I do not intend to delay the Minister on this but it is a very interesting situation that two Deputies from Louth have spoken in the House within the past ten minutes on the question of the acquisition of a farm of land in Louth. I have no personal interest in the question that was asked but the Minister replied that there was congestion in the area involved. The Bill before the House defines the congested areas and Louth does not appear amongst the areas so defined.
Land Bill, 1963—Committee Stage (Resumed).
Has the Minister not power to declare areas to be congested areas?
Perhaps the Deputy will listen to me? The Minister will have the power if this Bill is passed but the Minister has not the power at present. That is what I want to bring home, that the Minister in his reply to the two Deputies indicated that there is congestion in Louth. I accept that there is. Deputy Faulkner will have to recognise that Louth will not be a congested area under the terms of this Bill and, if the Minister is doing his duty, if he gets section 4, it will be many a day before Louth can be considered as a congested area when we have, in the Minister's words, 60,000 small-holdings in what are defined under the Bill as congested areas.
I mention all this to show that there is not any clear thinking on the part of the Government on the question of congestion. Apparently, as far as the present Government are concerned, if they are in a tight spot in this House, any area can become a congested area if it is a case of justifying the acquisition of land. I am all in favour of land acquisition for the relief of congestion and the establishment of as many economic holdings as it is humanly possible and practicable to create. That is my view but I do not like to find a situation arising, as can arise under section 4, that the Minister, when this Bill is passed, will accept that the particular counties mentioned will, for a start, be part and parcel of the congested areas and that he will, from the passing of this Bill, give a direction to the Land Commission to create 40 to 45-acre holdings in these so-called congested areas.
I want to make it clear to the Minister that he has not got the land in Ireland to create these economic holdings in the congested areas or outside the congested areas. He would be doing a better day's work for the congests if he were to bring up the existing congested holdings to the standard of what is at the moment described as an economic holding in the non-congested areas. That would be a reasonable step. In other words, get rid of the existing distinction between the type and size of farm at present being given in the congested areas and the type and size of farm being given in the non-congested areas.
For the benefit of Deputies who do not know what that distinction is, let me put it this way: up to the moment there is a procedure in operation in the Department of Lands in regard to the western seaboard that where a group of small-holdings have a valuation of, say, £5 each the Land Commission may, if there is land available in the locality, in course of rearrangement, raise these small-holdings from £5 to £10 valuation. The Land Commission have been operating that policy for years. In pursuit of that policy they have recreated in great measure more and more congestion. They have brought about the decline in the number of persons living in rural Ireland, particularly in the west, through that type of mistaken policy. They have helped to fill the emigrant ships not only with the breadwinners but in many cases entire families from the west. That was all because of the fact that they pursued a mistaken policy in land distribution.
At the time the decision was made just to give a few extra acres to the small-holders in the west, why could they not have decided that an economic holding was a holding that would give a reasonable livelihood to a family, irrespective of whether that family were living on the western seaboard, in the midlands or in the south of Ireland? It was reasonable that the people who migrated from the west to the midlands should have been given what they have at the present time but the people who were left in the west of Ireland got, in very many cases, only one-third of what the migrants got in Meath. To my mind that was waste of money on the part of the State and a cause of disappointment and dissatisfaction amongst those who remained in the west.
The Minister may argue that these people were satisfied when they got these few acres. My experience of meeting people in these congested areas always has been that they will take an acre or two acres and be very thankful for getting it. They do not realise, or perhaps, do not admit they do realise, that what they are getting is not a solution of their economic ills. They are in such dire need of some assistance that they will take an acre or two and then they are left there with that for the rest of their lives, with no credit facilities and no guidance on agricultural lines. The result has been the disappearance of the best type of rural family.
I want the Minister to be quite clear that if this section is being given to him, and that if he is to say that the new policy is the family farm, they will expect the Minister to take the necessary steps to bring into the Land Commission pool of land all the land which can be acquired or which comes on the market in order to have available a sufficient acreage of the right quality to enable economic holdings to be established in the congested areas and outside them.
Some Deputies are suspicious of the fact that the Minister is given certain powers in this section. I have no objection because my belief is that the more we can pin responsibility on a Minister who is responsible to the House, the better for democracy as we know it. It is much better to have the Minister forced—I am saying nothing critical of the present holder of the office; this applies to whatever Minister is in charge—to be responsible to the House rather than have a Minister saying: "I have no function. This is a matter for the Land Commission and all I can do as Minister is refer the Deputy's representations to them."
I am satisfied this is a step in the right direction because it means that more control can be exercised by the House. We always have the right as Deputies to put down questions and probe what is behind a ministerial decision. We had an example earlier today of a Deputy accusing the Minister, and stating that other members of the House had brought pressure to bear to have certain lands acquired. As it stands, if any pressure is being brought to bear, I presume it is being done behind the scenes with the Land Commission but what I want is, in future if pressure is brought to bear, that we shall be able to ask questions here and pin responsibility on the Minister. After the passage of this section he cannot say: "I have no function with regard to declaring particular areas to be congested areas." He cannot say: "It was the Land Commission on their own initiative or as a result of their own investigation who decided to declare a certain part of a county to be a congested area." In future, any decision of that kind will be the responsibility of the Minister and that is as it should be.
I want to refer briefly to what Deputy McQuillan has said regarding congested areas. I do not accept his interpretation of the manner in which Section 4 will operate. In Section 4, it is stated that (a) a county or portion of a county specified in the Second Schedule to this Act shall be declared a congested area and (b) that the Minister shall have power to declare a congested area such other area as he may from time to time consider to be a congested area. I feel the proper interpretation of that is that while we can have counties or parts of counties already included in the congested areas, the Minister will, at any time if he gets reports from his inspectors that certain parts of other counties are congested, declare these areas to be congested areas. If this Bill were law now, he could, within a week if he so wished, declare certain areas to be congested areas.
I am particularly interested in this because certain areas in my constituency are congested and I am naturally anxious to see that whatever benefits accrue to an area that is declared congested will accrue to the people in the areas I have in mind. There are very obvious benefits for an area declared congested and these are found in other parts of the Bill. In my constituency where an area is congested, it is absolutely essential that if an estate becomes available, it should be acquired by the Land Commission and divided among the congests in the area because, in my county, which is an intensive tillage area, if land which was being taken in conacre by small uneconomic holders is taken over by one individual and farmed by him, it means that land which was available for a considerable time to these uneconomic holders is no longer available to them. It is tantamount to taking away their livelihood, something I am most anxious to avoid.
In case it might be felt that the interpretation given by Deputy McQuillan to this section would be accepted throughout the country as the true one, I merely spoke on this to say that, in my view, his interpretation is not correct and that my definition is the correct one.
My objection to this section can be crystallised in my general objection to the Bill. I think it is complete "cod" and we have been too long talking "cod" here in regard to the uneconomic holders in congested areas. I have watched, in intimate association and connection with the Land Commission, the spread of rural slums over a number of years and I cannot visualise the power the Minister seeks in this section as being anything more than a carrot to be dangled before the people so that Deputies behind the Minister will be able to say to the people who cannot get land: "Oh, but there is section 4 of the Bill under which the Minister may, if he thinks fit, declare areas to be congested." Is it not time somebody like the Minister, with experience of the difficulties that have arisen over the years owing to this dangling of the carrot before uneconomic holders, got down to realities and figured out the maximum number of economic holdings he can make and determine a reasonable size for them?
I feel very strongly on this subject. The time has come when somebody should do some forthright, positive thinking outside the cumbersome, creaking machine of Land Commission acquisition and distribution. It has been a painfully slow process and in many cases it was grossly unfair and, let me say without hesitation, manipulated, despite the fact that the Minister has no control over the very strongly political lines of distribution. That is the situation among the people in the congested districts. I am proud to represent one of the hardest working congested districts in the country, where the people have waited so long for this alleged distribution of land that, as Deputy McQuillan has so rightly said, many of them have emigrated because of lack of hope that their holdings would ever be integrated into economic entities.
