I would like to ask the Minister a question regarding Section 3 which provides that the Minister for Finance may make rules and regulations for carrying into effect the provisions of this Act relating to land purchase finance and may by such rules and regulations adapt to the requirements of this Act any provisions relating to land purchase finance contained in any Act passed before this Act. Is this a general provision made in all Bills in which a Minister other than the Minister responsible for the Bill makes rules and regulations?
Land Bill, 1949—Committee Stage.
This provision is similar in all Bills and it gives the Minister for Finance the right to make certain rules and regulations regarding land purchase activities. It is the usual thing, not only in land law, but in other codes as well.
The point I want to make is that in a very short time we will have another Bill in which there will be other provisions and I would like to have a very definite assurance from the Minister in this regard: has the Minister for Finance power, for instance, to make certain regulations in connection with the operations of a Minister of another Department?
Do I understand the Senator to ask if the Minister could govern the activities of another Minister and another Department? If that is the question, the answer is no.
Why is this section included in relation to land activities?
Surely, in relation to the financing of the Land Act or any other Act, the Minister for Finance is the one to make the regulations.
I am entirely in agreement with the Minister. But I would like to get a very clear definition of what is meant in sub-section (2) of Section 3.
I thought I explained that. The Minister for Finance may make any regulations necessary as regards any finances needed by the Land Commission over which he has control, and that is the whole lot. It is merely the usual thing—in other words, the best way I could explain is that the Minister for Lands will not make his own regulations governing the Minister for Finance in such a matter.
Not at all.
I move amendment No. 1, which is in the names of Senator Hawkins and myself:—
In sub-section (1) before paragraph (b) to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
(b) In fixing the market value the Land Commission shall have due regard to the average price paid in the preceding ten years for similar holdings; and shall also have regard to the following considerations, viz.: proximity to markets, rating of the land, water supply, extent of farm buildings and sufficiency of local labour.
To my mind, this is of great importance, having regard to what is in this Bill. From district to district and from year to year, farms vary very considerably in value. In the same district, the quality of land may vary greatly. Often, you may have splendid land in proximity to moor and bog. The presence or absence of buildings, a good water supply, ample out-offices, the market prices of produce locally, the reputation of the farm for crop production and aspects affecting the production of crops and their growth such as the nature, coolness or warmth of the soil, are taken into consideration with 100 other matters in calculating the price. You cannot have a measuring tape for values. There seems to be already prevailing in this country an idea that anybody who comes along and offers a price for a holding thereby fixes the market value. If this were so, a few of those aliens who have come here with bags of British paper, rapidly falling in value, could demoralise the whole market while leaving genuine farmers, their sons, and even the Land Commission, unable to enter into competition with their inflated prices. There must be genuine standards of the quality of land—its capacity for cropping and other things and there must be some regard to some standard of value. The only one that appears to be available in this country is Griffith's Valuation. I was speaking to a lawyer lately who is a great authority on this question, and he pointed out to me that under the numerous Land Acts or anywhere else there is no definition of market value, or true value, as he pointed out. He pointed out that while in the Acts themselves there was no such definition, one was adopted by the Court of Appeal in fixing the true value of a tenancy under the Land Act of 1881. It runs as follows:
"The true value is what a thoroughly solvent and prudent man would pay for a holding intending to make rents from it with a fair profit besides on his own capital invested."
The amendment has due regard to the legal definition of true market value. Without it that definition remains in law the sole guide to the fixing of such values. Without it also, speculators might be permitted to come here and place an unfair and intolerable burden on the community including the allottees.
I recommend this amendment to the House and I think there is very little to be said on the matter. There is, as everybody knows, no true line as to the market value of land. In various districts farms vary in many aspects and for those reasons I now submit that this amendment might be accepted by the House.
I am afraid that I am not clear as to what Senator Hayes is aiming at. I do not know whether the speech he has read is his own or somebody else's. He wants us to put this amendment in the Bill but this question is the essence of the Bill. He has tabulated a number of considerations to be considered when market value is fixed. These are some of the considerations which I mentioned, the considerations which would enter the mind of any rational being when fixing the price he was going to pay. It is because the Minister makes this approach that he is altering the law regarding the value put on land in comparison with the way farmers were treated in the past. I do not know whether I understood Senator Hayes aright when he said that a standard should be fixed, but I got the idea that he wanted a standard that would apply everywhere.
There should be something in the Bill.
You just cannot do that. You might in two farms have soil exactly similar in quality. Go to a chemist and have it analysed and the constituents in the soil may be exactly the same. You may have equal water and transport facilities, but the distance from a large centre of population might be much greater in one case than another. The productive capacity of the two farms might appear equal as far as the ordinary man was concerned, but these other considerations would alter very considerably the price which a potential purchaser would fix on the land. I think that the Senator is asking the Minister to tie his hands in a quite impossible way. I do not think that any effort at further definition will help the Minister at all or be a further protection for the owner of the farm. I think owners of farms will be much better pleased under this Bill than they were under the old Acts. My reaction to the Senator's proposal is to say that to attempt a definition in that form would possibly create a situation where great injustices might be done by the Administration in trying to apply it to a particular case. A seller would be quite satisfied to get what the Minister is giving.
If this attempts to form a barrier against men coming from Britain, no matter what auctioneer represents them, whether he is on this side of the House, that side of the House or not in the House at all, I do not think it will be an effective way and you must apply your mind to some other method. In any case I do not think we are entitled to go into that aspect under this amendment. As far as I can follow the Senator I do not think that such a definition is necessary or will help or be any greater protection for a man who is selling his farm. On the other hand I do not think it will be any protection for the man to whom the land is allotted.
In the last analysis if the Land Commission behave in such a way as to pay the owner of a farm too high a price somebody must carry the burden. Mind you, it will not be too popular if the State in providing land for allottees all over the country dips too deeply in the taxpayers' purse to pay the difference between the standard price and what the allottee is able to pay. On the other hand if the price paid to the seller is so high that the allottee has to carry a burden of rent which is beyond his capacity you will not solve the problem of uneconomic holdings. I think that the Bill as it is will give everybody more protection than Senator Hayes' proposal.
I am not an authority on land needless to say and yet I say that the amendment would improve the Bill. I cannot agree with Senator Baxter that the wording of the Bill makes for perfection or even for clarity. The Bill in Section 5 sub-section (a) clause 1 says:—
"The amount to be fixed shall be an amount equal to the market value of land."
It is beyond the wit of man to tell offhand what is the market value of any piece of land in this country or any other country unless you relate it to something. The Bill relates it to nothing in earth or in heaven but the amendment does:—
"In fixing the market value the Land Commission shall have due regard to the average price paid in the preceding ten years for similar holdings; and shall also have regard to the following considerations, viz.——"
Some were mentioned by Senator Baxter.
"——proximity to markets, rating of land, water supply, extent of farm buildings and sufficiency of local labour."
Surely that makes the work of the Land Commission easier. If the market value is assessed in that way it will not be left vague so that somebody may say: "The market value is what I decide it will be."
It is hardly necessary to point out— yet I will point out—that as Senator S. Hayes himself mentioned land varies in value from county to county. I have gone to some trouble to find what the Land Commission pays for holdings, but the information is not given in any clear and concise form in any publication I have laid my hands on. I find in the Land Commission Report, table 2, the amount of tenanted land vested in the Land Commission up to March, 1949, was 3,085,301 acres, the price payable to the owners being £20,500,000. The amount of untenanted land purchased under the Land Acts, 1923-46, was 926,000 acres at a price of £8,258,000. Untenanted land, therefore, cost about £8 10s. 6d. an acre.
I have made other calculations. The average price paid by the Land Commission for land in Ulster was £3 15s. an acre; in Leinster, £12 an acre; in Connacht, £7 10s. and in Munster £8 5s. You might say that for the whole Twenty-Six Counties the average price was £8 10s. I do not know whether the Land Commission will go by the average value of land for the whole of Ireland or go on the lines suggested in the amendment and take each piece of land and compare it with the price of similar land in the locality, over the past ten years. It would be much better to have something like that. It is a pity the Land Commission does not give us more information on the price they pay for land. I do not think there is any intention, such as that hinted at by Senator Baxter, of keeping out aliens. I do not think that any such thing was in the drafter's mind and certainly it was not in mine. I do not think this is going to keep out aliens. Some other steps, some other time, may have to be taken if that is to be done at all. I realise that people like Senator Seán Hayes and myself are at the moment like bleating lambs while some tougher mutton may not see the danger and perhaps will go on for a while longer with the wool growing over their eyes. I am not saying this as an attack on non-nationals at all. I do not know what they are paying for land. I doubt if they are going to Donegal or the West of Ireland.
I know that land has been sold in Donegal for as little as 2/6 an acre. I doubt if that is the type that the Minister for Finance had in mind when he said in the Dáil recently that the 25 per cent. tax would, he expected, bring £50,000 this year. I do not know how he reckoned it, or how much land he thinks will change hands before he gets the £50,000. I know that in order to raise £50,000 by a 25 per cent. stamp duty, £200,000 will have to be spent by non-nationals in purchasing land here —and they are not going to buy it at 2/6 per acre. If the Land Commission itself would buy more of the good land and less of the bad land, when assessing the value, whether good or bad, they would be well advised to adopt the suggestion in the amendment and have some definite standard which everybody could keep in mind.
Land might fluctuate in price. It might go up to an enormous price if the demand were sufficient, or it might sink to a tragically low price. If war came again, the value of land would soar, if there were no restrictions on people coming in from outside. Some particular circumstances may arise and some special piece of land may be wanted by a great many people. That would lead to an artificial or inflated value. Therefore, through some exceptional circumstance, that would be the market value unless some standard were laid down. Under the amendment by Senator Hayes, there is a definite standard of measurement and sudden fluctuations up and down would be avoided, since you could see what the average was over 10 years for that type of land in that locality. Therefore, I support the amendment.
The reason why Section 5 was put in at all has been fully gone into and does not need further explanation, so I may dismiss it in a few sentences which might not be out of place. The method of paying for vested land up to this was determined by the 1923 Act and proved most unsatisfactory. I think I used pretty strong language in speaking about it before in this House. In some cases it amounted to virtual confiscation. The method since 1939 of paying for the unvested land is determined in sub-section (5) of Section 39 of the Act of 1939, which has been followed and has proved very satisfactory. I have already pointed out that that Section 5 does not define what the value of the land is when unvested and I do not propose to define it here either.
The wording put down by Senator Hayes will show at a glance how difficult it is to lay down hard and fast rules which would guide the Land Commission in fixing the price of land, where we are dealing with market value. In fact, it is absolutely impossible. I gave a good deal of thought to this before the Bill was introduced, as a result of similar amendments in the Dáil. The further I went, the more I became convinced that it would undo what I intend it to do, if we tried to define market value. There are certain things for which you cannot lay down a hard and fast set of rules. The Senator suggests that
"in fixing the market value the Land Commission shall have due regard to the average price paid in the preceding ten years for similiar holdings——"
Let me stop there. I do not know of any two holdings that are similar. I doubt if anybody knows of two similar holdings.
They could be similar but not identical.
From the point of view of arriving at the market price, they are not similar. If I go out to purchase a holding for my own private use or for a friend, two holdings might appear to the ordinary eye to be the same but still they are not similar. They may have the same acreage, the same poor law valuation, the same quality, or the good and bad land areas may be almost exactly the same, the dwelling-house may be the same, the out-offices and buildings may be the same, the way the land is watered may be the same, the shelter of hedges or the absence of trees may be the same. These things enter into it. You have to consider the access to it, whether it is on a main road or a second-class road, whether it is at the head of a boreen or at the far end of a mile-long dirty boreen. I do not know of any two holdings in all my wide experience that I could say are exactly similar. That is exactly the reason why we have left the wording of Section 5 deliberately the way it is, as regards the method of fixing the market value. That reason is coupled with the fact that it has been a success in the 1939 Act.
