I received a notification from the Chair, as did some other Deputies who had their names to amendments, that my amendment was ruled out of order because it would impose a charge on State funds. I respectfully suggest a mistake has been made in this case because the acquisition of land is not a direct charge on State funds. Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle would have another look at the matter? It is very serious in relation to this Bill. It is financed in a certain way and not directly out of State funds.
Committee on Finance. - Land Bill, 1963—Committee Stage.
It is surely financed out of State funds. There can be no doubt about that at all.
There is the point about the amount of money available in land bonds. The House is asked to increase that amount from £15 million to £20 million and it is out of that that the money comes for the acquisition of land.
Surely the loan the Government get by way of land bonds is State funds? There can be no question about that.
The point is that it does not increase the charge.
If the additions Deputies seek are imposed, it would involve an increase in the charge.
We do not want to make a big point about this. Surely the section is merely permissive—the Land Commission may acquire if they so desire?
If they do?
But they do not have to.
I cannot allow additions to increase the charge.
There is also a service charge for servicing the land bonds.
That comes out of the land bonds, too.
There may be a technical way out of it. The Land Commission can do only a certain amount of work. If they do the work suggested in the amendment, it will not be any extra charge because the other work they do will take place the following year.
Surely to make provision to empower the Land Commission to incur extra expenses—
Nearly every amendment would impose some charge.
That is what legislation is for. We are trying to improve legislation.
I cannot go into all these technicalities. There is no doubt whatever that some of the amendments, if adopted, would impose a charge.
Ours is no different from the rest, then. Why not let them "have a bash"?
The Chair ruled amendment No. 12 standing in my name out of order. It is to the effect that the Land Commission shall provide in every year not fewer than 50 farms. I had intended that they would be given to people at an economic rent so that they would be paying for them themselves.
If they were given, they would have to be paid for.
Out of land already acquired.
We are not trying to be difficult. Put us right.
I understand that.
Are we entitled to make a submission on your ruling at this stage?
I have no objection to that at all.
The Chair has ruled. Is it the last word or may we make submissions when the Chair rules out an amendment—
You may make a submission——
——but not a prolonged argument?
I am ruling that that money comes out of State funds and no Deputy may move that, except a Minister of State.
This is rather an extraordinary position. The Ceann Comhairle having ruled on this matter, that appears to be the end of it. I have great respect for the Ceann Comhairle but he could have made a mistake. An error could have been made. We have discussed this among ourselves and while we have not as much experience as the Ceann Comhairle, we think a genuine error has been made. We feel that the desire that the Land Commission would have the right to acquire, if they thought fit, lands which——
That is not making a case against my ruling. It is making a case against a provision in a Standing Order which makes me rule them out.
I am making the case that this does not say that it will cost the State money. That being so, I cannot see how it can be ruled that it is a charge on State funds.
I have endeavoured to explain the position to the Deputy. I have written to him and said it is liable to impose a charge on public funds and therefore I cannot allow it.
My experience of the Ceann Comhairle for over 20 years is that I have never seen him make a mistake.
He is looking for something, now.
The rulings of the Chair have always been in accordance with fact. However, one of the amendments is in fact relieving the State of an obligation to incur the charges. My amendment reads:
Before section 6 to insert a new section as follows:
"The Land Commission shall provide in every year not fewer than fifty farms for the purpose of letting them to such young farmers as the Land Commission may decide for a period of not less than ten years."
I had intended, in respect of those farms, that the tenant would pay the full economic rent, thus relieving the State of the obligation of payment.
They must first be bought out of public funds.
Would it be in order to ask for the numbers of the amendments that have been ruled out of order?
Amendments Nos. 7, 10, 12, 22, 30, 32.
On amendment No. 12, I appreciate the position—that a Deputy on this side of the House, or indeed any Deputy other than a Minister, cannot move an amendment which will result in a charge being imposed on public funds — but in relation to Deputy Flanagan's amendment No. 12, with all respect, I do not see how it can be ruled out on that basis without allowing discussion on it, because whether or not a charge would arise on foot of this amendment depends entirely on the arguments in support of the amendment.
Would it, if adopted, impose a charge? That is the question at issue here.
It would not.
Money has to be paid towards the acquisition of those farms.
Money will be paid for some farms.
We are saying to the Minister that the land already acquired be used to provide those farms. It would mean, in fact, that the Exchequer would be relieved because the lands would be let at economic rents.
The land will have to be acquired.
It has already been acquired. No additional charge would be imposed.
The Deputy says it is land already in possession.
That is so. The Ceann Comhairle is aware, as every Deputy is, that the Land Commission acquire land and that for years, sometimes, that land is not divided.
The point that weighed with the Chair was that the amendment seeks to provide 500 farms and therefore these farms must be acquired by money out of public funds.
Perhaps that is where the Chair went wrong. If we knew where the Chair got the 500 farms from——
It is not 500 farms, but 50.
It says 50 farms for ten years, so the Chair is not wrong.
The letting is to be for a period of ten years.
The farms have to be acquired.
They have already been acquired.
It means public funds have to be used.
They have already been used.
I should like to deal with amendment No. 32 and refer the Chair to section 26 which states that the Land Bond Act is amended by the substitution of £20 million for £15 million. When that section is passed, the money is available and what we are asking in amendment No. 32 will not mean any increase in the demand on State funds.
Even if the money were paid immediately afterwards, State funds had to be used to acquire the land.
Is it not a matter of opinion as to who says priority should be established for certain lands? The reason we are so anxious about it is that even the Minister has said there is power to acquire land retrospectively.
The Land Commission must use State money. That is the only thing they can use to acquire land.
We are not asking for extra money. We are asking for money that will have been voted under section 26.
If that amendment were carried, State money would have to be used to carry out the work.
Surely, every amendment passed here involves money?
An ordinary Deputy is not entitled to move an amendment which would involve an extra charge on public funds. Deputy McQuillan is advocating something which would impose an extra charge. I am sorry, but I cannot allow discussion on it.
Would it impose an extra charge?
It would be an extra charge.
How could money already available be regarded as an extra charge?
I am suggesting how the Minister should spend money already available.
The proposal is to impose a charge on public funds.
It seems an extraordinary thing that to suggest to the Minister he should use lands already acquired——
Supposing there was a proposal to the effect that a register of aliens who purchased land be compiled, would that not mean an extra charge?
It would not.
That would be purely departmental administration. Amendment No. 32 would be a new provision altogether. It has to go into the legislation. I am afraid I must rule it out.
I do not know whether there is any appeal against this ruling of the Chair. Anyhow, it will not be reached this evening.
There is no appeal, except by motion of the House.
Could you have a talk with yourself?
If we had the Ceann Comhairle starting to talk to himself——
These amendments would certainly cause a man to talk to himself.
Everybody knows the Ceann Comhairle is a very reasonable man, a man of great commonsense and intelligence. The problem here involves his opinion and the opinion of Deputies. The only problem is a difference of opinion.
A big problem.
I agree it is a big problem.
Can we have the Minister's mind on it?
This is not something that arose today or yesterday. It has been arising while I have been in the House. It has been arising during the past 25 years.
Relating my remarks again for a moment to amendment No. 12, if the Minister agreed with the Deputies' interpretation of the effects of the amendment that it would not impose any charge other than that already in existence, would that not influence the Chair to some extent?
For what my opinion is worth, I do not see how the Ceann Comhairle could rule otherwise than the way he has ruled. Without going into the merits or demerits of the amendment, it would be disastrous for a congest if the amendment went in because it would mean that half the land acquired by the Land Commission would go to those people at the expense of the congests. If 50 farms are to be given, the land must be bought and the money provided out of public funds.
What if it is already bought?
Irrespective of the merits or demerits of the amendment, I do not see how the Ceann Comhairle could rule otherwise.
If the Minister's argument is correct, then he should accept amendment No. 32 because we are telling him in it how he can get land.
If the Deputies object to my ruling, they have a perfectly legitimate way of testing it. I shall not feel a bit annoyed about it. Deputies are quite within their rights. That is the only method by which the ruling of the Chair can be tested.
Nobody would do that.
Nobody would wish to do it.
Do not take me as feeling in any way aggrieved.
I hope the Chair does not think we are trying to embarrass him.
The Deputies are entirely within their rights.
We are trying to help out the poor Minister.
You try to help out the poor Ceann Comhairle sometimes, too.
I am extremely grateful.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, lines 19 and 20, after "a holding" to insert "or land".
I think, Sir, amendments Nos. 1 and 2 could be discussed together. They are associated principally with section 14 and deal with Land Commission nominees. My purpose is to ensure that the provisions of that section are flexible enough to apply them to any holding of land or part or parcel of land or incorporeal hereditament. The matter will be dealt with when we come to discuss section 14. I ask the House to accept these amendments as textual improvements. They are designed to make section 14 more flexible and not to tie the hands of the Land Commission in dealing with section 14.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 3, line 21, after "an incorporeal hereditament" to insert "in whole or in part".
Would the Minister tell us what difference there is between the new congested areas envisaged and the old conception of the congested areas under the Congested Districts Board?
Under this Bill, the congested areas are those already prescribed by law. The Deputy will find them in the Second Schedule to the Bill. They comprise: Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo; the portion of the county of Clare comprising the former rural districts of Ballyvaughan, Ennistymon, Kilrush, Scariff, Tulla and Killadysert; and the portion of West Cork comprising the former rural districts of Bantry, Castletown, Schull and Skibbereen. These were laid down under the 1909 Land Act. As the Deputy appreciates, there is a section enabling the Minister to bring in, in addition to these already defined congested areas, a declaration that any part of the country is a congested area.
The definition of the congested areas does not differ from the former definition?
No, not from the congested districts as they are defined by law.
Surely the Minister will agree that, apart from the districts to which he has referred, there are other great pockets of congestion which are equally as congested as those defined?
That is the very reason for another section in the Bill to enable the Minister to bring in any portion as a congested area. For the first time, that is being written into our law. We felt that, outside the existing congested districts as defined, there are pockets of congestion in different parts of the country. That is why we have this section giving power to the Minister from time to time to schedule any further pocket of congestion outside the areas set out in the Schedule.
We have them in Meath.
Does the Minister see any danger in this definition that the provisions of the Bill and of the Land Acts generally will be directed towards the acquisition of land in the congested areas as such rather than in the areas outside the congested areas where the land is really available? I think the present method whereby the Minister is enabled to define what a congested area is and has discretion as regards the type of land is a most unsatisfactory method of dealing with the definition of congestion. That should be widened to include the congested areas in every county and it should be decided at a certain stage what a congested area is. Let every county where there is congestion be so described.
Section 4, subsection (2), sets out more or less, but in a very loose way, how the Minister will define a congested area. The Minister is going to take into account the size of holding and the type of farming to be carried on. What would be the Minister's reaction to an area which was once an area of smallholdings— and, in fact, still is—but where the majority of the smallholders have now vacated their houses and locked them up? Should the Minister not take that fact into account—that the majority of holdings in an area are either derelict or vacant because they are too small to keep a family or the owners are in England or America, some of them perhaps hoping to come back and resettle after they have earned some money? I do not think it is sufficient to take into account the size of the holding only. That could be very misleading. An area could be called a deserted area when, in fact, it is not.
What will the Minister require before him to make an order declaring a new congested area? From my experience, there are pockets of great congestion in every county, even in Meath. On what information will the Minister make an order declaring a congested area? Will he give us some more information in relation to that?
