Land (Regulation of Acquisition) Bill, 1961—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. I am glad the Government decided to provide time to discuss this Bill. Yesterday the Taoiseach animadverted on our attitude with regard to another Private Bill and it would be as well to state here that, in our opinion, when a member of the House takes the trouble to prepare a Bill for consideration by the House, the minimum courtesy he is entitled to expect is that he will be facilitated in having the Bill printed and circulated to his colleagues so that a decision can be taken on the merits of his proposal.

I am well aware that it is open to the Government to restrict discussion to a short statement from both sides and that seems to me to be a procedure which normally is a mistaken procedure. From the point of view of good Parliamentary procedure, all Deputies should be treated on a basis of equality and receive from the House the courtesy of permission to have a Bill they want considered, printed and circulated so that people can consider it and subsequently the Government can allow it to be accepted or rejected by the votes of Deputies. I hope the Government will reconsider their general attitude with regard to that matter and, where a reasonable proposal is submitted, that they will refrain from exercising their prerogative of opposing the First Reading and reserve the statement of their attitude for an occasion when the House will have a opportunity of seeing what the Deputy wishes the House to consider.

In regard to this Bill the Government have provided time for its consideration. It is quite a simple Bill. Its main purpose is to provide a means of getting a clear picture for the people at large of the problem—if such problem exists—of the acquisition of agricultural land in this country by non-nationals. For several years from these benches we advocated a departure from the original policy of Fianna Fáil in regard to the control of manufactures. We urged on them that the time had come when the country required the admission of foreign capital, foreign know-how and foreign marketing methods into our economy, so that we would be given access, ready access, to foreign markets into which it was extremely difficult for a new industrial economy to break a way. I think the Government were right in virtually abandoning their original policy of control of manufactures and not only admitting but welcoming the arrival of foreign capital or investment and the establishment of branch factories which would build up Irish production and provide their marketing organisation for its disposition in foreign markets.

As that policy began to operate, a new situation began to develop. That was that, in addition to factory sites being acquired by foreign interests, we read every day in the newspapers of large tracts of agricultural land in various parts of the country being acquired by foreign interests and non-nationals. In addition it is pretty well known that an operation is being conducted of a quasi-secret character whereby foreign interests acquired pre-1947 companies and under the cover of these companies began to buy agricultural land. That development has been referred to by the Minister for Finance in his financial statement of the 19th April, column 681, of volume 182, No. 5 in which he said:

The Government have had under consideration the question of acquisition of agricultural land by non-nationals, and the desirability of exercising more control over these transactions. It has been decided to include provisions in the Finance Bill to strengthen the existing 25 per cent. stamp duty legislation so as to bring within its scope certain procedures which at present enable, or may enable, non-nationals to acquire land without incurring liability to the duty. In particular, I have in mind purchases of land by pre-1947 companies with non-national shareholders.

That is evidence in itself that the Government are aware of this problem and have realised its implications. In a recent leading article in the Government-kept newspaper, on the 23rd February, 1961, the following paragraph appeared:

The Swiss authorities have had to impose rather stringent conditions on land purchase by foreigners because of the enormous influx of wealthy foreign settlers into the attractive Alpine cantons. There land prices have been inflated and local people have come to feel that their traditions are being seriously endangered.

I would draw the attention of the House to that sentence —"and local people have come to feel that their traditions are being seriously endangered." It is well known that in Jersey similar restrictions have had to be imposed to prevent excessive acquisition of land there by foreigners.

On the 17th February, 1961, the Minister for Lands is reported as having said:

No situation has yet arisen which would give genuine cause for concern, but the matter was being closely watched for any unreasonable or excessive developments. There was in operation a heavy tax designed to restrict and discourage such transactions.

In a leading article in the Irish Times of the 14th January, 1961, the following statement appeared:

The tradition of Irish hospitality is a very proud and strong one; but we must draw the line somewhere. As the Farmers' Journal points out, we are the only country in Europe that allows the unrestricted purchase of land by foreigners. It would take the strongest evidence of an alien influx to disturb our liberal attitude towards the stranger; but one must ask whether the time has not now come to call a halt to a movement that may eventually mean a social and economic upheaval of the first order. The Farmers' Journal suggests a variable purchase tax of 25 to 50 per cent. depending on the farming ability of the purchaser and his willingness to live here. It is, perhaps, too early to impose such a drastic control; but it is not too much to ask the Minister for Finance to supervise more closely the loophole provided by the pre-1947 company or, indeed, to require of our new landholders from abroad that they should make a minimal gesture by playing their full part in the rural community. It would be the greatest pity if the Germans or any other Continental people who feel the understandable need to “get away from it all” were to parody the outworn slogan that “England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity” by acting on the basis that Ireland's economic difficulty was their opportunity.

I have referred to the whole question of introducing foreign capital because I think there is very grave danger that if the impression spread about in this country that there was, associated with the introduction of that foreign capital for industrial purposes, a certain drive to buy up the agricultural land of this country by wealthy non-nationals a fully understandable and violent reaction might arise in this country which would be most unhealthy and undesirable. It is to prevent such a development that we are bringing this Bill before the House.

In the absence of certain knowledge in matters of this kind all sorts of rumours are liable to circulate. A purchase of land in one particular area will give rise to rumour and that rumour spreads. It is then confirmed by a purchase of land in another area and the thing spreads and grows until an atmosphere of panic and unrest spreads through the country. I have the feeling that precipitate action to impose heavy taxation or restrictive legislation might well be premature. I am glad to see that the German Ambassador, when on a recent visit to his own country, exhorted his fellow-countrymen to proceed with their industrial adventures in Ireland but warned that excessive purchases of agricultural land would certainly be misunderstood in this country and would give rise to sentiments which would do no service to the improvement of German-Irish relations. In sounding that note of caution he was very prudent.

It is certainly true that we ought to be solicitous to ensure that we shall not present a chauvinist appearance of resenting the arrival of any non-nationals who intend to permanently reside here. It would ill become our people, who have gone to reside in such great numbers in Great Britain, the U.S.A. and, indeed, all over the world, suddenly to declare that they will not extend reciprocal hospitality to people who elect to come here and make their living amongst us. There is a very fundamental difference between that attitude and appearing to be indifferent to the wholesale purchase of agricultural land by non-nationals with the danger of there creeping back on us unobserved a new landlord system which it took us a great deal of effort and sacrifice to get rid of.

One of the great dangers in which each generation lives is that, in proportion to the sacrifices of the generation that went before it in abating evils, the succeeding generation may lose sight altogether of the evil that has been abolished because their forefathers had done the job so well. A great many Deputies in this House will remember that we are not now for the first time dealing with this problem of the ownership of land resting in people other than those who live and get their living on the land and what we have got to try to remember is how insidious are the problems in this regard.

I think it was Mitchel Henry who came to Donegal in 1879 or the '70's. He came with the best intentions in the world. He was a radical liberal. He wanted to demonstrate that if people ran their estates well there need be no conflict between the landlord and the tenant. He was not very long here until he was involved in one of the most savage land wars that ever took place and the people he wanted, I believe with the best of intentions, to help and serve resented his presence and after a long and bloody battle he left this country and the land ultimately vested in the tenants who lived and got their living on it.

It was earlier than that that Lord Lucan, who was the landlord of the greater part of West Mayo, believed that he could best serve the interests of his tenants by evicting all of them and after a suitable sojourn in the workhouse dividing up their farms into large holdings and re-employing them, not as tenants, but as employees on the large farms that it was his purpose to create in the belief that he could provide them with a larger monetary income by installing Scotch factors who, as he thought, would operate the land more economically. Our people resisted that and, in a long and bloody encounter, they drove Lord Lucan out of West Mayo instead of Lord Lucan driving them out.

The great danger of closing Pandora's box too firmly is that those who subsequently look at it forget its contents and in an unwary moment will open it and let loose its contents, only to discover then that they have not the means to confine back in that box the evil spirit which they have released and which their forebears wrought so powerfully effectively to confine.

I have not the slightest doubt that if, in a misguided moment, non-nationals came to buy Irish land for the purpose of operating it as a commercial proposition, displacing tenant proprietors by agricultural labourers, we would very quickly drift into a situation which would give rise to the gravest social disturbance in this country. In that social disturbance there might be involved many valuable industrial enterprises which are at present assured of public goodwill but which, if once associated in the public mind with a large-scale movement to purchase Irish agricultural land, would share the hatred of our people for any attempt to dispossess them of the land on which they depend.

There are analogies for this to be found all over the world. In the new emergent nations in many parts of the world, where colonial power has never sought to transfer ownership of the land to colonists, when the time came to introduce an emergent nation to freedom there was none of the bitter racial hatreds that existed in those ex-colonies whose colonial history had been characterised by a large-scale transfer of the people's land to colonists who were brought in. Where colonial powers in the past had confined themselves to industrial and mercantile activity and had not interfered with people's right to their land, there was no bitter resentment left between the colonial powers and the people who were charged with the responsibility of taking over the new emergent nation but, where land problems existed, as they do exist in many parts of South America and elsewhere, they have confounded and maddened the masses of the people and have given rise to grave social unrest which has been, of course, promptly exploited by the powers of evil in the world.

We have made it so much a rule of our life here in Ireland that no Irish person aspires to be a landlord that it is really unnecessary to take any precautions over and above the continual existence of the Land Commission to ensure that that domestic evil would not arise again. I cannot imagine anybody born and bred in this country setting himself up as a landlord again because it is in the blood to know that our people will not have it and do not like it but it is quite possible for a well-intentioned stranger coming here, ignorant of our past history, to stumble into that very error and generate the very kind of social problems that we are concerned to avoid by a Bill of this kind.

In all human affairs prevention is better than cure. Probably, from the point of view of politics, it might be more dramatic to introduce a Bill proposing to prohibit absolutely the acquisition of Irish land by non-nationals but we are not concerned with politics in regard to this Bill; we are concerned to prevent the growth of an evil before it assumes dimensions which might impose upon us the necessity to take drastic action of a disturbing and positively difficult kind. So, this Bill is designed to prevent the emergence of a land problem in Ireland. It provides that a register should be set up in the Land Commission and that any non-national who proposes to acquire agricultural land in this country, in order to make the transfer of the land to him valid, should register the intention to make the conveyance at least seven days before the execution of the instrument of the particulars set out in Section 4 of this Bill relating to the land intended to be conveyed, transferred or leased.

