I do not want at this stage to take up the time of the House in debating this unless the Minister has some intention of relenting. Perhaps people are wiser after a night's rest, and the Minister, therefore, may have a new viewpoint about this amendment. I can understand his objection that he does not want to include the Minister for Agriculture when the Minister for Lands is excluded. I have been thinking about that, and I was wondering whether the Minister would be prepared to accept, instead of the Minister for Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture, that would exclude the Minister for Agriculture. If the Minister would give consideration to that it might meet the case. I do not want to go into any further discussion now because I do not think it is going to have any effect.
Land Bill, 1938—Committee (Resumed).
I would ask Senator Baxter to be reasonable for once. He must know that when persons are being examined for the position of Land Commission inspectors they are put through the mill as far as their knowledge of agriculture is concerned and that a very great number of them, in fact, have degrees in agricultural science. I can see very little, if any difference, between what is in the original amendment and what the Senator suggests now. It will really only delay matters. It is quite obvious that the men who are on the job take everything into consideration. They have the knowledge and they are in a position to examine fully into the matter. In fact, it is natural to assume that they are sufficiently efficient without having to consult the Department of Agriculture. It would really hold up matters, and I, therefore, ask the Senator to withdraw his amendment.
The extraordinary thing about it is that I feel, after hearing Senator Quirke, that he always goes the wrong way about getting people to do the right thing. My disposition would be to continue the discussion and put the amendment to the House. But I want to facilitate the work of the House and, despite what Senator Quirke would drive one to say, I do not want to hold up the Minister and I shall withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 10:—
Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(3) Where the Land Commission proposes, under the foregoing sub-section, to resume in whole or in part any holding vested under the Land Purchase Acts in them or in the late Congested Districts Board for Ireland, and the owner offers alternative land, the Land Commission shall accept the offer provided the land offered is arable land."
It may happen, and I know it has happened in some cases, where a man who is owner of land value for more than £2,000, the amount of land that under certain circumstances he may be allowed to hold, may have two farms, and the Land Commission might come along and say: "We want this land." If that man's other land is arable, the amendment would give the owner the right to say to the Land Commission: "I am offering you alternative land. I want this land, but you can have other land if you pay the price for it." That is a reasonable position in which to place an owner whose land is being acquired. Remember this is tenanted land, and is being well worked, yet it might be acquired for any of the reasons set out in the Bill, one of which Senator Baxter's amendment proposed to clarify in some way. When a Board of Health is acquiring land under the ordinary law for the building of labourers' cottages, the owner of the land has the right to offer alternative land provided it is suitable. The matter then comes before an inspector, and if the owner's proposal is reasonable the board of health must accept it. I should like the Minister to say if he will accept the amendment and in that way save further discussion.
It is a usual thing, and happens very often, for the Land Commission to accept alternative land. That is the usual practice, but I would not care to be bound to it, because that would be tying the hands of the Land Commission unnecessarily. Anyone who has an experience of the working of the Land Commission knows that it is quite a usual thing to accept alternative land. If a man says he wants a farm the Land Commission give the matter every consideration. The amendment sets bounds on the Land Commission, and for that reason I would not accept it, but I am telling the Senator what has been the practice. There may be occasions where alternative land would be offered which would not be at all suitable for the purpose required. That position might arise and would arise. I have known cases where the Land Commission acted as I explained and I know that it is a common practice in connection with their work. They do not go out to hurt owners of land but try to accommodate them. If the amendment was accepted it would tie the hands of the Land Commission, and I think the Senator recognises that.
I believe the Minister is sincere in what he says, but I cannot accept what has been the practice. I know that the Minister means what he says but I would prefer to have a few lines in black and white. I have some experience of the work of civil servants having been a part-time civil servant at one time, when I was reporter of prices at fairs for the Department of Agriculture. I had a fairly intimate knowledge of that Department in those days, and since I entered public life in 1922 I know the attitude of civil servants, because I have had a good deal to do with them one way or another. I am perfectly satisfied, while not finding any fault with them, that as a rule they always adopt the line of least resistance. I might give an instance of how officers in the Department work.
In 1917-18, the compulsory tillage order was in operation and, as the secretary to the Land Commission, who was an officer of the Department during the regime of the British Government, will remember, some land of mine was posted under that order. I went to the county councillor for the district and the Catholic curate, and I agreed to give them any land they wanted, and fixed a price which they accepted. I then went to the Department of Agriculture and informed the officers, and they said it was all right. The next thing that happened was that a few of the agitators went to the Department and said the arrangement would not do, that they would have to get the land they wanted. The Department submitted to the agitation. The officers of the Department promised that I would have the option of giving land which was more suitable if I gave enough of it. I said that I would give any land that was wanted.
An auction was called, and the band began to play, and every bit of good land in the place was selected for tillage. In my opinion that was the wrong thing to do. The only condition made by the auctioneer was that they should pay as much for the land, and for the fencing, but that was not done. The case then came before the courts and the judge said that the action of the Department was disgraceful. I mention that case to show that intimidation can be brought to bear even on the best officers and on the best civil servants, and that it is possible for great injustice to be done to owners of land, unless a provision such as is contained in the amendment is inserted in the Bill.
That is the reason why I say that if some provision of the kind was inserted, it would give some protection. I ask the Minister to be reasonable. While he says that this will never happen, there are cases where it did happen, and it is better to make provision so that it cannot happen in future. I am sure the Minister would not agree to have an injustice done, but without such a provision as this he would not have the necessary authority. The officers of the Department will adopt the line of least resistance, and there will be no protection for owners of land.
There may be something about this matter that I do not understand, but it seems to be common sense that if a man has two farms, one of which he prefers to the extent that he is prepared to sacrifice one in order to save the other, presumably the one to which he gives his attention and is working is less likely to be taken. If he does not work the other land both farms will be taken, but if he has a choice, presumably it will be for the one he will work. Why should that be the one that the Land Commission should want to take, when we have assurance after assurance that they will do everything in their power not to take land that is worked?
I do not think Senator Robinson gets the point. You can see a situation where you have a home farm, a pretty considerable area, and you have another farm some distance away. The truth about it is that it may be the home farm these people have their eyes on and the farm some distance away may not suit the people in question. Although the man who owns the two farms would be prepared to make a concession, would be prepared to cut his losses, so to speak, and would offer the other farm, the other farm is not just what would be wanted. I think you ought to consider there is a question of the lesser evil in a case like this, and you cannot always rush to extremes. If you do, you may have the sort of thing that occurred a few days ago in Leitrim. I am not very well acquainted with the facts of what occurred, except what rumour brings around. You had men going in and breaking the law, so to speak, and in order to hold on to a farm, taking the chance of imprisonment and stirring up a general feeling of unrest. I believe the same applied in another case.
The number of people who will be affected and the total area of land will be so small that it might be better for the Minister to make a concession. One feels that he is not ready to make a concession. So far as his attitude here is concerned, and his general method of approaching a subject, he makes a very favourable impression on the House—on me, at any rate—in comparison with other Ministers. The strange thing about it is that he can get concessions where other people would get only opposition and obstruction. I would say that the Minister is expressing his own feelings, his own views, with regard to policy, and I believe the Minister would put down his foot as quickly as any Minister would when he makes up his mind on the justice of a thing and what is fair in a particular case. But the Minister may not be there all the time. One never knows—none of us has a lease of life—and you might conceivably have Senator Quirke taking his place. Then look at what might happen.
