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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 28 Oct 1971

Vol. 256 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 34: Lands.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £4,161,000 be granted to defray the charge that will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March, 1972, for the salaries and expenses of the Offices of the Minister for Lands and of the Irish Land Commission.

By agreement the following motion is being considered with the Estimate:

That, in connection with the supply granted for the year ended 31st March, 1971, the Dáil takes note of the activities of the Department of Lands.

In line with the agreed procedure adopted for the last few years, I propose to take the Votes for Lands and Forestry together this year also. However, as there was a fairly full discussion on 23rd and 24th March, last, on the Supplementary Estimate for Forestry for 1970-71, I propose to deal in the main, as far as Forestry is concerned, with the 1971-72 Estimate.

At the conclusion of the debate the motion in respect of Vote 34 referring to Lands will be put to the House. Vote 35 and the general motion on the activities of the Department will then be formally moved in turn.

The Lands Vote, No. 34, this year shows a net increase of £306,000 compared with last year, which, in turn, showed a net decrease of £473,000 on the previous year. I shall commence by explaining the salient features of this Estimate—especially those items which reflect a significant change from last year's provision—and continue with a review of the principal activities of the Land Commission during the two years ended 31st March, 1971.

Provision for salaries, wages and allowances is made under subhead A. The amount required this year represents an increase of £265,000 on last year's provision. This increase is mainly attributable to the full impact in the current financial year of the cost of the 12th round pay increases.

Recruits in the new sub-professional grade of estates officers referred to in 1969 took up duty last year. They are employed in various areas where they have taken on a range of the more routine type duties hitherto falling on the inspectorate, thus releasing inspectors for the more exacting and difficult aspects of the land programme.

The first part of subhead B relates for the most part to travelling and subsistence expenses incurred in connection with the inspection, survey and allotment of lands under the Land Acts. The increase of £36,650 is mainly due to the provision of £34,000 for office equipment. This is a new item in the Vote and is included in accordance with a recent arrangement whereby Departments will carry the appropriate provision for certain items of equipment in their own Votes. Previously the Vote for the Stationery Office had provided for the entire amount required by the various Departments and Offices for this purpose.

Part (2) of subhead B provides for direct payment to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs for all services rendered by that Department; this has now become standard procedure. The total amount required this year is £143,900.

The moneys required under subhead D are in the nature of statutory commitments. They represent the taxpayers' contribution in the current year towards the service of land purchase debt accumulated, since 1923, on both tenanted and untenanted land. The total contribution this year, viz. £1,373,500, constitutes one of the biggest items in the Vote and represents nearly one-third of the entire net Estimate. Of the total subhead provision, some £1,204,600 will be utilised to make good deficiencies in the land bond fund arising from the statutory halving of annuities under the Land Act, 1933. Indeed, the overall increase of £78,655 in the subhead this year is attributable mainly to the halving of purchase instalments payable by new allottees as land settlement proceeds. All allottees in congested areas, together with migrants and displaced employees getting holdings in non-congested areas, get the benefit of the halving of annuities.

As subhead G is in four separate parts, I think I can best deal with it by referring to each part individually. The funds being provided this year under subheads G 1 and G 2 amount in all to £175,000. This represents a reduction of £275,000 on last year's provision which, in turn, was £275,000 less than the provision for 1969-70. I need hardly say that, in common with other Departments, my Department has been called on to bear its share of the stringent limitations on public spending just at the present time.

Subhead G 1 involves two items, viz. the purchase of land by the Land Commission for cash in the open market and the provision of life annuities under section 6 of the land Act, 1965. As Deputies are aware, purchases for cash are now open to all the general purposes of the Land Acts. During the year ended 31st March, 1970, a total of 198 properties, aggregating 9,010 acres, were purchased for cash under section 7, at a price of £722,666. The cut-back in the cash provision had its effect during the year ended 31st March last when only about one-third of this area was purchased at a cost of £240,500.

Section 6 of the Land Act, 1965, provides basic authority for the scheme of life annuities for elderly, incapacitated or blind persons who voluntarily sell their interest in land to the Land Commission. This scheme and the scheme for self-migration loans to which I shall be referring later on were brought into operation early in 1967. The objective of the life annuity scheme is to facilitate land structure reform by encouraging elderly, incapacitated or blind farmers to retire so that their lands become available for active farming by younger ablebodied persons.

This scheme is having but moderate success and just now the position is that we have 33 persons on the life annuity payroll following the sale of their lands to the Land Commission. Most of these people availed themselves of the very attractive feature of the scheme whereby the vendor may, if he so wishes, retain a right of residence for life in his existing dwellinghouse. As this scheme—which is entirely voluntary—is designed, in the main, for elderly people, progress is necessarily slow and the results to date are not as encouraging as was anticipated when the scheme was initiated. I would hope that, as the number of life annuitants grows, they themselves will provide the best stimulus of all to others to participate in the scheme. The scheme is kept under constant review in an endeavour to find ways and means for increasing its attractiveness.

For the information of the House, the overall position in relation to the scheme to a recent date is as follows: A total of 419 firm applications has been received under the scheme and, of these, 413 have been investigated. Some 194 applications had to be eliminated at an early stage—mainly because the lands offered were not considered suitable or required for Land Commission purposes—and a further 77 were withdrawn—the owners preferring to offer their lands to the Land Commission in the ordinary way for cash or land bonds. In all, 138 applications developed into potential life annuity cases and advanced to the stage where price negotiations with the landowners concerned were authorised.

Price agreement has, in fact, been reached with 41 landowners and, as already stated, life annuities have actually been set up in 33 cases, in amount ranging from £80 to £904. In three other cases, the necessary legal requirements as regards title, et cetera, with a view to setting up life annuities for the landowners concerned, are proceeding. In the remaining five cases the Land Commission are awaiting a decision by the vendors as to whether or not they will opt for a life annuity in lieu of all or part of the agreed purchase price. The cases already completed have released about 1,672 acres for land settlement purposes and it is expected that a further area of some 216 acres will be made available when the other eight cases mentioned are finalised.

The second part of subhead G stems from section 5 of the Land Act, 1965, in which resides authority for the scheme enabling the Land Commission to make loans to progressive farmers in congested areas for the purchase of viable farms of their choice, subject to making their existing lands available to the Land Commission for land settlement purposes. This, in fact, is really a banking or credit service, with an overall limit of £10,000 in each case including the price paid for the owner's old holding and is intended to augment existing land settlement schemes.

The primary objective of the scheme is to facilitate the Land Commission programme of land structure reform in the scheduled congested areas, as defined in the 1965 Act—Counties Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and parts of Clare and West Cork. The scheme is intended to encourage initiative by providing necessary capital, through the Land Commission, to enable progressive smallholders in the scheduled congested areas to improve their status by purchase in the open market of viable farms suitable to individual requirements, subject to making their existing lands available to the Land Commission as part of the loan arrangements.

Under the scheme, a total of 156 applications has been received to a recent date. Of these, 150 have been investigated and, perhaps, not surprisingly, a high proportion failed at an early stage—chiefly because the applicants and/or their lands were considered unsuitable for purposes of the scheme. In all, 60 applications progressed to the price negotiation stage and, in 13 of these cases, agreement on price was, in fact, reached.

This is a vital stage in the procedure as price agreement is an essential pre-requisite to acceptance of an applicant and to making him an advance under the scheme. It is only when agreement on price has been reached with a land-owner, that he knows the extent of financial assistance which he may expect from the Land Commission, thus enabling him to shop around for a suitable new farm, on the basis of what he will receive for his own holding, plus the amount of loan available to him.

Of the 13 cases in which price agreement was reached eight have been provided with self-migration advances and have now gone into possession of their new holdings. In one other case the necessary legal formalities are being completed and in the remaining four cases the Land Commission are awaiting proposals from the approved applicants regarding the new farms selected by them and the amount of loan they will require.

The eight completed cases—for which advances and free grants totalling approximately £32,075 were made by the Land Commission—have provided an area of 347 acres for land settlement. The holdings purchased by these eight successful applicants contain in aggregate 892 acres. The other five cases involve the Land Commission in a potential maximum commitment of some £37,950 by way of advances and free grants and, if these transactions can be successfully concluded, they will release a further aggregate area of about 155 acres for the land reform programme.

The results from this scheme to date are not impressive, even allowing for the fact that the scheme is restricted to landowners in the scheduled congested areas and that approved applicants are allowed a period of 12 months in which to shop around for new holdings. I shall arrange that the scheme be examined with a view to improving its attractiveness. Informal booklets have been prepared for the guidance of landowners interested in both schemes and any Deputy who wishes can obtain copies by getting in touch with the Land Commission.

Subhead G 3 provides £6,000 for payment in cash of compensation for tenancy interests resumed on the small outstanding residue of Congested Districts Board estates. The fourth and final part of the subhead relates to the payment by the Land Commission of auctioneers' commission on relevant purchases of land for cash and land bonds.

Perhaps I should explain here that up to 1963 the practice was to pay auctioneers' commission only in respect of lands purchased by the Land Commission for cash under section 27 of the Land Act, 1950. This was extended in 1963 to properties purchased on a voluntary basis for land bonds and to uncontested compulsory cases where the auctioneer renders positive service towards agreement. The extension of payment of commission on the lines indicated proved a decided incentive to auctioneers to offer lands on their books to the Land Commission thus facilitating an acceleration in land acquisition for the relief of congestion. The decrease in the provision for the current year reflects the curtailment of purchases for cash, to which I have already referred.

Subhead H provides the funds for payment of gratuities pursuant to section 29 of the Land Act, 1950, to persons displaced from employment on estates taken over by the Land Commission for distribution. During the year ended 31st March, 1970, gratuities totalling £8,091 were paid to 33 ex-employees—an average of £245 each. The corresponding figures for the year just ended are a total of £13,058 paid to 39 ex-employees—an average of £335 each. Perhaps I should emphasise that displaced employees who are deemed competent to work land are automatically considered for allotments—indeed, this is only right and proper—but, where they are not found to be suitable for allotments, they are considered by the Land Commission for a cash gratuity depending on such factors as length of service, personal and family circumstances, availability of alternative employment, and so on.

It is difficult to make an accurate forecast of commitments under the subhead in any particular year because this depends on the level of acquisition activity and the extent to which estate workers become displaced from employment through these activities. A figure of £12,000 is provided for the current year.

Subhead I, in the main, provides the funds required to meet the cost of the various estate improvement works which are such an important feature of land settlement. These works include the erection of dwellinghouses and outoffices; the provision of access roads; fencing and drainage; provision of water supply for domestic and stock requirements; turbary development; repair and maintenance of embankments. These are all costly amenities and expenditure in the year 1969-70 totalled £957,539 including £561,501 on building works. During the same year some 436 men were employed on the various improvement works and their wage bill amounted to almost £313,000.

Having regard to the acute pressure on resources, the provision under subhead I for last year was fixed at £740,000, a decrease of £350,000 on the previous year's provision.

Accordingly, for the year ended 31st March, 1971, there was a necessary decrease in expenditure on improvements. A total of almost £780,000 was expended, including £466,000 on building works and £280,000 on a wage bill for some 300 men employed.

For the current year it has been found possible to provide an increase of £240,000 so as to bring the total provision for this subhead to £980,000. The bulk of this increase will be devoted to building and general improvement works.

Reference has previously been made to an important development which has been undertaken by the Land Commission in relation to lands earmarked for migrants and also lands intended for distribution to tenants whose holdings are being rearranged. All such lands are now being rehabilitated prior to allotment—the rehabilitation consisting of lime and fertiliser application. In addition, the Land Commission are also doing the preliminary, reclamation, work on these lands—such as drainage, removal of scrub, eradication of rushes and so on. The aim is to give these allottees the best possible start on their holdings. The major portion of the cost involved is being borne direct by the Land Commission—a small proportion being charged to the allottee by means of an addition to his annuity.

