Land Purchase (Guarantee Fund) Bill, 1935—Second Stage.

The purpose of this Bill is plain and simple. It is to restate, in the clearest possible terms, that the Guarantee Fund is, and since April, 1932, has been liable for any deficiency arising in the Purchase Annuities Fund through the non-payment of land annuities. As I shall show presently, the Dáil intended that this should be the position. We are asking it now to reaffirm its intention in terms that will put it beyond challenge.

The House is aware that the Guarantee Fund procedure has been an integral part of land legislation since the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891. When the Land Act of 1933 was introduced in the Dáil by the Minister for Defence, then acting Minister for Lands, on the 28th June, 1933, the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, made it clear that one of the provisions of the Bill was designed to ensure that the Guarantee Fund would remain liable in respect of the non-payment of the reduced annuities. I refer the House to volume 48, column 2387, of the Dáil Reports. They will find on reference there to that, that the Minister's exact words were:—

"As regards the financial provisions consequent on the funding and revision of annuities, it is proposed that the deficiency in the Purchase Annuities Fund or in the Land Bond Fund, arising from the revision of annuities, shall not be a charge upon the Guarantee Fund, while not relieving the Guarantee Fund from liability to make good any other deficiency in either fund. That is to say, the Guarantee Fund will remain liable for the arrears of the reduced annuities payable in future."

The Dáil accordingly passed the Land Act of 1933 in the belief that its provisions would enable this, among other purposes of the measure, to be fulfilled.

In the Seanad an amendment to the Bill was moved on the Committee Stage by Senator Wilson—to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) The charge on the Guarantee Fund in respect of the deficiencies in the Purchase Annuities Fund arising from the provision of this part of this Act in relation to the payment of the arrears of payments of annuities by means of the funding of annuities, shall cease on the passing of this Act.

In moving that amendment, Senator Wilson said: "My object is to do away with the Guarantee Fund altogether."

Nothwithstanding the fact that the acting Minister for Lands stated, on behalf of the Government, that he would not accept a proposal of the kind, the Seanad adopted Senator Wilson's amendment. Apparently, however, there was some doubt in the minds of certain Senators as to whether Senator Wilson's amendment, which, as I have said, they had adopted despite the opposition of the acting Minister for Lands, would effect their purpose, and, accordingly, on the 29th August, 1933, the Seanad adopted a further amendment, moved by Senator Sir John Keane, which was designed to carry out Senator Wilson's intention more certainly. Again, the acting Minister for Lands made it clear that, as the amendment would relieve the Guarantee Fund of its liability to make good any deficiency in the land annuities collection, the Government was not prepared to accept it.

In due course, the Seanad's amendments seeking to abolish the Guarantee Fund procedure came before the Dáil. The acting Minister for Lands moved that the Dáil disagree with them and, in doing so, pointed out—again I am quoting his exact words, and the reference is to the Dáil Reports, volume 49, column 1970—that:—

"These amendments would mean the abolition of the Guarantee Fund and the substitution of the Central Fund as the fund out of which deficiences should be made up if the land annuities are not paid."

The Dáil agreed with the Minister and rejected the Seanad amendments; thus, for the second time, clearly indicating, by the formal process of legislating, its purpose and intention that the Guarantee Fund should remain liable for any arrears of the reduced annuities. Finally, when the Bill came up in the Seanad again, the Minister for Lands urged the Seanad not to insist on the amendments relating to the Guarantee Fund, which had been moved by Senator Wilson and Senator Sir John Keane, respectively. The Seanad accepted this motion, and the amendments were dropped. So much for the clear intention of the Oireachtas as manifested in the course of the debates on the Land Act of 1933.

The question of the position of the Guarantee Fund arose again on the Land (Purchase Annuities Fund) Bill, of the same year. In the course of the discussion on the Committee Stage of that measure, Deputy Roddy — again I am quoting, and the reference is to the Dáil Debates, volume 46, column 1005—put a question in the following terms:—

"Are we to assume from the Minister's statement here to-day that the Guarantee Fund will still operate as in the past — that the grants to local authorities will still be paid out of that fund, and that in the last analysis the rates will still be liable for any arrears of unpaid land annuities, even when the new funding arrangement is in operation?"

To that question I replied:—

"This leaves the Guarantee Fund position undisturbed."

The Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Cosgrave, then asked:—

"If there is any shortage in respect of the collection of that £1,000,000, will that shortage be made good by the Guarantee Fund on 31st January next?"

My answer was: "Yes, certainly"; whereupon, Deputy Cosgrave made the comment: "The House understands that."

In due course, the Land (Purchase Annuities Fund) Bill went to the Seanad, and there the question of the Guarantee Fund was raised once more by Senator Sir John Keane, who asked what was the position of the Guarantee Fund in future. My reply will be found in volume 16, column 857 of the Seanad Debates, and was as follows:—

"The Guarantee Fund, so far as the present intentions of the Government go, will be retained as a feature of the land purchase finance. Naturally, the contingent liability on that fund will be greatly reduced by the fact that the total amount of the annuities to be collected will be reduced; but it will be retained, as I have said, as a permanent feature of land purchase finance, and the local authorities, to some extent at least, in the future as in the past, will be made responsible for any arrears in the land annuities which may arise."

There is one other statement to which I desire to draw the attention of the House. It will be found in the Dáil Debates, volume 49, column 774. Deputy Roddy, having inquired whether sub-section (3) would not create a new drain on the Guarantee Fund for the future in connection with the Land Acts from 1881 to 1889, the acting Minister for Lands made the following reply:—

"The Deputy has explained the intention of the sub-section. The annuities under the Acts of 1881 and 1885 were not covered by the Guarantee Fund, so it is simply to secure uniformity. They are all covered now by the Guarantee Fund."

This reply is important because it indicates that, not merely was it the intention of the Government to preserve the liability of the Guarantee Fund in relation to the Acts of 1891 and subsequently, but that it asked the Oireachtas to enlarge the scope of the guarantee provided by the fund, so as to make it cover the annuities payable under the Acts of 1881 and 1885; and this the Oireachtas, in due course, did.

In face of the history of the matter, as I have related it, and of the statements made by the Ministers responsible for piloting the Land Act of 1933, and the Land (Purchase Annuities Fund) Act of the same year through the Oireachtas, can it seriously be contended that the Dáil ever intended to do otherwise than to confirm as a charge on the Guarantee Fund any deficiency which might arise in the collection of the land purchase annuities?

Such was the position and such was the policy of the Government and Oireachtas in 1933. There has been no change either on the part of the Government or of the Oireachtas in that regard since. In fact, from time to time responsible Ministers, speaking with the authority of the majority of the Oireachtas behind them, have made it clear that the Guarantee Fund liability would remain unchanged. Let me recall to the House some of the definite declarations which have been made in this connection.

Speaking in the Seanad on the 22nd March last on the occasion of the Central Fund Bill—the reference is Seanad Debates, volume 19, column 1473—I said:

"So far as we are concerned, the Guarantee Fund is going to operate. We want to make it quite clear that the man who wilfully withholds his annuities is not penalising the central Government but is penalising his honest neighbours who are willing to meet the obligations they undertook when they applied for and were granted a parcel of land by the Land Commission."

And, again, in my Budget statement on the 15th May last (Dáil Debates, volume 56, column 859), I said:

"I do not think that those who have been responsible for withholding those annuity payments—that is, funded annuities—in respect of which the Guarantee Fund has had to borrow, wish to bring matters to that pass, but in any event the Government is determined, for the sake of the general credit of the State, to enforce payment of those moneys."

And in the Seanad on the 18th July, on the Second Stage of the Finance Bill for this year (Seanad Debates, volume 20, column 598), I again said:

"I do not know whether the Seanad will permit me to enlarge on the Guarantee Fund. The Guarantee Fund in the form in which we operate it now was in existence since the State came into being and has been a normal characteristic of our land purchase legislation. It may have disadvantages, but, on the other hand, it has this advantage—it does bring home to public opinion the injustices which a man may inflict on the community if he does not meet his just obligations to the State. So long as land purchase exists on its present basis, so long as the State has to find some solid security for the moneys which it advanced in order that farmers who were formerly tenants—most of them tenants at will—might eventually become the freehold owners of their land, so long as the State finds it necessary to have a real security, I do not think there is going to be any departure from the present system of Guarantee Fund."

Furthermore, on the 21st May last (Dáil Debates, volume 56, column 1425), the President made it clear that in his opinion the further subvention of local rates from the Exchequer would be incompatible with the continuance of local government, and that the maintenance of the Guarantee Fund is the only known way in which the payment of land purchase annuities can be guaranteed.

Here, then, is the position with which the Government is called upon to deal. The Oireachtas, in order to protect the public credit and to enable land purchase to be carried through at a reasonable cost, has devised the machinery of the Guarantee Fund to secure the public purse against loss in a certain contingency. The desirability of maintaining that Guarantee Fund has been several times challenged in the Oireachtas, and each time the Oireachtas has decided that the Guarantee Fund must be maintained. Minister after Minister, speaking for the Oireachtas, as they and they only, so long as they command a majority in the Oireachtas, are competent to speak for it, have emphasised and reiterated that intention.

Litigation is initiated in the Courts, in my view vexatious and factious litigation, started not so much with the desire of benefiting the local authorities as of embarrassing the Government and the Exchequer.

Mr. Broderick

I question that statement very strongly, and I hope to be able to reply to it.

The case for that litigation is apparently that the Land (Purchase Annuities Fund) Act, 1933, repealed by implication all the law relating to the Guarantee Fund, with the consequence that when the Land Act of 1933 treated the Guarantee Fund as still existing the Oireachtas made a mistake of law. But the plaintiffs cannot adduce any form of words in either Act suggesting the abolition of the Guarantee Fund. The position, therefore, is that these Acts should fall to be decided and determined by the intentions expressed by the Oireachtas when within the same year and as part of the same land purchase code they passed both Acts.

To my mind as a layman it is clear, beyond doubt, what the plain intention of the Oireachtas in regard to the Guarantee Fund and its liabilities was, is, and always has been. Other people profess to have doubts as to the intentions of the Oireachtas in the matter. Very well, this is the place in which those doubts can be resolved most expeditiously and most economically.

Is it in order to discuss a matter before the courts in this fashion?

A similar question was put to the Chair in reference to a motion which was disallowed owing to a certain action being sub judice. As stated on that occasion, the Chair does not question the power of the Legislature to pass any measure, no matter whom it affects. While I dislike making references to cases in court, this debate would be unreal, if not impossible, without references to a particular case on which the Bill certainly impinges.

As I was saying, if there are doubts this is the place in which those doubts can be resolved most expeditiously and most economically. With two regrettable exceptions, every Deputy who participated in the making of the original statutes just two years ago is here. They remember the facts. We all remember the facts. We all recall the circumstances. We all know what the law was intended to be. If, by reason of any flaw in drafting, doubt has arisen, let the Oireachtas, which made the law, speak and dissipate the doubt once and for all.

This Bill has received an unusual baptism of fire. It was Deputy Dillon who, on the First Stage, expended all the somewhat over-worked superlatives in his vocabulary in denouncing the Government's action in introducing it. He declared there was no precedent for it in the legislation of this country. Deputy Dillon is so inexperienced in the ways of the Party to which he at the moment belongs and he learns so slowly that even his opponents on occasion feel sorry for him. He has a charming personality, and when he does not forget himself, some sense of humour. But it is a pity that his industry in research is not commensurate with his energy in debate. If he had exerted himself to ascertain whether there were precedents for this Bill his leader, Deputy Cosgrave, or his colleagues in the Opposition Party, Deputy McGilligan and Deputy P.J. Hogan, could have supplied him with a number. I will cite a few instances of which, no doubt, they can give him fuller particulars if he so desires. On the 1st August, 1923, the Oireachtas passed a Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Act (No. 28 of 1923). The Act was found by the courts to be defective. Immediately the then Government under Deputy Cosgrave's leadership rushed another Act through the Oireachtas nullifying the decision of the courts, but giving effect to what had been the intention of the Oireachtas, and the Dáil did that under the aegis of the then Attorney-General, the present Chief Justice.

Can the Minister say what was the effect of that Act on the courts?

The effect of that Act on the courts was far-reaching. The courts released a citizen whom they found the Executive had wrongfully in custody. The citizen was rearrested and the courts were abolished.

What courts?

The courts of this State, as they then existed.

Can the Minister say what courts were abolished?

The merits or demerits of these measures cannot be gone into now.

The judges were speedily pensioned.

Can the Minister say what courts were abolished?

Similarly, the Oireachtas in 1923 passed the Indemnity Act of that year, to validate and give the effect of law to a resolution of the Dáil which asked the Executive Council to set up military committees and tribunals to put people in peril of their lives, their liberty, and their property in danger.

But they had killed members of this House.

I am dealing with the suggestion that we have not had retrospective legislation before. Into the merits or demerits of the legislation I am not entering. I am showing what was done by Deputy Dillon's colleagues in the way of retrospective legislation.

A Deputy

In similar circumstances?

I said that this Act followed a resolution of the Dáil asking the Executive Council to set up military committees and tribunals to put people in peril of their lives, their liberty, and their property in danger. By virtue of that legislation some men were executed, the property of others was confiscated and destroyed, and thousands were deprived of their liberty—all outside the due course of the law. The Indemnity Act was passed in 1923 to give the effect of law to these actions which, at the time they were done, were outside the course of law. I am not entering into the merits, the advisability or the wisdom of what was done. I am merely pointing out what was done. We do not for a moment admit that the Government has acted illegally in making the Guarantee Fund liable for the deficiency in the land annuities collection. We say it has always acted in accordance with the intention of the Oireachtas, and we are asking the Oireachtas now, in the most formal manner possible, to manifest to all who may be concerned in the matter that this is indeed the case.

But the Indemnity Act of 1923 was not the only instance of legislation of this description for which Deputy Dillon's colleagues made themselves responsible. There was the Land Act of 1926, the Industrial Commercial Property Protection (Amendment) Act of 1929, and the Copyright Preservation Act of 1929. I should like to hear Deputy Dillon dilate on that last. It achieved the double purpose of reversing the judgment of our Supreme Court and, at the same time, barred an appeal to the Privy Council. It declared in defiance of the Supreme Court that notwithstanding the law as it then unquestionably existed, certain parties had rights in this State, had those rights always, and would continue to have them. Then having made that pious declaration, it went on with equal solemnity to deprive those parties of such compensation or redress as they would have been entitled to if the rights which the Act proposed to confer upon them had in fact subsisted.

However, I have said enough on this point to show that, when Deputy Dillon declared that there was no precedent for legislation which would operate retrospectively, he was not speaking from knowledge of the facts.

I may be asked why the Government are bringing in this Bill now. Admittedly the chance that this vexatious litigation will succeed is of the slenderest. But if by any chance it were to succeed, is it not clear that the Oireachtas, unless it were to stultify itself completely, as the guardian of the public purse and as the agent and the arbiter of its own policy and intentions, must at some stage bring in a measure to affirm and restate its original attitude in regard to the Guarantee Fund? If the ultimate issue of this litigation is, as I have said, bound to be the vindication of the Guarantee Fund procedure, as the Dáil intended it to operate, what justification would there be for this or any other Government wasting the tax payers' money in a protracted lawsuit, or allowing a local authority to fritter away the ratepayers' money in a futile and hopeless endeavour to thwart the intention of the Oireachtas? From such litigation no one would reap any benefit but the lawyers, and it was not to benefit them that the Land Act of 1933 was passed, nor to fee them, that this House has imposed burdens on the people in order to provide for the local authorities the Exchequer Grants in relief of local taxation. To protect the public purse; to assert beyond question the rightful authority of the Oireachtas to preserve the unfortunate ratepayers from fruitless legal expenditure—I notice that all the lawyers are in opposition to this measure, which I say is to preserve the unfortunate ratepayers——

From the John Browns.

——from fruitless legal expenditure, which this ill-conceived litigation, if persisted in, will involve them in, it is desirable that the Dáil should give this Bill an expeditious passage.

The Minister would be very well advised, should occasion ever arise again for the introduction of a measure such as this, to get prepared for him a statement by some person not suffering from political hysteria of any sort or kind and to deliver that to the House, not in the provocative spirit in which he has approached this particular subject, but rather with a view to putting before the House and the country some excuse, some reasonable explanation, for this continuity of stupidity which has been practised by Ministers since the Act of 1933 was passed.

The House is now invited to consider that the good intentions behind a majority here are the things which are to be considered when interpreting legislation, and not the written word. The Bill determines a question which is sub judice. It is before the courts, and it is before the courts so far at the cost of the name of the Government and of the Government's advisers. It was obviously a case in respect of which, on close and careful examination, it would be apparent to anybody that the Government had not a leg to stand on. If there was any doubt upon that question, what has transpired since was clear and palpable enough, when they went to the Supreme Court, designating this particular litigation as vexatious, and, if my hearing is correct, the Minister used the word infectious.

No, factious.

It was not infectious; it was factious. The powers, the authority and the independence of the courts of this country are laid down in the Constitution. As the Constitution runs:

"The judicial power of the Irish Free State shall be exercised and justice administered in the public courts established by the Oireachtas by judges."

Justice is to be administered by judges. If anybody outside this House came here this evening and listened to the Minister's speech, he would have had to come to the conclusion that there is only one authority in this country, that no longer do judges administer justice, that authority and justice and force and everything are regulated by a Minister who speaks with the authority of a majority of this House, and that laws are not passed by the Oireachtas at all but by a majority of this House. That is not the interpretation there is outside in connection with law. The interpretation outside is that laws are passed by the Oireachtas If we are to get it in future that only authoritative statements, only considered judgments, and only justice are to be given by a Minister speaking here with the authority of a majority behind him, we will want a new code, a new Constitution, a new interpretation of law and an entirely new dictionary meaning for the word justice.

A precedent is now being established. The Minister's feeble attempt at excuse or explanation, in the cases he has mentioned, has no bearing whatever on this Bill and is utterly and entirely irrelevant. It is to be noted that, in order to afford himself an opportunity of providing the precedent, he criticises his predecessors in office by saying that they stopped an appeal to the Privy Council. We have heard recently about pretences on the part of this Administration with regard to the new dispensation of Government in this country. They are getting away from the word "Republic" and coming around to the other description of a republican form of government. Listening to the Minister here this evening, one could come to no other conclusion than that if he had to pronounce judgment on the Act of 1926, he would have said that the Government of that day had no right to introduce legislation to stop the appeal to the Privy Council and that it was an interference with the inherent right guaranteed to the citizen under the Constitution.

What are the facts? Anybody who has had any acquaintance with the negotiation of the Treaty and the terms of the Treaty knows quite well under what circumstances the right of appeal to the Privy Council lay. It was not a right which was by any stretch of the imagination conferred on a citizen of this State in respect of legislation passed here after the Treaty had been signed, and there is neither canvassing nor extension, embellishment nor exaggeration about that statement, that in respect of laws passed here since the Treaty was inaugurated and accepted it was not the right of the citizen here to go to the Privy Council in order to have a judgment in respect of such a law. If there be any doubt on that question, one of the earliest Privy Council judgments given in 1923 by Lord Haldane puts it beyond question or doubt.

The Act of 1926 to which the Minister referred was an Act introduced here by the late Minister for Justice, Mr. Kevin O'Higgins. It was an Act which laid down the law in this country as it had been found by the Supreme Court. I challenge the Minister to do the same with this Bill. To save expense and to stop vexatious litigation, that was done. Was there any interference with the courts of this country by that Act? Not at all. Do the same thing now with regard to this and no disputes are going to be raised in this House or outside it in connection with the majesty of the law. The Minister referred to the Act of 1923. The Minister and his colleagues at that time were in rebellion against the State.

Against what?

Against the State, the very State that is being administered by the Minister and his confrères or colleagues, and the very State that is being supported by Deputy Corry at the present moment.

And the Constitution which you tore up.

Take your medicine.

Yes, and the legalised murders.

At that time, three months after the civil war, certain legislation was introduced into this House and passed into law. There had been in the Constitution at that time a provision in respect of which there was a grave doubt as to whether an Act of Parliament should be signed within a week or ten days, whether it was to enter into a sort of limbo before being presented to his Excellency the Governor-General for signature. This particular Act, authorising the retention of those rebels who would not fight and who pretended to go on with the fight at that time——

You had to get 18-pounders to get them.

Stop the nonsense now; take your medicine. The Act was signed immediately after it was passed, presented to the Governor-General, but, as I said, there was a question as to whether or not it should have been kept for a week; and the court decided what? That the Act was not an Act at all. Did it disturb the judgment of the court at all? We came into the Oireachtas and got legislation passed entitling us to present it to his Excellency, and the very same legislation became the law which was defective a day or two before because certain formalities had not been complied with. Is there a similarity between that act of statesmanship at that time and the nonsense we are presented with here to discuss and consider this evening? There is no parallel whatever. And the very flimsy pretext put before the House for acceptance of this measure is all the more flimsy when we have such irrelevancies to support it as the Minister has put before the House. Does not everybody know that in any country in which there was a civil war an indemnity Act is almost inseparable from such a situation? That disposes of three of them. The other two I have no exact recollection of but I do recall that similar action was about to be taken by certain people in respect of patents as had been taken by another person under the Land Act of 1926. The legislation then introduced was on all fours with the legislation introduced in 1926 —to lay down the law as the Supreme Court had found it. That is my recollection of that case but I have a distinct recollection of the other three cases. I expect that Deputy McGilligan will be here this evening and if the Minister wants to have the matter finally and definitely settled it can be settled by him.

