The question is: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill." Amendment No. 1 is ruled out of order.
Land Reclamation Bill, 1949—Committee and Final Stages.
I would like to have a little clarification on the part of the Minister on what, I presume, Section 1 defines, the work that it is proposed to do. Under (b) we have land reclamation. I think it would be advisable or very desirable if the Minister would expand a little on the subject of the word "reclamation", to say what he considers is included within that word.
Under (f) we have the improvement of hill grazing. I do not think it would be altogether fair to ask the Minister to define the limits of "hill grazing", the lower limit or the upper limit, because that is a very variable quantity, but I would like to know if he has some idea in his mind of what he expects "hill grazing" might cover in this country.
I want to say just a few words on the reclamation of estuarine marshes. I take it that that might include the building up of land in salt estuaries with Spartina and the reclamation of land from the sea by a larger process than mere embankments.
Under (h), which is any other operation ancillary to the foregoing, I wonder whether the Minister has considered the possibility with regard to land in the neighbourhood of rivers that have been drained by arterial drainage of including walking the land. Most of our rivers to-day are clean and, therefore, no large body of valuable sediment is being carried down. Following extensive arterial drainage work, you would get anything up to 50 years of sediment being carried down and some of our riverside flats might be very much improved if, in conjunction with any works installed to prevent flooding, consideration was given to whether these lands could be converted into warp lands such as are to be seen in the neighbourhood of rivers like the Humber.
Quite frankly, I must ask you to help me. I do not know what warp land is.
Water that is carrying valuable sediment can be run on land and then the water can be let out. It is a matter of the provision of sluices through your embankments.
Is it in order, Sir, under this section to refer to No. 6 in the rehabilitation project? Although it is presumably implied in the Bill under Section H, about which I was talking, I wanted to get some information under item 6, which says that the Department will assist you. As I understand it, the Minister's hope is that local contractors will come in and do some of this reclamation, drainage and general rehabilitation of the land. I wonder if the Minister has considered that while it is very desirable to get local contractors in to do this work, if a local contractor was secured or partially secured in regard to repayment for his work in a manner similar to the system that operates for a contractor who builds a house, and if he knew that he would get the agreed price for the work, it would be very much more likely that you would get a local contractor to come along and put £4,000 or £5,000 into digging machines.
That might be raised when we are dealing with Section 2.
I read it that this supplementary document which we have got might be referred to as relating to "any other operations ancillary to the above". That was my reading of it, but I bow to your ruling on the point. You, Sir, would prefer to have it discussed on Section 2?
I put forward these points to the Minister, because, so far as I see, there is a certain amount of misconception of what the Minister proposes to do and that applies especially to the second item, B, land reclamation, reclamation being often thought in this country of as merely meaning reclamation from the sea and, therefore, much the same as item A, land drainage.
I, too, want some further enlightenment in regard to what exactly—if indeed it is fair at this stage to ask the Minister to speak exactly—land reclamation may mean. Frankly, while I seek information on it, I have the feeling that at this stage it is rather difficult to speak definitely and specifically of what exactly will be done under the term "reclamation". The amendment put down by Senator Finan has been ruled out, but if you look at the pamphlet which has been circulated, you will see in paragraph 7 the phrase "land rehabilitation programme" so we take it that the Minister is giving us, under the title of a Land Reclamation Bill, a land rehabilitation project. I would hope so; I would hope that that is what it would turn out to be.
Reclamation has probably different meanings in different localities. In a rather poor county like mine, reclamation, in the minds of quite a number of people, will mean reclaiming land which had gone back to moor and heather and bringing it into a proper state of cultivation, which would mean lime, a balancing up of the soil and getting it into a state of fertility. In other places, reclamation will mean something else. In a case of low lying lands which require drainage, drainage would probably be the main activity in which you would have to engage in order to reclaim the land.
I want to speak on this aspect for a moment or two because I think that when the Minister's agents go through the country, whatever viewpoint men may have who study and ponder over maps in offices at headquarters, and when they go into the fields where the reclamation projects are to be carried out, they will find a rather different sort of problem. If you are going to carry out drainage on lands that are flooded and low lying, lands which have been neglected for half a century, I have no hope whatever that the reclamation is going to be anything like complete unless, in addition to the drainage, this land is to be ploughed up and reseeded. In fact, I believe it will be very largely a wasted effort and that you would have to await the results of years—if indeed you could ever expect to get the land into such a fruitful condition—before getting a good crop. It seems to me that over great areas, concurrently with drainage, this other activity must be engaged in.
I speak of drainage because I think that in our small farm areas we are not going to do much in the way of using bulldozers to level fences and so on. You may do it, and no doubt will do it, in Meath and Westmeath, on some of the larger farms, where you are going to carry out drainage. There will be that kind of activity in which bulldozers will be used to deal with ditches, or rather the remains of ditches with whitethorns growing on them in the middle of a great field which was once two fields; but you are not going to do so much of that work on our small farms. While I know that some people criticise the way in which we manage our land in the sense that we have so many small fields, if we are to utilise our land to the full from the point of view of rotational grazing our farmers have to have fences and on many of our windswept hillsides they want wind breaks and shelters and it is not going to be too easy to persuade them in the beginning that many of their ditches ought to be levelled and that wire fences and so on should be put up. That may come after a time but certainly not just yet.
We are at the point when drainage, in the main, is the sort of activity in which we are going to engage, but unless, over great areas, the Minister's agents when they go on a field and discover the kind of grasses being grown, if they can be called grasses at all, make up their minds on a policy of advising the farmer what he ought to do and how it ought to be done, a great deal of this work will not yield the fruits which we expect and hope will come from it.