I will not go into the strange fact— vested land is land that a man owns outright, while unvested land is land the ownership of which is in the hands of the Land Commission but on which someone has tenant rights—that in the case where a man does not own it he gets the full price but, where he does own it, it is practically confiscated. The suggestion continues:
"and shall also have regard to the following considerations, viz.—proximity to markets, rating of the land, water supply, extent of farm buildings——"
The condition of farm buildings could usefully be added there ——
"and local labour."
The Land Commission will have regard to these things. That is how they arrive at the price. Most Senators have been to fairs with stock of one kind or another. Take the price of a cow, a horse, sheep, lambs, or such like. We all go out to the fair, having an idea in the back of our heads before we go as to the price at which a beast or a flock will sell at the fair. We are not always satisfied with what we get, when we throw our minds back to the high and rosy hopes we had in the morning before we went to the fair. If we try to define market value, we will only hamstring the Land Commission and will be reverted to the position we were in before this Section 5 was introduced in order to repeal a section of the 1933 Act, which it was intended to improve.
In every particular farm, you have to take account of many things, the fences, the dwelling-house, the outoffice buildings, whether the land is sheltered or barren or windswept, whether some of it is subject to periodic flooding or not, whether, as I have said a moment ago, it has reasonably good access from the point of view of the public road or whether it is a mile or a half mile, as the case may be, or over at the end of a long badly kept boreen. All these things have to be taken into account. Then, again, soils appear very similar to the unpractised eye, but when you go in to till them, graze them or to making ordinary agricultural use of these lands, you very soon find out that one holding, perhaps, has a capacity for fattening stock, while the one that borders it, right outside the fence, has not that capacity. I know two holdings which are side by side; one, from a tillage point of view will grow the best grain and give the highest yield in, I would almost say, the whole province of Connacht. The one outside the fence will not, but it happens to be very good land for root crops, potatoes, and so on.
I want to tell the House, that there is no such thing as two exactly similar holdings, being side by side in a small locality. There is always some difference, whatever it is, and for that reason the wording of the section, as it is, follows exactly sub-section (5) of the 1939 Act, which determines the price for unvested land, and which has worked very satisfactorily since the passing of the Act. I propose to follow the same wording. If, in the course of time, say after a year, two years' or three years' experience, this does not prove sufficient to meet the wishes of the people or to meet the wishes of this House or the other House, well, then, it will not be a very difficult matter to try something different. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and what has worked satisfactorily in regard to one type of land is surely not going to prove unsatisfactory now, in the case of vested land.
There is nothing wrong with the principle or the policy advocated in the amendment, but does Senator S. Hayes forget that a farmer has an appeal to a High Court judge, and that if he is competent to put forward all the circumstances which the Senator has advocated in his amendment, the High Court judge will declare the market value of the land, taking into account all the amenities which are proposed in the amendment. I think the amendment is superfluous and, in that way, I think it would be useless to adopt it, because we have it already enshrined in the appeal to the High Court judge on the question of the market value of land being compulsorily acquired. In that way, though I agree with the policy advocated in the amendment, I do not think there is any necessity for it.
If Senator Counihan was the farmer he has in mind, and he was appearing before that High Court judge, and had these definitions to show that the Land Commission had not taken them specifically into consideration, he would be able to make a much better case, than if he were arguing on the vague words "market value."
I would be sure to put forward that to the Judicial Commissioner.
I have had the good fortune to have frequently appeared before the Land Commission, and I am rather surprised that the Minister has come in this evening to lecture the House on market value, and to tell them what it is. If he goes on to educate the House there will be very few of us professional men left, because they will all know exactly the details to go into. The Minister, I see, is quite game when he gets the opportunity to throw out a rod to fish. He has told them all the details they will have to go into. The only fault I find with Senator O'Farrell and Senator Hayes is that both began their speeches with an apology that they knew nothing about land.
Senator Hayes, not Senator O'Farrell.
Somebody said that they were not altogether what they wanted to be, and the Minister got up immediately to tell them what they should learn to become that. Those of us, like myself, who have been 40 or 50 years trying to earn a living as experts, as fairly as we can, and with great difficulty, certainly resent the Minister for Lands aiming to make professional men of men who are not.
A closed trade.
It is a rather unusual parliamentary procedure, to put it mildly. The course I have always been instructed to follow, and that I have followed, not always unsuccessfully, and have found to be good, is the simple wording as to what land being sold in the open market by a willing seller may be expected to realise. I think that is a simple definition. It is easily arrived at. I do not see much difficulty about it: the amount in the open market it might be expected to realise. It is difficult to beat that.
In normal conditions.
Conditions existing on the day you are there. You will have to take it up and down. I think there is altogether too much talk about land being bought by these foreigners. A lot a them are not foreigners at all. Some of them are returning home. As Senator Hayes said it is paper money.
If you want to export money where would it go? If it is a falling market, it is not to our advantage and the land that the Minister will take or will sub-divide will not make the nation, perhaps, either richer or poorer. The whole thing is very difficult to arrive at in equity and justice. A whole lot of things come into this matter of the market value. I wonder how are you going to limit a man who wants to take more land and to whom are you going to limit it? Take the men that are bidding high for land at home. If you do not give them the land they want they will go and export themselves and go to another country. Which of them is the biggest loss, the man looking, possibly, for something for nothing or the man who is willing to go out and beg or borrow in his bank and raise money on his securities. All these are factors that enter into it, but the main thing is simple market value. The idea behind that, apart from what you give the purchaser, is the feeling of the security you create in the minds of the financiers of the country, just as if you want to take something for nothing, you deplete the market value of the entire country and you deplete the financial resources that would be placed at the disposal of the people on the land. There, again, your last state is worse than your first. I think it is reasonable to stick to the old definition, which is the amount which land being sold in the open market by a willing seller might be expected to realise. There you find market value, and it is sound, and the man must know his job that will make a reasonable effort proving to three professional gentlemen, or whatever tribunal it may be, what the land may be reasonably expected to realise, and his reasons for it. It may not be get-at-able and it may. It may not be long in grass and it may. If it is long in grass and the white clover is springing through it, it is ready to plough a crop of wheat for four or five years, and potatoes for ten years, if it is sufficiently well done and done by a wealthy proprietor. I read of land sold at £135 an Irish acre. I sold land myself this year at £125 an Irish acre. On the other hand, you can sell it back, in some instances, at £10, £15 and £20 an acre. It is a very big question and the broader the basis for valuers the simpler it becomes. I think the Minister has made a very considerable advance when he subscribes to the theory of market value. I do not wish to see everybody in the House becoming a valuer. That is dangerous and I am surprised that Senator Quirke is not here to support me in that view.
The tabling of this amendment was designed to get from the Minister at this stage, as we attempted to get from him on the Second Reading, an indication as to how the market value was to be arrived at. Senator S. Hayes has put forward a formula. The Minister may not agree with it and many Senators may not agree with it, but I think we are entitled to get from the Minister some indication of a formula on the basis of which his officers will compute the market value of land. On the last occasion on which we discussed this Bill, the Minister made certain references and I should like to draw the attention of the House to one particular reference he made. He said that the Land Commission's activities in former times could be described as nothing less than highway robbery because provision was made in the 1923 Land Act for the redemption of the land annuities. I think this is a very fundamental principle and one to which both Houses should direct their attention. If we go back over the history of land division and land acquisition——
Do not do that; it would take too long.
Why not? Is Senator Baxter in any way afraid about this House, in discussing land division of the future, examining what has happened in the past and what provision was made not only by an Irish Government but by a foreign Government? We must first accept that provision was made for the purchase of the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland. That provision was made by the people of this country, and when Senator Baxter or the Minister tells us that, due to legislation passed in years gone something which he abhorred arose, we must examine very carefully what exactly did take place. I am sure that the Minister, as a Deputy from South Mayo, has a very clear recollection of the history of the Land War.
I am not ancient enough for that.
That might be so. When people come to speak of ages, they are sometimes apt to relate them to particular circumstances. When we come to examine this matter which the Minister described as highway robbery on the part of the State, we find that the highway robbery he refers to took place under an Act introduced into an Irish Parliament in 1923 by a county-man of mine, the late Patrick Hogan, who was then Minister for Agriculture. If Senator Baxter and the Minister have any doubts on this point, I am prepared to move the adjournment of the House to enable them to consult the Debates in Dáil Éireann and to arm themselves with any arguments they might be able to advance against me when I say that that Land Act, introduced by the late Patrick Hogan, made provision for what the Minister referred to here on the last occasion as nothing less than highway robbery.
If the Senator came directly to the amendment it might shorten the debate.
I want to remind the Minister and Senator Baxter of these facts in order that we may approach this Bill in a commonsense way. I put it to the Minister on Second Reading that, if he gave us an indication as to how the Land Commission will determine market value, it would help us in relation to these amendments. He has not done that, but he has said a most extraordinary thing, a statement that no other Minister ever made before this or the other House in presenting a Bill to the House. He said: "I am presenting to this House a particular section. Members have grave doubts as to its workability, but I will give them a guarantee that if I or the officers of my Department find that it is not working as I thought it would, I will ask Parliament to withdraw its support for that section."
That is the Minsiter's faith in this particular section of the Bill. Senator Hayes, in his amendment, has put forward some grounds on which the market value might be based. The Minister is not prepared to accept Senator Hayes' proposal. If the Minister is not prepared to accept Senator Hayes' proposal or my proposal, the House should get from him the grounds on which the Land Commission will base their proposals for market value.
Various arguments were put forward on the last occasion. The Minister was faced with all the possibilities in the event of an auction taking place. In my view, the Minister's speech, concluding the Second Stage, could be classified as a speech made at a crossroads. If the Minister thinks that I am not doing justice to him, I am prepared to say that not once in his concluding speech on the Second Reading did he reply to any questions or proposals that were addressed to him on that Stage.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.
This is a problem that has engaged the attention of this House for some time and the other House too. The amendment which Senator Hayes has tabled has a certain amount of sympathy from all sides of the House. It is a question of operating it so that we are certain that justice will be done. It is a very hard problem to deal with and how the Minister will deal with it eventually will have to be left in his hands and in the hands of the Land Commission. On reading through the Minister's speech I am trying to reconcile some of the things he said, and possibly on examining it himself, he could possibly enlighten us on what he really meant to convey because at col. 897, No. 7, Dáil Vol. 118, the Minister said:—
"This existing statutory basis for fixing the value of land acquired from owners has been operated with the fullest possible sympathy towards owners. Indeed only a very small number of cases of serious dissatisfaction with prices fixed by the Land Commission has arisen during the entire period since 1923."
But if you come along to column 1910, Seanad Volume 37, No. 14, you find that the Minister said:—
"Senator O'Reilly mentioned the price of land. He said that Senator Counihan was pleased with this. The alteration in the method of paying or the method of fixing the price of acquired land was not brought in to please anybody. I am glad if people are pleased, but it was not brought in to please anybody. It was enshrined in this Bill to establish the principle that this State should not be a highway robber. One of the first things I told the Taoiseach when I had a chance of reviewing the situation, after the change of Government, was that if the present methods of paying for acquired land were to continue he would have to seek a new Minister for Lands, that if he wanted me to reign over the Department by which many people were little short of plundered and their land and property confiscated, I would not stand for it and could not do so. This was brought in in common justice that the State should not take any man's property at less than its value."