The question of improving designs for houses and outoffices being built by the Land Commission continues to receive full consideration. As Deputies are, no doubt, aware dwellinghouses provided by the Land Commission are fully serviced as to water supply and electricity, where practicable. The design and construction of these houses have recently been revised and some of this new series have now been completed. Many progressive features have been added to fit in with modern needs and trends. Improvements include greatly increased storage space and a utility room which can be used as a fourth bedroom to provide extra accommodation as the family expands and, all in all, the houses lack none of the amenities of urban dwellings.

In addition, yard areas have also been increased and black topping of yards, approach roads and access roads is now being undertaken as a standard feature of improvement works associated with the provision of buildings on new holdings.

To comply with the agreed programme for the building and civil engineering industry the metric system has now been introduced in Land Commission construction works. Staff have been trained and all general improvement works are now measured in metric units.

The sub-item entitled "Housing Loans" refers to the scheme under which advances of up to £500 are made to farmers to supplement grants from the Department of Local Government for the erection of new houses and for reconstruction work on existing houses. During the year ended 31st March, 1970, the total amount paid out by way of loans for this purpose was £33,000 to some 90 applicants. Early in 1970 the whole question of the future of these loans was under consideration but I am glad to be able to inform Deputies that it is proposed to continue operation of the scheme and during the year just ended some £38,000 was paid to 93 applicants.

The Management Services Unit continues to produce worthwhile results which amply justifies the foresight and initiative shown in taking the then novel step of setting up this unit in February, 1968. Significant savings have been achieved on the management services side while the work study section of the unit, through method improvements and the incentive bonus scheme, contributed to maintaining a very high level of productivity on outdoor works.

It has been the usual practice to give, at this stage, some figures to indicate the level of Land Commission activities during the previous year under some broad general heads. The figures I am giving refer to the year ending 31st March, 1971. Comparable figures for the year ending 31st March, 1970, are shown in the tabular statement attached to the material which Deputies already have.

On the acquisition side, the aggregate area inspected during the year was 40,000 acres while the total intake of land amounted to about 26,000 acres. The total area in the acquisition machine at 31st March, 1971, amounted to some 81,000 acres. As regards land settlement for the year, the total area allotted amongst 1,600 allottees was 30,000 acres. The acreage distributed included the provision of 49 fully-equipped holdings for migrants and the rearrangement of 260 fragmented holdings. In all 103 new dwellinghouses and 97 new outoffices were provided for tenants and allottees during the year.

The vesting of holdings and allotments was continued and about 2,800 holdings, parcels and rights of turbary were dealt with. Tenanted land—including residues of CDB estates—outstanding for vesting at 31st March, 1971, comprises approximately 4,300 holdings. These residual holdings, situated for the most part in western congested counties, now represent the remaining hard core of difficult tenanted land cases and their release for vesting is at present getting special attention.

The position as regards collection of land annuities continues satisfactory. Out of a collectable total of £2,831,601 for the year, the amount actually collected by 31st March, 1971, was £2,683,717.

In this connection I should like to refer to an important change which the Land Commission are making in the manner of payment of instalments of annuity. Because of the decision to decimalise our currency and also because of the progress made in the computerisation of the work of the collection branch, it was realised that the system of payment by means of a ten-year receivable order which was issued to every annuity payer would have to be reassessed. The ten-year receivable order did not fit easily into the new system of processing payments by computer; nor did it meet the requirements of new machines introduced into the banks. In addition, each ten-year receivable order would have to be amended to show the decimal equivalent of the sterling amount of the half-yearly instalment—a formidable task in itself which would have to be done by hand.

For these reasons it was felt that a change was inevitable and after full consideration it was decided that the issue of a demand each half-year would best meet the requirements of the new age of decimalisation and computerisation.

In response to representations from various interests it has been decided to include the folio number on all relevant demand notes. It is expected that this information will be shown on the demands which will be issued for the November/December gales this year.

For some time now the Land Commission have had in hand a study to test the overall worth of a system of combined, or group farming, involving the pooling, not merely of machinery but of livestock and land as well.

An estate at Grennanstown, Athboy, County Meath, has been selected for the first experiment and a group of four families from County Kerry went into occupation there in April last having first surrendered their existing holdings to the Land Commission. The total area of land given to the group is 232 acres-equivalent to about 170 acres of good land.

Four dwellinghouses have been erected on the Meath estate and each of the four heads of families will have individual ownership of his house, with about an acre of land adjoining it and a small outoffice. The four are forming a company and the land, apart from the small plots adjoining the houses, together with the livestock, machinery and other resources, will be held and managed by the company. One comprehensive block of outoffices—including cow-byre, milking parlour and silo-serves the four. The design of this outoffice complex was settled in consultation with the Agricultural Institute and the local agricultural advisory service.

The whole is an entirely new feature instigated by the Land Commission and progress of the experiment will be kept under close study by officers of the Commission, the Agricultural Institute and the Advisory Service.

If a novel departure such as this is to succeed—if the idea of combined farming is to take on—it will be necessary to wear down the ingrained doubts and fears of the farming community. For that purpose it is necessary to make the rural population and the publicists aware of what is being done and to set them thinking about it.

Towards this end, I publicly inaugurated the project on the 28th September, last.

As Deputies know, there is now in operation a system of direct control by the Land Commission over the purchase of rural land by persons who are not "qualified persons" as defined in section 45 of the Land Act. 1965— principally non-nationals. The position generally now is that no interest in non-urban land can vest in a person who does not come within the categories of "qualified person" as defined in section 45 (1) of the Act except with the written consent of the Land Commission. In general, permission is not granted to non-nationals to purchase land in order to engage simply in those forms or lines of production commonly practised by our farmers; "white-elephant" properties unable or unlikely to attract Irish purchasers in the market could be entertained for sale to outsiders. A non-national who could illustrate that he was going in for some special line with expertise and capital to back it up, and with export possibilities could very well be acceptable. During the past year—apart from what might be called unobjectionable transactions, for example, those (a) arising solely from mortgage interests, (b) involving areas not exceeding five acres and (c) representing transfers between one non-citizen, individual or company, and another—the total acreage in respect of which the consent of the Land Commission, pursuant to section 45 of the Act, was given to the vesting of interests in land in non-qualified persons as individuals, or companies controlled by non-citizens, was 3,045 acres. A substantial proportion of the acreage involved consisted of the types of property which could hold no attraction for the ordinary Irish purchaser.

Turning to the Forestry Vote the total net provision for Forestry for 1971-72 is £6,387,000, an increase of £545,700 over the 1970-71 provision. The original Forestry Estimate for 1970-71 at £5,084,000 was increased by Supplementary Estimate of £657,300 to £5,741,300. To this sum has been added an amount of £100,000 formerly borne on subhead L of the Vote for Lands, making a total 1970-71 Estimate of £5,841,300. Deputies may take it that subsequent references to the 1970-71 Estimate are on this basis.

There is no change of consequence in subhead E. So far as the remaining subheads are concerned the following is the position.

Subhead A—Salaries, wages and allowances—at £1,533,250 shows an increase of £180,550 over the provision for 1970-71. The increase is mainly due to the effect of the 12th round of pay increase for a full year.

Subhead B 1—Travelling and Incidental Expenses—at £290,500 shows an increase of £18,000 over the 1970-71 provision because of increased travelling and subsistence rates and provision for some increases in miscellaneous expenses.

Subhead B 2—Post Office Services— at £116,100 shows an increase of £54,500 on the 1970-71 Estimate. The increase is due to increased Post Office charges for handling of stores, an increase in the cost of postage and the extension of forest telephone services.

Subhead C 1 is the Grant-in-Aid for the acquisition of land. The balance remaining in the fund on 1st April, 1971, was £151,581. I am providing in this Estimate a sum of £460,000 so that the total sum available for land acquisition in the current year is £611,581. The sum provided is indicative of the upward trend in land acquisition. Deputies will recall that in 1968-69 the gross area acquired was only 14,108 acres. In 1969-70 the figure rose to 25,128 acres, in 1970-71 to 34,436 acres and in the current year we hope to achieve a gross intake of some 40,000 acres. The immediate picture is, therefore, that we have turned the corner as far as land acquisition is concerned and are beginning to reap the benefit of the new price structure and streamlined negotiation system introduced a few years ago. Current trends in our land acquisition negotiations show good future prospects.

There is a sharp rise in the "Price Agreed" category in particular. This is the category covering cases where price agreement has been reached and which are being processed on the legal side for clearance of title. A figure of 28,325 acres representing 607 cases in this category at 30th September, 1968, has increased at 31st March, 1971, to 1,233 cases totalling 59,092 acres. Immediate future prospects for acquisition can, therefore, be regarded as quite favourable and the difficulties which we are at present encountering in putting together a planting programme will be progressively eased. I must, however, emphasise that sustained progress in land acquisition will be required over a long period if we are to improve our reserve of plantable land to the stage where efficiency in the planning of work programme can be secured and steady and secure employment of our staffs can be maintained.

Subhead C 2—Forest Development and Management—This is the main expenditure subhead in this Vote. The major provisions in the subhead relate to the raising of nursery stock in the State forest nurseries, the establishment costs of all new plantations including ground preparation and fencing, road and bridge construction, the development of facilities for public recreation in our forests, the purchase and maintenance of all forest machinery and the hire of suitable machinery from outside sources, the general cost of maintaining and protecting all our existing acreage of forest plantations, now standing at 543,000 acres in extent, and, finally, the cost of such timber felling and conversion as we undertake by direct labour in our forests. The Estimate of £4,701,500 shows an overall increase of £358,000 on the provision for 1970-71. This increase arises almost entirely from wage costs due to the impact of the 12th round of wage increases over a full year.

Deputies will recall that in replying in March to the debate on the Supplementary Estimate for Forestry for 1970-71, I mentioned the problems associated with matching financial resources to rising wages and costs generally and the difficulty we would have despite the improvement in our land reserve, in restoring the planting programme this year to the target acreage of 25,000. The Estimate as introduced provides for the planting of just over 20,000 acres but a Supplementary Estimate will be introduced later this year for an additional amount, estimated at this stage to be of the order of £100,000, to enable planting in the current year to be expanded to 25,000 acres. With the improvement of our acquisition rate and the consequent enhancement of our plantable reserve position we would be in a position to maintain our full target of 25,000 acres in 1972-73 and I am happy to convey to the House an assurance that funds will be made available next year to carry out that programme.

As a result of this, forestry in the latter part of this year will employ about 100 more than would have been possible on the basis of the Estimate before the House. There will, of course, still be local ups and downs. That has always been inescapable in the context of changing distribution of work loads between the forests.

The provisions in the subhead for State forest nurseries and the establishment of plantations are covered by what I have already said in relation to the planting programme. Under "New Roads and Buildings" we are providing for continuance of our construction programme at approximately the same level as last year. The general forest management head reflects on the one hand the increase in the total acreage of the forest plantations but on the other the continuance of our efforts to minimise management costs. The long term objective of selling timber in an open market at prices competitive with world trends requires continual re-appraisal of input costs in relation to return in terms of both volume production and timber value as wages and prices of materials rise.

The timber conversion head covers the meeting of our current requirements of timber for departmental purposes and the maintenance of our active programme of provision of transmission poles for the ESB and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.

Under "mechanical equipment" provision is made for normal replacement needs and the general maintenance, et cetera, of forest mechanical equipment. I shall deal later with the provision for amenity development— an area in which our activities are continuing to expand rapidly.

Subhead C 3 — Sawmilling — at £59,550, shows an increase of £21,800 on the 1970-71 Estimate due to the 12th round of pay increases for a full year. Subhead D, at £25,000, will be adequate to cover payments during the year in respect of private planting grants at the present rate of £20 per acre. Applications for grants have been running at approximately 1,000 acres per annum and there is general agreement that the grant scheme needs to be reviewed. I hope that by next year we will have completed a review of the whole grant scheme designed to make it more effective.

