This section relates to the taking of land and to the conditions which the lay commissioners should take into consideration in acquiring the land, such as the area, situation and character of such land, the amount of congestion and unemployment existing in the district, and so forth. I ask to have those words inserted so that the commissioners would also take into consideration the farm buildings on such land in order that, if they were leaving any of the land to the proprietor, they would leave sufficient land to be proportionate to the farm buildings that existed on the land. Accordingly, I beg to move this amendment.
Public Business. - Land Bill, 1933—Committee (Resumed).
I think this amendment is unnecessary. The explanation which Senator Linehan gives would make it more applicable to Section 29 than to Section 32. After all, the commissioners will have to have regard to the area, situation and character of the farm simply from the point of view of the amount of employment it should give or what should be its production. That is what this section is dealing with—the amount of employment the land gives and the production thereon. With those two things in mind they have to have regard to the area, situation and character of the farm.
In view of what the Minister has said, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 29:—
Section 32, sub-section (3). To delete in line 3 the word "children" and to substitute therefor the word "relatives."
This amendment is to substitute the word "relatives" for the word "children." As the section stands at present, the husband or wife of the tenant or proprietor would not be reckoned in the number of people employed on the place, neither would the brothers or sisters of the tenant. I think that if the word I suggest is substituted for the word "children" it will embrace those people.
Again, I think that this amendment is unnecessary, but if the Senator is very keen on it I am prepared to accept it. After all, if a relative is permanently employed on the land, the commissioners will be bound to have regard to that fact. It does not matter whether he is a blood relative or not. Any persons who are employed on the land will have to be taken into account, but if the Senator is keen on having the relatives put in instead of the children, I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Might I ask the Minister a question on this section? The first line of the section states
... that any land is required for the purpose of resale to the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923 ...
any other person or body to whom in the opinion of the Land Commission an advance ought to be made.
It goes on to refer to persons who or whose predecessors have been evicted from their holdings. I should like to ask the Minister to give us approximately the numbers, first, of landless men and, secondly, evicted tenants who require to be dealt with at the present time under the provisions of this section.
It would be impossible to give an estimate of that.
When the Minister comes to this House with a Bill like this he must have some idea of the problem before him. I want only the approximate numbers.
We have an idea of the problem before us and the direction in which we want to go. I could, if I wished, give an estimate——
That is all I want.
We have not got the facts on which to base our estimate and there is no use in pretending that we have. All we can say is that we are arming the Land Commission with powers to deal with congestion and to deal with the problem of placing agricultural workers where the land is available.
We have got 170,000 congests to deal with first of all and we have an unknown quantity of landless men and an unknown quantity of evicted tenants. Is there any possible chance of this legislation ever catching up with the situation and, therefore, is it a wise thing, as I said on Second Reading, to proceed on these lines without having anything more definite than what the Minister has put before us? That is the point I want to make.
With regard to the evicted tenants, might I ask what the practice with regard to the length of time is. The claims are now passed on to grandchildren and they are very remote from the original evicted tenant. I should like to know whether there is any working policy with regard to the remoteness of relationship of a claimant to the original evicted tenant?
There is not. The procedure in regard to evicted tenants is that where a person can claim to be the direct descendant of an evicted tenant and where the Land Commission is satisfied that such a person can work land and where there is land available, the land is given to that person. Under this section the powers of the Land Commission to provide land for genuine evicted tenants who are capable of working land are enlarged so that the Land Commission could take land for that specific purpose.
Last evening I interrogated the Minister with regard to a statement he made on Section 29 and he reminded me that the matter really had reference to this particular section. I took a note of the Minister's words and his statement with regard to food production was to the effect that farmers should take cognisance of the amount of food required and endeavour to produce their quota. That statement is, I think, very important and the Minister should expand it to some extent and let us know exactly what it implies. How is the individual farmer to be aware of what will be the amount of his quota in relation to the total amount of food production required? Does the statement of the Minister imply that they are going to produce facts and figures as to the amount of different foodstuffs required not only for home consumption but also for external markets and then ration the production of that farm to each worker of a holding according to his acreage? If not, how is the individual farmer to ascertain or to take cognisance, first of all, of the amount of food required and, secondly, to know what the amount of his quota would be? I think it is important that if what the Minister said last evening is a serious statement of policy, he should expand it at this stage and give us fuller information as to what is intended.
The phrase used here is not new in Land Purchase Acts. If the Senator will refer to the clause in the 1923 Act dealing with the resumption of holdings he will find there that the Commissioners are to have regard in the case of a retained holding to the necessity of relieving congestion and the desirability of increasing the food supply of the country and the manner in which the holdings have been used. It is no new thing; it is as old as the 1923 Act.
I think the Minister misunderstands my point. I was not referring to the wording of the Bill but I was seeking an explanation of his own statement last night to the effect that the farmer must take cognisance of the amount of food required by the nation and must produce his quota towards that total.
I think that is the Senator's interpretation. The words I used were that the Land Commission would have to take cognisance of the desirability of increasing the food supply of the nation.
Another point would seem to arise on this matter of the production of food. Over what period of years would such a test of the satisfactory use of land be applied? It could possibly happen that through family losses or a livestock epidemic over three, five or ten years, it would be impossible for a farmer or his family to carry on and the question would arise as to what number of years would be considered a fair and reasonable test. In this connection, it would seem that as we understand the matter at present there is a surplus of food being produced. Food is produced as a matter of commerce and has to be exported in exchange for other commodities, and it is not at all impossible under conditions as we have had them for the last year or two that the day may come when we will not be able to dispose even of the surplus there is at present. It may happen that we will have a surplus of produce. In any case, I think it would be a fair thing if the Minister could give some assurance with regard to the period of years over which the test to be applied would extend. Sometimes a man may have to let his land on the 11 months system for eight or ten years owing to family misfortunes or to an epidemic on his farm. In a case like that some special consideration should be given when applying the test. The test that would ordinarily apply should not operate in a case like that.
In the last analysis, I think the Oireachtas will have to rely upon the commonsense of the officials carrying out this or any other measure passed by it. Unfortunately, we have not yet reached the condition that Senator Dillon speaks of—producing a surplus of foodstuffs in the country. Over a period of ten years the average imports of industrial products based on agriculture have amounted to about £22,000,000 a year. We are very far away from being self-supporting in this matter of agricultural products, and what the Senator has said is altogether a myth.
I want to ask the Minister two questions arising on the section. First, there is to be a determination as to the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies, and secondly, a determination whether such land is producing an adequate amount of agricultural produce. In so far as I can see, these two points are not excepted matters. That is to say, the Minister has control of the instructions to be given to the lay commissioners and the judicial commissioner as to the policy which will be adopted in determining these two points. Can the Minister give us any assurance that the present policy will not be varied, and that the Government may not say that a farm is not producing an adequate amount of food unless one-quarter of it is tilled or that the farm will be required unless it carries a certain head of stock? The main thing one would like to get is an expression of opinion from the Minister that there will not be serious variations in the present complex of this sort of farm.
Yesterday the House accepted an amendment adding to the excepted matters a determination as to whether or not a holding has been used by the tenant thereof as an ordinary farm in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry. That definitely excludes from the purview of the Minister a determination as to whether a particular farm is used in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry. In my opinion, the Government have a general right to examine the food supplies of the country and to indicate to the Land Commission that the people here are short of food supplies: that the Land Commission, in carrying out that policy, should urge, encourage and induce the utilisation of land for the production of the food supplies that are necessary for the country.
In other words, the Minister says that there may be a variation of policy in regard to agriculture on any particular farm.
When the Minister says that there is not a surplus of foodstuffs produced in the country he must take into account that there is a big export of live-stock. He admitted yesterday, in connection with the dairying industry and the production of butter, that in this form of production there is the greatest volume of employment to be found. If he intends to interfere with the live-stock industry or to place any impediment on it, then he is placing an impediment on that branch of the agricultural industry that affords the greatest amount of employment. The Minister must take into account that our imports of foodstuffs are principally in connection with wheat and maize. The assumption, therefore, is that we are able to produce wheat successfully in this country. That, I think, remains to be proved. We shall see in the years ahead whether that can be done successfully or not. Personally, I hope we will be able to do that, and so far as I am concerned I shall help the Minister. But it must be taken into account that if the live-stock industry is injured, as is proposed to be done under this Bill, then I think a big blow will be struck at one of the principal means of giving employment on our farms. We must take into account also that under present conditions it is almost impossible to keep people on the farm, whether they be agricultural labourers or farmers' sons. Under the prevailing economic and social conditions they are trying to get away from the farms. It seems to be the spirit of almost everyone to get away from the farm. That, I believe, is due largely to the overhead expenses imposed on the working of farms through the burden of excessive taxation—the excessive cost of production, marketing, etc. I think that if these questions were investigated far more good would be done for the country than through the quackery, as one may call it, of this Land Bill.
There is no doubt that the wheat crop this year is magnificent.
In conection with this section, Senators are entitled to get a certain amount of information from the Minister. The effect of this section in operation will be a form of indirect pressure on the farmer to grow food and as to the method he is to adopt in working his land. If food is required, then by means of this section the farmer can be almost forced to grow that food. Surely the Minister will admit that raises the question of an economic price: the cost of the production of that food. Does not this section open up a very big question? Will not the Land Commission, in applying this, be bound to consider what is an economic price? If the ordinary market price is not an economic price, that is such a price as will give the producer a living, will it not be the duty of the Government, in some way, to peg a price as they have done under the butter regulations and as they are going to do in the case of sugar beet? Will not that, in fact, be a subsidy to the farmer? If you are going to impose a certain agricultural policy upon him—I think that is implicit in the whole policy of this section— you cannot, in all equity, tell him "we will take your land away from you unless you grow a certain amount of food," unless there is also an assurance that the price he is to get for producing that food will give a reasonable profit to an efficient farmer. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask the Minister to deal with that point, and to say what is the policy of the Government.
Would the Minister say what class of food we could produce that we are not already producing in abundance except wheat or beet? The Minister stated a moment ago that our imports of agricultural products over the last ten years had averaged £22,000,000 a year.
That figure represented the average imports over a period of ten years. Senator Sir John Keane confessed himself yesterday to be a bit of a savage. He has gone a bit further to-day and confessed himself a bit of an anarchist. He contested the power of the Government to exert pressure on citizens in certain directions. The function of the Government is to exert pressure upon citizens in certain directions. They exert that pressure by different means. They exert it by means of taxation, and it has been pretty generally accepted that it is one of their rights and duties to exert pressure in that way. We have exerted pressure in another way to get wheat produced, because we have taxed citizens in order to induce the production of wheat. We have taxed citizens over a period of years in order to induce the production of beet. We realise that it would be wrong to compel an individual farmer to produce something at a loss but we have accepted the principle that where it is in the interest of the community as a whole that certain articles or foodstuffs should be produced here—whether they be industrial or agricultural products—it is the duty of the Government to utilise their powers and exert the necessary pressure to get these articles produced. We are doing that with tariffs and we are doing it with bounties for wheat and beet.
The farmers do not complain about that.
This section extends the powers of the Land Commission to acquire land compulsorily for certain purposes. I should like an assurance from the Minister that this land is not going to be misused. I offer as my reason for seeking that assurance that a number of landless men have been moved from the west into the eastern counties and they have not made use of the land in accord with what the Minister describes as his policy—the production of the type of food which is required by the people and which now has to be imported. I give one instance—the Cloncurry estate, containing about four thousand acres. One man is farming 500 acres of it on very sound lines. The remaining 3,500 acres were divided up amongst migrants from the west. House were built on it and not a single one is farming the land. They are living on the land and sub-letting it to graziers. I should like to make quite sure that the Government will take very definite action to secure that when land is taken from the people who now hold it it will be used in the way we understand the Government want it to be used. I have given this one instance of how it is being misused and one hopes that its misuse will not be allowed to continue. There are many other instances of a similar kind but I think one is sufficient to illustrate the point I want to make.
I think that we have dealt with all the points that could possibly arise. We have gone further in this section to state in detail in black and white the policy of the Government in relation to land than any Government ever did before in a Land Bill. Any man wanting to find out the mind of the Government can see it pretty clearly in Section 32. No hardship will be imposed on any man who is utilising his land in a fair way for the good of the community as well as for himself. One thing we have got to get away from is the idea that an owner of land can do just what he likes with it. There are more people in this country than owners of land and we have got to realise that, as the area of land is circumscribed, the Government has to see, as one of its duties, that the land is utilised for the good of the communty as a whole. We do not want to compel farmers to produce food of certain sorts if it is not necessary. It was with that end in view that the words "the desirability of increasing the production of food supplies," and, again, "the desirability of providing employment" were inserted. We do not want to produce food, however, or to have men employed merely for the fun of the thing. The necessities of the country have to be taken into consideration. If the necessities of the country are being met, there will be no interference with the farmers as a whole.
Do I understand that the migrants I mentioned will be dealt with under this section and dispossessed if they go on on the same lines?
If persons to whom portions of land are given are not vested, the land can legally be recovered from them. If their holdings are vested in them, they hold subject to the same tenure as any other purchased tenant. Until the land is vested, the Land Commission can recover, according to the law, but in some cases that would be a very difficult process, as the Senator must know.
They could have made it a condition before it was vested that it would be used as an ordinary agricultural holding by the person in whom it was vested and that it would not be sub-let in con-acre.
I understood from the Minister the other day that over 400,000 persons had purchased their land under the Land Purchase Acts. Surely we must be fair. If we are going to insist on putting a clause into this Bill to compel future tenants to observe certain conditions, we must do it with all the other tenants who have already bought their land under almost similar conditions.
They did not get it for nothing.
It should be done with them all.
I am sure that very few will get any of Senator Counihan's land for nothing. There is no such thing as getting land for nothing.
There is. You know nothing about it.
