Committee on Finance. - Vote 47—Lands.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £895,900 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1952, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Minister for Lands and of the Irish Land Commission (44 & 45 Vict., c. 49, sec. 46, and c.71, sec. 4; 48 & 49 Vict., c.73, secs. 17, 18 and 20; 54 & 55 Vict., c.48; 3 Edw. 7, c.37; 7 Edw. 7, c.38 and c.56; 9 Edw. 7, c.42; Nos. 27 & 42 of 1923; No. 25 of 1925; No. 11 of 1926; No. 19 of 1927; No. 31 of 1929; No. 11 of 1931; Nos. 33 and 38 of 1933; No. 11 of 1934; No. 41 of 1936; No. 26 of 1939; No. 12 of 1946; No. 25 of 1949; and No. 16 of 1950).

The net Estimate for Lands for the present year (1951-52) represents an increase of £64,370 over the amount voted last year. The increase is mainly accounted for under four sub-heads:—

Sub-head I (Improvement of Estates, etc.) at £390,000 represents an additional £35,200 over last year's grant. Expenditure last year was £339,000. The increased provision for improvements is due largely to the necessity for the erection of buildings for the accommodation of a larger number of migrants from the congested areas and also to the recent increase in the rate of wages for Land Commission labourers. These labourers are now paid at the same rate as county council road workers.

Sub-head A (Salaries, Wages and Allowances) accounts for an extra £20,074. This increase does not represent extra staff but is due to the usual increments in salary, etc. Sub-head N (Advances to Provide Funds for the Maintenance of Embankments or other works) shows an increase of £5,585. Sub-head H (3) makes additional provision amounting to £4,000 to meet deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund arising from the revision of annuities under the Land Act, 1933.

Almost half the entire Estimate for Lands is allocated to sub-heads H (1), H (2), and H (3) for making good the deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund. These deficiencies arise from the halving of annuities and other State aids to land purchase, for example, costs fund and statutory bonus to vendors of estates over and above the prices repayable by the tenant purchasers.

The last four sub-heads, that is, Q, R, S and T are the direct outcome of the Land Act, 1950, and of these R and S are the most significant in that they provide the funds for the purchase of land for cash and the award of gratuities to ex-employees.

Any review of the Land Commission's activities falls naturally into two main heads, namely, (1) the completion of land purchase by the transfer of ownership to tenants and allottees by vesting and (2) the acquisition and allotment of untenanted land.

Under the first heading more than 70,000 cases still remain to be vested. This is a sector of the Department's activities in which work should be pressed forward as speedily as possible.

The other main branch of the work is the acquisition and allotment of land. Progress under this head was dislocated to some extent while awaiting the enactment of the Land Act, 1950. The provision for the payment of market value for land meant that, pending acquisition, proceedings could not be concluded until the Bill was passed into law. In addition, on the passing of the Act many cases had to be revalued with resultant duplication of work. Thus the acquisition machinery was thrown out of gear for a time. The result of the year's working was that some 20,000 acres were ultimately taken over. Of lands receiving attention for possible acquisition 41,000 acres on 350 estates were inspected and valued during the year while proceedings were instituted for 24,500 acres on 288 estates.

As regards land division, 28,700 acres were allotted to 1,300 allottees during the past year and of this area 23,000 acres are in the scheduled congested districts. In this work relief was afforded to about 1,000 congests through enlargement or rearrangement of holdings and 27 tenants were migrated from congested areas.

Perhaps, as this is a new Dáil, I should refer briefly to the various legal and other requirements which have to be complied with before lands can be taken over and made ready for division. The legal process of acquiring land is still a lengthy one, notwithstanding the many provisions embodied in the more recent Land Acts which aimed at speeding up procedure. When particular cases are brought to notice, initial inquiries are necessary for the proper identification of the lands and arrangements are then made for preliminary report. The next step is a detailed inspection and valuation. This involves visits to the lands by the inspectors and a survey of local conditions in order to ascertain the extent of congestion in the neighbourhood and generally the desirability of instituting acquisition proceedings.

When, following consideration of the inspectors' reports, the commissioners decide to institute proceedings, statutory notice have to be published in Iris Oifigiúil after which the owner has one month in which to lodge objection to the proposed acquisition. If, as usually happens, an objection is lodged, arrangements are made to have the objection listed for hearing before the Land Commission Court. If the lay commissioners, having heard the objection, disallow it, the owner has an appeal on a question of law only to the Appeal Tribunal.

If there is no appeal, or if the appeal is turned down by the Appeal Tribunal, the next step is to fix the price. An offer of price is first made and failing agreement, recourse is had to the price-fixing machinery provided by the Acts. A statutory notice of the fixation of price is published and again at this stage the owner has a right of appeal to the Appeal Tribunal. The price fixed, preparation of a scheme of division is put in hands and when the scheme is received and approved by the commissioners, possession is taken and the scheme put into operation.

The work involved in the preparation of the actual division scheme is the most difficult and troublesome of all. Even on comparatively small schemes a great deal of time has to be given by the inspectors concerned in the investigation of individual applications, interviewing applicants and examining their circumstances for the purpose of the detailed reports which must be furnished to the commissioners. Where, as happens in the majority of cases, a scheme is intended to provide for migrants, lengthy negotiations are usually necessary before it can be settled in final detail.

Another feature which calls for very careful and expert consideration in all schemes is the provision to be made for works of general development and improvement of the estate including the laying down of roads, building of houses and out-offices and the making of drains and fences.

There is one other aspect of Land Commission activity on which Deputies may wish to have information, that is the purchase, under the 1950 Act, of land for cash at auctions or by private treaty. I have not yet had an opportunity of examining the position fully or of estimating the extent of the contribution to the solution of the congestion problem which future proceedings under this head may afford. Activity to date under these headings has been very limited. One auction was attended without success. In private treaty cases agreement on price has been reached in four instances and negotiations are in progress in five others. An additional 15 cases are with inspectors for report at the moment.

The position as to payment of annuities continues to be satisfactory. Total arrears at 31st March, 1951, amounted to £204,490, which represents less than .5 per cent. (point 5) of the total sum collectable, viz., £43,073,940 since 1933.

Before the Minister concludes his opening speech could he give the House a very brief idea of what the policy of the present Government is as regards the relief of congestion and the working of the Land Commission generally?

There is a motion to refer the Estimate back in the name of Deputy Flanagan, and perhaps we should have that moved first.

Perhaps the Minister would like to answer the question raised by Deputy Blowick before I move my motion.

At this stage I do not think that I need make a general statement. There has not been any very great change in the policy which was in operation under the former Fianna Fáil Administration, except that under the 1950 Act, as I pointed out, there have been certain amendments made. These amendments are law and I have not had an opportunity, as I have just stated, of seeing how exactly they are going to work. We really have not had any experience of them. With regard to the policy in general, of course the main aim, as in the past, will be the relief of congestion. I can assure the House that while I am Minister I shall concentrate attention on that particular aspect of Land Commission policy. In view of the limited time which has been given for these Estimates, I do not think that I need go into details. If Deputies want to get more definite answers about specific aspects of the land policy, I will be glad to try and answer them if I am afforded the opportunity.

I move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration. I do so because when Deputy Blowick was Minister, in view of the grave dissatisfaction which existed with regard to the working of the Land Commission, I decided that it was one Department that needed some very serious talk from this House. The fact of the matter is that as the Land Commission is at present constituted very grave difficulties will be experienced by the Minister in the discharge of his ministerial duties. We have arrived at the stage now when the Land Commission, which was only a temporary institution, has become a permanent institution. The Land Commission was passed over to us by the British Government as only a temporary institution. It is quite evident that when it was established by the British Government it was given all the red tape regulations which prevent congestion from being relieved to-day. The reason that such red tape exists in the Land Commission above any other Department of State is because the landlord element in this country had their friends and cronies in the British House of Commons and it was the influence of the landlord type in this country at the time which was responsible for the establishment by the British Government of the very troublesome and tedious machinery for dealing with congestion. Although we have reached the stage that we have shaken off everything British, I am satisfied that so far as the Land Commission is concerned we are now working the troublesome machinery set up by the British and that every Minister for Lands will meet with serious difficulties. The former Minister for Lands, Deputy Blowick, realised the very serious difficulties in trying to work that machinery. The previous Minister, Deputy Moylan, experienced the same difficulties and I venture to say that the present Minister will have very great difficulties to face up to.

The Minister realises that there are 377,861 agricultural holdings in this country, of which 165,495 are in congested areas, 51,000 of them with valuations under £4. The Minister must realise and every Deputy must realise that no one can be expected to exist on a holding with a valuation of £4. Then, 53,000 holdings in the congested districts have valuations ranging from £4 to under £10. These people are eking out a miserable existence on these holdings. In other counties outside the congested areas there are 35,000 holdings with valuations over £4 and under £10 and 59,000 with valuations less than £4. After 30 years of native government it is a reflection on us that people are expected to live on these miserable holdings while we have ranchers with large ranches who are given every protection owing to the red tape which prevents land from being taken over by the Land Commission.

I should like if the Minister would give us an idea of what he considers an economic holding. He has told Deputy Blowick that he expects to carry on the Fianna Fáil policy which was carried on for 16 years. Does that mean that an economic holding is a holding of 15 or 20 acres? If the Minister stands over the policy of dividing land in allotments of 15, 16, 20 or 25 acres, he is only putting allottees into hardship and making them far worse than they are at present. In my constituency we have huge tracts of land, on the one hand, and we have very great congestion on the other hand. The Minister, with his years of experience in the Land Commission prior to his appointment on this occasion, must know that 20 or 25 acres of land are not sufficient to live on and the allottee has either to work on the roads or secure some other employment in order to obtain a living. I think it is wrong that a man who is given a portion of land by the Land Commission should have to spend any profit he makes out of that land in taking conacre land in order to have hay or root crops.

For that reason I think it is time the Land Commission gave serious consideration to the question of what is an economic holding. I believe that no allottee should be given less than 40 acres and a house because no man could live on the small holdings allocated during the 16 years that Fianna Fáil were in office or during the past three years under the inter-Party Government. I hope that the Minister will consult with the officers of the Land Commission in working out what is an economic holding and see that no less than 40 acres will be given. By giving less the Land Commission are only putting a man in a very awkward position, because he will be unable to make a living out of his holding. He has the name of being a farmer, but in reality he is only a gardener.

Forty acres of arable land.

Yes, mixed land. I would not give any less than 40 acres. That was the policy of Deputy Blowick when he was Minister for Lands, and I wonder whether that policy is going to be carried on. That was the inter-Party policy. It is the policy for which I stand and the policy for which Deputies on this side of the House stand. We would like very much to know whether the Minister is prepared to consider allotting not less than 40 acres as an economic holding.