The only effect of his not doing so, in accordance with this proposal, is that the transfer would be void and have no effect. His failure to do it would create a grave flaw in his title to the land. It is unthinkable that any man would part with his money and take a title to land which could be impugned under the terms of this Bill in any future transaction relating to it.

It is sought to build up in the Land Commission, therefore, a register of all transfers of land to non-nationals so that anybody who is concerned about this problem will have free access to full information in regard to it. It is also sought by the terms of Section 3 (2) to ensure that if a person sets up a company or acquires a company by taking shares in it and is himself a non-national, that company shall be under the same obligation to register a transfer of land with the Land Commission for the information both of the authorities and of all other interested parties in the State.

It might be necessary on the Committee Stage of this Bill to introduce a further provision that, where a pre-1947 company or any other had been established without foreign participation and acquired land, in the event of part of its equity being acquired by a non-national, that company will then have the obligation to register any acquisition of land for which it was responsible in the register stipulated for in this Bill.

We believe that prevention is better than cure. It may very well be that legislation of the character in this Bill would prevent any serious problem arising and would constitute full notice to non-nationals that it was the firm intention of the Oireachtas to prevent any large-scale transfer of land to non-nationals. If we can prevent the problem, it is a very much better way to go about it than to wait for this problem to mature and then be driven to extreme and drastic legislation in an effort to cure the evil that has been allowed to arise.

There is the possibility, if the present trend continues, of a very serious evil developing. There is undoubtedly abroad in the country a considerable degree of apprehension that such an evil is developing. It is very necessary to prevent such an evil developing and to persuade the public, if in fact no serious evil exists, that there is clear evidence that no situation exists calling for restrictive legislation.

I agree that one must be extremely circumspect in placing any restriction on the free sale of land but you must not allow yourselves to be dazzled or misled by some of the fundamental aphorisms with which we have all grown up. The three F's were undoubtedly a very precious war cry of the Land War. Remember what they were: free sale, fair rent and fixity of tenure. Fair rent has ceased to be a problem. There are no rents left because we got rid of them all. Fixity of tenure is no longer a problem since we amended the deplorable Fianna Fáil legislation of 1932 which sought to undermine everything and which did destroy many a decent farmer by robbing him of his birthright. Free sale meant that a farmer should have the right to get the value of his holding. We provided under the 1951 Land Act that even where the Land Commission acquired a man's holding, he was entitled to get the full value of the holding, and he has got it ever since.

Free sale is a very important thing but you should not carry that fundamental right to free sale to the point of saying that we as a people would be prepared to stand idly by and see all the agricultural land sold to speculators from outside. That would be carrying the doctrine of free sale to a point that nobody who understands its true significance would ever concede as being correct. Free sale means that the farmers should be free to sell their holdings on the open market but it does not mean that farmers should be free to sell their land to landlords in order to re-establish a system which the whole Land War was fought to put an end to.

One of our perennial difficulties in this country is to get people in this part of Ireland to be constantly conscious of the difficulties of their neighbours west of the Shannon, in Cavan, Monaghan and other areas where the holdings are small and, in very many cases, manifestly uneconomic. One of the difficulties frequently pointed out is that if you wanted to give every farmer in Ireland a fully economic holding of 50 acreas, there probably is not enough land on this island to do it. However, there still remain among us a very large number of Irish farmers who urgently need land in order to make their holdings economic and there also exists and I hope will exist in greater numbers in the years that lie ahead, a number of young men who have a bit of capital, who have acquired agricultural know-how and want an opportunity to settle on the land in their own country. It would become an intolerable abuse if there were many of these eager and willing to take up moderate holdings of land and they saw the land on which they could get their living being alienated in large tracts to non-nationals who were buying it for the purpose of commercial exploitation or for the purpose of selling it to tenants as a financial investment.

None of us in this House, I think, would tolerate the alienation of the land of Ireland on a large scale from Irish ownership. We know that, but there may be people from abroad who do not fully appreciate that situation. It is a matter of very urgent importance that no crisis should be allowed to grow out of this development of the acquisition of land by foreigners. I believe that a Bill on the lines which we now submit will operate as an effective check on that tendency, and it will do more; it will prevent panic movements spreading throughout the country, founded on inadequate information. I know of no other means by which accurate information of the kind necessary to inform public opinion can be made available, except through some such machinery as this Bill proposes.

It is necessary and important to emphasise that one of the reasons this Bill is brought before the House is to ensure that public misunderstanding of the trend towards the acquisition of agricultural land by non-nationals will not create a public movement against the acquisition of industrial sites by foreign entrepreneurs coming in here on their own, or in association with the Irish associates, to establish industrial enterprises.

I want to make it perfectly clear and manifest that this is a situation which all Parties in the House approve and desire to promote. We understand how easily these two things could become confused in the public mind. It is very understandable that foreigners who are not familiar with our historical background might overlook the fundamental difference the Irish people see between the acquisition of industrial sites and the wholesale acquisition of agricultural land by non-nationals.

This piece of machinery is designed to warn them. It is designed to keep our people fully informed of the true situation, and perhaps most important, it is designed to keep the Government and the Oireachtas fully informed as to the true situation, so that if the necessity for bringing in effective restricting legislation on the acquisition of agricultural land by non-nationals should ever arise, we might rest assured that we would have the opportunity of acting in time, and avoiding the creation of a very serious social problem, with all the grave repercussions of legislation which might be requisite to correct it.

Many people will find fault with this Bill on the ground that it does not go too far. We firmly believe it is very much better to prevent an evil rather than to be forced into a course which might be requisite to cure it. The primary purpose of the Bill is to prevent, at this stage, the development of an evil which would certainly call for drastic remedy. I urge on the Government that they should accept the Bill, at least in principle, so that we will not have to return to this problem in much more difficult circumstances hereafter.

In conclusion, I want to remind the House that, in drafting a Bill of this kind, the Opposition have not access to the services of the Parliamentary Draftsman. The Opposition have not access to the various organs of administrative experience of the Department of Lands. Therefore, the Bill in its present form expresses the general intention, and any lacuna in it can very readily be cured on Committee Stage by suitable amendment. We are not married to the letter of this Bill. We are concerned with its spirit, and we believe that a Bill entitled Land (Regulation of Acquisition) Bill, 1961, will in itself be a very useful deterrent to evil.

I hope the Government are prepared to accept the Bill. I undertake to collaborate with them in its amendment, in so far as amendment may be necessary for drafting and administrative convenience, on Committee Stage, in the confident belief that in enacting a Land (Regulation of Acquisition) Bill, we may prevent evil and avoid the necessity of other Draconian legislation at a later stage. We have serious apprehensions that unless we act in that sense now, we will be confronted in three or four years' time with a most difficult situation which may give rise to endless misunderstanding and serious economic damage to the State, which we all want to avoid, and which we think can best be avoided by acting in time on the lines suggested in this Bill.

On a point of order, before the Minister begins, I should like to ask if the same regulations apply to this debate as apply normally in relation to Private Members' Time? Is there any limit on the time given to each Deputy for his contribution?

The time is not limited. This is not Private Members' Time.

Time limits do not apply to Bills; they apply only to motions.

In private Members' Time——

It applies only to motions, not to Bills.

I do not agree with Deputy Sweetman.

The Deputy should let his conscience be his guide.

I just wanted to clarify the point as the Minister seems very anxious to take up time.

It is proper that the Minister should speak.

Very proper.

I do not know why that remark was made. In his opening speech on Second Reading of this Bill, Deputy Dillon referred to the procedure adopted yesterday on another Private Bill. Of course the Deputy is well aware that the rules of the House are there, and that it is my duty, his duty and the duty of all Deputies to uphold them. If they are found wanting in any way, the matter can be dealt with, I assume, through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges or some other body. At all events, yesterday the matter was dealt with in accordance with the existing rules of order. In opposing the First Reading of a Bill, there is no other possible way of dealing with it under the rules as they exist at present.

Before I go into details on this Bill, I want to refer to the statement of the Minister for Finance in his Budget speech as to the intentions of the Government in dealing with this matter generally. The Minister said:

The Government have had under consideration the question of acquisitions of agricultural land by non-nationals, and the desirability of exercising more control over these transactions. It has been decided to include provisions in the Finance Bill to strengthen the existing 25 per cent, stamp duty legislation so as to bring within its scope certain procedures which at present enable, or may enable, non-nationals to acquire land without incurring liability to the duty. In particular, I have in mind purchases of land by pre-1947 companies with non-national shareholders.

I think any person with any experience of the law will agree that that has been the main loophole under the 1956 Finance Bill and the previous 1947 Bill.

The Minister for Finance went on:

At the same time, it is necessary to have regard to the legitimate needs of persons who come from abroad and benefit the economy by setting up industries or otherwise investing here. I do not propose, therefore, that the higher rate of duty should apply henceforward except where it is necessary for social purposes. It will not apply at all in urban areas or to land which is to be used for industrial purposes and, where it does apply, the Minister for Lands will have power in suitable cases to authorise the granting of exemption.

When the Minister for Finance referred to the Minister for Lands in that case, I think he was in fact referring to the Land Commission.

In recent times there has been in certain portions of the Press, as quoted by Deputy Dillon, concern expressed about some aliens, particularly Germans, coming to this country and acquiring land. I am well aware of the sensitivity of this question. Indeed, I think everybody brought up in rural Ireland, and particularly in the West, is aware of the sensitivity of this question. I am further aware how easy it is to exploit this sensitivity in different quarters for different purposes. I propose at a later stage to cut this matter down to size. In so far as it does pose a problem for us at all here, I did state on numerous occasions since these Press reports appeared that the Government and I were keeping a close watch on this matter, and if it transpired there was a necessity for any remedial action or control, it would be applied.

