The Minister was kind enough the other day to tell us that if there was any point which we thought could be discussed better on recommittal he would agree. I do not think it is necessary to recommit the whole Bill but I would ask him to agree to the recommittal of Section 6 and 18. I do not think it will take very long in either case but the points are difficult points to deal with by way of amendment as the amendments might be out of order.
Land (No. 2) Bill, 1952—Final Stages.
Bill recommitted for the purpose of Section 6.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 4, to add at the end of Section 6 a new sub-section as follows:—
(4) Such sums as may from time to time be required to pay the interest and sinking fund on the additional land bonds issued in pursuance ofthis section shall, subject to the approval of the Minister for Finance, be paid to the Land Commission out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas.
This amendment is considered necessary as I have been advised that the general provision in Section 3 for payments and expenses would not adequately cover this particular charge and a specific provision is considered safer. The House will recognise that in an important matter of this kind we ought to make it absolutely clear and beyond doubt and that all matters relating to interest and sinking fund and so on should be clarified to the utmost possible extent.
As I understand the amendment, it deals purely with the question of what one might call the bonus bonds.
The bonus bonds, presumably, will be subject to similar, if not the same, provisions as regards sinking fund, repayment and drawings as the other bonds. One of the reasons I asked the Minister to recommit Section 6 was that I am still not quite clear as to exactly the manner in which these bonds will be issued. I take it the bonds will be of a different issue from the original bonds in the estate. Is it proposed that the bonus bonds, while being a different issue, will also be subject to the same rate of interest or will they be payable at whatever rate of interest is the appropriate rate at the date of their issue? For example, there are cases at present where the bonds have been put to credit in the estate on the appointed day at 4 per cent. Following the passage of his Bill, bonds of a series bearing a larger rate of interest will be issued. Is it intended that the bonus bonds to be issued will be part of the general series that will be issued in pursuance of the powers that are now contained in Section 4 of the Land Bond Act, 1934, as amended, or is it proposed that there will be what one might term a special issue purelyto satisfy the requirements of Section 6? If that is the case, on what basis will those special bonds be issued? As I understand the Bill, it enables the Minister to deal with that. It is a question of practice more than of the actual wording of the sections.
The additional bonds will be paid out of the same series and carry the same conditions and the same merit as regards interest, and so on, as the original issue. The position appears to be that there are bonds available of the different series, 4 per cent. or whatever it may be, and the intention is that the bonus bonds should be of the same series and alike in every respect to those that have been already issued. I do not know whether I made that position clear. The intention is that they should be all the same category.
I think that on Second Reading the Minister indicated that all these bonds were used up. That is why I am puzzled. The Minister, when replying on the Second Reading, told us that all the existing bonds were used up.
I may have left the Deputy under a false impression. The position is that under the Land Bond Act, 1934—this arises more properly under Section 7—the category of bonds to be issued for a particular price is determined by the date on which the price is agreed upon or fixed. For example, prices agreed upon or fixed during 1952 are paid in 4 per cent. bonds. The date on which untenanted land vests in the Land Commission or the date of issue of the bonds does not determine the category of the bonds. Where prices were agreed upon or fixed before the 1st January, 1953, the Land Commission have proceeded to take possession of the lands in the normal way. Bonds totalling almost £200,000 have been issued since 1st January last and bonds are still being issued every week. The cases involved include a few in which prices were fixed by the Land Commission during 1952 and appeals against those prices are pending for decision by the Appeal Tribunal.
I said on the Second Reading:
"Since the 1st January last there have been no land bonds available to enable prices to be agreed upon or fixed for lands which the Land Commission propose to acquire."
I was not concerned with cases in which prices had been agreed upon or fixed before the 1st January. There is no shortage of 4 per cent., 3½ per cent. or 3 per cent. bonds for such cases. The point is that, pending the passing of this Bill, the Minister for Finance has not created any bonds for the price fixation period commencing 1st January, 1953, and, accordingly, no price has been agreed upon or fixed since that date.
