I am glad to see the Agricultural Credit Corporation being given this increase in capital but I would ask that as far as possible the farming community be given an opportunity of providing some of this capital, as was advocated in the Gilmore Report of 1959. Every effort should be made to encourage the farmers to take part of the share capital of the Corporation. In parts of the country it has not enjoyed a great reputation over the years, but there has been a change for the better in the relationship between the farmers in general and the Corporation, and a genuine all-out effort should now be made to encourage the farmers to take an added interest in its affairs by taking up some of its share capital.
Agricultural Credit Bill, 1965: Committee and Final Stages.
I agree fully with the Senator that it is, of course, an underlying idea in this legislation to bring about exadly that situation. We hope that farmers will one day be encouraged to invest in the Corporation. In fact, such a campaign is not under way at the moment but it is contemplated that the Corporation's agents in the ordinary run of their daily business will ultimately actively pursue this aspect.
Might I ask whether the additional moneys to be voted are to be devoted to the actual expansion of the grants or whether any of them will be applied towards any increase in staff, because my attention has been drawn to the fact that it takes a rather long time for the Corporation to determine many applications they have in regard to loans. These complaints are pretty numerous. We are gratified at the proposed expansion of the Corporation and my remarks are not critical at all of any expansion on that line. My anxiety is to ensure every possible improvement relative to the amount of time involved in the Corporation coming to decisions upon applications.
One does, admittedly, hear these complaints but the situation is improving all the time. It is the intention of the directors to provide adequate staff to ensure that applications are dealt with as expeditiously as possible. No doubt some of this money will be used for administrative purposes, but on the whole the situation would be that the capital provided will be lent to applicants and the administration of the Corporation will be paid off out of the interest earned. That would be the general idea.
This section increases the amount available to the Corporation for its purposes to £20 million. I hope that some of this money will be directed towards some of the poorer sections of the farming community. We are told that 75 per cent of all the applications received by the Board are unsuccessful. I believe that the Seanad now has an opportunity of impressing on the Minister and on the Agricultural Credit Corporation that persons who need help in every practical way are those unfortunate sections of our farming community. Those people are the hardest hit, especially since the commercial banks have considerably slowed up their short-term lending transactions.
I would suggest that £1 million should be earmarked for providing loans to this poorer section of the community who have found difficulty in getting loans in the past. If one of every four of the farmers who apply for a loan are branded as insolvent, surely the time has come when the State, through this Bill, should take the opportunity of giving them some direct financial assistance. It would not be unique. Many industries and organisations have been enjoying grants-in-aid over the years. If we are to continue facing world markets, we must bear in mind that the farmers in the Six, who are our competitors, enjoy interest rates as low as 1½ or two per cent.
I would ask the Minister to consider seriously doing something on these lines by putting aside at least £1 million for the poorer and more unsuccessful of our farmers. The farming community have always had a reputation for being honest and making great endeavours to pay their way. If they get an opportunity of borrowing for the improvement of their holdings it certainly would pay dividends. The Gilmore Report of 1959 and the National Farm Survey of 1956-58 set off this new trend and brought the entire position of the agricultural community to the fore. It is only since those reports came out that the Agricultural Credit Corporation really made advances. I would advocate that they should take a second look at the Gilmore survey of 1959 and implement more of its recommendations. I feel that is necessary, and I ask the Minister seriously to consider it.
I think there might be some little confusion in the Senator's mind between the making available of credit to farmers and the making of grants to farmers. The Agricultural Credit Corporation, of course, are solely concerned with making credit available, and in making that credit available they take all the circumstances of the man into account. There is no suggestion that loans should not be given to small farmers who need them, badly. In fact, there is a special scheme whereby the type of farmer the Senator has in mind may borrow up to £500 without any security—the unsecured loaa scheme. This scheme is particularly directed towards the type of farmer about whom the Senator has been speaking.
