Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Jul 1936

Vol. 63 No. 11

Committee on Finance. - Land Bill, 1936—Second Stage

This may be described as an amending and interpreting Bill, in that it is designed mainly as a further interpretation of the intentions of the Land Acts, 1923 to 1933, rather than as a measure containing fresh land legislation or embodying new policy. In enacting measures covering such a wide scope as the group of Land Acts since 1923, it was inevitable that there should be omissions of detail and failures of expression which only came to light in the practical working of the code by the Land Commission and its interpretation by the courts. This Bill proposes to remedy a number of minor flaws in the prior Land Acts which have produced various administrative difficulties, delays and hindrances in the work of land purchase and land division.

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I wish to express my deep personal regret at the untimely death of the ex-Minister for Lands and Agriculture, the late Deputy Patrick Hogan. I was looking forward to his criticism of this Bill for, whether one agreed with him or not, Deputy Hogan's arguments were well worth listening to. His keen and abiding interest in the land laws was well known to all of us in this House. It was only on yesterday that I received from him some suggestions for this Bill. I am looking into these suggestions to see whether they are covered by the Bill or whether they can be dealt with on the Committee Stage. The late Deputy Hogan was one of the pioneers of land legislation. His name will always be honoured for his work in connection with the Land Act of 1923 and for his efforts for the completion of land purchase and the provision of land for congests.

It is important that the main provisions of the Bill should be enacted as soon as possible in order that the Land Commission may be able to get ahead with their programme for the acquisition and division of untenanted land in the autumn. Their work since the end of last year has been seriously handicapped by the effect of certain judicial decisions on points arising out of the interpretation of sections of the Land Act, 1933, and it is one of the principal objects of the present Bill to remedy the defective sections and clarify the intentions of the Act.

The Bill covers a variety of miscellaneous matters so that any explicit generalisation of its 43 clauses is impracticable. Many of the proposed amendments in the law are purely technical and scarcely admit of brief elucidation, and on the other hand some of the clauses are self-explanatory.

The opening clauses of the Bill are the usual formal references to title, rule-making and payment of expenses. I may say here that it is not anticipated that the working of this Bill is going to involve any abnormal expense or, indeed, any appreciable fresh expense, but the usual provision must be inserted in the Bill.

Clause 4 contains provisions in regard to the redemption of Land Bonds issued under the authority contained in the Land Bond Act, 1933, or the Land Bond Act, 1934. Sub-section (4) of Section 4 of the Land Bond Act, 1933, and sub-section (2) of Section 7 of the Land Bond Act, 1934, provide that the Minister for Finance shall by regulations make arrangements for the redemption by means of periodical drawings of land bonds issued under the authority of those Acts.

It is not possible to include in the periodical drawings any land bonds unless they are registered, numbered and of definite denominations. When land bonds are issued for the purchase of an estate they are inscribed in bulk in the books of the bank in the name of the Land Commission and to the separate credit of the estate concerned. It is only when the purchase money is being distributed that the bonds are divided into various denominations and are registered and numbered. While only registered bonds participate in the drawings, the sums set aside in the Land Bond Fund for the redemption of the bonds by means of periodical drawings include not only sums set aside in respect of registered bonds, but also sums set aside in respect of inscribed bonds. Holders of registered bonds feel that this arrangement unduly increases the risk of their bonds being drawn for redemption. The regulations relating to matters referred to in paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 4 of this Bill will enable the Minister for Finance to postpone the first drawings of the land bonds issued under the Land Bond Acts, 1933 and 1934, until such time as he feels that the holders of registered bonds will not be faced with a disproportionate risk of having their bonds drawn for redemption.

The regulations referred to in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) will enable an improvement to be effected in the procedure for the drawing of land bonds of the smaller denominations. As matters stand each £1 bond and each £10 bond is represented by a separate disc, and has to be drawn separately. The grouping of the bonds in units of £100 will mean that only one disc instead of ten will have to be drawn in the case of the £10 bonds, and only one disc instead of £100 will have to be drawn in the case of the £1 bonds. When bonds of various denominations are subject to redemption by drawings it is usual to provide that bonds of the lower denominations should be grouped.

Sub-section (2) of the section empowers the Minister for Finance to invest sums set aside for the redemption of bonds pending the time that they are required for periodical drawings. If the first drawing of bonds is postponed for two years or longer, it is desirable that the sums set aside should be invested in securities bearing a fair rate of interest and not likely to suffer from capital depreciation, so as not to extend unduly the final redemption of land bonds. The State and the tenant purchaser between them pay into the Land Bond Fund each year sums equivalent to 4¾ per cent. on all sums advanced or paid by the issue of land bonds. The first charge on the sums paid into the Land Bond Fund is the payment of interest on the land bonds. As bonds are drawn for redemption and cancelled the amount required for the payment of interest is reduced, and the amount available for the redemption of the bonds will be increased. The interest earned on the investment of the sums set aside will be to some extent an offset against the reduction of the amount available for redemption owing to the postponement of the inception of the drawings. No alteration in the arrangements for the drawing of the British Guarantee 4½ per cent. land bonds can be made under this section.

Clause 5 contains a provision which should have been in the Act of 1933, and enables a funding annuity, i.e., an annuity set up to repay the arrears which were funded on holdings by the Act; of 1933, to be redeemed out of the resumption price of a holding. In the absence of this power funding annuities applicable to resumed lands have remained attached to the lands and have had to be apportioned amongst the various allotments into which the Land Commission divide a holding on resale. It is objectionable that new allottees should be burdened, even technically, with the repayment of the funded arrears of former owners and this clause will permit of the redemption of these funding annuities in the same manner as ordinary land annuities and other overhead charges are redeemed and cleared away under the existing law. There is nothing new in principle in the proposal which is in line with all previous practice.

The purpose of Clause 6 expressed in simple language is to apply to lands compulsorily acquired by the Land Commission the same provisions as regards redeeming existing purchase annuities as already apply under Section 56 of the Land Act, 1927, to lands voluntarily acquired. Claims against purchase moneys in respect of death duties and redemption of purchase annuities were ordinarily met by the immediate redemption at par of such bonds as were allocated for the purpose. As the cash available in the Sinking Fund was for some years insufficient to meet these claims, recourse had to be made temporarily to the Guarantee Fund. This being objectionable from the ratepayer's point of view, a change of procedure was made as regards death duties by Section 3 (1) of the Act of 1931. As the number of cases under the Act of 1933. in which redemption of purchase annuities has to be effected, is very large, and as the amount of Sinking Fund at present available would he insufficient to meet calls upon it, Clause 6 has been introduced to avoid again drawing on the Guarantee Fund. As long as bonds are at a premium the procedure proposed of reckoning the market value instead of the nominal value of the bonds will be more advantageous to the vendor than the present practice.

Clause 7 arises out of recent experience gained by the Land Commission in migrating a number of small holders from the West of Ireland to the County Meath, and gives the Land Commission statutory power to supply these migrants on their arrival with some provisions (the necessity for this for the first day or two will be apparent to everybody), and with fuel for domestic use, and it further gives definite statutory sanction to the Land Commission in respect of the special assistance which they have found it necessary to offer to these migrants in the cultivation and development of their new holdings. Whenever possible, migrants are transferred to their new homes at periods of the year when they can undertake their own tillage and put in their own crops and when they can cut and save their own supplies of turf. But it has happened already, and no doubt it will happen again, that migrants, of necessity, have had to be installed at a time of the year when tillage is not possible and when the turf cutting season is over. If they are to exist and carry on in their new holdings the Land Commission must prepare the way for them by tilling and cropping a certain proportion of the farms and by cutting and harvesting domestic turf supplies. It is not intended to do more than is essential at the particular season of the year to give the migrants a fair start. Some of this work will naturally be found to be necessary before the migrants take over possession of their new farms, but it is not proposed to continue assistance, however slight, for any period later than 18 months after the migrant is installed.

Clause 7 also includes covering sanction for the payment of the costs of bringing migrants to inspect holdings which are being offered to them. It will be understood that this is a necessary and unavoidable expenditure. It could not, for instance, be expected that the recent migrants from the Connemara district to County Meath would be willing to accept their new holdings unseen and, consequently, the Land Commission brought them or their representatives up to County Meath beforehand and showed them the lands and houses intended for them. The expense involved was very slight as special terms were obtained from the railway company, and it is not expected that heavy expenses will ever be incurred in bringing a proposed migrant to see the new holding intended for him.

In Clause 8 power is taken of transferring to a migrant's new holding any arrears of annuity for which he is liable in his old holding and freeing his old holding from these arrears so that the Land Commission may be enabled to divide the old holding amongst new allottees discharged from these liabilities. The lack of this provision has been a source of difficulty to the Land Commission in disposing of migrants' old holdings. Parties to whom it was proposed to allot portions of these old holdings naturally felt aggrieved at being required to assume responsibility for arrears of annuity, etc., accumulated by the preceding owner. As the law stands, these arrears remain on the land, but it is considered only right and proper that they should be rather attached to the migrant who incurred them and that they should follow him and become a charge upon his new holding. In other words, that he should carry his own debts instead of leaving them behind to be discharged by the parties to whom his old holding will be given.

In Clause 9 the Bill takes up and deals with another aspect of annuity arrears which has been a source of difficulty for years past. Up to the present there has been no power to waive or wipe out arrears of annuities. They remain a charge upon the lands, and the Land Commission have had, on this account, extreme difficulty in disposing of defaulters' holdings of which they had taken possession and upon which the burden of arrears was so great that no one could he found to take them over. And the same applies to untenanted land which they had taken back from allottees who had fallen into arrear. We are now taking power to sell these holdings or parcels discharged from all or part of the arrears, and, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to write off as much of the arrears as we find it impossible to recover. We frequently have purchasers who are willing and ready to pay us a price which will go a certain distance towards clearing off arrears in cases where the holdings are really not worth the existing total debt, and we consider it better that we should be able to close with such offers and get neglected and derelict land back into cultivation and paying its way again than that we should remain in possession with arrears accumulating and no possibility of securing a return from the lands. The operation of the clause will represent a distinct gain to the State, although I am glad to say that the number of cases to which it is likely to apply is not going to be very great, in my opinion.

In Clause 10 we are removing a doubt which remains in the interpretation of the Act of 1931 as regards the applicability of Sections 13, 15, 18, 19 and 20 of that Act to cases of the over-issue or under-issue of bonds in payment of compounded arrears of rent. There should be no difference in the treatment of bonds issued in respect of compounded arrears of rent and bonds issued in respect of standard purchase annuities, and it was not intended that there should be any difference. The clause merely gives statutory effect to the intentions of the legislature and to the practice of the Land Commission since the Act of 1931 was passed.

Clause 11 is drafted to meet an administrative difficulty which has been experienced since 1931. Under Sections 13, 15 and 19 of the Land Act, 1931, bonds over-issued in any particular estate are required to be redeemed. It is proposed that instead of redeeming land bonds over-issued in one estate they should, where practicable, be utilised for the benefit of estates in which there has been an under-issue of land bonds. The proposal is a simple and businesslike one. An adjustment account will be instituted in the books of the Land Commission and the finance of the Land Acts will be facilitated by the suggested arrangement.

The amendment in sub-section (3) of Clause 11 of the wording of clause (c) of Section 20 and clause (b) of Section 21 (4) of the Land Act, 1931, is rendered necessary by Sections 12 and 19 of the Land Act, 1933, whereby the annuity payable by the tenant was reduced by 50 per cent. or 55 per cent., the balance being payable by the State. In cases where it is known that excess bonds have been issued the vendor should, in equity, recoup the full amount which he has received.

Under Section 51 of the Land Act, 1931 (which is repealed by Clause 12), and the rules made under that Act tenant-purchasers were enabled to pay-by instalments the additional sum-referred to in Section 28 (3) of the Land Act, 1923. Some 80,000 holdings were vested in the Land Commission in the year 1931. The instalments of additional sum in these cases have long since been liquidated. The additional sum is only one-sixth of one year's annuity and as it is halved under the Land Act of 1933 it is considered that the instalment revision is not now necessary for such tenants as may, in future, be admitted to the benefit of land purchase. Besides, these small practical payments involve a disproportionate amount of clerical and accounting work in the Land Commission.

We now come to an important clause—Clause 13—called for by a ruling of the Supreme Court interpreting one of the provisions of the Land Act, 1933. One of the main purposes of this Bill which I am now introducing is to clarify certain provisions of previous Acts, the terms of which have recently either been interpreted by the courts in a manner different from the intentions of the Oireachtas or have otherwise been found not to be sufficiently clear and self-explanatory. The matter dealt with by Clause 13 is one in which the courts have ruled that the wording of the Act of 1933 is not sufficiently clear as to the intentions of the legislature. About those intentions there is no doubt but we must make sure that they are clearly and adequately expressed in our legislation and that is what we propose to do by Section 13. It was thought that Section 38 of the Land Act, 1933, had given the Land Commission power to reduce the standard purchase annuities of holdings subject to judicial rents and now in the course of purchase under the Act of 1923. A decision of the Supreme Court, however, shows that the Act, as worded, provides for revision only in cases of non-judicial rents. We are putting the matter right, we hope, by this clause 13 which is retrospective, and which specifically enacts that the Land Commission have power to revise annuities on holdings subject to judicial rents. For the information of Deputies, I might, perhaps, state that Section 38 of the 1933 Act enables the Land Commission, where they are not satisfied that a holding included in a list of vested holdings was, on the 9th August, 1923, security for the standard purchase annuity, to reduce the standard purchase annuity to what they regard as a proper figure and it was, definitely, the intention of the Legislature that this power should be given to the Land Commission in respect of holdings subject to judicial rents just as fully as in the case of non-judicial rents.

Now, the necessity for taking power to revise annuities arising out of holdings where judicial rents were fixed in the past may be questioned in the course of debate here. Many people assume that rents which were the subject of judicial orders and which were entitled to periodic reductions once, twice or three times under former Acts, must be fair and satisfactory. That that is not so in every case many Deputies are aware. There are estates and there are individual holdings in which, for one reason or another, judicial rents were arrived at which were always wrong and excessive and which cannot bear examination. There are not a great number of such rents, but, still, there do exist too many cases where the resulting annuities would be definitely unsafe and insecure from the point of view of the Land Commission whose duty is twofold as they have to see that the tenant purchaser is not saddled with a burden of repayment which he is likely to be unable to bear and, secondly, that the vendor is not paid a purchase money far in excess of the value of the land. Let me mention a few examples, actual instances with which the Land Commission desire to deal under the powers taken in Section 38:—

Standard Purchase Annuity based on Judicial Rent

Standard Purchase Annuity based on Land Commission Fair Rent
















































































































That list shows what we are attempting to do under this section and what we attempted to do under the 1933 Act. I think all Deputies will agree that if an annuity, based on the judicial lent, is twice what in the opinion of the Land Commission the land can bear, that we should take steps now to reduce the annuity accordingly.

Under Section 2 of the Land Act, 1929, it was provided that agreements between landlord and tenant as to purchase annuities on holdings subject to non-judicial rents entered into before the passing of that Act could be received and acted upon by the Land Commission. Causes 14 of this Bill enables such agreements between landlord and tenant to be received and acted upon if entered in to since the date of the passing of the Act of 1929. These agreements, of course, are subject to the overriding power of revision given to the Land Commission by Section 38 of the 1933 Act, to which I have just referred.

Deputies are aware that under the existing provisions of the Land Code tenant-purchasers are frequently required to pay portion of the purchase money of their holdings in cash. This usually happens, I may say, when the standard price of the holding exceeds £3,000. The Land Commission will make advances repayable on the usual terms up to a purchase money of £3,000 in ordinary cases or of £5,000 in cases of stud farms covered by Section 9 of the Land Act of 1927 (half of this is borne by the State, the tenant being liable only for 50 per cent. of the annuity on the purchase money). But they may require the excess beyond £3,000 or £5,000 to be paid in cash. Similarly, in the allotment of untenanted land and the resale of holdings on Congested Districts Board estates, sales for cash or part cash are regular features of Land Commission work. Clause 15 of the Bill provides that where the whole or part of the purchase money is payable in cash the cash payment shall be utilised to redeem an equivalent (£ for £) amount of the original advance to the vendor and thus relieve the State of the burden imposed on it by the Land Act, 1933, Section 22, whereby the State became liable for half of such payments. It is considered proper that £1 paid in cash in cases where £3,000 or £5,000 has been advanced or in cash sales of untenanted land should redeem £1 of the original advance and not £2 as would result from the application of Section 22 of the 1933 Act to these cash payments.

I should like to call attention to sub-section (2) (b) of Clause 15. The Land Commission, in allotting untenanted land, frequently distribute for cash small plots of turbary required by parties who have no holdings with which an annuity could be consolidated. In such cases as these the price apportioned on the plot is the same price as that applicable to plots given to smallholders, who will pay for them by means of annuities, whose annuities are halved in accordance with the terms of the 1933 Act. In such cases it is considered that the cash payments being made by parties who are equally if not more necessitous than the smallholders should be half the apportioned price, so that the payment to be exacted from these people will be on exactly the same basis as that exacted from smallholders. Sub-section (2) (1)) gives the Land Commission this power and sub-section (3) gives them a similar power in regard to sales for cash of holdings on Congested Districts Board estates. It would be wrong to charge full cash prices in cases like these while dividing annuity payments in two for purchasers on the same estates who are in a position to accept advances.

Clause 16 is a corollary of Clause 15 and provides that whenever the Land Commission decide to make an advance of more than £3,000 to a purchaser (or of more than £5,000 in the case of holdings coming under the stud farm provisions of Section 9 (2) of the Land Act, 1927) so much of the advance as exceeds the normal limit of £3,000 or £5,000, as the case may be, shall not be revised under the Land Act, 1933. That is to say, a tenant-purchaser, the standard price of whose holding is, say, £4,000, and to whom the Land Commission agree to make an advance of the full purchase money, will be expected to pay half annuity on £3,000 and full annuity on the remaining £1,000. We feel that a purchaser who obtains the benefit of an advance exceeding £3,000 (or £5,000) has no cause to complain if, having obtained that amount at half rates, he is called upon to pay the full annuity rate upon what might be referred to as the excess advance. The clause also contains provisions by which holdings of husband and wife are bulked for the purpose of calculating the advance for which they are liable.

