Private Business. - Land Bill, 1933—Committee Stage.
Section 1 agreed to.
In this Act—
the expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Lands and Fisheries;
the expression "the first gale day in the year 1933" means the first day in the year 1933, in which is a gale day in respect of the annuity, rent, interest, or other annual payment in respect of which the expression is used;
the expression "officer of the Land Commission" includes a land commissioner other than the judicial commissioner;
the expression "lay commissioner" means a land commissioner other than the judicial commissioner;
references to proceedings for the recovery of any annuity, rent, interest, or other annual payment shall be construed as including a sale or proceedings for a sale of the holding, tenancy, or other land on account of a default in payment of such annuity, rent, interest or other annual payment.
I move amendment No. 1:—
Section 2. Between lines 32 and 33 to insert the following:—
the expression "tenanted land" means land held in fee simple or land held under any contract of tenancy other than a letting for the purpose of temporary depasturage, agistment or conacre, or for temporary convenience, or to meet a temporary necessity, provided that such land is used by the owner or tenant thereof (as the case may be) as an ordinary farm in accordance with proper methods of husbandary.
The expression "tenanted land" is defined by Section 73, sub-section 2, of the 1923 Land Act as follows:—
The expression "tenanted land" means land held under any contract of tenancy other than a fee farm grant, or lease renewable for ever or lives or years or lease for a term of years of which 60 or more are unexpired at the date of the passing of this Act, or a letting for the purpose of temporary depasturage, agistment, or conacre, or for temporary convenience, or to meet a temporary necessity, and the expression "untenanted land" shall be construed accordingly.
In that definition, the expression "tenanted land" would not include land held in fee simple, and my main object in putting forward this amendment is to include such land in the expression "tenanted land." I cannot conceive any greater title to land by anybody than the title of land held in fee simple. What better title could a man have to his land? As the Bill stands at present a tenant farmer with seven acres, 15 acres, 40 acres or any quantity of land in fee simple might only have a complement of land which would be an economic holding. If that land is acquired by the Land Commission the owner will not be entitled to any of the privileges or considerations given to a tenant paying an annuity. I think that is grossly unfair. Furthermore, if such a holding is acquired by the Land Commission, even although it may be only just an economic holding, the Land Commission need not give the man who owns it anything except the market value of the land, whereas if they take the land of his neighbour, land that is being worked in precisely the same way as the land held in fee simple, under this or previous Acts for the relief of congestion or for any of the other purposes set out in the Bill, the Land Commission must give him—in fact he can demand it—a farm in return of not less value than the one that he holds. The Land Commission must do that simply because such a man is paying an annuity. I think there should be no objection to having my amendment inserted in the Bill.
Senator Counihan's amendment is much more far-reaching than the Senator has stated. His amendment, if accepted, would completely change the definition of tenanted and untenanted land. It would mean that persons who hold their land in fee simple would have their farms purchased by the Land Commission and resold to them. The Land Purchase Acts were designed for the purchase of tenanted land and to facilitate tenants by reselling to them. If this amendment were passed the Land Commission would be compelled to purchase farms from ordinary farmers and resell them. That would involve the utilisation of State funds and State resources for making very large capital advances to people who are already well-off. I do not think there is any reason for the amendment.
The point that the Minister has made is that if a man holds his land in fee simple he is not entitled to any consideration. I know hundreds of farms in several parts of the country that were purchased under the 1923 Act and previous Acts and they are very much larger than many fee simple holdings. I contend that, where the Land Commission buy fee simple land, so long as it is worked as an ordinary farm in accordance with the ordinary methods of husbandry, the owner of it is entitled to the same consideration as the man with 300, 400 or 500 acres that he has purchased under the Land Acts and that a man should not be penalised simply because he has bought his land and owns it in fee.
I have some sympathy with the point of view that has been expressed by Senator Counihan that what is proposed here is putting, so to speak, an embargo on one particular class of land holder. I suggest that somewhere in the Bill there should be a maximum of, say, 200 acres which cannot be taken from anybody for any purpose except in a most extreme case. I would also like to see a provision in the Bill protecting homestead land: that where a man had a certain small quantity of land with his home on it he could not be evicted from it under any circumstances except, perhaps, for the payment of rates. I think that even in the case of shop and other debts a man should not be liable to disturbance in the case of homestead land. There are Homestead Acts in operation in America and in other countries. Their provisions vary sometimes in the case of different States. Under these Acts a man cannot be sold out completely so as to beggar him forever.
The Minister's objection to the inclusion of fee-simple land is because the State would have to purchase it from the owner. Senator Counihan's amendment is not designed to meet the case of the fee-simple owner of grass lands. The Senator has in mind the fee-simple owner of land that is tilled and worked in accordance with the ordinary methods of husbandry. He contends that the owner of such fee-simple land should have the same rights as his neighbour who is paying an annuity. The distinction about these two classes of land is really a paper one. Tenanted land is any land held under a contract of tenancy, and all other land is described as untenanted land. That distinction was made for certain reasons. There is no such thing now as tenanted land in the sense that that expression was understood when earlier Land Acts were being passed. If the owner of a particular parcel of land had the good fortune to buy the fee-simple of his holding out of his earnings, well, that is nothing to the State and why should he be penalised for it. I think it is unfair to penalise a man who invested his savings in that particular class of holding, who paid off the debts due on it and became the owner-in-fee: that he should be considered in the same way as the man who is paying an annuity and is a tenant of the State. I am not pleading for those who have very large holdings of untenanted land. This amendment deals with those who are working their farms according to the ordinary methods of husbandry in the same way as any tenant farmer works his holding. Perhaps the Minister would be willing to accept the principle of the amendment and introduce on Report Stage an amendment that would carry out the idea Senator Counihan has in mind.
I do not think this amendment goes the right way to do what Senator Counihan wants. Without saying anything on the merits of the matter, I merely want to make a suggestion as to how this could be carried out, not by way of definition, in which it certainly could not be carried out, but rather, I think, by way of amendment to sub-section (1) of Section 29. That is the section and sub-section which give protection to tenant purchasers. They give protection to those people who hold land which is defined in one of the sections of the Act of 1923, and which, for practical purposes, means lands purchased under the Land Purchase Acts. If you extend that to include holdings in fee-simple under a certain acreage, the land being used in the ordinary and proper manner, that would be the only way of achieving what is desired, consistently with the rest of the Bill. If Senator Counihan wants to pursue this he should withdraw the present amendment and put down an amendment to Section 29, sub-section 1.
The criterion of acreage would not be a proper criterion. You must go on either valuation or value.
The better procedure would be to have this amendment carried now, when we would probably have a better opportunity of getting an amendment from the Minister on Report Stage. This amendment could then be withdrawn.
That would not be a proper way of dealing with the matter.
Before this amendment is put, I suggest to the Minister that he should consider the position of those who have redeemed their purchase annuities and who now hold in fee simple. These people have, in fact, been through the Land Purchase Acts and now hold in fee. They have a very strong case and I find it hard to believe that the Minister will not consider it very sympathetically.
With regard to what Senator Sir John Keane has said, all purchased lands, whether the annuity has been redeemed or not, are covered by Section 29. If Senator Counihan wants to give land held in fee the same terms as purchased land by means of this amendment, it would mean that the Land Commission would have to purchase land held in fee so that it would become "purchased land."
Not if you amend Section 29 (1).
If the Senator wants to achieve his purpose by means of this amendment, it would mean that the land would have to be purchased so that it would become "purchased land."
I agree. That is the objection to this amendment.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment. I shall put in another amendment for Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 2:—
Section 2. Between the lines 32 and 33 to insert the following:—
"the expression ‘market value' means the price which a willing purchaser would pay for a holding in the open market in normal times."
In putting down this amendment, I am quite conscious that "market value" is very difficult to define. The Attorney-General gave a definition of "market value" in the Dáil. This amendment is practically on the same lines as the Attorney-General's definition, with the exception that I have added the words "normal times." If the Attorney-General's definition could be construed as meaning that market value would be the value which land was worth in the open market at the present time, or at the time of acquisition by the Land Commission, I do not think it would be quite fair, because at present there is no such thing as market value for land. If I were asked to define "normal times," my definition would be: "When prices for commodities operate in the ordinary way on the recognised principles of supply and demand which are not influenced by economic wars or other wars of any class or any abnormal happenings." If I were asked to name a period which would represent normal times, I should say any date ten years previous to 1914. From 1904 to 1914 I should describe as normal times. If the Minister is prepared to make a reasonable suggestion as to market value and as to what "normal times" should represent, I shall also withdraw this amendment. We are not in normal times now and there is no market value for land. However, we hope to get back to normal times some time and, for that reason, I think the Minister should accept this or some similar amendment.
I agree with Senator Counihan that these are not normal times and that there is considerable difficulty at present in ascertaining what the market value of land is. I suggest to the House that this amendment, as phrased, does not carry out the idea expressed by Senator Counihan (Amendment quoted). So far as I know, the purchaser is always a "willing purchaser." I think that there must be some mistake there.
The Attorney-General gave that definition.
Perhaps you misunderstood him. The expression "market value" means the price which a purchaser would pay for a holding on a free sale by a willing vendor in the open market. It is the vendor who has the goodwill, not the purchaser. Probably Senator Counihan misapprehended what was said in the Dáil. So far as my experience goes, the purchaser is always a willing purchaser but the vendor need not always be a willing vendor. There is probably some oversight there.
So far as I remember, I have taken the Attorney-General's definition.
You have mistaken the word "purchaser" for the word "vendor." That is, at all events, what the Attorney-General meant because the goodwill is the vendor's goodwill. I have often heard of a willing vendor and of an unwilling vendor where there was a forced sale, but I never heard of any distinction between purchasers as to willingness and unwillingness. An unwilling purchaser is not known except he be the man who makes a bargain and wants to get out of it, in which case there is a suit for specific performance and he is compelled to perform. I think that this amendment ought to be altered if there is a vote to be taken upon it.
I followed the Attorney-General's statement.
I suggest that the amendment ought to be changed to say "which a purchaser would pay for a holding on a free sale by a willing vendor in the open market in normal times."
I am agreeable, and I ask the House to agree to the alteration suggested.
I do not think Senator Counihan or Senator Comyn defined what "normal times" are. The expression "market value" has been used in the Land Purchase Acts before. It is not a new expression. The Land Commission have been dealing with it for many years. As far as I remember the definition given by the Attorney-General in the Dáil of "market value" was the price which the purchaser would give in a free sale by a willing vendor.
I do not know what normal times are.
They will never be normal again!
If normal times are what the world has been up to now, I hope the world will be normally abnormal in a few years; that there will be a state of affairs reached when the people who produce things for the community will be able to get what covers costs, and that the purchaser will be able to give them their costs. I do not know how you are going to describe in legal language what normal times are.
Will the Minister accept the dates I gave?
I will not. I do not believe the world was very rosy then. Between 1904 and 1914 there was a lot of starvation in this and in other countries.
It is the price of land we are talking about.
If it is left to the Land Commission they will do their work as well as they did it before. They have interpreted market value more or less on the lines of the definition I have given.
What has fallen from Senator Comyn and the Minister shows the enormous difficulty of this definition. I am not sure that it would be a wise thing to define market value in this Bill. The Minister told us that the Land Commission had already adopted a method for arriving at the market value under previous Acts. Whether that will be a satisfactory solution of the working of market value under this Bill or not I do not know. I understand by market value that it implies certain things; it implies a willing vendor and a willing purchaser. It implies a real market; that is, an open market, and that there is competition in that open market. If the Land Commission do their work honestly in ascertaining the market value of farms they take under the Bill, and we cannot assume that they are going to do anything else but honestly administer this Bill, they will have to fix the market value in relation to matters which that implies. If that interpretation of market value is put into the Bill I will certainly be absolutely satisfied. I should be very glad if the Minister could give an undertaking that that is his view.
I would accept Senator Brown's definition absolutely.
This is one of the sections that involve the greatest hardship under the Bill. The market value at present is what it is owing to the depressed state of agriculture, as a result of the direct action of the Government. That is why I stated on the Second Reading that this was not a proper time to bring in a Land Bill at all, because times are wholly abnormal. Take the case of a man who could have sold a farm five years ago. The market value would be entirely different from what it is now. We can judge market value when we see valuable farms put up for sale every day, for which there is no offer, or else an offer which nobody in his senses could accept. I have seen farms put up for sale which three years ago would be worth £2,000 in the open market, but £500 could not be got for them to-day. No one would take a present of them because there is no market for land. How could the market value be fixed when there is no market there? This is one of the most important matters in the Bill, one which will make for the greatest hardship on farmers whose lands will be taken. Take the case of a person, of whom there are many in the country, who bought land which was in a bad state, undrained, without proper fences, which was a wilderness and which was made into good land. Will that be taken into consideration when the market value is being fixed? We have no assurance that the market value will be anything except what the place if put up for sale at present would fetch and that is no value.
Something will have to be done, or great injustice will be perpetrated on unfortunate people under this Section. I leave it to some one else to find a way out. This is one of the most iniquitous things ever proposed by any Government, to take land at present, and, if you like to use the word, to confiscate it, or to take it by force, from the present owners. The value might be fixed five years ago, or at the period suggested by Senator Counihan. I do not think this Bill should pass from this House until this matter is settled.
I am ready to admit that the Land Commission has long experience, and will probably deal as justly as circumstances permit with cases of this sort. I want to know if there will be advertence by the Land Commission to the amount of money due to the State by tenant owners in the way of land purchase annuities? That may work out very harshly in connection with the 1903 Act, because the capital sum was very high then and there will always be a large sum due by the tenants. Will that be taken from the market value when the owner is being paid?
That is future annuities.
The rate of interest is higher now.
A great many of the tenants purchased under the 1903 Act. Money was very cheap at that time and as there was a reduction in the rent the capital sum which the landlord got was exceedingly high, compared with what he would get to-day. Under the 1903 Act he got 15 times his rent and there was a 12 per cent. contribution by the State. Under the 1903 Act money could be had at £2 15s. per cent. and, as a result, there is a considerable amount due to the State for farms bought under that Act. When assessing the market value will the Land Commission have advertence to that when paying compensation?
I hope that this is not a Party question, because it is a very serious one for a great number of farmers. During the war period people went land-mad and purchased at very high prices. Money was easily obtained from the banks on the security of the purchasers and their neighbours. When the price of land went down it was impossible for these people to meet their liabilities to the banks. They were hoping against hope for better times. Things have not improved but have gone from bad to worse. Numbers of people are in the position to-day that they purchased land at a high figure, that it is partly paid for, and the balance is owing to the banks. If that land was taken at to-day's market value it would simply mean that the owners and their families were ruined for all time. I hope the Minister will look into this matter on broad lines and will try to do justice to everyone. It is a question of honest dealing with people who are in a very bad way.
I could understand certain members of the Opposition having sympathy for people whose land will be taken and who are worrying whether they will get enough for it or not, but I cannot understand two sensible men bringing in such an amendment. I have a fair idea of what Senator Counihan means by "normal times," and I am optimistic enough to think that Senator Wilson will hardly agree with him. Is it suggested that we should go back to war times?
I suggested 1904-1914 which were not war times.
That is a long time ago. I fail to see the necessity to go back to that time. If we were to go back to the ten years period of "prosperity" that we heard so much about, when land values were steadily falling, it would be just as ridiculous. What we should consider under this Bill is, what effect such an amendment would have on the future of this country. Without dragging in Party politics we know that the action of the Government here had absolutely nothing whatever to do with the position of the farmers in England. We know that the farmers in England to-day are in just as bad a position as the farmers here. I will read an extract from the Farmer and Stock Breeder.
Are we going to have a discussion now on the economic war?
The Senator does not want that.
If we are going to have a discussion on the economic war I am quite willing.
It is a great thing to see Senator Counihan objecting to a discussion on the economic war, a thing that he has argued out on all occasions. The reason he is objecting now is because he knows the discussion would be against himself.
I must ask Senators to keep to the amendment.
We only want to get out the truth. I do not object to any discussion on the economic war.
You got enough of it already and I think it is an outrage to have you objecting to bringing in the economic war in this discussion. The cutting I have to read is from the Farmer and Stock Breeder. It is under the heading of “Decline in Fat Stock Prices. N.F.U. to Continue to Impress on Minister the Need for Fresh Action,” and reads:
"A number of County branches wrote to the Livestock Committee of the N.F.U. Council complaining of the unsatisfactory position of fat stock prices and of the failure of the import restrictions to bring about an improvement."
I do not think, Senator, that has anything to do with the value of land in Ireland.
I am sorry if I am out of order, but I am trying to explain that the prices of cattle in England have fallen considerably and that the action of the Government in this country, as alleged, has no connection with the fall in prices at all.
They are getting over £4 a head more than we are getting here for our cattle. There is no question about that.
We must consider this Bill and the amendment before us in regard to what effect it would have on this country if the land of this country is to be purchased for division amongst uneconomic holders and landless men. If the price of land is based on the price paid a number of years back we would put the people of this country who are being given this land into an impossible position. A farm must be an economic proposition and if farms are to be an economic proposition for the uneconomic holders and the landless men they must be purchased on the present value. We have been told that the present value of this land is nothing. I hope some of the Senators here will talk their neighbours into that line and, if so, the farms that will be taken over under this Bill will be very desirable propositions, and we will have a very prosperous country in a few years' time.
It is quite easy to understand and appreciate now what the meaning of the economic war was. That war was started for one specific purpose and that specific purpose is standing out a mile and a quarter. It was for the purpose of freezing down the land to an absolute nullity, to bring it to a state where it would be of no value and then our new Government will go in and take over that land on the Cromwellian principle of paying no price for it.
I did not intend to intervene on this question as to what is the "market value" of land until Senator Fanning got up to tell us what this "market value" is. The Senator has one idea and, like everyone of his mentality, he has followed that idea. He has followed that idea like every member of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party has done. He is filled up with materialism, pure, unadulterated materialism—their own personal gain.
Just listen to that from the man who is speaking.
We have that demonstrated now from Senator Fanning, who is so full of it himself that he thinks everyone else is full of it too.
Except the Senator who is speaking.
I have as much land as any member of this House has. I am a member of the Government Party and I stand for the Government in their internal and external policy. As a member of the Government Party I say that it was never the intention of the present Government to confiscate land, or to injure the financial position of any landowner, big or small. If lands are being taken up in the near or distant future under the régime of the present Government, fair compensation will be paid. I think that was explained time after time and day after day in the long drawn-out debates in the Dáil recently. Surely to goodness Senator Fanning's outburst that the economic war was purely and solely for the purpose of pushing down the price of land is a thing that everybody——
There can be no question about it. That was the specific reason for the economic war.
You have no land to lose anything by and you need not talk about it.
People belonging to me have more land than you ever had.
The publicans put you in here, but you did not stick to them; you let them down.
The Senator must not use that sort of language. Personal abuse is no argument.
I can answer anything he has to say.
The publicans will tell you what they think of you when you go back to them. In any case, the "market value" is a very elusive term as such and people would not be well advised to take on themselves to explain what "market value" means, because "market value" in one part of the country is not "market value" in another part of the country. Some members here have been telling us where a 500 acre farm cost £7,000 a few years ago.
Only five years ago I said.
Well, supposing that farm was bought for any specified number of pounds, will people explain to me why a 50-acre farm in the West of Ireland will go four times more at the present time than a 200-acre farm in Meath? Why is that so? What is the meaning of "market value" then? Does not a thing like that demonstrate the fallacy of going on with such an amendment? Does it not demonstrate that the Land Commission, knowing all those facts, are the best judges? They know the business thoroughly because they have had years of experience. Surely the duty devolves upon them to act as judges in this matter and the public must abide by their decisions.
Senator Brown seemed to advance a very clear definition of market value, and it was accepted by the Minister. I presume that meant an undertaking that that basis would be acceptable by the Land Commission in the working of this measure. In the circumstances, is there any use in going on with this discussion, and introducing personal abuse, when the matter is virtually agreed?
