No board could do better in present circumstances than the Forestry Division has done. I doubt if they would have done as well as our present Forestry Division has done, and that is saying a great deal. That is the view I have come to, having studied the matter very deeply. In time to come, a commercial undertaking may be feasible and it may even be desirable to set up a commercial undertaking. But by that time we will have gone well over half-way, perhaps three-quarters of the way, to the 1,200,000 acres we all hope to see planted. That is the goal of every person who has afforestation at heart. When we reach that, the time will be ripe to halt and examine the position to see exactly where we are going.
Deputy Coogan was particularly anxious about planting in the West and in Connemara. In that regard let me say that Deputy Bartley left me completely puzzled. I do not know exactly what he wants. He spoke of planting in cut-away bogs as if that was something the Forestry Division had never done before. They have planted a huge acreage of cut-away bogs and are doing so very successfully. At the same time Deputy Bartley mentioned that the Land Commission should not be allowing the tenants to cut bogs down to the bare rocks—I think that was the expression he used. That is quite true, but in most of the areas where this is being done there is only about one sod of turf over the rock and in order to procure fuel the tenants have no other way out. I think Deputy Bartley will agree that the average holdings in Connemara would not stand up to getting supplies of fuel for the house outside the holding.
Many Deputies spoke on the question of planting in the West generally. This Bill is largely for the West. While I hope it will apply to offers in other counties of the Twenty-Six, I think it will apply particularly to the West for this reason, that most of the commonages and a greater part of the mountains of our country are along the west coast, that is, from Donegal down to West Cork. It is true—I think it was Deputy Derrig raised the point— that there are commonages in Wicklow. There are commonages there and in fact there is a peculiar type of commonage problem in Wicklow, but I think I am not over-optimistic when I say this Bill will help us also to get over the difficulty of that situation in County Wicklow.
Let me explain to Deputies that there are two types of commonage. One is the type where the tenants own the fee simple, where they own the commonage themselves and where it is registered as part of their holding; the other type is where, say, the Land Commission or the successor of the former landlord owns the commonage and has allowed grazing rights on it.
Section 4 deals with the people who have a commonage right and own the fee simple and another section deals with the people who do not own the fee simple but have grazing rights over the land. When we came to examine the matter, we found these were very thorny problems from the legal point of view and that was the principal reason why we needed the Bill.
I would like to state clearly that I had hoped this Bill would have been green-printed and circulated before the Dáil rose for the summer recess and although all concerned with it—the Chief State Solicitor's office, the Attorney-General's office, the officials in the Department of Lands—were working very hard on it, it was extremely difficult to achieve all we have achieved in this Bill without violating the constitutional rights of the owners of land.
Deputy Derrig, I think, asked me to state what acreage approximately would come under this Bill. I cannot. Deputy O'Donovan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government, tried to give an estimate of it; he did not attempt to give more than a round figure. I cannot either. All I can say is that for many years past there has been a huge number of commonages offered to the Forestry Division that have fallen through simply because of the objections, and never, as some Deputies seemed to think, because of price. There is a large number of commonages and I should not be surprised if the extra land that will come in as a result of this Bill would amount to 10,000 acres a year. I would be disappointed if it does not exceed 5,000 acres and that will be a very welcome addition to the inflow at the present time.
In speaking last week I told the House that our ultimate aim cannot be limited even to a planting rate of 25,000 acres a year if we can succeed, as I personally believe we will, in finding even more extensive acreages capable of making a contribution towards the country's good by their afforestation. If further earnest of the present Government's determination to push ahead rapidly with forestry were needed, it is to be found in the annual Votes for Forestry presented to this House. In the three years in which the present Government was in office before, the Vote for Forestry rose from £357,430 to £1,127,200. On coming back into office, I was happy to come to this House this year and seek an increase in this year's Vote to £1,560,300 compared with £1,272,850 last year.
