Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Friday, 24 Jul 1936

Vol. 63 No. 15

Land Bill, 1936—Committee (Resumed).

Question proposed: "That Section 34 stand part of the Bill."

It does not appear in this section that any opportunity is to be afforded to persons who claim an existing right-of-way to appear before the Commissioners in order to make their case.

This section gives the Minister rather an unusual power to extinguish an existing right-of-way. It is quite conceivable, even if a new right-of-way may have been made, either through an estate or through a number of holdings which have already been vested, that the continued existence of the present right-of-way might confer a very useful facility, if not on those particular tenants, certainly on adjoining tenants. I am curious to know from the Minister in what circumstances he proposes to exercise the power which he is seeking in this section. I think it is the first time that a power of this kind has been sought by the Land Commission.

The only trouble about this question is in connection with outsiders and persons not connected with the estate at all who have a right-of-way through the estate. Here we are attempting to abolish that. I should like to know whether the Land Commission will take into consideration the rights which are exercised by the public outside the estate to use the right-of-way through the estate as a means of getting to some other point? Are we abolishing that? Are the interests of those people to be considered when the abolition of the right-of-way is under consideration?

This is conferring on the Commissioners the right to abolish an old right-of-way when they create a new one, a right-of-way which in their opinion has become unnecessary in consequence of the opening up of a new one. It is a power which the Commissioners think they should have, and the new right-of-way may improve the facilities that they had under the old right-of-way. The Commissioners, of course, are not going to trouble themselves to extinguish an old right-of-way if it is suitable to all the parties concerned. Deputy Roddy, however, must know that sometimes the Land Commission come across people who are a bit crotchety and hard to please and who, even though a new right-of-way is made for them, will still insist on using the old right-of-way to the detriment of the man over whose lands it goes. I think it is a necessary power for the lay commissioners to have. They have to go to a lot of trouble persuading people at the moment to allow them to extinguish the old right-of-way, and I think the Land Commissioners may be trusted to operate the section in a proper manner.

Of course, I am not going to delay the House on this particular section, but it did appear to me to be a rather unusual power, and I am sure that, when the Land Commission asked the Minister to include this section, they had particular types of cases in mind. I should be curious to know from the Minister what particular types of cases the Land Commission had in mind when they asked him to include this section in the Bill. It does appear to me that the continued existence of the old right-of-way would be an added assistance. Has any difficulty arisen?

In certain cases, the owner over whose land the old right-of-way goes objects to it, and it is in order to create good feeling and harmony in the district that the Land Commissioners open up a new right-of-way.

I quite understand that, but you have different types of rights-of-way. You have a recognised right-of-way, which is fenced on both sides. I can understand the Minister taking power to extinguish, for instance, a pathway leading through another tenant's holding, but it seems to me that-this section gives almost indiscriminate power to deal with all sorts of rights-of-way. There are some that are fenced, and the land through which the right-of-way passes cannot be held to belong to any particular tenant, and this section gives the Minister power to extinguish that type of right-of-way as well as the ordinary unfenced pathway, the extinguishment of which may undoubtedly prevent annoyance or inconvenience to some of the tenants.

I know of circumstances where it would be necessary to extinguish an old right-of-way where, in dividing up land, the old right-of-way would cut up a holding to be given to an allottee. I quite agree, of course, with the Minister when he says that one sometimes comes across cranks, and I have no time for cranks. If there is an equally accommodating right-of-way provided for them they should use it and they should be prevented from using the old right-of-way in such a case. I quite agree with that, but what I want to know from the Minister is whether the new right-of-way will accommodate the people that had accommodation over the old right-of-way that has been abolished, and whether the new right-of-way accommodates them as reasonably and effectively as the old one did. That is all I would require. The only thing is that they should have as good accommodation and that the rights of the public outside on lands that had been allotted would be considered. I know of a case where that would be necessary.

Looking at it from another angle, I should like to ask the Minister if it is inferred by this section that the Land Commission can take power to go across vested holdings in order to get to holdings that are being acquired. It seems to me that, if that is so, it would be going rather far. I quite appreciate the Minister's point that certain right-of-way, which are of very doubtful convenience, are insisted on, but there is a disturbing factor in some people's minds to the effect that, where an estate is being acquired by the Land Commission and, let us say, there would be a short-cut through ordinary vested holdings on which the owner is discharging his liabilities, the Land Commission might have power to go through that holding. Is it assumed that the Land Commission has power to go through that holding? My reason for asking is that I have known of a couple of cases where it would have disturbed the privacy of the holder concerned very much. I just want to raise that point.

This is an extension of the powers already conferred upon the Land Commission under the various Acts, and in the Act of 1923 there is the power of the Land Commission to provide rights-of-way. This section gives the Commissioners powers to extinguish an old right-of-way when, in their opinion, it has became unnecessary owing to the opening up of the new right-of-way.

That does not quite answer Deputy Haslett's point. I think that what Deputy Haslett wants to know is whether the Land Commission will have power to make a right-of-way over lands other than the lands they have acquired for the purpose of allotment.

They got that power in 1923.

May I put it to the Minister that a right-of-way is property, that a right-of-way is an casement attaching to land, and that, to take away that property from a given owner, is in conformity with the general rule of the land code, provided that a certain procedure is adhered to. We have always strictly laid down in this House that, if the State is to take property from anybody for the common good, the party from whom the property is to be taken must be fairly compensated and must be given an opportunity of having that compensation assessed by an impartial tribunal. Section 34 makes no provision whatever for allowing the party from whom the property is to be taken to come before the Land Commission or the Appeal Tribunal and there make his case that the loss in which he will be involved by the extinguishment of the old right-of-way is greater than the compensation which the Land Commission proposes to pay under sub-section (1). It is to be observed that sub-section (3) provides that every order of the lay commissioners under this section, extinguishing a right-of-way, shall be final and unappealable. Now, I recognise that it could be a very great inconvenience for a person with a vested holding to have the Land Commission approaching him with a view to acquiring an easement over his land. Great, however, as the inconvenience would be, it is not as great as the inconvenience caused to a proprietor who is approached by the Land Commission with notice that they are going to acquire the land altogether. That is what the land code means, and it is just useful that Deputy Haslett should remind the House that the land code is becoming a pretty formidable weapon.

The Land Commission now can go in on the land not only of a landlord, of a person who has his land set to a tenant, but on the land of any tenant purchaser in this country, whether he has ten acres or 100 acres, and take his land, make rights-of-way across his land, or take a part of his land. In fact, they have the right now to go in and see how he is using the land, with a view to ascertaining whether they should take any further steps in the matter. Let us be consistent. So far we have not established the principle that the Land Commission should be entitled to go in and take a man's land at their price, without any reference to anybody. There is provision all through the land code that if a person from whom the Land Commission proposes to acquire land is not satisfied with the price offered, he can go to the Appeal Tribunal. I want to suggest to the Minister that he should deal with these rights-of-way, which he proposes compulsorily to acquire, because that is what the extinguishing of a right-of-way amounts to, in exactly the same way as he is obliged to deal with land which he proposes compulsorily to acquire. If he is satisfied that a right-of-way should be done away with, let it be done away with, and let the process be the same as if he were compulsorily acquiring land. Then, while the owner of the right-of-way will have a grievance, he will have no greater grievance than anybody else who comes in contact with the Land Commission in the ordinary operation of the land code.

