Committee on Finance. - Vote 37—Lands (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.—(Deputy O.J. Flanagan.)

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.

I want to preface my remarks by making an earnest appeal to the Minister on behalf of a group of so-called landless applicants for divided land. Up to now, they have received little consideration. The type of farmer to whom I refer—the House may be surprised if I describe him as a farmer and a landless man— is, to my mind, one of the most worthy types engaged in the agricultural industry. I refer to the group confined to the Munster counties and known as dairymen. Over a long number of years, they have paid high rentals for the use of farms which they are not mining, but farming, and from which they derive their livelihoods as a result of extremely hard work on the part of themselves, their wives, and their families.

The men and women engaged on this work are highly trained in the craft of agriculture. They start with little in life, and by sheer hard work and industry, secure a livelihood at great cost. One thing which they do not do is mine the farms which they work. They are engaged in a type of farming which restores to the soil as much as, if not more than, they extract from it. They work for seven days of the week, 52 weeks of the year. I earnestly suggest to the Minister that they constitute a class to which he should give the most favourable consideration in their applications for divided holdings.

They are equipped with experience and knowledge, and they are equipped with the stock and machinery to farm any holding which they may be granted. There is a case for the acquisition of the farms which they are dairying and granting them to the men and women who have for so many years derived their livelihood from such lands. They have paid year in and year out what would secure for them some time ago an adequate holding on which to live and to bequeath to their families. We must realise the insecurity in which these people work, and work so hard.

My sole purpose in intervening in this debate is to stress the claims of that class in their applications for divided holdings. I suggest they should not be moved from the areas in which they reside, from the lands which they occupy, the lands which they work and the lands of whose conditions they have such an intimate knowledge. They have a right to the opportunity of becoming owners of the lands they work. These people may not be large in numbers. They may not have much influence with public men but ever since I came to realise how my neighbours live, I have nothing but the highest admiration for their industry and the hard work of which they are capable. I feel very deeply for them inasmuch as they cannot give the slightest hope to their families of continuing in the homestead in which they were born and reared because they know not the day nor the hour when they may be removed from it. Many of these people, because they are engaged solely in dairying, have contributed, down through the years, a great deal to the maintenance of fertility of the land which they husband. I hope the Minister will give some measure of hope to that class of applicant.

Secondly, I want to appeal to him in so far as he can to direct the activities of his Department into the rearrangement of some of these small holdings that have been divided into parcels which are the occasion of so much ill-feeling among neighbours and which constitute such difficulties for the people who try to derive a livelihood from them. In present-day conditions people are dependent on mechanisation and the access to parts of their holdings is by other people's land. There is the widening of passage ways, and so on. It is impossible for people to till the land without machinery and many difficulties are presented which cause annoyance and trouble among neighbours, the matter of trespass and so on. I would impress upon the Minister the desirability of rearranging these holdings so as to combat the difficulties with which so many of these people have to contend.

The operations of the Department of Lands apply to certain parts of the country, by way of acquisition of land, the granting of divided holdings to migrants, and so on, but I do suggest that the fact that taxes are being paid by the people as a whole would require the Department to attend to other areas, perhaps not in the realm of actual division but in regard to rearrangement and such matters.

I want to refer to what has become the burning question for this country for many a long day, that is, the purchase of land by foreigners. The Government have adopted alaissez faire attitude in relation to the reports that are at hand to all Deputies regarding the effects of such purchases in our various constituencies. The Minister tells us they are of little consequence in relation to the amount of land available in the country but the Minister and his Government must realise what the effect has been of encouraging—and they have been encouraged — people from the Continent with their vast financial resources to come in here to find a refuge in this little island and to deprive farmers' sons of the opportunity of ever having a holding of their own.

Let us examine for a moment the effect that this has had on boys leaving the national school or technical school and who have devoted many years working at home with their older brothers and their parents, if they are still living, and saving up for the day when they can settle down and themselves become independent farmers and raise a family on an Irish farm. Can they face the competition of the cheque-book evictions which are occurring? Can they face in the open market the challenge that is presented to them of paying the price for land that these people from outside our shores are prepared to pay, for what purpose we can just guess? Many of these people we distinctly welcome, inasmuch as they are contributing to the economy of the country in the provision of industrial employment, but we have not got sufficient land to make all the uneconomic holders economic. We have not sufficient land to provide the size of holding we would like to provide for so many of our young farmers' sons who want to continue as farmers here.

In these circumstances, it is a serious matter that auctioneers in the south of Ireland will direct their activities towards the translation into German of the advertisements in Continental papers of holdings that come on to the market before if not as soon as they would give an opportunity to an Irish person to buy such a holding. These matters would be better rectified now than rectified after much local bitterness has developed. We are not unreasonable in this. The Minister says that only so much land has been purchased by foreigners, that they have spent only so much on it, but the Minister for Finance gives a figure which is £500,000 out from that of the Minister for Lands.

That is already on the record of this House.

Both figures are on the record of this House.

The Minister for Finance gave figures to this House for every purchase for industrial purposes, for every purchase——

Is the Minister to be allowed——

My figure was for agricultural land and the Deputy is not going to get away with misinterpretation.

Would it not have been better, if that is the fact, for some Minister to be a little more explicit when he was talking and a little more explicit——

I have already given those facts to the House.

Who are the people to believe when two Ministers speak with such divergent views in respect of two figures and when there is such disparity in the figures?

