The first thing I want to do in relation to this Department is nail the statement of the Minister for Finance, oft repeated here over the past year or so whenever he is told the farmers are worse off, that the valuation of land has appreciated 50 per cent. Nobody who is in touch with the farmers or with land in any context will fail to realise the truth is that this is a scarcity value. Even though we have lost 18,000 people off the land of Ireland in the past year—a terrible situation—at the same time, when a farm is offered for sale, two or three people with funds are prepared to bid for that farm a figure completely unrelated to the profits they may get off it, related in fact to the consideration that it is attractive in situation or in some other such manner to those people. They will therefore pay far more than the market value, if market value is related to the profits a person might hope to gain from such a parcel of land.
The Minister for Finance knows this and he is doing no service to the farmers or the country in general by propagating this brand of untruth. Somebody may ask where this money comes from, that money must be made on land if people are so anxious to buy it at those prices. Over the past 50 years, land has been our biggest industry and whether or not over the past three or four decades it has been helped by Fianna Fáil maladministration does not matter. There still must be in this relatively vast industry some funds left to pay a scarcity value which has no relation to profits.
If one takes the Estimate for the Department of Lands and looks at it from a bookkeeping point of view, one will find that over the years this Department has been allowed to drift towards an extraordinary situation as far as expenditure and the cost of administering that expenditure are concerned. I would refer the House to the details in the Book of Estimates for this year and to subheads G, I and L in the Estimate for this Department. Subhead G refers to the purchase of the interest in land and the auctioneer's commission, and there is a sum of £215,000 quoted. Subhead I deals with the development of estates, and Subhead L with the preservation and improvement of game resources.
In the list of moneys being expended by the Department of Lands this year, these are the only subheads I can find that are actually designed to improve the land of the small holders in Ireland or do something to improve the land of this country. The total sum there expended is £1,030,000. If one turns to the number of civil servants administering this sum, one finds at page 154 of the Book of Estimates that the total number shows an increase of two this year to, by a strange coincidence, 1,030. In other words, it took one civil servant to administer each £1,000 expenditure on the land of Ireland and that does not take into account the people who build the houses for small holders, the people who erect the fences. They are doing productive work on holdings.
But surely it is executive madness if it takes one civil servant to administer each £1,000 of the Vote we entrust to the Minister each year. Surely this Department needs to be turned inside out. The first thing we must examine is whether the Minister, a young man, is showing any progressive trend, whether he is anxious to see whether all is well or whether it is necessary for him to take monumental steps towards righting the situation. From the figures he has put before the House in this Estimate, we do not find any such evidence. It is a complete condemnation that we have in 1963 a Department requiring one civil servant to administer each £1,000 spent on the operations entrusted to that Department.
Do not think I am using this opportunity to abuse civil servants. They are a loyal body of people who, once they get the direction from the top, will do what they are told, and anybody who has been here for a number of years knows they will do it well. It is not their fault. It is the fault of management, and management lies first with the Minister and the Government who entrusted the Department to him. In this regard, therefore, the Minister has been a failure. If we are not to have some drastic changes here, it is another indication that the Government and the Minister have gone stale and that it is time they moved over and gave the job to somebody else.
The disappointment people are expressing everywhere in the activities of the Department of Lands is something of which the Government are well aware. The Taoiseach is not noted either for his knowledge or his interest in anything to do with land but quite recently, as reported in theIrish Independent of 15th August, 1962, he indicated what he called a new policy in relation to land and its distribution. I want to quote from that speech and to examine the Taoiseach's points one by one. For instance, he said in future it would be policy to provide family farms. As far as stated policy is concerned, nobody in the House or outside it was misled by that, which has always been the stated policy.
The Taoiseach also said that where farms were enlarged to the new standard the State would contribute 50 per cent of the purchase price and the cost of improvement. In this connection, I would refer the Minister for Lands and the House to Subheads G and I of this Estimate where it will be found that the purchase price of land in fact has been about one-third of the cost of its development. That proves conclusively of course, that the Taoiseach was again making a beautiful political speech and talking a lot of hot air.