A recent decision of the High Court, interpreting the existing law regarding the levying of fees and expenses by county registrars and sheriffs enforcing warrants of the Land Commission for the collection of arrears, makes it necessary that the statutes should contain clear and explicit powers for the collection of such fees and expenses. The High Court declared that the addition of sheriffs' fees and expenses would invalidate a warrant issued under Section 28 of the Land Act, 1933. The position is now rectified by Clause 17, which is retrospective and which enables fees and expenses incurred by a county registrar or under-sheriff in the execution of warrants of the Land Commission issued under Section 28 of the Land Act, 1933, to be charged by him against the defaulter.

Clause 18 is also concerned with the machinery of collection. It is intended to remedy a defect in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1927. It has been held by the courts that in cases where the debtor is not in law the owner of the lands the section does not enable a levy to be made on the property of third parties found on the lands which are charged with the annuity for default of payment of which the Land Commission has obtained judgment or issued their warrant. Clause 18 of this Bill will enable orders at the suit of the Land Commission to be executed on all stock found on the lands which are liable to payment of the sums in respect of which the order is granted or the warrant issued. It is required to meet the not uncommon case where an annuity payer occupying a farm of land has not made out title in succession to the former owner. Section 28 of the Land Act, 1927, makes the occupier liable for the debt, but the effect of the section has been to an extent nullified by the restriction of the power of execution given by Section 31 to property found upon the occupier's own lands. If such an occupier lets the lands (which are not legally his own) it would not be in order for a sheriff to seize the stock belonging to a third party. Clause 18 rectifies that position and deprives a defaulting occupier and actual owner of that particular avenue of escape.

Clause 19 is also drafted with a view to clearing up a doubt affecting the collection powers of the Land Commission. It extends specifically the provisions of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act, 1926, in regard to the examination of debtors as to their means, to the case of debtors against whom a Land Commission warrant under Section 28 of the Land Act, 1933, has been issued. Although Section 28 states that a warrant shall have the same force and effect as an execution order within the meaning of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act, some doubt appears to exist as to how far these particular provisions of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act apply to such cases, and it is considered desirable to have a clear statutory statement on the point.

Clause 20 is purely administrative. It extends the power of the Land Commission so as to enable them to appoint limited administrators to deceased purchasers in cases where advances are proposed to be made for the improvement of holdings of which the registered owners are dead. In any such case the appropriate next-of-kin can in future be recognised by the Land Commission as limited administrator for this particular purpose and can sign for the advance.

Section 24 of the Land Act, 1923, provided amongst other matters that all untenanted land situated in congested districts counties, whether acquired by the Land Commission for the relief of congestion or not, should automatically vest in the Land Commission on the appointed day. And by Section 32 of the same Act an owner could require the Land Commission to resell to him such lands as were not wanted for the relief of congestion and to make an advance to him for that purpose up to the limit prescribed. There is there, it will be seen, statutory provision for the automatic purchase by the Land Commission and resale to the owners of such untenanted land in the congested districts counties as is not required by the Land Commission for the relief of congestion. The process entails the issue of land bonds and corresponding State commitments, and as the lands concerned would be in practically every instance residential holdings, often freehold, there is really no necessity for it. Under Clause 21 of the Bill such untenanted land will be just left in the owner's possession. He will no longer be in a position to call upon the Land Commission to purchase the lands from him for land bonds and to resell them to him on an annuity basis. He is already where it is the object of the Land Commission to place all tenant purchasers—full owner of his land.

Clause 22 repeals, in effect, the provisions of Section 42 of the Land Act, 1927, dealing with what are called "committee" cases. This section of the Act of 1927 was intended to benefit those "committees" of purchasers (or guarantors of purchase money) whose operations (with which most Deputies will be familiar) had taken place within a ten-year period prior to the Act of 1927. It is considered that all these cases have now been dealt with, and it is proposed, therefore, that no further applications, other than those received by the Land Commission before the 1st January, 1936, shall be investigated. It cannot be said that members of bona fide“committees” have not had ample time since 1927 to take advantage of the special provisions inserted in the Act of that year for their benefit.

I come now to Clause 23. Under Section 24 (2) (e) of the Land Act, 1923, the purchase provisions of the Land Acts were not applicable to lands possessing a substantial value or utility, whether potential or actual, as building ground. This restriction was modified by Section 46 of the Land Act, 1933, which removed it from tenanted land suitable for building if such building had not been already undertaken. Following the trend of land legislation applicable to tenanted land, we consider that the restriction still existing against the Land Commission acquiring land which is suitable for building should now be confined to land which has an actual as distinguished from a potential value as building ground, and Clause 23 is inserted to produce this result. Experience has shown that the phrase "potential value" is too vague and might result in excluding definitely from purchase by the Land Commission land which is really agricultural.

Some doubt has been raised as to whether the powers of resumption possessed by the Land Commission enable them to acquire retained holdings for the purpose of distribution amongst the parties specified in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923. The Land Commission wish to have it made perfectly clear that they are empowered to resume a holding compulsorily and to utilise it for all their statutory purposes as indicated in Section 32 of the Land Act, 1933, and we are therefore inserting Clause 24 in this Bill extending definitely and specifically the compulsory powers given to the Land Commission in respect of resumption. There is no new principle involved, as it is obvious that the Land Commission must have power to utilise resumed lands as fully and as freely as the ordinary untenanted lands which they acquire compulsorily.

The clause also includes a fresh provision enabling the Land Commission to take possession of a holding before the resumption price is fixed in cases where urgent improvement works have to be carried out prior to distribution. Pending the issue of the land bonds applicable to the resumption price, the person entitled will be paid interest on the resumption price. These proposals are in line with the provisions of Sections 30 and 31 of the Land Act, 1933; Clause 25 has been prepared in order to simplify the procedure followed by the Land Commission when acquiring land compulsorily. In future the one procedure as regards certificates, publication of provisional lists, hearing of objections and so on will be followed whether the lands proposed to be acquired compulsorily are needed for the relief of congestion or for the purpose of resale to the parties indicated in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923, under the powers given by Section 32 of the Land Act, 1933.

Under Clause 26 it is made clear that even when lands have been declared and acquired compulsorily fur the relief of congestion provision may be made in the distribution of those lands for employees who have lost their employment as a result of the purchase of the lands by the Land Commission. There is here only a formal legal expression of what has long been recognised in practice, because the Land Commission in dividing lands always considered the claims of ex-employees and provided for them even on lands which had been declared as required for the relief of congestion.

Under Section 29 (1) of the Land Act, 1933, the owner of land which is being compulsorily acquired for the relief of congestion is entitled in certain circumstances to claim an alternative holding if he is not already the owner of other land to the market value of £2,000. In Clause 27 lands owned by a husband and wife are to be bulked for the purpose of arriving at the market value of the lands remaining in the possession of a tenant or proprietor after the portion proposed to be compulsorily acquired by the Land Commission has been purchased. This provision is necessary in order to avoid an obvious opportunity for evasion of the intentions of the 1933 Act.

In a case (estate of Peter C. Alley) which came before the Appeal Tribunal in April last, it was held that in the absence from the section of a specific vesting provision, lands certified by the lay commissioners under Section 32 of the Land Act, 1933, as being required for the purpose of resale to the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923, could not vest in the Land Commission. This decision has held up action in a large number of cases in which the Land Commission were proceeding to acquire lands compulsorily for their statutory purposes and had issued or were about to issue certificates under Section 32. Clause 28 provides the legal provision which was found to be missing and secures that lands certified by the lay commissioners under Section 32 of the Act of 1933 shall vest in the Land Commission on the appointed day.

Under Section 30 of the Land Act, 1933, the Land Commission are given power to acquire untenanted lands before the price is agreed upon or fixed wherever such land is required for immediate distribution. Experience has shown that immediate possession is at times required by the Land Commission in order to enable them to get allead with improvement works which are necessary forerunners of distribution, and in Clause 29 of this Bill the power of early entry on lands given by Section 30 of the 1933 Act is extended to enable the Land Commission to get immediate possession where they find that there are improvement works which are necessary and which should be put in hands before actual distribution. A case in point would be a large estate which is capable of being broken up into a number of holdings on which residences and out-offices have to be built. The sooner the Land Commission can go into possession of these lands for the purpose of getting on with building works the better the progress they will be able to make with their land division operations. The landowner is placed in no worse position than he is at present, as all objections must be cleared before the Land Commission can go into possession and no question will remain to be settled except that of price.

Clause 30 is almost self-explanatory. Under Section 14 of the Land Act, 1931, claims of tenants to have their names included in a list of vested holdings must be listed for public hearing by the Commissioners. Clause 30 does away with the necessity and the trouble and expense of these public. hearings in cases in which the tenants' claims are admitted by the landlord and approved by the Land Commission and will save time and costs to all parties.

There has been some doubt, I understand, in the minds of lawyers as to the legal effect of the "listing" of holdings under Sections 23 and 24 of the 1931 Act upon the rights of the Land Commission in respect of the lands listed. Clause 31 declares that the listing of a holding docs not deprive the Land Commission of any rights which they possessed in relation to the holding immediately before the publication of the list. Many holdings published in these lists are held under grazing agreements or temporary convenience agreements. As a result of "listing" the tenants have been given the benefit of revised payments, but it has been suggested that they are entitled to much more and that parties holding from the Land Commission under these agreements are practically in the same position as annuity payers. The Land Commission could not accept such an interpretation of the law and this Clause 31 has been inserted to make the position clear and to preserve the rights of the State.

Clause 32 is mainly a matter of office procedure. It proposes to dispense with the necessity of publishing in lists under Section 24 of the Land Act, 1931, parcels of untenanted land held under undertakings to purchase where the entire purchase money is being advanced. It will save time and trouble by dispensing with a quite unnecessary piece of procedure.

Clause 33 by sub-section (1) deals with the reference to "the Minister for Lands and Agriculture" in Section 9 (1) of the Land Act, 1927, and provides that the Minister to be consulted, so far as stud farms are concerned, is the Minister for Agriculture. He is really the Minister who is in a position to say whether or not a stud farm is being conducted on any lands and whether or not the thoroughbred stock bred there is suitable to and required by the country.

Sub-section (2) of Clause 33 makes it clear that decisions as to whether lands are used as stud farms are to be made by the Lay Commissioners with an appeal available to the Appeal Tribunal on questions of law or of value.

The Land Commission are at present empowered to provide rights-of-way to and from land sold or agreed to be sold under the Land Purchase Acts. The provision of a right-of-way is frequently undertaken as an improvement upon an existing right-of-way which, consequently, becomes unnecessary, but the Acts so far contain no provision enabling this unnecessary right-of-way to be extinguished. Power is, accordingly, being taken under Clause 34 to extinguish in such cases existing rights-of-way, but only where new rights-of-way are being conferred in substitution for them.

Of late years the attention of the Land Commission has been drawn to quite a number of instances around the coast in which pasture lands and tillage have been lost or seriously encroached upon by blowing sand and in practically every case it has been proved that the damage has resulted from failure to preserve and spread bent grass which appears to be the natural protector of these areas. Even when their own property is in danger, farmers have been known to persist in cutting and removing the bent, which, if allowed to spread naturally, would have saved their lands from being destroyed by blowing sands. The Land Commission have in hands a number of schemes for the reclamation of lands covered by blowing sand and they have found that success has attended the fencing off of the damaged areas from trespass by cattle and the planting of bent under suitable conditions of protection. It is considered desirable, however, if the State is not to be called upon to incur heavy expenditure all round the coast in restoring property which it is in the power of the owners themselves to protect, that something should be done to prevent the cutting or removal of bent from areas where danger is anticipated. Powers are accordingly being taken in Clause 35 making it an offence to cut or remove bent or any similar grass in cases where land which has been or is about to be sold under the Land Purchase Acts is likely to be injured.

The next Clause, 36, is called for by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of the estate of David Rafferty, in which case it was held that lands once vested in purchasers under the Land Act, 1923, could not subsequently be acquired by the Land Commission under their compulsory powers. The Clause, which is retrospective, enables such land to be acquired for distribution purposes just as lands purchased under the Acts prior to 1923 can be acquired. There is, of course, no reason why these lands should be given a status of indemnity not given to lands purchased under, say, the Acts of 1903 and 1909 and it was not intended that they should be specially excluded from compulsory acquisition for all time. An important provision in the Clause is that those lands are not to be interfered with in future by way of compulsory acquisition within a period of seven years after vesting.

Clause 37 enables the Land Commission to acquire sporting rights over lands vested under the Land Act, 1923, which were excluded from that vesting. Deputies will remember that a similar power was given by Section 34 of the Land Act, 1933, in the case of land vested under the Land Acts prior to 1923.

Under the Land Act of 1923 the time for ascertaining the character of lands either coming within or excluded from the operations of the Land Purchase Acts was the date of the passing of that Act, i.e., 9th August, 1923. Section 36 of the Act of 1933 modified this requirement as regards agricultural or pastoral, or partly agricultural and partly pastoral, lands and as regards residential holdings and glebe lands and provided that the character of such holdings for the purposes of admissibility to the benefits of land purchase was to be determined by reference to the date of the passing of the 1933 Act, i.e., 13th October, 1933, and to the commencement of every successive period of five years from that date. This modification of Section 36 of the 1933 Act and the provisions of sub-section (2) (b), (c) and (g) of Section 24 of the 1923 Act are now repealed, and it is provided by Clause 38 of the present Bill that the period for determining the character of lands shall be the period of five years preceding the institution of proceedings under the Land Acts; so that lands which, for example, were excluded as being demense lands in 1923 will not now be excluded if they are now and have been for a period of five years undemesned. And similarly as regards residential holdings, home farms, parks, gardens, pleasure grounds, glebe lands and so on.

The Land Commission have frequently of late years been compelled to exclude from the benefits of land purchase holdings of which only part could be held to be entitled to admission under the Land Purchase code, the remainder being properly and clearly excluded for one reason or another; as up to now the Land Commission have not had power to divide such a holding and to apportion the rent on the two parts. Under Clause 39 the Land Commission are now taking these necessary powers of division and apportionment, and in future they will be able to admit to purchase under the Land Purchase Acts that part of a holding which should not be excluded, while the rest of the holding which should be excluded will be allowed to remain in its existing condition, the holding being divided and the rent payable apportioned by the Land Commission. The clause contains suitable provision for appeal to the Appeal Tribunal and later to the Supreme Court on questions of law.

Before admitting to purchase under the Land Acts lands included in fee farm grants and long leases, the Land Commission must be satisfied, inter alia, that “such parcel is not required for the relief of congestion.” This is provided by Section 44 (1) (e) of the Land Act, 1931. In keeping with the powers conferred upon the Land Commission by Section 32 of the Land Act, 1933, it is now necessary to add to this provision, and this is being done in Clause 40 by words setting out that the lands are not required by the Land Commission for distribution amongst the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923.

The next clause, 41, also deals with lands held under fee farm grants and long leases, and modifies the provisions of Section 44 of the Land Act, 1931, and Section 42 of the Land Act, 1933. The principal changes are the following: In future part of a parcel can be given the benefit of the purchase provisions of the Acts and the remainder excluded in cases where the requirements of the Land Acts are fulfilled in respect of part only of the parcel. This power is similar to that being taken under Clause 39, the difficulties experienced by the Land Commission in their dealings with lands held under fee farm grants, etc., being exactly similar to those applicable to dealings with tenanted land where part only of the land came within the four walls of land purchase and part was clearly outside the code. Up to the present the Land Commission have not had power to divide lands and apportion rents under such circumstances.

Then the benefits of Section 44 and Section 42, already referred to, are now by this clause being applied to lands held under fee farm grants and long leases which have already been purchased under the Land Purchase Acts; but it is considered that it would not be proper that lands so admitted to purchase for the second time should be given the benefit of the revision of annuities and the funding of arrears under the Land Act, 1933, and consequently those revising provisions are not to apply to those particular cases.

It is further provided that an application may be granted even when, after the application had been lodged, a grant or lease had been terminated on account of non-payment of rent. There are, it is understood, a number of cases in which parties who have applied to the Land Commission for admission to the benefits of land purchase and who are awaiting a decision upon their applications have been proceeded against by their immediate landlords and decrees obtained.

A further provision to which attention may be called is that in paragraph (g) of Section 41 which states that in fixing the standard purchase annuity of a parcel of land which is being admitted to purchase the Land Commission shall have regard to the value of the land at the date of the order granting the application. Hitherto, standard purchase annuities have been fixed by reference to the value of land at the 9th August, 1923. There are obvious difficulties, becoming greater every day, in fixing now and in the future standard purchase annuities by reference to values of 13 years ago.

Clause 42 enables drainage maintenance charges to be redeemed out of the purchase moneys or resumption prices of the lands liable thereto. This has been the practice of the Land Commission up to the present, and the clause is inserted to give specific statutory sanction to the practice following upon a recent decision that in cases of resumption such charges could not be redeemed. These charges arise under the Drainage Maintenance Acts, 1866 and 1924, and are charges under an award where money has been expended on putting drainage systems into repair; they are not to be confused with maintenance rates imposed annually for the upkeep of drainage systems; these latter are annual irredeemable charges.

The clause does not apply to any charges placed on tenanted lands after the date of vesting in the Land Commission.

The final Clause 43 relates to a question of procedure. In the Irish Land Act of 1903, by Section 16 (2), a statutory two months' notice was required in the case of agreed purchases of untenanted land. Prescribed advertisements have to be published prior to the making of the vesting order. The statutory hold-up of acquisition for two months in a case of voluntary agreement to sell and purchase land has frequently been the cause of difficulty and avoidable delay in distribution. It is unnecessary, and power is taken by Clause 43 to make the period of notice a matter to be prescribed by rule rather than by statute.

