Committee on Finance. - Forestry Bill, 1945—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The object of the Bill as set out in its Long Title, is "to make further and better provision for forestry". With this end in view, it repeals the Forestry Acts, 1919 and 1928, the two statutes under which the powers of the Minister for Lands in relation to forestry derive, and provides instead a new and clear-cut code to govern those powers. Forestry, as a public service in Ireland, dates from 1904, when the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction commenced, in a very small way, a State-sponsored effort to counteract the rapid clearance of Irish woodlands which had proceeded almost without let or hindrance for the best part of a century. The efforts of the Department were directed towards the establishment of State forest areas and the promotion of education and training in forestry matters. Useful work was accomplished in the decade ended in 1914. Wartime considerations then precluded the further expansion of activities. The present forestry service, however, may be said to have commenced with the foundation in 1919 of the Forestry Commission in Great Britain. The Forestry Commission took over,inter alia, the functions of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in regard to forestry in Ireland. The commission was established by the Forestry Act, 1919, which set forth, in broad terms, the functions which it was to discharge.

The later course of events brought the Irish Forestry Service once again under the control of the Department of Agriculture before it finally became the responsibility of the Minister for Lands, but the framework within which State forest policy developed continued to be, and still is, provided by the Act of 1919. Shortly after the change of Government, it was realised that the more rapid denudation of Irish woodlands during the 1914-1918 period had reduced the native timber stocks of the country to a very low level. A situation had arisen which could not be met solely by accelerating the programme of State forestry. Something would have to be done also to put a brake on the clearance of trees from private woodlands or at least to ensure that the trees felled in the remaining woods would be replaced by fresh plantations. It was this consideration which led to the passage of the Forestry Act, 1928, which was primarily intended to restrict the felling of trees on lands in private ownership.

Since 1928, the forestry service has expanded its activities in extent and were it not for the recent war the service would by now probably have come close to attaining the rate of annual growth which is believed by the experts to be the desirable aim for this country's needs. The war has limited activities in some respects but, with the restoration of normal conditions for which we may now hope, it is probable that, with the next few years, the service will realise its aim.

It is not the object of this Bill to provide for any radical changes in policy and plans in relation to the furtherance of forest needs, but rather to improve in divers minor respects the statutory machinery under which the business of forestry is carried on. The needs of Irish forestry are keenly appreciated in all quarters; indeed, the forestry service is frequently the butt of criticism by enthusiasts whose zeal for a more rapid restoration of Irish woodlands refuses to be trammelled by practical considerations. Ireland is, as Deputies will probably stress in the course of this debate, comparatively the worst situated of all European countries in its home-grown timber supplies and Deputies will probably be disappointed that the measure now before the House does not contain more virile provisions aimed at remedying that state of affairs. I wish, therefore, to make it quite clear that it is my view, and the view of the experts who are responsible for the technical control of forestry work, that the present scheme of expansion is adequate, and is best suited to meet the country's needs. The present Bill is not intended to confer new powers in any major respect nor to sponsor new forestry schemes. Its purposes are to elaborate the existing powers of the Minister in certain matters of detail and to amend, improve, and modernise the previous legislation, particularly in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land for forestry purposes and the control of tree-felling on privately-owned lands. The amendments are not radical and it is proposed to repeal the existing Actsin toto, only because that is the clean and the simple way of providing for the changes necessary. Deputies will, I think, welcome this proposal, which will embody all legislation bearing directly on the service of forestry in one statute.

There are no new principles enunciated in the Bill and I think its provisions may properly be described as non-controversial. There is, therefore, little scope for the kind of debate usual on Second Reading and I propose to confine myself to a brief explanation of the Bill's provisions and of their relationship to the existing law, in order to facilitate Deputies in the detailed consideration of the Bill on the Committee Stage. Deputies received with the Bill an explanatory memorandum which will have helped towards a clear understanding of the general scheme of the Bill and it will suffice if I add a little further detail to the picture given in that memorandum.

The Bill is divided into five Parts. Sections 1 to 8, which constitute Part I, comprise only technical and routine provisions relating to the commencement of the Bill, definitions, etc. The only provision in this Part on which comment may be desirable is Section 4. This section relates to the prosecution of offences and sub-section (3) of the section provides that the normal statutory limit of six months for the prosecution of offences of the type which may arise under this Bill will be increased for the purposes of the Bill to 12 months. Offences in relation to unauthorised tree-felling, etc., frequently do not come to the Department's notice for some time and it has been found that the normal six months' limit is too short to permit of the institution of proceedings in some instances.