I have endeavoured to debate the amendments in a commonsense manner from the point of view of the effect on farmers, and not from the point of view of Party politics, like some of the Senators who have spoken. I do not want to touch on the economic war or to comment upon the Government's object in bringing forward this Bill. I am anxious to get as many reasonable concessions as I can from the Minister. I do not think I would get anything if I adopted the attitude which is adopted by Senators on the other side. Apparently they are anxious for an acrimonious debate such as took place in the Dáil. I am certain the Seanad does not want to conduct its proceedings in the manner desired at least by some Senators. Senators Quirke and MacEllin are desirous of referring to political matters, to their political side of the question. They seem to have no consideration at all for anybody else. Judging by Senator Quirke's remarks, if a man owns more than an economic holding he should get no consideration at all; the land should be taken from him at the present market price. I think the Senator mentioned that the present market price might be too much.
The Senator is absolutely wrong. I hold more land than would be considered an economic holding, and I never made the statement the Senator has attributed to me.
The fact is there is no market value at the present moment, and if the economic war continues there will be no market value. I want to safeguard people during the period when there will be no market value. I am satisfied to withdraw the amendment and to bring forward an amendment on the Report Stage, on the lines suggested by Senator Comyn.
I am sure the Senator heard what the Minister said.
Yes, but it is not in the Bill.
It will be in the records.
I do not think the Commissioners will mind what is in the records; they just take what is in the Bill.
Amendment 2, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 2, 3, 4 and 5 agreed to.
(3) All powers and duties for the time being vested by law (including this Act) in the Land Commission or the lay commissioners in relation to an excepted matter shall, on and after the appointed day be exercised and performed in all respects as if this section had not been enacted, save that
(a) any appeal which may lie by law (including this Act) from the determination of an excepted matter shall lie to the appeal tribunal, and
(b) the Minister may, if and so far as he thinks proper, arrange by reference to the class or classes of case or the county or counties in which the land concerned is situate the distribution amongst the lay commissioners of their work in relation to the excepted matters, but not so as to allocate any particular case or land to any particular commissioner.
I beg to move amendment 3:—
Section 6, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section a new paragraph as follows:—
(g) the determination whether or not a holding has been used by the tenant thereof as an ordinary farm in accordance with proper methods of husbandry.
By inserting this amendment you will take from the Minister the power of interfering with the decision of the Land Commissioners in regard to the report of an inspector as to whether or not a farmer is working his land in accordance with proper methods of husbandry. An inspector may visit a farm and tell the farmer he is not working the land in accordance with ordinary methods of husbandry. He may tell him he should have grown more wheat, beet, cabbage or tobacco, or some other crop in respect of which he might not have a fad. That report might be submitted to the Minister. Although the Land Commissioners may disagree with the report the Minister, who may also be a faddist about some particular crop, may say "You are not working your land in accordance with proper methods of husbandry and, consequently, I will rule against you." I do not want to say anything against any of the officers of the Land Commission. The majority of them are honest, straight-forward men, but there are some of them who know absolutely nothing about farming. Those men may contend that a farm is not being properly worked, and they will endeavour to show the commonsense, practical farmer how best to cultivate his holding.
In my opinion there is really no necessity for the amendment, because in Section 6 (1) (a) the whole thing is clearly set out. The determination of the persons from whom land is to be resumed or acquired is an excepted matter, as is also the determination of the actual lands to be acquired or resumed. If the Senator wants to press the amendment I am prepared to accept it, but I believe its object is already covered. I accepted (b) in the Dáil, although I believe that the subject-matter was already covered. However, if the Senator wants to press his amendment I am prepared to accept it, although I believe it is so much verbiage and there is no necessity for it.
I do not think it would do any harm to put it in, but, on the other hand, I am quite prepared to accept the Minister's assurance.
If Senator Counihan thinks this amendment will do no harm, I may say I am of a different opinion. I think the effect of the amendment would be to make this a question to be answered in all cases. Where a holding has been used by the tenant as an ordinary farm in accordance with proper methods of husbandry, the commissioner will have to answer that as a specific question. Under the Bill what he has to do is to determine the actual land to be acquired or resumed without giving any of the various reasons which have actuated him in coming to that conclusion. Of course, if the Minister is prepared to accept the amendment, I think Senator Counihan ought to reconsider whether he will press it.
In one of the clauses is it not specifically set out that land can be acquired if it is not worked in an ordinary manner and in accordance with ordinary methods of husbandry? Who is going to decide whether the land has been worked in accordance with ordinary methods of husbandry if we do not get the inspector or the Land Commissioner?
And he decides it under Section 6 (1) (a). He is more free there than he would be if this amendment were to be inserted in the Bill.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 4:—
Section 6, sub-section (3). To delete paragraph (a) and to substitute therefor a new paragraph as follows:—
(a) an appeal shall lie both on the question of law and on the question of fact from the determination of an excepted matter to the appeal tribunal, and
I consider this amendment, if accepted, will make a very important difference in the Bill. The amendment would prove to be one of the most important for the safeguarding of the tenant's rights and independence. In my speech on the Second Reading I said that the excepted matters were mere eyewash. Unless this amendment is accepted I still contend that the excepted matters are all eyewash, and that we are setting up, in the person of the Minister for Lands and Fisheries for the time being under this Bill, a dictator over the farmers throughout the Free State. I still hold to that statement. Many sections of this Bill make the Minister a complete dictator. He has absolute and complete powers under Sections 5 and 6, and, also, under other sections, including Section 31. I need not read these sections. Let us consider what is the meaning of having an appeal on excepted matters to the appeal tribunal. Take the first one, the determination of the person from whom land is to be acquired or resumed. That is an excepted matter. The Minister cannot interfere as to the person from whom the land is to be acquired or resumed; the Land Commissioners are to have complete jurisdiction there. But the Minister takes, under the Bill, complete power over the Land Commissioners and other officers of his Department. We all know that political influence will compel the Minister to exercise his powers. No matter how determined they may be to stand upon their own judgment he will occasionally get round the Land Commissioners in another way. Under the old system there was an appeal, on all matters, to the judicial commissioner. In this Bill that is all swept away and we have only now an appeal on questions of law or on questions of price to the appeal tribunal. The procedure under this Bill will possibly be that the inspector will make a report on certain farms that are to be acquired. The Land Commissioners will examine that report. If they agree with the report that the land is to be acquired, they will notify the farmer that certain portions of his land are to be acquired. The only redress he will have in stopping the acquisition of this land would be to send a memorial to the Land Commissioners asking them to reconsider their decision; to pray that they would take into account that he is a man working his land in the ordinary way, and that he wants it for his own purposes. If, on reconsideration of that memorial, the Land Commissioners decide that this man has still to lose his land, he is finished so far as having any effect in stopping the acquirement of his land is concerned; and the only thing left is an appeal to the appeal tribunal on a question of price or of law. I do not think I am asking too much in trying to secure that in connection with any decision in a case of this kind, the farmer should have the right of appeal from the decision of the Land Commissioners to the appeal tribunal.
The usual practice heretofore was that the farmer had a right to go before the judicial commissioner who examined him, on oath, as to what use he was making of his land. He examined him as to the employment he gave, as to the number of his family, and as to all the circumstances pertaining to the acquisition of that holding before he gave a decision that it was to be acquired. All that is swept away by this Bill. The complete independence of the farmer is swept away, and he has no redress except what the Minister will instruct the Land Commissioners to do. I do not want to make political capital out of the influence that may be brought to bear upon the Minister, but I would very earnestly appeal to the Minister to accept my amendment. If that amendment is accepted and another further down on the Paper, it will alter my attitude towards the Bill and the attitude of those who may support me in this House. These two amendments are I think vital, if the farmer is to retain any independence or security in his holding.
Senator Counihan seems to have led himself astray, and has led the House astray as to the effect of his amendment. He said that heretofore there has been an appeal to the judicial commissioner on all matters. That is not so.
On all matters of acquisition.
The Senator said definitely that there was an appeal to the judicial commissioner on all matters.
On the acquisition of land.
What we are doing under this paragraph 3 (a) is we are giving the same appeal to the appeal tribunal which lay to the judicial commissioner. Any appeal which lay to the judicial commissioner can now go to the appeal tribunal. That is all there is in this clause which the Senator proposes to delete. Any appeal that might be made by law from determination on excepted matter shall now go to the appeal tribunal. The appeal before was to the judicial commissioner. As there are now to be two lay commissioners with the judicial commissioner forming the tribunal we have to change the law from what it was and say that the appeal now lies to the appeal tribunal.
What is the objection to accepting my amendment?
The objections are various and many. I shall explain a couple of them. Usually when land is to be allotted about ten people apply where only one can get it eventually. If the amendment went through, there would be an appeal to the appeal tribunal in the case of every person who got land on the ground that he was not the right person to get it. Then every rejected person would have an appeal to the tribunal and it would be absolutely impossible to work the Land Purchase Acts. What we are trying to do is to remove some of the insuperable snags that we found in practice arising out of the previous Land Purchase Acts. The amendment would completely upset land purchase and we do not propose to accept it.
Some of us are not as familiar with the Land Acts as the Minister. Would he tell us specifically on what matters an appeal does lie? I think that would be more satisfactory to the House than to be told of cases where an appeal would obviously be undesirable. Surely an appeal should lie under (a) the determination of the persons from whom the land is to be acquired or resumed. Will he say whether an appeal lies under that? Does an appeal lie under (b) the determination of the actual lands to be acquired? I know an appeal lies under (c) the determination of the price. Perhaps it is undesirable that an appeal should lie under (d) the determination of the persons to be selected as allottees of untenanted land, or under (e) the determination of the price at which land is to be sold to any such allottee. I certainly think that an appeal should be allowed under (f) the determination of the new holding which is to be provided for a tenant or proprietor whose holding has been acquired by the Land Commission.
I would ask the Minister to appreciate that this Bill breaks fresh ground. The landlords in the past were men of substance whose livelihood was not in the land and it was not so great a personal injustice to take the land from them as it would be to take land from a man whose sole livelihood is in the land. I think men whose sole livelihood is in their land are entitled to very full legal protection. I wish the Minister would deal with that point of view. I am sure he does appreciate that this Bill is in a different category to previous Land Acts and I think he ought to be able to say specifically what are the matters on which an appeal lies to the appeal tribunal after the Bill becomes law.
I have a list of about six pages of typescript of the matters on which an appeal does lie. I will read some of them and the Senator can stop me if he gets tired. I—The inclusion or non-inclusion of land in a provisional list of lands situated in a congested districts county or lands situated in a non-congested districts county which the Land Commission declare are required for the relief of congestion; (b) application by an owner of lands subject to land purchase annuity and which the Land Commission declare to be required for the relief of congestion who is dissatisfied with the Land Commission offer of an alternative holding which the Land Commission consider equally suitable and of not less value than the declared lands (Section 24 (4) (b), L.A. 1923), or an appeal on the grounds that there are other unacquired lands in the same locality suitable for relieving congestion which do not come within the exceptions mentioned in Section 24 (2); (c) price of untenanted land. II— Application under Section 44 that lands held under fee farm grants or long leases shall vest in the Land Commission as tenanted land. III— Tenanted Land—(a) Amendment of a list of vested holdings published under the provisions of Section 9 of the Land Act, 1931 (Section 10, L.A. 1931); (b) dismissal of proceedings where lands have been included in a list of vested holdings (Section 13, L.A. 1931); (c) omission of a holding from list of vested holdings (Section 14, L.A. 1931); (d) objection to vesting order published under Section 12, L.A. 1931; (e) declaration that a sub-tenancy be treated as a separate tenancy and apportioning rent or that a sub-tenancy is not suitable to be dealt with as a separate holding (Section 15, L.L.C. 1903, Section 26, L.A. 1923, Section 15, L.A. 1931); (f) division and apportionment of rent in the case of a holding held by joint tenants or tenants in common or which is sub-divided between two or more persons and so forth.
In every matter on which appeals to the judicial commissioner have been provided for under the Land Acts, we are providing that these appeals will be heard by the appeal tribunal instead of by the judicial commissioner. There are certain matters which were always finally determined by the Land Commission, and it would completely obstruct the work of the Land Commission if these matters were not to be determined by the Land Commission in future and if an appeal were to lie on every fiddle-faddle that comes before them.
Is there to be an appeal under Section 6 paragraph (a) —the determination of the persons from whom the land is to be acquired or resumed?
It appears from what the Minister has said that there is an appeal under paragraph (b), which is the same thing—the determination of the actual lands to be acquired. If that is so, then ipso facto there is an appeal under paragraph (a)—the determination of the persons from whom the land is to be acquired.
I am asking the Minister to answer, not the Senator.
Paragraphs (d) and (e) are not subject to an appeal to the tribunal, but (a), (b) and (c) are covered by appeals of one sort or another to the judicial commissioner heretofore and now to the appeal tribunal.
The four questions covered by (a), (b), (c) and (f) are subject to appeal?
I shall withdraw my amendment and shall prepare other amendments to put that definitely in the Bill.
I was out of the Chamber when the Minister spoke and I want to be quite clear as to the construction of sub-section (3). It is rather loosely worded but I think on the whole it is clear that any appeal which may lie on the determination of an excepted matter, would be to the appeal tribunal. There are a number of matters which were the subject of appeal under previous Acts to the judicial commissioner. They will now go to the appeal tribunal which is the judicial commissioner plus two lay colleagues. Will there be included amongst the matters on which the right of appeal is given, any matter on which the right of appeal is now given to the judicial commissioner? The only question of fact on which there is an appeal, as far as I can make out, are questions of value. I may be wrong in that and if so I would like to be corrected by the Minister.
The Bill does not repeal a right of appeal which is given under previous Acts.
We are setting up under this Bill a new tribunal and substituting it for the judicial commissioner. Any appeals that lay heretofore to the judicial commissioner will now lie to this new appeal tribunal. There are certain appeals under these excepted matters which instead of going before the judicial commissioner will go before the appeal tribunal. If there is a question of law to be decided by the appeal tribunal, it will be determined by the judicial commissioner. If there are questions of fact or of value to be determined they will be determined by the majority of the tribunal.
Then there are questions of fact, questions under the excepted matters besides the question of value, which will go to the appeal tribunal?
(a), (b), (c), and (f) all go before the appeal tribunal, if there is an appeal.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
(2) Every lay commissioner appointed to be a member of the appeal tribunal shall hold his office as such member by the same tenure as a judge of the Circuit Court holds his office as such judge.
(5) Every question before the appeal tribunal shall be determined by a majority of the members of the tribunal, save that, on any question which, in the opinion of the judicial commissioner with the concurrence of one or both of the other members of the tribunal, is a question of law, the opinion of the judicial commissioner shall prevail.
I move amendment 5:
Section 7, sub-section (2). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "and the first lay commissioners so appointed shall both have been officers of the Land Commission prior to the 1st day of June, 1933."
The feeling amongst the public with regard to the lay commissioners is that some persons may be appointed who would be, as they have been termed, "Party hacks." This amendment, if accepted, will save the Minister from a lot of wire-pulling and give him an opportunity of appointing the best and most suitable men to these positions which are very important ones. I do not say that if the Minister was left to himself he would not appoint proper and correct persons. We all know, however, how appointments are made, particularly political appointments— that every political element in the country will be pulling for its own particular candidates. For that reason, the Minister should accept the amendment and thus create confidence that the men appointed will not be appointed for political reasons but as being the best men for the positions within the Land Commission. I think the Minister said in the Dáil that he did intend to appoint to these positions men of experience in the Land Commission—with experience of Land Commission work, at all events. If that is so, I think he will accept the amendment. It is not restricting his power very much. It is only confining him to officers of the Land Commission—a class from which the commissioners ought to be appointed.
I do not think the Minister has shown any disposition to yield to political pressure in the appointments which he has made or which he proposes to make in the Land Commission. I saw the other day, not in the Land Commission offices, but in the hands of a prospective candidate for a position, the rules and regulations provided for the appointment of commissioners, inspectors and engineers under the Land Commission. I was glad to see in these regulations that special consideration will be given to persons who have qualifications in respect of engineering, in respect of the constituents of soil and of the character of land. Special regard is to be had to any degrees which people have obtained in the science of agriculture. That is an innovation. It shows that the Minister is not disposed to yield to political pressure. This amendment means that you cannot trust the Minister who has shown himself to be impartial. I do not know whether the Minister intends to appoint men who are already in the Land Commission to this appeal tribunal, or whether he intends to go outside the Land Commission for one or both of the lay commissioners. I think, however, that he should be free. I think that in his conduct of the Land Commission and by his impartiality he has shown that he deserves to get a free hand in this matter and that he deserves to have the confidence of this House in the administration of it.
Considering the terrible amount of apprehension there is over the country about this Land Bill, why can there be any objection to an amendment like this? I am not saying that the Minister is, by any means, not to be trusted, but why not allay people's fears and apprehensions which are terribly disturbing? What is the objection? We have not all the same outlook as Senator Comyn.
I do not say the others were wrong but they were appointed by the other side. I think they are very good men.
That may be. Why object to something which will allay people's fears to a certain extent? It will be some consolation, at any rate, for the people to know that some men who are not Communists, at any rate, will be appointed. We all know that the people would regard an earthquake with less fear than they would the appointment as lay commissioners of some members of this House.
And quite a number on the other side.
There are quite a number on the other side I would trust and there are quite a number I would not trust with anything.
The appointment of these lay commissioners is a very important matter in the question of appeals. It is obvious that it is of importance to the person going before the appeal tribunal. It probably will affect his property and what means he will have of living after he is finished with the Land Commission. Men who are qualified for the position of land commissioner, I take it, must have some expert knowledge. The fact that they have been appointed as Land Commissioners previous to the passing of this Bill and before their services could be required on the appeal tribunal shows that they are people who must be, to a very large extent, fitted for the position. It would, as Senator Miss Browne said, allay the fears of those people who will be affected by the Bill with regard to the final determination of what is their rights. In the first instance, it is possible that a mistake may be made and the personnel of the appeal tribunal will be very important in that respect, so that if a mistake has been made in the determination in the first instance it can be set right. If this amendment is accepted a certain definition will be laid down as to the two lay commissioners to be appointed. I myself, without having inside knowledge of the Bill as drafted, cannot see why there should be any objection to accepting the amendment. I am sure that if the Minister does not see any great objection to it he will accept it. It will certainly make for a certain amount of confidence amongst the people who are going to be affected. For that reason I support the amendment and I ask the Minister to accept it.
Quite obviously, the fount of this amendment is distrust of the Minister. I would ask those responsible for it to realise what it means. It is confining the choice to officers of the Land Commission prior to 1st June, 1933. On the assumption that the Minister is not only a fool but a rogue, the choice of officers of the Land Commission is a very wide one. I have heard all kinds of criticism of the Land Commission because of the enormous number of subordinate officers of all kinds that they have. Within this amendment it will be quite possible for the Minister to choose some of the Communist friends that Senator Miss Browne speaks of and do the thing that Senator Miss Browne desires to prevent him from doing, so that the amendment is not going to be effective. If the Minister wants to do this evil thing, I have no doubt that he can find the evil-doers in the Land Commission if he seeks them out, because there is a large staff there and in seeking them amongst the officers of the Land Commission he is not confining the choice to those versed in the technicalities of the higher range of Land Commission work. I suggest to the Minister that he should not allow himself to be bound by this rather foolish kind of amendment which merely means that we have no confidence in the Minister's judgment, in the Minister's honesty, or in the Minister's reasonable interpretation of the Act.
I refused an amendment similar to this in the Dáil and, on that occasion, I pointed out that I believed that this Executive Council is just as competent to appoint land commissioners as any other Executive Council in the past.
The Executive Council, at the moment, have the appointment of judges, and, up to now, they have had the appointment of land commissioners. I do not see, for the life of me, why anybody might reasonably fear that the Executive Council in the future will not appoint men to the post of land commissioners or officers of the Land Commission or members of the appeal tribunal whom they can stand over in public. This amendment seeks to confine the choice to officers of the Land Commission. It has been found, however, from time to time, that officers of other Departments could be moved into the Land Commission. Three of the most senior men of the Land Commission at the moment are men of long experience in other Departments of the Government. They were put into the Land Commission because of their experience and they have done good work there. In practice from the point of view of carrying out the purpose of that amendment, I would have no objection to it, but there is a principle involved which I am not going to accept, and that is that the Executive Council is not to be entrusted with the appointment of the members of the appeal tribunal.