I want to refer finally to a grave injustice experienced by a man because he made a success of his life and because he had a tradition in Irish agriculture, because he had secured an agricultural education at one of these schools under the supervision of our Department of Agriculture. When he had advanced and secured land in which to continue his business as a farmer, what treatment did he get? I find from reading the statement submitted by this man that I have a considerable sympathy with him. This case was brought to my notice only recently.

I refer to the case of this man and his family in Limerick and to the impact on this man of taxation on a substantial holding there. The land was acquired and it has not been paid for and this man did not get the assistance he should have been afforded to permit him to purchase some alternative holding. I suggest that this man should be given an opportunity at a reasonable figure of leasing the land until such time as it is divided. There is no doubt that he sought accommodation from the Department by way of ready payment of the land bonds that would give him the security to provide the necessary capital to buy an alternative holding. He gave adequate notice to the Department, I thought, to permit them to assist him in getting this accommodation. An undue period of time elapsed between his application and the time he received the reply which made it impossible for him to purchase the land in question.

I do not wish to go into further detail but I regard it as a grave injustice ever to have acquired his holding as he had spent thousands of pounds on fertilising the lands and as he was the father of a young family and had made a success of his business and intended ultimately to reside on the holding. I did not think it would have been possible for the Land Court to reject this man's claim to the land he had purchased. However, that is gone. It is remarkable that, adjoining the farm acquired from this man, there were other holdings which were left untouched, holdings which had been let for periods of 35, 40 or 45 years for grazing and no crops sown on them. They had been let for as little as £3 to £3 10s. per Irish acre per annum. This man was singled out and his land acquired and he was left dangling for years without the money due to him being paid. It is impossible for him to acquire other lands to accommodate the livestock he has to accommodate in the course of his business. It is in such circumstances that much of the goodwill that could exist is damaged by the unjust treatment of individuals. I suggest that the Minister could rectify some of the injustices perpetrated against this individual if he would now facilitate him by letting him his own lands until such time as the Department is ready to divide them, whenever that will be.

For many years people in the southern areas had one complaint. They always felt that when land was being divided, they should get a fair slice of it and when they saw people coming from western areas, naturally they were upset, to say the least of it. That was the complaint of small farmers, workers and others in these areas for many years. Now we know that the pattern has changed and my sole reason for intervening in this debate is to draw attention to the very dangerous situation which is now arising, particularly in the southern and south-western coastal areas. We are told about the amount of land, some of it agricultural and some of it non-agricultural, which is now being sold. Let me say that I would much prefer to see a man from beyond, say, Spiddal, around Costello and such areas, in which it must be very difficult to live, coming to the southern areas rather than that the land there should be sold to foreigners who are now putting up notices that trespassers will be prosecuted.

We have in this Government Ministers drawing attention to the urgent necessity of concentrating on tourism. Surely it must be true to say that with tourism we must connect the advantages offered to people, whether Irish or otherwise, if they wish to visit the southern and south-western seaboard areas where nature has given us many advantages in the shape of good beaches and favourable swimming amenities. Now, however, the mere Irish, or even the ordinary working people coming from England for a holiday, are being put into the position of trespassers by people from God knows where. It is too serious to sit here and agree to what is happening. It is no use closing our eyes to the facts.

I do not wish to deal with individual cases. Deputy O'Sullivan dealt with one but I have no intention of letting it go without the full facts being brought out here or to the courts of where a company was formed and where a husband and wife, who are not natives of this country, were able to get a farm of agricultural land in the eastern part of the country and who then disappeared to become absentee landlords. The next thing we find is that they are again back on the books as a registered company and in 1961 were able to have that land sold again to a foreigner who is the brother-in-law of the man who was Chief of Protocol to a certain dictator in Central Europe not long ago. In that very place now people are told that they dare not trespass. It is not far from where I live and the people are being told that they have not the right of free access to the nearby seashore.

Does the Minister or the Government or any one of us believe that we can continue to close our eyes to such a situation? The people in these areas are finding it very difficult to remain patient in the prevailing conditions but even with our own Government, we cannot hope to have Irishmen and Irishwomen continue to remain servile to foreign people in control here. It was amusing to read a recent letter in a Sunday newspaper written by someone who I presume comes from some part of Europe saying that we should not say anything as the land is being paid for. The land is being paid for and certain individuals may be gaining but ultimately we know the nation will be a nation of serfs again. Taking the south-western part of Cork, we find that many of the areas with sandy beaches which offered advantages to people from Cork city and from some of the larger towns are now somewhat like a battlefield with barbed wire surrounding the beaches and with notices bearing the words "Trespassers will be prosecuted".

I say that we are now at the crossroads and we must make up our minds whether or not this is to continue. It is no use for us to say that the land is being put into two categories, agricultural land and non-agricultural land. Who would classify some of the land in Connemara as agricultural? Yet many of the unfortunates there must strive to eke out an existence for themselves. Would it not be better to see them come to us? We know that, as Irishmen, they would not barricade their holdings or erect barbed wire or fences around the strands to keep for themselves the advantages which nature has provided in this country for the enjoyment of everybody.

It is about time the Minister for Lands and the Minister for Finance straightened out the issue of whether our land is agricultural. We do not wish to be petty or parochial but, with so much talk about Europeanism at present, we must bear in mind that what is ours is not ours as individuals but belongs to this country. If some Irish people are prepared to sell their land to the highest bidder, be he a Nazi or otherwise, that tendency must be curbed. We must not be put in the position of having to say to an Irishman that he has no right to sell at an exorbitant price to people who are prepared to keep from all others the rights enjoyed by everybody for generations. For too long, that sort of thing continued in the past. It has now come to us in a new way, in a way many of us never expected, in the past ten years. However, even at this stage, it may not be too late to attempt to repair the damage that has been done. Otherwise, in years to come, perhaps not many years hence, we may regret out inactivity in Dáil Éireann in this connection.