People who get land will have to meet their commitments the same as everyone else. That is not getting land for nothing. Perhaps if they got their due some of them would be better entitled to land than some of those who have it now. It is most unfair to suggest that if people acquire land under this Bill, and use it to get a livelihood, or to produce food for themselves and their families, we should pick them out and put a penal clause in this Bill that was never put into former Acts. It must be remembered, according to the Minister's figures, that land has been acquired by 450,000 tenants under previous Land Acts. Although I agree with the principle, I think it is unreasonable to penalise people under this Bill, seeing that the 450,000 who purchased their land previously were not penalised. It is the injustice of the proposal that I object to. It is the duty of the Government to see, if land is taken and given to these people, that it is properly used. It is most unfair to penalise them under this Bill when it was not done under previous Acts. I plead for fair play.
The Senator should remember that the 450,000 tenants who bought under the previous Acts were in possession of the land, were working it and knew how to work it. That does not apply to landless men to whom land is to be given. They have no experience of farming and are going to be put on farms to start life afresh. In hundreds of cases they use it by sub-letting it in conacre.
Would Senator Farren agree that if land is taken from a man, because he does not use it in accordance with a right system of husbandry, although he probably bought it, it should be given to another man, who is then to be allowed to carry on in the same way? That is the suggestion made by Senator Farren, that land can be taken from a man because he does not use it properly, and given to a man who can use it improperly, and that that is all right. That seems to be a ridiculous proposal.
I do not see anything ridiculous about it. There are men who have perhaps 1,000 acres of land.
A man can only have land value for £2,000 now.
A man could have 2,000 acres. The Bill proposes to reduce the value of land that a man can have to £2,000. I say that that is perfectly right, and I will give the reason why. At the present time there are thousands of landless men while, on the other hand, there are landholders who have thousands of acres. These landless men have no choice, if they cannot get employment, except to go on the rates, or to get relief in some shape or form. If one of these landless men is given 20 or 30 acres, or whatever an economic holding is, according to the nature of the land, that man is definitely put on his feet, in order that he may support his family and himself. Whether he sets the land or tills it is a matter for himself, just as it is for the big farmer. The man has to live, and if he can live better by setting the land to a jobber or to someone in the proximity of a town, or to Senator Counihan as a place for parking cattle, that is a matter for himself. He has to support his wife and family out of the farm. He is utilising that portion of the land for the support of himself and his family. That is a totally different position from leaving 2,000 acres to one man, to turn into a shooting ground, or into a deer park, as I know has been done with plenty of land. The landless man has no security of employment. He has no place to resort to except the county home, or to get relief. Every family in this country that has no other means of getting a livelihood is entitled to a fair share of the land. This Bill proposes to deal with that position, and it is nearly time it was done.
After this discussion, which has proceeded for about half an hour, which was initiated by Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, and which has no relation to the Bill, I wish to ask the Minister whether, in a case where a man has land which he is not using according to the provisions of the section, the Land Commission can acquire that land, or portion of it, and give it to another person. In case the other person does not work the land properly, I conclude from my reading of the Bill, that the Land Commission can take the land from him.
Senator Duffy will not have that.
That is the law. The Minister cannot be questioned, except in regard to what is in the Bill, and according to what is in the Bill now before the House, there will be power to acquire land from a person who gets it, if that person does not work it in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry. Therefore, I submit that the discussion is irrelevant.
The outstanding fact is that there is a surplus of food in this country and that the surplus is produced by farmers. Not only is there a surplus but there is very nearly a surfeit of food. That implies that farmers are working their land in a sensible manner and to the best advantage. They have to work the land in order to produce food for the community, and to pay their rent, their rates and other expenses. Notwithstanding the fact that there is a surplus of food, it is sought to impose on farmers the condition that they must produce more food. No matter what the position regarding supply and demand, it is sought to impose upon farmers the condition that they must produce more food. Whether they are able to sell it or not, or to make a profit, they must continue to produce food. On the one hand, there is a surplus of food but, on the other hand, the Government seeks to impose this condition upon them. I consider that a tremendous piece of tyranny. When the Government seeks to impose this condition on farmers, Senators might ask why is it not sought to impose such a condition on other undertakings? Why would not the Government impose conditions such as these on shopkeepers, manufacturers and such people? Why would they not stand up and compel these people to work their industries in the public interest, produce their materials in the public interest, and sell them in the public interest? Why is it that the farmers above all other sections are selected for this treatment? This seems, to me, at all events, to be most tyrannical.
As illustrating how tyrannical it is in its way, I will tell you something that I can vouch for personally with regard to farm production. A friend of mine who lives not many miles from the city here had two acres of potatoes planted a couple of years ago. When the crop came to be fit for raising he engaged a number of men. The crop turned out to be an excellent one, but the man who raised it found that when he had put the potatoes on the market the price he received was not sufficient to pay the wages he had paid to the men for raising them. When Saturday night came he said to the men: "This does not seem to me to be a very profitable transaction. If you like you can dig the potatoes yourselves, take them away and make what you can of them." The men dug the potatoes and marketed them here in Dublin. They worked at the business for two days and they found that they were making less money by digging the potatoes which they got for nothing and selling them in Dublin as they dug them than they had been making when they had been working for their daily hire. I can give you the name of the man who planted these potatoes.
Is it reasonable for the Government to say to men such as the man I have referred to: "You must continue producing and selling potatoes"? I admit that the instance I have given is abnormal. But we can understand that when that state of affairs existed two or three years ago what it might be now. Would it be reasonable to compel a man to continue sowing potatoes that would not pay for the cost of raising? To my mind this is simply a matter of profit and loss or of supply and demand. I think it would be very unreasonable that all other undertakings and businesses should be excluded and the farmers alone held down as bond slaves.
Would the Minister now tell us whether it is Senator Duffy or Senator Comyn is right about the Bill?
The Senator cannot make a second speech.
Some people seem to deplore the fact that we have a surplus of food in the country and that such is a national loss. I submit that it is a relief to the farmers to have a surplus of food in the country and to an extent the farmers do not appreciate what a relief this Bill will be to them.
That is the limit.
The Senator need not laugh. There is no humour in this. The farmers have a surplus of food. On the other hand, there are many thousands of hungry unemployed in the country. The farmers complain that their backs are broken by taxation in the effort to maintain these hungry unemployed people. The only way in which these people can get some of that surplus food is through relief of one kind or another. The Government propose instead of handing relief to them in cash so as to buy this surplus of food, to give them an opportunity of providing food for themselves and their families. To my mind, that is certainly relieving the burden on the farmers, relieving them of their rates and taxes. That will provide a considerable relief for those people, for when given the land, they will become taxpayers and ratepayers in time.
Nonsense. They will pay nothing for the land.
Well, they cannot be any worse than the fellows who have it now. We were told yesterday that there were 450,000 defaulters in the payment of these land annuities.
That is not so.
It was stated yesterday by the Minister.
That is entirely wrong. The Government promised that there would be no annuities to be paid this year; that they would not ask anybody to pay the annuities. Therefore, that was why the people did not pay the annuities this year. The statement that Senator Foran has made should not have been made.
How many defaulters are there?
This will not get us anywhere. These are Second Reading speeches.
Is it really an evil thing on the part of the Government to relieve these hungry and unemployed people?
This, again, is only a Second Reading speech. Senators must speak to the section.
If what Senator Duffy has said is a forecast of what the Government want to do, it will only mean dividing the land and subdividing it until everybody in the end is left with only half an acre. Then we will have the millennium and all will be well. Senator Comyn, in attempting to answer the question of Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, said that if the land is taken from the large holders and divided amongst the landless men who would get 20 or 30 acres of it, even if that land is vested, the Land Commission can come along subsequently and reacquire it. Can they?
Can they? The Land Commission can only acquire land for the relief of congestion in the locality where the land is situated. They can only acquire it for the relief of congestion or as a sports ground for a village or town. Anybody may have 20 acres or 30 acres of land in an area where there is no congestion and no need for a playground; he can let that land and the Land Commission cannot interfere with him.
There was an amendment introduced at the instance of the Senator's Party——
Senator Comyn made a reply to The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, and I am perfectly entitled to reply to him. The Land Commission can only acquire land where there is congestion and the man from whom they acquire that land must get an alternative holding equal to his 20 or 30 acres acquired for the relief of congestion in his area. If that man had been letting his land in con-acre he could keep on subletting it under this Bill unless it was required to relieve congestion. Surely Senator Comyn will not contend that this Bill provides a solution of the point that he has raised. The Senator is atempting to mislead the House when he gives such a reply as that.
I am giving the House such a construction of the Bill as——
As you think right. That is all right.
I move amendment 30:—
New section. Before Section 33 to insert a new section as follows:—
"33.—(1) The Land Commission shall publish particulars of all cases in which an evicted tenant or a person nominated by them to be the personal representative of a deceased evicted tenant has been or shall be hereafter with their assistance reinstated as a purchaser of his or his predecessor's former holding or provided with a new parcel of land under the Land Purchase Acts.
(2) Such particulars shall be in the form of an annual return which shall be laid on the Table of each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and shall contain such particulars in each case as are set forth in the Schedule to the Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1907 (7 Edw. 7 Ch. 56)."
This is re-enacting Section 2 of the Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1907. Under the Evicted Tenants Act of 1907 the Land Commission were directed to furnish a return showing how they had proceeded in their reinstatement of evicted tenants during each year. Such returns as were made out were discontinued on the passing of the Land Act of 1923. That Act repealed this section of the Evicted Tenants Act of 1907 and there is no further obligation on the Land Commission to furnish any kind of return whatsoever as to their doings with regard to the reinstatement of evicted tenants. Senators will have observed in the reports of the Dáil that sympathy was expressed from all parts of the House with regard to the statement made by the Minister on this matter. The Minister said that there were at least 240 evicted tenants whose cases had been investigated and whose claims had been recognised and who were still awaiting the acquisition of land, either the land from which they were evicted or land in substitution of their own holding.
I think the fact that this section was repealed by the 1923 Act possibly had the effect of making the Land Commission less anxious to complete the restoration of all the evicted tenants. I hope with the enlarged powers of the Land Commission under this Bill that in a few short years the last of the genuine evicted tenants will be provided for. I hope there will be no further occasion to refer to them in any future Land Bills. I think it ought to be a small matter for the Land Commission to prepare a list of the evicted tenants. They have only to resume the returns that they abandoned in 1923. Possibly they could furnish each year in their reports some information as to how evicted tenants are being dealt with. The date mentioned in the Evicted Tenants Act is 1878. I think it is better that we should keep to that date rather than fix a new date. I do not know whether there will be any opposition to this amendment. I think it is a very reasonable one.
I hope the Minister will see his way to accept this section. For the last 50 years every political party in this country has put the sorrows and the wrongs of the evicted tenants on its programme as window dressing. The object of this section is to see what the Government in power does as distinct from what it says. There are numbers of evicted tenants still unprovided for. The reason is that the Land Commission hitherto have not recognised that the reinstatement of evicted tenants was more or less a matter of compensation. They apparently adopted the attitude that no account should be taken of compensation and that the Evicted Tenants Act was not to be used for the purpose of compensating the evicted tenants; that the administration of the Act depended only on the necessity of the persons evicted and their dependants.
There will be, I am sure, a change under this administration. The original purpose of this section in the Act of 1907 was to let the people know what was being done as distinct from what was being promised. The late Government repealed that section in 1923. Senator Linehan said they repealed it probably for a certain purpose. My submission is that they repealed it because they had no genuine intention of doing anything for the evicted tenants, but they did not want the public to think that they were doing nothing.
I should like to have from the Minister a proper designation of what is meant by an evicted tenant. I have a recollection of the incidents that took place around 1870. I understand what constituted an evicted tenant before that year and before the Compensation for Disturbance Act was passed. I am aware that many people were evicted capriciously by landlords. We had plenty of them in Tipperary, where whole countrysides were cleared of people as a result of capricious evictions. These unfortunate tenants were quite prepared to pay their rents, but the landlords exercised their rights, because they could do what they liked with their land. They were then in a very strong position in the country. Recently we heard many sympathetic allusions to evicted tenants. I should like to know the nature of the claims put forward by people evicted since 1870. It would be well if we had a definition from the Minister.
We have had a case advocated for landless men who are to get parcels of land. Possibly many of them are the sons of farmers, and unless provision is made for them in the manner now suggested they may never have an opportunity of becoming tenants. Senator Comyn stated that the last Government got a Land Act passed which they did not intend to use. I hope that it is not the object in the case of this measure to spread foolish ideas about, leaving the people under the impression that they are going to get holdings and that all they have to do is to be patient for a while and land will be given to them. The Government would seem to be adopting the rôle of a fairy godmother holding out great prospects to the people.
Apart from the rights or wrongs of evicted tenants, the question arises as to how this is to work. The Land Commission is asked to draw up a list entirelyex hypothesi of those whom they recognise as claimants. In some cases there will be more than one claim arising out of an eviction of perhaps 40 or 50 years ago. Land Commission officials will have to turn aside from their ordinary duties to analyse the claims of various persons and then draw up a list of suitable claimants. Once these cases are recognised future Governments will be pledged to reinstate those persons when the opportunity arises. Surely the only way to do it is, when the land is available and there are genuine cases in the district, to deal with them then and there and not to keep the list of names as a Parliamentary paper carried over a number of years.
The question at issue is whether or not the Land Commission should publish a very detailed report once every three months or whether the report of their work should appear in the annual report. Under former Acts the Land Commission were compelled to make a very large number of reports. They found it impossible to continue that. A great deal of their time was wasted in compiling such reports. Now there is a very comprehensive report every half-year. I think the Senator should be satisfied with that report and not put the Land Commission to the expense and waste of time involved in compiling these quarterly reports. I am sure Senator Linehan will agree that the Land Commission would be better employed on comprehensive reports issued even once a year.
I think if the Minister undertakes that each report issued by the Land Commission will contain a statement of the number of evicted tenants reinstated it will be satisfactory.
I move amendment 31:—
New section. Before Section 33 to insert a new section as follows:—
33.—In the case of any land acquired by the Land Commission under this Act for the enlargement of uneconomic holdings or for the relief of congestion or for the relief of unemployment, it shall be a condition of the allotment of such holdings that the tenants thereof shall till at least one-fifth in area of the land so allotted, and the Land Commission shall resume any such holding, without payment of compensation, if in their opinion such condition has been broken.