I have explained the reason for this section. When the Land Commission, in their operations, make a new right-of-way, we want to give them the power to extinguish the old right-of-way. Everybody who has lived in the country knows that there are sometimes local reasons for extinguishing an old right-of-way. Even though it is more convenient for a man to use a new right-of-way, if he has some ill-feeling with his neighbour, he may insist on using the old right-of-way, and we are taking this power to extinguish this old right-of-way. It is a necessary corollary of the 1923 Act. Deputy Dillon is very fond of talking about all the powers we are taking to interfere with the people's ownership of land, but it was thought necessary in 1923 to take the power to make new rights-of-way, and if people will not behave in a reasonable fashion in regard to rights-of-way, there has to be some authority to come down and help them to straighten out their difficulties. I suppose this thing could be done through the ordinary courts after very great expense indeed. The Land Commission do it in the cheapest possible way. They are men who have been accustomed to settling up matters like this all their lives, and if there is any objection that anyone can raise to giving a new right-of-way over land, and extinguishing the old right-of-way, they always hear it. There was no appeal from their decision in the 1923 Act, and there is none in this, but, in practice, they do hear any appeals that come along to them.

Why does the Minister say there was no appeal from their decision in the 1923 Act? There is nothing in the 1923 Act to prevent anybody appealing from the Land Commission to the Judicial Commissioner.

There is nothing that gives a right to do so.

Is there not an inherent right in all Land Commission proceedings to appeal?

There was a judicial decision that there was no appeal under the 1923 Act.

From what?

From the establishment of a right-of-way.

Is there an appeal in respect of the amount of compensation payable?

If such a decision was given in the High Court it ought to be brought to the Supreme Court. There is no precedent in any legislation in this country for giving any Government Department the right to come in and take my property and to say: "I will give you so much for it." Surely I have the right to go to the courts and to say: "This amounts to plunder. This right-of-way is worth so much more to me than the Land Commission proposes to give me for it." The Minister knows that he and I differ profoundly in regard to the general attitude that ought to be adopted by the Land Commission to tenant purchasers, but that need not arise here. I am giving him his case—that this is the case and that we have to operate it as we find it— and all I am asking is that these rights-of-way will be treated as any other property, and that the person from whom it is taken will be given an opportunity of going, not before the Land Commission itself exclusively, but, if needs be, before an impartial tribunal which will assess, as between the Commission and the person from whom the property is to be taken, the value of the property.

I know just as well as the Minister does how these things operate in rural Ireland, and I freely admit that in 90 cases out of 100 the Land Commission inspector would assess fairly the value of any right he proposed to take away, but the Minister ought also to remember that anyone living in rural Ireland knows that the most acrimonious type of litigation that arises in the Circuit Courts of the country is litigation arising out of rights-of-way. You may say that people are unreasonable about that kind of thing. Perhaps they are, but our people attach very great importance to rights-of-way and rights over land, and when the Land Commission give what may seem fair compensation to them for a right which they propose to extinguish, the tenant purchaser in rural Ireland might be able to satisfy the court that the amount of his sacrifice was far greater than the Land Commission thought. That is one aspect of the case, and I press on the Minister very strongly that that aspect is worthy of consideration. If he gives a right of appeal in the matter of compensation, it probably will not be used in one case out of ten but it will always be there for an aggrieved party.

The second point I want to make is that unless the Minister publishes some kind of notice stating "It is our intention to extinguish certain rights-of-way, and if any interested party desires to object against that, he shall be free to make his objection to the Land Commission on or before a given date; if no such objection is registered, the right-of-way will be extinguished," you may have an inspector of the Land Commission acting perfectly bona fide and recommending the commissioners to abolish a right-of-way, believing that he has negotiated with every party who could be interested; but having issued the fiat to abolish a right-of-way, three or four other people may turn up who claim to use that right-of-way and the inspector knows nothing about them. Their interests may not have been considered at all and the new right-of-way which was designed to accommodate all the persons of whom the inspector did not know at all. suit the persons of whose existence the inspector did not know at all. Surely when we are going to extinguish a public right, or semi-public right, we ought to give notice to the public inviting objections from any person who has a proper objection to raise. That is the second point.

The third point is this: Is it intended under Section 34 to deal only with private rights-of-way, that is to say, easements attaching to other lands, or does the Minister seek power under that section to abolish public rights-of-way? I think it is a very drastic course indeed to pursue to abolish a public right-of-way without some kind of public inquiry.

You can define the rights of interested parties, if you are going to deal only with easements attached to adjoining land, and in that case you can assess the damage done to various persons and arrive at a figure for compensation. If you abolish a public right-of-way a different situation arises. I would be glad to know from the Minister what his views are on these three points.

Deputy Dillon says that he differs profoundly from me on land legislation. Not only does he differ from me, but he differs in this matter, profoundly, practically, from everyone on his own side. He takes up an extraordinary attitude in regard to land legislation, and I feel that there is no use trying to arrive at any compromise with him. I agree with him when he says that we differ profoundly. The course he is now objecting to was adopted in 1923, and power was taken to go in and establish a right-of-way on land, whether vested or unvested, if the Land Commission thought it was in the interests of the locality to do so. The High Court confirmed the powers of the Land Commission in that regard. Deputy Dillon does not even agree with the courts in this matter. I think he will not be satisfied until we establish him as supreme arbiter of all laws and regulations. In the opinion of the Land Commission this clause is a necessary corollary to the Act of 1923, so that when a new right-of-way is established, and is in all respects as convenient for the people as the old right-of-way, then they should have power to extinguish the old right of-way. The question of compensation does not arise, because, under the clause, the old right-of-way cannot be extinguished until, in the opinion of the Land Commission, it has become unnecessary by the establishment of the new right-of-way. It is a perfectly reasonable section, and those who know how people in the country sometimes insist on using a right-of-way, even though there is a better way, know how necessary it is for the Land Commission to have this clause.

The Minister says that no question of compensation arises, but there is express provision for it in Section 34 where the Minister takes power to pay and to assess compensation. Surely the Minister will excuse me if I have been misled by the language of the section. The Minister says that there has never been any question of appeal. No one familiar with previous Acts dreamt that appeal would not be desirable. I am familiar with two previous Acts, with Section 43 of the Act of 1923, and Section 39 of the Act of 1931.

It appears from these sections that there is a right of appeal, but under sub-section (3) of this section, notwithstanding what appears in the Acts of 1923 and 1931, there is to be no appeal in regard to these cases from the order of the Land Commission. At least, if we cannot agree on the fundamental facts of the land code we can agree on the meaning of the words of an Act of Parliament. The Minister is no neophyte in these matters, and he knows that the Parliamentary draftsman does not put something into a section unless he is advised that there may be a right of appeal on it. All I ask the Minister to do is to deal with these rights-of-way as he deals with land compulsorily acquired; that is, to give a person a right of appeal from the Land Commission, when land is being taken from him, if he is not satisfied with the compensation that it is proposed to pay him.