It is considered in the Land Commission that in ordinary cases a month's notice and in some cases even less should be ample.

Now, the main reason why this new Land Bill has become necessary and urgent is that when certain of the provisions of the Act of 1933 came to be interpreted in the courts it was found that powers which the Act was intended to give and which the Land Commission thought were in the Statute and upon which they had been acting were not actually conveyed by the wording of the Act as we passed it here. That is no new happening in the subsequent interpretation of legislation by the courts, and often no great damage or difference results. Here, however, as it happens, the want of certain of these powers which the 1933 Land Act was intended to convey has had the result of putting a stop for the time being to urgent and necessary public work with which the Land Commission is entrusted, and so we come to the Dáil with an amending Bill to place the intentions of the Legislature beyond question. To illustrate what has occurred I may refer again to the decision of the Appeal Tribunal in the case of Section 32 of the 1933 Act. Under that section the lay commissioners were given authority to exercise all or any of the powers possessed by them in relation to acquiring lands for the relief of congestion in any case in which they certified that land was required for resale to the persons or bodies mentioned in Section 31 of the Act of 1923 (that is, to uneconomic holders, migrants, evicted tenants, ex-employees, trustees and so on). That section, which seemed to be satisfactory and wide enough as it stood, was introduced to enable the Land Commission to obtain land readily for all their statutory purposes as well as for the relief of congestion, and since the Act was passed most of the Commission's acquisition proceedings have been conducted under it. The court, however, has held that the section should have included a specific provision vesting the certified lands in the Land Commission and in the absence of this provision lands so certified could never vest in the Land Commission who are, therefore, unable to make any use whatever of this particular section. A great deal of land has been certified and the proceedings have advanced a certain distance. When this Bill, which contains in Clause 28 the needed vesting powers, has been passed the Land Commission will be able to complete their work of acquiring these lands and will be able to distribute them in the coming autumn or spring—work which would otherwise have to be postponed indefinitely.

Then there is the matter of the power of the Land Commission under Section 38 of the 1933 Act to reduce standard purchase annuities in certain cases where they are not satisfied that the holdings are security for the advances. That section was intended and drafted to cover cases of judicial as well as non-judicial rents, and when the point was questioned the Appeal Tribunal confirmed the view of the lay commissioners that annuities on holdings formerly held under judicial rents came within the ambit of the section. The Supreme Court, however, arrived at a different conclusion, and so we have come here with Clause 13 of the present Bill to place the matter beyond doubt. There are, as I have shown in what I said just now when dealing in detail with Clause 13, cases of purchase annuities arising out of judicial rents which call for revision just as urgently as do annuities created in respect of non-judicial rents—all judicial rents without exception were not fair and equitable charges—and we could not agree to let these holdings be vested with what the Land Commission consider to be impossible annuities attached to them.

I want it to be clearly understood that in regard to these and the other legal decisions with which the Bill is concerned, we are not challenging the decisions of the courts or their interpretations of the statutes. The courts have a duty to be jealous and strict in preserving the rights and even the privileges of all citizens against interference by anyone, whether a State Department or a private individual, without clear legal warrant, and we here in the Legislature have a duty to see that we express our intentions in our statutes in terms which leave no room for reasonable doubt, and particularly so when, as in our land code, we take powers which affect privileges which have not hitherto been challenged. I say all this because I do not want it to be advanced, as one Deputy advanced the criticism the other day, that we are challenging the decisions of the courts. We are not. What we are doing is amplifying and making clear, we hope beyond reasonable doubt, certain sections which close examination by judicial authority has shown not to contain powers which they were intended to contain and which it was thought they did contain. We can pass statutes here; we do our best to see that they express the intentions of the Legislature, and we have draftsmen second to none—on that point I think the Opposition will agree with me. But we are not the authorities to interpret our own statutes. It is only when, at a later stage, our legislation comes under examination in the courts that we are given a judicial interpretation of what we have done and that we can see whether we have, in fact, done what we proposed to do. So far as this Bill is concerned at all with court decisions, it does no more than set out with what we hope is ample and final clearness proposals which it was thought the previous Acts contained. The courts are entitled to expect that of the Legislature when doubts are raised; so far from challenging judicial decisions, this Bill is one to assist our courts in interpreting the mind of the Legislature in regard to land purchase.

In discussing a measure of this nature it would probably be better, and it would be more usual, if I were to go through the not very numerous sections upon which I wish to make some comment, in their numerical order, but when I heard the extraordinary statement made by the Minister before he sat down, in the peroration of his address, I felt it incumbent on me to deal first with Section 17. The Minister told us—and these are his exact words: "We are not challenging the decisions of the court." The Minister tells us that, far from challenging judicial decisions, this Bill is one to assist the courts in interpreting the mind of the Legislature in regard to land purchase. When, however, I turned to Section 17 of this Bill which, according to the Minister, does not challenge the decisions of the courts, which, according to the Minister, does not in any way interfere with the decisions of the courts, and I come to clause (b), sub-section (3), I find this in it:

"Every judgment or order obtained in any such proceeding before the passing of this Act which was made solely on the ground that such warrant was invalidated by such additional fees and expenses as aforesaid shall be and be deemed always to have been void and unenforceable."

In other words, we have a decision on the legal rights of two individuals. We have a decision in the case of a citizen of this State who has sued a sheriff for an illegal seizure because the sheriff has demanded and obtained from him a sum of money which the sheriff was not entitled to get. Because of that illegal payment, of that enforced payment of a sum illegally demanded, the courts have decided in certain cases—not many of them, indeed—that these seizures are bad in law, that they are a trespass on the property, a trespass to the goods of the person whose property has been seized, and the courts have given such persons decrees. I want to know how you can treat our courts with contempt, how you can treat our courts with contumely, how you can hold up our courts to public ridicule, if you like, better than by saying: "The courts have decided the rights of certain parties. We here in the Dáil will come along and by our decision, by our legislation in specific cases, set aside those decisions of the court and will say that a decision which has been given by the High Court of Justice in Ireland is null and void and unenforceable." I should like to know how you can treat the High Court in this country with greater contempt than by saying: "Yes, you have decided the rights between parties, but that decision of yours is null and void." What are our courts for? What dignity will be left to our courts if, after the courts have decided the rights of parties, this House comes along, sets aside these judgments and says: "These judgments are to be null and void"?

This is retrospective legislation. Retrospective legislation is always bad. Retrospective legislation is to be avoided as much as eyer it can possibly be avoided. Not only, I say, should it be avoided as much as possible, but it should be avoided in every way and at all times and under all circumstances. This is the worst and most extreme example of retrospective legislation we have ever had. We are asked solemnly to denounce the decisions of our courts, if this Bill becomes law, and declare them to be null and void. And the Minister says: "We are not challenging a judicial decision"! Oh, no, we do not challenge its correctness, but we do a great deal more: we challenge its effect. We sweep away its effect. A plaintiff who has got a decree against a defendant is now to have that decree absolutely set aside and possibly—it is in the discretion of the court by the section—he may be asked to pay the costs of the action in which he was successful. That is not challenging the decision of our courts! I would ask the House and the Executive Council to consider where that is leading. A person goes into a court and gets a decision. According to the law of the country he has got certain rights, and the courts declare those rights for him. Is it right, is it just, is it moral for this House to upset, as far as individuals are concerned, the rights which they possess as individuals of this State?

I know the reason for it. For some reason, which I have never been able to grasp, the Minister is wedded to Section 28 of the Land Act of 1933. I do not think that any Deputy in this House, whether he be in the Fianna Fáil Benches, the Labour Benches or any other bench in this House, will differ from me when I say that that Section 28 of the Land Act of 1933 has done more injury to the administration, the observance and the respect for the law in the country than any other section contained in any piece of legislation passed through this House. I ventured at the time that that Land Act was going through the House to point out to the Minister—he was not then Minister for Lands, but he was conducting, as you may remember, this Act through the House—that all through Irish history nothing caused more trouble or more disturbance than levying distress for rent, and that precisely the same would happen when he was levying distress for annuities. We know what has happened. We all know the amount of trouble, resulting in one terrible case in actual bloodshed, the loss of a human life and serious injury to a number of other people, that has been caused by this wretched procedure of seizing cattle, not after a decree has been obtained through the courts, but simply on the certificate of the Land Commission. It was unsuccessfully argued in the case of Halpin versus the Land Commission, by counsel for the Land Commission, that that was a valid distress warrant, and that, that being so, fees were leviable for distress.

Sheriffs demand in many cases very much larger sums than they are entitled to. In many cases where the sheriff comes ill, as the law stands he can only get £3 in the shape of fees for levying a distress. As many Deputies know, sheriffs have been demanding, according to the distance they have to travel, sums very much in excess of £3. And it is sought here retrospectively to justify these illegal charges. But there is even a worse side to the matter. I appeal to the Minister, if he wants peace in this country, and not trouble in connection with the collection of annuities, to drop Section 28 and go back to the ordinary procedure where a man could go into court and make his defence and where his case would be heard in a public court. If the Minister would go back to the ordinary procedure, and not adopt Section 28, he would do a great deal towards making the collection of annuities easy, and he would avoid future turmoil, because this turmoil is due entirely to the operation of that section. The Minister goes further. In Section 19 he says: "A warrant issued by the Land Commission under Section 28 of the Land Act of 1933, shall be deemed to be a judgment of a competent court within the meaning of Section 15 of the. Enforcement of Court Orders Act, 1926." In other words, if the Land Commission make a mistake, by sending a written demand, and even if the man upon whom the demand is made writes up and says the money is not due, and that a mistake has been made, they are not bound in the slightest bit by what he says. They can hang on and say: "There is our certificate," and the person must pay the sum claimed. He has no remedy at all, because the same sanctity that was given to a decision of our courts is now given to a certificate issued by a junior official of the Land Commission. The Land Commission need not go into the matter at all; no responsible official need go into it. The opinion of the lay commissioners need not be taken. There need be no inquiry into the matter. The certificate is given by some writing clerk of the Land Commission, and that is all, and that is given the force and sanctity of a decision of our courts.

A writing clerk!

Any clerk can do it. I am open to correction, but whether the work of such clerk is revised or not, I see nothing to prevent a writing clerk making a mistake in the certificate that he is writing, and yet his certificate having all the force of our courts of law.

Section 17 has a very bad principle in it. It is an altering of the law, and of the rights of individuals, and it is to operate retrospectively. That is a terribly bad principle. It goes further than any principle in this regard has ever gone before in our statute law. It may be that Section 17 is inoperative. Personally, I think if Section 17 comes to be interpreted in our courts, if it is not altered, it will be found to contain a very big flaw. However, that will be for the courts to decide later on. Then if my view with regard to the flaw in Section 17 is correct, the Minister, I presume, will come back to the Dáil and say: "I wanted Section 17," and will have another shot at trying to make it more retrospective. The whole thing is very bad. All the public ask from the courts, and from this House, is that the courts will interpret the expressed intention of the Legislature. After all, let us suppose someone goes to a solicitor, or to a member of the Bar and takes his opinion. He is advised as to his legal rights under the interpretation of a particular statute, and he acts upon it. If he accepts that expressed opinion as a real opinion, he naturally acts bona fide upon the opinion he got from his legal adviser; yet though that opinion is perfectly right and sound we are now going, by retrospective enactment, to upset everything that has been done. This is really not a Party matter. If the sanctity of the decision of the courts is to be upset by a specific legislation, it is going to prove an injury not only to Deputies on this side of the House, and those they represent. but to Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches and the Labour Benches and those they represent. It is a matter that affects the whole community.

If our courts, having decided the rights as between parties fairly. according to their interpretation of the expressed intention of the Legislature, are afterwards to have their judgments upset, then the whole thing is simply shocking. If judgments of that kind do not stand, the whole respect and confidence of the country in our courts must go. It is very injurious to have such judgments set aside. There never has been a precedent for that. I did not think any Government would go so far. I never thought that any Government would go so far, or dream of going so far, as this Government is going in Section 17. I do not think the Minister can really have grasped the full implications of Section 17.

What is the meaning of this expressed intention of the Legislature? Is it the wording of the Act or the speech of the Minister?

You cannot go by the speech of the Minister. You must take the statute and the view expressed in it. It is not what the Minister said in introducing the Bill or anything of that kind you can look to. What the Minister said might not be the view of the House, for instance. The Minister might make an explanation and say that the section met a certain thing. I might vote for it believing that it had the opposite effect. The courts must decide on what the statute contains. The only way a lawyer can advise his client is on what the Legislature said. It is bad enough in the case of litigation as between the citizen and the State, but as between citizen and citizen, where one has acquired his legal rights and then, without warning, finds that the decision he had got can be set aside and declared null and void, it is simply terrible. I ask the Minister to take this whole matter into account and give it full consideration. It is not, as I have said, a Party question. It affects people on the other side of the House as well as on this side. This wretched principle which has been growing is now increased to this terrible extent. If it is not corrected and driven out, nobody can have any confidence in the decisions of our courts and the vitality and binding force of the judgments of our courts can be set aside at the whim of any Minister who wishes to do so and has got a majority in this House.

I do not intend to follow the Minister section by section through this Bill. There are only a few sections which strike me as strange, and which I should like to have elucidated. I cannot understand the underlying principle of Section 9. Owing to stress of circumstances, a man may be unable to pay his land annuity. His land is taken from him on account of non-payment of his annuity, though he may not be at all to blame. Men are not always responsible for their own poverty. Under the Bill, that land is to be given over, free of all charges, to somebody else. If you are going to wipe out the annuity arrears, why not wipe them out for the debtor in cases where you are satisfied that the debt was not due to negligence or carelessness on his part but rather to misfortune? Why wipe out the debt and then give the whole benefit to somebody else rather than to the man concerned, who is very often a deserving person? Men write to me—I am satisfied that they state the facts accurately—explaining that they cannot pay their annuity now but that they may be able to do so some time later. People in that position are to be put out of their land and the land is to be given, free of arrears, to somebody else.

Where is that in the Bill?

In Section 9. The Land Commission can sell the defaulter's holding discharged from arrears. I am not referring to all debtors. There may be wasters amongst them. I am referring to the genuine, hardworking man who has been unable to make ends meet. If arrears are to be wiped out, they should be wiped out in his favour rather than in favour of somebody else coming in.

Where docs the section say that the land is to be given free to somebody else?

The land is to be given freed from these arrears. Section 16 gives rise to a rather curious position. The larger annuities are to be raised. A man may be paying £60 now and next year, for the same land, he may have to pay £75 or £80. So far as I understand from the Minister, a number of existing annuities will be raised under Section 16. A good deal might be said for that exemption in the case of future sales, but here, again, you have a very bad principle. I may purchase a holding and go into possession on the understanding that I am to pay a particular annuity. I may discover that the annuity is suddenly raised by £10 or £15 per annum under Section 16. That would be very unfair to a bona fide purchaser who thought he was buying land subject to a certain sum. The annuity on land purchased for over £3,000 is to be raised under this section.

Section 25 is largely a procedure section and my interpretation of it differs somewhat from that of the Minister. Taking sub-sections (2) and (3) together, it seems to me that objections will not be heard by the lay commissioners in court and that there will be no opportunity for a person to make an objection except in the case provided for in sub-section (3). In no other cases will there be a court hearing, whereas there is now a court hearing of all objections. That is my reading of sub-sections (2) and (3), taken together. The words "listed for hearing" occur in sub-section (3) and do not occur in sub-section (2). So far as I can gather, there will be no hearing save in the case where a man claims to have another holding given to him because the lands taken from him are under £2,000. I do not know whether that is the intention of the Minister but it seems to me to be the result of these sub-sections taken together. I hope the intention is that in both cases the objections will be listed for hearing. It would be a shockingly bad principle if a person were not allowed to put his own case and call his own witnesses before the lay commissioners, as is now the practice.

Section 26 interests and amuses me very much. In itself, it does an exceedingly sensible thing. When land has been bought for the relief of congestion, it enables the Land Commission to give a holding to anybody who has been working on the land. I am glad to say it does not go a stage further. I am glad to notice that it does not say that, when land has been acquired for the relief of congestion, it shall be open to the Land Commission to give a holding to a dispensary doctor or to two national teachers. I know the Minister has a great deal of courage, but I am glad to say that that performance has not, by this Bill, received legislative authority or even retrospective validity.

That could only happen in Mayo.

I daresay it happens in other places but there is more vigilance in Mayo than there is in other parts of the country. First of the important sections comes Section 36, which deals with the position of persons who have purchased under the Land Act of 1923. Section 36 is the starting of a new principle. That section is turning persons who purchased under the Land Act of 1923 from being, for all practical purposes, fee simple owners of their land to lessees for seven years of that land. Nobody who has purchased under the Land Act of 1923 or the subsequent Land Acts has any security, because that land may be resumed again at the end of another seven years after he has purchased the land. The Minister says there is no difference between persons who have purchased under the Land Acts subsequent to 1923 and the Land Acts passed before 1923. I should like to point out to the Minister that there is, indeed, a very big difference. In the earlier Land Acts there was no provision made for the relief of congestion. A great number of holdings of land were sold, not through the Congested Districts Board; they were the only people who dealt with the relief of congestion. Even in the congested counties the lands were sold to the Estates Commissioners and the Estates Commissioners sold to the occupying tenants very large tracts of land.

These very large tracts of land, so far as Mayo is concerned, have all now been bought out and utilised for the relief of congestion. But since 1923 and indeed earlier than that—since roughly about 1910 when the Congested Districts Board got to work—there was no direct sale from landlord to tenant. I know the Congested Districts Board started very much earlier than 1910, but they were in full swing after the passing of the Birrell Act. From that time onwards, as I have said, there was no direct sale from the landlord to the tenant. The Congested Districts Board did not resell any land which they thought was required for the relief of congestion. Since 1923 that principle too had been carried on. The person who buys a holding of land to-day and in whom it is vested to-morrow knows that he has got no certainty or security for any future time beyond the period of seven years. As I read Section 36 such a man has got seven years' immunity, but from that time onwards, the land can be taken from him. It must be borne in mind that this is not a threat of danger to large owners only; not a threat only to people who pay a £30 or a £40 a year annuity or people with a £30 or £40 a year valuation. I know cases where the Land Commission have sent out notices of their intention to resume small places of a valuation of £5 or £6 for the relief of congestion. Therefore it is that nobody can regard himself as safe if this section goes through as it is.