I think this amendment has already been debated in the discussion which occurred on Section 32. Senator Wilson said that the policy of the Land Commission, if this amendment is not accepted, would be to take land from the owner or occupier at the present time because he is not tilling it and producing food, and to give it to somebody else who will not till it and will not be able to work it even as it had been worked before. I agree with Senator Duffy that in the case of any land given to landless men or for the relief of uneconomic holdings heretofore, their title should not be interfered with. Their title should be the same as that of any other farmer, but under this Bill when it becomes an Act I think the conditions in the amendment I have moved should be complied with. One of the main purposes for which land is to be acquired under this Bill is the production of food. There is no condition embodied in the provisions of this Bill that those who get the land shall have to comply with that. These people get land practically for nothing. They have nothing to pay for it except the annuities to the Land Commission, and the rates, which, in many cases, they will not pay, as has happened in similar cases up to the present time.
I do not like to refer to what happened in my own case, but I think it is relevant to this question, particularly as it was made the subject of a question in the Dáil by a previous Deputy for the County Dublin. Some four or five years ago the Land Commission acquired a farm of mine. That farm was given for the enlargement of uneconomic holdings, and I think portions went to one or two landless men. A question was asked in the Dáil whether this land, which had been acquired from the owner, was still in his possession and worked by him. I was grazing three-fourths of the farm up to last year. I had rented it from the allottees who had got it. That is not the only case of the kind. There are plenty of cases where land was allotted to landless men who are doing less with it in the way of production of food than the previous owners. Senator Duffy thinks that that is a good policy and should be carried on. Why, he asks in so many words, should not labourers who had got portion of 300 or 400 acres of land, which had been divided, make £5 or £10 profit by letting it back to the man who held it previously. It would mean, if Senator Duffy's policy is carried out, putting an extra tax on the man who previously held that land. That would be the effect if the Senator's policy was carried to its logical conclusion.
If you give land to landless men I cannot see why the conditions in my amendment should not be inserted in their agreements. The land is definitely taken for the relief of unemployment, but if the policy hitherto, in many cases, is carried out, it will not be used for the relief of unemployment. I am sure Senator Johnson will support this amendment judging by the statement he made the other day that he would take any land, even the labourer's plot if he did not till it. I agree with Senator Johnson so far as carrying out the principle when land is acquired for a specific purpose. There should be conditions laid down to secure that the purpose is carried out. As I said already, the whole question involved in my amendment has been already fully debated, so I do not think there is anything more for me to say.
I have a great deal of sympathy with Senator Counihan in this amendment. In the first place. I would like to congratulate him on his courage in putting it down, and, in the second place, I would like to congratulate him in agreeing with Senator Duffy and Senator Johnson. But I have a shrewd suspicion that when those two Senators come to speak they will not agree with Senator Counihan. Personally I have more than a sneaking regard for Senator Counihan. I like him and I belong to that lower order which Senator Sir John Keane takes such a savage delight in downing.
I must protest. I suppose the Senator is putting his own interpretation on what I said. What I said yesterday, or what I intended to say, and I believe what I did say, was that the onus of defending the child is not now upon the landlords as it was of old, but upon the large land holders of the present day. I hope the Senator will accept that explanation. That was what I intended to say, and I am sure that when the Official Report comes out it will be found that is what I did say and not the suggestion of drawing distinctions between class and class in the very undesirable manner which the Senator imputes.
I wish to say that I fully accept the explanation now given by Senator Sir John Keane.
I accept to the very fullest degree the statement that has been made by Senator Sir John Keane. Much as at times I might be inclined to disagree with the Senator, I will be perfectly frank in stating that after reading in this morning'sIndependent the statement imputed to Senator Sir John Keane, it was more with the object of giving the Senator an opportunity of repudiating it than of pillorying him for it that I mentioned it to-day. The Independent of this morning states in its report of his speech—I will not read it all:—
"They never squared the circle. He would leave it to members of the lower order like Senator Counihan.
Mr. Counihan, warmly: Don't say the lower orders. We are as good as you are."
How does that affect the amendment?
Quite right, a Chathaoirligh. I was just wondering how far you would let me go. I might be allowed to say, although it does not affect the amendment, that I withdraw unreservedly the imputation against Senator Sir John Keane, though apparently it is not with me he has to deal but with theIndependent. I support this amendment because, in my opinion, it goes to the very kernel of the land question. In my opinion, if an amendment or a law such as this had been enforced for years past, we would not now perhaps be as badly off either as regards unemployment or the many different distractions with which the country is faced—relief and other such problems which confront us. I believe that Senator Counihan, perhaps unwittingly, is hitting the nail on the head of most of our troubles. I think that any man or body of men, particularly those who may get land under this Bill, should be compelled to till a certain portion of it. In fact one-fifth to my mind is not sufficient but, as that is the amount stated in the amendment, I am quite satisfied. I am sure the Minister will jump at this amendment, seeing that it is the foundation perhaps of a larger and better Act to come later, to make every man in this country who owns land till a certain portion of it.
I think this is a very important amendment. We are living in strange times. Two months ago we had the leader of the Conservative Party in this country enunciating the doctrine that, as times were very bad, contractual obligations should not be and must not be enforced, that there was no right to enforce them. Now we have the representatives of the farmers in this country and the leaders of Cumann na nGaedheal in this House enunciating the doctrine that land should not be held except a proportion of it is tilled. I think it is very important indeed to have inserted at the instance of Cumann na nGaedheal in this House and at the instance of the representatives of the farmers— one who might be said to represent the tillage farmers and one who might be said to represent the others— in a land purchase code, an obligation upon the holders of land, under pain of the Land Commission resuming without compensation their holdings, to till one-fifth of these holdings. That is an important proposition, and it is with special pleasure that one notes that it is coming from the representatives of the farmers and the leaders of Cumann na nGaedheal. I hope we shall have the full support of, let us say, Senator Miss Browne in this proposition.
There is one suggested amendment that, I think, the proposers would not object to, having adopted the prinicple. That is that we should insert after the word "under" the words "Land Purchase Acts" and delete the words "this Act for the enlargement of uneconomic holdings or for the relief of congestion or for relief of unemployment" and that the word "allotment" should be "occupation." The section would then read:
In the case of any land acquired by the Land Commission under the Land Purchase Acts, it shall be a condition of the occupation of such holding that the tenants thereof shall till at least one-fifth in area of the land so allotted and the Land Commission shall resume any such holding without payment of compensation if in their opinion such condition has been broken.
It will be noted as coming from Senator Counihan that it is the opinion of the Land Commission in this matter that is to determine the future of these holdings. There is to be no appeal, I take it, to the appeal tribunal or the judicial commissioners. The opinion of the Land Commission is going to hold. As I have said, these are very important principles and it would be extremely valuable to have the unanimous vote of the House on this proposition. If it is passed, I shall certainly endeavour to assist in getting a supplementary amendment inserted on the Report Stage, the amendment which I have just suggested. Then I think the Land Bill will have removed from Senator Counihan's mind and from the mind of Senator Miss Browne the suggestion that this is any longer a piece of Communism. It will be then a perfectly conservative and reasonable piece of legislation. I am very glad indeed to have an opportunity of supporting a proposition of this kind.
In view of what I have said before, I am sure it will be understood that I cannot give my support to this amendment. Frankly, on the reading of the amendment, I cannot understand how the Minister could accept it. Looking at it from the point of view of economics, I think it would be a very tyrannous condition to impose on any farmers, allottees or otherwise, that they should be compelled to till one-fifth of their land.
They are getting it for that purpose.
They are getting it for the purpose of maintaining themselves and their families, and while I think that the principle is a just one, I certainly say such a tyrannous condition as this should not be imposed. My arguments on the other matter would apply equally to this. There is another matter which has not been adverted to and that is the arable portion of the farm. If a farmer is compelled to till one-fifth of his farm under this amendment he would be compelled to till one-fifth of the whole farm without regard to whether it would be tillable or not; whether it would be bog, or hill, or whatever it might be. I think therefore the amendment as it stands should be withdrawn and the word "arable" put into it. At all events, I could not support it as it stands.
The amendment before the House appears to me to be a perfectly logical one. It is aimed at preventing the scandalous misuse of allocated land which has been already referred to in the debate. But it is quite well known to the mover and many other Senators that there is a great deal of land quite unsuitable for tillage to the extent of one-fifth and which would be better utilised in another manner. If the Bill provided that no land of that character was going to be allocated for the relief of congestion, the creation of employment, or for the other objects provided for in the Bill, then no difficulty would arise and no objection to the amendment could be put forward. I am sure that the answer would be that that is not the case and that land of that character will be allocated under the Bill. As I said, there is a great deal of land to till which would be a misuse, and I cannot therefore vote for the amendment. I suggest that Senator Counihan withdraw the amendment and bring up another amendment on the Report Stage attacking the matter in another way and laying on the Land Commission the onus, through their administration of the Act, of seeing that allocated lands are properly used. I think that is really the better course. I could not vote for the amendment in its present form, although it is perfectly logical. It logically arises out of everything said in the debate.
I think Senator Johnson spoke ironically and with another object behind what he said. Senator Counihan has put forward the amendment with the sole purpose of preventing the migration of persons into new areas, because he knows, if he is a farmer at all, that in the West what he proposes is practically impossible. Take the County Clare. Large districts in that county consist of rocks with, in some cases, grass growing in between. I know that county pretty well and anybody who would venture to bring a plough or even a spade into these lands would be very foolish. It is useful for grazing sheep, who pick out a lot of sweet grass in between the rocks but for any other purpose it is practically useless. The land here is divided into all sorts of qualities and nobody knows the proper part to cultivate and the part not to cultivate except the farmer himself who lives on the land. He knows that the land on one side of the road may be used for tillage and that the land on the other side is absolutely untillable. Therefore, to insert a provision of that sort is to turn the whole thing into nonsense, because it cannot be done. There are many other reasons equally good. There has been a good deal of land divided and given to individual farmers and it is quite true that they have not been able to till it. The reason for that is that a man is simply given 15 or 20 acres and he has no capital to buy stock or to till it. It is perfectly impossible for any man to till one-fifth of that land himself. Anybody who has done a little tillage knows what tilling land is. When I used to let out conacre land I used to tell them that they could have as much land as they liked, whether one rood, two roods, one acre, or two acres. Nobody put down for one acre because he could not work it. It is not possible to till a certain quantity of land without the use of machines. What is to happen to the mother of a lot of children who gets ten or 20 acres and whose children are not able to work the land? How is she going to till the land? In two or three years her sons may be able to till the land, but when she gets it at first they probably will not be able to do it. The only thing she can do is to let the land for a certain period to somebody who can till it, and as her sons grow up they will be gradually able to till the land.
This sort of theoretical proposition put up by people living in cities like Dublin, who know nothing about the real facts of agriculture in the West, makes me smile. I read in this famous Section 29, most of which is perfectly unintelligible, that certain people must farm in accordance with proper methods of farming and so on. Who is to decide what the proper method of farming is? Somebody in Dublin who never had a spade in his hand writes out a phrase of that sort. He does not know what it is possible to do. He invents a phrase of that sort which is only a laughing-stock. You will have to send out inspectors to see whether wheat should be planted in one place and potatoes in another, and they will differ in their opinion. I have seen these things happening. An inspector puts a spade into the turf and turns it up and says, "10/- an acre this bit." He turns up another bit and says, "5/- an acre." That is the sort of thing that I have seen going on in this country for many years. What you will have to do is to give a man a piece of land and let him do what he likes with it. He is a better judge of what he should do with it than any inspector or anybody else sent down from Dublin to give him advice. He is perfectly willing to work it as far as he possibly can, if he is going to make money out of it. He is not going to do it if he is told to till a piece of bog or a piece of rocky land. This amendment could never be carried out. It is an absurdity and Senator Counihan, I suspect, has a very good idea of that. He, of course, does not want the land to be taken in that way and he puts in a side stroke to stop it happening. Of course I would not think of supporting an amendment like that.
Senator Colonel Moore states that this will prevent the migration of any congests from the West. If congests have given up land, it will not be giving them something for nothing. They will only be getting an exchange for their holdings and this amendment would not apply to that class of tenant. Further, it does not apply to the classes of tenants allotted land under other Land Acts or vested under other Land Acts, so that, I think, Senator Colonel Moore must not have read the amendment very carefully or he would not make the suggestion that it would prevent the migration of congests from the West. It is always very popular in this country, amongst a certain class, to offer something for nothing; and, particularly amongst people who have nothing to offer themselves, to say: "We will give you the whole country," and they will always be able to get people to shout and cheer for that statement.
I say, however, that it is quite wrong for any representative to take such liberties with the property of the country, or with anybody's property, and to be offering it to people for nothing without any restrictions or conditions being put on the people who get it. They get this land for nothing and, according to the Minister, we have passed measures to provide them with seeds and manures and so on. They will be provided with all those things and still no restrictions or conditions are to be placed on them. If you put on some of those conditions, such as that they cannot sublet or relet this land and that they must till it in accordance with the conditions under which they get the land, you will not have so many people looking for it.
Senator Johnson says that he is glad that this amendment should come from me and my Party. This amendment does not put any restrictions on any farmer in the country. It only meets and tries to carry out what the Land Commission and the Minister have definitely stated is the intention of the Bill and the intention of taking the land. It is simply putting into plain, cold print the intention that the Minister and the Land Commission have in view in acquiring the land from holders who do not do a specific thing with their land. The Land Commission will take it from such people and give it to people who will do what they are required to do. Senator Johnson and others find fault with the putting into the Act of a provision to compel these people to do what they propose to do and to see that, if they do not carry out their contract, they should give it up without compensation. In view of what Senators Bagwell and Dillon said, I ask leave of the House to add the words "arable land" to the amendment.