Subhead F—John F. Kennedy Park —at £32,000, shows an increase of £8,000 on the provision for 1970-71 again due to the impact of the 12th round of wage increases over a full year. Although only a few short years in existence, the park has become internationally known as a centre of arboricultural importance. At present the number of specimens planted in the arboretum amounts to 5,000 all of them carefully indexed, labelled and recorded. A total of 102 forest plots varying in size from 1/4 acre to an acre, have also been laid out. Apart from its scientific and educational importance the park has become a major tourist attraction. In the four months June to September, 1970, there were 90,000 visitors to the park and the total for the year was in excess of 120,000. In co-operation with the South Eastern Regional Tourism Organisation two tourist advisors are employed for the summer months to assist in furnishing information to the public. Additional features to cater for the public are steadily being provided. Last year five walks were developed to direct visitors to the major features of the park, these being self-guided with the aid of a small booklet. A restaurant for the provision of light meals was recently completed and is now in use.

Under Subhead G—Game Development and Management—£81,250 is provided. Part of the expenditure formerly carried in subhead L of the Lands Vote has now been transferred to this head. £18,750 of the £100,000 provided in that subhead in 1970-71 actually related to conservation activities now covered by subhead H of this Estimate, but for convenience the entire amount of that former subhead is shown here under the 1970-71 column. The game development and management subhead covers grants paid to regional game councils in support of their general programmes of development of game resources and improvement of game habitats; grants to assist tourist projects promoted by my Department in conjunction with Bord Fáilte; expenditure on game development and management in the State forests and miscellaneous other expenses in connection with the Department's general programme of improvement of game resources. The main cost is that related to grants to the regional game councils.

I have told the regional game councils that for the current year our support of their activities will have to be kept within last year's expenditure level and with their co-operation we are streamlining the whole system of grants so as to secure the most equitable distribution possible of the finance available between the different counties to the best advantage in terms of improvement of game resources.

Our co-operative work with Bord Fáilte in the development of tourist projects in the game sector is specifically aimed at increasing off-season tourist revenue by providing facilities for visiting sportsmen. The scheme has been in operation for five years and the joint committee established by my Department and Bord Fáilte to manage the scheme are now reviewing the results of their programme to date and will shortly be submitting to me proposals for future action.

Subhead H—Conservation (grant-in-aid)—this head was first set up by the Supplementary Estimate taken in March last when a sum of £100,000 was provided in pursuance of an undertaking in the 1970 Budget statement that funds would be made available to defray the organisational costs of a comprehensive national programme for conservation. There was no expenditure from the fund in the closing weeks of March and the full amount of £100,000 is carried into the current year.

For 1971-72 I am providing an additional sum of £150,000 for conservation. This sum includes provision for conservation work previously carried in subhead L of the Vote for Lands to which I have referred already and provision also for work carried out by the forest service and hitherto funded from subhead C 2 of this Vote.

In terms of practical progress on conservation, Deputies may already be aware that the first seven nature reserves on State forest lands were dedicated earlier this year. These reserves comprise some of the last precious remnants of the primeval forest which in prehistoric times covered the greater part of Ireland and are therefore, an important part of our natural heritage.

These areas have been the subject of ecological survey by officers of my Department and as this survey extends, other areas will be similarly dedicated. Because these particular areas are fully controlled by the forest and wildlife service, they can be accorded protection without new legislation but the broader question of full statutory protection for nature reserves, including reserves in private or corporate ownership, is being considered in connection with the new game and wildlife legislation. Attention is also being devoted to the extension of our list of bird sanctuaries. Ireland is in a position of unique importance in respect of the maintenance and protection of certain species and it is fitting that we should aim at a high standard of protection for bird species generally. This year the number of sanctuaries has been increased from ten to 18.

Further expenditure on development work at our major refuge, the North Slob, Wexford, has recently been undertaken. Future plans include the provision of an observation tower to enable members of the public to view the unique population of birds to best advantage. Major expenditure from this conservation head will be called for in the establishment of field study centres. I have already told the house of the proposal for such a centre at Gartan Lough, County Donegal and my Department have undertaken a positive commitment to fund the project. The details are still under discussion with the Department of Education.

On a less ambitious scale we have been concerned to assist a proposal by the Dominican Fathers for the conversion of a holiday camp at Knockadoon, County Cork as a field study centre. The project is supported by the Cork Scientific Council. These and other cognate projects will call for a measure of expenditure from subhead H in the current year but we can expect that much of the future expenditure on conservation will be generated by the new legislation on game and wildlife which will be brought before the House shortly.

In regard to public education generally it is beyond question that a great awakening of concern with the problems of our environment has been brought about by the activities of Conservation Year, 1970. Conservation year, as I have said before, was concerned primarily with people's attitudes and I am satisfied that in this respect the undertaking was an outstanding success. Once public conscience becomes alerted to the importance of the natural environment, the public will itself act most efficiently as a watchdog in maintaining the quality of life which it desires.

This new awareness on the part of the public is evident in the very keen interest expressed in the eight nature trails which have so far been made available by the Forest and Wildlife Service and plans are in hands for seven others. The trail at Bellevue, Glen of the Downs has attracted 80,000 visitors since it opened in July, 1970, and I am happy to report to the House that since the trail was opened, there has been a noticeable absence of vandalism, and our experience in regard to litter and fires has been extremely good. The demand on the forest as a place of public recreation is increasing apace and this brings me back to the work which is being carried out with funds provided for amenity development under subhead C 2.

A second forest park—Gougane Barra was the first—is now fully developed at Dún an Rí, Kingscourt, County Cavan. Work is proceeding on the major Lough Key forest park development in Roscommon in conjunction with Bord Fáilte. There is already substantial public usage of the facilities so far developed and the caravan park there is now in operation. Several other centres are planned as major forest park centres and work will be undertaken according as time and financial resources permit.

On a more widespread plane, there is a vast potential in our forests as a whole to cater for the recreational needs of our people. Work on the development of this potential is being pushed ahead much more rapidly than most people realise. Specific amenity works have so far been carried out at some 70 forest properties and steps are being taken to have these properties sign-posted from the public roads. A comprehensive list of these properties has been prepared with an indication of where they are situated and what facilities are available, and the list has been extended to cover the huge number of forest properties where no particular facilities are provided but where the public are being admitted on foot to enjoy quiet walking in the forest environment.

These lists have had wide distribution through Bord Fáilte and the regional tourism organisations, and, on my instructions, all Deputies and Senators were furnished with copies some months ago.

Subhead I—Agency, Advisory and Special Services—at a figure of £34,520 represents a decrease of £20,000 on 1970-71. The 1970-71 figure included provision of £20,000 to defray expenses for European Conservation Year which was particular to that year and is non-recurrent. The main constituent of subhead I is a figure of £34,500, provision for defraying the cost of timber technology research undertaken on behalf of my Department by the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards.

This programme is complementary to the research being carried out by the forest and wildlife service which concerns itself primarily with problems in the establishment and growth of tree crops under actual field conditions encountered here. The work assigned to the institute is concerned with Irish timber as a material and a start has been made with the publication of authoritative data on the mechanical and chemical properties of our native timbers. These are the data to which the architect, engineer and industrialist can have recourse to establish the wide range of use for the growing quantities of timber now flowing from our plantations. In its programme, the institute is studying the preservation of Irish timbers and their use in building construction and as transmission poles. An aspect of this programme involves the testing to destruction of a range of home produced poles and the establishment of comparisons with imported species. Results of the investigation thus far are encouraging.

Subhead J—Appropriations-in-Aid at a figure of £1,150,000 shows an increase of £150,000 in estimated revenue over the estimate for 1970-71. Revenue last year actually amounted, however, to £1,045,000. Sales of timber at a figure of £1,078,000 account for the entire increase anticipated. Sawlog material has been selling well for some time past and we are now in a position to increase gradually the amount available for marketing. Thinnings are also finding ready sale and all available supplies are being taken up in the expanded demand of the existing processing factories.

The long-term forecast of timber production was completed early this year and discussions have taken place with the timber trade on the general implications of the figures and on the form in which the forecast should be prepared for issue to them. We have had, of course, an earlier forecast of thinning production prepared in 1961 which has formed the basis of industrial planning in the timber sector up to date. That forecast has proved in the outcome to have been remarkably accurate but the new forecast will be a substantial improvement in that it covers clear-felling as well as thinning production and classifies the production in size categories; it covers each year up to the year 2,000. The forecast has been issued to the trade and to all those bodies who have sought information regarding timber production on a national or regional basis. It will form an extremely useful instrument for forward planning by my Department and by all elements of the timber industry.

I move:

That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

In doing so I wish to point out that I am not satisfied with the progress to date made by the Irish Land Commission. Since the State was founded more than 300,000 people have been driven from the land. However, I will concede that more progress has been made this year by the Department of Lands than in earlier years and for that I wholeheartedly compliment the Minister and his officials.

So far, the Irish Land Commission as at present organised have not accomplished what they set out to do due mainly, I suppose, to lack of initiative. There may have been reasons for this. They may have been inhibited by lack of money and by consequent lack of staff. I know that at local level they had not sufficient authority and, therefore, when people applied for divisions of land the whole thing had to be submitted to the Department in Dublin and this involved considerable delays in nearly all cases.

All of us in the House and throughout the country should try to divorce the work of this organisation, of this Department, from politics. It may be hard for us at times to do this but we should make the effort. For too long, unfortunately, the land of Ireland, on which all of us depend for national prosperity, has been the plaything of party politics and of party politicians. We know how cummainn and clubs have been kept alive and active throughout the years because of promises that their members would get divisions of so-and-so's land when it was divided.

Tonight I suppose we will have a better idea about our prospects for EEC membership. In this new situation we should all be united in an all-out effort to try to get the maximum acreage of our land acquired and divided among our small farmers before we enter the EEC. I am not suggesting that the rules and regulations applicable to EEC members will inhibit our farmers in the matter of getting land but I believe that the price of land will increase so much when we enter that unless the Government are prepared to alter the present system of charging the double annuity, it will be impossible for small farmers to take land and to make a living on it. The present £15 to £20 is a rack rent and many farmers are unable to pay it. The Minister deserves congratulation on the fact that the total area in the acquisition machine at 31st March, 1971, amounted to some 81,000 acres and that land resettlement for the year totalled 30,000 acres among 1.600 allottees. We are going in the right direction. We would all like to see a target of 50,000 acres achieved if possible. In the changing world of today we need a more efficient type of organisation to deal with land division. At the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis last year the Minister was accorded a standing ovation when he said that he was proposing that his own Department should be abolished. Last year I proposed that instead of the Irish Land Commission we should have a rural development authority to implement this resettlement programme. Such authority should be financed by the Exchequer. This rural development authority should take over the operating functions of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, their advisory services, et cetera, the Agricultural Credit Corporation and the Department of Lands, the administration of land reclamation and other appropriate State activities in the rural development field. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries could then concentrate on the national agricultural policy rather than on its detailed implementation.

The Irish Land Commission as at present constituted have outlived their usefulness. Reform in the rural development field is necessary. The time has arrived for the establishment of a rural development authority controlled by farmers and others interested. This authority should take over many of the functions of the Department of Lands. Rural organisations such as the NFA, Muintir na Tire and other bodies representative of the farmers should be involved. There should be greater co-operation at local level. Local knowledge is very useful and could help local inspectors. Land should be given to deserving people.

In the past, the Land Commissioners were conscientious, and while doing their work to the best of their ability they had not local knowledge. Some people got land but did not make good use of it, while other people on small struggling farms were not given land. This proposal is fully supported by the Devlin Report on the Re-organisation of the Public Services. In that report it is stated that there are a number of clear, logical reasons why the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries and Lands should be combined, the principles of which are (a) the opportunity of securing closer co-ordination and planning for the agricultural functions of the Government and (b) the possibility of co-ordinating more closely and managing more effectively the many field activities involved. We entirely agree with that proposal. Local enthusiasm and initiative are necessary for any successful programme of land development.