I agree with Deputy Dillon that there should be some right of appeal or some way of safeguarding the rights of persons concerned. I did not intend to intervene until I heard the Minister saying that people could proceed to the ordinary courts. But the Land Commission takes the easier way, or something tantamount to that. That is a principle I object to. There has been an attempt all through our legislation for a couple of years to put the Land Commission in that way above the courts; to give the Land Commission supreme authority over the rights and liberties of land holders. I object to that. We fought that principle in the 1933 Act, and we are doing so now for the right of land holders to have some form of appeal in these cases. We had an admission from the Minister that people could proceed in the ordinary course, but here the section wants to make the Land Commission all powerful, something akin to the Revenue Commissioners in regard to income-tax, by making them a sovereign body over the rights of agricultural holders and to give no right of appeal.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 35 stand Part of the Bill."

This is the only section in the Bill that I consider to be necessary and useful. I realise that a certain amount of land, especially along the seaboard, has been damaged by blowing sand, and I understand the cultivation of bent is an effective means of preventing sand gathering on such land. I assume the section is intended to apply only to areas along the seaboard where the cultivation of bent would prevent damage being done. I take it that it does not apply to areas where bent is used for other purposes such as thatching. Sub-section (4) provides for penalties, and offenders, who may be small farmers, may be fined £5 for a first offence. That amount seems to be out of all proportion to the offence. It is a ridiculous figure. I imagine that a caution by a district justice would be adequate punishment in the first instance, and if there was a second offence that a small fine might be imposed. I am perfectly satisfied that it would be enough to warn these people that if they committed an offence they would be taken before the courts and prosecuted. It is not likely that they will run the risk of incurring the displeasure of the authorities.

I disagree with Deputy Roddy in this matter. As far as I am concerned the man who cuts bent on the seashore should not be fined, but sent to jail. I know a part of my constituency near Horn Head where land has been ruined by the cutting of bent, and for years I have been imploring the officials of the Department of Lands to plant bent there. I would suggest the Department should be very stringent in dealing with this matter of seashore bent. The Land Commission will have to act very firmly in this matter to prevent destruction in that area. As far as I am concerned, I think a fine is not sufficient to prevent destruction. I would first fine and then imprison offenders. A whole area in Donegal has been destroyed by the cutting of bent.

Bring them before the Military Tribunal.

If I were taking a shot on a golf course and sliced it into the bent on an adjoining seashore, would I be liable to punishment?

You should be jailed for that.

It must be intentional?

Question put and agreed to.
(1) Whenever the Land Commission—
(a) have, before the passing of this Act, published a declaration that land which, at the date of such publication, was vested in a purchaser under the Land Act, 1923, or any Act amending or extending that Act was required for the relief of congestion, or
(b) have, before the passing of this Act, published a certificate that land which, at the date of such publication, was vested as aforesaid was required for the purpose of re-sale to the persons or bodies referred to in Section 31 of the Land Act, 1923, as amended by section 33 of the Land Act, 1933, or
(c) shall, after the passing of this Act, publish in the prescribed manner a certificate that land which is at the date of such publication vested as aforesaid and had been so vested for seven years before such publication is required for the relief of congestion or for the purpose of such re-sale as aforesaid,
it shall be lawful and, in the case of any such declaration, or certificate so published before the passing of this Act, be deemed always to have been lawful for the Land Commission to declare the appointed day for such land.
(3) Whenever the Land Commission have published (whether before or after the passing of this Act) any such declaration or certificate as is mentioned in sub-section (1) of this section, the following provisions shall have effect and, where such declaration or such certificate was so published after the passing of the Land Act, 1933, and before the passing of this Act, be deemed to have had effect as from the date of such publication, that is to say:—

I move amendment No. 51:—

In sub-section (1) (a), page 15, lines 48 and 49, to delete the word "declaration" and substitute the words "notice of intention to declare".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 52:—

At the end of sub-section (1), line 4, page 16, to add the words—

Provided, however, that such declaration shall not be made if that land or any other land within a 10-mile radius thereof shall have been offered for sale by public auction within a period of two years prior thereto and such land shall not have been purchased by the Land Commission unless the Land Commission shall be able to satisfy a court that their agent attended such auction and made an offer thereat which offer in the opinion of such court represented a fair and reasonable price for such lands.

This section was inserted by the Minister to upset a decision of the courts which declared that certain lands vested under the Land Act of 1923 could not be compulsorily acquired. I have repeatedly advocated, both during the discussions on this Bill and the discussions on the Land Act of 1933, the right of tenant-purchasers to some title in their lands and to some continuity of possession. During the discussions on the 1933 Act, the Minister now in charge of the Bill assured us definitely that it was never the intention of his Party to disturb tenant-purchasers, that tenant-purchasers need never have any fears of being disturbed. There was another contention in regard to the price to be paid for such lands and the Minister assured us that any price paid for the land would be up to the full market value, that they were taking pains to ensure that the market price would be given. The amendment which I propose is an attempt to ensure that tenants will have some tittle of right in their own lands and that, if the lands are taken from them, they will have some chance of getting the full market value. The amendment I admit will apply only to a limited number of tenants. It will apply only to tenants who purchased under the 1923 Act or subsequent Acts but I hope the principle will be enlarged later on. If any reliance could be placed on the various statements of Ministers opposite, I think I would have the backing of Ministers for this amendment. I certainly should have the backing of the Minister for Finance who openly in this House declared for the rights of property in land and the payment of the full market value for land. Indeed, for some parts of the amendment I should have the backing of the Minister himself as he declared in this House that the price to be paid for any land resumed by the Land Commission would be the market value.

This amendment embodies two principles, first, the principle of security of tenure and, secondly, the price to be paid for land taken over. As to the first principle, ever since the passing of the 1933 Act there has been a feeling of insecurity amongst practically all tenant-purchasers as to their title in their land. The recent actions of the Land Commission in Counties Limerick and Wexford have tended to increase that feeling of insecurity. If this feeling increases or persists, all incentive to good working on the land will cease amongst the possessors of moderately-sized holdings. The Minister in his speech said that this section was inserted because of a decision of the Supreme Court which held in a certain case that land vested in purchasers under the Land Act of 1923 could not be compulsorily acquired by the Land Commission. He went on to say that there was no argument why the owners of lands purchased under the 1923 Act should not be treated similarly to owners of lands purchased under previous Acts.

It might be difficult to argue that there is any reason for treating the 1923 tenants differently except this: the 1923 Act was the first Land Act introduced into our native Parliament. It is to be assumed that the 1923 Act and subsequent Land Acts were meant by the Ministers who introduced them, to secure the tenants whom they placed on the land under those Acts in their title to their lands and to give them some guarantee of continuity of possession in those lands. The present Ministry intend to wipe out all that security given by a native Parliament.