I should like to point out to the Minister that if you want this country to be in a good and prosperous condition, if you want agriculture to thrive, there must be security and certainty of tenure for the annuitants. Anybody who has any knowledge of the country knows that without security of tenure there can be no good farming in this country. The time will come very soon when the Land Commission can, so to speak, schedule the whole country and when the whole country can be put into the position when the Land Commission can say: "These are the farms we are to take up, these are the farms we want." Unless the Land Commission can say that the rest of the country can have complete security for the future, there will be no free sale of land or free and full security for the occupying annuitants.

I now come to Section 38. On this section I have not been able to follow the Minister's explanation with regard to the Land Act of 1933. The distinction between the lands set out in sub-section (1) of Section 38 and other lands is completely swept away. That clause has assimilated all the other clauses of the Land Act of 1933. They are now put upon a somewhat different basis. They are again back to the 1933 basis. That is how I understand this section, but the Minister's explanation was that what had been decided to be demesne land five or six years ago would not have any immunity as demesne land if it had not been used as demesne land in these last few years. But I do not think there was any greater immunity for demesne land than for any other land. There was immunity promised by the Minister which the Land Commission did not carry out. The Minister's words were very specific. They were that no land which was being properly farmed would be taken up except for the relief of congestion in the immediate vicinity. He embodied that, and I personally thought that he embodied it very clearly, in the section. I tried to argue that the Minister's interpretation of his own words was right. I tried to argue on these lines before the Land Commission and I was run through the roof. This is another example where the Minister's expression of his intentions was not carried out by the court. It was not exactly before a court. It was before the lay commissioners. I argued the case which was that of a man living beside the beet factory growing beet and wheat and farming in the nearest possible way to the lines suggested by the policy of the present Government. That was his method of farming. There was no congestion in his immediate vicinity at all.

There is nothing further I wish to say upon this Bill except to tell the House that there are some very bad, dangerous features in it. Personally I would like to make the Bill as little controversial as I could make it. What I have said in my attack on those sections I have not said with the object of creating any controversy. What I have stated to the House was inspired by a very genuine and a very sincere desire of having alterations made in the Bill in those sections that would seem to me to involve very pernicious principles, principles which should not be introduced into the legislation of this State. I say that once the courts have pronounced on the rights of parties, once they have decided on the rights of parties, those rights should not be set aside by this House.

The Minister's one sole, solitary and, I think, unconscious joke in his introductory statement was that some clauses in this Bill were self-explanatory. This is legislation by reference. So far as I can see, there is no section in this Bill that is self-explanatory. There is no section in it which could possibly be understood without reference to legislation passed since the Land Act of 1903. The Bill, as the Minister said, is designed to amend certain sections of the Land Act of 1933 because of certain adverse decisions given in the courts. I think the Minister further stated that that was the principal object of the Bill. So far as I can ascertain, only four sections in the Bill are designed for that purpose. It is true that there are three or four other consequential sections and, probably, one other section which I think is introduced for the purpose of anticipating a decision of the Appeal Tribunal.

I think that this Bill can be regarded merely as a further step in the direction of removing the last remnants of the security of tenure which tenant purchasers in this country enjoy at present. Not alone is this Bill designed, in a number of sections, to reverse certain court decisions, but it is also designed to deprive the owners of land in this country of the few rights and privileges which are left to them. It is further designed to bring under the control of the Land Commission every class and type of land hitherto excluded from the operations of the Land Acts. The Land Act of 1933 gave the Minister almost absolute power in the acquisition of land, and before the Minister should proceed to extend that power it appears to me that he should make a survey of the success which has attended land distribution under that Land Act. It is true that he has rushed land distribution. It is also true that land distribution is taking place to-day at a greater rate than ever it took place before in the history of the Land Acts. But is the Minister satisfied that he can, with safety, rush land distribution and, at the same time, ensure that the right class of people, and the class of people best qualified to work land, are getting it? I suggest to the Minister that before he proceeds to acquire further extraordinary powers to enable him to acquire further land he should make a survey of the position with regard to land distribution under his own Land Act of 1933 and find out, first of all, what use the people, who have got land under that Act, are making of it. I think he will find in very many counties, in very many areas, and on very many estates, that many people have got land under that Act who should not have got it if the inspectors had had time to investigate fully the circumstances, conditions and qualifications of each individual applicant.

Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney suggested that before we proceed further with land acquisition, and before we proceed further in the direction of upsetting almost completely the agricultural economy of this country, which is based largely upon the holding of land, the Minister or the Government should state to what extent they are prepared to go in the acquisition of land. Is it their intention to standardise the holding of land in this country? Is it their intention to allow farmers only to own a certain acreage of land! Is that to be the policy of the Government in relation to land acquisition? I think it is time, for the purpose of restoring some sort of security amongst the owners of land, that the Minister should state publicly what his policy is, and that he should avail of this Land Bill as a suitable occasion for the purpose of stating what his policy is with regard to land acquisition, and what, in his opinion, should be the acreage of land which every individual farmer should have the right to hold.

The Bill is, as the Minister stated, an amending and interpreting Bill. When the Land Act of 1933 was passing through this House, the Minister's attention was called to the fact that many of the sections were loosely drafted and that, if it was ever to become effective as a legal document, it was necessary to amend those sections in certain respects. The Minister did not heed the advice which he got from the Opposition, and the result is that; he has to bring in this Bill for the purpose of interpreting his own Act of 1933. I am not so sure that, even when this Bill reaches the Statute Book, the Minister will not have to introduce a further Bill for the purpose of interpreting certain sections of it.

I do not propose at the moment to deal with the finance sections of the Bill as we shall have an adequate opportunity, I hope, of discussing these sections on the Committee Stage. There are many things I should like to say about some of the sections at the moment, but I do not propose to waste the time of the Dáil just at present in discussing them. I pass on to Section 7, which gives the Minister certain additional powers in regard to the removal of migrants from one part of the country to another. It provides, amongst other things, for grants to migrants for "the purchase by such migrant of provisions and fuel for himself and the members of his family residing with him;" and for "assisting such migrant in the cultivation and development of his new holding." This section, I assume, was introduced primarily for the purpose of facilitating the Minister in transferring colonies of Irish speakers, either from the West, or the other seaboard portions of the country where Irish is still generally spoken to-day. The Minister's predecessor, Mr. Connolly, in the discussion on the Estimates this year did give the House to understand that further schemes of that kind were in contemplation. I assume the section has been introduced primarily to enable the Minister to carry out fully that purpose.

I have expressed my views in rather strong terms on many occasions on the policy underlying this whole question of transferring colonies of migrants from the West or the South or the North, as the case may be, to the Eastern counties. I have held all along, and as a matter of fact even the experience of the latest migration scheme of the Minister has borne out the truth of my statements, that this class of people were entirely unsuitable as migrants for the purpose of working economically and efficiently the good land of the County Meath.

If you want evidence of that you have only to turn to the court proceedings in Athboy, I think in the first week of June. I have not got the actual date, but the report I have is taken from the "Angio-Celt," a Cavan paper, and is as follows:—

"At Athboy District Court, before Mr. C. Beatty, D.J., 15 residents at the Rathcarne Gaeltacht Colony were prosecuted by rate collector Joseph Martin, on behalf of Meath County Council, for recovery of arrears of rates. Mr. T. Noonan, Solicitor, for the county council, and Mr. D. J. O'Reilly, Solicitor, for the defendants.

"Mr. Noonan said that the defendants were a number of persons brought over to Meath from Connaught for the purpose of colonising Rathcarne. They were now tenants on the Rathcarne estate, to the Land Commission or somebody else, and were in occupation of the land. The proceedings were taken under the Poor Law Relief Act, 1845 (Section 63). They were individually rated.

"Mr. O'Reilly said that his clients had entered into occupation of Rathcarne about April, 1935.

"In reply to the Justice, Mr. Noonan said that the rate had been apportioned.

"Joseph Martin, plaintiff, explained that when the demand notices were served in January last, the Land Commission subsequently paid portion of the rates, although they stated that they were not liable. He had given the defendants credit for the amount paid by the Land Commission. He later served amendment notices on defendants. Witness then proceeded to mention the different amounts owed by each of the 15 defendants."

The average amount in respect of rates owed by each defendant would be about £7. In addition they were in default in the payment of their Land Commission annuities. That transpired during the hearing of the case. The report goes on to say:—

"Mr. O'Reilly said he was not in the position to dispute any of the figures, and added that Mr. Martin had got what he could from the Land Commission. In reply to Mr. O'Reilly, plaintiff said that the lands on which rates were due were originally one assessment, and comprised the J.J. Mahon estate. It was split up amongst immigrants who came from Galway, each of whose holdings ranged from 20 to 23 statute acres. Originally, the lands were highly rated but, compared with the lands around Athboy, were not highly rated. The entire valuation was apportioned amongst the immigrants, there being no reduction in the gross amount.

"To the Justice—The land was the best in Meath.

"Mr. O'Reilly said that it was particularly unfortunate that his clients should have to appear in the capacity of defendants for non-payment of rates. It was common knowledge the conditions on which these people came to Meath. They were brought from County Galway for the purpose of establishing a Gaelic colony in Meath and on conditions which, at the time, seemed favourable. In the first year, each family got 30/- weekly grant from the Government. They were also supposed to have got live stock, cattle, horses, and fowl to establish themselves. These people were pioneers put on 18 to 22 English acres. That acreage for County. Meath was reckoned a particularly small holding. His worship would appreciate these people coming into a strange neighbourhood absolutely not in a position to accumulate anything to meet outgoings. They were in the same position as those who went to virgin land in America to colonize it."

and so on. One of the defendants gave evidence which is very interesting.

"Michael McGrath, one of the defendants, said they all thought the rates would have been much lower. They had been promised that the rates would be only £5, and now they were £8. Continuing, through the interpreter, defendant said that a promise that any shortage there was in implements or stock would be made good had not been kept. There was a deficiency of a donkey, cart and harness, etc.

"The justice gave the usual decree with a stay of execution."

The proceedings at that court show quite clearly that the Government, in undertaking that experiment, have incurred a huge loss, and that as long as the experiment continues the financial loss is bound to increase. Now, I have not mentioned these particulars for the purpose of giving publicity to the unfortunate position in which these tenants find themselves. I have quoted these extracts expressly for the purpose of emphasising how impossible it is for people to succeed in the circumstances in which these people now find themselves. It is not in the nature of things to expect that people of that kind, taken from perhaps the poorest land in this country, land with just a sod on top of a rock, and transplanted to the best land in the Province of Leinster and to perhaps some of the best land in Ireland, can succeed in the absence of the requisite experience. Many of them were for the greater part of their lives engaged at work as a sort of half-farmer and half-fisherman. The call of the sea is in their blood, and many of them are availing of every opportunity that offers in order to get back to the districts which they have left.

I would like to know from the Minister if he proposes to saddle the taxpayers of this country with a further huge expenditure of money for the purpose of carrying out experiments of this character. If the Minister will take the trouble to look up the records in the Land Commission he will find that there is ample evidence, going back to the days of the Congested Districts Board, to prove that it is quite impossible to colonise successfully with that type of people districts which contain land of a different quality from that on which they have been brought up and where the marketing conditions are so completely different from those which obtain in the West of Ireland. I would like to know from the Minister whether it is still his intention to proceed further with these experiments. Does not the Minister recognise that the policy that was pursued by his predecessors in office was, after all, a sensible policy— that is, the policy of taking out the larger type of farmer and giving his land, which would be somewhat similar in quality to the land that these people were always in the habit of working, to the poorer classes of people? If there is any chance at all of this policy of migration succeeding, it can only succeed by taking out the bigger and better-class type of farmer, and even then, in some cases, there is always the danger and risk of nonsuccess.

The Minister knows perfectly well that, even in cases where big farmers have been taken from the West and South and from some of the Northern counties and transplanted to the neighbourhood of Dublin, they have not succeeded very well: that for some years after they were migrated the Land Commission had to subsidise them to a certain extent. I understand that even yet, in certain respects, the Land Commission has to come to the assistance of some of them. How, then, I ask, can it be possible for poor people, taken from perhaps the poorest part of Connemara, accustomed only to the cultivation of the very poorest land, to succeed under completely new conditions, and to cultivate a completely different class of land, unless the Government is prepared to go on eternally subsidising them? The proceedings in the Athboy Court prove conclusively that already the arrears are so great as to dishearten them. After one year, with such amounts due and with these arrears in the way of rates and annuities, is it reasonable to expect that these people will apply themselves to the cultivation of the land with the same diligence and industry as if these lands were free of debt and free of any arrears?

Section 8 was referred to by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, and for that reason I propose to pass it over. Section 9 was also referred to by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. As it introduces a rather novel principle for disposing of land encumbered with debt, I will just refer to it briefly. The Minister will recollect that when his Party were in opposition in this House they offered a certain amount of opposition to the Land Commission in their efforts to sell these farms. There is no doubt whatever that the Government to-day is reaping some of the evil seed that they sowed so recklessly in those days. Now, it is only in the nature of things to expect that in present circumstances, and in view of the state of impoverishment to which so many farmers have been reduced, the Minister should take such power to dispose of defaulters' holdings. The Minister, according to my interpretation of this section, is offering what is virtually a bribe in order to get rid of this land.

But the Minister has not taken into consideration the repercussions on the local authorities. There is not a word in this section about local authorities and the losses that will accrue to them as a result of the powers the Minister is taking. The local authorities, after all, were not responsible for these people being allowed to accumulate such an arrear of land annuities, but yet they have to participate in the loss without any hope of recoupment. Is the Minister not going to amend the section in such a way that local authorities will be recouped for any losses they may suffer? Some local authorities will undoubtedly suffer a great deal more than others because of the fact that there will be a greater number of these farms for sale in some counties.

I do not propose to deal now with Section 13, which is one of the sections with which the Minister dealt at some length. Section 13 is one of the sections introduced for the purpose of reversing a decision in the courts. I have no doubt it was the intention of the 1933 Land Act that the Land Commission should have the power which the Minister is now seeking. The sections intervening between Section 13 and Section 17 can be more effectively and more intelligently discussed on the Committee Stage. I do not propose to examine Section 17 from the standpoint from which Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney examined it. The point of view expressed by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney is the point of view that will appeal to a lawyer, and it is only a lawyer who will be competent to deal adequately with that matter. I will try to look at it from the point of view of the ordinary person, the standpoint of the ordinary Deputy. The section has been introduced for the purpose of overriding a decision given by Mr. Justice Johnston in the High Courts. There was no section in the Land Act of 1933 that gave rise to so much discussion and opposition in the Dáil as Section 38. It was pointed out by every Deputy who spoke on that section that the Land Commission were seeking power which they should not get and that it really was a gross scandal that the Land Commission should ask for such power as was given them in Section 38. Every argument that was then used against that section can be used against it much more effectively to-day because of the experience of the last two or three years. There is no doubt that by reason of the sympathetic way in which the officials have administered the section they have mitigated to a certain extent many of its most glaring hardships.

Section 17 has to be read in conjunction with Sections 18 and 19; the three have to be taken together if the real intention of the Land Commission is to be understood. Section 17 is being introduced for the purpose of enabling the Land Commission to collect costs and expenses in levying their warrants for unpaid annuities. It may well be that the expenses and the fees, plus the amount of the unpaid arrears, well exceed the value of the holding in very many cases. If one is to judge by the arrears of land annuities, there must be very many holdings on which there is a big accumulation of arrears. If the costs and expenses of the sheriff and the county registrar are to be added to the warrants, the Minister can rest assured that he will have to make far greater use of the previous section, which gives him power to sell out a defaulter than he anticipates.

In Section 18 he is taking power to seize goods, animals or other chattels, to whomsoever they belong, found on the land. He had that power under the Land Act of 1927, but the conditions to-day are completely different to the conditions existing in 1927. In 1927 the arrears of Land Commission annuities was only about one-fourth or one-fifth of what they amount to to-day. The tenant farmers were then in a position, because of the facilities afforded to them by the then Administration, to meet demands for annuities. The position to-day is quite different. The Minister knows perfectly well that by virtue of the policy of the present Government the amount which the farmer receives from the sale of his produce realises little more than half of what it realised in 1927. Yet it is in circumstances such as these that the Minister proposes to strengthen the power already given him by the 1927 Land Act and, in addition to levying costs and fees in the collection of Land Commission warrants, he proposes to seize every four-footed beast, every chattel and every bit of property belonging to the unfortunate defaulter.

Having done all that, in Section 19 he seeks further powers to drag the unfortunate defaulter before a district justice. If the man is unable to pay, then probably the district justice will make an order directing him to pay by instalments, and if he is unable to pay by instalments, then the Minister takes the power to send him to prison. And this from the so-called poor man's Government! Surely the Minister had ample powers under existing legislation to deal adequately and sympathetically with cases of that kind; but seemingly, acting on the instructions of his officials, he is prepared to go further than the power given him under the Land Act of 1933 and he endeavours to reduce the unfortunate defaulter to a condition of absolute and sheer helplessness. So much for Sections 17, 18 and 19. They are three sections which the Government should certainly be proud of. Anybody reading, interpreting and understanding them must surely say that we are living under a most beneficent Government.

Under Section 22 "advances may be made by the Land Commission after the passing of this Act for the purchase and resale of land under the powers conferred by Section 42 of the Land Act, 1927, where an application for such purchase and resale was lodged with the Land Commission before the 1st day of January, 1936, save that no such advance shall be made after the passing of this Act." Frankly, I do not understand that section. I hope it is not one of the sections which the Minister thinks are self-explanatory. Somehow or other it has a sinister appearance, and I should like the Minister to give some explanation of it when he is replying to this debate. The marginal note says: "Termination of powers under Section 42 of the Land Act, 1927."