There is one point which I want to impress on the Minister, and it is this: In areas where large estates are being divided, there is a rule that the relatives of evicted tenants should get consideration. That is quite right. Old I.R.A. men should be given special consideration as far as apportionment of land is concerned, as should small holders and local cottage tenants. I would especially like to draw the Minister's attention to the question of cottage tenants. Is there any regulation in the Minister's Department whereby a cottage tenant will not be given an apportionment of land? If there is such a regulation, I want to hear the Minister explain its terms and conditions. Land was being divided in my constituency, but the cottage tenants who were living on the estate did not get the consideration to which they were entitled. Deputy Davern knows this quite well.

In any future scheme, I would like, after considering the evicted tenants or their relatives, or the Old I.R.A., or local smallholders in the area, that consideration should be given to the tenants who are living either on the estate or convenient to the estate. I hope that the Minister will sympathetically consider that point. I can sympathise with him when he says that there is great delay in taking over these holdings for division. That is quite true, there is great delay but, as a result of legislation passed by the inter-Party Government, it has been cut down considerably. I hope that in future the period. that elapses between the time that the inspectors come in to carry out their preliminary inspection and the time the lands are taken over will be short. As a result of the inter-Party's term of office, compensation is to be given to the owners of a very large estate which the Land Commission would be taking over for the relief of congestion. Such relief means that they are given the full market value for their land. That, in itself, should be an encouragement to owners of large tracts of land who cannot, or who will not, dispose of them through public auction and who are anxious that the Land Commission should have them for division amongst the local people. I believe that that provision was a very helpful and a very fine provision.

I want to know from the Minister what machinery he has at his disposal in the Land Commission to ascertain what the full market value is. I am quite satisfied that a certain farmer in my own constituency who gave over his farm to the Land Commission for the relief of local congestion would have got far more for it had he put it up for public auction. If the farmers are told that the market value is a certain amount and if afterwards they do not get that specified value, a certain amount of uneasiness, unrest and distress is caused. We are all anxious to co-operate in schemes for the relief of congestion and to encourage the setting up of people in land. I hope and trust that the Minister will give us some idea of the machinery he has at his disposal for arriving at a full market value.

A very serious situation has arisen in this country as a result of the purchase of land by aliens. Time and time again I have made representations to the Minister's predecessor and to Deputy Moylan when he was in charge of the Department of Lands. I put it now to the present Minister that it is very wrong that the people of this country should be forced to exist on small holdings of £4 valuation while foreigners come over here and buy up land. I want to protest against the number of Englishmen who have bought land here in the course of the past few years and even during the past 12 months. If aliens consider that it is worth investing their money in Irish land, surely the Irish Government should consider it worth purchasing this land for the Irish people. I hope and trust then, in all sincerity, that the present Government will take some steps to stop the purchase of land by aliens. In the County of Westmeath and in my own constituency strange names appear in connection with the purchase of land, names such as Professor Grenville Gascoigne, who purchased a large tract of land in my constituency, in a congested area on the slopes of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Colonel Beerecroft, and so on. I am very glad to see that, as a result of the activities of Deputy Blowick, proceedings are well on the way for the division of this land.

I want to direct the Minister's attention to the seriousness of the purchase of land by aliens in this country. The Swiss Ambassador to Bulgaria is the owner of 1,600 acres in my electoral area only a few miles from the town of Mountmellick.

I would like to call the Deputy's attention to the fact that it is not customary to name outsiders in this House.

I bow to your ruling, Sir, but when it reaches the stage that we have people living on land with a valuation of less than £4 and when the Swiss Ambassador to Bulgaria, de Jennar, can come down to my constituency and avail himself of 1,600 acres of land there, it is time that someone spoke in the only place we can speak, in our own House of Parliament.

That does not alter the rule in this House.

I accept your ruling, Sir, and I appreciate such a regulation in the House. Since the estate is listed for the attention of the Minister, it is only right that an opportunity should be given to deal seriously with the question of aliens purchasing land in this country. I am sure there are people on the Fianna Fáil Benches who have the same difficulties in their areas and who are equally anxious to see that the land of this country should be for the people of this country. If foreigners can make a happy hunting ground out of it, why should we not see that it is made a happy hunting ground for our own people? James Fintan Lalor once said:—

"The soil of Ireland for the people of Ireland, to have and to hold from God who gave it."

It is only right that the Government in office should take the necessary steps. If they are sincere, if they are, as they preach to be, all Irish and solely Irish, they should see that, as far as the land of this country is concerned, no aliens should be permitted to purchase this land and that very serious difficulties are placed in the way of aliens purchasing land by the Minister for Finance. He should see not alone that the present tax imposed on them is maintained but that they are taxed so severely that it will be made impossible for them to purchase land in this country. Smallholders are put to the pin of their collar to eke out a miserable existence, whilst we have foreigners enjoying the best of the land.

In the whole county of Kildare, instead of growing wheat, oats and barley to comply with the wishes of either Mr. T. Walsh or even to comply with the wishes of the former Minister for Agriculture, we have greyhounds being chased around the land and racehorses being reared on it, while people in labourers' cottages, who cannot get the grass of a cow, have to graze them on the high roads. I am sure the Minister for Lands is not going to stand over that type of policy.

This same problem applies to the Midlands. I say that if the lands in the Midlands were taken up by the Land Commission and divided among the local smallholders it would be a means of providing a very fine and decent livelihood for the people. I would prefer to have oats, beet and barley grown on the land of this country than to see jumps for racehorses.

I hope and trust some steps will be taken by the Minister to see that the state of affairs that has prevailed in the past will be remedied. Since the time is very limited for this debate, I do not propose to trespass on the time of the House but to give other Deputies who are anxious to speak on this very important subject an opportunity of doing so. I want, however, to express my dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Land Commission have handled the whole situation. They are slow and I believe that they are so slow that the Minister for Lands now in charge will get no more speed from them than his predecessor.

I am afraid that if the question is to be tackled in the right spirit the Land Commission must be scrapped completely and a new institution founded with a more national, a more Irish outlook than that prevalent at the present time. No matter who is Minister for Lands he will meet with those difficulties because the whole system with regard to the relief of congestion and the division of land is a British system which is unworkable in this country and which must be changed. The only way to do that is for Deputies on all sides of the House to express the fiercest possible criticism of it and to expose the dissatisfaction which prevails.

I would congratulate the outgoing Minister for Lands, Deputy Blowick, on having reopened the division of land which was closed down by Fianna Fáil. They closed down completely on the division of land during the war years and even after the war was over before they left office they were not anxious to reopen it. The Minister has submitted a report in which he says that a number of holding have been divided and that new allottees have been successful in getting portion of those lands.

I want to call the Minister's attention to delays in the Land Commission. In 1949-50 there were 85,000 cases to be vested and I would like to know how many have been vested during the last 12 months. The vesting of lands is very important and I would like to hear that some steps have been taken in this connection.

With regard to my own constituency I will take this opportunity to criticise as I have always done in this House, as Deputies know. I have offered criticism to the Minister for Lands and I want to call the Minister's serious attention to the fact that in Laois-Offaly more lands are listed for division than in any other constituency; more chancers and funny people purchase lands there, not for the good of the country or for what they can produce but just as a gamble and these people are prepared to take conacre at £16 or £17 an acre; more food is produced there than in any other part of the country according to the statistics of agricultural holdings.

I would warn the Minister that when he is presenting his Estimate this time 12 months it would be very wise if some of the large holdings listed for acquisition and division in Laois-Offaly had been attended to with the least possible delay. Unrest exists in those areas and throughout the whole country; protest meetings have been called and there has been Garda activity. A great deal of unnecessary trouble is caused where land agitation exists. I hope that the Government will do something about it and they will have my co-operation in that respect. The Land Commission could help and the Minister could do valuable and helpful work by getting the Land Commission to attend to the relief of congestion. The Minister and his predecessor have said that no real congestion exists in the Midlands. It is not as bad as it is on the western seaboard, in Galway, Mayo, Clare, Kerry and parts of Donegal, but in the Midlands congestion exists to a very great extent and there are huge tracts of land there which should be divided. I was never afraid to advocate the division of those lands. In the Midlands we have resorted to all sorts of methods and we will be prepared to resort to them again to see that no foreigner, no rancher, will get the lands for which local people are equipped and financed to get. We want to see that they get them.

The Minister has a big job to do and will have the same trouble as his predecessor unless he introduces legislation to make it handier and easier for the Land Commission to acquire land as they think fit for the relief of congestion in any area.

I should like to make a case for landless men. I should like the Minister to consider the case of landless men who apply to him for allotments on estates divided by the Land Commission. I know that the Department's aim is the relief of congestion in the counties along the western seaboard. That is good, but a bad point is connected with it inasmuch as it rules out landless men in many parts of Ireland. I have in mind the Lagan valley in Donegal where there are comparatively large farms which have been let over a period of years. They are being and have been let to landless men. These men have been in the habit of taking land by conacre and these conacre farmers are as good as any farmers you will find in Ireland, either in the congested districts or on the big ranches of the central plain. They have a farming tradition and it is to their credit that they can, in the present year, go out to the auctions and pay up to £16 or £17 per acre for land for oats, potatoes and even for first season's hay. I think that that rule in the Department or in the Land Commission should be more elastic. It should not be a hard and fast rule. It is a great penalty on these people when an estate is taken over, an estate on which they have had the benefit of conacre for a number of years. They are penalised when that land is divided and migrants are taken in from the congested areas. That farm or estate notwithstanding the high price of conacre was available to them but when the migrants are taken in it is no longer available to them and they must seek pastures new. It is only right that these men should be considered equally with people from the congested areas.

It is a mistake to have allotments of 15 or 20 acres. You are creating the same type of congestion that you are trying to relieve and because of present methods of agriculture by machinery small farms are more a handicap than an asset and the allottees find that they must eke out what the farm is able to produce. They must find alternative employment in order to support a family. I know of one particular estate that was taken over six years ago. Part of that estate remains undivided yet. The Land Commission itself is, in that particular case and perhaps in others, letting the land at very enhanced prices. The return from that land in cash through lettings over these six years must now be very near the figure which the Department paid for the farm. I know the Land Commission is slow and that it has the name of being slower still, but there is no excuse at all for profiteering on estates that have been taken over. Therefore, I recommend a speeding up of the time between the taking over of estates and the allotting of them.

The Land Commission should tackle the question of absentee landlords. I think they are the curse of this country. They have valuable farms here which can produce food for the nation but these farms are serving no purpose at all. The absentee landlord takes no interest in the farm except that he knows that he is making a good penny by letting the land. He knows that it is a safe investment and he is prepared to leave his money there and take the rake-off every year. No employment is given. In many cases not even a caretaker or land steward is employed to look after the land.

When buying farms for allotment, these are the first farms which should come under the hammer. I recommend to the Minister the case of the landless men. The conacre farmer must be a very good farmer in order to make a profit on the land which he has taken and at the same time pay the high conacre prices. You may think that there is no congestion among the agricultural workers who are in the habit of taking land by conacre. In any district where you have large farms, with a large number of agricultural workers, there is congestion because these workers who are pretty numerous will have to emigrate if land is divided and migrants brought in.