It is quite true, as Deputy Flanagan has suggested, that there are probably congested areas to be found in every county in Ireland. I have no doubt that if one went into the highways and byways, one could get the odd village or area in which there is congestion. But there must be an order of priority; first things must come first. That is why I adopted the definition of congested areas from the 1909 Act to start off with. These are the areas of the most intense congestion we have, the areas which were down through the years regarded by all and sundry, even in the old Congested Districts Board days, as being the areas of most intense congestion and the areas that should first be dealt with from the point of view of giving relief to those who live there.
As far as the counties outside those specified here are concerned, I have no doubt that when this section comes to be discussed I shall have many Deputies from different parts of the House asking that their counties be included. It is as well for me to anticipate this argument by giving the reasoning I am giving now. Under this Bill, many things will happen which did not happen previously. We have the new type of holding to which we aspire, the new type of division, the new provision in respect of pockets of congestion enabling people to solve their own congestion and so forth. It is only in the working out of this Bill that the Land Commission officials will get the necessary experience to enable them to advise the Minister as to what areas must be brought in step by step. It will take some time, for instance, to build up the necessary organisation and staff to deal with the provisions I am asking the House to enable the Land Commission to bring into force under this Bill.
I thought that the best way of dealing with this matter—and certainly it is quite obvious to the Deputies who are familiar with this problem—was to start with the areas where we know there is intense congestion, the areas that always were regarded as the congested areas, and, from time to time, as the Land Commission get geared for the job to enable them to advise the Minister, to bring in another pocket of congestion in any particular county in accordance with the experience that they may derive.
The point was raised by Deputy Blowick about deserted houses on holdings that the Land Commission have already dealt with. The answer is that any holding that is not up to the new standard, whether they got additions before from the Land Commission or not or whether they were re-arranged before by the Land Commission or not, will come in under this Bill and if these people are within the distance qualification of land to be divided they are entitled to get an addition or to be considered for an addition.
In many cases, particularly a number of years ago, the Land Commission, depending upon what land was available, were bringing people up to perhaps £4 or £5 valuation and then vesting the holdings and writing them off and, as Deputy Blowick well knows, once they were vested and once there had been a re-arrangement scheme you had no business coming to the Land Commission for improvement works or anything else. They regarded themselves as having finished with that area, townland or village.
In many of these cases, by present day standards, those units are completely uneconomic. It is true that in respect of some of them the people have gone. One of the purposes of this Bill is to stabilise the rural population that is on the land and in the congested areas where there are these deserted or vacant holdings—there are other sections of this Bill that deal with this very point—they are going to be taken over to try to build up the land structure for the people left in these congested areas. Whether, as I have said, they had already got Land Commission additions or not, the aim is, in so far as the land that is available goes, to bring them up to the new concept of a family farm in this day and age.
I want to ask only one question. In the definitions section for the definition of "congested area" one is referred to section 4 and the Minister has told us that the Second Schedule contains the congested areas —Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, parts of Clare and parts of West Cork. I am informed by the Minister that these were scheduled as congested areas in 1909. Does the Minister see any case, or has he any evidence before him to show, that any of these places need not now be deemed to be a congested area?
Big parts of some of them, for instance, Sligo and Roscommon.
Sligo and Roscommon, yes. I gather that areas that are in congested areas have preference in the allocation of land. Surely if there were a congested area in, say, Offaly or Meath or some place like that it would be unfair that somebody in part of, say, Mayo, in what is now not considered a congested area, would get preference over somebody living in a congested area in Laois, Offaly or Meath?
If Deputy Corish will consider the vast section of our seaboard that is comprised in this Schedule I think he will do some rethinking on this question. There is the whole of Donegal, the whole of Galway, the whole of Kerry, the whole of Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and the whole of Sligo as well as portions of Clare and portions of West Cork. That comprises a very big stretch of our country and these are the areas in which the intense congestion is.
One of the main purposes of these sections is to give priority to these counties on the question of migration because in many of these counties you still have the hard core of intense congestion that the Land Commission or even their predecessors, the Congested Districts Board, failed to solve. The easier jobs have been dealt with. The estates that were easier of re-arrangement have been dealt with. As I have been pointing out, most of those that were easily solved have already been dealt with and in the main the rundale estates that are left in these congested counties are the hard core of the congestion. There are cases which have proved, in fact, to be insoluble up to the moment for one reason or another mainly, perhaps, because the people either would not agree to a scheme or would not agree to migrate out of these areas, and so on.
There are some powers being taken in this Bill by way of inducement to try to solve this hard core of rundale estates and it is only in the counties mentioned in the Schedule to this Bill, as far as my knowledge goes, that there are rundale estates left in this country, only in these intensely congested counties, and I am sure if Deputies think about this matter they will agree that in the order of priority of things these must be dealt with first.
There is power being taken for the first time here to schedule congested areas in any part of the country and it is the intention, at all events, of the Land Commission that immediately they get near to the job their officials will report to them, no matter in what county they are working, if there is a pocket of congestion. They will report to them to have it scheduled and they propose to bring this in or advise the Minister to bring this in.
I think Deputy Corish's point was that even in the listed congested counties in the Second Schedule there would be areas, some large, some small, that are comfortable or well off and, even though in a congested county, could scarcely be described as congested areas. Such areas do exist and Deputy Corish's fear was that simply because a county was listed as a congested county these comfortable or well off areas, whatever you like to call them, within the congested counties, would get preference or priority and still another slice of the cake, regardless of congestion in non-listed counties. Is that the point? I think the Minister missed Deputy Corish's point. I put it that it is a very cogent one, in this connection at any rate.
I was anxious to hear from the Minister. He did tell us that these congested districts were defined in 1909. Does it not speak badly for the Land Commission that the same congestion exists in these areas in 1964 as existed in 1909? Further, is it not possible that the Government of the time may have had reasons for leaving out certain areas which were congested areas but in respect of which there was sufficient pull at the time to bring them out of the scope of congested areas? Further, the Minister must agree that in parts of Wicklow, parts of Monaghan and parts of Laois, as well as other areas, there is equally as great congestion as exists in the counties outlined in the Second Schedule.
That is why I feel that the time has come for complete reconsideration of the congested areas. There are many districts which can be described as congested areas. Steps should be taken to see that they are given the same treatment under this Bill as will be given to the areas already defined as congested areas.
There is something which I think could have been done in the Bill and perhaps the Minister could consider it. Deputy Corish pointed out that whole counties put down here are described as being congested districts. It is true that many portions of these counties are not congested. As a matter of fact, we find areas in East Donegal with land as good as, if not better, than we find in County Meath, and the same applies to other counties — perhaps, Galway and Mayo. Should opportunity not have been taken to do what has been done here with Clare and West Cork, to put down portions of these counties rather than have the whole county designated? In Meath, for instance, we have Meath Hill, Drumconrath, Newcastle, Oldcastle — the Minister knows that area — where many farmers are trying to exist on very small farms. All the land they have is an acre here and two acres somewhere else. It is scattered all over the place. That would be comparable with the position in the real congested areas. Occasionally, the Department take the people out and give them a transfer holding somewhere else. I think an attempt should be made by the Land Commission to designate all congested areas in the country, and take out of the congested districts the areas not so congested.
That is one point, but there is a second point, and I wonder has the Minister given any consideration to it. As we all know, hundreds of people have been brought from outside the county into County Meath. The first group of people who came, actually the first 200 or 300, came to farms of around 15 to 20 acres, some of which is pretty bad land. Where do they stand in relation to congests in the areas they came from? They have now neighbouring farms of 40 to 45 acres.
They are congested into this.
It would be hard to designate them as congests because Meath is not included in the Bill. It is a dangerous situation and I think the Minister should take cognisance of it. The position is that we have the local smallholders who were there when those people were brought in first and who did not get any additional holding. There is a feeling of unrest among those people and the Minister might as well know that, in Meath, the ideal holding is one of 40 to 45 acres. Endeavours should be made to achieve this whenever land becomes available in the area. The early migrants and the smallholders, who were there at the time, instead of getting an increased viable holding, might now find that further congests might be brought to that area. I think that is the main objection to the Bill. The result will be that those people will still be left in a semi-congested condition. I do not know whether the Minister can do anything about this, but I seriously suggest that he should look at it. If something is not done about it, the last situation could be much worse than the first.
I should like the Minister to say if there is any objection from this point of view to dealing with the matter on the basis suggested by Deputy Tully. That was the suggestion I was about to make to the Minister. I think the Minister might take it for granted that there is no Deputy on any side of the House who wants to see any of those old-time congested districts, if you like to call them that, taken out of the legislation. I think everyone recognises that in all of these old-time congested districts congestion still exists. The Minister indicated, in reply to Deputy Corish, that in some of them the congestion is now appreciably less than it was and it would seem to me, if you like, a more modern approach to this question, if the Minister were not simply to accept the 1909 definition but if he were to look at the matter from the point of view of the realities of the situation as in 1964. I think he would be doing a good day's work to come into the House with a new list of scheduled areas which would be realistic, having regard to the 1964 situation.
The point which was first put by Deputy Corish, and then by Deputy Blowick, is, I think, the fear that exists under the definition as it stands at the moment. Anyone in the areas set out in the Second Schedule would, prima facie, seem to be entitled to more favourable consideration, to put it that way, no matter in what part of a particular county he lives, as against a person living in another county which is not in the scheduled list. It may be that the Minister's reply to that will be that it is not scheduled now, but under paragraph (b) of section 4, he has power to add it. Most Deputies would feel happier if the Minister's approach were to try to give us in this Bill a 1964 definition of congested districts, basing it more or less on the last two portions of the Second Schedule.
Mr. Rooney rose.
There should be a fairer distribution of Deputies called on to speak.
I should like to support what has been said in relation to the definition of congested areas. I take a very poor view of this Bill. From my point of view, it is a completely biassed Bill. Apparently the Minister could not find any congests in the whole Twenty-Six Counties, except in the counties which have a shore along the Atlantic.
We have no shore; we have the river Shannon.
I shall just look down this list quickly. Apparently the Minister in this Bill has only found congests in places like Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, a portion of County Clare and a portion of West Cork. The rest of the country is completely disregarded and no proper recognition is given to the fact that there are many congested areas throughout the Twenty-Six Counties apart from the places mentioned. It is very painful for a number of small farmers in County Dublin or, indeed, in many other places when they see a large estate taken over by the Irish Land Commission and when the question of distributing that land is being considered the congests are selected from the areas specified in the Bill. They are given special priorities.
There is a remarkable difference in the conditions available to persons removed from any of the specified places when it comes to the payment of rents and the conditions under which they hold their farms. The other congests will be at a very great disadvantage if they do not come from some of these places. Presumably the cost of purchasing the holdings into which these people are put is met by the taxpayers generally in every county but when it comes to the question of equal rights, only a specified number of citizens will get the privileges available under this Bill as listed in the Second Schedule.
That is why I think the Minister, when considering amendments, should bring in one to ensure that smallholders, wherever they reside, will have equal rights regarding the distribution of holdings. I have seen holdings taken over in County Dublin and given to migrants, while at the same time small farmers who know how to use the land in that area and know the conditions there, did not get any relief or assistance, although they were convenient to these large estates which were being divided by the Land Commission and could have used them to great advantage. If a privilege is being given to people who are not resident within a short distance of these estates, at least a proportion of the estate should be made available to small farmers residing near them.