The debate on this Estimate has roamed round and about, high, wide and handsome, and some extraordinary allegations have been made. It would be wise for us all to get back to realities on some of the issues raised.

Perhaps, before I come to some of the main fears expressed in connection with the purchase of land by aliens, I should deal for a moment with the queer allegation by Deputy Donegan that we have a civil servant in the Land Commission for every thousand pounds spent. Above all people in this House, nobody knows less about congestion than the same Deputy Donegan. I would expect him to study the figures before making an allegation of this kind. In addition to the cash figures to which I referred, the Deputy completely forgot that the Land Commission administers approximately £1 million in Land Bonds. They have to deal with the collection of annuities, sub-divisions and a thousand other things with which the Land Commission is charged. Deputy Donegan tried to work out this peculiar sum by taking the cash transactions dealt with by the Land Commission and relating them to the number of civil servants employed by the Department. That is an indication of the manner in which the Deputy approached this issue.

Let me now come to people who know a lot better than Deputy Donegan, including Deputy Blowick. Supported by Deputy Dillon, Deputy Blowick started with allegations about an extraordinary incursion of aliens purchasing the land of Ireland. When I drew the attention of Deputy Blowick to the fact that, during his period of office as Minister for Lands, we had these same allegations, and when I reminded him of what he had to say about them in those days, he airily wiped them aside with the suggestion that in those days only 1,000 or 1,200 acres a year were involved in these transactions. Nobody knows better than Deputy Blowick that that is completely false.

Deputy Blowick had questions in this House, the answers to which I shall refer in the course of my reply. He also had to deal with a Bill, introduced I think by Deputy McQuillan, dealing with these very allegations of an infiltration by foreigners purchasing the land of Ireland when he was Minister for Lands. At that time, he caused an inquiry to be made in the Land Commission to find out the approximate amount of land involved in these transactions over the previous ten years. The figure he collected was approximately 5,000 acres a year changing hands in these transactions over that period.

In the purchase of land by aliens the figures on which those 5,000 acres were based excluded any land under 100 acres. Therefore, the House may take it that when Deputy Blowick was charged with responsibility as Minister for Lands—and indeed, his colleague, Deputy Dillon, too, as a Minister of that Government—the position was that though the average amount of land involved yearly in these transactions with aliens of one kind or another was approximately 5,000 acres it must have been a minimum figure because in compiling the figures the Land Commission ignored, from their sources of information, cases in which a figure of under 100 acres was involved.

Speaking for his Government and as Minister for Lands on the Land Bill, 1949, in Seanad Éireann, as reported at column 1908 of the Official Report, Volume 37, Deputy Blowick had this to say:

A close watch is being kept on the purchase of land by non-nationals. I want to assure the House that there is no need for alarm. Some have bought the land at fantastic prices and have burnt their fingers. The number of purchases by foreigners is so small that no action is necessary at the moment in regard to it. I want to assure the House on that, for fear there might be alarm as a result of some of the speeches made here and in the Dáil. The question is not a serious one, by any means. Some Senators are afraid that there will be a new conquest of this country by money, that foreigners will buy out this country. The only thing I can say is that they will want to hurry up to make any impression at all, because at the rate of purchase for the last ten years, it will take 2,400 years to buy up the land of this country.

Now, 2,400 years to buy up the land of this country is based on a calculation that we have 12 million acres of arable land. At a rate of sale of 5,000 acres a year, it would take 2,400 years, as Deputy Blowick then said, to purchase the whole of the land of Ireland.

I want the House fully to understand the hypocrisy surrounding some of the allegations made in this debate on this issue. When the Coalition Government were in office and when Deputy Blowick was in charge of the Department of Lands, on his own figures, the average in these transactions was 5,000 acres a year. I do not suggest that all of that was arable land but I shall give the House some figures to guide them on that issue in a few moments.

The minimum amount of Irish land involved in these transactions during the period of the Coalition Government was approximately 5,000 acres a year, as Deputy Blowick said, and that figure, as such, excludes areas of less than 100 acres. This was the considered judgment and the reaction of that Government to the question at the time. When Deputy Dillon comes along in this debate and sheds crocodile tears about the land of Ireland being sold, let me make it quite clear and drive it home that the approximate figure today for these transactions is roughly the same—between 5,000 and 6,000 acres. But the difference is that in dealing with agricultural land, this Government have established an exact register through which, under the law of the land, the Land Commission are aware of every square foot of land sold to anybody not an Irish national no matter for what purpose.

I should like to know what Fine Gael policy on this issue is because it was a Fianna Fáil Minister who originally introduced the very severe 25 per cent differential tax on land purchased here by aliens.

I should like to bring the House back to show the attitude of those who now take this Government to task for alleged inaction on this problem. When the Government of the day introduced this 25 per cent tax, Deputy Dillon, as reported in the Official Report of 15th October, 1947, at column 466, said:

We are to increase the stamp duty on the sale of land to persons ordinarily resident outside the State to 25 per cent. That is the kind of muddled-headed, mean, ignorant thing that Fianna Fáil are peculiarly expert at doing. They think that will be popular—"We are going to stop the Englishmen from buying our lands". Of course, there will be a few ignorant "goms" down the country who will swallow it and at the same time they can say to others: "We do not want to stop anybody, but we want to get the revenue to prevent inflation." But that ignorant, cloutish device will achieve neither object. The only effect it will have will be materially to lessen the value of land generally and of such house property as may be purchased by strangers coming to visit this country.