I do not think we could contemplate giving to the Corporation the sort of directive the Senator has in mind. We have to leave it to them to judge the applications coming before them on their merits, and to decide upon them. Very often, of course, it is not a good thing to give a man too much credit. On the other hand, it I frequently happens that a man does not look for enough credit, and by the very fact of borrowing too little he can store up trouble for himself. Every case is different, and they all have to be gone into carefully and considered on their merits, having regard to the size of the holding, the pattern of farming, the character of the individual, and his willingness to accept the advice of the advisory services. All those factors are taken into account.
Certainly, there is no suggestion that any section of the farmers are excluded from the ambit of the operations of the Corporation. As I said, there is one scheme in particular which is aimed at the smaller and the poorer type farmer who would find it difficult to put up the normal sort of collateral which would be required. In his case the £500 unsecured loan scheme is available.
The Minister may have misunderstood what I said. I did not advocate grants as such. What I have in mind is that the Minister might direct that at least £1 million of the money being made available to the Corporation now should be directed or channelled towards the poorer farmers who are branded as insolvent by the Corporation. I should like to see these people whom the Corporation say are insolvent getting money at reduced interest rates. After all, the farmers of Denmark and Holland, our main international competitors, enjoy interest rates of 1½ per cent.
I do not think any Senator would agree with a suggestion that we should give loans to insolvent farmers. Let me make another point. I doubt very much if anything like the bulk of the persons rejected are necessarily smaller and poorer farmers. I know from my own experience that a considerable number of rejections are in the case of badly run larger farms. I do not think anyone would contemplate lending money to someone who is insolvent. We would all like to see the Agricultural Credit Corporation being helpful in the case of small farmers who with their small resources are trying to get ahead, and who find great difficulty in breaking out of the financial straitjacket in which they find themselves. That is certainly the type of deserving case which, I am sure, the Corporation treat sympathetically. I do not think we could go much further than that.
There is a whale of a difference between an insolvent farmer and a farmer the Corporation say is insolvent. I know farmers with recent valuations of £20,000 and £30,000 who were not considered solvent by the Corporation because they were in debt up to £5,000.
The Senator knows that people who come to him and to me do not always tell the full story. When you get the full story from the Corporation you know what the situation is. I myself had a case recently where I was approached by a farmer who had been rejected, and when I took the case up with the directors of the Corporation they indicated to me that the rejection was entirely in the interests of the farmer. He was a perfectly good progressive young farmer, anxious to get ahead, but if he had been given the amount he was looking for he would have been doing nothing but storing up trouble for himself. I mention that merely to indicate that applications to the Corporation have to be rejected for a variety of different reasons.
I do not think there is any validity in the argument that poor farmers on small holdings are rejected simply because of the fact that they are poor and on small holdings. They get their opportunity just the same as anyone else.
Has the Minister got any breakdown of the one and four? Are these figures ever published?
I am sure it could be got.
In reply to Senator McDonald the Minister dealt with individual applications only. I should like to know whether there is any prohibition in the operations of the Agricultural Credit Corporation which prevents them from considering group application for a particular project?
There is no such prohibition. In fact, if I may interrupt the Senator, of my own personal knowledge, I know a number of co-operatives and groups who have actually got loans from the Corporation.
Contrary to that I have an instance of a very laudable effort which is new to this country, with international support, and with the hiehest technical experience and knowledge available, not only in this hemisphere, but in both hemispheres. This project met with the approval of the Minister's Department and was allocated a substantial State grant to get established. It was required on the part of a large number of farmers contracting to go into this project that they would provide a certain amount of capital in order to make their contribution to the scheme. They had to go outside this country to try to obtain the necessary credit, and when the credit squeeze came about in Britain they found themselves devoid of the credit which they had thought was forthcoming. That industry is at the moment in suspension, shall I say. If the Department of Agriculture endorsed this as a laudable scheme, worthy of financial support and every encouragement, is it not regrettable that the Aericultural Credit Corporation could not consider providing the money in globo for all those participating and so make it possible for those involved to proceed with the establishment of that industry, the entire produce of which is for export? No doubt the full particulars of this are well known to the Minister. Is it not a pity that recourse cannot be had by all those participating to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for the necessary credit so that that particular industry can get off the ground?