I suggest that the spirit of Senator Counihan's amendment would be completely met and would ultimately work out in a highly satisfactory manner if a condition is introduced into it that the allottees must not be permitted to sublet. I think that will meet the whole case.
I understand that Senator Counihan is withdrawing the amendment.
No, I am asking leave of the House to add to the amendment the words "arable land."
Where do you propose to add the words, Senator?
After the words "one-fifth in area." It would then read "one-fifth in area of the arable land."
It is "one-fifth of the arable land" according to that. The allotees sign a guarantee "not to sell, alienate, sublet, subdivide, or part with possession of the said parcel of land, or any part thereof" before the land has been vested in them, and also "to keep the premises, with all the buildings thereon, in good and substantial repair." They also agree "to work the parcel of land in accordance with proper methods of husbandry to the satisfaction of the Land Commission." After the land is vested in the tenant he has the same control over it—the power to sell and so on—that the holder of any other parcel of purchased land has. Senator Counihan talked about sub-letting and sub-dividing, but that is not in his amendment. However, it is provided in the Bill and in the Land Purchase Acts. There is no holder of vested land or purchased land who can sub-divide without the permission of the Land Commission, and, if the holder of vested land sub-lets it from year to year and becomes a new landlord, that land can be acquired by the Land Commission. We come down, therefore, to the one point about the tillage of one-fifth, or 20 per cent. We have never put forth the policy that we will have to till in this country if we do not want the result of tillage. It is not just for the fun of it. The Land Commission have discretion, in the acquisition of lands generally, to take into consideration the use of the land and the necessity for increasing the products of the country. The holders of vested land in this country—those who have already purchased—were helped by the State just as much as the uneconomic holders, who are coming forward now, will be helped by the State. They are not getting the land for nothing. A purchase price is being put on the land that is being divided and given to allottees—a price which they have to liquidate over a period of 60 years or so. They are paying for their land just the same as the vested farmers. It must be remembered that this will also apply to people who are migrated. It will apply to anybody migrated from the West or South to the Eastern counties, because they also will be getting land under this Act. If these people are to be compelled to till one-fifth of the land there is no reason in the world why that should not be the same all round and apply to all holders of land. However, I think that, instead of having a fixed percentage of tillage, it should be left to the discretion of the Land Commission. First of all, they would have to forbid the sub-letting of the land, unless the man was in such a position that he could not work the land.
As some Senators have pointed out, there is sometimes the case of the woman whose husband dies and leaves her with a young family, and she finds that she must sub-let the land for a couple of years until the children grow up. Many people get into circumstances in which they have to sub-let for a couple of years until they find their feet and, as Senator Counihan knows, people have been enabled to find their feet in that way and are working the land at the present time although the land had been taken from them on the conacre system after it had been distributed amongst them. There is really no reason for the insertion of this amendment in relation to one set of vested tenants. If we are going to insert it, let it be inserted in regard to all holdings of land no matter what the tenure is under which the owners hold them.
May I say that at one time I subscribed to the proposition that there should be a definite percentage of the arable land occupied by a holder of land under tillage. I became convinced of the inadvisability of making any such definite proposal in any enactment by arguments such as the Minister has put forward, but when I read that this proposal comes with the authority of practical farmers, men who know all about land and farming, like Senators Counihan, Wilson and Garahan, I assume that my first notion on this matter had validity. I am still, however, doubtful as to the practicability of it and the Minister has rather reconfirmed my doubts. I should like to know from Senators Counihan, Wilson and Garahan whether they think it is practicable to fix a proportion of this kind in relation to the arable land on any farm and, further, I would draw attention to the conditions of the section. This does not seem to me to cease when the land is vested. It is a perpetual power the Land Commission has over the land. Whether it is for the first 20, 30, 60 or 160 years, it is a perpetual condition and I suggest that it will inevitably lead to the same kind of condition being applied to all lands. If that is the desire, I think the amendment should be persisted in.
It would strike one that agreement might be found in the House with what Senator Bagwell said when he expressed the view that the proposition behind this seemed to be perfectly logical and reasonable if one accepts the object which the Government sets out to attain as being one that should be attained, but while what Senator Counihan sets out in his amendment may be perfectly reasonable and logical and may seem perfectly consistent, bearing in mind the objects of the Government, there arises the question of practicability. On that question of practicability there certainly arises grave difficulty, and that difficulty in many cases would prove almost insurmountable, and I think that Senator Counihan would be wise, on that ground of practicability alone, to withdraw the amendment. Perhaps if he thinks it over he might find some other line along which the position might be met, but it certainly will not be met on the lines set out here.
I agree with Senator O'Hanlon and Senator Bagwell because although Senator Counihan's amendment is designed really to counter the situation which I have pointed out as arising in respect of migrants from the west who come here, take land and then stand with their hands in their pockets outside their new houses waiting for the cheques every half-year from Senator Counihan and other graziers, I do think his amendment is just a little bit too arbitrary. The Minister has given us some sort of assurance that the Land Commission will ensure that these lands are worked or resume them. I should like to have it a good deal more clear, but I think if the Minister does give us an assurance on those lines it would be very wise to let him carry on. I would treat migrants at the present moment on quite a different basis from the basis on which vested men under the Acts up to 1903 and onwards are treated, because that was the main settlement of the Irish land question. These are fresh migrants and I think that if they get new land they should, without any hesitation, be made to work it by the Land Commission.
There is one other small point. The question of sub-letting has been raised and the Minister has said that there are occasions when a widow has to sub-let for a couple of years. If she gets into the habit of sub-letting for a couple of years it will go on. What happens down in my part of the country? Up in the mountains a man dies and leaves a widow and five or six small children. She cannot sub-let. She has no chance of sub-letting to anybody and the position is exactly the same in Donegal or Mayo. She has to carry on and she does carry on and there should be a definite insistence that when a migrant gets land in this part of the country he should not be allowed to part with that land under any circumstances whatever and then that very large number of landless men— so big that the Minister or his officials did not dare to take the House into their confidence in regard to it —would be greatly reduced. I think Senator Counihan ought to withdraw his amendment and consider whether he should not bring it up in some other form on Report.
As one of the signatories to this amendment I should like to say a few words about it. One of the reasons why I joined in putting this amendment forward for consideration is that in all the cases, or with a few exceptions, of divided lands—that is, land taken here for the direct relief of congestion and other purposes and not land given to migrants in compensation for land taken—after the tenants had received them, they were either let in grazing or allowed to go into meadow, the crop of hay cut off and sold and the after-grass set for grazing purposes. I have a good deal of experience of the working of land which has been divided up as I have described and, generally speaking, that is the way it has been managed and not altogether has it been the fault of the people to whom the land was given. In most cases they have not the capital to work the land and, therefore, they had either to till it or manage it in the manner I have described, namely, to set it to some people on the 11 months system as, in the case cited by Senator Counihan, who took land already taken from him on the 11 months system. That was one of the methods employed by these people. The other was to allow the land to go into meadow which was worse for the land and would probably result in worse conditions for the person who so used the land. There is no doubt that that has been the method of working a substantial majority of the farms so divided.
If the Land Commission give land to people without capital to work it, the question has to be considered whether it would not be well that it should exercise some control as to how the land is to be used. The only alternative to these methods of using this divided land that one can think of is the tilling of a certain amount of it. Those men who have obtained land do not so use it, because they know that the most unprofitable way of managing land which has been set for grazing is to cultivate it for the production of crops for sale. There is only one profitable way of cultivating a portion of a man's holding and that is by carrying on mixed farming. That saves a man from going to an uneconomic market with the products of his holding. That is the reason why men who got land from the Land Commission to make their own holdings economic, and found that they had not capital enough to put live stock on it, tilled a certain amount and carried out mixed farming. They had to resort to the uneconomic method that I described earlier. That is why those supporting this amendment suggest as a form of control to be exercised by the Land Commission that a certain amount of the land be cultivated. It was not for us to suggest to the Land Commission that they should provide a man with capital to work land he had received so as to make it wholly economic. That, obviously, would be against our own interests and the interests of the taxpayers generally. After all, a person does not want to suggest a remedy for his neighbour's relief which will mean taking money out of his own pocket, particularly when that pocket is practically empty. We have suggested that those who receive land should be asked to till a certain percentage so that by their own labour and effort they would get a return for themselves, a return, too, that would be useful in the working of their holdings, and not have them sub-let under the 11 months system, or taken up in meadow with the produce sold as hay.
That is the only alternative we felt justified in making. The problem is one for the Land Commission and the Government to deal with. They have taken the land and given it to these people, and when they find the complaint made, as I make it, that they cannot work it economically, it is for the Government, through the Land Commission, to deal with the problem because the responsibility is theirs. I disagree with the Minister's statement that the Government have done as much for other people who have purchased their land as is being done for those for whom I maintain enough has not been done and yet for whom so much has been done. That may seem paradoxical, but those who understand the practical effect of it will see its application. As a result of the agitation carried on over a long period of years and of the different measures that were passed, the tenant farmer obtained what was called tenant right. He obtained the right to go into the court to have his rent fixed and, after a period of years, to have his rents revised. Then the Land Purchase Acts came along. I take it it was these Acts the Minister had in mind when he said that as much had been done for these people as we purposed to do to-day for those for whom we speak. I cannot agree with the Minister. All that the Government of the day did for them was to pledge the security of the State to enable land purchase to be carried out. As regards the uneconomic holders who have received additional land to make their holdings economic, what happened in their case was that the Government of the time took land from those who in its opinion could best afford to give it. It went to them and said "I will take so much of your holding." I am disputing the statement of the Minister that in doing so they were not doing something more for those people than they had done for the original tenant purchasers. At the time that land purchase commenced, the tenants had tenant right, and all that the Government of the day did to enable them to purchase their holdings was to pledge the security of the State so that land purchase could be carried through. As against that what has been done and what is it proposed to do for the men to whom this amendment refers?
Land is being taken and paid for in order that it may be divided amongst those uneconomic holders in congested districts. The price is fixed by the Land Commission. Let the price be good, middling or bad, the Land Commission has the fixation of it, with certain rights of appeal. The one outstanding fact is that, whether a man wishes to sell his land or not, it may be taken from him by a one-sided bargain. I know that it is held by the Land Commission that the money paid to the land holder, plus the expenses of the Commission, are being charged up against the incoming tenant and that he pays a certain sum covering interest and sinking fund in respect of that amount. Whether what he is supposed to pay actually covers that expenditure, I do not know. To test that, one would require to have the particulars of the working of the Land Commission with regard to land purchase and to know whether it leaves a debit or a credit or an even balance. In any event, this man receives a parcel of land and, in many cases, a house is built for him. The expenses of removal are paid to the man who is moved into a new holding. I maintain that that migrant does not come under the category of the landholders with which this amendment deals because he has capital and stock to make his new holding a going concern and has not to use it as the man who has no capital must use his land. The Minister explained to us last evening that in some cases migrants received up to £200 as the cost of removing themselves, their goods and chattels to the holding given to them. That shows that a good deal must have been removed on those occasions. Senator Counihan, when he suggested this amendment, had, I think, in mind the men who were getting from 9 to 14 acres added to their land to relieve congestion. As a practical farmer, he knows that if these men have to use the land while they are short of capital, it will eventually result in acute deterioration of these parcels of land. Not only that but the small portion which they held and which has already been described as uneconomic——
Shortage of capital and the tilling of land are two different points.
No. Even when tillage of land is uneconomic and unprofitable, one is cause and the other result. The cause is the shortage of capital and the result is the tilling of land when it is not economic or profitable. That is the trouble with those holders of land who have received an additional parcel to make their holdings economic. Enough is not being done for them. If it must come out, they should receive capital to work the land. I am going outside what I consider my responsibility and my province, but it is the business of the Government, through the Land Commission, to see that those men are in a position to work economically the holdings which they receive. If they do not do that, that is their funeral.
I can see now that there are some snags in my amendment. This amendment came into my head after reading the speech of Senator Johnson. He is responsible, to a great extent, for this amendment being put down.
Not for the drafting of it.
The Minister said he is giving nothing to the landless men or uneconomical holders when he is giving them land. It is to prevent the misuse of that land I have put down this amendment. I can visualise an agitation around a farm which is likely to be acquired by the Land Commission. The people may say that they want the land to grow food and for all the other purposes set out in the Bill. When they get the land, they may stick to it for three or four years, get a house built on it and then sell it. They are getting something for nothing and it is to prevent that misuse that I introduce this amendment. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment and, perhaps, the Minister will bring in another amendment on Report Stage.
I move amendment 40:—
Section 34, sub-section (2). To delete the sub-section and to substitute therefor a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Nothing in this section shall apply to any sporting rights (including fishing rights) which are the subject of a lease or letting by the owner thereof to a lessee or tenant who exercises such rights or to any sporting rights (including fishing rights) exercised and enjoyed by an owner who is resident in Saorstát Eireann.
The history of this section is a curious one. It did not appear in the Dáil until the Report Stage. I think it was in some way an afterthought on the part of the Minister, who was concerned with his own Ministry as well as being in charge of this Bill. I feel quite sure that this was urgently represented to him and that he cannot have had time to go into it properly, because in the Dáil no one took much interest in it. The ex-Minister for Lands and Fisheries was the only person in the Opposition who asked what it meant. The Minister stated that the section was put in in order to allay certain local agitations to prevent an owner walking on lands over which he held only the sporting rights. I submit that the Minister does not really want to govern by allaying certain local agitations. I must assume that he has not really considered the implications of the section. Since I became a member of this House Senators will recollect that I have always taken a very considerable interest in developing the income of the country generally, in respect of the sporting amenities that it undoubtedly possesses. I have made suggestions as to the ways in which these could be developed. I will go so far as to say that just before the late Government left office I had asked if something more could not be done about this question. The present proposals in this Bill are in the opposite direction, and will have the effect, if the section passes in its present form, of destroying every single type of game except the migrants which we cannot stop. When that position arises a great many of the amenities and a great deal of wealth will be gone.