These few points may be helpful to the Minister. They apply, I think, to other areas as well as to the area which I have mentioned.

When I asked the Minister, when he had concluded his opening speech, to give the House some idea of the policy which he was going to pursue, I must confess that I was disappointed with what he said. I would make allowance for a new Minister going into the Department for the first time, even if he had had some previous ministerial experience in some other Department, but the fact is that the present Minister was Minister for Lands for some time before. He must, therefore, know something about the Department and he must be fully aware of the somersaults that took place during the 16 years when Fianna Fáil were in office.

In 1932 Fianna Fáil went out with a flourish of trumpets and I believe with the good intention of acquiring a lot of land, even though they made a complete mess of allotting it. In April, 1941, the Land Commission virtually closed down. Nevertheless, the Minister tells us that the policy is not changed. It will be the strangest policy imaginable if the Minister's words are to be taken literally.

My purpose this afternoon is to tell the Minister that any assistance he needs or asks for from me or from those of us on this side of the House will be readily given if his policy is to relieve congestion. If his policy is not for the relief of congestion, we shall have to do our duty by our constituents and by the country. Policy governs the Land Commission to a great extent. Since the Land Act of 1950 came into operation, the Minister has greater scope now to manage the Department than heretofore. During the passage of that Act through this House I said that the duties and powers of the commissioners and of the Minister were not hitherto clearly defined. I want to tell the Minister now that that is not so any longer since about this time last year. The Minister's powers are very clearly defined and they are wider and greater under the 1950 Land Act than they were previous to the passage of that Act. I want the Minister to make full use of these powers, as I should have done myself had I remained in office.

When the Minister is replying I want him to tell us definitely whether it is his policy and the policy of the present Government in relation to the Land Commission that the full energy of the Land Commission will be devoted to the relief of congestion or whether it will not. The Minister gave a rather brief reply to a question which Deputy Giles asked last week and I think that the Minister must know what exactly was meant by that reply. On that reply can hinge the whole future of the work of the Land Commission.

The Minister did not tell us how many holdings and allotments were vested last year. The Land Act of 1923 abolished the three bodies that were in operation at that time to deal with the land question of this country and it established the Land Commission as successor to these three bodies and gave it all their powers, properties and moneys. I want the Minister to tell us his exact aim as regards the vesting of holdings. That is the primary function of the Land Commission no matter what anybody says. It was established in the first instance to make each farmer, the small farmer, the middlesized farmer or the big farmer the owner of his land. I hope that the shelving of the vesting question, which was definitely shelved in 1932 after the passage of the 1931 Act until about 1943 or 1944, will never occur again.

I want to give the Minister the benefit of a bit of experience I had in that Department. An enormous pile of vesting has to be done and some of the best officers in the Department are engaged in clearing that up. I ask the Minister to pay particular attention to wiping out that side of the work. It should have been cleared up 15 or 20 years ago and would have been if the Department had not been prevented from doing so.

The next work of importance is the relief of congestion. That entails the acquisition of land. There are ample powers under the Acts to acquire land. Some Deputies may be discontented at the slow rate of progress made by the Land Commission. The very fact that we have a system of giving title to land owners is a stumbling block to the quick acquisition of land but I believe it would endanger the security of tenure enjoyed by every farmer if work proceeded too rapidly in the acquisition of land or if legislation was introduced to speed up acquisition beyond a certain point. By recruiting more staff into certain sections of the Department the present method of acquisition could be speeded up.

Is there any danger the Land Commission will break a speed record at the moment?

I might perhaps give the Minister the benefit of my experience and knowledge of what the farmer likes. If farmers are to be secure in the ownership of their holdings, any attempt to ride roughshod over that security may have disastrous results. Deputies would be well advised to inquire fully into that matter before they commit themselves irretrievably.

The Minister should concentrate on the relief of congestion. That is a legacy handed down to us over the last 200 years. No native Government has been responsible for it, but native Government is responsible for relieving it. Governments cannot be blamed for the existence of the problem any more than the Minister for Health can be blamed for the existence of tuberculosis. Will the Minister tell us if it is the intention of the present Government to revert to the policy pursued from 1932 to the passage of the Act of 1939, as otherwise the hands of the clock will be put back and congests will be left in poverty as they were left under the landlord system? The Minister would be well advised to devote all his energy and attention towards solving the problem of congestion.

On one occasion the present Taoiseach said that while big farms remained congestion could be solved. I hope he and his Government have not changed their minds in that respect. I stated clearly when I was Minister that the big farms should be taken over for the relief of congestion and that, when that problem was solved, it might be wise from the national point of view or from the point of view of our agricultural economy to split up the remaining farms; but that would be a matter for the Government of the day to decide on. We should not cross bridges before we come to them. The relief of congestion is a bridge that has been in front of us for a long time but we have always either ignored it or by-passed it.

The Minister said that the Land Act of 1950 was responsible for the delay in the acquisition of land over the past 12 months. That is perfectly true. A good deal of land that was in progress of acquisition had to be left on one side until that Act was passed. The Minister is not responsible for that. Neither was I. In order to make improvements we had to bring in that Bill and certain farms in progress of acquisition were held up and work had to start on them all over again when that Act was passed in order to comply with the law.

The Minister mentioned that 28,000 acres of land were allotted between 1,300 migrants last year. I do not like the expression "allottee". I would like the Minister to tell us how many of the 1,300 were uneconomic holders. That is the only yardstick by which we can measure the work of the Land Commission. We can go on giving an acre or two year after year to uneconomic holders and it may be 20 years before they become economic. How many of these allottees were brought up to an economic level? During the year before the year under review 1,253 were raised to an economic level.

I would ask the Minister to take full advantage of Section 22 of the Act of 1950, which gives the Minister power to purchase land in the open market. While I agree there is need for caution because many evils can arise from it, I do not think there is any need to be afraid. I say that as a result of my own experience. I do not think the implementation of that section will give rise to any serious evils.

A sum of £2,000 is included in the Estimate this year for the purchase of holdings suitable for migrants, in addition to holdings created through land acquired and divided by the Land Commission. Building materials are scarce and tradesmen are scarcer still. It is not as easy for the Land Commission to build houses now as it was some years ago. It was my intention at one stage to purchase as many economic holdings, fully equipped, as I could. I believe they could be purchased cheaper than the Land Commission could provide them. The cost of a standard holding of 33 statute acres of good land, which in most cases would be nearer 40 acres, is in the region of £2,640. I think it would be cheaper to purchase such holdings already equipped since the cost of equipping a completely new holding to give it that snug, homely appearance these holdings should have would be much greater. The power to purchase land in the open market is a very useful one. If it is not abused, it should go a long way towards helping the Minister to solve congestion.

Was it ever used?

It has only been in force since last October or November. Work under that section must proceed with the greatest caution. How many holdings does the Minister hope to create this year for migrants? What is his policy in relation to the migration of the larger farmers out of the congested areas? The Minister should pay particular attention to that provided he can get the larger farmers to agree to migrate.

Shift them.

I want the Minister to induce them to shift. One large farmer who would be prepared to give up 100, 150, or 200 acres—I am sorry to say there are not many such farmers to be found in the congested areas—would confer much more benefit on congests at a much lesser cost to the State, than a large number of small farmers who would have to be moved from a number of small scattered holdings in the same area. If the Minister wants to proceed with a policy intended to give the maximum amount of benefit, I would, first of all, ask him to concentrate on relieving congestion; secondly, to make full use of Section 22 of the Land Act of 1950, and, thirdly, to concentrate on the migration of the larger farmers out of the congested areas. The reason that the larger farmers were reluctant to move in the past was that we were not giving them offers which were at all attractive or which would mean an improvement in their position. They look about them and see a man with seven, eight or perhaps 15 acres, very little of it arable land and some of it reclaimed land, and they see that he gets a holding six or seven times his former acreage and is given a new house. On the other hand, the larger farmers were never treated justly in my opinion. The Minister will find documentary evidence of my views on the matter in the Department if he carries out a search. The migration of the larger farmers out of the congested areas would do much more to solve this question, and do it more speedily, than any other approach to the problem.

The next matter to which I want to draw the attention of the Minister is that during the earlier years of the Fianna Fáil Administration the policy seemed to be whenever a farm was acquired to divide it into small allotments of anything from half an acre up to two or three acres, and to give these allotments to people living two, three or four miles away. I am afraid that, whitewash it how you will, savours very strongly of vote buying or vote catching. The Land Commission during my period in office were undoing a lot of that work; it was not work, it was damage, irreparable damage in some cases, which they were ordered to do in the earlier years of the Fianna Fáil Administration. They are trying to undo that slowly but it will be slow work because in most cases these allotments were vested in the farmers' sons and the owners had got into a rut. The amount of loss and destruction caused by that policy can never be fully calculated and I hope the Minister will never order the Department to go back to it.

I want to tell the Minister that I am fully aware of the fact that the officials of the Department were ordered to carry out that policy against their own wishes. They were ordered to do it against their own wishes and advice. I do not take the attitude of some Deputies of blaming the Department for what they did. They had to do it because these were the Minister's directions and orders. I hope there will be no reversion to that system because it was one of the causes of rural depopulation, even in cases where holdings were actually increased. I know that has been the case in the part of County Mayo where I live. I know that youngsters are clearing out and leaving the land because they find their fathers or mothers, as the case may be, are about to hand them over holdings of £10, £11 or £15 valuation but the holdings are scattered into allotments in different places three or four miles apart. There is no surer way of depopulating a rural area than to divide land in that way. While the fathers of the young people who are now growing up may have been glad to get an addition of a few acres to their holding 15 or 20 years ago, the younger generation have no intention whatever of wasting their lives riding a bicycle or travelling on horseback along country roads to look after bullocks in one place, then speeding off to save hay in another place and travelling to a third place to look after tillage or to save turf on the home holding. The result is that they are leaving their fathers' farms or they are waiting their chance to put them up for sale. That policy pursued 15 or 20 years ago is definitely one to be condemned because it has contributed more to the depopulation of the congested areas than any other single factor of which I am aware.