At column 467, he goes on to say:

Everybody wants to make pious gestures about it, because they think it is a popular thing to do. Do we object to English people buying a house and grounds in this country for their own occupation, or do we not?

He goes on:

This is a sovereign Parliament and we can prohibit the registration of land in the name of any foreigner tomorrow without the slightest difficulty. If we want to do that, why do we not do it? I do not want to do it.

Further on, he says:

I am not in favour of preventing respectable English people buying properties in this country for residences if they want to.

He also says:

It will not deter one of the class to whom I have referred from buying a place if they want it; but it may prevent a number of decent people from acquiring modest establishments who otherwise would. It certainly will reduce the value of land on a lot of people who had a right to believe that an Irish Government would not so interfere with free sale as materially to depreciate their assets in the shape of the holding they desire to sell.

Here is the spoken word of the present leader of the Opposition expressing the view of the Fine Gael Party against the imposition of the 25 per cent tax which the then Minister for Finance introduced to deal with the problem and restrict transactions. These are the words of the Deputy who in this debate painted for us such a terrible picture of the invasion of Ireland by foreigners and the awful consequences that would ensue.

Deputy Dillon also took the Government to task about what, he alleges, is the flow of capital here through the sale of house property and business premises to foreigners in Dublin and elsewhere. Strangely, it was Deputy Dillon's colleague, Deputy Sweetman, who, when Minister for Finance, amended the law as it then was and allowed free of differential tax the sale to any non-national of any property where less than five acres of land went with it. Deputy Sweetman opened the gap in his Finance Act of 1956 for all and sundry to come to any city or town and purchase any house or business, provided there was no greater area than five acres concerned in the transaction. These people come along now trying to sell the public the idea that there is an extraordinary invasion going on at present and that the Government are doing nothing about it, whereas in fact they bitterly opposed and derided measures taken by the Government when this differential 25 per cent tax was applied in order to curtail, as was then considered necessary, the purchase of land by aliens.

It is completely untrue to suggest, as some Deputies have done in this debate, that the Government have at any time, or any of their Ministers, suggested to foreigners that the purchase of agricultural land here would be welcomed. It has been made abundantly clear time and again by different Ministers and by myself that land is a very scarce commodity here and that we need for our own people all the available land suitable for Land Commission purposes to deal with our congestion problem. That was made clear on many occasions and the late Dr. Reiffenscheidt, former German Ambassador, was so informed by me. When he visited his own country, he made a speech that got a tremendous amount of publicity there to the effect that while German nationals were welcome here to bring in their knowhow and skill in industry and business, they would not be welcome from the viewpoint of the acquisition of agricultural land. This Government took the steps they considered necessary to control the situation. If, in the Government's view, at any time further steps are needed, they will be taken if the national interest requires it.

What I am making clear is that approximately the same pattern is evident now as was evident in those years to which I refer. The amount of land, good, bad or indifferent, concerned in these transactions is running between 5,000 and 6,000 acres a year according to this register, which is accurate and which, according to my officials, is effective under the law passed by this House in 1961.

Deputy Dillon, Deputy Tully, Deputy Treacy, Deputy Desmond and others made wild general allegations that the law in connection with stamp duty is being got over. It is very difficult for me or anybody else to deal with general allegations of that kind where we have no particulars. It is very easy with such general allegations to create an idea abroad that there is something radically wrong, and neither I nor anybody else can investigate it. I would welcome particulars from any Deputy of any instance, or even of suspicion, of the law being evaded.

An allegation made by a Deputy during the debate on this Estimate last year that solicitors, auctioneers and others are holding land in this country in trust for foreigners is completely untrue. He said that everybody knew they did so. I, for one, do not know it. Under the Finance Act, 1961, this is a very grave criminal offence. Any individual who lends his name to that kind of thing would not alone be liable to a very heavy fine but to a very severe term of imprisonment. Knowing the solicitors' profession as I do, they are not all idiots, and I doubt whether any solicitor in his sane mind —or any auctioneer, for that matter— would allow himself to be put in that position.

I have directed the officials of the Land Commission to make spot checks as often as they can to see if they can get any evidence anywhere of the law as set out in the 1961 Act being evaded. So far, no evidence of any device for fraud has emerged. As I say, I would welcome details of any case in which a Deputy has his suspicions, so that they can be investigated. But, for heaven's sake, let us get away from these wild general allegations of dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi. Let us get down to realities and get away from these statements that everybody knows there is fraud going on. If there is, I and the Land Commissioners are the people to whom such frauds or suspicions of them should be reported. I would suggest to Deputies that, apart from any question of being fair to me, in fairness to themselves, it is their duty as citizens to bring to the notice of the authorities a breach of the law, which in this case would amount to a breach of the criminal law of this land.

Evidently, there are different approaches to this question, depending upon whether certain Deputies are in Government or out of it. Some of the arguments that have been used in this House and elsewhere by my predecessor, Deputy Blowick, when he was charged with the responsibility of administering the Department of Lands, can well be quoted here, because some of the arguments used are still relevant to this situation. It is true that because of our history, one of the most sensitive subjects we have is the question of land. It is also true that unscrupulous people can make use of the national sensitivity of our people on this subject for political advantage if the people fall for misleading propaganda. In dealing with a question of this kind, apart from the constitutional issue it raises between man and man, it may be no harm to go back and see some of the arguments advocated when this question of aliens was raised in February, 1950, under the then Land Bill.