The section reads:—
"... The Land Commission may, if of the opinion that it would be for the benefit of the country that such rights should be acquired, make an order ..."
I am never quite sure of the value of the expressions "the will of the people" and "the benefit of the country." They do not always work out in the way which is expected. These are rather loose phrases which should be avoided if possible in legislation. The situation really is this, that agreements reached under the Land Act of 1903 were voluntary between the vendors and the tenants. Many hard battles were fought by solicitors representing the tenants' interests, and, in consideration of the sporting rights there were reductions in the number of years' purchase. I maintain that these were contracts. It is now proposed to set aside rights which were given to men who own them. The option to purchase is being given only to the men who want these rights. The men who own them are not consulted at all. I do not think that is just. The owner is to be paid a value for his rights, I admit, but that can easily be made to operate unjustly by the action of the purchasers. In some cases a single individual, by acquiring rights under this section, may destroy the value of the remainder of the sporting amenities. A residence without sporting rights may lose its value.
There is another aspect—and I hope the Labour members will consider this seriously—that the exercise of sporting rights gives much employment and circulates money generally in the poorest districts, because it is to these districts that the migrant birds come. If the section passes in its present form—and I do not think there is any general demand for it—the circulation of money will cease. I know that in certain cases local agitations were worked up, and that politicians went around asking why So-and-So was walking on the land. Individuals owning small areas of sporting rights of varying value will all want the same price, consequently there will be no co-operation, no letting to speak of, and a gradual deterioration of sporting amenities. I know of a case —and I am sure there are hundreds of similar cases—where a syndicate met the villagers and offered them £25 for the sporting rights over certain land. The money would have paid half the rates of these people. There was an old feud with one man who wanted the money divided according to the size of the holding affected. Finally, nothing was done, and the place is now common ground and there are no birds thereon. I know of another case where a syndicate offered villagers— and by villagers I mean a group of tenants in the mountains—from £5 to £10 for the rights over a tract of country, in addition to a certain amount of employment. One man broke the agreement and the whole arrangement fell through. The State now owns the Bourn-Vincent property, on which there are valuable shooting and fishing rights. Unless these rights are preserved game will be wiped out and there will be neither deer nor fish on this property.
There is one other type of person who may suffer from this section—persons with whom friends stay. They have at least had the use of sporting rights without very much to pay. These people are here only at certain times in the year. Now the result in these cases will be that there will be no visitors, no circulation of money, and there will be less employment. My amendment is simply framed to protect the owner who has lived continuously in this country. I do not mind what he is. There are lots of people who have sporting rights. These are people who have lived here in good times and in bad times, people who have spent their money here. These people have got contracts and now the Government proposes to allow another man to break these contracts. On the other hand, there are large areas which are held by people who have left this country. I have got no sympathy whatsoever with them. I think any sporting rights vested in them should be dealt with as the Minister proposes, but I do propose now that the Minister consider the sporting rights in the light of the amendment which I put down. I am not talking of the fishing rights at all in this. I think the Minister should reconsider the very drastic section which I feel has not been considered by the Government in the way in which it should have been considered before it came to this House.
As one interested in tourist development in this country, I would like to say a few words in favour of this amendment. I believe that a considerable amount of employment is given in districts where sufficient protection is exercised in safeguarding the game, fishing and sporting rights generally. I have been astounded in visiting some of the tourist districts in Ireland when I realised the number of men who gained employment through the fact that sporting and fishing rights were preserved and properly safeguarded.
I am also aware in my own county of estates and large tracts of land which under the former ownership supported a considerable amount of game. That game when it was plentiful was of considerable benefit to the poor of the district because of the fact that owing to the way in which it was preserved there is plenty of game there, and the poor people in the last extremity would always have their share of it. On the other hand, to-day when that game is no longer preserved the position is different. That game has been shot down even in the close season as well as in the open season. Eventually the result of it is that there is not a solitary bird or fish for anybody to catch. Even from the point of view of the poacher it would be advisable to pass this amendment. If there is no fishing or game in a district the poacher has nothing to get. From the poacher's point of view this is decidedly a loss. When game is plentiful in a district a certain amount of it will always find its way into the mouths of needy women and children. If the game were preserved properly in this country there would always be something there for the poacher to get. It is a question for the Land Commission to consider whether Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks' method is the best, but certainly one must be in favour of having the game of the country preserved. I am certainly in favour of having the game preserved because the visitors to the hotels provide a market for the agricultural produce in these areas at the very doors of the farmers. They provide a very profitable market that these producers could not otherwise get. Many of these areas are too remote from the ports and railway stations to make it a profitable business to transport agricultural produce to the market. When this market is brought right to their own doors there is a considerable advantage to the agriculturists. This is particularly true in remote areas where this game can be preserved and developed. I am entirely in favour of the amendment.
Before any other Senator speaks would it not be well to hear the Minister's views on it? Everybody in the House seems to be in favour of the amendment. Perhaps it would save further speaking if we heard the Minister now.
This section is an amendment of the Land Act of 1923. Under that Act sporting rights were automatically vested in the tenants and fishing rights were vested in the Land Commission. That is to say the sporting rights of the estates then to be purchased. The 1923 Act applies roughly to 80,000 holdings or probably one-fifth of the land in the country, so that in these cases the sporting rights have already been vested in the tenants and the fishing rights in the Land Commission. Where they thought that the fishing rights would be better preserved and that the best use would be made of them by vesting them in the Department of Fisheries, that has been done. In the Acts prior to the 1923 Act, provision was made in some cases for the purchase of the sporting rights from the original landlords and vesting them in the tenants. Numbers of tenants were not willing to pay the price that was asked for the sporting rights and some of the landlords were not willing to part with them. I want to take the power now that where the tenants wish to purchase sporting rights the Land Commission will have power to acquire those sporting rights and vest them in them.
Including the fishing rights?
We will come to that subsequently. Where the tenant who purchased under the Acts prior to 1923 wished to purchase the sporting rights and intimated to the Land Commission in the prescribed manner that he wished to purchase, the Land Commission could then acquire the sporting rights and vest them in such tenant. If no such application comes the Land Commission have not power to acquire the sporting rights. With regard to the fishing rights, if they think it would be better in the best interests of the country that these fishing rights should vest either in the tenant or in the Land Commission for transfer to the Fisheries Department, they can acquire those rights without any application being received from anybody.
I think this is a thoroughly sound section. Numbers of people quite properly object to strangers walking over their lands and if the tenants want to lease the sporting rights of their lands to somebody else no one is stopping them. But if a man definitely objects to strangers coming on to his land, I think that those who have such a great respect for private property might support him and might support me in asserting his private rights and the ownership of his sporting rights. We are simply taking power to apply the provisions of the 1923 Act in relation to lands that were not then vested to lands that were vested formerly under other Acts. I think it will work out well and there is certainly a necessity for it, because violent objection has been taken in some parts of the country by owners of vested lands to people going on their land without their authority.
I cannot agree with the Minister in his construction of Section 34. The Minister seems to be of opinion that under this section the Land Commission have the power, on acquiring fishing rights, to vest them in the purchasing tenant. As I read the section, that is not so. The section gives the Government power to acquire all sporting rights, including fishing rights, if they think that is for the benefit of the country; and they have power also to vest the sporting rights other than fishing rights—that is, practically, the shooting rights—in the purchasing tenants, these rights being confined to shooting over and on their own lands. I respectfully submit that is the clear construction of the section.
It would make the matter very much worse than it is if the fishing rights were to be vestible under this section in the purchaser of the adjoining land to the river. It would absolutely put an end to all fishing rights in this country in a very short time. I strongly support this amendment. The power of acquiring sporting rights is only to be exercised if the Land Commission think it is to be for the benefit of the country. I am definitely satisfied that it cannot be for the benefit of the country that these sporting rights should be acquired by the Land Commission and that is especially so in the case of the fishing rights.
Senator The McGillycuddy has dealt with the shooting rights. I gather from the wording of the section that the Land Commission cannot acquire the fishing rights except for the purpose of vesting them in themselves and then managing them by leasing or letting to tenants.
Has the Senator noticed the effect of sub-section (2)?
Yes, I am coming to that. With regard to fishing rights, it is only by the very strictest watching that poaching in the rivers can be prevented and salmon allowed to get up to the spawning grounds. If you vest the fishing rights in the Land Commission strict watching is practically impossible. Strict watching can only be carried out by private individuals who have a personal interest in the fishing. In my opinion if the fishing rights are acquired by the Land Commission the salmon fishing in this country will be absolutely destroyed in a few years, not only in the rivers but in the lakes as well, and not only in the rivers and in the lakes, but perhaps—more important for the country—in the estuaries also.
If the salmon do not get up the river, if they are allowed to be poached as they come up, they cannot get to the spawning beds. No young salmon will then get down the river to the sea. We all know salmon always go back to the river in which they have been spawned, and you will have no salmon going up that river if poaching prevents spawning at the top of the river. What will that mean? It will mean a loss of about £250,000 a year, not deducting what the Shannon scheme has destroyed—about £30,000 a year. That is what the salmon fishing is worth to this country—over £250,000 a year. It means, in the second place, a loss of employment to hundreds of men engaged in net fishing in the estuaries and those who fish in the rivers and lakes. It will also mean that hundreds brought to this country because there is such exceptional fishing will cease to come here, with consequent loss of money to the country.
I cannot conceive of the Land Commission coming to the conclusion that the acquiring of these fishing rights to be let out by them could possibly be for the good of the country. I ask the Seanad for the sake of the good of this country to see that these sporting rights shall not be vested in the Land Commission.
I desire very strongly to support Senator Brown and Senator The McGillycuddy. I am interested in one of the finest salmon fishing rivers in Ireland, the Slaney. I am in close touch with almost 300 very poor men who are interested in net fishing in the estuary of the Slaney. I had a telephone S.O.S. from the solicitor representing these men yesterday morning. It was not necessary, because I had made up my mind to do my best for them here. I appeal to the Labour Senators in particular not to deprive these men, who have nothing else to live upon, of their means of livelihood. If this amendment is not accepted there will not be a salmon in the Slaney in a very few years or, for that matter, in any other river in Ireland. I will emphasise the importance of fishing by saying that the annual value reaches about £300,000.
Senator Brown has outlined the matter very thoroughly. I cannot understand why this change is being made and why the same provisions as are in the 1923 Act are not put into this. It is nonsense for the Minister to say landowners object to people walking over land in the matter of shooting rights. I do not know anyone who has ever objected to it. The people who walk over your land shooting are not the people who are going to rob you, break your trees or tear up your fences. I cannot call to mind the type of person who would object to a sportsman going over his land. As regards hunting, the farmer who objects to the hunter riding over his land is regarded as a crank and a nuisance. An indiscreet rider might possibly do some harm, but in the present case there is no danger of damage whatever. I cannot understand the Minister's attitude. I suppose it is another exhibition of the democracy about which we are hearing so much. I cannot add anything to what Senator Brown has said and I hope the House will insist on having this amendment inserted in the Bill.
I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. It has been very ably spoken to by a number of Senators. Even Senator Miss Browne, in her speech supporting the amendment, has not once mentioned the economic war, and she and I are in agreement on this amendment. It is hardly possible to estimate the value of the salmon fisheries in this country. The salmon fishing brings great numbers of people here, and it is fully appreciated by the Tourists' Association. That is one aspect of the question. There is another which concerns the men who earn their living on the rivers by net fishing. If the rivers are not properly looked after and regulated, and the spawning beds safeguarded, there is going to be no fish. As Senator Brown said, salmon after spawning in a river always return to that river. If there is to be no spawning there will be no fish in the rivers. The export value of the salmon fisheries is something between £200,000 and £300,000 per annum. That is a very considerable amount of money and it could be easily lost. These experiments have been tried in other countries, and failed absolutely, because one contrary farmer on the bank of a river could destroy the co-operation necessary for the success of the value of a whole river as a fishing river. I am sure the Minister will appreciate that fact.
Great numbers of men at Ringsend earn their living, or a very considerable portion of it, by salmon fishing. If the Liffey is not looked after, very soon, there will be no salmon there to be looked after. That may be due to the conduct of some obstreperous individual or some such reason. The net fishermen have not properly understood the implication of this Bill, or how it is likely to affect their industry. When they realise that their industry is likely to be destroyed they will become very articulate and very troublesome also. Their industry must be taken into account. No real value can really be placed upon the fisheries of the country. But if our rivers are depleted of fish, and get a bad name, numbers of visitors will go somewhere else.
In other countries they placard and advertise the fishing attractions of their rivers and in this country we are in competition with these people. Only this season the Tourish Traffic Association in their offices in O'Connell Street displayed views of some of our rivers and the excellent facilities and sport they afford for salmon fishing. They appreciate the appeal which salmon fishing makes to visitors. And remember all these visitors are good spenders. I appeal to the Minister to accept this amendment. I understand this section was not in the original Bill, when in the Dáil, and did not get the consideration it was entitled to in view of its importance. If the Minister is going to make any changes in shooting or fishing rights let him nationalise them properly. Let him make the State responsible and not hand these rights over to individuals along the banks to destroy the full value of the whole as a fishing river which is of great value to the country.
I want to correct a few mistakes that Senator Duffy and Senator Foran have made. Senator Foran advocates the nationalisation of fisheries, and thinks that this Bill is going to destroy the value of the fisheries. The Land Commission do not vest, in private owners, fisheries that are worth anything. The same powers that we are asking in this Bill in relation to the old Acts were given to the Land Commission in the 1923 Act. They have not already destroyed fisheries in the country. I think what was done under the 1923 Act was a good thing. I think further that anyone who hopes to see the fisheries of this country developed as they ought to be, will welcome this particular section of the Bill.