These are some points about which Deputies will be glad to hear, at least those who seem to think we are not going fast enough. With the exception of a few Deputies, I want to compliment Deputies who spoke on their sane approach to the whole question— realising that we had not the prairies of the United States or Canada or the vast plains of the Transvaal to play with. This is only a small country; we are only getting on our feet. Let me repeat that the Forestry Division has done an outstanding job of work, I would say, the biggest and best in the country.
On the question of safeguarding constitutional property rights, Deputy Derrig seems to think we were seeking in this Bill to safeguard particularly the rights of people with defective title. I think the Deputy must have misread a part of the explanatory memorandum which we circulated with the Bill. The reference there was to the problems presented by defective title as distinct from those presented by commonage rights and interests. The real point is that where we deal with a person whose title is defective, we must, in conformity with the Constitution, safeguard the rights of any other person with a true title.
His misunderstanding is one that could easily arise but it is better to have it cleared up. The real point is that we are trying to safeguard not only the person who appears to be the owner but also we must effectively safeguard every other person who may be a claimant under this Bill. When the Committee Stage comes up, I will be expecting Deputies to have perused the Bill as carefully as they can, particularly rural Deputies who have a knowledge of the complexity of the situation and who can give me their best assistance. I will be quite prepared to accept any amendments if I am satisfied that they are going to make the Bill better.
Deputy Derrig mentioned also the desirability of using forestry to absorb seasonal unemployment from Bord na Móna and elsewhere. It is only right to tell the House that the work in forestry nowadays is fairly steady and the number of men left off are very few even during what I might describe as the slack months. As a matter of fact, out of total of 5,000 men the number left off each year is only about 600. We are in communication with Bord na Móna and with others at the present time to see exactly how best we can take up any slack that might be unavoidable in the course of the employment of their workers. It is a very good point and if there is anything we can do we will be only too glad to do it.
Deputy MacBride seemed to be under the impression that I dropped the target of 25,000 acres altogether. If it were any Deputy other than Deputy MacBride, I would not mind, but he could not possibly have made that mistake. When I challenged him to say where we had dropped it, he was absolutely unable to quote such a statement. I feel Deputy MacBride is sincere and honest in his views on the whole forestry question but it does not help to read into my speech something that was not there.
He was also of the opinion that I was at war with Mr. Cameron. I do not know whether there is any precedent for a Minister making such a statement to the House, but whether it has been done before or not I think I should express to Mr. Cameron on behalf of this House and on behalf of the Government our very sincere gratitude for the work he did for us. He came here and made a survey of the land of this country and gave us a lot of useful information. We are deeply grateful to him for the advice that he gave and I was more than surprised that Deputy MacBride tried to picture me as finding fault with or, at least, picking out errors in Mr. Cameron's report. It certainly was not my intention to do that because, having gone around a good deal with Mr. Cameron when he was here, I formed a high opinion of him and can say that he was genuinely anxious to give the best advice he possibly could.
I pointed out in my opening speech that I had moved away from Mr. Cameron on two particular points. One was on population trends. The other was the question of the timber yield of our land. I was challenged that it has taken us three or four years to find the mistakes or errors in Mr. Cameron's report. The truth of the matter is that, on the question of population trends, Mr. Cameron estimated an increase of 50 per cent. in the population. In 1954, three years after, the Commission on Emigration furnished its report. If I read the summary on population trends to the House, it will show that we have much more up-to-date information now than was available to Mr. Cameron. It was on that ground that I pointed out to the House in my opening speech why I disagree with Mr. Cameron's report in that respect.
Paragraph 469 of the Report of the Commission on Emigration says:—
"The projections expose the unreality of such estimates and indicate the degree of optimism involved even in an expectation of a population of 3,500,000 to 4,000,000 in 30 to 40 years. Even this would represent an increase of about one-fourth on our present population size and would constitute a spectacular demographic achievement out of keeping with the whole trend of our population size for more than 100 years, though it should be borne in mind that this trend in itself has been different from that of European countries in general. Such a population increase would be possible only on the basis of a degree of resolution, never yet exhibited, to develop the economy fully, and a ready acceptance of the sacrifices and hard work which this would involve. It must also be realised that in the absence of such resolution and its implied sacrifices the alternative may well be a worsening of existing fertility and emigration trends, a lowering of density and a population of little more than 2,500,000."
