Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 4 Jul 1939

Vol. 76 No. 14

Committee on Finance. - Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1939—Committee Stage.

(1) The expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Local Government and Public Health;
the expression "rating area"—
(a) when used in relation to the council of a county, means such county exclusive of any urban districts therein, and
(b) when used in relation to the council of an urban district, means such urban district;
the expression "agricultural land" does not include any land forming part of a railway or a canal nor any land situate in an urban district which was, at the passing of the Act of 1898, situate in an urban sanitary district, but subject to those exceptions and to any declaration made under the next following sub-section of this section, includes all land which is entered as land in the valuation lists under the Valuation Acts and is situate in the rating area of the council of a county or of an urban district;

I move amendment No. 1:—

In lines 37/39, page 2, to delete the words "nor any land situate in an urban district which was, at the passing of the Act of 1898, situate in an urban sanitary district".

The object of this amendment is to give agriculturalists living in urban areas the benefit of the Agricultural Grant. These agriculturalists have a good many limitations even though they have one advantage. In the old days when the relief of rates was first passed, the Bill was not framed in this country and urban areas were excluded. The urban area in Great Britain is very different from the urban area in this country. The urban area in Great Britain has other potential values. Anyway, we have adopted the British Act here, but it does not work fairly. I am satisfied that the advantage to which I wish to refer arises in this way, that the urban rates here are in two sections, first, the town rate, and the other the rate for the country services. In the town rate the urban areas have an advantage in the matter of land; they are charged only 25 per cent. of the rates on land. But they have to pay the full county rate. It is with the county rate I want to deal. The urban owners of land have the disadvantage of high valuations, and it is on these high valuations the rates are struck. What was formerly the reason for the high valuation on land in urban areas was the proximity value. That has now gone. People living four, six or ten miles away from an urban area have the advantage of the local markets ówing to the improved transit facilities, just as well as the people living in the neighbourhood. The urban holders have the disadvantage of a line of demarcation. You have one set of agriculturalists on one side of the fence which happens to be in the county, and there obtains there the relief on agricultural rates. The man at the other side of the fence, at the urban side, has not that advantage. As I pointed out on the Second Reading, that has led to a great deal of unrest amongst the owners of land in urban areas. They cannot see why they should not get the benefit of the Agricultural Grant on the rates they pay for county services. That is not such a very big matter to the county rates or the urban rates. There are not so many urban areas, and the land in urban areas is not so extensive. I believe it would be an act of justice to pass this amendment.

I am aware that the Ministry hold that there is a corresponding relief in the town rate, inasmuch as the town rate is levied only on 25 per cent. of the value of the land. But the town rate in most urban areas to-day is extremely high, and even 25 per cent. of the town rate means a very substantial rate on the owner of the land. However, it is not with that section of the services that I am now dealing. In tabling this motion I would have much preferred, because it would be more in conformity with my views and sense of justice, if the rules of the House permitted me to put down an amendment extending the grant or increasing the grant to the people in urban areas. Unfortunately, I could not do that within the rules of the House. So I have to content myself with this subterfuge in trying to get in this amendment in this particular way in which it is drafted. The merits of the case stand out very clearly. The amount of money involved is not large. The increase of this grant to land owners in urban areas would be very largely repaid by the sense of justice and fair play that would welcome it.

On the Second Reading of the Bill I stated that, in my opinion, in order to encourage everybody in the State to give of his best, the first essential was to give a feeling of a sense of fair play, that the laws were being justly administered, and that there could be no exemptions. I know that the position with regard to this Agricultural Grant is one that the Minister has inherited, and that there are big difficulties in the way of meeting it, as the Minister himself pointed out when winding up the Second Reading debate. It is in order to give him an opportunity of understanding those difficulties that I have put down the amendment. What is the Ministerial point of view on this; what, in his view, are the disadvantages, and will he, if not now, at some future date consider extending the relief afforded under the Agricultural Grant, as a matter of justice, to farmers living in urban areas?

In urban areas you have this position: you have valuations varying from 42/- to 51/6 an acre. Even where the owners of land are allowed half the town rate, they still have to pay on a substantial valuation; but when you come to the levy for county services, on the full amount of their valuation, whether it be 40/-, 42/- or 45/-, you find that the rate in the urban area is extraordinarily high, whereas the county rate may be only about 50 per cent. of it, and in many cases not even 40 per cent. of the urban rate. In view of all this, I would ask the Minister to inquire into the matter. My submission is that, so far as the urban areas are concerned, the portion of the agricultural grant called the county services rate should be made operative in them.

I gave some examples the last day of the injustice of the present system. On one side of the fence you have a man with a farm of 50 acres. If he is living in the county area his rates may be no more than £23 or £24. A man holding the same amount of land in an urban area will have to pay £65 or £70 in rates. These two men have to meet in the same market. They get the same price for their produce; they have to pay the same wages to their labourers. In fact, all their expenses are about the same, but yet one man has to pay almost three times as much in rates as the other. I think that if the Minister were to meet this demand from the urban areas it would go a good way to inspire a sense of evenhanded justice and fair play. Agitations which have no justice behind them do not concern me. This, at any rate, is a case calling for justice and fair play. I believe that the people in the urban areas have a just claim for an extension of the benefits of the agricultural grant. If the case made for them is not met now, I believe it will have to be met at some future date.