An amendment was introduced by a Clann na Talmhan Deputy, the former Deputy Commons. He advocated not alone taking land from aliens who acquired it here, but not paying them the same price or market value proposed to be paid to our own citizens when land is taken from them for the relief of congestion. Deputy Blowick, the then Minister for Lands, at column 701 of the 23rd February, 1950, had this to say:

...there are other factors to be considered. First, a number of our flesh and blood abroad have purchased property in other countries. It is an international principle, which has been embodied in Section 3 of the Aliens Act, 1935, that the property of non-nationals will get the same protection in law in this country as that of nationals and citizens of the State. The very same thing applies to our kith and kin in England, America and elsewhere. That is one aspect of it which would have very serious repercussions. I do not know whether we might not look forward to retaliation if the amendment were adopted. As the amendment is worded, it also throws into that category our own people who went abroad in former years and acquired American citizenship. There are quite a few of them my own neighbours and I suppose such people are to be found in every county. They acquired American citizenship while abroad and have since come home to take up their parents' holdings in this country. They have never bothered, however, to set right the question of their citizenship.

On the same occasion, Deputy Dillon waxed eloquently as follows:

The amendment is designed to set up one basis of compensation for Billy and another for Jack. The fundamental law of this country says that, whether a man is rich or poor, great or humble, native or stranger, when he is under the protection of our law, whatever may be his fate in his own country, he will be treated under Irish law in accordance with the tenets of justice and equity. Where is the justice and equity of taking a stranger's property and denying him its value if you take identical property from his neighbour who is a citizen of this State and give him its full value? Millions of our people have in their time been strangers in a strange land and they have had abundant cause to thank God that the land they went to had a constitution and that however humble they were, however insignificant, if anyone in the United States of America dared to treat them differently before the law from the most venerable family in America, there were judges there to see, whatever injustice prevailed under British dispensations in Ireland whence such a man came, now that he was in America he was entitled to precisely the same treatment under the law as the President of the United States. I hope to God that a people who have thanked God for that haven of refuge and freedom in their day will not so far disgrace themselves in respect of this matter as to say: "Having thanked God for that freedom, that justice and that equity when we were down-trodden and poor, we will deny it to strangers who come to live in our midst".

There is the view of Deputy Dillon about differentiation in regard to aliens purchasing land here.

At column 727, during the Committee Stage of the Bill, Deputy T.F. O'Higgins had this to say:

I think, with the Minister for Agriculture, that it matters little whether this amendment is passed or rejected, because I agree that, should the matter ever be examined by the courts set up under the Constitution, they would hold such a legislative provision as contrary to the Constitution of this country, and therefore void. Apart from that, I would remind Deputy McQuillan and Deputy Commons of this fact, that, taking their own constituencies, there are, unfortunately—and I am certain of this—many kinsmen, constituents of theirs, living, working and carrying on business in a country not so far away from this country and owning property—houses and land—in England, and are we, even by a futile Act of this Parliament, going to establish a principle which may in times like these be quite easily used in England against our own citizens, our own people abroad?

Those were the views of Deputy Dillon as Minister for Agriculture in the Coalition Government, of Deputy Blowick as Minister for Lands, and of Deputy T.F. O'Higgins. The transactions with aliens were approximately the same at that time but at that time the question was that if we took any action against aliens, we would be calling down the wrath of the Almighty because Americans might treat our people accordingly where there is no rule against our people acquiring land, or that the British might do the same thing in Britain where there is no domestic law stopping our nationals from acquiring any property they are in a position to acquire.

The official view of the Opposition then was that this would be a retrograde step. Deputy Dillon rhapsodised about allowing the free sale of the land and about depriving the individual here of the free right of sale, no matter whether it was to a man from Timbuctoo, Frankfurt or from across the water in Britain. Deputy T.F. O'Higgins said it would be contrary to the Constitution to introduce legislation differentiating between an alien and one of our own citizens.

Is it not pertinent for me now to ask what is Fine Gael policy on this matter? There has not been a solitary constructive proposal put forward by the Fine Gael Party as to what they would do in this situation if they were charged with the responsibility of office. They opposed the 25 per cent tax placed on the purchase by aliens of Irish land. They pooh-poohed the provisions in the 1961 Finance Act setting up a register to keep a complete and accurate record of every square foot of land purchased by non-nationals throughout the country.

What do they want to do now? Is it not the height of political dishonesty to suggest, on the one hand, that you will maintain free sale here, the right of every farmer in Ireland to sell at the highest penny, and at the same time to submit that the Government should do something about this question of foreigners purchasing land here? They offer no constructive proposal as to what should be done about it. The only suggestion I have heard from the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, or from anybody else on the benches opposite, was a proposition brought in in the form of an unworkable Bill to create a register under which track would be kept of the extent of these purchases.

The present register was created under the Finance Act of 1961. Under it, every square foot of land is covered and if there has been any avoidance of the law, officials of my Department or of the Revenue Commissioners have not discovered it. It may be that there could be some cases of which we do not know. If there are, I believe they are based on fraud and the law is there, and it is a very severe law, to deal with any gentleman who makes a false declaration or sets out false particulars in any deed of transfer, or indeed in dealing with the shares of any company owning land.