Then you would be ruined.
It would not make any difference to me. As to the Minister's attitude, although he convinces us that the whole administration of his scheme and the carrying out of his policy is going to be reasonable and fair, he does not make any concession so far as the law is concerned. He is a very astute Minister, and he is able to carry the House with him, and he is backed up by substantial advice——
And a majority.
This is a non-Party Assembly and Senators never vote according—well, perhaps we will leave that. I do not want to go into that this morning. I think the Minister ought to accept this proposal so as to guard against the injustice which is going to be done in the matter of taking one farm as against another. If there is injustice, and if there is inconvenience or disadvantage, I think some of the disadvantage ought to be borne by the people who are going to have the advantage of getting new land. The disadvantage ought not always to be accepted by the man who is giving up his land. I am thinking now of the people with tenanted land. There must be a considerable area which will come within the provisions of the Bill and the Minister's policy, at least as interpreted by him as to the way land ought to be used. Quite a number of people are going to be affected by this and I think that the Minister will get goodwill by making a concession; he will get a goodwill that you cannot get when you insist always on the line the Minister has taken. He tells us what is going to be done, but he does not put it in the Bill.
There is no purpose served by bringing the Minister's statement into court. I do not want to be irrelevant, but I remember that a very prominent supporter of the people who are now Fianna Fáil in my county was before the court on a charge under the Offences Against the State Act and his lawyer came to me for a copy of the Official Debates to show what the intention was when the measure was being considered. It did not happen to be in that Act and there was no redress for the poor prisoner. In the course of the debate the Minister, in reply to me, made a certain statement with regard to the interpretation of the Act. It will not serve the tenant to say, in making the protest, that the Minister made such and such a statement. The court will say: "There is the Act and we have to interpret that."
Perhaps the Minister could see his way to accept this. It is a question, I believe, of the lesser evil, and beyond doubt the people who are fortunate enough to get land under this cannot always expect to get the most suitable land in the most convenient places, regardless of what happens the man who owns the land. Most people are in possession of their lands as a result of hard work and industry and by holding the savings which represent the unpaid labour of the family for half a generation. Land has been procured by that sort of endeavour and under this much of it may be lost to families and there ought to be some consideration for them.
The terms of this amendment seem to be very reasonable and I think it ought to be accepted. The Minister seems to be a very kindly, benevolent gentleman. His most extraordinary attitude seems to be completely at variance with the attitude of other Ministers. Several times yesterday, and even this morning, he has reiterated that he agrees practically in toto with the spirit of the amendment submitted by Senator Counihan, and he says there is no danger that that spirit will not be applied in the operation of the measure. I am perfectly sure that he means well, but will his good intentions and his benevolence be carried out by a possible successor? I will ask this kindly Minister to translate his benevolence into law and leave the record of that behind, so that a possible successor will act upon it.
If this amendment is accepted, you can have a position, like this arising. You have to bear in mind the type of farm that is contemplated. I am afraid that some Senators have in mind that we are going to take a well-worked home farm. Senators had better get that out of their minds, because that is not the position. A farmer, a shopkeeper, or anybody else might have two or three farms, one of which might be situated in the midst of a congested area arid the other would be in a place where it would not be of much use to the Land Commission. If we accept this amendment we bind the Land Commission to take the farm he offers, whereas it might not be of much use to them. We would be compelled to do that, if we accept this amendment. If the owner offered us any farm in an area where there is no congestion and where it might not suit the Land Commission, we would nevertheless be compelled to accept it.
I did not think I was talking platitudes at all. I was simply telling what is the actual practice. That is all I was doing, and everybody knows that it is the practice. I have personal knowledge of cases where other lands are offered and where every effort is made to suit the owner. I have known of such cases myself. There may be cases where farms were non-residential, but I know of one case of a man who had two holdings, which were widely separated, and the Land Commission were going for one of these farms, but he offered them one in another county. I expect that the Land Commission wanted that land in order to relieve congestion somewhere else and to bring migrants to it from some other place. They accepted the offer of the farm in a different county and left him with the farm they were going to take because he was able to show that it was of great use to him. They always try to meet the owner in every way possible, but if we were to accept this amendment we tie down the Land Commission to accepting land which might not be of the slightest use to them whatever.
I am sure Senator Counihan will see that himself. A man might have two farms, one in a very congested area— just the very place that we wanted— and he might say "I will not give you that farm, but will give you the other farm"—away in some place that would be absolutely no good to the Land Commission. I do not think I am unreasonable when I say that I cannot accept this amendment. I am not trying to put anything across on the House. I am merely pointing out what is a well-known fact and showing the danger that exists. I say that it is a matter for the Land Commission to decide. Speaking from my own experience and also from what I have been informed—and naturally most of my information comes from the officers of the Department as to the type of farms that have been taken, and I could not have personal knowledge of all of them—it is a fact that they go out of their way to meet the convenience of the owners of land in matters of this kind. I think Senator Counihan should not press this amendment. I do not think I am unreasonable in resisting it because, as I say, it would tie the hands of the Land Commission unduly and unreasonably.
I am afraid there is very little use in putting down these amendments except by way. of making a protest. We are constantly putting down amendments which would improve these Bills, and where the Minister himself agrees with the justice of the amendments in a good many cases, and yet he says: "Oh, there is no necessity for that; that is already the practice and will be the practice." At the same time, however, he will not put down a single line to show that it must be the practice. It makes one disheartened to think that when one puts down reasonable amendments here, the Government or the Land Commission are going to insist on being absolute dictators all the time and for all time, and that the Minister cannot allow reasonable amendments to be inserted in the Bill although he agrees that they are reasonable.
The Minister says that a man may have three farms and that he may be a shopkeeper. If he had three farms and was a shopkeeper, they could take up the three farms for the relief of congestion, but if they were leaving that man, even though he were a shopkeeper, one of these farms, the owner should have the right to say which of the farms he intended to keep for himself.
I cannot agree at all that the Land Commission should be allowed to go in and say to a man "You have three farms, and we will take this one of the three which we want, and not the one which you want for yourself." I do not think there is anything reasonable, fair or just in the Minister's statement that the land that is most suitable for the Land Commission must be taken. I know of cases, even in County Dublin; I know of one case where there was a farm that was sold voluntarily to the Land Commission, and their inspectors were trotting around the country trying to find tenants to accept that land, but they could not get them. There was one place where there was a number of suitable tenants for land, and the inspector came along and offered them that land, and they said "No, we will not take that land; if this land here should be divided, we will take it, but the other land that you are offering is no good to us." That happened in County Dublin, and if the Minister wants further particulars about that case, I shall give them to him. Now, those are facts, and we all know that when there is agitation with regard to any particular farm, if the agitation is strong enough the Land Commission will give way.
They always adopt the line of least resistance, or at any rate in most cases. For that reason, unless the Minister can see his way to accept this amendment, I must insist on pressing it to a division.