The Deputy shows great faith in the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

Not in the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. We are talking about Departments at present and not about Ministers. Such enthusiasm and interest can only be stimulated by delegating real authority to local people. Farmers and their advisers should have authority to take decisions concerning land development. In the past central control has had the effect of stifling initiative. We have often heard in the past that plans have been sent to Dublin and have been delayed in the Department. Much more authority should be given to the local people.

In the past people have been given land while others who were entitled to it have not been given land. In some cases farmers have received an average income of £11 or £12 per week. When we hear so much about cherishing all the children of the nation equally we can understand the farmers' feelings. They are merely hewers of wood and drawers of water.

On 10th December, 1969, I was told in answer to a Parliamentary question that there were 286,136 people living on the land but that they get only 17.1 per cent of the national income. That means that 27 per cent or 28 per cent of the people get only 17 per cent of the national income. This is most unfair and is one of the reasons why the people are leaving the land now. All parties in the House wish to see the maximum number of people living on the land. The farmers are entitled to parity of income with urban workers. A clear statement of long-term Government policy is urgently needed. The failure by successive Governments to formulate long-term planning for those on the land has been responsible for their failure to deal adequately with the social and economic problems of such areas and with the social disintegration of large areas of this country, especially on the western seaboard.

In order to have an agricultural community with increased production and profitable returns, the holdings on which the farmers live must be of an economic size and large enough to provide adequately for the farmers and their families. Flight from the land has its roots in the economic problems which must be tackled by all parties. The decline in the rural population is due not merely to the emigration of young people but arises also from the movement of households to cities and towns. The population of Dublin is too large. The wealth of the country seems to be moving more and more towards the eastern seaboard. This is alarming. Many holdings cannot provide reasonable family living. The numbers of economic holdings must be increased. We must have as many farming families as the land can support. This is the best social policy. In this regard there should be close liaison between the Department of Lands and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. At one time we believed that 20 to 25 acres of land was an economic holding. Then we increased that to something like 45 to 50 acres. At the moment the Land Commission are giving between 50 and 60 acres. However, if farmers are to have a reasonable existence on the land they would need at least 70 acres. We all devote much time to talking about the need for increased production, profitable returns for our farmers and so on, but if the holdings are uneconomic, as so many of them are, no matter how good the agricultural policy may be it will not be successful. It is the size, the quality and the management of the holdings that count in the long run.

The flight from the land is still a major problem that should be attacked with energy. There is no use in saying that the decline in the rural population is due to wanderlust. People do not uproot themselves from their homes and their families just to go abroad. It is due to the fact that they cannot earn their living on these small holdings. Therefore, they must either emigrate to England or move here to the city and look for work.

The world is changing rapidly and people are changing. Young people today are not prepared to put up with the hardships their fathers and mothers endured. They demand new systems and better incomes. The proposal to augment the income of small farmers by providing them with part-time employment while they still live on their small farms was referred to here last year by Deputy O'Hara and others. The Minister himself got the applause of the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis in January, 1969, for what I believe was an excellent policy, a policy to give those people employment in industry, in tourism and forestry and allow them to stay in their own homes. However, this excellent idea is taking too long to get off the ground. The Minister had the full support of everyone in this House when he put forward this proposal. Somebody seems to be holding it up. Whether it is that the Government are not prepared to give the Minister the green light to go ahead with it, I do not know. If that is so it is a disgrace. No one involved in Government administration has the right to prevent change or to halt progress, and I think progress in this direction has been halted. Those who propose change should have their views given careful consideration, and certainly this proposal should have been given careful consideration, especially if the Government are in earnest about saving the west, to which they have given such lip-service in the past.

There is a great need for the introduction of modern conditions in farming. Many of the small holders, especially in the west and, indeed, in other parts of the country are nothing better than slaves. They are entitled to get more than they are getting from this nation because they have been in the front line in every war which has affected this country. When our people were faced with starvation in the last war they rose to the occasion. Both they and their workers in the field provided food for our people, and they deserve better treatment from the Government. I hope the Government will give the green light to the Minister to go ahead with the proposals he made at the Fianna Fáil Árd Fheis in 1969.

I do admit that there is a huge problem facing the Minister and the Department, because in 1969 there was something like 353,000 farmers living on farms of 1/4 acre to five acres. In the Province of Leinster there were 31,230 farmers with fewer than 30 acres; in Munster, 31,176 with from five to 30 acres; in Connacht, 49,333 farmers with between five to 30 acres; and in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, there were 25,186 such farmers. That gives a total of 136,925. All of those can be considered as uneconomic holders, out of a total of 353,845 farmers; in other words, 45 per cent of the farms can be classified as uneconomic holdings. If we take into consideration those under five acres it would be 60 per cent. I do not think it would be fair to do that; I agree they are not farms and the people working such land have some other type of work as well. They certainly could not live on five acres except through market gardening in Rush or somewhere in the city.

The Deputy will be in trouble with some of the small farmers in Cavan and Monaghan if he says they are not farmers under five acres.

They cannot earn their living on their land. They must have some other means of livelihood. Their farms are not viable, to use the word that is bandied about so much at present. We know that about 10,000 people a year are leaving the land. Many of them are young and ambitious and those less likely to accept low living standards. In some areas, especially in the west, over 50 per cent of the farmers are unmarried at 50 years of age, and something like 60 per cent of the landholders of the west are over 55 years of age. That certainly is not the sign of a healthy community. Many of the farms are so small and infertile that they cannot provide an acceptable standard of living in 1971.

To put it bluntly, these people have no other means or income. They have to rear young families and, by the standards of other sections of the community, they are destitute. It is not just a matter of their preferring poverty and hard work, freedom and country air; they are forced through circumstances beyond their control to remain on the land and try to eke out a living for themselves and their families on these small holdings. This is something about which we should be concerned and we should make every effort to remedy the position as quickly as possible.

The problems facing those on the land can be measured in the light of the information given last year that the income of those on 30 to 50 acre holdings is about £500 a year. We are told that when we enter the EEC that income will increase by 47 per cent which will bring the income up to something over £700. That will still be small by other standards. To increase the income at the moment to that figure would cost £100 million a year or an increase of 15 per cent in turnover tax. Even then the income of those under 30 acres would still be close to destitution level. There does not seem to be any way inside or outside the Common Market of giving small farmers an acceptable living on the land. A minority could engage in intensive farming, in market gardening and so on. But it is only a minority who could do that.

We are all agreed that there is a problem on the western seaboard in counties such as Mayo, Leitrim, Donegal and parts of Kerry. It is not the fault of the people in these areas that they have to exist in these areas. The majority have made the most of their limited opportunities but, with the ever-increasing cost of living, the tide is running against them. It is said that an economic holding is one comprising some 70 acres. No matter how we might try we could not possibly give everybody an economic holding because the land is just not there to do that. On 12th November, 1969, at column 846 of volume 242, I pointed out that a new drive to provide employment opportunities in industry, tourism and forestry should be started and that the programme should include better special training schemes, resettlement allowances and the provision of houses. This is our policy. It certainly was the Minister's policy and I do not think the Government or anybody else should be allowed to stand in the way of the implementation of that policy.

The Minister and his Department have a very important part to play and it is time the Minister asserted himself. He comes from the west and he is interested in the people in the west and he should insist that he is determined to put the imaginative programme he adumbrated a few years ago into operation. He should not let himself be stymied by the Government. I could quote what the Minister said last year but would it, I wonder, do any good? He agreed at that time with what I said and with what Deputy O'Hara said. He believed that what we said was the right policy. I believe it is the right policy. Something must be done to keep the 10,000 who are leaving the land every year, if not in their own districts, at least in their own country. Most of those who leave the land have no alternative but to emigrate. If the policy adumbrated were put into operation in the west many of these people could be kept there. In the EEC countries development of regions like the west is being undertaken through the medium of major development incentives. An example of that is the industrial complex in southern Italy. Our failure to adopt a co-ordinated, decentralised policy means that we cannot hope to secure similar assistance for the west because the present form of development would not be regarded by Brussels as justifying either financial or technical assistance.

It is no use exhorting people to produce more unless there is a guaranteed market for what they produce. In the past when people have increased production the bottom has fallen out of the market. The only solution is to employ these people in small industries, on afforestation, land reclamation and drainage. Cottage industries should be encouraged. It is wrong to assume there will be no place for such enterprises in the EEC. The homespun industry and the linen industry should be fostered. So should the souvenir industry. The sooner we get these small factories off the ground——

Would that not be a matter for another Minister?

The Minister for Lands referred to this. The people cannot earn a living on the land. He referred to this at length last year. These people should be engaged in part-time farming and part-time industry. The sooner the Minister gets this project off the ground the better it will be for the country.

I said there had been a great improvement last year in land division but I am still not satisfied with the go-slow policy of the Department and the length of time land is held. In reply to questions last year, we learned that 29,811 acres of land was held for over three years, 1,666 acres was held for seven or eight years and 1,188 acres for over eight years. Land should be divided as quickly as possible; otherwise, it may be let in the interim for grazing and this can reduce its fertility. The Minister has informed us today that the Land Commission are trying to rehabilitate the land in many cases. That is a step in the right direction. Certainly, they should endeavour to improve land where necessary so that it can be handed over, where possible, in first class condition.

I consider the present land annuity to be a rack rent. Many people are unable to pay the double annuity. This double annuity was imposed under the 1963 Act but it should be revised. On the 20th November, 1969, the Minister said, as reported at column 1419 of the Dáil Official Report for that day:

Deputy Fahey and many others raised the question of subsidisation by the Land Commission of the annuity. I accept that where the person concerned is in a non-congested area and has to pay the economic rent, this can represent a severe burden on him, and I also acknowledge the fact that to give certain people in the country, namely those in the congested areas, land at half annuity is favouring them as against others. I will say no more than that I am prepared to consider this whole question as to whether such a distinction should continue, but I will be very slow indeed to recommend that general subsidisation of the annuity should be practised.

After an interjection, the Minister continued:

I do not think this would be good. I should much prefer that the people concerned would go out into the open market and buy the land themselves and that my function would be to give them interest-free loans or loans at a slightly subsidised rate...

However, nothing has been done in relation to this question of annuities. In some cases small farmers are being charged as much as £20 per acre. This imposes a very serious hardship on farmers who are given land outside the congested areas. It is an unbearable burden on some farmers in the mid-lands as well as in many other parts of the country. It is very unfair that small farmers in counties such as Longford, Cavan and Monaghan have to pay the full annuity. When the Land Act was going through the Dáil and Seanad the Minister for Lands at the time promised that areas other than those already designated as congested areas would be so designated. At present the designated areas consist of the Province of Connacht as well as parts of Clare and Kerry and County Donegal. Certainly, we were promised that the Minister would consider designating Counties Longford and Cavan and parts of Monaghan, but unfortunately nothing has been done in this respect since. According to our Constitution we must cherish equally all the children of the nation but is it not unfair to see a farmer from, say, Roscommon, where there is much better land than there is in Longford, paying £500 a year for a 50 acre farm while the farmer beside him, because he is from Longford, has to pay a double rent? Perhaps when the Minister is replying he will tell us whether it is his intention to designate other areas such as Longford, Cavan, Monaghan and even parts of County Westmeath.

I am aware that some people have refused land in County Westmeath because of the high annuities. My advice to anybody who comes to me in these situations is to take the land and try to make the best of it, but it is unfortunate that sometimes people find it necessary to let the land for tillage purposes immediately on acquiring it.

A dangerous trend at present is that business and professional people and company directors or speculative companies are buying land throughout the country. I do not know whether anything can be done about this trend. In many cases farmers have been out-bid for land by such people. Such practice is neither just nor fair. Available land should be given to the small farmers. People who are successful in business or in professions should not be given the right to compete against the Land Commission or the small farmers on the open market for the purchase of land. As well as people such as solicitors, doctors and company directors, big building firms from the city and from other parts of the country are now buying up available land.