Is it intended that some portion of the money would be allocated for the purpose of enabling good farmers to buy farms for themselves? We have throughout the country very many progressive farmers who are just not able to put up the money when they want to provide themselves with a home. They may have sufficient money just to buy machinery and stock their land, but they cannot provide themselves with the land. I should like the Minister to state whether the applicants for loans to buy farms would receive very sympathetic consideration.
They will, of course. I might also point out under the provisions of the new Land Act—I do not want to be political at all—the piece of legislation which was tremendously opposed by the Senator's Party——
Only parts of it.
The very obnoxious parts.
Let us get back to the Agricultural Credit Bill.
The enactment of the Land Act was delayed through the efforts of the Senator's Party.
Fixity of tenure was abolished.
There is in that Act a very admirable provision which will look after the kind of case Senator Malone has in mind.
I should like to support what Senator McDonald said on the section. He made a plea that out of the extra £20 million available now an effort should be made to loosen up the loan requirements by the Agricultural Credit Corporation because the number of applications turned down of one in four is too high. The Agricultural Credit Corporation has to operate on a strictly business basis. Therefore, it cannot afford to take chances. I would suggest that the figure of one in four could be cut to one in eight. If the Minister was prepared to make a small grant available to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, this might help in loosening up the credit requirements.
The power to increase the capital available from the Agricultural Credit Corporation is very velcome at this stage. It is well known that there is a credit squeeze at the moment and that commercial banks are reducing overdrafts. This is felt particularly among the farming community. The Agricultural Credit Corporation has proved to be a very useful body in relation to agricultural matters. It is obvious, with this credit squeeze coming into effect each day, that the farmers will be drifting towards the Agricultural Credit Corporation more and more. It was only the other day we saw a statement from the banks in which they made it clear they had no intention of relenting and that they are going to pursue the present policy having regard to present conditions. If they pursue the policy of credit restriction and credit squeeze it will be necessary for a body, such as the Agricultural Credit Corporation, to make finance available for prodnction purposes in relation to agriculture.
I have found amongst farmers getting capital from the Agricultural Credit Corporation that the greater portion of it is in respect of machinery and modern equipment. Unfortunately, agricultural machinery depreciates very rapidly. The result is there is a lot of capital tied up in agricultural machinery which is only useful maybe for a limited number of weeks in the year, according to the type of crops this machinery is used to harvest or cultivate. I would like, if possible, that something would be done regarding the type of project for which the credit will be made available by the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
If the policy of the Agricultural Credit Corporation is directed towards increasing the stock on the land, particularly livestock, towards greater production of crops or towards a better marketing scheme, I feel the money would be well invested. According as the commercial banks find it necessary to increase the credit squeeze the Agricultural Credit Corporation should expand its investments in agriculture, having regard to the fact that it is our economic mainstay and that credit restrictions should not bring about a reduction in our output. There has been a reduction in agricultural output and the trend is still in that direction. If the facilities in this Bill are operated in a practical and generous manner agricultural production will again be expanded.
I must remonstrate with Senator Rooney when he suggests that there is a decline in agricultural output. I do not think there is anything of the sort. There has been, for some years, a steady expansion in gross agricultural output. I agree with him about the situation in regard to machinery. Today machinery is of such a varied nature, is used for such a variety of jobs and is so costly that inevitably there must be some unnecessary docking up of capital by farmers in machinery.
The answer to this problem is co-operatives. If we could possibly have machinery co-operatives they would be very beneficial all round. I know of one machinery co-operative which is in Ballinasloe and which has been quite successful. I am sure members of that co-operative would be anxious to help other groups which would think of setting themselves up as machinery co-operatives. They could give them the benefits of their experience and so on. I also feel sure that the Agricultural Credit Corporation would sympathetically consider applications from machinery co-operatives if such were put to them by responsible or trustworthy groups.
Would the Minister like to comment on the points I made in relation to particular group applications?