I wish to support the Minister's attitude in this matter. I think his attitude is most reasonable, particularly because I feel that a lot of these amendments are put down to impede the work of the Land Commission in the acquisition and division of land. I have cases in mind where owners in County Galway at the present time have more than one holding, and if you give the right to these people to say to the Land Commission that they will give one particular holding and keep the other, it will mean very often that the holding which is adjacent to the most congested areas will not be given up because in a number of oases it might be more suitable for the man to keep that particular holding although it would be more economical for the Land Commission to take up that holding and divide it amongst the congests in that area than to take up the other holding where there was no congestion. I certainly am prepared to vote against this amendment.
I hope the Minister will not accept this amendment. One of my reasons for that attitude is that I have in mind the position of the boards of health in acquiring land for the purpose of building labourers' cottages. I have some experience of that matter in County Monaghan, and of what was done, before my time, under the old Labourers Acts, in which you had a somewhat similar provision to that which Senator Counihan wants to have inserted in this Bill. There was a similar provision, as I say, in the Labourers Acts in times gone by, and the result of that provision was that when portion of a man's farm was required for the purpose of building a labourer's cottage, and where he had the right to offer alternative land to that which was required, you had these cottages and plots, at least in some parts of County Monaghan, put away out on the edge of bogs in places where it was not possible for the labourer to eke out even an existence. If this amendment were to be accepted, I think it is quite possible that something similar would happen here. At the present time, these labourers' cottages and plots to which I have referred are a disgrace to the people who put them there and to the laws that allowed them to be put in such a place. They are in places where there is not much hope of employment for the labourers and, at the same time, there is no possible opportunity for these people to raise anything on these plots on which the family could subsist. I hope the Minister will not accept this amendment, and I am prepared to vote against it.
- Baxter, Patrick F.
- Butler, John.
- Counihan, John J.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Hayes, Michael.
- Keane, Sir John.
- Madden, David J.
- McGee, James T.
- Parkinson, James J.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Corkery, Daniel.
- Cummins, William.
- Goulding, Seán.
- Hawkins, Frederick.
- Healy, Denis D.
- Johnston, James.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kennedy, Margaret L.
- Keohane, Patrick T.
- Lynch, Peter T.
- MacDermot, Frank.
- Mac Fhionnlaoich, Peadar
- (Cú Uladh).
- Magennis, William.
- O'Callaghan, William.
- Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
- Quirke, William.
- Robinson, David L.
- Stafford, Matthew.
I move amendment No. 11:—
Before sub-section (3), to insert a new sub-section as follows:
Whenever the Appeal Tribunal have authorised the resumption of any holding, or part of a holding under the foregoing sub-section, the price to be paid for such resumed holding by the Land Commission shall be the market value of such holding.
I am prepared to hear farmers' representatives on the other side say that we get the market value at present and that they will vote on this amendment in the same way as they voted on the last amendment, and I am prepared to hear the Minister state that this is always done, but, as in a previous argument, I want something put into the Acts which will ensure that it will be done. Under previous Land Acts market value does not occur. The statement about the price of land that is in the Act is "a price fair to the Land Commission and a price fair to the owner." Such a thing cannot be. It cannot be, at all events, the market value because as the law stands at present the market value is the value which the land will make in the open market.
There is a legal definition of market value somewhere which could be applied. At present, the price which the Land Commission considers fair is that at which they can take land to distribute amongst landless men and congests at an economic rent. In this particular case we are not talking about the confiscated land that Senator Johnston referred to, the land from which the people were sent to hell or to Connaught. I am talking now about land that has been purchased and paid for by the savings of the present owners or their predecessors, land that has been worked by them, in some cases, for generations. My submission is that if the Land Commission come in and take that land the owner is entitled to get the market value for it, and not a price fair to the Land Commission as stipulated in the Bill.
If the Minister would say that he would accept the amendment it would save a long discussion. It would also help to create a feeling of security amongst the owners of land, which would be a very useful thing at the moment, because the feeling that there is no security is calculated to have a very bad effect.
I am not going to quote the Mrs. Connolly case or any other case. I rely on the justice of the claim that I make in the amendment. What I am seeking is that when land is acquired compulsorily the owner will be paid the market value. I leave it to the Minister to define "market value" in any way he likes. So long as his definition will tend to create a feeling of security amongst farmers that they are going to get a reasonable price for their land, and not the price which has been paid up to the present, I am satisfied.
The speeches from the Benches opposite would lead one to think that there is some justification for the feeling, which is widespread, that Senators opposite have great influence with the Land Commission. They have been very nice to the Minister. He has said nice things to them, and I suggest that he might go one step farther and accept the amendment. We have the Minister's assurance that the market value will be paid for land. Senator Counihan is asking that the assurance be enshrined in the Bill. I wonder would it be too much to ask the Minister that he should consider that request carefully and take steps to put his assurance, as Senator Counihan says, in black and white.
I confess that I do not know much about the procedure relating to the fixing of price, but I understand that the lay commissioners fix the value and that then there can be an appeal to the Appeal Tribunal. In the Land Commission it may be held that these two bodies are quite distinct, but to the ordinary man in the street both are a chip of the one block, so that what one does the other will approve of, or nearly so. If the Minister would accept this amendment it would, I believe, allay the fears of many and make the scheme of land division popular in the country.
Talking of the value of land, it appears to me that people who are not in everyday touch with practical farming cannot be depended upon to fix a fair value on land. Farming is a speculative enterprise. It has its ups and downs. One can say that the value of land some time ago does not represent its value to-day. The kind of arrangement that I would like to see set up for fixing its value would be an arbitration court, the owner to have the power to nominate one arbitrator, the Land Commission another, and the court to be presided over by a neutral chairman.
The court should have power to be able to get all the evidence that it required from both sides. A court of that kind would, I think, go nearer fixing the value of land than the present courts. I suggest that some method of that kind be laid down in the Bill. The success or otherwise of this measure will depend, in my view, on how the value of the land acquired is to be determined.
Various statements have been made from both sides of the House on the question of land distribution. Some Senators appear to think that we are aiming at a multiplicity of small farms. I should be sorry to think that such impression would be created by anything said here. I am sure the Minister has no such intention, and that it is not the policy of the Land Commission. I hope the Minister, when replying, will indicate clearly that it is not his intention to be a party to destroying all large-scale farming in this country.
In other countries the tendency is towards large-scale farming. On the last occasion I mentioned that in Holland they have taken in 500,000 acres from the Zuider Zee at a cost of £200 an acre. With that amount of land at their disposal they will not give out land in less than 150-acre parcels. That is something to think about. The Dutch people are the most progressive agricultural people in the world. I think that we might take a leaf out of their book. I am not saying that that is the right thing to do, but it is something that we should study and seek the reason why such progressive people do these things. We are, I think, at the other end of the stick. We are possibly one of the least progressive agricultural countries that there is. When I was in Germany I saw an 18,000-acre farm. Call it an estate if you like, but it was being worked by a company. Seventy per cent. of the land was tilled and everything was done in the most up-to-date and modern way.
I think it would not be a bad thing at all for this country if we could have co-operative farming or company farming of that kind introduced to some extent. Mass production methods appear to be accepted in industry as the proper thing. Many agricultural countries in the world have also accepted them in connection with agriculture. I should like to hear the Minister say whether he would favour a development of that kind. I think that money invested in such an enterprise would be safer than if put into foreign investments. I also think that the people employed in agriculture of that kind would be far better off than if employed in some of the new industries. I do not wish to say anything further or to delay the time of the House, but I would ask the Minister to consider carefully Senator Counihan's amendment, and if there are no serious objections to it, I think it ought to be enshrined in the Bill.