Those two statements are vastly different in their meanings, and I think that if the Minister is satisfied there is a difference, there should be some explanation from him. If this House believes there is injustice being done and especially since 1933, the amount involved may not be very big. Those who fought and established the Land Acts and who established Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann never did what they did with the intention of inflicting injustice. If they thought they were passing legislation through this House or that injustices would be created— injustice of the type which the Minister had in mind—or if he thinks that injustices were done he should go back to the Oireachtas and seek power from the Oireachtas to pay these people who were robbed ample compensation. I do not think the number would be very big if there was anything like that happening in this country. I believe myself that there was a limited number of cases in which compensation given heretofore was very scanty. The people dealing with that problem had no alternative to administering the law as they found it. I believe that those people never intended there should be injustice and if the Minister is satisfied there was injustice done I believe this House, and Dáil Éireann also, would willingly be prepared to advance the moneys to those people so that they would no longer be dissatisfied and no Minister of State could get up here or in the other House to say that land owners were robbed and plundered when their land was acquired. That is a problem the Minister should face in that light, and I am satisfied that if he could satisfy the House that there was injustice done he could get legislation passed when he proved that such injustices were done. I do not think there is much more to say on the section only that I would ask the Minister to re-examine that problem he mentioned the last day and if he could give us any explanation of what he said in col. 897 and, later, in col. 1910.
I have a certain amount of sympathy with Senator S. Hayes in his amendment. I am satisfied that his only desire is that people should get the best possible price for owners of land which may be acquired by the Land Commission. I could not, however, support the amendment. As I previously stated, I do not think it possible to set down in writing a definition of market value which would be acceptable by all as a satisfactory basis of arranging the price. So many diverse circumstances affect land in the various counties and, indeed, in the different parishes of any one county, that it would be impossible for any Minister or man to set down a definition of what would be a fair market value. The Minister, I take it, has faced up to the matter in a very honest and sympathetic manner and, as far as it is possible, he believes that owners of land will get a fair price in future for any land acquired, and he has endeavoured so to arrange for it. The Minister, indeed, has made most emphatic statements in the Dáil and Seanad in regard to that aspect of the Bill. I think he did say in this House that if the section of the Bill which governs market price proves in working to be unsatisfactory he will come to the House for fresh powers. I, for one, am content to accept the Minister's statement and to believe in the sincerity of what he says. I do not think it is necessary to say any more in that respect. I would like only to add that while I know that the Minister is honest in his contention that more than an attempt will be made to provide against attempts to evade what is the Minister's intention and what the belief of most Senators and Deputies is as to the meaning of this Bill it may bring an unanswerable demand for an amendment of the Bill in future.
I cannot imagine any circumstance in which we will return to the practice of the last 15 or 20 years in regard to land which was acquired at prices tantamount to robbery. Every honest Senator with full knowledge of the manner in which land was acquired and paid for has a full realisation of what justice demands in this respect where land was acquired at confiscation terms. I rely on the Minister's sincerity for that.
I have nothing to say except that in this respect that ten years is far too long a period. With the tendency of money to fall in value a period of ten years might elapse and cases arise in which full value might not be given to people from whom land was taken. We ought to disabuse the minds of people who think that land or anything else would be taken over for the national good without full compensation being paid for it. If land is taken I do not think that it is fair that the person who owns it should make the only contribution to the national good. It should be paid for out of the general pool of taxation.
I should like to congratulate the Minister on announcing the principle of paying full value for any land which he is taking over. There may be some things in the amendment, however, which would commend themselves to him, proximity to markets, rates, water supply etc., but they are things which the officials of the Land Commission as officials of a responsible Department will take into consideration in fixing the price of any land. I do not agree with the period of ten years because it might give rise to hardship and injustice and might also mean that the Land Commission could buy land at a period which would favour them. For that reason I must oppose the amendment.
Senator Burke's opposition to the amendment is based on the idea that money might be devalued still further. I hope that he is not so pessimistic as to believe that money will never appreciate in value. It cuts both ways.
Money is always depreciating in value. It has continued to depreciate for years.
I have nothing to add to what I said before except that while Senators are anxious to see fair prices paid I want to make it perfectly clear that I want the Land Commission to give a fair price or market value and not a price which is unfair to themselves because it is over the market value. On the other hand I do not want them to continue the system which is in operation at this very moment and which will be in operation until this Bill becomes law of paying a price which is unfair to the owner.
The question of putting a definition on "market value" has taxed the brains of many down through the years and no worthwhile definition has emerged. I have put my meagre brains to work on the subject and I must admit failure to define it. This is not a definition as a definition would really strangle the whole effort of the Land Commission and would create hardships to people the price of whose land is being fixed by the Land Commission. As I said when speaking earlier on the amendment, no two farms are similar and every case when it comes up for price fixation must be treated on its merits. If the Land Commission know that the two Houses of the Oireachtas expect them to pay the fair market price for land they will do so and that is that. It must be left entirely to their discretion to do that. This amendment would undo the effect of the whole of Section 5 in the Bill.
When I introduced the amendment my intention was to deal with the various factors affecting the question of a market value which would be fair to both the taxpayers and the community generally. To arrive at the market value you will have to remove anomalies to a very great extent. Within the last three years there has been a tremendous amount of inflation. It is not unusual to see enormous prices being paid, to my mind three times the market value of the land. Senator McGee pointed out where somebody in County Louth, I think, went to £125 an acre. I read in the paper myself where one gentleman paid £65,000 or more for a farm in County Meath. He said he wanted it for tired horses or something like that. The general position which you have at the moment is that the whole market as far as land is concerned has been demoralised as a result of inflation. No small farmer, no matter how progressive, no matter how much he has made after his lifetime of hardship, has a chance of competing and therefore I do not agree with Senator Bennett or Senator Burke who said that this will get the best possible price for the owner. It is not fair at all that a public Department should be allowed to transact business along those lines.
That is not what I meant.
I hope I am not misrepresenting Senator Bennett. These are the factors with which I introduced the amendment. If something like that is not done, with all the juggling of currency and with all the investments from various circumstances, external and internal, it is quite possible that we will not come back to normality for many years. I may have put this in an amateurish way, but I thought the Seanad might have accepted the amendment. Since they are not disposed to do so, I wish to withdraw it.
This is really a new section. The present Section 6 relates to land taken over by county councils under a certain Emergency Powers Order. This is to bring into line land taken over under a different Emergency Powers Order, by the Turf Development Board or by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in days gone by.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (1) (b) (ii), line 26, after "shall" insert "not".
With regard to the funding of annuities, under the 1923 Act the arrears over three years were wiped out. The arrears for the three years were funded under, I understand, the usual 4 per cent. regulations in the Land Commission. Under this section, I understand that, for the first time, it is proposed to split the funding of the annuities.
No. I will explain, if the Senator wishes. The practice is as follows. When vested land is being acquired, in all cases except where the land would have been redeemed by the annuitant before being taken over or where the land would be rent free because the annuity had expired, the annuity or the redemption value—in other words, the sum which would buy out the land to leave it rent free, was redeemed out of the purchase money. For instance, if X had a farm acquired from him at a price of £3,000 and if £800 would be the amount which, if paid in to the Land Commission, would free that land for ever, that £800 is stopped out of the price. This Section 7 proposes not to do that. The funding annuity then is the arrears that were present at the time of the passing of the 1933 Act and which were funded in with the ordinary annuity. While we are not asking the person from whom we acquire land to redeem the purchase annuity, we are asking them to redeem the funding of rent arrears which existed at the time of the 1933 Act, because we hold that that is a burden on the holding and that the new tenant should not bear it. That is the purpose of Section 7.
If I may say so without causing any offence, the Senator should reflect a little on the wording. It means that we shall not ascertain what the funding annuities amount to. That, to say the least of it, would not work out or make sense.
I think the Senator is creating a great hardship on some farmers and I think the Minister is very severe in his proposals also.
Is the Senator speaking on the amendment?
I do not speak so often and I am sorry for intruding. It strikes me that the Minister, too, is creating a hardship.
I do not agree with Senator McGee on that. At the time of the passing of the 1933 Act, certain cases of arrears of annuities existed. These were funded so as to have the effect of increasing the annuities somewhat. We are dealing with the purchase money, but we do not propose under Section 7 to pay the arrears on the particular land. I do not think that could be accounted a hardship.
Certain arrears were wiped out.
They were funded, not wiped out.
I think the Minister is severe in this. When they were funded, they were funded for grave reasons. It was impossible to collect them, and going back on them now looking for a pound of flesh indicates that there are more Jews in Ireland than those who buy land.
The Senator's amendment would mean that every person from whom we would acquire land would have the State bear the arrears, while every farmer whose land is not acquired must continue to bear the arrears under the 1933 Act.
These arrears were funded because of the necessity of the time.
This is merely a drafting amendment, to enable the Land Commission to determine the amount of the land annuity from the last gale day. It was an oversight in the drafting of the Bill. Let me give an example. The gale days usually are the 1st June and the 1st December. Supposing the Land Commission takes possession of a holding which they have acquired let us say on the 1st March or any date in between the gale days. This amendment is to give them power to calculate and determine the amount of annuity from the last gale day up to the date on which they took possession.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In paragraph (a), line 55, to delete "purchase money" and substitute "market value."
This amendment is proposed to clarify the position. The term "purchase money" is generally used to apply to the market price to be paid to the landlord to buy out his interest. Here, market value, or tenant's interest in that land is very confusing. I would say that it is confusing, to the extent, that you are using terms for two different elements of the situation. I should like to have the Minister's views on the matter.
This amendment proposes to delete two words which appear in the Bill, as it stands—"purchase money"—and to substitute therefor "market value." On reading a paragraph in sub-section (1) of Section 8, the House will notice that the remainder of the paragraph reads:—
"The reclamation annuity shall, whether it does or does not stand consolidated with a purchase annuity in accordance with sub-section (4) of Section 3 of the said Act, be redeemed out of the purchase money of the land or the resumption price as may be appropriate."
It is to be redeemed out of the purchase money. If we substitute "market value," as the Senator wishes, it will not do, because in the paragraph the reclamation annuity shall be redeemed out of the price of the land. That is what the paragraph means. The Senator has suggested that we should say "redeemed out of the market value." It is out of the price, as paid to the previous owner of the land, that that reclamation annuity will be stopped, and the Senator will readily agree that it cannot be redeemed or kept back out of the market value.
Will the Minister not agree that it confuses the thing between the owner of the head rent and buying out the tenant's interest in the land?
No, this section only deals with the redemption of the reclamation annuity and such redemption will have to take place out of the price of the land, the money paid for the land. It cannot be taken out of the value of the land. I would ask the Senator not to press the amendment.
The amendment was, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 are out of order.
I must bow to your ruling, Sir.
I move amendment No. 9, standing in the name of Senator Hawkins:
In sub-section (1) to delete paragraph (d) and substitute as follows:—
(d) the determination of the officer of the Land Commission on whom will devolve the authority for the selection of persons to be allottees of any land.
I do not know quite enough about this amendment. I thought Senator Hawkins was here, and I would like formally to move the amendment, as he may turn up in the interval. I am not particularly conversant with the thing, to deal with it and, for that reason, I would like to just formally move it.
I am sure the Minister has considered this amendment in the name of Senator Hawkins. Like Senator Hayes, I am not fully conversant or sufficiently conversant with the matter to deal with it. I am sure that Senator Hayes and myself, having mentioned this matter, would be glad of the Minister's views as to whether the amendment is desirable or whether it is a matter that cannot be considered.