What section is the Deputy referring to?

Section 22. It reads:—

"Advances may be made by the Land Commission after the passing of this Act for the purchase and resale of land under the powers conferred by Section 42 of the Land Act. 1927, where an application for such purchase and resale was lodged with the Land Commission before the 1st day of January, 1936, save that no such advance shall be made after the passing of this Act...."

Does it refer to the Committee and Land Bank cases? Are there many of those cases left? It is 10 years ago since legislation was first passed for the purpose of dealing with Land Bank and Committee cases, and surely to goodness there were not so many altogether. They should be dealt with by now, and it should not be necessary at this stage to pass fresh legislation to deal with that type of case. I should like to know from the Minister whether there are any cases still left, and how many of such cases have still to be dealt with?

There is none that we know of.

There are some cases left.

I was certainly under the impression that all those cases had been finished with some years ago, and I was rather surprised to see in this Bill a section which I only surmise is to deal with those types of cases.

I know one big case which is left.

Have they applied?

The Minister for Finance is dealing with it at present.

Section 23 deals with building ground. I notice that the Minister has altered the phrasing of the Land Act, 1933, and has excluded from this section any reference to potential value in building ground. The Minister quite obviously is thinking only of the present, and has not envisaged at all the possibility of development for the future. Does not a section of this kind cut right across the housing policy of the Minister's own Government? Surely to goodness if that policy is to be carried to completion—and we have been told by the Minister for Local Government that it will take a great many years yet to conclude their housing programme—it will be necessary to acquire a great deal of land for the purpose of completing that housing programme. For that reason, it seems to me that the Minister should have left the word "potential" in the section, so that he would be enabled to leave an adequate amount of land not merely for carrying out the building programme on which his Government has engaged, but for the natural and normal development in the neighbourhood of towns, seaside resorts and other places which will in the ordinary way be developed and enlarged in the course of time. It seems to me that the Minister, in the phrasing of this section, is only thinking of the present, and that he does not contemplate leaving any land which may be utilised, let us say, five or ten years hence, for the purpose of housing development.

I have very little to say about Section 24 except that it represents a new departure on the part of the Land Commission. It is the first time, so far as I am aware, that the Land Commission proposed to resume land for the purpose of providing sports grounds, pleasure grounds, etc. Again, I think the Minister had adequate power under previous Land Acts for the purpose of acquiring all the land that was necessary to provide either sports or pleasure grounds. I do not know why it is necessary for the Minister now to extend the scope of the land code to enable him to acquire land for this particular purpose. In Section 25 there is another new departure. The present position, as I understand it, is that the Land Commission publish a notice of their intention to declare that the lands are required for the relief of congestion, and such notice is in lieu of the provisional list. Apparently now, according to my reading of Section 25, the lay commissioners must first give a certificate, and then the provisional list is published. I do not see any reason for that change, and do not know what object it is designed to achieve. Again, I should like to have from the Minister when he is replying some explanation as to the real meaning of that section.

Section 26, I think, was also referred to by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. It appears to me to be a very loosely drafted section, and gives the Land Commission almost indiscriminate power to deal with persons who lose their employment because of the acquisition of estates. I daresay the Land Commission had a definite object. in mind when this section was included in the Bill, but certainly the phrasing of the section has not made that object very clear. According to my interpretation of it, it is now possible for the Land Commission to provide land by way of compensation for any man who loses his employment, regardless of the qualifications of that man to work the land. For instance, a chauffeur who is working for wages on an estate, driving the owner of the estate from where he resides to the nearest town, or to Dublin or any other part of the country, and who loses his employment because of the fact that the Land Commission acquired the estate and the dwelling house thereon, would, according to the wording of this section, be entitled to land, although it may happen that he has absolutely no qualifications whatever for the management and cultivation of land. Is the section intended to apply only to those employees working for wages at the present time who are disemployed because of the acquisition of estates, but who have certain qualifications for the management and cultivation of land? If you are going to segregate employees in this fashion, then how do you propose to deal with other employees who have no experience in the management or cultivation of land? The section is obviously unfair, because it is discriminating between classes of employees on estates. I assume it is intended only to provide holdings for the employees who lose their employment and who are qualified to work the land. There is no provision whatever for other employees on the estate who lose their employment and who are not qualified in any way in the management and cultivation of land.

Section 29 is another section which has been drafted solely and simply for the purpose of reversing a court decision. I agree that the Minister did intend, in the Land Act, 1933, to take the power which he is now seeking under this section. Section 33 is a very important section, and affects a very important industry, namely the breeding and raising of bloodstock. Now, it appears to me first of all, that this section is very loosely drafted, and that sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) are not related at all. In sub-section (1) it is stated that:—

The determination of the question whether any thoroughbred stock is or is not of a nature and character suitable within the meaning of sub-section (1) of Section 9 of the Land Act, 1927, to the requirements of the country....

is a question which will be determined by the Minister for Agriculture. Very well. As I understand the sub-section, the Minister for Agriculture will determine the character and the quality of the live stock suitable for a particular area or a particular district in this country. That is sub-section (1). Now, sub-section (2) says:—

The decision of all questions whether any land, whether tenanted or untenanted, is being used in a bona fide manner as a farm for the purpose of breeding thoroughbred stock within the meaning of Section 9 of the Land Act, 1927, shall be made by the Lay Commissioners (other than members of the Appeal Tribunal) and the decision of such Lay Commissioners on any such question shall be final subject only to an appeal to the Appeal Tribunal on questions of law or of value, and the decision of the Appeal Tribunal on any such appeal shall be final subject only to an appeal to the Supreme Court on questions of law.

Now, in the first part of the section— sub-section (1)—the Minister shall determine the quality and the character of the live stock suitable for a particular area or a particular district in this Free State of ours. His duty finishes there. Now, the Lay Commissioners come along and they say— or at least the Bill says—that the decision of all questions whether any land, whether tenanted or untenanted, is being used in a bona fide manner as a farm for the purpose of breeding thoroughbred stock within the meaning of Section 9 of the Land Act of 1927 shall be made by the Lay Commissioners. It shall be made by them without any consultation at all with the Minister for Agriculture. Now, surely the question of whether any land is or is not suitable for the breeding of live stock is a question which the Lay Commissioners alone should not be allowed to decide. They may be judges of land, but they are certainly not supposed to be judges of live stock, and there should be provision made in this section for consultation between the Lay Commissioners and the Minister for Agriculture, it seems to me that there is a missing link somewhere. It is quite obviously unfair to give the Lay Commissioners such drastic power to acquire a farm of land —a farm that is probably used for the breeding of some of the best and most profitable bloodstock that we have in this country—and to leave that question and the making of that decision exclusively in the hands of the Lay Commissioners, without consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, seems to me to be an extraordinary power, and I am perfectly certain that it was never intended that the Lay Commissioners should have such indiscriminate power and authority in that respect. I do suggest to the Minister that he should make provision in sub-section (2) of this section for consultation between the Lay Commissioners and the Minister for Agriculture before any land on which bloodstock is raised at the present time is acquired by the Land Commission.

Then, again, under previous legislation there was always an appeal to the Judicial Commissioner on the question whether such land was being genuinely used for the breeding of live stock or not. This section proposes to do away with the right of appeal, and the Lay Commissioners shall have complete power to decide whether that land shall or shall not be acquired. There is no right of appeal whatever, except on questions of law or of value, and on that there is a further right of appeal to the Supreme Court. Surely the Minister must realise that our bloodstock is a very valuable item in our export trade, that the raising of bloodstock in this country represents a very big national asset, and that a matter of that kind should not be dealt with, as it is dealt with here, in such a haphazard fashion. Surely the Minister should also realise that, if the industry is to be preserved and encouraged some inducement should be held out to the men who are engaged, and profitably engaged, in the industry at the present time to continue in the industry and to develop it still more. Would not a section such as this, in this Land Bill of 1936, have the effect of discouraging such men, or, perhaps, of driving some of the best of them out of the country, or, possibly, causing them to transfer some of the best of their bloodstock establishments over to the other side of the Channel, as some of them have done already? Is not a section of this kind designed to drive some of these people out of the country, with a consequent loss of money and experience? I would ask the Minister to examine this section very carefully and to see especially that, so far as sub-section (2) is concerned, provision is made for consultation between the Lay Commissioners and the Minister for Agriculture before any land used for the raising of bloodstock in this country is acquired.

In the other sections also the Minister is gradually nibbling away the privileges and rights that were left to owners of land under the Land Act of 1933. I do not know whether at this stage it is worth while saying very much about the remaining sections of the Bill, but I certainly have a good deal to say about all of them on the Committee Stage of the Bill. I think that this Bill, like its predecessor, the Land Act of 1933, is purely a political Bill. The people will have identically the same experience after the passing of this Bill as they had after the passing of the Land Act of 1933. The Minister will recollect that he was inundated with applications from Fianna Fáil clubs all over the country, after the Land Bill of 1933 became an Act, to have certain lands inspected, and inspectors were rushed around the country and devoted months of valuable time inspecting and reporting on a number of these holdings. The very same thing will occur after the passing of this Act. The lists sent in by the Fianna Fáil clubs will be taken out of the pigeon holes and distributed, and inspectors will be taken off the work for which the State is paying them and sent around reporting on these farms. In that way the Minister hopes to rehabilitate the fading fortunes of his Party.

I suggest that the Minister should pause and make some sort of a stock-taking about the policy of land acquisition in this country. What is it to be? Is it the Minister's intention to reduce every farmer in this country to a common level, or to discourage every farmer in this country who specialises in any particular direction and as a result of whose industry and hard work the State is gaining so enormously? Surely to goodness the Minister will realise himself that a Bill of this character is calculated to discourage every hard-working, industrious farmer in the State. If the Minister goes on at this rate, then, at the end of one or two more amending Bills, there will not be a shred of security of tenure left to any tenant farmer. I suggest to the Minister that it is time we should understand, and understand clearly, what his policy is in regard to land and what his policy is going to be for the future in regard to land acquisition. This Bill is going to have a bad effect on the country. The Land Act of 1933 had a very bad effect, but this Bill will have a worse effect, because it is taking away the few remaining rights and privileges which were left to owners of land.

This is another "removal of doubts" Bill. When first I heard of the intention of the Minister to bring in a new Land Bill, I surmised that he hoped to amend it in a manner that would remove some of the doubts that some of us on this side of the House had as to the Minister's original intentions with regard to the acquisition of land. When the Land Act of 1933 was going through this House, and when some of us ventured to assert that there was a danger to the security of the ordinary tenant farmer's right to his land, the Minister took great pains to assure the House on several occasions that there was no danger whatever; not a scintilla of danger to the security of farmers in the land. Subsequent events have proved that there was a danger, and a very grave danger, and some of us expected that the Minister at some time would introduce an amending Bill, as is now proposed, to relieve any anxiety of farmers in general, and of Deputies who passed the Act of 1933 on his assurances as to the security of title in land, and that any existing doubts would be removed. This Bill, coming from the Minister who introduced it, is an insult to the House and is really an insult to the Minister, because the assurances that were given by him in 1933 have been flagrantly violated. This Bill makes the insecurity more insecure, if the position of farmers could be made more insecure than it was by the legislation that the Minister previously introduced. In future the farmer is just going to be a renter of Government property, without any security as to the term for which he is to be allowed to occupy it. He is to have no title to it, as whatever title there remained under the 1933 Act is going to be removed by this Bill. One of the great arguments for the first Land Acts was that a settlement of the farmer on his land, secure in his title, would lead to increased national prosperity. There was then an inducement to the farmer, once he was settled in his land, to improve it and to make it a more valuable asset to himself and to the country by increasing its productive capacity to the utmost. This Government has removed that incentive. Where is the incentive for any farmer to spend money in improving his land once this Bill is passed? The farmer is being put back into the position that he was in in the old days; in fact, into a worse position, because you have deprived him not only of the right and title to the land, but of the right to borrow money on it.

You have deliberately destroyed the value of landed real estate. There was a time when farms were worth something. That standard has been gradually reduced, and this Bill will put the finishing touches on it, and on any value that there was in farms, big or small. There was a time when a farmer could face his bank manager with confidence and could borrow money on the possession of land. Where is there a bank manager to-day who will lend a farmer any money on the security of land if he cannot furnish contingent security? Ministers opposite have reduced the farmers of this country to that position. If any reliance was to be placed on the speeches of Ministers, a measure such as this would never be introduced. Referring to the question of real estate value, the Minister for Finance who, I suppose, is the proper authority on financial values on the Government Benches, speaking in this House a few months ago in connection with a proposed ground rent levy, asked what would happen if such a motion were passed. He said:—

"Banks would find themselves compelled to recall some of their loans or to ask those ground-rent owners to whom they had made advances—most probably to finance industrial undertakings—to put up additional security or to curtail their productive activities. The consequence of all this would be that there would be an immediate restriction of credit, at a period when the growing demands of industry and agriculture make an expansion of credit desirable."

Was there ever a time in the memory of Deputies and of the people of this country when credit for farmers was more desirable than now? You have killed their credit, and killed the possibility of borrowing anything to help them out of the morass that the present policy has put them into. This Bill is going to demoralise the chief industry of this State. You are going to make farming a temporary occupation for the lucky few, and those lucky people who may henceforth be in possession of some plot of land, will be actuated only by what they can drag out of the soil in the shortest period. The country will revert to the position in which it was 100 years ago, when farmers went in for the growing of wheat extensively.

The Minister for Agriculture is anxious that wheat should be grown in greater quantities. The passion for growing wheat when farmers had much the same security as the Minister now proposes to leave them, at a time when they held land at the will of some person, resulted in their only concern being to get as much wheat as they could out of it in the shortest possible time. The temptation to grow wheat was such that numbers of farmers proceeded year after year to drag that crop out of the land without putting anything back into it. They did what farmers will possibly do now in order to get the greatest results with as little capital or exertion as possible, that is, to get whatever profit they can out of the land during their temporary occupation of it. Wheat was grown to such an extent in the past that the land began to be in the condition that it would grow it no longer, and farmers actually resorted to the desperate practice of burning the top soil to try to get the land to produce wheat for one or two years more. As they had no security in the soil, and there was a possibility that in a few years they would lose possession, they thought it was as well for them to get all they could out of it and not to bother about the condition it was left in for the next tenant. Land was left in such a condition by that policy 100 years ago that it took 50 years to make it right. The Ministry calls itself the poor farmers' Ministry and the land workers' Ministry, yet, by its policy, it wants to drive farmers back into that position again. Is there ever to be any right or any title to land in this country again or to the possession of property and land?

May I again refer to the words of the Minister for Finance, who has provided me with good ammunition for my speech on this Bill? Speaking in this House less than three months ago he said:

"If you are to deprive a man of his right to property in land, might you not be equally justified in depriving him of any right to property in bricks or mortar, machines or materials?"

Will the Deputy give the reference?

I am quoting from col. 1031 of the Dáil Reports of the 3rd April last. The Minister, continuing, said:

"In short, what would there be to prevent you, once you had gone so far as to expropriate private ownership in land, from communising industry?"

Perhaps we are coming to that day. Having destroyed property in land they may proceed to communise industry. Further on the Minister said:

"Is it wong to own land? If not, why penalise the owner? Is it immoral to own land? If so, declare that such ownership is wrong and abolish it."

Evidently the Government believe that the ownership of land is wrong and immoral, that the farmer's title in his land is wrong and immoral and they are proceeding to abolish it as fast as they can. The Minister who is in charge of this Bill assured us in this House in 1933 that there was no intention whatever to deprive any man of his land and further, that if, perchance, he was deprived of his land he would get the full market value for it. This House, in its trust of the Minister in charge of the Bill, believed him and allowed certain sections of the 1933 Act to stand which they might have contested further if they had not the assurances of the Minister and the Minister for Agriculture, because the Minister for Agriculture backed the Acting-Minister for Lands in his promises.

As I said, we expected something better from the Ministry than this. Having the statements of these Ministers in 1933, that the fears which were expressed on behalf of the farmers were not justified, that there was no danger to the ordinary average farmer, that even though the Act left this House in a condition which left many of us in grave doubt as to the security of the farmer in his land, nevertheless, having regard to the assurances of various Ministers that although these powers were there, they would never be put into effect, we probably did not resist that Bill so strenuously as we might have done if we had not these assurances. I think every Deputy, when he first heard of an amending Land Bill, believed in his heart that if there was to be any amendment of the 1933 Act it was going to be on lines that would dispel the fears instilled into owners of land by the 1933 Act. They believed that amendments would be brought forward to fulfil the promises made by Ministers on the 1933 Act and that scenes such as we had in Wexford and Limerick, where farmers got up at public meetings to protest against the attempt of the Government to interfere with purchased land, would be unnecessary. We now have this measure introduced on top of the 1933 Act, a measure deliberately designed to break the promises of Ministers made definitely not once, not twice, but ten or twenty times to Deputies in this House in the debate on the 1933 Act.

One thing I should like to say, lest our opposition to this measure might be misinterpreted, is that we are not averse to the division of land where such division is possible without injury to ordinary tenant purchasers. Such division can be carried out. Every day for the last ten years, and possibly every day for many years to come, numerous farms are offered for sale in the public market, farms which might be purchased for any object whatever, purchased by the Ministry if they wished for redistribution amongst suitable applicants. If the policy to be pursued in this country is further to divide the land amongst a greater number of people—and possibly that might be a praiseworthy desire; I have frequently stated in this House that the policy of continuing to divide land where such division can be effected without injury to existing tenants, is a good policy—perhaps that is the best form of social relief in which we could engage.

It can be effected by purchase in the open market. But it is not by dispossessing one lawful decent holder and distributing his land amongst one or two other people that you are going to improve the condition of the farmer or the people who will eventually succeed him when his land has been distributed.