I am assuming that the Executive Council will act with commonsense and that they will not, as Senator Johnson suggests they can, appoint Bolshevists in the Land Commission. My point, however, is that the members should be taken from the Land Commission. The Minister says that the Executive Council have the authority to appoint judges, but have they the authority to go outside the legal profession and appoint anybody they like as judges? They must draw the judges from a special section of the community, and that is the legal profession. That is one of the reasons which justifies this amendment and it cannot be taken as being any slur on the Executive Council. From the Minister's own statement, they have the power to appoint judges but they cannot go outside their particular class in these appointments. All I am doing in this amendment is to say that they must draw the members of their appeal tribunal from the Land Commission and I think the Minister need not think that we have any doubt as to their ability to appoint members of the Tribunal merely because we say that they should be appointed in the same way as the judges are appointed and must be drawn from a special class.
The Committee divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 14.
- Bagwell, John.
- Bigger, Sir Edward Coey.
- Brown, Samuel L., K.C.
- Browne, Miss Kathleen.
- Costello, Mrs.
- Counihan, John C.
- Dillon, James.
- Douglas, James G.
- Fanning, Michael.
- Garahan, Hugh.
- Guinness, Henry S.
- Hickie, Major-General Sir William.
- Jameson, Right Hon. Andrew.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Kennedy, Cornelius.
- McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
- Milroy, Seán.
- Moran, James.
- O'Connor, Joseph.
- O'Hanlon, M.F.
- O'Rourke, Brian.
- Parkinson, James J.
- Staines, Michael.
- Toal, Thomas.
- Wilson, Richard.
- Chléirigh, Caitlín Bean Uí.
- Comyn, Michael, K.C.
- Connolly. Joseph.
- Farren, Thomas.
- Foran, Thomas.
- Johnson, Thomas.
- Linehan, Thomas.
- Mackean, James.
- Moore, Colonel.
- O'Neill, L.
- Phaoraigh, Siobhán Bean an.
- Quirke, William.
- Robinson, David L.
- Robinson, Séumas.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Counihan and Wilson; Níl: Senators S. Robinson and D. Robinson.
Amendment declared carried.
I move amendment 6:—
Section 7, sub-section (5). To delete in lines 63-64 the words "with the concurrence of one or both of the other members of the tribunal."
The object of this amendment is to reduce the appeals to the Supreme Court as to whether a question is or is not a question of law and by that means to save not only time but money and time is really the more important of the two. As the section stands, the two lay members of the appeal tribunal can over-rule the judicial member of the appeal tribunal on the question as to whether a particular matter is or is not a matter of law. It is a case of two lay men against a highly trained expert, because nobody gets to the position of judge in the High Court in this or, indeed, in any other civilised country, without being an expert on the question as to whether a question is or is not a matter of law. If the two lay members disagree with the judicial member I suggest that in the large majority of cases—I was going to say nine out of ten—they would be wrong and the judicial commissioner would be right and you would have an appeal practically in every one of those cases in which the two lay men differed from the judge, whereas if you leave it to the judicial commissioner alone to decide whether a particular question is or is not a question of law, he will be right in nine cases out of ten—I am giving those figures rather against him than in his favour—and you would have an appeal in only one case. In that way, not only money would be saved, but what is far more important in the administration of these land Acts you would save time. The appeal is to the Supreme Court.
My friend, Senator Comyn knows better than I do, because I have been so long away from the Bar, that the lists in the Supreme Court, in my recollection and I think they are pretty much the same now, are very congested, and, in fact, an Act like this would be required to relieve the congestion. That being so, if you had this large number of appeals, as you certainly would if you leave the section as it is, you would have a very long wait before you got a decision from the Supreme Court, and you would block that particular case in the Land Commission for a very long time. I suggest to the Minister that this is a reasonable amendment which he ought to accept.
This Appeal Tribunal is, I think, a well balanced tribunal. It has to do not ordinary legal work, and a man who might have vast experience in the ordinary body of law might know very little about the Land Purchase Acts. We propose to associate with the judicial commissioner for the time being two lay men who have a thorough knowledge of the operation of the Land Purchase Acts throughout the country and of the practical problems that face the Land Commission. I do not believe that there will be any big number of appeals against the decision of a majority of the appeal tribunal, as to whether or not a question is a matter of law. This appeal tribunal is an exact replica of the tribunal that was set up under the Railways and Canals Act in the British Parliament somewhere in the 'eighties, and there, the majority decide whether or not a question is a question of law. I think that both the two lay commissioners and the judicial commissioner will have to be very sure of their ground before they give a decision as to whether a question is or is not a question of law. It will make the judicial commissioner careful in arriving at his decision on such a point because there will be an appeal against his decision sitting in the Land Commission just as there would be an appeal against his decision if he were sitting in the High Court.
Legal gentlemen are themselves subject to the same disabilities as other men. Men might be very practical and reasonable men going on the bench, but after a number of years—I think Senator Brown will agree with me in this—some of them get very cranky. I think it is a wise safeguard to provide that in the future the members of the appeal tribunal cannot take the bit in their teeth and, without reason, decide that a question is a question of law when it is not. There will not be a great number of appeals, because both the judicial commissioner and the lay commissioners will have in mind that they are not the final authority on this: that there is an appeal to a higher court against their decision. I think they will be very careful to see that there will be general agreement between them as to what are questions of law and what are questions of fact.
I do not agree with the Minister, with great respect, that the fact that the two lay commissioners are two sensible men with large experience of matters arising in the Land Commission under the Land Acts will help them at all in deciding whether a question is or is not a question of law. That is a question of law itself, and their experience will not help them in the least. My whole object in putting down the amendment was to try and prevent a multiplicity of appeals, with loss of time and loss of money. If the amendment had been accepted by the Minister that would have been achieved. The Minister said that the number of appeals will be few. I daresay they will, but the number would have been still fewer if my amendment had been accepted.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 agreed to.
I move amendment 7:—
Section 12, sub-section (2). To delete in line 24 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
The change in the date that has been proposed will make for greater administrative convenience: the 31st July instead of the 15th July.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment 8:—
Section 12, sub-section (4). To delete in line 61 the figures said letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
This amendment is consequential.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 12, as amended, agreed to.
Section 13, sub-section (2). To delete in line 51 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
This and the following amendments are consequential.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 13, as amended, agreed to.
Section 14, sub-section (2). To delete in line 35 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 14, as amended, agreed to.
Section 15, sub-section (2). To delete in line 40 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, sub-section (4). To delete in line 15 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.
Section 16, sub-section (2). To delete in line 36 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st."
Amendment agreed to.
Section 16, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment 14:—
New section. Before Section 17 to insert a new section as follows:—
17. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in Sections 12, 13, 14 and 15 of this Act, in every case in which the total aggregate amount of a purchase annuity, an annual sum equivalent to a purchase annuity, an additional sum, payment in lieu of rent or interest on purchase money, payable by any proprietor during the three years ending on the first gale day of the year 1933 has been paid, the amount payable by such proprietor for any instalment in respect of any of the above-mentioned liabilities after the first gale day in 1933 up to and including the first gale day in 1939 shall not be payable by or recoverable from such proprietor, but such instalments of liability shall be payable by means of a funding annuity in like manner in all respects as if there had been an amount of arrears of liability due by such proprietor equal to the aggregate amount of liability payable by him during the three years ending on the first gale day in 1933.
I do not think this amendment really requires very much explanation. So far as I can see the whole policy which is developed in Sections 12 to 16 is one which will encourage very materially people not to pay their annuities. Very few of the defaulters will be any better off by reason of the funding of their arrears. They have got used to them. Take the case of a man who had a yearly sum of £10 to pay to the Land Commission. He got bad advice in 1922. He stopped paying in January, 1922, and has never paid since. He now owes £100. By this Bill he is to be forgiven £70, £30 is to be funded and added to his annuity, which is reduced to £5. This is supposed to give him a fresh start. I admit that there are a great number of people who have fallen into arrears through misfortune of various kinds, but I think, taking the defaulters as a whole, they are greatly in the minority. Numbers of other people have kept paying on their annuities, and it is these who have kept the State going. They continued to pay while other people fell into arrears. They had the same circumstances and the same difficulties to contend with, and yet they have managed to keep on paying. Over and above paying their own annuities, they have paid for all those men who have fallen into arrears, and now they are to be asked again to pay a very considerable sum.
On a point of order, I do not think this amendment is in order because, if accepted, it would entail a charge on the Central Fund.
We have always held in this House that we are entitled to make amendments of this kind to a Bill.
These people have paid for the defaulters through the rates, and now they will pay indirectly for the speeding up of land purchase which this Bill involves. In many ways that is going to be a considerable sum. The men who have been bearing those charges of various kinds are the men who may at any time be compulsorily removed from their holdings to make room for other people, because the practice of the Land Commission always has been, and naturally will continue to be, to pick out the most solvent people to establish in new places. They will go on bearing the whole burden of land migration. I think these are really the best type of Irishmen. They have kept to their contract under difficult circumstances. They got bad advice but, by their hard work and intelligence, they have kept going. Where one class of men has failed this class has succeeded, and it is simple justice that they should be treated on exactly the same basis as the men who have fallen into arrears and whose arrears are forgiven. I do not ask any more for them than that. The Minister may argue that the cost is greater than the State can bear. But when people branch out on new economic adventures and try to get things going more quickly, they should very carefully consider what the cost of these adventures will be.
I wonder whether Senator The McGillycuddy is quite sure that the tenant purchasers who have been paying their annuities up to the first gale day of 1933 desire this amendment. Men who are in the habit of paying their annuities may desire still to pay half the annuities, which is the amount to be demanded from them henceforward.
They have afforded it up to the present. As Senator Counihan has put his name to this amendment, perhaps he will say whether he is satisfied that in this amendment he represents the view of any considerable number of the tenant purchasers who have paid their annuities continuously up to the last gale day. I am not sure that he does. I know many men throughout the country who say: "We wish to pay our land annuities; we regard the payment of our land annuities as a matter of ordinary honesty." I refer to payment to the State, which is entitled to it.
When they have paid their annuity their responsibility ceases. They have nothing whatever to say to the ultimate destination of that annuity. The ultimate destination of the annuity payable in respect of Irish land is the Exchequer of Ireland and not the Exchequer of Great Britain. But there are a number of tenants who say: "We entered into an agreement to purchase our land. We are anxious to perform that agreement. We are anxious to make these annual payments." The State now says: "For the future we will require you to pay only half of the annuities you have been paying heretofore." Now Senator The McGillycuddy comes along and says that these men who have paid up to the last gale day and who have been in the habit of paying should get out of the habit of paying for the next six years and then pay again.
That the annuities should be funded.
May I say, if it will relieve the Senator's mind, that I am willing to add the words to the amendment: "if they so desire."
The question I asked the Senator was whether he considers he represents in this amendment the opinion of any considerable number of tenant purchasers who have been paying their annuities.
I do not know that he does. A number of tenant purchasers would prefer to pay their annuity rather than have it funded and "in front of them," to use an expression common in the country. I suggest to Senators that they should not vote for this amendment.
Senator Comyn has alluded to the man who has always paid and who, he says, should continue to pay. In my opinion, the vast majority of farmers are not able to pay. I speak from experience of that part of the country to which I belong. I am a farmer myself. I know a case in which a young man had five cattle at the fair of Newtownmountkennedy the other day. They were over a year old. What did he get for them? £16 5s. 0d. for the five. Is it in accord with common sense or reason that that man should be expected to pay his annuities? He is a farmer in a small way and reared, I suppose, about ten of these cattle in the year. He would have got very much more out of these beasts if, in ordinary circumstances, he had sold them as dropped calves. I could give his name and address. For the five he got £16 5s. 0d. out of which he had to give a luck-penny. The position is that the people are not able to pay. How could they pay in circumstances of that kind? They go to fairs but they cannot sell a single beast. In the days gone by, the Minister for Agriculture used to go over and see how the sales were going in the Dublin market. I was over there recently and there were a large number of salesmasters but no sales at all. There is, of course, the market in the morning, as we all know, but there is a sale by auction in the evening. Although it was stated in the newspapers that cattle were sold at from 16/- to 20/- per cwt., I saw only six beasts there and I was in one of the biggest places in it. I was there a fortnight before that and there were only three beasts offered, not one of which was sold.
When people say that the farmer should pay as usual, may I ask where the money is to come from? It is very easy for Senator Comyn to go into the courts and make money. I am sure he can make as good a case there as he makes here, but he makes a very strange case here sometimes. Surely Senator Comyn could not argue that you can make a man pay if he has not got the money. I think that until this economic war is over the Government should not expect payment. Whether they expect it or not, they cannot get it, because the people have not got the money. That is a very good reason.
This amendment is, in my opinion, necessary on account of the inability of farmers to pay their annuities at the present time. It only applies to those who have paid during the whole time, and, as far as I can see, does not make provision for those who have paid half the time.
If that is so, it is more in keeping with the circumstances of the case. Something has been said about the reduction of land annuities in the future. I got my demand for rates this morning, and I think it is 80 per cent. greater than the amount I paid last year.
8 per cent. or 80 per cent.?
The great reduction that we are told we are getting by the remission of annuities is offset by something like £1 a statute acre in County Dublin for rates alone. That is in consequence of the number of people who are getting able-bodied relief. This is a disguise motion. Owing to the state of affairs that exists it really means that people who have paid annuities should not be asked to pay until 1939. That means that the six half-years should be funded. Farmers are not asking to be let off paying annuities, because they will pay in the future, but they are not able to pay now. When it is not a question of letting them off, but of funding three years annuities, I do not see where the great loss will be. If the amendment were passed it would be a great boon to the farmers.
When I put my name to this amendment I understood it was going much further than it does. I contend that no class of farmer can pay while the economic war lasts. I stated that I was not going to discuss the economic war, and consequently I cannot discuss the amendment. It is impossible to discuss it without referring to the economic war. As Senator Wilson stated, this Bill is supposed to confer great concessions on the farmers. The Senator was not correct, I think, about the 80 per cent. increase in rates. I got the demand note for rates this morning, and the increase is something like 50 per cent. over last year's demand.
The principal reason the House should support the amendment is the inability of farmers to pay. If they are pressed for the annuities they will be able to pay only by using whatever little capital they have for working their farms and for stocking them. Under present circumstances they will get no money from the banks or from moneylenders.
I would like to get back to the amendment, because it appears to me that the discussion has got clean away from it. Annuitants who owe three years arrears, or more, have been dealt with in the Bill. Annuitants who partly paid their annuities but did not pay the rest, have been dealt with, and have got a relief. The only persons who have not got any relief under the Bill are the people who paid their annuities in full, whether from innate honesty, or because they thought it was the best thing to do. Where these other people have been helped, surely in common honesty, and, as a matter of fair play, they are entitled to get the same kind of relief as if they had not paid. These people have been honest and all that the amendment asks is that the three years' arrears which they have paid should be set off against the next three years; that these three years should be funded. That is only mere fair play and for that reason I ask the Minister to consider the position of these honest people. They need not take advantage of it if they do not like to do so. Give them the chance. They can refuse to take the money or to accept the funding.
They are compelled to fund under the section.
I admit that the Land Commission is bound to fund but, if they make representations to the Land Commission that they do not want the amount funded, but wish to go on paying half the annuities for the next three years, the Land Commission will be willing to let them do so.
Senator Counihan says that he put his name to this amendment and I think from his speech he did not read the amendment before he signed it. This amendment proposes to give relief to the farmers who have proved, one way or another, that of all the farmers in the country they are the farmers who least require relief. If this amendment were passed 40,000 out of the 436,000 annuitants would get their next six years' annuities funded. Up to the present time 40,000 annuitants have paid and thereby these have proved that they were able to pay.
They proved that they were best able to pay.
That does not at all follow.
Senator Brown said that those people who have paid up to the present are entitled to get some kind of relief. They are going to get it.
People who have paid up at the present time have a half-year's less annuity to pay at the other end. The people who have not paid up will have to pay their annuity until the funded debt is wiped out in 50 years' time. Viewing the necessities of the farmer, there is no need for this amendment and certainly it would put a burden on the State Exchequer that could not be justified. I think that the annuities payable by these people during the next three years would be better in the State Exchequer and can be used in a better manner than in funding them. This proposal is really a proposal to give credit to people who, up to the present time, have not signified that they want credit. This amendment is funding their annuities over 50 years at 4½ per cent. Now these people may not want to pay 4½ per cent. interest on the money. But if the annuities are funded they will have to pay 4½ per cent. in the future. If these people have the money and they are able to pay they will find that if the annuities are funded and they put the money in the bank that they will certainly get nothing like 4½ per cent. on that money.
Arising out of this amendment are we to understand from some of the comments that have fallen from the Minister that in relation to 436,000 annuitants none of these men are to be forgiven any portion of the annuities that they have paid and that some time one and all of them will have to refund part of the annuities now forgiven? Is that the position?
With the exception of those over three years in arrears.
It is a matter of £150,000. The others will have to pay.
To how many annuitants does that apply?
About 436,000 payers altogether. Of these 40,000 have paid up-to-date.
These men would in some form or another be forgiven portion of their annuities?
No, their annuities will not be forgiven. The annuity would be funded and payable for 50 years at 4½ per cent.
Nobody will be forgiven but the half year's annuity which will be forgiven to all.
The only man who is to be forgiven under the Bill is the lazy, incompetent man who did not pay. That is the man who is to get off scot free. On that point I wish to answer Senator Comyn—that the annuities are due to the State. I will not let that pass. That is a thing that is not generally known and I take the opportunity of saying it now that that argument and that principle were first enunciated by an avowed Communist, Peadar O'Donnell. One man, a member of this House, Senator Moore, was first credited with that, but he was only the loud speaker. Peadar O'Donnell was the first to enunciate that principle.
I may say that Peadar O'Donnell publicly announced that he was not a Communist.
I think Senator Colonel Moore was given the honour of claiming to be the first.
Am I to understand that there are actually 130,000 defaulters in this island of saints?
It is 400,000 out of 436,000.
I do not understand the Minister's plea that this is going to cost the State so much money. This is a mere question of funding. Surely one thing should pay off the other. The rate that is to be charged on the bonds is to meet the cost of this funding. The annuitants who will pay what they will be called on to pay will free the State from any loss. This amendment is only giving the 40,000 what the others are getting. I do not suppose that the State is incurring a great deal of liability in funding these three years' arrears. Are we really incurring a great deal of expense in funding this and paying the rates that are to be paid by the annuitants or the people who are paying the annuities—is the State really incurring a very great liability in that part of the matter? I thought that the ultimate repayment of the moneys now to be funded would free the State from all liability in this matter and that there would be no loss to the State.
I did not know that the State in regard to the annuitants who were going to get their annuities funded for three years was going really to lose anything. But now we have the Minister saying that this transaction is going to cost quite a lot of money to the State. Is it true that the same argument applies to the funded annuities in the case of those for whom the whole arrangement about funding the annuities has been made? I ask that because if it is we are in for a much greater expense than that which we had calculated up to now. I never thought this was really going to cost the State anything. I understood that the future annuities were calculated on the basis that there would be no loss caused to the State by the funding. Those who are in possession of land and are not paying the annuities will of course cause loss to the State. In such cases the State will lose. There is no question about that. But as long as honesty prevails I do not think we are going to put any bigger burden on the State by giving those annuitants who have paid their annuities what this amendment seeks to give them. If that is going to cost the State money I think we should be told how much it is to cost. There is the same reason in each case. Both Senator Comyn and the Minister in calculating this matter said that the good payers of annuities will be in the same position to pay their annuities in the future as in the past. That is rather assuming a thing that is not so at all. There are many people who have paid their annuities quite well in the past who will not be able to pay them in the future.