Part II deals with the general powers of the Minister in relation to the promotion and development of forestry. Section 9 is important, in so far as it sets out the things which the Minister may do within the ambit of his responsibility for the promotion of forestry and allied matters. A detailed statement, in non-legal terms, of the provisions of this section is given in the memorandum to which I have already referred. The section does not depart in any major respect from the corresponding provision in the Forestry Act, 1919.

Part III deals with the compulsory acquisition of land and like matters. It is divided into three chapters. The first chapter contains definitions and incidental provisions requiring no comment or explanation. The second chapter deals with rights over or appurtenant to forestry land. Section 19 establishes machinery for the extinguishment of rights in or over State forest lands. Its object is to provide an avenue for the extinguishment of any rights to which land was subject at the time of acquisition and which prove a hindrance to the utilisation of land for forestry purposes. The provisions of the section will also obviate in some instances recourse to the more complicated provisions included in the Bill in relation to the compulsory acquisition of land. The powers given by the section will, for example, be used where the acquisition of a particular piece of land is desirable and the Minister is in a position to reach agreement with all interested parties apart from one person who is entitled to a right-of-way over the land which would interfere seriously with its value for forestry. In such a case the Minister may acquire the land by agreement and proceed under this section to have the right extinguished instead of initiating compulsory acquisition proceedings. That is the sensible course. The Minister is not given an absolute power to extinguish any rights which he may desire to terminate; he is only empowered to apply to the Land Commission to have a right extinguished and the Land Commission will have full discretion to extinguish the right or refuse his application as they think fit. Extinguishment of a right under the section will impose on the Minister the obligation of paying compensation.

Section 20 continues a power, already possessed by the Minister under a provision of the Forestry Act, 1919, to make a haulage facilities Order requiring an owner of land to afford facilities for the haulage of timber from a neighbouring wood to a road, railway, or waterway. The details of the provision have been modernised and elaborated but its principle remains unaltered. This power might in certain circumstances be very necessary. It is of interest, however, that in the quarter of a century since the Forestry Act, 1919, was placed on the Statute Book, no instance has arisen in which the making of a haulage facilities Order was necessary.

Section 21 is merely a further elaboration of the principle on which Section 20 is based. It provides machinery under which, on application of the Minister, the Land Commission will have a discretionary power to create, subject to the payment of compensation, a right-of-way appurtenant to State forest land over adjoining land. The distinction between this section and Section 20 is that Section 20 applies to woods and forests in private ownership as well as to State forests and provides only for the grant of haulage facilities for a limited period (not to exceed one year under any particular Order) while Section 21 has reference only to State forests, but provides for instances in which a permanent right-of-way is necessary. Deputies will, I am sure, appreciate the need for this further provision. Instances have arisen in which considerable difficulty was experienced in extracting from State forests mature timber which had been planted by former owners without any attention to problems of extraction.

The third chapter in Part III deals exclusively with the machinery to govern the compulsory acquisition of land for forestry purposes. In the explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill, attention was directed to one novel feature of the machinery contemplated, namely, that it will enable the Minister to ascertain how much he will have to pay in compensation before he commits himself irrevocably to the compulsory acquisition of any particular estate or holding. This is important, as the capital cost of acquiring land for forestry purposes is a big factor which has to be considered in watching the economics of forestry. Generally speaking, the maximum value of land for forestry purposes is about £4 an acre, which, as Deputies will realise, might well be considerably below the market value of any particular piece of land useful for purposes other than forestry. The market value will be the guiding factor in the assessment of compensation and the Minister must, therefore, have a loophole to withdraw from proceedings if he finds that the compensation payable would render the economic use of the land for forestry purposes impossible.