I desire to support the amendment. I am aware that the Minister stated on the Second Reading of the Bill that this question was complicated in various ways. He mentioned that he had met deputations on a number of occasions and had gone into the matter fully with them. Many farmers living in urban areas who are concerned in this matter are of the opinion that the people on those deputations did not truly represent them or their interests. They believe that the representations were made by people in urban areas not directly concerned with this matter at all. I would be glad if the Minister would sympathetically consider, if not now, as Deputy Broderick said, then at some future date the case that has been made for the extension of the relief given under the agricultural grant to farmers living in urban areas.

I can speak on this from local knowledge. You have, for instance, a number of farmers living in the City of Galway and in the town of Ballinasloe. They feel that they have a greater grievance than any other section of the agricultural community in the country, because of the fact that they are not getting any relief from the agricultural grant, and further because of the fact that they are not enjoying now facilities which they once had.

At one time the farmers living in both centres used to do a considerable amount of carting. Since the advent of motor transport they have lost all that work. Consequently, they have to live now solely out of agriculture and out of the produce of their holdings. They are in just the same position as people living farther out. All have to sell their produce in the same market, but the farmers in the urban areas are denied this relief under the agricultural grant which goes to their competitors on the other side of the fence. I would feel very pleased if the Minister would sympathetically consider this matter: that if he cannot see his way now to extend the full benefit to those people that, anyhow, he will extend portion of the benefit to them so as to help to ease their situation, and give them the impression that they are not being forgotten.

I also desire to support the amendment. In my opinion every genuine farmer, whether he lives in an urban district or outside of it, should be eligible to receive the benefits conferred by the agricultural grant. There may be difficulties in the way of giving effect to the amendment. The last speaker ran in on some of them when he suggested that at one time farmers in urban areas were engaged in other operations than agriculture. I know from my own knowledge numerous farmers in urban areas who are solely engaged in agriculture. They are doing just the same work as men living out in the country. If we are to take it that the agricultural grant is intended to afford relief to those engaged in agriculture, then the farmers in the urban areas to whom I have referred are, in equity, as much entitled to this benefit as those who are receiving it at present.

On behalf of the people in urban areas in the County Mayo— in Castlebar, Westport and Ballina— I desire to support the amendment. Grievances such as that farmers in Counties Cork, Limerick and Galway suffer under in this matter also exist in the County Mayo, particularly in the urban areas. I hope that the Minister will respond to the appeal that has been made to him from all sides to extend the benefits of the agricultural grant to those who have land in, and reside in, urban areas.

I regret I cannot give any consideration on this occasion to the appeals made in support of the amendment. I think that if we were to adopt, and put into operation, this amendment without any further consideration, we would be simply creating new anomalies in addition to those that exist at the moment. I know that Deputy Broderick has given a lot of study to this matter. He knows it as intimately as I do. He has discussed it in his own area and in the Department of Local Government. There are many other Deputies who are also familiar with it. The whole situation in relation to this is anomalous. It has grown up piecemeal. Certainly, since I became Minister no opportunity has presented itself of getting at this problem in the fashion that a Minister would like to get at it; that is of cleaning the slate and of starting with a new foundation. That is what will require to be done some day. I hope that the opportunity will be given some time to do that. I would like, as far as it is humanly possible, to clear away the anomalies that exist on all sides with regard to this agricultural grant. There are many laws connected with it — many Acts of Parliament. Grants were given at different times on different bases, and were apportioned in entirely different ways. It would be well to have the whole system reorganised and co-ordinated. As I said here when I spoke on the Second Reading —a speech that seemed to create a good deal of interest—if possible I should like to see more money got for the agricultural grant, but it is not possible at the present time. One reason is that we have a Valuation Bill under consideration in the House at present, and I do not think it would be wise to do anything in the way of reorganising or co-ordinating this matter until the valuation has been completed. Then there would have to be a reconsideration of the whole rating problem. It will all have to be reconsidered and perhaps reorganised. I suggest that after the Valuation Bill passes and the valuation has been completed would be the proper time to take into account the reconsideration and re-organisation of the rating system, the agricultural grant, and the division of the agricultural grant.

From my study of the situation, I do believe that we would create practically as many anomalies as there are at present by giving that grant to the urban areas. We would be giving it to people who do not deserve to get it —people who have agricultural land, so called, in urban areas. We have had to pay as much as £1,000 an acre for what is called agricultural land in those areas when we wanted it for a housing scheme. Is it right that those people should get the agricultural grant? I do not think so. That is what would happen. That is what has happened in Dun Laoghaire, for instance, and, to some extent, in the City of Dublin, County Dublin, County Wicklow and County Cork it would happen. It may not perhaps be £1,000 an acre, but it is a very great sum. Galway was mentioned by Deputy Beegan. I have heard of plots of this so-called agricultural land—plots for one house—costing £300 or £400. Is it considered that those people would be entitled to share in the agricultural grant?