There is only 50 per cent. payable in the future.
Even so. I believe the people who have paid up their annuities will find that this amendment, giving the power to fund, will give them great relief in the next few years. I do not believe it is going to cost the State anything, especially in the case of those people who have been honest payers up to the present. Therefore, I do not believe that it is true to say that this amendment is going to be a financial burden on the State. I do think that the Seanad ought, seriously, to consider whether it would not be right to state their opinion that the people who have paid up honestly in the past should be treated in the same way as those who did not pay up. I do not say that those who did not pay up failed through their own fault, but let us say they failed for reasons which they could not have avoided. At all events, we ought to treat both these sections on the same lines, at least, those who have paid should be treated equally with those who have not. Preferential treatment should surely not be given to those who did not pay their annuities in the past.
Senators will remember that the Minister for Finance, in his Budget speech, said he was going to borrow £1,000,000 on the strength of the deferred annuities. These deferred annuities are funded annuities. If this amendment is carried in the case of the 40,000 good payers of annuities it will be necessary for the State to provide moneys by loan or otherwise to foot the bill until 1939. That is not an expense to the State.
It comes to this, that there are 40,000 men who have shown, up to the present, that they were able to pay their annuities regularly. What this amendment means is that the State should borrow money for the purpose of forcing a loan at 4½ per cent. on these people.
Yes, forcing a loan at 4½ per cent., because that is the meaning of this amendment. Now, some of those people may have money in the bank at one per cent. Many of them may be people who do not desire to have this loan, people who may wish to continue to pay in the future. If this amendment is passed, half their annuities will be funded at 4½ per cent.
My argument is that these people are not able to pay now in the changed conditions.
Some of them may. I would put this as a submission now to Senator Jameson: You have men who have been in the habit of paying their annuities even in difficult times. You are now going to say to these men: "You shall not pay anything for the next six years. We will fund it and charge you 4½ per cent. for it, even though you may have the money in your pockets or in the bank." These men who have been in the habit of paying are to get out of that habit.
I was born on a farm, but I do not want to say very much about land; I got off it as soon as I could.
This is a case of 40,000 farmers who have paid their annuities regularly but who find themselves in this position to-day, that in order to pay the wages of their workers they have to bring over-fed cattle into the Dublin and other markets. I attend the Dublin cattle market practically every Thursday, and I have observed these men bringing in a few cattle in order to help to pay their wages. They are leaving overgrown and over-fed cattle, cattle that are too big, on the land. They do not want to sell them at 50 per cent. of their value. They are waiting like the rest of the Irish people for something to turn up. Nothing has turned up, and I think these people, who so far have paid their way, would be very glad to-day to accept this funding arrangement at 4 or 4½ per cent. They are still hoping that something will turn up and that this economic war will be settled. I know it is not going to be settled; it is going to be just like a corkscrew, coming to a point where there will be nothing left for anybody.
The Communists will get their share.
I am prepared to vote for the amendment.
The thing that surprises me in connection with this amendment is that the Minister does not accept it. I cannot understand why he does not. I do not think this amendment goes any distance. If the purpose of the amendment is to afford relief to farmers, I submit it does not afford very much in the nature of relief. Two reasons have been advanced in connection with this amendment. We are told the position of agriculturists is that they cannot pay and will not be in a position during the economic war to meet their land purchase liabilities. The other argument is that it will give relief to a certain section of farmers. What relief does it give? It merely postpones the day when these men will have to pay their land purchase annuities. Section 16 (2) (a) says:—
"such arrears and the amount so ascertained of the said costs and expenses together with interest at the rate of 4½ per cent. per annum on the said arrears, costs and expenses from the first gale day in the year 1933 shall ... be added."
There are farmers who met their land purchase annuities, paid them in good time. These farmers are now going to be absolved for a certain number of years. At the end of a six years period they have to meet the land purchase annuities for which they would be ordinarily liable, together with the arrears which have accrued, together with costs and interest at 4½ per cent.
They will have to pay 4½ per cent. over a period of six years. That money surely is not going to be allowed to stay out without interest? Why should it apply in the case of outstanding arrears at the present time and not in the case of arrears for the next six years? Where is the relief to the farmer in that? I fail to see any relief. If the farmers were absolved from paying any portion, if any portion of it was forgiven them, then I would say there would be some relief. Here we have 40,000 farmers, only one-tenth of the defaulters, and you are going to give them a reward or premium in some form for doing something which, I take it, every farmer might have done. There is no specific form of relief offered in this instance. As regards the general position, the farmers cannot pay and the 40,000 will be in the same position as the 400,000. If the farmers are in the position that they cannot pay, arrears will accrue and the Government will have to face the situation which has arisen owing to their manipulation of the whole land purchase question.
When I put my name to this proposal I thought it specified 1932 instead of 1933. The economic war started in July, 1932. I know there are perfectly honest men who were unable to pay their annuities in 1932 and I will ask Senator The McGillycuddy to substitute 1932 for 1933, and also add the provision that where any annuitants want to pay half the annuity they should be given an opportunity to do so, instead of having the money funded.
I could not agree to such a change.
We will table an amendment in that connection on the Report Stage.
I have listened to this discussion with some interest and amusement. I have been listening for the purpose of finding out the rights or wrongs, the justice or injustice of the claim. I cannot but remind myself of the discussions on the Moneylenders Bill. I had occasion to read the evidence given before the Commissions here and in England on the Moneylenders Bill. I find one great complaint was that the moneylenders were forcing their clients to keep on borrowing, never to let them get out of debt. That seems to be the case that is put forward in favour of this amendment. Further, I am amused in this way, that the arguments that have been adduced, while I have a good deal of sympathy with them, seem to me to be equally applicable to any trader's debt, any debt for house purchase, rental, milk—a trader's debt of any kind.
Let us say a man is in business and has 100 customers. A majority of them or a minority of them pay up-to-date. The remainder are not able to pay and the debts are wiped off as bad. Therefore, as a consequence, because he has wiped off the debt of a number of customers as bad, the merchant must be bound to say to the remainder "Because we wiped off the debts of these other people, we must reduce liabilities, or at least, we must ask you to borrow money from us to reduce your payment on account of your future purchases". I think it is very good to have that doctrine preached by merchants, manufacturers, bankers, house owners and farmers. Let us apply that to ordinary trading operations in a town. I think on these grounds we ought perhaps to support this amendment having in mind the debt case that Senator Miss Browne is so anxious about, so that the purpose of this amendment and the advocacy of those in favour of it should be borne in mind. It is a very useful argument that because we allow those who were unable to pay to have their debts cancelled, we are bound to follow that up, and say those who are able to pay must be treated equally. The unfortunate or the dishonest, whichever case you like to take, has to have his debt remitted, but the remainder must be treated equally well. That is a very good doctrine and I hope merchants, manufacturers and traders will bear that in mind in future.
The comparison made by Senator Johnson does not work. The traders, because of debts due to them, do not take away a man's livelihood from him.
It is not a question of shopkeepers in towns. The question here is one of national liability, national responsibility and national honour. Senator Johnson can compromise if he likes on these matters. I am not prepared to compromise on them.
There are two things which came out in this debate, and one is the special knowledge Senator Comyn seems to have of the Irish farmers. I only know those in Waterford, and I do not know any of them who would not accept a remission of his debt. There are many in Clare, I suppose, who are only too anxious to pay up in the fullest terms in cash. I am rather puzzled at Senator O'Hanlon's argument. I do not gather from it whether he quite understands the position. Surely, actuarially, it is the same thing to fund a debt or to pay it, but in practice it is very different in having your liability extended over 50 years or paying it right away. I suggest it is a relief to a man to be able to pass on a debt to his children and his grandchildren.
There is a terrible lot of potter about this amendment. It really means nothing. Senators who put it down hardly knew what they were putting down; that is clear from the retractions and the additions that have been made during the debate. The fact of the matter is, this applies to about 40,000 people who want to pay in order to get rid of their debt to the Land Commission. They will have to pay whether in 20 or 30 years, in order to get their land free from annuities. One Senator talked a lot about ten bullocks that were bought in the market. These 40,000 people only mean about £90,000. The annual rents run from about 5/- to £3 or £4, and the average is £2 annuity which will be reduced to half. It would be going too far taking a loan of a half-crown at 4½ per cent. for 50 years. That is really what the amendment means.
I would like to inform Senator Sir John Keane that I knew perfectly well what I was saying. I ask Senator The McGillycuddy, now, to say what genuine relief will come to the 40,000 farmers. The Minister says it means nothing. If that is so, I am surprised he does not accept this amendment.
The debate has not altered the position I took up. I knew perfectly well what I was doing when I put down the amendment. Some other Senators did not read the amendment as carefully as I did during the three weeks which I took to prepare it. Senator Comyn made one point about the farmers and their position. He questions whether I represented the farming community. I am a farmer, living amongst farmers, and I have a very good idea of the farmer's mentality in my own county. I can say that the farmers welcome something in the shape of relief of any kind. You will find numbers of farmers now, who, in the past, had taken decadal reductions so as to allow their sons and their grandsons to bear some of the costs of land purchase. In the same way, rather than take their money out of the banks, they would prefer to go to the Board of Works and borrow for the purpose of building their houses. Why? Because they want their sons and grandsons to bear some of the cost while they are building up a home. I believe they will have the same view about the proposal in this amendment. The men I pick out are those who have partially paid, and I pick them out as impeccables. They are small men paying, perhaps, about £2 per annum, and I think they are, perhaps, more worthy of relief than any other citizen. It certainly will be a very great relief in these very serious times. Reading the Bill quite dispassionately I would say that the economic war does not enter into consideration at all. This is a question where the State takes a certain number of citizens and limits portion of their contracts. Others they allow to go on. I suggest that six years will put them on equal terms, and in the end the State pays nothing.
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 16.
- Bagwell, John.
- Bigger, Sir Edward Coey.
- Brown, Samuel L., K.C.
- Browne, Miss Kathleen.
- Costello, Mrs.
- Counihan, John C.
- Dillon, James.
- Douglas, James G.
- Fanning, Michael.
- Garahan, Hugh.
- Guinness, Henry S.
- Hickie, Major-General Sir William.
- Jameson, Right Hon. Andrew.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Kennedy, Cornelius.
- McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
- Milroy, Seán.
- Moran, James.
- O'Connor, Joseph.
- O'Rourke, Brian.
- Parkinson, James J.
- Staines, Michael.
- Toal, Thomas.
- Wilson, Richard.
- Chléirigh, Caitlín Bean Uí.
- Comyn, Michael, K.C.
- Connolly, Joseph.
- Duffy, Michael.
- Farren, Thomas.
- Foran, Thomas.
- Johnson, Thomas.
- Linehan, Thomas.
- MacEllin, Seán E.
- MacKean, James.
- Moore, Colonel.
- O'Neill, L.
- Phaoraigh, Siobhán Bean an.
- Quirke, William.
- Robinson, David L.
- Robinson, Séamus.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators The McGillycuddy and Counihan; Níl: Senators S. Robinson and D. Robinson.
Amendment declared carried.
(d) as soon as may be after the passing of this Act, the Land Commission shall ascertain the amount of the arrears of rent (other than any such rent which was the subject of proceedings by the immediate landlord which were pending at the passing of this Act and in which a defence was filed or entered before such passing) which were due and owing on the 15th day of July, 1933, by every such subtenant as aforesaid and the amount of the costs and expenses (if any) incurred by the immediate landlord before the passing of this Act in proceedings for such recovery;
On behalf of Senator Seamus Robinson I move amendment No. 15:—
Section 17. To delete in line 62 the figures and letters "15th" and to substitute therefor the figures and letters "31st".
This is a consequential amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sections 18 to 25, inclusive, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
If I am right in assuming that amendment No. 19 in the name of Senators Wilson and Garahan seeks to abolish the Guarantee Fund or seeks to deprive the Government of the powers they at present possess to deduct arrears of annuities from the Grants-in-Aid to local authorities, I would prefer to withdraw amendments Nos. 16 and 17 to Section 26 which stand in my name and let the case be argued on amendment No. 19.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17, by leave, withdrawn.
I suggest that amendment 18 is consequential to amendment 19, and if amendment 19 is carried that can be cleared up on the Report Stage.
Could we not argue the matter on amendment 18?
I think it would be better to argue the matter on amendment 19, which is the important one. Amendment 18 can be brought forward again on the Report Stage if the other is passed.
Amendment 18 not moved.
Section 26 agreed to.
I move amendment 19.
Section 27, sub-section (2). To insert before the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) The charge on the Guarantee Fund in respect of deficiencies in the Purchase Annuities Fund arising from the provisions of this Part of this Act in relation to the payment of arrears of purchase annuities by means of funding annuities shall cease on the passing of this Act.
The object of this is to do away with the Guarantee Fund altogether with regard to empowering the Government to take from the Agricultural Grant the amount of annuities unpaid. As the House is aware, the practice is to deduct the amount of the annuities which are unpaid from the grants to local authorities. The money is then paid into the Guarantee Fund, and is taken out of the Guarantee Fund to make up the deficiency which occurs by reason of the default in the payment of annuities. My object is to do away with the Guarantee Fund altogether, because the State is the collector of these annuities, and the State ought to be responsible rather than the local ratepayers if it fails to collect the annuities. A ratepayer may have paid his annuity and still be made liable for those who were in default. Under this Bill that arrangement will result in a loss of £250,000 to the ratepayers, which is being given in the shape of a gratuity by the Government. I do not see any reason for this Guarantee Fund. There might have been a necessity for it when the British were getting the annuities. At the present time the collecting authority is the State, which has a department for the collection of the money. If the money is short, it is the duty of the State to find the money; it is not the duty of the ratepayers. In arguing this case before the Minister for Finance, he said that we should by persuasion induce our neighbours and friends to pay the annuities. That kind of talk is all very well for a Minister for Finance, but it will not go very far in the collection of money from neighbours when they will not pay their annuities. My amendment will have the effect of preventing the amount of the unpaid annuities being taken from the Agricultural Grant and paid into the Guarantee Fund.
I am in agreement with Senator Wilson in what he said about this money which was collected from the ratepayers because of the default of certain annuitants before now and which is being written off by the Government. They are really having it both ways in my opinion with regard to the arrears of annuities which are now proposed to be funded. As far as I can see, some of these arrears, if not all, have been charged against the county councils and collected by the Government by deducting them from the grants to these councils. The Government are collecting from the county councils the arrears which annuitants had not paid. It is proposed now to collect them again by means of funding them. If I am right in my belief that that is the case, it seems an extraordinary state of affairs that the Government when they succeed in funding these arrears will have for the second time collected the same moneys, so far as the funding is collection, and, directly, so far as deduction from grants to county councils is a collection. That being so, and because of the other reasons Senator Wilson has given, I am in favour of this Guarantee Fund ceasing so far as the liability of county councils is concerned. I think the county councils are the only local bodies which are liable as guarantors. So far as the county councils are concerned, I think they should not be included any longer. There is nothing to be gained so far as one can see in present circumstances, by the continuance of this Guarantee Fund, and I am strongly of opinion that the amendment can be accepted by the Minister without any qualms whatever.
Ever since I have taken part in Land Bill discussions I have tried to effect the object of this amendment. Senator Wilson referred to the possible justification in the past. There was justification in the early days of land legislation, when the British Government, not sure that these annuities would be honestly met, and naturally wishing to avoid the odium of collection and all that it involved in matters of high politics, said: "We will make sure of the fund to discharge the obligation to the bond holders by deducting it from the grants-in-aid." The position, however, is now utterly and entirely different. The Government have the power to collect the annuities and nobody else. If these annuities are not paid, under the present system, as Senator Wilson pointed out, they are collected from the whole body of ratepayers in the district. Is it justice that because A.B. does not pay his annuity his neighbours shall have to pay? Yet you deprive them of the power to collect. We know what peaceful persuasion means. You even deprive them of the power of blacklisting these people. I believe that some local authorities took advice as to posting the names of defaulters on the county council buildings, and they were told that if they posted one single wrong name they would be liable for an action for defamation of credit and all the rest. I want to point out one effect that this has in practice. In practice the Government, by getting this money easily by deduction, are undoubtedly lax in the collection of annuities. As a banker, I have come across these cases.
When people are allowed to run into arrears for seven or eight years and no steps have been taken, beyond sending them a notice, to enforce the payment of the annuities, look at the effect of that. These annuities are the prior charge on that farm. When that farm is put up for sale, all the other debts secured on that land disappear, and I say that it is most unjust to other creditors, who have mortgages on that land, to let those annuities mount up to such an extent that they swallow up the whole of the purchase price of the sale of that land and leave other creditors out in the cold and deprive them of their legal security. That is the effect. There is another effect also. I do not wish to impute dishonesty in any general terms, but everybody knows that there are individuals who take advantage of this accumulation of arrears to effect a deal in their land. Senator Comyn knows, from his legal experience, that there are dishonest men as well as honest men, and he knows that a frame-up sometimes takes place where the buyer and the seller know that there will not be an open market. A friend comes along and says: "I will put in a bid for that land; there will be no competition and we will share the proceeds." As a result of that dishonest deal, all the other creditors are wiped out and the security, even for shop-debts, is gone. The delinquent will have evaded all his liabilities and he gets a fresh lease of life.
The whole thing is wrong, and it is aggravated by the action of this Guarantee Fund which gives the Government an inducement to be lax in the collection of those annuities. Where the Government has been lax in the past—and for very good reasons, because it is not pleasant to go to these people to collect their arrears of annuities when you can get them in another way-they could always collect their arrears from the Grants-in-Aid. The whole thing is wrong, inequitable and most unjust, and has long outlived its purpose.
I suggest that if the purpose of the amendment is to abolish the Guarantee Fund entirely, I do not think it would be accomplished by this amendment. However, I would raise another matter of more importance. One has learned, in the course of inquiry into local government accounts and State finances generally, how intimately bound up this Guarantee Fund is with all kinds of local and national finances, and to accomplish the abolition of the fund by means of an amendment in the Seanad in this way is going to do, probably, too much without due consideration. It seems to me that it is a matter that would have to be brought forward inevitably in connection with other financial adjustments in other circumstances and ought to be brought forward by a Ministry. I think the case that Senator Sir John Keane has made is a good one, but I do not think it should be accomplished in this rather casual way. This Guarantee Fund, as I said, is very closely associated with all kinds of local government and national finance, and I think it is very unlikely that the Dáil would agree with it in this form. I suggest that the line the Seanad should take is to indicate favourable reaction to this proposal, but not to attempt to make this very big change in the financial arrangements of the country by almost a casual amendment to a Land Bill.
I agree with what has been said that this is a great grievance, and it is the opinion of practically every county council in the country that this should be removed. I think we shall do something to remove it.
Senator Johnson objects that this is complicated. I know it is complicated, but it seems perfectly clear that this money has got to be paid. If it is not paid, it is deducted from the grants. If it is no longer deducted, it has to come into the Budget. The purpose of the Guarantee Fund is not working now. Let Senator Johnson be clear on the point. There is no distinct association between the annuities and the bondholders. The bondholders are a general debt secured by the Consolidated Fund. The annuities were absolutely associated with the Guarantee Fund in the past. That has all gone now. It is all pooled and melted and in the future the Minister for Finance says: "I shall budget for a certain amount of annuities, and if I do not get that amount it will have to be put on the general taxpayer." There is no complication whatever about it. I agree that there may be some difficulty as to the proper draftsmanship of the amendment but, if the principle is acceptable to the Seanad, I am sure the Government would at least give us the assistance of its advisers in the Parliamentary draftsman's office to put it into shape.
This is a long-standing grievance with county councils, and I hope the amendment will be accepted. We do feel that it is a great injustice to the honest ratepayers of the country that they must pay for the defaulters, and I must say that the Government or the Land Commission have been very lax up to the present. They have made no effort, in a great many cases, to enforce payments. They allowed them to drift on for years and years, and then in the end, when the sale of the land came about, they put in their claim with the result that honest traders were deprived of their debts. People know that they can get off in this way and they take advantage of it. The county councils have been protesting for years, and I hope the Minister will see his way to readjust this long-standing grievance.