If I may suggest, Sir, that No. 9 and No. 10 are practically the same, and if it is within the Rules of the House, they can be taken together.
Yes, No. 9 and No. 10.
Section 11, Sir, is the section that sets out clearly the special function of the commissioners and these are the excepted matters which the two amendments propose to delete and to substitute the words as set out in (d) and (e). These are the excepted matters, which are the sole function of the commissioners, and the matters coming within the scope of the paragraph from (a) to (n) cannot be impinged or touched upon by the Minister, Deputies or Senators, without bringing in new legislation before the House. Senator Hawkins seeks to give, as an excepted matter in amendment No. 9, he seeks to give to the commissioners the power to appoint a particular officer of the Land Commission for a certain job; that is, for the selection of persons to be allottees of any land; and, again, for the selection of the officer or the authority who will decide the price at which such land will be sold. I take it that Senator Hawkins has in his mind a question that got a considerable amount of airing in the Dáil that, out of the excepted matters, I am deleting certain functions which formerly, before the passing of this Act, belonged to the commissioners.
I am giving these functions into the hands of a senior inspector in the Land Commission, who is a very high officer of the Land Commission. There are only four of them, all told, on the outdoor staff. The purpose of that, and I went into it fairly fully on the second stage, was to speed up rearrangement. I am asking the Oireachtas to determine the officer who will sanction a rearrangement scheme. As a matter of fact, I am taking it, in my opinion, to a much higher level when I am asking the Dáil and Seanad to determine who will sanction the person to be appointed, the person who will sanction the rearrangement scheme, instead of leaving it to the commissioners to do so. May I just recall what I said on the previous occasion here on that subject. A rearrangement scheme is not to be confused, by any means, with two other functions of the Land Commission. One is to decide what person is to get a complete new holding and to decide what he will pay on his new holding. That is the function of the commissioners, and will be after the passing of the Act.
The second is in the case of an uneconomic holder, who lives near a farm about to be divided, and who gets a separate allotment on that farm which is to be consolidated with the parent holding. That, also, is a function of the Land Commissioners, and is not a function of the Minister or any officer of the Minister. In this case, the arrangement scheme is totally different. While it can be argued by legal men that it is actually allotting what happens is this, that when a Land Commission inspector goes into a townland or group of townlands in bad rundale or badly intermixed he asks the tenants, who already own the land, to surrender into his possession for a split second all their rights, so that he may rearrange them and put the holding together in one piece, if possible, or two at the outside, so as to bring some kind of order out of the chaos that exists in a rundale or an intermixed townland or group of townlands.
What I am doing in the section and what Senator Hawkins has in mind in his amendment is to allow the commissioners to determine the officer. First, I am asking a higher authority, the supreme authority—this House and the other House—to determine the type of officer who will sanction the scheme. Secondly, in case any Senator should think that there could possibly be an abuse, or that the Minister or any member of the Party in power for the time being could abuse the power, I ask the House to remember that, in the case of every rearrangement, it is not the Minister or the commissioners whom the inspector who proposes the rearrangement scheme has over him, but as many people as there are tenants involved in the scheme he is rearranging. He has every one of these to deal with, to please and to satisfy.
When a scheme satisfies the people who are being rearranged in a townland, the commissioners and the Dáil and Seanad can take it that the scheme is a good one, because nobody knows the conditions in the townland better than the tenants themselves. They know the value of every garden and of every square foot and square yard of land. They know to a nicety if one tenant is, so to speak, getting a better slice of the loaf than another, and the moment I hear that a rearrangement scheme involving ten, 15 or 30 tenants has gone through, I know that the land has been divided evenly, because it has been divided by the tenants themselves.
That is why I am excepting this out, so that the officer on the spot can sanction the scheme and so that the delays about which I spoke on the previous occasion—delays caused by reason of having to go through all the Land Commission channels up to the hierarchy, with further innumerable delays there and perhaps the lapse of two or four years and then the whole thing falling through and the inspector's valuable time wasted—will not arise.
I would ask Senator Hawkins not to press his amendments because they would produce a queer effect. They would merely mean that the Land Commission would have to go to all the trouble of asking me or the chief inspector who is the best officer in a particular area to sanction such a scheme.
And even the lawyers in the Dáil did not spot it.
I should like to draw the Minister's attention to subparagraph (n) which makes one of the excepted matters the determination whether or not any gratuity is to be paid under Section 28. There is an amendment to Section 28 which makes it obligatory on the Minister either to pay compensation or to offer land, or both. I do not know whether that amendment will be accepted or not, but it aims at seeing that a man disemployed through the taking over of land will be either offered land or compensation. If we pass this section as it is, it is left to the Commissioners to decide whether or not any compensation shall be paid or any allocation of lands made. Will that prevent our going back to it later when we come to the other amendment, and if we pass the other amendment, will it not mean having to go back and rescind this?
I oppose this section because I feel, as I pointed out on Second Reading, that the lay commissioners on the Appeal Tribunal, whom it is proposed to get rid of here, constituted a very useful instrument. Everybody knows that the Judicial Commissioner by whom they are to be replaced cannot have the same facilities for doing the work of appeal as the lay commissioners. There was a lot of criticism in the Dáil by various Deputies such as Deputy Giles, Deputy Fagan and others with regard to one case which is outstanding in my mind. It was a case of tremendous hardship resulting from acquisition in relation to a holding belonging to Mrs. Connolly of Mabestown, Co. Meath. In that case, I understand that, on appeal to the Appeal Tribunal, the price was increased by upwards of £300. The Judicial Commissioner at the time, Judge Wylie, looked on it as being within his province to fix, out of the £2,500 involved in that case, £2,200 to the owner of the head rent, leaving only £300 for this unfortunate woman for her good holding. When rent, income-tax and other charges were taken by the Land this woman had only £5. That case is the one outstanding case, so far as the Appeal Tribunal set up under the 1933 Act is concerned. Now it is proposed under this section to revert to the old system of one Judicial Commissioner to carry on the old bad practice of the past. It is only reasonable to expect that a county court judge would not have the same intimate association with the work of the Land Commission as the lay commissioners had during their time. He would not be in touch with the files or with the general running of the work to any particular extent. I would say that it would be a very serious step to take to do away with the Appeal Tribunal.
When I was a member of the Dáil, in 1927 and 1928, there was a great deal of criticism expressed by the late Deputy John Nolan of Limerick, the late Deputy Gorey, Deputy Corry and Deputy Hassett of the work of the Judicial Commissioner at that time. To revert to the same instrument again is to my mind a retrograde step. It is very foolish on the part of the Minister. The Minister ought to think seriously before he would get rid of that instrument. It is easy for someone to say that there was not enough work being done in the Land Commission during all the years of the emergency to warrant the retention of the instrument of the Appeal Tribunal, but I would say that, if the Minister makes the progress that he expects under this Bill, there will be plenty of work for the Appeal Tribunal. It would be a very drastic step to do away with it. The matter is worthy of very careful consideration.
There is nothing sinister in this, and there is no attempt to belittle the Appeal Tribunal or to degrade in any way any of its members by this section. The number of appeals has been falling steadily for a long number of years.
Because there was no activity on the part of the Land Commission.
In 1935 the number of appeals was 453. In the following years it was 447, 493, 687, 217, 68, 139, 98, 68, 65, 22, 32, 40, 58, and it was 65 two years ago. When Section 5 of this Bill becomes law we do not anticipate many appeals on price. We expect that, as in the case of resumed land, where market value is paid at the present time, the number of appeals on price will be very few.
I want to explain to the House that the Appeal tribunal is not being removed or taken away. Its powers are not being limited or clipped in any way. The Appeal Tribunal consists of a Judicial Commissioner who is a judge of the High Court. He presides. With him are two lay commissioners— Appeal Tribunal commissioners—who cannot touch any work of the Land Commission which may come before the Appeal Tribunal later. If it is anticipated that any particular case has anything in it of an appealable nature, these two lay commissioners, in their "off tribunal" hours—if I may use the expression—cannot touch that case. Otherwise, they would be deciding it in the lower court and again in the upper court.
No evil result will flow from the fact that we are reverting to a system which obtained 16 years ago, that is, to leave the appeals in the hands of a High Court judge alone. I have every confidence that the fullest justice and fair play will be given when it is in the hands of the High Court judge, who, alone, will constitute the Appeal Tribunal after a certain time after the passing of this Bill. The case that Senator Hayes referred to—I think Mrs. Connolly was the name of the person concerned—was actually decided by the present Appeal Tribunal, composed of three men.
Yes. It occurred in the year 1935.
A judicial function was claimed by Judge Wylie. If the Minister inquires into it he will find that is true.
Judge Wylie may have been the Judicial Commissioner on the tribunal at the time but he was supported by two lay commissioners. In other words, the personnel of the Appeal Tribunal was the same on that occasion as it is to-day.
It is not without having given very serious consideration to this matter that I propose in this Bill to constitute the Appeal Tribunal of a High Court judge alone. I can assure the House that no evil results will flow and that no hardship will result to anybody. We anticipate that the amount of work falling to the Appeal Tribunal from the Land Commission after the passing of Section 5 will be small.
It appears rather peculiar to me that the judges who will act on appeal will have almost tried the case before it is formally heard in the court. That is a matter to which the Minister might turn his attention. The appeal commissioners will look at a particular case and say that there is a point in it which might come before them. In that case they will not deal with it. If they say that there is no appealable point in the case they are free to sit on the board.
May I explain to the Senator that it is not the commissioners themselves who decide that there may be appealable matter in a particular file or case? Others decide that and say it is not to come before such and such a commissioner who is a member of the appeal board.
I think the Minister has raised a very important point there.
When functions of a judicial nature are referred to civil servants or persons of a quasi-judicial status, and when the rights of evidence, etc., in these courts are not the same as obtain in the ordinary courts, we should always be very careful to secure that there would not be anything suggestive of prejudgment or predetermination of these matters. I would ask the Minister to ensure that to the public mind it will appear that everything is the same and that we have the same respect for the land courts as we have for the other courts. If the idea gets abroad that these gentlemen, or some of these gentlemen, have more or less prejudged the issue, it will not be good for the Land Commission and it will not be good for the public interest. In regard to what Senator Hayes said in connection with this matter, I have to agree completely with the Minister in this respect.
Who appoints the Judicial Commissioner?
The President of the Supreme Court.
And who has the right to remove him?
Only the President of the Supreme Court has the right to remove him from his office as Judicial Commissioner.
I feel that listening to the arguments put up for and against has made me a bit nervous— that we ought to consider carefully about accepting the Minister's assurance that we will improve the position and not worsen it if we leave the decision to one man, even if it be a judge of the Supreme Court. In no case where you make an appeal can the result of it be decided by one person. Every man accused in a court of petty crime can take it from court to court, and when it is finally decided, that decision will not rest in one person's hands. I am not saying that the Judicial Commissioner will be unfair, but it is much better where an appeal is made on a matter of fact, equity or justice that a decision should be taken, if necessary, by a majority vote. There can be no majority vote if you leave it in the hands of one man, no matter how good he may be. The Minister says the position will not be worsened, but I do not think he could defend that statement. I do not think if he were going for an appeal that he would forget to bear in mind that the appeal and the final decision beyond which no further appeal is possible would rest in the hands of one man. There is such a thing as human prejudice; there is also lack of knowledge, and I have no doubt that there are such things as sluggish livers, even in the High Court. A man might be in a good mood one day and a bad one another day. If the reason given for this change is that there is not enough work for three, what economy will be achieved by getting rid of the lay commissioners? Will the amount, if any, that is saved be worth the annoyance and worry which the injustice would cause to any individual?