I have been trying throughout the course of this discussion to look at this problem of land division as dispassionately as anybody. I think I can do that, as I am not influenced by conditions that prevail in other parts of the country, where there are considerable tracts of land and a considerable number of people expecting to get some of it. There is very little land available for sub-division in my county and there are very few people in my county expecting to get land anywhere else. I do not believe they are as jealous as some of their neighbours who have hungry eyes on their neighbour's land and are trying to make the most out of it that they can. If they cannot raise themselves up to a higher level it will not be for want of striving and trying to find a means of exploiting their own possessions to the full.
My view about this amendment is that, if there is to be a State policy with regard to the distribution of land, and that for social or economic reasons it is found necessary to take land off people who own it at present and give it to other people, then the burden for doing that should not be borne by the people who own the land at present. If, for reasons that were stated by Senator McEllin—the possible disturbance that the present position, in the matter of the holding of large tracts of land, may create—or for other reasons, the State deems it its duty and its responsibility to take over land and distribute that land amongst new owners, I cannot see any justification for the case made by Senator Quirke yesterday that, if that land is taken over at its market value, when it goes out to the new owners the new owners will not be able to pay for it, as it would be too dear. I will accept, for the moment, that if you take over land at its market value it may very well be that, with the burden of building a house and out-offices and so on, put on that man in addition to the price, you might very well have a rent that, in present circumstances, with present farming prices, would be uneconomic for the new holder.
This is State policy, however, and if it is to be carried into effect the State ought to bear the burden; it ought not be borne by the man who loses the land. It is quite enough that his land be taken off him. Surely there are some considerations of justice which ought to prevail. What should be the justice in a case of this kind? A man has either the right to own the land or he has not. If the land is his, he is, in my judgment, fully entitled either to the land or to the value of the land. It might be an injustice to take the land off him at all; it may be quite unfair to his family, even to the family history, or to his family in the future. As we know, families rise and fall and in a particular generation there may not be the same vitality and virility that there was in the past; yet the family will go on. There is no doubt that land has been taken from families in one generation because there was evidence, apparently, of debility, but fresh blood flowed in from another branch and the family traditions were carried on. Had the land been left in the possession of the family, the family would continue to go on with the work that it had been doing on this land perhaps for a generation or two before. This land is taken away, and taken away because the State regards it as good State policy to take it and to give it to other people.
The economics of the division of land have been stated by me from my angle in this House before. We will just wait and see what the eventual consequences will be on our small farming policy in the future. I am not going into that now, as I wish to be as relevant as possible. However, I believe that there is a feeling of discontent, of dread suspicion that land is going to be taken off people which ought not to be taken. But, if it is to be taken off them, I have been urging that, in the taking—and in the method of taking—there ought to be justice, there ought to be an assurance that it can only be taken after everything has been considered and after it has been viewed from every angle. If the State regards it as an essential to its social and economic policy to take this land which is a man's own, surely we ought to accept the principle that, if the land is to change hands the man from whom it is taken ought to get the market value of it. He is entitled to that.
In any standards by which we try to regulate our conduct and our relationship to each other in this country, if I get something from somebody else, I have the obligation to give him the value of it. The only reason why the Minister could refuse to insert this in the Bill is that he does not mean that in future cases the owners of land are going to get the market value. If that policy cannot be carried into effect, the Minister and his Department are doing less than justice. I think it is a grave step that the State may do what is felt, when done between individuals, to be an act of injustice. It is considered unjust for one individual to try to score off another and to get something for a consideration which is less than its value. If the State establishes a standard of conduct as between itself and particular citizens who are weaker than the State, who have none of the influence and power at the command of the State, at least as between the very weak and the very strong, there is a greater responsibility on the State to be more than just to these people, but at least it ought to be just.
There is no doubt at all that if, under such Acts as now exist and are going to be administered in the future, as Senator Keane has been saying, we could say the day was very near when this whole problem of sub-division was going to end, when we could say that the Minister would be able to announce that his policy and the policy that would pass to his successor, would be that there is going to be no question of taking over any more land, and the people will be able to make the best of the land as it is, that would be all right; but it is not going to be like that, and we are going to continue this policy probably for a very considerable period. If that is to be the scheme of things, surely the State should set up the standard, right from the beginning, that land is only going to be taken from those people by their getting the value of the land in return. Quite a considerable area of land to-day is probably going to be taken from farmers when they are holders registered under the Land Commission— tenant farmers, as they are styled.
I am quite certain that the possession of that land by them was made possible by the sufferings of the family over a very considerable period and by their hard work and toil.
Now, it is true that we can see families work very hard and undergo very much suffering, indeed; and, through the accumulation of their savings, they get control of property. Yes, even the labourer and the members of his family who are strongly set up in possession of property had to make very great efforts to get control and obtain possession, and it absorbed all their energies. When they did obtain possession of it they seemed to be incapable of that further effort of development that is requisite to get the most out of the land. If it is going to be taken off them again, at least it should only be taken when they have got what the land is value for. One can very well imagine that land being taken from a family where there may be three or four old people who are not working it. Somebody will say— as perhaps someone has said already —that they are members of a dying family, that they were the last of their line and that the land was going to be taken from them. But others could tell you that there were days when they held their heads higher than anybody else around, when they were an example to all by their thrift and industry, and that by that effort they had used themselves up. Now their land is going to be taken and at less than its market value.
It seems to be the view of Senator Quirke that if you give the market value, you are going to charge the owner too much. I think it would be unsound to charge the new owner too much, and there is no point in putting a man on land and imposing such burdens on him as will make ownership of that land of very little value to him. Goodness knows, ownership of land at present means very little to a number of people who have not got the means to exploit it, but there is no point in making them bear such burdens as are beyond their capacity to meet. As between the two, if the State feels that it must do things to get possession of land, and to add to the numbers of owners of land, the State must find a means to bridge the gulf between what is fair and just to the old owner and what is regarded as fair to the new owner. There ought to be no loophole left in the Bill that would make it possible to obtain possession of land anywhere; I do not mind to whom it belongs, and there is no use going back on the past, because it is to the present and the future we must look, nor does it matter how they obtained the possession of the land. We have to look to the future and to the administration of the law in such a way that every man will feel that he can get justice.
When you hear Senator O'Callaghan put his point of view, it is quite clear that a great many people feel that, whatever about the taking of land—the taking of it may not be very sound or good, and, in some cases, may not be necessary—if it is to be taken, the obligation on the State is to be fair and just to the people from whom it is taken, and you are not being fair or just if you give a man less money than he could get for his article in the market place, if he had liberty to sell. If the Minister can see his way to accept this amendment, he will, from my point of view, at any rate, change the whole picture. I believe he would allay the fears that are everywhere being expressed. A great many of these fears may not be justified, but they are there, and the worst fear of all is the fear that a man's property can be taken from him, by and with the authority of the State, and that he will get less for that property than it is worth. I do not think that is a principle over which the House ought to stand.