Mr. Broderick

Certainly not.

They would get it under the Deputy's amendment. That is why I say it would create anomalies, and it would not be fair to do it. Therefore, I oppose the amendment.

Mr. Brennan

The Minister has made a great case for not making this measure permanent.

We do not seek to make it permanent so far as the agricultural grant is concerned.

Is the Minister aware that some urban areas are getting the benefit?

There are anomalies at present, but in this way we would create as many more.

Mr. Broderick

I expected that there were difficulties in the way, and, as I said, it was in order that the Minister would understand those difficulties I put down the amendment. I have to admit that I was not impressed by the difficulties which the Minister has put before us to-night. His first point was that it would create anomalies, and that rapacious people who got the extortionist price of £1,000 an acre would get the benefit of the agricultural grant. Is that any justification for refusing assistance to the hardworking farmer, with purely agricultural land, putting up with all the limitations which agriculture has at the moment? We know that there are sites which have a potential building value, and are entirely outside the sphere of agriculture.

I distinctly remember an application from somebody to get in under one of the old Acts, and the answer of the Commission at that particular date was: "No; this land has a potential building value, and cannot come under it." I thoroughly understand the different bases on which the agricultural grant is administered, but I can see no administrative difficulty at all in the case of the bona fide agricultural farmer inside the urban area, who has no hope at all that his land will ever become a building site. Is it fair to point to him and say: "Because your neighbour down the road, and your neighbour bordering on the seacoast, and your neighbour within the extension of the local suburban area, have got £150, £200, or £1,000 for an acre of land, you are not going to get what you are entitled to"? I do not think that is an argument of any substance. Again, you must remember that you have undertaken building schemes of greater volume than anyone who preceded you. But that has got to end some time. It cannot continue indefinitely. That in itself is no reason why the agricultural grant should not be extended to the bona fide agriculturists within the urban area.

The Minister did refer to one point which I readily admit had some substance in it, namely, that it would not be an easy matter to differentiate between what can be termed an agricultural holding and what would be a residential holding having a potential building site value, but it is not impossible. In this amendment I am asking that those words be deleted only in favour of those who are bona fide agriculturists; people who have no hope of their land acquiring a building site value or anything else; people whose ancestors for generations back have been agriculturists in purely agricultural areas. It must be remembered that many of our own towns are not extending. Unfortunately, they are contracting. Potential building sites in many of our provincial towns are getting less attractive and less valuable every day. The farmers in the neighbourhood who are supplying those towns have less advantages and less facilities. As I said, the Minister's arguments have not impressed me. I am not ready to admit that there are administrative difficulties which it is not possible to surmount. I believe that those people are entitled to be included, and I think they could be included. On the question of a division I should like to say that there are people on the opposite side who hold the same view as I do on this matter, and if I were to challenge a division they would be brought in to vote against their convictions. I do not believe I would be justified in putting those Members into that position.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Brennan

I should like if the Minister would define sub-section (f). What does he visualise under (f) (i) and (f) (ii) as distinct from (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e)?

I am not quite sure that I understand the Deputy's question.

Mr. Brennan

Sub-sections (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) set out certain particulars with regard to the specified valuation, that is £20. Then (f) says: "The following provisions shall apply where, but only where, none of the foregoing paragraphs of this section applies, that is to say..." What does the Minister visualise in (f) (i) and (ii) as distinct from the others? You would imagine that everything was covered in the others. What is he trying to cover in (f) (i) and (ii)?

If they were both £9 valuation, or £9 and £11, what would happen? It looks as if they would be disqualified from the benefit.

They will get nine-twentieths.

Mr. Brennan

What cases does (f) cover as distinct from (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e)? Paragraph (a) deals with certain people with one holding, whose valuation does not exceed £20; (b) with persons with two holdings which do not exceed £20; (c) with persons whose valuation does not exceed £20 under the Rates on Small Dwellings Act; (d) and (e) deal with the Land Commission. Then we have (f) dealing with persons who do not come into any of these categories. What persons has the Minister in mind?

The first £20 on larger valuations.

Mr. Brennan

We have paragraph (e) dealing with the Land Commission in respect of two or more tenements of agricultural land where the valuation does exceed £20. Why is the Land Commission put in that category instead of in (f)?

That is to enable the Land Commission to get the benefit.

Mr. Brennan

Will the people coming under (f) not get it, although the Land Commission will?

Paragraph (a) refers to cases where there is only one holding not exceeding £20 in valuation; (b) cases not exceeding £20 valuation where there are more than one holding; (c) states that land attached to a small dwelling will not be aggregated with other lands for which the owner is paying rates; under (d) the Land Commission will be treated as being in separate occupation of each holding for which they are rated and they will get the benefit as if they were separate occupiers; (e) also includes the Land Commission. If these paragraphs were not inserted, all the land in a county for which the Land Commission is rated would be aggregated and £20 only would rank for the primary allowance under paragraph (f).