In view of what Deputy Desmond has said, I would point out that the device of the pre-1947 company is gone and affords no protection as regards stamp duty in regard to the purchase of land by aliens. In the case of the company, the majority of the shares must be held in the beneficial ownership of Irish nationals and if there is any false declaration to get out of the stamp duty, or in regard to the shares of the company, then the individual making that statement, if brought to book, will suffer the consequences I have mentioned under the penal clauses of the 1961 Finance Act and he will find himself for a long time kicking his heels up in Mountjoy; that is, if any fraud is taking place.

I want to assure the House that this applies equally to companies and individuals so that in every conceivable way the legal advisers to the Government and myself could devise, steps were taken in the Finance Bill of 1961 to keep full track not alone of all land purchased by non-nationals but also to deal with any device that might be put up by the legal advisers of these gentlemen.

The figures are there and I have given them to the House. Let me make it clear again that should this picture change, should it become necessary in the view of the Government to increase the present penal tax or to take any further steps, the Government will not be slow to do so. I would point out, though, that in dealing with this question, there is another matter that requires clearing up — the deliberate confusion that has been attempted by some Deputies about figures given by the Minister for Finance and myself.

I have already put it on the records of the House that the approximate amount of money payable in regard to these transactions was £500,000. I was dealing with the amount of agricultural land on which the 25 per cent stamp duty had in fact been paid. The Minister for Finance, in giving his figures, dealt not alone with the amount of agricultural land on which the 25 per cent stamp duty was paid but with every acre of land, irrespective of the purpose, be it for a factory, or a dwelling house with land under five acres in extent. He was giving the figure for the total inflow of money for land of any kind or description, for whatever purpose, from aliens.

I made that clear here in the House. So did the Minister for Finance. But, of course, the suggestion was again trotted out by Deputy Dillon in the course of this debate that neither the Minister for Finance nor myself knew the exact figure. I was rather surprised by Deputy Treacy, I think it was, from the Labour Party, coming out with the same thing. I do not know whether, like Tit Willow in the song, Deputy Treacy had a rather tough political worm in his little inside. I would hate to think it was weakness of intellect. He does seem to have the capacity for swallowing every political worm thrown up by Deputy Dillon and regurgitating it here as if it were the truth.

That is most unfair. The Minister should keep the dirt out of it.

I am pointing out that Deputy Dillon, who knew the figures that were given here, attempted for the tenth time to misinterpret figures given by the Minister for Finance and by me, was followed by Deputy Treacy making the same allegation that Deputy Dillon had made, that we did not know what the exact figure was. Let me repeat: the figure is there in detail, and for every square foot of land purchased in this country since 1961 by any alien, be he British, German or irrespective of what part of the world he came from—American for that matter. This was the first time that such a register was established in this country and in so far as we know it is factual, it is accurate and, until we find evidence to the contrary, it is proof that the machinery provided under the 1961 Finance Act to deal with this matter has been effectual.

If the Deputies here want to bring in some further measures, further discrimination against the purchase of land by aliens in this country, I do hope that at least the main Opposition Party will make a practical proposal as to what they want done. Let them not try to mislead the public into thinking that they are going to have this free sale, for which Deputy Dillon is prepared to die, and at the same time, stop the Irish farmer from selling his farm for £500 more to an alien because he is an alien and at the same time allow that farmer the right of free sale. It just cannot be done and there is nobody who knows that better than Deputy Dillon but, of course, he is quite facile in making these allegations and selling the idea now, far away from the views expressed by him which I quoted when he was Minister for Agriculture in dealing with this situation. Now he thinks there are some political kudos to be garnered because he well knows the sensitivity of our people on the question of Irish land.

Let me give an instance for the benefit of Deputy McQuillan and others who, obviously, did not reason out this matter or deliberately refrained from reasoning out the matter and who would like to give the idea that a very large number of people could be settled on 50 acre holdings if these transactions with aliens were completely stopped and if we possibly could stop them.

A case came to my notice in the Land Commission during the last week. It was a purchase in the West of Ireland by an alien. If the purchase goes through, it will be quite a substantial one. The area concerned comprises 5,500 acres. That sounds and is a very substantial area. It is an area that I know well.

What is the valuation?

The valuation is £40.

I do not think the Minister need waste the time of the House any more.

The average value of this land is 2d. an acre. Using Deputy McQuillan's argument and the argument of some of the Deputies on these benches, if the Land Commission were to take over these 5,500 acres, they could settle in wonderful comfort approximately 110 families on holdings of 50 acres each. But, the average valuation of the holdings would be 8/4d. and I do not think the most optimistic of us would relish the idea of having to make a living on a holding of that kind. It would be a misnomer to describe this place as snipe grass because snipe would not and cannot live on it. I know it well. The Forestry Division turned it down years ago. There was not a place between the rocks to stick a bush in. If this land goes on to the register, can it be used as an instance of the number of Irish families that could be settled on this tract of 5,500 acres of Irish land? The three or four common owners who have rights over this land thought that Santa Claus had come twice to them when this gentleman came along and proposed taking these rocks off their hands. I wish this gentleman all the luck in the world with it. What he will do with it, I do not know but, if he is prepared to take that kind of land and give some of our people some kind of price for it, land that is valued at 2d. an acre, I say more luck to him with his purchase.

This is the fallacy—this is the easy picture to be painted for the ignorant, when you say you have all these acres going to foreigners on which you could settle so many Irish families. Let me say that in respect of purchases by foreigners in this country in some cases the Commissioners have power, where the lands are not suitable, where they are what I would call white elephants, they have power to recommend relief from the differential stamp duty.