During my period in office, one of the first things I did was to give a direction to the commissioners to increase the size of holdings. I think the direction was worded in some such form as this: "Any holding to be created in future is to contain at least 33 statute acres of arable land or its equivalent. If the holding includes any portion that is not arable land, then sufficient land is to be given as will be equivalent in value to a total holding of 33 acres of arable land." I regarded that as a very important aspect of policy. The Minister has, however, power to-morrow morning to give a direction to create holdings of 12, 15 or 20 acres. He is perfectly free to revoke my direction but I think it is due to the House to know what is Government policy in this regard. While there was great play made by Deputy de Valera, as he then was, when I was over there about a certain passage in the Constitution which aims at settling the greatest number of people in economic comfort on the land—a very laudable object I must say—you will not settle people on the land by giving them uneconomic holdings or by moving them from one kind of congestion into another. Young people of the present day have very advanced ideas and while their parents may have been glad to get some improvement in the congested condition which prevailed 20 or 30 years ago, the youngsters of to-day, with all the attractions of industrial life in the cities and the amenities offered to them in the town, will not tolerate conditions with which their fathers were satisfied. If we are to attract young people to the land we must give them reasonably-sized holdings, so far as it is in our power to do so. Secondly, every single holding must be in one block, if at all possible, or should be divided only by the main road where it runs through the middle of the farm.

I want to say in conclusion that the Minister is not taking over a Department of the same kind as I took over. When I took over the Department, it had been idle and rusting for a period of seven or eight years. The staff had been loaned to other Departments and out of 53 men who had been loaned, 11 only had returned when activities were resumed in the Department. Some 53 or 56 men had been loaned to the Department of Agriculture to assist in the enforcement of the compulsory tillage regulations and some had been lent to other Departments. Eleven of the older staff was all I had to take over. I had to recruit a new staff and that new staff had necessarily to be trained. Not alone were they a drag on the older inspectors but a considerable amount of time had to be devoted to training them. The Minister has also something like 20,000 acres of land in his hands at the moment.

That is more than I had to start with. There was only a small holding of 18 or 19 acres in County Kildare on hands when I took over and that land was of such poor quality that when it was shown to seven or eight intended migrants, they refused to accept it. That was the legacy I got. The Minister is getting a Department working in full swing, fully equipped with the necessary raw material to work on. I ask him to aim at the creation of the largest possible number of standard holdings and, particularly, at the migration of the larger farmers from the congested areas, and to make full use of Section 27 of the 1950 Land Act as soon as the Department feel that they can go ahead on a big scale. I am not urging him to do this until he feels satisfied that no evils will arise from purchases under that section on a big scale. I do not want the market value of land to be upset.

Another huge obstacle removed out of the way of the Land Commissioners was the fierce bitterness throughout the country against the very name of the Land Commission for no other reason than that the Land Commission was compelled by law to take vested land from the owners for less than market value and which they were doing in many cases. Not alone that, but they were compelled to redeem the purchase money out of it. In other words, a man who owned a farm of land had to pay his annuity each half year. When the Land Commission took his land against his will he was compelled out of his own pocket to hand that land over free of rent to the Land Commission, an amenity which he never enjoyed. All these things have been removed by the 1950 Act.

When he was on this side of the House the Minister made many bitter attacks on certain parts of that Act. I challenge him now to bring in amending legislation to remove the parts of that Act which he thought were damnable at the time. I throw down the same challenge to Deputy Moran, his colleague from South Mayo. If he thinks that I took extreme powers under that Act he is welcome to sift it to the bottom and to make good what he said from this side of the House against it and against me when I was Minister, and to repeal what he called the damnable sections which he alleged were concealed in the Act, the hidden powers under Section 12, the powers of rearrangement, etc. Will the Minister introduce legislation to repeal these powers? I do not think he will, because I do not think that he believed what he was saying when on this side of the House. He knew it was something which should have been done years ago, and he was just a bit sore that he had not the courage to bring in such a Bill as that when he was Minister for Lands formerly.

In conclusion, I wish to say that I got from the staff of the Department during my period of office great loyalty and a terrific output of work. I know that the staff will do the same for the Minister or any other Minister. I want to take this opportunity to thank every single one of the staff from top to bottom of the Irish Land Commission and also the staff of the Forestry Department and the Gaeltacht Services, who did their very best, not for me, but for the country, in the way that any civil servant should. It would be churlish of me if I did not take the opportunity of expressing my thanks for the immense amount of work they did. I know that in many cases they worked overtime without getting any monetary compensation. I also want to tell the Minister that any help or assistance in the relief of congestion which he wants he will get from me. He will get every co-operation, but he is in for a very stormy time or a rough passage if he tries to evade his responsibility in wiping out the worst of our national evils, namely, congestion.

When I voted for the final passage of the Land Act of 1923— I was young at the time—I concluded that that Act put us on the straight road for the relief of congestion for the first time. To-day, 28 years afterwards, although innumerable amending Acts were passed to try to remove the obstacles which were not foreseen at that time and which were subsequently discovered, as far as my constituency is concerned, there is a very acute problem for the Minister if he has the desire, as I am sure he has, to complete the job begun by the late Mr. Patrick Hogan when he introduced his Land Act in 1923. Deputy Flanagan has not exaggerated so far as it affects Laois and Offaly, because we have still in that constituency owners of large ranches, some of them aliens, some of them descendants of Cromwellian soldiers who got these large estates for the services they rendered at the time. These people are in possession of these lands while thousands of young men, fit to work land if they got it, cannot get it—sons of small farmers, cottage tenants and others paying high rents ranging from £12 to £16 an acre for conacre in order to eke out an existence.

The Minister has had experience of the Land Commission before and I assume that he is anxious to complete the job which is waiting to be done. As was pointed out by Deputy Blowick, he took up office under much more favourable conditions than Deputy Blowick took up the position of Minister in February, 1948. Deputy Blowick, with no land to divide when he came into office and with a depleted staff, had to face up to a very difficult job. The Minister cannot deny that he has the pleasure of coming into office when the machinery of the Land Commission is fairly well oiled, if it is possible to say that about the Land Commission. It is correct, as Deputy Flanagan said, that the Land Commission was originally established by an Act of the British House of Commons and that every possible precaution was taken by the friends of the Irish landlords of the day in the House of Commons to see that the untenanted lands then in the possession of Irish landlords would not be taken from them too quickly and that if these lands were taken for the relief of congestion the landlords would be well paid for them.

Deputy Flanagan has also pointed out that there is a new form of activity not confined to Laois and Offaly; that the Minister is faced with a new problem to-day, the problem of continental people as well as British citizens buying land here with the surplus money they have. I am sure that that land will eventually have to be acquired by the Land Commission for the relief of congestion. These fortunate British citizens and continental people, Jews in some cases, come over here with surplus funds at their disposal and are able to bid for untenanted land when it is put up for sale at a considerable advantage over any possible purchaser who is an Irish citizen.

With other Deputies from my constituency, I brought all the pressure possible to bear upon Deputy Blowick, when he was Minister, to acquire a certain estate in the Offaly portion of my constituency. The owner was supposed to be a titled British gentleman and when he came into possession of the land some years ago there were 36 people employed there as labourers in different capacities. Before that gentleman was bought out last year by the Land Commission under Deputy Blowick, the number of persons employed was reduced to five. He dismissed the others for various reasons, some of them not very sound reasons. I discovered, however, when the place was about to be taken over that that titled gentleman in whose name these lands were supposed to be held legally was only the managing director for a body of American and British Jews. They came into the possession of this land many years ago and drove many decent local people, not alone out of employment there but up to the passport office to get a passport to go over to Britain to work for English farmers. That type of gentleman is a good riddance out of this land. I saw that his furniture and other saleable assets are up for sale. I am not the person who will shake hands with him when he leaves this country. I think this type of gentleman was the real, legal owner of the lands until shortly before they were acquired by the Land Commission inside the last 12 months.

Another matter to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention is that we have a number of natives— not foreigners—auctioneers and financiers of a doubtful type but with some backing who are going around and bidding for untenanted lands in portion of my constituency for some time past and who are buying these lands for the purpose of cutting down the timber that is on the land and making a fairly good thing out of it. I am advising the Minister that, deliberately or otherwise, they are cutting across the policy of the Land Commission by their activities and I hope the Minister will take a serious view of that and do whatever he possibly can to stop their activities.

In the Luggacurrane area of County Laois we have a large number of holdings that were bought out by these auctioneers and financiers. They have proceeded to divide the land, splitting it up themselves into what they consider to be suitable allocations—suitable for the purpose of getting the most they possibly can out of it. They are cutting across the whole idea of providing economic holdings for local, deserving, landless men and other deserving applicants for land. In one of these cases the Land Commission eventually came in and found it extremely difficult to carry out their own policy so far as the division of land was concerned. I would ask the Minister to pay particular attention to this Luggacurrane turbary area in the Counties of Laois and Offaly, because these activities have been going on for some considerable time and there is a feeling amongst local people—decent local people at any rate—that the Minister, if he has powers, should use them as quickly as possible to stop that form of activity.

Deputy Oliver Flanagan asked the Minister to state in his reply what his attitude was to the applications of cottage tenants for apportionments of land whenever estates were being divided in the area where those cottage tenants resided. I have, on previous occasions, when Mr. Blowick was the Minister and when Mr. Moylan was Minister, drawn attention to the unfair treatment meted out to those cottage tenants. These cottage tenants, in almost every case that I know of and with which I am concerned, are people who worked principally for local authorities or with the local farmer. In addition to that they take conacre lettings on the local estates and they pay for the conacre lettings anything ranging from £12 to £16 per acre. The very fact that these people risk taking conacre lettings at such a very high figure of between £12 and £16 proves that they should be regarded as fit and suitable persons to receive portion of these lands when they are being acquired and divided by the Land Commission.

I am suggesting to the present Minister that persons of that type should be high up on the priority list when any local estates are being divided. In addition to that the Minister for Local Government in the last Government, as our present Minister for Lands knows, issued an order empowering the local authority to sell cottages and plots to the existing occupants. I hope when the cottage tenants become the legal owners of their plots and cottages, as it is hoped they will before the end of the present year, that they will be regarded as equivalent to uneconomic holders in the area where they have been in possession of conacre lettings. If they cannot be regarded as uneconomic, with the rights of the uneconomic holder, they should be put high up on the priority list because if they are not provided with holdings, the alternative to them and the grownup members of their families is emigration—to leave the areas in which they reside and look for a living elsewhere. I have also drawn attention, during discussions here in the past, to the attitude of the Land Commission and to the slow progress made by them. Indeed, they will never be charged under any Government or under any Minister with speeding. I, here and now, wish to draw particular attention to the slow progress of the Land Commission over a long period of years in acquiring or dividing large tracts of bogs in my own constituency and I am not referring to its administration under any particular Government or under any particular Minister. I do not recall how many years have passed since I first drew the attention of the Minister of the day to the necessity for the acquisition, say, of the Coote Bogs in Laois for division amongst the local people. I also drew attention to a case in Offaly County. Indeed, I could cite a number of such cases, but I am confining my remarks to the worst ones. There has been considerable delay in acquiring and dividing the bogs owned by Lord Ross in County Offaly. These bogs are situated close to a number of towns where people find it very difficult to get turbary rights at a reasonable figure. I cannot understand the long delay, now extending over a period of 15 to 20 years, on the part of the Land Commission in acquiring and dividing those bog tracts. I would encourage the Minister for Lands to ask the responsible officials to get him the files in connection with these particular cases because they are two outstandingly bad ones in so far as they affect my own constituency.