If the appeals have fallen in the last few years under the old system they will fall to zero when he puts this proposal into the Bill because no one is going to take the risk of incurring the expense of an appeal if one man instead of three is going to make a decision. A certain man who has been named as a judge is a man that I, for instance, would prefer that my case would not come before alone or any judge like him. I know that in another court I would receive justice tempered with mercy and I also know that he is not the type of person to temper justice with mercy——
That is a reflection on a member of the judiciary.
The judge's name was mentioned.
I did not hear any name.
It may be said that decisions under this Bill will be given by a man without prejudice, although a man without prejudices of any kind would be difficult to find. If the Minister has no power to appoint this judge or to remove him and if he is going to give him an exclusive authority, I think the Minister is acting unwisely in not sticking to three. So far as the Supreme Court is concerned he would not suggest that the number on the Appeal Court should vary because the number of murders has decreased or increased or appeals of any other kind.
I think the sort of speech we have just had from Senator O'Farrell is one that should not be heard in any Parliament.
It is quite obvious, Sir, Senator Baxter is in the wrong place and that you are not managing the affairs of the House to his liking. I am prepared to accept the ruling of An Cathaoirleach on the question of order, not Senator Baxter's ruling.
I think the line pursued by the speaker is that this country cannot find a judge who is competent and impartial. That is a reflection on the whole of the judiciary in this State. We have circuit judges all over the country. We have district justices dealing with all sorts of offences every day, every week, every year, and I do not think any of us who are concerned with protecting the rights of owners of land have the least bit of fear of any judge before whom we have to appeal —if there is any necessity to appeal, and that is the issue. I agree with the Minister that when you begin to pay a farmer the market price of his farm the farmer will be satisfied. Before he would decide to appeal, he would hesitate whether it was worth the liability of incurring the expense of an appeal and going before the court. You can have dozens of men who know enough about the value of land, or at least who are competent to adjudicate between the two arguments that will be put up and who can be trusted absolutely to do justice. That is what the gentleman sitting in judgement as a member of the Court of Appeal will have to do and I think it is altogether the wrong approach to suggest that such people are not to be found among those who may be called upon to act in that capacity.
I am quite certain that farmers who had experience of it in the past would have been very glad if the law were different and if they were in a position to have the court weighing the considerations which will be weighed when this Bill becomes law. The case which I cited and which is on the official records is a case in point. I do not know the case to which Senator Hayes referred but that was a case of hardship, too. They were within the law but they were unjust.
I do not know that the situation would be improved by conceding what has been asked. I think that the people who had experience of the land courts in the past are very pleased with what the Minister is putting into the Bill. They are satisfied that they will get justice but they are satisfied mainly because of the other approach, the fact that when land is taken over the owner will get market value. That is what will please the owners of land and give them the security which they have not enjoyed.
Any of us who must go into court has to accept that the judge before whom the case is heard is both competent and impartial and I am quite satisfied that whoever is selected by the President of the Supreme Court to fill this office will have been judged by him to be both competent and impartial.
The only case I have heard against having three people on the Appeal Court was the decreasing volume of work in that court. We know that the two lay commissioners have plenty to do if they are not employed in court. At the present time they are confined to work outside cases which they might have to deal with later but they can deal with all other work of the Land Commission and, consequently there would be no saving in time or money. I certainly think that any ordinary citizen will expect greater justice from a tribunal of three people than from any one person. I agree to some extent with what Senator S. O'Farrell said; people vary in their viewpoint. They also vary in the humour they are in at times. I would definitely say that each judge giving his verdict would give it honestly. I do not want to make any suggestion that a judge would give a dishonest opinion but even giving an honest opinion he could still be influenced by his personal condition or personal viewpoint. I think that the present court consisting of a judge of the High Court plus two lay commissioners who are familiar with all the work of the Land Commission and with everything connected with land law is by far a better tribunal than a judge who has no knowledge whatever perhaps of ordinary land transactions.
I think that Senator Baxter tripped up a little. He suggested that he would be prepared to accept the decision of a judge who understood land conditions. Then I think he felt that a judge might not have such knowledge and I have forgotten how exactly he got over it. My belief is that a judge could be appointed who would have no knowledge whatever of the land and who would have to weigh the arguments made by the two opposing sides without that knowledge.
The Minister is very unwise to change the constitution of this court and certainly he made no argument for changing it. That is what puzzled me. The argument he has made was the decreasing volume of work in the court but, at the same time, we know that there is an increasing volume of work for the two lay commissioners because there will be less matters that they will be precluded from giving their attention to.
I support the amendment for the reason that I look upon the lay commissioners as a kind of jury. This House and the Dáil are going to abolish the system of trial by jury. We had the legal man and the lay commissioners as jury, but by passing this Act we are doing away with the commissioners. I am certain that the owners of land would rather have the lay commissioners than a judge who, while believing that he was doing his best, might err as judges have erred in the past. The Minister should get back to the original system and many members of this and the other House would plead with him to do so. The owners of land in the country want the present system to prevail and the Minister should seriously consider the matter. There should be no Party issue about it at all.
And there is not, either.
If it were left to a free vote I feel that the members of the other House would have no hesitation in supporting the present system of two lay commissioners plus a judge.
I think I should try to explain one matter. When Senator Hayes opened the debate he said that one of the reasons he wanted an appeal tribunal was that people did not get a fair price for land in the past.
I did not say that people did not get a fair price for their land, but I gave the instance of one case that flopped. It was a case of hardship, the case of Mrs. Connolly, Judge Wylie, reserving as a judicial function for himself to look after the owner of the head rent, awarded him £2,200 out of the £2,500 given to Mrs. Connolly on appeal to the Appeal Tribunal.
The only thing that can come before the tribunal is a question of law. There can be no appeal on a question of fact. The appeal commissioners will not fix the price of land. The reason there was so much dissatisfaction in the past was that market value was not paid and because the annuities had to be redeemed out of the purchase price. It was not the appeal commissioners who were responsible but the law of the land, and it would be unfair, I think, not to state publicly that the law was unfair and not the commissioners. The commissioners administered the law as it was and if any person during the past 20 years got a price which was unfair or unjust it was because the law was unfair or unjust.
Senator Hayes stated that the decision rested with the judge in the particular case he quoted and the Minister, in reply, stated that it was the present commissioners who dealt with the matter. I do not know who is right, but it would interesting to know. Under the present system of dealing with land there have been cases which can only be looked upon as confiscation. I have a case in mind. I have not the slightest doubt that this particular place and premises were worth £2,000 in the market and there were any amount of buyers, but the Land Commission took it over, and all the owner got for it was £600. Anything which would change that system and do justice would make me very glad.
I am personally of the opinion that a decision of three is really stronger and more effective than a decision of one man. There are a great many cases in the courts where a majority decision is made, where two judges are one way and one the other way.
The faults may not have been the commissioners. The law may have been administered, and was, I dare say, administered conscientiously by them, but we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that grave injustices were done in some cases. I think it is quite clear from the debate that has developed that no Party issues are in question. Everybody, irrespective of what side he is on, is very anxious to help and advise the Minister if he can, and see that he will get a tribunal fair and satisfactory to everyone. I would be glad if the Minister could assure us as to who was responsible for the decision in the case Senator Hayes put up. Senator Hayes has said who the judge was, and the Minister has replied that the court was composed of the judge and the present commissioners.
As a farmer who has come under the activities of the Land Commission in the resumption of some land, I feel I might say a few words on this question. It is not enough that justice be done: the farmer should believe that justice is done to him. From the experience we have had of the Appeal Tribunal, we know there has been no confidence whatever in it. No matter what Party or section they come from, judges have been regarded by everyone with complete confidence as to their administration of justice in this State, and I have never heard anyone state they were unable to face a judge and not have certainty that they would receive complete justice at his hands. What pleases the farmers most is that they have an appeal to an independent judge, independent of the Appeal Tribunal and the Land Commissioners or lay commissioners. That gives more satisfaction amongst farmers whose land may be acquired or resumed than any other section in the Bill.
I understand from the Bill that this system has been in operation for 17 years, of a Judicial Commissioner and two lay commissioners, and that no protest has been made. I do not suppose anyone ever asked for the removal of the two lay commissioners.
I think that that is wrong. We have protested time and time again here.
It has been said that the farmers have no confidence in the Appeal Tribunal. The Senator could say that without protest from Senator Baxter. He could say that a court which dealt with land never had the confidence of the people. But Senator Baxter, being a specialist in misrepresentation, accuses me of belittling judges and says I have no respect for judges or their judgment. If Senator Baxter thinks now, as he pretends to think, that a lay commissioner is not necessary, why did he not suggest long ago that they be removed? If he thinks one man, whether a High Court judge or not, is better fitted to sit in judgment on a citizen than any two or three sitting together, why did he not call for the abolition of every court of appeal and have one dictatorship? Why did he not act on the principle that this country should be run by Senator Baxter himself with some yes-men?
I have as much right as Senator Baxter has to speak here and, though I may not have the same knowledge of some affairs as he has. I have considerably more of others. I never interrupted him or complained of his readiness to throw mud. The Senator boasts about his land, but he has thrown enough mud at me to make a respectable farm if I had anywhere to put it. He ought to conduct himself as a Senator. If he thinks the Cathaoirleach is not competent to manage affairs he should put down a motion for his removal.
On a point of order. Are we discussing this duel between Senator Baxter and Senator O'Farrell or the Land Bill?
We are discussing Section 13 of the Land Bill.
When I spoke on Section 13 and on this proposal to keep the two lay commissioners, I presumed I was in order and you, Sir, did not say I was not. Senator Baxter said I had made a speech which I should not have made, and which I should not have been allowed to make. That was an imputation against your ruling.
It would be better if the Senator left Senator Baxter and came to the section.
I am back to the Bill again. No argument has been given why it is better. The Minister himself has not said why one man is better than three. He merely said that for a number of years the number of appeals has been declining. That is not a good measuring rod in this case. Whether the appeals be 20 or 2,000, the principle remains the same. If the number fell to ten, it does not prove that one man is a better judge of the ultimate issue. The principle has been accepted in all other cases.
I do not want to make any remark about circuit judges. I have never had to go before a circuit judge or any other judge. I made no imputation of dishonesty or incompetence against any of them. But even from circuit judges and High Court judges there is an appeal, not to one man but to several. If that principle is good in other things, it should be good in the Land Bill.
I am not going to follow Senator O'Farrell, and see no necessity for any annoyance or indignation. I have a perfect right to express my view about Senator O'Farrell's comments, and there is nothing personal in it. Those of us who are concerned to defend the rights of farmers, the people who have land and know its value realise the importance of stability of ownership, the importance of ensuring that if our property is acquired, whether it be little or great, there is at least a court to which we can appeal, and from which we can expect an impartial judgment.
Senator Counihan has told of his experience. I may point out here to those who have spoken in opposition to the section that they have not told us what would happen if the section were not there. If they do not like it, they should have put up an alternative. It would be a queer Bill if passed without this section, if the section were eliminated and nothing put in its place. I have no hesitation in saying that from experience gained in the past and from the point of view of those concerned in protecting the rights of the farmers, there is no farmer who feels he is justified in lodging an appeal, and who would not be happy to go before a judge, one judge, whose judgment will not lean either to the right or to the left. The farmer knows that he will get a fair hearing in regard to the questions at issue. I think that the Minister is doing what is going to give great satisfaction to the people in the country who own land. I have no doubt about that at all, and I am further convinced, as I said a moment ago, that whoever is going to occupy that office, care and discretion will be exercised by the President of the Supreme Court, and that the person who is put there will be regarded by everybody, as a competent, efficient judge, with knowledge of the kind that is requisite to discharge the duties of the office satisfactorily. I have no doubt, whatever, that the Minister's proposal is acceptable to the people of the country, who are mainly concerned with what is embodied in the section.