That in itself makes gloomy enough reading and is a pill I find it hard to swallow. They tell us that in 30 to 40 years time they do not expect any increase in our population. I hope they are wrong when they point out that it may actually drop by 500,000—a thing I find it hard to visualise.
I pointed out that Mr. Cameron had not information like that and lacked information on the question of Irish timber yields. That information has since come to hand. It has now put Mr. Cameron's report, in these two regards at least, completely out of date. I gave that information to the House in my opening speech and that was taken by Deputy MacBride as an indication that I wanted to run away from the original planting programme.
The extract from the Report of the Commission on Emigration that I have read is an estimate of what the commission think may happen in regard to population inside the next 50 years. That is not, surely, a forestry matter and I think Mr. Cameron would be the first to agree with me when I take a lead in that matter from the Commission on Emigration which examined the matter in a careful and expert way.
The second point related to the average annual yield which we may expect to derive from Irish forests. Mr. Cameron spent a fortnight in this country in July-August of 1950. Of that fortnight approximately eight to nine days were devoted to a tour of the country during which he saw something of our existing forests but saw rather more of potential forest areas not yet acquired. He had no opportunity of estimating the yield from Irish forests. He could not have attempted to estimate that yield on the basis of such a short tour of inspection and he did not attempt to do so. Mr. Cameron based his reckoning on this question of yield on data produced by the Forestry Division's own technical staff, that is, our own technical advisers in this country. Available data which are set out in the appendix to his report did not relate properly to the average species actually being planted in this country or the qualities of timber which might be expected under Irish conditions in these various species. That is made perfectly clear in the published report. Mr. Cameron found himself in a difficulty in using such figures and he said so.
When I rose to speak in this House last week I had the benefit of an up-to-date estimate, not produced by a pseudo-forestry expert Minister for Lands or any other body of that nature but by the expert technical staff of the Forestry Division. That estimate is based on the amount of land we are planting in this country, the species which can be grown on that land, and the qualities of timber that may be expected. It is based, too, upon yield-data which became available only in 1954, and that is why it is only now, and not three or four years ago, that we have been able to take this matter further. Deputies should not make the mistake of thinking that the Department is beset by red tape in these matters. That is not true.
Mr. Cameron's unhappiness about using such yield figures as we then had sprang partly from doubt as to the desirability of expecting a high proportion of quality II plantations. Our technical experts' revised figures assume nothing higher than quality III except in relation to contorta pine which will give a higher yield on poor land than any other species. Mr. Cameron was also in a difficulty in relation to contorta pine, with which he would be less familiar than our own foresters. The yield figures used by our experts for this species are quite conservative and there is no reason to doubt them. Indeed, I have here a report from the Director for Wales of the British Forestry Commission which shows that in Wales, as here, far better results have been obtained from contorta pine than Mr. Cameron expected and better even than from sitka spruce.
The figure of 84 cu. ft. which I have used is in fact far lower than is being obtained already in many of our plantations. Even in the appendix to Mr. Cameron's report, Deputies will find actual specimen figures in regard to Irish yields which are twice the average I have used in estimation. The specimen figures were based on plantations of only about 25 years of age which will show in higher yields as they approach maturity.
To put the matter simply, Mr. Cameron worked on the basis that our present population, at the present rate of consumption, needed a timber supply from home sources of about 37,500 standards of commercial timber a year to leave the country independent of imports. This supply would, according to the up-to-date data of the experts whom we must accept, call for an annual planting of only about 3,000 acres. To allow for a per head consumption increased four-fold for the present population, we would need an annual output of 150,000 standards or an annual planting of 12,000 acres. If we were to allow for consumption per head at four times the present rate and for an increase also of 50 per cent. in the population, Mr. Cameron reckoned the annual need at 200,000 standards or an annual planting of 18,000 acres.