I know that the Minister has been in office only for a very short time, but he has been in the Land Commission, I think, before, so that the administration of that Department would not be new to him. He may have taken over in more pleasant circumstances than existed when he enjoyed the office before. I know that it is not fair on this occasion to ask him to give a detailed reply to particular cases I have mentioned. I would ask him, however, to state, when replying, what his attitude is in regard to the necessity for speeding-up the relief of congestion and what his attitude is in regard to the rights of people who are looking for lands and the rights, and justifiable claims, of cottage tenants in areas where land is going to be divided in the future.

I came across a very peculiar case recently in my constituency. I am not going to deal with all the peculiar cases, but this is a really extraordinary one. It appears to me to be a departure from what was the previous procedure since 1923. This is the case of the Fisher estate situated near Stradbally in Laois. There has been agitation going on over a long period of years for the division of that estate. It is not a very large one. Eventually, an "invader" came along when he and his friends knew that the Land Commission were taking steps to have it acquired and divided amongst the local people. After a good deal of pressure from all the Deputies representing this constituency and supported by very active and justifiable agitation locally the Land Commission decided not to acquire the whole of the estate but only a portion of it.

I know of no case in my time in which the Land Commission intervened and did not acquire the whole estate. If they thought the person in possession of the house was a suitable person for re-allocation of the land they re-allotted whatever portion of the land would with the valuation of building make an economic proposition. I would like the Minister when he has time to spare to call for the files in connection with the acquisition of the Fisher estate and see why the usual procedure of acquiring and dividing estates was departed from in that case. In my opinion it was for the purpose of giving preferential treatment to an invader whom I would have kept out if I could possibly have done so.

I had intended to raise some matters connected with my own constituency in this debate, but in view of the shortness of the time I will deal with a few matters of general interest instead.

I was glad to hear the ex-Minister, Deputy Blowick, say that more power lay in the hands of the Minister since the 1950 Act was passed. I am glad that the powers are there but as far as we can see for ourselves very little use has been made so far of those powers. With regard to the purchase of land or holdings, I understood the Minister to say that only one public auction had been attended by members of the Land Commission and that this venture was unsuccessful as no purchase was made. If that is the sum total of the activities in connection with the purchase of holdings since the 1950 Act was passed it is very slow indeed. As Deputy Davin says, nobody can accuse the Land Commission of speed. Their rate is slow all the time. I fail to understand how the Minister can suggest that work of a certain Department was thrown out of gear due to time having been devoted to the Land Act of 1950.

Deputy Cunningham mentioned a point in which I am very interested, landless men. It may be a very popular thing in this House to say that landless men should get high preference in connection with the division of land. I, for one, do not believe that that is right. First and foremost, the Land Commission should devote itself to the relief of congestion and the making of as many economic holdings as possible in this country. If after that land is available, by all means let the landless man have his chance. There is always great difficulty when you speak about landless men and it is very hard for trained men, such as the inspectors of the Department of Lands, to decide who should get land as a landless man. The first thing we should remember is that if we start giving land to landless men we may have no hope of finally, solving the problem of congestion because the more landless men you give land to the less chance there is of placing uneconomic holders on economic holdings. It is quite clear that there are good landless men, but if the problem of land division is to be properly tackled and concluded first and foremost must come the uneconomic and congested holder.

The more I listen to speakers on both sides of the House who speak about the Land Commission and the Minister's powers the more I am puzzled as to what powers the Minister has. I am open to contradiction, but my reading of the Land Acts is that powers in the acquisition of land lie solely in the hands of the commissioners and the Minister has no function whatever. If that is the case, how is it that people on both sides of the House claim that this Minister or that Minister got such and such a farm divided? The sooner Deputies on both sides stop playing politics about the division of land the better for all concerned. I believe that the power to acquire land lies solely in the hands of the commissioners and some people say that that is wise. The reason these powers were handed over to an independent body like the Land Commission was to save whatever Government might be in power from innuendoes that they themselves divided land in order to give it to their political supporters. That was a very laudable idea, but it left the big problem of land division in the hands of individuals who, I believe, have not at all times the best interests of the country at heart.

Some time ago a question was raised in this House by myself and other Deputies in connection with the purchase of lands by aliens and the huge amount of land in the Midlands which is not being properly utilised and some of which is let under the conacre system. We were told by the Minister then in power that everything possible was being done by the Land Commission to acquire these big farms in the Midlands for the relief of congestion and that the purchase of land by aliens was negligible as only a very small proportion of the land was being acquired by foreigners. I have here a copy of the Connacht Tribune of the 6th May, 1950, and in the lines which I propose to quote are expressed the views of a prominent land commissioner on congestion and the relief of congestion at a case in Galway. It reads:—

"It was his opinion that the fertile lands of Meath which were not being run productively should be made available for the relief of congestion in the West, said Mr. Commissioner Mansfield at a sitting of the Irish Land Commission Court in Galway. It was a shame, he said, that 100,000 acres of the best land in the country should have recently passed over into the hands of aliens. Over 70 per cent. of the holdings in the country, said Mr. Commissioner Mansfield, were under £20 valuation, with the average holding under £3 valuation and the position was even much worse in the congested districts of Galway.

The 100,000 acres which had recently passed into the hands of aliens should have been retained for agricultural production by those who were compelled to live in agricultural slums."

That is a statement by a land commissioner, a responsible man at the head of the Department, a man with whom, in connection with land division, the Minister may not interfere. Is there not something wrong with the Land Commission and its functions if a senior man in that Department makes what I believe to be a responsible statement about the land problem in this country, and if at the same time people in this House say that the Land Commission are going full steam ahead for the relief of congestion? Statements like that leave the public puzzled, and I think it is only right that the present Minister should make a statement in connection with that report, and let us hear whether the views expressed by that commissioner are similar to the views held by other commissioners at the present moment. I should like to get an answer to that question when the Minister is replying.

I join with Deputy Blowick in bringing to the Minister's attention a point in connection with the giving of extra allotments whenever a farm of land is being divided. It has been the practice of the Land Commission in localities where a farm is divided to give perhaps six or seven acres, or less, to a man who lives maybe two or three miles away. Naturally, when that man gets the six or seven acres he is delighted and he will grab at the chance. I believe that the system is completely wrong. As soon as the man begins to utilise that land he finds that he will have to journey two or three miles—maybe more and maybe less—to look after cattle or to attend to tillage, and he discovers that it is not such a hot proposition. Deputy Blowick is right in saying that that may have suited the farmer, but that it does not suit his son who is growing up. I would ask the Minister to see that that system of allotting land some distance from the original holding is not continued. It would be much better to carry out a complete rearrangement in the locality. I think that that could be done, and that it would be much more satisfactory in the long run.

Whenever a large farm or estate is aken over, the system in the West is that a number of people get holdings on that farm or estate. The Land Commission either give them an advance to build a house for themselves or else they build the houses for the tenants. Each of these houses is completely separate with the result that in rural Ireland we are setting up a system whereby a man lives practically in exile just as if he were out on the prairie. One of the things which is inducive to emigration from rural Ireland at the moment is lack of community life. Most young people growing up at present seem to favour living in towns. I think that whenever land is being divided the houses should, if possible, be built in a community centre—in other words, on the line of a village—so that in the not too distant future electricity and sewerage and water supply schemes can be carried out more easily than if the houses were all a mile or maybe two miles apart. That system should be tried out as soon as possible by the Land Commission when they are taking over large farms. You will then have created a small community there. A parish hall can be erected where pictures can be shown and a library, and so forth, can be provided. You will have a little unit there where people can be happy together and then they will not want to wander to the towns as much as is the case at present, only then to find out that things in the towns are not as hot as they expected them to be.

I want to say a few words about the Land Acts themselves. I do not think any Minister or ex-Minister or Deputy in this House—and that is not casting a reflection on anyone—knows or understands all the various Land Acts that have been passed all down through the years. It is torture to go to the Library and try to trace one's way through the maze of all the various Land Acts that have been passed over a number of years. The present Minister could do no greater turn than to start from the very beginning of his term of office and codify the Land Acts. If he does so he will probably go down in history as one of the best Ministers for Lands we have had in this country.

The present Minister was Minister for Lands some years ago and he is not, therefore, without some knowledge and experience of the working of the Land Commission. He has an idea of the problems that have to be faced. I think he should now be in a position to turn his attention to the very necessary work of codifying the Land Acts.

I am interested to hear Deputy McQuillan calling for a codification of the Land Acts and to hear him say that he finds it an impossible task to understand the Land Acts in full. I believe thousands of people in this country and many Deputies in this House are in sympathy with him in regard to that matter. At the same time, the task of codifying the Land Acts would surely be a gargantuan task for the Minister.

There were anomalies under the Land Acts and Deputy Blowick states that, in regard to the fixing of the price of land, the 1950 Land Act has at least remedied one of them. I wonder how far the 1950 Land Act really went. As an example of what I mean I want to refer to a statement made before the last general election to the effect that certain large estates had been purchased for afforestation. I should prefer not to give the name of a particular place because some of the questions which I shall have to ask may be hypothetical and, in the circumstances, it might not be fair to do so— although I am quite prepared to advise the Minister of the name of the estate in respect of which I am making the submissions.

I should like to ask if the purchase of a certain estate, comprising lands and a big house, was carried out under the provisions of the Land Act of 1950, or by the Forestry Division of the Department of Lands, if they were required for afforestation purposes. If so, was the estate originally sold to the Land Commission at the market value of the lands under the Land Acts 1903-20? Then, did the owner repurchase these lands at the selling or market value, on an advance made to him as a tenant under the Land Acts—and were these lands subsequently acquired by the Forestry Division of the Department of Lands? If so, is that not a case in which a man was paid twice over for the same holding? If the holding was purchased under Section 5 of the Land Act of 1950, the redemption value of the annuity on sale could not have been deducted from the purchase price of the land. But, if the same lands were purchased directly by the Forestry Division, is it not a fact that the redemption of the annuity could have been deducted in the customary manner from the purchase price? If that did happen, is it fair? Of course I realise that that is a legacy left to the Minister as a result of the 1950 Land Act and in respect of which he has no direct responsibility.

As regards the actual policy of the Land Commission, here again if we accept what we are told as true the Minister has no direct responsibility. Even before I was elected to the Dáil I came across some extraordinary cases in my professional capacity. I can only describe these cases as anomalies. Whatever about Córas Iompair Eireann having a public relations officer, I believe the Land Commission is in urgent need of such an officer in order to convince the public that they are really doing their best, have a policy and that that policy is consistent with justice.

He would have a hard job.