Judging by the numbers in the Opposition benches tonight, it is perfectly obvious they are now properly under the Whip after the "walloping" they got——
That does not arise.
It arises in that after getting the kick they got, I do not think the Minister should take them very seriously. Whatever he might do or has done, at least his actions are to be much preferred to those of the Opposition who did nothing when they had a chance to do something. Down in front of me is the former Minister for Lands, Deputy Blowick. I do not want to say anything dirty about him. I shall let him go. He never did anything when he was Minister. I hope the present Minister, who comes from within a few miles of Deputy Blowick's native place, will long continue on the course he has now charted for himself. If he does, he will do something worthwhile, not only for the West of Ireland but for the country in general.
If anybody is to improve the land position, he must take drastic steps. The situation is completely unnatural. It is none of our making. A situation was created years ago by foreign tyrants which we must undo. They took drastic measures to chase us out of the midlands. I do not happen to be one of those who came from the midlands. I came from the north to fight against the British, unlike some of those who ran away from the midlands. If we are to rectify the position, we must send back to the midlands those who were chased out of it, whether we or they like it. We must restore the balance. We have a very low population in the midlands where there is the best land not only in Ireland but probably in the world. It is rather amazing to hear somebody speak of Roscommon as a county which should be classified as a place where there is congestion. Many of the people in Roscommon have three holdings and are making no use of them and the sooner they are taken from them, the better.
It is not true that Roscommon is a congested area and neither is it true that only the Atlantic areas are congested. There are other areas just as much entitled to consideration as areas in Mayo, Galway and Kerry. Very serious opposition has been met by people who have come from the west into the midlands but if you go into any town there and ask any trader who is his best customer, you will find it is the man who came in from the west. I often go out of my way to see these people and I have yet to find one man who has come up from the west and has failed. Those who try to denigrate the people from the west are not honest or fair. As a matter of fact, those who come from the west are, and always have been, an example to the midland people and it is a pity the midland people would not follow their example. If they did, they would soon become prosperous.
We know what goes on. Those people have land and by all kind of stratagems have succeeded in holding it. That is not fair. Any man who has 200 acres at present deserves to be dealt with. I would allow a lazy midland man to have 200 acres but after that it is time to deal with him. Those people do nothing with their land but spend their time at race meetings, weddings probably, funerals, dog-tracks and so on. They have the effrontery to look down on the people from the west. I say to the Minister the more people he will take from the west and the quicker he takes them, the better for the country generally.
I do not want to be technical about this Bill but I suggest that many of the arguments or points that have been made could more suitably be discussed on sections 4, 5 and 12 rather than at this stage.
As Deputy Blowick said, I did misunderstand Deputy Corish. There is no question in this Bill of people in the congested areas having such a priority as would affect the Land Commission's work in non-congested areas. The purpose of section 4 is to define the areas to which section 5 relates. That is the loan scheme to help people to solve their own congestion problems. Section 7 is also relevant because that is the section under which future annuitants, outside the congested areas, will not get the benefit of the 50 per cent reduction. But the ordinary Land Commission work in the non-congested counties will still continue.
There is no intention, as some Deputies would appear to think, that the work of the Land Commission should close down or be confined to the congested areas. What Deputy Rooney states, that migrants are brought in and local congests ignored, is news to me. From my experience as Minister for Lands, I cannot accept that it is so. All local congests within the distance limits laid down are considered before any migrants are brought in. In the division of an estate, the general rule is that, first, all old employees who are displaced must be dealt with; then the immediate congests within the distance limits are dealt with; and then, if any land is left over, the migrants are brought in.
Standards have changed. I found one rule in the Land Commission relating to the west of Ireland that when anyone acquired a valuation of £10, he was regarded as having an economic holding. That day is now gone. The standard practice of the Land Commission is the practice to which I have referred, that within the limit distance laid down, within a mile today—in former years, it went further—and according to the standards laid down for what was then called an uneconomic holding, suitable local congests are satisfied before bringing in migrants.
Deputies will appreciate that you can find a very wide difference in the type of people living around an estate. Some of them may have a small piece of land and others have avocations or jobs. It may well be that one applicant within the limit distance laid down is known to the Land Commission as an unsuitable person to whom to give land but, by and large, the practice which still obtains is that migrants are brought into these counties only after the needs of the local congests have been dealt with.
The local congests are the first to be dealt with?
Yes, after the displaced employees.
That does not apply where a man has eight or nine acres and has to take a job to keep his family from starving. He is ruled out.
On further sections of this Bill, Deputy Tully and others will be arguing as to what is an uneconomic holding. Deputy Tully feels that people who have got an allotment of land with a labourer's cottage should get some land. He would be happy with that if they got it at the expense of people from my part of the country. Deputy Flanagan would go further and give land to all the landless men in the country, to all the deserving applicants.
Except when he could have given it himself.
If we had enough land to go around, every Deputy would be glad to give land to everybody who deserves it, but our land is a limited quantity and we must have some system of priority as to those to whom we shall give it. What I want to emphasise it that the purpose of section 4 is to define the areas to which section 5 applies. This is a new enabling power under which the Land Commission can make a loan to a man so that he can solve his own congestion problem. That does not only apply to people in the congested areas. My reply to Deputy Tully is that in due course we shall come to a section enabling the Minister to schedule any place as a congested area and once that is done, all these powers will apply to the new congested areas.
That is a fair enough answer to the comments that have been made. When I come to these sections, this matter will be debated at much greater length, but, as far as Land Commission intentions are concerned, the same work for the relief of congestion in the counties not scheduled under this Bill or the 1909 Act will go on. They will deal with the congestion they find there, with the exception of the provisions of sections 4 and 5 of the Bill now before the House.
The whole point of this Bill is to try to relieve congestion in the seaboard counties which, as Deputy Leneghan points out, is partly due to our history, to the Cromwellian dictum of: "To Hell or to Connacht", and partly to the imbalance of population in our country. Primarily, there is the question of rearranging our land structure to enable our people competitively to produce on the land in this day and age. That is the primary objective of this Bill. In places where there is rundale, two or three people may have to be taken out of it because that is the only way in which viable holdings can be arranged.
When does the Minister hope to be in a position to give us a comprehensive 1964 picture of the congested areas? The Schedule mentioned refers to the congested areas declared in 1909. I presume the Bill will be passed between now and summer and does the Minister hope to be in a position to give the House and the country a complete picture of the new areas which he proposes to declare congested districts? We all agree that there are parts of Monaghan, Wicklow, Laois and Carlow in which there is as great congestion as in any place defined in the 1909 Act. Can the Minister assure us that before the end of the present year, the Land Commission will be able to present us, with some degree of accuracy, with an up-to-date picture of the situation?
Before the Minister replies to that, some other Deputy asked him if he could possibly define the considerations which would influence decisions in regard to what is a congested area. There appears to be an unexpressed feeling among certain Deputies that there is a possibility, when the Minister has this power, that political influence might enter into the question of deciding what is or is not a congested area. Deputy Leneghan seems to be very interested in this side of the House.
It is no wonder I should be.
He disappeared for so long from the House that most of us thought he would not come back.
A number of places are mentioned here, such as Donegal, Galway, Laois and Mayo. Everybody knows that Galway has very many large estates and farms but apparently every part of the county, whether it is the congested districts or the areas in which there are large estates, will have smallholders who will be entitled to get the advantage of this arrangement of paying only 50 per cent compared with those who must pay 100 per cent of the rent. If we are to live up to the purpose of this Bill, congested areas should be defined and we should not just include a whole county like Galway, which is the third or fourth largest county in Ireland, and say that anybody who comes out of that county will have an advantage over the smallholders of, say, North County Dublin. There are scores of small farmers in Rush, County Dublin, living on six acres of land given to them by the Land Commission and when one sees these other people being given up to 45 acres, one wonders why a start should not be made in north County Dublin to relieve congestion. We should be more specific in our definition of congested areas. There are districts in Galway and in Mayo which are congested but in the Schedule the whole county is included and the advantages are available to anybody resident in any part of the whole county.
The purpose of this Bill is to deal with the congestion problem. To my mind, this problem has become aggravated very much and is now less easy of solution, due to modern decisions. About 12 years ago there was an estimate of the maximum acreage of land which at any time could become available for the relief of congestion. Side by side with that was the figure for congests. There was not a hope even then of ever arriving at the stage at which we could relieve congestion 100 per cent. While the number of congests may have gone down, the decision now is to increase the allocation of land in order to make an economic holding and instead of bringing these congests up to 20 acres, it is now intended to have a 40 to 50 acre holding, if possible. That means that the holdings which would be available for the relief of congestion and the number of congests remains static. That is a problem I see.
The Minister said that the easiest type of congestion has been solved; in other words, those who are prepared to move have moved and those who want to stay where they are for various reasons have been left. I think that we should have another look at this. If those people want to stay where they are, that is a problem in itself. Their reasons for wanting to stay are many and varied. They have the benefits of the social welfare code; they have the benefits of living along the coast and of the fishing industry; and they have the benefit of turbary, of lower rating and of lower valuation, all of which they are not prepared to sacrifice by going to other parts of the country where many of these benefits are not available. In that event and having the overall picture of more production from our land, and better land usage, should we not consider local people around the estates which are to be divided? Some people call these landless men; some call them conacre farmers; while I would call them the local users of land and whether they have small bits of their own or not they should be considered. It is wrong to view this problem of congestion in the same way as it was viewed 15 or 20 years ago, and especially as it was viewed in 1909.
The discussion on this section seems to be rather like the case of the father of the heroine in My Fair Lady who made the point that the undeserving hungry may be just as hungry as the deserving poor. We are creating two different classes of people who get land, those in the congested areas and those outside. The Minister is now going to define the areas. It must have been a very difficult position at all times because we all know that seeking land by land division is like taking a ticket in the Sweep because there is just not enough to go round. If we are to create a first-class and a second-class ticket at the whim and will of the Minister, I have the feeling that we shall be creating a political situation. We may as well face the fact that political branches or cumainn do agitate to get land divided.
That does not arise on the section.
It arises in this way, that if the Minister is free to——
What about your pro-British branches?
——say which is a congested area and which is not a congested area, he creates a first-class ticket and a second-class ticket and pressure can be exerted on him to declare or not to declare, by one of his cumainn or, if one of our side were Minister, by one of our branches. I think this is a wrong departure.
It does not arise on section 1.
Then I shall pass from it. The other point is that there are pockets of congestion in the middle of County Meath or County Kildare and in places where one would imagine there would be no such areas as congested areas. There are tiny pockets in townlands where congestion is very severe. Because of the local economy that builds up, there is not the practice, when one needs help, as there is elsewhere of, say, going to work for the county council, even if one has a small farm as in the west, or it is not, shall we say, condoned here by the powers-that-be, apart from the farmers themselves.
(South Tipperary): I am surprised by some aspects of this discussion. The Minister directs us to a definition at the beginning of the Bill and, when we look at that definition, we find it is a global, geographical list, drawn up in 1909, embracing, as it must, of necessity, congested and non-congested areas. It looks as if the Minister purposely, or otherwise, did not do his homework. Surely it should be an easy matter for him to provide the House with a list of congested areas all over the country? They are available in the Land Commission. They are available parish by parish. It should be a simple matter for the Minister to give a list for the whole country instead of taking unto himself the power of scheduling an area, for reasons which he, and he alone, may know.