I would cheerfully give the Minister all the powers he wants if I felt he would make an effort to do something practicable about a reasonably speedy redistribution of land. As he knows well, I never had any sympathy for the non-occupying rancher: I have never had any sympathy for the rancher and his dog. There are many tracts of land throughout the length and breadth of Ireland which I should like to see distributed to ease the lot of the many thousands of smallholders like those in west Cork.
If he is to get any good out of this Bill, the Minister should ensure that his impetus and direction are towards getting something done and not continuing to talk about it, because throughout the congested districts he is familiar with and in my own congested areas, particularly in the wilder fastnesses of Berehaven and the still wilder districts of Bantry, there are people who have been years and years waiting for some amelioration of their distress.
There are many people who have been living under wretched conditions to whom even five, ten or 15 acres of ground would make a considerable difference. That is the type of thing I want to see tackled, not with pious promises but through the reality of land distribution. Yet I am afraid that this Bill is just another sop to politicians with no practical reality or real promise of benefit for the people whom it is supposed to be aimed at. I submit this will provide us only with further difficulties of interpretation, further problems of a technical nature created by what I have already described as the most cumbersome, lazy-minded, inept organisation—the Irish Land Commission.
Unless the Minister is prepared to use this section for the purpose of putting drive into efforts to ameliorate the lot of smallholders, this is only another idle moment, more waste of parliamentary time, dangling another carrot before the people we should be trying to keep at home. Whether we like to accept it or not, the endeavour and the drive have gone from our people in the fastnesses. If we are sincere in our avocation we should get down to the job of making economic the small-holdings throughout the land, whether they be in Castletownbere, Connemara or even in the farflung fastnesses of Donegal. Our efforts should be bent towards making their lot a little better. They are the people who are getting none of the benefits of what we like to call the hum of industrial development. They are getting none of the 12 per cent rises. They have to work, day in day out, in the hazards of their calling——
On a point of order, how can this be related to section 4?
I have got it off my chest. The Minister is too late.
He should have been looking forward to getting it on some section.
Let us at least confine it to one section.
There will be the Fifth Stage.
Not before July, at the rate we are going.
There is no place in this country where there is not a congested area and people would realise that if they looked at my constituency. Today I had a question to the Minister for Lands in regard to Carrigtwohill where the Minister told me an area had been acquired. In that district there are 13 holdings of less than 15 acres each. That is why I am anxious to press here that all the ranches, as we call them, should be taken over and divided.
In my question today, I pointed to an area of 1,000 acres of land. The Minister seemed to be happy about two-thirds of that acreage and I feel sure the balance will become available. As far as I am aware, there is not even a parish in the country in which there is not a congested area. That is as far as I know.
The Minister does not.
I am further aware that it is a rule of the Land Commission that when a farm is taken over, the first claim on it lies with the uneconomic holders in the district.
I have been here 30 years and I have always found that that clause has been complied with. There are many areas which the Minister will have to declare as congested under the powers he is taking here. For instance, the whole stretch of country from the bounds of Kerry, through Newmarket, into Kanturk and Boherbue can be regarded as a congested district. I do not believe there is a farm of more than 100 acres to be found in it. Steps will have to be taken to see that every holding taken over in that area is devoted to the relief of congestion. If there still is not enough land, existing holders there will have to be shifted to other areas in order to clear up the mess that has been there for a long number of years. I speak with confidence in a Minister who is doing his job.
The Minister knows when he comes up against a difficult problem and takes immediate steps to overcome it. I had not as good an opinion of him two and a half years ago. However, I take every man as I see him work and the manner in which the Minister has tackled those problems has made me change my mind and feel proud of him as Minister for Lands.
I know what has been happening better than the next. I have seen here Ministers for Lands making miserable efforts, inadequate efforts, to remedy the situation. I have seen the holding I mentioned during Question Time today bought by an Englishman for £7,000, bought by another man for £17,000, bought by still another alien for £27,000, while the unfortunate people down in that peninsula whose fathers and grandfathers were thrown out on the road from that good land, stand on their 15-acre holdings with strained eyes looking down on the land from which their forbears were evicted. It is time something was done about it. The Minister for Lands, in this Bill, is endeavouring to do something about it. Another Minister for Lands was afraid of the £7,000——
Would the Deputy confine himself to the section?
Let us get down to those things. Let us realise that in this Bill we can tackle them and finish them. Every Deputy in the House has the same duty as I have to keep his eye out for holdings or estates which come on the market in his constituency so that it can be dragged in here, taken over and divided up.
Section 4 is probably one of the most important sections in the Bill as it is clearly defined therein that the Minister may declare a county, or a portion of a county, to be a congested district. Then it goes on to state the reasons to which the Minister will have regard when making his order declaring an area to be a congested district. I put it to the Minister, in all seriousness, that every Deputy is most enthusiastic about solving the problem of congestion. One Minister is as anxious to see this problem solved and settled as another. But, if we are to get down to solid facts in relation to the problem of congestion, as it exists in this country today, we must realise that if we had the entire Six Counties of Northern Ireland—the Six Counties of Ulster—taken in tomorrow morning, uninhabited, there still would not be enough land in those six counties to solve the congestion problem.
That is what happened. You gave them up.
We must bear in mind that an amount of work has already been carried out by the Land Commission regarding the congested districts defined in the Bill. There is a tremendous amount of work still to be done in that regard when we see that the entire province of Connacht, at the moment, is not alone an undeveloped area, but is a complete province for the purpose of this Bill. In relation to land congestion, the entire province of Connacht is a congested district.
We see in theStatistical Abstract of Ireland, 1960, that Connacht is shown as having, in 1955, 99,823 holdings. We see here that 19,514 of those holdings do not exceed 10 acres each, that 12,217 holdings do not exceed 15 acres and that 36,121 holdings have between 15 acres and 30 acres each. That entire province comes within the scope of this section, and comes within the power of the Minister to be relieved of the congestion problem in the Bill.
We now come to the counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal. County Monaghan is not referred to in the Bill. When this section is passed I recommend that the Minister should add considerably to the 1909 list of congested districts, as referred to in the Second Schedule of the Bill because the counties of Monaghan and Cavan are not included. Those counties are very similar to the counties of Connacht. We have 51,767 holdings in the counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal and of those 15,247 holdings do not exceed 10 acres, 6,146 holdings do not exceed 15 acres. That shows us that in two counties, which are not congested districts for the purposes of this Bill, we have a congestion problem as urgent to be solved as we have in the entire province of Connacht.
I want to make reference in regard to congestion to the Land Commission Report of 1954-55. We read in that report the comment of Commissioner Kevin O'Sheil and Mr. O'Brien, Secretary of the Land Commission. They expressed an opinion as to what an uneconomic holding was and they so decided that where a holding is at least of sufficient size and character to support, within its boundaries, a man and his wife in full comfort it is called an economic holding. When it falls below that level it is known as an uneconomic holding. Both the former Commissioner O'Sheil and Mr. O'Brien are men of authority in this matter. We see then, when these men expressed that opinion in the Land Commission Report of 1954-55, that practically all the holdings under £20 valuation must be regarded as uneconomic holdings. If we are to go on that, and I presume that we could not possibly go on higher authority, there are some 270,000 uneconomic holdings, which represents 25 per cent of all agricultural holdings in this country. That is an astonishing problem of congestion to be tackled.