Not particularly. I should point out that the Agricultural Credit Corporation were not approached with regard to the individual farmer investments in that particular project. The scheme, as the Senator points out, is dormant at the moment, but I do not think anybody could lay the blame for this at the door of the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
There is the fact that we were obliged to go outside the country in the first instance.
I do not think you were obliged.
I understand it was intimated by the Agricultural Credit Corporation that they were not prepared to consider the group application of those involved, but were prepared to accept individual applications within the group. That would not warrant the establishment of the company or the industry, unless at the outset there was a clear indication that all those involved would secure the necessary credit. Accordingly, the Agricultural Credit Corporation had to be by-passed and then we ran into trouble on the other side of the Channel.
I should like to refer to a group of people who find themselves in great difficulty. They are people who have got allotments of land from the Land Commission in order to bring their holdings up to economic units. They may have bean working on seven or eight acres and may have been very industrious; but, when they got a large allotment, they had to look for money. They had two alternatives, either let the farm or get money from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. If they let the land, it would be taken from them altogether. When they looked for money, it is an extraordinary thing that these people were refused time and time again in recent months by the Agricultural Credit Corporation. I believe that, in relation to the allotment of land by the Land Commission, the Land Commissioners should examine the applicants before giving them land, and if they are not worthy, then I do not think they should get the extra land. The Land Commission know those people have no bank account. One of the first questions you are asked when you apply for a loan is where you have your bank account. If you had a bank account, you might not be looking for a loan.
Quite a number of people who apply to the Agricultural Credit Corporation do not want to talk about their bank account at all. We have heard Senator McDonald saying that if a man is £5,000 down, he will not be given credit by the Agricultural Credit Corporation. If you are 5/-down now, they will not look at you. I hold that people who get land from the Land Commission should be considered creditworthy and that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should not afterwards refuse them a loan. I consider it an insult to be refused a loan by the Agricultural Credit Corporation.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete paragraphs (b) and (c).
This is another of these sections which is a further example of the slow process of erosion of the ordinary requirements of the courts. Again you find the State authority is the cause of this erosion of the ordinary procedures. Under the 1947 Agricultural Credit Act, there was provision that if somebody was not paying his loan, all the evidence reguired was a certificate by the Corporation to the effect that so much was outstanding, and that was prima facie evidence for the court, which, to a certain extent, was fair enough. Now, it is proposed to extend that provision of a mere certificate by the Corporation to the case of hire purchase transactions. Everybody knows that hire purchase transactions are an entirely different kettle of fish from a plain straightforward account as to how much is outstanding.
We all know that agricultural machinery has not reached the stage of perfection and that when you buy a piece of machinery, it turns out to be unsatisfactory. Many hire purchase transactions in this country fall through and find their way into the court, through the solicitor's office as a preliminary, simply because the machinery supplied on hire purchase is defective. That applies to motor cars, washing machines and other goods. When a farmer has to be sued on a hire purchase agreement, it is quite wrong to say: "Here is a certificate from the Agricultural Credit Corporation; that is the amount that is due." The farmer may have to come back and say: "That may be so but the machinery I got is quite worthless." I do not see in these circumstances why we are to have this certification by a semi-State body, which is to be prima facie evidence for the court.
Anybody who is familiar with the increasing number of hire purchase transactions before the courts knows that in the vast majority of cases, apart from the ordinary trifling transactions in the district courts relating to sewing machines, television sets and so on, which never amount to more than £30 or £40, the great preponderance of people pay their hire purchase instalments as they become due. It is in the cases where there is a defect and where the farmer has a good and well-founded grievance against the hire purchase company that the instalments stop.
Therefore, I do not at all like the idea that this almost conclusive procedure against the farmer is to be adopted in the case of hire purchase transactions. I think they are a particularly complex kind of legal proceeding and this calls for the closest possible examination. I do not see, apart from anything else that this will be of great value to the Agricultural Credit Corporation because ultimately there are certain things, even for the Agricultural Credit Corporation, that have to be proved by affidavit. I do not know why this procedure is being extended to this very controversial and complex transaction that appears in the courts.