It is my view that the mile limit in relation to the allocation of land should be abolished and the aim of the Land Commission should be to allot land to those who are most in need of it. The limit should be extended to at least three miles because it is no inconvenience to farmers today to have to travel some distance to their land. I have known of numerous cases in County Westmeath where land was given to bachelors who were more than 55 years of age simply because they were within the one mile limit while 100 or 200 yards outside the limit there were men with young families who would not be given land. I am aware, though, that the Minister issued instructions recently that land be given to those who deserve it most without adhering rigidly to the mile limit. One example of the unfairness of this rule of the mile limit was a case of two brothers, one of whom had four children and the other who had six children, but because they were a very short distance outside the limit they would not be given any land.

Local people should get first preference when an estate is being divided. I might say here that I have nothing against those people who have come from such places as Mayo or Galway. These people have made excellent use of their land and they are admirable neighbours. However, it is my belief that most of them would be happier to stay on their small holdings in the West if it were possible for them to obtain part-time employment there. They might be employed, for instance, in afforestation, in tourism, or in small factories.

We all know that farmers' sons are far down on the list of priorities. We do not want to open the sluice gates so that every Tom, Dick and Harry could get land. We made a case to the Minister recently and I do see changes in Westmeath. When we went on a deputation to the Minister we pointed out that in Westmeath there are 300 or 400 persons, some young, some in middle age, who started off with a few pounds and, as they say in the mid-lands, an ash plant in their hands; they went to fairs and bought cattle, did a bit of jobbing in cattle and then started taking land. Some of these persons have 50 to 70 acres taken on the 11 months system; they have 50 or 60 cattle. They work hard. Some of them are rearing families. Up to the present time they were not entitled to land but there has been a change in that respect and suddenly these people are now entitled to land because, with the Land Commission keeping such an eye on people letting land there is not now so much land being let on the 11 months system, especially in the midland counties. These people to whom I have referred should now get consideration and I know that some of them have got consideration recently. This is a step in the right direction.

Has the Deputy any idea of how many of those people there are roughly?

We told the Minister that there are, I think, 500 or 600 in Longford-Westmeath. I may be completely wrong in those figures. Those figures have been mentioned to me but I could not guarantee them to be correct. I would certainly say that there are approximately 400 in Longford-Westmeath.

We discussed section 6 of the Land Act last year. The Minister has given figures. There is no use in dwelling on it except to say that I do not think it has been a success and the Minister should certainly review it. There is no use in wearying the House by repetition. We were told a few years ago by another Minister that we were holding up the debate in the House, that he wanted to get ahead with his Land Bill. He assured us that 15,000 acres would be taken over under their system. We will have to ask the Minister to take another look at it. He has the brains, ability and initiative to devise a better scheme. The outline of the scheme is good but there is something wrong with the compensation allowed. People like to hold on to their land as long as possible. The Minister should have another look at this scheme.

Now I come to the question of land bonds. We are all aware of the appalling hardships which have arisen as a result of the depreciation in value of land bonds. In some cases they have dropped 20 per cent. That is unfair and unjust. If we believe in cherishing all the children of the nation equally we should certainly see that people are paid cash for their land. It is not right that one section of property owners should be singled out to be paid in land bonds which depreciate so quickly. As the Minister knows, that system delays and frustrates the acquisition of land. From 1965 to 1969, about 29,250 acres of land were purchased by the Irish Land Commission for cash amounting to £2,057,387. During the same period they purchased 94,640 acres for bonds to the value of £6 million. It averaged, roughly, a little over £1 million per year paid in bonds. Out of an expenditure of over £550 million plus a capital budget of £2 million, that is, £750 million, the Minister and the Department should be able to find £1 million in order to ensure that those people who are giving land, either voluntarily or compulsorily, to the Land Commission would get a fair and square deal. The present system retards progress. Remember, many farmers want to purchase another farm, many of them want to pay debts, many of them want to pay death duties. The State will not take land bonds in payment of death duties or anything else. That is completely wrong. It indicates that the State have no faith in their own land bonds. Land owners want justice, not confiscation. The system of paying in land bonds is frustrating, most unfair, most unjust and, as I have said, frustrates acquisition. Nobody has confidence in land bonds. Many farmers want money and if they could get money immediately the Minister would have no trouble in getting 50,000 or 60,000 acres per year if he were prepared to pay cash. Neither the farmer nor his solicitor nor the auctioneer wants any reference to land bonds. The Minister knows quite well that the Incorporated Law Society have recently spoken out strongly on this question.

As the Minister knows, another objection is that land bonds have the reputation of not being easily convertible or have to be sold at a big loss and are dropping.

I sold some today.

I was going to quote what the Minister said about them.

The Minister sold land bonds at 64?

Is it necessary, then, to quote what the Minister said last year about this matter?

It is not. I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy.

I have a great deal to say on it but I would be prepared to pass on from that if the Minister would say that he is prepared to say something about it.

I will be saying something about it in the reply. I will have good news.

I will pass on, so. I hope the Minister will say something about it. It is time. I guarantee that if he does, he will have no trouble in getting 50,000 or 60,000 acres of land into the pool.

I suppose the Minister will be making a statement on the effects of entry to the EEC. From what I know and from reading Ministers' speeches and other speeches, I believe we will be able to protect our small farmer in the EEC. Unfortunately there is developing the idea that joining the EEC is like signing blindfolded a dangerous document which once signed rigidly ties us for all time. That is a wrong view. We all know the EEC laws and institutions are not fixed for all time and as members we shall have the fullest opportunity to promote whatever changes and developments seem good to us. The object of the EEC is not to cause problems to small farmers. Rather is it to solve their problems and to improve the standard of living of all its members. People should not have the worries which they have at the present time. The Minister informed us in a speech on 11th March, 1971, and I quote from the Irish Press of that day:

We were not the only nation concerned with the restriction of the rights of citizens of other states to acquire land...

The Minister went on:

It was possible to restrict this under Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome but it was obviously a question of classification as to how the provisions of the Article would be put into effect as time went on.

I hope the Minister will make it quite clear that we can protect the interests of our small farmers and that land will not be purchased by people from Holland, Germany, Denmark, England and anywhere else. The land of Ireland should be for the people of Ireland.

As far as I can see from reading about it, the EEC does eliminate discrimination between people solely on the grounds of nationality but that does not prevent the Irish Government from restricting the purchase of agricultural land to those already in or connected with Irish agriculture. The EEC has constantly stressed the importance of improving holdings, making them more efficient and giving larger incomes to the farmers but in order to do this the Government must see that land does not fall into the hands of foreigners or exploiters from this country.

From what I have read of the rules and regulations, I think the Minister can introduce rules and regulations provided he does not discriminate against foreigners only and the sooner he makes that quite clear to the public the better because there is a good deal of scaremongering about the wholesale buying of land by foreigners. Some people are speaking either through ignorance or with the deliberate intent of misleading the people for political or other motives. I should like the Minister to make this quite clear to everybody when he is concluding. I do not think there is any question of the EEC rules either now or in future obliging any government to permit the unrestricted purchase of land. Indeed, the restrictions seem to be stricter in some of the existing EEC countries than they are here at the present time so I do not think the Minister has any troubles in that regard but it would be a good idea if he informed the people that measures can and will be taken to ensure that land does not fall into the hands of foreigners or national speculators. The time has come to make a definite stand and a definite statement on that point because there are too many national speculators purchasing land which should go to the small farmers.

Political influence seems to be dying down. The practice of politicians claiming they can get land for people should cease. The land on which this island's prosperity depends has for far too long been made the plaything of politicians. However, I do not think there is so much party play made of it at the present time and this is a move in the right direction.

I intended to deal at length with the improvement of land but the Minister has informed us that it is the Department's intention to rehabilitate land prior to allotment and to ensure that lime, fertiliser, et cetera, is put on the land and to see to it that the land is drained, scrub eradicated from it and given to the applicant in the best possible condition.

The Department's policy with regard to houses is a disgrace. At present a number of excellent houses have been pulled down or have been allowed to decay because when the Land Commission take over land it is only reasonable that the people are put out of the house. The windows are boarded up but, unfortunately, fire-places, mantelpieces, doors, et cetera, are taken from them. This is happening in every county.

I know a man who spent £1,000 on his house. When the Land Commission took it over they built a house beside it costing in the region of £3,000 to £4,000 and levelled the existing house which was a beautiful house. That sort of thing is a disgrace.

When they do give a house to a man they serve him with a notice that he must knock the chimney off the house and that he cannot repair or let it. I believe this is hindering progress because in rural Ireland today there is a demand for houses. If there is a reasonably good house on a farm and the farmer is prepared to take it, well and good but if the Land Commission want to build the farmer a new house surely he should be allowed, if he has the initiative and the money to repair the existing house, put it into a habitable condition and sell it. At present these houses are used for animals only.

The Department are to be commended on the type of houses and farmyards they are building. The layout has improved tremendously. Farmers' wives are entitled to the most modern kitchens and the most up-to-date equipment in order to end the drudgery of the past. The out-offices are well planned and can be adapted. We should always make certain of this because in the past we were inclined to build the hay sheds too near the back door but recently the architects have put them a reasonable distance away and have designed them in such a way that without much extra expense the farmer can add on extra sheds. I believe the houses and out-offices should be the showpieces in the area so that young farmers can visit them and learn from them. They are a great improvement and the Land Commission should be congratulated in that direction.

The Minister mentioned today loans of up to £500 but I do not think £500 is sufficient. The figure of £500 was first given in 1963-64 and at that time one could build a fine farmhouse for about £2,000. This meant that the farmer got roughly 25 per cent but today it would cost at least £4,000 to build the same house which means that a farmer would have to try to get grants for £2,500 to £3,000. The scheme is a good one but the Department should see if it is possible to increase the loan to £1,000. It is a very good thing to see new designs. It should not be possible, as it was in the past, to identify a Land Commission house a mile away. I think it is a good idea and a move in the right direction.

The aim of the Land Commission should be to divide land inside a year or at least one and a half years. In the past, if the Commission were not ready to divide land at the end of March, or early in April or May, they would not divide it until the following year. That is completely wrong. There is nothing to prevent them dividing it at any time during the year. I think this had something to do with lettings expiring at the end of December which gave them two or three months in which to let the land. The majority of people prefer to get started in the spring but I believe land should be divided as soon as possible.

We note that the sum for wild life development has been increased and this is money well spent. The aim of assisting gun clubs, regional game councils, restocking, protecting and directing improvement of game stocks is also commendable. Valuable work is accomplished under the guidance of the Department's game advisers and the regional councils. Good work is also being done in the provision of bird sanctuaries and the restocking of lakes. It is a good idea which helps to bring tourists here in the off-season with their guns—I hope that some of the crackpots now using guns will not take a pot shot at them. These people are doing untold harm in driving away some people who have come here to do useful work.

In 1969 the Minister told us that his Department had commissioned An Foras Talúntais to carry out research on the rehabilitation of mallard and grouse. These is great potential in this direction especially in the west of Ireland, in my own county and in the midlands where there is so much bog. Unfortunately, those species died out in the past but where we have bogs and lakes it would give much-needed employment if they could be rehabilitated as this would certainly attract tourists. Game shooting has a great potential as a tourist attraction especially in the west. With modern jet planes, if things were properly organised taking into account the pollution that exists in the US, where it is said that one born now in Los Angeles has an expectable life span of only 48 or 50 years, wealthy Americans could be encouraged to come to Shannon, spend a weekend on a shooting expedition in the west and be back at their factories or shops on Monday morning. This would give employment to our people and bring in much-needed money from abroad. It is something on which we should concentrate for the future.

More of the bare land of the west could be under afforestation and if a move were made in that direction people could enjoy the fresh air of the western counties which would improve their health and at the same time have their sport and incidentally benefit the Irish people who could use the money they would spend.

Each year for the past few years we have been told that the preparation of legislation for the conservation and management of wildlife was in hands but nothing has happened. We were told the same thing today. I hope this legislation will soon be enacted. I think the European Conservation Year accomplished good work. The Minister referred to it at length today. Conservation is something with which all our people should be concerned increasingly in the future.