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

Before Section 5 to insert a new section as follows:—

If and whenever an increase of the agricultural grant in respect of any financial year is provided under Section 4 of this Act the council of a county shall make out of the sums so provided to every person rated in respect of a tenement of agricultural land (being a hereditament or tenement which consists wholly or partly of agricultural land situate within the rating of such council) an allowance calculated according to the proportion that the valuation of such hereditament or tenement bears to the total valuation of such agricultural land as is situate within the rating area of such council.

This amendment was tabled with the idea of making the distribution of the agricultural grant more equitable. It would help to do away with the difficulties that the Minister has in mind in regard to the distribution of the grant and the difficulties of the county councils in assessing the proportions of the different ratepayers and the cost of doing that, and, incidentally, in the collection of the rates. As to the reasons for this, we have had it advocated from the other side that the present method of distributing the grant has several advantages. The main argument in favour of it is that it assists the small farmer and helps to relieve unemployment. There are some 300,000 odd holdings in this country and something over 268,000 farmers, big and small, of which 50,000 are what one might call the larger farmers; at least they are the people who employ labour. Apparently it is the desire of the present Government that these 50,000 people, who I might say are the backbone of this State as agriculturists, should be impeded, hampered, and persecuted in every way. Legislation in this State seems to be directed mainly against that particular 50,000. The people against whom the provisions of the Land Bill which we have been discussing would operate would be some of these 50,000 who employ labour.

Before this Government interfered with employment in this State there were 130,000 labourers employed by these 50,000 people. The Minister proposes in this peculiar measure to make permanent a system under which about one-sixth of the entire grant is to be given as an employment bonus. In other words, out of the present grant, £326,000 will be given as an employment bonus. So that, to continue to employ 130,000 people, £360,000 is to be given as an inducement. That sum would scarcely suffice, as some Deputy said the other day, to pay for the insurance stamps. The niggardly bonus that is given under the distribution system in this measure is not an inducement to anybody to employ men.

Deputy Broderick moved an amendment to include urban districts in the distribution. I said I approved in principle of his amendment although there might be difficulties in the way, as there probably are. I approved of the principle because I hold that, if this House votes any money for the relief of the farming community generally, then the division of that money should be pro rata amongst the various members of that community and not in different shares as between one and the other. I said in another debate not long ago that we in this House ought not to advance the principle that a differentiation should be made between the smaller and the bigger farmers. There has been a tendency in this House, and Deputy Corry emphasised it to-day, to say that we stand for the big farmers and that the Government Party stand for the small farmers.

That is your attitude, anyway.

We stand for all the farmers, big and small.

You do with your tongues, but we judge by your actions.

We offered them more material help than Deputy Corry. I am not speaking of lip service. I leave it at that. The Minister, in his references to the Bill on Second Reading, was unfair to farmers generally. The Minister made the references he did probably because he was ignorant of his subject. He freely admitted that he knew nothing about land and that, if he were offered land, he would not take it because he did not know anything about it. If he was ignorant as to the use of land, he was certainly ignorant as to the position of the people who live on the land. Otherwise, he would not have used the expressions he did. We may be "monarchs of all we survey," but there are many people disputing our rights. If we are monarchs of all we survey, so is the tramp on the road. He is free to come and go as he likes and to do all the things that the Minister said we were free to do. Does anybody say that the tramp should be held up as an example to members of this House? The Minister was rather unfortunate in his references, and I shall leave it at that.

This grant will have no effect whatever in helping employment. At best, it would offer a very small inducement for the employment of an additional man. The spreading of £300,000 over 130,000 workers is not going to induce anybody to employ labour. There were 50,000 farmers employing labour. These 50,000 farmers paid rates in 1931-32 amounting to £2,400,000 and they employed much more labour than they are employing now. Their rates have since gone up by the greater part of a million pounds. The prices of their commodities have not risen with the increase of rates and they have been forced to economise. It may be that some of them have been obliged to economise at the expense of labour. When you reduce an industry to breaking point, labour must suffer. Labour has suffered under the legislation introduced by the present Government dealing with farmers.

Deputy Corry, who is taking notes, will probably get up later and say that I am denying the rights of the small farmer. I am not. The poor farmer —if you like to call the man with a valuation of £5 or £2 a poor farmer— has many benefits. It will make little difference to him how this grant is distributed. His rates are small. In most cases, it will not make 10/- or £1 difference to him. This grant will make no material difference to the £5 man and he is the man who generally finds it easy to pay his rates because he is compensated for his payments. He is eligible for the services which are mainly provided at the expense of the larger ratepayer. As Deputy Corry knows, he is eligible for relief work and for road and other works which are provided mainly by the larger ratepayer. He is eligible for all these—and more power to him. In addition, he is eligible for all the health services provided by the rates, including hospital treatment, for which the larger farmer is not eligible. The larger ratepayer contributes the bulk of the cost of these services and he is not entitled to share in them. If this were an annual measure it might not be so intensely objectionable but an attempt is made to convert this into a permanent measure. I cannot agree to that.