The memorandum circulated to Deputies gave a concise summary of the provisions which are proposed to govern the compulsory acquisition of land and the consequential assessment and payment of compensation. There are just three points on which further comment is desirable. First, as to the limitation of the Minister's power to acquire compulsorily, the present law is that the Minister, if he considers it necessary to acquire any particular land and is unable to acquire it by agreement, may apply to the Land Commission for an order authorising him to acquire the land compulsorily. The Land Commission may not refuse to make the order unless the land——

"forms part of any park, demesne, garden or pleasure ground, or forms part of the home farm attached to and usually occupied with a mansion house or is otherwise required for 5 the amenity or convenience of any dwelling house" or

"is required for the purpose of relieving congestion under the Land Purchase Acts" or

"is the property of any local authority" or

belongs to one of several similar other types of land the devotion of which to forestry purposes would be contrary to national interest, such as land required for a public undertaking.

In Section 23 of the Bill, which deals with this matter of authorisation to acquire, the system of authorisation by the Land Commission is retained but the Land Commission is given discretionary power to decide each aplication on its merits. The absolute exclusion of land required for the purpose of relieving congestion is consequently no longer necessary and is being dropped, and the absolute exclusion of park-land and similar land is restricted to an exclusion of land which in the opinion of the Land Commission "is required for the amenity or convenience of a dwelling house". The other exclusions, land the property of a local authority, etc., will remain. The net effect of these changes is to allow the Land Commission greater elasticity of decision in regard to the making or refusal of an order. That is a definite improvement.

The next point which Deputies should note is that the terms of Section 23 will specifically permit of the institution of compulsory proceedings in cases where land is subject to interests of so complicated or extensive a nature that purchase by agreement is not practicable. There is quite a lot of mountain land in this country which might be suitable for forestry purposes and is at the moment devoted to rough grazing. Much of this land is held in commonage by local smallholders and its acquisition by the ordinary method of negotiation and agreement would in practice be a hopeless proposition. Under the Forestry Act, 1919, the first condition for the institution of compulsory proceedings is that the Minister must be "unable to acquire by agreement". There is doubt as to how far the Minister would be justified under the present law in maintaining that he is unable to acquire land of the type I have mentioned unless he first wasted much time and public money in the pursuit of efforts to acquire by negotiation foredoomed to failure. The new provision proposed removes this doubt.

The other matter to which I wish to refer specifically is the fact that, under Section 31, compensation will be assessed by the Land Commission. This is a departure from the present law which provides for the assessment of compensation under the machinery of the Lands Clauses Acts. The change in procedure is necessary, mainly because the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts could not be applied in such manner as to permit of the assessment of compensation in advance of the act of compulsory acquisition. I think Deputies will agree, however, that, apart altogether from reasons of expediency, the change is an improvement. The Land Commission is the most competent and most independent body in this country to assess the value of land of the type with which we are concerned in this Bill. The standards of value obtaining under the machinery of the Lands Clauses Acts, that is, the directions as to valuations contained in Section 2 of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, are being retained.

In regard to this whole question of compulsory acquisition, it must be borne in mind that, while compulsory powers are desirable and necessary, the Department is loath, for a variety of reasons, to institute compulsory proceedings except in rare cases. It may come as a surprise to Deputies to learn that the compulsory powers provided under the Act of 1919 have only been used in this country in two instances, the aggregate area so acquired being 529 acres. It is probable that compulsory powers will, in the future, be used more widely, but it should be understood that compulsory acquisition of land on a large scale is not contemplated and is not practicable. The word "compulsory", applied to the acquisition of land for forestry purposes, has an entirely different meaning from that generally associated with it in other respects. Compulsory acquisition of land for forestry is resorted to only where there is general agreement that the land should be devoted to forestry, but the Minister and the parties who own, or have interests in, the land, fail to reach agreement about price, the allocation of the purchase money or some other such matter.

Compulsory proceedings will never be instituted where it is reasonably contended that the land is more suitable for, and should in the interests of the community be devoted to, sheep-grazing or some other purpose. It has always been held, and must always be held, that afforestation cannot be conducted in this country on the basis of compelling the owners of land to hand it over to the forestry service against their wishes. If the owners of land, or persons entitled to grazing rights on land, strenously object to parting with their land or rights, there is an end to the matter. The Department would not proceed to take any land compulsorily in the face of determined local opposition. To do so would be to court lasting trouble and loss against which there could be no possible safeguards.