This particular amendment does not do what the Senators say they want to have done: that is, to abolish the Guarantee Fund. It only refers to arrears arising out of this Part of this Act, and it refers to the deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund and not the deficiencies in the Guarantee Fund. The Land Bond Fund is a fund out of which comes the interest on the bonds issued in respect of land purchased since 1923, and the Government has already made that Fund good in respect of arrears that have been forgiven since 1932. There were two Estimates passed; one was for £1,400,000 which was introduced into the Dáil a few months ago, and the other was for £1,616,000. However, it is quite clear that what the Senators want is the abolition of the Guarantee Fund, and I am not prepared to agree to it. It does, undoubtedly, help the Government to collect the land annuities, and it will have to be kept on until there is a change of policy in the matter.
I think what the Minister has just said was an utterly unconvincing defence of the position. The Minister says it helps the Government to collect. Of course, it helps the Government to collect, but by passing it on to the whole body of the ratepayers who have had nothing approaching the relief to which they are entitled. Of course, it helps the Government to collect, but is it just? The Minister makes no attempt to justify it, and I consider he has adopted a most unaccommodating attitude, and I hope the House will support the amendment.
I am not surprised that my friend Senator Garahan did not understand all the intricacies of the Guarantee Fund and the Land Bond Fund. I tried many and many a time to understand them with their accounts and cross accounts and their debits and credits. It comes to this— let us know what it is—that in 1891, I think, when stock was issued, it was the policy of the British Government to treat all holders of agricultural land as one class, and to make them, in a sense, stand as security for each other. In 1888, the British Local Government Act was introduced, and there were various sums collected in respect of licences for public-houses and other local matters. These were collected by the Imperial Parliament and put into the Imperial Treasury and paid back again to the English counties by means of grants. In 1898, the Local Government Act was introduced into this country, and the system of grants-in-aid applied also to this country. The British Parliament said: "We will make the holders of all agricultural land security for each other in respect of the payment of these annuities, and we will do that by means of deductions from various grants made to them."
The Guarantee Fund was established and that fund was to be the fund out of which the default of the annuitants was paid in the first instance. That Guarantee Fund was replenished in various ways. In the first place, it was replenished by means of these Grants-in-Aid, and if these Grants-in-Aid were insufficient, there was power to raid the fund even for industrial schools, lunatic asylums and other things. In the last resort, the Guarantee Fund was to be replenished by means of a rate to be struck on the county by the grand jury, in the first instance, and if they failed, by the judge of assizes. In that way, the British Government at the time sought to make all holders of agricultural land security for each other in respect of the payment of these annuities. That is how the matter stands. It is a complicated matter and it is a matter of profound policy.
The British had nothing to do with land bonds.
The British had nothing to do with land bonds and the Minister pointed out very properly——
This is copying the British.
——that there are two funds—the Land Bond Fund and the other fund. The Guarantee Fund applies to one, and, therefore, this amendment does not deal with the entire matter. It is only partial in its operation. I do not know what view the Government may take of it, but if you want to substitute for the liability of the agricultural class the liability of the entire country——
This amendment does not do that. It does not solve the question. It only, as it were, solves part of the question and, in fact, it leaves the matter as complicated as it was when the Guarantee Fund was first established under the Act of 1891 because in respect of some of the defaults, this section makes provision that they shall be made good by the general taxpayer but in respect of other defaults the old system by which the remainder of the agricultural community in each county shall be the guarantors for defaults will obtain. I think that is about the position and the question is whether this House ought to deal with the matter piece-meal—whether it ought to be dealt with on an amendment without full debate and due consideration as to where the money is to be found and how the money is to be found or whether the matter having been raised now should be agitated until such time as you get a complete settlement.
I think that my friend who has just spoken is not quite accurate in his description of what underlies this. He says that the object of this Guarantee Fund and the charges on it was to make the agricultural community security for each other but, unfortunately, that is not what it does. It makes the agricultural community plus every other ratepayer in the country security for them.
I think my friend will find that the urban areas were not responsible.
There are many other people who are not holders of agricultural farms, and who are ratepayers in a county, and who are not in any urban district at all.
There are some people certainly who are not owners of agricultural land and who were in a rural area, but the urban areas were exempted from liability under this Act of 1891.
Senator Comyn is pleading that because the matter is so intricate we should let it go by default, having agitated it. Senator Comyn must think we are very childish because we would never have an opportunity of raising this question again if we let it go through in the Land Bill. If the Minister is not prepared to agree to this, we ourselves would bring in an amendment properly drafted on Report Stage to effect what we desire, because it is plain that sub-section (3) of Section 26 is another payment that is not touched by this but, at the same time, we want to test the mind of the House on the whole question of the Guarantee Fund by means of this amendment, and if we get an expression from the House in support of it, I promise the Minister that a well-considered and well-drafted amendment will be brought forward on Report and the Guarantee Fund will be very easily dealt with.
This is a matter which I feel we cannot allow to pass. Time after time, protests have come up from every county council, I might say, in Ireland against the injustice of this. We have no remedy. If we had the power to collect this money ourselves we would not have the same justification, but we have no power whatever. As I say, the county councils have protested time and time again, and now, when the Land Bill is before the House, is the time to have the injustice remedied. I hope that the Senators will insist on their amendment.
I want to say just one word to make our position clear. We know that this amendment does not carry our wishes into full legal effect but it is testing the House on the simple issue as to whether arrears of annuities should be paid by ratepayers or taxpayers. When we have the feeling of the House on that matter, we will get counsel to draft an amendment which will effect our purpose and bring it forward on Report. Let there be no doubt about what we intend to do.
On the wording of the amendment, there is certainly grave doubt as to what the Senators intend to do but, of course, they have explained their intention in their speeches. As the amendment stands, it relieves the Guarantee Fund or the Land Bond Fund from a liability which has already been met by the Minister for Finance in the estimates that were passed by the Dáil.
The Committee divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 13.
- Bagwell, John.
- Bellingham, Sir Edward.
- Brown, Samuel L., K.C.
- Browne, Miss Kathleen.
- Costello, Mrs.
- Counihan, John C.
- Dillon, James.
- Douglas, James G.
- Fanning, Michael.
- Garahan, Hugh.
- Jameson, Right Hon. Andrew.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Kennedy, Cornelius.
- McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
- Milroy, Seán.
- Moran, James.
- O'Connor, Joseph.
- O'Hanlon, M. F.
- Parkinson, James J.
- Staines, Michael.
- Toal, Thomas.
- Wilson, Richard.
- Chléirigh, Caitlín Bean Uí.
- Comyn, Michael, K.C.
- Connolly, Joseph.
- Duffy, Michael.
- Farren, Thomas.
- Foran, Thomas.
- Johnson, Thomas.
- MacEllin, Seán E.
- Moore, Colonel.
- Phaoraigh, Siobhán Bean an.
- Quirke, William.
- Robinson, David L.
- Robinson, Séamus.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Wilson and Garahan; Níl: Senators S. and D.L. Robinson.
Amendment declared carried.
Section 27, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(3) Immediately upon receipt from the Land Commission of a warrant under this section the county registrar shall, after serving such notices and doing such acts as may be prescribed in that behalf by regulations to be made by the Minister for Justice, proceed to levy the money therein certified to be due by the defaulter in the same manner as execution orders at the suit of the Land Commission are by law leviable, and such county registrar shall, for that purpose, have all such rights, powers and duties as are for the time being vested in or imposed on him by law in relation to the execution of an execution order including such rights, powers and duties as are for the time being vested in or imposed on him by Section 31 of the Land Act, 1927.
I move amendment 20:—
Section 28, sub-section (3). To delete the sub-section and to substitute therefor three new sub-sections as follows:—
(3) Immediately upon receipt from the Land Commission of a warrant under this section the county registrar shall serve such notices and do such acts as shall be prescribed by regulations to be made by the Minister for Justice, including a notice by the county registrar of his intention, after the expiration of 15 days from the service of such notice, to levy the amount mentioned in such warrant as due by the defaulter to the Land Commission.
(4) Within 14 days after the service by the county registrar of the said notice of his intention to levy the amount mentioned in the last preceding sub-section, the defaulter may make and file with the county registrar a declaration in the prescribed form, stating either that he does not owe the amount claimed to be due by him to the Land Commission or that he is not the person liable to pay the same, and thereafter it shall be lawful for the Land Commission, if and when the Land Commission thinks proper, to take any remedy which the Land Commission may have by law for the recovery of such amount other than the remedies given by this section to the Land Commission.
(5) Immediately after the expiration of the period of 14 days mentioned in the last preceding sub-section, if the defaulter has not prior thereto made and filed such declaration in the prescribed form as is mentioned in such sub-section, the county registrar shall proceed to levy the amount certified to be due by the defaulter in the warrant issued by the Land Commission under sub-section (1) of this section in the same manner as Execution Orders at the suit of the Land Commission are by law leviable, and such county registrar shall for that purpose have all the rights, powers and duties for the time being vested in or imposed on him by law in relation to the execution of an Execution Order, including such rights, powers and duties as are for the time being vested in or imposed on him by Section 31 of the Land Act, 1927 (No. 19 of 1927).
This is the section which gives the Land Commission the right to issue a warrant to the county registrar which is to be executed by the sheriff in the case of anybody who is a defaulter in the payment of his annuities. The object of the section is to save the cost both to the State and to the defaulter of proceedings at law in the District Court or the Circuit Court, as the case may be, to recover the arrears due. There is no doubt that the amount of the cost to the State and, sometimes, to the defaulter is very considerable. Although I am of opinion that no Department of State should be judge and executioner in its own cause, I am not seeking by this amendment to interfere with the power of the Land Commission to do this in any case in which there is no doubt as to the amount that is due or as to the person by whom it is due. The amendment is directed entirely to the case where there has been or is a mistake either in the amount due by the alleged defaulter or as to the person by whom it is due. I want only to protect the honest defaulter and to give him a chance, where there has been a mistake, of having the mistake rectified.
The amendment is somewhat technical but I can explain it in a few words. Under my proposal, sub-sections (1) and (2) of the section in the Bill will stand but sub-section (3) will be deleted and will be substituted by the three sub-sections in the amendment. Under the first of these sub-sections, upon receipt from the Land Commission by the county registrar of a warrant, he is to serve such notices and do such acts as shall be prescribed by regulations to be made by the Minister for Justice, including a notice by the county registrar of his intention, after the expiration of 15 days from the service of such notice, to levy the amount mentioned in the warrant. That is to say, he is to give the defaulter 15 days' notice of his intention to levy. The next sub-section provides that within the next fourteen days—that is, fourteen days after the service of that notice by the county registrar—the defaulter may make and file with the county registrar a declaration in the prescribed form stating either that he does not owe the amount claimed to be due by him or that he is not the person liable to pay the same. That notice will be in the prescribed form and the prescribed form should oblige him, if he is quarrelling with the amount claimed, to state how much he does owe, so that the amount of the alleged mistake will be known as soon as he makes the declaration. In case he alleges that he is not the person liable to pay the amount, he should explain why he is not the person and, so far as his knowledge goes, who is the person liable.
Once that declaration is made under this sub-section, the county registrar has no longer the power of making a levy and the Land Commission are then put to their other remedies at law, whatever they are. In case there is no declaration made by the defaulter on one or other of these matters, then the sheriff is to go on and levy. That provides a perfect remedy in the case of mistake. It is admitted there are mistakes. They will be very few and the cases in which the defaulter will have to make this declaration and to stop the warrant will be very few. If the prescribed form is in the form I have indicated, it will have to state whether the question is as regards amount or as regards the defaulter's personal liability. This procedure cannot result in any subsequent litigation. The question at issue will then be fixed up between the defaulter and probably the county solicitor.
I have every sympathy with what Senator Brown proposes to effect by means of this amendment, but I think that it would be much wiser for the Seanad to leave the drawing up of the regulations to the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Land Commission. It is a very intricate matter and I do not think that anyone outside these two Departments, without intimate knowledge of the day to day work, could really do what Senator Brown proposes to do—that is, draft regulations for the carrying out of the operative part of the section. Senator Brown proposes to give, in the first place, 15 days' notice. I can promise that in the regulations to be drafted there will be adequate notice given by the sheriff to all persons concerned, in addition to the ordinary notice given by the Land Commission. First of all, the receivable order is sent back to the tenant purchaser a couple of months before the annuities are due. After the gale day, it is a month or sometimes six weeks before the six-day notice is sent out, so that the tenant purchaser will have at least 2½ months or thereabouts to make up his mind whether or not he will give the Land Commission notice that he disputes the payment upon which he is assessed. I can promise that, in addition to that time and these notices, a reasonable time—say 15 days or so—will be given by the sheriff that he has in hands a warrant from the Land Commission and that if the defaulter does not pay up he will proceed against him. I can further promise that the regulations will provide that where the defaulter establishes a prima facie case that he is not the person liable, the Land Commission will not proceed by means of the powers conferred in this section but will proceed in the ordinary way through the courts.
That is as far as we can reasonably go here. One or two snags have appeared already in the amendment put down by Senator Brown. In a large number of cases through the country there are occupiers of land who are not legally the owners, because they have not taken out administration. That goes on for years and for generations on many farms, and the user or occupier who derives the profit from the land has no real grievance if he is proceeded against. The amendment would inhibit the Land Commission from proceeding against an occupier who is deriving profits therefrom. I think the Senator should be content with a definite promise, which I have no hesitation in giving, that in the regulations to be made by the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Land Commission, provision will be made to give the annuitant adequate notice of the fact that the sheriff has a warrant in his possession against him, and further, where there is a prima facie case made out that the assessment is wrong, either in the amount or because the person says he is not the correct person, in such cases the Land Commission will not use the powers conferred by this section, but will proceed through the courts to recover the debt.
The Minister has really pointed out a difficulty which would be of rather frequent occurrence in regard to the amendment proposed by Senator Brown. I am sure Senator Brown would be satisfied with the assurance given by the Minister that he intends to see, in the regulations that are to be made, that every precaution is taken. I would like to point out a difficulty that is likely to arise in sub-section (3) in a case where the amount claimed by the Land Commission exceeds the actual amount due by the tenant, or by the person in occupation. There are numbers of cases where persons in occupation are not really the registered tenants. The difficulty may arise under sub-section (3) which reads:—
"Immediately upon receipt from the Land Commission of a warrant under this section the county registrar shall, after serving such notices and doing such acts as may be prescribed in that behalf by regulations to be made by the Minister for Justice, proceed to levy the amount therein certified."
That is, the money certified in the original certificate of the Land Commission. That sum may be £25 but, as a result of representations made by the tenant, the amount may be found to be inaccurate, and the Land Commission may agree that the amount is only £21. I think the words "therein" certified" or the word "therein" would require consideration. I do not know how much consideration is required or whether my observations have any real foundation or not.
I do not think there would be any difficulty in withdrawing the original certificate in a case like that.
I consider the amendment a very reasonable one. I ask the House to remember that the whole system of collection of arrears of annuities has been changed in this Bill. Instead of the ordinary process of going through the courts, judicial powers are being given to the Land Commission. As I am not a legal man Senator Comyn can correct me if I am wrong there. The Minister proposes that the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Land Commission, should draw up rules. Before we agree to that we should consider the matter very carefully, and should know what the respective costs were under the old system and what they will be under the new system, in order to see what protection the farmers get. Senator Comyn made a good point when he referred to the taking out of administration by farmers. Small farmers are very careless in these matters. If they get a notice from the county registrar or from the under-sheriff they may be careless and the first thing they will know is when they see the sheriff or the county registrar on their land. In some counties these duties are carried out by the county registrar but in other counties where the sub-sheriff who held office still occupies the position he will carry them out. The sheriff and the bailiffs will be on the land before a man knows where he is. People of that class must be given some protection. That is the reason I ask the House to consider the matter carefully before agreeing to the Minister's suggestion.
The amendment accepts the principle.
I admit that, but I think the amendment should be accepted.
I only want to protect the alleged defaulter in whose case there has been a mistake as to the amount. The real trouble is generally about the amount. What happens in these cases is that a receivable order is sent down at which the tenant does not look. He puts it on the shelf and forgets about it. It is only when legal proceedings are commenced that he really thinks about the matter. I am quite willing to accept the Minister's suggestion as to what he will do. The Minister has promised now to prescribe a notice which will contain a statement, not only of the amount which is alleged to be due, but, if the alleged defaulter claims that a less amount is due, will point out what steps he ought to take. I am not so much bothered about those liable, because I recognise that very often persons not legally liable have not taken out administration. I think, however, that might be included, and, if so, I am perfectly willing to accept the Minister's suggestion and to withdraw the amendment.
I promise to carry that out.
Perhaps the Minister would kindly lay them on the Table of the House or say if we could see them.
I think all rules and regulations of the Land Commission are available in the Library.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 7 p.m. and resumed at 8 p.m.
(1) Sub-section (4) of Section 24 of the Land Act, 1923, is hereby repealed and in lieu thereof it is hereby enacted that when the Land Commission declare that any land (in this section referred to as the declared land) coming within clause (a) of sub-section (2) of the said Section 24 is required for the purpose of relieving congestion, and the tenant or proprietor of the declared land or the wife or the husband of such tenant or proprietor resides on or in the immediate neighbourhood of the declared land and uses it in the same manner as an ordinary farmer in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry, then, if such tenant or proprietor is not the owner of land (other than the declared land) the market value of which exceeds the sum of £2,000, the Land Commission shall, if within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner such tenant or proprietor requires them to declare and acquire his entire land and to provide him with a new holding, provide such tenant or proprietor with a new holding which the lay commissioners (subject to a right of appeal to the appeal tribunal, whose decision shall be final) consider to be of not less market value than the declared land or of not less market value than £2,000 (whichever shall be the lesser sum).
(2) Where the Land Commission provides such tenant or proprietor with a new holding under the next preceding sub-section the balance of the purchase money of the declared land over and above the market value of such new holding shall be payable in land bonds.
On Section 29, I wonder if the Minister could give us a definition of what he means by the relief of congestion. It is rather an important point in the context of this Bill. Secondly, could he tell us the number of congests immediately to be dealt with under the Bill?
I have not the exact figures of the number of uneconomic holders in the country. As to the relief of congestion, I would put it this way. The Land Act of 1923 defines what a congest is. Section 73 (4) says:—
"The expression ‘relieving congestion' means the provision of land for the relief of a person or persons having an uneconomic holding or uneconomic holdings or for a person or persons whose holding or holdings has or have been acquired for the relief of persons having uneconomic holdings."
Could the Minister give us the approximate number of congests?
There are about 170,000 farms under a £7 valuation.
Before we go further in the discussion on Section 29 I should like to ask the Minister if he would tell us if there is anything in the section that will in any way interfere with the right of the people who have stud farms. These rights were protected under the Land Act of 1927. Section 9 of that Act protected people who have these stud farms. These people are now very greatly alarmed for fear anything in the Bill might interfere with their rights to run these stud farms. The stud farm is, of course, mainly in grass, and it has to be, if the stud farm is of any consequence. The Minister will see that Section 9 of the Land Act of 1927 gave protection, subject to the Minister's sanction, to these stud farms.
There is nothing in this Bill which takes away from the protection given in Section 9 of the Land Act of 1927 to stud farms. Apart altogether from the legal protection given in that Act, I do not think anybody would interfere with the stud farm. Usually in a stud farm you have very much more employment given for the number of acres than you would have even in a tillage farm.
I am very much surprised that any question should have been raised in regard to this matter. This Bill does not at all interfere with the fixity of tenure in regard to stud farms. They are sufficiently protected by the Act which was passed some years ago. Nobody need have any doubt that as long as stud farms are kept going there will be no interference with them.
I am very much obliged to the Minister for his statement, and I am also obliged to Senator Comyn for his help in the matter. This is a question which has a bigger effect outside than inside the country, because there has been a lot of misrepresentation about what this Bill will and will not do. What the Minister has said will give a good deal of confidence to people who are frightened about what might happen.