It appears now that if people in the congested areas will have two advantages over those outside them. First, they will have financial advantages and, secondly, the reduction in the annuities. I gather from the Minister that they will have no specific advantages over the congests in the nonscheduled areas from the point of view of priority in the allocation of land. If they had, it would be highly objectionable. In my constituency, we have quite an amount of congestion. That may not appear to be the position to the average Dubliner or the person from the midlands who regards Tipperary as a very good county. It has its good areas but all around Thurles, parts of North Tipperary, certain areas in Waterford, the Nire Valley, the Glen of Aherlow, we have large areas of congestion. I should not like to think this Bill was framed in such fashion as to ensure a species of partition for the purpose of giving some preferential treatment to those west of the Shannon as against those living under equally difficult conditions in my county and other counties.
I should like the Minister to give me an assurance, at any rate, that he is not attempting to solve the congestion on the western seaboard at the expense of congests all over the rest of the country. I have every sympathy with the people along the western seaboard but my first loyalty is to my own constituents. There must be some measure of justice in this. Because the Minister comes from the west, I trust he does not feel that that gives him the right to solve the problems in his own and neighbouring counties at the expense of the midlands, the eastern part of the country and the south.
Deputy Donegan very clearly brought out the issue here in relation to congests when he spoke of the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. As a result of this legislation, we shall establish here deserving congests, who will be listed, and undeserving congests who will have to pay double the rent——
The Deputy has already mentioned that.
This definition of a congested area will include two types of congests. All people who are congests should come under the one classification.
It is now quite clear to me how wise I was in lifting the definition of congested areas out of the 1909 Act. It is quite obvious from some of the comments by Deputies on the opposite benches that they are quite prepared to attribute some fantastic and political motives to the provision of some of the sections in this Bill. Had I not taken the definition in the 1909 Act, had I tried to define such areas myself, I can well imagine the arguments I should have heard here and the points raised by the Deputies opposite.
Deputy O.J. Flanagan asked me if I could define congested areas in a year's time, or two years' time, or when, in point of time. I could give the Deputy a legal definition right here and now. I can lift it from the Constitution: I would say the whole of Ireland, its islands and territorial waters. I am sure there is some congestion somewhere in every single county. The point is that the intensely congested counties that are scheduled under this Bill are the areas which the people who examined this problem down through the years have agreed should be dealt with first in order of national priority. From my own knowledge of the counties set out in the Schedule, I have no doubt at all that there is a much more intense congestion problem in these counties than there is in any other part of Ireland. I have no doubt at all about that.
It is only in these counties we have a rundale problem, a type of congestion created by intermixed holdings with different people owning every second or third field. These conditions do not obtain in other counties. The scheduling of a congested area under this Bill, which will be done by ministerial order—we shall be asking the House to give us that power—will be done on the report of the Land Commission inspectors. This is a matter with which the inspectors are competent to deal. They make these reports about congestion regularly in the ordinary course of their work. There is not a county in which the Land Commission are not doing work of one kind or another. I could not, and neither could my officials, determine these congested areas in vacuo, just picking out at random a number of congested areas.
This is a job that will have to be done very carefully and meticulously. It will have to be related to up-to-date conditions. As I pointed out, there were particular standards, 30, 40 and 50 years ago, with regard to what comprised an economic holding. Today, there are different standards; we are aiming now at what we call the family farm. In many cases in which schemes of rearrangement took place in the past, the units are, by modern standards, unrealistic. Times have changed and this is a matter that must be assessed in the light of conditions existing from 1964 onwards.
There is also the question of getting the Land Commission geared to put into force the new powers for which we are asking in this Bill, both in and outside the congested areas. That will take some time but they will get instructions and they will go ahead and compile in each county the areas they consider should be scheduled as a congested pocket under this Bill. Once they have done that, the Minister, whoever he may be, will undoubtedly exercise the power I am taking under this Bill to schedule the congested area. Then the people of that area, be it large or small, will be entitled to the benefit of this Bill, just as if that portion of their county were going into this Schedule.
The main difference between the counties outside the Schedule of this Bill and the congested counties is the application of sections 4 and 5 of this Bill, the sections that deal with a loan of money that is here provided for the man who solves his own congestion problem by migrating. Apart from these two sections of the Bill, the people outside the congested counties will be entitled to the same help from the Land Commission as they are already getting. There is no order of priority being established. The Land Commission, as they are in a position to do so, will be compiling these registers of areas that should be scheduled under this Bill. This is the first time that such a power was taken in any Land Bill brought before this House.
I foresaw that somebody would allege that this power might be used for political purposes by some Minister. Notwithstanding that, I felt that if I did not propose that such a power should be there for a Minister for Lands to schedule a particular area, I would be faced probably with amendments from many Deputies asking that their county be included in the Schedule to this Bill as a congested area. It would be impracticable to do so because I am satisfied, as I have already said, that there are pockets in many counties on the east coast as well as on the west coast in which there are congests. From a practical point of view, thinking of the necessary increase of staff in order to operate this Bill and thinking of how much they can take on at a time, I believe the only solution is to take the power here and let the Minister be advised, as the Land Commission officials in their operations throughout the country are able to decide and advise, that a particular townland, parish or other portion of any county should be scheduled.
Some Deputies raised the point as to how we would define an area to which this section would be applied so as to include it with the congested districts. It is a very simple matter where there is in any townland or in any county a pocket of congestion. Where the land units do not measure up to the family farm we now envisage, and where there are a number of landowners, these smaller units would, I am sure, be suggested to the Minister for inclusion under this section as a congested area.
I can well visualise that in different counties as the work proceeds, it will take a considerable time for the divisional inspector and the inspector in charge of the local men to make up their minds as to whether certain townlands in their county should be scheduled as a congested area. On the other hand, I believe that within the next 18 months, once this Bill becomes law, I shall have some recommendations that different counties be scheduled and I can assure the House that where such a recommendation comes, if it can be implemented, it will give me great personal pleasure to schedule those areas recommended as coming within the four walls of this Bill.
However, scheduling a townland or a congested area outside of what is in this Bill entails further planning on the part of the Land Commission. It may well be that in regard to some areas that are scheduled, it will be necessary to move tenants out of that area. Again we are up against the question of priority. There are only a limited number of migrant holdings available. I would say that taking good years with bad, it works out at an average of about 100 migrants a year throughout the country and, of course, the more areas that are scheduled, the greater will be the demand on the pool of land available for migration. However, immediately the Land Commission are in a position to do so, they will get instructions as soon as may be to notify the Minister if there are portions in their bailiwicks they would suggest should be scheduled under the Bill. In so far as we can do so and have the staff to do it, the Land Commission will take all these areas in the different counties outside the areas that are included in this Bill.
I do not wish to interrupt the Minister but I put a question to him about certain areas that are absolutely dotted with small registered holdings but which are not inhabited. I take it what the Minister will do is to ask inspectors to report on certain areas or consider representations by Deputies, county councillors and others who suggest that a certain area is, in their opinion, congested and should be scheduled. Subsection (2) of section 4 says:
When making an order under subsection (1) of this section, the Minister shall have regard to the size of the holdings, the quality of the land and the type or types of farming carried on in the area to be declared a congested area.
There is no word there of whether the area is thickly populated or sparsely populated. What happens in the case of an area with many holdings?
Would the Deputy wait for the section?
It says that "congested area" has the meaning assigned to it in section 4 (1).
You cannot generalise about the size of holdings per se. It depends very largely on the type and quality of the land and the location of the land. Deputy Rooney rather amused me by his talk about the terrible plight of small farmers on six acres of land in County Dublin. I assume he has in mind some of what I call the merchant prince farmers of Rush, Lusk and so on——
Where is Deputy P.J. Burke?
——who are sitting on goldmines right beside a very lucrative market in Dublin city. Four, five, six or eight acres of land there would be as good as and possibly better than 150 acres of land in the part of the country from which I come. One cannot generalise on acreage per se, without taking into consideration the type of land and its location in relation to a market. What would be an economic unit, say, in Lusk or Rush would certainly be anything but an economic unit on the island of Achill, in Ballycroy, or some of those remote places in the west.
Deputy Blowick spoke about the definition in section 4 (2). The size of the holding, the quality of the land and the type or types of farming carried out are what are in mind. I do not know what Deputy Blowick has in mind when he mentions vacated holdings.
My worry is that you might get a Land Commission inspector wasting his time on an area where land division would produce very little good effect. Take, for instance, a thinly populated area in relation to which, on paper, he could show he was justified simply because the area was full of small but vacated holdings. I think the Minister knows the type of area I am referring to.
I understand now. That is primarily a matter of administration. If I were Minister and got reports of this kind and saw that some inspector was engaged in the type of work mentioned by Deputy Blowick, I should certainly ask the Land Commission to put a stop to it quickly and lively. Under the new and additional work and worry the Land Commission staff will have as a result of this Bill, I suppose that to say they will have a full-time job is the understatement of the year. If they are fully to exercise the powers given here to try to induce the recalcitrant landholders who hold up division schemes and to try to induce the old people to take pensions and give up their holdings in order to put through the rearrangement schemes contemplated, they will have plenty to do without wasting their time in the way Deputy Blowick suggests.
That brings up a matter that will no doubt be argued again on another section of this Bill. To anticipate this, because I have no doubt I shall have it from many sides of the House before the Committee Stage is finished, the order of priority of the division of land and who will get land is a matter of administration. The classes who will get land are neither being widened nor contracted in any way under the provisions of this Bill. I know from experience that there is a special problem in Donegal. Indeed, Donegal people are unique by virtue of the fact that you will not get people from West Donegal to migrate to East Donegal and they generally take a very poor view of asking them to migrate out of Donegal at all. That is their privilege.
There is also a system in Donegal, as Deputy P. O'Donnell knows, under which, by tradition, many people down through the years take lettings of land, maybe an acre or two, for the purpose of producing seed potatoes. Indeed, down through the years there, even young fellows, I understand, for pocket money, take an acre or two by way of letting to produce seed potatoes or some other crop. There is a position in Donegal that does not obtain, I think, in most other counties but at the same time you will find some deserving landless men in every part of this country.
The very same case has been made to me by Deputies representing dairying counties where men with no land take land and milk a number of cows and have farm machinery. Perhaps there are not so many of that type outside Donegal who make their livelihood in this way. There is a special problem in this way. Once the Land Commission extend their practice of the order of priorities which already exists, once we widen that and bring in landless men—they are quite entitled under the existing law to give land to these people — we can give landless men land and, in fact, have done so but they must necessarily come down to the bottom of the list.
The very first purpose of the Congested Districts Board and the Land Commission was the relief of congestion, that is, the relief of the people in the land slums of this country, people on uneconomic units of land, and that must continue to be so. Reasonable Deputies will still see the wisdom of the policy that while we have all these congests in the country, they must, in so far as is possible, be dealt with first and they must have what I would call the first priority on the land pool that is available.
If I may anticipate the argument just touched on by Deputy Blowick—I have no doubt other Deputies representing other parts of the country will make the same case, that landless men should be considered—the short answer is that there is nothing in this Bill to prevent landless men from getting land if it is there for them. That is purely a matter of administration, a matter of the priorities established by the Land Commission.
Whenever the Estimate for the Department of Lands comes before the House, Deputies can make their case and can argue to extend or to change the order of priorities that now exists and to change the practice that now exists. This Bill does not affect the position, one way or the other, as to who will be given land. I would ask Deputies not to waste the time of the House in arguing something which is not in the Bill and does not arise at all.