I think the point, which perhaps I did not explain correctly and which I have now mentioned, may help the Deputy, that pending the passing of the Bill no bonds have been created, nor will there be until the Bill becomes law. We have bonds which can be issued to cover the particular transaction that Deputy Sweetman has in mind at the appropriate rate of interest and conditions.
As I understood the Minister the last day, he agreed with me that the appropriate date, the date of issue, was the date on which the bonds were put to the credit of the estate, which happens almost immediately after the appointed day. As I understood the Minister now, he says that in no case has there been any Order fixing by what bonds lands in 1953 are to be taken, where the bonds are to be issued in 1953. I do not know whether I have correctly understood the Minister in saying that.
That is the Order by the Minister for Finance.
I have a particular pet case in relation to this section and my difficulty about understanding how that can be is that, in the pet case which I have mentioned to the Minister privately and in respect of which I must admit he has generously come to meet me, the appointed day was fixed on the 15th January and the bonds were issued on the 29th January, 1953.I felt there must be something else here. That is why I am worried on the point. I can see what the Minister meant on the Second Reading—that there were not enough bonds to carry on the general work of the Land Commission, but that there would be enough available of various series to conclude the mopping up operations under Section 6. But where the other position arises, it seems to me, having regard to that particular case, that I must have misunderstood the date of issue. It seems to me that that is the crucial point in it. If the date of issue is the publication of and transfer to the credit of the estate immediately after the appointed day, then it has happened in 1953.
I understood that the general procedure was that the Minister for Finance every year made an Order which said, in effect, in respect of all bonds issued for lands taken in the year so-and-so, that these lands shall be paid for by means of the issue of bonds of a certain series. I think that is done as a general practice every year. In 1952, the practice was, I understand, that they were paid for in 4 per cent. bonds. In 1953, it is proposed to deal with them otherwise.
I wonder are we wrong in thinking that the date of issue is the appointed day? Is the date of issue the date upon which the provisional list is published by the Land Commission inIris Oifigiúil, and which is the list of the lands that provisionally will vest in the Land Commission by reference to a future appointed day in default of a valid objection? If that is the date of issue, then why that becomes so important in the consideration of Section 6 is that I am not certain about the 11th December date. Although I know that the date has reference to possession primarily, yet, if the date of issue of bonds was to be prior to the 11th December, I am not certain that we would be in so clear a water as we felt we might be when in Committee. That is why it is so essential to get it absolutely clear as to what is the date of issue specially defined in the various Land Bond Acts.
I understand the date of issue is the date the bonds are paidby the Land Commission to the credit of the estate, which usually follows within a period of one or two weeks after the appointed day. The appointed day in itself has nothing to do with the category of bonds. In the case in which the Deputy was interested I think the price was tentatively fixed by the Land Commission before the 1st January, 1953, and the 4 per cent. bonds of 1952 would be applicable to that particular case. Bonds are still being issued for prices which were fixed before the 1st January, 1953.
That would seem as if the date of the provisional list was the date on which the bonds were put aside and not the final list.
I do not know that the provisional list has any special significance.
It was issued in September. If that was the date upon which the bonds were put to the credit of the estate provisionally, then my point would be answered.
I think it is the date in the final list.
The final date was the 29th January.
There is a notice published fixing the price—I do not know what that is called technically—and that appears to determine the bonds.
Is not that notice published after the appointed day?
If that is the date of issue, then the date of issue is not the date in relation to which we discussed the whole section. I must say that I am not very clear on it.
It is not the date of issue.
Did the Minister give any further consideration to the question of the retrospective date since last week?
No. I explained last week that I thought the introduction of the Bill was an appropriate date.