I am in entire agreement with Senator Counihan. I think the statement made by him is eminently Christian and balances to some extent the notorious statement made by the Minister yesterday evening that money in land cannot have the same value attached to it as in other property. He was correct when he stated that the Government to which he succeeded attached a similar estimate to it, but I think he went beyond himself and I think it would be an injustice to the British Government in Ireland, bad as they were, to permit the statement to pass, when he said that they did the same thing. My recollection is perfectly clear that in the Act of 1903, the Wyndham Act, it was laid down that any person disposing of land was entitled to receive a price that would bring him the income which he might hope to receive from the land. To my mind, all the unrest and uneasiness with regard to land in Ireland to-day would be allayed if that Senator's advice and my advice were adopted.
The statement of the Minister is in conflict with the Constitution, which states that private property must be respected. The bishops of Ireland have accepted that Constitution, and I hope that when it is altered the bishops will be consulted about the alteration. I pay my money each day of the week, 20/- in the £, so far as I am able, even on a Sunday morning, to the priest; and if the farmers of Ireland are not supposed to attach the same value to their property, I hope the matter will be considered very fully and ventilated because it is a serious matter and one which eats at the very foundations of our existence as a Christian State, not to mind our taking unto ourselves a position as a leading Catholic State. It is a matter in which no amount of consideration or fair play would be too much to settle the undoubted grievances that exist. They are very far-reaching.
I have by me here a brief which was handed to me on 27th March, 1935, for the purpose of preparing a valuation before the Appeal Tribunal. I will hand it to the Minister, if he doubts it. I was asked to value part of the lands containing 62 acres, 3 roods, 24 perches held in fee simple, subject to the revised annuity of £25 6s. 8d., the poor law valuation of the land being £64. The Land Commission fixed the purchase price of this land at £815 4 per cent. Land Bonds, out of which the redemption price of the revised annuity payable to the Land Commission will have to be deducted, equivalent to £661. That is, for 63 acres of land, the owner is offered £154. I know that land well. I valued it and it was fully capable of growing at least 15 barrels of wheat per acre for three successive years. In those three years, it was to bring in £60 and its assessed value is less than £3 an acre. I think that is very striking, and I think that our Irish banks cannot feel themselves at liberty to advance money to any person so treated. To my mind, it is criminal.
I have heard the statement made, I think, by Senator Honan and Senator Quirke, and I am sure there is something in it, that the best way to keep the people on the land is to subdivide it and to put five or six families on it, instead of a man and a dog. Granted, but has history borne that out, when there are 40,000 people fewer on the land to-day than there were in the early thirties? I submit that if you want to keep the people on the land of Ireland, you must first keep on it the people who are on it now; you must first cater for their needs and their necessities.
In this case we have even the State itself giving expression to the old bad policy of
Rattle his bones over the stones,
He's only a farmer whom nobody owns.
The Land Commission might at least take the probate value as something approximating to the value that the owner should receive for his land. Obviously, if the State is distributing land to landless men or uneconomic holders, the State should be prepared to pay a bonus or whatever loss there may be between the price paid to the person from whom the land is acquired and the annuities paid by the new owners. That should be paid out of the Central Fund and the State should allow the unfortunate owners whose ancestors have in many instances been working the land for generations the fair value of that spot of property they are acquiring.
What is being done at present is anti-Christian and the more the matter is looked into and considered the more terrible it becomes. Why should any of us seek to endow our friends, political, social, or otherwise, with property that is unjustly acquired from others? Let it be remembered that there are less than 20 per cent. of the occupiers in this State occupying land valued at more than £30 valuation. The actual figure is 19 per cent. with over £30 valuation. Now, why should that 19 per cent. of the owners of land carry the entire grievances and the entire weight of this problem of land distribution? If this land is to be taken from them why should they not be compensated fairly and justly? Why should not the Land Commission follow out what has been done in other Departments?
Why should it not follow the example of the Dublin Corporation? When that body acquires property here in the city it pays the fair value of the property taken over and in addition compensates the people for the disturbance caused them. Farmers are very much disturbed when land has been taken from them. A farmer in such a case has to make other arrangements to provide for his children, who very often have to be rushed to the city to follow some profession or other occupation. There has been a great deal said about preventing this rush to the cities and towns, and in this respect the Land Commission is helping towards that undesirable migration.
The question of minorities in the ownership of land is a matter of great significance, and it cuts at the root of our entire existence. England never did justice in Ireland, but she does justice all over the world, and because she does and because she acts in all matters with strict fair play in the case of people all over the world—or at least pretends that she does—she has become great, as all of us can see. But what is the position with us in Ireland? We cannot even own or control our own Thirty-Two Counties. We have the Six Counties beyond, and I wonder what the people of the Six Counties think of us when they see the price we are paying for land——
I strongly protest against what Senator McGee is stating. It is pretty near treason, and if he made the statement outside this House he would be liable to a prosecution for treason.
The treason is your own.
I suggest that while Senator McGee's statements are not treason, they are extremely irrelevant.
I suggest that the Senator keep more closely to the terms of the amendment.
Surely it is within the right of Senator McGee to relate the prices which people obtain for land here to the conditions obtaining outside this State and to the general impression with regard to the unification of the country.
There is no objection to that. The Senator understands the position. The Senator may proceed.
It should be our aim to carry ourselves through in our administration without inflicting injuries on minorities, without harping on minorities and without attempting to make our political or social friends rich at the expense of minorities. That is much more relevant than the motions that are debated here from time to time. It is relevant that we should endeavour to keep our State just and fair, and that all our Departments should act fairly and justly to the citizens. I wish to direct the attention of the House to what another Senator has just stated, that in everything we do we should be just and fair and equitable. I feel very strongly about this specific amendment. We have here a golden opportunity whereby every effort may be made to unify not only all classes which we ourselves represent in the Twenty-Six Counties, but all Ireland as well.
Any sort of injustice here will do much to prevent that national unity which I am perfectly certain Senator Quirke has at heart. I know exactly the feeling in my county and I know the feeling across the Border. I have my personal friends there. Hence it is that I would implore the Minister to give, on the lines of the amendment, more consideration to the price to be paid for land that is to be acquired than his statement here last night would lead one to expect. Senator O'Callaghan, who spoke on the other side of the House, gave expression to views that were perfectly sound and everything that was desirable. I was perfectly satisfied with his statement. I listened to what Senator Johnston said with regard to what the County Monaghan had done in regard to the building of labourers' cottages. Might I tell the House what we did in Louth?
No, Senator. Not about cottages.
We fixed decent prices and we got a decent article. I would implore the Minister in view of the success that attended the Wyndham Act of 1903; in view of the instability that now exists and in view of the fact that the credit of the farmer is being destroyed to consider whether all those difficulties could not be got over by having the Central Fund make up the difference between the price at which the land is acquired and the annuity charged to the new tenants.
If the State requires land and is willing to pay fair compensation for it, I see absolutely no answer that the Minister can make to the amendment. Why should not an owner receive fair compensation when the State comes in and takes his property? Surely people who have given good proof of their industry and who are Irish Nationalists as well as the best of us should be treated with equity, justice and fair play. If the State does otherwise, to my mind it is acting wrongfully not only in the interests of the people from whom the property is being taken but in our own future interests as a nation.
In my opinion, Senator Baxter, in pressing this amendment, is wasting his sweetness on the desert air, or perhaps I might put it this way, that he is spurring a free horse. Even if this amendment were accepted by the Minister, it would not alter the situation at all. We would still have the problem of what exactly was the market value. Senator Baxter was quite wrong when he said that I held that the market value of the land could not be given for it, because then the land would be made too dear on the new tenants.