The Minister also referred to national parks. We should encourage their provision in every way. They offer a healthy form of recreation for people in the cities and towns. Always associated with them is the danger of fire and we were glad to note from the Minister's speech today that there has been a decline in vandalism and fires. We want to encourage a sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, many people do not have the civic spirit they should have and regard anything State-owned as something to be harmed and interfered with. We are glad to find now that vandalism in that connection is decreasing.

The present acreage under State forest in the Twenty-six Counties is about 450,000 acres or 182,000 hectares. Other forests including ornamental and landscape plantings, shrubs et cetera bring up the figure to about 550,000 or 223,000 hectares. The percentage of our land which is planted is about 3 per cent and is considerably below that of any European country even including the Netherlands where about 8 per cent of the land is planted. The Minister told us today that there has been a big increase in the amount of land acquired by the Department for afforestation. In his speech two years ago he referred particularly to County Leitrim and said:

I have plans for certain areas which I regard as being particularly suitable for forestry. I refer in particular to County Leitrim. I should like to inform the House that I have directed the Forestry Division to make an all-out drive to acquire land in County Leitrim for planting and thereby give employment to as many people as possible in that area.

Has that scheme been successful? How is it progressing? If it is successful will the Minister make a similar all-out effort in other areas? As well as providing employment afforestation can be a great tourist attraction and therefore as far as possible we should increase the acreage. We should have higher targets for planting and should aim at planting 50,000 acres of land a year.

In conclusion, my main recommendation to the Department is that the Land Commission should be abolished and a rural development authority established in its place; that the maximum number of viable farms be created and that the farmers should have parity with urban dwellers. We should aim at dividing at least 30,000 acres each year and, if at all possible, 40,000 acres. We are moving in that direction.

The Minister should pay cash for land. He told me he will have good news for us and I hope that the system which has existed for so long, and which has hindered the acquisition of land, will be abandoned and that, from now on, people will be paid in cash. I also recommend that the one mile limit should be abolished. It should be extended to at least three miles. The double annuity should be abolished because it is a rack rent which places an unbearable burden on too many small farmers.

Section 6, which as first envisaged was a good scheme, needs drastic improvement. If at all possible land should be divided inside one year. The Department should give land to the people who will make the best use of it, whether they be small farmers or landless men who deal in cattle and who are taking land, men who are earning their living by the land and who are now about to lose their means of making their livelihood due to the ending of the 11 months system.

With regard to forestry the Minister and his Department have done reasonably well over the past year. They should now set their sights higher and aim at 50,000 acres per year. There should be a planned programme to plant at least a minimum of 2,000,000 acres. They have only one-quarter of that at present. We have the land. We have the hills. We have the mountains and the bog land. If we attained those targets we would provide extra employment on the land, in forestry and in the ancilliary industries. If all those things were put into operation we could provide 10,000 to 12,000 extra jobs for our people. That is what the Minister and all parties in this House are interested in. We want to keep as many of our own people as possible on the land. We want to give as much employment as possible to our own people in their own areas and, if not in their own areas, in their own country certainly.

The Minister's speech was rather long and I will try to deal with the points raised in it as briefly as I possibly can. I notice an omission in that the Minister did not say anything about moving the Department to Castlebar. Was this an omission? Are the people who were saying during the week that the Department of Education is not going to Athlone and the Department of Lands is not going to Castlebar making some mistake? The Minister should have included in his speech a comment to the effect that the idea of moving these offices out of the city has been abandoned for good. I believe that is the actual policy. The Minister might as well say it because it is rather ridiculous to have people in country towns under the impression that they will get something which, in fact, they will not get. The upset to the people concerned would be too great. The workers in the Department of Lands and in the Department of Education, which is not under discussion at the moment, are entitled to consideration. They are entitled to know where they stand. Perhaps when he is replying the Minister will make a comment on this matter. I think that is only fair.

For a number of years the Land Commission were the whipping-boy of the politicians in this House and outside it. I have been severely critical of the Land Commission and of Ministers for Lands over the years. While I am still very critical of some of the activities of the Department of Lands, and particularly of the Land Commission, I should like to pay this compliment to the Minister. He will go down as a Minister for Lands who said something very sensible about land division and who is known not to interest himself politically in the division of land. This is important because, to my cost, I know from some of the people I meet that there are people who are under the impression that all they have to do is to talk to a member of a certain political party who has got influence with the Minister and they will get a section of land immediately to which, in most cases they are not entitled.

Sometimes they get it and then they give the credit to the person who said he would get it for them. If they do not get it they are inclined to kick up a row and say they have been let down. I believe that no politician should interfere in the allocation of land. On numerous occasions I have made recommendations to the Land Commission and I will continue to do so on behalf of people if I think they are worthy of getting allotments, but I do not believe it is right that anybody should try to interfere in the allocation of land. I should like to compliment the Minister because he has the reputation of not interfering in land allocation. Possibly it is unfair to some of his predecessors, but the story was that they did. They are entitled to defend themselves if they want to. Some of them are still in this House.

The allocation of land by the Land Commission has caused a lot of talk, discussion and dissatisfaction throughout the country. I should like to pick up the point on which Deputy L'Estrange concluded. It is a question which has bedevelled land division and it is the question of the one mile limit. Let me repeat that the one mile limit is not written into any statute. There are no regulations of any kind laying down a one mile limit. It was found to be convenient by people who were interviewing applicants for land. Naturally, if they could circulate the idea that only those living within one mile of a farm which was being divided were entitled to land, their work was very much easier. They succeeded in building up a mythical regulation. It is not recorded anywhere in the Land Commission records that there should be a one mile limit. The Minister demolished that myth here in the House during the session before the summer recess. I am very grateful to him for doing that.

Land Commission policy has been changing slowly and they are now interviewing people in an ever-widening circle around a farm to be allotted. This is the correct way to do it. If they cannot find suitable applicants immediately beside the farm they move out, and, in most cases, they are able to get very suitable people within a distance of a few miles. The situation before this was absolutely ridiculous when somebody who lived a couple of hundred yards outside this mythical mile was refused consideration. I hope that in the near future we will have a final declaration that suitable applicants within five miles I would say—Deputy L'Estrange says three miles—will be considered for an allotment of land.

It is very annoying to the really good farmer who needs an addition to his farm, or who needs a farm, and who is suitably qualified in every other way, to find that because he is living a few hundred yards outside the mile he is passed over for somebody who, as is well known, will be unable or unwilling to work the land but who may get an allotment because he is living within the area. This should be stopped and the only way it can be stopped is by considering suitable allottees within a reasonable area. Possibly there may have been some justification for building up that idea when people had to move from their house to their farm, or from farm to farm, in a horse and cart or a donkey and cart but with modern machinery, there is no reason why the idea should be retained that they must be living within one mile of the farm being divided.

With regard to tenants of council cottages or other landless people, there is one thing that riles me. Take the case of a man who, while working his day or, as the Minister said, working at some job, has built up a small herd of cattle, or has a couple of cows providing milk and butter for his family, with grazing rights from the owner of the land. When the Land Commission take over he is told he is not eligible because he has not got land of his own and he gets none of the farm that is being divided. This is ridiculous. The idea that this should continue is fast disappearing. I think the Land Commission will adopt a more reasonable approach to it in the future. At least I hope it will.

I also think it is wrong that too much emphasis is put on the information given to a Land Commission inspector by people other than the applicant. There is a tendency on the part of everybody whose job it is to get information to go to a neighbour for information about a particular person. This is wrong. The applicant should be allowed to make his own case and to stand or fall on that case. Let him look for recommendations if he wants to but let us not have the situation where some of his neighbours who do not like him can put in a "spoke" to try to prevent him from getting something to which he is morally entitled.

Another type of person who has been harshly dealt with by the Land Commission is the man who has built up a small dairy. I had one or two such cases. In fact, I had a long discussion with the Minister's predecessor in this House some years ago about a man who had been a farm labourer and who had built up a dairy farm with 40 cows. He had the stabling around his own small holding but because he only had rented land the Minister's predecessor said: "A dairy farmer is not a farmer." I know that times have changed. That was the time when one had to wrap each pound of butter going abroad in a postal order for a couple of shillings. Perhaps a dairy farmer is now a farmer because butter and milk products are selling well. The Land Commission should take note of this.

It is very disheartening to see people being put out of business because of the taking-over of an estate and having to leave the area altogether.

Deputy L'Estrange referred to the double annuity. I think the correct term is the full annuity. Following the 1965 Land Act, locals who got an allotment of land had to pay the full annuity while migrants and people who had been working on the farm were entitled to it at half the annuity. I think the full annuity is too heavy an impost on most people who are starting off on this sort of thing. It is all right to say that they are prepared to pay £20, £25 or £30 an acre for conacre or for grass on the 11 months system; that is so but in that case they only have to pay for it while they are using it and they do not have to pay rates. Add the rates and the fact that every year they must be able to produce the money whether the year has been a good or a bad one and the impost is too high. I would appeal to the Minister to consider the question of the full annuity. Do not forget that the halving of the land annuities has played a big part in the building up of Fianna Fáil. There was a major policy change introduced in the 1965 Act which I opposed at the time and many others did, too, but it was accepted as being a reasonable thing to do. Deputy L'Estrange referred to £18 an acre. I know people who have been asked to pay over £20 an acre annuity which is a lot of money to pay ad infinitum.

When people are being allotted land, whether it is an addition or a new holding or an accommodation plot to a landless man, the inspectors, who have a very difficult job, indeed, making investigations and finally deciding on what way the allotment should take place, might possibly try to be as accommodating as they can with local people who are getting allotments. I know of one farm that has been divided and a man who had a farm on one side of the road and was getting an addition in return for good land a few miles away was offered the second portion on the new farm down a long lane while the portion of land across the road, which would be very convenient for him, was being given to somebody else. This is the kind of thing that should be further considered by the Land Commission. They should try to accommodate those who are getting land. After all, if a man is building a factory and getting a grant or assistance of any kind from the State everything is done to ensure that he gets his factory built in exactly the place he wants it. Nobody tries to put half of the factory in one place and the other half somewhere else. The same thing should apply to an agricultural holding.

On a number of occasions I have made a point about men employed on a farm. It has not yet been taken as a reasonable one by the Land Commission. When a number of men are employed on a large farm and when the Land Commission display an interest in it and start negotiating a price with the owner, who is also the employer, it is not unusual for the owner to cut down his staff drastically. If, as a result of that, a staff of 20 men is reduced to six it is terribly unfair that the 14 who have lost their jobs are not considered for any type of accommodation or compensation when the farm is finally taken over. This is unreasonable and the Land Commission should do something about it.

I also think the amount of money being given by way of grant or compensation instead of land is far too small. The average apparently is somewhere over £350. In most parts of the country £350 would not buy an acre of land. In certain areas it would not buy one-third of an acre. It is an insult to a man who has worked for many years on a farm to be given £350 and told he is completely out and will not get any other land that is to be divided. What good is £350 in 1971? What will he get for it? If he buys a new suit for himself, his wife and children and a few odds and ends it is gone and he is without a job. The amount should be related in some way to the type of farm he would have got if the Land Commission considered that he was a suitable person to whom to give a farm.

It is not so long ago since a person who was then Taoiseach said that anybody who could not live on ten acres was not a farmer. Deputy L'Estrange said today that somebody with five acres or under is not a farmer. I live in County Meath and in that county a fellow with ten acres does not consider himself a farmer but I know that in Cavan and in Monaghan if a man has one acre and anybody calls him anything except a farmer he will be insulted.

He will not make money on it.

I should have said a viable farm.