When reading the debate, I thought at one stage I detected in the Minister a further slight outburst of generosity and that he might make the date not the 11th December but the date of the publication of the prospectus for the national loan. As far as I could see from the figures given by the Minister, it would not affect very many cases from the point of view of the State but it would undoubtedly relieve hardship in the few cases that were dealt with between those dates. The cases that will be involved in this section concern those people who did not apply, as they were entitled to apply under the 1950 Act, and who get the opportunity of applying under Section 11. I think that is the section that deals with the extension of the time for redetermination of the price and extending the date back from the 11th December to the date upon which the State itself publicly accepted the rate of interest by the publication of the prospectus for the national loan. It would, I think, not be unfair on the State and would certainly relieve the position in respect of those people of whose land possession was taken between that date in September and December. I was away at the time. The Minister did mention a number of cases. The Minister had all his figures here but I cannot mention them on the section nor can I find them at the moment in the Official Report. I think some 92 cases came under the extension of the 1950 Act.
I think the Minister also gave us the figures in respect of those who would be brought in if we went back as far as the 1st April last. I must confess that I do not value my powers of persuasion so highly as to hope to be able to persuade the Minister to go back as far as the 1st April. But if I could persuade him to go back to the date of the publication of the prospectus of the national loan I think the Minister would be meeting the case very reasonably indeed and would beaccepting the date upon which the State and the Government itself determined what was going to be the controlling rate of interest and, therefore, the value of fixed interest securities for the period thereafter. I do not know whether the Minister could give us the figures as to what amount or what number of cases would be involved. I cannot find it.
The position anyway is that we would have had to go back, I think, to the 1st April or even further to cover cases in respect of which it might be pleaded they had suffered. There was no possibility whatever of going back to the 1st April, although the Deputy is quite right in saying that I spoke, perhaps, in a way that made him feel I was inclined to be generous. What I really had in mind, if Deputies wanted to make the case, was to give them an opportunity to deal with cases in which they were interested.
Deputy Sweetman had some in his own experience and I felt that there might be other Deputies who had particular cases, even though I felt I could not go back really. I would have liked to have heard the type of case they had in mind. The origin of Section 11 came from a case in respect of which there was human sympathy for the family. It was a case which was dragged out over a long period of time and affected those who heard about it. That does not necessarily mean that those cases which our withers are meant to be wrung by are always the most deserving, but this particular case—it was a family case—received a wide amount of publicity and was a case about which representations had been made by Deputies in the different Parties from the area concerned. Realising there might be other cases of that nature, I wanted to give Deputies over-encouragement, if you like, but with the exception of Deputy Sweetman himself, the other Deputies have not really responded to what I consider to have been an invitation to come along and make a case based on their experience. There does not seem to have been any great interest in the matter. I do not think I would bejustified in going further than I have to make the date retrospective.
I think 57 cases would be involved. Is that right—the difference between 79 and 136?
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 4, line 31, to insert "in relation to" before "advances."
This is merely a verbal amendment.
I move amendment No. 2 (a):—
In page 5, to delete "that date" in lines 19, 23, 38 and 42 and substitute in each case "the date of vesting."
This is a verbal amendment. To avoid any possibility of ambiguity, the expression "the date of vesting" is being substituted in two places in each sub-section.
Is the date of vesting a different date from the date of resumption? Sub-section (1) of this Section 12 starts as follows: "Where the Land Commission have, before the passing of this Act, resumed a holding,...". Is that the date of vesting or is that a different date? There is another date in the paragraph lower down—"the date on which they were authorised to resume the holding." There seem to be a lot of dates in this section.
The date of vesting is equivalent to the date of taking possession or the date of authorisation to resume, where that date is later. On the last reading of the Bill I explained that the endeavour was to substitute the date of vesting generally as the point of time on which all the proceedings depend. The date of vesting is what we are trying to get in this particular date.
That would bring it in line with the acquisition proceedings? But the Minister said that the date of vesting is equivalent to the date of taking possession or the date of authorisation to resume, whichever is the later. Surely the Land Commission never go into possession unless they are authorised?
