I accept it. The Minister in his speech never attempted for one moment to examine the problem in the light of present day affairs and events. In reply to a question I put to him a couple of years ago, the Minister told me he was unable to estimate the amount of money paid in respect of ground-rents in this country. I accepted that, and we have had from the Minister himself, speaking at the Ard-Fheis yesterday, that this was a very complex question. I even suggested that in my opening speech and because of the feeling that my motion was not quite comprehensive enough, I suggested to the Minister that it would ease the public mind and would give a good deal of satisfaction to a number of persons who are interested in this matter if an inquiry were made. I even went so far as to say I agreed with the Minister when he said at the Ard-Fheis 12 months ago that a prolonged inquiry would be necessary and I was taken to task by Deputy Norton because I did go so far with the Minister. In fact, Deputy Norton in quite a good-humoured way said he was glad to see the Minister and I were becoming so closely associated in matters of that kind. That was rather humorous and ironical on Deputy Norton's part because he knows it would be a case of the lion lying down with the lamb. I am not, of course, going to say who was the lion and who was the lamb.
The Minister concerned himself more with cheap jokes, flippancies and sneers at the persons who form the minority in this country—the ex-Unionists and others. It is about time the Minister seriously discussed matters of this character and reserved his cheap sneers for the hustings and the soapboxes at the general elections. In volume 61, column 1030, the Minister was very complimentary about me. He said:
"The Deputy who admitted that he himself had given the subject no serious study"
—words I never used—
"made himself responsible for many wild and sweeping statements."
I thereupon asked "Did the Deputy use those words?" and the Minister replied
"Wild and sweeping statements calculated only to mislead the public, to increase unrest, and to dislocate, if he could, the whole economic sphere."
I would ask members of all Parties in this House carefully to examine the record of the gentleman who makes this statement. The Minister and his Party are the people who swept into office because of, to use his own words again, wild and sweeping statements. Then we have the Minister rebuking Sin, telling us that we should not make wild and sweeping statements, and, when challenged about it, he was unable to name even one of them. Through the whole course of my speech, I never made any kind of wild assertion or statement. In fact, I was quite moderate which, I suppose, the Minister will say was rather unusual for me.
The Minister also asked, as reported in column 1031:
"What would be the effect of this additional tax except to confiscate some portion of the value that is inherent in such property?"
I should like to ask the Minister, as he asked me, to be honest with the House in matters of this kind. I would ask him to amplify his assertion in that direction. I should like him to ask how he regards the effect of income-tax, not to mention other taxes, such things as levies on cattle and other levies imposed by the Government on the agricultural industry. Does he regard these levies as confiscation of some portion of the value that is inherent in such property? Was it confiscation on the Minister's part to make the owners of property liable for income-tax on five-fourths of their valuation? Is not that tax confiscation of some portion of the value that is inherent in such property, again to use his own words? Again, the Minister stated that the term "ground-rent" is not at present sufficiently understood. He went on to talk about head-rents and ground-rents, leading us to believe that there appears to be a good deal of confusion in the public mind as to what is and what is not a head-rent, or what is or is not a ground-rent; but the only thing the Minister succeeded in doing was to complicate matters still further— because everybody who knows anything about the subject, or who has given any serious thought, as the Minister is so fond of saying, to it, must know that the law will enforce payment of the head-rent or ground-rent and the majority of the people who are paying ground-rents or head-rents are very well aware that the law will enforce their collection.
The Minister, quite unintentionally I am sure, made the very best case he could for this motion. He must know that many members of his own organisation who have attended those meetings which I have mentioned have gone much further than I have in this motion. They have advocated the abolition and the confiscation of these ground-rents. I do not. There is all the difference between this motion and the motions which have been proposed from time to time at the Ard-Fheis of the organisation of which the Minister is one of the principal members. All that we ask for in this motion is that some of the value created by the community should find its way back to the community. We all know that even a new railway service, a bus service, or some other such amenity will increase the value of land in the neighbourhood. We all know that if an enterprising local authority gives the very best sewerage system or the very best lighting system that, it can possibly afford, such a service enhances the value of land in that particular neighbourhood.
Again I would put it to the Minister, in the most friendly way possible and in the best interests of the country at the moment, that he might cause an inquiry to be made even though it may be a prolonged inquiry, and so satisfy himself and the people who at present cannot estimate accurately the amount of these ground-rents. Let us take the statement made yesterday at the Ard-Fheis. There it was stated that £20,000,000 annually was not collected but was leaving the country. My estimate was very conservative when I said that in or about £1,000,000 was leaving the country. The Minister in reply to the speaker at the Ard-Fheis said he did not believe that one sixth of £20,000,000 was leaving the country.