The Minister for Lands and Agriculture is unfortunately laid up with a heavy cold, and he asked me to appear for him in the Seanad to-day in connection with this Bill. I need hardly say that I am not particularly familiar with the provisions of the Bill and that I would not be in a position to stand heavy fire upon it. It seems to me that the points that will fall for special comment and criticism will be for the most part Committee Stage points. It would be difficult, analysing the Bill, to state just what general principles underlie it. It is, in fact, simply a series of specific amendments to the basic Land Act of 1923. Possibly Senators may see fit to pass the Second Reading of the Bill to-day, and reserve for Committee Stage such comment and criticism as they may wish to make. I think the Minister's illness is not very serious and that he will be available for the Committee Stage next week.
PUBLIC BUSINESS. - LAND BILL, 1927—SECOND STAGE.
I wish to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I greatly regret, as I am sure the House does, the cause of the Minister's absence. This Bill contains several very useful provisions amending the Act of 1923 where it was found defective. There are two sections in the Bill which would require explanation at some future stage. These are the financial clauses, and also those relating to losses on resale, where the price originally paid for land cannot now be realised. It would be very well to have figures or an estimate of what the total loss on these sales would be. I understand that in Section 26 it is proposed that the taxpayers should be called upon to bear the losses incurred in the congested districts where the price of land purchased there cannot now be realised, or where the tenants cannot be got to sign agreements for the full amount, on the ground, possibly that they would not be able to meet the annuities in future. Possibly the price of land in the congested districts was fixed by the old Congested Districts Board. I cannot imagine any other reason why the price paid the owner should not now be realised, unless it was caused by the effect of war conditions, and that a greater price was paid for the land than it is now value for. We have also cases known as the Land Bank cases. These we are committed to, as under the 1923 Act we agreed to take them over. After inspection and revaluation of the land in these cases it has been found that they cannot be resold without losses being incurred. We have already bound ourselves to take over these cases, and I cannot see that we can get out of the responsibility in any way.
Another clause deals with cases where committees or trustees in different districts, on their own account, or on behalf of uneconomic holders and landless men, went security for the purpose of raising loans to purchase lands. These lands have been revalued and, in most cases, it was found they were bought at excessive prices, and that resale cannot be proceeded with unless someone bears the loss between the price the land is worth and the price that was originally paid for it. It would be desirable if we had an estimate of what the total loss will be in each of these three instances. Possibly that estimate can be given at some future stage of the Bill. This Bill contains nearly all the provisions of a Bill that was introduced into this House by Senator Butler, and which got a Second Reading. Three-fourths of that Bill is embodied in the present Land Bill, the only omission being holdings known as "residential holdings." When we come to the Committee Stage we can discuss whether it would be desirable to have this class of holding included in the Bill or not. As I said, this Bill contains very valuable provisions, is well thought out, and I have great pleasure in supporting the motion for the Second Reading.
I desire to support the Second Reading of the Bill. I am sorry to hear that the Minister for Lands and Agriculture is ill, and I hope that he will be restored to health in a short time. There is necessity for this amending Bill, as it contains very many essential provisions. There are too many Land Acts. Practically every year we have had a Land Bill introduced into the Oireachtas, and, as a result, landholders are in a state of anxiety. They are always looking forward to see what the next Bill will bring forth and if it will affect their property or security. I think it is time the Government called a halt to land legislation.
The only omission, I think, in this Bill is, that it does not propose to repeal objectionable clauses that were in the 1923 Act. I refer to the clauses which give the Land Commission power to obtain land anywhere or any place at a price fair to the Land Commission. It is rather hard lines that people should be sent out of their homes in order to make room for others, even though the others are congests or landless men. Another clause gives the Land Commission power to obtain the lands at a price that is fair to the Land Commission. If the question is asked, what is the meaning of a price fair to the Land Commission, the answer is, a price at which the Land Commission can let the land to landless men or congests at reasonable annuities. That price does not take into consideration the market value of the land. I say it is a disgrace to allow that provision to remain on the Statute Book. It should be repealed, and I hope the Minister for Lands and Agriculture on the Committee Stage will consider an amendment to rectify such a state of affairs.