This Bill is going to destroy all incentive in the farmer to improve his land or to work it to the best advantage. You are going to drive out of possession people who are best in agriculture, the men, and perhaps the women, who, by their knowledge and industry, worked up their farms to the condition in which it produced to its utmost capacity, the condition in which the people in occupation of it were able to make a decent living for themselves, to put by certain sums of money, and eventually to pass on that farm to their successors in a better condition than that in which it was given to them. Where is the farmer to-day who is going to put the same amount of work into his land that he has done for the last fifteen years when he knows that some sections of this Bill may be operated against him, that he is only a tenant-at-will of the Government, that any day the Government desires his tenancy may be terminated, and that he and his family may be cast aside. What compensation will he receive? Not the market value of the land as was promised by the Minister in charge of this Bill and the previous Bill, backed by the Minister for Agriculture, but some value which will certainly not be the market value. When the 1933 Act was going through this House, I ventured, and so did other Deputies, to assert that the value of land would depreciate greatly as a result of it. So it has, and it will further depreciate as a consequence of this Bill. You are rapidly arriving at the stage when all incentive to work amongst decent people engaged in agriculture will cease, and when every man will proceed to get just as much out of the land as it is possible to get within a limited time without any regard to the future condition of the land. That is something that Deputies in this House ought to realise. You can, as I have said, step into the public market and purchase land instead of encroaching on the rights of people who purchased land, and thought they were secure, and felt secure, until the Fianna Fáil Government came into office to tear their security to rags. We will have an opportunity of debating this Bill very elaborately on Committee Stage. But on this Second Stage this Bill cannot be allowed to leave this House without the earnest opposition of the Deputies on this side. Once again on this Bill they must express their fears for the ordinary decent working farmer as they did in regard to the Act of 1933. In conclusion I think I could not do better than to quote again the Minister for Finance when speaking in this House on the 2nd April last, on another matter. I think no better phrase could be selected to wind up the debate on the Second Reading of this Land Bill. The Minister for Finance, speaking on the 2nd April, as reported in column 1044 of the Official Debates, said:—

"Possibly at this stage I should remind the House that one of the fundamental principles upon which our social system has been built is the right of private ownership in land. Our whole rural economy is based upon that principle. We fought the land war in order to establish it, and I believe that any person who attempts to undermine it will face an opposition that would overawe a Hitler or a Stalin."

I warn Ministers that they are facing that position. They are facing a position that will be as fierce as was that against the old landlords. If the Government passes this Bill, and if the Ministry attempt to put into operation the powers they are taking under this Bill, there will be fierce agitation. The Government are deliberately inducing the people, and forcing the people, into another land agitation, greater perhaps if once started than any previous agitation. I am sorry the Minister for Finance is not in the House. I feel certain that when he spoke in this House on 2nd April he was sincere and honest in his utterances, and that if he was here this evening he would beg his colleague to withdraw the motion for the Second Reading of this Bill and save his Party and the country from the consequences which he and I foresee if it is passed into law.

I am sorry I was absent on other business during the early stages of this debate. I wonder are we to take Deputy Bennett's objections seriously and at their face value. I wonder what his objections are, and I wonder who are the heroes of the Land League to whom he referred. Who are those people in whose interest the whole country is going to rise up in arms if their land is taken from them and divided? Down in my constituency we have a few of these heroes. One of them has 1,800 acres of wheat land, kept in great form, certainly, as a bullock ranch. I do not know on what principle the Land Commission, in Deputy Bennett's time, allowed that land to be purchased. At any rate, they did so. We have surrounding that 1,800 acres men living on holdings of five acres, ten acres, 40 acres on the side of the mountain. In nine case out of ten their sons—"gossoons" they are called—of from 40 to 50 years of age, are looking down on this 1,800 acre farm and wondering when some Government will come in and reinstate them in that land.

In the parish of Cloyne you have at least 11 holdings ranging from 360 acres upwards. There is very little, or no labour employment in that parish—practically none. The land is let on the 11 months' system in the greater number of cases. Anyone who reads the public press could see that Mrs. Flower, of Castlemartyr, let 940 acres in grazing in April last. In that district you have a large number of small holdings with families living on farms of from 25 to 30 acres of land. There are men there suitable to take up that land but with no hope of getting some portion of land on which to raise their families. Apparently, if we take this 950 acres from Mrs. Flower, of Castlemartyr, who spends nine months of the year in England, the whole country is going to rise up in arms because of that. That is Deputy Bennett's case and that is his argument.

If loopholes were found in the previous Act, by agile lawyers, to prevent that land coming back into the hands of smallholders who would plough it and produce food for our people, and wheat and beet for the factories; we make no apology for bringing in an amending Bill to close these loopholes and make the Act watertight. We make no apology whatever to anybody for doing that. You have those ranches lying all over the country. I am sure that my constituency is not the only one in that position. Are we going to see the young men who came out of the 25 acre and 30 acre farms in the years from 1916 to 1921, took their rifles and did their part to free the country when those ranchers were sitting tight—are we going to see those young men living up on the mountainsides without hope while these fertile plains and valleys are a home for the bullock? We have no intention of doing so. If we find we cannot complete the job by this Bill, we will bring in another Bill and we will be here to do it. We will continue to bring in Bills until these ranches are divided amongst the people. So much for the argument put forward by Deputy Bennett. I do not think that the particular Land League to which he referred will get very far.

With regard to the other sections of the Bill, Deputy Bennett did not trouble much about Section 13. He has no interest in it. He has no interest in the unfortunate tenant who found himself compelled, under the Act of 1923, to purchase his holding at twice or three times its value. That tenant is now lying under as big a burden as was the rack rent which he paid previously. When we brought in the 1933 Bill, we hoped that these cases could be brought in for the purpose of revaluation and that a new standard purchase annuity, which would be a fair annuity, could be fixed for these tenants—that they could come into a land court, get a fair valuation fixed and get their annuities reduced. Deputy Bennett does not want that. When some of the tenants tried to do that, they were thrown out by the courts. I am not concerned with the courts. Personally, I have very little use for courts. I am not a believer in them—never was and never will be. But it is our duty, when the Dáil decided that these unfortunate tenants should be given an opportunity of having their land revalued and a fair standard annuity fixed, to see that that decision is given effect to. In his oration Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney blamed us in connection with Section 14. No loophole is being left this time and we are taking power to see that these unfortunate tenants can come in and have their annuities fixed. The only regret I have is that we have not gone further and included those estates bought under previous Acts. I have some of them in mind. Estates were bought under previous Governments at ten times their value and parcelled out amongst these unfortunate people who have now no hope of paying even the 50 per cent. annuity upon them. I have farms in mind lying close to my own where that is the position. I have in mind a farm of 74 acres, statute measure, which carries a halved annuity of £66 15s. 0d. I do not know who the lunatic was who valued it or what particular lunatic in the Land Commission handed over the loot, because I cannot call it anything else.

Past administration is not under review and the Deputy's language is scarcely parliamentary.

I feel very keenly on this matter——

About the loot.

I have seen fourteen tenants planted on these estates and not one of them is there to-day. Every tenant who ever came into it has cleared out and these estates are now being left a burden on the unfortunate ratepayers. No rates or annuities are being paid out of them and cannot be paid out of them under these conditions. That is one matter the Minister should take note of. He should amend these particular clauses to meet those cases. It is all very well to say that the estates will lose something. It is better to have an estate losing something now than to have them as a festering sore there and as a burden on the unfortunate ratepayers in the counties in which they are situate. They are a scandal. That is the one fault I have to find with the present Bill—that it does not go far enough in that direction. The Bill was brought in with a definite purpose—to close up the few loopholes left in the previous Act, which were discovered by some clever gentleman who brought them before the Supreme Court. We did not hesitate to state our purpose—to see that the ranches were taken up and divided. We are doing that and we have no apology to make for doing so either to the Opposition or to the country.

It is a blessing that not many Deputies express themselves as the Deputy who has just sat down expresses himself. If they did so, I do not think it would add to the dignity of this House or of its legislation. He has openly avowed that he has no respect for the ownership of land, for the courts of our land or for himself. I think that that is an unfortunate position for any Deputy to place himself in. After all, we are the representatives of the people, coming here to do the best we can in the framing of our laws and, to my mind, it does not add to the prestige of this State to be disrespectful either to the laws made by this House or to the courts who administer them.

Coming to the Bill, there are a few provisions in it which are worthy of commendation and there are a few provisions in it which one would like to have seen modified. One matter has been referred to—the direct collection of the annuities without seeking an order from the court. It has been argued at great length that that means a saving of time. The point I should like to make in that connection is that there should be some regard for the expenses connected with the collection of annuities. A couple of cases have been reported to me in which the fees were altogether out of proportion to the amount collected in annuities. It is a very good thing that power is being taken in the Bill to revise exorbitant annuities. The tenant who has no hope of having his instalments to the Land Commission reviewed is in an unfortunate position. We are quite familiar with some of the circumstances which have led to the fixing of excessive annuities. There may have been arrears of rent. For some reason or other, the rent of the tenant may have been high at the time and, probably, the valuer who was representing the Land Commission overlooked the special circumstances and thought the land was security for more than it really was. What I think is a very good thing under this Bill is that powers are given whereby the annuities can be reduced. The Government specifies that, I take it, where the case is reviewed a fair rent will be arrived at or a fair reduction given. On the question of the resumption of holdings to which some Deputies have referred, I have a suggestion to offer. There is not, so far as I know, any scarcity of available holdings for distribution. I would venture to suggest to the Minister and through him to the Land Commission that it would be better for the country and for the Land Commission that both would make up their minds what land they require. I say that because at the moment ownership of land places a man somewhat in the position of one who is sitting with a sword suspended over his head.

Powers have been taken—possibly a great deal of argument has been heard as to the extent of these powers—in the previous Acts to take up any land for resumption. Hitherto it was a fairly clear maxim laid down that where land was being used in a husbandlike manner the occupying tenants should not be disturbed. I think it was not a bad principle to lay down that where land has been properly owned and properly managed there should not be any interference with it. Possibly the Land Commission may argue that they are not disturbing many cases of that description. But there are others which at the moment are in a very bad position. Just now it is rather a danger to offer land in the market lest an agitation should be got up to divide that land. Ownership of land has been talked about from both sides of this House as a sacred thing and a thing that should be respected. I think our Government should see to it in such cases of resumption, where an agitation is got up, that they would hold the balance fairly as between the parties and, to use a common expression, not yield to the mob as far as the demand for the acquisition of a particular holding is concerned.

Another thing I wish to speak about in connection with the resumption of land is the price. A more requisite price should be offered for the land. I know of some cases in which the Land Commission has offered ridiculous prices, prices that could not stand a moment's argument. These prices in a number of cases have been doubled on appeal. It is a poor thing that a Government Department should have power to take land at a price that is equivalent to confiscation. There is no relation between the price which the Land Commission has offered in a number of cases and the real value of the land. I suggest to the Minister that the Land Commission ought to be more reasonable in the price they offer for the land they are going to take.

There is one other thing to which I want to refer and I ask the Minister to be good enough to mention it in his reply. That matter arises in Sections 38 and 39. By these sections he is repealing paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of sub-section (2) of Section 24 of the Land Act of 1923 and also Section 36 of the Land Act of 1933. On my reading of this section it would seem to me that he is doing a useful thing. Possibly the Minister will remember that I pressed him during the debate on the Land Act of 1933 to consider bringing under the benefit of the Land Act such land as is held and treated in an agricultural and pastoral way. There are a few cases which have come to my notice on which I think there is a definite hardship on the occupiers of these lands. Over 100 years ago when home farms were being fixed up, portions of land were taken on lease at the then existing rents, which would be from £2 to £3 an Irish acre. These were long leases. All the Acts that have been passed so far have excluded such land from the benefits of the land code. Under this Bill I take it that if such land has been treated as agricultural or pastoral land within the past five years, it will come under the benefits of the Bill. I think it is a very definite hardship that where the land owner under previous Acts sold his land, has his income reduced, and is still carrying on, that he in turn should not get any benefit from the Land Acts in regard to the land that he holds under an exorbitant rent. If this Bill is remedying that now, I say it is doing a very good thing and it is acting absolutely fairly and reasonably towards people who are giving employment and carrying on agricultural industry. I do not wish to add anything more to what I have said. I take the Minister's review of the Bill as an attempt to carry out the mind of the Dáil in regard to these matters and to clear up any misapprehension that has arisen thereon. But these couple of points—the review of the annuity and the inclusion of those who hold under long leases and who are working the land—are things in the Bill that I think are sure to have beneficial results.

I would just like to mention one matter concerning tenants who have been deprived under previous Acts of certain rights. These rights were denied to tenants residing in congested districts. A number of cases have come to our notice in Kerry by which it appears that under previous Land Acts, particularly under the Land Act of 1923, the landlord reserved sporting rights and sporting coverts on the plea that these lands could not be regarded as an agricultural asset. The tenants appealed and took the necessary action and, on several occasions, they lost out. I now appeal to the Minister to take steps under this Bill to come to the assistance of these tenants.

There is a question of untenanted land referred to in Section 21. These people claim that the lands held from them could be classified as untenanted land. I mention one particular case, The McGillycuddy Estate. There the landlord reserved these lands and denied the rights of purchase to the tenants on the plea that he required the lands for sporting purposes. The tenants appealed on the ground that the major portion of the lands were the only lands available for agricultural purposes and that the lands withheld from them deprived them of the possibility of making the main portions of their holdings economic. These cases were tried before the Appeal Court, and we held and still hold that the proper atmosphere was not created for the tenants—I will put it like that. The fact remains, in any case, that if something cannot be done for these unfortunate people they have no arable land to fall back upon for agricultural purposes. I could never understand how any Government or any Department could allow a landlord to get away with it in that fashion. We have made representations since the Government came into office, and we still find that through legal procedure and other methods these people cannot regain the rights which were denied to them under the 1923 Land Act. If any Land Commission inspector makes a fair inspection of this district he will find that the only portion of arable land available to these tenants has been scheduled off in this sporting covert, and that there are similar cases to this one in that portion of the county.

I am not very conversant with the legal meaning of these clauses, but I believe that under Section 37 power has been taken to acquire sporting rights which were not vested under the 1923 Act. Perhaps under that section the Minister could take power to reacquire these sporting rights that had been excluded under the 1923 Act with a view to handing back these lands to the tenants to whom I have referred. That is the only case I have to mention in connection with this Bill. We realise that the Bill is as near perfection as possible in so far as land adjustment is concerned and the remedying of any defects which have been encountered in previous Land Acts. I know I am voicing the feelings of the people who have had an opportunity of reading in the Press what this Bill is intended to do and what it means when I say that the people down our way, in any case, welcome this measure.

The speech of Deputy Corry certainly has made it necessary that I should say something on this Bill. I agree with Deputy Haslett that there are some things in this measure which one could approve of. If one thought that the spirit of the Bill was correct, one could agree with very much of it. But surely Deputy Haslett has been made suspicious by the speech delivered by Deputy Corry. Anything more shocking than that speech one could not imagine. I regret, Sir, that powers are not vested in you to prevent a speech like that being delivered here. Deputy Corry said: "I have very little use for the courts." Deputies in this House are much more restricted in number than the people outside to whom this Bill applies. What should be their answer to that? What is the reaction to it? That there is very little use or no use for this Bill. The scandal is permitted in this House of a Deputy making a speech like that. He says: "I have a majority; I will carry that measure, and I will apply it as against those outside who are the majority." The only reaction to a speech of that kind is for the farmers' sons and daughters to organise themselves to resist the Bill, because they have a prior moral right. They have got the moral right to own private property. They have the right which men and women had before Governments were made, and they have the rights appurtenant thereto. That is what is behind the Bill. Deputy Corry is the author of this Bill.

The Minister comes in here with an apologia for or explanation of the Bill covering over 30 pages. Of course he did not know Deputy Corry was in the precincts of the House or was going to make a speech. Anything more hypocritical, in face of Deputy Corry's speech, than the provisions of Section 17 cannot be imagined. The Minister, in page 31 of his statement, said:

"I want it to be clearly understood that in regard to these and the other legal decisions with which the Bill is concerned, we are not challenging the decisions of the courts or their interpretations of the statutes. The courts have a duty to be jealous and strict in preserving the rights and even the privileges of all citizens against interference by anyone, whether a State Department or a private individual, without clear legal warrant,..."

I wonder did the Minister consult Deputy Corry. There is very little use for the courts. This page here has great respect for the courts—pretends great respect. It is pure cant—that is what it is. The Minister's statement then goes on:—

"....and we here in the Legislature have a duty to see that we express our intentions in our statutes in terms which leave no room for reasonable doubt and particularly so when, as in our Land Code, we take powers which affect privileges which have not hitherto been challenged. I say all this because I do not want it to be advanced, as one Deputy advanced the criticism the other day, that we are challenging the decisions of the courts. We are not."

Where is Deputy Corry now? Is he not challenging the courts with regard to what the Minister is doing? I will come to it presently. The Minister's statement proceeds:—

"What we are doing is amplifying and making clear, we hope beyond reasonable doubt, certain sections which close examination by judicial authority has shown not to contain powers which they were intended to contain and which it was thought they did contain."

Why pass this Bill? Because, apparently, according to the majority in this House, when the Bill is carried the former Acts do contain the powers it was thought they contained. They are not interfering with the rights of the citizens, not interfering with the rights of the courts, not interfering with that shield which the citizen has to protect him from the arbitrary conduct of the Executive! Not at all; they would not dream of such a thing. We have Section 17 (2) of the Bill which says:—

The foregoing sub-section of this section shall have and be deemed always to have had effect as on and from the passing of the Land Act, 1933, and accordingly no warrant issued by the Land Commission under Section 28 of that Act before the passing of this Act shall be or ever have been made void or in any way prejudiced by the addition to the money thereby certified to be due of any fees or expenses which might lawfully have been so added if the said foregoing sub-section had then been in force....

Protection for the citizen; rights of the citizen—there are no rights.