The position we are invited to consider and review this evening is: a citizen believes he has a legal right; if he has a legal right, he expects to have a legal remedy for the infringement of that right. He goes to the courts of the country to assert his citizen right and to obtain his citizen remedy. He had better beware. From now on, the first thing he will have to do is get a solicitor to ring up Government Buildings and inquire whether, if he goes into court, an Act of Parliament is likely to be introduced to prohibit him from prosecuting his case and to ascertain whether he has the sanction, authority and goodwill of the Ministry before he takes action. Are we to subscribe to that policy by passing this Bill? If this Bill becomes law and if another Bill concerning which there is a resolution on the Order Paper also becomes law and this House is the sole arbiter and the only parliamentary authority in the country, we may come in at 3 o'clock and know at 10 o'clock what Acts of Parliament have been passed and what sort of Constitution we have at night that we had not got in the afternoon. The Minister little knows the dangerous line that is being taken. We were often warned during our term of office regarding certain precedents. I had sufficient confidence in the commonsense and patriotism of my people during that time that I said I was perfectly satisfied that, whatever Government came along, they would be guided by principles of justice and consideration for the general good of the people. I regret that we have lived to see that that is not the case.

What is the position we are invited to review at present? A majority of this House consists of 77 persons. Those members may have a meeting at any time in the forenoon and 39 members may pass a resolution which will bind the minority of that Party. Having done that, those 39 members of that Party can come in here and dominate this House. There may be 75 members of other Parties opposed to them, but their 38 members are not given an opportunity of lining up with the 75 owing to the Party decision. We are, therefore, going to have a new system of government, a new system of authority, and a new interpretation of the word "majority." In future, if a case is before the courts, 39 members of that Party can introduce and have passed a measure similar to this. They can run this country whatever way they like and their successors will be able to do the same. It is well to remember that. Parties do not live for ever and neither do people. The precedent set up here is the most dangerous that could possibly be conceived. The Minister asked us this evening what were the intentions of the Oireachtas during the last three years in connection with the Act which it is now sought to amend. The intentions of the Oireachtas ought to be transcribed into language that the courts could interpret. Having regard to the quality of the Civil Service and to all the aids that the Ministry has at its disposal, it is not too much to expect that the Government would be able to translate the intentions of the Oireachtas into words. We are asked, in the special circumstances, to ignore, for the moment, the fact that there are cases before the courts and to go back two years and consider what was in the mind of the Parliament at that time. I shall take up that challenge.

Let us assume that the mind of the majority was to ensure that the Guarantee Fund—that particular pool into which voted moneys in respect of relief of rates on agricultural land go —was to be kept there in suspense until we saw what deficiencies there would be in respect of the collection of Land Commission annuities. We are now in 1935 and we are asked to view this question in the light of what was in our minds in 1933. Did the Minister think in 1933 that he would be £700,000 short in the collection of land annuities in a single year? Assuming that the Act which was then being passed into law was replete with all the authority and force which the institutions of this State could afford, did the Minister think, in 1933, that he would be short of one-third of the total amount of land annuities? Is there not an entirely different situation now, having regard to our experience as to how the collection of this money has gone? We were told on several occasions here that there was a conspiracy against the payment of land annuities. We were told that the membership of the Gárda Síochána had to be swollen to deal with that political conspiracy. We were told that it was necessary to sell cattle at knockdown prices in order to terrorise the tenant farmers into discharging their liabilities to the Land Purchase Fund. What did it all amount to? We are still short £700,000 out of £2,000,000. Although there are people in jail, although people have been smashed and sent to lunatic asylums, and although cattle have been sold in the North of Ireland for ten times the amount they were sold for in Fermoy, we have not been able to collect more than £1,300,000 out of £2,000,000. No matter who goes short, no matter what privations are caused throughout the length and breadth of the country, in no circumstances is the Central Fund to be short a penny. Is that justice or does it show consideration for the maintenance of the local services? Is there any Christian charity in contemplating the possibility of hospitals being unable to attend to the sick poor? Is any consideration shown for the unfortunate road worker who is unable to pay the rent of his labourer's cottage and who has to go three or four weeks without his wages? Are not these considerations that ought to appeal to any Ministry imbued with a feeling of modern, not to say Christian, charity?

They do not know what it is.

In those circumstances, with two years' experience, we are asked to go back to what is supposed to be the intention of the Oireachtas two years ago. It is nonsense, and it is injustice, and it is no wonder the Supreme Court said in the motion which was brought before them that it was a case in which there was a serious and important issue to be tried. This is a case in which the citizen of this country still retains some rights, notwithstanding the opposition of the majority in the Oireachtas. What is the history of this case during the last six, eight or ten months? The Party from which the present Government is formed, after spending some five, six or ten years criticising the last Administration, pointing out how autocratic they were, how unjust in wiping out county councils and so on, are more responsible for the appointment of several commissioners in different parts of the country. We have still got a legal Department; we have still got a Local Government Department, costing this country goodness knows what considerable amount of money; a Local Government Department in which there is a Minister, a Parliamentary Secretary, with various boards to assist them, and so on. Does not that Minister know as well as I do that of that £700,000 unpaid annuities with which this year's rates ought to have been burdened—that £700,000 which was deducted from the Guarantee Fund, and which they lost in respect of the Agricultural Grant— over £500,000 has not been assessed on the rates this year? Why did he not go to the courts and insist on the local authorities throughout the country going through with the law as he understood it to be? Is it not a fact that half a million of money withheld from the local rates has not been assessed and will not be collected, and that at the end of this financial year they will be that £500,000 short? Does not anybody who has any association with farming conditions throughout the country know that there is no hope of collecting anything more in the land annuities this year than there was last year? Then we are going to be faced in two years with a shortage of about £1,500,000 in the collection of rates throughout the country. Is not that going to mean considerable turmoil and upset in our whole finance? That is the thing I am asking the Oireachtas to consider —not the mind of 1933, which was then speculative; when it was quite possible that by a special dispensation of Providence the farming community might be able to pay half the annuities. We now know that they are absolutely unable to do it. It cannot be done and nobody knows it better than the Minister. That is why he is attempting to raid the Guarantee Fund in order that his Central Fund will at least not be at a loss, and that the responsibility for apologising for any shortcomings that there may be in connection with local administration will fall upon the local authorities throughout the country.

Take one county; a county which is, perhaps, the most blatant in its support of this present Ministry; a county which refused point blank to include the amount that had been deducted from the Agricultural Grant this year. The matter was discussed before the council of that county this week; they were asked to express an opinion upon this Bill, and that county which would not make provision for the deficiency from the land annuities which had been deducted in the rates, and which consequently will be short that much money, in its delight and desire to support the Ministry, expressed itself in favour of the Bill and against the legal action. That is the type of political degradation and demoralisation to which the majority in this House or the Minister speaking for the majority in this House which may mean the majority only of his Party, has brought this country. Let us just consider how the Guarantee Fund came in the first instance and entered into this question at all. The Guarantee Fund was instituted as a receptacle for whatever moneys would go in relief of agricultural rates, and was to remain there in order that it might make good any deficiencies, not in the collection of land annuities, but any deficiencies which might arise in order to pay the interest on land stock and the Sinking Fund. Very good; there is no question about the Act of 1923. The interest and Sinking Fund on the stock created to finance the Act have got to be paid. The Ministry has entered into the possession of moneys for which they have no liability to anybody because they have repudiated it. There is no deficiency in respect of interest and Sinking Fund on the land stock from 1881 up to 1909—no deficiency whatever. That was a perfect machine— the Guarantee Fund and all its works and pomps—as long as the deficiency in the collection of annuities was represented by about 1 to 3 per cent.

If it has now gone as far as 30 per cent., then it is an institution which will not be able to bear that particular strain, and we had better realise it. We had better enter into consideration of this question with the mind of December, 1935, and not the mind of August, 1933, not the speculative mind, not the mind of the gambler or the political prognosticator, but rather the mind of a man who has considered the accounts as they are, and will meet the situation accordingly. There is no liability in respect of the payment of the interest on land stock or of the Sinking Fund, and the introduction of the 1881 and 1885 Acts was an imposition. It was unfair; it was unjust, and it was not part of the protection in respect of which the finance of those two particular Acts was introduced either into another parliament or into this. The Ministers are not so innocent but that they have heard at some time or another of people going to a bank and getting others to back bills. Just imagine what the situation would be if we are to go on the assumption that anybody with a majority behind him can go into the street, take hold of a man by the shoulder and say, "Put your name to that bill whether you like it or not." It is going to be a new order in finance. When people are asked by a majority in this House, speaking through Ministers, to add their names to bills to which they were not parties, to undertake liabilities in respect of which they had no previous knowledge or undertaking of any sort or kind, it is neither justice, good business nor commonsense. In all the circumstances, the Minister's case for this bill is even more miserable than the Bill itself. The flimsy parallels he attempted to draw show clearly how hard pressed the Ministry are in connection with these Acts. As I said before, it would be well for him or any other Minister who has to deal with a matter of this sort to get some person with at least commonsense, if not a little legal knowledge, to prepare his speech for him before he utters it in this House. I am opposing the Bill, Sir.

The Bill which is presented to the House this evening for its Second Reading is a most extraordinary Bill, presented to this House in an extraordinary way, and in extraordinary circumstances. Firstly, let me say that this is supposed to be a Bill which sets out to remove doubts; that is a cowardly and contemptible title to give the Bill. Why should not the Minister for Finance come into the House here with a straight and honest Bill, saying that this is a Bill to ensure that the grants ordinarily passing into the hands of the local authorities shall be liable for the unpaid annuities? That is what the Bill means, but, of course, like all the other camouflage we have had from the Minister upon the Bill this evening, it would not do to be straight about it. This is a Bill for the removal of doubts? If the Minister wanted his doubts removed the courts were there; the courts were in action. Of course the Minister did not want that. He did not want the doubts removed in that particular way. He wants this House to do a certain thing for him, and in making his case this evening he has made it, to my mind, in the most brutal form in which it could possibly be made.

He told us that the policy of the Government in 1935 has not altered from what it was in 1933. He told us that at that time and now they want to ensure that the man who refuses or fails to pay his annuity is not penalising the Government but penalising his honest neighbours. Where is the justification for that? Is there any justification under Heaven for the Government or anybody saying that the honest man who pays his way must be penalised even though he has no authority whatever over the collection of the annuities? He has no rights, no privileges. The Minister and the Government have all those. The local authorities have not the right to collect annuities. They gain no privileges directly by the collection of the annuities. The Minister has all these in his hands. He has all the machinery to collect the annuities, so why should the local authorities suffer? If the Minister thinks that this is a new type of political opposition organised against this Government he is making a great mistake. Of course he does not think that. If the Minister knows anything he knows that the old Irish Parliamentary Party in the British Parliament in 1891 and 1903 bitterly opposed the Guarantee Fund which made local ratepayers liable for the unpaid annuities. The old Irish Party held at that time that the Irish farmers were men to be trusted and that, given a fair chance, they would pay their way and that there was no reason for the British Government asking that the rates, through the withheld grants, should be made responsible for the payment of the annuities.

Of course, we have a different situation now. We have now a poor man's Government in this country which refuses to trust the farmer. He is not to be trusted. He is, in the opinion of the Minister, either too dishonest or too poor to pay his annuities. Whether it is that he is too dishonest or that he is too poor, the Minister must accept responsibility for his condition. The Minister in explaining his Bill to the House, as Deputy Cosgrave pointed out, ought to have somebody to direct him. He spoke about the industry or the lack of industry of Deputy Dillon in not looking up certain matters, but I think the Minister was guilty of much greater laxity himself in the same direction. First let me say that he was entirely wrong and was merely endeavouring to cloud the issue by saying that the present action was taken by the two county councils because of some defect in the 1933 Act. It was not. There is no alleged defect in the 1933 Act as far as these people are concerned. The Guarantee Fund first came into operation in 1891, and Section 6 of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, set out:—

If the Land Purchase Account is at any time insufficient to meet the dividends and sinking fund payments, the deficiency shall be a charge on the Guarantee Fund.

That is what the litigants are relying upon. Is it not a sound ground, as far as the British Acts are concerned? Does the Minister contend that these words ought to apply and operate as if there still existed a sinking fund and land stock under Acts which they themselves have repudiated?

The Minister endeavoured to tell us about the intentions of the majority of the House. I wonder how many people behind the Minister's Front Bench knew what the real situation was in regard to the Guarantee Fund or how many know it to-day? The real situation of the Guarantee Fund to-day is this: According to the Minister for Finance, if the people do not pay their annuities under the British Acts, as well as under the Irish Acts, the honest man who pays his rates will have to carry the burden and will be held responsible to the Minister for this money for his Exchequer. Let there be no mistake about that. The moneys which are ordinarily flowing into the Annuities Fund and which were being used under the British Acts for the purpose of the payment of sinking fund and land stock are now being used by our Exchequer for Exchequer purposes. It is certainly the first time, even though the British Government did mistrust the Irish farmers to the extent that they set up this Guarantee Fund, that ever any Government has endeavoured to benefit directly from the payment of land annuities.

We have a certain type of transfer payments going on at the present time between the Exchequer, the Purchase Annuities Fund, the Guarantee Fund and back to the Exchequer again. The whole thing is rather bewildering. Some time ago, I think it was about 18 months ago, there was a Vote in this House for a sum of money considerably in advance of a £1,000,000 representing the May-June gale of 1933. That was voted by this House into the Guarantee Fund. That was a rather innocent type of procedure and generally members of the House, I think, felt that something was being done that was advantageous to local authorities and county councils. There was no such thing being done. There was a certain amount of money being voted by the House to the Guarantee Fund, which sum the Government collared back into the Exchequer. As far as deficiencies in respect of land stock and sinking fund are concerned, there is a certain amount of common sense in having some type of security. The Minister spoke of security a while ago in this matter, but why should not the Government be required to provide security for their own revenue, for the collection of which they have their own machinery? The local authorities have no say in the collection; the Minister has all that.

The Minister stated brutally, as he himself said in this House, that the honest man must carry this load whilst he, who has the machinery for collection, will be free. The Minister says, in effect: "I and the people who stand by me in a political Party have the making and the unmaking of the people of this country as far as policy is concerned. We have the powers of collection. We have the machinery to collect; we have all the benefits, but, notwithstanding that, every honest man will have to carry double or treble his burden. That was my policy in 1933 and it is my policy in 1935." That is nothing to boast of in this House. As I endeavoured to show a while ago, opposition to the Guarantee Fund and this type of security is not by any means new. It was always considered by the Irish people an objectionable type of security. In the books of the Roscommon County Council as far back as 1909 I have found a resolution passed at that time protesting against the withholding of grants which amounted in that year to £2,599, and the attention of Mr. J.P. Hayden, M.P., was called to the situation that then existed. Later on, in 1924, a resolution was passed by the Roscommon County Council that the Government be called upon immediately to amend the law which holds the county councils responsible for unpaid annuities to the Irish Land Commission as the county council has no power to enforce these payments. These were passed at a time when there still existed land stock holders and a sinking fund. Then on the 13th February, 1929, a similar resolution was passed, a rather long one, which wound up: "We are of opinion that the law in respect to this obvious wrong to the ratepayers of the county demands immediate repeal."

It may be of interest to the Minister to know that last year at a meeting of the Roscommon County Council, as published in the Connaught Tribune of 16th February, a case was made that the Government had not the right to withhold these grants and a proposal was made that legal advice be definitely got to see what the position was. That proposal was not carried because the Minister's Party has a majority on the county council, but this resolution was carried on the 9th February:—

"That in view of the grave situation which would arise in this county in the event of a large sum of the Agricultural Grant being held back, as indicated in the letter from the Government, on account of unpaid land annuities, we reiterate our demand that the councils should not be penalised in this manner and that legislation be enacted to relieve the ratepayers of the burden of defaulting annuitants."

That was passed by the Minister's colleagues, not by his opponents. To-day the Minister comes to the House and says that if anybody fails to pay annuities he will see that the honest man down the country carries a double or treble burden. That is the new type of mind we have in the Government of this country to-day. It was always felt, and I am sure it was felt by the Minister's followers even in connection with the 1933 Act, that the operation of the Guarantee Fund was necessary to the carrying out of the Land Acts and to their continued operation. They will know, after this debate at least, that so far as that is concerned there is no law, unless we make it to-day, for withholding the grants from any county council unless there is a deficiency in the amount necessary to meet land stock or sinking fund.

The Minister's solution for all this is to supersede the courts, to get in before them. We will then have a revival of the old situation which held that the king can do no wrong. Of course, our laws or our Constitution do not lay that down. If, as Deputy Cosgrave pointed out, a citizen feels he has a right within the law, must he first go to the Attorney-General or the Government of the day, even though he has been advised the law is on his side, and find out whether the courts are going to be forestalled by an Act of the Oireachtas and that the ordinary machinery laid down in the Constitution—that the courts should be the interpreters of the law—should go by the board?

I do not think that there ever was brought into this House a more despicable Bill than the one now before us which sets out boldly and brutally that the honest man down the country must pay his rates twice or three times over so that the Minister shall get his taxation; not that the man who lent the money for land purchase shall get his dividends and that there shall be a sinking fund to pay him when he wants to get his money back, not any of these things, but that the honest man down the country must pay his debt twice or three times over so that the revenue of the Minister for Finance shall not be depleted.

What is the actual situation in the country at present? A sum of £716,000 was withheld from local authorities last year. Of that sum something over £556,000 has not been budgeted for by local authorities. The Minister for Finance, speaking recently on the Supplementary Agricultural Grant, informed the House that a certain sum of money was recently made available to local authorities as a set-off to the withholding of that £716,000, and that this money that was made available to local authorities as a set-off was money which would not ordinarily be accruing to local authorities for some considerable time to come. What is the meaning of all that? Let us consider the new situation that has arisen in connection with that particular matter. The Minister boasted in this House that he had made available a sum of money prematurely, because he knew the local authorities were in need of it. If that is so, is that not beggaring the future? Will the Minister say to this House that, if in the coming year he withholds a sum of £716,000, he will make a similar sum available, and that it is being made available prematurely?

While the Minister ensures that his coffers are filled, local authorities all over the country are embarrassed by their financial position. In some counties labourers and officials are not being paid; bank interest is mounting up, and on every side deficits are staring them in the face. In the last account enormous amounts were carried forward in connection with unpaid rates. People were not able to pay. Enormous amounts have been written off, and the county council I represent had last year withheld from it under this heading £26,000—that is, £26,000 of halved annuities. In 1931 the sum withheld was between £2,000 and £3,000. For comparative purposes, £26,000 now would mean £52,000 at that time.

What has happened to the farmers since Fianna Fáil came into office? Where there was only a deficiency of between £2,000 and £3,000 in Roscommon in 1931, there was a deficiency of £52,000 in 1934-35. It is with that situation facing him that the Minister comes in here and brutally says: "It does not matter; I am going to bring in this Bill, even though there is no precedent for this, and even though there is no precedent in any country in the world for getting this type of security for Government taxation, to ensure that the honest man pays his way twice and three times over so that my coffers will be filled and the local authorities can go and look out for themselves."

I have never heard a more flippant, irrelevant and irresponsible speech from a Front Bench Minister in support of a serious proposal, such as we have before us in this House, than I have listened to from the Minister for Finance this afternoon. If the Minister were seriously anxious to convince members of this House that this measure was a justifiable one, he used no sound or sensible argument in support of the Second Reading of this Bill. This is one of the most serious measures which the Government has attempted to push through the House since it came into office. The Minister, in making his case in support of the Second Reading, quoted other measures which were passed by the House in the effort to convince members that those measures had some relation to the one now introduced. He compared the Indemnity Act of 1923 with this Bill. I was a member of the House when the Indemnity Act of 1923 was passed. I voted against it. It was introduced here at the time for the purpose of legalising things that had been done in the name of and with or without the authority of the Government of the day.

The present measure is a measure to prejudice or influence the minds of the judges who are now and will be for some time to come engaged in hearing a case presented on behalf of certain sections of the ratepayers. Is this measure introduced for the purpose of influencing or prejudicing the minds of the judges in favour of the Government point of view? I could see some argument in favour of the introduction of a measure of this kind if the case had been heard and if the judges had given, their decision against the Government. But I can see no case for rushing any measure of this kind through the House when that case is under investigation by the law courts and before the decision is given. None of the measures mentioned by the Minister in his speech has any bearing whatever on this proposal. He quoted from other Acts. but he laid particular stress on and practically confined himself to the meaning of the Indemnity Act of 1923. Surely if he read the debates that took place in connection with that measure he would not attempt to institute a comparison between the present proposal and that Act of 1923 in the circumstances of the time. I voted with my colleagues on that Act and on another measure which had some bearing on this proposal—the Lynam and Butler Bill—but that was for a different purpose altogether. The Lynam and Butler Bill was introduced into this House for the purpose of preventing citizens of this State or people who are not citizens of this State, if you like, from bringing before the Privy Council cases decided against them by the Supreme Court. I voted for that Act, and I was perfectly justified.

I am of opinion that there is no case to be made for the procedure enshrined in this Bill. I am of opinion that the attitude of the Government in withholding the Agricultural Grant from the ratepayers and thus penalising them has no justification at all since the Land Act of 1933 was passed. During the discussion on that measure and on the last two Budgets brought in by the Minister for Finance, I protested against the procedure introduced, but for different reasons. The British Government introduced this procedure to compel the Irish people to pay certain financial sums to that Government. There was no case for a continuance of that procedure once this Parliament was set up, and certainly none whatever since the passing of the 1933 Land Act.

I have personal knowledge of a good many people in my constituency, small tillage farmers, friends and relatives of my own, who would not allow the sheriff to come to their doors collecting the land annuities. I know some of them who borrowed money from friends and some who borrowed money from traders. I know of one friend of mine who went to the bank and borrowed money so as not to be exposed before his neighbours as a bad citizen who had defaulted on his land annuities. Now the position is that men of that class are being compelled in the following year to pay in addition to their own liabilities the debts of their neighbours, some of whom could pay but were not pressed to pay. The rates in my constituency and in every other constituency in the country have been increased for the past three or four years, not so much for the purpose of improving local services but in order to make up the deficiencies in the land annuities collection. These deficiencies have been caused by the people who refuse to pay their annuities. Since the passing of the 1933 Act the land annuities are part and parcel of the revenue of this State. If the total of the land annuities were collected a big proportion of them would be used for ordinary revenue purposes. In view of that fact, there is no case whatever in favour of a continuance of the present procedure—no case for making the people who have already paid their land annuities make good the bad debts caused by their neighbours' default.