This is one of the Land Bills that I feel no Government need apologise for introducing. Every Land Bill is rendered necessary by experience. After all, the land question is a burning question. I think most of the Land Acts have tended to ameliorate conditions on the land. I regret the Minister for Lands and Agriculture is not here, and I particularly regret the reason of his absence. I am glad to hear that his illness is not a serious one. I would like to support what Senator Linehan said, whereby losses on sales may be charged to the general taxpayer. Before the Committee Stage I would like that we should have an opportunity of framing amendments, if they are desirable, and that some time should be given members of the Seanad to absorb any explanation the Minister may be able to give on this question so that we may reconcile our minds to the fact that the new section provides for the compulsory investment of land in tenant purchasers in congested districts willy-nilly. They are to be compelled to take holdings, but is there any chance that any losses that may be incurred with regard to the price may by any side-wind fall on the taxpayer? I am referring to Section 51.
I would also refer to Section 9, which deals with stud farms. Will that section apply to farms breeding thoroughbred cattle as well as to farms breeding thoroughbred horses? The Minister has assured me that it will. Purchased holdings which were hitherto excluded from the operations of the 1923 Act are brought in under this Bill for acquisition. I would like to have some explanation why that is considered essential. I have no doubt the Minister could satisfy me, but I would like to be satisfied. The Bill is very comprehensive and it is extremely difficult for the layman to follow. For example, if there was legislation by reference this Bill is a most specific example of it. One has to wade through clause after clause and to references to specific sections in the 1923 and other Acts which one thinks might be inserted without any great increase in the dimensions of this Bill. However, the Bill was framed, as apparently many Land Acts were framed, in order to give opportunities for legal arguments. Otherwise I think the Bill is an admirable one and should get a Second Reading.
I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill more or less on the same terms as my colleague, Senator Counihan. He referred to certain clauses, in which I also feel very strongly that a change should be made. There is, for instance, the clause in the 1923 Act which gives power to take land anywhere. If that provision is carried out to its logical conclusion, it will have a very injurious effect on any security that we may have. Farmers will feel in future that if any change takes place in our Government other people can come along and say "I require that field," without any regard to the use to which the field has been put in the past. They can acquire a field up to a person's very hall door under the powers in this Act. I think it is most unreasonable that people who are the principal ratepayers and supporters of the Government should be left in that state of uncertainty. Farms on which racehorse breeding establishments are conducted are sufficiently protected and they have a guarantee more or less that they will not be disturbed. I would also like to see that principle applied to people who breed cattle. They are a necessary factor in promoting the betterment of the country, and I think they should get every encouragement and have every security. That is one of the provisions that should be included in this Bill.
It is hard to expect, remembering that so many Land Acts have been passed in years gone by, that we are now dealing with the final Act. I think myself if Lord Ashbourne's Act were followed up we would have a very different state of affairs to those which existed afterwards. I know personally of two or three big estates which were purchased by the Government and divided amongst various people. There is a big ranch in our district which has come to be known as the "Free State." I think it is not a complimentary reference, but the people who were put in these lands were at first bounding over one another to take over possession. They are saddled now with rents that it is impossible for them to pay and they are more or less a drag on the country and a drag on themselves. They are trying to meadow the land. They had not the money to stock the land and they carried on in a kind of makeshift manner by trying to meadow the land and setting it to their neighbours on the eleven months' system for grazing. It became so unprofitable that they are all down and out. They are really not able to carry on. Personally I feel that the Government, in order to make this Act a success, should help those people for a time. The time over which their instalments are to be paid ought to be extended by such a period as would bring the instalments down to a reasonable rate. These people would then have some chance of prospering and succeeding. If that is not done I really believe that this Bill will make things worse instead of improving them, and what was considered a great El Dorado by a great many people will become a great failure. I regret very much that the Minister is unable to be present, but I hope that such steps as are necessary to make this and other Land Acts a success, will be carried through.