If these fisheries are in the hands of the Government they can get revenue from them. They can, as other governments have done, instead of allowing the salmon up the river to spawn when only 5 per cent. of the fry comes to maturity, build hatcheries for spawning and get up to 90 and 95 per cent. of the fry. The Government is to have some hand in that. We believe it is difficult to estimate the good that will ensue to the fisheries, the increase of fish, and the value of the industry generally under this particular clause. It is a step in the right direction. It is all very well to talk of nationalisation at some distant and definite date. But here is a distinct step that will give the Government control of the fisheries, and which will give them encouragement to go ahead and develop proper salmon hatcheries instead of having the spawn destroyed as it is at the present moment by natural poachers as well as human poachers. I have heard it estimated that while only about five per cent. of the fry come to maturity in rivers, in the hatcheries 90 per cent. come to maturity.
Will the Minister say whether under this Bill there is provision made for hatcheries?
I am afraid the Minister has not shown very intimate knowledge of salmon fisheries, and the breeding of salmon, and the working of the salmon rivers. He said the Land Commission did not intend to hand over to the tenants any parts of the rivers which are of much value. The pieces of the river we are talking about keep up the supply of salmon. They are not of a value to be let to anybody, but they are of great value to any man who has a gaff and wants a bit of fish to eat. They are vital as places where salmon spawn. If the Land Commission was to work on the principle the Minister has put forward, and give to the tenants the portions of a river for which no rod fishermen would pay, they would be giving away, at the same time, the whole chance of keeping the rivers in salmon. I wish I had the same belief in the hatcheries which the Minister has. I do not think that anybody who has seen hatcheries work and knows the amount they can be trusted to contribute to the improvement of the rivers in which they have been placed, would contend you could keep up the supply of fish in the rivers if you did away with the natural spawning beds. There is no question about it; no amount of these safeguards can possibly compensate for the injury that you will do if you interfere with the spawning beds.
I notice that the Minister all through keeps away from the provision in the Bill "for the benefit of the country." Everybody I heard speaking this afternoon on this subject has shown definitely that it is for the good of the country to have these fishing rights left in the hands of those who watch and guard them and who have a real interest in taking care of them. I have had some experience of at least one river which I have fished. It was taken over by the Government as a Government fishery from top to bottom. It was extremely good for one year when it was first taken over. The late Government had half a dozen or more men who watched the rod-fishing part of the river. What happened? The fishery has steadily deteriorated—and why? Because these Government watchers, very decent fellows, and I knew nearly all of them, lived on the community and they were not going to quarrel with their friends. The result was that there was nobody really there to stop poaching or to stop the river from being fished by people other than those who had a right to fish it. The river as a fishery has steadily disimproved, and from the experience of that sort that I got I have no belief whatever in replacing private ownership of our rivers by Government ownership, because the new owners either will not have the keenness or the individual care to look after the river in the way that the private owners did.
If we are going to do away with private ownership we will do away with employment on the rivers, lose the large amount of money that comes into the country and the amount of good food that is being produced in these rivers. Fisheries are a magnificent food-producing asset. We talk of establishing food-producing industries in this country, but what better is there than these rivers, and the food is all given to us for nothing really. Yet here we are establishing means to destroy that source of supply. Past experience is that Government ownership of rivers has not proved a success. Private ownership, where it has been properly supported by the Government, has always proved a success and maintained our fisheries as they are to-day.
I do hope that the Seanad will hold that the amendment tends more to the benefit of the country than the section as it stands and that it will at least show that we think that the good of the country is not served by a section of this kind. It is not right that we should put into a Bill of this kind a section which has really nothing whatever to do with the rest of the Bill. It is a dangerous clause, as anybody can see. I believe that it should never have been put into the Bill. I hope that the Seanad will take that view and say that, in our opinion at any rate, the methods which so far have preserved our fisheries will be maintained and that they will not be abandoned for any trivial cause.
A case might be made for the section in this Bill in reference to the shooting rights, for giving tenants who have bought out their lands sole control of the shooting rights on that land and for giving them power, if they wished to have it, to allow sportsmen to shoot over these lands. I think, however, that a sufficient case has not been made out for taking over the fishing rights in the manner suggested in this Bill. I cannot speak as an expert fisherman, but I listened with great attention and with great respect, as I always do, to Senator Brown, who was supported by Senator Jameson. They have put the case very fairly. I have experience of one river in particular, the River Moy, in County Mayo. I have seen the tremendous amount of employment that is given there. I have seen the balance sheet of the fishery company and the tremendous amount of money, as disclosed in it, that comes into the country as a result of that fishery. If that river is to be sub-divided so that each tenant gets the fishing rights opposite where he lives, I am afraid—and in this I agree with Senator Jameson—that in a very short time the fishery, as far as the River Moy is concerned, will be a thing of the past. I really think that the Minister might reconsider the position. I might be with him so far as the shooting rights are concerned, but I am certainly not with him in interfering with the fishing rights as they exist at present.
I feel myself somewhat in a quandary because I do not understand thoroughly the implications of the amendment. It occurs to me that most of the discussion is germane to the next amendment. I am inclined to think that there should be a distinction drawn—I think Senator O'Neill is of the same view—between shooting rights and fishing rights. I have read a good deal time after time in regard to protests against the preservation of game in other countries, because of the damage done to corn. I suggest that possibly that thought has been in the minds of those who drafted the section so far as the shooting rights are concerned. I do not know, but in regard to fishing rights it seems to me that if there is one clear case for something like collective control it is in respect to fishing rights. To dissipate the authority over a river among all the varying interests along the banks, surely is inadvisable. The question arises apparently as to whether the collective authority should be the public authority, the Land Commission or one of those private associations which has a clear right in one way or another. If we are to take the Minister's indication, in reply to Senator O'Duffy and Senator Foran, it would almost appear that what he is aiming at is that the authority for control of the waters should be actively maintained by the Land Commission or some public authority. They would do in the general public interest, economic and otherwise, efficiently and effectively, what the private associations are doing less efficiently and sometimes quite ineffectively. If that is the position then I could understand the Minister's case. But I am not clear as to whether that is the position.
I read in the Land Act of 1923, Section 45, that "on the vesting of any land in the Land Commission under this Act, all sporting rights as defined in sub-section 2 of Section 13 of the Irish Land Act, 1903 .... and all fisheries appurtenant to the said lands shall vest in the Land Commission." Then I read in the Act of 1927, Section 41, a provision which gives power to the Land Commission to sell to the tenant purchaser all the fishing rights in any rivers or waters adjoining or intersecting the holdings purchased by them. That is as far as the 1923 Act is concerned. The Land Commission takes over the fishing rights and then takes power in a later Act to transfer those rights to the tenants of the lands adjoining. That is all right.
As the Minister pointed out, only a small proportion of those rights have been handed over to tenants adjoining. Then we come to Section 34 of this Bill. I understood the Minister to indicate that it was simply to do for the lands purchased prior to the 1923 Act what the Act of 1923 had done. But, reading the section, it does not seem to me to convey that meaning. [Section read.] The emphasis is on the vesting, not on the acquisition. Therefore, it seems to me that the Minister's statement as to the effect of the 1923 Act is controverted by the proposal in this section. The emphasis is on the vesting in the proprietors of the lands, not in the retention by the Land Commission of those rights.
"Other than fishing rights." It is a difficult section to read, I admit.
Is the Minister informing me now that the purpose is to hand over the sporting and shooting rights to the proprietors of the lands, but in respect of fishing rights the intention is that the Land Commission should retain those rights except in odd cases?
I wonder will the Minister go a little further and make it clearer that it is the intention, not only to have the power to do that, but actually to retain those rights and actively operate them? It would make a very big difference from my point of view.
I support the amendment. If it is not passed, I think you will place the fish between the devil and the deep sea. In so far as game is concerned, after two years you will have everybody grousing that there is not a game bird left in the country. These fisheries are very important. We have in this country river fisheries and sea fisheries—as a matter of fact we have several fisheries. It would be a very good idea if the Government, instead of putting a section like this in a Land Bill, got their experts to look into the matter and brought in a Fisheries Bill, because the conditions, as Senator O'Neill said, in the Moy may be quite different from what they are in the Liffey. The Dublin Corporation have let the Liffey fisheries at so much per year. I think that is the best way to do it. If you do not do it that way you will have to have some sort of a committee looking after it; you will have to have hours for fishing and prohibit netting at certain times. You will have to look after it. As it is, the man concerned looks after it. I strongly recommend the Minister to consider the question of bringing in a separate Bill dealing with fishing and sporting rights.
It appears to me that the intentions of this Bill are perfectly good, and that it is merely a matter of difference of method of preservation of both fishing and game rights. So far as the section is concerned, the fishing rights are fairly well provided for. Nothing in the section would appear to me to damage in any way the prospects for fishing in this country. In regard to that, I should say that the Minister's statement, that owners of lands have a strong objection to unauthorised persons passing over their lands, does not seem to be justified by experience. The unauthorised persons in this case would be the wilful destroyers of game or fish. In most parts of the country that I know of the owners of land are very willing co-operators with any body set up for the preservation of sporting or fishing rights. We find that the man who holds the largest quantity of land is the most willing co-operator, and that the difficulties we sometimes have are with the very small holders; that a small plot in the centre of a sporting area is often a plague spot in that area. There is a danger, therefore, of the Minister creating many of these plague spots through the country, both in regard to fishing and sporting rights. They go hand in hand I should say. A stretch of river that may not be useful from the point of view of the Government may be very useful locally and hence nationally. If the sporting rights of that are frittered away in the way provided for in the Bill it will affect also the fishing rights of that particular stretch of water.
It appears to me that the intentions of the Bill are all right. It is a question of difference of method. I cannot see then any reason why the amendment should not be accepted. It cannot do any harm to the Bill. It may prevent the Minister doing certain things, but it will preserve thestatus quo at least and the rights of those who are sincerely desirous of preserving this great national asset. Sporting in any form, whether hunting, coursing— which some people might say is a doubtful form of sport—shooting or fishing, is a most valuable asset. Anybody who visits the little villages and towns in Kerry in the fishing season can ascertain for himself from the local people the benefit conferred on these localities by the number of visitors who spend their summer holidays there in remote mountain districts. I have seen groups of them coming there for five or six weeks and spending money liberally in very poor localities. The visits of these people are very welcome in these districts and are very beneficial from a money point of view to the inhabitants. Nothing should be done to drive them away or discourage them. I do not say the Minister has any intention of doing that. If Senator The McGillycuddy and others who have spoken with authority on this matter consulted with the Minister, I am sure that they would arrive at a modus operandi which would be acceptable to all parties and preserve a very valuable asset to the country.
I oppose the amendment very strenuously and I ask the Minister not to accept it, because I see nothing in it but an attempt to restrict the rights of the individuals who live along the banks of rivers and the farmers of the country who have been placed in this unfortunate position because of the particular lack in the preceding Land Acts. I fail to see what other good this amendment could do, if accepted, unless to preserve something from which we have been trying to get away for a considerable time in this country, and that is to preserve the scattered remnants of feudalism. It has been pointed out to us here that the people who walk along the banks of the rivers or over the farmers' land would not do any damage and that the only persons likely to do any damage to property would be the so-called peasantry. If the situation were reversed, and the ordinary small farmer in the country or the worker living along the banks of the river proceeded to walk across the front lawn of the native landlord he would soon find that the thing would not work out in the same way at all. He would be asked where he was going and what was his business, and he would be told that he was trespassing, and, if he did not get away quickly, he would be prosecuted. We all know that that has operated here and that it has been the cause of untold misfortune and has been the cause of imprisonment and every other kind of hardship short of hanging, and I think I might even include hanging. I say that the Bill should be allowed to stand as it is, and I hope that the Minister will not accept this amendment under any circumstances.
It has also been pointed out that the people of this country—the farmers —are sportsmen. I think it was Senator Miss Browne who said it. We know very well that the people of this country, and particularly the farmers, are sportsmen; but some people seem to have a very exaggerated idea as to what constitutes a sportsman in this country. It is not necessary for a man to have a very big banking account to make him a sportsman. We have men in this country who are just as genuine sportsmen as the greatest financiers in the land and they have not the price of their breakfast. These are the kind of people of whom I am thinking, and it is my opinion they should be catered for by every Bill brought forward in this Oireachtas. I cannot understand the attitude of the Labour members in standing up in favour of this amendment. If they knew the hardships of these people, as I know them—the hardships of the small farmers and farm labourers living along the banks of the rivers—they would not favour this amendment.
Tell us about it.
I do not want to stand here all the evening telling you about it. The thing is too obvious for any repetition. The farmers are being penalised because they go out shooting on their own lands. The people on the banks of the rivers are starving because of some individual who is living in Paris, or somewhere else. I make no difference, or very little difference, between the absentee landlord and the native landlord. I believe that in no other country does such a state of affairs exist as exists in this country. The people in this country have nothing but welcome for tourists or sportsmen, but in no other country can tourists or sportsmen ride roughshod over the people without paying their way. The farmers of England are paid compensation for allowing the so-called sportsmen to run over their lands. I make the statement—and I challenge contradiction on it—that I have done as much for sport in this country as any other member of this House, and also that I am as good a sportsman as any other member of this House—in various forms of sport. I oppose the amendment because I believe it is detrimental to the interests of the people as a whole, and that it is also detrimental to fishing and sporting in this country.
I want to say that the Senator misses the whole point and fails to understand the attitude of the Labour members on this matter. Let me try and make it clear to him. Take the case of a stretch of good salmon river running for three or four miles, with one individual or a number of individuals owning the banks of the river along that stretch. One of these men takes no care whatever over the preservation of the river. By his action, he discourages his neighbours and, immediately, the co-operation so vitally necessary for the continuance of a very valuable industry in salmon is broken and, as somebody said before me, in a very short time the salmon is entirely exterminated from the river and everyone loses—the nation loses. It may be necessary sometimes to be cruel in order to be kind, but if we are going to open up opportunities for every person to poach these rivers, we are going to destroy a very valuable industry, and to disemploy or take away the livelihood of great numbers of people throughout the country. That is the interest that the Labour members have in the matter. We are not trying to define a sportsman. A dock labourer can be as good a sportsman as a duke, and very often is. We are not going into that at all. We believe that we are helping to preserve a great national asset. We believe that the present clause in the Bill will tend to destroy that, and we have as much interest in the future of this country as Senator Quirke or the Government have. That is our interest in this matter.