Or the date of authorisation to resume, where that date is later.
But that date could not be later than the date on which you went into possession. If you got your authority after you had gone in, you would be in illegal possession in the interval.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In page 6, line 51, to insert "or that section as extended by Section 30 of the Land Act, 1936," before "other".
This is a drafting amendment to remedy an oversight.
Even Homer nods.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 6, lines 53 and 54, to delete "the said Section 30 or that Section" and substitute "Section 30 of the Land Act, 1933, or that section as extended by Section 30 of the Land Act, 1936, or".
The reason for this amendment is precisely the same as for the preceding one.
Section 18 deals with limited administrators. That is a matter about which we had a good dealof discussion on the last day when we were discussing this Bill. On that occasion, I made a point to the Minister in connection with the insertion of the words "for the purposes of proceedings under the Land Purchase Acts" in the section. It is in sub-section (4) at the top of page 9. I said that, for the purposes of proceedings under the Land Purchase Acts (including this Act), land registered under the Registration of Title Acts was an anomaly, that, in fact, once the land purchase proceedings had terminated, the land then went to Registration of Title Acts for the first time, and, therefore, once land had come under the provisions of the Registration of Title Act there could not be any further proceedings under the Land Purchase Acts. I have since been able to ascertain, through the courtesy of the Minister's officials, the type of case in which there can be proceedings under the Land Purchase Acts. I now appreciate that the drafting effect of this section is not the effect which I thought it was intended it should have.
As I understand it, the Minister intends this section solely to deal with those cases which have come under the Registration of Title Acts where the Land Commission are contemplating arranging an exchange. I do not think it is right that the Registration of Title Acts should be amended by what one might term a side-wind in this way. Either we should have a complete amendment or we should not amend at all. The position at present is that in the case of very small holdings—it nearly always arises in the case of very small holdings, holdings which sometimes have been abandoned —where the Land Commission appointed a limited administrator for the purpose of ensuring that they can get satisfactory user and so forth, proceedings are taken under the Land Acts in respect of that land.
As a result of these proceedings and the appointment of a limited administrator, in certain circumstances the vesting goes on to the Land Registry and the holding is then vested in the person named as the limited administrator. As I understand it, the wholeidea of limited administratorship is to avoid having to incur the very substantial expense that would be incurred in respect of taking out administration in the ordinary way to the type of case that is involved. I think we would all agree that it is desirable—if we can at all—to avoid that expense, provided we can do it with reasonable safeguards for the rights of people who might otherwise be affected.
This Bill, however, is going to create, in so far as this sub-section carries it into effect, a situation in which a number of people will be registered in the Land Registry as limited administrators. They are going to be there on the register as such limited administrators. As I understand it, this section is intended to imply that they are not going to be able to deal in any way with the land when it is registered in their name except, of course, for the simple purpose of arranging an exchange with the Land Commission. That will have the effect of having on the register of title a certain number of people—not many I agree, but a certain number of people —who have had their land vested in them by the Land Commission as limited administrators and who will not be able to deal with that land at all without having to do exactly what the Minister desires to avoid doing, namely, incurring the heavy expense of taking out the grant of administration.
I can see the Minister's point of view, that perhaps that might be more a matter for Justice than for this Bill but this is the Bill which is going to create that position, and it is not right that the Minister should by this Bill create the situation in which there are going to be any number of people, whether large or small, registered in the Land Registry as the registered owner, within the meaning of the Registration of Title Acts, but unable to deal with the land. It means, in effect, that any time any one of these wants to deal with the land, he will have to go back over the title not merely in the Land Registry but in the Land Commission, leading to the situation which the Minister short-cut, if I may put it that way, by theprovision in this section. I do not think that is either desirable or reasonable. I think the position should be that limited administrators should be appointed for the sole purposes of the Land Commission proceedings and that the land, if it is to be registered, should be registered in them, subject to equities, when no note of the limited administratorship arises on the face of the registry and when, then, the matter can be dealt with, if it is necessary to discharge the note as to equities.