I know he would. Let me give you a concrete example of the situation that exists at present. In May, 1950, two gentlemen came into my office. They stated that they had a 40-acre farm which had been untenanted for upwards of ten years. These men were brothers. One died six months later and the other brother became the sole owner of the holding. He was living at the other side of the country. He was a professional man and he had no intention of going back to this holding. Now I live in a congested area and this holding was actually offered for sale by public auction. I advised the Land Commission of the situation and asked them to acquire the lands. I got no reply except "Tá orm", etc. The land was not sold. Nobody wanted it. The land was situated in the middle of a congested district.

What happened? One of my first duties when I was elected was to go to the Land Commission to find out what had happened about this 40-acre farm. I was told the Land Commission were taking no steps. I was not told when that decision was arrived at. I can assure you I was not told why. At the same time, and on the very same day, I had occasion to make representations on behalf of a woman with nine children from whom the Land Commission were taking away 20 acres of land. She had trained her eldest boy who was 17 or 18 years of age to run the holding and she promised him that it would be his eventually. The Land Commission took 20 acres of land from her but they would not take 40 acres of untenanted land where the neighbours were breaking down the fences and letting their cattle in without leave or licence. I cannot understand what the Land Commission means when it does that sort of thing. That is why I say a public relations officer should be given a few hundred pounds a year to reply to letters explaining the reason why the Land Commission arrive at certain decisions, decisions which to all appearances are unjust.

Another aspect of the policy of the Land Commission with regard to the division of land concerns the question of division on the basis of poor law valuation. It is fair enough to take a valuation of £10 or under and say that people with less than that should get relief, but there are other considerations which should be taken into account. In one particular case I have already approached the Minister, and he has given me little hope that my representations will meet with success, although a grave injustice would appear to be done to a man with four children and whose eldest son is now about 20 years of age. The man is rather a patriot in his way. He has tried to keep his family together in this country. He has 14 acres consisting of 12 acres of rocks and two of arable land. On the two acres he can rear a goat or two, a donkey and one cow. His eldest son helps on the land. None of his children is earning. He will not be given any additional land merely because he happens to be an auxiliary postman with a wage in the region of £3 per week. Land was allocated to him provisionally, but was taken away again when it was discovered that he was an auxiliary postman.

That happens every day of the week.

The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs admitted here that the State has never been kind to auxiliary postmen. He referred to the modest wage and the increases that have been given over the last 15 or 16 years. Even with those increases an auxiliary postman is still in receipt of only £3 per week. That man was provisionally allocated two acres and three roods, but the Land Commission subsequently decided in their omniscience that that should be taken away again because he was an auxiliary postman. He has a wife and four children.

The Land Commission, in their omniscience, because the State refused to give him enough on which to make a decent living for 40 years, decided that they would use the fact that he had been given anything as a stick to beat him with. People cannot see the justice of it. There was a meeting held of all political Parties. I attended the meeting. A petition was signed by the residents in the area. Only one man refused to sign it, because he thought he was as much entitled to the land as the other man. I suppose the Land Commission think they are too great a body to change their minds a second time. They are not too great a body, apparently, to change their minds to someone's disadvantage. One can only raise one small voice in protest against these things. One can only say they are unjust. One can only say there is a genuine grievance and a genuine feeling of helplessness. It is part and parcel of a solicitor's business in the West of Ireland, irrespective of whether he is or is not a Deputy, to deal with people who are looking for land and with people who do not want land to be taken away from them.

There is one aspect of the problem of the resettlement of land in regard to which I have quite an amount of sympathy with the Land Commission and a deep appreciation of the difficulties under which they are working. I think Deputy Blowick has already referred to it—that is, in the matter of giving an allotment of two or three acres to a farmer which is miles removed from his holding, thereby making it almost impossible to farm the entire holding. Three acres of it are here, three acres are five miles further on, and the remainder ten miles in the other direction.

The fact is, and I regret it, that when a scheme is put up in one area which I know to be very badly accommodated in that respect, the old people refuse to have anything to do with that resettlement scheme because they had that particular piece of land and their father and their grandfather had it before them, and they are not going to move out of it till doomsday. The attitude is: "If my father went to school on an ass and cart I shall go to school on an ass and cart also." I am afraid there is a lot of that mentality amongst the older people in the country. The trouble is that their mentality is not the mentality of the younger generation and, in the meantime, these younger people are departing for England, America or any other country in which they can find a refuge and a living wage and, once they go, they seldom return.

There is a different case, that of a person who is driven out of the country, not permanently but for a period of years, because he finds it impossible to live on an uneconomic holding. That person by going to England can earn good money—he can certainly earn up to £15 or £20 a week—and he can save a lot which will enable him to come back, settle down on the uneconomic holding and, by the use of grants and the various other forms of assistance available, can make that holding a more or less economic unit, always with the hope that by getting an additional acre or two from the Land Commission he will be able to live on that farm for the rest of his life. The trouble is that, as soon as that man goes away, the Land Commission comes along and grabs the holding. I say that if a man gives an undertaking that he will come back after a certain period and work that holding the Land Commission should not seek to acquire it. There, again, when you appeal and go before the Land Commission and say: "This man is prepared to come back next year and work the holding," the reply generally is: "Sorry, we want to take this holding; it is needed for a division amongst other congests."

I do not want to keep the House any longer because the Minister must get time to reply. In addition, there may be other Deputies who desire to speak on this Estimate, but there is one final point I want to raise with regard to the policy of the Land Commission in reference to giving an exchange of holdings. From time to time the Land Commission, quite properly, acquire portions of land from fairly large landowners. One of these landowners approached me some time ago and asked me to investigate the possibility of the Land Commission giving him an alternative farm in another part of the country.

He was quite prepared to give up his farm in County Mayo and he recognised that he could live quite comfortably on what he still had. The Land Commission's reply was that they were not willing to give any such exchange but they gave no reasons for that decision. I am wondering if I could find out what is the policy of the Land Commission in that regard and on what basis they decide whether they are going to give a person who wants an exchange the accommodation he requires. The big trouble, as I said at the outset, is that while the Land Commission may be actually just in their decisions, justice must not only be done but it must also appear to be done. The trouble about the Land Commission is that while they may be satisfied in their office that justice is being done, in perhaps four cases out of five outside the office it does not appear to be done. I think that some effort should be made in the future to get that vast, omniscient and omnipotent body, the Land Commission, into some closer touch with the people whom it is designed to serve.

I understand that the Forestry Vote must follow this Vote and I wonder could we get an agreement to give the Minister and a few Deputies who wish to speak reasonable time to discuss that Vote?

There are three Votes which must be concluded at 9 o'clock.

I shall not detain the House very long but this is a very irritating Estimate so far as the people in my constituency are concerned. We feel very sore in my county with the policy which has been pursued for some years past. We are satisfied that so far as the Land Commission is concerned, their whole idea is to move the people from the West up to the Midlands. There has been a certain amount of political play-acting connected with this policy of migration from the West because Ministers of all Governments in the past took up all types of people and gave them land in Meath and in the Midlands. There was a certain amount of vote-catching in connection with that policy. There is only one way by which the evils attendant on congestion in the West can be relieved and that is by establishing industries there, not by bringing the people up to the Midlands, County Meath or County Dublin.

We know that there is congestion in the West, that there are thousands of people almost living on top of one another there, but there is no use in bringing them up to Meath, Westmeath and Dublin in an effort to relieve that congestion. There is only one way in which you can relieve congestion, and that is by developing the natural resources of these areas and cut out this nonsense about migration. If you were to take over all the land in Meath, it would not relieve one-fifth of the congestion in the West. I am satisfied that the people of the Midlands are not getting justice under the present system of dividing land. We are told by one Minister that, under the Land Acts, landless men cannot get land. I asked a question of the present Minister and he said landless men can get land. Which of these Ministers is right, I should like to know?

So far as my county is concerned, the blind policy of Fianna Fáil some years ago caused endless trouble because they gave land to every Tom, Dick and Harry so long as they belonged to a Fianna Fáil club. It made no difference what a man's character was or what type he was; all that was required was that he should shout loud enough for the policy of Fianna Fáil. In many cases good men got land under Fianna Fáil, men who are now making money and rearing good families. But many men of a rotten type got land and their holdings were vested in them by the Land Commission. The result was that men who got a good house and 22 acres of good land about 20 years ago can sell it for £1,600 or £1,700 and drink that money until it is all gone. I do not care whether a Fianna Fáil or a Fine Gael or a Labour Party supporter gets land if he is the right type of man.

Then we had the Land Commission paying dozens of what I may call inspector touts to look after people who got land ten or 20 years ago to see how they were working it. The land was taken from some of them, but if any "buck" has some pull they will pass him by, although his land may adjoin that of some unfortunate widow of a man who got a bit of land, and who is in dire poverty, and who is told: "Out you go if you dare to sell it", although she has some cattle on the land. Some neighbour who may want to get the land will tell the inspector that the cattle are not hers at all, and these touts listen to these stories. That is most irritating. Why not do the thing in a manly way, take the type of man who is suitable, and give him land and let him make good, and he will if he is the right type?

I do not want to say anything against migrants. I believe that there should be a reasonable amount of migration. The majority of the migrants in my county are good, honest, hard-working men, but if they had to live on the 22 acres which they get they would not stay for three years in the county. Most of their money comes from sons and daughters who went to Great Britain or America, and they are having a fine living and, in a few years, some of them are able to buy large holdings out of the remittances they receive. All I want to see is fair play. In County Meath over a number of years no local man could get a holding except a herd on the land which was being divided, and he only got a scraggy holding. It was a case of take it or leave it. But every attention is given to the migrants. I am not against that if there is fair play. There are many uneconomic holders in Meath living within two or three miles of estates which were divided. We were told that these men would be considered, and that if they had uneconomic holdings these would be made up to 20 acres or 30 acres. I have seen very few uneconomic holders getting land; perhaps one out of 20 got a holding. That was only to keep us quiet, while the invasion was taking place under the former Minister and the Minister before him.

There is as much congestion in north Meath and Cavan as there is in Mayo. The Land Commission will say that they have combed out north Meath and cannot find any congestion there. I say they are blind or vindictive when they talk like that. There is a lot of congestion in north Meath, with men living on five or six acres of bad land. These men are overlooked. I know men in north Meath who are prepared to give up 60 acres of land and go into the Dublin area or the south Meath area so as to make room for their neighbours in the congested areas, but the Land Commission will not consider their cases. There are plenty of men on the Cavan borders who are prepared to give up land in that way. The border of Meath and Cavan is a congested area. There are hard-working men living there in misery on rocks and poor soil. They were overlooked or would not be considered because the Minister came from the West. All the boys who want to get easy posts come from the west.