That is a nasty phrase for the Minister for Health to hear. The Minister for Lands should not say it in his hearing. He may be sensitive.

There are in this country many white elephants in the form of big old houses with not sufficient land to support them round about them and places that would be completely unsuitable for Land Commission purposes. Indeed, unless some of these people came along to relieve the owners of some of these white elephants, I do not know what they would do with them because certainly no local man who knows his business would take on what he would know to be a liability. In many of these cases we find on examination of the figures that some aliens come over and get stuck with these white elephants and put money into them and then, having experience and the Irishmen having their money, they try to unload them on others of their ilk if they can get some green enough to fall for them. Many of these transactions are taking place amongst the same class of inexperienced people. Some of them have come over the years looking for atmosphere and so on. They get the atmosphere with the old mansion and quite a lot of them do not last very long and try to unload again, as everybody does who is caught in a deal of that kind.

I should not take up so much of the time of the House in dealing with this particular aspect of this matter, but I should like to point out the complete dishonesty of approach to this question by some of those who have attempted to stampede public opinion into the idea that there is some fantastic sell-out going on in connection with Irish land. There is not. The picture is approximately the same. It would appear to me that there is a change in the treatment because of the fact that a few people from one particular country who we are not used to here have come into the country and bought a few farms here and there.

There seems to be a much more easy approach to the British ex-colonels and generals who flocked here after the last war, and for some years afterwards. It would seem that there is some bias against the very few people comparatively speaking who have come here in recent years, and have certainly brought with them technique and know-how that is extremely valuable to this country, and who are, to my knowledge in some cases at all events, very welcome by the local people.

Let me come now to another allegation made by a number of Deputies throughout this debate. There was an allegation that beaches are being closed by some people who have purchased land here. Let this be clear. There is no one, no purchaser of land in this country, who can close up anything that was not private property before he bought it. A purchaser of any farm can purchase only what the vendor had. If there was a right of way to the sea, or a Mass path, or a right to take seaweed, that right is still there, and all the foreigners in the world cannot change that one iota.

I have some experience of this matter. I spent very many years in my time before our courts dealing with rights of way and questions of title in rural Ireland. I do not think there are people in the whole wide world who have a greater sense of property and property rights than our own people. I dare you in Mayo to let your hen run across your neighbour's fence, or to go across land where you have not established the right to do so. You will soon find yourself hauled before the courts. In many cases over the right to walk a donkey across a few rocks or some snipe grass, people have beggared themselves with cases and appeals in regard to title. I maintain that no people have a greater sense of property rights than our own people. Unless the people down in the south where the allegations are made are aliens, I for one am surprised that they will allow anyone to walk over their rights if, in fact, they have those rights as the allegations say they have.

Is it not privilege that was talked about?

The question of privilege is one that is watched very carefully by the Irishman. If I am so soft as to let you walk across my field for 12 years without stopping you, you have the right to go across it, and tell me to go and jump in a lake. The right to water takes somewhat longer. It is 20 years. Where the right to seaweed, to the sea or elsewhere, is a traditional one, the Attorney General can come in for and on behalf of the public and assert that that right is being interfered with. The people and their advisers are not, I think, any more dumb in the south than they are in the west. I should like to see anyone in the county with which I am familiar stopping a man from going across the Mass path or going for seaweed, or taking from him any right which he has enjoyed from time immemorial. I cannot accept those allegations. I do not believe them. I assert to the House again that any purchaser can only get what the vendor had. If some alleged right is closed up, either there never was such a right, or the people are asleep in that part of the country if they are not asserting their rights. I, for one, find grave difficulty, from my experience, in believing that.

Some matters dealing with individual cases have been raised. Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned some case in Limerick. I would have no details of that case without notice from the Deputy. I gather from what he said that it was a matter which was dealt with by the Land Court. If it has been dealt with by the Land Court, I do not accept that this particular cattle dealer was unfairly discriminated against in the Land Court. In a question of compulsory acquisition of land, the Land Court is invariably most sympathetic to those concerned. It has been my experience, long before I joined the Government, that if there was any question of a man having to go away from his holding for a while, or being in temporary difficulties and having to let his land for that reason, the Land Court invariably gave him time to come back, or time to improve his position in order to maintain his land. I gather the case to which the Deputy referred was dealt with by the Land Court, and if it was, he would have an opportunity of putting his case fully before the court. At all events, that is the law of the land, and it is a matter for which I am not responsible. Someone must do this work. It is as fair a system as could be devised, and while an occasional mistake may occur, so far it has worked out fairly satisfactorily to all concerned.

I think it was Deputy Flanagan who complained about cases where the Land Commission withdrew after the price was fixed by the Appeal Tribunal. The Land Commission have no appeal against whatever price may be fixed by the judge of the Appeal Tribunal. As in other cases, the judge in the Land Court makes up his mind and gives a decision on the evidence put before him. A judge may be misled. A judge may be codded just the same as anyone else, if people are prepared to swear to unreal values.

As Deputies are aware, in an action before a jury in the High Court, sometimes there can be a daft decision on the question of damages. The aggrieved party can go to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the damages are too heavy and unrealistic, and the Supreme Court can order a new trial, and send the case back to another jury. Under the land law, the Land Commission have no appeal against a judgment given by an appeal judge. Therefore, if there is an appeal, and evidence is produced to the judge which puts an unrealistic and extremely high value on the land, and if the judge accepts that evidence, the Land Commission have no redress under the law except to withdraw. They have that power. Indeed, from my experience, where the Land Commission have exercised that power— they rarely do so but it is necessary from time to time—the owner who has got that unrealistic price goes along to them and says, irrespective of what the judge has said: "I am prepared to accept £500 less" or £1,000 less and so on. We have had that experience sometimes. It proves beyond yea or nay that in these cases an unrealistic amount of compensation was given for the land acquired and, as I say, it is the one form of protection the Land Commission have.