Part IV of the Bill deals with restrictions on the felling of trees and allied matters. The provisions of the Forestry Act, 1928, have been found from practical experience to be easily workable and there is, I think, general agreement that the form of control devised by that Act is sufficient and satisfactory. It is not proposed to depart from that system or to alter its form in any radical manner. The provisions incorporated in the Bill repeat those already in force, with amendments in detail found desirable or necessary in the light of administrative experience, with explicit reference to certain points in regard to which the 1928 Act was vague and with additional clauses necessary to meet situations for which that Act did not legislate. A general summary of the provisions proposed is already in the hands of Deputies but, in view of the complicated terms of this part of the Bill, it may be helpful to supplement that summary with a brief additional comment on the particular significance and application of each section.

Section 35 comprises definitions for the purposes of Part IV including a definition of exempted trees to which I will have occasion to refer later.

Section 36 enables the Minister by Order to exclude any particular species of trees from the provisions of Part IV or any of those provisions. This is a repetition of a similar clause in the Act of 1928.

Section 37 requires that a felling notice be given in relation to trees over ten years old which it is proposed to uproot, or trees of any age which it is proposed to cut down, except in the case of certain trees set out in sub-section (4) of the section. The limitation of the requirement, so far as the uprooting of trees is concerned, to trees over ten years old is designed to prevent the hindrance of nursery work. The requirement that a felling notice be given is similar in its terms to that embodied in the 1928 Act, except that a notice remains effective only for a period of two years whereas no limit existed under the previous Act, and the notice must be given by the owner of the land on which the tree stands instead of the owner of the tree. The reasons for inserting a time limit on the effectiveness of a felling notice are obvious. Otherwise the Department must keep perpetual records of all notices lodged and might perhaps be powerless to restrain the undesirable felling of a tree in respect of which a notice had been given, perhaps in totally different circumstances, many years earlier.

The provision that the notice must be given by the owner of the land is complementary to a provision in Section 40 providing that licences granted in consequence of the giving of felling notices will also be granted to the owner of the land. The reason for the change can best be explained in relation to Section 40. Special provision is made in sub-section (2) of this section to enable the owner of the tree to give a felling notice where he has sold land but reserved to himself the ownership of trees thereon before 1st February, 1946.

The exceptions which I have mentioned and which are set out in sub-section (4) include those categories of trees excepted from the analogous provision of the 1928 Act. Further exceptions are, however, provided in the case of trees standing in a county borough, etc., or standing within 100 feet of a building, in respect of which a felling notice must be given under the present law but the felling of which may not be prohibited. The following categories of trees for which no special provision was made in the 1928 Act:—First: trees uprooted or cut down by local authorities in connection with road construction, building work, etc.; Second: trees certified by local authorities to be dangerous to road traffic on account of age or condition; and Third: trees uprooted or cut down by direction of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on the grounds of danger or obstruction to telegraph or telephone wires.

These three additional classes of excluded trees need no comment. As to the trees situated in built-up areas or within 100 feet of a building, no reason is seen for continuance of the present requirement that a felling notice be given. The question as to whether a tree is or is not so situated is a pure matter of fact which does not need the decision of a forestry expert.

Sections 38 and 39 are complementary. Under Section 38 it is provided that a tree uprooted for the purpose of transplantation may not be used for any other purpose, and under Section 39 it is provided that where a felling notice is given in relation to a tree not intended for transplantation, the Minister may within 21 days make a prohibition Order, prohibiting the felling of the tree. In addition to trees which it is intended to transplant, there are certain other categories of trees the felling of which the Minister may not prohibit under the present law. Two of these categories I have already mentioned. They will in future be excluded from the requirement that a felling notice be given.

The remaining categories are all subject to considerations in respect of which the Minister should have an opportunity to satisfy himself by inspection or inquiry, as, for example, trees which are claimed to be decayed and useless for commercial purposes. It is, therefore, proposed to permit of the prohibition of felling in these cases and to provide that a limited felling licence must subsequently be granted if the Minister has satisfied himself that the facts are as claimed by the person who gave the felling notice. The classes of tree concerned are defined as "exempted trees" in Section 35.

Section 40 empowers the Minister to authorise by the grant of a limited felling licence the felling, during a period of 12 months, of any tree in respect of which he has made a prohibition Order. The power is discretionary, except in the case of exempted trees an application for a limited felling licence in respect of which he may not refuse. The limitation of the authority conferred by a licence to a period of 12 months is a departure from the present provision proposed in the light of considerations already mentioned in relation to the same point as regards felling notices. The licence will be granted to the owner of the land on which the tree stands instead of the owner of the tree as heretofore.