On the whole, this thing seems futile and foolish to anybody listening to it. It has all revolved about the appointment of an Appeal Tribunal on which we have three people. I knew the two lay commissioners very well. I understand they are being retired, anyhow, and they will not be losing anything. If we throw our minds back for 27 or 28 years, we will find that the whole position in this country is changed, our whole line of life and traditions, as far as the appointment of people, getting jobs and everything else has changed; and, at least, we ought to adapt ourselves at this hour of the day to trust our own people, and to trust our own judges. The Minister is doing one big thing, and it has gone through the whole Bill, never mind this section. He has taken the power away from his own hands, and from the political Parties, and handed it over to independent men, whose position in life will leave them above influence, and the pulling, dragging and annoyance which every Deputy and every Senator is annoyed with. From that point of view, it is one of the greatest things in favour of this Bill. If we look to other Departments of State, we find that there are heads of these Departments. If you go to the Revenue Commissioners, it is the higher official and the senior official who does the job. The Minister can do little for you. The rules must be kept, and the law must be kept strictly. I cannot see why the same thing cannot happen in the Land Commission. There is hardly a judge of the High Court who has not been appointed by some Government over the past 27 years. Surely that judge of the High Court is not going to blot his conscience by giving a verdict in favour of somebody, because he knew him or knocked about with him in hotels or anywhere else. We ought to disabuse our minds that we are living in conditions of 30 years ago, and come down to the present day. If we do, we must trust the people who are running the State. It is neither the Minister nor the Government that is running the State. It is the higher officials of the Departments, because they are there when the Ministers are gone. The same thing must apply in the Land Commission. We can come back with our complaints to the Dáil or Seanad, but if we are going to be suspicious of everybody or if we are going to create as much trouble as we can, because we do not like somebody, we are not going to do much good. We must trust a judge of the High Court who will be appointed by the Chief Justice. If we do not trust him in court we cannot trust him in the Land Commission. If the position is as talked about here to-night, we can trust no judge in any court to-day.
I listened very attentively to the arguments on both sides and I think that there is a very strong case for retaining the Appeal Tribunal as it was. It seems to me, that a judge would undoubtedly be impartial, but it would be a great help to the judge and the tribunal to have members who are more acquainted with the work of the Land Commission in general. I take it, that ordinary judges have not a close acquaintance with conditions on the land and, in general, it would be better, and more likely to lead to fair adjustment, to have the tribunal as it was. Senator Counihan put up a very strong argument against the tribunal on the ground that the decisions hitherto were a source of injustice to the people whose land was taken up. I think Senator Burke has already answered that argument, because he stated, and we all agree, that injustices caused by the Land Commission were not due to the actions of the Land Commission at all, but to their having to carry out the law as they found it. We are all agreed that the law is to be altered in that respect, so that the tribunal in the future will be in a different position from the tribunal in the past. It is also fair to state to the public that the Land Commission was not responsible for the price paid, that it was due to the law, and it is only fair to state that it was due to a law passed in 1923. It is only right, that that should be stated, and remembered, that the principle was laid down in the 1923 Act, that the price should be fair to the Land Commission and to the person from whom the land was being acquired. That is being altered to-day by general consent. I would appeal to the Minister to look into the matter, again, and in view of the anxiety of all Parties and this is above Parties, to see if he might reconsider leaving the tribunal as it is.
I, too, would like to have this amendment put in, that the judge, with two lay commissioners, would be retained. After all, commonsense will dictate to anybody that any man would have greater confidence going before three men than one man. Senator Ryan stated that we had changed a good deal. We definitely have changed a good deal, because in my time, when I was growing up, and I am sure the Minister will bear me out, the thing that troubled us most in the country was not the price people were getting for their land, but the price that was being given to them for their land. In the part of the country I come from, if we had our way, very little would they have got for it at all and the same would appertain in the neighbouring counties. Let that be as it will. I appeal to the Minister to leave the section as it was, with a judge and two lay commissioners.
I would like to ask the Minister, before closing this discussion, to clarify the issues, because I am not very clear myself as to what the position is. I am asking for information in a genuine desire to help in the task of clearing up the whole position for other Senator, as well as myself. In a general way, of course, there is no gainsaying that an appeal to three people is better than an appeal to one. That, I think, is commonsense. Therefore, if the question simply was: is the Appeal Tribunal to consist of three people or one person; if that were the only question, I cannot help feeling that most Senators would be in favour of an appeal to three rather than one. I have a feeling that that is not precisely the position and not precisely the question to be decided. As I understand it, and I am speaking entirely in order to elicit information rather than to express an opinion, the position is that on all questions of law the Judicial Commissioner under the existing system has exclusive jurisdiction, and that the choice is not between an appeal to three judges, co-equal in all matters and with equal votes, and to a Judicial Commissioner sitting alone. At present the Judicial Commissioner sits with what can be described as two assessors and, therefore, the change proposed by the section is not as great as might appear from the course of the debate.
That is quite so.
That is the point I want to make. The case referred to by Senator S. Hayes is a very good example of what was stated by the Minister, the judge in that case being constrained by the law as he found it to do something which resulted in considerable hardship for a particular individual. That would have been the same if there had been three, five or seven judges, provided that the law was strictly and correctly construed, and I do not think it has been suggested by anybody during the debate that the learned judge on that occasion did not decide the case correctly according to law, although it did result in hardship for certain individuals because of the particular way in which the law was drafted. I simply rose, as I say, to invite the Minister to clarify the issue and to ask him to state if my impression is not correct that at present the Judicial Commission, for all practical purposes, decides law points alone. I should rather like to know precisely what the actual powers of the lay commissioners are and precisely what powers we are abolishing if we pass this section.
In response to Senator O'Brien's request to me to clear the air, I think I should say that it does not make as big a change as would appear to remove the two commissioners from the Appeal Tribunal, leaving the work to be done solely by the Judicial Commissioner. While the lay commissioners sat with the Judicial Commissioner on the bench it was the function of the Judicial Commissioner to decide all questions of law. In the matter of price discussions or fixation of prices the lay commissioners have a certain say, an equal say with the judge, but after the passing of this Bill, when the Judicial Commissioner will be sitting alone he will have the assistance of two assessors who will be equivalent to court messengers and who will furnish him with information, apart from the fact that the Judicial Commissioner himself is an expert on land values. If the Land Commission in fixing their price, or the Appeal Tribunal, heretofore did something in respect of which people felt that they were not getting a fair deal, it was not their fault because the Supreme Court must obey the laws laid down by the Dáil and Seanad, as must also the Appeal Tribunal. They got very specific instructions to follow Section 25 of the 1923 Act which told them how to determine price and out of which arose all the disappointment and grumbling which we had, and all the manifest injustices. It was from that Act that they flowed. Some Senators made play with the fact that the Act was passed in 1923. It was.
No, 1923. Under the 1923 Act, the price for acquired land is determined up to the present day. The 1933 Act established the appeal tribunal.
That is what I meant.
I am talking about the method of fixing the price. No complaints, or at any rate very few, are on record up to about 1930 or 1931 in regard to the fixation of price. It was later, and particularly since the economic war came to an end, that most of the complaints came in, and I do not think it is any salve to the conscience of a certain section who formed the Government to say that they continued to implement something which was creating an injustice, although it might have been passed years before they came into office. I do not think that a man who shoots another by pulling a trigger can salve his conscience by saying that somebody else loaded the gun and that, if it was not there, the man would not have been shot. No injustice can possibly flow from the change in the Appeal Tribunal proposed by the Bill. The Judicial Commissioner, I have every confidence, will discharge his duty under Section 5 to the satisfaction of everybody concerned. I have not got the slightest doubt about that.
The number of appeals coming before the Judicial Commissioner after the passing of this Act will diminish to a great extent. It has been argued that that argument should not be advanced in respect of the taking away of these two lay commissioners, but you must take that into account, apart from the fact that I want these Appeal Tribunal commissioners as lay commissioners for a very important work. I do not intend to commit myself to saying which of the two types of work is the more important, but I want them for a very important and very useful type of work which this Bill aims at speeding up, relief of congestion. Senators can make their minds easy that no evils will result from it. The case quoted by Senator Hayes in support of his argument that the present personnel of the Tribunal should be retained arose in 1935, when the Appeal Tribunal was composed of a Judicial Commissioner and two lay commissioners sitting with him, because the Appeal Tribunal as at present constituted had its first sitting in April, 1934, and it was almost a year later that the case in question came before it, so that argument falls to the ground.
I want to assure the House that I have given very careful consideration to this. If something was wrong in the past, it was the law and not the constitution of the Appeal Tribunal that was responsible. It was the law laid down by this and the other House, in obedience to which the Appeal Tribunal was working, that was at fault. On a question of resumption or acquisition, there is no appeal from the lower Land Commission court, and I have not got the slightest doubt that, as Senator Counihan said, it will go a long way towards establishing confidence in the people to know that they now have an appeal from the Land Commission court to a High Court judge, sitting as an Appeal Tribunal. I think it will go a long way towards restoring the confidence of the people, and I urge that the opposition to the section be not persisted in, and that the section as I present it be allowed to stand.
I am satisfied that this will cause no hardship.
Has the Minister not concluded?
Are we to have the debate opened up again?
The Minister's arguments have convinced me, and I accept his assurance that it will cause no hardship, but it is very difficult for a man in my position to understand why it will be all right now with one man on the bench, when, for 17 years, we thought it necessary to have three.
It is very important to remember that, so far as the lay commissioners were concerned, no evidence of price on appeal has ever been given by the Land Commission. It is merely the witnesses on behalf of the owners who give evidence. That alone, I should say, justifies having the two extra commissioners on the tribunal. I understand that, long before 1923, there were with the judge at least two people in some cases. I have been looking up Section 47 of the Land Act, 1891. In these cases the judge insisted on having two commissioners on the bench with him when he was deciding cases of appeal.
I think it was Senator O'Farrell who was rebuked by Senator Baxter for criticising the judiciary. I do not think he made any reflection at all on the judiciary. In all fairness to everybody, I would point out that there is no greater criticism of, or reflection on, the judiciary or the courts than this Bill. Those two lay commissioners were appointed under the Act of 1933 and there and then got the tenure and status of county court judges. That is the position, as I am informed, and I would like to hear the Taoiseach's version of that matter.
They got the tenure, which refers to their length of life in office, but they did not get the status, which is a very different matter. Do not confuse the two things.
Under the Constitution, the tenure of judges cannot be interfered with by any Minister. If a judge misconducts himself, a resolution must be passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas to enable his removal from office. Section 13 of this Bill clearly interferes with the tenure of lay commissioners and reduces their status. They become ordinary commissioners and, therefore, lose the special tenure and status that they hold.
That is not so.
Can you imagine a position in any other country where such a thing could happen, where the tenure and status of a judge would be brought down, say, to the position of a district justice? Could you imagine, say, the Minister or the Leader of the Government, the Taoiseach, sending an ordinary judge to Balrothery or Belmullet or Kilcash, in Tipperary, telling him they no longer wanted him and that that was the place for him, that they would give him the same amount of money as he had been getting heretofore? I would like to have some good legal opinion on it. It is an awful reflection on the judiciary and the courts.