I am afraid I will have to offer some general remarks on this Bill, not so much for what it contains as for what it omits. It is entitled "an Act to amend the law relating to the occupation and ownership of land and for other purposes relating thereto." I am to a certain extent encouraged in what I am going to say by the two speakers who preceded me, Senators Counihan and O'Connor. If anybody knows more about agricultural conditions in the country than these two gentlemen. I should like to know who he is. Each of them has built up his position from small beginnings to be—it is not perhaps a flattering word—a capitalist as the result of his own energy. These Senators see the extraordinarily damaging principle that is involved in this power of compulsory acquisition. It is a principle that is dangerous not so much for what is evident as for what is concealed, although it is a truism to say that it is the function of statesmen to see hidden dangers in such measures. I know that to a certain extent what I am going to say is reviving the members of past controversies but I do so advisedly because I believe until we retrace our steps on this question of land we are never going to have land in the position in which it should be, fertilised by capital, by enterprise, and by all those qualities which alone make for wealth-production.
I say that these compulsory acquisition clauses have played their part, quite a substantial part, in the land depression we have got to-day. There are other causes, of course, but at the very time we wanted capital and security to take more land and to get land cheaply we are met by this obstacle. People never know if they own what they have. They are met by the agitation of landless men and all and sundry, whom I think we all know so well. The mere fact of raising the alarm would be quite sufficient to drive away such a timid element as capital. In the same way those who own their lands from day to day do not know their position. I know there are certain safeguards; that no Government will be mad enough to take land from a man who is using it to make a living, but it is held entirely on sufferance and we never know that one Government may not undo next year what the present Government does to-day. This state of uncertainty and insecurity is deterring men from developing and improving their holdings, from improving their cowsheds, erecting fences and making roadways, all of which would give employment and all of which are absolutely essential to agricultural production. I had brought to my notice many cases of people who would seriously consider returning to this country and who would purchase demesnes and residences in this country, men of means who would be very large income tax payers, were it not for this uncertainty. I am sure it would be thought very desirable that these people should return. I hold that the effect of these acquisition clauses is a far greater deterrent than income tax rates. Even though you may have a substantial lowering in the income tax rate tomorrow, that would not be a sufficient inducement so long as you have these acquisition clauses on the Statute Book. I also say, apart from that, that it is essentially unjust that land should be treated differently to other property and that people should not be allowed to get full value for their possessions.
I would like to make some remarks on the question of administration. Invariably when you get any service so entirely in the grip of the State, you get all kinds of official complications. I have one case in mind of which I can privately give the Minister particulars if he has not already got them. It shows the delay in the carrying out of the acquisition of these estates. In March, 1925, an owner got notice from the Land Commission that one of its inspectors would visit his land. In the following April the owner was notified that the inspector would carry out his inspection on the 7th. Nothing happened until the next year. In February, 1926, a copy of the provisional list of lands was published. On the 5th April, 1926, the owner was notified that the holding of 522 statute acres was included in the list published in Iris Oifigiúil of retained holdings. It was published in July, 1926. My information is up to February last, and I understand that nothing further has been heard of this case. I am prepared to concede that these things must be slow. I also say that this official procedure is necessarily slow. In a case of this kind the owner's position is precarious. It is doubtful even if he would stock his land with the uncertainty of acquisition hanging over him. He may let it on grazing, but he will sit as tight as he can. His methods would be for the greatest safety—that is, getting the least return out of his land. We are tampering in this matter with our fundamental wealth. In the meantime interest is pilling up, creditors are getting impatient and the whole of the financial stability of the country is being affected. There are many other cases of a similar character.
The claim is put up that there is great virtue in the intensification of holdings. With due regard to security, and even to security for the capitalist, the congestion problem has to be dealt with. I do not think it can be dealt with by the re-division of holdings. There must be something more practical than that. I went to the trouble to go down and see the conditions in one of those divided holdings on the Border. I examined in detail five holdings. About 40 acres were striped. In some cases there was a temporary fencing, and wiring of the most provisional kind dividing up those holdings. There was a sort of mud road made for access. On only one of those holdings was there stock at all. I was informed that the stock was taken in at so much a head for grazing. On two of those holdings hay was made; it was bad hay, which had been made with great difficulty. The new proprietors had not the capital, and had to borrow. On one of those plots the hay was not cut, and was lying on the land as late as October. Is there any purpose served by that? I fail to see it. I was told there was £2 an acre on those holdings, and they could not last.