If the Minister had not put in a provision in Section 17 over-riding and nullifying an effective decision of the courts and, particularly, made it retrospective as from the passing of the Land Act of 1933, we could let this pass as merely machinery to extend and to give ample power to the Land Commission to discharge their functions. Deputy Corry and the left wingers are behind this Bill. Deputy Corry is here to tear away, by means of this Bill, the shield of protection that the citizen has had up to this against the arbitrary conduct of the Executive. Not only is fixity of tenure going to disappear under this Bill, but it follows that all the rights which citizens had to go into the court to seek a remedy are going also under it. There is no cant about Deputy Corry. He was quite frank in unmasking these points for the House. The Bill has been introduced to give absolute power to the Government with regard to the control and the management of land. That is with regard to the principle underlying the Bill. While I approve of some of the minor parts of the Bill, the things to which I have referred strike at everything that is fundamental, and that is why I object to it. The Bill strikes at the right of the individual to hold property. It destroys the efforts of the last 56 years on the part of farmers to become the peasant proprietors of the land of the country. It puts an end to that. It strikes at the root of these two things which are fundamental, and for that reason I object to the Bill.

Power is being taken to transfer people from the Gaeltacht areas and to place them on land taken over by the Land Commission. Some curious anomalies arise there. These people are put on a farm and given in or about 20 acres of land. A new house is built on the land for them. At present prices the cost of building that new house will be more than a good farm, with a house on it, could be purchased for. If there are any funded arrears on the old holdings that these people occupied in the congested areas, these are transferred to the new holdings that they are given possession of. That is a very heavy handicap to put on people transferred to a district in which the form of husbandry carried on there is quite different from that to which they had been accustomed in their old surroundings. If these people are to make good on their new holdings it will be necessary for them to adopt the most scientific methods of farming. The country, irrespective of Party, hopes that they will make good in their new surroundings. They will need every chance that they can get to enable them to make good. It is only fair to them to give them every chance.

In this connection, I saw a report in the Anglo Celt some months ago concerning 15 or 19 people who had been taken from Connemara and put on new holdings in the Athboy district of the County Meath. They were sued in the local court by the rate collector for the second moiety of rates due on their new holdings. As well as I recollect, the total amount of the rates was £10, and they were being sued for £5, the amount of the second moiety. As well as I remember, the report stated that they went into occupation of their new holdings about the month of April, 1935. It was stated in the course of the proceedings that the first moiety of the rates—£5—was paid for them by the Government. The Government gave them these farms, it stocked the farms for them and supplied them with farming implements. Yet, in spite of all that these people were unable to pay the second moiety of the rates due on their holdings. What is going to be their position if you put an additional burden on them, of charging their new holdings with the amount of funded arrears due on the old holdings? If we mean to go ahead with a bold scheme for these people, if we are serious in trying to do something for them and are not simply using them for political propaganda and Party purposes then I think that these funded arrears should be written off.

There is a section dealing with the defaulters' holdings and the arrears due on them. I agree with Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney in this matter. I have observed that there are a number of such holdings throughout the country. There are a number in my own constituency, happily not a great number. Some of these farms are becoming derelict. In a constituency such as mine, the effect of that is worse than it would be in an inland county, because these mountain farms that have been reclaimed from bog, if they are not stocked and worked as an ordinary farm should be, will at the end of five or ten years become a complete wilderness, and be useless for any purpose. Some machinery, other than the drastic machinery proposed in this Bill, should be devised for dealing with these farms. Under the Bill, a man who is in arrears with his annuities is to be prevented from letting his land for the purpose of raising money. If he is to be prevented from doing that, will the Minister tell me how such a man is going to make any money out of his farm? Take the case of a man who has had one or two bad years. He met, perhaps, with some misfortune. It may be that all his stock died. That frequently happens, or it may be that he had some deaths in the family, following which he had to incur some heavy expenses. In order to meet those expenses he may have had to sell out the major portion of his stock, and for a year or two he was unable to pay his land annuities and got into arrears. Under the provision in this Bill that man is to be prevented from letting his land. Nobody can put stock on it, because if they do the stock may be seized in satisfaction of the amount due on the holding. In these circumstances how is that man to make good? How is he to get on his feet again? Is he to sit there in his home drawing the dole, or is he to be expected to live on the little outdoor relief that he may get from the county board of health ? Under the provision in this Bill there is no hope whatever of that man's holding ever again becoming an economic entity. In the end, the Land Commission will have to go in some day and eject him and sell the place.

I hope to introduce an amendment to delete the retrospective clause in Section 17. I do not think this should be a Party matter at all, because if the Minister is honest with the House, and means what he says, then the retrospective portion of this section should go. Assume that the provision remains, what steps are going to be taken by the Land Commission in a case where a litigant succeeds against it in court? What is to be the position in such a case as regards the costs? I take it that the costs in these cases follow the decision, and that the tenant in that case would get his costs. Is the Land Commission going, under this section, to make a claim for a refund of the costs because a farmer, on being advised that he has a good case, went into court and, being successful against the Land Commission, got his costs? So far as I can gather, we are being asked here to pass legislation to nullify that, and to have put upon such a man the burden of the costs that were incurred both by the Land Commission and himself in those court proceedings. We have to take it that the decision given in favour of that man was right, because it has not been challenged; it has not been taken to the Supreme Court. That was the position. It was good law and binding on us. If the House made a mistake in 1933 we are here to-day to amend it. If we made a mistake let us take responsibility for the consequences of our ignorance, stupidity and incapacity and cut out that part of the section

There is here a provision with regard to the seizing of any goods, chattels or anything else found on farms, and that is equally bad and unsound. It brings us back to what I was referring to— that there is no hope for a man who gets into debt. I do not know about other constituencies, but in my experience of 45 years, so far as my memory goes, I have known hundreds of small farmers living on mountainy farms who, through bad seasons and the difficulty of rearing families, were obliged to fall into debt. These mountainy farms could not economically maintain them, and there was a continual piling up of debt until the family were reared. When the children were reared they went out to America and other countries, earned money, and in that way helped to discharge the debt. There were many cases of that kind. That happened in the past, and it will happen in the future. A man gets into debt and there is no immediate hope of making good. There is a sort of stranglehold around the farmers' necks and there is nothing left for them but the road. When they get into arrears you may as well eject them. That is bad statesmanship and it is worse law.

When the 1933 Bill was going through, we strongly contested the proposal of a certificate being issued by the Land Commission and having the effect of a court judgment. My mind has not altered with regard to that. As a matter of fact, experience has strengthened the wisdom of the opposition to that provision. Apparently, not only is that going to be validated, but it is going to be made retrospective. It is mere humbug for us to say that the Land Commission can issue a certificate in the form of a judgment. Are Deputies aware of what they are doing? Not at all, they do not trouble to think. Deputies here are constituting themselves both the plaintiff and the judge. All the farmers apparently are going to be judged in their absence by the Land Commission. An order will be issued and that is handed to the sheriff, irrespective of whether the Land Commission are right or wrong, and a man's goods and chattels are seized. If we are to do this thing, let us do it with our eyes open. Such a procedure is contrary to ethics, to the moral law and the common law. It is outrageous that a man should be judged in his absence. Even the simple question of the amount of money involved may be wrong. The unfortunate farmer has no option. An order is issued against him and he may decide to contest it, but the seizure is already made and the costs are incurred.

We have a section here with regard to building land which apparently is going to be good for the lawyers. More will be heard about that, and anything I might say about it to-day would be a mere waste of time. I expect those who will discuss it later, somewhere else perhaps, will get better paid than I will for discussing it here, and we had better leave it at that. Power is taken in this Bill to vest land immediately an Order is made, and the Land Commission will go into immediate occupation, just as if the price had been fixed. That, in my opinion, will have a very unnerving effect. The Land Commission, a Government Department, will make an Order and will forthwith take possession of the land without the price being fixed. Can any Deputy imagine what the effect of that will be? Somebody in an office makes an Order and, as a result of that Order, a Government Department goes into occupation of a man's land and he does not know what price he will get for it. I agree that in very many cases it may be necessary to speed up things, but in this respect we have had a long experience of the working of the Land Commission and, while there were delays owing to certain machinery having to be put into operation, in the main it worked quite well. I do not see that there is any great urgency in this connection. I do not see why the normal steps to which we have been accustomed should not again be taken—the resumption order, the price being fixed and agreed upon, and, if it could not be agreed upon, it would be decided by the Land Commission Tribunal set up for adjusting the price between the Land Commission and the tenant. I think that would work better, and it would be a more amicable method if the old machinery were permitted to stand.

This is too drastic; there is too much of the smash-and-grab about this. It is more of the jack-boot tactics that are inscribed in the 1933 Act. Apparently the Government are determined to use their majority to enforce the policy of smash-and-grab. I venture to predict that the members of the Government will live to regret the powers they have taken in this Bill. I am confident that Deputies who will vote for it will live to regret their support of it. It is not certain provisions of the Bill that are objectionable; it is really the principle. So far as the principle is concerned it is very hard to say where there is a question of principle when it is purely a matter of smashing and grabbing simply because the Government do not want anything to be in their way. It is merely a question of knocking it down and smashing it, using the majority to brush something aside and nullify the judgment of the courts of this country.

There is another new principle involved in this Bill with regard to the taking over of certain farms referred to in the Bill, and that is that a certificate by the two Lay Commissioners will finally decide the matter. From that, there will be no appeal except on the question of law and value. One would like to think that that was an innocent provision, but seeing this last page of the Minister's opening statement and the provisions of the Bill itself one must suspect every clause, every word, contained in that Bill. Are we to take it that this power is left entirely in the hands of the Lay Commissioners because they are political nominees who will understand that any obstruction of the policy of the Government with regard to the taking over of land will react on themselves, and of course they are to act according to the indicated public policy of the Government in this matter? That smacks badly. I do not like the smell of it. It smacks of the suggestion that those men are Lay Commissioners, political appointees, who can be influenced. That may not be so, but it smacks of that. I think it would be wiser to have the old provision that an appeal would go to the Appeals Tribunal on all matters—the right to take the land, the necessity and the usefulness of the land, the question of law involved in the matter, and the price. I think if the Appeals Tribunal are competent to deal with the law and the conditions under which the land is being taken over, they should be competent also to deal with the other matters. Of course, in this matter also, the hammer falls; the verdict is given; it is only a question of execution. For those reasons I am more hostile to this Bill than I was to the Land Bill of 1933. There is no doubt that the Land Bill of 1933 struck at the root of the security of tenure of land in this country; this Bill here smashes it.

I should like to make a few remarks in connection with the Bill before the House. First of all I should like to point out that it is a Bill which is giving the Land Commission and the Minister more power to acquire land in this country. In speaking here on a few occasions I made reference to the acquisition of land by the Land Commission, and as far as I can see all the powers that the Minister is looking for in this new Bill could be easily settled and decided on if they would only act in an honest and straightforward way with regard to the acquisition of land in this country. I said here before that, from day to day, one sees in the newspapers that farms are offered for sale, and I cannot understand why it is that the Government will not make any effort whatever to purchase those farms. If they did that, I venture to say that in a year or a year and a half they would acquire sufficient land to satisfy practically all the people in this country who are looking for land and anxious to make a living on it. All the Land Bills passed in this House from time to time have been taking away by degrees the fixity of tenure and the security which the farmers held in this country. That in itself is the great horror of the agricultural community, because it has taken away from the farmer the real interest which he had in his farm, the interest which he had in improving it, and putting it into such condition that his family would make a fair living on it. Under the different Land Bills passed here, including the one before the House at the moment, there is practically no security for the farmer. He does not know how long the Land Commission will allow him to remain on his land before they acquire it for division. That is one aspect of this legislation which in itself has done great injury to the agricultural industry.

Another aspect of the matter is that the improvements which have been made on the farms for years past are not improvements which can be made in one year or two years by a person who is given land by the Land Commission. References have been made here by some of the previous speakers to people taken from the West of Ireland and put on good land in County Meath. Conditions in the West of Ireland are very different from those in County Meath, and the manner of working farms is also very different. If those people are intended to live on the new farms in County Meath I think it will take longer than a couple of years to gain the experience necessary to get the best out of the land which they have been given there. I do believe that this whole legislation, including the Act of 1933, is doing considerable damage to the industry, because as I said before the farmers have not the same interest in their farms as if they had security in them. Before we had any Government here at home the farmers fought hard to secure for themselves the security to which they are entitled. Now that we have our own Government, we see them taking away from us the right and the security we had in our land. We cannot even go before the courts. When land is being acquired we have to be satisfied with whatever price the Land Commission puts on it. That is very unfair from the point of view of the man whose land the Land Commission might think it necessary to acquire. If the Land Commission want to take over land, let them pay the market value for it. Let them go to the auctions and buy the land there. A number of those who were allotted land under a previous Land Act—the 1925 Land Act I think—are, to my own knowledge, doing fairly well and are able to live on it, but still a large number of people who were allotted land on that particular occasion and some years after find it almost impossible to make a living on it and the land is of very little use to them. Before the Land Commission goes in for a bigger distribution of land throughout the country I think they should look back and see what success has been made of the land by those who have taken it over under previous Land Acts.

I may mention that I am not opposed to the division of land provided it is taken over at the market value, and that it is given at a fair rent to the tenant who is going to live on it. I would ask the Minister who is present here to consider the matter more fully before he forces this Bill through the House. I should like him to consider its effect on security and fixity of tenure. We feel at any rate—I am a farmer myself— that that security and fixity of tenure are being taken away from us gradually by the Bills passed here in this House. I think it was when the 1933 Act was going through the House that the Minister was asked what would be the price paid for land, and I distinctly remember that the Minister who is here now replied that they were prepared to give the full market value for it. To my mind, that is not the case. They are not paying the full market value for the land they are acquiring. If they were they would not be afraid to go into the open market and buy the land there. If they did go into the open market it would save a good deal of trouble and annoyance. Not only that, but they would be getting the land from people who are anxious to sell, and not trying to take it from people who do not want to sell. Those are the only few remarks I have to make on the Bill. I oppose the Bill because I think it is unnecessary altogether and because I look upon it as taking away from the farmers the security they had in the past.

As I explained in introducing this Bill, there is nothing really new in it. I explained that it merely attempts to make clear the intentions of the Oireachtas when they passed the 1933 Land Act and also that it is dotting the i's and crossing the t's of all the land legislation that has been passed since 1923. A couple of points were harped on by a number of Deputies, and really I think that, if they examined them more closely, they would find there was nothing to them. A number of Deputies have welcomed the various sections of the Bill, but Deputies Fitzgerald-Kenney, Roddy, McMenamin and others criticised what they called the retrospective legislation to nullify decisions that were made by the courts, and they criticised Section 17 rather severely. Now, one of the things that Deputies will have to remember is that Section 17 contains three sub-sections and that they are not all retrospective. Those of them that are retrospective are designed to secure that a sheriff or county registrar, who is doing his duty collecting the land annuities, and who collected fees at the same time in the same way as he would collect fees if he were executing an order of the court or engaged in the collection of debt, will not be sued for damage for collecting the fees in that manner.

There were a number of cases, before the legal action came on, in which sheriffs collected their fees as well as the annuities. It was thought that under the 1933 Act they had the right to collect things when they were following up for land annuities, in just the same way as they have the right to collect fees when following up for debts. In this Section 17 we are legalising for the future, beyond any reasonable doubt, their right to collect fees when they are collecting annuities from defaulters, and at the same time we are also taking power to prevent defaulters, from whom they collect fees, suing them in the courts for the future. We are not in any way abolishing or voiding the decision of the courts in the cases that came before them. The court said, in the cases that came before them, that the sheriff had no right to collect fees, and we are not going to collect them. We are indemnifying the registrar who did his job in the belief that he was acting within the law.

Surely in sub-section (3) (b) you are setting aside any judgments already obtained?

Paragraph (b) is a part of sub-section (3), and I suggest the Deputy should read the beginning of sub-section (3). It reads as follows:—

"The following provisions shall have effect in relation to all actions and other proceedings instituted in any court before the passing of this Act against a county registrar in respect of anything done by him under a warrant issued by the Land Commission under Section 28 of the Land Act, 1933."

That is, we are indemnifying him.

No. You are setting aside the judgment. You are indemnifying him at somebody else's expense.

We do not want to set aside that judgment.

But you are doing it under paragraph (b).

Well, I suggest that the Deputy can argue that point later on during the Committee Stage. I merely want to make clear our intentions. If they are not clear, we can put in an amendment on the Committee Stage. The intention is this: Not to go back on the decision of the courts in regard to the case that was tried before them —the courts held that the fees should not be collected and we do not propose to collect them—but to indemnify any sheriff who collected fees before that; and I think the Deputy will agree that the sheriffs or the county registrars did not collect fees unless they had the legal warrant to do so, and they have a legal right to do it in connection with other debts.

I do not want to interrupt the Minister, Sir, but I want to make the position clear so that the Minister may deal with it. The sheriffs had seized before Halpin's case. The State might indemnify them. That is not what the Bill is doing. Then there was another number of seizures after the decision in Halpin's case in which the sheriffs were taking fees which they knew to be illegal. Are those still to stand?

Well, we can argue it out further on the Committee Stage, and if the Deputy wants to put in an amendment, he can do so and we can argue it out. I am telling him what is my intention and the intention of the Land Commission in regard to these fees. We are not voiding the decision of the court in regard to the cases that came before it, but we are indemnifying sheriffs or county registrars who acted in good faith and collected fees in the belief that they had a legal right to do so.

Will the Minister amend this section to that effect? It has not that effect now.

Well, I am advised otherwise, and, of course, if it is a question of when lawyers differ, I shall have to follow my lawyers. Let the Deputy put down whatever amendment he thinks necessary and we can argue about it later on.

As I say, I do not want to interrupt the Minister or to embarrass him in any way, but I am sure he realises that there is a desperately short time left for putting in amendments, and I should like to know does he intend to put in an amendment carrying out his present expressed intention?

I shall ask the Land Commission lawyers to have a look at the section in view of what I have said, and, if it is necessary to amend the section in order to bring it into line with what I have said, I shall ask them to put in the amendment.