I spoke briefly on this matter on the Second Reading. I regard it as vital. If I may say so with a certain degree of modesty, I have given this problem of reseeding of our pastures as much study as most people in the country, and I think I can say that I have seen as much of the soil of the country as probably any member of the Oireachtas. I was just going over in my mind how many fields in how many counties I have been in and I can say there are probably only two counties of the 32 in which I have not crossed the fences and been on the soil with some knowledge of what it is like. I have seen something of fields in other countries, too, and I urge that, concurrently with the plan of drainage, liming and the application of phosphates, it will be a part of the Minister's plan to impress on the farmers the absolute necessity of reseeding their pastures, if we are to get the full fruits from the initial expenditure.
The Senator has adverted to the last paragraph in the leaflet?
I have. I hope that the Minister is going to push that plan with vigour. I do not know whether the Minister himself has any doubts about this or not. I have none on the value of the reseeding of pastures.
Well, in that sense we are pushing an open door, as far as the Minister is concerned. I realise that it is not going to be so simple for our farmers. I know that a number of plots were laid down, up and down the country, for a number of years before the Minister's time. I saw the reports of the experiments carried out then in the Department's journal and since then. Here and there, many other people have been laying down plots, and with rather different results but, on the whole, I think that on some of the Minister's own farms—I think in Ballyhaise and elsewhere—there is evidence of the success of this method of what we call grass or animal husbandry. We know how low the yields are from grass farming in the country at present. We know that some of our best land here on test is not giving more than one-third of what farmers are getting from not so good land in other parts of the country. The Minister has knowledge of this.
I have been on these farms in both places and I have seen the work that is being done. It seems to me that that is as urgent an aspect of the Minister's policy as drainage and the application of lime and phosphate to the soil and that it must be pursued as vigorously as possible. I had an opportunity of discussing with a gentleman who is a pioneer in regard to this method of farming many of the difficulties that arise out of the reseeding of pastures and the management of these pastures afterwards. I have seen something quite recently of this myself and last night, in the restaurant of this House, I discussed the problem with this gentleman. He knows a good deal about our farming methods here and their fruits. He knows what the farming methods in his own part of Ireland are like and he knows what they are like in Britain too because he has been in many of these places. He gave as his opinion that the most valuable development in Britain previous to the war was the decision of the British Government to encourage the reseeding of pastures by the payment of £3 per acre for the work carried out. That had two beneficial results. It encouraged men to do something which they had not done before and it brought the Ministry into it in a responsible way so that they were interested in the success of the project, in studying the results and in advising the farmers as to how best the question could be managed. I am quite convinced that the trials carried out in this country which were not a success were not a success because of causes which can be easily determined and I am quite convinced that the success of cultivating and developing our soil resources here is probably even to a greater extent dependent on the management of the pastures afterwards. That is something, I think, for which there is necessity for more study than has been given to it up to the present. I do not know whether the Minister has gone to the full limits of his desires when he decides to drain and subsidise to a certain extent the restoration of the soil's fertility, but I am quite convinced that the whole project will be incomplete on a great part of our land unless we decide to sow fresh pastures.
Then we come to the other problem of the improvement of hill grazing. The Minister indicated on the last occasion that he has under consideration the question of the securing of the services of the best expert available in these islands on the development of field pastures. He was not then in a position to say very definitely that the services of this specialist had been secured and we are not going to press him on that point because I am sure that he is going to do the best he can. There is an immense field for development there too. However, I am quite convinced that there are soils on the lowlands that really should be classified as hill farming judging by the soil, its characteristics, its physical structure, its fertility condition—all these things that enable the scientist or even the practical person to make up his mind as to the value of any particular soil and its capacity for giving life to grasses or crops, whatever they may be. I think it is going to be very difficult to engage a specialist and assist in the rehabilitation of our hill pastures, at the same time having knowledge of the fact that there are pastures in the lowlands which are producing just as little as these hill pastures are producing and which are as incapable of giving life to any sort of valuable grasses as the hill pastures are— the proteins or carbohydrates that are valuable for animal consumption—unless there is a policy of rehabilitation in regard to them too. Further, if I were that sort of lowland farmer——
The Senator is, no doubt, aware that we are dealing with hill reclamation now.
What I am saying comes under that heading. I want to know whether hill farming can be extended in its application to the same type of soils when these are to be found in the lowlands.
Does the Senator mean that we are to give free manures to farmers?
You have here sub-head (f)—Improvement of Hill Grazing. We have not heard from the Minister, and I have not pressed him, what methods are to be employed in order to rehabilitate our hill pastures. I do not know, even, that it would be fair to press that point on the Minister. I take it that he is awaiting the advice and study of an expert. I think that is the right procedure. I do not think we have many experts in the country, so far, to advise us on what ought to be done. I know some of the people who have gone to the exhibitions in Wales and other parts of Great Britain and who have seen things there. We have not that knowledge here. I do not know exactly what is going to be done in regard to the rehabilitation of hill pastures. A variety of things will require to be done. They do not require drainage but rehabilitation. However, in regard to poverty-stricken land, I would say that there is as much use in spreading artificials on some of it as there is in spreading them on the road, because grass will not grow on the road. Perhaps grass might grow on some of our roads but it will not grow in sufficient abundance to feed stock. There are many of our hill pastures and soils in the lowlands in respect of which it would be just as fruitful to spread artificials on the road in the expectation of getting a crop from the road as to expect to get a crop from them. There is nothing there—nothing whatever to produce it, and the seeds have to be sown. I think there are a great many soils in the country like that and that it will not be possible from the point of view of this scheme to leave these soils out of account. If I had that type of poor, hungry soil, almost derelict, and saw neighbours with a different type, wet soil but much stronger soil, who had come under this scheme and saw other neighbours getting the advantage of expert advice and State assistance for rehabilitation of their soil, I would feel unhappy, discouraged and dissatisfied, feeling that the State was not dealing fairly by me. These are matters which require clarification.