But that was just what the Senator said.
Well possibly I did say it, but what I really meant was that what the vendor would regard as the market value that we should give for the land might be a very exorbitant figure and then it would be too high in the way of annuities on the new tenants. Even if this amendment were accepted and even if the price given for land by the Land Commission were doubled or trebled there would be the position after a time that if Senator Baxter or myself or anybody else were engaged in the sale of a farm to the Land Commission, we might find that the Land Commission would say: "This is worth £30 an acre", while we would say that the land was worth £60 an acre. In that way the situation would still exist as to the fair price of the land. That is my view and this amendment would not alter the situation at alt. I can quite see the point as far as the amendment goes and as far as Senator Baxter's views are concerned. I know what is in the Senator's mind; what is in his mind will not be solved even by the acceptance of this amendment. We all have our opinion with regard to that. None of us want to see land acquired without just and equitable compensation to the owner. We on this side do not want to see injustice done any more than does Senator Baxter. I would be very sorry to see a farm taken over and the owner of that farm thrown out on the road without leaving him enough to pay his debts or to give him a new start. But the acceptance of this amendment will not bring about a better situation. With regard to Senator McGee's remarks I was sorry to have to interrupt him but I do say that it is an outrageous thing for anybody to stand up here and hold the British Government up to admiration.
I do suggest that we should not start on this matter for if we do it will open up a very wide field of debate.
I do not propose to poach in any way on Senator MacDermot's motion. It would have a bad effect. But I say it is a bad thing when we have a farmer's representative in this country getting up here and saying that the farmers want the British back again. We had the British here for 700 years, and the quicker we get rid entirely of the British the better.
I specifically stated that the Wyndham Act of 1903 set an example to the Minister that he should follow in regard to the price paid by the Land Commission for land that is being acquired. The Minister last night mentioned that the British Government had acted on the principle that property in land or money in land was different from money in any other industry.
I did not say any such thing.
That is what I understood the Minister to say. I accept his apology with pleasure and——
I am not apologising at all. I think it is disgraceful that what I said should be misinterpreted as it has been. If the Senator were an ignorant man it might not matter, but it is quite obvious that he is not. He is an intelligent man and knows quite well what he is saying.
I accept the Minister's apology
I am not apologising. I said no such thing.
Well, I accept his correction. I am delighted he made it, and I am delighted that I was wrong.
I merely wanted to say that there is a misunderstanding whether it is deliberate or not, with regard to the statement I made in connection with the percentage of holdings under £20 valuation. I stated that 81 per cent. of the holdings in County Cavan, Senator Baxter's county, were under £20 valuation, and that as regards the remainder, those that are over that valuation, it would call for a considerable stretch of the imagination to suggest that any operations of the Land Commission, regarding acquisition or anything else, would touch even 1 per cent. of the remaining people. The average valuation of the remaining 19 or 20 per cent., those over £20 valuation, would not bring these people within the bounds of the operations of the Irish Land Commission. I did not for one moment suggest that the remaining 20 per cent. would be big landholders in the country at all. About 8 per cent. of these people would be regarded as big landholders, that is, as people with holdings, each of a valuation somewhere in or about £200 or £300. They are the people to whom I was referring, not the farmers with 60, 80 or even 100 acres.
I would strongly appeal to the Minister to meet the amendment as far as he can. This question of price is the whole crux of the situation. There is an opportunity offered now, as a previous speaker has stated, to remove opposition to land purchase if this matter could be settled.
All reasonable opposition.
All reasonable opposition. Unquestionably it would change the whole situation if the Minister could see his way to meet the amendment. I am told, and I quite agree, that the Land Commission does, in many districts, pay a price as good, or perhaps better, than the ruling price in that district, but the fact remains, whatever be the reason, that the same machinery which pays a reasonable price in some districts fixes a price which is wholly unjust to the owner of land in other districts—in the majority of districts, I should say. We all have experience of cases such as Senator McGee quoted where, when a farm has been taken over and the land annuities have been redeemed, the price paid to the owner has been very poor indeed. I do not know what the reason is. I am sure that the officers in charge of the Valuation Department are reasonable men but whether it is due to the fact that the regulations are fixed in such a way that it is impossible to pay a fair price, or to some other cause, in the great majority of cases where land is being acquired the price paid is altogether unfair. If the Minister could devise some machinery—I do not say that Senator Counihan's amendment would meet the situation as I think it is too limited in its application—or if he would only realise the fact that in spite of his intentions to give a fair price, the machinery as at present constituted does not allow of a fair price being given in many cases, I am sure we should soon find some solution of the difficulty. Perhaps he would give us some assurance that he will look into the matter and try to arrive at some arrangement which would ensure that when a farm is resumed a fair price will be given to the owner. I would ask the Minister to give us that assurance, if at all possible, as I am sure it would at once change the whole situation.
Do réir mar a thuigim an scéal, isé an smaoineadh atá ar chúl an leasuithe seo ná go mba cheart luach fá leith do thabhairt do na daoine ag á bhfuil an talamh cheana agus luach níos ísle do shocrú i gcóir na ndaoine a gheobhas an talamh uatha. Tá an scéim sin andeas ar fad ach cé íocfaidh an luach idir eatorra? Sin ualach eile do chur ar an tír ar fad, ar lucht íoctha na gcánach, agus, dar liom, ní ceart é. Tá go leor ualach ar na daoine sin cheana agus níor cheart an t-ualach seo do chur ortha. Cibé luach is cóir a chur ar an talamh, bíodh sé ar an talamh agus ná leig dó tuitim ar na daoine nach bhfuil talamh acu. Deirtear annseo go minic gur bun-shaidhbhreas na tíre talamh na tíre. Is dóigh liom gur ceart sin. Más fíor é, goide an fáth nach n-iomparann an talamh a ualaighe féin gan trácht ar lucht íoctha na gcánach?
Do réir mo thuairime, ba chóir luach measta bliantúil do chur ar an talamh, chó maith leis na tithe, mar atá á dhéanamh san Bhille Luachála, agus an cheist seo do shocrú ar an dóigh sin. Ghlacfadh sin am ach bheadh an buadh seo ann—nach mbeadh na feirmeoirí ag iarraidh an luach measta sin d'árdú, mar, san chás sin, bheadh níos mó le n'íoc acu, agus bheadh siad cúramach nach mbeadh an figiúir ró-íseal ar eagia go bhfuigheadh siad luach ar an talamh nach mbeadh siad sásta leis. Ar an dóigh sin, bheadh luach seasta ar an talamh.
Tá locht amháin ar an phlean seo— nach féidir é do chur i bhfeidhm gan mhoill ach ba mhaith é do choinneál i gcuimhne agus gan a bheith ag cur ualaigh ar na daoine nach bhfuil in ann é a iompar. Ba cheart an t-ualach seo do bheith ar an talamh agus an luach céanna a bheith ar an talamh do na daoine a gheibheas an talamh agus do na daoine go dtabharfar an talamh sin dóibh.