Let me repeat some of the details that caused confusion on this particular matter. We have data now about the yield of cubic feet of timber per statute acre which were not available then. Mr. Cameron, on the basis of such figures as we then had, came to the conclusion that 69 cubic feet per statute acre was what could be expected from Irish forests. But his conclusions were not accepted by the then Director of Forestry who, for example, gave a yield from sitka spruce in Glenmalure forest at 169 cubic feet per statute acre. Japanese larch in the same forest would yield 125 cubic feet per statute acre according to the same report. Douglas fir he estimated would yield 113 cubic feet per statute acre and cupressus macro-carpa would yield 112 cubic feet per statute acre.
As I have said, Mr. Cameron gave us a figure of 69 cubic feet per statute acre. Our experts now have given me different figures. These figures have come from actual felling and production and prove that our Irish forests will yield, at the very best, 84 cubic feet per statute acre when mature. It was on that figure that I based my opening speech and it was apparently on that point that Deputy MacBride took me to task. I have to look at three sides of the question-one the figure of 69 cubic feet given by Mr. Cameron; another, the 125 cubic feet given by a former Director of Forestry and the present information of 84 cubic feet per statute acre which the expects tell me they are getting from our forests of mature timber to-day. Which is right? I am taking our own experts because I have every confidence that they are all proficient officials who are painstaking and accurate and when they arrive at this figure of 84 feet per statute acre. I am quite satisfied with it.
On the separate issue of consumption rate, Mr. Cameron worked from the fact that our consumption of timber per year is 12½ standards per 1,000 of the population. He suggested that our consumption in 50 years' time would amount to four times that amount—50 standards per 1,000 of the population. If we accept that suggestion, which would need an annual-planting of 12,000 acres to meet home needs, this year we are planting 15,000 acres, which, over and above our own requirements, will leave 3,000 acres of mature timber for export and that is what some Deputies are decrying; that is what is causing them to say we are not making sufficient progress.
I want the House and the country to know that this year the planting of 15,000 acres will mean that even if we are using four times as much timber in 50 years as now, we will have a surplus of 3,000 acres of 40,000 standards of timber to export per year. While that is a bright picture, one of which the Government and the country should be proud, I am not content with it. I am not satisfied with planting sufficient timber this year to meet our needs and to provide a surplus of 3,000 acres in a few years' time. If I were, there would be no need for this Bill. I want to say clearly and emphatically that the 25,000 acres which have been set up by some Deputies as a limit which should not be surpassed does not satisfy me at all.
I want to say that I, for one, will not be stampeded into accepting that limit. I am quite prepared to go ahead with the greatest speed but also with the requisite amount of caution. We are only a small country in which the inflow of land is not by any means what I would like it to be. We must solicit from each farmer the particular piece of land we want for afforestation. Some Deputies have already hoisted their colours on the question of the compulsory acquisition of land for afforestation. To them I say that there will be no compulsory acquisition for afforestation.
It is quite sufficient to have compulsion as far as the Land Commission are concerned for the relief of congestion and compulsion for other minor purposes. Deputies who would like to see themselves playing with the very lives and livelihoods of thousands of our people, thousands of the very poorest of our people, will have to be disappointed unless they set up a different type of State from what we have.
There were so many points raised in this debate that I must confess that it would be almost impossible to remember all of them. Deputy Lindsay was worried about the question of title —what happens when a person who is six years in possession sells to the Department of Lands for afforestation and then the old owner comes back. First, I do not know of any case where the real owner has left property completely untended for six years. Apart from that, there is ample provision in the Principal Act to notify each single interested party in this matter and it is our desire that every interested party should be notified. We will do our best in this regard. Interested parties will get every chance of voicing their grievances if they have any. I thought Deputy Lindsay had discovered a flaw but when I looked into the matter I discovered such was not the case.