This point is important. It is intended to restrain landowners from escaping replanting obligations by selling trees before obtaining a licence, thus placing the Department in the position that the licence had to be granted to the purchaser, say, a saw-miller, who could not be required to replant. Special provision is made in sub-section (3) for the grant of licences to the owners of the trees in any cases in which the land was sold before the 1st February, 1946, with a reservation of the ownership of the trees to the vendor.

Section 41 empowers the Minister to attach to a limited felling licence, not relating exclusively to exempted trees, either replanting conditions or a preservation condition or conditions or both. The terms of such conditions and the obligations which they will impose have already been summarised for Deputies in the explanatory memorandum. The replanting conditions do not differ in any essential from those already in existence under the 1928 Act, but they will be expressed in more definite form so as to ensure that no loophole will be left for a nominal compliance therewith without any real effort to create and develop a fresh plantation in lieu of the trees felled. Preservation conditions will only be attached in occasional instances in substitution or part substitution for replanting conditions where the interests of forestry are likely to be best served by requiring the licensee to preserve properly an existing plantation.

Section 42 empowers the Minister to attach a contributing condition to any limited felling licence to which he has not attached either replanting conditions or a preservation condition or conditions and which does not relate exclusively to exempted trees. A full summary of the provisions of the section has already been made available in the explanatory memorandum. It has been inserted in the Bill to meet rare instances where there are practical difficulties in the way of the attachment of replanting conditions or preservation conditions to licences.

Section 43 provides for the suspension or termination of a limited felling licence where the Minister is satisfied that its terms are being abused. It is reasonable and proper that the Minister should have such power but the point was not covered by the 1928 Act.

Section 44 deals with the special circumstances in which the felling of a tree should be prohibited for the purpose of preserving amenities. Here again I think I may reasonably refer Deputies to the explanatory memorandum for details of the provision and an indication of its significance. The machinery proposed is not likely to come into operation frequently but it is necessary that the machinery exist in case of need.

Sections 45, 46, 47 are complementary. Section 45 provides that any tree, claimed in a felling notice to be an exempted tree, may not, when felled, be used for any purpose contrary to that claim unless the Minister has authorised its use for a specified other purpose by the grant, under Section 46, of a Utilisation (Exempted Trees) Order. Section 47 provides that a tree, the use of which for a specified purpose has been authorised by a Utilisation (Exempted Trees) Order, may not be used for any other purpose. These provisions are not important but are necessary to ensure that no ill-disposed person will escape replanting or preservation conditions by claiming in a felling notice that he proposes to use trees for a purpose which would exempt them from the Minister's power to attach either replanting or preservation conditions to a limited felling licence, although in fact he intended to use them for commercial purposes. Provision is made in Section 46 for the attachment of replanting or preservation conditions to Utilisation (Exempted Trees) Orders in like manner and in like circumstances as will obtain in the case of limited felling licences.

Section 48 is more important but calls for little comment. It is concerned solely with ensuring that where replanting conditions have been attached to licences under the Act of 1928, the licensees will fulfil the obligations of replanting in the spirit as well as in the letter. It does this by replacing the existing conditions attached to 1928 Act licences by new conditions of like extent but expressed in the more detailed terms which will be used in future replanting conditions. The new conditions will not be more onerous than the existing conditions were intended to be and they will not impose any fresh obligations upon the licensees, apart from obligations in regard to the proper planting of trees and their preservation and protection, implied in the existing conditions but not expressly stated therein.

Section 49 provides for the grant of general felling licences, authorising an owner of land to fell trees in a specified wood on a land in the course of thinning operations or to fell trees on a specified part of the land in the course of clearing that part with a view to replanting or authorising both the thinning of a wood and the clearance of trees from other land. The authority conferred by the licence will be limited to a definite period and the licence may be revoked at any time. When a licence authorises the clearance of land with a view to replanting, there will be attached to it afforestation conditions imposing a statutory obligation on the licensee to replant. This section is intended to provide for the more facile and expeditions management of lands in private ownership which are devoted to forestry and conducted in accordance with the principles of forestry. The powers of authorisation proposed are based on analogous provisions in the 1928 Act but are expressed in greater detail. The statutory obligation to replant land, where its clearance with a view to replanting is authorised by a general felling licence, is new but needs no defence.