I entirely agree that it is a simple matter in relation to the amount owing under an ordinary loan. You get a loan for £3,000 or £1,700 and it is quite an easy matter for an accountant to certify £x outstanding. It is entirely different when you have all the controversy that always arises on hire purchase agreements. I propose that the existing law be allowed to stand and that this short-circuiting by way of certification ought not be allowed in the case of these transactions.
I strongly support Senator O'Quigley on this amendment. It happens, and is the cause of great concern in many instances, that people avail of hire purchase facilities through the Corporation for the purpose of getting machinery, where the machinery was damaged before delivery or subsequently went wrong, even during the period of guarantee. The farmer was obliged to keep up the payments and often found difficulty in having the machine repaired to his satisfaction. Possibly this is because the distributor or merchant who has guaranteed the machine is wrong but whether or not this as so, it is something that should be ironed out. The farmers are getting quite a raw deal and I strongly support Senator O'Quigley.
I am afraid Senator McDonald is completely misinformed. There is no single instance on record in the Agricultural Credit Corporation of the type of application to which he has referred, not a single one. But let me deal with the main argument put forward by Senator O'Quigley. I think he is worried unnecessarily. As he knows himself, this certificate in hire purchase cases will only be prima facie evidence; in other words, it would not be sufficient if there was any defence or appearance entered and the Agricultural Credit Corporation representative would have to go through the normal legal procedures. We already have the principle there and the Senator does agree that, in the case of moneys advanced by the Agricultural Credit Corporation, this comparatively simple mechanism should be available to them. Their certificates should be prima facie evidence. I want to emphasise that it is only prima facie evidence. The Agricultural Credit Corporation are now extending their activities and it is very laudable on their part. The type of hire purchase facility which the Agricultural Credit Corporation are offering is completely different from the ordinary hire purchase facilities offered by a normal commercial concern. They are very favourable as to interest rates. I mention that just to indicate that I think it is very much in the interests of our farmers that these hire purchase facilities should be made available to them on an extended scale. The Agricultural Credit Corporation feel, when they have this facility in regard to normal lending transactions, that it should be extended now to hire purchase transactions as well. I really cannat see why there should be any objection to it. As I have said, it is only evidence of the amount owed, only prima facie evidence of the amount owed, and does not take away in any way from the rights of a defendant in a hire purchase transaction.
I should like to make a further point, that is, that if this facility were not available to the Agricultural Credit Corporation, they would have to proceed in the normal way by means of affidavit and so on. As we all know, in the vast majority of cases, the Agricultural Credit Corporation get judgment for the amount they are seeking. This would simply mean that extra costs would be piled on the defendant.
The Minister says that the certificate is only prima facie evidence and, therefore, does not matter very much. I do not know whether or not the draftsman of this section knows what goes on when you want to recover a debt but you must make an affidavit of debt in default of appearance so, when you are going that distance, I cannot see what advantage there is in merely prescribing certificates as to the amount due.
The Senator is accepting it in the other cases and surely it must be of some value in those cases.
I do not even see the advantage there but I do see some justification as to a clear note of the amount outstanding being issued. There might be X pounds outstanding and one could take a chance and say: "All right, give a certificate to that effect". At some stage there must be somebody in the Agricultural Credit Corporation who makes the affidavit exhibiting the hire purchase agreement. That is the absolute sine qua non; they must require that all the hire purchase agreements have been complied with. For the life of me, I cannot see where the certificate comes in.
What I do strenuously object to and what I do hope to resist is the semi-State bodies, State authorities, constantly diminishing the value of the courts and constantly endangering the ordinary rights of the citizens. I do not see any reason why the Agricultural Credit Corporation should be in any different position from the ordinary mercantile companies. I do not see how the mere issue of a certificate will save them the hearing. I think it would be just as easy for the amount of the debt to be proved on affidavit. I the Corporation want it the other way, I do not think it would be worth anything to them but I regret this constant erosion.