I propose to inform the House now in more detail, following the statement of the Minister for Finance, of the measures proposed to be taken by the Government in the Finance Bill, which will shortly be before the House, to deal with this matter in so far as the Government, on the information before them at present, consider it should be dealt with. I want to give in broad outline the steps we propose to take in relation to the acquisition of agricultural land by non-nationals. The Minister for Finance announced that the liability for 25 per cent stamp duty will not apply to urban property. It is, of course, intended to continue the existing arrangements whereby it does not apply to residential holdings containing less than five acres or to land which is used for industrial purposes.

In the case of land purchased for industrial purposes, however, the Finance Bill will contain a new provision to the effect that, in the event of the failure on the part of the purchaser to put the land to industrial use within three years of its purchase, the purchase money at this stage shall attract the 25 per cent. rate of stamp duty. I may pause here for a moment to explain that under the previous law it would appear that anybody, if he was sufficiently unscrupulous, could certify in a deed that the land concerned was going to be used for industrial purposes and thereby evade the higher rate of stamp duty. The new provision will ensure that if the industry is not proceeded with within three years, he will be liable to the penal rate of 25 per cent. duty.

Some non-nationals have hitherto succeeded in circumventing the provisions of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1947, by operating through pre-1947 Irish companies. With the object of curbing these activities, it has been decided that relief from the 25 per cent. duty will in future be applicable only in the case of companies, including pre-1947 companies, which were owned bona fide by Irish citizens to an extent exceeding 50 per cent. Where the Revenue Commissioners are not satisfied regarding the bona fides of any company, they may apply the 25 per cent. stamp duty, subject to an appeal to the courts. Therefore, in future, relief from the higher rate of duty to companies, including pre-1947 companies, will apply only where they are Irish companies. By “Irish companies” I mean companies where the majority of the equity is owned by Irish citizens. Provision will be made in the Act for certain information about these transactions to be provided by the companies concerned. If the Revenue Commissioners have any doubts, they will be in a position to say: “We shall not accept you are a bona fide Irish company” and the onus will be then on the company to appeal to the courts to establish that it is, in fact, a bona fide Irish company.

In the last sentence of paragraph 3, it states "of any company". Does that mean any company or any pre-1947 company?

It means any company, In the case of agricultural land acquired by a non-national or by a company under non-national control, it will be open to the purchaser to apply for relief from the 25 per cent. duty. It is proposed that that relief will apply as a general rule in circumstances where the completion of the sale would not hinder the land settlement programme or where the sale would be in furtherance of the national interest. For example, relief would normally apply in cases of the purchase of an uneconomic demense, which is regarded as a "white elephant" by Irish standards. Similarly, an individual or company introducing a new method of agriculture to this country might properly be given encouragement in the form of relief. This escape clause is designed for what in popular language is known as a "white elephant"—a very large house, possibly with more than five acres of land. It is envisaged that the Minister for Finance may, on the recommendation of the Land Commission, authorise the granting of relief from the higher rate of stamp duty in such cases.

Finally, the Finance Bill will include adequate provisions for ensuring the effectiveness of any new measures by imposing severe penalties for such matters as the furnishing of false information as to the ownership of land, the constitution of companies and so on. As I said, under the previous law any type of declaration could be made. Even the provision of the Statutory Declaration Act did not, in my view, apply to such declarations. Outside certain penal provisions in respect of duties in case of any false declarations in deeds, there will be further provisions, including imprisonment, for any such fraudulent return or any such fraudulent declaration in any such document. From the foregoing, it will be apparent that the Government are ready to implement effective measures to control the tax evasion which is the crux of this matter. The Bill goes no further——

Does the Minister think tax evasion is the crux of the matter? My feeling is that it is the alienation of the land.

I think I do. I shall deal with that proposition when I finish what I have to say on this issue. I suggest that the Bill is an innocuous measure which goes no further than to require the Land Commission to set up a register of information about alien purchases. Under the Government measure, it is proposed that the Revenue Commissioners shall keep the Land Commission informed of purchases by non-national interests. In this way, the Land Commission will be in a position to assemble essential information about such transactions. This will be achieved without the irritating and superfluous machinery proposed in this Bill. Appropriate particulars will be made available to members of the House by way of replies to Parliamentary Question or in response to inquiries addressed to my office.

I am satisfied that these arrangements which will be brought into operation under the Finance Bill in the near future will meet the reasonable requirements of the matter as the Government see them. In effect, the position will be, and it will so be provided by law, that the Revenue Commissioners in all these transactions will forthwith inform the Land Commission and the Land Commission will have their register of all these cases in which non-nationals or non-national companies or concerns purchase land. These companies and these individuals, except in the cases I have explained, will be subject to the 25 per cent. stamp duly based ad valorem on the purchase price.

If the 25 per cent. penal tax referred to were in force and were enforceable, it is, in my view, and indeed it must be in any international view, a very serious penalty on those concerned. As far as the problem as we see it is concerned—in so far as it is a problem and so far I do not think it is and I think I shall be able to convince the House in a few moments that it is not—I believe this measure is quite adequate to deal with it at this time. Indeed, if this tax were enforceable under the previous legislation, I think it would be quite sufficient to deal with it. However, there was the position that unscrupulous people could certify different things in deeds that were not the truth and thus escape the tax and there was the great loophole which was the pre-1947 company and which was used, in the main, as an instrument for the purpose of avoiding this tax.

I am satisfied that if we make the law effective on that issue and if we put out the pre-1947 company, we shall in fact be taking sufficient steps at this time to deal with the few people we have to deal with. Further-more, by the provision under which the Revenue Commissioners will notify the Land Commissioners, we shall know exactly what is happening without going to the trouble we have to go to now in asking the Garda and our own officials to make a check down the country.

It is unnecessary for me to reiterate the position as far as the scarcity of land in this country is concerned. Deputy Dillon has referred to a recent statement by the German Ambassador abroad. I do not know how the idea seems to have got publicity that there is plenty of land here for all. It has been made clear by me and by the Taoiseach that that is not the position, and that we have a land congestion problem here which it is national policy to solve.

However, we must have reasonable reciprocity with other people and with other States. I think the position was fairly well stated and, in the main, it is the position, with the one exception with which I shall deal in a moment, as stated by the former Minister for External Affairs, Deputy Cosgrave, when speaking on a motion introduced here by Deputy McQuillan in 1954, as reported at Column 1818 of the Official Reports of 15th December, 1954, Volume 147. This matter was raised by Deputy McQuillan who tabled a motion in this House exactly on all fours, and containing the suggestion that the repeal or amendment of the Aliens Act should be undertaken by the then Government, with what he advocated here yesterday.

Speaking on that occasion, the then Minister for External Affairs said, under the reference I have given:

In a few very isolated cases, I think in South America, certain legislation has been imposed against non-nationals. But in almost every other country, in Europe, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, conditions exist almost identical with those in this country —the same treatment is afforded to non-nationals as is afforded to non-nationals here. As far as I can see there would be no reason why we should legislate in a penal fashion, particularly in view of the fact that absolute powers of acquisition, whether concerning nationals or non-nationals lie in the hands of the Land Commission.

There has been no change, so far as I know, and certainly not in Western Europe, except in the one case to which Deputy Dillon referred, that is, Switzerland. However, in Switzerland, the problem is entirely different from what it is here. My information is that in Switzerland, in one quarter of last year, there were over 460 purchases by aliens. Switzerland is right on the border of Germany, and with Switzerland's history of neutrality, surrounded by a troubled world, it is quite natural for people there to try to get a foothold again. As far as can be ascertained, we had roughly 33 purchases in the whole of the year in a recent period——

I beg the Minister's pardon, 33?

Thirty-three in a recent 12 months, all cases of over 100 acres. Of these 33, quite a few that I have investigated were Germans and the land consisted of snipe grass and stuff in which the Land Commission would have absolutely no interest. In a number of other cases there were purchases by people who, if not aliens, were certainly non-nationals.

Has the Minister any idea why they buy the snipe grass?

They buy snipe grass to erect chalets in Mayo, for instance. That is welcomed by all and sundry locally. Some of these people like to get atmosphere. Perhaps if I go back, in connection with what I have described as snipe grass, to what I said and what my attitude was in discussing this motion in 1954 it will make clear what I mean. In opposing the motion then —I was in Opposition at that time and what I said is reported at Column 1793 of Volume 147 of the Official Report—I said:

Before I leave the aliens question, I must say that I largely agree, as far as my part of the West is concerned, with what was stated here by, I think, Deputy Brennan, on the last occasion. The type of alien we have got in the West are people who are buying old ramshackle places nobody else would purchase. They are people who come back to the West of Ireland looking for atmosphere, looking for a place where the local flyboy can play Liszt's rhapsody on his tin whistle. They come out and find that they have acquired a place which nobody else would buy, and then you will see advertisements in the London newspapers about a cosy nook with wonderful fishing and free shooting looking out on the broad Atlantic. They are looking for somebody who will take off their hands the property they have acquired earlier. We like these people down there and these are not the people who create the problem that Deputy McQuillan has in mind.

That was in 1954 and we still have a number of these people floating around and a number of places that I referred to in another sense as white elephants.

Before the Minister leaves that, could he say how many of these thirty-three cases were in Kildare?

Seven or eight, I am informed.

I could show the Minister many more than that——

And in County Meath, too.

——going from 500 acres down.

The Deputy asked me a question and I gave the answer.

I know the answer —the Minister has not got the information.

I think the Minister has not the information.

I accept that the information may not be complete over the last twelve months, although twelve months ago a check was made, not alone by me but through every Garda barracks throughout the land. The information should be fairly accurate in my view. But in so far as our information is not complete it will be remedied under the provision of the new Finance Act, under which the Revenue Commissioners will be obliged by law to furnish us with every single transaction in which any alien or alien company may be concerned.

Before passing from Switzerland, which is the only European country that has taken special measures in recent times in this connection, let me say their decree, so far as I understand it, only forbids aliens to acquire land there for certain purposes. They could not purchase land near army installations or land which the Swiss authorities allege is being acquired for speculation, but the Swiss are quite careful to exempt land for industrial purposes and business firms are exempt also. An alien is allowed to transfer property in Switzerland to another alien relative. Everybody knows there is no comparison between the position of Switzerland, the international home of refugees and aliens, and the position here.