Section 50 is unimportant. It is concerned with the statement in licences of conditions attached thereto.

Section 51 is the only section which might be held to constitute a real extension of the restrictive provisions of the 1928 Act. It proposes to prevent the removal of timber from trees otherwise than in accordance with the practice of good forestry or for the purpose of preventing grave damage to crops, or the damaging of trees in a manner likely to result in their death or decay. That seems to be a drastic provision and Deputies will want to know the why and the wherefore of it. What it means is this: You may not escape the restrictions imposed on the actual felling of trees or obligations to replant by damaging trees in such fashion as to make them exempt or by cutting away all the branches and most of the trunks leaving in each case a butt of six feet so that technically the tree has not been "cut down".

That is a reasonable and necessary provision and it will be applied in a reasonable manner by the Department. If you want to cut a stray branch off a tree to make a handle for a shovel or because it is obstructing a pathway, you will not be removing timber otherwise than in accordance with the practice of good forestry—good forestry does not debar common sense. But if you cut away all the timber in a plantation except for butts of six feet in length you will be acting contrary to the practice of good forestry and you will be open to prosecution.

Section 52 is a further elaboration of the restrictions already in existence. It proposes that where a person is convicted of an offence which precluded the Minister from imposing on him replanting or preservation conditions with which he would have been obliged to comply had he acted lawfully, then the Minister will have power to make an Order—a replanting Order —imposing a replanting obligation on that person. It may appear drastic to prosecute for an offence and then, notwithstanding the imposition by the court of a penalty by way of fine, to impose a further penalty by obliging the offender to comply with replanting conditions, but I think that, if Deputies consider the matter carefully, they will agree that it is reasonable and just. It may even in some cases be imperative that the Minister should have power to require a person who deliberately tries to escape his responsibilities to the community to honour them. I can visualise instances in which an owner of woodland who wants to use the land for some other purpose, gainful to himself but of no benefit to the community, will flagrantly break the law by felling the trees without authority and cheerfully pay a fine when convicted of an offence. What is proposed in this section is that the Minister shall have power to say to that person: "You cannot ignore your responsibilities just because you have broken the law." If further justification for the provision be necessary, it is afforded by the fact that a person who complies with the law by giving a felling notice and, in the event of a prohibition Order being served on him, does not cut down his trees until he receives a licence, if he fails to comply with replanting conditions attached to the licence, is liable to a fine on conviction but is still bound to replant and cannot escape that obligation no matter how often or how heavily he is fined for non-compliance with it. It would be inequitable that the more serious offender who drives a coach-and-four through the whole restrictive system of the Act would be liable for a single fine and be free of any obligation to replant. The replanting Order proposed will equalise matters by putting that person under the same obligations as his more law-abiding neighbours.

Sections 53 and 54 need no comment or explanation. They deal only with the limitation of certain penalties in relation to offences affecting large numbers of trees, where the offences were committed in error, and the registration in the Land Registry of burdens on land arising from the attachment of replanting or other conditions to licences, etc.

Sections 55 and 56 also require little reference. Under the 1928 Act a panel of referees was established to which objections arising from refusal by the Minister to grant a felling licence might be referred. The Minister was empowered to take, in his absolute discretion, whatever action appeared desirable to him on the receipt of the referee's report. Section 55 continues the panel of referees and Section 56 provides for the reference to a referee not only of objections to the Minister's refusal to grant a limited felling licence, but also of practically every conceivable form of objection which an affected party might have in regard to the Minister's actions in the matter of limited felling licences, Utilisation (Exempted Trees) Orders or replanting Orders. The provisions as to the manner of reference, etc., are on similar lines to those contained in the 1928 Act. Section 57 needs no comment. Its purpose is solely to bridge the gap between proceedings initiated under the 1928 Act and their continuance under the new Act.