There must be, in addition to that, throughout the country, what we can describe as an astonishing number of dwarf holdings from £1 to £4 valuation and from £5 to £6 valuation and they will all have to be tackled in order to make them economic holdings. You have the special circumstances of the congest: he has to obtain work either on bog development schemes, county council road work or he has to seek alternative employment in the interval between selling his very small holding and harvest time. He cannot possibly live on such a very small holding. Therefore, the Land Commission have the job of solving this problem and putting the congests, who are in those dwarfed holdings at the present time, in such a position that they can get a living from the land.
The Minister himself is very familiar with the seriousness of this matter because, speaking here on this problem on the 19th July, 1961, he said:
I referred in my opening statement to the fundamental job of the Land Commission which is the relief of congestion in this country. We estimate that there are between 60,000 and 80,000 uneconomic land owners in this country and these are the first charge on the land of Ireland that may be available for the relief of congestion.
That shows that the Minister is not waiting until today to know the very difficult job that lies ahead of him in an effort, under this section, to solve this very serious problem. Whilst we know the seriousness of the problem in the west of Ireland and in Cavan, Monaghan and elsewhere we often hear it stated that those farmers are unscientific in their methods and that they are not hard workers. They have often been described as lazy.
I want to say for the records of this House that if the owners of those small farms had been lazy, they would have disappeared long ago but because of the hard work, because they were good economists and because they were not afraid to work on the land, many of them are still there. Otherwise, they would have disappeared long ago like many who were much better off and who have disappeared. They survived because they were first-class economists and hard workers. Because these people have succeeded in holding on to their small holdings, they should be encouraged. Their roots are in the land. An effort should be made to keep them on the land rather than encourage them to leave it.
When using his powers under this section to declare an area a congested district, the Minister should take into consideration the commonsense recommendations of the Committee on Small Farms and the recommendations of the NFA, and any legislation he introduces should refer to the country as a whole. Because of the seriousness of the problem of congestion, legislation should cover not only the areas listed in 1909 as congested but the entire country. I have stated that before and the Minister knows my views on it. It is regrettable that the terms of Section 4 allows the Minister to pick out any area he desires. We heard Deputy Faulkner and Deputy Donegan from Louth speak of congestion in that county. I would not be surprised if Deputy Crinion tells us there is congestion in Kildare and Westmeath, as I know there is.
Especially at election times.
One of those Deputies wanted to cure congestion and the other wanted to make it worse.
That is a brilliant comment.
That may or may not be so. The fact remains that we have this great problem of congestion. I hope the Government will not take advantage of this Bill to tell every landowner outside the prescribed congested districts that they will get land. On the statistics placed before us in 1960, land is not available to relieve congestion to the fullest extent. When making orders under this section, the Minister must have regard to the size of the holding, the quality of the land and the various types of farming carried out in different districts. Are there any other ways in which the Minister can be influenced to make an order? The making of an order declaring an area a congested district is something that must be given every consideration. Due notification should be given to Deputies of the Minister's intention to make an order, and that should be given in advance of making an order. I asked the Minister on the last day is there any sound reason why the order should not be laid on the Table of the House.
This was already debatedad nauseam on the amendment.
It does not seem relevant to this section, which deals with the question of congested areas. The Deputy may get an opportunity relevantly to raise it.
I got that opportunity and raised it on the amendment, but the Minister did not convey clearly to the House what reason he had for not dealing with this matter in a more democratic way. This section should refer to the country as a whole. The recommendations made by the NFA and the Small Firms Committee should have been implemented. The Bill should refer to the entire State so that pockets of congestion which exist in every part of Ireland may benefit.
I welcome this section because the Land Commission have created large numbers of uneconomic holdings throughout the country, particularly on the eastern seaboard and in my constituency of Kildare. We have been told from across the House that priority must be given to the places mentioned in the Second Schedule. I should like to take the definition I feel the Minister has in mind—that he is free to declare any area a congested area. I know some areas between Maynooth and Dunboyne where there is a whole series of Land Commission holdings from 22 to 30 acres. There is no hope of giving them extra land. However, this section affords the Minister an opportunity of giving more land to people and of declaring an area like that a congested district. A number of other areas in the constituency come to mind: around Kilmeige, Robertstown; around Newtown, near Kilcock and near Sallins. I should like the Minister to bear those areas in mind.
This section was brought in specifically to enable the Land Commission to undo the bad work they did in the past by creating those congested areas. Some people have said they do not like the Minister having this power of declaring an area a congested district. But who should have it? It is the Minister who is responsible to this House for the working of the Land Commission. Therefore, this power must be vested in him. This is a very welcome section which gives the Minister power to undo the wrongs done by the Land Commission over the years.
(South Tipperary): I again plead with the Minister to consider dealing with the entire country rather than the areas outlined under the 1909 Act. I was surprised at the argument of Deputy Crinion who comes from Kildare. He seems to support the notion that the delineation of the congested areas should lie entirely in the hands of the Minister as and when he thinks fit. None of us will know when the Minister will declare these other areas outside those scheduled as congested areas. He may declare them next month, next year, or in two years. He will give us no indication when he is likely to do so. I suppose we may assume his attitude will be determined to a certain extent by financial considerations. I fail to see why some special treatment should be given to congested areas in one county and not in another. We are all Irishmen. I fail to see why this particular treatment, which sounds like favouritism, should be given to one county rather than another. In my own county there are large areas which could be regarded as congested. I do not see why my county should not receive the same favoured treatment as, say, Roscommon, or any other county mentioned in the Bill.
As Deputy Flanagan said, a final solution to land congestion is not possible. We have not enough land to meet the problem; yet we are asked to believe that by the Minister's approach of picking out certain areas, he will solve the problem. Even the problem in areas mentioned in the Second Schedule cannot be solved. There is no final solution to land congestion because there is not enough land. The Minister tries to give the impression that when he has solved the problem in those areas, he will proceed to the rest of the country. He also seems to gloss over the fact that in those areas there are vast expanses in which there is no congestion. I cannot understand why he does not list the congested areas in the entire country and then deal with them.
Paragraph (a) of the section refers to a county or portion of a county specified in the Second Schedule. I notice that my constituency of Cavan is not included, and I ask the Minister when implementing paragraph (b) to give it the consideration it deserves.
The Deputy should put down an amendment.
I do not need any instructions from that side of the House.
The Deputy does not need any assistance or advice from Deputy McQuillan.
We have over 13,000 holdings in Cavan, and the number of holdings under £30 valuation is roughly five-sixths of the total. That figure in itself should bring home to Deputies that there is tremendous congestion in my county. We have scarcely 30 farms with valuations of over £200. Some holdings range from £2 to £5 valuation, and we have over 1,000 holdings with valuations from £1 to £4. I know the Minister has a very difficult problem since there are 60,000 uneconomic holdings, and I fully realise that in this Bill he is making a tremendous effort to try to grapple with the problem. When it is law, it will not be possible to sell any holding without the Land Commission knowing of it and giving their opinion as to whether it would be suitable for acquisition.
This piece of legislation will be very important to my county because we have been suffering from the problem of congestion for generations. The Minister visited my county and remarked on the great similarity between the small holdings in that county and in his own. We suffer from the added disadvantage that we have no outlet to the sea. We are not disgruntled or complaining. We are a hard-working section of the community. We are small farmers who carry on mixed tillage and dairy farming, and we are very interested in this Bill, and particularly in the portion which says "such other area as may from time to time be declared by order of the Minister to be a congested area". I appeal to the Minister to include my constituency in that provision.
When the Minister is replying, would he indicate to the House how it is proposed to solve the problem of congestion when 75 per cent of the land of the country is in the hands of congests, and the remaining 25 per cent is being worked?
That is not dealt with in Section 4.
It comes under Section 4.
I know the Deputy wants to waste more time. I shall deal with that matter at the appropriate time.