That is the fundamental basis also of the provision in the Agricultural Credit Acts by virtue of which purchase by registered owners can be accepted in certain circumstances, without the equities being discharged; but what the Minister proposes here is to place year after year a certain number of people on the register of title who will have no right whatever to deal with the land in respect of which the Land Commission are registering them, without having to do exactly what the Minister by this section seeks to avoid compelling them to do for the purposes of land purchase proceedings.
On a general principle, the Minister will agree with me that, if it is desirable to avoid a certain expense for the purposes of one Department, it is also desirable in relation to the other. These limited administratorship cases arise only in circumstances where the value of the holding does not make it worth while to go to the expense of taking out administration in the ordinary way and the effect of this will be that a certain number of people all over the country will be added every year to the list of those who will be in the position that some day, sooner or later, they will have to incur very substantial expense.
I do not think the Minister would wish that for a moment and I think he will agree that dealing with it in that way merely because the Registration of Title Acts are perhaps under the control of the Department of Justice rather than under his own control is not a conclusive answer to the point. It could be done quite easily by another method—by the Land Commission appointing the person as limited administrator and vesting it in himwithout reference to his limited administratorship. His administratorship would be part of the equities and would arise as such and would not be a blot on his title for evermore unless he spent that money.
We are not really changing the law in this regard, although one might argue from hearing Deputy Sweetman that we were. The appointment of limited administrators to overcome the difficulties which the Land Commission have in dealing with the estates of deceased persons has been in the Land Acts since 1870 and very specifically in Section 54 of the 1939 Act. A doubt has been raised, I think, by the registration of title people themselves, as to whether the position is quite clear. They want to be absolutely satisfied that, from their point of view, the position is watertight legally and that these administrators have always had the power which the statutes, in our opinion, meant them to have.
When the Deputy raised the matter on the previous stage I was under the impression that he had only land purchase dealings in mind but he seems to have had in question other types of dealings in which the Land Commission are not involved at all. The legal advisers take issue very strongly on the point that we could not possibly agree to introduce into this measure provisions which would amend the Registration of Title Act, that it would be quite anomalous to attempt to do it. It is not merely that the Land Registry—though I am often blamed for their misdeeds, if they are misdeeds—belongs to another Department, the Department of Justice, but that the Registration of Title Acts are a separate type and body of legislation and we would be contravening all the principles for which the draftsman stands if we were to attempt by a side-wind to amend them in the way Deputy Sweetman suggests. I have some sympathy with his point of view but I think he has more or less accepted that in fact we would be amending these Registration of Title Acts if we were to do as he wishes. Having considered the matter and having gone into it Ido not think it is possible to do it on this occasion. We have to confine ourselves simply to making clear the law and the powers which we believe have been there, in so far as completing proceedings in which the Land Commission is directly concerned, involving these limited administrators and I cannot take it on myself to extend their functions in any other way.
I can appreciate the Minister's point of view, but at the same time I think it is wrong. What is being done now is making a substantial extension of the wording of the 1939 Act and even if the Minister says that what he is doing in fact is clarifying what was intended in the 1939 Act, I do not necessarily think that that is what was intended at all. The point I want to make is twofold. There is the point he has answered and I have a certain amount of sympathy with him—he does not want to amend the whole of the Registration of Title Acts by a side-wind and what I want to do would perhaps be doing that. I think the Minister will agree, however, that while it would be doing so, it would be doing the job in a much tidier manner.