I hope the Deputy will vote for increased taxes on tea and sugar. We heard a lot from him about these.

I voted for many measures introduced by this Government, measures with which perhaps I did not agree, and I did that because I believed it was a better Government in many respects than its predecessor. If the Minister wants me to think that the speech he made was a sound speech I would like to hear it repeated. In my opinion, it was irrelevant and it was not a seriously-minded speech. The Minister endeavoured to get the House into an excited state over something that happened during the civil war period, and during the time when we were considering the Indemnity Act of 1923. I hope the Minister, when replying, will give better reasons for this Bill than he gave when moving the Second Reading.

He might learn something.

I want to hear a case made by the Minister or some colleague of his in favour of penalising occupiers of agricultural holdings who have paid their own rates and annuities. That is being done by a Bill of this kind, making them pay for the bad debts of their neighbours, some of whom could have paid if they wished. A sum of about £250,000 has been written off under the Act of 1933 in order to facilitate people who had not paid their annuities up to a certain period. I have reason to know that people in my constituency who benefited by that particular 1933 Land Act are the very same people who are not paying their annuities to-day. I want to remind the Minister that some people who are not paying annuities in my constituency are supposed to be supporters of his Government.

It is the same all over.

At any rate, we on this side of the House are not going to be a party to the policy of penalising hardworking men and forcing them to pay the bad debts of their dishonest neighbours. That is the issue before us. Apart from that fact, you have to consider a serious proposal—that we are asked to pass a measure before a decision is given by the courts; and we are asked to do that for the purpose of prejudicing or influencing the decision of the judges who are trying the case. Why does not the Minister also responsible for the collection of income-tax penalise the ratepayers and the local authorities for the sums that he cannot collect in those areas? What is the difference from the point of view of revenue purposes between income-tax revenue and Land Commission annuities? If there is a case in favour of penalising the local ratepayers in order to make good what is lost by those who do not pay their annuities, there is the same case for doing the same thing against persons who have not paid their income-tax. With the same justice or injustice they could be made pay the income-tax that the Revenue has failed to collect from other income-tax payers. Personally, I do not see any difference. I think, at any rate, the Central Fund, under existing circumstances, is the fund that should make up the loss, if there is a loss, in the annuities, not the local ratepayers who have no responsibility for the losses, and not the local authority that has no responsibility for their collection. I am certain this Bill has not been carefully and seriously considered by the Cabinet. I certainly think it has not been seriously and carefully considered by the Fianna Fáil Party who, more than the Cabinet, ought to know more about the existing conditions in the rural parts.

And it has not been considered carefully by the Deputy.

It has been considered so carefully by the members of this Party that they have decided to vote against it and take the consequences for doing so.

I do not say the Minister will be convinced, but I think that those who have listened to the Minister's case and to the speeches made by Deputies Cosgrave, Brennan and Davin against this Bill, even if they have not considered the Bill, will be convinced that it is a bad Bill, a bad Bill made worse by the Minister's speech and by the implications of certain passages in that speech. Has the Minister any doubts as to what the law is? Does anybody think that the Minister has any doubts as to what the law is? This Bill is a proof that the Minister has no doubts as to what the law is. It is because at last the Government have wakened up to the point of grasping that the law is against them on the subject, that this Bill is introduced; it is introduced to strangle the courts and for no other purpose. If there was any doubt about the law, the proper place to resolve that doubt about the law is the courts.

Why was it not left to the courts to resolve this doubt? Was there any convincing answer given to that by the Minister? We were told that so far as that side of it is concerned, his purpose was to save the ratepayers expense. This is a Bill to save the ratepayers expense! This year it means £716,000 on the ratepayers, but from the point of view of removing doubts we are told the Minister's purpose is to save the ratepayers expense? I suggest that is quite on a par with the rest of his speech, and it shows the value of the arguments behind this Bill, a Bill saddling the ratepayers with £716,000 for this year alone—I am not going into any arrears that remain over from last year. The Minister says that this is a Bill to save the ratepayers from themselves, to save them from the courts. We have the Minister, described by himself, incidentally, together with his colleagues, as responsible Ministers, saying solemnly that if there is any doubt on a matter of law the place to resolve it is this House, not the courts. If there are doubts the proper, the cheap place to resolve those doubts is this House! That is now the attitude of the Government.

In future, who dares take action against the Government? Dare anybody take an action? If a man thinks he has an action against the Government, if he thinks he is being cheated by the Government of his rights. according to the Minister, a member of the Government can come here and, because he has a majority, he can determine that an action already in course of hearing shall not be decided by the courts according to the law as it stands, but shall be decided by some whim of the Minister, by what the Minister thinks ought to be the law. He will be mulcted in expenses because he dares to question the rights of the Minister, the rights of the Government. He has entered into expense to establish his legal rights, but he will bemulcted in further expense because the Minister at one time said he had a different intention.

It is for one body alone to decide what is the intention of the Oireachtas, and that is the courts, not this House. This House can amend legislation, but it cannot decide a matter of doubt on a question of law. The contrary was the principle laid down by the Minister, and it is in keeping with the whole spirit of this Bill, as anybody who has considered the situation or listened to the Minister's speech will be quite ready to agree.

There are quite clearly two principles involved and one of them is the matter of this particular type of legislation depriving either individuals or public bodies of the legal rights they have to have certain legal matters determined by the courts. The other principle is the question of imposing taxation on the local authorities for a certain purpose. These are two distinct matters. In an attempt to justify one of them the Minister has committed himself to certain principles that are subversive of all law. I am referring now to the Minister's speech and the statement to which he committed himself. There is then the question as to whether or not in the present circumstances the local authorities should be made tax collectors—I think that is the description given by Deputy Davin—for the present Government and whether the ordinary person should be made liable for the debts due to the Government by his neighbour. The Minister in the case he pretended to put up for this Bill has not tackled either of these two distinct questions. He did not even make a pretence of attempting to tackle the second question, namely, whether the House ought now impose this burden on the local authorities. He did make a pretence to deal with the other portion, citing what he alleged were examples, precedents, for this.

In the speeches that followed, at least in two of them, it was clearly pointed out that these were no precedents for the present action. The two instances that could come nearest were meant for one particular purpose —not to question any action of our courts, but to question the right to use the Privy Council as an ordinary final court of appeal. The Privy Council was in danger of being converted into an ordinary final court of appeal for this country. A successful effort was made to stop that. The only cases that bear a close or even a remote parallel to the present case were steps taken to assert the rights of the courts of this country, not to question the rights of the courts, but to assert them against an outside body. These are the principal cases the Minister can quote as a precedent for the present action.

The Minister's suggestion is appalling, that in an ordinary case of dispute in settled times between a citizen or a public body and the Government, he can come here and nullify or attempt to prevent the action of the courts. The Minister says he does not admit the case against the Government, but the Bill is admitting the case. Anyone reading it can see that they had no right to retain this money under existing legislation. Instructed, I presume, by the Government, an attempt was made to get a decision of the Supreme Court that this action of the two county councils in question, the Cork and the Louth County Councils, was what the Minister described it to be, a vexatious and a ridiculous action.

The Supreme Court scoffed any such suggestion out of court, and it was because of that that we have this hasty legislation. It was quite clear, even to the Government itself, that on the substantive motion itself they had not a leg to stand on, and now they are trying to save themselves.

Remember what we have to discuss is not the history of the Guarantee Fund, but whether this House, and the Oireachtas, in 1935, think it right to impose this burden upon the local authorities. That is what you are doing. If that is not what you are doing, then let the courts decide. So far as this House is concerned, it is imposing a duty upon the local authorities. Deputies opposite are doing that, and they are deliberately doing that, if they support this legislation.

It is no answer to say that under the Treaty, before 1933, there was a State liability. The fact is that between 1933 and 1935 there was no such burden, and that the Fianna Fáil Party are now imposing that burden upon the local authorities. I take it that the Government, by introducing this Bill, are absolutely certain that the law is against them, and that they had no right to withhold this grant between 1933 and 1935. Otherwise, why introduce this measure? There was no attempt at justification, upon the merits, for transferring this burden from the central authority to the local authorities, except one phrase that the Minister let drop when he gave a quotation from the President, that this was the only means they had of seeing that the annuities were paid That was one of his statements. With all respect to the President and his Government and his Ministers, there are methods—and they have used them—of securing that the annuities are paid, besides trying to make a man liable for the default of his nextdoor neighbour. The fact that this was imposed by the British and continued in operation before the change in the disposition of the annuities after the Act of 1933, shows that any raison d'être, or excuse that there was for trying to saddle the local authorities with this burden before 1933 had vanished after 1933. There are no merits in the case so far as this Bill is concerned. The law as it stands is much better law than the law that the Minister is now trying to push through this House. What we want is a discussion of the matter as it now stands, bearing in mind the commitments of the local authorities, bearing in mind what charges they have to make and to meet, and what are their outgoings; bearing in mind their increased burdens and the increase in the rates, and bearing in mind the incapacity of the ordinary ratepayer to meet those increases.

What the House has to decide is whether this is the proper time to put these additional burdens upon the ratepayers. No case was made out for doing it, even if the times were normal. The Minister made out no such case. What the British had in mind when they adopted an expedient of this kind seemed to them an excellent idea. They thought it was the natural way in which they could make the people in Ireland as a whole responsible for whatever defalcation might occur. It would have seemed to them an excellent idea, and that was the only reason they did it. They wanted to make the people of Ireland as a whole responsible for any default-that might occur in the payment of the annuities. Two important changes have taken place since that time, and I take them together. First of all, it is not the British Government that is pressing for the passing of this legislation; it is the Fianna Fáil Government of this State. Secondly, the money now collected is not intended to pay the interest upon the money lent for the purposes of purchasing the land—it has become State revenue in practice. These two important changes have taken place. The Minister should have justified the retention, or the attempted retention of these moneys payable to the local authorities.

That is the general principle. He did not attempt to do that. But there is the further question whether, at the present moment, the money to the local authorities, who are themselves on the verge of bankruptcy, and who have to postpone payments that have become due because they have not the money in hand to meet them, should be withheld, and whether this is the time to impose this additional burden upon the local authorities. The Minister said there were two reasons that induced him to introduce this Bill—apart from the constitutional reason that he gave, that this House was the place to decide an issue of law—that it was the Government that was the guardian of the public purse and wanted to relieve the ratepayers from the expense of petty actions. I have dealt with the latter. But remember that the local authorities also have public services to provide for. There is a public purse there also, and it is not guarding the public purse to bankrupt, as quickly as you can, the local authorities. The Minister has a peculiar conception of his duties as guardian of the public purse. I know the tendency there is on the part of the Government to pile additional burdens upon the local authorities. Owing to the action of the Government the local authorities to-day are between £1,500,000 and £2,000,000 worse off than they were in 1931. And the people upon whom they have to call for rates are worse off. No one can pretend that the farming community is in a position at the moment to pay increased rates. I met a man down the country 12 months ago and he told me the rates had increased in his case and in that of some of his neighbours from £15 or £16 to £35 and £40. And this is the time the Minister has chosen to increase them and put an additional burden upon the people! There is no explanation of the Government's action in bringing in this Bill except their conviction that that burden does not in law lie on the ratepayers at the present moment. Otherwise, they would be only too delighted to let the courts decide; and, with all respect, I contend that the courts are the only body that can decide questions of doubt in matters of law.

The annuities are halved, and yet over £700,000 are outstanding. Is not that in itself an eye-opener, so far as the Government's policy, even in this Bill, is concerned? Does it not suggest to the Government that the ratepayers are no longer in a position to meet the demands that are being put upon them? The very circumstances of this Bill—that huge amount of money, amounting to over £700,000 out of £2,000,000—are proof of the lengths to which Government policy has developed the misery of the farmers. How can the agricultural ratepayers meet this charge and other charges that the Government's policy has put upon them? Everybody knows what has happened their markets! Everybody knows what has happened their purchasing power—what they get for what they sell and for what they produce. Everybody knows that. The last moment the Government ought to think of introducing action of this kind is the present. In fact, if the Government had any thought of the welfare of the country; if they had any thought of the continued functioning of local authorities; if they had any thought of the proper functioning of local services, and of the keeping up and proper payment of those services, they would have welcomed a decision of the courts that the local authorities were not liable for this sum. They would have been the first to welcome it if they had the welfare of the public services and the welfare of the local authorities at heart.

Now we have over £700,000 due for this year alone, up to the present, and I presume that whatever remains over from last year will have to be met also. Is that all because people are dishonest? Is everybody who has been unable to pay his portion of that £700,000 dishonest? That was the contention of the Minister for Finance. Is that his knowledge of the condition of the country? Is that his knowledge of the position of the farming community? Does he say that dishonesty is the only explanation of that deficit of £700,000 out of £2,000,000—not out of £4,000,000, but out of £2,000,000? Is that his explanation of the record the Government has been able to achieve in that particular respect? Everybody who knows anything about the country —that is, everybody except the Ministers, because even the ordinary Fianna Fáil Deputies must know the situation—knows that it is because the great bulk of these people cannot pay. Well, I think it will be admitted even by the Minister that there is a certain number of people who are making an honest effort to pay. What is your proposition? Is it to penalise them in the way of increased rates—to penalise them for their honesty? I am taking the Minister's own case—his division of the farmers of this country into the sheep and the goats: into the honest and dishonest. What is the Minister's remedy? Is it to penalise the honest to the advantage of what he calls the dishonest? That is what this Bill means, according to the Minister. As I say, I am taking the Minister's own presentation of the case, but of course the ordinary individual knows that there is a sum of £700,000 odd outstanding because the people of the country are no longer in a position to meet these charges, and that is the moment that the Government chooses to heap these further charges on the people who have managed to meet them. The Government has driven these people to the verge of destruction. It has jeopardised the ordinary social and humanitarian services of the country, and it proposes to destroy them altogether, if it can, by this Bill.

This is not a local problem. The very amount—£700,000 out of £2,000,000, and not, I might again point out, out of £4,000,000—shows that it is not a local problem. It is a problem that affects the whole country—a problem that has been created through the immensely serious situation presented to us by the Government's policy. It is for the Government to meet that problem, and not for the local authorities.

For many years the annuitants, even when they had to meet the full annuity, showed their readiness to pay. The great bulk of them always showed their readiness to pay. If there are £700,000 now outstanding, the fault lies with the policy of the Government, and it is the Government and not the local authorities that ought to meet the consequences of that policy. It is a national catastrophe, and the remedy ought to be national too. It is not local.

There is one county which, as a result of various pieces of Government legislation and taxation, has been very severely hit. It has got very little benefit, either from the various taxes imposed or from the various measures introduced by the Minister for Agriculture. The Minister has had to introduce certain exceptional clauses in some of his Bills to deal with that county, because he realises that his policy or the policy of the Government has hit that county very harshly.

Kerry cattle?

Yes, Kerry— and the Minister has introduced several clauses in his Bills to meet that problem, and yet we have a proposal to put 1/6 in the £ on that county that the policy of the Minister has reduced to that state.

They have done everything they can up to the present to make bankrupt the position of the local authorities. This is the coup de grace for the local authorities. As I say, the Government have acted on a vicious principle. They have practically laid it down here, and the Minister for Finance has said in so many words, that the only body to decide any matters of law is this House, or rather the majority in this House. They have said that this is the place to do it, and not the courts. From that it follows that no man should bring an action against the Government because, if he does, before his case can be decided, he will be mulcted in costs. We are told that the Ministry will introduce legislation to save him from further costs, but he will be deprived of his rights and he will be told that he ought to be thankful to the Ministry for saving him from having to pay lawyers to find out what his rights are.

We oppose this Bill because the 1933 Act has cut the ground completely from any possible justification for this interference with the Guarantee Fund. We also oppose it on the grounds I have just stated, and, thirdly, we oppose it because, no matter what might be said for or against this Bill in normal times, the present moment is not the moment to introduce legislation of this kind.

The Attorney-General

If the reason the Deputy has just given is the real reason which induces him and his Party to oppose this Bill, I suggest that he and his Party are both acting without regard to the ordinary considerations which ought to guide Deputies in this House. A certain string has been played upon with great effect— more skilfully, I think, by Deputy Dillon on the occasion of the First Reading of the Bill—by Deputy Cosgrave here this evening. It was played upon by the last speaker as well as by Deputy Brennan. They have said: here is an instance of legislation being introduced pending proceedings in the courts to deprive people of their legal rights. In future, according to Deputy Cosgrave, if an action is being brought against a Minister it will be necessary, in order that the litigant should make sure that he will not be deprived of his rights, that he should ring up Government Buildings and find out what interpretation the Government is putting upon the law as it stands. I do not believe that the very capable Deputy who has just sat down believes that, or believes that any such precedent is being set here, or that any such principle governs this legislation. The same principle governs the introduction of this legislation as that which inspired the introduction of several measures, some of which have been referred to here by the Minister. Deputy Davin said that he and his Party were going to oppose this measure. During the course of his speech, the Deputy said that if the action at present pending in the courts were allowed to go to a decision, and that a decision was given against the Government, it would be an entirely different matter. That is what I understood the Deputy to say.

The Attorney-General is not quoting me correctly.

The Attorney-General

That is what I understood from the Deputy's speech. Now, nobody would suggest for a moment that it would be correct for the Government whenever an action was brought against it, and that the question of the interpretation of the law as it stood would decide the matter for or against, immediately to proceed to Parliament to have the law declared to be as they wished it to be. What is being done here is what as at the bottom of every measure which is introduced to have a retrospective effect. It is, that the intention of this House and of the Oireachtas as a whole should be made clear for the guidance of the courts. We are told here that this is an attempt to override the courts, to deprive the courts of their clear, sole and exclusive function of saying what the law is. I say to Deputies who are caught by that argument that that is a wholly wrong presentation of the case because this is the law-making Assembly and not the courts. The courts are there to interpret the law. This House is entitled to have its intentions made clear so that the courts will have to accept its intentions, as clearly expressed, and if, as has frequently happened, the House has not made clear by its legislation what precisely are its intentions, then this House has the undoubted right during any stage of litigation, either before an action is commenced, during the hearing of the proceedings, or after an action has been concluded, to say what, in its view, the law was intended to be.

Deputy Cosgrave made great play with the instance which was given of the Copyright Act of 1929. He admitted that he did not understand the precise history of that action. I think he has got a wrong impression of what the exact position was. What were the intentions of the Minister, who was then Deputy McGilligan, when he introduced the Copyright Act? Deputy McGilligan introduced the Copyright Act here definitely and precisely to declare what had been the intention of this Oireachtas several years before and to reverse the Supreme Court, as he frankly admitted in his speech. Deputy McGilligan said—I quote from the Dáil Debates, Vol. 30, col. 1296:—

"The Act is a short one and is simple. The necessity for it has been brought about by a decision given by the Supreme Court in a case litigated over a year ago, and by virtue of the decision of the Supreme Court, which, of course, is recognised as the highest authority on what the state of the law is at any time in this country, it has been discovered that the intention of the legislature, as expressed here during the course of debate with regard to the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927, has not in fact been carried out. It was intended in that legislation that the time gap ...."

and then he went on to explain what was intended in the legislation and he brought in his measure to correct the position.

At that time, when Deputy McGilligan was speaking, there was pending in the Privy Council an appeal from the judgment of the Supreme Court. Deputy Cosgrave, in his speech, seemed to think that the Bill then introduced was brought in for the purpose of preventing that appeal going on. As everyone who knows anything about the attitude of the last Government to the Privy Council, is aware, they said a lot about what they were going to do about it, and introduced retrospective legislation to wipe out the effect of its decisions, but they did not take any steps to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council. That remained for us to do when we came in.

Deputy Cosgrave attempted to explain what was intended to be done after the Treaty. There was an interpretation put upon the Treaty which enabled people to go to the Privy Council. The Performing Rights Society did go to the Privy Council, and went to it after the date of the Act which the last Government introduced here. In the course of the hearing in the Privy Council this very Act had to be looked at by the Privy Council and interpreted, and you had the curious position that the Privy Council reversed the Supreme Court and declared the law to be as it was declared in the statute here. As things turned out, that Act need not have been introduced at all, because it left the position as it was. The last Government, while not taking any steps to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council, would not say that they would recognise that the Privy Council had any jurisdiction to say what the law here should be. So that while Deputy McGilligan took up the position that the Supreme Court was supreme here—and all of us accept it that that was the correct national position to adopt—there were these pending proceedings going on. While declaring that copyright subsisted during a long period, during which the Supreme Court said it did not think it deprived individuals of any enforceable right in respect of copyright, the debates on the measure show that while it left them their rights it deprived them of their remedies.

When that Bill was going through the Dáil the only Deputy who spoke on it was Professor Thrift. It went through the Committee and the Final Stages without discussion. Yet, we are now told that something is being done without any precedent whatever. The Minister referred to the discussion that took place on the Land Act of 1933, and to the position with regard to the introduction of this Bill. At the time of the introduction of the Land Act of 1933 it was considered that the Guarantee Fund was to be preserved as security for the payment of the annuities. Certain people have always been opposed to the Guarantee Fund, and their opposition and the feelings of the ratepayers are being ingeniously and cleverly played upon by Deputies. Deputy Brennan said that the Guarantee Fund was originally vigorously opposed by the Irish Party. Yet it was preserved by Deputy Cosgrave and was continued in the 1923 Act when we had the same position as we have to-day. At the time that the Act of 1923 was introduced Sir John Keane brought in a definite proposal to abolish it. The Minister has referred to the discussion that took place then. Mr. Aiken, who was in charge of the Bill in the Seanad, is reported in Vol. 17, column 1518, as follows:—

"The Minister for Finance is very anxious that he should have the assistance of the law as it stands in enabling him to get in land annuities. The Minister, in this year's Budget, as the Senator knows, has made up his accounts depending upon a certain amount of land annuities to be collected in November and December gales. The Minister wants the assistance of the ratepayers in the different counties in creating a public opinion for the payment of these land annuities in good time. If there is any slackness in the payment of land annuities, and if the people delay too long, then the grants going down suffer, and the Minister for Finance has this very natural point of view, that if he is going to give moneys to a certain county, say, County Wicklow, and if he has to pay several thousand pounds to that county in the relief of agricultural rates, he should at the same time make sure that the amounts due to the Exchequer from that county should be paid. That is the Minister's point of view, and I think it is quite a reasonable one."