Then, again, I hear my friend, Senator O'Connor, suggesting that we are going deeper into the mire. I suggest that is the sort of thing you get when you put a large industry like this under the control of the State. You put off the evil day. Trying to be kind, you only make it harder for everyone at the end. You strike at the source of primary wealth production, which can only be built upon by capital, encouragement, and private enterprise. Freedom to own wealth and to make profits or losses, freedom to make a fortune or lose a fortune is the method down the ages in business enterprise. I do not believe we have discovered any better method. This method of State control has down the ages been tried and proved a failure.
As the Minister for Agriculture is not present, I am not going to inflict detailed points on the Minister for Justice, but ones of a general principle. The Minister for Justice is, perhaps, more capable of answering those than the Minister for Agriculture, because he stands a little further back from the picture. With regard to the exemption of stud farms, it does not commend itself to me. I call it a sort of system of blackmail. Why should men who choose to keep pedigree cattle be exempt from an unjust process? I suggest that a man carrying out economic farming with labour-saving methods, getting the most out of his employees, with a view to making money, is just as desirable as the person who is breeding pedigree stock. Most of the people who breed pedigree stock are rich people, and lose money.
I would like to say a word on the present method of deducting arrears of annuities from the Grants-in-Aid. The reasons which existed before the Treaty do not exist now. It is not fair to penalise a local authority on account of unpaid arrears which they have no means to recover. The effect is to make the Land Commission more dilatory in the collection of arrears if they know that the land purchase fund does not suffer. On looking through those arrears in my county I see some up to ten years' arrears. Why has not action been taken all that time? Surely it is up to the Land Commission to act promptly in dealing with those defaulters and not prejudice the case of other creditors. Finally, I will refer to some extraordinary provisions as explained by the Minister for Agriculture with regard to fixing the redemption price of the fee farm grant. As he is reported in the Dáil, he says it must be fixed entirely on some rough and ready principle. The owner of a fee farm grant has undoubted security, but that is not to apply. The judge has to proceed on the principle of rough justice to consider what is left over for the occupier, and if he considers enough is left over he is to take it off the interest. He has to give a reasonable proportion to the grantor. This sort of legislation is based on the principle that you cannot do the ideal thing for every tenant, but that you can only do approximate justice in an Act of Parliament. If you apply that principle I do not know where you will be. What will be the effect on financial stability? That will be gone into in Committee however again. I wish to reiterate the exceedingly great and fundamental danger to the State that is enshrined in the acquisition powers.
Senator Sir John Keane has been making a case which has been made in this country a great deal longer than I can remember for the old system of land tenure which was imposed on us by a foreign power. An effort was made to change the whole system of land tenure here, and thus to make it the same as that of a neighbouring country. Whether that was a better system, or a bad one, it resulted in driving people from their land and forcing them up into hilly districts and congested places. That was the real origin of the difficulties of the land question in Ireland. If the original system had been allowed to go on things would not have been as they have been for the last sixty years or more. That attempt was made a good many years ago and it failed. It could not continue. The country was in a desperate state and then a change began. The system began to break down in England, and attempts have been made to change the system there. In England it was a system in which the landlord held the land and pushed people in. There was a great deal of difference there, because in England the landlord made all the improvements. In Ireland he made none, so the case was worse here. When you push one system on to another, partly succeed and it breaks down you have to resort to a lot of extraordinary methods which, theoretically, are not sound. I do not say it is sound to take away a man's property and give it to somebody else, but the necessities of the case made it that that should be done; otherwise there would be no people left in Ireland.