Might I ask the Minister a question in relation to the peculiar type of land user that has been going on and has become known as the Lagan Valley system? Does the Minister envisage that any part of the Bill will change or upset that system, or does he consider it desirable to do so? The Minister knows the system I refer to and which Deputy Cunningham referred to—conacring under a system that is not employed in any other part of the country. When I was Minister for Lands I made the experiment of taking up some of the land that had been conacred in that valley for years and years to find that those who had been conacring it and were willing to pay high prices for it would not take a present of the land from the Land Commission. I must say it dumb-founded me.
The Donegal people are a law unto themselves.
The Minister might qualify that.
I know we have this Lagan Valley system, and I might say the system in Donegal has given me considerable worry because I have found that where the Land Commission have taken land, they had, in fact, to provide for people who were traditionally taking lettings and there was no place for these people to find land, once the Land Commission had moved in. This is the problem peculiar to Donegal; in fact, it is widespread in Donegal.
There is no other county in Ireland that has produced the same type of problem. I do not see any easy answer to it for the reasons I have given. Again, it is a question of internal policy for the Land Commission whether or not they should try to devise some special set of rules to meet the circumstances thrown up by the Donegal people. I have given the matter some thought but have not yet got anybody in my Department who has been able to come up with what I would call a satisfactory solution to the particular problem we have in Donegal. Generally speaking, I do not think we have what has been termed the Lagan Valley problem in any other part of the country.
Surely the Minister is aware that in every county there are cases of people who have been taking small portions of estates for tillage and for the grazing of a cow or a few cattle for upwards of 20 years who have been dispossessed by the Land Commission, their stock turned out on the road and given no land whatever. Surely that situation is widespread.
I am glad the Minister and the ex-Minister are ad idem as far as Donegal is concerned. I would make an appeal on behalf of those conacre landless men. The Minister has put his finger on it, as has Deputy Blowick. There are probably no better citizens in this country——
——than those landless men who take conacre in the Finn and the Lagan Valleys. They are, if I may say so, a law unto themselves. They mostly live in labourers' cottages and you will find as many as three or four members of a family taking plots. In the old days, it was for flax; now it is for seed potatoes, and sometimes ware potatoes and seed oats. I would be sorry to see these men victimised by this Bill and I am glad to see the Minister is conscious of their position. It would be a tragedy were he not, because those people might become dispossessed of the lands they have been taking on conacre under the 11-month system.
What happens is that farmers in Donegal let out portions of their farms for rotation tilling. A farmer who traditionally produces root crops and who is himself not anxious to go into seed or grain crops, will let out portions of his farm, not simply to procure money from the letting but in order that the land may be rotated. He does not do it himself—the conacre men do it for him.
If the Deputy will excuse my intervention, could we not suitably leave this over for section 4?
I would not have mentioned it if section I did not refer to section 4 by way of definition.
Could we not get as good a discussion on section 4?
It might save discussion on section 4.
If I could be guaranteed that this discussion on section 1 would save, to some extent, a discussion on section 4, I should be inclined to suggest that we leave over this discussion to the later section. My worry is that there may be a repetition of this discussion on section 4.
My intervention in the debate has been very brief. I agree that possibly the matters we are now discussing would be more relevant on section 4, but the Minister did mention the content of section 4 in discussing this section.
I think it would be a good idea if we waited until we reach section 4.
We have section 4 fairly well thrashed out now.
It might be better to dispose of section 1 now.
If we pass section 1, does it not negative——
No. Section 4 can be discussed fully. Discussion of it is being attempted now on section 1.
In passing section 1, are we not accepting the principle contained in section 4?
I can assure the Deputy there will be no limitation on discussion on section 4.
While there would not be limitation of discussion as such, I am very worried about section 1 and the powers it confers on the Minister.
I should like to tell Deputy O'Sullivan what I am worried about. If he can guarantee me that we will get section 4 passed without discussion, I shall allow the discussion to proceed on section 1.
I cannot give any undertaking.
What we are discussing now is entirely relevant to section 4.
I agree, but we cannot separate the first words in section 1 from section 4.
Perhaps we could continue the discussion on this section and then, when we come to section 4——
If I could be sure that it would not be repeated on section 4——
If we ever get as far as section 4, at the rate we are going.
Deputy Flanagan is very optimistic.
This involves a very important principle. As the Minister says, it is the first time these powers are being sought. The Minister is asking the House to confer powers on him as Minister that have never before been sought by any Minister. We know what has been going on in the country; we know the type of misinformation that has been circulated in regard to the Land Commission and it is only rarely that a breath of fresh air——
You got a breath of fresh air a fortnight ago.
We are not discussing hire purchase now.
You can come out the back and I shall discuss hire purchase or any other purchase with you.
The problem we are discussing now is that the Minister is seeking powers that were formerly the preserve of the Land Commission. I am not alleging the Minister has cloven hoofs, but neither is he sprouting wings. He is not legislating merely in regard to his own intentions. He is asking the House to enact legislation that will be there until it is reversed. Giving the Minister the benefit of the best intentions in the world, he is asking for powers to be conferred on the office he holds that could lead to immense abuses.
The fact is that there is prevalent in this country ideas regarding the influences that might be brought to bear relative to land which may be available for division and the subsequent dividing of it. It is only rarely do the occasions arise in which some frank, honest statement is made relative to the operation of the Land Commission. I can recall with pleasure the occasion on which Deputy Gerald Boland, having retired from the office of Minister for Lands, made clear in this House how he regarded that position. He felt it was due to the country as a whole to realise the impartiality of the Land Commission and their staff. Here we are giving powers to the Minister which, if not abused, nevertheless, can create and will create an impression in the minds of gullible people that there are influences that can be brought to bear politically on the political head of the Ministry the Minister now occupies.
This is a very serious departure. No matter how it may be presented as being a logical way of dealing with this problem, nevertheless, there is no doubt that the opinion will be held, and held strongly, by numerous people in a weak position that there can be influence brought to bear, because section 4 provides that the Minister may from time to time make an order declaring such an area to be a congested area. Who are the people who will assist the Minister in determining the areas to be scheduled? What process will be followed? By whose recommendation will the Minister be influenced on the decision he will ultimately take?
The Minister referred by intervention to the fact that he was conscious of the limitation on the pool of land available to those seeking allotment. It is rather belated for him to express concern at the limitation on the pool of land available. Much water has flowed under the bridge since it was first brought to his notice that the pool of land available was being rapidly reduced by the purchase of land by foreigners. For a long time a very deaf ear was turned to the demands of the people up and down the country who wanted to have some control over the position that land, which could have been made available to the congests about whom we are expressing so much sympathy, was no longer available. The people view with alarm the amount of land not alone passing out of the hands of the Land Commission but out of the hands of Irish nationals.
I do not want to interrupt any Deputy, but I feel we are going to have a rehash of what Deputy O'Sullivan said when we come to deal with the relevant sections. We are dealing now with the definition section. It does not give any power to the Minister for Lands at all. It only assigns certain meanings to certain words. I would suggest Deputy O'Sullivan is getting on to a line of country completely irrelevant as far as this section is concerned.
I can distinctly recall the Minister referring to the limitation imposed on him by the non-availability of a sufficient pool of land.
I asked the House to take this section and decide on it. The very matter the Deputy is now raising could be raised entirely relevantly on section 4.
Very good, Sir. Concluding, I want to express my complete dissatisfaction at the proposal in this section to confer powers on the Minister that could be abused or could be implied to be abused.
This section defines the meaning. That is all.
The Second Schedule to the Bill defines what are the congested areas. I mentioned several of the counties already. I was glad to hear from the Minister that he is now prepared to make a list and a map of congested areas all over the country, so that the people resident in those areas may be considered congests within a limited meaning and not within the meaning of the Second Schedule. In the Second Schedule the Minister mentioned portion of County Clare. He was able to pick out portion of Clare instead of putting down the whole county. Possibly, that is the kind of district he will pick out in the various congested areas throughout the country. Similarly, instead of putting down the whole of County Cork, or even the western portion of it, he selected certain districts there. There, again, is an example of where he has put the microscope on areas that were to get special facilities.
I do not want to interrupt the Deputy but surely that will arise on section 4?
Yes, but section 1——
This is duplicating discussion. Section 1 says that "congested" has the meaning assigned to it in section 4.
That is what I am speaking about.
What the Deputy is trying to discuss now will arise eventually on section 4.
I am discussing it exactly as it is there. It says that "congested area" has the meaning assigned to it by subsection (1) of section 4. The words "congested area", as defined, are what I am arguing about.
This is a definition section. It says that the words "congested area" have the meaning assigned to them by section 4. That will arise on section 4. I do not see any reason to discuss it on the two sections.
Possibly we should have taken the two sections together for discussion.
Section 4 will come before the House in the ordinary way and the Deputy can have his fling at it then.
The only difficulty is that, if we agree to the definition of "congested area" in section 1 and then go on to section 4, we will find ourselves tongue-tied and in the position that we have already accepted section 1.
I do not think the Deputy will find himself tongue-tied at all. I suggest what he is discussing here is relevant to section 4. I rule that.
On your ruling, Sir, Deputies are asked to take "congested areas" and wait until section 4 before we can decide whether there is an agreement with the Minister or not. In other words, we are asked to buy a pig in a poke?
This is the definition section. The matter can relevantly arise on section 4.
It seems to me we cannot be expected to accept this until after we have discussed section 4.
May I intervene to shorten matters, in answer to Deputy O'Sullivan and Deputy Rooney? The main complaint would appear to be that there is this enabling section for the Minister for Lands to bring in a new congested area. I am quite sure that if this section were not in the Bill Deputy O'Sullivan and a number of his colleagues would insist on a section like it going into the Bill to enable the congestion problem in any particular county or area to be brought in and, conversely, I am quite sure that if Deputy O'Sullivan put down an amendment to take away this power from the Minister for Lands he would not get a dozen Deputies to support him.
An example was given this afternoon by a colleague of the Minister where he emphasised in relation to industrial grants the advisability of vesting in the Industrial Development Authority decisions relative to the location of industry and gave full explanation and full reason as to why it was advisable in 1956 to give these powers to a body outside the Minister and remote from the Minister and without being directed or controlled by the Minister. If that applies in relation to the location of industry, surely the same principle applies in relation to operations of the Land Commission vis-à-vis the political head of the Department of Lands?
This is taking the argument far away from the section.
Is it suggested by the Chair that we ought to take section 4 before section 1?
No; the Chair is making no such suggestion. I am suggesting that section 1 is before the House and what the Deputy is endeavouring to discuss is not relevant to section 1 but is relevant to section 4.
Is it clear that if we let section 1 go, there can be complete discussion on the definition on section 4?
On what is relevant to section 4.
Congested areas may again be discussed?
The definition of "congested area" is tied in with subsection (1) of section 4. So, when we come to subsection (1) of section 4, can we have an assurance that we can discuss the question of congested area under that section?
What is relevant to section 4 can be discussed on section 4 and "congested area" is mentioned in section 1 and referred to section 4.
I should like to ask the Minister what objection he has to the laying of the rules and regulations made under this section before each House of the Oireachtas? I feel that a matter of such great importance as, say, the making of an order declaring any particular district to be a congested area or, indeed, any order made under this Bill should be placed before each House of the Oireachtas. The House would be interested to know what objection the Minister might have to that course. I strongly recommend that the Minister should consider placing these rules and regulations before each House of the Oireachtas.