Senator Quirke has spoken of the ordinary farmers in this country who are sportsmen. We all know that there are plenty of honest sportsmen—poor men—in this country. I can also say that they did not rob any bank in order to make a banking account.
I do not question Senator Foran's interest in this country, or that of the members of his Party, by any means, but I do say that he is looking at the thing from the wrong angle. What I do say is that the speeches in favour of this amendment are just a helpless argument to prove that the fishing and sporting rights of this country can be better looked after by the landlords than by the Government of this country. After this Bill passes, does all power to protect the fishing and sporting interests of this country pass out of the hands of the State? I say it does not. Senator Miss Browne spoke of bank robberies with reference to me. As far as bank robberies are concerned, I can say——
Senator Miss Browne's remark did not apply to you, Senator.
It certainly did. Senator Miss Browne meant it for me.
I did not.
Any time that anybody mentions bank robbery in this House I am prepared to take them on their words. Senator Miss Browne mentioned that to-day and Senator Fanning mentioned it yesterday.
I beg your pardon, I did not. That is absolutely unfair to me. I never used such an expression in my life, nor would I use it. That statement should be withdrawn.
The Senator will accept Senator Fanning's statement.
I am sorry, but I cannot. Senator Fanning may have forgotten what he said in the heat of the moment, but when Senator MacEllin was speaking yesterday Senator Fanning got up and mentioned bank robbers and looters in connection with the land. I said that I would challenge anybody on that subject at any time, and if Senator Fanning wishes to debate that question I am quite ready to meet him either here or in Tipperary or anywhere else, and to discuss bank robberies if necessary in his own district, around Tipperary or anywhere else.
I should like to clear up this point. I quite understand the responsibility attaching to a remark of that kind. It is true, and I am sure that Senator Quirke will not dispute it, that innumerable bank robberies are taking place——
Refer to what you said yesterday, Senator, but do not discuss bank robberies.
Members of the Dáil were accused of those things and they pleaded guilty to them in public statements outside.
That is quite sufficient.
I want to defend myself here——
That is quite sufficient, Senator.
For the convenience of the House, I accept——
Please sit down, Senator.
The House has been invited to reject this amendment because it stands for feudalism and the abuses of feudalism whatever those may be. That appeal has been made to the House by Senator Quirke, who comes from the same part of the country as I do. I think it is a statement which should not be allowed to pass uncontroverted. I am going to make a number of assertions with regard to all this sort of thing in the part of the country where I live and where Senator Quirke lives. There is in that part of the country a great deal of free fishing. Fishing is an extremely democratic sport in the neighbourhood of Clonmel and South Tipperary and anybody who is able to buy a rod and can afford to buy some casts and flies need not be short of sport. That is an assertion I make and which I am prepared to uphold and maintain against all comers. With regard to these feudal persons, among which I have no doubt Senator Quirke would desire to number me, I have some fishing rights on the bank of the River Suir. I allow other people to fish on those banks over a considerable portion of my property, free of any charge and regardless of what class they belong to or what their standing is. That is a pure gift on my part and my next door neighbour does very much the same thing. I do not want to weary the House but I know that there is a great deal of that and the idea that there are men starving who might not starve if they could find some fish to catch is the greatest nonsense I have ever heard and I ask the House not to believe it. There is no difficulty, I repeat, in any part of the country in the way of any man who knows how to fish and who can buy a rod, including Senator Quirke, catching fish if he likes. I know no district in which there is not free fishing available and quite within reach.
I am afraid that my contribution to this debate will be a very milk and water contribution after what we have been listening to. I can speak only from my own experience. I know nothing whatever about fishing, but so far as shooting is concerned, I rent a shoot from separate individuals. It is bogland, of course, and not mountain land. I made my arrangements with each person individually without reference to any other person and I got the shoot, I think, at a very reasonable price. I have always found the arrangements extremely satisfactory and I know several other people who have obtained shoots in exactly the same way. I know that if you hold a shoot under a lease and some man over whose land you shoot resents your having the right to shoot over his land, he is certainly a potential if not an actual poacher, whereas if you rent individually from the owners of the land and your shoot is occasionally poached, as mine is by wealthy people who come long distances in motor cars, you will find that every member of every family in all the small houses are potential keepers for you. If you have a lease, you will have to have a keeper and if your shoot is any size at all these people with motor cars can generally manage to be where the keeper is not, or the disgruntled owner of the land can take advantage of the keeper's absence to poach your land. That is just my experience for what it is worth, but I do think that the happiest relationship, if you can bring it about, is established by dealing individually with the owners of the land in order to obtain your shoot. That certainly is my experience and it has been very satisfactory.
I have some sporting rights and I suppose I am like the ordinary farmer in the country—I never put any value on those sporting rights, and, consequently, there is not a bird in any part of the land I own now. I leave it free and unprotected to everybody, and I expect that is bad policy. I have some fishing rights which I have given over to an angling association free of charge, but my point is that the ordinary farmer will take no interest whatever in preserving fishing or sporting rights if we adopt what is in this Bill. I want to ask the Minister if he could tell us what revenue the country has derived from the sporting rights held by the Land Commission or what use is made of them. I understand that they have a considerable number of sporting rights in several districts in the South and West and I should like to know what income the country derives from those rights that they hold.
Might I ask the House to agree that the Minister should now wind up the debate on this amendment?
We have spent a long time at it, and I think it would be a wise proceeding.
I could not really say at the moment what revenue the Land Commission derives from sporting rights still in their hands, but we could have enquiries made and get information on the point later on. I think this has been pretty well thrashed out and I see no reason to change my mind on the matter. I believe that from the point of view of the development of fisheries this is a very valuable section. I believe also that for the general peace of certain districts it is a very valuable section. Men have legal rights to shoot over certain farmers' lands, and if they attempt to exercise them there is only going to be trouble in the district and, as Senator Robinson has pointed out, if a man wants to take a shoot it is in all cases better to take it from the farmers who are owners of the shooting rights than from some landlord who owns shooting rights over tenanted land. There is everything to be said for the rejection of this amendment. This amendment is much wider than the following amendment. It would inhibit the Land Commission from touching either sporting or fishing rights, while the next amendment, No. 41, prevents the Land Commission from touching fishing rights and leaves sporting rights to go by the board. I have objections to both amendments and I think that the discussion that has taken place on No. 40 has covered No. 41. I would ask the Seanad to reject both.
I move that the Question be now put.
Amendment put and declared carried,Senators Mrs. Clarke, Quirke, D.L. Robinson and S. Robinson dissenting.
I move amendment 44:—
Section 37, sub-section (6). To delete in lines 28-29 the words "coastal or other erosion or other similar cause" and to substitute therefor the words "the permanent or occasional incursion thereon of water, sand or other substance (whether liquid or solid)."
This amendment and amendments 42 and 43 were promised by me in the Dáil to make sure that permanent damage done by a breach of embankments will be dealt with in the same way as damage done by coast erosion.
I move amendment 42:—
Section 37, sub-section (1). After the word "coast" in line 3 to insert the words "or other."
This amendment is consequential on the previous amendment.
I move amendment 43:—
Section 37, sub-section (2). After the word "coast" in line 13 to insert the words "or other."
I move amendment 45:—
Section 38, sub-section (1). To delete in line 35 the word "is", where it secondly occurs, and to substitute therefor the words and figures "was on the 9th day of August, 1923".
I move amendment 48:—
Secton 43. To delete all after the word "sufficient" in line 15 down to the end of paragraph (b).
This is an extremely technical amendment and I am not at all sure that I can make it really understandable by the House, but I am sure the Minister will understand it. Under one of the Land Purchase Acts which was passed when there was a very considerable amount of arrears of rent due by the tenants, a portion of that rent, which was called compounded arrears was, instead of being made payable at once, added to the purchase money and was to be repaid by the tenant by funding it. That is, the tenant purchaser, in addition to his orignal annuity, paid an additional annuity which was to redeem the amount of the compounded arrears of rent. Now, when the holding was not sublet, there was no difficulty about that, but when the holding was sublet a difficult situation arose. In that case, the additional annuity which was to redeem the compounded arrears of rent had to be apportioned between the purchasing tenant and his sub-tenant or, perhaps, sub-tenants, but at any rate it had to be apportioned between the tenant and the sub-tenant.
The transaction with which Section 43 deals is the case where the sub-tenant has become a direct tenant to the Land Commission as he was entitled to. Instead of being a tenant to his own immediate landlord, he became a tenant to the Land Commission and entered into an agreement for the purchase of his bit of the holding with the Land Commission. It is with the distribution of the purchase money on that kind of sale that this section deals. The portion of the additional annuity that was payable by the sub-tenant is charged in that case on the bit that he is buying under the Land Purchase Acts and it is when the distribution of the purchase money on that sale is taking place that it is redeemable out of what is called the intervening interest of his immediate landlord, and if that is sufficient it is all right. If it is not sufficient, then under sub-section (2) of this section it has to be redeemed out of a sum added to the head landlord's purchase money for compounded arrears. Now this is a transaction really between the immediate tenant and the sub-tenant and for the life of me I cannot see why the deficiency for the purpose of redeeming his portion of the annuity should be thrown on the unfortunate landlord who has nothing to do with it, and had nothing. So far as I can make out, it might as well have been charged upon me. I would be very glad if the Minister would explain the matter.
The effect of the amendment would be to saddle the sub-tenant with a debt which the landlord or middleman owes to the Land Commission. This is dealt with in three ways. There is first the case where the middleman owes more to the Land Commission than the sub-tenant owes to him. There is another where the sub-tenant owes more to the middleman than the middleman owes to the Land Commission or where there is a surplus. Where there is something due to the landlord, we credit him with it and recover it from the sub-tenant. Where the landlord's liabilities to the Land Commission are more than the sub-tenant's liabilities to him, we are simply charging the sub-tenant with his past liabilities to the landlord and making the landlord pay by deduction from his bonds. It would be unfair, if the middleman had got his rent from the sub-tenant all the time and had himself failed to pay the Land Commission, to make the sub-tenant pay the landlord's debts. The landlord or middleman will have to pay his own debts and we are making provision for that.
The middleman should pursue the sub-tenant.
This is a case where the sub-tenant owes the middleman less than the middleman owes the Land Commission. It would be unfair for the Land Commission to follow the sub-tenant for the middleman's debts.
I certainly cannot see the justice of it.
I cannot make it any clearer.
I do not see why the landlord should pay anybody's debts but his own.
That is all he is being asked to do.
I move amendment 49. This amendment and all the amendments on the same page except No. 51, which is in Senator Linehan's name, may, perhaps, be spoken to at the same time. All the others are consequential on No. 49.
I think that would be the proper course.
Tenanted lands which have an actual or potential value as building ground were excepted from Section 24 of the Act of 1923 and could be resumed by the landlord for use as building sites. Section 46 of this Bill repeals that and, in effect, provides that the power of resumption for building purposes shall not be exercised by the landlord unless he has resumed possession prior to 28th June, 1933. It takes away entirely the landlord's right of resumption for building purposes. I admit that this exclusion of tenanted lands from the benefits of the Land Purchase Act ought not to continue indefinitely. If it is not exercised within a reasonable time—if actual building operations have not been undertaken within a reasonable time— I admit that the right of resumption by the landlord should be extinguished. But I submit that this right of resumption for building purposes should not be cut off suddenly and at once. A further definite period—I have put it at ten years in the amendment, but that is subject to alteration if a more reasonable time can be suggested —ought to be allowed after which the land should vest in the tenant unless building operations had actually commenced. As I have said, the period of ten years in the amendment is subject to correction, if necessary. A number of these holdings are really building estates. I am thinking of estates near the City of Dublin or near some of the larger suburbs, or places like Killiney and Ballybrack. The development of a building estate is necessarily a very slow process. This amendment, if carried, will give a stimulus to building. If the owners have only a certain number of years in which to exercise this right of resumption for building purposes, they will set to and get the work done very quickly. We all know what the building policy of the late Government was, and what the building policy of the present Government is. The need for houses is very great. The sooner building is begun the better. If you fixed a period of ten years, or whatever number of years the Seanad thinks reasonable, you would probably get building to proceed quickly and a large amount of employment would be given. On the other hand, if you vest the land in the tenant without this right of resumption, the tenant will be the only person who will have building rights, and he is much more unlikely to utilise these rights than the owner or landlord from whom he originally held. He will not be a man with means. He could only deal with building on his own small holding and the development of building in the neighbourhood could not possibly be achieved in the same way as if the right of resumption existed.
Since the Act of 1923 the landlords have been given 10 years in which to resume their holdings. The Act of 1927 had a provision that if the landlords did not exercise their rights of resumption within five years thereafter, the judicial commissioner could make an order declaring that the whole or any portion of the lands should be purchased. Several cases have come to my notice in which the tenant was in occupation of and working the land for 100 years. In one case which I know, the tenant's forefathers had been in the farm for 170 years and paid rent all that time. The landlord never looked at it. All he knew about it was that he got his rent. After 170 years, are we to allow a landlord to come along and say: "My dear man, this is building ground. You will have to get out"? I do not think that that would be fair. I am not satisfied with the section to this extent—if I could see a way whereby the local authority would get the benefit of the increased value of the holding I should give it to them rather than to the tenant. But certainly, as between landlord and tenant, the advantage should go to the tenant who has been in possession of and working the holding during his life and whose forefathers were probably in possession of the same holding. I cannot see my way to accept the amendment. They had ten years. They should not have had those rights during these ten years, but they had them, and certainly they will not be extended at my will.