There is one saving clause in this section. The Minister says that there is an important provision in the clause, that lands are not to be interfered with or to be compulsorily acquired until a period of seven years has elapsed after vesting. Tenant farmers of this country by the grace of Fianna Fáil Ministers are going to be secured in possession for seven years after the vesting of their lands! After seven years they are to have no feeling of security whatever in their lands. Apparently we are going to have a system of perpetual division of land, with no certainty to any tenant-purchaser that he is in secure possession, with no incentive to any tenant-farmer to work his lands in a proper manner. His only desire will be to get all he can out of the land in the shortest possible time, knowing that his tenancy is limited. His tenancy is at the will of the Government and may be terminated at any particular period. On various other occasions I have spoken of the practice of the Land Commission, resuming the land of tenant-purchasers and the wrongs they were inflicting on tenant-purchasers by that practice. The Minister obviously will answer me later on, that if this amendment were accepted it would retard land distribution and that it would create a fictitious price for land, in fact that it would raise the price so much that it would be impossible to distribute land to allottees.

As to the first objection, that it would limit the powers of the Land Commission to distribute land, it might possibly limit the powers of the Land Commission in that way but unless we are to assume that we are to go on for ever settling tenants on land, and afterwards resuming these particular lands to divide them again, that we are to go on for ever dividing and redividing lands, there must be some end to the practice of taking over tenanted lands compulsorily, and we ought to make provision for it. I may be told that all untenanted land will perhaps in the near future be disposed of and that it will be necessary for the Land Commission if they intend further to carry on the principle—and it is a good principle—of distributing land amongst necessitous allottees, to get some of the land purchased under the various Acts.

We have no objection to that particular principle if it is carried out in a fair, honest and equitable manner and it can be so carried out. If the Land Commission must resume land of a tenant-purchaser under any Act, they ought not to resume a holding for redivision amongst any persons unless it is impossible for them to obtain land voluntarily offered in that vicinity. In almost every county and every parish, farms are offered, day after day, in the open market. It is open to any private individual, to any company or to the Land Commission to step in and buy that land. The Land Commission could, in those circumstances, distribute that land without doing injury to anybody. The only reason the Minister will advance for failure to adopt that practice is that the Land Commission would have to pay a fictitious price in the open market. I think he said that the "puffer" would be at work. Anybody who knows anything about purchases in the open market knows that there is always the danger of the presence of a "puffer." Practically every Deputy has attended an auction——

As a "puffer."

As a puffer or as a genuine purchaser. For myself, I have never attended an auction as a "puffer" but I have several times attended auctions as a genuine purchaser. I have always had to protect myself from the "puffer" and I have always found ways of defeating the "puffer." Any man who is familiar with the procedure regarding the purchase of land knows that there is the danger of somebody putting in a fictitious bid on behalf of the owner.

The Congested Districts Board found a way of defeating that.

The Land Commission could defeat that practice as easily as any ordinary purchaser could, if they wished to give a fair price for the land. The only reason why the Land Commission will not buy in the open market is that they do not wish to give the market price for the land. Any difficulties that would arise could be guarded against. The Minister wants to give the land to the allottees at a fair price. That is right. No Deputy on this side would argue that an allottee should be burdened with a rent which he cannot pay. But if we want to carry on the distribution of land, just as if we want to carry on any other service, the Government must pay the cost. Any Government which introduces a new service must pay for that service. The present Government introduced the free beef scheme, the unemployment assistance scheme and other schemes and they had to pay for them all.

We had to pay for them.

Men of property—"gombeen" men like you.

The taxpayer must pay for these schemes, and the House cannot get away from that fact. Either you confiscate the property of one man and give it to another, or you must make the Central Fund bear the cost. The Labour Party ought to be behind me in this amendment.

Mr. Hogan

Then, they are not.

I do not think that the Labour Party would stand for the principle of confiscation any more than any other Party. Even the semblance of security in land has vanished. Everybody knows that. There is not a tittle of security left in the land, whether in a ten-acre, 20-acre or 50-acre patch. Unless some provision such as I suggest is introduced to protect the tenant-purchaser, there is an end to any feeling of security amongst tenant-farmers. If my amendment be accepted, it will, at least, reduce the feeling of insecurity that exists at present. While trying to safeguard the tenant, I want as far as possible to protect the Land Commission against the "puffer." I tried to secure that, if the Land Commission proceeded to purchase land in the open market, they would not be compelled to give a fictitious price owing to the operations of a "puffer"—that they should be asked to give only a reasonable price, and that it would be sufficient if they could satisfy the court that they had offered such a price.

If there is to be any finality to the land question, if we are not going to have introduced every two years a Bill to upset a previous Act, then some such provision as this is necessary. If we are to proceed with the practice of dividing lands, certain conditions must be laid down unless the position of present holders is to be made so insecure that there will be no proper development of agriculture. The only way to secure that farmers will get a fair price, if we pursue this practice of further dividing lands, is by the introduction of some such provision as I have put forward. I do not offer the amendment to the House in any spirit of hostility to land division. I am as favourable as most Deputies to land division. Where possible, it is a good thing to put suitable allottees on land. It is as good a form of social relief as any Government could embark upon. But, like other forms of social relief, if embarked upon, it must be done at the expense of the Exchequer rather than at the expense of any individual. If we are going to relieve a certain number of people and give them holdings of land, or additions to their holdings, that must be done at the expense of the State, and it should not be done by confiscating the property of any private individual in this State.

I rise to support this amendment. Under the Land Act of 1923 people were given an assurance that any land purchased under that Act would not be interfered with afterwards by the Land Commission. They were given an assurance that that land would not be taken from them for sub-division amongst others. But now as time goes on we find that the security then given is of no avail to them, and that any of the land purchased under the 1923 Act can be again resumed by the Land Commission. That is not at all necessary. In my opinion there is sufficient land in this country available for acquisition and for subsequent distribution by the Land Commission if they will only go earnestly and honestly about solving the problem. On a recent occasion here I mentioned the fact that I considered it rather strange that the Land Commission never attempted to go into the open market and purchase the land offered for sale. If the Land Commission had done that I have no doubt at all they could secure sufficient land for their purposes. Surely the Land Commission could trust their officials to go into the market and pay a fair price for the land offered, in other words, to pay the market price for it. The Land Commission do not seem inclined to do any such thing. I can therefore only conclude that they are not prepared to pay a fair price; but that on the other hand they prefer to take the land under their own regulations and pay whatever price they themselves think the land may be worth. I am satisfied that the price that the Land Commission is paying for the land they are acquiring compulsorily is not anything like its value, and it surely is not the fair market value of the land to the man from whom they are taking it.

I know that if the real market value for the land was paid by the Land Commission and if the money had to be apportioned on the tenants who were given the land afterwards —if the principal and interest of the money so paid were to be taken as the basis of the land annuity—the people taking the land could not afford to pay that annuity. I am satisfied of that. But the Minister should realise that if the Land Commission were to go into the market and buy the land offered for sale his action would give a certain amount of security to the people living on the land. They would then have the satisfaction of knowing that the Land Commission were honest about their undertakings.

I know that at present there is a great deal of dissatisfaction on the part of farmers throughout the country because of the manner in which the land is acquired and divided. I know of cases where a certain organisation group themselves together, send on their applications for the acquisition and division to the Land Commission and the Land Commission immediately acts on these. A case came before me recently of a man who had a 50 or 60-acre farm. Some time ago the Land Commission gave him notice that they would take the land from him. The land was inspected. Later on the owner was notified by the Land Commission that he would be given £600 for his farm. The fact is that in 1935 the man bought that farm for £1,600. Since then he spent on it about £300 in improvements. We have, therefore, this fact emerging that a property for which a man has paid £1,900 is being taken away from him and all he is being paid is £600. What is fair about such a proceeding? What do Deputies think of it?