No one knows much about all these things. Our soils are as different and as varied as the temperament and approach of our people to their problems. What is suitable in one town-land will not suit in another. The whole problem must be studied and there must be experimentation. I presume that the Minister has a general plan in his mind. The biggest contribution he can make in this rehabilitation project will be to ensure that the reclamation will only be completed when the old sod has been turned up and new grass is sown, so that it will give a new life, a new appearance and a new capacity to feed stock, that did not exist before the Minister put his hand to the work.
The Minister would like to intervene on one or two points.
There are two things which ought to be clarified at once. It is not part of the land rehabilitation project to distribute the contents of the Treasury in large lumps to a multitude of individuals who conceive themselves to be deserving of eleemosynary benefactions. That must be faced. If the Seanad is of opinion that legislation should be enacted which will authorise the Minister or any other member of the Government so to proceed, I conceive they must wait for another Government, for I know no member of the Government to which I belong would bring such a proposal before the Seanad. Therefore, any proposal to bestow free, gratis and for nothing, on farmers who have workable farms of arable land, quantities of fertilisers has no relation to the Bill before the Seanad.
Senator Baxter proposes that, in certain categories of cases, the land having been rehabilitated, it would be spoiling the ship for a ha-porth of tar if we did not then plough the land, harrow it and sow it. I do not think it would be irrelevant to inquire what, in the name of Providence, the man who owns the land would be doing. Sitting on his sash?
Drawing the profit.
I did not suggest that the Minister do that. I suggested that he give the farmer the advice of specialists, that that would be the right thing to do and that that would be the basis of the Minister's policy.
Now we are ad idem. That is what we are hoping to do. I am hoping to put an agricultural agent in every three parishes in Ireland. One of his first duties will be to recommend to suitable landholders, in the area committed to his care, the necessity for the rotational cultivation of the most valuable crop which the land of Ireland is capable of producing, to wit, grass. His first job will be to explain to our people what for 15 years they have been bidden to forget, that is, that grass is a crop, not an accident, and that it has to be treated as a crop, sown as a crop and set in a suitable rotation if it is long to remain a profitable crop. Senators will have observed that it is my hope ultimately to make available to our people, in so far as Perennial, Cocksfoot and Timothy are concerned, unlimited supplies of indigenous varieties propagated under the supervision of the Department itself. Senators will sympathise with me in the fact that the propagation of seed of a leafy strain of grass takes time. Therefore, ad interim, we propose to get pedigree strains of grass from abroad to supply the requirements of farmers until adequate supplies are made available from our own propogation centre.
I wonder why Senators imagine that a man who was reared in East Mayo, where the average field is about one acre and a rood, should suddenly be seized with a passion to sweep through the country like an avenging fury, levelling every fence and allowing nothing to remain but 40-acre fields. Could anything be more remote from the minds of us who come from the West of Ireland? Any rational man will agree that there is a surprising acreage of the land of Ireland at present encumbered with sod fences, which have fallen down to a greater or lesser degree and have developed middle-aged spread. They are frequently attended by copious shoughs and they are receptacles for nettles, thistles, docks, vermin, and si sic omnia. We propose to destroy the docks, nettles, thistles and the denizens thereof, to eliminate the ditches that have acquired middle-aged spread and to substitute regular fences and suitable pipe drains to take the place of the shoughs. Of course, as Senator Baxter said, quite apart from the function of dividing one field from another, on every mixed farm there will be fences which have an intrinsic worth as wind breaks for live stock, and due regard must be had to the circumstances of every farm when determining in how far it is proper or wise to remove existing fences or to alter their location.
The Senator requires no acquittal from me of an excessive tendency to model our ways on British ways, but we can often be very strangely misled if we look across the Channel at our neighbours, hoping to model our habits and customs on theirs. Theirs is quite a different civilisation: they are a great industrial people, whose national income is derived from industry and whose agriculture is the spoilt child of great industrial wealth, which for convenience and sometimes for amenity, desires to preserve domestic agricultural production without undue anxiety as to the cost because their entire agricultural output is sold on the domestic market and prices and distribution are controlled by their domestic authorities. Whenever they want people to do anything on the land it is quite legitimate to pay them but let us not forget in Ireland that we all live out of the land. My wages come out of the land. Senators' allowances come out of the land. The carpets we stand on and the amenities which we enjoy are all ultimately paid for out of the land, and if the land does not earn a profit we will all be going about in furry jackets and pampooties like some of the people we see in Eastern Europe. I wonder if Senators ever reflected on why you get these characters of Eastern Europe going around in furry jackets and pampooties. It is not because they like to wear them because they would much prefer to wear navy suits like we do, but all they can afford is these skin jackets and pampooties.
We would soon reduce ourselves to this stage if we ever forgot that every acre of land has got to be made pay its share of the national income. You cannot make the land of Ireland pay if the man who works it has to be paid to do that which should be done. I am proceeding on the assumption that if an Irish farmer has good land he will work it well. If I am to concede that the Irish farmer with good land must be paid to sow the right crops and cultivate the land are we not mad to be investing £40,000,000 in the land of Ireland? Sanity would demand that we should take out of the land of Ireland everything that we could and not leave it at the disposal of predatory lunatics who intend to sit down until somebody pays them to work their holdings. I am proceeding, on this matter of recommending this Bill to the Seanad, on the assumption that by and large the farmers of this country are hardworking, intelligent men who are much better fitted to run their holdings than I am and there is no one in Merrion Street capable of telling the farmers of this country how to run each individual farm. I can see the duty of my Department is to provide within ready access of every farmer who wants it the most modern methods of agricultural science and production and I am entirely satisfied in the limited experience I have had through my period in the Department that, given that access, 95 per cent. of our farmers will jump at it and the reason why they have not done so heretofore is because it has never been put within their reach.