It is on that interpretation of the law the Minister has since been acting. This measure is introduced for the purpose of making clear what was the intention of this House. Why should it be left to the courts to say what was the intention of this House on a question of construction? Are we to submit to the position that this House is leaving it to the courts to say what its intentions were? What the courts say is: "What were the intentions of this House as expressed in its Acts?" If the Acts do not express its intention I submit that every Deputy will agree that this House clearly has the right to say what its intentions were. The same point was made clear earlier in lengthy discussions that took place on the various stages of the Land Bill in the Seanad. The Seanad has been lauded here, and I suppose we will hear a lot about it next week as being a wonderful Chamber. As to whether the view put forward was correct, as to what was the law when the Act was passed, Mr. Aiken, in the same volume, column 1283, when dealing with this matter, said:—

"This particular amendment does not do what the Senators say they want to have done, that is, to abolish the Guarantee Fund. It only refers to arrears arising out of this part of this Act, and it refers to the deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund and not the deficiencies in the Guarantee Fund....

"However, it is quite clear that what the Senators want is the abolition of the Guarantee Fund, and I am not prepared to agree to it. It does, undoubtedly, help the Government to collect the land annuities and it will have to be kept on until there is a change of policy in the matter."

Yet, we are told we are taking steps to deprive people of rights which it was clearly intended this House said it should have. Why not let the courts decide, said Deputy Davin? I am not going to be accused of having any desire to interfere with the courts, or to deny them any rights, nor accord them their proper position in the Constitution. This is a matter in which, if the courts were to decide against the Minister, legislation of this kind would undoubtedly have to be brought in. It is the law as interpreted by the Minister and by the Government. The intention indicated at that time has been acted upon and will continue to be acted upon until the courts say it is wrong. Are we to allow that state of uncertainly which will exist to continue until the hearing of this action? I suggest that it is quite a proper thing for the Oireachtas at any stage, if there is a doubt about what the law is, to make the position clear. I frankly admit to the House that I have told the Minister that we cannot guarantee him success in this action, but I have not at all advised him that we cannot succeed. But as a doubt has been created and a decision taken by the courts and the Government, in all the circumstances it is better to clear it up once and for all by introducing this Bill. It is not a case in which an individual is concerned. One would imagine while Deputies were speaking that it was a case in which an individual took an action against the Government and the Minister was attempting to alter the law, or, as it was called, to be "dictatorial" in order that the Government might deprive him of his rights. That is not the position. The position is that there was a definite policy with far-reaching effects, a policy which is based upon the view that local authorities should not receive from the Exchequer sums equivalent to the amount in respect of which their counties were in default. Of course, the debate has drifted into the wider field, as to whether this is a proper or a wise policy. We heard a great deal about interference and about making honest ratepayers pay dishonest annuity-payers' debts.

Take a county like Mayo, which pays its annuities. Why should it be saddled —as it would be if this Guarantee Fund is abolished—with the debts of counties like Cork, where agitation was undoubtedly organised against the payment of annuities? It must be understood that if the Exchequer is not allowed to lessen the amount it pays to various counties by the amount which the Exchequer has failed to receive from these counties in respect of land annuities, the general taxpayer will have to make it up. It is all nonsense to cry about the hardship imposed upon the ratepayers, unless the House is prepared to impose this on the general taxpayer. Labourers and every one will have to bear the burden if the taxpayers are called upon to pay. Of course, it is a policy which can be attacked from one side or the other, according to the particular interest that you say should be uppermost in the mind of the Government. That must be the position if it is not cleared up. Deputy O'Sullivan said that the Government should welcome the decision against them in this matter. The Government might welcome it in one way that it would relieve the ratepayers, but it would be a very curious position if they have then to go to ask taxpayers to make good what the ratepayers had gained. That is the whole position as I see it, and is the general policy behind the provisions of the Guarantee Fund. I suggest that Deputies know it is nonsense to suggest that if there is anything inherently wrong or that this House need be ashamed about making clear what was its intention when the law was being enacted. There is no doubt about it. At the time the Act was going through, the Minister and the Government took the position that the Guarantee Fund was there for the purpose of guaranteeing the deficiencies in the annuities and has so acted since. Why it should be left to the courts to say what should be the intention of the Oireachtas I do not know, and I am sure I have as great respect for the courts as any Deputy.

You have the instance of retrospective legislation having actually been passed reversing a decision of the Supreme Court, and depriving people during the whole period of rights they would have had if that judgment was left standing. Nothing was said in this House about that. I say it is quite proper that nothing should be said of a decision of the courts that was strictly against the intentions of the House. Does anyone really believe that it is improper for the Government to step in at this stage, when a doubt has been created in a matter which does not merely affect a single individual, or a single county, or even the two counties which are litigating on a matter affecting the whole machinery with reference to the Guarantee Fund throughout the country, and which would mean, if the decision of the courts was against the Government, that the general taxpayer would have to be resorted to in order to make good the moneys which the councils would have to receive. The issues are very net and very simple, and I suggest to Deputy Davin that if his Party decides not to support this measure, they will be ignoring a decision of this House, a decision in which, I think, his Party agreed two years ago, and he must bear in mind what the effect of a failure to pass this measure will be on the general taxpayers of the country.

Either there is a doubt or there is not a doubt. If there is no doubt, there is no need for this Bill, and if there is a doubt, the Cork County Council has a good cause of action. If this Government is going to fix every citizen of this State with notice that if they raise the interpretation of any statute in the courts of this country, and look like getting a decision adverse to the Minister or the Government, the Government will intervene with legislation, then the independence of the judges of this country is a farce, because it does not matter whether you go behind the door and bribe the judge or whether you have the effrontery to come out with a machined majority and steam-roll the judge, the ultimate effect on the citizen is the same. He is denied all his rights, and his rights are that, examining the law as it is to the best of his ability, and forming a judgement as to what his rights are, he can go into the courts and seek redress for an injustice threatened to his person or his property. That right is taken away by legislation of this kind.

Before I touch on the principle underlying that, let me traverse most emphatically two contentions of the Attorney-General. He draws an analogy between the circumstances surrounding this case and the circumstances surrounding the Performing Rights case, and he goes on to say that the late Government did nothing except legislate retrospectively with a view to restricting the activities of the Privy Council in the jurisprudence of this country. The State had to wait until we, the Fianna Fáil Party, came into office to dispose of the Privy Council. That is a travesty of the facts, and nobody knows that it is a travesty of the facts more clearly than the Attorney-General. The late Government faced with the position in 1922, when this State was set up, proceeded by negotiation to advance the constitutional development of the State along the lines they undertook to advance it, along the lines towards complete independence, and one of the duties devolving upon them under that undertaking was to clarify our position ris-a-vis the Privy Council.

It took some years to make our view prevail in the Commonwealth of Nations, that, with the constitutional development that was going on and had taken place, it was no longer in the spirit of the Constitution to maintain the appeal from the Supreme Court of Saorstát Eireann to the Privy Council in Great Britain, and there came a time when all parties to the Commonwealth recognised that that stage in our constitutional development had definitely been arrived at. It was not open to any member of the Commonwealth, except Saorstát Eireann, to declare by law that any constitutional situation existed in Saorstát Eireann, but it was competent for each member of the Commonwealth to declare for his own territory and jurisdiction what the constitutional position was, and Great Britain did declare for her territory— that is, the territory of Great Britain and the Crown Colonies—in the Statute of Westminster, that the constitutional position of the Commonwealth of Nations made it possible for any member thereof to dispose of the appeal to the Privy Council, if, and when, they wished to do so. That interpretation of the constitutional situation was subsequently admitted by the British Attorney-General.

We have never admitted, and we do not now admit and never could admit, that it was in the power of any legislature but our own expressly to declare that that right of appeal was gone, if it had ever existed, but we do assert, and it is unquestionably true, that it was the constitutional development for which the Cumann na nGaedheal Government was responsible that made it possible, legal, honourable and constitutional for this Oireachtas to do what was done not long ago, and that was to establish, once and for all time, that there was no further appeal from the Supreme Court of this country to the Privy Council or to any other court of law. The Attorney-General then goes on to say that it is a perfectly legitimate thing to interfere with the courts as he proposes to interfere with them now, because, he says, there was a broad, general policy that local authorities should be made liable to recoup the Exchequer for revenue withheld.

No such broad, general principle or policy ever obtained in this country. When the Land Purchase Acts were passed, it was agreed, after protracted consideration, that the local authorities should be made liable for default in the payment of annuities by deductions from the Agricultural Grant such as we were familiar with. At that time the annuities represented the redemption of an undertaking given by the tenant purchasers of this country to pay for what they bought. So long as the tenant purchasers of this country were paying their annuities, as instalments on the purchase price of their holdings, there were little or no arrears, and it was the constant gibe of Tory British statesmen that if the Irish people were allowed to put the annuity plan into operation for the purchase of Irish land the annuities would never be paid. The leaders of Irish nationalism in those days rejected that taunt and said that if the Irish farmers were given an opportunity to pay for their land in instalments—the only way in which they could pay—it would be paid for and promptly paid for, and it was.

Every gale was paid, but then came the time when the existing Government of Saorstát Eireann altered the whole character of these payments, when they repudiated the debt that was due in respect of land purchase, and when they diverted those moneys into the Exchequer as ordinary revenue. That completely altered the situation, and there is no common thread of policy running through the procedure of making a local authority liable for the payment of land annuities, which were for the redemption of debt, and the policy which makes a local authority liable for land annuities which are intended for the purpose of ordinary revenue. It is the duty of the Government to collect the revenue, and if the Exchequer cannot get in its revenue, it has no right, moral or otherwise, to turn to the local authorities and compel them to do it for them. The land annuities to-day are as much revenue as the income-tax, and it would be as logical or as just to make the local authorities liable for failure to collect income-tax as it is to make them liable for failure to collect annuities, as the law stands at the present time.

I venture to say that if it had been present to the mind of the Legislature, at the time the 1933 Land Act was passing, that the annuities were in effect and in fact being turned into revenue, no section of this House would have dared to advocate the maintenance of a scheme making the Agricultural Grant liable for any deficit. It was only subsequently that the Government had the courage to emerge and admit that freely. From platform after platform, members of the Government had announced that, even when the land annuities were withheld, they would be used only for the purpose of de-rating agricultural land. That promise was made repeatedly, and, like many other promises by the Government, it has been flagrantly reneged and rejected. The purpose was to create in the public mind the illusion that while the land annuities might no longer be paid into the Land Bond Fund or transferred to the British Exchequer in payment of the outstanding land bonds, they were going to be handed back in the form of relief of rates. Far from that being so, the land annuities are being poured into the Exchequer as ordinary revenue, and the rates, which they were to be used to abolish, are to be made liable for any deficit in the collection. There is no comparison between the position prior to the 1933 Act and subsequently. We are no longer collecting land annuities; we are collecting revenue from the land—a land tax.

It has been pointed out by other speakers that, in existing circumstances, to pile this additional burden on the shoulders of the ratepayers is intolerable. What disgusts me particularly about this business is to contemplate the almost empty Fianna Fáil Benches. Not a single Fianna Fáil county councillor sitting on those benches but has made the welkin ring about this business. Not a single Fianna Fáil county councillor sitting on those benches but has protested against the gross injustice of making the Agricultural Grant liable for land annuity deficiencies. Not a single county councillor on those benches but has deliberately voted to refrain from making full provision in the annual rates to recoup the amount withheld from the Agricultural Grant. I, myself, sat at a meeting of the County Council of County Roscommon, which has on it a Fianna Fáil majority and is presided over by an ex-Deputy who was a member of the Fianna Fáil Party. He inveighed against the injustice of withholding part of the Agricultural Grant in respect of unpaid land annuities and refused to support the striking of a rate adequate to make up the deficiency created by the withholding of portion of the Agricultural Grant. There is not a Deputy who does not know, as I know, that every Fianna Fáil county councillor here did exactly the same thing. The gentlemen who waxed eloquent in the columns of the local newspapers to that tune come up here and, under the lash of President de Valera, whine another story. Why have they not the courage of their convictions? Why do they not say the same thing in Dáil Eireann that they say at the street corners of their constituencies? Why do they pose as popular demagogues in the country and come here crawling around the feet of President de Valera and doing whatever he flogs them into doing? They ought to have some sense of dignity and some sense of honesty in dealing with their own constituents. I should like to hear members of local authorities who are members of this House getting up and repeating, for the edification of the Minister for Finance, what they have been saying up and down the country during the last six months and at their own council meetings. Let them not say one thing down there and another thing here. It is a source of much satisfaction to know that a careful note will be taken of what they say here and that pains will be taken to publish it in the counties where they are masquerading as custodians of the ratepayers' interests. Then, let them explain the fact that they have a Jekyll and Hyde personality— a Jekyll personality, say for County Roscommon and a Hyde personality for Dáil Eireann.

How would you spell "hide"?

Some of those Deputies will have no difficulty in spelling it when it is being torn off them in their own constituencies. I leave that aspect of the situation, because other speakers have dealt with it at considerable length. I should like to urge on Deputies the more important, constitutional aspect of this question. Once and for all, we have got to decide whether the citizens of this State are going to be allowed the protection of the courts against the Government. Either they are or they are not. If they are not, then we are going to have inflicted on this country the most detestable form of dictatorship any people could have inflicted on them—that is, a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. If you have to deal with Fascism or Hitlerism or——

Or the Blueshirts.

They are a damn sight decenter men than are sitting on that bench. If you have to deal with Fascism or Hitlerism or any other form of dictatorship, you know where you are. But when you have got to deal with a dictatorship which masquerades as a democracy, you are dealing with a thing which it is desperately difficult to mobilise public opinion against. The one guarantee of real democracy and of the vindication of the rights of citizens, the one hope that individual liberty will survive in any community is the independence of the courts. The courts are guaranteed their independence by the Constitution of this country. A bureaucratic or tyrannical Government will exhaust every subterfuge to undermine the independence of the courts. In some countries, the attack on the courts takes the form of attempted corruption. Fortunately, in this country the judiciary are not subject to such attack. In other countries, the attack takes the form of intimidation and the declared intention, on the part of the Government, that if the judicial interpretation of the law conflicts with the Government view, the judges will be steam-rolled by a machined majority in the parliament. It is the duty of Deputies, no matter on what benches they sit, to be jealous of the independence and integrity of the judiciary. It is the duty of Deputies, no matter on what benches they sit, to let the judges know that so long as they take an independent stand for the protection of the individual against a Government, they will find the Oireachtas behind them. This Bill is going to establish an abominable precedent. It is a most dangerous position if the judiciary are to be fixed with notice that, whenever their judgments are inconvenient to the existing Government, this House will tolerate that existing Government using a machined majority for the purpose of setting the judiciary at naught. That is the element in this Bill I hate most and that is the principal element which convinces me that I should vote against it.

Deputy Dillon has asserted that if the members of the Opposition were as wide-awake in 1933 as they now are, something would have been done about this Guarantee Fund. The Deputy, traversing the ancient paths of Irish history, would like to make us believe that this Guarantee Fund has never been accepted in this country—that because the Irish Party objected in the House of Commons when it was first introduced, it has never been accepted. Can the Deputy deny that ever since the Free State came into existence the Guarantee Fund has been operated? It was operated by the last Government and there was not a word about its legality or usefulness, although at that time there was no trouble about the collection of the land annuities. When we had not the disturbances that we have at the present time, when there was a peaceful condition of affairs, when there was a Government in office for a long time which had plenty of opportunities to discuss the question, and which certainly was not slow in telling the Irish tenant farmers what a high opinion they held of their honesty, their integrity, and their anxiety to meet their obligations, why on earth did that Government not do away with the Guarantee Fund altogether? At least the present Government has this justification; if the Guarantee Fund was good policy for the last Government in order to collect the annuities for John Bull, it is at least better justification for us to collect this revenue which, if it is not collected through the Land Commission collection department, has got to be collected in some other way. All this talk about constitutional matters and about interference with the courts is beside the point. The fact is that the Guarantee Fund has been in operation for very many years, and even during the 1933 Act, as Deputies themselves must admit, they made no serious effort to raise the question. In the Seanad an effort was made to get the Guarantee Fund out of operation, and to remove it from the power of the Government to deduct those moneys, but in the Dáil the question was not raised, so far as I know—I will be glad to know to the contrary— in any amendment, and it was made quite clear, as has been emphasised by previous speakers, what the Government's intention was in the matter. As reported in the Official Debates, Volume 46, column 1005, Deputy Roddy in the course of the debate on the Committee Stage of the Land Fund Bill, 1933, put a question in the following terms:—

"Are we to assume from the Minister's statement here to-day that the Guarantee Fund will still operate as in the past—that the grants to local authorities will still be paid out of that Fund, and that in the last analysis the rates will still be liable for any arrears of unpaid land annuities, even when the new funding arrangement is in operation?"

The answer by the Minister for Finance was that the Guarantee Fund position remained undisturbed. Deputy Cosgrave on that occasion asked:—

"If there is any shortage in respect of the collection of that £1,000,000, will that shortage be made good by the Guarantee Fund on 31st January next?"

The answer of the Minister for Finance was: "Yes, certainly," whereupon Deputy Cosgrave made the comment: "The House understands that." The House understood the position very clearly, and whatever the Government may be charged with in connection with this measure they cannot be charged with any change of policy, or any change of intention. The intention was laid down clearly at that time, and the Government would be failing in their responsibilities if they allowed the intentions expressed at that time, and the policy which they intended to operate, to be set aside by some individuals who have not the interests of the community at heart, but who simply want to impede the Government and to create further difficulties for it in the present situation. If the local authorities and the tenant farmers of the country have a grievance in the matter, I suggest to the House that this is not the proper time, that this is not the proper occasion, and that the methods which have been adopted to impede the Government's policy are not the proper way in which to remedy that situation. The difficulties which are there could not possibly be got out of the way by removing from the Government the power which it has at present. That policy in operation has certain disadvantages, but what is the alternative? I should like the members of the Labour Party again to consider the alternative. When the land annuities were reduced by 50 per cent.——

——the anxiety of the Government was to see that the community in general would appreciate the fact that holders of land in this country were paying for the land they held. I have stated frequently in the country, and I state again now, that no Party in this country can stand for giving land completely free to those who hold it at the present time. No Party in the country could stand on that policy, and even if they did stand on it and endeavoured to operate it there would be a speedy reaction. The argument here—because if the Government is not going to have the full resources of the State, and the full machinery that has operated up to the present time to collect those annuities, this is the natural alternative, and it is the logical alternative and the alternative which should be put up in the House—is that the annuities should not be collected at all; that the Government should give up collecting the annuities. One can understand that, but one cannot understand the attitude, as the Attorney-General has pointed out, that the Government should collect the annuities from the small congested holders in Mayo, Leitrim, Donegal, and other counties of that kind, while allowing other people to go scot free; that they should not impose any penalties upon those people in the richer areas, whom, no matter what their present difficulties may be, we at least feel could make some effort to meet their obligations when the people in the poorer counties can do so.

If the Government gives up the collection of the annuities altogether, and those powers which it at present possesses are taken out of its hands, obviously there will be no compulsion upon farmers to pay their annuities at all. It is all very well for people to say that the Revenue can collect those moneys. The Revenue can collect certain taxes, and those who have experience of financial and revenue legislation in this House know that there are very heavy penalties attaching to transgressors and persons in arrears in respect of those payments. They know of the very wide powers that the Revenue Commissioners have in this regard. If the question were put to me whether this whole matter should not be handed to the Revenue Commissioners, and extremely heavy penalties inflicted on individual persons in arrears, or whether the Government should not endeavour to carry on until the position improves—to carry on with its present machinery, giving the benefits and giving the opportunities to pay that it has always given to persons who cannot afford to pay— I certainly think that we would prefer, and all reasonable people would prefer, that we should not have any more stringent machinery or any more drastic penalties; that we should endeavour to collect the annuities in the same way as they have always been collected, and with as little as possible extra trouble. But if the machinery of the Guarantee Fund is going to be taken away, and the Government deprived of this power, I feel convinced —and I have felt convinced ever since the position with regard to the dispute on the land annuities has arisen—that it would be quite impossible for the Government to collect the annuities, no matter what forces or what powers were placed at their disposal.

Our opponents have interfered on the principle apparently that it was good business to pay this money to John Bull, and that the Government of the day was quite entitled to operate the Guarantee Fund in that connection, but the minute that the annuities are paid into the Irish Exchequer there is quite a different situation. Then of course any kind of obstruction is quite justified. I think that the farmers of the country will themselves realise that it is much better that the machinery which has been in operation should be continued than that some other machinery should be devised, which in present circumstances would, I fear, have to be more stringent, and which would undoubtedly cause much greater hardships to individuals. There are hardships on the local authorities at present. There are certain hardships and certain difficulties, but our object should be to inflict as little extra hardship as we can upon the individual annuitants. I submit that by leaving the Guarantee Fund in operation we can do that. I submit that if we were to abolish it, either the annuities would not be paid at all, which I am convinced would most likely be the case, or else the Government would have to adopt some other steps which would be, I fear, very much more drastic. There would have to be far more unpalatable measures, which no Government would like to take responsibility for.

That is the trouble!