Turning to the Bill itself, as drafted, Deputy Dillon said that the primary purpose of it was to prevent an evil, if it ever arose. It should be quite clear that this Bill, as it stands, is not designed to prevent any evil nor indeed does it purport to give any extra powers by way of acquisition or otherwise to the Land Commission. The sole purpose of it is to get the Land Commission to keep a register of these transactions.

To let in the light of day on the true situation.

I want to point out that it appears to me that the sole purpose of the Bill is to ensure that a register shall be kept. The Bill does not seek to give any wider powers or use any discrimination against aliens. The Bill provides, as I said, that any alien no matter who, is quite free to purchase land here once he serves seven days' notice on the Land Commission so that the transaction may be noted in its register. Lest there be any misunderstanding, I want it to be clear that the Bill does not purport to do anything except to provide for this register.

Which would serve to establish facts.

I suggest to the Deputy that there are so many ways out of this Bill that it would not, in fact, serve to establish the true facts. It does not materially affect or strengthen the position of the Land Commission in relation to the acquisition of any lands although the title of the Bill is the Land (Regulation of Acquisition) Bill. It does not, in fact, provide for acquisition at all. It is not unacceptable in so far as it seeks to put on a firm basis the compilation of information, but it is so ineffective in other ways as to create difficulties which it would be virtually impossible to surmount and which would render it quite impossible to achieve the objective the Deputy has in mind. The effective way of compiling the type of register the Deputy has in mind will be met in the provisions of the new Finance Bill. I accept what the Deputy said so far as drafting is concerned; he and his colleagues were not, perhaps, in a position to cross every "t" and dot every "i", if I may put it that way.

I should like to point out a few matters in the Bill which will demonstrate to the House the utter impossibility of the House accepting any such measure. If we take Section 4 (1) (e), we have the inclusion of the word "street".

Strike out the word "street."

The word appears again in Section 4 (2) (c)—"the town-land or street, parish, barony and county..."

The Minister may strike out "street" in both contexts.

Tremendous trouble would be entailed there. In Section 3 it is provided:

(1) This Act applies to every conveyance, transfer or lease of land where the person or body corporate to whom the land is conveyed, transferred or leased

(i) being an individual person is not

(a) an Irish citizen, or

(b) a person who is for the time being ordinarily resident in the State and who was ordinarily resident in the State continuously during the three years immediately preceding the 15th day of October, 1947; or,

(ii) is a body corporate where any of the shares is held by

(a) a person within paragraph (i) of this subsection, or

(b) a body corporate where any of the shares is held by a person within paragraph (i) of this subsection.

That would impose an absolutely intolerable burden on any Irish company in which one solitary share was held by a non-national.

It is not a great burden to register the purchase of land at the moment.

I refer the Deputy to the particulars required to be furnished to the Land Commission under Section 4.

They would be set out in any conveyance, would they not?

Indeed, they would not. That would mean that the entire share register of the company would have to be furnished to the Land Commission. Take a company like Messrs. Arthur Guinness. They have thousands of shareholders. Suppose they bought 20 acres of land for the growing of experimental barley or something like that, they would have to furnish to the Land Commission the entire list of their thousands and thousands of shareholders.

That is what is in this Bill.

I shall go through it section by section. Subsection (ii) (a) of Section 4 provides that in every case the purchaser within paragraph (ii) of subsection (2) of Section 3 of this Act must furnish to the Land Commission the names, addresses and nationality of every shareholder. Messrs. Arthur Guinness would, therefore, have to compile a list of their thousands of shareholders and furnish it to the Land Commission. If they had a subsidiary under subsection (3), they would have to furnish a list covering their subsidiary, too.

We shall get over that in five seconds, if the Minister wants to, by excluding companies.

If there were 99 per cent. of the equity, as Deputy Dillon calls it, held by Irish nationals and 1 per cent. held outside, a list containing the name of every shareholder would have to be furnished in addition to all the other information provided for in Section 4. That applies in the case of companies. In the case of individuals, an obligation would be imposed not alone on the purchaser but on the vendor to investigate the nationality of any and every purchaser. He would have to get his seed, breed and generation as far as nationality is concerned. If he failed to give this seven days' notice provided for in the Bill and if the transaction proved to be void, the purchaser would be entitled in equity to his money back and the duty would be on the vendor's solicitors to investigate nationality. The position would be that there could never be any finality, during our lifetime, at all events, to the closing of any sale. This Bill—let me stress the point—does not take any positive steps to deal with the problem as we see it. It does not deal with the pre-1947 company.

Does the Minister say the pre-1947 company is the main problem?

According to my information and from my study of the matter, it is the main problem.

The Minister is remote from what actually happens.

I am as well aware as the Deputy of the other methods that have been used. I assure the Deputy I do not want to spell out every section which will be in the Finance Bill. I can assure the Deputy, however, that the matter has been very carefully examined. I am satisfied that when the Finance Bill comes before the House, the sections dealing with this matter will effectively seal off the escape holes that existed as far as that duty is concerned.

Would the Minister say when the Finance Bill will be circulated?

While I cannot commit myself, I understand the usual procedure is that it is circulated within a matter of weeks after the Budget statement. Indeed, the Minister for Finance in his statement on the Budget told the House that certain provisions of this Finance Bill would be retrospective to the date of the Budget.

There are other matters, which I do not want to labour but which appear to me to make this Bill completely unworkable, even for the purposes for which it was designed. In so far as this Bill was designed to get the Land Commission to keep a register, first, as drafted, it would be ineffective, and, secondly, there will in fact be a register, after the Finance Bill comes before the House, of these transactions in the Land Commission. Thirdly, in regard to the Bill as it is at the moment, I cannot foresee any type of amendment that could make it workable to give expression to the intention which I believe is behind the Bill. Fourthly, the Bill does not provide for any effective step to control this problem, in so far as it is a problem at all, and whatever has been envisaged in the Bill will be more effectively dealt with by the Finance Bill, which I have explained to the House. For all these reasons, I have to oppose this Bill, but I suggest that those who moved it, in view of the explanations I have given as to what is envisaged by the Government in the Finance Bill, should withdraw it and examine the detailed, effective proposals the Government have made to deal with this problem, in so far as it is a problem.

I propose to be very brief in my remarks on this measure because I assume the Deputies in the Party associated with Deputy Dillon wish to speak in support of the measure. I should like to say that I see no reason in the world why the Government should not accept this Bill. The Bill, if it is accepted, will only show the extent of the problem of the purchase of land by non-nationals and unless the Government do not want, or are afraid, to have that extent shown up, I see no reason why the measure should be opposed.

Let me also say that there is no such thing as a real check in the Bill as far as curbing the activities of non-nationals in the land market here is concerned. There are no teeth in the measure as far as that end of it is concerned. It reminds me of the position of a patient who is suffering from a serious haemorrhage. Somebody comes along and actually measures the quantity of blood pumping from his body, instead of applying a tourniquet to save the life of the patient. I think it is a tourniquet we need for this problem. It is not something that arose in the past five or six years; it is something that has been going on since the end of the war. My main concern is to ensure that the pool of land which should be available for the relief of congestion is not acquired or purchased by non-nationals to the detriment of people who live on small, uneconomic holdings in the State.

The Constitution clearly lays down that it is the duty of the Government to establish on the land of Ireland, in economic circumstances, as many families as it is possible to settle. I feel that if the land which is suitable for the relief of congestion is allowed to pass into the hands of non-nationals, we are flouting the Constitution and betraying the smallholders and congests all over the country. It is not that I have any personal objection to other races; on the contrary, I think it is a very good idea for Irish people to meet foreigners of every nationality, to mix with them, to understand their viewpoint and to examine their way of life and make comparisons.

However, I do not think that at our stage of development, with so many problems in connection with the size of our holdings, we should allow the land, the agricultural land in particular, to pass out of the hands of our own people. That would be a crime against the Irish nation and the betrayal of everything that the Irish peasant, as he was described, stood for down through the generations. I do not care what may be said about the patriots who were in what I might describe as the higher income group, the nobility, who may have given the leadership, but without the support of the people who lived in miserable conditions down through the years, there could have been no change in the Government of this country.

The biggest problem down through the generations was the land problem, the land hunger. It would be a shocking thing if, when a native Government come in and have control of the destinies of this country, it could be said that it was during their term of office that we had a situation in which thousands and thousands of young Irishmen from congested areas had to flee the country and their places taken by non-nationals. This problem has existed, as I said, since the end of the war, since 1945 or 1946, and evidence has been given in this House, and outside it, of the extent of the acquisition of agricultural land by non-nationals over the period from 1945 to 1950.

I should like to refer the Minister to a question asked in this House on 31st May, 1950. At column 901, of Volume 121, I asked the then Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Cosgrave, what machinery was available whereby the acquisition of land by non-nationals "has been and is being kept under observation and if he is satisfield that this machinery is adequate for the purpose in question." To that question, he replied:

As regards the period 1944-1950, the Minister for Lands obtained from the Land Commission inspectors details of cases where, to their knowledge, land was purchased by persons other than Irish citizens. A summary of these reports is regarded as a reasonably reliable measure of such transactions for that period. From the 1st April, 1948, a record has been kept of all cases in which the 25 per cent. stamp duty imposed by Section 13 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1947, has been paid, and in the future these records will be furnished regularly to the Central Statistics Office, where they will be summarised and kept under review. In occasional cases where particulars of acreage are not available when the documents are presented for payment of the stamp duty, the required details will be ascertained by subsequent enquiry.

The proposed record will be incomplete in so far as it will not contain particulars of cases in which purchases of land by persons other than Irish citizens are exempted from payment of the 25 percent, duty of subsection (13) of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1947, but it will, in my judgment, be adequate for the purpose in view.