I do not apologise to the Seanad for pursuing that further because Senator Baxter emphasised the necessity for carrying out surveys and instruction on the farms. I think Senators might overlook the fact that we have not had a proper system of agricultural instruction. I know of one county not 1,000,000 miles from Dublin where there is an inspector for the whole county. That unfortunate man spends most of the 12 months wearing the rib off his bicycle tyre. He may be able to tell the chief of his Department or the chief agricultural officer that he has visited every part of the county but he never had and never will have time to instruct anybody. There are a large number of counties which have only two instructors. I propose to put 14 in Tipperary. Senator Baxter pressed me to see was it wise to lay out all this money on the land when I did not propose to follow it up with an adequate system of instruction. Have I reassured the Senator of my intention in that direction or perhaps I could convince him more by saying that in his native county I propose to provide 15 instructors?
I hope they will know their job.
It is not advice they want, it is more money.
We do not want any more than the railwaymen. We will not get as much.
I hope to bring about a position that we will get all the money we want out of the land to provide for the farmers, the railwaymen and everyone else.
Senators have asked about hill farming. If the Senator wants to know the kind of work I envisaged I will refer him to pamphlets published by Moses Griffith describing his work on hill reclamation projects in Wales. I am at present seeking the advice of distinguished agriculturists on that particular type of work and I will abide by their advice on the work to be carried out under that particular head.
In regard to the reclamation of which Senator Orpen asks further particulars, I think if we segregate reclamation from drainage the reclamation must be deemed to mean the removal of superficial obstacles in fields such as rocks, hollows, what we call small holes, humps and bumps which in the ordinary course of small farming operations hinder activities. It is not possible to distinguish these with precision because, as the Seanad knows, in parts of Ireland you get what are called "gentle places". The utilitarian would commission a bulldozer but the romantic would consecrate them to the fairies. Our aim will be to deal with them according as to whether the proprietor is a romantic or a practical man.
I want to know does field drainage include mole drainage?
I am sorry to raise again this question of progressive land reclamation. I notice in the Bill that the term "rehabilitation" is not mentioned once and I also regret the omission of a phrase like "soil fertility". Could we take it that "reclamation" in paragraph B may include rehabilitation and also not only soil fertility but the preservation of soil fertility? I do not know what is really behind this land reclamation project but the term "rehabilitation" should be incorporated in the Bill and a phrase like "the preservation of the fertility of the soil". It is not sufficient to ensure that the soil is fertile. Soil fertility like liberty requires constant vigilance and I would like such a phrase incorporated in the Bill for subsequent Ministers. That might be achieved by its insertion in brackets in paragraph 2 or in some other manner that the Minister's ingenuity would devise.
If the Senator has ever sailed into the harbour of Haifa he would have seen the Horns of Hattin. Substantial as the land reclamation project may be, the Department of Agriculture does not intend to wither away and the daily purpose of the second of the Horns of Hattin is the maintenance of the fertility of the soil of Ireland. I am getting £1,525 to look after that, and my predecessors, Deputy Smith, Deputy Dr. Ryan and before that the late Paddy Hogan, got the same. I mean that quite seriously. It is possible when concentrating one's attention on this specific project to envisage it as being the whole of the functions of the Department of Agriculture but it is not. Over and above all that this envisages, the regular duty of the Department continues and if Senator Baxter inquires what subsequent measures are to be taken to preserve the benefits conferred by this project the answer is the day-to-day exertions of the Department whose duty it is to conduct research at Thorndale and the other research station, to apply the result of that research through its instructors, inspectors and other people and in the operations of the schools we endow. That work should not ever flag but it is not preeminently part of this project but part of the regular work of the Department.
This project envisages a completed task, the reclamation of the land which over the last 100 years has suffered. That done and this project consummated, the Department should maintain the benefits which have been created and see that the lands do not fall back into the desolation from which they have been saved. I would beg the Seanad not to lose sight of the fact that the Department still lives and has every intention of going on living.
Since I was not permitted to move my amendment I would like to add my voice to those other Senators who pressed upon the Minister the desirability of extending the scope of this measure. Notwithstanding anything the Minister has said, I look at this project from one particular angle, that is, as a rehabilitation project.
Might I remind the Senator that the Minister has indicated that that matter has the attention of the Department and does not come under this Bill?
I may be permitted to proceed in this way. I do not think it right to suggest that this project is being financed entirely by the taxpayers of this country. This has been made financially possible, in my opinion, by Marshall Aid.
The Chair thinks that is irrelevant also.
If the Chair rules me out ——
You are entitled to make your case.
Not on Section 1.
Can we get the assurance of the Minister now that at an early date he will consider the advisability of adopting the suggestions made by Senators regarding the restoration of soil fertility?
The Chair thinks that the Minister has given that assurance.
What suggestions has the Senator in mind?
One in particular, the provision in some cases—this may shock the Minister—of free fertilisers for the people.
No is the answer.
The Minister has answered the question.
As regards the amendments in typescript standing in the name of Senator Hawkins which have come in late and are now being circulated, I am accepting them in view of present conditions but this acceptance must not be taken as a precedent. I regret that the Minister and the Members of the House are being called upon to deal with these amendments at such short notice.