Yes, well at one time the then Taoiseach said that if a man could not live on ten acres there was something wrong with his farming. He has changed since then and so has the country. Now the acreage has gone up to 50, 60 or 65. There are many different types of land and, indeed, in one farm it is possible to find a half dozen different fields with a half dozen different values. As the Minister knows, the question of valuation on which the Land Commission base their mixed farm idea, can be a bit of a cod because when Griffith in the 1850s was travelling around valuing the land of the country wherever he or his people saw wheat growing they said it was good land and the valuation went up. If there was no wheat there was a chance of the valuation being pretty low. The result is that there are areas in County Meath, maybe because those who followed those farmers were not as good as they were, where you will find rushes three feet high and ridges to show that wheat was grown there. The owners are now paying very high rates on a very high valuation. There will have to be some other system devised to find out whether a farm is viable or not when it is being given out.

Reference was made to the number of acres allowed to be sold to non-nationals. We all remember the song and dance about that section in the 1965 Act. We know that after an amendment to have such a section introduced was defeated by the Government Deputy Haughey, who was then a Minister, at a conference in Galway made the famous declaration about what would be introduced in the Bill. A section was inserted in the Bill which limited the amount of land which could be sold to a non-national to five acres in certain circumstances but it added the words "with the permission of the Land Commission". Members of this House were innocent enough to believe that what was referred to in this connection was the five acres but subsequently the Land Commission administered the section as though it applied to any kind of farm. The present Minister and myself have crossed swords about this matter before. In reply to a question in this House I received from the Land Commission a list of farms which had been sold to non-nationals since the passing of the Act. The list amazed me because the farms involved were not the snipe-grass type of farm on the side of a mountain. They included farms of a few hundred acres in Counties Kildare and Dublin and at least one farm in County Meath.

This should not have happened. While it may be decided that in view of our possible entry into the EEC such sales are inevitable, I do not think this is the answer. Either the Land Commission made a mistake in their administration on this matter or they are doing something that was not intended by the people who passed this legislation. I would ask the Minister to look into this matter and to consider in particular the list to which I have made reference. I am sure he has seen this list but, in my opinion, it shows an amazing picture. If a non-national bought a farm prior to the passing of the Act, I do not agree that he should be allowed to transfer it on sale to another non-national which, I assume from the Minister's statement today, he is allowed to do. The arrangement is wrong and it should not be allowed to continue.

I am glad that so much of the land being purchased is paid for in cash. People who have sold their farms to the Land Commission have complained bitterly of the depreciation in land bonds even in a relatively short period. By the time the land bonds are cleared to them they may well have lost 10 to 15 per cent of their value. If the Land Commission wish to continue buying land for land bonds there should be a guarantee given to the seller that the bonds can be sold at face value within a certain period. Otherwise, people will not wish to sell land for land bonds because they consider they are being duped and I agree with them.

I am sorry that the scheme to get farms from people who are retiring from farming is not a success although I can say I told the then Minister that this would happen. The original idea was that people who had no relatives would be interested in such a scheme and would be able to retire and have an income. I live in the country and I do not know of any relatively rich farmer who has no relatives. He has only to feel slightly ill and they all gather around. For this reason I did not think the scheme would be a success and, apparently, it has not been a success for another reason also.

In a discussion with some of the people on a fact-finding tour here regarding our approach to the EEC, I was interested to find they were surprised and impressed that the Irish Government had in a way rather outdone Mansholt. The plan which has not been such a success here is as good, if not better, than the Mansholt plan but the result of our endeavours indicates that the Mansholt plan may suffer the same fate, if we are unfortunate enough to join the Common Market.

With regard to the scheme to make loans available to progressive farmers, it appears there has been a change here. The Minister stated:

The second part of subhead G stems from section 5 of the Land Act, 1965, in which resides authority for the scheme enabling the Land Commission to make loans to progressive farmers in congested areas for the purchase of viable farms of their choice, subject to making their existing land available to the Land Commission for land settlement purposes.

That is the first time I have seen the last sentence and, perhaps, the Minister would let me know if it is included in the Land Act. Although I was in the House during the entire period while the matter was being discussed, I do not remember the condition that the person had to give up the farm before he got the loan. My impression was that it was introduced mainly to help farmers' sons. I objected to the fact that it applied only to the congested areas because I considered it should apply to all areas. Perhaps this is referred to in the Land Act, although I am not aware that it is and I should be glad to hear from the Minister on this point.

At the time I said that allowing this provision for a certain section would put the small farmer or the farmer's son in other parts of the country in an awkward position. People could come along with, perhaps, £10,000 to bid for small farms although it is apparent from the Minister's statement that this did not happen. Because of the fact that so much has to be done from the time the man seeks accommodation until the matter is finalised, I can understand why the scheme has not been a success. In the main, the man who would be most concerned would be the person who "had his eye" on a farm—to use a country expression —and if he was forced to go through all the procedures mentioned here the farm could be sold several times over. He might get it on the third or fourth rebound if he was prepared to pay a much higher price but he certainly would not be able to obtain it at the first sale. It appears that many applicants have dropped out and I cannot say I am surprised that this is the case.

I should like to inform the Deputy that the matter he mentioned is referred to in the Land Act.

It appears I am not reading the Acts thoroughly.

The Deputy put a lot of work into that one.

I did. That is why I thought I knew all about it.

Section 5 (4) states as follows:

(a) situate in a congested area,

(b) suitable, in the opinion of the Land Commission, for land settlement purposes, and

(c) agreed to be sold to the Land Commission within such period as is certified in regulations under this section.

I thank the Minister for the information. Another matter mentioned in the Minister's statement is in connection with improvement of the land. While there may be a lot in what the Minister says that the idea is to leave the land in the best possible condition for the new farmer, at the same time it might not be a bad idea if the farmer was asked to make some effort himself. Frequently farmers who get a farm are inclined to expect a lot and if they had to make some effort themselves it might give them an added interest in the farm.

I was in Teheran some years ago. The land in that country is not comparable with ours and I do not think many of our Irish farmers would be very interested in taking up the allotments of land—very small portions— which were given by way of grants by the Shah. One of the conditions he stipulated was that when a farmer got a portion of land he was obliged to fence it. If he did not do so within a short period it was taken from him and given to someone who would fence it. The thinking behind that kind of thing was pretty good. We do not want to put people in the position that they expect, having got a farm, that they must never muddy their boots again.

The amount of employment given to the reasonable development of farms is referred to but I think this year that has been cut down very much mainly because the workers, having got an increase in their wages, now find that those who are working are in fact getting less. Somebody the other day said that the Minister, although I do not think it was the present Minister, was trying to do the Kilkenny cat act on them; they were actually fed with their own tails. They, in fact, were paid the increased money out of the money which they would have earned over a longer period. The result was that a number of those men found that the work was dropping off.

I would like to protest to the Minister about the attitude of some of his officials. I seldom complain about the attitude of any Government official but I would like to protest about the attitude of some of the officials in the Minister's Department who are dealing with Land Commission workers. Some of those officials have been anything but courteous and will do anything they possibly can to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question when it is asked by a trade union on behalf of employees. They have refused to give information to which the men were entitled and had asked through their trade union until the Irish Congress of Trade Unions had to point out if the information was not given they would have to do something about it. Despite that, the trade union concerned are still finding difficulty in getting an answer inside a reasonable period and if they get a reply they do not get all the information to which they are entitled. I wanted to put that on record. Short of bringing congress into it again there is no other way in which this matter can be cleared up.

I would like to point out also that the Land Commission, as distinct from any other public body, have attempted to introduce into a pension scheme, which is now in operation for certain types of Land Commission workers, a stipulation which does not operate anywhere else. I refer to those men employed by the Land Commission, who joined the Army during the emergency and who later returned to their jobs. In State or semi-State employment any man who did that is entitled to claim his full service for pension purposes but the Land Commission have offered them half service. I would like to know where they got this idea. Who gave them the idea that a man employed by the Land Commission is a lesser man than a man employed by any other State or local authority body? I would like the Minister to take this matter up because I am quite sure it is something to which he does not subscribe.

I must again complain that farms taken over by the Land Commission are retained for too long a period. I know there is difficulty in finally agreeing on the type of scheme which must be devised. I know that deputations by all parties, and in some cases by individual members, have been visiting the Minister and his Department. I do not like taking a deputation on land division, either a joint one or otherwise, to the Minister because it is not his job and he should not be put in the position of sitting there while his officials deal with the matter. Eventually they are the people who have to deal with this and it should be dealt by them alone. However, the Minister should try to ensure when land is taken over that it is processed as quickly as possible. There is an old arrangement whereby if one farm or portion of a farm is taken over and there is a possibility of more of that farm or a neighbouring farm being taken over at a later stage the Land Commission retain the original land until such time as they get the balance. This is not a good idea as it causes a lot of unrest in an area.

Some effort should be made, while the farm is in the hands of the Land Commission, to try to accommodate local people who want to take the farm on the 11-months system. The officials of the Land Commission have been very reasonable in a number of cases I brought to their notice and they have been able to do a deal with the people concerned. I know that an effort has been made by individuals to bully their way through the Land Commission and to try to get by threats or certain actions things to which they are not entitled. As far as I am concerned I would not lend any support to this sort of effort and I do not believe any support should be lent to it. However, the National Land League, who have been making representations, have, as all organisations have, certain people who are prepared to kick over the traces. The National Land League should be met and the matters discussed with them until it is proved at national level that they are otherwise. There are people using the name of the Land League to do things which are illegal and to which nobody should lend his support.

I understand that at present there is a lady in Mountjoy Jail because of her decision not to carry out the instructions of the court and it is suggested that the Land League are supporting her. I am sorry for the lady in question, whom I know very well. I am sorry she has been so headstrong. For many years she has been making the case that she was entitled to consideration because of something which happened to some relative of hers, or land which belonged to some relative of hers but I do not believe anybody has the right to do what she did. I do not believe the National Land League are supporting what she is doing.

There may be a section of the Land League who are supporting her. It is wrong for people, unofficially, to put this unfortunate woman in the position she is in because with the right support I do not think she would be involved in it. The policy of the National Land League, who believe in the allocation of land to people living in the area, should be discussed and considered with officials of the Land Commission so that some accommodation could be reached. The Land Commission and the National Land League members are attempting to do the same thing and that is to get a reasonable distribution of available land.

We often hear that there is not sufficient land to go around but while there is not land enough to go around we still have something which I consider is a scandal, that is where a man with 500 or 600 acres of land who has enough money, is allowed to go into an area and buy 500 or 600 acres more. Nobody should be allowed do this. There is no use saying there is not enough land to go around as long as that sort of thing is allowed. I would ask the Minister seriously to consider putting a limit on the amount of new land which anybody, who already has a viable holding, should be entitled to take.

There are people who talk about the EEC, about what will have to be done if we go into it and the necessity for big ranges in order to finish cattle. The small man and his needs should be of paramount importance; he should be considered before any of the get-rich-quick ranchers who would like to buy up 20 or 30 small farms to put them into a ranch on the plea they want to help the country to prepare for Europe. We have too many of those people at present and the Land Commission might take an interest in this particular thing.

The Minister has referred to the experiment at Grennanstown. The Minister was there the other day. He is very welcome in Meath at all times.

However, I wonder if the people who have come there will make every effort to make it work. I wish them the best of luck but as I mentioned to the Minister before, I think they are at a slight disadvantage because they have come from more than 100 miles away and they will not be familiar with the type of land or with the markets or customs of the locality. It is a pity that this was not tried with people who know these things.

All in all, I consider this to be an experiment which will be successful. It has been a success in Holland and elsewhere where it has been tried. On the other side, however, I am afraid there is a tendency among farmers here to try to compete with each other. If a neighbour buys a big new machine the other farmer will try to better it. If one farmer puts up a new barn the other will try to outdo him. Perhaps the wives have a lot to do with it.

If one farmer has a big machine, the social status is at stake and the other farmer will not be satisfied until he has bought one as big. Of course, there is the drawback here that this adds to the balance of payments problem. The point I am trying to make in this respect is that a big effort should be made to get more co-operation. An example has been set in Grennanstown and I hope others will follow. I recall that the late Canon Hayes, when he was curate in my part of the country, formed a co-operative group which was operated mainly from the point of view of machinery. It involved threshing mills at that time. That effort was continued for many years after the late Canon Hayes had returned to his native county Tipperary. Whether this particular experiment is the way to success I shall leave for somebody else to decide but of one thing I am certain: we must encourage farmers to own their own holdings. This experiment at Grennanstown should be a useful example to those who might be thinking of taking it up.