The Minister is aware that section 3 of the Land Act, 1933, empowers the Minister for Lands with the concurrence of a Committee consisting of the Judicial Commissioner, the Secretary of the Land Commission and a Lay Commissioner, after consultation with the President of the Incorporated Law Society, to make rules. There is no provision in the 1933 Act for the laying of these rules when made before the Houses of the Oireachtas nor is there any provision in this Bill for the laying of such rules before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The Minister is also aware that section 3 of the 1933 Land Act provides that the Secretary of the Department of Lands, as having a special position distinct from the other Commissioners on the Rules Committee, represents the Civil Service side and a Civil Service outlook and that section 3 of the 1933 Act emphasises the undesirability of having the Secretary as a Commissioner, as he is intended to hold a view different from the rest of his fellow Commissioners.
That is why I feel that in this Bill there should be provision for the laying of the various rules and regulations by the Minister before the Houses of the Oireachtas for the purpose of giving Deputies notice and information which is very often difficult to obtain when these rules and regulations are not laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
I highly recommend to the Minister that in an effort to secure speedy passage of the Bill and co-operation from all sides he might meet us on some point. Our request that the rules he makes be laid before each House of the Oireachtas is, indeed, a very reasonable one and I, therefore, recommend it to the Minister.
I am sorry I cannot accede in this instance to the Deputy's request although I can assure him that any submission or argument that is made in the course of the debate on this Bill that I consider would improve the Bill or would be workable will get my wholehearted consideration.
In certain statutes powers are taken to create rules that need not be laid on the Table of the House. As I am sure the Deputy is well aware, the only effect of laying rules on the Table of the House, as we call it here, is to enable Deputies to put down a motion within 21 days. The only practical effect of providing that any statutory rules be laid on the Table of both Houses, as I have explained to the House, is this procedural motion that Deputies can table to amend or annul within 21 days, or whatever the specified time is, under our rules of procedure here.
Now the very same procedure is available, in a different way, to Deputies by way of motion where the particular statute does not prescribe that they must be laid on the Table of the House. Under this section, Deputies can put down a motion criticising the rule or calling for its revocation or amendment. Deputies will have that right under the ordinary rules of debate in this House. The only real argument, I suppose, that would be suggested by some Deputies is that rules might be made and, because they are not laid on the Table of the House, may be in existence for some time, without coming to the notice of Deputies. If there is anything wrong with the rules, knowing how close Deputies are in touch with their Dáil work and their constituents, which will be made and which will affect a constituent in a local area, I am quite sure we shall hear about it quick and lively from the Deputy concerned.
There are some rules—for instance, the Land Bond Order—which must be laid on the Table of the House. It is envisaged that these regulations will be on questions of procedure, on technical matters of finance that must be dealt with inter-Departmentally by the Land Commission and the Minister for Finance. With regard to the particular rule, to which Deputy Flanagan referred under the 1933 Act, questions of procedure and the rule-making authority, I can assure Deputies that it is a very good job it has not been laid on the Table of the House.
I have been, and my people have been, quite a long time trying to hammer out new legal machinery for the Land Commission. I had to negotiate with the Incorporated Law Society and we had several meetings to try to hammer out a workable procedure, a procedure that would be acceptable to them on behalf of the legal profession. It went on for a very long time. We have, in fact, achieved agreement. Some new rules have been made in agreement with them and with those others concerned, including the rule-making authority itself. If I have to come back in here, and Deputies knock this down, agreement having been reached, I am afraid we will never reach finality on that point at all.
What is contemplated here are rules of procedure, not technical matters or finance, and these may have to change from time to time, depending on different circumstances, maybe until money is available for a particular job, and so on. I think it would be a cumbersome procedure, for what is envisaged here, if we had to come to the House and lay the rules on the Table of the House. I think the real answer to what Deputy Flanagan has in mind is that we have a satisfactory procedure in regard to rules which may be made under this section in that Deputies have a right to put down a motion to amend, annul or criticise them.
Would the Minister agree to circulate to Deputies and Senators the rules, when they become law and when they are available, as an ordinary matter?
The Deputy's suggestion appeals to me but he will appreciate that I do not want to give an undertaking to the House on the spur of the moment, without looking into the matter. I assure the Deputy I shall look into the suggestion and I shall come back to it on Report Stage.
The Minister said if the document went before the House, it might be knocked by the House and all his trouble would have gone for nothing. Surely that is suggesting that the agreement reached is one which would not be accepted by the House and the only way to get away with it is to let nobody know about it? I am afraid I have to agree with Deputy Flanagan that it is a rather peculiar thing that the documents are not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. There is no point in the Minister saying that Deputies can put down a motion objecting to them. How will any of us know that those rules have been brought in, in order to bring in a motion within the statutory period? While people down the country, whom we represent, would very soon, when they hear about them, bring them to our notice, if we do not hear of them, how will the people down the country hear of them within 21 days?
That is a good point.
I would ask the Minister, even if it does mean extra inconvenience to the Land Commission, to place those documents before the Houses, so that Deputies, who are supposed to be making laws, will know what is in them, and, if necessary, can object to them. The Minister, having the power of the Government behind him, might have very little fear about having them knocked down.
I am surprised at Deputy Tully's argument. What he is trying to do is to knock the Incorporated Law Society, the trade union of the legal profession. As the Deputy knows, it is one thing to desire to put something into operation, but, unless those concerned, are prepared to cooperate and work to achieve that end, I would be wasting my time trying to put it over on them without having their agreement to operate it. The quick answer to the Deputy, and indeed to Deputy Blowick, is that these statutory rules must be published in Iris Oifigiúil. They are there for anybody desiring to see them. Any Deputy who is interested enough is entitled to get a copy of them. The real test is that if these rules, in any way, affect Deputies' constituents, and it is given as a reason that under the rule or under the law, this or that cannot be done, I am quite sure that, quick and lively, we should have a Motion in this House to knock the particular rule or to amend it.
The position is that these rules are published and are available for those who want them. In so far as it might be desirable to have them circulated to Deputies, the suggestion appeals to me but I should not like to give an undertaking to the House, without considering the implications of it. I have given an undertaking to look into the matter between now and Report Stage.
The Minister said he was surprised I said what I did. In trade union matters, the official must go back to the members with his proposals. The Minister is trying to get through his trade union without letting its members know what has been done.
I should like to make this point to the Minister. If the circulation of the rules to Deputies and Senators is difficult, surely it would not be too much to ask that Deputies and Senators get a note in the ordinary way saying that rules are being made under section 3 of the Land Act, 1964, and that they were available in the Government Publication Sales Office? The Minister mentioned that the rules are published in Iris Oifigiúil but how many Deputies and Senators bother their head reading it? Special application has to be made to get it.
I have a suggestion I should like to make to the Minister. The Minister is aware of the existence of the Seanad Select Committee on Statutory Instruments and if the rules and regulations were placed before that Committee, they could, at least, be examined by them for the limited purposes for which such a Committee is set up.
Under the 1933 Act?
These rules would be subjected to the same scrutiny.
If these rules are subjected to the same examination as under the 1933 Act, there would not be any danger. That Committee, which is a Select Committee of the Seanad, would, at least, be given an opportunity of examining all the rules and regulations.
I am afraid the Minister's suggestion that a motion should be put down here for the purpose of annulling or amending any Order would not be practicable. First, it would be very difficult for a Deputy or a Party to put down a motion, if unaware that such a rule or regulation existed. The Seanad Select Committee on Statutory Instruments should at least be given an opportunity of examining all these regulations under this Bill when it becomes an Act.
This is legislation by reference and if the Deputy reads section 2, he will see that it refers back in the same way to the procedure under section 3 of the 1933 Act which means that they are subject to the same scrutiny by the committee set out in that section. Regarding Deputy Blowick's point, Deputies will appreciate that there is another Minister and another Department concerned under subsection (2) of this section and I could not, here and now, without considering the implication of having these things circulated, give an undertaking that they will be circulated. But I repeat that I shall look into the point and see, after consideration, if it is feasible.
If the rules have been agreed on between the authorities and have become law and are available for sale in the Government Publications Sales Office, surely two lines on an ordinary slip of paper to be distributed to Deputies in the ordinary way with their post, would meet the case?
Personally, I think that would be desirable, just to bring the matter to the notice of Deputies, but if any of these rules affected an individual in any part of the country and particularly affected a constituent of Deputy Flanagan, I can visualise the Order Paper we would have here from the question point of view, leaving out motions.
It is not the case that every Deputy would want to put down a motion, or indeed any Deputy, to annul or alter a rule because I think such a thing has never happened in the history of this House and would be most unlikely to happen in this case. I am simply talking for the purpose of trying to ensure that Deputies who are desirous of getting such information should get it.
Who are they?
(South Tipperary): I take it that when these regulations have been published in Iris Oifigiúil, what will appear will merely be a notice that they have been made and that a Deputy may apply to the General Office and get a copy. Submission of a notice of motion in regard to these rules and regulations would seem a very dilatory method of handling the matter. A notice of motion may be on the Order Paper for months and in the meantime the grievance will continue. Would it not be more expeditious if, as Deputy Flanagan suggested, an order were laid before the House that would come under the 21 days' clause?
Not for internal reasons, as I said. I have pointed out there are two Ministers concerned and in these rules we are dealing with a situation that may change very frequently. Changes may have to be made between the Department of Finance and the Department of Lands, and it would be cumbersome and would slow things up if they had to come here every time some slight change was being made and put it before the House. I am pointing out that there is this procedure whereby Deputies can put down a motion to annul, amend or revoke the rules made. The only effect of providing that the rules should be laid on the Table is, as I have said, that it brings the fact of making the rules to the Deputies' attention. I may be able to adopt the suggestion by Deputy Blowick that Deputies be notified when these rules are made. I think that meets many of the fears or criticisms voiced by Deputy Flanagan.
We have an undertaking from the Minister that at least the Seanad Committee on Statutory Instruments will have an opportunity of examining all these?
Yes, I have said that.
Since it has now become perfectly evident that the Opposition will be trying to sabotage this Bill at all costs, may I suggest to the Minister it would be much more effective just to force the Bill through without discussing——
À la Ghana.
What is the Minister's objection to the rule or regulation being placed on the Table of the House, so that the 21 days' provision may operate? All the Minister has said is that it is a matter for two Departments and that everything that comes before the House has to be subject to annulment under the 21 days' regulation. But that is not the case at all. Deputies will not come in and annul everything put before them but at least they want an opportunity of debating the matter, something that Deputy Leneghan does not believe in. That shows his mentality; we might as well stay away as be here if that were the situation. Otherwise, it seems the only opportunity the House would have of debating something that many Deputies would disagree with, might be lost. The Minister says we can put down a motion. He knows perfectly well that if you try to get something annulled under the 21 days' clause, you get priority and you get an opportunity of debating it, whereas a motion may be two or three years before it comes up. To my knowledge there is a motion down for Private Members' Time about whiskey distilleries which is three years there now. It is only nonsense for the Minister to tell us that it is perfectly easy to deal with in the way he suggests. That is untrue.
(South Tipperary): The Minister made a point that he has to consider another Department and that is a difficult thing in laying these rules before the House. Surely that applies to many Bills where it is accepted that the rules and the regulations made under them are laid before the House?