It is a pleasure to be of service to Senator Hawkins.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In sub-section (4), at the end of line 15, to add the following words: "provided that if the occupier on receipt of the Minister's certificate of completion of the works notifies the Minister that in his opinion the terms of the agreement have not been carried out and that the work is defective, the Minister shall have a new inspection made and defects, if any, rectified as early as possible. On completion of such works the certificate shall be deemed to have been issued."
I should first like to thank the Chair for accepting this amendment and apologise to the House for any inconvenience caused by the short notice. The success of this scheme will depend largely on the confidence created in the farmers' minds and that confidence to my mind will be undermined to a great extent should any disputes arise between the Department and the occupier. This is to make provision for some form of arbitration other than recourse to the courts which to my mind would be bad for the scheme and for all concerned. When we examine the provisions of Section 2 we find that the first step to be taken is to apply to the Department of Agriculture and the necessary forms for application are sent to the person making the inquiry.
May I ask if the Senator is taking Nos. 1 and 2, on the list of his amendments, together? He is speaking on No. 2.
I will take No. 2 first if you wish.
What amendment is he taking?
Nos. 1 and 2 are consequential upon each other.
When the form is filled up the inspector arrives and when the land is inspected an estimate is made and presented to the occupier. If the occupier accepts it the Minister proposes to proceed with the work. That may be done in either of two ways. It may be done by the owner of the land carrying out the work himself with his own family labour or employed labour and in that case a grant of a certain amount is made—60 per cent. of the total cost of the scheme. Very little difficulty, I expect, would arise in that case, where the work is carried out by the occupier. It will be inspected by the Department inspector and a certificate of completion issued.
In cases where the Minister undertakes to carry out the work, however, and the occupier contracts to pay the sum of £12 per acre to the Department for the carrying out of the work, we have the Department inspector as the person who carries out the inspection, the person who makes the estimate, the person who carries out the final inspection and the person on whose instructions and report the final certificate is issued. It is possible to foresee cases —I hope not many but some few cases— in which the occupier is not satisfied either with the manner in which the work has been carried out or the manner in which it has been completed. According to sub-section (4), immediately on the issue of a certificate of completion by the Minister, the payment falls due. My proposal is that if the owner of the land feels he has a grievance in regard to the way in which the work has been carried out, he may so notify the Minister who will have a second inspection carried out by an independent inspector, and, if delects are found, that these defects would be made good, and that only from the date of the making good and of the completion of the works as set out in the report of the independent inspector would the certificate of final completion be deemed to issue.
If we do not make a provision of this nature, the only recourse the occupier who is not satisfied has is an action in the courts. We had views put forward on Second Reading by no less a person than Senator McGee, who is an experienced landowner and who has already carried out schemes of this nature on his own land and at his own expense, and I am sure that the Minister felt, when he heard the Senator putting forward these views, that there was no very bright future for the proposals in the Bill because Senator McGee pointed to the difficulties of having these works carried out in a proper manner. The greater part of the works which will be carried out under the Bill are not works which the ordinary farmer can undertake. They are works involving skill and, that being the case, we can foresee difficulties and disputes arising as between the Department and the occupier who will be compelled to pay no small sum, £12 per acre, in respect of the land reclaimed. It is natural that he will be most anxious to see that the works are carried out to his satisfaction.
It may be said that I am seeking to provide for the cranky individual, who, when a work has been completed, is going to find fault with it and thereby raise a dispute which would have the effect of prolonging the contacts between himself and the Department, but he will gain nothing under either of my proposals by so doing. If this provision is not made, the only redress the occupier has is an action against the Minister in the Circuit Court. Here we will have counsel and engineers employed by both sides and the Minister will agree that, if even one case of this kind arises in a particular district, it will not be any great inducement to other farmers in the area to undertake works under this scheme. So much for the proposal in my first amendment, which provides for cases in which there is no serious dispute but in which the landholder feels that the work has not been carried out to his entire satisfaction. In that case, it provides for an independent inspection, and if that independent inspector reports that defects should be made good, that they be made good and that from the date of completion of such work the works be deemed to be completed.
In my second proposal, I deal with the more serious aspect of the case, where there is a real dispute and where the occupier feels that he has a serious grievance with regard to the manner in which the works have been carried out. I propose that, in such a case, the Minister shall provide that the dispute be referred to an arbitration board consisting of an officer of the Office of Public Works, an officer of the Irish Land Commission and an officer of the Local Government Department. I suggest an officer of the office of Public Works, because the Office of Public Works is the drainage authority and must be interested in the carrying out of works of this nature and has the necessary knowledge of how such works should be carried out. Secondly, the Land Commission are as keenly interested in the project as the occupier himself, because in all cases the Land Commission are the real owners of the lands, and, thirdly, I suggest that the officer of the Department of Local Government should be the county surveyor for the county in which the work is carried out.
I do not think the importance of accepting both amendments needs to be greatly stressed for the Seanad, because they will help to remove any doubts which may exist as to how disputes, should they arise, may be dealt with. We know from experience that the farmer particularly has no great wish to seek redress in the courts and, as I say, if one case is brought into court, it is going to act as a deterrent to other farmers and will have a bad effect on the whole working of the scheme.