I do not think it is very much good for Senators to be arguing for an effete system which is dead and gone and can never be revived. Things are gone too far for that, and things will have to be altered, even in England, because there even they are trying to settle the farmers on the land, in a voluntary way, no doubt. The old system is not found to be necessary there now any more than it is anywhere else. It is quite true, as some Senators pointed out, that things can be carried too far. A man may desire to retain some of his land or his demesne, and may not be allowed to do so. I do not know how far that has gone. Senator Counihan made a case before in the Seanad for people in the West whose land was taken from them. It is hard to draw the line on these matters at the present moment, so I shall not go much into these theories.
What is really serious to-day is the fall in prices. Lands were bought in the past for very large sums of money —during the war they were bought at ridiculous prices by the Land Bank. I remember warning the Land Bank that prices were bound to fall, and that war prices could not possibly continue, and that they would go smash. Something similar occurred in the old days with the Land League. They bought up an estate in Galway at a price which they could not realise afterwards when they tried to dispose of it, with the result that it has been lying there for many years unoccupied. People paid large sums of money for land which can never be realised again, with the result that this money, which has been advanced by the Land Bank, would have caused the bank to fail, only that the Government came to their help. They took over the responsibility. I think it is doubtful whether they ought to have done so. I do not know if there was any alternative in the matter. But not only did prices fall to what they were bound to fall to, but they have fallen to a much greater extent, so much so that land purchased quite recently is not paying anything to-day. No farmer, whether as owner or tenant is able to make his land pay to-day. As a farmer said to me the other day, "Farmers are now losing money in proportion to the amount of lands they hold. The more they hold the more they are losing." That has come under my observation in several cases. It is quite clear it is impossible for the Land Commission to divide land at the prices that have been paid for it in the recent past, and expect people to be able to pay back in proportion, because, not only have they to pay annuities, but they have also to pay high rates. Everybody who knows anything about the West of Ireland knows that the annuitants are not capable of paying their instalments, and that bankruptcies are taking place, and many of them are giving up the land. I see it stated in the papers to-day that numbers of Irish people have sold their land and have gone over to Liverpool to look for work, and are now starving in Liverpool. They do not know now which is the worst, Liverpool or the Free State.
I should like to ask the Minister to explain the following paragraph in Section 26: "Where the price fixed for untenanted land situated in a congested districts county is such that the re-sale thereof cannot be effected without loss ... and can only be re-sold at a loss, then the interest at the rate of 4½ per cent. per annum and sinking fund at a rate of one-quarter of one per cent. per annum upon so much of the purchase money as the Land Commission shall certify each half-year represents the difference between the total amount of the advances made for the purchase of the land and the total price paid by purchasers of the land from the Land Commission shall subject to the approval of the Minister for Finance, be paid to the Land Commission out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas." Supposing it is found that a man cannot pay the annuities put upon the land and that it will partly fall upon the State, is the Minister for Finance every half-year, for an indefinite number of years, to pay to the Land Commission this difference? How does he pay it, and does he get the money out of the Oireachtas to do so? One would suppose that the proper way would be for the Oireachtas to pay a lump sum down to make it up. The Land Commission coming every half-year and supplying the Minister for Finance with a statement that so many annuitants are not able to pay so much of their annuities and that he, therefore, has to get the money for that purpose from the Oireachtas seems to me to be a thing that will go on for ever. Perhaps the Minister would explain that matter when he comes to reply.
The main purpose of this Land Bill, or indeed any other Land Bill, is to establish security as far as it can be established and to give fixity of tenure to the landholder. That, of course, is fundamental to promoting a disposition on the part of the landholder to make the best use he possibly can of his land. That is to say, he can lay himself out as a farmer. In doing so it is no light consideration when he is considering questions in the matter of this industry to lay himself out in a certain method and way of utilising his lands, whether it be for grazing or tillage or mixed purpose of grazing and tillage. He has to make his plans for years ahead so that anything that tends to instability or insecurity in the tenure of land would naturally militate against these considerations when he sits down to consider his position and to mark out his programme for a number of years ahead.