The matters to be dealt with in these rules are solely to prescribe matters of form, in the main, and as far as I know, this type of rule was never made the subject of the provision of being compulsorily laid on the Table of the House, as it is called. These rules will prescribe certain forms and regulations under this Bill after consultation with the Department of Finance and the Department of Lands and their respective Ministers from time to time. These matters must change occasionally and it would be impracticable for every change required in one of these rules, after the discussions have concluded between the Departments, to have to come and lay them on the Table of the House.
I gave an instance a few moments ago to Deputy Tully where, under one rule-making authority, certain rules and the existing law that we had prescribed were changed and it was only possible to do that after very considerable negotiation and getting agreement with outside people. Perhaps I gave a rather extreme instance. It may be unwise to assume that the House would "knock" a sensible agreement but that could happen if it had to come here. Deputies would not be as familiar with the matters involved in this case as I would be, or with the reasons for having to go a certain distance to achieve a measure of agreement and co-operation between these people.
It is for the very same reason that I am convinced it is desirable to have this section in this particular way. At the moment I cannot see any real objection to the suggestion made by Deputy Blowick that Deputies should be notified when rules are made under this section but I want to think about it and examine the implications of it before making the promise firmly to the House. However, unless I find something to the contrary, I would give an undertaking on the Report Stage to adopt this suggestion.
(South Tipperary): One would think the Minister was giving something away to Deputy Blowick but we all know that we can get these rules and regulations by writing to the General Office. In this Bill the Minister is taking powers greater than the powers taken by any of his predecessors and, therefore, we feel obliged to exercise as much control and restraint on these powers as we can. For that reason, and in the spirit of good democracy, we are anxious that any rules and regulations made under this section should be laid on the Table of the House so that every Deputy may see them. Surely the Minister is not being reasonable when he half infers that somebody will rush in to try to block these rules and regulations. Most Deputies are reasonable people and are as anxious as the Minister is to make this a good Bill. It is in that spirit of making it a good Bill that we are anxious that the rules and regulations made under it will be available to every Deputy. That is good practice and the coy way in which the Minister tried to get away with the idea that he is giving away something when we could get these rules and regulations by writing into the General Office is no good.
I am not here for the purpose of throwing out any giveaways. I am here to try to do a practical job. Part of the Bill is designed to cut away the red tape that we have under the existing law and Deputy Hogan, by his suggestion here, would simply be adding more red tape that could well clog the machine. This section is nothing new. It is nothing new to have a section that does not provide for laying the rules under it on the Table of the House. There are several statutes that contain sections in the same form as this where the rules, for particular reasons, are designed for domestic consumption, for prescribing certain procedures and forms.
In fact, this very section refers to section 3 of the 1933 Land Act and rules made under that section have not to be laid on the Table of the House. There is no innovation in the bringing in of a section prescribing the making of rules without having them laid on the Table of the House. While I can think over the matter between this and the Report Stage, I do not see what difficulty any reasonable Deputy could have about letting the section go through.
Of course, this is an innovation. The Minister had already said that this is the first time a Minister has taken such powers. It is quite understandable, where certain powers are delegated to the Land Commission, that there would be agreement in the House not to have every decision placed before the House. However, here the Minister is asking for political responsibility relative to administration and he wants these powers without being required to give to Deputies the information which is so necessary to ensure that the Minister or his successors will not abuse the powers he is now asking the House to confer upon him. This cannot be compared to any of the previous Land Acts because this is the first time the House is being asked to confer such powers upon the political head of the Department.
What I said in my Second Reading speech, as the Deputy well knows, is that for the first time we are writing into the law that the congested areas can be extended by order of the Minister for Lands. However, this section has nothing whatever to do with the Minister. It is a section by reference to section 3 of the Land Act of 1933 and the rules to be made under this section are subject to the same scrutiny by the same statutory authority as provided by law under section 3 of the 1933 Act. This section gives me no more power one way or the other than was given to any other Minister for Lands in this country.
I do not agree with the Minister when he declares so vehemently that there is nothing new in the decision with regard to regulations he makes under this Bill. The 1933 Act is there and the Minister is continuing what is in that Act, as far as the submission of rules and regulations are concerned. As far as any democratic institution is concerned, the statement by the Minister should be a reflection on the people who sat in the House when the 1933 Act was going through because they did not do their job.
This House goes to a great deal of trouble in examining and dealing with the measures that come before it. Every Deputy gives the benefit of his advice and knowledge to the Minister and his Department and then the Minister and his officials come along and decide that where the technical and legal machinery which are necessary to implement the wishes of the House are concerned, that machinery and the necessary rules and regulations will not be disclosed to the people who passed the legislation. To me, that is nonsensical.
I think the Minister is in favour of seeing that this House is made aware of any changes that may be made and that he is in a bit of a spot as far as his colleague, the Minister for Finance, is concerned. I can appreciate the difficulty that he cannot speak for him but let us face it: the real reason why this information regarding the rules, etc., has not been made available is that the faceless bureaucrats in the background do not want to be bothered or worried or annoyed by Deputies. That is it in a nutshell. I know, and other Deputies who take an interest in legislation which affects their constituencies know, that it is hard enough to deal with your normal work, without having to go searching and probing for information that should be laid on the Table of the House. It is an insult to the people who elected Deputies to have them told that they will not be given the rules of procedure, that this is something in the background for the legal fraternity, or the Incorporated Law Society, to work out between them. If a Deputy asks is it to be handed out in this House, he is told it cannot be done.
The Minister should not tolerate that kind of advice. I think he does take the view that rules and regulations, arising from an enactment of this House, should automatically be made available to Deputies. I should also like to ask the Minister where his colleague, the Minister for Finance, comes in. Subsection (1) of section 2, states in brackets "other than provisions relating to land purchase finance". Is the Minister for Finance given power in this to strangle—I will put it that way—provisions of this Bill when it is passed? Is there any great significance in the fact that the Minister for Finance appears in the background so early on as a restraining influence on the Minister for Lands who is anxious to do his job as far as the land problem is concerned?
Is there not such a thing as collective responsibility? Surely if the Minister for Lands speaks, the Minister for Finance may be taken as being in full agreement with what he says? That is the way it was when we were in Government. I do not know whether it has changed.
I would advise the Deputy to keep away from that line of country. Above all else, he should keep away from that.
I am only giving the Minister a hint.
I have not got such a short memory as the Deputy thinks. Do not provoke me into giving chapter and verse. No Minister of State can give any undertaking on behalf of a colleague without consulting him. It may well be that having examined this matter, I shall find there is no real objection to meeting the wishes of the House. I am much more concerned with another aspect. I am much more concerned with making and having a flexible legal machine when we have finished with this Bill in this House. I am far more concerned with every section we have here and many of them have been deliberately drafted for the purpose of giving us flexibility. I should like Deputies to appreciate how impossible it is if the Land Commission and the Minister for Lands are put in a legal straitjacket when dealing with the congestion problem or dealing with the multitudinous duties the Land Commission are supposed to carry out if they are to be effective.
Does the Minister agree that the first one to put him into a straitjacket will be the Minister for Finance?
I shall deal with the references to the Department of Finance in a moment. Let me say, in reply to those Deputies who are arguing that this proposal is a matter of principle, and that the rules should be laid on the Table of the House, that I am far more concerned, whatever the practical difficulties may be as between the Department of Lands and the Department of Finance, with finding this proposition a clog on the machine I am trying to devise. As Deputies who have had ministerial experience know, if you are going to have a series of consultations between the civil servants in the different Departments and the matter has then to be laid on the Table of the House, you must have a Government meeting and the matter must be decided on at a Government meeting. With all that red tape if things are to be held up and there are to be delays and if every time a line of that must be changed we have to start off again with consultations between the Departments and have to go through what I call red tape——
Well, my choice was——
Like the trousers of the Minister for External Affairs.
The Minister for External Affairs needs no recommendation from Deputy O'Sullivan or any other Deputy. I would be far more concerned with that aspect of this matter than I would be with renewing any undertaking to Deputy Blowick or going the whole hog and amending this section in the way suggested. However, as I say, I shall go into that aspect.
Coming to that part of subsection (1) to which Deputy McQuillan referred —"other than provisions relating to land purchase finance"—that is the regular provision in regard to all Departments. Outside of coming to this House to provide the £5 million in land bonds, that is where every Minister for Lands is dependent on and must be dependent on the Minister for Finance and his Government colleagues at Budget time in regard to the amount of money to be made available to his Department. Indeed, I could remind the House how, at a certain stage in the history of this country, the Land Commission became starved under certain sections of even the existing law, in particular in regard to the 1950 Act which enabled the Land Commission, in certain limited circumstances, to purchase land by public auction, and how when the war came along they were provided for a while with some ridiculous sum— speaking from recollection, I think it was something under £20,000—which was wiped out altogether when the financial shoe started to pinch those concerned with the Land Commission.
It is true to state that as far as cash purchases and other finances outside the land bonds are concerned—and of course we have to have consultation about the issue of land bonds but we are taking power to raise the ceiling to enable us to create these—and the money provided for the other Land Commission development works, including a very big part of my annual Estimate for Land Commission improvement of estates—which costs a lot of money—it depends in all instances on what the Minister for Lands is able to persuade the Minister for Finance and his colleagues to provide at Budget time.
That limitation was always there. It must be there because, whatever Government may be in office, they must have regard to a certain order of priorities and to making provision from taxation for those priorities. Control by the Department of Finance must be there for every State Department. This will not, as Deputy McQuillan implied, limit the Land Commission in any way. The new provisions in this Bill for such things as self-migration, pensions, and so forth, will cost money and operations by the Land Commission will, therefore, cost much more in the future than they have done in the past.
The Minister said that if these orders were to be placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas a great deal of red or green tape would be involved. The orders would have to go before the Government, and so on. Are we to take it that, if an order does not come before the Houses of the Oireachtas, then, by implication, the matter can be dealt with by one of the Minister's officials sanctioning the making of an order, and the whole matter will be finalised without being scrutinised by anybody?
That seems to have been the general theme of the Minister's statements. Perhaps I am reading more into the Minister's remarks than he actually meant but, on two occasions, at least, the Minister stressed the need for— will he forgive me using this word?— secrecy in dealing with these matters, because otherwise the cat would be out of the bag, and something would go wrong. I know I am mixing my metaphors, but I am sure the Minister understands what I mean. If the matter is put before the Houses of the Oireachtas, then everybody who is entitled to know about it will know about it. If it is not put before the Houses of the Oireachtas, then everything will be very much easier and we are to assume that it can be dealt with in some way which is not, in fact, the right way. If I have taken the Minister up wrong, perhaps he will put me right, but that is the idea I got from his statement.
I should like to clarify my mind on this matter before we leave this section. I understood the Minister to say he would consult the Minister for Finance to see if it is possible for these regulations to be laid before the House, or is it on something else he will consult with him? I could not follow the Minister. It seemed to me he was explaining to the House the many difficulties the Government face among themselves, which, of course, we appreciate.
I thought there was no one left in this country with a Hans Andersen imagination, but we still have Deputy Esmonde, even after the results of the recent by-elections.