Deputy Brennan of Wicklow raised a question concerning a parcel of arable land which might be acquired in a big holding when it is being taken over by the Forestry Division. He suggested that the arable land should be given to a smallholder. I have no objection to the Forestry Division doing a deal in a particular area where they buy a holding portion of which is arable and where it might not be advisable to plant it. I have no objection to the Forestry Division giving a local farmer the arable part in exchange for a useless or non-arable portion of his farm together, possibly, with a cash adjustment either way. I am quite prepared to help out in cases which the Deputy or other Deputies might bring to my notice.
Deputy Barry mentioned local organisations such as Muintir na Tíre and the Young Farmers' Clubs. I assure Deputy Barry and other Deputies who mentioned the same subject that we will welcome any help that comes from them on the one hand and on the other hand that we will give them any possible assistance they may need because every acre of private forest is as useful an asset as an acre of State forest.
Deputy Moran got into a white heat about this Bill and jumped from one foot to the other. When on one foot, it was a useless Bill, a stunt Bill; when on the other, it was dripping with compulsion. I think that the mistake the Deputy made was, first, he did not read the Bill and secondly, if he took a little bit of care or took some interest in afforestation he would have seen that the Bill is not a stunt Bill on the one hand or dripping with compulsion on the other. He seemed to have a grievance about the forests being started in County Mayo. I have not the full figures on hand but in the new forests started in County Mayo since 1948 over £72,000 in wages and cartage have been paid to the people in those districts. In the one particular forest that he seemed to have all his grudge against there has been £14,000 paid out in wages and an excellent forest of something like 1,300 acres has been established, every tree in which is doing well. Deputy Moran should not have taken that attitude towards forests in Mayo.
Deputy O'Connor of North Kerry made a complaint about a forestry official, who, apparently, was discourteous when he called to his house. I deplore an incident of that kind very much and I want to assure the Deputy that I will not stand over any such discourtesy if it take place and I would be slow to question the Deputy's word about it. Forestry officials, as a rule, are most courteous but it is quite possible that one particular official may have outstepped the limits to which he should have gone. I am having the matter investigated, and if he did so, I can assure the Deputy that he will receive a very severe reprimand.
Deputy O'Connor referred to areas in North Kerry which he thought should have been taken over for forestry purposes. I want to point out to him and other Deputies that there may be discontent because a particular area which they thought should have been taken over has not been taken over. I have since investigated the area he mentioned and I have found that the Forestry Division has come up against difficulties which are not easily surmounted. That mountain is owned by 35 different tenants in common. When the Bill is passed I will have another investigation of that area and I hope it will come within the scope of the Bill.
Some Deputies seem to think that when they bring to the notice of the Department a particular piece of land it should be planted. The fact is, however, that when the inspectors survey that land they may find it unplantable. The same thing has happened to myself. On several occasions both as a Deputy and a Minister I have brought areas of land to the notice of the officials and they have turned them down. Sometimes I have felt very furious with them but on reflection I have decided that if we have experts we must be guided by them. They do not turn these areas down for political reasons but because they do not think that trees will grow on the particular site. If our experts turn down these offers let us pose this question to ourselves: "What business have we with experts if we do not take their advice?" We have frequently questions about the Land Commission and every other Department and we undoubtedly have the tendency to set ourselves up as experts and to think that a thing should be done according to our own particular view.
There is nothing we can do if the experts decide that the job cannot be done, but there are some areas which many years ago were found not to be plantable which can now be planted under the new technique introduced in 1951. I want to say that, as this is not the last Forestry Bill, so the new technique of 1951 will not be the last technique to be introduced, and perhaps in time to come new methods will enable certain areas, now deemed to be unplantable, to be planted.
In conclusion I want to thank the Deputies of the House for the way in which they have met the Bill, and I want to say that I am intensely gratified to find the interest which a Forestry Bill has aroused in this House and through the country.