It is highway robbery.

If the Minister wants the name of that farmer I will be only too pleased to let him have it.

That case does not arise under this section anyway.

Some similar cases will.

At any rate, that instance goes to show how the land is being acquired by the Land Commission. That is a line of policy to which any honest man must object. The Minister in refusing to send officials of the Land Commission to the open market to buy land and to pay the market price for it is not acting fairly by the farmers of the country. Under this Bill the Land Commission are saying to the annuitants: "We will give you security in your farms for seven years." That is all that it amounts to. That is not giving fixity of tenure. It is only like something school children sometimes do to one another. A child will give away some little toy or other to another child and say to him: "I will take it back from you later if I want it." The policy of the Land Commission is pretty much on the same footing. There should be something definite as regards finality. People who purchased their land under the Land Act of 1923 were entitled to expect that they would not be interfered with. These people should be left undisturbed in possession of their holdings, but instead of that, land that was only purchased by the tenants a few years ago is being taken off them now to be given to somebody else. That is a practice that is not just nor equitable and it should not be pursued by the Land Commission.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding as to what we mean to do under this section. The fact is that this section gives very much more security to the people who purchased under the 1923 Land Act than they got under that Act. In the 1923 Land Act power was taken to retain and resume every acre of land that came under it. If the Land Commission wishes at the moment they might not vest in the annuitants the land purchased under the 1923 Act as much as one single acre. Instead of holding up land purchase and the vesting of the land in the tenants, we are continuing to vest this land in them. When the land is vested in them then they have the right given under the 1933 Land Act that unless the land is required for the relief of congestion in the immediate locality it cannot be taken from them, provided the land is worked in a proper manner. Deputy Bennett said that he never acted as a "puffer" at an auction. He certainly has acted as a "puffer" here to-day because if this amendment were passed, the Land Commission could never again take any land if other land was offered for sale within ten miles of that locality. They should go and buy that land in the open market.

And they would have to bid for it.

Yes, have to bid for it and the "puffers" would bid for it, too.

They would have to bid a fair price for it.

Deputy Bennett may not be a "puffer" himself but if this section went through he would be the father and the mother of "puffers"; because this section would make it impossible for the Land Commission ever again to acquire land and to divide it.

Not at all.

I think Deputies Holohan and Bennett know perfectly well what would be the effect of this amendment if inserted in the Bill. Deputy Bennett gives a sort of lip sympathy to the policy of the division of land but he knows that this amendment of his would, in effect, stop the division of land. No matter what our individual notions may be, the policy of the acquisition and division of land has now been accepted as a national policy and in 1923, under the guidance of the then Minister, the Land Commission took powers to acquire land for the relief of congestion. They took more power than they had up to that time. They actually took power to retain and resume all holdings that were then unpurchased in the country. That was the widest possible power. It was in their absolute discretion to retain and resume every acre of land that was not purchased prior to 1923. We are giving the people who have purchased since 1923, the same security as people who purchased prior to that. We are giving them more security than they would have if the Land Commission did not purchase and vest the land in them because under the 1923 Act they were left stark naked as far as protection went.

The Minister says that Deputy Bennett and Deputy Holohan know what the effect of their amendment will be, that it will put a stop to all acquisition of land. I say deliberately that it would have no such effect. In every county that I know of if the amount of land offered for sale in any year had been acquired by the Land Commission in the open market there would have been as much land divided as there was under existing conditions. In my own county if the land offered for sale during the last two years had been purchased by the Land Commission there would have been more land divided than there was under compulsory acquisition. There would be no injury done to anybody, either the seller or the allottee, provided, of course, that the Government assume some responsibility for financing the system and do not intend, as we assume they intend, to make the division of land not a charge on the Exchequer, but on the tenant-farmers by compulsorily acquiring land at an unfair price. If all the land offered for sale was acquired by the Land Commission in the open market there would be sufficient land year after year to be distributed among suitable applicants. Land is being offered for sale every year and will be offered for sale every year. There will always be land for sale which will be open to the Land Commission or anyone else to purchase if they wish to give a fair price.

The Minister said that I am a champion "puffer." Unless the Land Commission is incompetent, they can send somebody to any auction which is held and purchase land at a fair price. They are not compelled by the amendment to give an unfair price. There is a very easy way of dealing with "puffers." If "puffers" make too high a bid for land, let them have one or two farms at the price offered and that will soon put a stop to their operations. Any auctioneer knows that. The Land Commission can get over that difficulty as easily as they can get over any other difficulty, if they want to do it. The whole thing is that the Ministry want to settle people on the land, not at the expense of the Exchequer, but at the expense of the tenant-purchasers of the country. They want to acquire land compulsorily when they can get land voluntarily in the open market. I, for one, shall not be a party to that, and if I had no support in this House except from Deputy Holohan I should oppose it.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided:—Tá, 17; Níl, 40.

  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • Burke, James Michael.
  • Desmond, William.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Roddy, Martin.


  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Corkery, Daniel.
  • Crowley, Timothy.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Maguire, Conor Alexander.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies P.S. Doyle and Bennett; Níl: Deputies Smith and Moylan.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 53:—

In sub-section (3), page 16, line 12, to delete the word "declaration" and substitute the word "notice".

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 36 stand part of the Bill."

It seems to me that there is a principle involved in this section which the Minister has not completely taken into account. A remark fell from Deputy Bennett a few moments ago from which I wish entirely to dissent. Deputy Bennett said that the policy of the Government was to settle the people on the land. Now, it is as obvious as anything can be that the policy of the Government is not to settle the people on the land but rather to unsettle the people who are now settled on the land—to take away any sense of security that any single person who owns even a small holding of land has got at the present moment. There has been a lot of talk about taking land from persons who own large holdings and of giving it to smallholders. That is not the policy to which the Land Commission have confined themselves. I will give a concrete example. A man came to me recently who has two small holdings. The holding on which he lives has a valuation of about £7. Two miles away he has another holding which has a £6 valuation. That is to say, he has got altogether a £13 valuation. That man received notice that the Land Commission were going to inspect, for the purpose of acquisition, his £6 holding. Surely that man has not got an excessive amount of land. After all, a £13 valuation does not represent an enormous extent of land. I believe they have actually inspected the £6 holding. If they take up that holding it will reduce that man to a £7 holding which is looked upon as entirely uneconomic. Therefore, there is no safety at all at the present time for any person who has been put upon the land under the provisions of the Land Acts.