I hope that the present Minister will take land in the Midlands so that he can at least give fair play to the people amongst whom I live. The former Minister for Lands broke his word to a very decent landholder in County Meath. A deputation consisting of Deputy O'Reilly, Deputy Hilliard, Deputy Fagan and myself and the man who owned the land which was being taken by the Land Commission in a mean, unfair way, Mr. Fottrell from outside Athboy, waited on the Minister. That man may have a fair amount of land but he is a good worker and gives plenty of employment and is a good Irishman. He had six sons to work his holding, but notwithstanding that the Land Commission stepped in and said they would take the land. That man was prepared to give the land if he got fair play and if they would meet him on a fair basis. The deputation asked the Minister to stay the hand of the Land Commission for a short time so that we could see if anything could be done and the Minister said that he would stay the hand of the Land Commission so as to get word sent to that man as to how the case was going.

That man never got a letter from the Minister. An inspector came down and divided the land amongst other people and never as much as recognised the owner or the deputation. That is mean, low and shabby. It is un-Irish and unnatural if the Land Commission, which is spending public money, can hurl insults at deputations. I do not stand for it and Deputy O'Reilly does not stand for it. If Mr. Fottrell was approached in a manly way, not alone would he give that land, but he might have given more in the national interest if it were needed. When men of that type are treated in a despicable way what can you expect? But that is not the only case. There are scores of men in County Meath who had land taken from them by the Land Commission and divided up, and in many cases rottenly divided up, without any consideration being given to them. Spivs from India, Great Britain and everywhere else are buying up hundreds of acres of land and there is no one to say a word to them —spivs with plenty of money to burn and with a pagan outlook. The decent Irish farmer who attends an auction to buy land has not money enough to compete with them. But a spiv can buy land by telephoning from Dublin; in fact in one case it was done by telephoning from India. Of course they gave a little employment and built a few houses. I do not care if they employed 10,000 people. I say they should be kept out and let the Irish people get the Irish land. Because taxation has gone up in their countries, Ireland has become a paradise for all sorts of people from all over the world. Jews and Gentiles come in and set up stud farms and have their big cars and can attend races at the Curragh and Leopardstown and Naas, while Irish farmers' sons and daughters are emigrating to Great Britain to slave and sweat for a few pounds to send home to help their fathers and mothers.

The spivs and the Jews come in here and buy up land and this Government close their eyes to such happenings, as, indeed, did the previous Government. I live in the midst of such happenings —in the ranches of Meath. I desire to see a middle-class peasantry planted in this country. I do not want to see spivs under any circumstances, even if they bring in the money and give employment. They are not the right type of people to form the backbone of a country. All they want is a royal time at everybody else's expense. They are not the decent type of Englishman, whom I admire. The type I have in mind would not fight for their country during the last war. Instead they ran over to Ireland, but the Government at the time closed their eyes to all this.

We demanded of the then Minister, in the national interest, to stop the buying-up of these large holdings. The Land Act, 1950, was brought in, and we were told we were going to buy land for division on the open market. I knew of large tracts of land that could have been bought up by the Land Commission. However, this did not happen because the Minister was a small boy, but the Land Commission is composed of big boys and rotten boys, at that. To look at the Minister one would think that he would be big enough to frighten half the members of this House.

He is not that big.

I know that he was big enough in another way.

I would describe the Minister as a very normal-sized man.

We have a grievance in Meath. We desire our farmers' sons who have money, position and a proper family background to get a share of the land that is going. Why should the spivs have it? I have no objection to the migrants from the West of Ireland. In fact, I live amongst them, and I must say that one could not find better neighbours. They are good and honest men, but even they are surprised that the men of Meath are not being provided with land.

I ask the Minister to give us fair play and justice. If there is an estate for division I entreat him not to forget the decent Meath men. I ask him to see that the poor cottier who has five or six children to provide for will be given justice. While the Fianna Fáil Government were in office not one cottier in County Meath got an acre of land. These unfortunate people have to graze their one cow on the side of the roads. If this is national policy or Irish policy, then I say, "To hell with freedom. It is all a cod." I want to see a Government, and I do not care what Party it incorporates, with a manly, national outlook, who will allot to the Irish people the land available. I do not give two straws about politics. All I want to see is fair play. There are scores of big holdings in County Meath, in County Westmeath and in County Dublin. Many of these are worked by good and honest men who give full employment. I do not want to see these people disturbed. On the other hand, there are men who own three or four hundred acres who indulge in nothing but idleness. Nothing is being done, and the land is left in a disgraceful condition, waterlogged, unkempt hedges, and so on. I want to see these estates pared down. If a man has an estate of 400 acres and refuses to work it in the national interest, cut him down to 100 or 200 acres or let him get out of the holding. I say these things openly and in a manly fashion, because I do not care if I lose votes by it or not. Having worked in the national interest over the past 30 years, I believe the nation and the people want justice. There is no justice in waiting for 35 years of native government and seeing land division not half-completed. I saw these spivs and those who are living in royal comfort and royal idleness, getting a grand living out of this country while our own people are in misery, working the land for others while they cannot get an acre for themselves.

These men could have spent thousands of pounds on the draining of their land but they would not spend a penny. Nevertheless, they will avail of the Government schemes such as the land reclamation scheme. Many of them got the land, not through open competition, but due to the shedding of the blood of our ancestors. The bones of our ancestors are lying there in the graves in many of those holdings in the Midlands and these men, their successors, are living in regal comfort ever since.

I am not against any of those people if they do their job well, if they are giving good employment and working the land in the national interest. I do not care what their past was, what their present is or what their future will be if they are doing their duty. It is the responsibility of the Government to pare down those holdings and at least give us a middle-class peasantry of which we can be proud. That is what I want to see. That is what I stand for. I will say outside what I am saying here, and I believe I am speaking the sentiments of the present Minister and of the previous Minister, but they were too cowardly to face up to the job because it was a tough job. But I think that even the Minister knows he can be tough when he likes. When he was dealing with the teachers he was tough and I want him to be tough with the "bucks" he should be tough with. As far as vesting is concerned, it is a public disgrace. I, myself, had my holding vested only last year after 21 years. Some of my neighbours who are on the same estate have their holdings 25 years and there are at least eight of them not vested yet. Why is it that there is no incentive given to these men to work and make good? They cannot get a loan from the bank because they have no title to their holdings. They had the land for 25 years and worked it and reared their families but if they require a loan to improve their land they cannot get it. Why cannot these holdings be vested after five or seven years so that these men will have a title to their land, thereby securing the right to a loan from a bank? We are told they are on the 11-month system.

Why would not they be if they have no money and only 20 acres of scraggy land to which they have no title? It is time the Land Commission woke up. If a man has land for eight or ten years, let him have a title to it and he will work the land in the interest of the country.

I will now stop. I am sick and fed-up with the whole business—emigration, landless men being driven out of the country, spivs coming in and buying up estates and the Government having to go into the open market to purchase estates. I say to the Government: Do your job and you will have my blessing and the blessing of the people who work for this country.

I want to call attention to a couple of matters here. I think they are of great importance. One is the condition of the roads to estates. The Land Commission come in and they divide up an estate. They run a grand road through it and then they throw it there. I have one example of that. When we sent down a county surveyor to endeavour to get that road taken over by the county council his estimate for putting that road in such a condition of repair that it could be taken over was £860,000. The unfortunate tenants settled on it have to come with their horses and butts to take their milk to the main road because the lorry that comes for the milk will not go into it. The Land Commission have surely some responsibility to see that the road is put into such a condition that the local authority can take it over and keep it for the tenants concerned. I think that an outrage.

I want to refer to the position about the subdivision of land taken over by a local authority for houses. For the past three years we have land which was taken from people for the building of houses by the local authority and those people have not yet been paid for it. The houses are built, families are living in them and the local sites committee are now in the unfortunate position of having to go to those people for more land while they have not yet been paid for the land taken three or four years ago. I gave a list of those people to the Minister yesterday and I hope that we will have results within a week or a fortnight. I know that we will be adjourning for the holidays and will not have the opportunity of taking it up here, so I trust that the Minister will see it through.

I wonder what is the position about State lands? We have people tearing round and snapping in on lands to take them over while in Kilworth we have land lying bare and used only for grazing. Why is it not divided up? Is there any obligation still towards Britain which prevents its being taken over and divided?

I do not think that our relations with Britain are relevant.

I am pointing out where land is available in this country to the Land Commission.

The Deputy knows quite well what the situation is. Is the Deputy not wasting the time of the House?

I did not waste much of your time. You wasted a lot in three years.

You know that the Land Commission have no power under the law of this country to acquire land from another Department. You made no effort to change that.

Try to conduct yourself as a Deputy even if you did not conduct yourself as a Minister.

Our Government did more in three years to promote the division of land——

Let us get back to the Estimate.

The first duty in regard to an estate which has been taken over is to make economic holdings out of the uneconomic holdings surrounding it. That was not done on the Trabolgan estate in my constituency. A relic of uneconomic holdings was left there by the old Cumann na nGaedheal Government. When the estate was divided, holdings of nine or ten acres were left and when those people claimed portion of the Trabolgan estate they did not get anything and they are still there as a legacy.

I want to know what is the position regarding the estate. That estate was taken over during the emergency. The land had to be taken and set out for tillage. Three or four crops were taken off it and then it was thrown aside. I understand that within the past six months that estate was offered to a man from whom the Land Commission are taking land compulsorily because he has too much already. That statement was made in open court by that man recently, Mr. Buckley. The same thing happened about the O'Neill estate. That land was also offered to Mr. Buckley from whom the Land Commission are at present engaged in compulsorily acquiring land.

Who offered him the land?

They offered those two estates.

The Deputy should conduct himself or try to.

Are you alleging that the Land Commission offered it to him?

I am dealing with the messing you did. My time is short here.

It will be shorter.

Yes, I will see you out. I saw you in and I will see you put out.

You are a bit sore that you are not a Minister. Thank God you are not. Thank God Dev did not make you a Minister to the eternal disgrace of the House.

Is it correct for Deputy Corry saying "You" and therefore addressing the Chair to say "I will see you kicked out"? Please God he will not see you kicked out.

Time is limited and Deputies should be able to speak without interruption. I want to know the position regarding those two estates, and I want to know—now if we can get time and if not we will get the information later on by way of question—the reason why the Land Commission, instead of dividing those holding which they have held for five, six and in one case seven years, offers them to a man from whom they are acquiring land compulsorily because they say he has too much land already. I can produce a Press report of the Land Commission proceedings and the statements made by that man.

I would also like to know the position regarding the Finnure estate which was a scandal. It was a holding of 500 acres and appeals were made to the late Minister to take it over. There were 500 acres from which the unfortunate tenants were evicted. The grabber was allowed to sell those 500 acres to an Englishman. He was let in though we hear about the rocks and the 12-acre holdings in Mayo. We have ten and 20-acre holdings and the unfortunate fellows who were evicted out of that estate are now up on the side of the mountain. Questions have been asked of the late Minister by every Deputy of my constituency about that estate, but it is still there, purchased by the Englishman.