It is not fair to suggest that I want to waste time. We want to go through the Bill section by section, line by line and word by word. This is a very serious matter. When we want to raise some matters the Chair can say: "The Deputy should have raised that matter when the Bill was going through the House." That is why I want to raise these points now. As I said, 75 per cent of the land of this country is in the hands of congests, people who cannot get a living out of it, leaving 25 per cent for everyone else.
Where did the Deputy get those figures? From the NFA, I suppose.
No. The NFA seems to be on the mind of the Taoiseach and the Government in general. I got these figures from theStatistical Abstract of Ireland, 1960.
It goes on to relate that 75 per cent of the land——
It does not, in fact, do any such thing.
Will the Minister tell us what it does say?
Will the Deputy tell us if it says how many holdings are in one ownership?
It does not say that.
Of course, it does not say that. That is how daft the Deputy's statistics are.
I must take it that these are reliable statistics.
Deputy Flanagan knows as well as I do that 75 per cent of the farming community are not on the road.
No one said they are on the road.
The Deputy is as much as saying it.
The Minister is obliged to give this information to the House. These statistics are based on the authority of Commissioner O'Sheil and Mr. O'Brien who is Secretary of the Department of Lands and a Land Commissioner.
It is out of date.
It is not out of date. Mr. O'Brien is not out of date. He is still Secretary of the Department of Lands and a Land Commissioner. The report is not out of date. According to Mr. O'Sheil and Mr. O'Brien, there are 270,000 uneconomic holdings. If that is so, 270,000 uneconomic holdings represent 75 per cent of the agricultural land of this country. I do not know if Deputy Allen and the Minister doubt the opinions of Mr. O'Sheil and Mr. O'Brien. Perhaps I have more confidence in them than the Minister or the Government.
There is no question of that at all.
The Minister is responsible for the Bill.
I have sufficient confidence in the figures furnished by the Land Commission to know that they are based on fact. The Land Commission would not furnish in relation to congested districts, figures which could not be borne out by the facts. That is why I feel that on this section the Minister ought to be reasonable with the House.
Nobody here wants to delay the passing of the Bill but we want to make a good Bill out of it. The opposition to this Bill is of a constructive character. We do not come in here deliberately to obstruct legislation which may be for the common good. Somebody will benefit from it. However, as an Opposition, we have a duty to be constructive in our suggestions. Therefore, we ask the Minister to be a little helpful with us. If there is a little give and take I can assure him that this Bill might go through quicker than he thinks.
This section purports to deal with what in fact is set out in it. A congested area for the purposes of this Act shall be a county or portion of a county specified in the Second Schedule of this Act. This proposition has been debatedad nauseam as to the sinister motives that guided me in writing into this Act what is comprised in the Schedule. In fact, congested areas, as defined in this Act, was taken word for word out of the Land Act, 1909. Might I remind the House that the gentleman who introduced this particular Land Act, Mr. Birrell, was a Liberal. Any Deputy, such as Deputy P. Hogan, who seems completely unaware of the reasons for applying all the Land Acts up to now to these congested areas and for giving them priority is either completely ignorant of the land laws and the land history of this country——
(South Tipperary): That is not so.
——or of the reasons why these areas are deserving of priority and are entitled to priority. That is the reason, too, why these congested areas are included in this Bill. To start off with, they are the places in which, because of our history, the most intensive congestion in our country exists. That is why all the different Land Acts, and Land Commission policy, were directed towards ameliorating the law in some way, in so far as they could go, for these people and for the introduction of such schemes as the migration scheme, and so on, down through the years.
The other enabling subsection is subsection (1) (b) enabling the Minister for Lands from time to time to declare by order a new congested area. The reason for that is quite obvious. Indeed, many Deputies have welcomed the provision. I am perfectly satisfied that if that subsection were not in this section I should have amendments from all sides of the House to include some such power in the section. I must concede straight away that there are pockets in the non-congested counties in which congestion exists. The Land Commission operate in all of these counties from time to time, recognising that there are in different areas in these counties certain pockets of congestion.
So soon as the Land Commission are geared in any particular area to report to the Minister for Lands that they can deal with a certain congestion problem in a non-congested county, the Minister, under the power here, would declare that area a congested area. For certain purposes, a particular townland where there is acute congestion might be picked out. The general powers exercisable by the Land Commission under the provisions of this Act will be applied to that area. As Deputies who study this Act know, there are enabling powers for the Land Commission to give certain help to people to solve their congestion problem. As the Land Commission work proceeds apace in the non-congested counties, no doubt recommendations will come up from time to time from interested parties to have a particular townland or area in a particular county declared congested for the purpose of applying to it the benefits of this Act to which I have referred.
I do not think it is necessary to deal in much detail with subsection (2) of this section because, of course, naturally the Minister would have to have regard to the size of the holdings, the quality of the land and the type of farming carried on in an area to be declared a congested area. It is necessary for me to point out to the House that what may be a family farm in one part of the country, having regard to the type of soil, the land use, convenience of markets, and so on, would not be regarded as an economic unit in perhaps a more remote part of the county with a different soil type. What is conceived here is what every one of us knows. Consider what we would regard as a congested area and by that I do not say it would be necessary to have rundale or intermixed plots. I am quite sure this section will be exercised by any Minister for Lands on the recommendation of his staff as they recommend, step by step, to extend the reliefs given under this Bill to congested areas to non-congested areas.
As Deputy McQuillan pointed out, from time to time, whatever Minister is here will have questions on the Order Paper either asking him about or bringing to his attention the acute congestion existing in a particular place in a non-congested area or, alternatively, questioning why the particular Minister did, in fact, declare an area a congested area under the powers envisaged here. Whatever Minister may occupy the position, either myself or any of my successors, will have to justify his decision on the use of this power to this House. That, of course, is the answer to all the different allegations that have been made here that the power will be exercised by a Minister for Lands for personal reasons or because of political pressure that might be brought to bear upon him. The purpose of the final subsection here is merely to make the rules flexible—that any order made under it may be revoked, changed or substituted. That explains the enabling powers contemplated under section 4 of this Bill.
I do not think any good purpose would be served by having a rehash of what I said on the different amendments to this section or going over all the repetitive arguments made by different Deputies on the amendments to this section. I do not know that I should treat Deputy Seán Collins's allegations in any serious vein. He suggested that the Land Commission is manipulated on completely political lines and that it is a large inept organisation that never did anything. The Deputy must be completely unaware of the work that has been done by the Land Commission down the years for the relief of congestion in the congested districts and outside them.
Let me say also to any critics of the area of migrants' holdings that the people who were brought there in these area migrations from the different parts of the western seaboard were at least brought into conditions that were one thousand times better than what they left and the little patches they left behind them contributed in their way towards relieving their neighbours. Deputies are inclined to forget that but of course we are living in a different day and age. The new family farm which I have laid down has not, incidentally, got anything to do with this Bill because that is already in force in a policy directive from me to the Land Commission. The directive is that where the land is available, that should be the standard to be achieved, a holding of 40 or 45 acres of reasonably good land.
Let me say also that the previous standard holding of 33 acres of first-class land, or its equivalent, worked out in actual practice in many instances at farms of 40 acres or more. What the new concept in actual practice is getting around is the fact that in congested areas people who had already been dealt with by the Land Commission, or laid off in holdings of up to £10 valuation, were excluded. Nobody has suggested—I, least of all— that 45-acre holdings can be provided for the whole of the community who do not already occupy such holdings or holdings up to that standard. The aim of the new policy is that that standard should be achieved where land is available.
The Minister mentioned 33 acres of first-class land. Does that acreage correspond as near as possible to his new definition of the 40 to 45 acres?
Then, in other words, there is no change in the standard family holding as far as the non-congested holdings are concerned?
Of course, there is a change. I know that the Deputy is trying to trip me up.
I am not trying to trip up the Minister.