I find myself in such complete sympathy with the underlying purpose of the Senator's proposals that I feel free to ask him not to press these amendments. I do not contemplate, nor would I contemplate, seeking under this Bill any authority to deny the farmer, if the necessity ever really materialised, access to an arbitrator, to wit, the Circuit Court, before which he and the Minister would stand on an absolutely equal footing. I think that, if things go to the point at which a man feels that a Department of State is threatening him with injustice, there is no tribunal before which that dispute can properly be brought, except the tribunal of the courts, because the little man cannot beat the big man before any tribunal but one whose constitution redresses the disparity in power and influence between the two litigants. I think that is the very essence of courts of law—that they are so constituted as to ensure that no matter how powerful, no matter what resources one litigant possesses, the smallest and humblest person in the State, once he throws himself on the protection of the law courts, is assured that that seeming disparity will be redressed by the power of the judge. We have provided under the Bill that if an individual applicant is dissatisfied, when we declare the work to be completed, his complaint would go at once from the district officer who is responsible for the scheme to the regional officer— that would be the man who would be in charge of an area approximating to a county. That man would be expected to go and review the whole thing and ordinarily use every effort not only to do what was enough to convince the man on whose land he was working that enough had been done but, if that failed and the farmer was still dissatisfied, it would be referred to the provincial director— there are four, one each in charge of areas approximating roughly to a province. Now if that man fails to restore peace and harmony he will refer the matter to headquarters and the director will send down the technical director. That makes three appeals already. Doubtless, before matters reach the stage of litigation, the director himself will come down. That is the fourth.
Again, before allowing this matter to reach litigation the Minister's own attention will be directed to the matter. The whole reputation of the officers responsible for the scheme is bound up with giving satisfaction. The political welfare of the Minister is bound up not only with doing good work but with giving satisfaction so that, in this case, you have five appeals to persons, each one of whom is profoundly interested in creating a situation which will persuade the farmer to say: "Whereas I was dissatisfied, now I am satisfied." But if, having exhausted all those five appeals, the farmer feels that some dark conspiracy is afoot, I do not think it is suitable, if a man has that deep feeling of persecution and injustice about it, to invite him to sit down to an arbitration between a high officer of my Department and three high officers of another Department who have, after all, come up through the service, side by side with a high officer of my Department—and men would not be human if they would not be open to suspicion inasmuch as they are not charged with judicial functions of seeing this business from the judicial point of view. How much better is it to say to a person suffering under a deep sense of grievance: "If none of the five appeals made satisfy you that you are getting justice then go to the courts where the Minister and all his paraphernalia carry not one ounce more weight than you do, and let a judge decide between you as to whether wrong has been done or not." That is the reason why I would ask the Senator to withdraw these proposals. I do not believe they would give the odd individual who might carry to the end of all we could do to please him a feeling of grievance. I think it is wrong to make a proviso which, in effect, denies the right to anybody in the last analysis to hail the Minister before the courts. He should have that right. The Bill as it stands provides that my reputation and the reputation of all the officers of my Department concerned with this project is involved not only in doing good work but in satisfying the man on whose land the work has been done that it is good work—and I think the Seanad is safe in depending on those guarantees that hardship will not be wrought. If it emerged, of course, in practice that improper use of these powers was being made, I do not think we can doubt that Oireachtas Eireann would take suitable measures to bring that under control but I ask the Seanad to extend that degree of trust to the Department—at least to put them on their trial and not to adopt so unusual an arbitration procedure as is here envisaged unless and until it appears that the rights of individual farmers have been ignored or trespassed upon.
I take it that everything possible will be done to satisfy the occupier of the land that the works will be carried out to his satisfaction and that it will only be in the last resort that a case will be allowed to go to the court?
We would regard it as a reflection on ourselves if a case reached the court.
Where is the method whereby a farmer, according to the Minister, can have his complaint considered and if there is some fault in the work can have that fault rectified? It is not mentioned in the Bill in the manner in which the Minister has outlined it to us. I do not see that the Minister has any powers to make regulations which will embody the points he has made in his speech. As far as I can see, the only Minister who can make regulations in regard to specific things is the Minister for Finance. I feel that the Minister for Agriculture has no power to make regulations of the type which he has just outlined.
Does the Senator suggest that I have no power to make regulations in my own Department?
In regard to this Bill.
In regard to anything?
I am not a lawyer or a good draftsman but I do not see any provision in the Bill giving the Minister for Agriculture power to make regulations under the Bill. The only person to whom there is any reference in regard to the making of regulations is the Minister for Finance who, under Section 7 (1) is referred to as follows:—
"The Minister for Finance may make regulations for the calculation, period of payment, redemption and disposal of annuities under this Act."
I raise that point because, while I do not consider that Senator Hawkins's idea is workable, I think that if there is to be any question, or if there is any problem arising out of the way the work is being carried out, the proper time to make the complaint is when the farmer-owner sees the mistake. If I saw some drainage work being carried out in my place—either an open drain or a closed drain which would have pipes—the proper time for me to make the complaint would be before the drain was closed and the work completed. I should begin to complain at the beginning of the work and have the matter rectified at the outset. There ought to be some machinery whereby there would be responsibility on the farmer-owner to look after this matter in time and whereby the obligation of the Minister or the Minister's agents to hearken to what the farmer had to complain about would be clearly defined. That is not in the Bill. The Minister has announced a grand plan, but I want to hear how it can be done.
The Senator, surely, asks what does it mean to me, the Minister for Agriculture?
He is not all-powerful.
He acquires certain powers under the Minister and Secretaries Act, amongst them being the power to direct the internal administration of his own Department. He would be in a poor plight unless he had general powers to direct his own Department. If he had to go round with a garland of statutes round his neck and lick his thumb to find authority for addressing an observation to any assistant-secretary, referring him to the proper section, the administration of a Department of State would become impossible. He has general powers to direct the officers of his Department. I am telling the Seanad what those directions are to the officers of my Department in respect of this project and I am inviting the Seanad to say that they will give them a trial, with clear notice that unless that attitude is scrupulously maintained they will take the initiative to make the necessary legislation to place upon the Minister and the officers of his Department whatever check may be necessary to prevent their acting capriciously in any individual case. I appreciate what Senator Hawkins says—that, having heard what the Department's intention is, they will be given a trial; and if they proceed on the lines indicated that will probably work out all right, but they ought to know that if they do not, notice will be taken and legislative steps will be initiated. I quite accept that.