He said that interest-free loans would be made available to western land holders who sell their farms to the Land Commission to buy land elsewhere. The Taoiseach has not much experience of representations from people who are short of land. He is a Kildare Street farmer rather than a country farmer. If he looked more carefully at the situation he would observe that the system of exchange holding that has operated would give far more to those who exchange their holdings than anything he has indicated there.
He said that the Land Commission would be empowered to reoccupy vacant or unworked farms. As far as I know, the Land Commission were always empowered to do this.
The Taoiseach said that legislation to purchase holdings from elderly or incapacitated owners was envisaged. This was the most dangerous statement as far as lands are concerned made by a politician for 20 years. There are times in the life of a family, particularly a rural family that stay together, when the old people, for a decade or perhaps a decade and a half, are not in a position to work the family farm and want to let it through the local auctioneer, to live on the income therefrom and, having preserved it for 10 or 15 years, to hand it to a nephew when they pass on.
I do not see anything wrong with that. One of the first jobs I got as a politician was in 1954 when I had to go to the Land Commission Court in the company of a reverend parish priest to stop the Land Commission from taking 18 acres from an old woman because it was two or three miles from her home and she could not work it. This woman was trying to keep the land for an energetic nephew. We won the case in the Land Commission Court. I would love the opportunity to go there again to stop that kind of land acquisition. If the Taoiseach or the Minister would wish, I would send him the half-dozen letters that I have got—and I do not come from a constituency where congestion is at its worst—from old people worrying as to whether or not the Land Commission were going to take their lands from them. The elderly and incapacitated owner is a person who should not be touched, even from a practical point of view, because he will not be that long there anyway and for the years remaining to him is quite entitled to live on the land, his family farm, and pass it on to a relative, or in a case where he has not a relative, a neighbour who will farm it. The Taoiseach did a bad day's work when he included that statement in his speech on that occasion.
He said: "Loans will be made available to small farmers for the purchase of livestock and equipment." Anyone who wants to go to the Agricultural Credit Corporation can avail of these loans. There is no change whatever.
He said: "The State is to encourage co-operation, especially in the west". That is what I would refer to as a sort of stuffing you put in a goose. When you cook it, you do not eat it. You throw it away.
The whole effort on the part of the Taoiseach on that occasion was to chip in to help his friend the Minister when he felt public opinion was going against him and he had not convinced anyone that he was the bright young man who was going to do something for the Department of Lands or that things were going to expand.
Total expansion in a time when money values are falling here is £219,320. A major policy speech by the Taoiseach was made about this sum. If one is to take the amount of natural increase in wages and salaries represented in the total amount of £2,709,370 voted, one finds that it is most probably greater than the increase of £219,320. So that the same situation obtains. Fianna Fáil have no interest in the land of Ireland, no interest in the farmers of Ireland. They do not want to increase production and hope that the farmers in some of the particularly congested districts will do what they always did, namely, vote the way their fathers did and not record their displeasure at the fact that they are being left in a backwater, absolutely unattended to.
There are lots of things the Minister could have done. His predecessor produced the quite stupid effort of fish ponds, about which I do not intend to talk very much tonight. Surely in each group of farms that are allocated there could be one farm on which, say, there could be an experimental pig-fattening house where the neighbouring farmers could see what could be done with a modern pig house to supplement the family income. Surely the bright young man who has been put in charge of the Department of Lands could have expanded Scéim na Muc in some such way. Surely, in each group of 20 or 10 farms allocated by the Department of Lands the Minister could find somebody who would operate a broiler unit under the supervision of the local poultry instructress or agricultural instructor and would produce costings so that his neighbours would then begin to supplement their earnings from their land by that sort of operation? Where the land is suitable, when ten or 15 farmers are given farms, there could be one farm where a young active man who had been put there— and the idea is to give land to that type of person—would engage in market gardening under the direction of the horticultural instructor for the county and produce tomatoes and mushrooms and vegetables for the local town and demonstrate to his neighbours that he was making an additional income from that operation.
That is not being done. The Minister is back in the dark and misty days and proceeds to dish out the land. The farmers are left in a backwater. The cost of administration is shown by the fact that there is one official for every £1,000 spent.