This matter has been very fully covered by Senator McGee. I think the most telling phrase he used was "Christian justice". This is not a Land Commission matter at all. It involves a big question of State policy. May I put it this way? Why is the Government, in the matter of taking land for a national purpose, acting differently from the manner in which they would act in the case of taking land for a railway or any other purpose of that sort? That is the whole story. Why? I suppose the Minister may say: "Because we cannot afford to finance it out of the Central Fund" or "because the price we have to charge the incoming tenant is so vastly different from the price which, in justice, we should pay for the land". You take out a solvent farmer, who has been on that land for years and learned his job, and you put in landless men. Naturally, of course, if you are going to act on that basis you cannot possibly pay the market price. I should like if the Minister would tell us whether that is the way it works, because on that basis I understand the position, but I also understand the gross injustice of it. If the thing is to have any pretence of justice, the market price or even more than the market price, should be the basis of acquisition. Mind you, there is no question of landlords now. Those are small, hard-working farmers, whose livelihood is in their farm. The thing is on a totally different basis, either politically or any other way, from the acquiring of big estates from what some people imagine are rich men. Would the Minister tell us why we have drifted so far even from the principle of the 1923 Act? Under the 1923 Act, I understand the basis for compensation was that laid down in one of the original Land Acts, the Act of 1881.
I might tell the Senator that it still is the law, as far as this section is concerned. In other words, the amendment is not necessary.
I have yet to learn that the tenant receives full compensation.
That is another matter.
That is the wording of the 1881 Act. Compensation was to be given on such terms as may be approved by the court. We have not even got a court now.
That is the law still.
There was to be full compensation for the tenant. Does the Minister say that is the basis on which they are working now—full compensation for the tenant? It is not. It is a very different basis, and very unjust. This is land taken for a national purpose from men whose sole livelihood is in the land, and the Minister refuses to consider the market value of it.
He does not.
Before I speak at all, the Senator has made up his mind as to what I am going to say.
The Minister suggests that Senator Sir John Keane should wait until the Minister has expressed his opinion, and should not anticipate what he is going to say.
I should not like to alter any good intentions which the Minister may have. I should be very sorry to do that. To say that the market value cannot be ascertained is really not an honest way of meeting the contention. In some cases, no doubt, the market value cannot be ascertained, but that does not affect or should not affect the acceptance of the principle. Where the market value cannot be ascertained in the ordinary way, where there have been no sales in the neighbourhood on the basis of which the figure could be decided, let some other method be applied then, but at least let us accept the market value where it can be applied. The Land Commission might advertise the farm, and say they are prepared to accept tenders for it. On that basis there will be some Justice. I can only argue in the light of past experience; adequate compensation has not been given, and by that means a great injustice is being done to citizens whose sole livelihood is being taken from them.
I am surprised that this amendment has taken so long, and, in typically logical fashion, it may be said, I get up to make it take longer. This seems to me a perfectly simple matter. We have certain pious aspirations with regard to social policy in the Constitution. As moral authority interpenetrates into the life of society, there was a rule binding on Governments as well as on other people, the rule of just price.
It was illegal for one to buy an item for less than the known just price, and illegal to sell for more or less than the known just price. It may be difficult to name a just price for an item such as an old master, but in the case of land the ordinary people in the district have a fair idea as to the price that would be a normal one if the land were put up for auction. That is an item in regard to which one can form a fair idea of the just price. The only point which I can imagine the Minister making against this is that the words "market price" do not mean "just price"—that a thing has an inflated value when put up for ordinary sale. As a matter of fact, I am satisfied that the market price for land in this country at the moment is conditioned, and I might almost say governed, by the operations of the Land Commission.
The only other argument I can see the Minister is putting up is the argument we have been listening to here for the last fortnight. When we put up an amendment to a Bill, and ask whether there is any argument against it, we are told: "That is what the Government are going to do, but we are going to use our majority to prevent its being incorporated in the Bill." That system by which Ministers refuse to have a thing in the Bill, but give an assurance that all their actions will be as if it were in the Bill, is one which runs quite against our whole system of government. We make a law; that law is sanctioned by the two Houses of the Legislature, and the Ministers administer that law. If it is felt that that law is not being applied, or that something contrary to it is being done, the citizen has the right to take the matter into the courts.
The Minister's interjection during Senator Sir John Keane's speech did seem to suggest, as far as I can make out, that this Bill is only part of our land law, associated with many other Acts, and that the actual law is that the market price be given. When a law is made, then you have not only the Legislature and the Executive; you have also an appeal to the courts. If the law says that a fair market price must be given, then there must be— independent of any action of the Minister and his Department—a judicial authority who will judge, in a concrete case, whether or not that law is being applied. If the Minister says the law is that the figure known as the market price—which, of course, has its natural mutations in relation to time and place —should be given, and that a person who may think he is aggrieved has the right of appeal to a judicial authority, independent of the Executive, who will judge whether the concrete case fulfils the conditions of the existing law, then I think it might have been well if the Minister had got up earlier and explained that that is so. It might have saved time.
I would have got up earlier, but I did not want to prevent other people from speaking. Not being a member of the House, I did not want to do that. Some people, even here, like to hear themselves speaking. I could have said that this amendment can be accepted without altering the law. I can accept the amendment, and I am prepared to accept it, but I tell the House now that in doing that I am not changing the law. As far as Senator Fitzgerald's point is concerned, there is a judicial authority to which an appeal can be made. That is the Appeal Tribunal. The amendment is unnecessary. I do not want to deceive anybody. I want to let it be known that in doing this I am simply putting into another Act what is there already. That is in regard to a resumed holding; that is the law. As to the other type of holding which we have heard of, the wording for that was actually the wording of the late Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Hogan) —that it should be a price that is fair to the owner and fair to the Land Commission. These words were put into the 1923 Act and it is hard to improve on them. Senator O'Dwyer has admitted that in several parts of the country he has been given to understand, from speaking to people, that the price given by the Land Commission is in excess of what would be got by free competition, whereas there are many other parts where it is otherwise. That is the whole difficulty. I do not know how you are going to settle it by legislation if it is admitted that in some cases the price given by the Land Commission is better than can be got in the open market—I am certain that is so—and that in other cases it is not. How are we going to deal with that by legislation? We have provided the machinery. We have the Land Commission, in the first instance, who fix the price and there is an appeal from them to a tribunal presided over by a judge. I cannot see any other machinery which could be got for dealing with that question; what the law can do to better that position I do not know.
There has always to be a margin.
There will be a difference of opinion.
What I wished to convey is that there must be something wrong with the machinery since it produced the results I described. The Minister should look into the matter and see if it could be remedied.
The point I am making is that machinery is different from the law. We are dealing with resumption now, not with acquisition. The amendment deals with resumption and it is acceptable, but, as I say, I do not want to deceive anybody by pretending that I am giving something which I am not giving. I do not want to get away with this under any false pretence. I say it is there already. If my word is not accepted that that is the law, and if the Senator insists on going on with the amendment, I will accept it, subject to the Parliamentary draftsman having a look at it, but I am satisfied it is there already.
Then the amendment is withdrawn on the basis that the Minister will bring in an amendment on the Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 14:
In sub-section (5) (b) (iii), in page 24, to delete the word "two" in line 16, and substitute therefor the word "four."