It was to afford the Minister an opportunity of understanding the position that I put down my amendment, because I do not believe that he does understand the position. Does the Minister fully realise that the 50,000 people who are the main providers of the public services under the local authorities are the people who are being deprived of their fair share of the grant? Does he know that, when you hamper those 50,000 persons, you reduce employment? Does he know that, by every section you put in a Bill making the distribution of a grant difficult, you impose a greater responsibility on the local bodies? Does he know that by every burden you put on the larger ratepayer—the history of the last four years has proved this— you make the collection of the rates more difficult? The Minister knows that the largest amount of arrears of rates is due by the larger ratepayers because they are the people who found it most difficult to pay. Many of them were endeavouring to keep men employed when they could not afford to do so. They were endeavouring to maintain the position they previously occupied. Eventually, some of them had to retrench, with consequent loss of employment. The distribution of the agricultural grant, as carried out by the present Ministry, has not been effective in improving employment or improving the position of any farmer, whether large or small. No sound argument can be advanced for such an inequitable distribution of this grant as is proposed.

My main objection to the present system of distributing the agricultural grant is because of the injustice to the farmer with children under 17 years of age. In the income-tax code and in every reasonable system of relief from taxation, the citizen with helpless dependents is given first consideration. In this Bill for the distribution of the agricultural grant the farmer with helpless dependents is absolutely excluded from relief except in so far as the first £20 of his valuation is concerned. The Minister has not made any attempt to defend that. Neither has he made any attempt to defend the exclusion of female dependents or employees on the farm from any abatement. Does the Minister consider that it is not desirable to have female domestic servants employed on the land?

The Deputy is dealing with amendment No. 3 now.

I understand that if this amendment is carried, it will completely rule out the other amendment dealing with a flat rate in connection with the agricultural grant. Of course it will be said that this system confers great benefits upon small holders. The rates on agricultural land under £20 valuation in my constituency were 6/6¾ in 1938, and in 1932, when there was a flat rate—such as is contemplated in the amendment—the rates upon all agricultural land were 3/4½, so that they have practically doubled. Of course that is due to the burdens that have been piled on to local taxation.

What would be the flat rate now?

There is no flat rate now.

What is the rate on large holdings?

6/3 on that part of the valuation which is subject to the allowance for employees, and on the balance 9/6½. Surely the Minister must acknowledge that as the rates on small holdings have been doubled, no benefit is now being conferred upon them. The solution of the problem lies in increasing the agricultural grant to a certain extent, or the complete derating of agricultural land. We suggest that there should be no difference made between the various valuations. The main purpose of the amendment is to have the grant equally distributed on all agricultural land. The Minister has not faced up to the question, and has not gone into the grievances of the agricultural community. He has not taken into account the hardships imposed on agricultural ratepayers for the past seven or eight years. The time has now come when the Minister should face up to his responsibility, and, as a first step, should accept the amendment, and, as a second step, increase the grant to such an extent as would derate agricultural land.

Deputy Cogan has hit the nail on the head. The Deputy's interest in the small holders would result in making them pay an additional 2/8 in the £. That is the Deputy's interest in the small holders, that they should pay 9/2 as well as ranchers.

In what way?

That is the Deputy's suggestion on behalf of the small holders. Deputies should not object, when I say that they do not represent the ordinary farmers, if they take up such an attitude or bring in such an amendment, endeavouring to have the little relief that this Government has conferred on small holders whose valuations are under £20, and on those who employ labour, taken away. They are endeavouring to put these people in the same position as men with 1,000 acres who employ a man and a dog. I submit that they have no mandate from anybody to come here and to take up such an attitude. Before this relief was given the question was very carefully considered by those who represent the farming community much more than Deputy Cogan does. While I am more than anxious to see the farming community getting all the relief that it is possible to give them, and if possible getting the agricultural grant doubled, I say that if the grant was increased, I would apply it to those who give employment, rather than to men with 500 or 600 acres who employ only a man and a dog, If there is any relief to be secured, as far as it is within my power, I will see that it goes to ordinary working farmers. I have no sympathy whatever for the individuals for whom Deputy Bennett and Deputy Cogan spoke.

What about farmers with young helpless families?

When Deputy Cogan speaks of men with young helpless families he should remember that he would make them pay 9/2 instead of 6/6 in the £.

Who pays the 9/2?

I took a note of the figures Deputy Cogan gave. He says that on small holdings they were paying 6/6¾ and 9/2 on the larger ones. Deputy Cogan's interest in the small holders is such that he thinks they should be made pay 9/2 in order to relieve men with 1,000 acres, who employ a man and a dog. That was a most nonsensical attitude for any Deputy to take up. I have seen that attitude adopted repeatedly. We had the same attitude and the same mentality for three years in connection with the Land Bill. I do not think the amendment would be accepted by anybody who did not wish to go back to the old bad days.