Before passing from this Part of the Bill, I would like to give Deputies some figures which will indicate the way in which the corresponding provisions of the 1928 Act have been administered. Since that Act came into operation 79,500 felling-notices have been received in the forestry division. Prohibition Orders were made only in relation to 15,349 of these notices, and in 11,353 of these cases felling licences were subsequently granted. Replanting conditions were attached to 9,046 of the licences, about threequarters of the total number. There are at present no general permits (corresponding to general felling licences in the new Bill) in operation, all permits having been withdrawn at the beginning of the war, but at the 1st September, 1939, there were 202 permits in existence; that is, there were 202 estates the owners of which were given freedom, more or less on parole, to conduct forestry operations without being hampered by the necessity of giving felling notices. These figures give a complete answer to those who maintained in 1928 that Departmental administration of the measure then enacted would paralyse private forestry. They are a good omen for the manner in which the provisions of the Bill now before the House will be administered if those provisions become law.

There remains only Part V of the Bill which deals with miscellaneous matters, the substance and significance of which have, I think, been set down in sufficient detail in the explanatory memorandum circulated to Deputies to render further detailed comment superfluous.

Sections 58, 59 and 61 are concerned with the prevention of damage to woods due to the depredations of rabbits and other vermin, and of hares, or due to the existence on adjoining uncultivated land of vegetation liable to take fire. The provision in relation to rabbits and other vermin exists already in the Forestry Act, 1919. That in relation to hares restores the position which the 1919 Act brought into being but which was negatived by the enactment of a conflicting provision in the Game Preservation Act, 1930. The provisions as to the prevention of damage due to fire originating on uncultivated land is new but needs no justification. Section 60 continues provisions in the 1928 Act requiring that notice be given before burning vegetation growing on any land within a mile of a wood. Section 62 repeats a provision in the 1928 Act empowering the Minister to obtain statistics from saw millers, exporters of timber, etc.

I am sorry the Minister's statement has been so lacking in imagination on a subject so useful and inspiring as forestry. The Minister was quite right to appreciate that, in the matter of the establishment of State forest areas and the continuance and development of that work, there is no division of opinion in the House. The Minister's statement and the statement in the White Paper simply show the steps which he intends to take to make the work of the State in developing State forests more easy and to overcome some of the difficulties which have been met with and, at the same time, in conserving what remains of privately-owned timber in the country, to tighten still more the grip on the private property represented by trees. Following six years of depending to a large extent on our own timber, I think the Minister was in an ideal position to give us some idea as to what we really want, for urgent practical purposes, trees in the country for. He had an opportunity of expanding on what it would mean for a rural community if they had more wood to use freely for their own purposes and the uses to which it could be put both for domestic and general rural purposes. While it is interesting to hear the steps which are being taken to strengthen the Government's hands and to tighten up the Government's machinery, what we really want at present is an inspiring picture which would urge our people to take a greater interest in trees and to do greater things in thier own way to provide more wood in the country. The Minister has given us no information even as to what has been done by this State in comparatively recent years, nor has he presented any picture of who provided the trees, or in what way the trees were provided, on which we were actually depending during the recent emergency.

We all subscribe to the fact that it is necessary to develop State forest areas. If we had not people in the past with large estates and an interest in trees who were ready to spend a considerable amount of money in afforestation from which they could not hope to get any immediate return, but which would bring a return to their families or heirs and to the country generally, we would have no woods to-day. With the passing of the large and wealthy landowner, we are not likely in future to have any people carrying out afforestation schemes in a very large way. Therefore, the necessity for State work in connection with afforestation is very obvious. Towards the end of his statement the Minister spoke of the whole restrictive system of the Act. Outside the provisions to make it easier for the State to overcome its difficulties in carrying out afforestation, this Bill is wholly restrictive in its machinery and in its effects.

Looking back over the last six years, we may perhaps consider that the people who framed the 1928 Act had a certain amount of justification. The Minister said it was realised then that something would have to be done to put an end to the clearance of trees from private woodlands and to see that at least trees that were removed would be replaced by fresh plantings. It was all right to say that up to 1946, but instead of inviting the ordinary people now to take an interest in afforestation, the Minister is damning the issue by not only continuing the 1928 Act from 1946 onwards, but by making it more restrictive. Who is going to put money into any serious attempt at planting if after he has spent his money a policeman stands over him and says: "You cannot cut a single tree until you get permission from me or from authorities with whom I have to communicate"? Surely there are sufficient measures restricting people from constructive activity without at this hour of the day imposing fresh restrictions in respect of work we want done in the future?