I agree with the Minister. It would be foolish to accept the amendment. It must be remembered that from 1923 to 1933 there never was, and probably never will be again, so many facilities, and so much encouragement and inducement given, for developing building land, owing to the Housing Acts that, were passed since this Parliament was established. The various Housing Acts granted financial and other facilities to owners of suitable building land for the purpose of developing it. They have had ten years in which to resume the land and to build. Having failed to do so, are we to continue to allow these people to have these rights for all time, and to allow them to come in at any time and say: "I am going to resume this land for building purposes"? We must be reasonable about all these things. If tenants have been in possession for over 100 years, surely it is unreasonable that former landlords or their descendants should be able to come along at a later stage and say: "We want this ground for building purposes; you must get out." With all respect to Senator Brown, who, generally speaking, is reasonable in the amendments he brings forward, I think this is an unreasonable one. The ten years they have had since 1923 will never come again.
It might if there was a Labour Government.
I hope that a Labour Government would not continue the nefarious practice that has been going on in this country for many years, whereby the lords of the soil practically owned the bodies and souls of the tenants. I appeal to Senator Brown not to press the amendment.
I do not like to divide the House on this question. Would it make any difference if the period of ten years was reduced to a more reasonable figure? In moving the amendment I felt that ten years was probably too long. At the present time there must be numbers of people who were preparing to build, in the faith which they had a right to have, before this Bill was introduced, that they would be able to carry it out. I suggest that if a building proposition was in actual preparation, and if it was commenced within, say, three years, it should be allowed to go on.
Anything in the nature of a shortening of the period would, in my opinion, be calculated only to aggravate the situation. I could not, under any circumstances, see my way to support Senator Brown there.
It appears to me that the question is: who is to get the enhanced value of the land? If an agricultural holder wants to retain possession of land outside a town, as agricultural land, notwithstanding the enhanced price he would be able to obtain for it as building land, there is a certain distinct advantage to the amenties of the neighbourhood. I am not so anxious to see every bit of land in the neighbourhood of a town turned into houses. I would rather see a number of open spaces in between, even if they are agricultural land. If it is desirable that lands should be occupied as building land, then I agree with the Minister that the holders have had it for a long time. Where landlords have had notice since 1923 of the probability of the land being acquired for building, the agricultural holder is the man entitled to the enhanced value of the building land.
I am opposed to the amendment and to a further extension of the period during which a landlord may obtain land to be utilised for building. The tenants of these holdings have hitherto been excluded from these advantages and they are waiting patiently for relief. I consider that this is one of the most valuable sections in the Bill. Under the Land Act of 1927 the landlords got notice that they would get a certain number of years to resume the land and to utilise it for building. Six years have gone by and nothing has been done. I hope the Minister will hold firm in having this clause retained in the Bill.
Senator Linehan seems to think that nothing has been done. He is quite right. I do not think anything the Minister has said about the amendment indicates that anything is going to be done. From the tenant, who has been in possession for ten years, we have no undertaking that he is going to do any building. Senator Brown's amendment aims at trying to get building carried out.
Certainly. It proposes that land is to be resumed only for building purposes, and ten years is mentioned.
The landlord already had ten years and did not take advantage of it. It is now proposed to give a further ten years.
My point is that there is not to be ten years but perpetuity, and that the matter is going to be left at that. I do not say that the ten years suggested by Senator Brown is right but I think we should follow along that line. Before the land is taken the landlord should be given a chance of building. Give him a year. He has to prove to the Land Commission that he intends to build. In that way something is going to be done, and houses will be built. If the section is let go as it stands there is going to be no building at all. That is the way I look at it. Senator Farren complained that nothing had been done for ten years. As the section stands there is nothing binding on anyone to do anything. The amendment compels someone to do something. I suggest that the amendment might be altered, so as to give an owner, say, twelve months within which to satisfy the Land Commission that he is going on with a building scheme, which would justify them in letting him resume the land. That is business. The other is not business at all. If Senator Farren would look well at it, this would leave the land in the possession of the tenant where the owner has so far shown no sign whatever of starting building.
This seems to be a question between the man who wants to build a house and the man who owns the land. Take the case of a man who owns the land for 100 years. I do not think that the right or claim to build a house should supersede the right of such a man, the agricultural holder who has ploughed and worked that land for many years. I think the Minister is quite right in refusing to accept the position set out in the amendment. I am entirely in favour of the unfortunate poor man who has, between himself and his people, been digging that land for 100 years. As between him and the man who now comes along and says he wants to build a house on the land, my sympathies are with the tenant—the man who is now working the land.
It seems to me there is not very much difference between the point of view taken by Senator Brown and those who are opposed to the amendment. Senator Brown is concerned with a small number of people who have building schemes definitely in contemplation. This Bill will come into law in October and it goes back to June. If the Minister would agree, two years would cover anybody who has anything in contemplation in the way of building. So far as the future is concerned there is no difference between the Senators in any side of the House.
The mere fact of giving them an extension of what they already had will not alter the position. They had already that right under the 1923 Act for ten years. Senator Jameson is missing the whole point. The tenants in certain lands have held these lands at any period within the ten years from 1923 and the original owners could come back now and get that land, if the amendment passed. The owners have not taken advantage of the Act of 1923. There was a definite period fixed by that Act. A period of ten years was given in which for the purpose of carrying out building operations they could resume. That period of ten years has elapsed and they have not taken advantage of the Act of 1923. Senator Brown's amendment means that we are going to give them another ten years. I think it is most unjust and most unreasonable and I am surprised that Senator Brown should put forward that proposition. Having heard the views of the House, I think the proper thing for the Senator would now be to withdraw the amendment.
I agree that ten years was too long. I am quite prepared to yield to argument. I suggest to the Minister an alternative of three years. What I really want to protect now are the people who have actually a building scheme at the moment. The guillotine has come down on them. It came down in June last. They cannot do anything in the way of resumption for building purposes unless they had actually commenced before the date in June. There must be a number of people who have actually gone some length, probably a great length in preparing a scheme for building. I submit that these people should be protected and if say within 12 months they satisfy the Land Commission that they are actually starting on the work of building within that time I think the Minister ought to allow the amendment in that form to pass.
Senator Brown has brought out that the critical date is the 28th of June, not the passing of the Bill. We are providing that if the landlord did exercise his right to resume the holding and created a new tenancy, as some of them did, if they did not start the building on the 28th June, that the resumption proceedings are annulled. In a number of cases the landlords got the tenants evicted and, having no intention of proceeding to build, they immediately put the tenant in as a new tenant. We are annulling these tenancies. We are annulling the resumption proceedings and, definitely, we are deciding that if the landlords did not exercise their rights prior to the 28th June, or having exercised their rights to resume did not proceed to build, they are not to get the benefit of the Land Act of 1923. I think it is only fair that as between the landlord and the tenant the tenant should get the increment seeing that it is his sweat was in the land rather than that the increment should go to the landlord.
I do not intend to divide the House on this amendment. I tried to make as reasonable a suggestion as I could, but it does not seem to be acceptable.
I move amendment 51:—
Section 46, sub-section (1). To delete in lines 62-63 the words and brackets "(other than the provisions relating to tenanted land having potential or actual value or utility as building ground)".
I was of opinion that these words are weak, but I have been advised that the amendment is not necessary and, therefore, I ask the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment 57:—
Section 47. To add at the end of the section the words "Provided that such development does not adversely affect the rights of tenants of the bog or make any undue encroachment on the future necessary supply of turbary for the said tenants and provided that such acquisition is approved by a majority of such tenants in the case of such bog."
The object of the amendment is to protect the rights of turbary users, rights which have been given to certain tenants in connection with their holdings. It is obvious that these rights need to be protected. In case that there would be any question of any encroachment of their rights and the majority of the tenants were opposed to it or opposed to taking over possession of the bog for developing purposes, that taking over was not to take place. It is only fair that it should be left to the majority of the tenants to decide in cases where several tenants owned portion of a bog. I take it that the majority may be opposed to it for economic reasons— for the purpose of protecting the necessary turbary for their own use. I submit there is nothing unreasonable in the amendment.
The next amendment on the Paper, amendment 58, meets everything that is reasonable in this amendment. It provides that the Land Commission shall have due regard to the reasonable requirements of the occupiers of land in the neighbourhood in respect of turf for consumption as fuel in their own houses and not for sale. That meets everything that is reasonable in this amendment.
With the leave of the House, I beg to withdraw my amendment.
I beg to move amendment 58:—
Section 47. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) In the exercise by the Land Commission of the extended powers conferred by this section due regard shall be had to the reasonable requirements of the occupiers of land in the neighbourhood in respect of turf for consumption as fuel in their own houses and not for sale.
This is to meet Senator Garahan's point.
I formally move amendment 59:—
New section. Before Section 49 to insert a new section as follows:—
49.—(1) The following provisions shall apply to and have effect in respect of every tithe rentcharge or variable rent issuing out of a hereditament which is, at the passing of this Act, situate within the county borough of Dublin, that is to say:—
(a) where a tithe rentcharge or a variable rent to which these provisions apply has in fact been varied under and in accordance with Sections 2 and 3 of the Tithe Rentcharge (Ireland) Act, 1900, or those sections as applied by Section 90 of the Irish Land Act, 1900, and also under and in accordance with Section 49 of the Land Act, 1931, the said Sections 2 and 3 and the said Section 49 shall apply and be deemed always to have applied to such tithe rentcharge or such variable rent accordingly;
(b) where a tithe rentcharge or a variable rent to which these provisions apply has not been so varied as aforesaid, Section 49 of the Land Act, 1931, shall apply to such tithe rentcharge or such variable rent but with and subject to the following modifications, that is to say,
(i) the 1st day of November, 1933, shall be substituted for the 1st day of November, 1930, wherever it occurs, and
(ii) the 2nd day of November, 1933, shall be substituted for the 2nd day of November, 1930, and
(c) sixty-two per cent. shall be substituted for 92 per cent.
(2) In this section the expressions "tithe rentcharge" and "variable rent" have the same meanings respectively as they have in Section 49 of the Land Act, 1931.
These tithe rents and variable rents were fixed in relation to agricultural prices. There is no agricultural land inside the boundaries of the City of Dublin. Consequently, the tenants have not had their variable and tithe rents reduced. They had no legal power to follow the landlord for any reduction he might get from the Land Commission. This amendment is designed to give the tenants legal rights to pursue the landlord to pass on to them any reduction he would get from the Land Commission. It is impossible to carry that out exactly, and as the tithe rents and variable rents vary from something like 38 per cent. upwards, we have taken the flat rate of 38 per cent. There was a discussion on this in the Dáil and we were not prepared to accept the amendment in the form in which it was introduced. We have had this amendment drafted by the Parliamentary Draftsman and I think it covers the case that Deputies in the Dáil desired to cover.
New section agreed to.
I beg to move amendment 60:—
Section 52, sub-section (1). To delete in line 21 the word "shall" and to substitute therefor the word "may."
This section is one which compels the Land Commission, because the word is "shall." I am moving to substitute the word "may." Under this section the Land Commission, when they are distributing the purchase money, when it comes to the stage of paying the people on the schedule the money which has been found to be due to them out of the purchase money, shall deduct from that money any debt of any kind that is due to the State. Now that is a tremendously strong power. Up to the present the only debts that were deductible from the purchase money paid to the original vendor of land were death duties and income tax arising in connection with the land itself. Now, this gives the Land Commission not only the right but the duty of making a deduction from any money coming to anybody mentioned on the schedule who owes a penny to the State. I suggest that is altogether too wide a thing to do and the Land Commission ought not be compelled to do it. I suggest the word "may" ought to be put in, giving them a discretion. There may be some debts which ought not to be deducted. I suggest to the Minister that it would be equally effective, so far as the collection of debts which ought to be paid out of the purchase money is concerned, if he allows the word "may" to be substituted for "shall."
I do not think Senator Brown has adverted to the significance of the words "to any person who is not resident in Saorstát Eireann." The Land Commission are not compelled to deduct debts which are claimed by any State Department from all persons who are getting money from the Land Commission, but merely from persons not resident in Saorstát Eireann. I think it is a reasonable thing that if a State Department has a claim against persons who are receiving moneys from the Land Commission it should enter its claim and the Land Commission shall not distribute those moneys until the debts due by such people to the other State Department have been met.
I did not realise that this applied only to debts payable by persons resident outside Saorstát Eireann. There are many cases in which the estate, the purchase money of which is being distributed, belongs to an owner resident in the Saorstát, but it might happen that this executor or trustee may be resident outside the Saorstát. I do not see that that ought to make any difference. Do I understand also that under sub-section (2) the right of retainer only applies?
In the circumstances I withdraw amendment 60.
Amendment 61, which is in my name, reads:
Section 52, sub-section (2). After the word "requires" in line 28 to insert the words "and as the Land Commission is satisfied is not more than sufficient."
As to the right of retainer, I am glad to recognise that it does apply only to cases where the debt is due by a person outside Saorstát Eireann. The object of this amendment is that the Land Commission should retain only a sum which they are satisfied is not more than enough to pay the debt. The most common debt is the debt that is due for death duties. Income tax is not a debt as to the amount of which there is ever very much question, but as to death duties, there is very often a very serious question. In practice what happens is that the duty is paid on a temporary valuation, a provisional valuation, and it may be a very long time, generally months, frequently even years, before the actual amount of the death duty is ascertained in figures. What I want to do by this amendment is to ask the Land Commission not to retain more than they think is reasonably sufficient to meet the debt.
I wonder has Senator Brown noted the important fact that this section provides that the Land Commission will only do what another Government Department tells them? It is another Government Department that decides the amount of the debt. Senator Brown would ask the Land Commission to assess the actual amount due.
In effect, that would be the result of the amendment. The Land Commission is here given an obligation to retain certain moneys, such moneys as another Government Department has intimated to it are due to the State.
It means that the Land Commission should be satisfied by the other Department that the sum they are asked to retain is only sufficient, and is not largely in excess of what might be required.
The Land Commission would be discharging simply departmental functions; they would not be supposed to inquire into the merits of the case. Under the amendment an obligation is placed on them to inquire into the merits of a case which is not within the scope of their own Department and in respect of which they know nothing. Is it not reasonable that the Land Commission should be asked to take the word of the other Department which knows the facts and is in a position to estimate the amount of the claim? I think the Senator's amendment is not as reasonable as his amendments usually are.