I move amendment 21:—
Section 29, sub-section (1). After the word "exceeds" in line 53 to insert the words and figures "where the land in question is situated within a radius of 15 miles from any of the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford the sum of £4,000, and where such land is situated within a radius of ten miles from any town having a population of 10,000 according to the census of 1926 the sum of 3,000, and where such land is situate elsewhere".
The object of this amendment is to provide that where land is situated in the vicinity of a city or where there is what is known as proximity value, the amount of land which the owner would be entitled to hold would be increased from the £2,000 value in the Bill to £4,000 value. If one were to judge of the value of land by the annuities which are paid now under purchase conditions, that is in the case of vested land, there would be a huge discrepancy between different areas. In the case of vested land seven miles from the City of Dublin the rentals now being paid are mostly about £2 per Irish acre, and of course it is the rentals or the annuities that will fix the price that the farmer is to get for the land that is taken from him.
It has been frequently stated that the average rental for land is somewhere about 6/- or 7/- an acre. Where the rental would be so low, the £2,000 would give a holder of land a considerable area; but where the rental is high, £2,000 worth of land would give a very small area. The amendment is so arranged that in the vicinity of the four cities of the Free State, and in towns of 10,000 of a population, a greater value might be allowed in order that the area would be sufficient to attract a farmer's children to remain on the land. Farmers' children living beside a city naturally have ambitions away from the land. If you confine a farmer to a small area, his boys, instead of taking to the land, will prefer some other mode of living. They have ample facilities for education by reason of their proximity to the cities. If the area which is allowed the farmer is too small, you will have a situation arising where the learned professions, which at the moment are overcrowded, will be considerably overcrowded. In order to balance a situation of that sort, you ought to allow an increase in value to the holder of land in areas such as I have designated.
Section 29, in effect, says to the farmers: "Thus far shalt thou go and no further." If a farmer's son who has ambitions realises that he has no means of extending his property and that the possibilities of development are curtailed, largely through the action of the Land Commission under this measure, he will not remain on the farm. I would very much prefer the conditions that obtained under the Act which has been described as a Bolshevik measure, the 1923 Act. It appears that every Act tends to reduce the farmer's possibilities. Senator Johnson has forecasted that next year, or in two years' time, we probably will have a Land Bill curtailing the farmers very much more than does this measure.
The whole policy of this Government is to split up the land. Is that a wise policy? Do the Government realise the result of splitting up holdings all over the country? Do they realise the effect it will have on dairy farming? Do they realise that the splitting up policy tends in the direction of lessening rather than increasing production? Every farmer knows perfectly well that to till certain portions of his farm would be a great mistake. It would be very hard to induce a practical farmer to till certain divisions of his land. He knows from practical experience that the best way to utilise that land is to keep it in grass, and for that reason he will never allow a plough to go into it. If we take the Free State as a unit, the same thing will apply.
I wish the Senator would show us how his argument is connected with the amendment.
My argument bears upon the cutting-down of holdings to the value of £2,000. I am dealing with the section also. I maintain that it would be a great mistake to till all the good land of this country or break it up. If you make it into very small farms it will not even then be economical as a grazing proposition. Senator Johnson spoke about a man and his dog. Does the Senator realise that it is the people who own the large grazing farms who are most useful to the residents of the congested districts in the South and West of Ireland? Those men pay a good price for the stock raised by the small farmers, and if they were not in a position to take the stock the small farmers would have to go out of stock raising. If the big farmers are going to become tillage farmers there will not be much use for the small dairy farmers. The people who will suffer most by a splitting up of the land will be the small farmers in the congested districts.
I desire to support this amendment. I would like to mention that in many parts of the County Dublin there are holdings which could not be worked economically if they were broken up. There are holdings within three miles of Dublin, and of necessity they must be allowed to remain under grass. To convert them into tillage land would be almost like committing suicide. It is land that can only be used for dairying purposes, and its value is enhanced by reason of its close proximity to the city. To insist on having that land converted into tillage land would be a very grave mistake. I have known holdings near the city that have been under grass for the last 50 or 60 years. Any grain crops that would be grown in such land would turn out to be a rank failure, and would be a definite loss to the owner. It would be a mistake for the Land Commission to interfere with such holdings. The views of the people who own that land should be considered. They are in a position to know how the land can be profitably worked and they should not be subjected to any compulsion or direction.
One Senator used a satirical remark about a man and his dog. That sort of clap-trap is used by people who do not understand farming, or how land should be utilised so as to make it an asset to the State. I think the less interference there is with the farmers the better; in fact interference should be out of the question. There should be no such thing as compelling a man to till his land. The policy rather should be to increase the materials for food and for the country's benefit generally. We have foreign competition increasing every day, and every year the value of what the land can produce is becoming less. It would amaze many people if they took into account the weekly arrivals of foreign cattle. Further efforts to try to get people to change their methods of farming would be the greatest mistake in the world.
Senator Wilson has spoken to his amendment and I do not know what view the Minister will take of the Senator's observations. I do not propose to say anything upon the one side or the other. But Senator Counihan and Senator O'Connor have stated in the clearest and simplest manner the views of the grazier—the man with large tracts of land. They have stated those views more clearly and concisely than ever I heard them put before. What does it all amount to? It amounts to this: that for the owner of these large tracts of land it is easier, and might be more profitable for him, to have it in grass. That may be so; and in many cases it is so. But is it more profitable for the nation that that land should be kept in grass? I submit that Senators who take up the extreme view as stated by Senator Counihan will very seriously embarrass people who, generally speaking, are good supporters of fixity of tenure in land. After all, the ordinary people of the country have an interest in these matters as well as the individual proprietor, and the individual proprietor cannot consider his own interest to the exclusion of the interests of the country. I would advise the Senators who take that view to reconsider the position. Here is an amendment spoken to by Senator Wilson with a considerable amount, if I may say so with great respect, of good sense and ability. There is no doubt about it that land near towns, on a basis of acreage and fertility, is of considerably more value than land remote from a town. As I understand it that is the argument of Senator Wilson. A boy growing up on a farm near a town has greater inducement to leave that farm than one in a remote district. It might be more difficult on a farm near a town for a farmer to get his sons to remain on the land and become farmers themselves, but I would never subscribe to the proposition so well stated by Senator Counihan that it is better for a man with a great area of land to keep it in grass because it is easier and more profitable for him.
And that, therefore, it ought to remain in grass. We are coming to rather critical times, and we ought to consider the interests of the country at large.
The Senator has deliberately left out of account the important part of Senator Counihan's statement, that is that these grass farms fill a most necessary part in our national economy. Take them away and you take away the whole market for the small farmer who has young cattle to sell.
I am glad to see that Miss Browne is coming to see that the future of agriculture depends so much on the home market. I fail to see how the other arguments used are justified at all. The question of the big ranch has been so often discussed that there is hardly any need to pursue it further. Those in favour of the large landowner confine themselves to one branch of the cattle trade—the three-year-old bullock. Everyone knows that the small farms under 100 acres support more cows, pigs, poultry, and more human beings proportionately than the big farms. The farms under 100 acres support a greater human population proportionately than farms of over 100 acres. The next argument put forward was that land round Dublin was not suitable for the growing of wheat.
It was definitely stated, so far as I understand it. It was suggested that it would be ridiculous to turn that land into wheat-growing land.
I was speaking to the amendment.
The Senator spoke of everything except the economic war, and he would have brought that in if he thought he could have got away with it. It was definitely stated that no farmer round Dublin would allow his good land to be turned into tillage. I do not know Dublin as well as Senator Counihan, but I know good crops when I see them, and I have seen as good crops grown outside the boundary of the City of Dublin as I have seen in any part of Ireland. To talk of not growing good crops in the neighbourhood of cities and towns is all nonsense.
I think the real argument is not the question of a particular man holding a large amount of land, but that the land in the zones outside towns is of essential interest for the market here and for the raising of cattle. The people who hold this land in the neighbourhood of the towns are really a great service to the towns. For the service of these towns it is essential that large tracts of land should be retained in their vicinity. It is not a question, as Senator Quirke said, of big ranches. That does not arise here at all. I suggest that for the service of the towns, special consideration should be made in this Bill. I must say there is one great difficulty, and that is that if you make a zone ten miles round a town you may do as much injustice to some people as you would do benefit to others. I think the Minister should consider this matter from the point of view of the service of the towns and from that point of view you would want to retain the bigger tracts of land.
The whole argument for this amendment is based on the hypothesis that land near towns is more fertile and valuable than land outside a certain zone. That is the hypothesis, but that is not true. It was supported, to my surprise, by Senator Comyn.
I did not say it was more fertile but I said that it was more valuable by reason of its proximity to a town.
I know land within 15 miles of Waterford City which is of less value than land outside the 15 miles radius. There is really no basis on which to support the argument advanced in favour of the amendment. If the hypothesis is all wrong—that land near a city, land within a 15-mile radius of Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Waterford, is necessarily more valuable than land outside that 15-mile radius—if that hypothesis is not true, there can be no basis for the argument put forward in support of the amendment. It is not true. There is land within 15 miles of Dublin City which is not as valuable as some land outside the 15-mile radius. That is quite true.
I do not say it is the rule, but I say that the hypothesis on which the argument for this amendment is based is all wrong. It might be justifiable to raise the figure from £2,000 to £3,000 all round, but I suggest that the amendment ought to be withdrawn in its present form and that it can be moved at a later stage in another form to cover what Senator Counihan has stated.
I am afraid that Senator O'Hanlon does not understand all about the value of land within a 15-mile radius of Dublin, Waterford, Cork or Limerick. Lands within a 10-mile radius of these cities are very valuable by reason of the fact, if for nothing else, that they are near a shipping port. That fact in itself makes them valuable. I cannot see how Senator O'Hanlon could argue that land which is within 15 miles of a shipping port is less valuable than land which is 60 miles away.
You said you knew of cases in Waterford where land further away was more valuable than land within a 15-mile radius of the city.
All I said was that land within 15 miles from Waterford City was not necessarily more valuable than land outside a 15-mile radius of the city.
If the Senator wants to make out that land 15¼ miles outside the city is as valuable as land within the 15-mile radius, I will concede him the point.
Senators should try to discuss the amendment more calmly.
I think that some Senators are supporting the amendment on the supposition that Senator Counihan put forward, that we are going to cut down every holding to one of £2,000 value.
That is what Senator Counihan says the Bill says. Well, the Bill does not say that.
The Government is given that power.
The Bill does not say that every holding is going to be cut down to a holding value £2,000. That is the definite statement the Senator made. I made a note of it at the time. If Senators will open their ears and allow the reasoning of the Bill to get into their heads, I think they will not be so alarmed as they have expressed themselves to be. Section 29 has to be read in relation to the rest of the Bill. Because of a lot of similar statements made in the Dáil, we introduced an amendment to Section 32, which put down in black and white the policy of the Land Commission and the policy of the Government in relation to all lands, no matter how held, no matter under what lease or what tenure it is held. Senator Counihan said that he wished we would revert to the 1923 Act. What was the effect of the 1923 Act? It left 80,000 holdings in this country that were subject to judicial tenancies without any protection whatever. No matter how the lands were worked the Land Commission could resume them, not leaving the occupier a portion value £2,000, £1,000 or £500, but taking all his land and giving him land bonds in return. Notwithstanding the fact that the Land Commission had these powers, they have been very rarely exercised.
The owners of land do not belong to one political party in this country. Fianna Fáil supporters are as much interested in the tenure and the ownership of land as the followers of any other Party. The idea we have tried to get into this Bill is that a man who is working his land in the interests of the community shall not be touched. The Bill does not propose to cut down all farms to £2,000 market value, and I do not believe that any Fianna Fáil supporter ever advocated such a policy. You have in Section 32 more protection given to judicial tenants and to certain lands held in fee-simple than was given in any section of the 1923 Act or subsequent Acts. Under these Acts, lands held either in fee-simple or held under a judicial tenancy could be acquired and resumed and the owner got nothing in exchange except land bonds. Here it is clearly set out that any farmer who works his land, gives adequate employment and produces an adequate amount of foodstuffs, considered in relation to the amount of unemployment and the amount of food that the country requires, shall be secured in his holding.
The whole of the section. That is definitely giving more protection to judicial tenants and to owners of fee-simple land than was given under the 1923 Act. What the Bill, however, does is this. It says that the extent of land that can be misused by anybody is £2,000 worth. The extent of vested land that can be misused by a vested owner is £2,000 worth. There is sufficient land in the country and the circumstances are such that we believe there is no necessity to go further. But any Government here in this country or in any other country will always have to take cognisance of the way in which land is being utilised. The area is limited and the needs of the population must be met from that limited area of land. No Government could stand idly by and see land being misused or not used for the benefit of the community, not giving the employment that is required and not producing the foodstuffs required by the community.
Senator O'Connor adverted to one fact and if the significance of that were fully appreciated, I think we would have the unanimous support of the country for the policy we are trying to follow. I do not want to debate the general agricultural, political or economic policy of the Government on this Bill, but Senator O'Connor adverted to the fact that more competition is being met with in England for cattle; that the weekly arrivals of cattle in the British market from Canada and other countries are growing. Let that fact bear its full weight and significance and we must realise that we cannot in future depend upon selling cattle in the British market at a price that would cover the cost of production here. The tendency for cattle to fall below the cost of production began many years ago. We would be foolish if we said that our people in this fertile land must starve because people in some other part of the world will not buy our cattle at a price which will pay us to sell to them. We have land here and the use we should make of that land is to provide the highest standard of comfort for our people. The reason we have to sell cattle is to pay for our imports.
If we had not to import all the coal and wheat and feeding stuffs we have been importing there would have been no necessity for us to export and we would have been as well off without exporting any cattle. We know that until our policy of self-sufficiency has had full effect we have to export, but we must all see that the race for economic national self-sufficiency is going to be one which means life or death to every nation in the world. There are more economic wars going on than the one between Ireland and England. Every country in the world has economic wars with all its neighbours. We have to take cognisance of the fact and to realise that every country is finding it more difficult day by day to export sufficient to pay for its imports. It is with that end in view that we want to secure that our unemployed are absorbed on the land and if the present owners of the land are not going to absorb them they will have to get out and make way for somebody who will work the land. We will not interfere at present with the owner of vested land to the extent of £2,000 market value. Over £2,000 market value we are going to insist that that man shall use his land in the interests of the community, shall give the employment and produce the foodstuffs that the community require from him.
Take Senator Wilson's amendment relating to the proximity value of land near cities. The Senator is very much out in his percentage of the increased value due to proximity to populous centres. Everyone must realise that there is proximity value and that land near the cities in some cases must be used for the feeding of dairy cattle during the summer. We have not tightened up the Bill so much that we are compelling the Land Commission to exclude that fact from their minds. You have again in Section 32 a clause which says that the Land Commission shall take cognisance of the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies and such land as is producing an adequate amount of agricultural products and is providing an adequate amount of employment, etc. So that the Land Commission can take cognisance of the fact that certain lands are near towns and cities and if they are producing food in the form of milk it will always be found that there is more employment given per 100 acres on a dairy farm than there is on any other farm. There is nothing in this Bill which says that unless a man tills 15, 20, 25 or 50 per cent. of his land he should be turned out. There are two factors: one is the employment factor and the other is the production factor. The production of milk is the production of food and it gives more employment than any other form of food production. So that from that point of view I do not think Senator Wilson need have any alarm. As I say, all that we are doing in the Bill is to state in legal form that the area of vested land which an owner can misuse is £2,000 worth.
The Minister in the latter portion of his speech referred to the amendment; the rest of his speech dealt with the section proper. Coming to the amendment, the Minister said that if the land was producing a sufficient amount of foodstuffs that would absolve that land from any interference, whereas the section which he quotes distinctly says that for the relief of congestion in the locality, unemployment and so on, it does not absolve it. It is there in black and white. No matter where you are situated in North County Dublin you are next to a village where there is any amount of unemployed people. No matter what way you work the land they are there. You will see them lined up along the wall. Unless for the relief of congestion in the locality, if you produce a certain amount of foodstuffs and engage a certain number of men then your land will not be touched. The Minister in the Dáil said something about the number of men that ought to be employed on a farm. I think he mentioned one man to 40 acres. Did he mean 40 statute or 40 Irish acres? I am not quarrelling with the Minister's estimate of the number that should be employed, but I know that there is a great deal of agitation in the minds of the people over this question of how many men ought to be employed. I want to ask would the householder and his wife and children and domestic servants be counted as being employed on a farm when reckoning the number of people to the acre, because there is a great deal of disturbance over this matter.
I am not arguing my own case at all. I am satisfied for him to take my land or not to take it because I am getting old and am willing to let the people who come after me fight their own battle. I am sure, if it were for the relief of congestion, I would be satisfied. But yesterday we had people coming here who were very much agitated about this. What I want to know from the Minister is this: Would the man and his wife and his children and his domestic servants count when reckoning the number of people on the land? That is a question that has to do entirely with the amount of land. I think the Minister should make a statement on that point. No attention at all has been directed to the factor that the rents are high, which means that the value is high; and that means that the area is relatively low and the amount of land that can be held in the vicinity of a city is limited. There is what is called accommodation land.
I would ask the Minister to redraft the whole of this section, No. 29. As it stands at present, I defy any man to understand it. A lawyer might be able to understand it but no ordinary lay man could possibly understand it. There are so many clauses and sub-clauses and insertions and parentheses of all kinds that at the end one does not know where one is. I think the Minister should consider writing the whole section out again and leaving out all these parentheses. As I have said already, nobody but a lawyer could understand it. Perhaps the difficulty could be met by making two or three sections out of it.
Senator Wilson asked for certain information and that is what I wanted to know also. There is another thing that is causing a great deal of disturbance in people's minds, and that is the question of the local committees which are to be set up to judge as to whose land is to be divided and to advise the Government accordingly. In my opinion, that is a most frightfully dangerous thing. Will the Minister define exactly from what class of people these committees are to be selected? Is it to be left to the Fianna Fáil clubs? If so, it will not be a matter of equity. It will mean that the local Fianna Fáil club will gather and say: "This person was against us at such-and-such a time and now is our time for revenge." That is what is disturbing the minds of the people very much. What are these committees to do? From what class are they to be drawn and what qualifications will they have?
Has this section anything to do with the question of the selection committees?
It was spoken about in the Dáil. Apart from the question of these committees, Senators ought to remember that when half the rest of the world were trying to get their cattle and farm produce into the British market we were able to beat them. The policy of the ex-Minister for Agriculture—the proper and reasonable and sensible policy—was to beat the commerce of other countries in cattle and every kind of farm produce in the British market, and we succeeded in doing that. No matter how many cattle or how much other farm produce came from other countries we could do that. In my opinion, in that respect, the Minister's argument is no good. His reply to Senator Wilson as to how many people are to be employed on a farm does not answer that question.
I am not going to follow the Minister or the other speakers with regard to the references to cattle, but the Minister made a statement to the effect that the land must be used to produce food for the people. What food, with the exception of wheat, does the Minister want us to produce that we are not producing already to the saturation point and at less than the cost of production— such as potatoes at less than 2/- a cwt., or oats, as Senator Miss Browne stated the other day, at 4/6 a cwt.? What sort of food, with the exception of wheat, is the Minister going to produce by splitting up the land?
I hesitate to intervene in this debate, because I have been through all this already. I take a certain savage delight in what I may call the economic tom-foolery that is going on, but I suppose it has got to go on and that we have to argue such matters in this unreal atmosphere.
Despite this, the Minister realises, of course, that the element of profit must come in, and yet he has not said a word as to whether or not a man makes a profit. He pictures a man tilling the land under some academic standard which his advisers tell him is the correct standard, and whether the man is making any profit or not out of the land does not matter. But everybody knows, of course, that you cannot sustain a system of that kind. Nobody wants to till land if it will not yield a profit. Senator Johnson and all these other pundits who talk about service cannot square a circle or make people farm land except with the purpose of making the land yield a profit. Evidently, however, this has got to go on until these people learn their lesson and until they bite the dust. In the papers to-day you have a case of land in the possession of the Land Commission for 20 years, and because a scheme was put forward in which the herd would get 20 years, the other claimants objected and rendered the scheme abortive and there is going to be bloody murder. However, I leave it to those lower down in the scale of those who hold land, like Senator Counihan.