He knows the definition of the 40 to 45 acres good land, or a bigger amount of land if it is of lesser quality. Deputies know quite well that you may have 1,000 acres of what I call snipe grass and being an uneconomic holding, it all depends on the type of land that is being dealt with in the particular case. At all events, I must refute the allegations made by Deputy Seán Collins although it is refreshing to see him here on the odd occasions he honours us with his presence.
He is here as often as the Minister was when he was in Opposition.
Surely that has nothing to do with the section.
Deputy Flanagan made a case for Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal and of course there is power to include congested pockets in these areas when they are reached, or any areas in these counties or any other counties where the Land Commission are geared to deal with the problem in those non-congested areas.
I expected that Deputy Dolan would have said "Thank you very much" to me for mentioning Cavan.
The case was made by Deputy Dolan for Cavan and of course it is true to say—I think I have already said it—that if this provision were not in this section, we would have had many Deputies from different sides of the House putting down amendments in order to have a similar provision inserted. That is the section in a nutshell. It is a very essential section and it is particularly essential to deal with these isolated pockets in the non-congested counties. There may be other sections of the Bill in respect of which Deputies may claim that there are matters of principle or land law to be argued but I suggest that this is purely a procedural or enabling section and no matter of any moment arises from it except to enable the Minister, as he and his staff are able to do it, to apply the benefits of the Bill to congested pockets outside the congested areas.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 4, after line 30 to insert the following paragraph:
"(iii) the amount of an advance under this section;".
This whole scheme is intended to assist the small to moderate farmers to better themselves by moving out of a congested area where the possibilities of expansion are negligible and where the competition for available land is already too intense. It is not intended to be used by big farmers as a convenient source of credit. I consider therefore that from time to time it may be necessary to fix the maximum amount of money which one individual may get. This is really a drafting amendment to remove doubts, in case there were any doubts, that the Land Commission had not the power to put on that limit.
The Minister's amendment relates to the amount of the advance under this section. In the case of a congest who is giving up his holding in order to obtain one elsewhere on money advanced by the Land Commission, will he bear in mind the question of that congest requiring a certain amount of capital for the stocking and the working of the land? Does the Minister propose to cut him down, so to speak, to the mere market value of the holding? Or does he propose to make additional allowances in the case of a congest who surrenders his holding under section 5 and who will then be dependent on the amount of money provided for him by the Minister?
Certain considerations must be taken into account. The Minister will have the regulating of the amount that will be made available to such a congest. The congest may be going to a new district; he may have to clear up outstanding debts before he leaves his present district. He may need moneys to cope with certain domestic worries before going to a new holding. Will additional allowances be available over and above the amount paid for the holding? Will the cost of transfer be covered, including the transfer of stock, equipment, implements, and so forth?
The Minister should consider this aspect sympathetically and, if there is not already provision in the Bill, then he should take steps between now and the Report Stage to ensure that such a situation will be adequately covered. Cases are found to arise in which further financial assistance over and above the market value of the holding will be absolutely essential. If the congest migrates to a new district, he will probably be unknown in the area, unknown to the bank and unknown to the shopkeepers. He will have to be put in the position of being able to purchase stock for his new holding and putting the land into good heart with fertilisers and manures for the purpose of tillage. The financial circumstances of congests are, on the whole, bad because of the standard of living which they have to endure. I would urge the Minister to be generous in his consideration of the financial circumstances of such people.
Under paragraph (a) of subsection (2), dealing with the supplemental or incidental provisions, I gather the Minister can jack up the amount of the advance made. I gather the Minister wants that written into the Bill itself rather than leave it to regulation.
Is that the idea?
First, Deputy Flanagan's remarks are more relevant to the section than they are to this amendment. For the purpose of the amendment, we can theoretically visualise a man selling 17 acres to the Land Commission and then demanding from the Land Commission the necessary finances to buy out the Aga Khan, or someone like that. That is the technical reason for this amendment; it is to ensure that the Land Commission can limit the amount made available. Having said that, I can deal with the other matters raised on the section itself.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 4, line 55, after "tenant in common)" to insert "to whom in the opinion of the Land Commission an advance ought to be made and".
It has been suggested to me that, if an applicant were technically qualified under subsection (4) (a), (b) and (c), he might be able to assert that the word "may" on page 4, line 13, was mandatory and the Land Commission would have to give him the advance, whether they considered him suitable or not. This is a drafting amendment on lines similar to the previous amendment.
I gather that the Land Commission at that stage—"to whom in the opinion of the Land Commission an advance ought to be made"—are making a decision on the suitability of the applicant from the point of view of his knowledge of agriculture and his general circumstances, which are taken into consideration under other aspects of the Bill also?
Could it be the case that the Land Commission might make such a recommendation in the case of a landless man?
No. It is quite obvious what is contemplated in this particular section.
Amendment No. 10, in the name of Deputy Oliver J. Flanagan, has been ruled out of order as tending to impose a charge on State Funds.
I should like to say a few words on the section. They may clear the air. I welcome the idea behind the section. A great deal of good may be done under the section, provided the dead hand of finance does not operate. In the 1950 Land Act, there was a section giving authority to the Land Commission to move into the open market and purchase suitable farms on which migrants or suitable tenants could be placed. The feeling of the House at the time was that that could be a very useful provision in helping to relieve the pressure from congestion. In fact, we found that little or no use was made of the section. I gather finance was the major obstacle. Section 5 of this Bill appears, on the face of it, to offer considerable possibilities. Again, unless the Minister is in a position to say he has control here, a control which was not available to his predecessors, over the purse, his power will be greatly limited.
One thing I like about the section is the fact that the Land Commission and the Minister are given a certain amount of flexibility in dealing with this particular aspect of land provision. Because it is a new approach it is highly desirable that there should be flexibility in the operation of the section. However, I should like the Minister to let us know how far he can intervene or interfere in the actual workings of this section. Does it bring the Minister closely into the question of land acquisition or the question of the suitability of tenants in any way? That is something I should not like to see brought about. Naturally I want to see the Minister responsible to the House for policy, the broad, general lines of Land Commission activity, but I should not like to see the Minister with any closer association with land acquisition or intervening in the functions of the Land Commission. Perhaps the Minister would clarify that.
The Minister for Finance has his nose in here again, in subsection (2) paragraph (a), where his consent is necessary in relation to regulations made by the Minister for Lands. I should like to know whether Deputies would be in a position to question the activities of the Land Commission through Parliamentary questions, and what would be the position in regard to questions asked in this House on the activities of the Land Commission arising from their operations under section 5. One thing we must guard here is the right to probe into what is happening and, apart from the fact that the Minister himself may not have functions in regard to the day-to-day administration of the Land Commission and the decisions as to who is suitable for allocations of land, at the same time, the right of a Deputy to put questions to the Minister here that he can answer on behalf of the Land Commission is a desirable thing to keep.
The question of ministerial responsibility would seem to be outside the scope of this section.
Why is it?
The section deals with advances for purchase of land by persons in congested areas. I do not see how you can enlarge on that.
I am not enlarging on it. I am simply asking for clarification of difficulties I see. I want to see how far we can go here in questioning the Minister. Will we be meeting opposition to putting down questions on this because it is new? There has been a tendency, as we all know, with recent legislation to restrict the powers of Deputies with regard to eliciting information. There are other Ministers coming into the House and getting Bills through I might almost say under false pretences by calming the fears of Deputies and telling them: "It is all right. When the Bill is passed Deputies will be able to get information on the functions of the particular body set up." No sooner have the Bills become Acts than the Ministers disown any responsibility whatever. I do not say that will happen under this but I should like the Minister to indicate to the House whether or not he contemplates any changes in this that would restrict the right of reply to questions on the activities of his Department in connection with this section.