I was saying that when the annuities were reduced the Government had two alternatives before it. One was to wipe out the annuities altogether, and collect from the ordinary taxpayer the moneys that have to be collected to meet the obligations under the 1923 Act. If Deputy Belton or anybody else wishes to argue here that the entire responsibility for meeting the obligations under that Act and for the continuance of land purchase—because if some people in this country had their way in present circumstances they would soon make an end of land purchase—should be transferred to the taxpayer, they are quite entitled to do so.

The Government made the decision in 1933 that they would collect sufficient money through halving the annuities to meet the obligations under that Act and to continue to pay the expenses of the Land Commission in carrying on the work of land distribution. I think that on the whole the arrangement was satisfactory and that the present time would be most unsuitable, and the Dáil would be most unwise, to challenge the Government in that policy. The policy has been carried on in a rather difficult time. We all know the difficulties of the situation. We can all appreciate the hardships that have been caused by withdrawing the moneys, but the alternative is to deprive the Government of the rights and powers they have to safeguard the revenue and the taxpayer. I think the Dáil would not be justified in taking away these powers or challenging the Government on this measure until they are quite satisfied that there are other measures more satisfactory, more reasonable and which would cause less hardship to the community and the local authorities, which would produce the same effect. If Deputies in opposition to the Bill could show us these remedies, if they could show us how the safeguarding of the national revenue could be accomplished in some other way, I am sure the Government would be anxious to hear them, but no such proposal has been put forward in all the years the Guarantee Fund has come up for discussion. We can only come to the conclusion that Deputies opposite realise that the situation is a serious one, that it has to be met, that the Government, having its responsibilities, has got to meet them, and that the only thing they can do is to draw as many red herrings about the Constitution and the rights of the courts into the debate as possible.

I am quite convinced that if this measure were defeated a very much worse situation than we have yet experienced would arise in the country, a situation that would only do untold harm, not to the Government alone, because people forget that in matters affecting national credit and national finances when you are attacking the Government you are attacking the community and the business life of the community very definitely and very strongly. People forget that very often and they ought to remember in their discussions now, as they ought to have remembered when the campaign against land annuities was being launched in this country, that this is a matter that cannot be easily solved, that any damage done to this Government or to any other Government in this matter of collecting these finances to enable it to meet its obligations is bound to have serious repercussions and is simply creating an awkward situation for the Government of the time and their successors in office. The Opposition Party would be belieing their tradition and belieing the experience that we know they have had of carrying on Government here if they were to take up the attitude of injuring the Government and the community in that way.

This question has arisen from the present difficulties. It has not arisen, as I pointed out in my opening remarks, in a general way. Whether the Guarantee Fund is a good method of operating or not, it has not arisen on the real merits of the question. It has arisen out of the present difficulties, and in a sideline people are trying to obstruct the Government. People are trying to do things that are not right or honest. People are doing these things to create difficulties for the Government of the day. The Government would be lacking in its responsibility to the citizens if it did not take steps to meet that situation. The Government, I am sure, would be glad to discuss at any time any difficulties that have arisen either with local authorities or with the annuitants down the country, but they certainly strongly object, and rightly, to an effort, on some technical ground or other, to upset the revenue of the State. I think when Deputies realise the seriousness of that issue, when they realise that there is no alternative to carrying on the Guarantee Fund that has been operating for some years past, that no alternative has been put up except mere criticism, they will realise the necessity for the measure the Government have brought forward until some better remedy is devised in the future.

The Minister for Education in his defence of this Bill has endeavoured to make one main point for it and that was that the method of the Guarantee Fund was less onerous on the defaulting land annuitants than any alternative measures which it might be necessary to adopt in the absence of the Guarantee Fund. To use his own words, if the Guarantee Fund arrangement were not there it would be necessary to adopt unpalatable measures for which the Government would not like to take responsibility. Apparently, we are to have this Bill to forestall the decision of the courts because the Government are either legislatively too lazy to find an alternative method or because they do not want to take responsibility for the unpalatable measures which the Minister has indicated must ensue if there is to be no arrangement through the medium of the Guarantee Fund. Any attempt to justify the Bill on that ground is an attempt which is not based on equity or justice and which ignores completely the constitutional position which is being trampled upon by the passage of this Bill.

Here we have at present certain citizens acting through local authorities going to the courts and asking the courts for a declaration as to their rights under a particular statute now in operation. Surely the courts are entitled to give individual citizens or groups of citizens a verdict as to what their rights and responsibilities are under the statute as it exists to-day? The Government apparently are not satisfied with that position. The Act which is challenged by the local authorities is one which is already on the Statute Book. It has passed out of the hands of the House, yet, before the courts have come to any decision on that matter, the Government come here with a Bill to say what were the intentions of the Legislature two and a half years ago. That may be good expediency. It may be an effective method of government; it may be an effective method of getting revenue and of breaking down all kinds of difficulties but it is not constitutional government as it should exist in this country. It is sheer expediency, a definite and a deliberate attempt to indicate to the courts the way they must decide in this matter or the legislative consequences which will ensue. There has been, in my opinion, an utterly indecent haste to assist the courts as to what the intentions of the Legislature were.

I think the Government ought to have waited until the courts had pronounced on the rights of the litigants in this matter. I think it was time enough for the Executive Council to come to the Dáil with a Bill of this kind designed, as the Minister for Education says, to meet a definite difficulty, when the courts had indicated what, in their opinion, the law in the matter was. But, instead, we are to have a Bill passed designed to tell anybody who may endeavour to assert his rights through the courts that he will not get his rights there so long as it is possible to machine a Bill of this kind through the Legislative Assembly.

I think the consequences on constitutional-minded people from an action of that kind are much more serious than either the Minister for Education or the Attorney-General told us this evening. There is an Act on the Statute Book, and so long as it is the law the citizen is entitled to go to the courts and ask for a declaration of his right under it. That is what those citizens, organised through local authorities, have done in this instance, and the courts should be allowed to pronounce judgment upon that matter and not be told by the Legislature that "unless you pronounce your judgment in a particular way we will amend the law in order to prevent citizens getting the benefit of your judgment of the statute as it was passed in this House." The Minister for Education may take the view that it does not matter to treat the courts in that cavalier fashion that, after all, the courts are there as a kind of "Aunt Sally" to be put up and knocked down just as it may please any Executive Council. But there are consequences flowing, particularly in this country, from an outlook of that kind, and there is a debit side to that account which the Minister and the Government ought not to overlook.

The question of the Guarantee Fund and the ethics of that fund have been raised in the course of the debate. I must say that the Guarantee Fund, as operated through the medium of land purchase in this country, has embodied a principle which I personally could never understand. If you accept the view that the British Administration of the period were very sceptical as to the prompt manner in which the Irish tenant farmers would honour their liabilities under the Land Purchase Acts, one could at least understand it, if he does not necessarily agree with the principle of the Guarantee Fund. But there, at all events, we had an alien Administration who, being doubtful whether the tenant farmers would pay for the land which they contended they were giving to them, and being possibly astute, and realising that it would be difficult, in the circumstances of this country, to seize farms and sell them, were anxious to avoid recourse to an unpalatable measure of that kind. Consequently, they devised the very simple and, from their point of view, the very effective expedient of saying that the local authorities in the area would be compelled to guarantee the payments of the tenant farmers.

If you accept the British point of view and try to look at the origin of land purchase in this country through their spectacles, one can see, at least, the reason of the expediency being advanced in justification of the Guarantee Fund. One can understand that the British Government, anxious to get as much respect as it could for its law in this country, anxious to keep the Irish quiet, anxious to pretend that Great Britain was the fairy godmother, naturally sought any and every expedient to make the collection of the annuities as easy as possible and to cause as little friction as possible. It was on that basis that the scheme of the Guarantee Fund was devised in respect of our land legislation. That is not the position to-day. Whatever justification the British Government might have had for making the local authorities the guarantors of the individual tenants, that kind of principle ought to have no place in the relations which ought to exist between the State in a constitutionally and internally-controlled country and the tenant farmers who are parties to an agreement under the Land Purchase Acts.

After all, what does the Guarantee Fund mean? As I see it, the Guarantee Fund is simply a means of making some other people pay because their neighbours default. In other words, the Guarantee Fund is putting a premium, and a pretty generous premium, on default in the matter of the payment of the land annuities. The Minister for Education says that the Government might as well give up collecting the land annuities if the Guarantee Fund were not continued in existence. But, as a matter of fact, the existence of the Guarantee Fund and the ease with which the Government can recoup themselves in respect of the unpaid annuities are much more calculated to induce the Government to abandon the collection of the land annuities than the mere destruction of the Guarantee Fund through any act of this House. If the Government were compelled to collect the land annuities and did not find it as easy to garnishee the grants of the local authorities, then the Government would probably take very effective steps to collect the land annuities.

Let me say on that point that there are counties throughout the country which, apparently, are prepared to vote for the Government, vote for them to an overwhelming extent, but which are not apparently prepared to pay land annuities to the Government which they are prepared to elect. The Minister for Education and the Minister for Finance, if they look at the Parliamentary map, the representation in this House, and the arrears due from those counties, will see that many of the counties which strongly support the Government are amongst the worst-paying counties from the land annuity point of view. If we look at the Guarantee Fund and just try to peep behind the mass of complexity in which its origin has been wrapped, and the mystery with which its activities have been surrounded, we can see that it is simply nothing more than a piece of machinery, simple in construction, even still simpler in operation, designed for apparently no other purpose than to make the community pledge its credit for the private default of individual farmers. While that position, as I said, might be understandable in relation to an alien Government looking upon land purchase in this country, the whole principle of the Fund which brings factors of that kind into play is a principle which is absolutely vicious in construction and still more vicious in application.

Any individual farmer, through improvidence, through recklessness, through thriftlessness, through any of the other kinds of economic vice that are well-known to the House, may misuse his land, may neglect to use his land, may simply allow the farm to become a weed farm and by his thriftlessness, his recklessness, and his improvidence may put himself in such a position that he is unable to pay, or, if he is sufficiently inoculated with cupidity, be unwilling to pay his land annuities. What does the State do? Rather than adopt the unpalatable measures indicated by the Minister for Education, the State proposes to say to his next-door neighbour, who works his land profitably, who works his land in the interests of the community, who employs labour and pays, perhaps, reasonable rates of wages, "We are going to make sure that you will not get your rights simply because you happen to live next-door to this reckless kind of tenant farmer," and the State proceeds to garnishee the money due to the provident farmer because it is easier to get it from him than it is to get it from the thriftless, reckless type of farmer.

That is what the Guarantee Fund does in the last analysis; it puts a premium on defaulters and gives a bonus to the thriftless; it gets after the thrifty farmer and makes him pay the debts of the farmer who misuses or neglects his land. So when we talk of the Guarantee Fund, let us be perfectly clear what it is; it is an instrument to enable debts to be collected. The Bill has none of the majesty which the Attorney-General and the Minister for Education tried to weave around it this evening. What it really means is this: that we are now being asked to maintain a Guarantee Fund which is being used, if not in the way of a battering ram, at least as an instrument which works much more silently and efficiently than the battering ram. We are asked to endorse a principle which is pledging the credit of the community and the municipality in order to subsidise the man who has misused or neglected his land. A consideration of that kind obviously cannot be overlooked in considering a Bill of this nature. But the Minister for Education said: "Let us keep the Guarantee Fund because if we do not retain the Guarantee Fund, then we will have to adopt these unpalatable measures for which no Government can accept responsibility." I wonder why the Government cannot accept responsibility for unpalatable measures dealing with defaulting annuitants?

Not if this method will suffice.

What about the "flying squad"? Will that suffice?

If there are unfortunate working families in a town or city who are unable to pay their rent, the landlord comes along and enforces the collection of his rent by the aid of the Government.

And so will the Corporation.

And they had the pipers' band out with the farmers.

Deputies must not interrupt.

A worker in the city may be evicted for the non-payment of rent. The landlord of a slum, perhaps the landlord of an insanitary slum at that, is aided and abetted by the Government in evicting a family of that kind. Is not that an unpalatable measure? Does not the State provide its forces for doing that? Will we have any proposal from the Government to prevent a slum landlord evicting a tenant of that kind from an insanitary slum? We have the Government developing such a delicate taste that it does not like to adopt unpalatable measures in order to recover moneys due to the State. I cannot reconcile these two inconsistencies.

But let us have a look at what this Guarantee Fund means from another standpoint. We have seen that the Guarantee Fund simply means in effect that it is a piece of sheriff-like machinery designed to make thrifty people pay for the thriftlessness of other people; that it is an instrument for collecting debts due to the Government in as efficient a way as they can be collected in a matter of this kind. But the Guarantee Fund is only operated and made effective by the fact that the State can deprive the local authority of the money due to it if a number of persons in the local area default in the payment of their land annuities. So long as there is that easy recourse in the collection of debts by the State, the State will never discharge its functions in the matter of the collection of the annuities. If the local authorities are deprived of the moneys to which they are entitled from the Central Fund, their position will be that either they will have to strike higher rates or they will have to cut local municipal or social services. That is what we have to consider to-day.

It is the magnitude of the scale upon which grants to local authorities are being cut that makes a Bill of this kind particularly important from the point of view of those who want to see local services and social services maintained. The Minister is anxious that the land annuities should be paid. But the Minister does not seem to have adverted to the fact that continuance in the use of the Guarantee Fund in the way it is being used to-day will inevitably have the effect of breaking down local administration through the non-payment of grants to the local authorities. Local authorities are being told that because of default in the payment of the annuities a certain portion of their grants is being retained by the Government. The local authorities are being put in this position that they must either increase local rates or cut down services. Remember that these local rates are being paid by the tenants of labourers' cottages and by the occupiers of slums and the rest of the people. Those who have paid their annuities or those others who are not in the position of owning any land at all will have to be content with a lower standard of municipal or social services because of this measure. That is the position in which many local authorities have recently found themselves.

The Deputy who spoke here this evening and who said there was a screech from all over the country, even by councils that were predominantly Fianna Fáil, against a reduction of these grants and that they were against the enactment of a Bill of this kind, was perfectly right. That is because there has been a widespread realisation that the grants which are being cut from the local authorities will either result in the striking of a higher rate or the cutting down of some municipal or social service. Higher rates in themselves are not bad. If a high rate is spent for the purpose of giving the people an efficient municipal service or for giving them a more efficient social service, then it has much to recommend it. A high rate well administered may be much cheaper in the end to the people than a low rate inefficiently administered. But in this instance high rates are being imposed in order to make good the defaults of those persons from whom the State is unable to collect land annuities.

This Bill is an imposition on the thrifty in order to subsidise the thriftless and the reckless individual. It is for the purpose of subsidising people who are unwilling to pay their annuities. A vote for this Bill is a vote for giving a bonus to individuals of that kind. I say that the principle which makes the whole community responsible for the private debts of an individual is a vicious principle, and it is one that ought to have no place in the relations of a native Government with its own people. It was even questionable as an item in British legislation, but it was never and could never have been an acceptable principle in the relations of citizens towards their own Government or in the relations of a native Government towards its own citizens.

As I have already said, the local authorities throughout the country have been feeling keenly the pinch of the curtailment of the grants which were due to them. The local authorities of all political complexions—even those local authorities which were dominated by the members of the Fianna Fáil Party—have not tried to conceal their indignation at the manner in which they had been treated because of defaulting land annuitants. In many cases rather than resort to increasing the rates rendered necessary through the curtailment of the grant from the Central Fund, these local authorities have instead adopted the device of cutting down their estimates. In many cases, as members of local authorities all know, that has meant the expenditure of less money in the maintenance of the roads, and less money in the way of other local services. In many cases it has meant the disemployment of workers on the roads. It has meant that many unemployed men who expected to get work under the local council are sadly disappointed. Generally it has produced a policy of contracting local employment. All that is because the Guarantee Fund remains in existence, and is being used or pledged to secure the collection of a private debt contracted by individual annuitants.

There are cases throughout the country, Limerick is one notable example, where, because of the general scarcity of money experienced by local authorities, the road workers have not been able to get their wages for 12 months. A continuance of the system of slashing the grants which are due to local authorities will inevitably increase that impecuniosity on the part of the local authorities. A development of that policy, or even a continuance of the policy on its present scale, must inevitably mean less employment on the roads, less employment on local improvements, less willingness on the part of local authorities to meet burdens in respect of housing, and less money to pay road workers and other employees. It is because it means all that, and is calculated to have that result, that I do not feel we ought to put this Guarantee Fund in the sacrosanct position in which the Government want us to put it.

Stripped of its high-sounding title, it is simply nothing more than a machine for collecting debts as conveniently and with as little difficulty as possible. In the manner in which it has been used, especially in the last couple of years, it has only been kept in efficient operation by taking from the local authorities moneys to which they were entitled. It has been kept in being only by impairing the efficiency of local services, by contracting the local employment that was available, or by impairing the efficiency of many of the social services which the local authorities in many cases are charged by statute with administering. Because it means that, I decline to treat the matter in the serious way that is suggested.

There is no verdict against the Government in the courts so far. It passes my comprehension how the collective wisdom of the Government is incapable of devising any other means of ensuring that land annuitants will pay their just debts to the State. I refuse to believe that the Executive Council have given any serious consideration to the question of finding an alternative method of collecting the annuities. I feel sure, if the Executive Council cannot devise some alternative method of collecting the annuities other than that adopted by the Guarantee Fund, there are officials in the various Departments who would not spend many hours devising an equally effective machine for the collection of land annuities and at the same time not put on the thrifty tenant farmer the responsibility of paying the private debts of the individual who either misuses his land or neglects to use it. The Government have plenty of time in which to consider an alternative remedy. No judgement has been given yet against them in the courts.

It is bad when a Government uses a Parliamentary majority and uses a ligislative assembly of this character for the purpose of saying to the judges: "You are not to interpret the Act against the Government, but lest you do, we will introduce legislation beforehand to prevent you," and at the same time saying to the individual citizen: "You cannot go to the courts and ask the courts for an interpretation of a statute, because if we think we are likely to lose through the medium of your action, we will take steps to prevent the courts deciding against us." The effect of an action of that kind is not calculated to inspire confidence in the courts or encourage the belief that the people can get justice in the courts. Seeing there has been no decision so far against the Executive Council in the matter, and seeing there is, therefore, time in which to devise an alternative method, the Government ought not to proceed with a Bill of this kind. It ought to await the judgment of the court and, if that judgment should happen to be against the Government, and if any insurmountable obstacles of a financial character are created for the Government between now and the end of the financial year which could not be surmounted by the Guarantee Fund, let them come to the House and indicate what the obstacles are and I am sure Deputies will give sympathetic consideration to all difficulties of that character.

There is no need at the present moment to introduce this Bill. It is undesirable to tell the courts previously in what way they should decide and what the consequences will be if they decide in a particular way. This Bill is a peevish Bill. It is introduced in haste, inexplicable haste, and it is designed to tell the courts that they can only interpret statutes in a way that is palatable to the Executive Council. Having regard to the consequences from a constitutional point of view and from a legal point of view of an action of that kind, and having regard to the fact that the continuance of the Guarantee Fund as at present administered is going to produce chaos among local authorities, I do not think the House ought to give the Bill a Second Reading.

I listened with very great attention to the speech delivered by the Minister for Education, and it was, if possible, much less informed than the speech delivered by the Minister for Finance. The burden of the speech of the Minister for Education was that if the Guarantee Fund machinery is not retained to collect the annuities, they cannot collect them. Now this is a new departure in Government reasoning and Government argument. I thought the only trouble in collecting annuities since the Government came into office was the existence of a conspiracy not to pay. The trouble about a conspiracy is not now urged. Why would not the Government be able to collect the annuities directly? Is it because, roughly, one-third of the annuitants of this country are so dishonest that they will not pay their annuities? I will accompany the Minister for Finance over the constituency he represents, the constituency in which I have the honour to be the Chairman of the County Council, and we will interview privately individual farmers, the farmers he has fooled in the last two general elections to support him, and I will challenge him to face any farmer in County Dublin and say: "We want the machinery of the Guarantee Fund to collect your annuities because you are so dishonest that we will not get them from you in any other way." That is really what it boils down to. I can assure the Minister for Finance that when he comes back, with the pitcher to the well on another occasion, he will be better known than he was on the last two occasions.

In his constituency, £13,000 was withheld last year from our grants. The same constituency owed £22,000 arrears of rates. The consequence was that, in making our estimates this year and striking our rates, we had to add a bulk sum of £17,000 to the estimates. About £5,000 of that was due to arrears of annuities, which would be about 4d. or 4½d. in the £. I am arguing this, of course, entirely from the Government standpoint. My own standpoint is this, that the farmers have paid, and the Government have got the benefit of it, and because the British Government collected them also, if the farmers did not pay a penny of land annuities there would be no dishonesty. I am putting the Government case, not the case the Government made and the Minister for Finance made when the Minister was Deputy Seán MacEntee representing Dublin. Then he told the farmers: "If you put us in you will not have to pay the annuities. If you put us in we will give you de-rating." He was put in, and the industrious farmer in Dublin has to pay his rates for the men who shout "Up de Valera" in County Dublin. That is what the Guarantee Fund is for, not to help those deluded by the Government with wild promises.

The Minister for Education said a few moments ago that nobody has yet advocated that the land annuities should be abolished altogether and that people should not pay them. I do not think that anybody has seriously advocated that. He says the Government cannot get them if they do not get this Bill. Why? That is a very positive statement on behalf of the Government, and I would like a clear, explicit, unequivocal explanation of that statement. Why cannot they be collected? The Minister said that if they had not got the Guarantee Fund they would have to adopt unpalatable methods. If there are any more unpalatable methods than the methods adopted by the Government in the last couple of years, wringing out of the farmers money they had already paid, then I do not know what methods the Minister for Education visualises. I think that everything that could possibly be devised has been devised to collect them. Not even their present allies, the Abyssinians, could devise more unpalatable methods than the Government themselves have devised and carried into execution in the last couple of years.