I would like the House to understand what this section means. It is this: a man may have a large holding and be paying £100 of an annuity or he may have a small holding with a £5 annuity. After the expiration of a period of seven years, at the whim of the Land Commission, the land held by either of these men can be taken up. Therefore, there is no security at the present moment. I would like every member of his Party to read and study carefully the speech which the Minister made on the amendment that the House discussed a short time ago. If they do they will get to understand the policy of the Land Commission at the present moment. They will get to understand the rights and the powers which the Land Commission are arrogating to themselves at the present moment. The Minister's speech amounted to this, that the Land Commission need not have vested any land under the Land Act of 1923 at all— that they could have held over every single bit of land. I submit that they have no such rights. Did this House ever mean to give them such rights? Has not this House always thought, no matter what services may be reserved or what services are not reserved, that its wishes and views as embodied in legislation are to be carried out by the Land Commission? The Land Commission are not the masters, they are merely the instruments for carrying out the wishes of this House. The Minister's claim amounted to this, that the Land Commission are, in effect, the fee simple owners of every single perch of land in this country, and that nobody who is now on the land has got a jot of title that cannot be removed at the whim of the Land Commission. That is our position at the present moment, and surely there must be a stop put to that? Surely at some time, if the land of Ireland is going to be productive, if the land is going to be properly worked by the people who are placed upon it, that condition of affairs must stop?

How can a man be expected to work his land, to improve his land, unless he has a sense of security? A sense of security in the owner of land is the source of all real productivity on the land. I cannot quote it accurately verbatim, but I can give the substance of one of the most quoted passages, I suppose, in the English language— Arthur Young's famous passage:

"Give a man a seven years' lease of a garden and he will turn it into a desert; give a man a lease for ever of a desert and he will turn it into a garden, because the magic of property turns sand into gold."

It is that magic of property which, as Young puts it, turns sand into gold that you want to drive out of this country. Surely there must be given by the House some time or another to people who have land, large amounts in some areas, in my own county small, a sense of security; otherwise they cannot work their land, they cannot improve their land.

If a man knows his land may be taken from him whenever the Land Commission like—that is really what the Minister has told us—the position is becoming very desperate indeed. We heard last night about the persons who were not vested, who had got to wait to be vested. Their position is bad. They are only temporarily listed, but not vested. Surely the condition of affairs for all persons is now becoming very desperate. I submit that in the interests of this country there must be finality some time or another. There must be a curb put on the powers of the Land Commission to acquire land and, after a certain period, when the Land Commission have had every opportunity and have decided that such and such a farm is properly broken up, then let it be finished for all time and let the persons on it have a complete sense of security.

I am quite clear in my conscience in giving the Minister all the powers he seeks in this Land Bill. I am also certain, from my knowledge of the conservative attitude hitherto adopted by the commissioners, that these powers are not going to be used in the way suggested by Opposition speakers. I think, however, there is a big difference of opinion between the mentality of the Minister as expressed here and the possible attitude of the commissioners in administering the additional powers that we are now prepared to give the Minister, and the mentality of the local supporters of the Fianna Fáil Party, and perhaps the supporters of other Parties, in connection with the necessity for acquiring and dividing certain lands. In some portions of my constituency parochial politicians are meeting, calling themselves anything they like, and passing resolutions. They send these resolutions to the Land Commission and, as a result of the resolutions, they circulate locally, with or without the authority of the powers that be, the statement that certain holdings, perhaps very small holdings in some cases, are about to be acquired and divided by the Land Commission. I suggest seriously to the Minister that he will save himself a good deal of trouble in the administration of the Land Acts if he will convey to his supporters, through whatever channels he wishes, his own intentions and the intentions of the Land Commission in connection with the acquisition and division of land.

I reported a case recently to the Minister where a small body of people in part of a parish met and decided that a certain holding would be acquired. They circulated locally, with some semblance of authority, the statement that this person, whose land would be acquired, would not be allowed to take the crop off the land; in other words, the Commissioners were going to come in at once and not alone acquire and divide the land, but also hold the crops on the land. That is not an isolated case and I think that some of those parochially-minded politicians who have appointed themselves lords of the soil should be curbed in their activities. I believe it will save the Minister a good deal of trouble if he will keep some of these people away from the Land Commission. Whenever they are seen by officials of the Land Commission or by the political head of the Land Commission, they should be told to convey to their followers in the country what the intentions of the Land Commission are and they should not be allowed to go back and circulate some false statements locally which, I must admit, create a certain sense of insecurity in the minds of the people working the land.

I want to see every bit of untenanted land, the big pieces of land, acquired. If I live to remain a member of this House until all the large estates and ranches in my constituency have been acquired and divided by the present Government or some other Government, I feel I will then have served the purpose which brought me into this place. I am, myself, the son of an evicted tenant and, on the other side of my family, the same thing applies. I think any person who lives in that type of surrounding will feel he has a duty imposed on him, as a representative of a family that suffered in the land war, to see that not alone those who suffered, but every person willing to work land not now worked by other people, will get a holding and be afforded an opportunity of making a living out of that holding. I do not want people in the country to misrepresent the position of the Government. I believe the sort of thing I have referred to is being done by the supporters of other Parties, people suffering from land hunger. Some of these very people are not the type who would work land even if they got it. I appeal to the Minister to convey to his own supporters, and indeed to everyone his voice can reach, the intentions of the Commissioners in regard to the administration of the powers that I, for one, am willing to give him in this Bill.

Deputy Davin says that the Minister must curb these local land tyrants.

I did not use the word tyrants; I do not look upon them as tyrants.

What does the Deputy look upon them as? These local gentleman can be curbed in only one way, and that is by letting them know definitely that the people have security in their holdings of land, and that it is not open to them or anybody else to put those people off. If you have power vested in any politician or in any Department of the Government entitling that politician or that Department to evict a man and to give his land to somebody else, so long as that is the law, you will have the type of persons to whom Deputy Davin refers, who will desire to create the impression locally that they have the power to determine who will be put off the land and who will be left on. There is no use in the Minister for Lands going down and asking his friends not to conduct themselves in that way in their own particular districts. Dozens of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party do it every time they think their influence is flagging in a particular part of their constituency. I have known them to go down and hold private meetings and hand out statements that they were discussing the allotment of so-and-so's land.

Some of your supporters were at those meetings.

Well, if they were, the sooner they cease to be my supporters the better pleased I will be. If they are open for purchase by Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party who promised them grabbers' land, the sooner they are out of the Fine Gael organisation the better pleased I will be. I desire to belong to no organisation in which grabbers find a home. The Deputy knows as well as I do that Fianna Fáil T.D.s have been called down to discuss with local Fianna Fáil Cumainn the distribution of land in a particular parish; that they have gone down, and have let it be widely known that at the Cumann meeting over which they were presiding a discussion took place as to the division of so-and-so's land, and that Deputy so-and-so is going to use his influence—that is the phrase—to get that land divided. There is no use in the Minister giving pious advice to his colleagues and to his supporters in the country not to do that, so long as he claims the right to take away from the tenant-purchasers of this country the fixity of tenure to which Deputy Davin referred. Deputy Davin reminds us that he is the son of an evicted tenant.

Not the son—the grandson.

He is the grandson of an evicted tenant. He probably remembers that his grandfather was evicted because he was fighting for fixity of tenure and free sale.

It was not for non-payment of rent anyway.