Now it is absolutely essential that security shall be given as far as legislation can give it, and particularly in the present depressed state of land in this country. I do not share the views expressed by some Senators here as to the arbitrary action on the part of the Government with regard to the acquisition of farms and residential holdings. At least, so far as our experience of the past has gone, where land has been utilised fairly and conducted for farming, I do not think that Senators can give instances where compulsory acquisition has been exercised in regard to any such holdings except the surrounding conditions were such as to leave the Government no other course to remedy extraordinary congestion or something of that kind. But while I would say that the Government are quite right in reserving to themselves that power to combat exceptional conditions of congestion or otherwise, I would also think that a clause might be, very usefully, introduced whereby the Government would be empowered to acquire portion of a holding rather than the whole.
When we consider our position to-day, the adverse balance of last year, amounting to seventeen or eighteen millions, which was paid for by a corresponding decrease in bank deposits, we realise that this drift cannot be allowed to go on, and we must look only to the land as the main source for limiting that condition of things. We must simply produce more. We have the anomalous position in this country, at the moment, that with land admitted to be the most fertile in the world we have men, potential sources of wealth, walking about and migrating round this country with their hands in their pockets. If they only put a spade in their hands or took a plough they could obtain wealth from the ground, yet they are idly walking about from day to day. We have a drift of 30,000 of the best bone and sinew, the wealth producers, leaving the country year after year from the western districts. These men are the flower of our population who, according to one of the managers of the Shannon scheme, were the best workers that they—the Germans—ever had anything to do with. And the anomalous position is that the land is idle and stagnant, with great sources of wealth inherent in the soil. The men are there starving for the land and only eager to be allowed to go and produce and acquire the wealth which is in the soil. It is the only industry they know anything about. These people have been reared up to make a living out of patches of soil among the bare rocks. What would they do if they had fairly decent land when they were able to wring out an existence even on a low standard under such conditions?
I submitted, in another place, last week, for the consideration of a Minister who was present, an experience I had myself where I let three acres of land in the scarcity times to some of the workers in the city of Waterford, giving one-sixteenth of an acre to each. From my experience of the amount of produce taken from these three acres I estimated that each man not only supplied potatoes, cabbages, turnips and other vegetables for his own family but also for ten other families. From the vegetable point of view they produced ten or twelve times more than supported their own families. I suggested that in certain districts and in the whole of the congested districts the Government might take powers in a Bill like this to say to a large landholder a man with two or three hundred acres, "Are you prepared to till a certain portion of your land?" and if he said " No, I am not, considering the present depressed state of agriculture I would be at a loss, having regard to the cost of labour and material and so on." They should say, "Very well. If you cannot do that the people have some sort of natural right to derive some revenue from the soil; the land is there, the people are there, and both are there by the will of the Creator and the people are entitled so far as their needs as citizens go, to help. Are you prepared to hand over ten or five per cent. of your land for their use for a period of, say, five years?" The Government then by arrangement with the owner, would take over that portion of the land and sub-divide it by way of conacre, allowing the people to rent it for produce. There would be no vested interest as in the French system of conacre. It would be simply taken for five years and at the end of that time would be handed back to be used for grazing or some such purpose as the owner wished after it had been tilled in the interval.
I do not think that any farmer would have a grievance against such a proposal as that. What would be the effect of that? It would be that around the villages, towns and cities, and in the congested areas, particularly in the west, you would, while these measures of land legislation and other schemes of legislation beneficial to agriculture would be maturing, have sufficient attraction to hold back the people from emigrating. You would stop emigration, because if the people are put in the way of getting land and eking out an existence on it, with the eventual hope of becoming tenants or occupiers of an economic holding, they would stay on in this country. The disposition of the people is to remain at home if they possibly can make a living at home. In that way you hold your population. We have all heard the old lines—
"A bold peasantry its country's pride,
When once destroyed can never be supplied."
In this connection it does not matter whether the peasantry is destroyed by famine or destroyed by emigration. In either case, the peasantry is destroyed as far as this country is concerned. Now, while the bread and butter legislation that the Oireachtas has been passing is bringing us to the time when these things will fructify, something needs to be done to keep the people here. An emigration figure of 30,000 a year represents a population equal to the whole city of Waterford. If that number emigrates every year you know the inevitable result. The time will come when the population will not be there. I throw out the suggestion, and it has universal application throughout the entire area of the Saorstát. If necessary, take these lands compulsorily, if you wish, temporarily. Give these lands to the people to plant crops in. A measure such as that would in a very short time, redress your trade balance because you would have a large number of potential units whose labours would be applied to the land and their energies devoted to producing wealth from the soil.