The idea behind this section is good and as far as the Labour Party are concerned they will encourage the Government and the Department in every way possible to show energy, courage and enthusiasm in the administration of the powers which come within this section. It is only one of the many weapons in the armoury to tackle this problem which has been in the country for generations. The Minister himself mentioned that the existing congested areas were embodied in an Act of Parliament passed in 1909 by a former regime in this country. The situation may not be as bad now, perhaps because so many people have been driven out of the country, but the fact that a definition of what certain areas were in 1909 still stands is a terrible indictment of activity or lack of activity on the part of the Land Commission over the years.
The Land Commission should utilise section 5 to the utmost and take advantage of the elasticity which is there or which has been suggested should be made available. As far as elasticity is concerned, there should be no fear of the members of this House in the mind of the Department, the people who will be responsible for the implementation of the section. The former attitude of cautiousness which has motivated the people responsible down through the years should be shed. The idea: "Do not do anything for fear you would make a mistake" should be banished as far as the Land Commission is concerned.
The Minister should not be so critical of Deputy Seán Collins's remarks here on Land Commission activities. In many instances their activities have been exasperatingly slow and their sins of omission have been painful. When it is all boiled down a great deal of the blame must attach to the Governments because no matter how well-intentioned the officials may have been at times and no matter what enthusiasm they may have felt about the acquisition of certain lands, and so forth, if the old life line of finance was withdrawn from them there was very little they could do. I am asking for an assurance from the Minister that in regard to any restrictions which may be imposed from time to time, this is one of the last sections where we shall see such restrictions in operation.
This section could be responsible for doing a great deal of good and, therefore, I have very little objection to it. I should like to ask the Minister whether he can give a guarantee that he will not find himself cut down by the Minister for Finance in the necessary funds for the making of these advances. It is very important that the work of the Land Commission under this section should not be in any way hindered by the Minister for Finance.
We notice from the explanatory memorandum that it is proposed that a scheme should be operated by the Land Commission under which a progressive farmer, whose holding is situated in a congested area, could obtain a loan to enable him to purchase a viable farm of his own choice, his existing holding to be sold to the Land Commission for land settlement purposes. There are a few points which I should like the Minister to clarify in relation to this section. Assuming for a moment that a farmer living in a congested area and wishing to obtain a holding elsewhere is prepared to sell his congested holding to the Land Commission but feels that the Land Commission are not giving him what he considers to be the market value of his holding, what then happens?
This is a case where the Land Commission will have to be extremely generous and will have to take into consideration the fact that if the land owner put his land up for sale in an area where there was very great congestion, he would receive twice the normal market value. It is my experience as an auctioneer that in many cases where a small holding is put up for sale in an area where there is very great congestion, it will fetch what would be twice the normal market value.
The Land Commission, therefore, will probably meet with many obstacles and difficulties in relation to the real value of land held by congests. It is common knowledge that there is greater demand for land that is surrounded by congests than there is for land where the congestion problem is not so great.
When the Land Commission go to pay for such land, will they be prepared to allow for the fact that, because of the demand for land in congested areas and the anxiety of congests to obtain land, the price should be higher? If land is now selling at the rate of £120 per statute acre, which, according to the Land Commission would be the market value, I venture to say that there are many instances of holdings being offered for sale in congested areas which, because of the anxiety on the part of congests to obtain land so that they may eke out a better livelihood, so that they may be able to supplement their family incomes, fetched up to £200 and £300 per acre. The Land Commission must be aware of many such instances.
That is why I should like to hear from the Minister how it is proposed to arrive at the value of a holding in a congested area. The market value of land in congested areas has soared very high and is soaring higher. That is where the demand is likely to be greatest. The Land Commission may not realise the price which land is likely to fetch, particularly land which is about to be vacated by a congest who may be seeking a farm of his choice elsewhere.
If a congest who is leaving a congested district has found a farm of his choice elsewhere, in an area not scheduled as a congested area, he may have to face very keen competition for it. If the local people bid against him at an auction or otherwise, the fact that the Land Commission would be financing the congest will make it very difficult for others, who have not the backing of the Land Commission, to procure land. I should like to know what the position is in relation to the value of the land which will be paid by the Land Commission to the congest and the amount they will pay in respect of the holding of his choice which he will purchase elsewhere.
In relation to the scheme which will be operated by the Land Commission, Deputy McQuillan is right when he asks the Minister to what extent Deputies can query the existence and the terms of this scheme. There will be little use in the Minister telling the House at a later stage that the Land Commission are operating the scheme and that he has no function in regard to it. This is a scheme to be financed by the Minister for Finance and, although the scheme is being operated by the Land Commission, the Minister has direct responsibility.
Good can be done under this section. The Minister will have more problems than one to deal with. It is noted that an essential part of the loan arrangement is that the applicant's present holding be located in a congested area and that he should agree to sell it to the Land Commission for the relief of congestion. Actual possession of a congested holding is not essential for the future use of a farm bought under the provisions of this section. There is no reason why landless men could not be considered for a congested holding. I put it to the Minister that there is nothing to stop a landless man from buying himself a small holding and thereupon describing himself as an uneconomic holder. Landless men should have equal rights with congests in regard to this matter. In rural Ireland, there are a very large number of people getting their living from the land who take land in conacre. Many of them pay out very substantial sums of money each year for conacre. It is well known that in some cases landless men can pay anything up to £500 per annum. The Land Commission have been impressed by the activities of such people who derive their livelihood solely from agriculture.
What have landless men got to do with this section?
I am trying to bring them in.
The Deputy was ruled out of order in trying to bring them in.
Section 5, as amended, deals with advances for purchases.
I respectfully suggest that the Land Commission ought to consider landless men for advances in congested areas in the same way as congests living in congested areas are considered.
Section 5 deals with qualified landowners in congested areas. The subject mentioned by the Deputy does not arise on the section.
There is nothing to stop a landless man from buying a small holding and the moment he does so he becomes a congest. I cannot see what the difference is. The landless man who buys a very small holding becomes a congest and gets the full benefit of this section. I think it is unreasonable in that regard.
I should like the Minister to say what happens in the case of a smallholder who may be debarred from the benefits of this section because he is in England. Will a smallholder who emigrated and is working in England at present be debarred from these benefits? This may be the case of many from the west and elsewhere. They may be working in England, trying to earn enough capital to return and settle down at home. It would be unfair if such people did not qualify. The Minister must know of many such instances in congested areas and other areas. Will they be considered for advances under section 5 for the purchase of a holding of their choice, or for the surrender of their holding to the Land Commission if they do not wish to return?
In the case of a man who had had to go to England to earn a living, I should like the Minister to give us an assurance that if the man does not want to part with his holding but wants to return to it at a later stage, the Land Commission will not interfere with his holding without giving him the full benefit of this section. If the Land Commission are prepared to assist him in financing the purchase of a farm of his choice on his return from England, that is all right, but if they are going to take steps to acquire the holding because of his absence in England——
Deserted holdings have nothing to do with this. Why does the Deputy keep on with these irrelevancies?
I do not want the Minister to lose his patience. I am only seeking information. I merely want him to give these guarantees. Special consideration should be given to helping such people to return from England and enabling them to purchase farms. That is certainly relevant. I think the Minister should be generous in considering these people because it is surely the policy of the Government to settle as many families on the land as it can maintain.
Vast numbers of smallholders have emigrated with their wives and families. Do we not want to encourage them to come back? Here we have an opportunity of making advances——
An opportunity to waste more time.
——for the purchase of land to persons in congested areas. The Minister knows that many people have emigrated from the congested areas.
The Deputy has not got as far as the Cypriots yet, but he will.
It is a little hotter there than here.
I do not propose to delay the House any longer but I want to get information. The sections may not be going through as quickly as the Minister would like but as an Opposition, we have a duty to extract information and that is what we are trying to do. I want to know will the Minister make any advances under this section to people who are in England and want to return to live on the land. I think we should assist and encourage them in every possible way and financial provision should be made for the numerous smallholders who had to fly out of the country because they could not eke out an existence here.