On the section itself I should like to say something more important. In regard to agricultural machinery one reads regrettably, from time to time of the unnecessary types of accidents which occur. I remember seeing a film on BBC television in relation to the kind of accidents that occur in the use of tractors and machinery of that kind on farms. I do not know of any kind of campaign for safety—not on ihe roads—but in the fields in the use of this heavier type of machinery of which too many people have too little experience. In so far as the Agricultural Credit Corporation is concerned, I think the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister for Local Government, might request them, when issuing these hire purchase schemes, to enclose some kind of literature calling attention to the more serious forms of danger involved in the use of this heavier type of farm machinery. It appears to me that our country cousins and brothers think that because a tractor can go up the side of a fence that is the correct thing to do. How often has a tractor capsized pinning somebody underneath. The Agricultural Credit Corporation could help towards the avoidance of that type of accident if, when they send a copy of the hire purchase agreement to the person hiring the machinery, they also enclosed some form of literature which would call attention to the more obvious type of accident that can occur in the use of farm machinery.
This is a very important subject—safety on the farm. The Department—and when I speak of the Department I mean the appropriate Department which is not the Department for which I am responsible—hope to do more about it. It is, of course, mainly a matter for the Minister for Local Government. I have no doubt at all that the Agricultural Credit Corporation, in common with all other bodies involved in this sphere, would be happy to co-operate with the Minister for Local Government in any campaign he might introduce in this direction. I certainly will suggest to the directors of the Agricultural Credit Corporation that they might co-operate with any other agency involved in this matter and if they could do something off their own bat they might do it.
I do not think that point should be pursued any further.
There is a tendency amongst the farmers to allow their children to use dangerous machinery such as tractors.
I have given latitude to the Minister and to Senator O'Quigley. At this hour I do not think that point should be extended any further.
On Second Stage, I said that I did not think it was perhaps appropriate on this Bill to make a frontal attack on the principle enshrined in this section, which was one of general application. I do not understand why the mere nomination of somebody as a candidate for election to one ar other House of the Oireachtas should be considered such a grievous offence that it merits instant dismissal from his position as a director of the Corporation. I can see same reasons, though I am not entirely convinced by them, for saying that if he were elected, he should not be continued as a member.
One can envisage cases where a director of the Corporation might at the same time be the president of some institution which is a nominating body far Seanad Éireann, an institution which, in accordance with practice, in some instances might wish to nominate him for election to the Seanad without any expectation of has being elected or participating in party politics which we have heard described earlier today. In these circumstances, the mere allowing of his name to go forward for nomination far probable non-election to a semi-vocational chamber would result in his immediate dismissal as a director of the Corporation. It seems to me that this is an absurd position and I am wondering whether the Minister would not agree on the Report Stage to amend it.
Secondly, in subsection 2 (b), we have provision that any officer or servant in the employment of the Corporation who becomes a member of either House shall not be competent or entitled to receive any salary or wages in respect of the period for which he is a member. This is a development of the principle which originally arose in connection with the administrative civil servants, a small body of people concerned with Government policy, who, it was felt, should not be actively engaged in politics. It was then extended as the Civil Service extended into new areas. Now it has been extended to State bodies and I suppose it covers something like 100,000 people. I think it needs to be reconsidered.
I would prefer to see it worded in a quite different way, that where an officer of the Corporation, or of any other such body, or of a private company, in private employment, is elected to one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, there would be imposed on the body concerned an obligation to pay the difference between his former salary and his remuneration as a member of the House of the Oireachtas. We should try to encourage people to enter the Houses of the Oireachtas and not put obstacles in their way, so that the field from which they are recruited is extended, not contracted. Now we exclude virtually everybody in employment in the country, in effect, representing about half the total population.
I would ask the Minister if he will consider, certainly under subsection (1), this business of a person having to disappear from the board as soon as he is nominated, and if he will further consider, even if he wants to leave it here, this whole question of prescribing that no State body like this may remunerate in any way somebody who is seconded to the Dáil, which means, in effect, that any senior employee of a State body in receipt of a salary of more than £1,000 or £1,500 a year is automatically put into the position that he cannot hope to stand for election to either House because of the loss of income involved. The Minister might consider taking another look at this at least in further general consideration.