Hear, hear.

Deputy Cogan is not very long in this House, but the Deputy who said "Hear, hear" has been here for years, and while he knew that workers throughout the country were living in one-room hovels he refused to do anything to relieve them. The Deputy who said "hear, hear" was the Deputy who assisted the previous Administration to reject district water and sewerage schemes, and that completely neglected to provide for the reconstruction of small farm houses or dwellings in rural areas. If social services were neglected until this Government took up the question, blame those who neglected them for years. If the rates have now gone up, that is the main reason. Let us not have nonsensical amendments brought forward in order to bolster up a tribe that, thank God, is fast dying out. There will be very few with 500 acres who employ only a man and a dog, in future.

I do not think there are any there now.

Evidently the Deputy thinks there are. Otherwise why have we this amendment?

I was talking of 50,000 ordinary farmers.

Deputy Bennett said that 50,000 farmers out of some 300,000 were paying all the rates. The Deputy said that nobody else paid rates but the 50,000.

I never said any such thing.

I will analyse the 50,000 for Deputy Bennett. I will say that 35,000 of them are men who are employing labour and they get that relief for each labourer they employ. As for the remaining 15,000, the country would be damn well rid of them. Let us have some common sense in this matter. Let us not have Deputies coming here camouflaging their amendments and telling us they speak for the ordinary working farmers, when all they are speaking for is the remnant of the 15,000 ranchers.

I was very interested in the remarks of the last speaker. He has forgotten one thing, and that is, that the Party he professes to represent upbraided the last Government for not having brought in a greater degree of relief for the farmers than they brought in when they increased the agricultural grant to a sum of £750,000.

They gave a grant of £750,000 to relieve the position of agriculture. The Fianna Fáil Party at the time said that was not enough, and that the position of agriculture demanded more. When they came into office they raised it to £1,000,000. What did they do then? The next year they reduced it by £448,000. They brought in the trimmings that have been referred to by Deputy Corry, but they reduced the agricultural grant by £448,000. A certain reshuffle took place with regard to the reliefs that were so necessary because the small farmers were passing through the trying period of the economic war.

Are you going to vote for the amendment?

I did not interrupt Deputy Corry, but if he wants to interrupt me it is only fair to let him know that I am quite able to deal with him. If he will permit me to go on, I will explain why the amendment should be supported. Various reshuffles took place, allegedly for the benefit of the small farmers and the labouring men. There was that reduction of the agricultural grant and together with that we had an increase of rates. This increase took place annually, and the rates were going up as the years rolled on. The rates were increased because of the various social services imposed on the country by the Minister. That loaded the dice completely against the large holder, the man with the large valuation, the man who was giving a very large amount of employment, the man who is carrying on production and who is able to spend money, and did spend money. When that type of man had to stop his activities, largely because of Government policy, it meant an immense loss to the local towns, and the shopkeepers there are bitterly regretting the exodus of such men. The dice was loaded against them by the reshuffle which took place, and the increasing rates bore heavily on them because of their large valuations.

It is a matter for regret that the Minister has not realised the very serious position in which these men were placed. He has not realised the serious plight of agriculture. Deputy Corry had some experience of those difficulties in several directions, except in the sale of new milk which he carries on and where such men are in a privileged position, and they are able to carry on without the disadvantages suffered by men in areas such as Deputy Bennett represents, in the various creamery districts. These men are suffering because of the reduction in the agricultural grant and because of the increased costs and the high impositions thrown upon them through the policy of the Government. It is a matter for regret that the Minister has not seen his way to increase the grant towards the relief of agriculture.

As regards derating, I am not one of those who believe that the halved annuities in any way gave the relief that derating of agricultural land would give. The small farmer, of whom Deputy Corry speaks in such glowing terms, is the object of our sympathy. He has borne up against many troubles and hardships because he has his own labour. The large farmer is not in that position. The small man had his own labour. He had workers who did not mind working long hours if the occasion demanded it. In the case of the large farmers the hours of the agricultural labourers were short, and the employers had to cope with that as one of their difficulties with increased wages. I am not saying that that is a thing that should not happen. I am not anxious to see the agricultural labourer a slave to long hours.

Very definitely the amendment brought in by Deputy Bennett is necessary. These men I have referred to, the men with over 100 acres, are only 8 per cent. of the farmers of the country, but is that any reason why they are to be disregarded? Is it because they are numerically few they may therefore be disregarded by a Party anxious to secure the votes of the people? Is that the reason they are to be disregarded when it is known that the effects of their exodus will be seriously felt, not alone by the agricultural labourers but by the business people in the towns? The fact that the Government proposed £1,000,000 to relieve the farming community, the fact that they raised the grant by £250,000 over what the last Administration gave, showed how they regarded it as necessary to relieve agriculture.