Where is the Minister for Defence during this debate? Will he get his cattle jobber supporters that gather round him in Louth, and to buy the cattle which belonged to the farmers in Dublin, to cease to do that? Or will they continue to buy the cattle of the farmers of Dublin and Cork? Has Ravensdale Park been closed? Have the constituents of the Minister for Defence round Dundalk, Castlebellingham and other places, who buy these cattle, put them into Ravensdale Park and smuggle them over the mountains in the night to get them to the North, ceased to do so? The old cows from Fermoy and Clonmel know the Gap of the North well. I had the honour of seeing a herd of them cross it.

Deputy Cosgrave made the position very clear in the opening speech in opposition to this Bill. He said, in fact, the Guarantee Fund was a fund devised by the framers of land purchase to meet any deficiencies there might be in paying the stockholders their dividends and in paying sinking fund. Where are the dividends and sinking fund now? What dividend has to be paid? There is not a pound of stock in the whole lot. Is this Bill not unmasking the Government? Did not everybody who opposed the 1933 Act point out that it was not a Land Purchase Act at all, but a land taxing Act. Is not all the revenue coming in —what was once land purchase revenue but now Central Fund revenue—going into the Exchequer, notwithstanding the fact that the British Government has not relinquished its claim and is collecting that money?

We have been told that the people are well able to pay. The word "honest" and the word "dishonest" have been used indiscriminately here. If the word "dishonest" can be applied to anyone in this country or to any board or council or government, it can, and must, be used in application to the present Government. They, and they alone, have been dishonest in this whole matter. The Minister for Education tried to wave the flag that there was no objection to the operations of the Guarantee Fund when the British were collecting the money. He did not pursue that argument. I make a special request to the Minister for Finance to take up that argument when he comes to reply, and say what the Minister for Education did not say. I put it to him in the form of a question. I would like to know from him when the British ceased to collect their annuities—and they have a more efficient weapon than the Guarantee Fund. In the background of all this we find that when land purchase was started the boycott of the Land League was only simmering down and was not forgotten—if it is forgotten yet—and the British Government, aware of the efficiency of the boycott weapon, feared that if they lent money for land purchase there would be some defaulter here and there; and if they had only had a method of collecting the annuities—a direct method against the defaulting annuitant—they would have taken up his land; but then they asked themselves: "What could we do with the land in the line of our experience during the Plan of Campaign days?" Very wisely for themselves, they made the question of paying annuities a collective burden, as far as they were concerned, and they interwove the payment of annuities with the payment by the British Government of certain moneys by way of relief. They held themselves in a position to put up a contra account against the default, and in that way they were able to make good any loss they sustained through a defaulting annuitant or defaulting annuitants.

Now, if our Government still hangs on to the method that the British Government adopted and the method which was born of the British Government's opinion of the farmers of this country 30 or 40 years ago, we must take it that those lovers of democracy and those defenders of Irish nationality who occupy the Front Benches over there have no higher opinion of the Irish people to-day than the British Government had of the Irish people 40 years ago. They were rogues in the eyes of the British Government 40 years ago, and, presumably, they are rogues in the eyes of the Irish Government of to-day. The Minister for Finance talked about the mentality— the mind—of the Government and the Legislature of 1933. As a matter of fact, I do not think he even mentioned the Legislature. He talked of the Government and his Party in 1933. Well, now, we all remember 1933 pretty well, and we remember the specious arguments that were used on political platforms as well as in this House during the passage of the 1933 Land Act. If there was anything more than another that brought back the Government into power in 1933, it was their statements such as the following: "We have redeemed our promise by withholding those payments from the British Government. We are in the thick of the fight, and we want a renewal of your confidence until we carry this fight to a successful issue which, at the moment, is in sight." I think that the Minister and his colleagues must have had a very long vision if a victory for that economic war was in sight in 1933. Well, surely a blind man could realise that to-day; and yet we were informed by the President—I think it was yesterday— that there was not one word of truth in the rumour that there are any negotiations going on with regard to the economic war.

That does not arise at all.

I am afraid, Sir, that makes no difference to the Deputy.

I relate it in this way, Sir: That the eyes of the Government, which were very deliberately closed, have now to open in spite of the owners of those eyes. They have now to open their eyes to the fact that they have failed in their promises, and that the people are not able to meet their commitments. The Government funk doing their duty. If the Government are right in saying they have compensated all farmers and all annuitants for the losses that they sustained by the economic war and by the British tariffs and all the rest of it, then those farmers should be as well off as if there were no economic war, and there is no excuse for any farmer not paying his annuities, according to the Government standpoint, and there should be no excuse for the Government not collecting that annuity. If the Government wants to operate the Guarantee Fund, it only wants to do it because it is funking its duty and because it wants to collect from other people what the Government has not the honesty or the pluck to collect directly from those who owe the debt.

Deputy Norton showed that the Government lends the forces of the State to anybody who wants to collect a debt according to law. Of course, it must do so, or otherwise it would cease to be a Government. Why is it afraid to use that force to collect its own debt? I have a tenant or two, and if they default I will put the matter through the courts and seek to get my money according to law. I shall invoke the aid of the Government. If it is a disgrace for me or for any other citizen to invoke the aid of the forces of the State in order to get our rights and collect the money due to us, should it not be equally disgraceful for the Government to place those forces at our disposal? Let us follow this matter further. Does the Government propose to give the local authorities power to collect those annuities? I do not think it does. As a matter of fact, I do not believe there is a local authority in the Saorstát that would want such power. But there we are, trying to run local government. We have enough debts of our own in the shape of arrears of rates, and we are told very frequently, on political platforms as well as in this House, and by circulars from the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, pressed on by the Ministry of Finance, that local authorities are not doing their duty by exercising all the pressure they might exercise to collect the rates. But if they do not collect the rates, they have to suffer the loss of arrears of rates and the very people who condemn the local authorities for having any arrears of rates, pass on their own arrears of land annuities to the local authorities and force them to pay the bill.

I do not see the equity of the Guarantee Fund functioning. Nobody, in any circumstances, could defend the policy of bringing in a Bill and of having it enacted into law in order to win a case in the courts, and then making it operative retrospectively. Enough has been said on that by other speakers. No one knows where he stands in such circumstances. The endeavour to use this worn-out machinery which, consciously or unconsciously, has been scrapped by the Government is inequitable because, so far as a decision has been given by the courts, it goes to show that the Guarantee Fund has been scrapped by the Government. The Government are now trying to push on to other people the unpleasant task of collecting the arrears. They are taking up the attitude of saying to the public: "We are not pressing you." They are throwing the responsibility for using unpleasant methods in the collection of arrears on to the local authorities. On many occasions I have heard the Minister say in the House that those who came looking for time to pay their land annuities were not turned down. No, because the Government could afford to grant time, for the reason that they have passed on the debt to the local authorities. To whom did Ministers give time? I will not say that it was to the supporters of their opponents.

The Minister for Education stated that the Government had halved the annuities, and then he asked what about the obligations under the 1923 and subsequent Land Acts. We all know that these amount to about £1,000,000, and that the Government has collected over £1,000,000 in land annuities. I know, of course, that it is not stock that is operating there, but land bonds. Even so, the service of the public debt undertaken by the 1923 and subsequent Land Acts has been more than met by the annuities paid to the Government. The service of that debt would not amount to more than £1,000,000, and the Government have collected between £1,200,000 and £1,300,000, so that there can be no arrears due on foot of the dividends and the Sinking Fund charges in connection with land bonds. The original idea of the Guarantee Fund was to make good deficiencies in the payment of dividends and Sinking Fund charges on land purchase, but that does not arise because the Government have got, as I have said, sufficient in land annuities to meet the payment of both. There are no other charges for land purchase in this country at the present time that the Government recognise. There are no other land purchase charges to which it devotes any of the income derivable from land purchase. There could be no deficiencies in the Guarantee Fund, and therefore the Government had not in equity any valid case for making deductions for grants out of that fund. If their only grounds for bringing in this post-dated Bill is to rectify a technical defect in the Act, well, it is one more in the long list of records of inefficiency on the part of the Government's legal advisers.

Mr. Broderick

The Minister's introductory speech affords an opportunity for a full discussion on the merits of the Bill, the purpose of which is to make certain his claim on the Guarantee Fund. The Minister, in his speech, went into the merits and the constitution of the Guarantee Fund, and went further by saying that the councils now engaged in law with the Minister were actuated by vexatious motives. I do not wish to deal either with the constitution of the fund or with the legal question. These have been dealt with by almost every speaker who has addressed the House. I have no intention, either, of going into the economic war aspect of the question. I intend to deal with this purely on its merits alone as an internal question. I shall endeavour to get Deputies to concentrate their minds on the obligations of the State to all the different departments of the State. The Bill is introduced by the Minister to make the ratepayers of a county liable for what is now taxation on the county. The extent of the ratepayers' liability for this taxation, if included, will amount to approximately £2,000,000.

The Minister frequently makes reference here to grants—to Grants-in-Aid and how they are to be made responsible to the Exchequer for deficiencies that arise. The Minister's remarks are made in such a way that people are left to believe that these grants are a spontaneous, generous act on behalf of the Ministry, and that there was no national obligation for the provision of them. They would almost lead one to think that these grants were given out of generosity to help local authorities out of a difficulty. Many of us hold entirely different views on that matter. I hope to be able to convince the House that the payment of these amounts, usually alluded to now as grants, should, by legal right, be made to the local authorities and that the local authorities ought not to be held responsible for any deductions made in respect of them.

The first grant, as it was called, was the one given in 1898 when the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland decided that the rates, even in those days, were beyond the capacity of the ratepayers to bear. Up to that time the landlords took over 50 per cent. of the obligation of the poor rate. The Act of 1898 was passed simply to make that a liability of the State. As it is a State obligation it is very doubtful if a sum which it was never intended farmers should pay should now be a liability on them and be subject to deduction by the State in lieu of unpaid annuities. Even in 1925 the Government of the day realised that local services and national services were becoming so involved that it was impossible for local authorities to maintain them. Up to that time local responsibilities were very small and included local hospitals, local dispensary services and roads with no through traffic. There was no necessity for any national grant until the demands of our present-day civilisation, and the upkeep of the roads became a national interest. The State recognised its obligations and in 1925 the position had become so acute, owing to the inability to pay the increased charges for national and local services, that the previous Government voluntarily doubled the Agricultural Grant. Even that did not satisfy national obligations and a commission, known as the Derating Commission, was set up, whose function it was to relate national and local liabilities. The commission reported in 1931. I can speak with authority on this matter, as it was my function, as chairman, to sign a report—a minority report—that the Government of the day accepted. The report stated that the demands for local services were about £1,000,000 more than was received in grants from the Government. The Government then increased the contribution to local authorities from the National Exchequer by £750,000. The Opposition of that day, now the Government, led by the President, stated that they had not gone far enough and that an equitable assessment would have been at least £250,000 more than was provided in order to meet the national obligation to local authorities. That was their attitude then. The mind of the present Government at that time was that the national authority was liable for at least £250,000 more than was being provided for local services. To-day the Government is holding that money for the unpaid annuities. What brought about such a big change, seeing that the position has become very much worse? The statement of the President at that time was that if justice was to be equated the local rates should be assisted by a grant from the National Exchequer by at least £250,000 more than was being provided. What is the origin of this guarantee at all? What gives the Minister power at the present time to deal with the Guarantee Fund? Its history is very simple. After years of agitation the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland decided to alter the status of tenant farmers by establishing them as owners of their property. A huge sum of money was required for this purpose. The means adopted was to issue land stock to be taken up by the investing public. At that time the credit of the individual borrower was not attractive to investors and more substantial security had to be provided. The Government gave a guarantee to investors but compelled the ratepayers of this country to agree to be responsible for the repayment of the principal and interest of the borrowed money. That was a big national question. Deputy Norton made some point about local ratepayers being held responsible for what was a State charge. Nobody can deny that the settling of the land question in Ireland was a big question. Surely justice demanded that it should be a national responsibility? Many of us have held that when this State was established that obligation should have passed from the individual ratepayer to the State. That belief was the cause of many actions taken in the county I have the honour to represent against the Ministry. That decision was taken unanimously and many of the members of local bodies incurred personal liability for the principle that the settling of the land question should not be made a ratepayers' difficulty but was one for the State. Why should the ratepayers be guarantors for the settlement of the land question? It was for that object and not for any vexatious object that the case was brought into court. It was for that principle that every section of the Cork Council decided to institute proceedings. To-day the council, which is representative of every interest and includes many of the Minister's supporters, sent this telegram to its representatives in this House:—

"Cork County Council to-day unanimously adopted a resolution protesting against introduction of Guarantee Fund Bill and requested Minister in the interest of solvency of local authorities and ratepayers to withdraw Bill and pay agricultural grants without deductions."

No Minister was ever in a better position than the present Minister to deal with the position. Unexpectedly he finds himself in possession of funds that no other Minister had. He has got 50 per cent. of the annuities which no other Minister got. In addition he got £1,750,000 that local authorities have been compelled to pay as well as a further £3,000,000 that no previous Minister had. These are points well worthy of consideration. The Attorney-General asked if Mayo County was to be made pay for default in Cork. There are no defaulters in Cork on whom you can levy it. You can only levy it on the people who meet their liabilities. I suggest that you will find, although I do not wish to draw distinctions between different portions of the country—as many men in Mayo, Galway, Clare, and, in fact, all over the country in this position by reason of the Minister's action in depriving them of the power to make the necessary money. I do not wish to deal with this too emphatically, but my clear answer to the Attorney-General is that I can see no justification, whatever the law is in respect of the annuities, for compelling local authorities to pay out £1,750,000 for the Local Loans Account and coming down on top of them for unpaid annuities.

As representatives in this House, there are on the Government Benches many men who are members of local authorities. Recently they put themselves before the electorate, the ratepayers, undertaking to advance and protect their interests. Are you going to compel those men now to prostitute their undertakings? Are you going to tell them that they must forswear everything they said with regard to advancing and protecting the interests of the ratepayers and that one man is to be made responsible for another man's debt? There is no justification for it. We know that there are people who despite their best efforts are unable to meet their liabilities, and are the representatives of local authorities to tell those men that they must also pay the liabilities of those who make no effort to meet their obligations? Possibly, as Deputy Norton or some other Deputy said, they may be careless. We have those in every constituency. But is the man who makes every effort to meet his national and local liabilities to be compelled to take on this extra burden?

If this measure is persisted in—the debt of Cork County in respect of annuities and other matters is £179,000 at present—a very conservative estimate of the possible deduction next year is £75,000. There I am in what I might call the guessing stage. I do not know and nobody else knows, but we will know next January. If that huge sum has to be met, it will mean an increase of 4/5 in the £. On whom? On the people who pay their rates, and not on the people who do not pay their rates. I would point out to the labour members that there are many labourers who work intermittently on the roads, men who have not constant employment and men who nobody can claim are too well paid. Are you going to saddle these men with an increase of 4/5 in the £ on their cottages? If you do, the benefit of the Minister's recently introduced Bill will not be very substantial. It cannot be contradicted that the labourers of this country, who are in the position of ratepayers, will have to face this as well as every other section of the community.

There is not a big lot to debate in this. The points are very simple and very clear, and the effect is still simpler and still clearer. The power of the Minister is quite obvious. He can make the people who are meeting their liabilities accept this entire charge and he can make it impossible for local authorities to function. Remember, there is no use in saying that the local authorities are contributory. They have no power of collection. That is in the hands of the Minister. They are, however, made liable for default and I should like to know what is to become of the poor law services, the dispensary services, and the mental hospital services, in a county such as ours, where the annual expenditure is about £670,000, if this is carried out. You are levying on people who are paying. That is the one point to get home. In my opinion and in the opinion of every man who studies it, the settling of the land question ought not to be a ratepayers' responsibility. It ought to be a national question, and, as I say, the action of Cork County, in instituting these proceedings, was simply to bring home that principle, which was unanimously supported, that it should be a State and not a ratepayers' obligation. If you do not see your way to withdraw this Bill on the equity of the case—I beg your pardon, Sir; I should have apologised before for referring to the Minister personally——

It was unintentional.

Mr. Broderick

I would point out to the Minister, through you, Sir, that the difficulties of local authorities are not of their own making. They have accepted a dual responsibility to the State and to the local ratepayers. The moneys to which they are entitled are being confiscated by the Minister, without reason and without justification, in my view. We have, as I say, no power of collection; we have nothing to say to it, and the Minister is simply providing a fund which he can have at his disposal to the extent of £2,000,000. With a machined majority and with men compelled to vote against their convictions, you can carry this through, but I would point out that the objection to this proposal comes from every portion of the country. Even at the meeting of the Minister's organisation, I read that one of the resolutions to be debated was that the local authorities should get their grants in full. It shows quite clearly that every interest in the country which has responsibility to local authorities and local ratepayers is at war with the Minister's proposal to make local authorities responsible for national taxation, and, if a free vote is allowed on this question, I guarantee that 75 per cent. of the Government Party, every member who is connected with a local authority, will vote against it.

I do not like mentioning names, but I could never imagine Deputy Hales saying to the thrifty and hard-working farmers of West Cork, in whom he so frequently claims he is interested: "Pay your own liabilities; pay your annuities and your rates, and I will go up to Dublin and make you pay for the fellow who will not pay, too." That is really what is being done. There is no use in occupying the time of the House much longer. I know that the Minister can carry this proposal by his majority. If he wishes, he can mislead people into making a national question a local question. If one is careless enough about one's own honour, or reckless of the consequences, it is possible to mislead many people. The Minister, if he so desires, can do so if he is reckless enough of the consequences to his own adherents, but I would appeal to him to deal with this question on its merits, leaving the political aspect out of it, and give Cork County credit for these actions against every Ministry, against a principle which they could not accept, a principle that should never have been set up in this State, that the rates should be liable for national taxation. That is the principle with which Cork County is at war, and, in its opposition, it has the support of the smallest county in the country and the support of every Deputy, no matter on what side of this House he sits, if he were allowed to give free expression to his opinions.

From the speeches made on this Bill from the Opposition Benches, one would be inclined to think that, for the first time, a new burden was being placed on the local authorities. We know from experience, and we heard during the course of the debate, that that is not a fact. This Guarantee Fund has been carried as a liability by the local authorities for a number of years. The only point I have heard made in extenuation of the fierce attitude of the Opposition to this Bill is that that liability, as originally intended, was materially changed by the Land Act of 1933. If the argument is that the charging of the Guarantee Fund with the collection of the land annuities was a sound and just device so long as those annuities were being paid into a foreign Exchequer, it does seem to me to be wanting in logic to argue that because these land annuities are now being paid into the national Exchequer the Guarantee Fund should be relieved of liability—that the local authorities should no longer be fixed with liability once these moneys have ceased to be paid outside the country and have become an asset of our national Exchequer. One point the Opposition have been very silent about is that that liability has been halved by the present Government.

Nonsense.

Mr. Maguire

The annuities have been halved and, accordingly, the liability to the Guarantee Fund borne by the local authorities has been halved. I was surprised, while listening to Deputy Norton's speech, because he usually deals with subjects in a logical way. He argued that this liability should be removed from the local authority, that there should be no collective liability for these moneys and that the Government should take the necessary steps to ensure that payment would be made by the individual farmers. He instances a case in which the landlord of a tenement, finding difficulty in collecting his rents from a tenant, enforces the law, brings around the sheriff and evicts the tenant. If the individual landlord of a slum dwelling has that machinery at his disposal, and is not afraid of using it, why, he asks, should the Government be afraid to do the same thing? There is this difference between the owner of the slum dwelling to whom Deputy Norton refers and the tenant farmer: The owner of that slum tenement is usually an individual who, by his own money, has acquired the legal ownership. He charges rents which usually give him a fair profit if not, as has often been asserted, a profit beyond what is reasonable. His private means have given him the ownership of that tenement. On the other hand, the farmer who owns his land as a result of the operation of any of the Land Acts enjoys that ownership as a result of the collective effort of the community in providing the necessary money to enable him to acquire that right. That is an important difference. A collective responsibility was charged on the whole community to provide the funds which, in the first instance, enabled that man to become the owner of his property. There was no collective responsibility on the part of the community to enable the landlord of the slum dwelling to become the owner of it. If it has been found a good thing to charge the whole of the State with the responsibility for finding the necessary money to enable the farmer to become the owner of his land, the provision in this Bill providing clearly for the continuance of that liability is nothing more than a safeguard to ensure that the whole community will get a fair and just return in accord with the original liability. From whom are you taking the security, if you withdraw it? From the whole of the community. You ask that the liability be handed back to the whole of the community. It would be just as logical to argue that you should abolish county boundaries altogether. You might as well say: "Let us have done with this county council system, abolish the councils and establish one body representing all the counties we have in the Free State, strike your rate on a level basis and carry out the services in a level way." If you look into this matter, you will find that there is something approaching similarity of conditions in respect of all the farms in a particular county. The quality of the land is fairly uniform, the size of the farms is fairly uniform or the conditions of farming are similar. Accordingly, you have there a section of the community whose economy can stand a certain lien and, in that way, local administration is more equitable than if you were to adopt the system suggested in relation to this Guarantee Fund.

Having illustrated that point, may I say that the same argument might very well be used in favour of withdrawing this whole system of collectivism or co-operation, as established, by which the farmer has been able, from the resources of all the people, to find money for the purchase of his land. If you withdraw the liability, county by county, for a just and fair return to the community who subscribed that money, then you must also withdraw that system of social service of ours by which, in each county, we build and maintain our public roads, our public hospitals and carry on the other public services. The whole of the community are contributing to these and if, from time to time, sections of the people find themselves in difficulties through their own laziness, through illness or through other causes and are unable to pay their rates, then the community, of which they are members, pays for them. Would it be just that because some people are lazy or through other reasons are in financial difficulties, other members of the community should say: "I will withhold home-help from that family because they are lazy" or "I will withhold medical assistance from that family because they are useless" and so on down the range of services? While they are in difficulties, these people ordinarily pay no rates. The other ratepayers pay not merely their own rates but the rates of these people. Is not that the same system as we have been discussing? The only suggestion by way of alternative was made by Deputy Norton and further dealt with by Deputy Belton. That alternative was to send round the sheriff, as in the case of the slum landlord. The farmers have, in their minds and in their bones, a bitter feeling for the sheriffs of this country.