Somebody was talking about the position that existed during the time of the Appeal Tribunal. On Second Reading I pointed out that in 1928, in the time of the Judicial Commissioner, as referred to at that time by Deputies Hassett and Nolan, and others, there was evidence of many matters that reflected on that system of doing the business of appeals. I can indicate them, perhaps, later. There was one particular case in connection with the division of the Lloyd estate, near Templemore, County Tipperary. Deputy Hassett, dealing with that case, pointed out that the Judicial Commissioner at that time left 351 acres of land to a district justice in County Tipperary, a man who had 60 acres of land already and a big house with hot and cold water, and all the rest of it. That is the system to which we are asked to revert under this Bill There were many other cases. He was accused, particularly by Fine Gael Deputies, when I was in the Dáil in 1928 and 1929. I could get the Official Debates for Senators if they want them. Some appalling things happened under that particular instrument at that particular time. The very gentleman who got the 350 acres of land, a man with a salary and expenses amounting to £1,300 a year, was allowed, during the time of that instrument, to make those farms into holdings of 50 or 60 acres and to sell them on the open market. At that time land was badly wanted for the relief of congestion. If we are to revert to that instrument, it is a very bad outlook for the Bill and the country. It is hollow mockery to revert to it, in my estimation. Every consideration should be given to the position. If the Press were to publish the things that happened at that particular time, the people would go mad. They possibly have forgotten them.
They should not be concealed. It is wrong to conceal them. I would give them any amount of daylight if they were there. These things should not be cloaked from the people.
We would want another new Bill to reveal the bad situation in the country. I put down amendments to this Bill, very reasonable amendments, but they were not accepted. I have indicated the tremendous anomalies that exist. It is a very serious step to depart from an instrument that has given satisfaction. I referred to the case of a woman who had to give up her farm. Everybody felt very sincerely for her. I will come back to that again. I say to the Minister that it was because of that judicial function reserved by the judge at the particular time that that unfortunate woman was left in that position. It was a pity the Minister did not take power at that time to hand that woman back her holding.
He should have taken power.
Certain statements have been made which I think, in the public interest, should be answered, even although it may be against the rules of the House. I would ask you to treat this as a special occasion.
On a point of explanation.
Tenure and status of commissioners, as compared with High Court judges, are not to be confused. Commissioners never got High Court judge status under any Act that I could discover. They got tenure, which refers to their length of life in office. Even the judiciary have to follow the laws laid down by the Oireachtas, and within the last ten or 12 years the tenure of office of Circuit Court judges, High Court judges and district justices has been definitely reduced, in the public interest, by the Oireachtas, by statute. That is number one. Status is a different thing from tenure. I have never heard any High Court judge or any Supreme Court judge admit that the Land Commission Court had the same status as either the Circuit Court, the High Court, or the Supreme Court.
There is no attempt to degrade or pull down or belittle the two commissioners in question. I do not hold that it is degrading to ask them to come off the Appeal Tribunal and to do Land Commission Court work. I hold it is the very same, because if there was any attempt to degrade them their salary would be interfered with and their tenure would be interfered with, neither of which is interfered with under this Bill.
Senator Hayes mentioned something which, if I heard him correctly, must approach to a public scandal which occurred during the tenure of office of a Judicial Commissioner in the past.
Do I take it that the Senator's reference is to a judicial tribunal in 1928? The Judicial Commissioner in this case has no power to allot land. He has no power to acquire or resume land. He hears appeals from the lower court, the Land Commission Court.
Similar to the other Commission?
I regard this as a subject which will have to be inquired into deeply. Perhaps the Senator might be called on to prove something said this evening, a statement made about people of high standing which might have the effect of undermining the confidence of our people in our judiciary. However, that is a matter for another time and another occasion. Let me say there is no authority or power under this Bill to give the Judicial Commissioner sitting in the Appeal Tribunal power to allot land. That was the impression conveyed to me by Senator Hayes. There is no motive other than what I say—to raise hazy clouds in certain people's minds that there is an attempt to degrade or demote the two Appeal Tribunal commissioners, which is not the case. If anybody can find this I would like to be told where it is in the Bill so that I may look into it.
Might I ask the Minister if it is proposed to submit to public examination these public assessors who appear before this judicial tribunal? If it is, he is going to shed confidence in the tribunal and cause people to think that they were producing evidence on value nobody knew from where. They in answer to the evidence produced by the landowners merely fixed a price without even producing or giving any indication who was the individual who valued it. There should be a place in the tribunal in which valuers should be the subject of cross-examination. If the Minister goes that far I will be with him all through. My difficulty is that I am divided in my counsels. Sometimes you will get as good a decision and as much justice as Christian spirit, when you get an award of 20/- in the £ from a man who may be only a lay commissioner. Over and over again you have complaints about the unfairness of some decision. Even when you inquire you are told "no complaints have reached the Minister for Justice for 20 years" when in fact I have seen queues waiting at the doors of the Minister for Justice where judges' decisions were worth considering——
You are on dangerous ground now.
If you want to give authority to the court you generally find an example in Dublin where the court is practically genuine in every case although you may find exceptions. Such exceptions unfortunately, cause fears among landlords, but there is an attitude among some people that the owner of the land should be deprived of all possible. I feel we are not holding the balance—that our political views are running contrary to the Christian spirit we should hold. The Minister has told us he told the Taoiseach that if the man who fixes the compensation does not pay 20/- in the £ he will not hold office. The Minister made a meritorious gesture when he said that if he could not pay 20/- in the £ he himself would not hold office. His name is honoured and respected far and wide as that of his distinguished family, and I hope that he will face up to this big problem. Nothing shakes the confidence of the country more than statements giving the impression that their prejudices are in favour of confiscating land. The person who gave that impression should not retire—there is a place for him. If I were a lawyer practising in this court with 30 years' experience behind me I would say—I have never heard anything else said—that the judges' decision was reached on the evidence. Sub-section (1) (a) of this section declares:—
"The said sub-section shall have effect with the substitution of the words ‘the amount to be so fixed shall be an amount equal to the market value of the land' for the words ‘in fixing such sum regard shall be had to the fair value of the land to the Land Commission and the owner respectively'."
Observe that the owner comes only about tenth to be considered. Generally, there was a point to be found in its judgment showing that his mind was made up about six years earlier. For that reason, I think that greater attention must be paid to the selection of persons for the much coveted position of High Court judge in Dublin. I believe such a man on the bench will have greater sympathy and consideration for the landowner than what the landowner received up to the present. Much as we dislike it, much as we may like to get our neighbours, our friends and our political supporters land for nothing, the first concern of the State should be the people who spent their whole life-time in the care of the land and if you do anything to stop the free flow of money you are doing great damage. I am appealing to the Minister to realise that if things had not happened in the Land Commission without checking the Land Commission would not have become the target it is. That is why I asked the Minister to bring these valuers into the public gaze and if we knew their status in life it would be a great advance. For all we know, the valuer may be a man who surrendered his own land some years before because he could not pay 2/6 in the £. I appeal to the Minister to produce his valuer for cross-examination.
It is fairly evident that there is fairly considerable confusion as to what the position would be under the Bill as it stands or what the position would be if the section were eliminated altogether. The Minister, in reply to Senator Hayes, said there was no intention of demoting the commissioners— the lay commissioners—or transferring them down the country, that he wanted them for some important work. With all respect to the Minister, I think that that is no argument at all, and even if the lay commissioners were promoted, which is the usual thing in the Civil Service, I believe, that again would be no argument. The question is a matter of principle and individuals, as I have often said before, should be left out of the matter altogether.
I am inclined to agree with what Senator McGee says—that two heads are better than one and that three heads are better than two. The Minister says that the Judicial Commissioner is a man with a very great knowledge of land values. I have the decided advantage that I do not know who the Judicial Commissioner is or who he is likely to be, but I do know that he is not immortal. He might die or he might get sick, and if we cannot find a man in this House, including the Minister, who can tell us what the market value will be, it will be very difficult to find a Judicial Commissioner who will have the wonderful knowledge of land values which the Minister tells us he will have. As has been pointed out by other speakers, any one individual is more likely to make a mistake than any three individuals in a collective capacity. If any one individual sits in judgment on a particular subject —I am not talking about this Judicial Commissioner or about any judge—he may be influenced by various things. He may not be feeling particularly well or he may be prejudiced because of something in his upbringing, and he may make a decision which would not be the decision of a collection of three people. There is no sense whatever in bringing in personalities on either side. If there is anything wrong with one of those commissioners I would be the last man in the world to say that he should be left where he is. Somebody else should be got in his place, but if there is not anything wrong with them leave them where they are. That is not something in favour of the argument or against it.
Injustices have been done in the past and injustices are likely to occur again in the future. What we should aim at here—is to do everything we possibly can to ensure that the minimum injustice will be done in the future. I do not mind saying that it seems to me to be the opinion of the majority that having three people to decide would create a more stable position than would be created by giving all the power into one man's hands.
A thing which seems to have been overlooked and which, to my mind, has caused a lot of confusion is that up to a few years ago, and not many years ago, the land was acquired from people who might be called landlords or absentee landlords, but now we have a very different situation. The land is owned by the native Irish people. We must be very careful in what we do and not allow ourselves to be swayed by political bias or anything else. I am quite prepared to say that some of us on both sides of the House might be inclined to lean in one direction or the other because of political affiliations, but with regard to setting up a tribunal to decide matters of this kind, nobody will suggest that political affiliations should have any influence whatever. As I have said, and as I think I have proved time and again, I have much more respect for the judges of this country than many people who talk loudly now. I do not want to mention names. The people of this country have an extraordinary respect for judges, but this judge is likely to get more respect if he is assisted by two lay commissioners—I am not saying by "the" two lay commissioners.
I do not know who the court messengers are likely to be, but my idea of a man who would be regarded as a very good court messenger is as far removed from a man who might be chosen to fill a vacancy as lay commissioner as the South Pole is from the North Pole. The position as it was is likely to be better than the position as it will be under the Bill, and I definitely support the amendment.
Might I say that the assessor at the disposal of the Judicial Commissioner now goes down and values the land on the spot? The commissioners seldom if ever saw the land they were pricing. That should set the Senator's mind at ease.
I am not prepared to say that the assessor having gone down to see the land would even then be in a position to judge the value of the land nor am I prepared to say that the Minister is right when he says that the Commissioners who are there at present never saw the land. I happen to know one lay commissioner and he would think nothing of riding a bicycle 100 miles before making a decision. I would not advise the Minister to look for another man like him because I do not think he would find him.
I believe I would not get another like him.
I am glad to hear the Minister paying a tribute to that man because there are very few like him in the country.
That is true.
If the facts are put before two men who are likely to be selected as commissioners by this Government, the last Government or any future Government, and if in their wisdom they make a decision in conjunction with the Judicial Commissioner, I think it is far more likely to be a proper, right and just decision than a decision made by one judge, and I do not care who the judge is.
What harm will it do to delete the section? In my opinion, this only has the effect of giving all the power of the Appeal Tribunal to one person.
You will have no Appeal Tribunal if you delete the section.
I would like the Minister to explain what harm it will do, apart from having to bring in an amendment on Report Stage. Two people with a Judicial Commissioner would deal with things better than one person.
Two assessors with the Judicial Commissioner who will value the land on the spot is, in my opinion, a much better system.
Senator McGee, who has some experience, has given his opinion of how the assessors were looked upon in the past.
