon the Land Commission are to a considerable extent qualified by amendment 36 and I welcome that. The Minister says that he would be seriously embarrassed by amendment 37 and instanced the case of the 13 congests in Meath who were living at the side of a bog. But how would amendment 37 prevent him from assisting these people? It would only prevent him acquiring land to provide these people with sports fields, parks or playgrounds. Amendment 37 would not interfere with his power of the acquisition of land for the relief of congestion in any way. It only divests him of power in respect of those 13 congests in Meath, under Section 31 in so far as amendment 36 goes. All this amendment would prevent him doing in respect of congests in the County Meath would be compulsorily acquiring sports fields, parks or playing-grounds. In my opinion, it is highly desirable to restrict the power of the Land Commission in the compulsorily acquiring of land. I said on the Second Reading, and in Committee, that Section 31 goes too far, and I am glad it is being modified, and I would like to see it further modified. The question of the compulsory acquisition of land is a grave matter. The Minister has said that he attaches the utmost possible importance to providing playing-grounds and sports fields and so on. I agree. But I attach, also, very great importance to leaving people in their homesteads and I think there are very few cases in which the provision of sports fields or playing-grounds would justify the Minister in removing people from their homesteads. The hard-working farmer cultivating his own land and handling it well and who always has done so should not be disturbed. It would be only a very exceptional case indeed that would justify the removal of that man for the purpose of providing sports fields and playing-grounds. I think it is an admirable thing on the whole to insert this amendment, which would protect the small purchased farmer from having his land compulsorily acquired for the relief of congestion or for the provision of sports fields, parks, pleasure-grounds or play-grounds.
I do not think Deputy Dillon realises the full purpose of Section 31 or of this amendment. First of all, Deputy Dillon is very concerned about the question of evicted tenants. There are cases throughout the country where there are a fringe of evicted tenants living around the farm which is not the main source of the livelihood of the proprietor and which the proprietor does not work. If this amendment goes through we could not take over that land even though it is untenanted land at the moment. We could not take it over for these evicted tenants.
Oh, yes, you could. What about Section 31 of the Land Act of 1923?
It gives no power to take over lands specifically for evicted tenants. Deputy Cosgrave is very anxious about evicted tenants.
Yes, but I do not intend to evict one tenant to restore another.
The amendment would prevent us taking over untenanted land which was acquired and the former tenants of which are now living around the fringe of it. It would prevent us taking over that land for these evicted tenants.
Does not amendment 36 do the same?
It does not. Amendment 36 would enable us to take over lands which are not being worked or which are let on the 11-months' system, for evicted tenants.
No, but for congests or for parks. For any purpose other than the relief of congestion or the provision of sports fields.
If it is let on the 11-months' system we can take it over, if it is not giving employment. If it is untenanted land not giving employment——
Or tenanted land.
Land over £2,000 in valuation not giving employment— nothing to do with evicted tenants. In this Bill as it stands we have wide discretion in the acquisition of land for evicted tenants. As the law stands, evicted tenants came in after uneconomic holders.
As evicted tenants?
What about the lady in Piccadilly?
She has lost her land already.
Might I ask the Minister a question in connection with applications to the Land Commission for sports fields in the towns and villages he spoke of. Where the Land Commission might consider that there is necessity for a sports field I should like to know whose application they will work on.
The Land Commission has power to give grounds on the application of the trustees of sports clubs. They will consider applications from the trustees.
I move amendment No. 38:—
In page 23, Section 32 (1), line 57, to delete the words "play-grounds and garden" and substitute the words "and play-grounds," and in line 58, after the word "schools" to insert the words "and the provision of gardens for schools."
This is to make quite clear that when we take powers to provide gardens, they are to be gardens for schools.
For school purposes only?