It is now past 10 o'clock.
It is desirable to conclude this Bill tonight. It is in fact an urgent Bill and I would be glad if we could do so.
It is a pleasure.
If there are to be many speeches on it——
There are indications already of amendments on Report Stage.
I was asking the Minister to indicate his position.
If we could determine what the House will do——
Perhaps it would help Senator FitzGerald to decide if I could put my reply to him.
Perhaps the House will agree to go on with this Stage and then make a decision when to take the Report Stage.
I suggest to Senator FitzGerald that I can do not more at this stage than undertake to indicate to the Minister for Finance as the Minister most concerned, and also to the Government, the sentiments which have been expressed here in the House in regard to this piece of legislation. Whatever about the validity of the principle in general, in this particular piece of legislation, we are only applying to this body provisions which are already in operation in regard to most other State concerns. I feel that it might well be left over for some future occasion where it could be discussed in a much wider context in relation to all the interests concerned.
I am afraid the time has come to make a last ditch stand on this.
Then we will leave the Bill off for another day.
If Senator Quinlan is going to make a last ditch speech——
We cannot be fobbed off any longer by suggestions that the Minister is going to report the fact to his colleagues. We heard all that before and all we got was the next Bill drawn much tighter and this provision applied to categories that are becoming wider in scope every day. I think that at the start of a new session of Seanad Éireann, it is time for us to take a long, hard look at this section and see what it is doing to deprive Seanad Éireann of the opportunity of being thoroughly representative of all sections of Irish life and Irish endeavour. So much of our Irish life is tied up with Government boards, corporations and so on and we are denied having the experience and the wisdom of people on those bodies placed at the disposal of the nation through service in Seanad Éireann.
Even to contemplate being nominated entails immediate dismissal. That is an affront to Seanad Éireann. Is it any wonder that we find continual disparagement of Seanad Éireann and its efforts and press complaint even on the last day of the lowest pickings the Seanad got in a day when Seanad Éireann disposed in very workmanlike fashion of six Bills and had most constructive and interesting debates? What can we expect from any person in any position of authority who is automatically excluded from even being a candidate for Seanad Éireann? What happens then? The person knows he is excluded and gives way to cynicism and disparagement of the institution concerned and so the vicious circle goes on. The provisions are drawn still tighter.
You cannot even be nominated, and it is suggested here that if a person who as an officer is nominated, he shall not be paid or be entitled to receive anything from the Corporation by way of salary or wages. Does anybody suggest that the work involved in Seanad Éireann is a wholetime occupation? It could be properly carried on by many who are excluded by these provisions.
Again we have the effect of subsection (4) of section 10 under which a person who is entitled to a seat in the Seanad is disqualified from being or becoming a director or an officer or servant of the Corporation. In other words, even if he does become seconded as an officer, he is, under this section, denied an opportunity of promotion within the Corporation while he stands seconded.
When we raised this issue the last day a unanimous voice came from all sides of the House, and we had Senator Browne making a very fine speech from the Government benches, and Senator Garret FitzGerald on these benches who is new to the House, and when I repeated something I have been fighting—but fighting to no avail—for eight years, when we had that unanimous chorus of opinion, I thought the Minister would have come some distance to meet that point of view, and that we would have had a Government amendment to this section. I purposely refrained from putting down an amendment because I hoped the Government would show some sign of progressive thinking in this regard. Alas, that has not come and, consequently, there is nothing we can do but face the issue on Report Stage and put down an amendment.
In this House Senator Quinlan has always put himself forward as the champion of the farming community——
I understood the Leader of the House was raising a point of order.
The Senator mentioned Report Stage. We asked for the remaining Stages tonight, and I think if Senator Quinlan has that much interest in the farming community he will not be obstructive for the rest of the night.
The House has agreed to complete the Committee Stage and then make a decision on the remaining Stages.
We cannot be intimidated or put off from doing our duty by a suggestion that a week's delay on this Bill makes any difference.
I wish to assure Senator Quinlan that there was not a unanimous voice here the other night. I personally agree with the section. I think it is a very important section. I feel that if it were deleted, abuses could arise in the future.