I take it that the Minister wants the assistance of the people generally in this effort of the State to provide timber for the country. Would it not be much more important, then, that in 1946, there would be training in forestry matters, as the Minister says, that would educate the rural population and get them to take an interest in planting trees that they would know they could regard as their own property? I think that whatever restrictions may appertain at the moment, in view of the stringency with regard to timber, when you take into consideration the fact that trees that are planted now are not going to yield any big commercial return for 40 years, and may not bring very much of a return to a farmer for his own purposes on his own farm inside 20 years, this Bill should contain a provision that those who plant under certain conditions now should be allowed to regard these trees as their private property and that they will be free from any restrictions in future, because, bad as are the restrictions which exist to-day over a man's private timber, the restrictions that may exist 40 years hence, if we travel the kind of road we have been travelling, will be infinitely worse, and a man will not be allowed to get any profits out of his trees at all at that time.

I ask the Minister to consider whether he wants to restrict completely and absolutely tree planting to planting by the State in State forests. If he does not, would he say what he wants the ordinary people to do as well? If he wants the ordinary people to plant timber for the public good generally or for their own use, I think he should aim at educating the rural population into recognising the great asset it would mean to them to have timber on their own lands that they could use freely and with a certain amount of liberality. If he agrees with that, then I suggest to him that he cannot let the Bill stand as it is, that he must do something through educational machinery of one kind or another to bring home to the people of rural areas that they can use timber grown on their own land liberally for their own purposes. If he wants to achieve that he must say that timber that is planted now will be made available for use by the people who are prepared to plant that timber now. If the Minister insists on tying up every private person who wants to plant trees under the 1928 Act and under this Bill he makes it almost impossible for private persons to carry on forestry operations and we are going to be left in the miserable position that tree planting and forestry generally is to be left entirely a matter for the State. I think that is the question that stands out for consideration in this Bill. The Minister need have no doubt that we all want to assist the development of afforestation in the quickest possible way. The fact that private people are not given an incentive is a great flaw in the Bill and I think that is a problem to which the Minister will have to address himself specially.

I feel myself in agreement with Deputy Mulcahy, at least in regard to the matter of restriction on private owners of timber. I should like to see the Government embarking upon a scheme of planting the waste lands, which are absolutely useless for ordinary agricultural purposes, on a fairly large scale. There are patches of wood here and there throughout the country upon which it is absolutely necessary to keep a check, but take the small farmer or medium landowner who has scattered trees here and there on his land. Of course, it can be argued that he can get a permit to cut trees, but as far as the development of forestry on a large scale is concerned, I think we shall never get the small landowner to engage on it and it would not be fair to ask him. At the present time there is a tendency on every small or medium-sized holding to utilise every possible perch of arable land because conditions are such that we cannot afford to allow any land to go waste.

The cost of living, rates, etc., are rising every day and it is becoming harder for the ordinary smallholder or medium-sized farmer to live. We could never ask people in that position to plant on a large scale. Certain people were given woodland by the Land Commission or the Congested Districts Board 15 or 20 years ago. Trees were then growing on perfectly good land but that land has since been cleared and it is now first-class arable land. I would ask the Minister to consider an amendment to relieve these people of the necessity to replant in cases where they have cleared trees for the purpose of increasing the size of their holdings. I am alluding now to the 20 or 30-acre man who gets bits of woodland in and has to clear it out and is required now to replant. Where there are 25 acres of arable land and no suitable land for replanting, the Minister should free those people from the necessity to use up the arable land in planting a crop which will not yield a profit for 30 or 40 years or more.

If the Government would start forestry on a large scale, by taking over the waste lands, they would get assistance from every Deputy. There was a survey some time ago and a report to the effect that most of the country, and particularly the West of Ireland, was not suitable for commercial timber on a big scale. I have seen excellent timber planted in Connemara 50 years ago which produced the finest of trunks and came in useful during the emergency. That timber was planted in clefts in the mountainside, where the soil had to be lowered down by ropes before the trees could be planted. Apart from putting down something that would be a national asset in years to come, when the timber comes to maturity, we would be giving employment on a large scale, which is needed just now when the employment problem is becoming acute. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned to Thursday, February 28th.