Senator Sir John Keane indulged in a dissertation on the general principle of land purchase. His remarks were not directed, very specifically at any rate, to this Bill. But he fought old battles over again, and he seemed to me to challenge the whole principle underlying the succession of Acts that have been passed dealing with land purchase and the distribution of lands. One would have thought that this was the first Land Act, or at any rate that land purchase was some new revolutionary principle discovered since the establishment of the Saorstát. I do not know what Senator Sir John Keane's solution for the congested districts problem is. Possibly, sterilisation or the lethal chamber, but in the absence of some very modern solution of that kind there seems no other hope but the road of compulsory purchase and the distribution of estates. The principle of compulsory acquisition is not new. It figures in the Evicted Tenants Act of, I think, 1907, or 1908; to a considerable extent in the Land Purchase Act of 1909; and in the Soldiers and Sailors Act of 1919.
The fact is that Senator Keane's remarks were based very largely on the fallacy of treating land as if it were like any other property, like chattel property. Senator Colonel Moore said he was struggling for the old principle. In fact, he was not. In this matter Senator Sir John Keane is a revolutionary. He is struggling to assert a new principle that there is absolute property in land. My readings in law were not perhaps, very sustained or deep, but I did read the first page of Williams on Real Property. If Senator Sir John Keane refers to that he will find a very direct negative to his underlying thesis that there is absolute property in land. There is not and never has been. Governments have at all times, and from time to time, acted on the principle that land is held from the State, and that in circumstances which to them seem good and sufficient, the land may be acquired. People were dispossessed of land during the Great War, thrown out of it, and others put in, on the ground that they were not using it sufficiently intensively in the general interests of the community. It is not just a question as if it were property like a man's watch that he could wind or leave unwound as he thought fit, or a man's hat, that he could wear at whatever angle that seemed best to him. The principle has underlain legislation for many a long year that land is held from the State to be used in the interests of the community. Senator Sir John Keane motored down the country and saw three or four allotments held by tenants who went in under the Act of 1923. He saw these allotments were fenced and had larch poles; he saw hay that had not been well saved, and he comes back to the Seanad and he says: "There is land purchase for you." I wonder how many large estates there are in the country that he has examined with so critical an eye as that.
If there is ground for criticism I should say that it lies in this direction —that the Agricultural Credits Act might have followed more closely on the Land Act of 1923. There, again, we had to await the result of a Commission, and the Bill that is before the Dáil, and that will shortly be before the Seanad, is based on an important part of the report of the Banking Commission. But to suggest that, because in a particular case in North Dublin or Kildare, Senator Sir John Keane took the trouble of inspecting, there was apparent a lack of that intensive cultivation which could only come with the backing of a little capital with there you had in miniature the failure of land purchase, is simply suggesting the thing that is not. One could grant all the defects that Senator Sir John Keane mentioned, the green larch poles, the barbed wire, the muddy road, and the hay not well saved, and still deny his thesis that land purchase is a failure, is uneconomic and is something contrary to the best interest of the State and its people. Senator Bennett, I think, it was who asked would the estimate of the losses on re-sale be furnished. Taking the Land Bank cases, the Committee cases, and other bank cases, the estimate is about £250,000.
The Senator raised another point as to the admission of sub-tenants to purchase. Sub-tenants are genuine tenants, often judicial tenants, and they have not, up to the present, been able to purchase merely for the technical reason that the landlord himself had already purchased, and it was considered proper when introducing this Bill to deal with that matter. Now, as I warned the Senators at the commencement, I am not in a position to deal in detail with the technical points raised on the Bill. I do think that the Minister for Lands and Agriculture will be able to deal much more fully and adequately with these points when they are raised on the Committee Stage either by way of amendment, or if the Senator does not wish to put down an amendment, by way of question on the Section when it is before the Seanad.