There, back in 1950, the then Parliamentary Secretary was giving his view to the House that there was a big loophole in the 1947 Act, and that it was not possible for anyone to say what land was being bought because of that loophole. To-day the Minister has again referred to the problems created by that loophole and yet there is no real effort being made, even under the proposal to be contained in the Finance Bill, to stop that loophole. I do not agree that the 1947 loophole is the only one of importance. I believe that individuals have been in a position to offer fantastic sums for land and that the 25 per cent. duty is not an insurmountable obstacle as far as the purchase of land is concerned.

Are we going to suggest that the money brought in by a foreigner, perhaps a black marketeer, perhaps an exploiter or perhaps a reasonable individual, is more valuable than the number of families that could be installed in economic units on such a holding? That is the first point I want to make. The Minister has said that the loophole in the 1947 Act has been known to the Government. But no steps have been taken to remedy the situation and all along the years some of the best land of this country has passed into the hands of non-nationals.

I should like to quote briefly from Volume 120 of the 17th May, 1950. I asked a question in this House about a statement made by a Land Commissioner. That Land Commissioner attended a land court in Galway early in 1950 and, in the course of his remarks to that court, he pointed out that over 100,000 acres of the finest land in Ireland had passed into the hands of non-nationals. I put down a question in the House to ask the Minister for Lands if he would make a statement on the matter. The Minister for Lands at that time was Deputy Blowick and he made a long statement which I shall not read to the House as it was irrelevant in many ways. He pointed out that it was not the duty of the Commissioner to make pronouncements of that nature.

When I questioned him as to whether he agreed with the figures given he went on to say:

With regard to Deputy McQuillan's statement I want to say that I agree with the Commissioner but I want to emphasise that it is most improper that any sense of partiality should be shown by a member of the Land Commission Court or any court while sitting on a bench.

His only criticism was that the judge should let the cat out of the bag and embarrass the Government.

What was the sequel to that statement? Deputy Blowick and the then Government, and I have to confess to the fact that I was a member of a Party that supported that Government, removed that Commissioner by sealed order because he made a statement that he should not have made. There was no denial of the fact that 100,000 acres of the finest land in Ireland had passed into the hands of non-nationals.

Let us take the statement of the Minister for Lands that we have from 60,000 to 80,000 smallholders whose units have to be increased to bring them up to an economic standard. There are holdings in his constituency and in mine, in Galway, Cork, Kerry and Donegal, where people consider themselves well off if they get five acres extra when a small farm is being divided. If we take the 100,000 acres referred to by the Commissioner, how many units could be established on that? If we gave 40 acres to each family we would be in a position to establish 2,400 new holdings with 40 acres of good land. I think it would be much more desirable to have a large number of families in economic units on the land rather than see that land in the hands of a few and utilised only for bloodstock breeding, by race horse owners and by retired colonels, deaf in both ears, and drawing large pensions from as far back as the Boer War. That is the position.

I am not in a position to give an estimate of how much land has passed into the hands of non-nationals since 1950 but I think it is fair to suggest that, despite all the publicity over the last ten years, the problem has not decreased but has gone the other way. During the past two or three years there has been plenty of publicity given to certain matters but this matter is like an iceberg; only a small portion of it is above water and the dangerous part is never seen. That is what has been happening here with regard to the purchase of land by non-nationals. The large purchases of really good land have taken place quietly.

This Bill is going to do nothing whatever to prevent those purchases, but I see no reason why the Government should not accept it so that every person in this country would be able to see for himself the extent to which it is going on. Then we would be able to bring in the necessary legislation on the lines I have suggested. I have not the slightest doubt that the problem is serious, particularly in Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford. In those counties the purchase of good land by non-nationals has created a serious problem. A survey of the area within 15 miles of Mullingar would show how difficult it is to find there an Irish citizen on a holding of reasonable size. The majority of the people who have large farms in that locality are non-nationals. On certain days of the week, listening to the conversation that takes place in some of the local taverns and hostels, one would imagine one was in the Kildare Street Club.

I have no objection whatever to the idea of allowing the purchase of land by non-nationals for industrial purposes. I have no desire to hinder their activities in that regard. I do not suggest for one moment that we should cut them off completely and not allow them to have facilities here. In no circumstances would I suggest that. My main concern all along has been to ensure that the pool of land for the relief of congestion would not be allowed to dry up. I recollect the former Taoiseach coming in here with a long face and telling us on the Estimate for Lands year after year that the pool of land for the relief of congestion had nearly dried up and that it was no use for the congest or small farmer to expect the Government to take land out of a hat as a conjurer would a rabbit, that the land was not there. If the land is not available, how is it that a non-national can purchase land?

As a side light on the mentality of a certain individual who was in this House not so long ago, I should like to mention that the wife of Sir David Kelly, former British Ambassador to Moscow, has written her memoirs. Sir David and Lady Kelly were a very excellent couple. They were very fond of Ireland. On one occasion when they were here, they met the then Taoiseach and suggested to him that they would like to live in Ireland and his reply was: "You are very welcome but, for God's sake, stay out of any area where there is congestion". They wanted to buy a big farm.

Perfectly good advice.

The mentality shown by that reply showed that the man in question, any more than the Minister, as shown by his intervention, had not any idea of how to go about solving congestion and setting up economic units. The Minister and his former leader took the view that it was only in the congested areas that it would be undesirable to purchase land. It would be impossible to solve congestion or to raise uneconomic farms to an economic standard if you had to depend on large farms in the congested areas. It is in the midlands and other areas that we hope to see sufficient land made available to enable the Land Commission to settle families in reasonable comfort on economic units. To suggest that a foreigner could purchase a large farm in Ireland as long as he stayed away from areas where it was likely that there would be agrarian trouble showed that the person who made the suggestion believed that the small farmer and the congest could hope for a solution of his problems only if a large farm in their immediate locality became available.

The Taoiseach has on numerous occasions in the past four years in this House promised to bring in legislation to protect historical buildings and preserve scenic beauty spots and picturesque localities for the Irish people. We have been four years looking for that legislation from the Taoiseach.

It is irrevelant to this debate.

It is a question of land. The Minister has referred to the fact that some of the land purchased in the past 12 months were snipe runs, as they have been described. A great deal of the picturesque land I am referring to may be so described. The Taoiseach has pointed out that he intended to bring in legislation to protect and preserve these areas so that the Irish people would have the benefit of them. In a number of instances, portion of the coast line and land containing beautiful scenery has been purchased and the Irish people are now debarred from visiting these places. Is that fair?

It is not true, to start off.

Of course, it is true.

Would the Deputy give some instances.

I gave instances to the Minister for External Affairs. I went to the trouble of writing letters to the Minister for External Affairs pointing out what has happened in the case of a number of estates. I mentioned one owned by a gentleman who is in the Diplomatic Service. I do not think I should go any further at this stage and give names. The public were barred by this gentleman from a big estate that he purchased. The Irish people had had full right of admission and many hundreds of Irish people visited the estate every Sunday. They can no longer do so. The gates are barred because of the desire of this foreigner for a peaceful change from the hurly-burly of Paris, London or New York, as the Minister has described it.

If the people were always entitled to go there, they are still entitled to go there.

The Minister seems to be pretty well aware of the area I am talking about.

I am not.

It must have been within very recent weeks that permission was granted to the public to return. I say quite bluntly that I have no respect whatever for many of the people who are in Killarney. I have nothing but contempt for the gentlemen who have sidecars down there. Not alone would they sell Killarney, they would sell their mothers, if they got a few bob out of it. An American auctioneer was allowed to purchase some of the most beautiful parts of Kerry. He was dined and wined in this country. He had an interview with the Taoiseach, who was very nice to him, and with other members of the Government. Members of the local authority in Kerry tripped over themselves to be nice to this gentleman. They traced his genealogical tree and found he had great-grandmothers who came from Ireland.

I am afraid the Deputy is straying from the subject of the debate. We are not discussing any private individual.

I am pointing out what has happened with regard to the purchase of Irish land by non-nationals.

Yes, and I am pointing out that these personal references are not in order.

I want to point out, Sir, that this portion of County Kerry was purchased by an auctioneer who, in his own words, had no knowledge of Ireland, who saw this estate advertised in an American newspaper and thought he might be able to sell it to an American multi-millionaire to whom he had already sold a famous club in America, that this multi-millionaire was not interested in purchasing the Killarney estate and Mr. Robertson said he would have a look at the place and decided to have a go. We know what has happened since.

Is it right that Irish property can be advertised all over the world on the basis on which Killarney and other places were advertised? Is it any wonder foreigners have got the impression that all they have to do is to come here and get all the land they like? Is it any wonder that the Germans have been misled into believing that all they have to do is come to Dublin and that they will be met by groups of auctioneers tripping over one another to offer them the finest land in Ireland, the best hunting, shooting and fishing, and the most beautiful scenery and private beaches? You cannot blame the foreigner for the false impression that has been created—or is it false?

I wonder what do these people abroad think of us as a nation when they can come in and buy the best land in the country? Would that be allowed in Germany, Switzerland or elsewhere? My belief, from the limited contacts I have had with these foreigners, is that they have contempt for us because we are not able to look after our own interests. If they are allowed to come in in any greater numbers. Irishmen once more will be the hewers of wood and drawers of water.

The Government and the Minister may talk about the danger to our industrial drive in limiting the power of non-nationals to purchase land. There is a greater danger to the future of rural Ireland, a greater danger to the welfare of our smallholders and congests, in allowing this influx to continue. The Government should accept this Bill. All it will do is give us an accurate picture of the problem and unless the Government are afraid to have that picture shown, there is no logical reason why they should oppose the Bill.

I should like to place on record my very keen disappointment at the attitude of the Government and the Minister for Lands, in particular, to this Bill. It is a reasonable Bill on which the Leader of the Opposition deserves the congratulations of the thousands of Irish people who are alarmed at the appalling unrest that the purchase of land by aliens is causing in many parts of Ireland today.

In so far as a discussion on this Bill is concerned, the Minister for Lands is not fully informed and one is inclined to wonder whether he is in close touch with his Department or whether he is in space. Either the Land Commission are out of touch with rural Ireland and the officers of the Minister's Department are not keeping him fully informed or the Minister is not making a serious attempt to find out for himself the serious situation existing in rural Ireland as a result of the wholesale purchase of huge tracts of agricultural land by aliens.