If a neighbour of a farmer for whom this reclamation scheme has been carried out holds that he suffers an injury thereby, against whom would the action lie—would it be against the Minister or the occupier of the land?
I think the Senator will find that, under Section 6, provision is made for compensation for any damage that may accrue arising out of any work done under this Bill. However, we would be profoundly reluctant to leave a job of this kind doing damage to a neighbour's land and if we could persuade the neighbour to permit us to carry out whatever work was necessary to avoid such injury, we would consider it undoubtedly part of our duty to do it. That is why this Section 6 was not in the Bill when I submitted it to the Dáil, but inasmuch as the Opposition in the Dáil felt that it would be more satisfactory to have a statutory guarantee of that kind I was very happy to concede it, though I am satisfied that it will never have to be availed of.
Regarding the allocation of the £140 grant mentioned in the Minister's pamphlet, I am not quite clear about it yet, in spite of the Minister's explanation. Leaving aside the question of fertilising, we arrive at the position that if the farmer undertakes the work himself the Government will present him with a grant of £140, on the assumption that the work is going to cost £210—that is, the farmer pays £70, which is one-third, and the State pays £140, which is two-thirds. That takes no cognisance of fertilisers, which the Minister told us five times is outside the scope of the Bill. It will cost £210 to reclaim the hypothetical nine acres. The farmer's contribution will be £70 for that nine acres, if he is doing it himself.
Assuming the Minister does it for him, he will be asked to contribute £108 or £12 an acre. I want to know the total cost of the scheme in the second place, the amount of the grant and the Government contribution. Why should the farmer be asked to pay £108 where he is asked to pay only £70 in the first case—and even not asked to pay £70, as the Minister says that, if the farmer found he could do it for £150, he could put the £140 in his pocket and it would cost him only £10. In the second case, he will have to pay out £108. I am aware of the Minister's character and I am sure he never made out this plan himself, but someone did it for him. They made it out on the assumption on which Government Departments make these things out—that it will cost them more than it would cost the farmer to do it himself. They draw a balance and to have the two statements ready for the Seanad to swallow, they introduce the red herring of the fertilisers which the Minister says do not apply to this Bill at all. I am in the dark as to the total cost to Government in the second place, eliminating lime subsidies and the ramifications which some previous predatory lunatics may have had on the same land.
This all arises from excessive desire to illuminate a problem. If I had any sense, I would not have given anybody any examples at all. In an unfortunate moment, I said that we should apprise the Legislature of precisely what would happen if a farmer applied to have his land done under the project and we should put in the hands of every Senator and every member of the Dáil exactly the same indication that the tenant of the holding would receive. Whereupon, Bedlam has broken forth and mathematicians have locked horns. This seems to be like a crossword puzzle to some Senators. I have certain sympathy with them, but I hope they will sympathise with me, in that this results from excessive solicitude to tell them all that is involved in this measure. Would it simplify matters for the Seanad if I try to resolve the matter by saying that, if the farmer does the work himself, he will receive a grant of two-thirds of the cost of the operation?
Whatever the work is?
Yes. Two-thirds of the cost.
It might be the drainage of nine acres.
If the farmer asks us to do the work, there will be levied upon his land a sum equal to two-fifths of the cost of the work, plus the cost of the fertilisers spread upon his land, subject to an overriding maximum of £12 per acre. In case the Senator should think it, we do not contemplate giving uncertain or unpredicated assurances through setting out every conceivable contingency of expenditure on every conceivable acre of land for the charge which falls to be met if the farmer does the work or if we do it, with fertilisers and without fertilisers, with half fertilisers and with all the fertilisers.
If we start analysing the way in which each case will fall to be dealt with we could go on for ever because there is not any rule of thumb. Each case is the subject of individual agreement between the applicant and the Department. The basis on which we make our proposal for the farmer's expenditure is that we estimate to the best of our ability what the job is going to cost and we offer him two-thirds as a grant to do it himself. If he tells us to do it we estimate what it is going to cost us including that quantity of fertilisers which the land reclaimed by us may require to rehabilitate it, as we think necessary, and without committing him to anything, we tell him that if we do it, and we will not do less, we will charge his land with so much per acre.
In either event he is quite free, having reviewed the works and studied the map supplied, to say, "I do not think you are giving me good value, good-bye," and we must go disconsolate. So that there is no danger of anyone being taken for a ride and it is not possible for me to provide the Senator or anybody else with mathematical precision as a general rule because each case stands upon its own merits and no farmer can be charged with one farthing and nobody can do a hand's turn except at his option and request, after he has received the maps and has had time to consider them as long as he wishes to brood over them. I think that is adequate reassurance.
I am now quite satisfied with the Minister's explanation that the farmer gets two-thirds by way of a grant if he does the work himself and contributes two-fifths if the work is done for him.
May I ask the Minister what his figures are for drainage, if he has any?
I do not quite follow what the Senator means but if he refers to the figures in the documents circulated I have not the faintest notion. I am the Minister for Agriculture and not a drainage engineer. These conclusions were made by highly skilled officers of my Department. When I want an estimate for drainage I go to a drainage engineer and when I want an estimate for any other work I go to a highly qualified specialist in that particular type of work and invite his estimate and by his judgment I am guided. I am not an engineer or a contractor and it would be ludicrous to hold myself out as such. If the Senator cares to call to my Department personally the officers of my Department will be flattered to give him all the help at their disposal or if the Senator would write a specific inquiry to them the officers of my Department would be pleased to answer to the best of their ability. I guarantee that I can and will get the best men in Ireland to make drains, estimate the cost and draw up a bill and they are at the disposal of all Senators who wish to consult them.