Do not say "lower." We are as good a class as you are.
I was referring to the old landlords. Most of the old landlords have gone out of the State and they are only too glad to let their land. They would be better off if they no longer had the land. They are the people who were doing a public service, employing people on the land and providing the largest amount of employment in the country. It has come to this now, that if the Government want the land, let them have it, because the owners would be better off without it. I suggest to Senator Counihan that it would be more practicable to try to raise the standard of value and not to try to differentiate between towns. I think the people are in for a bad time anyhow.
Shall I put the amendment?
Before putting the amendment, Sir, I should like to know if the Minister is going to reply to my question about the number of people employed on a farm.
There is no hard and fast rule laid down in this Bill. All that the Land Commission are compelled to do is, when they are examining land for acquisition or resumption, to take cognisance of the amount of employment that is being given and the amount of food which it is necessary to produce for the country. Senator Wilson referred to a speech which I made in the Dáil, and he seemed rather to believe that I had laid down some rule that a man must employ such and such a number of men per 100 acres or so. What I said was merely this, and it is subject to the fact that an acre of land is no standard of value, that taking good land and bad land lumped together, on farms over 100 acres in extent if there was one man extra employed per each 40 acres, there would be 100,000 extra men put on the land.
What is the calculation in respect of farms under 100 acres?
I forget. I was simply putting it that if we took it that farms under 100 acres were doing their bit in the matter of employment, and if lands over 100 acres in extent employed one man per each 40 acres, there would be 100,000 additional men placed on the soil.
Would the Minister accept an amendment on those lines?
I should like to ask the Minister if he could see his way to confirm a statement that he has made. I think it would relieve a good deal of anxiety in the part of the country I come from where we have not very many big ranches. The Minister said that no land under a valuation of £2,000 would be interfered with.
If that were so, it would be very encouraging, because the Minister knows as well as I do the struggle that we in the Northern counties had to get land at all, and I know that there would be a very great struggle before we gave up the land for which we had fought so strenuously and so long. I think it would be very unfair if farms of land were taken from people who put up such a long fight for them. There may be families in possession of lands who may not be in a position to till the land up to the required standard, but if the statement the Minister made to the effect that it was not intended to interfere with farms under £2,000 valuation were confirmed it would be very satisfactory.
I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to this phrase—
"... and the tenant or proprietor of the declared land or the wife or the husband of such tenant or proprietor resides on or in the immediate neighbourhood of the declared land and uses it in the same manner as an ordinary farmer in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry...."
This is a thing that occurs in my part of the country to a very great extent. A farmer with a number of children dies and leaves his wife and children on the land. They are unable to carry out the tilling of the land owing to the heavy burden constituted by the young children and, whether they like it or not, they have to sub-let the land to some other person, perhaps for several years. That is a case that has come under my own notice. I have known families in that position—good working people, but too busy rearing young children to be able to work the land. Those people do not fulfil the conditions. They are not working the land as proper farmers should, and they would be liable to have their land taken away under the wording of the section.
I think you have spoken three times already, Senator.
I merely want to withdraw the amendment. I tried three times to get up, but was not allowed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 22:—
Section 29, sub-section (1). After the word "Commissioners" in line 57 to insert the words "consider to be suitable for such tenant or proprietor and also consider".
This amendment, with No. 23, is introduced to give effect to a promise I made on the Fourth Stage in the Dáil to the effect that the alternative holding given to the tenant would be suitable to him.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment 23:—
Section 29, sub-section (1). To delete in line 59 the word "consider".
This is consequential on the previous amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment 24 not moved.
I move amendment No. 25:—
Section 29, sub-section (2). To insert before the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Where a tenant or proprietor is the owner of two holdings the market value of each of which exceeds £2,000 and on one of which such tenant or proprietor or the wife or husband of such tenant or proprietor resides and one of which, or portion of one of which, holdings is declared land, the Land Commission shall at the request of such tenant or proprietor withdraw the declaration that the declared land is required for the relief of congestion, and may declare the other of such holdings, or such portion thereof as the Land Commission think proper to be required for the relief of congestion.
That amendment more or less explains itself. Its object is to prevent cases of what may be very real hardship. It applies to the case where a tenant or proprietor is the owner of two holdings, both of them over £2,000 in value and on one of which he resides, and the Land Commission make up their minds to take from him the holding on which he does not reside or portion of it, for the purpose of the Act. That holding may be the one which gives the value to the two holdings and it may be the holding on which he really depends for his livelihood and his profit as a farmer of the two holdings. The object of the amendment is to give a man in that position the right to request the Land Commission to go to the other farm and take it for the purpose of relieving congestion. In this case, what is left to him must always be over £2,000, because both his holdings are over £2,000 and, therefore, he has not got the remedy given to the man with less than £2,000 land of claiming an alternative farm. He is left possibly with an absolutely uneconomic holding if the Land Commission cannot take the second holding, on which he does not live and on which he does not depend for his existence, from him. That is not right, and all that the amendment asks is that in such cases it should be within the power of the tenant or the proprietor to request the Land Commission to take the same amount of any land they require from him on the other holding. I should state that there are very few cases of this, but there are a number. They are not, however, very many, so it will not make very much difference in the administration of the Act.
The amendment is really very far-reaching. It annuls altogether the powers which the Land Commission were given under the 1923 Act. For the relief of urgent congestion in a district they were permitted and directed to acquire any land, whether vested land or fee-simple land. It is absolutely necessary that, in the last resort, the Land Commission should have that power.
That is, for the relief of congestion they should have the power, in the last extremity, to take even a vested holding in that locality. It might happen that a man had two holdings, one in one county and another 20 miles away. If the second holding is in a non-congested county the Land Commission are not interested in it, but they are really interested in the relief of congestion in a congested districts county, and if the other holding is in that county that is the farm they want to get. The other farm would be no good to them. Under the 1923 Act, all land in any part of the country could be taken for the relief of congestion. In the case of land that is giving adequate employment and providing an adequate amount of foodstuffs, we are restricting the taking of that land for the relief of congestion in the same locality. I think we have gone as far as we could go without upsetting things too much. If Senator Brown's amendment were carried, it would upset the Land Commission in a most vital part of their work.
I agree with the Minister that, if the second holding was 20 miles away, or even less, this would interfere with the powers of the Land Commission in relieving congestion. Therefore, I think the amendment might be amended by putting into it the words "in the same locality" or, "in the neighbourhood." With such an insertion, I think the objection that the Minister has made to the amendment would be removed, because he could get one of the two holdings in the immediate vicinity. I propose, with the leave of the House, to withdraw the amendment and put in an amendment for Report Stage with the addition that I have mentioned.
Before the amendment is withdrawn, I would like to call attention to the phraseology of the section proposed by Senator Brown with a view to his probably meeting the objection made when he is drawing up the new section. Presumably, the Commissioners will fix upon the holding which is suitable, but according to Senator Brown's amendment they must take at the request of the tenant another holding.
The amendment reads: "The Land Commission shall, at the request of such tenant or proprietor, withdraw the declaration that the declared land is required for the relief of congestion, and may declare the other of such holdings," etc.
My point is this: that the other holding may be a holding which is not suitable for the purposes of the Land Commission in respect of the relief of congestion or otherwise. Therefore, the Land Commission is deprived of the right of taking the suitable holding simply because the tenant or proprietor has two holdings, one of which may be suitable for the relief of congestion and the other may not.
And the owner must take the one that is not.
Would Senator Brown be willing to have the amendment modified so as to secure that the holding which is offered by the tenant is a holding suitable for the purposes of the Land Commission?
Would the Minister say if there is any period in which a man must be in residence?
This Bill, when it becomes an Act, will depend for its success more than anything else on its administration. If the Land Commission were composed of celestial beings, I daresay it would work all right, but the Land Commission, being human, will be pressed from various places and by different people to do certain things. I know, for instance, a case that occurred in Leix, where land was taken from an old woman of over 70 years of age. She had not over much land, while a lot of land owned by other people suitable for the purpose was left to them. Therefore, I can only conclude that there must have been certain pressure put on the Land Commission to take this old lady's land. I do not know how that is going to be prevented. If we were all celestial beings it might be prevented, but we are not. I have had a certain amount of experience myself of these things, and I know that in many cases great hardships may be imposed. I do not see why the owner of one of these farms should be left with a barren piece of land and the good land that he has taken and handed over to a number of individuals. I think that in such a case the man himself ought to have a preference as to the land that he is to continue to live on. He has another farm vacant and why not take that? If the Land Commission want it for any purpose, they can use it. I do not think they should take away the good farm that the man himself has been living on.
My answer to Senator Comyn is this: that the Land Commission will not be left with the choice of taking the holding that would not be suitable for the relief of congestion. I cannot imagine any holding of the value of over £2,000 not being fit for the relief of congestion. I have asked the House to give me leave to withdraw the amendment, with the intention of putting in an amendment for Report Stage, which will confine this right to two holdings that are in the same locality.
I spoke in order to assist Senator Brown.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 26:—
Section 29. To add at the end of the section two new sub-sections as follows:—
(8) In any case in which the Land Commission provides the tenant or proprietor of a holding with a new holding under the provisions of this Act, the Land Commission shall pay such full compensation to such tenant or proprietor for all loss as is the direct result of his transfer to the new holding and shall also pay to such tenant or proprietor the actual cost of the removal by such tenant or proprietor of himself and his family and household and also of his stock, farm implements and furniture to the new holding.
(9) In the absence of agreement, the amount of the compensation payable under the next preceding sub-section shall be determined by the appeal tribunal.
The principle of compensation for disturbance was accepted in Section 23 of the Land Act of 1931, in connection with resumed holdings. Now I suggest, in connection with this Bill, that the House should consider the case of a man who is uprooted from his holding and sent elsewhere at the will of the Land Commission. I imagine there will not be many such cases. But I do not think the provision of a new holding, even if it is of equal market value, is sufficient to recoup a man for being moved from the place where he has been all his life, and in which generations of his family have lived. There are various objections to such removals. The first is the translation from the old home. That entails, first of all, the movement of his family, his goods, chattels and implements, and sometimes the removal of his stock, etc.
The practice has been in the past for free grants of amounts entirely at the will of the Land Commission and coming under the head of "removal expenses" to be given. That covered the case of the man who had to remove his family, but do not let us forget that these were all small men and that the grants have been small as well. I do not think that all the members of the House know that a member of the family of the migrant has been retained in the old holding until the new holding has been put in working order. Sometimes this occupation of the old holding and of the new holding has gone on for two years. A great deal of that is going to happen in the future—I mention it by the way now—however much the Minister speeds up migration. All the surrender agreements of the holdings have been conditional on this. The grants which have been made were satisfactory to the men to whom they were made, who were all willing migrants. In view of the proposed speeding up, I think that some type of acknowledgment of this liability should appear in the Bill, and that is why I put down this amendment.
One type of loss is not provided for under any of the powers of the Land Commission or its subsidiaries—that is, the incoming loss in the new holding. Removal very often means the purchase of a different type of stock. The migrant may have to buy his hay and corn at market prices for a certain time, instead of growing his own. He is entirely at the mercy of his neighbours. He may have as satisfactory turbary as he had before but it may be more difficult of access and he may not be able to reach it in the same time. Although I admit that the Land Commission and the Congested Districts Board always did their best to cause as little loss as possible to migrants, it is not always possible to synchronise their movement with the different operations of farming. All the matters I have mentioned are to a great extent a drain on the migrant's resources.
The question of labour is, I think, as important as any, as a definite, direct loss by reason of migration. In a congested district, labour is cheap. There is mutual assistance amongst the small holders who live close together and labour is sometimes given in return for the service of a bull. A man is removed to a ranch country. Labour is very scarce there and is, consequently, more expensive. I put down that as a very definite loss. The migrant has then to learn to work his new holding. He has got to learn the soil and this can only be learned by working it and gaining acquaintance with the conditions of the new country. I do not mind how long a man has been on the land, if he has remained in one townland all his life, he has got into a groove as regards the method of working that particular type of land. He is, no doubt, ready to take advice but he has got to adjust his ideas to the new conditions and it will be a very considerable time before he can get the best out of his new holding.
Another important point was touched upon by Senator Wilson this afternoon. That is that the man who will be compulsorily removed under this Act will, normally and usually, have purchased under earlier Acts than the 1923 Act. If he is under the 1903 Act, he has been paying 3½ per cent. He is removed to a 1923 holding, where he pays 4¾ per cent. That is a direct loss of 1¼ per cent. Because the State wants it, the old holding becomes accommodation land. By the compulsory removal of a farmer from a congested district, the State avoids all the expense of removing and housing a number of small holders. In exchange for the acquired holding, they provide one of equal face value, but not of equal value. If the holding given in exchange were to be developed by the Land Commission for the accommodation of migrants, it would entail very large expenditure of capital, whereas they take an old holding in a congested district which can be divided up amongst the neighbouring small holders at practically no cost at all or just the cost of fencing. I think that that item should, in all fairness, be added to the market value of the new holding which the man gets for his compulsory removal under this Bill. That may be for the good of the State but there is the fact. I do not know why such a man should suffer any loss. The migrants have been what I may call willing adventurers. The compensation has satisfied them and they have been prepared to suffer the other losses which I have mentioned—the incoming loss and the reduction of assets.
The situation is quite different now. In the speeding up of distribution most of the safeguards of any value are being swept away and the farmer car be compulsorily evicted from his farm and sent elsewhere. The Minister will say that sub-section (3) of Section 32 covers that. As a matter of fact, there are so many exceptions to that section that you can read it almost in any way. You can acquire land for any purpose but you shall not acquire it except for the relief of congestion. Again, you shall not acquire it except for the relief of congestion in the same locality. That seems to fine it down somewhat. Then it is not to be acquired if it is providing adequate labour and producing adequate food. That, apparently, is another safeguard but then we are told that the Land Commission must have regard to the area, to the situation, to the character of the land, the amount of congestion, to unemployment locally and generally through the country and finally, to the desirability of increasing production.
The Minister may say: "I require another ¼ per cent. tillage on every farm in the country." The land immediately comes under the Bill and it may be used not only for the relief of congestion but for all the excepted persons mentioned in another section, who include unemployed and landless men. With all these exceptions, the section may be read in any way. It is not as protective as the Minister so fluently told us in a speech just now. I think that the situation has entirely changed, and that "market value" does not compensate for this arbitrary disturbance in the course of speeding up. The incoming man into the old holding gets everything. He is at a definite advantage. The amendment which I put down is framed not to give a similar advantage to the man who is going into the new holding but to ensure that he will be at no loss.
It may be argued by the Minister that this is more than the State can afford. I think it is the same as in the case of arrears. Men who initiate reforms must count on the cost and must see that justice is done to all. As I stated on the Second Reading, some other means should be examined by which congestion could be catered for instead of relying so much on moving people. Some means should be examined which will not damage one citizen for the benefit of others, simply because the State is trying to do the thing on the cheap, or will not bear a proportion of the cost of what it has initiated. That is my case as regards compensation for removal. In this debate, as I predicted, I found the Minister extremely reasonable about most things that we suggested. He has evidently left a very considerable margin, and I trust this amendment will be included in it.
Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks' bill of costs for removal sounded like a lawyer's bill of costs, and, as far as I can see, it was so well stuffed that we will have to get someone else to tax them. The people that we propose should do so are the Land Commissioners. The Land Commission have already power under Section 48 of the Land Act of 1931 to grant such sums for or towards the expense of transferring migrants to new homes as the Land Commission may think fit. I was not quite sure what the Senator had in mind when he put down the amendment. I thought what was operating mostly with him was the actual removal expenses. If that is so, certainly, under the present scheme of administration, the removed person would be better off than he would be under the amendment. If the Land Commission compelled a removed person to supply them with a detailed vouched bill of costs that person would have got much less for removal than he got.
I think I admitted that the actual cost of removal from the old holding was already provided for.
That case was provided for, and was provided for much more liberally than would be the case if the removed person had to submit a vouched bill of costs. I asked the Land Commissioners to give me some idea of the amounts they gave. They gave lump sums of £50 or £100 or £150 in respect of removal expenses. That is part of the offer made and the man can transfer in his own way and in his own time. If that person had to produce vouchers for train fares, cattle fares and for his costs of removal perhaps he would get less money after all the trouble. Then the actual cost could only be ascertained after the exchange was completed. Where it is done without an estimate of what the cost will be, the Land Commission will give what they consider will be a fair lump sum to cover the cost of removal. If any of the men who were moved were consulted I think it would be found that they had been dealt with pretty liberally.
One of the things Senators are trying to do is to cover every possible action of the Land Commissioners by some section in the Bill. That cannot be done. If we sat here until Tibb's Eve we could not get down in black and white sections covering all the activities, and the shades of difference in the activities, of the Land Commission inspectors. This procedure has worked out for a number of years, and, notwithstanding the fact that the Land Commission had powers far in excess of what Senators seem to imagine, they operated them in a fair way. When a man was removed he got more than the equal market value. One of the reasons for cutting down the amount of land a man has a legal right to get, as an alternative to the holding from which he is disturbed, is the fact that the Land Commission have been compelled in some cases to give almost twice the area and value of land to migrants from the West. That resulted in migrants going into a district in the East in which there was some local congestion, where landless men were accustomed to take land on the 11 months' system. These migrants came in and got what appeared to have been another ranch and that caused a lot of local disturbance. It is for that reason we have cut down the alternative holding to £2,000. That is one of the principal reasons, I believe, why it can be safely left to the Land Commission to give a fair exchange and to give fair removal expenses. Senators should remember that owners of land do not belong to one political party, but to all political parties, and that each section is as much interested in seeing that the land is divided in a fair and reasonable way as the other. If the Land Commission acted in any other way, I do not think Senators or Deputies would be any more tongue-tied in the future than in the past. They would certainly kick up a row if the Land Commission acted unfairly towards anyone in such circumstances.
What is to happen to the person whose land is taken away but who remains on in the house? If he objects to his land being taken, he goes to law, and spends money on attorneys or barristers in advocating his case against the land being taken. Up to now the judge allots what he considers the proper price to cover the law expenses but the price he allots is not a quarter or a half of what the individual ought to get and what he has really expended. That may be provided all right in this Bill but that was not the case in the past. Is there anything in the Bill which would make the Land Commission which has taken away a man's land pay for the cost of any objection a man might make to the Land Commission?
There will be no change in that respect.
If there is no change it is very unfair that the land should be taken away from him and when he objects he will find that he will have to pay the whole of the legal expenses. That is very unfair and I know cases where it happened.
There would be a good deal to be said for what the Minister has urged—that up to the present the Land Commission has been giving lump sums—what he calls reasonably fair— and that that has satisfied the people. That would be all right or it might be all right if those estimated costs of removal and damage owing to removal were based on some facts supplied by the migrant himself or on bills that he had paid and facts that he had brought to the notice of the Land Commission. But if it is to be a mere guess by the Land Commission as to what they ought to give, then this might create a very great hardship. I do not know how they estimated this in the past. If it is done on information there is a good deal to be said for it. Taxing bills of this kind would be a troublesome and prolonged operation.
The Land Commission would have more definite information than the migrant himself because they have done it already several times before.
The Minister mentioned that the Land Act of 1931 has apparently given some statutory justification for these payments to the Land Commission. Where is it?
It is in Section 48 of the Land Act of 1931.
That is at present the sole justification for these payments?
These are the words of Section 48 of the Land Act of 1931:
"The powers of the Land Commission to expend money for the benefit or improvement of land purchased or agreed to be purchased under the Land Purchase Acts shall extend to and include the grant, where the Land Commission think it expedient, of such sums for or towards the expenses of transferring migrants to their new holdings as the Land Commission may think fit."