No; he was fighting for fixity of tenure. Remember that when the Land Act of 1881 was passed, his grandfather was in the position that so long as he paid his rent and perpetrated no waste the landlord could not put him out of the holding. If his grandfather were on the same holding to-day what would be his position? Let him farm the land as well as he may, let him pay his annuities on the due date, and he is fixed with notice by the Minister for Lands that seven years from to-day he is liable to be put out any time the Minister for Lands deems it prudent to do so. If Deputy Davin's grandfather, when he was going out on the side of the road in defence of fixity of tenure, had been told that 56 years later his grandson would have that fixity of tenure taken from him by an Irish Government, would Deputy Davin's grandfather have believed the man who said it to him?

I do not believe it anyway.

It is in this section.

It is true. I challenge the Minister for Lands to deny now that the humblest tenant of Lord Barrymore had greater fixity of tenure in 1882 than any tenant-purchaser buying out land under the Land Commission to-day. The astonishing thing is that I do not think Deputy Davin understands that. I do not think Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party understand it. If they did understand it I doubt whether they would vote for it. Take a man now on a 20 acre farm, whose grandfather held that 20 acre farm from Lord Barrymore in 1879. Barrymore could go down there and kick that man out at the next gale day. The Land Act of 1881 was passed, and that Act provided that Barrymore could not put that man out unless he perpetrated waste on the land or unless he refused to pay the rent.

Then you got the Ashbourne Act of 1885, which set up a system of land purchase in this country, and remember we had Land Acts long before we had Land Purchase Acts, and they were designed for the purpose of getting fixity of tenure and free sale. They had the right, if they wanted to leave their land, to sell their tenant right. They were absolutely secure on the land so long as they discharged their duty. Land Purchase Act succeeded Land Purchase Act, and in every Land Purchase Act that followed it was always provided that when you vested a tenant in his holding no power in this State could get him out of it, unless and until he consented freely to go. Then you had the 1923 Land Act introduced here by the late Deputy Hogan, and Deputy Hogan seemed, if you did not fully understand the land code, to go beyond that position, but in fact he did not.


That is the very thing I want to examine closely now, so that we may follow the whole trend that leads up to the section we are now considering. Deputy Hogan in the 1923 Act did give power compulsorily to acquire land that had been vested under a previous Land Act, but he did put in this proviso—not unless lands of equal suitability and equal value are given in exchange. When those words "equal suitability" became the subject of judicial decision, Deputy Hogan was amply vindicated, because what the Judicial Commissioner said was this:

"Unless I am satisfied that the tenant has all the advantages, sentimental as well as material, in the new holding, he is entitled to refuse to leave,"

which is precisely, I believe, what Deputy Hogan had in his mind, and which effectively preserved the doctrine that no man would be moved off his holding, once it had been vested in him by the Land Commission, unless he were willing to go. Now, remember that every Department of State has got to protect itself against blackmail. I do not want, Sir, to go at enormous length into the whole history of land law in this country, but Deputy Belton knows as well as I do that there did come a time when, for the purpose of expedition, a large number of persons were vested under Land Acts, for whom the Land Acts were not primarily intended at all. That happened because it had to happen in order to expedite land purchase. Nevertheless, with splendid perception of the fundamental principle, Deputy Hogan saw that while you might be tempted for the sake of expediency to break a great principle, you should not break it, and you must endure the fact that certain persons were getting fixity of tenure under the Land Act whom you did not want to get that type of fixity of tenure and who were not entitled to get it, but you were not entitled to break through their fixity of tenure if in interfering with it you interfered with the general principle of fixity of tenure in regard to all the tenants in the country.

That proviso was put in, and operates for the purpose of preserving fixity of tenure in every citizen of this State, except the person who is deliberately trying to blackmail the Land Commission. If the Judicial Commissioner was perfectly satisfied that in truth a man had not all his legitimate sentimental feeling and all his legitimate material feeling for his land amply satisfied by the alternative accommodation proposed, the commissioner was entitled to say: "Since I cannot satisfy that man I will not allow him to be moved. Only in a case where I know he is in fact satisfied, but merely trying to blackmail the Commission into giving him more than he is entitled to, there and there only will I order his removal while he is still objecting."

Might I ask the Deputy did not the 1923 Land Act fix all unpurchased land, tenanted and untenanted, in the Land Commission on a fixed date? Where was the fixity of tenure there? The Land Commission had the power to resell portion of that to the tenants, or to resell none of it to the tenants. It destroyed their borrowing powers and security for accommodation in banks, etc.

As I say, we could go now into the whole code of land law, which would bring us to a discussion of about 45 Statutes. The point we are now concerned to argue is the point arising out of this section and the corresponding section of the Act of 1923, which gives the Government the right to go in on a tenant of land vested under a previous Land Act, and compulsorily to acquire his land whether he likes it or not.

I am opposed to that principle now as I was in 1923.

Now, my position is this: that under the 1933 Land Act it was suggested that there was some kind of protection preserved for the man who had less than £2,000 worth of land. I say that the protection provided in the 1933 Land Act for that class of persons was not worth the paper it was written on, because it is no compensation to go to a man in County Mayo, whose father and grandfather were living in the County Mayo, and tell him: "We are going to give you land in the County Waterford of equal value," because he does not want to go to County Waterford.

They did not want to go under the 1923 Act either.

He was not asked to go under that Act.

Now, the Deputy knows perfectly well that that is all nonsense. I would appeal to Deputies: Do not let us, for the purpose of making it a debating point against one another, split our forces when we are all agreed on the fundamental principles. We are all agreed on the fundamental principle of fixity of tenure, and do not let us depart from that principle. If we are to sit down and argue all the implications of the general provisions of the 1923 Land Act, it is going to take a very considerable time. In effect, what happened was that the vested tenant was not disturbed unless and until the Judicial Commissioner was satisfied that land of equal suitability and equal value was provided for him. If Deputy Belton presses me, I doubt if I would have gone as far as that myself.

I would not, and I do not think you would.

Well, that is as may be, but whatever our views may be upon that question, this fact emerges: that, in effect, it operated to preserve the fundamental principle of fixity of tenure that Deputy Davin, Deputy Belton and I are concerned to preserve for all time.

Will the Deputy give us a case of a man who was put out of possession from the 1923 Land Act up to the present?

That is the extraordinary thing—that a man of Deputy Davin's experience cannot see beyond his own nose. He says:

"I want to warn the Minister that the effect of Section 33 is that you have a new kind of tyrant appearing in rural Ireland—a fellow swaggering around the parish announcing that he is going to divide up so-and-so's land, and I want to warn you that that kind of thing is what is creating all the discomfort and uneasiness in the country, and that kind of thing must be put an end to."

Did not the Deputy say that? Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney has pointed out, of his personal knowledge, the case of a man with two holdings—one a holding of £6 valuation, and the other of £7 valuation—who has been notified that one of his farms is going to be taken away from him.

I said that it has been inspected.

That it has been inspected? Very good. Well, I know of another case in which a woman with, I think, 24 acres of land, got notice that her land was going to be inspected. We all know of the several cases in Wexford in which a number of tenant-farmers with from 40 to 100 acres of land — land on which their fathers and grandfathers had lived before them—got notice that their lands were going to be inspected, and then were afterwards notified that the Land Commission, in sending out these notices, had made a mistake; or so it was alleged by the Minister.