Hear, hear!

Mr. Maguire

The present proposal to reinstitute that system of collection, rather than to continue the system which is in existence—and which is certainly a more Christian and a more equitable one—is wrong, and I am satisfied that it will not be adopted by this House.

Sir, I believe that the Deputy who has just spoken is under a misapprehension when he suggests that members of the United Ireland Party, or any other members who object to the present attitude of the Government, are eager to see the sheriff going around among the farmers. If he wants a practical suggestion on this question of collecting the land annuities, I am ready to give it to him forthwith, and that is "do not collect them." Certainly, as far as I am concerned, I hold most firmly that it is unjust to collect them so long as the farmer is in the position in which he has been put by the policy of the Government. There was a resolution passed to-day at the General Council of County Councils—passed unanimously—pointing out to the Government that the best thing they could do for the relief of agriculture would be to make a just settlement of the economic war. Now the Government have had a pretty rough passage in this debate—about as rough a passage as I recollect their having in any debate which I have heard in this House—so I offer them this as a crumb of comfort, as a practical suggestion.

But not relevant to this measure.

Not relevant? With great respect, I submit it is entirely relevant, because a just settlement of the economic war would be a hundred times a more effective method of securing the collection of the annuities than the Guarantee Fund they seek to maintain.

About the worst argument I have heard used on the Government side in the course of this debate is that nobody ought to take exception to these liabilities being placed on the ratepayers under our present beneficent Government, because they are no longer paying away the money to John Bull. Are they not indeed? Is not every penny which they pay in bounties money which is being paid in effect to John Bull? Is not John Bull, on the admission of the President of the Executive Council himself, collecting all that he was collecting before, and collecting it in a way more damaging to the farmers and more damaging to the country than the payments which were made before? As a matter of fact, we all know that this talk about John Bull is misleading talk anyway; that the moneys which were paid over to the British Government were passed on by the British Government to the people who lent the money and who were entitled to the interest on it. This talk about a tribute to John Bull is just playing to the gallery and nothing else. If it is a tribute to John Bull, the tribute is being paid now doubly or trebly by the farmers of this country.

Thanks to you.

Thanks to us? What does that mean?

You did your part anyway.

No, Sir, I hardly think that anybody outside of those on the Government Benches in this House will be so totally deceived as to believe that it is a patriotic duty to put this liability on the ratepayers because of the damage that the present Government is doing to John Bull. I, as a matter of fact, agree with Deputy Norton in disliking in principle the plan of making the rates liable for deficiencies in the payment of land annuities, apart altogether from the present situation, whether you call it an economic war or whatever else you call it. I am unable to follow the logic of the speech we have just heard on that subject from Deputy Maguire. He speaks of the similarity of conditions between people in a certain county. Now what is really the lesson to be drawn from that similarity in conditions? Supposing you find that one county is very much more in arrears than another county, are you to jump to the conclusion that one county contains people who are, by nature, more lazy and dishonest than the people of another county? You might say that you are to jump to the conclusion that a particular county is more opposed to the present Government than another county. You might say that but for the awkward fact that, as has been pointed out, the majority of the people in some of the counties most in arrears are strong supporters of the present Government.

Mr. Maguire

By way of explanation. I should like to say that what I meant to convey was that in the counties where the conditions are somewhat in uniformity they have regulated their budget in accordance with their means, and carried out their services accordingly. For instance, you have difference in wages, in housing and other expenditure, according to the means of the various counties, and I suggested, therefore, that amalgamation of the various counties would be more equitable.

I suggest that in any case a different inference should be drawn from the circumstances to which the Deputy has called our attention. If one county is much more in arrears than another in paying land annuities, is it not probable that it is because, for some reason or other, that county has been harder hit by prevailing conditions? If prevailing conditions are such that they have made it more difficult for a particular region to pay its way, is it not fair that it should be the Central Fund— that it should be the community of the country as a whole rather than the local community—that is called upon to make up the deficiency? I suggest that the broadest back to carry this burden is the Central Fund; that the taxpayers as a whole should make good any deficiencies which arise. In certain counties, no doubt, the new schemes of the Government, and the reliefs which the Government have had to give, have done more good than in other counties where, for one reason or another, they have not operated to the same extent. I submit that it is fair that a county which finds itself in a worse economic position, through no fault of its own, should have to pay the bill arising out of annuity deficiencies. The fair method is to have it borne by the country as a whole, if it has got to be borne. I believe that the Irish farmer is honest; I believe that the Irish farmer is as honest to-day as he has been in the past; I believe that the difficulties which have arisen about the collection of land annuities have been created by the present Government and its policy.

Hear, hear!

I believe that the present Government have made it impossible for thousands of farmers in this country to pay their way and to produce the money to pay those annuities. I think it is nothing short of an outrage that the county councils, who are not the ones responsible for creating that ridiculous policy, should be called upon to face the difficulties which the Government themselves ought to be facing directly.

I appeal to the House to reject this Bill. Frankly, I think that the case against the Government with regard to the retrospective character of this legislation has been somewhat overstated. I may be wrong in that, but to me it appears that the intentions of the legislature were as the spokesmen of the Government to-night described them. While retrospective legislation should be avoided as much as possible, I think that this is not a flagrant case of retrospective legislation, because I do think it is true that what it is trying to do is to put into effect what were the intentions of the Legislature in 1933. But I do not happen to agree with those intentions. I did not agree with them then; I do not agree with them now. I think the principle of charging these deficiencies on the rates is a bad one, apart altogether from the policy of the present Government which has made it so difficult for the farmer to exist, and I think that, in view of that policy, what they are asking us to do by this Bill is nothing short of criminal.

I might say at the outset that I am one of those members of a county council who voted for the institution of these law proceedings by the county council against the Government. I want to make my position clear on that matter. I did so because I felt very keenly that decent farmers and farm labourers in my county who have honoured their obligations by paying their rates and their annuities ought not to be asked to bear a burden for other farmers who in many cases are better off than farmers who paid their annuities are or can ever hope to be. These farmers were induced to withhold their annuities by political adventurers trading up and down the country, many of them members of councils and leaders of parties, who never paid rates or annuities in any county. People of that description came down to my county and there preached a campaign not alone of non-payment of annuities but also of non-payment of rates. I want to saddle the right horse with the responsibility for the position in Cork County. When these adventurers came down to the county and started to preach the doctrine not alone of no rents but also of no rates, that was the first trouble the council met with. We had these leaders, members of county councils and members of the Dáil advising the farmers——

The Deputy having made his point clear, would be wise not to pursue the alleged no-rent or no-rates campaign.

It has been repeatedly alleged——

The Deputy has been allowed to make his point.

It has been repeatedly alleged that the present position with regard to uncollected annuities has been brought about by the attitude of the present Government. That point was made incidentally by Deputy MacDermot. However, I am not going to pursue it further than to say that undoubtedly a large number of farmers acting on that advice did not pay their annuities or their rates. I have repeatedly suggested to the Minister that he has his remedy. He has a much better remedy than the ratepayers have in that particular respect. He has the forces of law and order at his disposal to collect the annuities off these people and he has got the remedy of putting some of these gentlemen in jail where some of them should have been long ago.

The Deputy might get away from that point.

We have had that campaign right, left and centre throughout Cork County and it is as a result of that campaign that we find this position in Cork County and that we are going to have this measure under which the ratepayers will have to pay for some of these delinquents. I can promise these parties, however, that we have a remedy for that and we will use that remedy. If we are going to pay for the land, we will have the land. You can just swallow that. We heard all this cry about there being no precedent for this Bill. Then we had the definite allegation made over there by Deputy Professor O'Sullivan about the 39 Deputies who could rule the country. Twenty-six or 29 Deputies out of 152 in this Assembly justified and legalised three days after the occurrence the murder of Rory O'Connor and his comrades.

A Deputy

What has that to do with it?

There was retrospective legislation to protect murder. If you want to hear about retrospective legislation, we will give you enough of it. Take this very Guarantee Fund about which you talk. When the 1923 Act was being discussed here, Deputy Gorey, who was then representing the farmers, moved an amendment that the Guarantee Fund should not be held liable for annuities under the 1923 Act. Deputy Norton to-night made the very same allusion in connection with collections by the home Government. Here is the precedent again. On that very occasion when Deputy Gorey moved that the Guarantee Fund should not be held liable for arrears of annuities under the 1923 Act, the President at the time, Deputy Cosgrave, opposed such a suggestion and said very definitely that it should be held liable. He opposed the amendment and it was defeated by the votes of Deputies, some of whom I suppose are left over there yet. He said it was the only means at their disposal to bring home responsibility to counties where there were arrears. He put up that definite argument to prove his case. So we had the Guarantee Fund continued under the Cosgrave Government without any complaint at all. We had deductions carried out each year by the Cosgrave Government from grants in relief of rates for the very same reason.

I agree with some Deputies over there that we had not any idea in 1933 that this very definite move was going to be made by gentlemen who, we thought, had some sense of responsibility, towards creating this position of affairs in which local bodies would be practically rendered bankrupt. It was a definite and a deliberate attempt on the part of both Deputies and councillors of the Party over there to force the people into that position. The late Government had no scruple at all in that respect. They had no scruple in enforcing the law by every single means in their power, even by the power of eviction, against men who for one reason or another were unable to pay their annuities, and when they found that there were arrears in any county they deducted the amount of those arrears out of the Agricultural Grant for that year for that county. We did not hear any of this "humming" or "hawing" then. They enforced the law in order that John Bull would get his pound of flesh. They ensured that the Guarantee Fund should be carried on by them in order that John Bull would get his pound of flesh out of this country. We now find ourselves in the middle or, I think I can thankfully say, at the end of this most deliberate campaign. I notice of late that the covered wagons, as we call them, are going home empty; that these gentlemen are paying up, following the example of that most perfect gentlemen who was one of the leaders of the campaign in our county, the vice-chairman of the county council, who paid up like a gentleman when the sheriff came. They are all paying up now. I think we are practically at the end of this campaign.

And the discussion of it during this debate.

Unfortunately, you cannot very well get away from the fact that the principal reason governing the introduction of this Guarantee Fund is the condition of affairs with regard to the non-payment of annuities in different counties. We cannot very well debate this matter without at least touching on the reasons which brought about the non-payment of annuities. I want to touch upon it as little as possible. When we examine the question we find that the average annuity of a 20-acre farm in the Free State is £3 2s. 6d., just 2/6 lower than the labourer pays for his cottage and acre of land. I advise Deputies to think over that. Of course, there are some alleged farmers, particularly up around the piece of mountain where Columcille resided, to whom you can never teach sense. I hope I will have the extreme pleasure of having Deputy McGovern and Deputy Dillon as apprentices on my farm next week, and when they go back to their respective bailiwicks they will know all about farming, and there is no question that they will be able to pay their annuities out of the ordinary working of the land and not be asking the unfortunate ratepayers to pay for them.

How do you make your farm pay?

You are hopeless. I hope that some way will be found out of the difficulties in which local bodies find themselves, largely, I fear, through their own fault and their own deliberate intentions.

Vote against the Bill.

The only time we ever saw Deputy O'Neill at the county council meeting was when he came in after 2 o'clock with his bag. That was his record in the Cork County Council for the period he was there. Deputy O'Neill cannot, with any honesty, contribute anything to this debate, as he knows very little about local bodies.

Will the Deputy tell us what he knows about the Bill?

I am just telling you what I do know about it. Unfortunately, I know too much about it. I know it will mulct me to the tune of £22 for some rogue of a Blueshirt who, on Deputy O'Neill's advice, would not pay his annuity. I do not wish to delay the debate any further. I just wish to make these couple of points.

Vote against the Bill.

I advised Deputy O'Neill on several occasions during the last 12 months and pointed out this very fact to him. I warned him of the result of all the manoeuvres he was carrying on when he dressed himself like a big baby in a blue blouse and started off to teach people how to drill. I repeatedly pointed out to Deputy O'Neill——

Let the Deputy continue his advice outside the House.

I find that a tip of that description does him good, even here.

Deal with the telegram from the county council now.

We all know how these little things are brought about. I have already pointed out to Deputy O'Neill how they are brought about. If Deputy O'Neill has any idea of his responsibilities I would suggest to him that even now at the eleventh hour he should consider his responsibilities. After all, he should have some responsibility. He has come in here once—I do not know whether he will come again or not—but he must have spun some kind of yarn to the people who sent him here.

Tell us about the telegram.

I would seriously suggest to Deputies opposite that the proper thing to do is to advise their recalcitrant followers to pay up even now, so that there will be no necessity for these heavy levies on the local bodies. Even now they would have a chance if they go home and advise them to pay up; and if an odd one of themselves did pay up to give an example to the rest of their followers it might be an advantage too. At the county council they tell me that I should have no bother in carrying on because I have £30 a month. When I see Deputies, therefore, with £30 a month and they are not paying their annuities, I know there is something wrong with them, because it is not honest.

I did not intend to intervene in this debate at all——

You always start that way.

I only do so now because of the attempt, the very feeble attempt, made by Deputy Corry to justify the position that he will take up later on in the Division Lobby. Cutting away altogether from the vulgarisms and the personalities indulged in, which are characteristic of all Deputy Corry's speeches, I ask him to attempt to justify the attitude of the county council of which he is a member. Deputy Corry says that this campaign, with which he coupled the name of Deputy O'Neill, is at an end. If it is at an end, why the necessity for this Bill we are discussing?

Mr. Corry made a remark which was not heard.

I did not interrupt Deputy Corry when he was speaking. I let him proceed and indulge in all his personalities and did not even once interrupt him. I claim the same right from the Ceann Comhairle. I must not be interrupted while I am speaking and I only intend to take five or six minutes. Does Deputy Corry hold with any Government that is going to victimise the honest, decent farmer who pays his rates and annuities? Does he intend to victimise those honest, industrious, hard-working farmers who have, notwithstanding all their difficulties, by borrowing money here and there, attempted to keep their name good before their neighbours? We all know that there is inherent in every Irishman, whether farmer, artisan or labourer, a desire not to appear as a defaulter before his neighbours. It is a very pardonable and reasonable kind of pride. We had an apology from Deputy Corry, because it amounts to nothing but an apology, for what he is going to do to-night. The remedy that Deputy Corry suggests for persons unable to pay their annuities is that their land should be seized. Balfour, or any other English statesman who had anything to do with this country at any time, never advocated such a course of action. I think it was Deputy Norton here to-night, or perhaps it was Deputy Cosgrave, who suggested that the members of the House should look at the map and should look at the returns of unpaid annuities in the various counties. If they do they will there find that it is in the counties which return a majority of Government supporters that the non-payment of these annuities is generally prevalent.

Will the Deputy substantiate that by figures?

The figures that have been given by Deputy Norton or Deputy Cosgrave contain the information the Minister desires. Both Deputies gave figures, and on these figures they made the broad statement that I have repeated. It is open to the Minister to examine those figures with the officials of the Land Commission, who will supply him with all the additional information he may require. We do know that in such counties as Kerry there are large numbers of small farmers with only 20 acres and under. Deputy Corry has made reference to the agricultural labourers. The Deputy should remember that the labourer with his cottage will have to pay 4d. or 5d. in the £ extra in the rates in County Cork because of the non-payment of these grants.

It is higher in some places.

That was the figure given by the Chairman of the Cork County Council, who ought to know. There is another matter that I should mention. The Cork County Council to-day unanimously passed a resolution protesting against the introduction of this Land Purchase (Guarantee Fund) Bill and requesting the Minister in the interests of the ratepayers and in the interests of the social services of the county, to withdraw the Bill and to repay the grant which he has deducted from the county council. I want to emphasise that they passed that resolution unanimously. Deputy Corry must be aware that on the Cork County Council there is a decent minority of Government supporters, but the House will bear in mind that at their meeting to-day this resolution was unanimously passed. I am sure Deputy Corry does not want me to give him the dictionary meaning of "unanimously". I am quite sure that if Deputy Corry himself had attended that meeting to-day he would abstain from voting against that resolution or he would vote with the majority of the council. Deputy Corry also said that it was due to the action of the local bodies that this measure had to be introduced into Dáil Eireann. I would like to know who are the persons to whom the Deputy refers? His charge is a very general one, but it is absolutely unfounded. It is unfounded to charge the public bodies of this country—I am using the Deputy's own words—with machining a campaign for the non-payment of land annuities and rates.

On a point of correction, my statement was that some members of the public bodies, including members of this House, and not excluding Deputy Anthony, did carry on that campaign.

Did you not tell the people of Cork one time that you knew that the farmers had their annuities in their pockets and that you would see that they would keep them there?

The charge made by Deputy Corry was that the members of the public bodies were machining a campaign for the non-payment of rates and annuities. He did not qualify that by "some"——

I have stated that the statement was not correct.

Very well. I accept what the Deputy says—he now finds that his statement was not correct. Deputy Corry has also stated that I, too, was responsible for this campaign. I would invite the Deputy to name even one public utterance of mine which could be construed into supporting, in any way, a campaign for the non-payment of annuities and rates. Any public statement I made was to the effect that any farmer who could pay should pay, and that if a farmer could pay and did not pay, he should be made pay. I stand over that attitude to-day. The law is there to enforce that. The Minister for Justice and the Minister for Finance have at their disposal the ordinary resources of the law. This Bill is an abrogation of the freedom of the citizen. You are taking from the courts of justice their particular functions; you are to-day doing a thing that, in my view, and in the view of anybody who has given any consideration at all to constitutional government in this country, is taking from the courts the power of administering the law. You are thereby establishing a very bad precedent in this country and a very bad precedent particularly in the present circumstances. This case is now actually before the courts, and you are doing something to take it away from their jurisdiction.

You must admit that this country is new so far as regards Parliamentary institutions. Ours, of course, is a very ancient civilisation, but I regret to say that on the Government Benches we have not any very great evidence of modern civilisation. But at least we had a tradition—a tradition which I hope to see revived in this country again—of a good civic spirit. That civic spirit may have been absent for a time, but now that we are settling down to Parliamentary procedure, it is regrettable to see by the introduction of this Bill that all these institutions are being broken down. You are taking from the law courts of this country the functions and the powers which they should administer. I urge the Minister for Finance, who is sponsoring this Bill, to consult with the members of his own rank and file. If he does so he will find that this feeble attempt of an apology by Deputy Corry—which will deceive nobody in the country—will be re echoed by many of the back benchers of his Party. In the privacy of his Committee Room he will not have feeble excuses put forward for the support of this measure. He will find full-blooded opposition in his own rank and file. I do suggest to the Minister, in the best interests of the country and in the best interest of all parties, not to establish the bad and dangerous precedent which will be established if this measure passes. I make that appeal to the Minister, and I think that appeal will be re-echoed by every sane and thinking man in the Saorstát—those on his own side and those in opposition to him. I do feel that there is a sufficient number of level-headed men who will take that view. They may be in a minority. I am quite sure that if those on his own side who think that way would only make themselves vocal they would be able to influence the Minister to withdraw this Bill.

It is a long distance from the ordinary county councillor to the cabinet minister. It is a long distance from the Executive Council to the county councillors. I would like to have this debated from all sides of this House from the county council or local authority point of view. The local authorities at the present time have heaped on them almost intolerable burdens. Their responsibilities have spread out and have got heavier and greater each six months for the last ten years. To-day those of us who are members of local bodies have to stand up to tremendous responsibilities. These responsibilities are now of a national rather than of a local character. It should be understood by the Executive Council that the time has come when the local bodies should receive not hard, grinding legislation like what we have had introduced here to-day, but every sympathy and support possible. The Executive Council should give every ear to the appeal that is being made in this House and outside it for relief to the ratepayers and especially to the agricultural community.

The position to-day is that a county council, such as the one of which I am privileged to be a member, will have to face up to a big deficit, due to the fact that a large amount of the Agricultural Grant is withheld because certain people, through no fault of their own in many instances, are not able to pay their land annuities. The same applies to many other counties in the Free State. I suggest to members of the Executive Council that they might well leave their offices and take their places on an ordinary county council. They would see there members of all Parties working together, in spite of the fact that they had fought a political campaign against each other when the county council elections were in progress. They would find the members of the council all united in doing their best to meet the hard times that exist. We make a special appeal to the Government at this juncture. I believe members of the Fianna Fáil Party have had many messages from their supporters in different parts of the country asking them to appeal to the Government to withdraw this Bill, even temporarily, in the interests of the nation and particularly in the interests of local administration.

It would seem to me that this House is about the worst place in the world in which to make an appeal. No matter how strong a case may be, and no matter how well it is argued, once the Division bell rings and the Whips are put on, the Government majority prevails. Whether case is good or bad that is the inevitable result. We have heard a lot about an assault on democracy by reason of retrospective legislation. That point came from this side of the House, in which event it means nothing. From the Government Benches it is looked upon as so much political claptrap, so much hot air; it is some form of political game. The time has come when genuine arguments put forward in this House by men with a truly national outlook should be seriously entertained by the occupants of the Government Front Bench. Once this Bill goes through, there will undoubtedly be a hardship imposed on numerous ratepayers, farmers as well as business men, people who have been struggling hard in the last few years to pay their way. Farmers, traders, professional men, labourers and artisans will be all affected by this measure. Instead of being a national charge this will be stamped indelibly as a perpetual charge on local authorities and they will have no redress, nor can any relief be obtained.