The Minister spoke of the vesting of holdings and I thought we must be getting towards the end of vesting. Originally, I understood, this was one of the main functions of the Land Commission. Deputy L'Estrange's pet baby of what will happen to the Land Commission when the vesting of holdings is completed is another matter. My main point now is that the vesting should be brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible. This should not be too difficult because the number left appears to be very small.

On the same page of his brief the Minister referred to a matter which requires much consideration. Referring to the collection of land annuities, he said that out of a total collectable amount of £2,831,601, the amount collected for the year ended 31st March last was £2,683,717. That leaves a substantial amount of money uncollected and the complaint is something I find it difficult to understand because I am told that the Land Commission are about the worst ratepayers in the country. In County Meath a lot of land is held by the Land Commission and Meath County Council have always complained that it is impossible to get the Land Commission to pay their rates. How can the Land Commission complain about the non-payment of annuities when they are not prepared to pay out substantial amounts which they owe to local ratepayers? People in glass houses should not throw stones.

There is another aspect which the Minister might be good enough to comment on. It is the Land Commission taking over a farm with a big house on it. What happens? The house may remain untenanted for a long time with considerable loss of rates to the local authority.

I know there is a new system of paying land annuities and I am concerned that those who will be receiving the new instructions will not be given long forms to read, complicated papers which they may start to read but may not be able to complete or to understand. I often wonder why Government Departments make these things so complicated. Under the old system, the ten-year receivable order was considered by most people to be almost as important as the deeds of their land: many of them used them to establish their bona fides, producing them on every occasion. They will probably miss this under the new system.

So much for the Land Commission. I wonder if the Minister could tell me what is the position in regard to the extra £1 million about which there was an announcement yesterday. What will its effect be in regard to forestry employment? I do not know if the Minister is aware that wholesale notices of termination of employment have been issued to forestry workers all over the country. This was not because there was shortage of work but because, as the Minister said when speaking here earlier this year, he could not get money to get the job done. He is now getting an extra £1 million and I hope it will have the effect of keeping people in employment.

Which £1 million is the Deputy talking about?

The £1 million mentioned yesterday by the Minister for Finance.

I referred earlier to the effect on forestry this year.

This Vote covers portions of two years and I am not quite clear on the point. Will the Minister now see that forestry workers who were laid off or are being laid off will get a reprieve? If he does I shall be very glad. This is a bad time for anybody to be out of work. We had somebody protesting this morning about the introduction of Santa Claus so early but for people who have been in employment for many years to get their cards for the final time is a sad story. To be told that there is not further employment for him in forestry and knowing that there is not employment elsewhere is not a very happy situation facing Christmas. I am hoping the reprieve will be sent out quickly to forestry workers.

I know some forestry workers are being laid off because of the age limit but what about replacing them? A lot of extra land has come into the hands of the Forestry Division in the past 12 months and I should like to see men put to work on it. I know that in my area 100 acres of additional land was taken over but four or five men are being laid off. I had a letter yesterday from a man working in forestry in the area where those men are being laid off. What he had to tell me may have been amusing for me but certainly not for them. A fortnight ago three men were loading a lorry and three trainees and three officials of the Department were standing over them. One of them had a watch and he was timing the three workers. The man asked me in his letter: "How could there be money to keep me in a job when money is being spent to keep people doing nothing"? This is the type of situation that people have been complaining about and they are perfectly entitled to do so. They are perfectly entitled to make any complaint they see fit. The Minister referred to the felling of timber. We have all been looking forward to the time when the magic million would be reached. We hope that eventually forestry will be so profitable that it will subsidise State services.

Wishful thinking.

Much of the felling is now done by contractors. There is no proper control over contractors felling trees. When the Forestry Division carried out this work themselves they cut the trees, removed the branches, took out the trees and sold what trees they could. Finally, they burned or in other ways destroyed what was left, leaving the land ready for replanting. Nowadays the contractor cuts down the trees, knocks off the branches and hauls out the trunks. Branches are left and in some cases forestry workers are sent to plant trees in the middle of sawn-off branches. That did not happen before. Is it considered more economical to do this? Is it not realised that there is a fire hazard for young trees planted in such circumstances? The Forestry Division should not allow this to happen.

The Minister referred to sawmills.

Over the past 12 months I have been trying to persuade the officials in the Forestry Division to provide some form of central heating for a sawmill in Tipperary. I have received numerous promises but no heat. The men working in this particular sawmill say that on cold mornings the roof starts to drip. They are not prepared to work in this mill in the cold weather this year.

The rates of pay and conditions of employment are matters for negotiation. A new board have been set up to deal with these matters. Reaction is very slow in Government Departments. I sometimes feel that the State work on the idea on which a county council employee of my acquaintance worked that if they forget about a complaint received perhaps the complainant will also forget. Reaction in Government Departments to complaints is not as quick as it should be. If there was a complaint in an office in which people were working it would be dealt with quickly to save a row. Workers outside an office should be treated in the same way.

The Forestry Division officials, as distinct from a particular official in charge of a section in the Land Commission, are most courteous. I have nothing but respect for the way in which they deal with interviews, phone calls, et cetera, but they could be quicker with the pen. I have no complaint about Forestry Division officials. Any time I ask for information I get a reply. If I phone I get the information I am looking for. Most people dealing with the Forestry Division have the same thing to say about the staff there.

There is one matter causing great annoyance in the Forestry Division, the Land Commission and other State Departments where outdoor employees are concerned. This is the question of income tax. The PAYE system is not in operation. This should leave the person who pays income tax in such employment in a favourable position, because he is taxed on his previous year's wages. For some extraordinary reason there is a tendency on the part of the State to deduct income tax from the beginning of the tax year until about October. Suddenly they then become aware that sufficient income tax has not been deducted and they rush to collect all tax due before 5th April. In other words, a man paying £2 tax per week finds he has to pay £4 a week for six months. The Minister will have no difficulty in checking this point. He can also ask his constituents who have been employed on outdoor work by Departments about this point. If the PAYE system was being worked I could understand a difficulty arising. As the present system is based on the previous year's earnings the income tax officials, the Forestry Division and everyone else can know exactly what has been earned and what the tax should be for the full 12 months. I cannot see why this matter is not dealt with in a different way. It is no answer to say that an outdoor worker could have asked for his deductions to be arranged in such a way as to provide for an average weekly tax payment. The Land Commission officials know what the man has earned in the previous year. Is there any good reason why a man cannot have a deduction of £2 per week in 1971 as he had in 1970 until official information comes about his correct deductions? One particular Department have been deducting a substantial amount of tax from 1st October and they have now added on the extra £6 which the Minister for Finance said is necessary. I know one man who receives £18 per week who finished up with £11 one week recently with which to feed a wife and five children.

The Forestry Division are doing a great job. I am a little doubtful about whether or not they are reaching their full potential. There are rural areas in which there are very few jobs for the local men. Forestry can give employment to some of them. Every effort should be made to provide employment in rural areas. Eventually forestry should pay its way and the returns to the State should be worthwhile. Officially there are no forests in my constituency. There are three or four forestry centres but they come under "Cavan". If a small number of people work in one forest it may be found necessary to move them then or 12 miles away to another small centre. Someone is expected to provide transport. The Forestry Division should make some attempt to provide such transport themselves—and this might be difficult—or some compensation should be given to persons who usually provide the transport for the remainder of the workers. This is something which has been discussed again and again with the Forestry Division and they always come back with the story: "The regulations do not allow us to do this. We do not provide the transport." The theory is that it should be possible to pick up the men in each district who will do the work and if the worker is not prepared to travel under his own steam there is no work for him.

Forestry workers like most other workers, particularly in State employment, are now pensionable and therefore continuity of employment is important. A new look will have to be taken at this. I would suggest to the Minister that he might discuss this with his officials and, if he wishes, with the trade unions who will be only too glad to spend as much time as is necessary discussing it in order to ensure that men are enabled to travel without hardship. It usually finishes up with the workers having to pay for the transport themselves, and this substantially reduces the amount of their take-home pay. Whether the transport is legal or illegal is beside the point.

I have been speaking on a number of occasions in the past about private planting of trees. The present rate is too small. The Irish farmers are not as alert to planting as they should be. Farmers who have a certain amount of land which is no use to them at present could bring it back into use if they went to the trouble of planting it. If somebody asked them why they do not do that they will say the grant is too small. I do not want to repeat myself here but on a number of occasions I referred to the Austrian system whereby when a farmer has a daughter born the first thing he arranges is to have an acre of trees planted and by the time the girl is 21 years of age she has quite a substantial dowry. This might be very useful if the Irish farmer would consider it, but there are so many of them unmarried in the West of Ireland that perhaps it would not matter there at all.

Farmers use trees as shelter belts and so on, but they should consider them as a crop out of which money can be made. The Minister might consider giving a considerable increase in the amount of the grant, which might encourage them; I do not know whether it would or not.

I am glad the J.F. Kennedy Park has been the success the Minister says it has been. This project could be repeated in other parts of the country. If this park has had the number of visitors referred to here it must be a great attraction. The forest walks were a great idea. I am glad to hear the Minister saying the incidence of vandalism has been so small and that it has been possible to achieve something to which all of us have been looking forward for years. Attention should be drawn to the necessity of being careful when out among trees, particularly in the dry weather. Some of these walks have been well worth the trip. I thank the Minister for making available the list because without it most of us would have been lost. It is rather a pity that it has not been possible to spread the net a little bit wider. If more people knew about this more people would avail of it. I would suggest to the Minister that he should encourage the tourist people to draw attention to these walks in their brochures, particularly in the brochures in the area in which the forest walks are.

The Minister also refers to conservation. The effort made in regard to conservation was puerile. We talked about conservation but nothing was done, or at least very little that those of us who live in the country or travelled through it could see being done. The country is still being spoiled by vandalism or carelessness. The Minister is on the right lines in regard to the preservation of wild life. Again I would ask him if he would make a game sanctuary, or persuade those responsible to make a game sanctuary, of the Boyne estuary. Because of drainage the habitat of many birds has been destroyed. I am talking about the wet lands. We must all agree that it is in the national interest that drainage should take place, but if because of drainage wet lands are disappearing and birds are leaving these areas, surely it is only common sense that areas that can be preserved should be preserved. The Boyne estuary is a natural place for such a purpose. The Minister could go as far back as the town of Navan but if he did not want to go that far he could start at Slane. However, if the whole Boyne valley could be preserved as a game sanctuary everyone would be delighted.

There are a number of matters with which the Minister's Department cannot deal. At one time there were a number of walks between Navan and Slane and Drogheda, right along the Boyne. What is everybody's business is nobody's business, and no one has made any improvements. From time to time efforts have been made at one end or the other, but a national effort should be made to improve that area, and if it could be made a game sanctuary it would be a fantastic attraction, particularly when walking has become so popular again, and perhaps many of us could be persuaded to try it.

I said I would be as brief as possible, but I am sure the Minister will not agree with me that I have been brief. I should like to conclude by saying that the officials of the Department of Lands, the Forestry Division and the Land Commission, with the one exception which I mentioned, have been a pleasure to deal with. At least we get courtesy and when asked a question they do their best to answer it.

I am glad the Minister is a person who has been forthright in his views on many matters and has expressed them even though they do not seem to find favour with everybody, even on his own side of the House. He has also remained the head of a Department who has not interfered in matters which should not be dealt with by the head of a Department. For that reason I should like personally to convey my thanks to the Minister. I cannot wish him a long time in office. All I wish him is that as long as the Fianna Fáil Government are in power he will remain Minister for Lands, and the Minister is aware of what I would say after that.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.