That is incorrect.

I have here the last report of the Land Commission which gives us a picture of their activities up to 31st March, 1959. There is not one line in that report which gives us any information as to the extent to which land is purchased by aliens. We all know very well the Land Commission was set up as a temporary institution many years ago and the time is ripe for a general review of its work and policy. That is why I believe the Bill is so appropriate.

The sections of the Bill are designed, because of the unrest and uneasiness which prevails in regard to the purchase of land by non-nationals, to enable an assessment of the problem to be made. It is very clear from the Minister's statement this morning that he has no authoritative information at his disposal. The only information he seems to have is: Duirt bean liom go nduirt bean léithe. The account he has so far given us indicates that the records in the Land Commission are not up to date. This Bill is not asking for any drastic action; it is not asking for a boycott to be established against these people; but only that full information will be available as to the acreage purchased, the valuation, the areas in which purchases have been made and whether such huge tracts of land were purchased convenient to areas in which there is congestion and in which there are many smallholders, farmers' sons, cottage tenants or others who would be well prepared, financed and equipped to work the land.

As the Leader of the Opposition has said, no attempt should be made to confuse this issue with the purchase by aliens of land for industrial purposes. Aliens have purchased factory sites here for the expansion of industries, for the erection of recreation halls, canteens for employees, and so on. Nobody has any objection to that. On the contrary, in many parts of rural Ireland, anybody who gives employment is welcome. When we are calling out for increased production for the purpose of building up our exports, we welcome anybody who will give employment and help us to produce goods which will be readily purchased on the export market. That is something which should be encouraged and is being encouraged by Deputies on all sides of the House.

The purchase of land for industrial expansion is a different matter from the wholesale purchase of agricultural land. That is why the Leader of the Opposition has asked that this Bill be given favourable consideration. It asks that particulars should be given in regard to the areas in which those lands have been purchased. Every Deputy representing a rural constituency knows there are many smallholders who need land urgently. We have seen many instances in the west of Ireland, from which the Minister for Lands comes, of small farmers locking up their homes and emigrating, which is in strange contrast with the purchase of huge tracts of the best land by aliens. The Minister gives us an idea of the provisions of the Finance Bill which will be circulated shortly, but I cannot see what that has to do with the position which this Bill seeks to remedy. All we ask is that a register be kept which will throw light on and give information about the situation.

A register will be kept under the new Bill.

I feel that register will not be as satisfactory as the type of register envisaged in this Bill. For that reason, I feel the Minister and his advisers should reconsider the decision on this Bill, and that it should be accepted by him. In speaking of the purchase or sale of land, we should bear in mind the cherished right which the people have—and which I hope they will always maintain—of free sale. Free sale is an asset and a right of farmers and land owners. It was won very dearly and they should hold on to it. No act of this House should in any way interfere with the right of a man to sell his own property and the right of a man to sell his own farm, his own land, should not in any way be interfered with by the State.

Today huge tracts of land come on the market. It is not very many years since Most Rev. Dr. Philbin, Bishop of Clonfert, suggested that something should be devised with regard to those huge tracts of land coming on the market. He suggested that there should be a land bank, so to speak, to which those anxious to dispose of huge tracts of land, or those anxious to buy the land for the relief of congestion or otherwise, would have ready recourse. The Land Commission would be very well advised to act on that suggestion of his lordship. That bank could be used as an agency by those who wanted to dispose of land, or those who were anxious to purchase land.

The inter-Party Government were responsible for the Land Act which made it possible for the Land Commission to pay the full market value for land. I believe that is the best Act ever passed by this House. I am satisfied, because of the statement made by the Minister last year, and the year before, that he asked the Land Commission to enter in the public market for land to a greater extent. When the Land Commission can pay the full market value—they have the full resources of the State behind them —it should not be possible for them to be bowled out, so to speak, by aliens who may wish to purchase land. If the Land Commission and the State were doing their duty, the lands which are now falling into the hands of aliens would be purchased by them because under our Act, they have the right to pay the full market value.

We have congestion, and if we had not congestion—I am saying this deliberately for the record—many young farmers, many of them experts in their own sphere of modern farming, many of them leading lights in the National Farmers' Association and Macra na Feirme, who have not got their own farms or their own holdings, would be able to acquire land. The time has come when the State should intervene to see that land is rented or leased to those people, with an option by which they could eventually become the owners. If the circumstances of those people were the first concern and thought of the Government, it would be the duty of the Land Commission or of some agency to intervene and see that lands which are now being purchased by aliens were purchased for them. We should bear in mind the words of Fintan Lalor: "The land of Ireland for the people of Ireland to have and to hold from God who gave it."

The position is serious. The Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out that it causes unrest, uneasiness and queries in many parts of the country today. He introduced this Bill for the purpose of avoiding more drastic measures which may have to be taken to remedy the situation in three or four years. There is a growing disease in rural Ireland which will call for very drastic remedy in the course of the next four or five years. We are anxious to see that there will be no need for any drastic remedy, bearing in mind that Irishmen have become famous in practically every country in the world and are always welcome. We have no reason not to extend hospitality to everyone who comes here, but the position has become very serious, and is likely to be more serious in the future, for our own people who require land. The land on which our own people could live in comfort and in decency is being swept from under their eyes by aliens. That is what we are anxious about.

If it is, this Bill does nothing about it.

Oh, yes, it does.

This Bill is intended to throw light on the situation and to give a clear picture to the House. In the absence of this Bill, we cannot have that clear picture. That is why I say the Minister would be very well advised to reconsider his decision. His statement does not hold out any hope for the young farmers and others who have had to emigrate. If they had a farm or a holding, they would be at home now producing food for man and beast. Rural parishes are now falling into complete decay because of the absence of population.

There is nothing in this Bill about the relief of congestion and I object to the Deputy discussing it.

The Deputy should relate his remarks to the Bill which provides for the registration of the sale and purchase of land. Congestion does not fall for discussion.

In my opinion, there is no reason why the Minister cannot accept the Bill. I should like to ask him seriously what objection has he to the terms of the Bill.

It is useless, unworkable and it does nothing for the people about whom the Deputy is talking.

May I address this query to the Minister? Is he afraid that the register which it is sought to set up under this Bill would reveal a picture which would not reflect great credit on the Land Commission activities, or on the activities of the Government as a whole, in respect of the purchase of land by aliens?

Not at all. As I have already said, there will be a register under the new Finance Bill.

We have been a long time waiting for information of that kind. I want to place on record that the time has come for a general review of the whole land policy. The position has become very serious. It is the policy of the Fine Gael Party to review the work and the policy of the Land Commission, and this Bill is a step in that direction. Because of the seriousness of the situation in relation to the land policy in Ireland, the Land Commission now have notice that the policy of our Party is to review that policy and the work of the Land Commission. This is one of the first instalments in that regard.

It is designed to keep a new book or to give work to a new typist. That is all.

There will be information in the register which will show us a clear picture.

What has that to do with the land policy of Fine Gael?

Is the Minister being orderly?

The Deputy is being irrevelant.

That is for the Chair to decide. We have one Ceann Comhairle and surely that is enough.

I have expressed my view that there is nothing in this Bill that is not acceptable. For all we know, if this Bill were passed and the register compiled, it might not reveal an alarming state of affairs, or it might reveal a far more alarming state of affairs than this House anticipates, but it would give the true picture. I suggest the Government have a reason for refusing to accept the Bill. Possibly if the register were set up, as envisaged in this Bill, it might be over-embarrassing for them. That is the only reason they will not accept the Bill. They want to avoid embarrassment on this matter. If they were seriously interested in doing their job, they would have no hesitation in saying that this was a Bill designed to give information, that they had no hesitation in compiling that information, and that they would try as far as possible to remedy the position in relation to the purchase of land by aliens.

I am proud to have put my name to this Bill. I am one of those who asked questions recently which alarmed the country by drawing attention to the peaceful penetration of our best lands by foreigners. This Bill is a very reasonable one. It merely asks that a register be kept so that we will know what land is being taken by foreigners, who they are and where they come from. I am very disappointed that the Minister does not see fit to accept it. It is not 15 years since we had hell to pay on the annual debate on land division. At that time, the Minister was a revolutionary in the Fianna Fáil Party. He told us what he would do with the land of Meath, Westmeath and Kildare, if he were Minister. The people of the West would be flooded into it and there would not be a rancher left in those counties. But to-day the revolutionary of yesterday is a fine conservative Minister who would love to "hob nob" with the big and the mighty and who has forgotten the congest——

Nobody would believe it.

In a recent statement, the German Ambassador did more than the Government and anybody else to ease the situation when he called on German nationals not to purchase agricultural land in Ireland but to purchase only land for industrial purposes. That was a fine gesture.

The position to-day is that any foreigner with a lot of money can purchase any large estate here he likes. They have money to burn. We do not know where they got it and we do not care, but they are able to offer land owners here almost double the value of their land. Most of the large land owners are not wealthy. They are over-taxed and they are not able to keep up big houses and big estates. They are very glad of a way out. But, like all those men who were planted here in the past, they would sell to anybody before they would sell to an Irishman. They would bow their heads in shame rather than give the land to the Land Commission.

The Minister and the Land Commission should take over any estates coming on the market and allocate them amongst deserving Irish applicants. All the trouble we have in the world to day is land trouble. Look at Africa, India, Cuba or anywhere else. Is it not all agrarian trouble, with a majority being exploited by a minority? But the day has come when the majorities have risen up and the majority will rise up here again. We do not want that to happen. We want an Irish Government to say: "There is no need for a revolution because we will place on the land as many Irish as we can in reasonable comfort."

It is no use picking out the Americans, British, Germans, Jews — they are all the same. The land of Ireland is sacred to every Irishman. I believe in free sale, but it should be confined to our own people. Ninety per cent. of our farmers are congests who have been living in miserable conditions for many years and who will continue to do so for years to come. We are asking the Minister to ensure that any land coming on the market is made available to settle Irish people. There is no greater safeguard against the ill winds of the world than happy home-steads on reasonably sized holdings.