Very good, and if it is not satisfactory I can bring in an amendment to that amendment on the Report Stage. I do not want to embarrass the Minister.

The only thing is that, if the Deputy is not satisfied on the Committee Stage, we can see what we will do on the Report Stage. The next big argument of Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney was that Section 28 of the Land Act of 1933 should be dropped altogether. That line was also followed by other Deputies. When Section 28 of that Act was going through we had the same dire forebodings of the disaster that was going to fall on farmers in regard to it. I explained at that time that as far as farmers were concerned, if they were in default, it would be cheaper that an order should be issued by the Land Commission rather than that the Land Commission should proceed in court to get a warrant to collect, and that the effect would be to cheapen or to do away with legal expenses on defaulters. It is three years since that section was inserted in the Land Act, and I have not heard of a single case of real hardship under it. I have not heard of a single mistake being made by the Land Commission.

The Minister will hear of plenty on the Committee Stage.

I should like to hear of them. It was represented at that time that all sorts of mistakes would be made by the Land Commission under this section, that the certificate of some junior official would have the same force as a court order, and that half the farmers would be out on the road before they knew where they were. As far as I have heard, nothing of that kind has happened in the collection branch, while the effect of the section was to abolish legal expenses on defaulters and to enable the Land Commission to collect the annuities. It gave the Land Commission a quick and a ready way of collecting the land annuities and did away with legal expenses on defaulters. We are adding a section to make sure that under it we would be able to collect, and that the Land Commission will be able to do so under the Enforcement of Court Orders Act. Section 19 provides:—

A warrant issued by the Land Commission under Section 28 of the Land Act, 1933, shall be deemed to be a judgment of a competent court within the meaning of Section 15 of the Enforcement of Court Orders Act, 1926....

A number of people successfully avoided paying land annuities, although the Land Commission might have knowledge that while they had no stock on the land, they had plenty of money in the bank or in securities. We want to make these people who can pay very well pay up, and we will be able to take them before the District Court for examination if the sheriff has returned nulla bona. I think it is only fair to make those who can pay up, and not to saddle their debts on people who have already paid. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney referred to Section 9, which gives the Land Commission power to wipe out arrears in certain cases, and he asked why not wipe out the arrears, and give the defaulting occupier a chance; looking upon him as a man who worked hard and did his best, but who had met with some temporary difficulty. The Land Commission collecting branch gives a chance to every man who makes a reasonable effort to pay up. We are taking these powers to provide that if we have finally to take over land from some person who is hopeless, who is no good, and is not working it, or if it is saddled, with arrears which amount to more than the value of the land, we will have power to wipe out all arrears, or a certain amount of them, so as to make the land a saleable asset. If there are ten acres worth £100 market value and if there are arrears of £120, the land is worth that amount minus £20.

How many years would that represent?

I do not think the section can be operated for a number of years. Land is worth three years' arrears from 1930 to 1933, which is all the possible arrears since then, plus half the annuities. I think any land is worth that amount of arrears. If there is a case where the arrears which have accrued on land amount to the market value, or more than we can get people to pay for it, the Land Commission will be empowered to reduce the arrears so that they can sell at the market price, get it going again, and not have it derelict.

There is nothing about the market price in this.

I am telling you what is the intention of the Land Commission under this section. There is power in the Land Commission to "re-sell such holding or re-allot such parcel discharged from the whole or a specified part of the arrears of such purchase annuity or annual payment (as the case may be) and shall in such case write off as irrecoverable the arrears from which such holding or parcel is so discharged."

They can allot to a person coming in, wiping out the arrears completely. There is no question of sale at market value in that section.

There is not, but if they sell at a public auction they may decide to sell or to re-allot.

Give it to the defaulter.

I do not think Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney would take from the Land Commission land at £150 that he could buy elsewhere at £100, and neither would he agree to pay £10 a year on, say, ten acres of land when he could get another ten acres of equal value for £5. We are only taking power to wipe out arrears that are really irrecoverable. They are irrecoverable because we cannot let land at the annuities plus the funding annuity or arrears, nor can we sell it with the arrears attached. Another big question raised by Deputy McMenamin and by Deputy Roddy was that we had wiped out security of tenure.

We had quite a long argument about that in 1933, and I pointed out that we were securing the tenure of people who were left insecure and absolutely without protection under the Act of 1923. I pointed out that in the case of holdings subject to resumption—and they were all the holdings in the country that were not vested prior to 1923—we were giving them protection, whereas under the Act of 1923 the Land Commission could acquire these lands. They could acquire these lands however they were used. Under the 1933 Act we definitely gave protection to these farmers and we said that if they were using their lands in the best interests of the community, if they were giving an adequate amount of employment and producing an adequate amount of foodstuffs, they were secure in their holdings.

Does the Minister not know that that has not been carried out by the Land Commission? They have interpreted the section quite differently.

If the Land Commission take over such lands they have to give alternative holdings.

That is not the way in which it has worked out in practice. I could give the Minister the names of specific cases in which I put up that argument myself. I argued it in court.

We can look into it. You have, in my opinion, security for those who work their land properly. If the Land Commission resume a holding they have to give the full market price for it. If they take land from anybody in whom land was vested under the 1923 Act, if they interfere with land below a market value of £1,000, the owner can claim an alternative holding up to £1,000 value. I think anybody who is working his land properly, if the land is not situated in a district in which it is urgently required for the relief of congestion, is pretty well protected. If he has to be moved in the greater interest of the greatest number, he is entitled to the full market value of his land.

One other big question raised has reference to migrants. Deputy Roddy referred to that matter at length. He considered that the Western migrants are unsuitable for working land in County Meath. Of course I had only a superficial glance at those holdings. I was not speaking to these people, but a few months ago when I was passing through that district it seemed to me that they were showing the County Meath people how to work the land. Although they had very little experience of it, they had it tilled and they had their crops in in good time. I shall be surprised from the reports I have received if they do not make a success of it. We can go too far with this thing of saying that the people from the West cannot achieve success if moved too far from the sea. There are people from the West all over the world making a success in agriculture and in other pursuits. If the people who have got land in Meath, from the West or any place else, do not make a success of it, in 99 cases out of 100 it will be entirely their own fault, and I shall not have the slightest sympathy for them if they are had up in court and are ejected for the nonpayment of annuities or any other charge.

They have been in court already.

They have been in court in some cases, and decrees have been given against them. There are 250,000 people who would be very glad to get the land that they have got. If they do not make a success of it—apart from some cases where failure may be due to family misfortunes—it is entirely their own fault and I shall not have the slightest sympathy with them. I hope that the House will not take seriously Deputy Roddy's talk about their being in great difficulties and that, in some sort of way, we have a right to be grateful to them for taking the land. I think they have got a very valuable property from the State, and they have a right to pay up. One proof that they realise how valuable it is, and that their eyes are not still cast back to the sea, is that they want more land.

They are going as it is.

A Deputy

They are going to Scotland.

Their families are still in occupation of the land. If there are 10 or 12 in a family some of them will go to sea. They have not vacated the farms. As a matter of fact they are wanting other land in the neighbourhood. Deputy Roddy says that they cannot succeed unless the Government continues to subsidise them. As far as I am concerned, I would be against further subsidising those people. Once we have put them on their feet they are expected to make a success of the land, and if not they will have to make way for somebody who will make a success of it. The State has done very well by them, in my opinion. I do not think we ought to molly-coddle anyone.

Deputy Roddy also referred to Section 9 and said that if we wiped out the arrears on holdings under Section 9 we ought to recoup the local authorities. What we are really doing is to wipe out irrecoverable arrears, arrears we could never hope to recover, and in respect of which money could never be transferred from the Guarantee Fund to local authorities. As far as I can see, local authorities are not affected by the section at all. All we are endeavouring to do is to clear land of irrecoverable annuities and to get it into production again. It is much better for local authorities that this section should be operated because they will not be responsible for the future arrears that would accumulate in respect of such land if it were not operative. Deputy Roddy is I think mistaken about the meaning of Section 23. He said that we ought to leave some ground for building. What we are really doing there is to abolish the landlord's objection to land being sold to a long leaseholder or to a fee farm grantee because of its potential building value. As the Deputy knows, nowadays with modern transport, the landlord could make some sort of case that land, ten, 20 or even 40 miles from a town has a potential building value. We want to give the tenant the right to purchase his land and to get the benefits of the Land Purchase Acts if the land has not an actual building value as against a potential building value.

Deputy Roddy also raised the question of bloodstock on Section 23. He said that the Land Commission should not have the power to say whether a farm was a bloodstock farm or not. What we are really doing is we are giving away some of the powers that the Minister for Lands had. As the law stands at the moment, the Minister for Lands has to decide whether a bloodstock farm is a bloodstock farm that is of value to the country, and, also, whether the farm is an actual thoroughbred or stud farm. We are going back to the real intention of the 1923 Act. Under that Act the Minister for Lands was also Minister for Agriculture. We are going to give the Minister for Agriculture the power intended under the 1923 Act, to declare whether any particular stock is bloodstock and of value to the country. But we are retaining, in the Land Commission, the power to say whether a particular farm, upon which that stock is located, is in fact an "honest to goodness" stud farm, or a fake put up for the owner's own purposes. I think Deputy Roddy misunderstood that section and we are really going much further to meet his point of view than he had thought.

Deputy Haslett raised a couple of points. First he urged that a more reasonable price should be offered for lands that are resumed. The price offered for lands that are resumed is the market price, and if in the opinion of the tenant he is not offered that he can go to the Appeals Tribunal.

Surely the Appeal Tribunal does not give market value. The Tribunal considers market value and value for distribution purposes. It does not purport to give market value.

Yes, it does.

But they must have regard to the value to the Land Commission.

That is on the acquisition of land. On the resumption of land, they give market value.

But that is practically non-existent now.

Deputy Haslett talked of resumption.

I am sorry I did not use the other word, but I meant it.

I shall deal with the two, to be clear about it. There is the acquisition of land for Land Commission purposes, for sub-division, and there is, also, what is called resumption that is, resumption proceedings relating to land vested in the Land Commission under the 1923 Act. The farmer was paying rent to the landlord before that date. In this case the Land Commission resume the land and are bound by law to pay the market value of the land. If the farmer is aggrieved, he has an appeal to the Appeal Tribunal, and the Appeal Tribunal are bound by law to give the market value; and I take it that the judge of the High Court and the Commissioners on the Appeal Tribunal will carry out the law. In the other case, the question of acquisition of ordinary untenanted land, they are bound to have regard to the price at which the Land Commission could resell the land. There is no use taking over land, dividing it, and selling it to incoming tenants at more than the land can pay. The whole purpose of the Act of 1923 which gives these powers, was to take over untenanted land and divide it amongst new people. That untenanted land was largely the remains of land let to the old landlords.

Surely every single vested holding is purchased land not resumed land. It is only resumed from the tenant.

If it is vested in the tenant. If we go below £2,000 we are bound to give the tenant either an alternative holding or £2,000.

If it is a residential holding.

If he is living on it. We thrashed that out in 1933. If a man is away from his holding and not making his living actually on the land, and if the land is in a congested district, I think the best thing, in the interests of the country, is to take it over and divide it amongst the congests.

Deputy John Flynn referred to some cases in County Kerry. He said some lands were not taken over because the owner wanted them as sporting land. The owner cannot object to the land being taken over on the ground that he wants it as sporting land. If the Deputy meant that the original owner is still in possession of sporting rights, these can be taken over under the 1933 Act or under this Bill, because in one case they deal with vested holdings and in the other non-vested. If the tenants are prepared to pay the price of the sporting rights, the Land Commission have power to take them over and sell them to the tenants.

Deputy Haslett referred to Sections 38 and 39. We are going one step further than we went under the 1933 Act. I remember at that time Deputy Haslett was keen to get in home farms in addition to demesne lands. Under the Act of 1933 we took power to judge the character of lands that were formerly demesne lands either by taking the date of the 1923 Act or every five years thereafter. We are now stating clearly that in the case of demesne lands, home farms, pleasure grounds and so on, their character is to be judged in the way they were used during the five years prior to the date of the proceedings. That means that if five years ago any demesne lands or home farms ceased to be such, the landlord cannot claim protection. I think that this section fully meets the view expressed by Deputy Haslett. If he thinks it does not, I should like him to send me particulars of the case he has in mind so that I can have it examined. He will require to do so at once.

Very well.

Deputy Holohan says that this Bill gives the Land Commission more power in regard to the acquisition of land than they had. It does not give us any more power than we sought in 1933 but it is designed to give us the powers we then sought. We had quite a long debate as to whether or not we should acquire these powers. We had been acting, more or less, upon them up to recently, when a couple of court decisions held us up, and I did not hear of any cases of great hardship. I agree with Deputy Holohan and any other Deputies who say that, in giving land, we should select people who will make a success of it. With that view, I agree absolutely. I agree with them also that, while we should not hold up the work to do so, we should, as far as possible, review the success that allottees have made of the sub-divisions they have got during the last ten or twelve years. I have been asking the Land Commission that particular question and I am assured that, while they have not made any complete survey of the matter, they have made what are called "spot checks" occasionally, and they have found that, on the whole, the allottees have made good use of the holdings they obtained.

The policy of acquisition and sub-division commenced in 1923 is very good national work and work that should be proceeded with. I grant it should be proceeded with cautiously. We should not establish anybody on the land who is going to make a failure of it, if we can avoid doing so. Although anybody having anything to do with the Land Commission would wish that fewer people were looking for land, still, from the national point of view, it is a good thing to see this healthy desire on the part of our people to be established on the land. In other countries the reverse is the case and Governments there would wish that their people had the desire for land that our people have. If we want a healthy, progressive nation, we should have the greatest number of people established on the land under conditions in which they will make a success of it. This Bill is designed to help towards that end. I have no qualms about security of tenure and questions of that sort. I myself am a farmer and, as a farmer, I am just as much interested in that question as anybody else. As everybody in the country cannot have land, I think that the community, as a whole, has a right to see that those on the land will make the best use of it in the national interest. I do not believe in the philosophy that a man's property is his own to do just whatever he likes with it. He is bound by certain moral conventions and he should be bound also by certain legal conventions to use that land in the best interest of the entire community. I do not think that anybody who examines the matter will disagree with that doctrine. We had a situation here at one time when 4,000 persons had a monopoly of the land of the country on which 8,000,000 worked. It was thought necessary to destroy the monopoly of those 4,000 persons and to give the people working on the land a decent chance to live upon it. Land is one of the things of which you cannot allow an absolute monopoly. While you cannot do that, I agree with those who say that the man on the land should have the greatest possible security of tenure. We have done our utmost in land legislation to meet the two points of view—the point of view of the person who says that the man who is going to make a success of his holding should have the greatest possible security of tenure and the point of view of the person who says that, while giving a man this right, you cannot give him an absolute right to misuse the land, seeing that it must subserve the needs of the whole community.

I am not satisfied with the explanation the Minister has given as to the market value of the land he is going to acquire. I asked why it was that the Land Commission would not go out and buy land at public auction in competition with everybody else. I got no reply to that question. I should like to put another case to the Minister. I may decide to sell ten or 15 acres of my farm to-morrow morning and I may be offered £500 or £600 for it by my nextdoor neighbour. I have to apply to the Land Commission for transfer of that portion of my farm from my name to that of my neighbour. The Land Commission have power to refuse to allow the sale to go on, saying that it is their intention to acquire the land for division. Is the Land Commission then prepared to give me—the seller of the land—the amount offered me by my next-door neighbour? Would they regard the market value of the land as the price offered by somebody else or would they go back to the Commissioners or to whomsoever fixes the price and abide by their value? That is how I look at the matter—that they should pay the market value—that I should be paid what I would be able to get from anybody else and not the value fixed by two or three people in the Land Commission.

I do not agree with the point of view that the price the Land Commission should pay for land is the highest price that the owner could screw from the community. If all the land of this country were owned by one man in absolute right, he could, according to the point of view put forward by the Deputy, demand any price he liked from the rest of us for being allowed to live on the land. The fewer the owners the greater the monopoly and the higher the price. If the Government or any Government Department is going to compete in the open market for any commodity whatsoever, land or bonds or anything you like, they will always be bled white. That particular suggestion has been put forward here before and I am sure it has been argued time and again. I see great difficulties in the Land Commission competing for land in the open market. After all, if there is an intense scarcity of land in a certain neighbourhood and people are prepared to pay an altogether inflated scarcity price for it, what is the position going to be? It is all right for the man who has money to spare to plank it down and pay £100 an acre for land. But if the Land Commission were to take over land, buy it at that price and impose on the incoming tenant an annuity which would cover the rate of interest and the sinking fund, then the person to whom they give that land could not pay an annuity to meet that outlay. The reason why people can pay £100 an acre for agricultural land and make it pay afterwards is because they have that £100 and are able to put it down, but if the Land Commission were to take over land at £100 an acre it is the community who would have to pay the interest and sinking fund on land bought at that rate because the farmer could not pay that annuity and make a living out of the land.

I know that.

In some of those sales of land there is a real hold-up. We see that in some of the sales that have taken place in the west.

I say that any property that a man possesses should not be taken from him at a price less than that which he could get from somebody else. Suppose it was house property that was being taken from a man, or let us suppose it was a bullock, surely the Minister would not say that if the Land Commission wanted to take a bullock from a man they should get it at £4 or £5 cheaper than anybody else?

That is not the point. There is no analogy.

I take it that in this Bill there is no alteration imposed in respect of the procedure in connection with the sub-division of a holding. Is not that so?

Yes, that is the position. There is no alteration.

Question put.
The Dáil divided:—Tá: 53; Níl: 27.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Hugh.
  • Dowdall, Thomas P.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Geoghegan, James.
  • Gibbons, Seán.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.


  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Broderick, William Joseph.
  • Costello, John Aloysius.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrisroe, James.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Muleahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James Edward.
  • Daly, Patrick.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Doyla, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Keating, John.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Rowlette, Robert James.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Smyth and Moylan; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage to be taken on Wednesday, 22nd July.