I feel that the strictures made by Deputy Corry were not justified. I am certain the action of the Minister is not in keeping with the promise to help agriculture, to relieve it from the serious embarrassments in which it is placed. Is the door closed on derating? Is the action of the Minister, in passing such a Bill as this, limiting the amount of the agricultural grant to its present figure and closing the door on relief to others than those he has already set out to relieve? Does it mean that we are not to have any further relief from ever-increasing rates?

It is very well known that the rates are increasing for every county council in the country. The Minister insisted on them striking a certain rate in Cork. Only a few years ago the Cork County Council wished to strike the same rate as they had struck in the previous year. The Minister carried them into court and insisted on a mandamus and we had to strike the higher rate that the Minister demanded. When the Minister has the power to insist on increasing rates, he ought not to close the door against the relief to which the agricultural community are entitled and without which they cannot carry on.

I daresay Deputy Corry is very amused. I do not care a jot. He has often been amused at a great many sensible things that were done. He is in disagreement very probably with the Minister and he is very likely opposed to the action of the Minister in secret. He has a fairly large holding himself, and if it were not for the privileges that are being given to milk vendors, together with certain well-stabilised prices, he probably would be a rebel against the Bill to-day. I certainly say that it is not for the good of the country, that the larger holders will be thrown out of benefit and definitely wiped out, because that is the position of affairs that will take place if agriculture, in all its various branches, does not get the relief to which it is entitled.

Deputy Cogan was subjected to a certain amount of cross-examination as to the amounts of the rates. Now, in various counties those rates vary very much. In Cork County, for example, the rate varies to an enormous degree, as Deputy Corry himself knows. A farthing in the £ in East Cork will make as much money as a penny in the £ in West Cork, where the upkeep of the roads was starved, in the past, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle himself can bear out, and as the upkeep of the roads all over the county is very largely a burden borne by the East Cork farmers, I do not think Deputy Corry will have the hardihood to contradict me on that point. Deputy Corry and I have found agreement in regard to certain items of taxation in connection with Cork City and the relation it bears to rural areas. I think he will also bear me out in connection with the heavy burden that the ratepayers of East Cork have to bear in comparison with the comparatively light burden that is placed on the ratepayers of West Cork; and this is going to hit the farmers of East Cork very severely.

We did imagine that the many promises of relief that were made at the elections, and made particularly by the Deputy opposite who spoke last, were going to be carried out, and I must express my disapproval and disappointment as to the position in which farmers are placed under this Bill. I am sure that the Minister has not been blind to the fact that there was a very unanimous protest against the attitude taken up by the Minister in connection with this Bill, made in Cork last Saturday, and I hope the remarks made there——

I do not think that is in the amendment.

Very well, Sir. I stand corrected by you. I know how broadminded you are in anything that concerns the dignity of this House, but I should certainly like to make a last appeal to the Minister to consider the position of the men who are unable to carry on in the present serious position in which agriculture is placed.

On a point of personal explanation, Sir. Before Deputy Brasier came in I had explained, in the debate on the Money Resolution, the change that had been brought about by the £1,000,000 for derating introduced by this Party when in opposition, and for which the then Government gave £750,000. As to Deputy Brasier's personal remarks, I take no notice of them.

All right.

But I should like to say this much: that the gentleman whom he endeavoured to bring into this debate, who spoke last Saturday, also announced on one occasion that he was a dear little man—a very dear little man for the ratepayers of County Cork—and I hope he will bear that in mind.

I think it would be better to leave Cork out of this.

I am very anxious to leave it out, Sir, but, thank God, I do not have to fall back on old clothes.

May I say, Sir, as against what Deputy Corry says about the £750,000, that the rates at that period were very low compared with what the present rates are, and when the last Government brought in £750,000 as a relief it was certainly a very much larger amount of relief than the £1,000,000 which was brought in subsequently; but where is there any justification for the reduction by £448,000?

Deputy Brasier had no objection whatever to climbing up the back stairs of the Minister's office in order to provide for two hotel keepers in Ballycotton.

That is untrue.

He had no objection ——

I have said, Sir, that Deputy Corry's statement is untrue.

It would be better to have no further references to Cork.

Deputy Corry was able to make a great many statements which were not correct.

If I understand Deputy Bennett's amendment correctly the intention is to alter the system that has been in operation for the last five or six years and which it is proposed to continue indefinitely under this Bill, whereby the total amount of the agricultural grant was divided under certain conditions—a certain amount of it a primary grant, a certain amount of it an employment grant, and a certain amount for a supplementary grant. The purpose of the employment allowance is to give the maximum of rate relief to farmers who give employment on the land. The employment allowance amounts to £333,000. That is divided amongst those who give employment. The supplementary allowance is £325,000. The £333,000 employment allowance is given on a valuation of £1,076,000, and the supplementary grant of £325,000 is given on a valuation of double that amount. That is the principle that is laid down in the Bill. If I were to accept Deputy Bennett's amendment, or if the amendment were carried in the House, it would mean that the whole Bill would have to be withdrawn and recast. That, I presume, is the intention, and therefore I cannot accept the amendment.