If we could have happy families settled on 40 acres of land, that would be a foundation that even Communism could not crush. I shall not condemn the Land Commission, because they have done much splendid work. I see it in my own county— happy families working with their coats off; Meath men working together with men from other counties. I know they have a hard life because the holdings they got are slightly too small. If you could have a holding of 40 acres with a house, you would be doing something for the future of the country.

An effective check is needed. At present there is a sell-out of large holdings all over the country. Up to a few months ago, one rarely heard of Germans buying land here. Today they are in the position that they can buy up any estate coming on the market here, if we allow them. But it is the duty of the Irish Government to step in and stop these purchases. We should not allow thousands of acres of our land to be sold when our own people are on the emigrant ship.

Around those estates are men whose ancestors lived there for hundreds of years. These men are waiting to get back what is their birthright—this land that was confiscated and taken from them hundreds of years ago. I may be a bit narrow-minded, but I come from the land of the Pale, where I see vast wealth in the hands of a few while the majority are living in poverty. I see men trying to rear large families on small holdings, who have to send two or three of them across the water in order to make a few shillings to prevent the homestead being closed up. We are asking that the agricultural land of Ireland be put at the disposal of the Land Commission and divided up amongst Irishmen.

The Minister said there was no problem in my part of the country. In the past few months, over six estates in my constituency, amounting to thousands of acres, have been sold to Germans. But for the questions I put down here, and the headings they received in the papers, more land would have been sold. Five or six other estates were ready to sell out, but now they cannot do so. In this Bill, we are doing nothing more than ventilating a national grievance. By it we are forcing the Government's hand to do something. If they can bring in a better Bill, more power to them. This Bill is a modest measure, and I would have signed my name to a far more drastic Bill. The Government are hanging on to power, but they are not doing the things the people want. They are now completely conservative. They want to "hob nob" with the big people. It is a shame for them.

I always found in many countries that that is what happens. You are a super-revolutionary today. Then, when you mix with the white collars, the bows and ties, and the long tails you begin to get very conservative. As you go on in years, you get all too wise and you say: "What were we fighting for? They are not worth fighting for." They mix with the wrong type of people. If they mixed with the mass of the people down the country who are living in a bad situation, whose houses are being closed week after week and whose families are being reared for export and nothing more, they might have a better realisation of the gravity of our situation. Those are the things which should concern this House. If we did nothing but divide our land into suitable economic units and place as many people as possible in economic holdings we would do a splendid job. We need not worry about markets, and so on. People would find their own level and markets. What we want is contentment and peace among the people.

I intend to speak further on this subject on the Estimate for the Department of Lands. I am completely disappointed with the Minister—the revolutionary of yesterday, the conservative of today—shaking his head at the idea that we would dare to bring in a Bill to focus attention on the land position. He says he will introduce a measure. I have heard that for the past ten years and nothing has come yet.

I heard about the 25 per cent. purchase tax to stop foreigners. What are the facts? People were working in Ireland to bring in the foreigners by hook or by crook and to get around the different Acts. Those things must be stopped. We must let people outside know that we want an industrial revival in this country, that any money they desire to spend here is welcome to be spent here for that purpose, that they will get the full protection of the State in that matter but that our agricultural land is wanted for the Irish people and Irish farmers so as to bring prosperity to them.

We are proud of this Bill. It will focus attention on the matter and make the Government realise that something must be done. If we get nothing more than a recognition by the Government and the Land Commission of the seriousness of the position we shall have done a good day's work.

I rise to support this Bill. It is a simple, straightforward, modest Bill. There is nothing very revolutionary about it. It asks the Government to set up a simple register in the Land Commission so that we shall have a record of those aliens who purchase land in this country. The Minister said twice during the debate that he will set up a register under the legislation he now contemplates. If that be so, will he not give a guarantee that he will incorporate this Bill in his new legislation? The Minister also said that the machinery under this Bill will be too costly. If he sets up a register I can visualise that the machinery under the Bill embodying that register will be equally and perhaps far more costly.

There is a need to relieve the perturbation that exists about the acquisition of land. There is no nation in the world that is so land conscious as the Irish nation. No people in the world become so perturbed about land acquisition or get so touchy about it as the Irish people. That is because of their history, because of the long and tenacious struggle by the tenant farmers of this island against the oppression of landlordism. There is that slow penetration at the moment. Our own Bishop of Cork, His Lordship the Most Reverend Dr. Lucey, warned against that some time ago. I have not his exact words. He implied that, whatever else foreigners might take, we should see to it that they do not purchase our land for agricultural purposes. That is serious. When our exiles go abroad very few of them do so to purchase land. An occasional one may become a rancher in Canada if he saves enough money to provide himself with a farm there. However, that is very rare. Therefore, there is very great need for a Bill of this kind particularly when we have so many uneconomic holdings.

If there is land available for purchase by foreigners let it be available for purchase by our own people and, when they have not the capital, let the Land Commission take it over and parcel it out to those who are in need or it. We have thousands of young farmers who have not the capital to purchase farms. I speak now for Munster. Whatever farms are being purchased in Munster are being purchased by people who are changing their holdings or by people who have capital enough to instal one member of the family on the farm that is for sale. However, there are many estates which the Land Commission could purchase on the open market for the relief of congests. It must be tantalising to those who are anxious for land to find that the land that should be theirs through some means or other is being taken over by non-nationals. These things are very important.

There is no great fundamental difference between what the Minister envisages and what this Bill purports to do. If he is anxious and sincere about the legislation he has spoken of I can see no reason why he should object to this Bill, why he should accept the principle of this Bill, why he would not guarantee to incorporate in that legislation the main provision of this Bill which is to set up a register of non-nationals who purchase land here. If there were any realism in the Government, I should certainly say they would accept that provision and incorporate it in their new Bill or accept this Bill because of its simplicity. It is not an extravagant measure. It does not provide for unduly costly machinery, as the Minister alleges. I cannot understand how that can be the case in such a short, simple measure of this kind.

In the few minutes available to me, I want to say it is very much to be regretted that the Government have not seen their way to adopt the Bill. It is often alleged that the Opposition are not constructive. The Government should welcome a clear indication from the Opposition that they are desirous of giving any help possible and have introduced this Bill as an instance of their willingness to assist in finding a solution to this problem.

It cannot be alleged that the problem does not exist. The enactment of the proposals in this Bill would prove the extent to which these grievances exist. They would definitely obviate any aggravation of the grievances. There can be no doubt in the mind of any Deputy about the position. He must know in his own locality of the activities of people engaged in the sale of land. They direct their eyes not to their neighbours, not to parts of the country where people look for the chance to move to better land. Having slaved for many years to set aside £ upon £ to see the day when they could set up a son or a daughter on land that is better than that on which they themselves slaved for so long these people face the competition of foreign investment.

I want to repeat with others who have spoken here our willingness to welcome and to give every assistance to foreigners who desire to secure sites for industrial purposes. I must confirm what others have said, that a word of congratulation and gratitude must be expressed to the German Minister for having so clearly put the point to his own nationals in regard to conditions in Ireland. In our own localities, we know that auctioneers and others engaged in the business of selling land are now advertising in German papers and getting responses to an alarming extent. If this thing is allowed to go on, where will it end?

Finally, I want to appeal to the Minister to realise the urgency of this matter and to realise that it is a concomitant to other problems we have. We have had the report of the Commission on Emigration and they stated quite clearly that the provision of farms for young creditworthy farmers on a credit or other basis is one of the solutions they would recommend. Now that the Land Commission and Government have admitted that this is a serious problem, one would imagine they would avail of this measure as one way of assisting in alleviating the problem.

The major problem we have to contend with is to deal with these people who have been abusing the laws. Everybody must realise that, and it is indicative of the position that must exist that the Minister could not get one Deputy supporting the Government to rise and support him in the unfortunate stand he has taken in regard to this Bill.

I wish to support this Bill. It is a pity some of the speakers who preceded me were not down to see the conditions that prevail in my constituency. I have been here only a short time as a Deputy but I have been surprised at the number of farmers with families who have approached me with a view to getting removed to some other part of the country——

On a point of order, I am very sorry to interrupt the Deputy, who is a new Deputy, but I have already risen to this point of order. This is not a debate on the relief of congestion but on a Bill dealing with the proposed registration of certain people. I suggest that a debate on relief of congestion is completely out of order and irrelevant.

I am making this point because it is well known by the people on whose behalf I am speaking that it is foreigners who are keeping them out of or depriving them of the holdings to which they are entitled. I have been sent here, not as a fully-fledged parliamentarian, but to make a case on behalf of the people amongst whom I live. It is unfortunate that some Ministers and those who live in the cities could not live for a short time among the small people in my constituency. If they did, they would very soon make provision to provide economic holdings for these people. No later than last Sunday, I was speaking to a man with a family of eight who appealed to me to do something about getting him into the Rockingham estate in Roscommon.

I may be ruled out of order again but another important point is that a young man who makes an application for a farm of land is told: "You have nothing in your possession; we cannot consider you at all."

The Deputy should reserve that for the Land Commission Vote.

A man who comes in here from abroad with thousands of pounds can get land all right but I have attended meetings and I have had cases coming up of fine young fellows who I could guarantee would make a good job of the land, if they were given a holding, and who told me that nobody appreciated the difficulty they had when they tried to get land. They said that if they were farmers, they would have a chance, "but," they said, "we are only labourers and we will never get anywhere." It is on behalf of these people that I am trying to make a case here.

Why is there not something in the Bill about them?

Deputy McLaughlin is perfectly right. The whole problem of civil disturbance and civil malaise involves these very people for whom Deputy McLaughlin speaks. These are young fellows who want a bit of land but who are told they are not eligible because they are landless men. But a landless man can come here from Thuringia, from the U.S. or from Britain and once he has a fat pocket book, he can buy all the land he wants. One of the penalties of trying with responsibility and with forbearance to do something is that you are liable to be derided by the Minister for Lands who says: “Why did you not provide for this in your Bill?” I did not provide for this in the Bill because my Bill had a very limited scope and purpose but it arose out of the very matters referred to by Deputy McLaughlin. If we were not living in a country with landless people looking for land and where there are congests looking for land, then we would have no problem at all. If we were living in Texas where millions of acres are readily available for anybody who wants to try his hand at farming, if we were living in Oklahoma where farmers are coming and going every year, there would be no problem. What is wrong here is that we have not sufficient agricultural land to cater for our own people who require it.