In introducing this Bill, I said that its purpose is clear and simple, that it is to restate in the clearest terms that the Guarantee Fund is and always has been liable for any deficiency arising in the Purchase Annuity Fund, through the non-payment of the land annuities. I have never heard a measure so clear and simple discussed in this House with so little attempt at real argument. If the purpose of the Bill were not as I have stated it to be, if it were to do other than restate what the House has always understood the position to be, should not I have been challenged by a statement from the Opposition Benches that the Guarantee Fund never was thought to be liable for any deficiency arising in the Purchase Annuities Fund? That is not the case that has been presented here to-day. Instead, I have been told, firstly, that I am attempting to supplant the courts and, secondly, that I am defying them and deliberately setting them aside. It is not supplanting the courts to make clear by law the declared intentions of the Oireachtas regarding the Guarantee Fund. The proper instrument under the Constitution to undertake that clarification, so far as it appears to be necessary, is the Oireachtas, in which is vested the sole and exclusive power of making laws. Nor am I defying and deliberately setting the courts on one side. Those who are opposing this Bill beg the question on that point, for they assume that the courts have reached and declared a certain decision. They have done no such thing and, therefore, no question of defiance arises. The Oireachtas, therefore, having full power under the Constitution to pass legislation, and the courts not having committed themselves on any points which may be in doubt, the Oireachtas, without prejudice to anyone, can come here and unmistakably declare its mind on this matter. That is not an attempt to dictate to the courts; that is not an attempt to interpret the law; that is fulfilment of the proper prerogative of the Oireachtas to make the law, and to make the law as we have always understood it to be, as the Oireachtas intended to make the law when it passed the Land Act of 1933.

Deputy Cosgrave has said that the intentions of the Oireachtas ought to have been transcribed into language that the courts could interpret. Very well, then. If we have failed so to transcribe the law that the transcription correctly represents our intentions, are we not entitled to amend our error, or must the error be perpetuated? If we were to take Deputy Cosgrave's attitude and carry it to its logical conclusion every slip of human judgment would be perpetuated on our statute books to the confusion of our people for all time. I do not think, ill judged and ill considered, and all, as Deputy Cosgrave's criticism of the Bill was, it sank to the depths of the ill-considered mediocrity that characterised Deputy Davin's contribution to this debate. That was an astounding and dishonest contribution. The Deputy, before he spoke, had the decision of his Party in his pocket. He knew anything I could say was not likely to change that decision. He heard the case I made. It was not made flippantly. It was, to my mind, a very dull, heavy case, because it was a solid case. It was supported by chapter and verse for every statement I made. I referred to the amendments adopted in the Seanad, and rejected by the Dáil, and ultimately abandoned by the Oireachtas. I quoted verbatim statements that had been made by Ministers and Deputies during the passage of the Land Act of 1933, and the Land Purchase (Annuities Fund) Act of the same year. And these statements and the history of these two Bills made it clear, beyond any doubt, that the Oireachtas intended that this Guarantee Fund procedure should apply subsequently to the Act of 1933, and to all annuities covered by that Act as it applied in the case of annuities collected under antecedent legislation. Still that speech, which was backed with quotations and arguments, was characterised by Deputy Davin as flippant, throughout such a flood, such a spate of nonsense that the Deputy was, himself, almost completely submerged in it.

Let us take one or two statements for which he made himself responsible. He said "this is a measure to prejudice, or influence the mind of the judges who are now, and will be for some time to come, engaged in hearing a case presented on behalf of certain sections of the ratepayers." He says "this measure is intended to prejudice or influence the mind of the judges." There is no attempt to influence the minds of the judges. There is an attempt to write the law, and the judges, when they come to consider the case, can do nothing but address themselves to the law as it is written. He went on to say:—

"I could see some argument in favour of the introduction of a measure of this kind if the case had been heard, and if the judges had given their decision against the Government."

This he gave us as a possible argument in support of the Bill. Are we then to turn round and stultify the judiciary? Having first of all, if we follow the point of his argument, having first written the law so imperfectly that it has been interpreted incorrectly, we are then to come along and amend it after the judges have committed themselves to an opinion in regard to it—and Deputy Davin can find some reason and argument for a course of that sort!

The Deputy also said that in introducing the Bill, I had endeavoured to influence the attitude of the House in regard to it by citing a number of cases in which the House had been asked to legislate retrospectively. I did not do anything of the sort. I refer any Deputy to the report of my speech. I addressed myself to the narrow point raised by Deputy Dillon, on First Reading, when he said that there was no precedent in this country for legislation of this kind. I did so not because that such a precedent was an argument in favour of the Bill. I was merely proving that we are not doing something which is unique, unthinkable and never thought of before.

I must say that I could not but be astonished by the attitude taken up by those who have spoken for the Labour Party on this Bill. Apparently the Party, before they considered this measure, did not take any pains to inquire into the history of the agitation. They had forgotten altogether what had transpired here during the debates on the Land Act of 1933. They seem to have assumed that we were introducing into land legislation, for the first time, an utterly new principle; that we were asking the House to endorse a procedure never previously before proposed, and on the merits and demerits of which it was completely ignorant. It was possibly for that reason that Deputy Davin found himself swept off his feet, and had to address himself to a case that he previously did not apprehend might exist. He, and the Labour Party, for want of some better ground to stand upon, said that one of the reasons why they opposed this Bill was because they did not want to see honest men who had paid their annuities victimised on account of dishonest debtors who failed to meet their obligations. What do Deputy Davin and Deputy Norton think is going to happen if this Guarantee Fund procedure has to be abandoned, and we fail to collect these annuities, or fail to indemnify the Exchequer in some way for the non-collection of them?

We are told to-day that the accumulated arrears amounted to £700,000. Is the Exchequer going to make that good?

Get it from John Bull! He has collected it!

Must the Exchequer make it good? Deputy O'Leary had no objection to paying the annuities over to John Bull.

I was better-off then by paying them than I am now.

Must the Exchequer make good this sum and, if so, at whose expense? Where are we to get this £700,000? There are only two alternatives. We must either economise or increase taxation. Where are we to economise? Will those in receipt of unemployment assistance make good the deficiency of £700,000? Will those upon whom the Oireachtas has recently conferred that right, if their means otherwise does not disentitle them to it, make it good? And if we are not going to make it good by way of economies whom are we going to tax for it?

What about that £2,000,000?

Is it to go on to the farm labourers? Are the farm labourers in Cork, to whom we are told the wealthy farmers of Cork will not pay a living wage, to pay it? Is it to be paid by a tax on the tea and sugar of the labourers of those farmer motor car owners in Cork who refuse to pay the annuities until the sheriff comes to their door—these gentlemen who refuse to pay the purchase money on the land that the State has sold to them? Are the people in the towns—are the railway men, for whom Deputy Davin speaks, or the postal workers, for whom Deputy Norton speaks, or the other transport workers, for whom Deputies Everett and Corish speak— are they going to have to pay—these honest men—are they going to have to pay because the Labour Party want to overthrow the Guarantee Fund and to compel all honest men to meet the obligations of dishonest and defaulting debtors? Is it the case that the section of the community, which is more vitally and more intimately interested in this question of land purchase than any other section of the community, is going to escape their liabilities, and that the people who have no right or no title in, or no profit from, the land are going to be taxed instead? Yet, that is the case against this Bill which was made by the spokesmen of the Labour Party.

I do not believe the position was considered by them. I feel that a hasty decision was taken on the matter without due advertence to the actual facts of the situation, and I hope that, later, it may be possible for them to amend their attitude in that regard.

Of course, it has been said to us, as it was said by Deputy Norton—and I think by Deputy Davin and Deputy Brennan—that, after all, the Government had resources at its disposal. It has been suggested that we have the police, the flying squad, the sheriff, the prisons and all the rest of it; and the argument that has been advanced, not merely by Deputy Norton and Deputy Brennan, but by every member of the House who has spoken against this Bill is this: that, instead of making a whole county liable for the deficiency in the collection of the land annuities, we should at once send the bailiff and the battering ram to the door of every farmer who is unable to pay.

You are doing that at the present moment.

That is the alternative—that we should send the bailiff and the battering ram to the door of every person who is unable to pay. I do not believe that we can economise in the social services, and I do not believe in taxing honest people; so that that would be the alternative that would be left to us. I do not believe that the honest sections of the community should have to pay the debts of the dishonest members of another section of the community, and if this Guarantee Fund procedure has to be abandoned and if the Government has to take other measures to collect the annuities, that is the only resource left.

Are the local ratepayers dishonest?

The Minister says they are—that they are the fellows that should be made to pay.

Deputy Norton made a certain point, and he was answered by Deputy Ben Maguire in an excellent speech. Deputy Maguire dealt with Deputy Norton's point admirably and much better than I have been able to deal with it. Deputy Norton asked: "Why, if the State lends its forces to collect the debts of private individuals, cannot it use force to collect these debts as well?" Why should it?

Is it for the sake of using force that Deputy Norton wants us to avail of these resources? The State gives every penny of these grants in relief of local taxation, and the State, in giving, is entitled to see that, before it gives, it gets what is properly due to the State. The State gives it to everyone of these county communities.

No thanks to the Government.

The State gives to every one of these county communities, and if there is one county community less careful about meeting its obligations to the State than another, surely that State is entitled, in giving, to withhold, first of all, what is properly its due? Some county councillors, however, seem to forget that; and are the honest counties and the smaller counties, which do their best to pay these annuities, going to be victimised because people in the wealthy tracts of the country do not fulfil their just obligations?

Where are the wealthy counties?

Your friends told you where they are. They are practically fifty-fifty in the country.

We have heard chairmen of county councils, intimately concerned with this matter, get up here and tell us what steps we ought to take in order to enforce this collection. What steps have the County Council of Cork taken to ensure that these annuities will be paid?

It is not their job.

They are not altogether powerless in the matter. Take the cases of the counties Louth, Tipperary, or Cork, in which this nonpayment campaign was rampant; could they not have taken the simple step, which was within their power, of publishing the names of the people who defaulted?

They have not defaulted in the payment of the land annuities.

We hear a lot about these people who are saying that honest men ought not to be made to pay for the defalcations of dishonest people; but they have not had even the courage or the common honesty to reveal to the public gaze the names of the men who refused to pay their annuities. Why? The reason is that, in the great majority of cases, once those names were published, it would be plain and clear to everybody that the names of very many people, who could well afford to pay, would figure on that list—yes, and even, as has been said here, the names of some who were in receipt of public allowances.

Is that true of the County Clare?

Now, what is the justification for this Guarantee Fund procedure? I refer to the fact that the Dáil provides close on £2,000,000 for grants in relief of the rates in the several counties. In making that provision, is not the Dáil entitled, as I have already asked, to attach to that provision any reasonable condition it cares to attach? And what condition could be more reasonable than that these grants should be made contingent upon the punctual and satisfactory payment of the land annuities in the areas to which they, respectively, relate?

In order to carry through land purchase, the State has come to the assistance of the tenant farmers and has pledged its credit on their behalf. That credit, and this is the fundamental factor underlying the whole of this controversy, was pledged on behalf of those farmers as a community and not as individuals, for it has been an outstanding characteristic of land purchase that it has been a communal transaction. Estates were purchased, not as single farms, but as estates, and these estates were broken up and distributed to categories of tenants each of whom, in his own area and in relation to the land purchase annuities collected in that area, became a guarantor not merely to himself but for his neighbour. This communal guarantee has always been, as I have said, a notable characteristic of our land purchase system. It was largely because of it that land purchase went through at all. No real attempt was made to challenge it in a period when the land problem was of enormous dimensions, when but a little part of the work of land distribution and transfer had been undertaken. And why? Because the tenant purchasers fully realised then how greatly to their advantage was this system of county guarantee. Many of them, I have not any doubt, bought out their lands on much more advantageous terms than they would have if the Guarantee Fund procedure had not been devised, and I for one am perfectly certain that the honest tenant purchaser who has enjoyed the benefits of this procedure is not prepared to destroy it and to deprive those unfortunate people who have yet to buy out their land of the advantages which he himself has enjoyed because of it.

Let us look at this action in another way. One of the grounds upon which it has been launched is that owing to some flaw in the wording of the Land Act of 1933 the intention of the Oireachtas to maintain the Guarantee Fund procedure has not been precisely stated. That is the foundation of this case, so that those who have had the full benefits of the reduction of the annuities and the extinction of arrears granted by the Land Act of 1933 are now seeking, some of them, through their county councillors, to deprive the Exchequer of the protection and safeguard which it introduced, or which it sought to introduce, if Deputies wish me to be precise. In other words, we now find this position: that certain people are prepared to take all the advantages and to accept none of the obligations of the Act of 1933. If the public bodies who have embarked on this litigation were acting in an honest and honourable way, if they were acting in good faith, surely they ought to seek to have the whole Act declared invalid, and to say that, as the Oireachtas failed to give effect to its intentions in regard to the Guarantee Fund, so also has it failed to give effect to its intentions to reduce the annuities by 50 per cent. and to extinguish all arrears of longer than three years' standing. If they did that, then I could understand people getting up here and trying to put a moral face upon this vexatious litigation. If they got up here and said the whole Act is invalid, that the Government are not competent to reduce the annuities by 50 per cent., that they are not competent to extinguish all arrears because they are not competent to maintain the Guarantee Fund, then we might think that there was something behind this litigation, something other than a political purpose, the purpose of endeavouring, whether through the courts or by organised opposition in the country, to cripple this Government and to bring it down.

The whole basis, the whole foundation upon which this Government rests is that the public finances should be secured. If such a thing were to happen, if we were to permit the courts to find that there had been a flaw in regard to this Guarantee Fund procedure, I am certain that the reactions upon the public funds would be disastrous. We cannot, no matter what the hardships, at the present stage, just when we are emerging from our difficulties, when the country is getting solid ground under its feet again, and no matter what the cost, contemplate that as an outcome.

Now there is a great air of unreason about the whole of this debate. Deputy Cosgrave, in the course of his speech, tried to make the point that, after all, we were not concerned with the annuities which were payable under the Act of 1923. He said:—

"Very good. There is no question about the Act of 1923. The interest and sinking fund on it have got to be paid."

Where is the logic in that? If you cannot apply the Guarantee Fund to the pre-1923 annuities—and this is the case that is made—because you are going to compel the honest man to discharge the debts of the dishonest defaulter, why should you apply the same system to compel the honest man who meets his obligations under the post-1922 Acts to meet the obligations of the dishonest man who defaults his obligations in regard to his commitments under the same Acts? Where is the logic in that? The two categories of annuities stand on all fours. You cannot interfere with the application of the Guarantee Fund in relation to the pre-1923 annuities without affecting the 1923 annuities as well. Do you not think that if those who have to discharge their liabilities under the 1923 Act were to learn that their neighbours, under the previous Acts, were to get away with it and that nobody was suffering, not even the county councils, that speedily those who pay 1923 annuities would also make up their minds that they were not going to pay them? There has been, in fact, no argument adduced to show why, if the Guarantee Fund is not to apply to pre-1923 annuities, it should apply to the annuities paid under the 1923 and subsequent Acts. Deputy Cosgrave thinks there is a case and says: "Very good, there is no question about the Act of 1923." As was pointed out in the course of this debate, it was sought to create the impression that this Guarantee Fund procedure was being introduced for the first time. I think it was Deputy Corry who pointed out that Mr. Gorey, who was then a member of the Dáil, brought in an amendment in 1923 to abolish the Guarantee Fund procedure in respect of the 1923 Act. I feel that there is no fitter way in which I could conclude a speech on this question of the Guarantee Fund than by quoting the words of my illustrious predecessor, Deputy Cosgrave, who was then President and Minister for Finance:—

"I do not understand the purpose of this amendment. As far as I can see, it means that whatever guarantee you have had by the setting up of the Guarantee Fund goes by the board. The State is putting up a considerable contribution towards the solution of this problem. We look for some guarantee in respect of annuities that should be paid. Where they are not paid we call upon this Guarantee Fund. The Guarantee Fund is made up of moneys which in the ordinary course would be paid to local authorities in relief of rates. In order to secure that the Guarantee Fund will have moneys, certain sums are paid into it."

It might be put more tersely and more precisely.

They were annuities then, not taxes.

He also said:—

"Within the past few days we had to draw very heavily on this Guarantee Fund to pay the interest due on 1st July."

I might interpolate there, on the 1st July and the 1st January, in respect of the 1923 Land Bonds.

"Just imagine what our position would be if there was not a fund to draw on in order to make up the sum necessary to discharge the interest honourably due by us in connection with the previous Acts. The whole finance of this would break down and our credit would be very seriously damaged. We had that Guarantee Fund to draw on, which made it different. The local authorities in the area under jurisdiction of which those particular holdings are situate, will feel this change. There is no other way that we know of to bring it home to them equitably. A sum of over £1,000,000 is distributed from the funds raised in taxation to relieve local taxation."

Of course, we will express it in terms of the present day. A sum of over £1,850,000 is distributed from the fund raised in taxation to relieve local authorities.

"A certain amount of that is earmarked as a sort of security for the payment of those Land Commission annuities...

"If you in any way weaken that Guarantee Fund you are weakening the credit of this transaction; you are weakening any confident anticipation that we had from the beginning that this stock would remain at a fair price. It is most essential that it should remain at a fair price, because the basis of the Act was that it would be practically par. If you reduce the security a person has by taking away the security of the Guarantee Fund in any way, you are reducing the security that the person has who invests in land stock.”

What have the annuities to do with Land Bonds now?

Everything. I said when introducing the Bill that it was a great pity Deputy Dillon's industry in research was not commensurate with his energy in debate, because, if he had embarked on a little research, he would have been able to realise that we were able to reduce the annuities in respect of the 1923 and subsequent Acts by 50 per cent., and, at the same time, meet our commitments in respect of Land Bonds, because of the fact that we propose to collect the annuities that are properly due to this State in respect of land purchase prior to 1923. Then he would see what they have got to do with this and he would realise what our position would be if we were to allow this Guarantee Fund to go by default. Deputy Cosgrave, in that statement, said that he knew of no better way. I am not satisfied that a better way cannot be found. It is going to be very difficult indeed to bring these obligations home to dishonest annuitants. I am having that question examined. In the meantime, the Government has no other option except to ask the Oireachtas to re-state, in clear, simple and unmistakable terms, and to put it beyond challenge, that it always intended that the Guarantee Fund would be liable for any deficiency arising in respect of the purchase annuities fund.

I want to ask the Minister a question. He has made the charge against the farmers of this country that they have been dishonest and refused to pay the land annuities. Is not that statement branding the President as a downright liar, seeing that the President has on more than one occasion in this House, and outside it, stated that the British Government were collecting the land annuities from the farmers here in a more penal way than ever before?

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 63.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breen, Daniel.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Browne, William Frazer.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Daly, Denis.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hales, Thomas.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Jordan, Stephen.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamonn.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moane, Edward.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Doherty, Joseph.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.

Níl

  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Davin, William.
  • Davis, Michael.
  • Davitt, Robert Emmet.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Finlay, John.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Lavery, Cecil.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • MacDermot, Frank.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Minch, Sydney B.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Neill, Eamonn.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Rice, Vincent.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rogers, Patrick James.
  • Rowlette, Robert James.
  • Thrift, William Edward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.

That is democracy.

When will the Committee Stage be taken?

Next Tuesday? Will the members opposite not require to call the Ard-Fheis together to discuss this? Give them time.

Or shall we send it to a committee?

Until what day can amendments be handed in?

Surely the Committee Stage is not to be taken on Tuesday?

Very grave consequences may follow from this which will require very serious amendment. Retrospective legislation is always bad.

Up to when will amendments be received, in the event of the Minister pressing for Tuesday?

That is a matter for the Ceann Comhairle, but, so far as I am concerned, up to Tuesday morning.

Is the Ceann Comhairle in the House?

It is quite clear that Deputy McGilligan is.

Could we have the Ceann Comhairle here? He might have been in the Chair for the last division.

There are many places Deputy McGilligan might have been.

Might I ask up to when amendments will be received? Can anybody answer the question?

Could we not have the Ceann Comhairle sent for?

Up to what hour?

Might I suggest that the Ceann Comhairle be sent for so that we may ascertain the latest hour he will consent to for the handing in of amendments?

The only thing I can say is that amendments will be received up to 4 o'clock on Monday. I think that is a reasonable time to give for the handing in of amendments.

The suggestion has been made that they be taken up to Tuesday. Why can that not be accepted?

Of course, amendments have to be examined.

And also to be thought out.

Perhaps I may re-state what I did say. I said that the question of the latest time for receiving amendments was one for the Ceann Comhairle or Leas-Cheann Comhairle but that, so far as we were concerned, we would be prepared to receive them on Tuesday morning. If the procedure requires that they should be in the hands of the Ceann Comhairle on Monday, I am in the hands of the Chair.

The Minister has no objection to receiving them on the Tuesday morning?

Members in this part of the House cannot hear what is being said.

We are accustomed to address the Chair.

The Chair has a certain responsibility to the House regarding amendments. I consider it reasonable that amendments should be received by 4 o'clock on Monday in order to give the office of the Ceann Comhairle an opportunity of examining them in the light of order.

May I point out that it is not at all unusual for the Chair to receive amendments on the spot if there is a curtailment of the time between Second Reading and Committee Stage? On these occasions, the Chair has to make up its mind on questions of order. On more than one occasion, when the Committee Stage was taken quickly after the Second Stage, the Chair accepted amendments while the Committee Stage was proceeding.

Several country Deputies, now that the Bill has had its Second Reading, would like to consult the local authorities in their constituencies. I submit that I am entitled to a reasonable time to put in whatever amendments I may think necessary. It is not easy to get down to Longford and to return and hand amendments in here on Monday.

That is not a matter for the Chair. That is an argument against taking the Committee Stage of the Bill on Tuesday. The only question the Chair is concerned with is that of giving Deputies an opportunity to prepare amendments, and, at the same time, allowing time for examination of these amendments from the point of view of relevancy and order.

May I suggest that amendments be received up to 4 o'clock on Tuesday, and, if there is not time to have them examined, that the discussion be postponed?

Why not postpone the Committee Stage until Wednesday?

Think of the roundabout way Deputy Corry will have to go home during the next couple of days. How is he to prepare amendments?

Committee Stage fixed for Tuesday. 10th December.