If this amendment is accepted, it means that a farmer could own up to £4,000 worth of land, instead of £2,000 worth of land, as in this Bill and in previous Acts. The value of land differs very considerably in many parts of the country. In County Dublin, and other parts of Leinster, £2,000 worth of land would mean a very small quantity, whereas in Leitrim and in parts of the West £2,000 worth of land would mean a very big quantity. As an instance of that I may say that within the last 12 months an ordinary farm of land which contained only 80 Irish acres, with an ordinary house and ordinary farm buildings, was sold by auction for £4,500. If the Land Commission policy is carried out strictly according to the letter of the law, the Land Commission could come in and acquire portion of that land leaving the farmer with only 40 acres. That provision in reference to £2,000 worth of land is not just or fair. As I said already, if £4,000 was put in, it would allay a good deal of the insecurity which the ordinary farmer feels. I contend that a farmer with £4,000 worth of land, at least in Leinster, is only an ordinary farmer— he is not a rancher. He cannot be described as a person employing only a man with a dog.
The Minister told us that there is no intention to interfere with a man of that description who has only 80 acres of land; but we want it specifically inserted in the Bill. The Minister's intention, and I am sure the Land Commission's intention, will be not to interfere in such a case; but it would save the Land Commission a lot of trouble if the Minister could state that, according to the law, he cannot touch that.
If he wants to touch it, he has power under the provisions of Section 39. Four thousand pounds worth of land would mean, as I say, less than 80 Irish acres in some parts of the country and, therefore, I think this is a reasonable amendment—that a man should be allowed to own up to 80 acres of land in Leinster. I have given the instance of the farm near Kilcock in the County Kildare which was sold for £4,500. If the Land Commission carried out the strict letter of the law as it stands at present, it would only allow such a man to own less than 40 acres of land. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment.
Of course I have to say something like what the Senator himself suggested. This provision in the 1933 Act has not been acted upon yet in any case. But, in a place where there was local congestion, and where a person was entitled to an alternative holding, it was considered necessary to put a limit on the size of the farm which might have to be given to him. It was considered that a reasonably good farm of, say, 100 acres, ought to be got for £2,000. That was considered reasonable in view of the amount of land left for acquisition in the country. I think it is a reasonable provision. To make it £4,000 would compel the Land Commission to get a very big farm which they might possibly not be able to get, and that is the difficulty. It is only in cases where there is local congestion that that power will be used. It has not been found necessary to use it yet; but it is felt that it was a good provision to have in case of necessity. I have to say these things; I am speaking on the results of what has been done and that is the fact. In the other case, as I said, land had not been acquired that was well worked. I said it would not be, because I knew I was safe in saying that; having regard to the fact that it has not been taken, it was not likely that it would be taken.
In this case I can say that this power has not been used yet, but it is considered necessary. I cannot say any more in defence of it than that. I say that it is only in cases where it is absolutely essential to take the land that it will be taken, and, when that is the case, if the Land Commission were compelled to give a farm to the value of £4,000 in exchange, it might be found impossible to get it.
If you give bonds to the full value, or whatever the value may be over and above £2,000 which was considered reasonable under the 1933 Act, I think that is reasonable. I do not think the Senator should press the amendment.
In order to save time discussing the matter, would the Minister consent to bring in an amendment to meet the point in some way, even for the relief of congestion?
Yes, for the relief of congestion.
And for other things.
There is also a small item for playgrounds or sportsfields.
Land can be taken for anything.
Not under this provision. We have provision in Section 39 for taking unvested farms in the same way as vested farms, which are already protected. It is only in congested areas this would apply.
Will the Minister accept an amendment on the Report Stage dealing only with the relief of congestion in the district? If he does I will withdraw this amendment until then.
I will accept it, but where is the necessity? I promised to show where there is provision already for the relief of congestion. I can assure the Senator that that is the case in actual law. It is only for the relief of local congestion that we use it at all. Where is the necessity to make provision again for what is already provided?
What has to be looked at is this, that Senator Counihan and people like him are thinking of £2,000 worth of land in Leinster when, perhaps, the Minister was thinking of £2,000 worth of land in Connaught or in parts of the country where £2,000 will buy a much greater area of land than in other parts. It may be true that the problem of congestion is rather different in Connaught from Leinster, and that £2,000 worth of land in Connaught would be a bigger area than £2,000 worth in Leinster. If you dispossess a man, even for the relief of congestion, he ought to be put into a position to get an area of land somewhat approximating to what he was accustomed to using.
There is no doubt that for the past couple of years £2,000 would buy a certain area, but many of us hope that in future £2,000 worth of land will be a much smaller area than it is to-day. We hope that the value of land will increase, that by proper use and proper appreciation of its value, as well as proper organisation of farmers' methods, and the technique of marketing, there will be a different attitude altogether towards land, not only on the part of the people who own land, but of every section in the country. If that happens these figures will still remain in the Act, and the position will be different from what is visualised at present. The Minister ought to take that into account. If we are to look to the future that we hope for in land, that it will produce more, and appreciate in value, we should have a different attitude towards land, towards the way it should be handled, and towards farmers. There is no doubt that £2,000 will then buy a smaller area than it would buy to-day, or that it would have bought at the time the Minister inserted this clause in the Bill. The Minister ought to look to the future. While the provision has not been applied, and may not be applied to any considerable extent, other people might think that it might be applied in a radical way. I think precautions ought to be taken, and that the Minister ought to go a part of the way, if not the full way, in order to meet Senator Counihan. If he accepted a go-between, and made the figure "three" instead of "four" something might be done.
I do not think the Senator is pressing the amendment.
Is it withdrawn?
I would withdraw it if I got any assurance that the Minister would put down an amendment which would protect farmers in areas where land is very valuable, and where £2,000 worth of land would represent only 30 or 40 acres. I pointed to a case where 80 acres of land near Kilcock sold for £4,500 in the last 12 months. It was an ordinary farm, with an ordinary dwelling-house, and an annuity. No matter what the congestion, I say that a farmer, as in that case, is entitled to hold 80 acres, but under the Land Acts and under this Bill, he will be only entitled to hold half that amount of land if it was wanted for the relief of congestion.
If the Minister agrees to consider the matter I can put down an amendment for the Report Stage, or he can bring in an alternative amendment which the House would accept.
I suggest that the Minister and Senator Counihan should split the difference.
Would the Minister consider bringing in an amendment on the Report Stage to limit the quantity of land as well as the money?
There is a maximum provision already. If the value of the farm taken exceeds £2,000 the balance has to be paid in bonds.
I do not object to that.
I do not think there is any chance of a holding like the one at Kilcock being interfered with. This is for congested areas where there might happen to be even a well-worked farm, and it might be considered good policy to take that farm. Where there is actual congestion, if that is done, this provision is there.
You might as well take a man's heart as to take a well-worked farm from him.
He will get every consideration. It has not happened yet. I am quite sure that the Land Commission is not going to tie such a man down, and to bring him to an area where land is dear, or send him to a smaller farm. They will try to meet him. In the past there was power to remove a person from his own district, and he had to be suited in a farm, but in practice it was very often found that that could not be done. The fact that the power is there may make people inclined to come to agreement. I do not know. We have not had to use the power. I think it is reasonable to have £2,000 worth of land prescribed and the balance, if any, in bonds.
I hope the Minister will not be too adamant about this.
I am not.
Perhaps he would consider before the Report Stage if there could not be an alternative quantity also.
Without committing myself, I will consider if it could be done.
The Minister might remember that it is not only possible for land to appreciate in value, but, what is really the same thing, that it is possible for our currency to depreciate in value if certain schemes are carried out by certain sections.