Does the Deputy wish to press the amendment?

Well, Sir, I should like to say a few words on the amendment before the matter is concluded. I am still unconvinced by anything that either the Minister or Deputy Corry has said in this connection. The Minister said very little. In fact, what the Minister said did not make his case either good or bad, and he kept as far away as possible from the issue; but I may say that Deputy Corry's lip service to the gallery, as I might call it, did not impress either his Party or the House, because I did not see any Deputy from his own side of the House get up to support him. I want to tell Deputy Corry that any attempt he makes to put this Party in the light of seeming to support one section of the farmers against another section will fail now, as it always failed—and will fail definitely.

If any material assistance, apart from lip service, can be given to a small farmer, or to a big farmer, there are some of us who have given it, and who will continue to give it, where Deputy Corry might not be so certain to give it. I shall not put the House, Sir, to the necessity of walking into the Lobby to divide on this, because I can see that the Minister has no intention of accepting the amendment, and it would be impossible to convince some of the members of his Party of its justice.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 5, 6 and 7 agreed to.
(1) In this section—
the expression "the qualifying period" means the period of twelve months ending on the 31st day of December next preceding the commencement of the financial year in relation to which the expression is used, and the expression "adult workman" means a male person who, at the commencement of the qualifying period in relation to which the expression is used, was not less than seventeen years of age nor more than seventy years of age and who was not and whose wife was not, at any time during the qualifying period, the rated occupier of agricultural land the valuation or the aggregate of the valuations of which during the qualifying period was equal to or greater than five pounds.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In sub-section (1), line 29, to delete the word "workman" and substitute the word "worker"; in line 30 to delete the word "male" and in this and subsequent sub-sections to delete the word "workman" wherever it occurs and substitute the word "worker" in each line.

This is another amendment aimed at securing justice in the distribution of the grant. A lot has been said about the employment of labour, and the niggardly £326,000 to which the Minister referred, spread over 130,000 workers, but even on this question of the allowances for employment, the Minister is not just in the method of distributing the grant as between one farmer and another. I have repeatedly brought this question before the House until, perhaps, some Deputies have got sick of it, but I again avail of this occasion to try to remedy the injustice inflicted on certain farmers. When on previous occasions I brought this matter before the House, Deputies on the Government Benches said that it could not be remedied then, as it was in the Act. We have now a new Bill, and I hope the opportunity will be availed of to remedy this injustice.

I am proposing to delete the word "workman" where it occurs in the section and to substitute the word "worker", and to delete the word "male" altogether, in other words, to make the employment portion of the grant applicable to both female and male workers. In my county, and, apparently in others, because other Deputies have spoken on this matter, there are several women employed in agriculture. In these days of equal treatment for men and women we should be fair, apart altogether from the question of being fair as between farmer and farmer, as between men and women employees. Evidently we cannot sufficiently impress the Minister to be fair as between farmer and farmer, but we may be able to appeal to him on the basis of sex—it is a question of sex-appeal, if you like—to give equal treatment to men and women who are employed by farmers. There are numerous women workers employed in my county and, I daresay, in other counties, getting the same wage as male workers. As I say, some farmers are in the position that they cannot participate in this part of the relief which refers to employment, because they employ women. In dairies, for instance, women are sometimes employed exclusively. The farmer who employs men, if they are over 17, is given the benefit of this allowance, but if he employs women at the same wage he gets nothing.


I brought this matter before the House on a number of occasions, and I bring it up now for the last time. If the Minister is disposed to remove this injustice he has an opportunity now but, of course, if he does not want to do it I cannot force him.

I cannot accept the amendment. We have discussed this matter many times. Deputy Bennett has been eloquent on the subject on several occasions. It was argued here on several occasions, and it was agreed that the principle on which we should distribute the employment allowance is to allocate it in respect of men employed whole-time.

Why not women? Why discriminate against women?

There is the difficulty, as Deputy Bennett knows, that where there are women employed on farms they are not always employed as agriculturists. I doubt if they are often employed purely as agriculturists because they are employed in the house as well as on the farm.

A maid is distinct from a farm worker, and the Minister ought to know it.

I think they all do housework, and I am just as much entitled to that belief as Deputy Bennett is to his.

I do not want to contradict the Minister, but that statement of his shows his ignorance of the matter. They all certainly do not do housework. Any Deputy who is familiar with the dairying districts can verify that. I, for one, can.

I think it would be imposing too much of a burden on the local authority to expect it to check all these returns that are sent in by people who claim this allowance in respect of workers to ascertain if women were solely employed in agricultural work. It would be next to impossible to check a return to see whether these women were solely employed in agriculture.

Amendment put and declared negatived.

Sections 8 to 25, inclusive, the Schedule and the Title ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported without amendment.
Report Stage ordered for Thursday, July 6th.

Is the total sum involved £1,870,000?