In the national interest and from the point of view of enabling the Land Commission to get the greatest amount of land possible from the budget with which they are provided, it is very necessary that they should have and that the House should have a proper approach to this question. Indeed the House should be anxious that the Land Commission should not pay any unrealistic price for land because in many cases the Land Commission, particularly where they are empowered under the limited powers they have, to purchase at public auction they are competing with people who might make good use of land, and farmers naturally want to try to get holdings for their sons. There is a limit to the amount of land which the Land Commission in the national interest should acquire but under the budget provided for them, they are making a very good impact on the acquisition of land. Under the different headings there has been more money provided for them by this Administration than was ever provided before and the result of these sinews of war which have been provided for the Land Commission is apparent and will be more apparent as time goes on.

I am deliberately refraining from dealing with the various allegations that were made about what is proposed to be done under the new Land Bill. The simple answer to the allegations that I did not deal with the various provisions of the new Land Bill is the fact that I would be out of order in doing so on this Estimate. It is true, as I have told the House, there may be some matters that as a matter of policy could be put into operation without the new legislation, which, as I have said, will be introduced this session. One of these matters is the question of providing the new family farm of 40 to 45 acres, and the policy has already been put into operation by me because I could do so as a matter of policy direction to the Land Commission. At this time all the new migrants' holdings are being brought up to that standard. Where land is available on the division of any estates by way of additions, in so far as the Land Commission can do it that is the aim and will be the aim for the family farm in the future.

Of course, it is a pipe dream on Deputy Blowick's part to allege that he or his colleagues in Government ever attempted to increase the size of the family farm. He made that allegation on this debate. In fact the position was that there was one standard in the congested areas in the west of Ireland and a different standard in the whole of the rest of the country. A man in the west of Ireland, once he was over £10 valuation was written off by the Land Commission and could not qualify for any addition where land was available adjoining him or in the townland within the mile distance; whereas in the south or the east of the country he could be up to £30 valuation and still would be eligible to receive an addition of land if there was land available for division in the area.

That situation was left there by Deputy Blowick but I decided that it was time to do something about it and that it was time to stop creating what I regard as further land slums by keeping people on a subsistence farming level. Anybody now who is under £10 valuation on West of Ireland land could not be regarded as being anything but a subsistence farmer because he would have to spend at least three months of the year looking for work from the county council or emigrate to England or elsewhere in order to supplement the family income. He could not possibly provide for himself and his family on a valuation less than £10.

That has been changed and changed as a matter of policy. The other enabling sections which will give inducements to people to give their lands to the Land Commission will be dealt with when the new Land Bill is brought in here.

It is quite easy for Deputy Dillon, as he stated in this debate, to allege that the Taoiseach or I or this Government are paying people to leave the land in the west of Ireland, that this is a daft national policy. It is very easy to manufacture an "Aunt Sally" and, of course, Deputy Dillon has any amount of coconuts to shy at an Aunt Sally of his own creation. The Taoiseach or I never said anything of that kind. What I did say in this House, even before the Taoiseach's speech, when in introducing my Estimate last year I was dealing with what I thought should be done in connection with the new Land Bill was that power should be taken by the Land Commission to deal with the particular area where, because of the local congestion in that village, or that townland, it was obvious one or two people would have to be migrated so as to leave room for the others in order to give them an economic holding.

It was not today or yesterday I said that. I saw from a debate I was looking up today that I had advocated that very proposition in this House to Deputy Blowick when he was Minister for Lands in connection with the 1950 Land Bill and what has been said by both the Taoiseach and myself is that power should be taken by the Land Commission in a situation where there is congestion in a village or townland and it is obvious that one or two must get out of that because the holdings are uneconomic or too small, in order to make a reasonable rearrangement for those who are left. The idea was that the Land Commission would pick out one or two good, thrifty young fellows and say to them: "You go ahead to the next village or watch the local paper and, where you see a holding that is suitable, take it and we shall provide you with the sinews of war to do so." He will be financed by the Land Commission to do that. If that is not sound logic and commonsense in order to deal with that congestion, I—Deputies from the south and the Midlands may not be familiar with it but we have a relic of Cromwellian times west of the Shannon—do not know what is.

Nobody in this day and age will expect people to try to exist on living standards of the Famine times, on valuations of £2, £3 or £4. That is unrealistic in this day and age. These provisions such as I have indicated to the House, and which I hope to introduce here shortly, to deal with this problem and to provide these inducements, to increase the pool of land in these congested areas will, we hope, keep these people on the land. Economics are driving them from it and it is to remedy that situation that the new land policy has been inaugurated. At all events, within the framework of the law as it exists, as the responsible Minister, we have provided the sinews of war to implement the restricted powers the Land Commission have up to date, to try to speed up the Land Commission machine. With the new powers I hope to have in operation by the time this Estimate comes around again, I hope that with the co-operation of the House, we will be able to make a real impact, an impact that will be apparent to the House and to the country, on this inherited terrible problem of the land slums of Ireland.

Question: "That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration" put and declared lost.
Vote put and agreed to.