(South Tipperary): I want to get some clarification of this matter. I understand these loans will be administered by the Land Commission on the same lines as the Agricultural Credit Corporation works, free of any ministerial or political interference. The Minister has mentioned that it would be inappropriate to set out financial and administrative details in a rigid provision in the Bill and I take it he wants to wait until he drafts regulations under this section. Could he tell us what he estimates, if he has made an estimate, the annual cost will be in hard cash of administering this novel scheme? I am sure that when drafting the Bill he must have considered the cost and must have asked the Land Commission officials to give him an idea of what the amount would be in any year. Can he give us any rough figure?
I want to inquire also about the purchase of a farm from a man in a congested area and giving him money to buy a new farm. If he is a smallholder and the Land Commission want to buy the holding from him and they want him to go out and buy a viable farm—or he wants to do so himself—and the Land Commission give him a loan, do we understand correctly that the general principle will apply and that the man will get the market value of his holding, whether it is big or small? Is there any danger that pressure may be brought to bear on such a man in such a way that in order to get his loan, he might be forced into giving up his land at something less than the economic price? Every effort should be made to avoid that situation and no pressure should be brought to bear on him through withholding the loan or anything of that kind. That situation may not arise but it could arise and I ask the Minister to say if such a possibility is guarded against.
The idea of giving power of self-migration was advocated by me for many years here. I want to leave this section as flexible as possible as is set out in the explanatory memorandum. That is why it is drafted in this way.
I should like Deputies to be clear as to what we envisaged will happen under the section. The enabling powers in this section will not have the effect that immediately seems to strike some Deputies. The idea in the section will in many cases have to be sold to the individual farmers concerned. What it does mean is that a progressive farmer in congested pockets will be enabled, with his own savings, to purchase an outside farm and surrender his own farm, at an agreed price, to the Land Commission. Let it be clearly understood that under the procedure envisaged in the section, the first thing that must be achieved is the agreement of the individual farmer concerned. There must, first of all, be his agreement as to what price he is prepared to accept from the Land Commission for his land.
Will the Land Commission deal directly with him or with his solicitor or auctioneer?
Does it matter? In the ultimate, the dealing will be with the individual concerned. The individual must agree. We must have agreement with him on the actual price he is prepared to accept for his holding before we come to the stage of providing the loan for him to go out and solve his own congestion problem. The individual who will be selected by the Land Commission must, in the first instance, be willing to avail of the scheme, to go outside and buy a farm of his choice.
I should like Deputies to remember that when the Land Commission come to lend this man money, it is with a loan they are providing him. They agree to purchase the farm he is leaving in the congested pocket. They are prepared to make a loan available to him of whatever money he will need to purchase the new farm of which, of course, they will approve. The individual is getting a loan of money. He will be concerned—this is in answer to some of the arguments made here —to get the type of farm at the type of price he is satisfied to pay because it is he, the individual farmer, who will be paying the money in the ultimate.
He is getting no present from the Land Commission except in so far as he can be satisfied he has got a good tempting price for the holding he is surrendering and that he is getting the necessary financial accommodation to enable him to purchase the outside holding. I cannot conceive the Land Commission selecting anyone under this scheme except good, go-ahead farmers, probably with what we in the west would call dry money of their own, who are willing to face circumstances and make progress for themselves.
In a number of cases, farmers of that kind have already availed of such circumstances in local districts to try to help themselves in this way out of their own savings and with moneys they have got from relatives abroad and so forth. At all events, the scheme will have the advantage that it is still another weapon in the hands of the Land Commission for dealing with acute congestion in the west. There are many areas still left in the west where we have the rundale system and where rearrangement is necessary. Every scheme of rearrangement entails the agreement of those who are left there. From time to time, we get questions in the House about land being a long time in the hands of the Land Commission. In some of those cases, the land is there because rearrangement schemes have failed. Rearrangement schemes depend on the co-operation of the people concerned. Under this scheme, where we might not succeed in getting the agreement of one or more individuals left behind, it might be possible, if they are progressive people and are willing to look for a holding outside, that they, too, would take advantage of the provisions of this section.
In regard to the point made by Deputy McQuillan on the question of Parliamentary procedure, this provision would not in any way restrict present Parliamentary procedure. I am so advised and I so accept. I would, of course, say that in these cases there would be many dealings between individuals and the Land Commission that any Minister would not wish to disclose in the Dáil, or otherwise publicly, because circumstances will vary in different cases and family circumstances will sometimes arise.
The ultimate fact remains that what the Land Commission will be concerned with and what the Minister for Lands will be concerned with is to get people out of those congested pockets and enable the Land Commission to go ahead with rearrangement. It may come as a shock to many Deputies to learn that in many instances, even with the prospect of a new holding, at the last moment people will refuse to accept. Therefore, one of the urgent aims of the Land Commission will be to encourage people in such pockets of congestion to avail of the provisions of this section.
The Minister agrees many of them will?
The powers conferred here were never there before. I am hoping many of them will. Of course, many factors have changed. For instance, when I first came into this House, in my part of the country it was most difficult to get people to accept migration, whereas now people from Kilcock in the midlands are as familiar down at fairs in the west of Ireland as the local people are. As I might say, space has contracted so much during the past 15 to 20 years that people in the west do not regard the midlands or the eastern part of the country as such a foreign land.
A migrant came from Galway to Laois and he is the most decent and progressive farmer in the whole area.
The Chair has no doubt, but the Minister should not be interrupted at this stage to inform him of this.
A kindly interruption.
What about Mayomen?
I do not think we have any.
I will not be drawn into combat on that score. When it is suggested that the Land Commission must be generous in the operation of this scheme, we must remember it entails the taxpayer being generous also, and of course the Land Commission will have to pay the full market value for the surrendered farm. By full market value, we mean the price the owner of the land is prepared to accept.
Is it not a loan?
Some Deputies argue that the Land Commission would not pay the market value for the surrendered holding, that the market value would be higher in a congested area, and it was suggested that the Land Commission might force the man to sell his land at less than market value. It is true that in areas where there are land-hungry men, land does fetch a high price. The Land Commission realise that and where land is taken over, prices are fixed by the Appeals Tribunal. Everybody knows that the market value of land varies from county to county, from townland to townland.
In the first instance, the man must be satisfied with the price the Land Commission are prepared to offer before availing of this particular scheme. He goes to purchase the outside holding of his own choice, with which he is satisfied, in the open market. As some Deputy suggested here, he is in a stronger position because the Land Commission are behind him in providing a loan for this purpose and that would be an encouragement to other aspirants for such land.
This is completely at variance with all the complaints we had in this House on my Estimate and by way of question—that one with a long purse, or the local gombeen man, can buy up any land that is going and prevent the small congest from improving his own lot by buying land. Deputies cannot have it both ways. If through this scheme we are in the position of putting this self-migrant, this man who is prepared to solve his own problem by borrowing money from the Land Commission, in a position to compete with the man with the long purse, then we are righting something that Deputies have been alleging, as long as I have been Minister for Lands, was a great wrong to the small farmer or the congest in this country.
I do not think there is anything else I can usefully add on this section. It is a new section which contemplates a new approach to the relief of congestion. From the taxpayer's point of view, let me add something which I have not said before on this question. There is one big difficulty in so far as the working of this section is concerned: it will be up to the Land Commission to pick out the particular area where they will apply the benefits of this section.
Having picked out that area, and having picked out the men who are prepared to take advantage of the provisions of this section, they will then be in the position to save, in my view, a lot of official time. If people are familiar with the working of Land Commission officers in rural areas, they will realise, particularly where the Land Commission have been trying for years past to get a land settlement through, the amount of time that is inevitably wasted by continuing visits of the inspectorate staff to a particular area.