If, however, the Minister does not want to do that, there is another way —and a way to which there will not be the same objections, that is, to have the person appointed as a limited administrator for the purposes of the Land Purchase Acts alone. That will give the Land Commission the power and the right to appoint these limited administrators for land purchase proceedings and then it will not in any way interfere with the Registration of Title Acts. If the Minister thinks that doing that would not enable him to utilise this power for an exchange of holdings, he could deal with the power to appoint a limited administrator under the Registration of Title Acts for the sole purpose of an exchange of holding by a separate section, or by making it a separate sub-section, but the objection I have to it is that by the positive act of the Minister in this Bill or, if the Minister so wishes to put the argument, by Section 54 of the 1939 Act, we are going to build up in the Land Registry a number of cases which will be growing year by year andwhich can never be unravelled except by going to very substantial legal cost which will never be justified by the value of the holdings concerned. It will, in fact, mean that in regard to these holdings which are thrown into the register by this section, they will be there for all time in a state of legal chaos. It could be done the other way, and if it were done the other way under the Registration of Title Acts, the ordinary 12 years of the possessor in title would be sufficiently operative to get the equities discharged without this expense.
The Minister will agree with me if there has been no claim against limited administrators for 12, 15, 20 years, then there is no real equity still subsisting and the matter can be dealt with without expense. There is a provision in the rules by which it can be dealt with without expense. Once the person is put in there as limited administrator, he is there as a trustee, must remain as a trustee through the whole of his possession and never take adverse possession under what the ordinary person understands by a squatter's title, and that it is going to mean that in respect of every single one of those holdings, which will be very small in value, we will have heavy legal expense thrown upon them.
I know the Tánaiste, sitting next to the Minister, dislikes the lawyers intensively even when he is kind enough to describe them by certain adjectives as I heard him describe them on Sunday, but in any event we will all agree that it is entirely unnecessary to impose the hardship of the cost that will be involved in these cases if we can find any way out of it.
The way I would have preferred to find out of it was the way I advocated on the last occasion and the way I advocated earlier. If the Minister says he cannot accept that I must bow to his point of view. I think it would be a tidier way but if he cannot accept it he can still do it the other way and I would urge on him very strongly to consider with his legal advisers between now and the time this Bill goes to the Seanad some new method of getting what he wants under this section in respect of land purchaseproceedings which we are all prepared to give him; and having got what he wants in respect of land purchase proceedings, to consider getting at the same time a method by which the vesting order which goes to the Land Registry will go without reference to the limited administratorship but subject to the equities, so that in that way the rights of any person as next of kin or otherwise would be against the land and would be protected under the administratorship and yet our rights would cure themselves in the course of time by the comparatively cheap methods included in the Land Registry rules for the purpose of avoiding expense of many administrations. There will probably be not one but two or three administrations in the various cases involved.
The limited administration provisions in the 1939 Act are spent when the Land Purchase proceedings with which they are concerned are completed and we are not attempting to extend, as I have said, further than to make it quite clear that it is the intention that the end of the proceedings may be in every way correct from the legal point of view. We are not attempting in any way to extend their jurisdiction and if we did it I think we would have to amend all these Acts and the Registration of Title Acts.
As regards the expenses, this is a serious matter undoubtedly and Deputy Sweetman may very well be a public benefactor in suggesting that this should be done. However, it strikes me that apart from the fact that this is not the appropriate measure and I am not the appropriate Minister—either the Minister for Justice or the Minister for Finance, perhaps, could deal with it—we would, in fact, be differentiating between the limited class of cases in which the Land Commission is interested and other classes because obviously if we are going to extend the jurisdiction of the limited administrators in the cases where the Land Commission has proceedings, there is no reason why, on the ground of equity, we would not have the same jurisdiction and the same system of limited administration.I suppose, for all cases of hardship generally we would simply be opening the door further. Deputy Sweetman is trying to persuade me I have opened it a little; perhaps I have peeped out, but I think he wants me to throw it wide open, and I do not feel it is my job at all. I will mention it to the Minister for Justice and we will see by the time we reach the Seanad if there is anything in the point, but I do not think the Deputy's suggested amendment is quite in line with the provisions of the proceeding Land Acts. However, I shall ask the legal advisers to have another look at the matter.
That is fair enough.