I want to ask the Minister for some information on sub-section (4) (a):—
"Unless the occupier, in accepting the Minister's proposal, informs the Minister that he wishes to pay his contribution by means of an annuity, the contribution shall become due and payable to the Minister by the occupier for the time being on the date upon which the Minister certifies that the works have been completed."
That is, where the works are carried out by the Minister, on the issue of the certificate the payment is due. If the contribution is not paid within three months after it becomes due the Minister shall notify the Land Commission of the default. I take it that what is meant in this sub-section is that if an occupier does not pay the contribution within three months of the receipt of the certificate the Minister shall notify the Land Commission, who will proceed to transfer the account to an annuity basis chargeable on the land. Will the occupier be so informed? Will he be given due notice that the transaction is about to take place or will he wake up some morning and find that because his cheque did not reach the Department of Agriculture on the 1st April he is debited by the Land Commission and will have annuities for the next 60 years bearing the cost of the scheme? I hold that three months are too short a period.
This scheme is expensive and the contribution may be a considerable amount. That three months might be a period within which a man might have stock on hands or might not have credit but he would probably be able to pay in four months or six months. I would like to know from the Minister if a man has made a part contribution inside three months what will happen. I think it would be wise if as few occupiers as possible who avail of the scheme were put on an annuity basis because we do not know what the future holds and instead of a benefit we might be putting a hardship on people who had to compete with those who did not avail of the scheme and had cheaper annuities. Is the occupier to be notified before being transferred from a contributory to an annuity basis and will time be given, provided an instalment has been paid at the end of three months?
I take it that the problem falls in the Senator's mind into these two difficulties; one, can we reassure him that the defaulter will be given adequate notice that he is now deemed to be a defaulter and leaves himself open to Section 3; and, two, is there a danger, inasmuch as a term of three months had been described, that the Department will capriciously put a farmer to the inconveniences of charging his land whereas if they waited a couple of weeks they would get their money? I can only ask the Senator whether he thinks it likely? I quite agree with him that if either thing was done it would be utterly scandalous.
That default procedure is procedure to which we would have recourse no more readily than to putting a mortgage charge on the land. I sat long enough in Opposition to feel the natural solicitude for putting checks and stays on a Minister. It is a good thing to do. I want to say that while the aura of virtue is about me before I have become too Ministerially-minded. I agree that it is necessary to watch these things because people do get inconsiderate, sometimes with the best intentions. I do not think there is any real danger here. There could be if people acted viciously and irresponsibly, but the check of the Parliamentary Question is a pretty sound guarantee if any Minister did so act. He would be opposed with such ferocious criticism that he would never dare to so act again. I hope that the aura of virtue will be as much about me if ever a Parliamentary Question reveals me to have been guilty of conduct such as the Senator envisages, in which case I will walk into the Lobby with his colleagues to censure myself.
With regard to sub-section (2) I would like to ask whether the term "occupier" means any person in temporary occupation of land such as a grazier or a person having tillage there?
What it is intended to mean—and I am creditably informed that it does mean that—certainly is that the putative owner for the time being is the person liable, but where you are dealing with Land Commission land I think the Senator will remember that sometimes in Ireland a man will be in occupation of his grandfather's farm but has never taken out administration either to his grandfather or his father. While his name is John Delaney, the holding of land is in the name of Henry Delaney and it has meanwhile been in the possession of Pat Delaney. If we required everybody to clear their title before availing of this scheme it would debar half the farmers in Ireland.
I quite agree with what the Minister says, but that is not what I had in mind at all. The Land Commission has power as a result of previous legislation to seize any property found on the land of a defaulter. In the case of a man having land for grazing, for instance, the Land Commission has power to seize his cattle for annuities.
I think that is a power of the local authority for rates.
And of the Land Commission I think. I know that the local authority has that power.
The Land Commission is a most respectable body. It does not resort to such methods.
I know, but it might be quite contrary to justice——
I can reassure the Senator. There is no expansion of the existing remedies available to the Land Commission against live stock on land over and above what are at present available to the Land Commission under its general powers.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (2), line 7, to delete all words after the word "ending" to the end of the sub-section, and substitute the words "two years after the completion of the works".
In this Bill we have the same type of work carried out as would come under the Local Authorities (Works) Bill.
It is not the same.
It is quite possible that much of the after effects arising, either good or bad, would not become worse for probably two years, during which damage could be done to neighbouring land or to property, which would not be noticeable in 12 months. In that way injustice would be done by an aggrieved person being excluded from claiming compensation.
Surely we are working on the assurance that thousands of cases would not arise. The Bill leaves outstanding for a reasonable time contingent liability, which is a source of great difficulty for Departments of State. If it was the intention under the Bill to act ruthlessly, or with no care whether the work gave satisfaction locally, either to the applicant or his neighbours, I think this kind of provision would be defensible, where you had to hedge the individual round with that kind of protection. Is it not fair to say that, if a man's land shows no deterioration 12 months after the completion of work on a neighbour's land, it is rather hard to demand that a period of two years should elapse when we should be faced, perhaps, with the task of dealing with tens of thousands of cases? If the Seanad thinks from observation or experience, or if the Dáil finds from experience, that any substantial number of persons are coming along, 18 months or two years after completion of work, and that there were complaints that were not perceived, we would then have to consider the position.
I do not anticipate that happening and to provide against that contingency I can assure Senators that this would represent a very material and added burden of work at the administrative end, from which I ask the Seanad to deliver us unless the necessity exists. I do not think it will. If it manifests itself I undertake to report accordingly, and to extend the period.