I am very surprised and disturbed at the Minister's approach to this. It is simply that the Minister is not prepared to come out and say that farms that have already been done handsomely by the Land Commission in former settlements should not be now put into the land queue and told that they are entitled to more additions. I met some of the points raised the last day where Senator Boland mentioned that mistakes had been made in regard to certain holdings, that they were 10 acres or less. I met that by suggesting a limit, but surely the Minister and the Government are not serious in indulging in the eye-wash that we have land enough to get those of 25 acres and over back into the queue again.
In other words, we are talking in an age of planning. We have had our first and second economic development plans. We have been given targets and told where we are going. But, here we have a Bill which proposes the implementation of a Government land policy and, as is shown in this section, it refuses completely to face up to the consequences of our actions. Government land policy, as enunciated by the Taoiseach, and later by the Minister for Lands in August, 1962, is based on a family farm of 40-45 acres of good land and all farms below that standard would be classed as uneconomic and should seek additions. Let us adopt a rational planning approach to this. First of all, we have 80,000 holdings which have got a great measure of Government support in rearrangement since 1923. As well, we have 80,000 that are in a worse condition than those. They are the rundale holdings in the west. They have not been touched.
If we accept the Minister's figure of 50,000 and that many holdings are vacant and have been abandoned and will be acquired under this Bill, it is optimistic to suggest that these 50,000 holdings have got the equivalent of 15 acres of good land on the average. Government land policy says these holdings must be brought up to 40-45 acres. In other words, they need an addition of 25-30 acres each to meet Government land policy but the Taoiseach in his statement to Muintir na Tíre said it will take a long time before all farms are brought up to this size. But, taking the required 750,000 acres, the Land Commission, as shown in a 1963 report, have been providing at most 25,000 acres. That means they might be expected to solve the congestion problem of the yet untouched farms in thirty years.
Let us look at the matter in another way. The Land Commission have succeeded up to this in dealing with something under 2,000 holdings per annum. Again, at the rate of 2,000 holdings per annum, it would take some 25 years to deal with the 50,000 which should be of first priority. We cannot see in such a policy anything other than the hope that the problem will solve itself merely by attrition, the death of the owners or the departure of much greater numbers to Manchester and Birmingham. Then the land would be left behind to bring the others up to 40-45 acres. If this land could be acquired, the cost — according to the land resettlement figures — would run to around £300 an acre which would require a total of £225 million. At present we are spending £3 million on it. In other words, it is impracticable, both financially and from the point of view of the availability of land, to bring the 50,000 holdings that have not been touched up to the size laid down by the Government of 40-45 acres. They can, at most, be brought up to something substantially less than that and the deficiency made up by proper capital injections which will produce a better result.
We could accept the fantasy, the only word I can use, of suggesting that the 80,000 that have been rearranged and have had the taxpayers' money spent on them should be brought back into the land queue again. We might take the figure of 80,000 on an average and an acreage somewhere between 25 and 30. Government policy says they should get 15 acres more, and 15 acres each for 80,000 holdings totals 1.2 million acres. That land cannot be provided and the cost, even if it could be done, would — for additions alone, which is cheaper than allocation and subdivision — probably run to at least £200 million. In short, the only feasible policy is to build up the farms that have already been done and keep them out of the land division problem until you have solved the problem for the farms which have not been touched. Do not keep them waiting on the bread line; give them the capital that will ensure for them a full and adequate family farm income of at least £30 per acre, or equivalent good land. Such a policy can be put into action overnight. The first additions to that capital could be made in the next year or two and subsequent additions could be made depending on progress and on reports from the agricultural instructors, and so on.
That is a feasible policy but the other policy of waving a flag and saying you can bring everyone up to 40-45 acres is just impossible. In this modern age of planning, this is the very antithesis of planning because it is taking action without calculating either the cost or the amount of land required. What we want, in the first instance, is to know what are the Government's land aims. What future do they hold for this country? The only future we can deduce from Government land policy is a future for, at most, 150,000 farmers on the land of Ireland. The Government have not the courage to come out and say that. If they did, the country would very quickly give them the answer. Goldsmith said "Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey where wealth accumulates and men decay". That is true today. That is what is happening; that is what is envisaged; that is why I put down this amendment in the hope of focussing the attention of the Seanad and the attention of the public on the absurdity of the land policy as announced by the Taoiseach in August, 1962. I am not alone in condemning it. It has been condemned much more forcibly and, on statistical grounds, in the Christus Rex journal.
Of course, it is not popular. Many Senators may have great difficulty in taking the unpopular side and facing up to realities in this. It is not popular to say we will not give some poor fellow another 10 or 15 acres of land. We cannot give what we have not got and that should be the basis of our realism and our planning in the 1960s. At the same time we acknowledge that the man's lot can be improved and his family income can be improved, and at much less expense than this great Government utopia. It can be done simply by following the advice of the Agricultural Institute and every agricultural instructor in the country merely by making additions of capital to farmers who are starved of capital. That is an easy policy.
Since speaking to the Seanad on the last occasion I had occasion to speak to a group of farmers at Hospital, County Limerick. The subject for discussion was the Land Bill. I had not the slightest difficulty in getting them to face up to the realities of the situation. After that discussion they found it was only feasible to build upwards. We cannot build outwards because the Atlantic ocean surrounds us.