I ask the House to consider the position of a Seanad candidate who is a member of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. He calls to a county councillor who knows of his membership of the Corporation, and who tells him he is an applicant for a loan from the Corporation. If he is dishonest he can assure the voter that he will see do it that the loan will be granted, or he need not be dishonest. All he has to do is give him a knowing look, shake hands with him, and be on his way. He can rest assured that he will get the vote of that councillor. He can also rest assured that he will be expected to take the necessary steps to have that loan granted after the Seanad election.
Let us consider the position of the Dáil Deputy who is a member of the Agricultural Credit Corporation. An applicant for a loan in his constituency would naturally visit that Deputy, and would naturally expect that Deputy to do everything in his power to see that the loan is granted. Any applicant who fails to get his loan will in the future blame that Deputy and remember it on polling day. Therefore, I feel it is very important that when a member of this Corporation, at any rate, becomes a candidate for either the Dáil or the Seanad, in order to prevent abuses in the future. he should cease to be a member of the Corporation. I, for one, agree entirely with this section.
May I suggest to Senator Garret FitzGerald that this is something that might possibly be more fully and adequately discussed on a motion put down specifically on that point.
I was going to ask about a motion. Two other points arise. I want to ask the Minister for confirmation that this peculiar clause about nomination as distinct from membership is, in fact, common to the other legislation to which he referred.
That is the case. Senator McGlinchey made an interesting case which seemed to be a case against the method of election to the Seanad rather than anything else. My second point is that I certainly did not suggest that anyone should simultaneously be an official of that body and a member of the Seanad. The point I raised was that he should be paid the difference between his former salary and his remuneration in the Seanad. I can see that if he were to continue as an officer of that body after his election to the Seanad that could give rise, perhaps, to abuses.
On the Minister's point about the motion I was going to ask him if the Government would give time for such a motion, and would we have an opportunity for a general discussion, because if that is the case, it would be a step forward.
I wish to support Senator FitzGerald in that. If we get a reasonable assurance that we will have an opportunity of debating this matter by way of motion within the coming few months I think we can accept that. It is vital that we face this issue now. Let us forget Senator McGlinchey's electioneering address and face the issue.
I asked the Minister whether, in fact, he felt we would have an opportunity of discussing this matter. Will time be provided for a motion?
I am afraid I cannot guarantee that. I merely put forward the view that this is a much broader issue than a simple regulation of the affairs of the Agricultural Credit Corporation, and it seemed to me that the sort of debate the Senator has in mind could more adequately take place on a general motion. I have no authority in this matter. I think it is a matter for the Seanad itself to decide whether time would be allocated for such a motion.
Perhaps the Leader of the House would indicate whether such time would be made available.
If a motion is put down we will consider it, but I cannot give any assurance here and now as to when or how much time could be given to it.
This provision did not apply to the Agricultural Credit Corporation up to this.
They got on without it for 40 years.
Members of the Agricultural Credit Corporation could then sit here in company with members of Bord Bainne, Senator Eoin Ryan from the Government benches, and Senator Prendergast from the benches here.
I wish to be recorded as dissenting.
We would like it now.
I would appeal to the good sense of the Seanad to give us all Stages of the Bill now, if possible. The position in fact, is that the Agricultural Credit Corporation are now practically at the limit of their existing borrowing and lending powers. There are a great number of formalities of one sort or another to be gone through, and there us a real danger that their lending operations may be delayed if we do not get all stages now.
The Government have got themselves into this position by not bringing in legislation in time and I think we should help them out.
The Government were aware of the financial position of the Corporation and they should have taken steps much earlier.
Senators will not be unaware of the fact that we had a Seanad election which prevented us from bringing this Bill to the Seanad. I do not think we can be accused of unavoidable delay in getting the Bill to the Seanad.
Prudence in administration would have called for bringing the Bill to the Seanad before Christmas, or at least six months before the Agricultural Credit Corporation headed into bankruptcy.
Subject to putting down a motion.