I heard him.
I was wondering what the Minister referred to when he suggested that I should give evidence before some type of tribunal regarding the statements I made.
What I meant is that I did not question the words of the Senator too closely while he was speaking, but when they are committed to the Official Report it is quite possible that certain people outside this House will see them, and might take a certain view. That is a matter between these people and the Senator, and does not come within my province at all. What I wanted to convey to him was that anything that savours of being wrong or of being a scandal should not be cloaked, particularly by public representatives of any kind. It should be pulled out in the open. Anything slimy or wrong should be dragged out and given fresh air and daylight for the people to see.
The Bill does not permit of those things.
No Bill is needed for a thing like that.
The accusations I made regarding the position before 1933 were related to a thing which I have never failed to expose and which I always will expose.
Then you have done your duty.
That terrible thing which happened at that particular time was the worst case of maladministration I ever met. It was most extraordinary. I am quite prepared to meet the Minister or anyone else in regard to the matters referred to. More than that I cannot say.
- Anthony, Richard S.
- Baxter, Patrick F.
- Bennett, George C.
- Butler, John.
- Counihan, John J.
- Crosbie, James.
- Douglas, James G.
- Finan, John.
- Hayes, Michael.
- Ireland, Denis L.
- McCartan, Patrick.
- McGee, James T.
- Burke, Denis.
- Burke, Robert M.
- Butler, Eleanor G.
- McGuire, Edward A.
- Meighan, John J.
- O'Brien, George.
- O'Connell, Thomas J.
- O'Farrell, John T.
- Ruane, Seán T.
- Ryan Jeremiah.
- Tunney, James.
- Clarkin, Andrew S.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Fitzsimons, Patrick.
- Hawkins, Frederick.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Hearne, Michael.
- Honan, Thomas V.
- Loughman, Frank.
- O'Dwyer, Martin.
- O'Farrell, Séamus.
- O'Reilly, Patrick.
- Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
- Quinn, Martin.
- Quirke, William
This amendment is a correction of an alignment error in printing, which was overlooked in the drafting of the Bill.
Purely a drafting amendment?
On the section, I would like to refer, again, to the Second Reading. I think this is the appropriate time to raise it. It refers to applications made under Section 44 of the Land Act, 1931, and, on the last occasion, I pointed out that there was a small number of people who were purchasing their land or held land under a fee farm grant in the period between 1923 and 1933, and that when they purchased the land they did not get the benefit of the halving of the land annuity. Now, I could not put in an amendment on this. It would have been ruled out of order if I had, because I think it would have meant a slight charge on the State. I asked the Minister, on that occasion, to consider whether it was worth while leaving these very few people out of the general concessions given under the Land Act, 1933. There are very, very few of them—I understand, surprisingly few. I never could quite understand why, under the 1936 Act— Section 37—it was ruled that they should not get the benefit of the halving of the land annuities. I would like to hear what the Minister has to say on that, because he had a lot to say on the Second Reading. He could not reply to every point raised, but, perhaps, he would like to take advantage of this section to deal with this point.
I know this particular section. It brings certain fee-farm grant cases and long-lease cases into line with ordinary tenancies, but, then, certain tenancies that were not established before a certain date were excluded. I remember what the Senator said, on the previous occasion, when the Bill was before the House. Certain tenancies were excluded from the benefit of the halving of the annuities under the 1933 Act. I want to say that it is most unlikely that that will ever be altered or changed, because the land law gave certain concessions to tenancies which were created up to a certain date, and for tenancies created after that, there had to be a line drawn somewhere. Otherwise, there would be crops of tenancies growing up year after year, and where there was a land annuity halved now, you would have fresh tenancies created in it, and they, in turn, would be halved and halved, again and again. It is quite obvious that there would have to be a date-line somewhere, beyond which tenancies which were formed would not get the benefit of the halving of the annuities. I know the particular case or cases the Senator is interested in. I want to say clearly, and I do not want anybody to have any doubt about it, that it is unlikely that the law will ever be changed.
It is a hardship.
Well, it is on the few, but anybody can readily perceive that there had to be a line, beyond which halving could not be carried. Otherwise, you would have perpetual halving until the annuity would come down to about a farthing per 100 acres.
This is merely a drafting amendment to bring the wording used here into line with that used in Section 10.
The amendment was agreed to.
I move amendment No. 16:—
On page 14, at the end of sub-section (1), to add a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Where the Land Commission require the land for the provision of new holdings for migrants, such land shall be purchased as a unit, as a going concern and shall not be subdivided.
I move this amendment, because I think it fit that where the Land Commission acquires a holding of land, that that holding should be acquired in whole, and if there is going to be a redistribution of the particular holding, it should be made as a redistribution of the whole. My reason for putting down the amendment is this, that since the Bill was first introduced in the Dáil, we have had many and varied explanations from the Minister as to what he proposed or as to what the procedure would be.
At one time, we were told, that a holding would be taken over and made available to a migrant. At other times, it was suggested, that that holding might be subdivided. I do not wish to misrepresent the Minister in his presentation of the case to the Dáil, and if I do, I hope the Minister will correct me, but we have had, at least, three presentations of what was in the Minister's mind in connection with this taking over or the purchasing of a particular holding in the open market for the relief of migrants. What I want to accomplish in my amendment is this, that if a particular holding is taken over, and that holding is a going concern, that that going concern should be transferred to the new migrant as a going concern, and that it should not be subdivided. The whole purpose of putting down the amendment is to get some clear indication of what he proposes to do—whether it is that, when a holding is put up for sale, he authorises his agents to purchase that holding with a view to handing it over as a holding or whether his agents are to be authorised to subdivide that holding. I believe that if a holding is purchased by the Land Commission as a holding, it should be handed over to the incoming migrant as a holding and not subdivided.
The intention is to purchase holdings in the open market which will be suitable for migrants. That is one line. The second line—and acceptance of the amendment would completely hamstring the Land Commission in its work—is the purchase for cash in the open market of the type of holding which can be seen on the two maps which I caused to be hung in the outer room for the information and benefit of Senators who may not be familiar with what rundale or intermixed conditions are like. These purchases will do away with the need for using all the heavy machinery which has to be brought into action before even a small holding of two, three or four acres of cut-away bog, which is vitally essential to a rearrangement scheme in a congested area, can be purchased. A provisional list has to be published, even though the Land Commission and the owner of the holding know that they will agree on the price or have a fair knowledge of what the price will be. Instead of sale in the ordinary way, with everything cleared up in a month at the outside, all the heavy machinery of acquisition has to be brought into play. If I accepted the amendment, it would mean that such a holding purchased would be absolutely useless to us. It would prevent the subdivision of such a holding and would mean that we cannot purchase for cash, one of the principal reasons for this provision.
Who knows what turn things will take in the future? The Land Commission want a certain amount of land for the relief of congesiton. All land offered for sale is not suitable for Land Commission purposes. In the other House questions are put down day after day asking the Land Commission to acquire certain lands. A great number of these questions relate to farms which are absolutely unsuitable for Land Commission purposes, with the result that the Land Commission do not bother about them and they would be very wrong if they did. It is not all land that is suitable and a great quantity of the land that will come on the open market will not be suitable. I do not visualise that more than perhaps one-twentieth of the land offered in the open market will be purchased by the Land Commission. I should say that even one-twentieth of it would be the very maximum which I could see them using. Some farms have a great deal of waste land on them which it would be very difficult to get allottees to accept and some may not be just in the locality where they would be most useful to the Land Commission. In Section 25, which gives the power to purchase land in the open market, I am giving them power to take their pick and choice of the land. If they are the best bidder at the auction or sale, or if the Land Commission is the body which makes the highest bid, well and good. If they are outbid, that is that. They will have to take it on the chin just as any Senator or I will have to take it if we are outbid at an auction. That is the whole purpose of it, and to accept such an amendment as this, which Senator Hawkins led me to believe he did not intend to press, would hamstring the Land Commission in one of the spheres of activity in which they do their best and noblest work.
On the Second Reading I suggested to the Minister that so far as possible, the object of the amendment should be carried out, but I think it would be very unwise to lay down a hard and fast rule under which the Land Commission would have to carry it out. The Land Commission are prepared to carry out such a provision, but to say that where the Land Commission acquire a holding of 300 acres, it should be given over intact to a migrant is entirely wrong. It would be in the interests of the country if it were carried out, but I agree with the Minister that there should be no hard and fast rule with regard to it because it would only hamstring the Land Commission's activities.
The Land Commission have been very niggardly in the matter of their transfers of migrants from the West. They expect a migrant from the West to take any sort of holding. Perhaps I had better leave that subject, lest I should be out of order, but I should like to impress on the Minister that, if he wants to make migration from the West a success with big farmers, the Land Commission must be more liberal in their allocation of land to migrants.
I should like Senators to know that, in the case of the complete unit which Senator Hawkins has in mind, it is not the intention, nor could I imagine the Land Commission doing it, to take up units of holdings and to divide them. I should not like to see that done, and it is very unlikely that it will happen, but in certain cases it is essential that the Land Commission should have freedom to subdivide, if necessary, as will arise in the case of derelict holdings in congested areas or farms which are non-residential at the time of purchase. It would be necessary to allow freedom to subdivide these farms for whatever purposes they wanted them.
I appreciate the Minister's approach to the problem I presented to him in this amendment. There is a problem and the Minister referred to it in his Second Reading speech. For one reason or another, we have a certain problem in relation to migration in the West and what I had hoped to guard against by this amendment—I am sure the Minister is very familiar with it in County Mayo— was the problem created by the fact that quite a number of our people are compelled to go abroad to earn their living. The Minister told us that that problem was present to the mind of the Land Commission, and, because of its existence, he was prepared to give to the Land Commission certain functions over and above what would normally be given. I would be very loath to think that the Minister would avail of such conditions to take over very small holdings of the kind I refer to. On Second Reading, reference was made to questions that were put down in the Dáil as to why certain holdings were not divided but, if we examine those questions, we find that in 99 per cent. of the cases they were put down by members of the Minister's Party.
What is wrong about that?
I am afraid these questions have not much reference to the amendment.
With all due deference to you, Sir, we are dealing at the moment with the taking over of lands by the Land Commission.
Not so generally, surely, as that.
In his closing speech on the Second Reading, the Minister referred to questions that were put down in the Dáil in relation to the acquisition of certain lands and he did not approve of them. I repeat that in 99 per cent. of the cases the questions were put down by members of the Minister's Party.
What is wrong about that?
I do not see anything wrong about it, but the Minister did.
Come to the amendment.
If the Senator means that I should come to the amendment and forget all the suggestions that were made in the last two and a half years, particularly by way of question and motion in the Dáil, I am prepared to come to the amendment. The amendment is to the effect that where the Minister or his agent proposes to purchase a holding of land in the open market, that holding of land should not be subdivided. What prompted the amendment were the many answers given by the Minister in the Dáil. His first approach to the question was: "I want authority from Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann for the purchase of a holding of land in the open market in order that I and my agents may be in a position to subdivide that holding as I think fit". Afterwards, he rectified that statement and said: "I do not propose to subdivide any holding that is purchased in the open market".
Would the Senator quote where I made the first statement, or when, or will he quote the volume? Will he also quote where I made the second statement?
I hope before the discussion on this Bill concludes that I may be in a position to do so.
The Senator may be, but I am afraid of his chances of success.
If the Minister now says that he did not make such a statement——
No. The Minister is challenging the Senator to prove his own words.
When the Minister inserted this section in the Land Bill what did he propose to do? He has not told us that. I move to report progress.