Having been perhaps more critical than some other speakers, I should like to come to a matter which I can discuss with the Minister without being extremely critical, inasmuch as I understand his difficulties in this regard and appreciate his efforts. I refer to the preservation of game. Over the past eight or nine years, a great deal of effort in this House has been directed to the preservation of game and the development of fishing and shooting. In fact it is a long time—I think it was in 1955—since a group of Fine Gael Deputies put down a motion which was discussed in a very open manner by all sides of the House. In that debate, quite a lot of useful information was gathered. One thing that emerged was that while you could loose 100 boats on Lough Conn and another 100 boats on Lough Corrib without affecting the fish population, you cannot do that type of wholesale operation upon the game population. The game population must be preserved; it is something you cannot shoot out. It cannot be a free-for-all. We would all wish it could be a free-for-all, but it is clear that that is a physical impossibility.
The approach of the regional game councils in which their first precept is that the farmer owns the game rights, is a good one. If he preserves game on his own land, he can let the rights to shoot on the land to interested sportsmen. He can discipline their shooting. He can limit the amount they can shoot, if he wishes. He can limit the number of days, if he wishes, and the manner in which they shoot, if he wishes. The thinking on this matter has come right. Initially, efforts were made through Bord Fáilte. It was proposed that shooting should be available to a large number of tourists. With the possible exception of snipe, that is not possible. While certain individual tourists may make arrangements with farmers and lease the shooting where game is preserved, the truth is that shooting will have to be regarded as rather restricted.
The Minister has done well in regard to grants to the regional game councils who are the responsible bodies. He deplored the obvious friction that exists. It would be rather like sticking one's head in the sand to ignore it, and he was plucky enough and quite right not to do so. There is obviously friction between the regional game councils and other organisations, notably the National Sporting Association. I feel that most of that friction is quite unnecessary. The regional game councils hold the view that the associations would wish to get their hands on the game rights which are clearly and necessarily the farmers' property. At the same time, the other associations feel that the regional game councils, who have a close affiliation with the National Farmers' Association and Macra na Feirme, tend to keep out the townsman, the professional man and other people.
If we crystallise the difficulties, we find that neither assumption is true. The correct procedure is that the farmer owns the rights and he can preserve the game, and he can let it to anyone, be he another farmer, a professional man or a member of any association. The regional game councils are quite right in their approach to that matter. An effort should be made to strengthen, if possible, the friendship between the different bodies. I add my voice to that of the Minister in hoping that will come about. The Minister was quite right also in saying, and in backing his word with action, that he would not wait until this friction eased itself, and that he would continue to give grants even though there was friction between the two bodies. He said he hoped that situation would heal itself in time. He was quite right. Time does not stand still. In an unsatisfactory situation, you cannot wait until time has passed you by.
In a general way, there is a wonderful opportunity to help the small holders of Ireland by agricultural education, and by inducing them to participate after they have been advised by the ordinary agricultural advisory services and the committees of agriculture. There is also a great opportunity for the Minister to do specific things I mentioned, to get people interested in operations on their small holdings that will bring in additional income. He has not done that. That is the grave criticism of him.
Ten years ago, the situation in the pig fattening and pig breeding industry was far different from what it is today. There was quite a divergence of opinion about the best type of pig house. We now know that quite a lot that were thought best certainly were not the best, and in fact were quite unsatisfactory by modern standards. There is now a degree of standardisation in these matters which would allow the Minister to stick his neck out, if I may use a slang phrase, by indicating the right type of pig fattening house for the smallholder and putting one on a small farm as an example to the farmer's neighbours.
It is the Minister's job to lead. It is not his job to sit in Merrion Street and allow the stagnation that is around him to continue, bound, I agree, by tradition and methods of operation for which he is not responsible. The Minister is a young man and he could and should lead. I do not think he is doing it and from that point of view the Government stand condemned. One thing is certain: in the not too distant future when we get a chance, there will be changes, big changes, changes for the betterment of the smallholders of Ireland, and for the betterment of everyone who lives on the land.