Will the Minister ask the Minister for Finance if he will agree to that? I think it is the only fair and equitable thing to do. The Oireachtas should know what regulations are being made. I agree with what Deputy Hogan said. Whatever about the 1933 Act, or any other Act, the Minister will get more power under this Act than any Minister for Lands has had in the past. That may be right or it may be wrong but, right or wrong, the root of the matter is that the elected representatives should have the right to challenge. I could not agree more with Deputy McQuillan. It should not be decisions by officials behind the scene. I appreciate officials take a great many decisions in this country but it should be possible for elected representatives to challenge these decisions if we think they are wrong. To say we will obstruct and hold up for purely frivolous reasons is just so much nonsense. Unless the Minister can assure the House that he will suggest to the Minister for Finance that these regulations should be placed before Dáil Éireann I personally could not subscribe to this provision. The correct, proper and democratic procedure must be carried out.
In case Deputy Esmonde would not sleep peacefully tonight, I want to assure him that there is, in fact, no disagreement between members of the Government. Further, I can assure him there was no queue of Fianna Fáil Deputies' cars outside my house during the last three weeks to knife the Taoiseach.
What has that to do with section 2?
I just want to put Deputy Esmonde's mind at rest. The Government are not at loggerheads. Let me quote once more section 3 of the Land Act of 1933:
The Minister may, with the concurrence of a majority of a committee consisting of the Judicial Commissioner, the Secretary of the Land Commission, and a Lay Commissioner appointed for the purpose by the Minister and after consultation with the President of the Incorporated Law Society, make rules for carrying into effect the provisions (other than provisions relating to land purchase finance) of the Land Purchase Acts including this Act (except Part II thereof) and in this Act the word "prescribed" means prescribed by such rules.
Now, let me quote once more subsection (1) of section 2:
The power of making rules conferred by subsections (1) and (2) of section 3 of the Land Act, 1933, shall extend to and be exercisable for making rules for carrying into effect the provisions (other than provisions relating to land purchase finance) of this Act.
The rules made under this section must go through the procedure prescribed by section 3 of the 1933 Land Act. Far from these rules being something that nobody knows anything about, they must be examined by and have the concurrence of the Judicial Commissioner, who is a judge of the High Court, the Secretary of the Land Commission, and a Lay Commissioner appointed for that purpose by the Minister, and the President of the Incorporated Law Society must also be consulted. It should be clear to Deputies that this is nothing new or revolutionary. This is the procedure laid down by this House, in its wisdom, way back in 1933; it is being continued in operation in this Bill. There is also a provision that the rules must be published in Iris Oifigiúil. In my experience over 25 years, the only effect I ever noticed of this provision governing the laying of rules on the Table of the House was that it brought the matter to the attention of Deputies. I did not undertake to Deputy Blowick, as Deputy Esmonde suggested, that I would accept an amendment for the purpose of providing that these rules should be laid on the Table of the House. What I did say was that I would examine the matter, and if I saw no objection in principle to the suggestion, that when we made rules under this section, in addition to publishing these rules in Iris Oifigiúil, a notice would go to Deputies notifying them that such rules were being made. I know quite well, as do other Deputies, that if some rule is made here that in any way affects a constituent of any Deputy, the Minister for Lands, whoever he may be, will very quickly be questioned about it in the House and under our procedure here, if it is something the Deputy considers serious, he will table a motion to annul or amend the rule.
A fat lot of good that will do him or his constituent.
It would all depend on the Minister, on the view taken in the House and on what case was to be made for the complaint.
Prevention is better than cure.
It is a question of what we might be preventing. What I might want to ensure would happen the Deputy might want to prevent. We will always have these disagreements and differences of opinion. I would be far more inclined to resist the suggestions made here because I can visualise that procedure acting as a delaying factor or brake on the work than for any of the reasons given here. I see no reason not to meet Deputy Blowick's suggestions but while I cannot state this authoritatively at this stage, I have a recollection that I had decided that it would be a delaying factor having to go through the procedure of having these rules laid on the Table of the House.
(South Tipperary): On a point of information, the Minister has told us that the rules and regulations will be considered by the judicial commissioner of the Land Commission, a lay commissioner, the Secretary of the Land Commission and the President of the Incorporated Law Society, four very esteemed men, I am sure, although I do not know any of them. He has also told us that laying these regulations before the House will involve a lot of what he calls green tape. Will he tell the green Deputy what this green tape involves?
I do not know that there is anything further I can usefully add to what I have already said. I can assure Deputies that I have a genuine fear that by amending this section we might be running into a procedure that would delay the work of my Department. I have already undertaken that I shall look into the suggestion made by Deputy Blowick and, if I see nothing against it, on the Report Stage I shall give an undertaking to the House that Deputies will be notified as to the making of any rules under this section.
We shall remind the Minister on the Report Stage.
Again in regard to interference by the Minister for Finance, the Minister rightly pointed out on the previous section that the final decision in regard to the amount of money being made available to the Minister for Lands will be made by his colleagues, and particularly by the Minister for Finance. That power is simply a decision of policy as to whether a certain sum of money should or should not be made available to the Minister. What I want to establish now is how far into the workings of the Land Commission the hand of the Department of Finance penetrates. If it is on this question of the amount of money to be made available it is quite understandable that the Department of Finance would have some kind of rein but it would be disastrous to have further penetration by the Minister for Finance into the Department of Lands as a restraining influence on a section that has already held itself under severe restraint as far as expenditure and work are concerned.
I should like the Minister also to clarify for the House whether it is a fact that the Land Commission cannot now be blamed for the large amount of congestion existing in the country today. Whatever Governments have been in power have failed to make the money available; in other words, according to this Minister, the different Ministers for Finance have had the decision all through the years as to what money the Land Commission could spend.
The Deputy will appreciate that section 3 deals with money for administrative expenses.
Section 3 refers to the "payments made and expenses incurred by the Minister and by the Land Commission in giving effect to this Act". Apart from expenses, it refers to the payments made by the Minister. It goes on to say:
and in the administration thereof shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
In other words the Minister for Finance can say to the Minister for Lands on this question of the relief of congestion: "Do nothing about it" and immediately the Land Commission become the cockshot in the public eye, and everybody outside says the Land Commission are doing nothing. The Minister would be doing a good day's work by explaining quite clearly that the Government and all Governments we have had since I came into the House, since 1948, must now bear the responsibility for the small amount of work done towards solving the problem in the areas in the Schedule to this Bill, namely, the congested areas. In other words, if there were a Government with the interest of congests at heart who made the money available, this Bill might not be necessary at all.
This is the usual section that goes into every Bill passing through this House to make financial provision for its implementation. It is true to say that any Minister for Lands or for that matter, any Minister for anything in this State, is depending upon his colleagues in the Government and the Minister for Finance to provide him with the necessary money to run his Department. As Deputies will know, each Minister must present his proposals to the Minister for Finance before Budget time and have agreement reached on the programme and on the amount of money it is estimated will be needed to give effect to it. There is nobody naïve enough in this day and age to believe that any Government or any Minister, and particularly the Minister for Lands, has some kind of Santa Claus over in Merrion Street who provides him with money any time he wants it.
The amount of money that will be provided for under this Bill and to give effect to it must be agreed upon by the Minister for Finance of the day and by the Government of the day. The Minister for Finance must know and have agreement among his colleagues on the amount to be allowed for the running of the Land Commission under the different heads set out in the Book of Estimates so that he can come along to this House with his Budget and the Book of Estimates and the provisions for the taxation that is necessary to meet that demand.
While no doubt we shall have Deputies such as Deputy McQuillan to preach the doctrine that an unlimited amount of money should be provided for this purpose under this section, the Deputy is not the first to go into the division lobbies to vote against taxation if he thinks it is popular with his constituents in Roscommon. It is the easiest thing in the world to preach here the wisdom of providing unlimited money for the purpose of the relief of congestion and at the same time to go back to the boys and to say in effect: "I voted against the 2d. on the cigarettes or the 1d. on the pint."
Each Government, considering their financial position with their Minister for Finance in any year, must decide as a Government—and this is where the collective responsibility referred to tonight comes in—what should be available in the order of priority of things for the land congestion problem and for any of the other problems which different Ministers of State have. In so far as our recent Budgets and Estimates in this House have been going, a very substantial amount of money has been provided year by year, and debated by the House, for the purpose of dealing with this problem.
There is also a limiting factor inasmuch as the Land Commission themselves must be geared to deal with an expansion of their activities in different areas.
To give a specific instance, we find now, in this particular year, that there are many migrants' holdings which will not be ready because the Land Commission have not been able to have the necessary buildings completed in time. You have all this—the amount of work that must be gone through and the amount of investigation that must be gone through by the outdoor staff of the Land Commission inspectorate— and that puts a limit on the amount of money that is capable of being expended in any particular year.
I am sure Deputies will complain on other sections about my proposal to take a short-cut towards the acquisition of land. Some of these provisions I know will probably be strongly debated in this House but, on the intake side of the Land Commission machine, there are tons and tons of green tape that must be eliminated if we are to get on with the job in a fairly reasonable time and there is not all that amount of land on the market in any specific year in respect of the amount of money that the Land Commission might have available for that purpose.
In many of these cases it takes, under existing procedure, maybe three, four or five years through the different processes of law that are there from the point at which the Land Commission start towards the acquisition of an estate until the job is finally finished before Judge Teevan and the Appeal Tribunal. It is not so simple as Deputy McQuillan would suggest that some Minister for Lands, having been given unlimited money, could go out and acquire all the land in just one year.
In my experience as Minister for Lands, there has been a constant and steady intake of land under the existing machinery and sufficient money has been provided for it under the provisions for the relief of congestion. Under this Bill, there are a number of sections which Deputies will well appreciate will involve the Land Commission in very high expenditure in addition to their existing programme. The amount to be made available must depend in any year on what the Government of the day decide they can afford to devote to this problem. The Government have authorised the introduction of this Bill and, accordingly, Deputies must assume that it is the Government's intention to implement the provisions in the different sections and to provide the money.
Would the Minister for Lands be at liberty to make use of the money provided in this section to increase the scale of farmyard enterprise in an uneconomic holding by providing up-to-date and adequate buildings and in this way make an uneconomic holding a viable holding? So far, apparently the Government and the Land Commission have appeared to think that the only way to make an economic holding is to give the holder an extra amount of land or money to buy additional land. It is felt that the problem of uneconomic holdings could be solved in another way in many cases. Could this money, therefore, be used for that purpose?
I am a little confused. I could not follow the Minister's line of reasoning. He said the Land Commission were not able to get enough land because the pool of land was getting smaller and it was more difficult to acquire land and he said that in any case the Land Commission were not able to relieve the congestion as fast as they would like because they had not the money to erect the buildings. These statements appear to be contradictory.
That is the Deputy's interpretation of my statement. It is not what I said.
We shall have to wait until the Official Report comes out when we shall have another look at it. Perhaps then we shall be able to decide whether my interpretation of what the Minister said or what he actually said——
What he thought he said.
I said our migration programme this year was slowed down because we could not get houses built —not because of lack of money but because there is such a building boom in the country that we find it difficult to get contractors to build the houses which we require.
I have agreed with an awful lot of what the Minister said but that is an extraordinary statement and the Minister should know as well as I do that it is an awful lot of cod. Every time we run into trouble about not carrying out a task we always say there is a shortage of labour. If it is not a shortage of money it is a shortage of labour. The Minister has built a number of houses in County Meath and he knows he can get as many as he wants built there over the next twelve months. All he has to do is to provide the money. Furthermore, perhaps the Minister would tell us when he resumes the reason why estates have been held for up to seven or eight years. Are we now getting the correct reason—that either you cannot get men to build the houses or you have not the money to pay them, anyway?