For instance, a scheme may have failed five, six or eight years ago because two or three men were not prepared to co-operate in the rearrangement then proposed. Then perhaps one man dies and the local Deputy, or somebody else, comes along to the Land Commission and says : "I think they will agree now if you send a man there". An official goes out and he comes up against the same trouble, without success or agreement being reached. This same procedure is going on again and again, year after year, and we have all this waste of official time. The fundamental reason for the failure of these rearrangement schemes, and the fundamental reason, in my experience, for the failure to achieve co-operation, is the scarcity of the essential commodity, which is the land available in the area.
If the Land Commission in their wisdom now take any particular estate, with which they might be concerned, and if they realise that at least two men must leave that area before it is possible to reach an acceptable rearrangement scheme agreeable to those concerned, then they can use this section and can pick out two from that area and say : "Go ahead; will you agree on the prices for those two particular holdings? If you see other holdings for sale at your price, you can purchase them".
Then they do not need to come to that area until the land is available or until those concerned avail themselves of the new provisions under the self-migratory scheme. For those reasons, I commend this section to the House and suggest that it will be of tremendous importance in enabling the Land Commission to deal with the real hard core of congestion in the congested counties and in those rundale estates.
In view of the fact that the Land Commission will be preparing this scheme, will it be possible, because of the volume of queries which will be addressed to Deputies and Senators, for the Minister to circulate the draft scheme among members of the Oireachtas for their information? A lot will depend on co-operation from public representatives, clergy and others, in order to enlighten people on it. It is very desirable, when the scheme is designed, that we should know all about it so that we can inform our constituents. This would be a great help if the Minister has no objection to it.
No, I have no objection. It is obvious that any Deputy in a congested area would know all about this scheme before the ink was dry. That is all the better.
There is one snag in the scheme and I am sure the Minister realises it as well as I do. As the regulations stand, there are only a certain number of areas designated as congested districts and these are set out in section 4 of the Second Schedule: Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, portion of County Clare and portion of west Cork. I am quite sure that Deputies who represent those areas will agree that it is a wonderful thing that the Land Commission will not alone take the people who are living in congested areas out and give them lands in the midlands, but, in addition, will now give them money to go to other parts of the country and bid against local people for farms of land which come on the market. If the Minister uses his powers for the purpose of declaring other areas congested districts it will, to a certain extent, relieve the situation.
I am quite sure he appreciates the position where at the present time if a small farm of land up to 30, 40 or 50 acres, which is considered a small farm in County Meath, comes on the market there will be a number of local people anxious to buy it. There is the local man, who has an uneconomic holding. There is the man who has gone to England, who came from farming stock and who has enough money to buy a farm. There are the people who have been working locally as conacre farmers all their lives and they are anxious to obtain a bit of land. They will come to the auction and they will bid. If it were a big farm, they would not have a hope of getting it because they would not have the money, and with competition at the present time they would have no chance of buying it. Those middle-sized farms to which the Minister has referred in this section, are the ones which the people who wish to become farmers, or who wish to make themselves economic holders, want to get. At present that is the only way in which the people I have described can obtain either holdings or additional holdings. This section enables people who live in congested districts to go to the auctions in those areas and bid against the local people.
Last week I met a small farmer who had his eye on a farm which was expected to come up for sale within the next six or 12 months. He told me : "If it comes up before the Land Bill passes. I will probably buy it; but if the Land Bill passes before it comes up for sale, it looks as if I will not be able to touch it." He added something which I think was very true. He said it appears as if we have reached the stage where the only hope the man who lives in an area which is not a congested district—I refer particularly to Meath—has of getting land after this Bill passes is when somebody dies belonging to him and leaves him the land.
The Minister may not have looked at that aspect of the case. I am not quarrelling with him for introducing this section, but he should have another look at it before the Bill goes through finally. I am sure he will agree it is going to impose a very serious hardship on a decent, hardworking section of the community, unless the Minister feels it is not desirable that people who live outside congested districts should acquire land. I should hate to think that that was the view of the Minister or the Land Commission.
I do not want to comment on any other portion of the section. I just want to find out from the Minister if he has considered that aspect and if there is any way in which he thinks he can prevent happening what I have just described. I assure the Minister that in the areas not congested, we have hundreds of thousands of small farmers living on uneconomic holdings. They may not be living in the dire poverty in which the people in the west are living. They may be trying to earn sufficient money to enlarge their holdings. They may be holding on foolishly, under the impression that if an estate is divided, they will be given the attention to which they are entitled, but which, under present circumstances, they are not getting.
The only hope they have had up to now is to save the money and purchase it. If this section will prevent that, then I think the Minister is doing a disservice. The people he is preventing from getting land are the progressive farmers. I know a big number of them in Meath. Those people have had to work for the money to buy land or to increase their holding. Whether they purchase land or whether the Land Commission eventually gives it to them, they usually turn out to be good farmers. They know what it is to work land.
I would ask the Minister to say whether or not he considers these people are being fairly treated under this section. Maybe I have minister-preted the section completely. Maybe there is an angle I do not see; but reading it as I have, it looks to me as if money will be made available to certain selected individuals living in the congested areas to enable them to bid against the people who require land in areas where there is supposed to be no congestion or which are not listed as congested.
The way the Deputy is interpreting the section is wrong. Subsection (4) (a) provides that the holding of the tenant or proprietor must be situated in a congested area. In a different district in one of the congested counties, he can avail of the provisions of this section if a farm is going. Obviously, it would not be in his own parish, because otherwise he would not be scheduled to get help under this section, but in a place where the Land Commission wanted it. The Deputy also seems to have missed the point that, when the farmer in the congested area is approved by the Land Commission for help under this section, an agreement is made about price, and when he goes to purchase an outside farm, he must tell the Land Commission inspector the farm he proposes to go for.
We did not know that before.
I thought that was obvious to everybody. If the Deputy reads the section carefully, he will see his interpretation is not correct. It is true under this section that, if there is a farm in any non-congested area and if the farmer is approved by the Land Commission for the purchase of that farm, they would give him the help contemplated under this section.
In dealing with this land problem, the time has come to forget about borders. Goodness knows, we have enough of them. One just cannot put a wall around the position existing in any country. The fact remains that we have these intensely congested pockets in the scheduled areas, and in order to do anything with what is left, some people must come out of these. This is a way of dealing with the problem. As Deputy Tully suggests, it is not the sons of local farmers who purchase holdings for sale in all cases. On hundreds of occasions on this Estimate I have listened to the complaint about the man with the long purse buying up these holdings. If that did not come from Deputy Tully, it certainly came from many Deputies.
That would be the fellow from 100 acres upwards.
It was alleged that it was the local man with 300 acres in the Deputy's constituency who bought up all the land available on the market and cut out the small man from purchasing. Surely this provision is at least a method of dealing with that problem? I said on the earlier section that the Minister for Lands can schedule congestion in any county outside the congested areas. Immediately an area is scheduled, under section 4 all these provisions will apply to the full, the same as they are applicable now to the congested areas defined in the Bill. That is the real answer to the Deputy's fears. It is not contemplated that the whole of the west of Ireland, or those who would be approved under this section, would suddenly descend on the Deputy's constituency and buy up every piece of land.
I am prepared to agree with the Minister that we should forget about borders. I would abolish the border which says that only those designated here are entitled to this assistance. If the Minister will do away with that border, he has an ideal opportunity of giving the same assistance to anybody entitled to land who wishes to acquire it.
The Minister did not know whether or not I stated that people with long purses were buying up land. It is true people with long purses bought land which I brought to the notice of the Land Commission. They were allowed to buy it. However, I am not talking about those people. I am talking about the small farmers and the landless men who have acquired sufficient money to buy land but who will be prevented from buying it because of the operation of this section. The Minister has not allayed my fears in that regard.