I could have made a speech here that would set the House on fire, if I wanted to do that, on that very theme, but, very deliberately, I avoided that and I tried to keep the whole discussion keyed down by saying that the very circumstances Deputy McLaughlin described are liable to inflate in the minds of the public into a very large and alarming problem something that may or may not be as big as the popular mind thinks it is. My case is that the first thing we must do, if we are to proceed with ordinary prudence, is to find out what are the true dimensions of this problem. The only way I can envisage that being done is to set up a register in the Land Commission in which aliens purchasing Irish land will be required to register the transaction.

I do not want to be rough or rude to the Minister, but it is only cod to be getting up and referring to a Bill of this kind and picking on its drafting as he did. The purpose of any private Bill is to set out a principle and if that principle is accepted, let the people whose job it is draft the Bill so that it will be administratively effective. He has a whole retinue of such people and they are paid to draft Bills. I have not any such retinue.

I think it ill becomes the Minister to get up and behave in that way——

It is my duty to point out what is in your Bill.

That is all cod. The purpose of this Bill is——

The Bill is all cod.

——effectively to establish a register in which aliens purchasing Irish land will be required to record the transaction for inspection by the public at large. The machinery to do that can be devised by those who are paid to devise it. I am not, and I am not trained to do it. I ought not be trained to do it; I am not a civil servant; I am a politician. I have my job to do and they have their jobs to do.

The purpose of the Opposition in bringing in a private Bill of this kind is to introduce a Bill enshrining a broad general principle, provided they say in the introductory remarks that, if there are any administrative adjustments required in the machinery of the Bill to give effect to the broad principle, by all means, let them be made. We are quite prepared to accept any amendment from the Government side which is considered necessary to make the Bill administratively effective.

Is there anybody in the House who disagrees with that proposition in our circumstances at present, when the common talk which is to be heard all over the country is of foreigners buying land? And, in the circumstances most effectively described in simple language by Deputy McLaughlin, does every Deputy not agree with me that it is desirable that all of us should know to what extent foreigners are buying agricultural land in this country? It seems to me it is as plain as A, B, C, and it seems absolutely certain that if we do not do it, there will be an explosion sooner or later.

The Minister has produced here the proposals of the Minister for Finance. All the proposals of the Minister for Finance are directed towards protecting the revenue. My Bill has nothing to do with the revenue position at all. I have every sympathy with the Minister for Finance who, having imposed a tax of 25 per cent. on the purchase of land by aliens, must now devise whatever machinery he thinks will be effective to ensure that the revenue will be faithfully paid by those aliens who purchase land here. But that is not my interest at all. I do not care whether or not they pay 25 per cent. If they are buying land to the detriment of the people for whom Deputy McLaughlin speaks, we must put our heads together and devise a means to stop them.

I do not believe in enacting a legislative sledge hammer to break a monkey nut. If, on inquiry, it is established that there has not been any substantial purchase of agricultural land by aliens, or if it is established that the only purchases of lands have been purchases of what the Minister describes as "white elephants", large houses with appurtenant demesnes, houses which would fall down if they were not purchased and maintained by men with independent wealth, then I think a wholly different situation arises. I think, in regard to a great many of these old places, that it is a very good thing, if the native owner is no longer financially circumstanced to keep them up and a foreigner with wealth comes in and buys them and gives local employment and keeps the demesne in nice order and employs men to maintain it and employs other people about the house; they are very welcome provided they are law-abiding citizens and live a decent life. I do not see why anybody should have any grudge against or an edge on them.

It is because I want to emphasise that and say to the industrialists that they are as welcome as the flowers in May, it is because I want to say to the man of property who would like to buy a home here and to live amongst us in a law-abiding and decent way that he is as welcome as the flowers in May that I want to set up a register which will reveal and distinguish as between the person who is coming in here to buy agricultural land on a speculative basis and the man who wants to make a home here. I want to be able to say to the former, in as friendly a way as possible, as the German ambassador himself said: "Do not do it. That kind of investment is not welcome." If, in spite of that, the practice persisted and no remonstrance was of avail, then we should legislate here calmly and peacefully and prudently to make it impossible for aliens from any part of the world to speculate in Irish land.

Some people may ask what is meant when we talk of speculating in Irish land? The plain fact is—we may as well face it—there is a lot of hot money floating around the world at the present time. What is it? It is money of wealthy people who are living under the shadow of Communism or who apprehend devaluation in the countries in which their wealth is normally held. There is one commodity that never depreciates, and that is land. The plain truth of it is that on the continent of Europe at the present time the population is so dense in Western Germany and Holland and parts of Belgium that the price of land is fantastic; compared with the price ruling here, land here appears to be selling for virtually nothing. Now a man who wants to stack away £100,000 where he believes it will be safe and sees land in Holland making £400 or £500 an acre, and land in Germany making £200 or £300 an acre, and is informed by an Irish auctioneer that he can offer him all the land he wants to buy of the first quality at £60 or £80 or £100 an acre says to himself: "This is good. Get me 2,000 acres of that land, or 5,000 acres, and I will let you manage it. Set it for me. Even though I get only two per cent. or three per cent. on my money, it will be safe, and I will get an income out of it." That is that.

He sees no harm in it. He does not understand our history or our background. He has never heard the story Deputy Joe McLaughlin told here to-day, but that story is as familiar to us as an old shoe. We know what Deputy McLaughlin is talking about. He speaks for only four minutes and in that four minutes he makes us quite familiar with the story but he would take a month to tell the same story to a stranger. We all know the story and we can fill in the blanks. These people do not know the story. Mark you, they are not evilly-disposed persons. They are just stumbling into a situation they do not understand. It is a situation we should not allow to develop.

There is no useful purpose to be served by recapitulating the story all over again. The purpose of the Bill is not to provide machinery to deter purchases of land at this time. The purpose of the Bill is accurately to define the scope of the problem. If, the machinery of this Bill having achieved that purpose, remedial legislation were necessary, we could undertake that legislation calmly and prudently and without acrimony or vindictiveness.

May I interrupt? When explaining the provisions of the Finance Bill, I said that it is proposed the Revenue Commissioners will keep the Land Commission informed of purchases by non-national interests. In that way the Land Commission will be in a position to assemble the essential information. Surely that will meet the purpose the Deputy has in mind quite effectively.

I do not think it will. I want a register to which everybody— legislator, auctioneer, solicitor and interested citizen—can have access and which he can claim the right to inspect to find out what lands in his county, constituency, or neighbourhood have been acquired by aliens. I think that would be a salutary thing from every point of view and the Minister would be better advised to say: "We accept the principles of the Bill. We may have certain proposals to make with regard to amending it to make it administratively more effective or easier to carry out." If the Minister had said that I should have been glad to tell him that virtually any amendments he would propose would be acceptable to me for I fully appreciate the ability of the personnel of the Land Commission to improve very easily the administrative machinery suggested by me. I believe in the principle underlying this Land (Regulation of Acquisition) Bill. If the Minister is resolute in his determination to oppose the Bill, then we propose to divide the House.

Before the House divides, may I say that we do not propose to participate in this division because we do not believe the provisions in the Bill and those proposed by the Government are effective enough. We believe much more must be done to ensure that agricultural land is not bought up by aliens, land which could in the ordinary way be given to landless men and congests.

The Minister said that the Revenue Commissioners would take careful note of any proceedings for the acquisition of land. Could the Minister tell the House if that information will be available to the House through the medium of Parliamentary Questions?

I have stated that the information will be available to the House under the procedure proposed in the new Bill.

I am in the position now that the Labour Party thinks I am not doing enough and the Government Party thinks I am doing too much.

The Government Party thinks the Deputy is doing much too little. What the Deputy proposes is completely ineffective.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 35; Níl, 65.

  • Belton, Jack.
  • Burke, James.
  • Byrne, Patrick.
  • Coburn, George.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, Decian D.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finucane, Patrick.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hogan, Bridget.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Lindsay, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Thaddeus.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Manley, Timothy.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, William.
  • O'Donnell, Patrick.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • O'Sullivan, Denis J.
  • Palmer, Patrick W.
  • Reynolds, Mary.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies O'Sullivan and Crotty: Níl, Deputies Ó Briain and Loughman.

    Question declared lost.

    Bartley, Gerald.Boland, Gerald.Boland, Kevin.Booth, Lionel.Brady, Philip A.Brady, Seán.Breen, Dan.Brennan, Joseph.Brennan, Paudge.Breslin, Cormac.Browne, Seán.Burke, Patrick.Calleary, Phelim A.Clohessy, Patrick.Collins, James J.Corry, Martin J.Cotter, Edward.Crowley, Honor M.Cummins, Patrick J.Cunningham, Liam.Davern, Mick. Lemass, Noel T.Lemass, Seán.Loughman, Frank.Lynch, Celia.Lynch, Jack.MacCarthy, Seán.McEllistrim, Thomas.MacEntee, Seán.Maher, Peadar.Medlar, Martin.Millar, Anthony G.Moher, John W.

    de Valera, Vivion.Doherty, Seán.Donegan, Batt.Dooley, Patrick.Egan, Kieran P.Egan, Nicholas.Fanning, John.Faulkner, Padraig.Flanagan, Seán.Galvin, John.Geoghegan, John.Gilbride, Eugene.Gogan, Richard P.Haughey, Charles.Hearly, Augustine A.Hillery, Patrick J.Hilliard, Michael.Johnston, Henry M.Kenneally, William.Killilea, Mark.Kitt, Michael F. Moloney, Daniel J.Mooney, Patrick.Moran, Michael.O Briain, Donnchadh.O Ceallaigh, Seán.O'Malley, Donogh.Ormonde, John.O'Toole, James.Ryan, James.Ryan, Mary B.Teehan, Patrick.