There is a lot to be said for what Deputy Giles said. If on the one hand the Land Commission step in and take 50-, 100- or 200-acre farms from the Irishman and at the same time they stand by quietly and let big estates of 500, 600 and 700 acres be acquired by foreigners something is wrong with the Land Commission.

The Deputy was big enough to stop it; he was big enough in size but he was not big enough in the other way.

Deputy Corry must be allowed to make his speech.

Those are facts about who gets land and about what is happening in the country at the present day. As everybody knows, all other trades are now closed. If you want to become a mason your father must have been a mason before you; if you want to become a carpenter your father must have been a carpenter; all those trades are now closed and it is about time that we closed down on the agricultural side too. I know that the time of the House——

Is being wasted.

——is limited and I do not wish to delay the House, but I would like to ask the Minister to look into the matters I mentioned and have them straightened out as it is high time that they were. We have a condition of affairs regarding local authorities which is placing every member of a local authority in the very awkward, the practically impossible position of having to go to people from whom land was taken three years ago and appeal to them again to sell land.

I understand that there is a time limit and that this Estimate must be taken before 9 o'clock.

Yes, the three Votes. There are two other Votes in addition to this.

Deputy Blowick referred to somersaults in connection with the policy of Fianna Fáil regarding land resettlement. As is characteristic of the Deputy's statements, they remain, I think I may say, intentionally vague. I should like him to explain when he gets a further opportunity, where the somersault is. I have before me the policy of the Fianna Fáil Government as laid down in 1939:

"It is the aim and object of this policy of land division to secure the establishment on the land available the maximum number of economic holders. That is the big factor which should govern inspectors in their work in promoting their schemes. Further, the whole programme of land resettlement operated by the Land Commission must for the future have as its primary object the relief of congestion in the scheduled congested districts."

I do not know what advantage it is to the relief of congestion that Deputy Blowick should constantly try to misrepresent the Party to which I belong as not having always placed that policy in the forefront of their programme. I cannot see any benefit to be obtained from suggesting that our Party is not just as anxious as Deputy Blowick's Party or any other Party to relieve congestion.

The disagreement which I had with the Deputy when, as Minister for Lands, he was bringing his Land Bill through this House was that I believed that by fixing the market value as a statutory requirement in the acquisition of land we may reach the position where land acquisition will become impossible because to the cost of acquiring land you must add the cost of putting up buildings on the land, the cost of making roads and the cost of all the other improvements. When you add to all that the fact that the incoming allottee is going to have his annuity halved, the annuity that would have been placed on him in normal circumstances, and that under all these headings the State is subsidising land purchase—when the costs of all these respective headings are increasing—it stands to reason that either the State will have to spend a vast ocean of money in addition to what it is spending already to accomplish the same results or, if the amount of money is not available, even though there are substantial increases, you will not get the same results.

There is no use in Deputy Davin trying to pretend to the House or anybody who is not acquainted with this problem that I have gone back to the Land Commission under favourable conditions. Where are they? The staff in the Land Commission, although a great many of them have come back, is not back to the normal footing on which it was in 1939. The costs of operations have gone up to an enormous extent. The area of land—as anybody knows who tries to assess this problem in a reasonable way and who is honest and truthful about it—to be acquired is decreasing every year. The obstacles, both legal and financial, and other, are increasing.

One unfortunate thing about this debate year after year is that Deputies refuse to face the realities of the position. I have a crow to pluck with my predecessor. He went to Ballina, in the same county to which we both belong, and he stated—he has given me an opportunity of replying to him now because he has repeated it here again— that there was no land available when he went into the Land Commission in 1948. He went down to the most land-hungry county in Ireland and he preached the doctrine everywhere up and down the county that when he took over in the Department of Lands there was no land available, that he could not do anything and that Fianna Fáil had seen to it that his task was made absolutely impossible by putting him into that position. My predecessor had not the reputation of reading very closely some of the reports that were issued from the Department. I wonder if he read the report which was published on the operations of the Irish Land Commissioners for the year from 1st April, 1947, to 31st March, 1948. This report is signed by Judge Maguire and it is signed by all the commissioners. It is dated the 6th December, 1948. Paragraph 5, page 7 says:—

"As regards future operations, it is not possible to give a reliable estimate of the area of land likely to be found suitable and capable of being acquired for the relief of congestion and the subject can only be usefully discussed in terms of work immediately in sight. Leaving out of consideration the undivided residues just referred to, the position at 31st March, 1948, was that prices were agreed upon or fixed for 11,535 acres and offers made of provisional lists published in respect of a further 35,639 acres. Thus the total area actually in process of acquisition was 47,174 acres. Proceedings for a acquisition were decided upon but not yet instituted in respect of a further area of approximately 17,000 acres while reports following inspection and valuation were available on an additional area of about 90,000 acres."

So much for the statements that no land was available, that it was impossible to work, that the cupboard was bare.

For what year is that report?

From the 1st April, 1947, to the 31st March, 1948.

These are all acquisition cases which were frozen in April, 1941, and which were still on the books but were frozen stiff.

What is the present position with regard to acquisition? There were 47,000 acres in the machine for acquisition, according to the commissioners. The House need not take my word for it. Let them read what is said in the Official Report—47,000 acres. The information that has been supplied to me by the Irish Land Commission officers with regard to present prospects is as follows:

"The area to be acquired must, to all intents and purposes, come from the area in the machine, that is, 53,000 acres at the 31st March, 1951."

There were 47,000 acres in the machine on the 31st March, 1948, and there were 53,000 acres in it on the 31st of March of this year. With regard to the question as to what is expected this year, the indications are that some 23,000 acres are likely to be taken over. The only change I see in the Land Commission policy as far as concentration on the relief of congestion is concerned, apart from the changes in the 1950 Act, are that it is definitely stated that a holding of 33 acres of good land, or its equivalent in land of varied quality, should be a standard holding. But in the congested areas in which we are primarily interested the policy is the same as it was all the time under the Fianna Fáil Administration: that is that it would be absolutely impossible to get anything like a reasonably economic standard in terms of what we are accustomed to outside these areas and the most one can aim at is the £10 valuation. When one considers that a vast number of holdings are under £4 one realises that even the £10 is unattainable.

Reference was made to open market transactions. I gave some figures in reference to these transactions. I cannot say what the possibilities of progress are when one considers that there was only one auction attended, as I said, without success, because the bidding went too high.

With regard to negotiations for the purchase of holdings, there are a small number of holdings, three at least, in which negotiations were opened. Nine other cases were noted for investigation. Therefore, very little was done, though there were other cases that had apparently been investigated and some of them were noted for acquisition. The total number is so small that, if it is taken as an indication of what would normally occur, very little will, in fact, be obtainable in that way and future progress is not very hopeful. If the fact is that only a small number of holdings were available either for negotiation or by public auction, that is a circumstance outside our control. That is likely to be the position in future, and I cannot see that very much will result from these open market operations.

I do not believe that when there is a change of Government we should, if there are experiments or efforts being made to improve matters by our predecessors, change over without very grave consideration and without being satisfied that the results that were expected have not been secured. This question of going out and buying in the open market affects the whole question of the solution of this problem. Before the passing of the 1950 Land Act the price of all tenanted land acquired compulsorily or by agreement with the Land Commission averaged £9 per acre. The price of untenanted land acquired compulsorily averaged about £7 10s. 0d. per acre. The price paid for land resumed over the period averaged £15 per acre.

Is that during the last year?

No. That is from 1923 to 1950. That is, of course, an average figure. The price of land then, subject to annuity, acquired by the Land Commission was placed on the same basis in relation to price as land which was resumed. The position with regard to offers which were accepted and the price fixed by the Appeal Tribunal since the passing of the Land Act, 1950, up to March, 1951, is that the offers of 28,930 acres came to a price of £517,575. The average price per acre was £17.9. The acceptances of 6,286 acres at a price of £132,617 came to £21.1 per acre, whereas the price fixed by the Appeal Tribunal in three cases of 351 acres averaged £19.8 per acre. These figures, of course, show a tremendous increase as compared with the price of land acquired between 1923 and 1950. The conditions may have been somewhat different in that the estates now being acquired are smaller than those that were acquired previously and are, therefore, less likely to contain high percentages of poor land.

There is also the point that the Land Commission has been trying to secure really good-class land to attract migrants but nevertheless, having regard to the figures I have quoted, the averages before the passing of the Act over the whole period range from £7 10s. to £9 per acre. That would seem to indicate, allowing for the fact that it is a very long period and bearing in mind that an average has its disadvantages for comparison purposes, that the figures go from practically £18 per acre to £21 per acre. When you add on the costs after the land has been taken over and when you take into consideration the arrangements that have to be made for migrants, it seems to me that land acquisition and land resettlement are very, very costly processes.

I quite appreciate that the rearrangement of rundale holdings is useful but my Government and I have always believed that in order to make an effective contribution to the relief of congestion in the West it is essential to build up as large a reservoir of land as one can in areas outside to which one can transfer the larger migrants and thus leave their holdings available for the congests in the West.

I do not think I need go into all the matters that were raised, beyond saying that where Deputies have called attention to particular cases I shall make it my business to see how these cases stand and communicate with them where necessary. Neither will I enter into the question of aliens. That question is a matter of Government policy generally. There is a pretence the Land Commission has some special function in regard to that matter. As far as the nationality of owners of land is concerned, or their citizenship, the Land Commission has precisely the same rights and can acquire their lands if they are necessary for the relief of congestion and provided the other conditions are fulfilled.

There were 15,000 holdings and allotments vested last year. With regard to allottees, of the 1,300 allottees last year about 1,000 were congests or uneconomic holders whose holdings were improved.

What I wanted to know was the number of holdings that were raised to an economic level and will not need further attention from the Land Commission.

I do not think it is possible to give that figure. If we were to take a certain economic level it could obviously be said that all the operations in the West of Ireland were fruitless. We must assume there is some return for this vast expenditure. Surely the Deputy does not suggest when there is a resettlement or a rearrangement scheme that there is a rough and ready way by which we can say what the actual benefit is. There may be an enormous benefit in convenience and otherwise to the tenant.

I think the Minister does not get the point. Surely the inspectors know when a holding is finally settled and when they will not have to go back again to give a further enlargement to that holding, in other words, when a holding is finally written off and settled? How many of these were in the 1,700?

I cannot say, but I will try to find out. It is possible to find that out in the non-congested areas.

And in the congested areas, too.

In the congested areas, it seems to me, you never reach the point where you will be satisfied.

I do not agree.

I may be wrong. I shall not say any more on this particular Vote as Deputies wish to have an opportunity of speaking on the other Votes.

Before we pass from that, may I ask the Minister does he agree with the present size of a standard holding?

I have no intention of interfering with it unless there is good reason for it.

I would advise the Minister not to have a good reason.

There is so little to be done outside the congested areas that I do not think it matters very much.

Motion to refer back by leave withdrawn.
Vote put and agreed to.