That is exactly what Senator Brown was referring to. If we had some knowledge of what the Land Commission think fit then it would be different. This was in respect of the class of individual that had been migrated in the past, but when it is a case of the passing of a measure into which compulsion has been brought we ought to put in something which would say that these sums were based on information given to the Land Commission by the individual who has been migrated or that it was being the subject of agreement, or as in the last part of Senator The McGillycuddy's amendment, failing agreement there was some chance of the individual migrated having his claim considered. It hardly seems right to make that the sole clause under the new arrangement. There should be added to it that in the absence of agreement the amount of compensation to be paid should be determined by the appeal tribunal. If we put in some section of that kind in addition to Section 48 of the Land Act of 1931 we would be carrying some certainty that the judge would have the right to say that the man should be paid his own costs. But to presume that because the Land Commission have acted rightly with people willing to migrate in the past, they will act rightly in the case of people being compelled to migrate under this Bill is presuming too much. It would be only fair to put something into the Bill or to adopt something of Section 48 of the Act of 1931 so that the man who is being migrated would have some chance of stating his case.
It should also be remembered that migrants who were compensated under the 1931 Act had little to remove and there were people who were willing to go. They had little to remove except themselves and their families, but here you are removing people who have a farm worth £2,000 properly worked and stocked. You are removing these with their family and their farming implements.
Senator Brown is wrong in saying that the men who were removed heretofore had little to move. I think, as a matter of fact, it was the very large farmers who were removed. The last man who was removed got £200 for his expenses. I think that if Senator The McGillycuddy knew the Governmental accounting system he would recognise that in pressing this amendment he would be doing the migrants a disservice. If he is going to put down that the migrant is going to get his removal expenses then vouchers will have to be produced, and the Land Commission cannot act as generously in most cases as they have done up to now. I again say that instead of helping the migrant it will be doing him a disservice, in my opinion.
There is a good deal to be said for the Minister's statement in regard to sub-section (8) in the amendment. I would suggest to Senator The McGillycuddy to withdraw the amendment and we might have something inserted on Report Stage which would ensure removal expenses to the migrant.
I take it that the Senator will not press his amendment even in a modified form. Let us just take his own amendment. It says: "...the Land Commission shall pay such full compensation to such tenant or proprietor for all loss as is the direct result of his transfer to the new holding ..." If that passes it will mean not merely an appeal to the appeal tribunal but to the Supreme Court. It would mean that in every case, if we take Senator The McGillycuddy's speech as an indication, there should be included in the loss various items. He would go so far as to include the loss of cattle, resulting from want of knowledge of the new holding and loss arising from the fact that the tenant in the new holding would lose money because he did not understand the nature of the soil. I think if the Senator confined himself to the second part of the amendment it would be better.
That would not be a direct loss.
I am only taking the words of the amendment. There is loss in it the moment you put in direct loss. It would mean that this would be a case not merely for the appeal tribunal, but for the Supreme Court.
I agree with Senator Comyn that the idea of a multiplicity of appeals is to be deprecated. I would point out to the House and to the Minister that this shifting of men from one place to another is a thing which is associated in the minds of citizens of civilised countries with nothing less than conditions of a state of war. I know of no precedent for this sort of thing, but as a result of a state of war. This removal of people from one place to another is such a frightfully drastic thing when it is done under compulsion. I think the question of compensation should be looked upon very liberally, because it is a terrible thing compulsorily to remove people. We associate this kind of thing as arising out of a situation of a state of war and nothing less.
I think I must correct Senator Comyn on one point which has reference to the second part of my amendment regarding a transfer to a new holding. I admitted already that there is provision made by the Land Commission. The main part of the whole thing is that a person who is transferred should be compensated for all losses directly resulting from the transfer. That was the main point of my remarks. The Minister assured us that generous provision is made in the case of a transfer. I agree with that, but they are not over-generous. I come from a very congested district and I am aware that when a man is being moved they inquire down to the last penny before they recommend a grant. They certainly are very careful. There is no very generous grant and no throwing out of money. The Minister stops short at the point of what I call translation from the old holding expenses. He did not deal with the point I made about the incoming expenses, the loss during establishment and, finally, the loss of asset which I suggest exists. Those remain the major points of the whole argument.
What would come under this "full compensation for all loss which is the direct result of the transfer"? Will the Senator give an example? For instance, if a man's children were in a good school in one part of the country could he claim compensation because another school was not as good?
There are several things that would come under the heading of losses directly due to the transfer. I think I have made my points quite clear.
Can the Senator give us any example of the full compensation for all loss arising as a direct result of the transfer?
I have already instanced two points. There also arises the question of a deficiency of labour in one place as against a plentiful supply of labour in another district.
And all that is to come before the appeal tribunal and, if there is an appeal, before the Supreme Court.
It could not go to the Supreme Court under this Bill.
I hope the Senator will not press this amendment, because I can see very serious results if it were accepted. I believe the situation will be such—that is, if we are to believe any of the statements made in this House recently—that people will be more than anxious to sell their land to the Land Commission. If the idea the Senator has in mind were put into effect I believe it would create a spirit of unrest in the country and we would soon have a nation on wheels. It would develop into a sort of joy-ride, people would be so anxious to get compensation with all the facilities that have been mentioned. Senator Bagwell said he was not aware of any other occasion in this country when people were moved about in the manner suggested here. I will refer the Senator who has, I am sure, a knowledge of Irish history, to 1847. If he will look up that period he will find that the people were moved very quickly then and they were not compensated to any such extent as it is proposed to compensate them under this measure.
May I be allowed to intervene in order to add to war, famine?
I will appeal to Senator The McGillycuddy to withdraw this amendment. I could quote him cases where direct loss would ensue. A good deal would depend on the type of farm. If it were the case of a dairy farmer going into a new place he might have no food for his cattle and a whole lot of things like that. I think the Senator would be advised, having regard to the way these migrants have been dealt with up to the present, to withdraw this amendment and perhaps we might get something more agreeable to the Minister on the Report Stage.
We might, on Report, get an amendment which would make more definite the concessions that have been given by the Land Commission and give some claim to the people who are to be migrated. There is a great deal of good in what Senator Wilson said.
If the Minister will consider the points I made in regard to losses outside the actual losses of transfer and removal I will not press the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move the adjournment of the House until 3 o'clock to-morrow.
I think it would be better if we sit until 10.30.
I beg to move amendment 27:—
Section 29. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(8) Nothing in this section shall empower the Land Commission to declare that any land which is held by a religious community and which is being utilised in connection with a branch of such community shall be required for the purposes of sub-section (1) of this section.
The land which is attached to religious communities is, in my opinion, essential and makes for the convenience, comfort, and prosperity of such community. By no stretch of imagination can even the most easily convinced of our Senator friends call the land attached to such a community a ranch. That is one reason why it should be accepted. The fact that it is such an asset to these communities is one strong reason which justifies the acceptance of this amendment. I do not visualise for one moment that this Government would think of taking the land from such communities.
Governments come and Governments go, but none go on for ever. We do not know, to-day, what Government may be in power in the near future. A Government might come into power that would have no scruple in taking lands from religious communities. They might defend their action by saying, what might be said, not for the first time: "We are only using the machinery we found in order to justify our taking this action." That argument would be made use of by people who would take such action. I am not very much afraid such will happen; but it is no harm to take precautions. I am myself opposed to any Government taking powers they do not require, and giving as a reason for doing so that they would never use them. I do not see the necessity or advantage of taking such powers if they are not to be made use of. It may be an oversight that exemption was not made in regard to religious communities in this Bill. I was, in fact, surprised when putting this amendment down, that others did not put in an amendment to the same effect. Anyhow, this is not an amendment that requires very much justification in asking for its acceptance. I think it would be a very good and sensible thing for the Government to accept it.
If we are to have an amendment of this kind at all it ought not to be confined to land in the possession of religious communities. There are a large number of other bodies who ought not to be interfered with. There are lands in connection with schools which are very necessary for those institutions. There are lands in connection with asylums, public and private, which are very necessary for them. I would suggest, in matters of this kind, that it might well be left to the good sense of the Land Commission not to interfere with such lands.
If ever such a party came into power and was prepared to do what the amendment seeks to prevent, they would make very little opposition to any argument, logical or otherwise, that might be used to prevent them. They would put an end to all such argument. If so, what is the good of having this safeguard? As Senator Brown said, these things would be much better left to the good sense of the Land Commission instead of making a speciality of one class of people.
There is no reason why the Land Commission would want to do anything of this kind. If the lands were under £2,000 value they would have to provide these people with suitable alternative holdings. Where would they get them? To where would they move a religious community, an asylum, or a school?
I did not move this amendment for a joke. I am very serious about it. Even if there is no danger that such action will be taken by this Government, and I know well there is no such danger, there is still the possibility, remote though it may be, of a Government coming into power in the future that might possibly move in that direction. Even though some Senators say that if a Government got into power of a type that would take these lands they would make no bones about taking such steps whether this machinery was there or not. But when the machinery is there it would be an excuse for them, and things could be so evenly balanced between scrupulousness and covetousness, that the fact of the power being there might be the turning point in their taking such action. I am very serious and very anxious that this amendment should be introduced into the Bill. I did not for a moment imagine that there would be all this talk about it.
Before the discussion goes further, I would like to know, from the mover of the amendment, whether he has the consent of the religious houses in Ireland or, more important still, whether he has the consent of the Hierarchy, because all these houses are under the Bishops in their dioceses. I think an amendment of this kind should not be put forward unless the Senator has secured the consent I have indicated. I would like to know whether he has that consent.
I do not see why the mover of this amendment should be asked whether he has this consent that Senator Mrs. Wyse Power talks of. I think Senator Garahan's amendment is a just one, a common-sense one and a necessary one. We know the history of our country. Such things happened in the past and I think it is necessary to have such provision as this amendment seeks. We know the necessity that prevails for colleges to have land. It is necessary to feed the community and the pupils and to provide proper facilities for such institutions. I am surprised that in an assembly like this, objection should be raised to this amendment.
There is no objection raised.
We do not believe for one moment that the present Government would make any such change. Senator Johnson laughs. From an Englishman's point of view this may be an extravagant motion, but, from the point of view of the history of this country, we know what we suffered in the past, and I hope Senator Johnson will control himself.
I deny absolutely that I laughed, or smiled or made any indication in regard to this proposition.
I am not blind, and I could see Senator Johnson smile very plainly before me.
If the Senator does not accept my denial I have nothing more to say.
The Senator should accept the denial made by Senator Johnson.
I accept the denial at your suggestion, but I am surprised that there should be any objection to this, and I hope the Minister will realise the necessity for accepting it. The Minister should know as well as Senators here know that it is a necessary amendment. I hope Senator Garahan will press his amendment.
In reply to Senator Mrs. Wyse Power I may say that I know these communities are very much concerned about this. There is growing in this country, whether you like it or not, a spirit of avarice and cupidity. I know several large farms which are especially the envy of certain people included amongst landless men. They would not think anything about grabbing from these religious communities. I think this amendment is most necessary and I hope the Senator who moved it will go to a division in order to have it inserted in the Bill.
I am at a terrible disadvantage in this House. My hearing is very good, but the acoustic properties of this Chamber are very bad. I blame that alcove over your head, a Chathaoirligh. I cannot hear people in front of me although my hearing is good and some Senators tell me that when I get up to speak I speak too loudly. I do not want to speak loudly, but I tell Senators in front of me that when they speak I cannot hear them. With reference to this amendment we have people running educational establishments, hospitals, convalescent homes and monasteries, and I say they are all doing good work. I do not care who says that they have too much land. I say that any land they have I would leave to them. I am surprised at Senator Mrs. Wyse Power getting up and asking the proposer of the amendment had he the consent of the Hierarchy. We know something about the history of Ireland, and that the people who defended the monasteries in the olden days had not the consent of the inhabitants of the monasteries to defend them. They did, however, defend them and I hope it will be always so in Ireland.
We heard quite a lot of jeers from the opposite benches since I came here about Senator Sir John Keane. You had the celebrations in Mount Melleray the other day. I do not want to pay any compliments to Senator Sir John Keane and I am sure that he does not wish that I should pay them to him either, but it is always well to state the truth. When the Cistercians came to Ireland they got a place in Ireland from Senator Sir John Keane's ancestors. I know something about my ancestry, and I know that in towns in the West of Ireland some of the landlords would not give the parishioners a site for a Catholic church or, as they called them at the time, Catholic chapels. That shows, at any rate, that Senator Sir John Keane's ancestors were something better than the ancestors of other landlords. To go further, I remember meeting Senator Sir John Keane in the real troubled times when he was doing good work for Ireland in the economic line. I met him in the Metropole Hotel in Waterford. I think that Mrs. Power, the proprietress, was a sister of one of our Senators. If I am wrong, Senator Mrs. Wyse Power can correct me.
I am not here to correct you.
Right. I was present in Power's Hotel one day in Waterford. I was there on ordinary business which had no connection with the meeting that was being held there that day.
What has this to do with the amendment?
I dare say the Senator will show the connection with the amendment.
I will bring it to the amendment in a moment. As I have referred to Mount Melleray, I want to show that Senator Sir John Keane was following in the footsteps of his ancestors. Possibly other Senators do not think so. I frequently get letters asking me not to vote the same way as Senator Sir John Keane. I make no apology for voting the same way because, when we wanted help, Senator Sir John Keane helped us economically; I do not say politically. He helped us economically. I was having luncheon in that hotel after doing my ordinary business. I was watched by the R.I.C. all the time. Senator Sir John Keane and certain members of the co-operative factory in Waterford, which was really sponsored by Sinn Féin, came in to have their luncheon at the same hotel, and for the first time in my life I was introduced to Senator Sir John Keane. I was glad to meet him because he was doing Ireland's work, although it might be said that it was only economically. Other people do Ireland's work but they do it in a destructive way. He was doing it in a constructive way, and I agreed with that. It was a pure accident that the whole lot of us were not lodged in Ballybricken jail that evening. Instead of sneers at Senator Sir John Keane, a descendant of the men who handed over Mount Melleray to the Cistercians, the man who was doing his work for Ireland on that day, if he were shoved into Ballybricken that evening, everybody on the opposite benches to-day would be calling him Seán O Cathain and he would be a hero because he was put into jail. I think the real hero is the man who does his work for Ireland. I think that it is very bad policy for this House to agree with any interference with the lands that are held by religious orders in this country. I could say much more about it if I wished but I ask the House to agree with Senator Garahan's amendment.
I hope that in forming our opinion as to how to vote on this amendment, if there is any vote, we will not be in any way swayed by any consideration of religious persecution in the past or have any particular advertence to the history of religious institutions. This is a matter of cold legislation. I am impressed by what Senator Brown said. This amendment seeks to exclude certain lands from the provisions of this Act provided they are held by religious bodies. I certainly say that the arguments which could be put forward in support of this amendment could apply equally to the lands which he mentioned, lands held by asylums, by educational bodies——
——boarding schools and so on. The very same arguments apply. If we are going to differentiate in one category, why not differentiate in respect of other categories? I submit to Senator Garahan, with great respect, that he should make his amendment more comprehensive, that we should not select one section and say that they shall be immune from the application of the Bill, whereas there are other sections which are just as worthy which are left open to the operations of the Act. I am certainly of Senator Brown's opinion that the amendment should be made more comprehensive or withdrawn.
I wish to repeat that there is a spirit of Bolshevism growing up in almost every village. It is directed against religion and against religious institutions. I have heard it myself. It is not directed against the other institutions to which Senator O'Hanlon referred.
I would also like to point out that the religious communities referred to in this amendment are not defined very clearly. As Senator Brown has stated, there are other communities which are equally entitled to protection from the Land Commission and from any interference with their lands or with their institutions. They are doing good work educationally and otherwise, and they should not be interfered with. I think it would be a very unusual suggestion to make, that the Land Commission have any desire or will take upon themselves the responsibility, to interfere with any such institution. I have faith in the integrity, the wisdom and intelligence of the Land Commission, and I know that such a thing will never arise. I appeal to Senator Garahan to amend the amendment in the sense suggested and not allow any distinction to be made between religious and educational bodies.
I do not see any good reason for the amendment and I do not propose to accept it.
Some Senator has suggested I should withdraw the amendment and bring in an amendment of a more comprehensive nature on the Report Stage. I do not know in what respect it could be made more comprehensive except by including educational establishments. I am satisfied to withdraw my amendment and to express my intention of moving a further amendment on the Report Stage, although I must say that I protest against the fact that I have to do so.
I do not think the Senator ought to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
It is not by leave of the House.
Does the House give permission to have the amendment withdrawn?
The Senator is not the whole House. The amendment is, by leave, withdrawn.
I protest against the withdrawal of the amendment also. I do not think it is fair. I think it is a necessary amendment and that the mover should insist upon it.
Senators Toal and Miss Browne can be taken as protesting.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 29 stand part of the Bill."
Sub-section (4) states: "Sub-section (5) of Section 24 of the Land Act, 1923, is hereby repealed." I want to ask the Minister why that particular sub-section is being repealed. In the course of the debate on one of the amendments the Minister dealing with food production said the farmer should take cognisance of the food required and produced. I want him to explain that further and tell us how the farmer is to do that. Is it proposed that the Land Commission or the Department of Agriculture will issue a statement as to the amount of food required for the year and the amount the farmer will be expected to contribute to that total? If so, will that amount be for the home market or will it be for the export trade? If for the export trade, will it be for an alternative market to the market we have lost?
That arises on Section 32 and not on Section 29.
If the Minister promises to explain his views on Section 32 I will not ask him to explain them now. I would ask him to give the reason for the repeal of this sub-section of the Land Act of 1923.
As a matter of fact, I must try to confine the discussion on the amendments to the matter in the amendments and to the section. We cannot rove any further.
Slightly. The question is that Section 29 stand part of the Bill.
On a point of procedure, I asked for a definite reply on a certain matter and I think I am entitled to it. I asked the Minister to state the reason why that sub-section of the Land Act of 1923 is being repealed, and I am surely entitled to an answer.
Which section was the Senator referring to?
Sub-section (4) of Section 29.
The Senator is quite right then. Perhaps the Minister will answer the question.
Sub-section (5) of the Land Act of 1923 reads:—
(5) The Land Commission shall not without the consent of the owner acquire land from him under the powers conferred on them by sub-section (3) of this section so long as there is other unacquired land in the same locality suitable for relieving congestion which does not come within the exceptions mentioned in sub-section (2) of this section and which the Land Commission can acquire without exercising the special powers given by the said sub-section.
It was found in operation that owners of land appealed against the acquisition on the ground that there was other unacquired land in the same locality. In a great number of cases that held up the acquisition of lands which were really suitable for the relief of congestion, and that is the reason it is being repealed.
That is most unsatisfactory.
Section 29, as amended, agreed to. Sections 30 and 31 agreed.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section or in any other enactment, the Land Commission shall not acquire compulsorily for any purpose other than the relief of congestion in the same locality or the provision of sports fields, parks, pleasure-grounds, or play-grounds, for the inhabitants of villages, towns, or cities or for schools, or the provision of gardens for schools any land in respect of which the lay commissioners are satisfied that, having regard to the area, situation, and character of such land, the amount of congestion and unemployment existing in the district in which such land is situate and the country generally, and the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies, such land is producing an adequate amount of agricultural products and is providing an adequate amount of employment, reckoning in such employment any children of the tenant or proprietor of such land permanently employed on such land.
I move amendment 28:—
Section 32, sub-section (3). After the word "land" in line 64 to insert the words "and the farm buildings thereon."
This amendment asks that the Land Commission in considering the acquisition of land should have regard to this in addition to the other matters mentioned in the section. In the case of a holding having a large number of farm buildings it would be uneconomic to leave such a holding without land proportionate to the buildings thereon. The amendment asks that the Land Commission should have regard to the buildings on the holding when deciding to take portion of a farm compulsorily. The amendment merely asks the Land Commission to see what buildings there are on the land and does not compel them to desist from taking the land on account of that. It merely asks that this should be one of the matters they would consider. I see no harm in the section if the Minister accepts the amendment.
Progress reported; the Committee to sit again to-morrow.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, August 24th.