These are the kinds of incidents that could not possibly arise if fixity of tenure was established in the land, because, if it were, a farmer of that kind would say, when he got such a notice: "Under the law, nobody can move me." As things are at present he can only say: "Under the law, it is quite possible for me to be put out and for my land to be given to somebody else." It is a strange and interesting thing that the term mentioned here should be seven years. I do not know how closely Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney got to the case when he quoted the saying of Arthur Young to the effect: "Give a man a seven years' lease of a garden and he will turn it into a desert; give a man a lease for ever of a desert and he will turn it into a garden." Is it not remarkable that seven years is the term provided for in this Land Bill? Would the Minister read that and digest it? Seven years to turn a garden into a desert? Does he hope to see every holding vested under the 1923 Act turned into a desert?

I want to put that to farmer Deputies in this House. We all know what happens to conacre. Any Deputy here who has neighbours and takes conacre knows that if a man goes in and plants a crop on that conacre he will buy a couple of hundredweights of phosphate of lime and a hundredweight of sulphate of ammonia and that that is all he will do, and that, if asked about it, he will say: "Well, it is not my own land." In other words, he knows that he is only going to have it for a certain time and therefore all he wants is to get as much as he can out of it. If you put people on land for a seven-year term—and that is what this amounts to—the first tendency is to take as much out of it as they can. There is another tendency that manifested itself in this country previously. If you have a holding in the midst of a number of persons, all of whom would be glad to have a bit of it, I ask Deputies to cast their minds back to what happened when their grandfathers were tenants on the land of this country and the landlord was anxious to get a good bit of land for his bailiff or his emergency man. It became the rule that no man would improve his house or improve his land because, if his land was so far improved that it stood out as superior land to that of his neighbours, then that would be the very bit of land on which the landlord would come down if he wanted to plant a bailiff in the midst of his tenantry. If you have a number of covetous landholders in rural Ireland and all want a bit of land, and if a man clears his land of rushes and improves his land, drains it and fences it and so on, that is the very bit of land that his covetous neighbours will go for. They will not go for the rushy or the waterlogged land when there is any division to be done. If there is any division to be done, they will ask the Land Commission to divide the best land. Is not that so? And if that impression is going to get abroad in the country, does it not mean that every tenant purchaser will allow his land to fall down to the lowest common denominator for fear it would attract the covetous eyes of a bad neighbour.

That is a very serious menace to the general prosperity of this country, because the only natural resource that this country has is the arable land. Other countries have gold or coal, minerals or oil, or something of that kind, which are natural resources of the community. The only natural resource that we have is the land, and if the land is wasted and depreciated, then the entire wealth of the entire community is going to be wasted and depreciated at the same time. Our object should be, and has been for the past 50 years, to induce the owners of land to put as much into the land as they can, so that we might establish there on the soil of the country a great communal savings bank that would stand to the country; and I think it has stood very well to the country in the past three or four years.

And it was done.

It was done because, as Arthur Young said, you put the tenant purchaser on a desert with a lease in perpetuity and he proceeded to turn that desert into a golden garden. We are going to take him off that desert which he has turned into gold and put him back on it with a lease for seven years, and the inevitable tendency will be for him to turn that golden garden back into the desert in which he found it in 1879. Now, the Minister for Lands always gets indignant when we reach this stage of our deliberations. I want to make it perfectly clear that the principle underlying the Minister's departure now is, in my mind, a thoroughly unsound one, and it is the fixed intention of this Party, when they come to form the Government of this country, to upset the principle now established by the Minister. It is the fixed intention of the Fine Gael Party, when they become the Government of this country, to restore to the tenant purchasers of this country the fixity of tenure which Fianna Fáil is now taking from them, and the Minister ought to bear that in mind in shaping the policy to which he is setting his hand at the present time. I am prepared to discuss with Deputies from any side of this House whether, in view of the fact that we have more people desirous of getting land in this country than we have land to distribute, we ought not to set a limit to the acreage of land which any individual citizen may own outright. I think that is a question that may be profitably discussed, and, having arrived at that figure, I want to devise a method of tenure which will say "Provided you own no more land than the maximum figure determined by the Legislature of this country, whether you are a landlord on your demesne, a farmer on your farm, or a tenant purchaser on your little holding, you are absolutely immovable by any force in this State, unless and until you express your willingness to go." I say you have got to get to that point, and the sooner we get to it the better it will be for everybody in this country. Surely Deputies on the other side must see that we have to get to that point?

I confess that discussing legislation of this kind is often a source of humiliation to me. I remember when there was a good deal of trouble about the non-payment of annuities. The Fianna Fáil Government were trying to make the case that we were in a conspiracy to withhold land annuities from the Land Commission with a view to upsetting the Government. It is well known to Deputies that all the influence available through the members of this Party was used, and, I am glad to say, successfully used, to persuade the farmers of this country that, greatly as they were tried and grievous as was the provocation under which they were labouring, to withhold land annuities from a Land Commission controlled by an Irish Government could not be justified and was against the law, and, in my humble opinion, was against the moral law. I heard a statement made in a broadcast by somebody who purported to speak, and did at one time speak, for the landlords of this country. He sneered at the tenant farmers of this country, who had given the landlords so much trouble in the past, and said it was amusing to notice that they were turning their own weapons on themselves. It humiliated me to think that any representative of the landlords should jeer at the sons of Land Leaguers that the weapons they had forged to destroy landlordism in this country were being used against their own Government at present.

I put it to the Minister for Lands that we now, in encouraging people to covet one another's land and inducing our people to believe that they can take the land off their neighbours, are doing just the very thing which the old Landlords' Association used to boast our people would do if and when they did succeed in taking the land from the landlord. It always used to be their boast. They always used to say to the larger farmers who were working in with the smaller men in the Land League: "Wait. If you help them to get rid of the landlords now, the moment the landlords are gone, do not imagine that any question of principle will influence the people of this country. When they are gone they will start taking the farms off the substantial farmers." Are there not Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party who want to do that to-day? Having got the help of the substantial farmer in this country in the Land League, in the full knowledge that the land war could never have been fought and could never have been won without the help of the substantial farmers of this country, the men who were able to pay their rent to the landlord, but who would not pay it until their neighbours got the fixity of tenure and the other rights they were fighting for, and who threw in their weight with the Plan of Campaign and told the landlords: "We are able to pay our rent; we have it, but we will not give it to you. We will give it to the Land League until such time as you concede to the tenants on your estate the rights which they are entitled to demand," the sons of these very tenants for whom those sacrifices were made are turning around to snatch the land from the men who stood by their fathers when they badly wanted their aid. In doing that, they justify the Barrymores and the Landlords' Association, who can sneer at the treacherous Irish farmers who turned on their own.

That is why all this business disgusts me. It makes me sick to think that the farmers of this country, having fought for and got fixity of tenure for themselves, should now turn on their own neighbours and try to take it from them. There is no use trying to maintain anything in this country unless you are prepared to stand on some rock of principle somewhere, and I say that the rock of principle we ought to stand upon is that there shall be a certain minimum quantity of land to which a man will have an absolute and unchallengeable title against all comers, and, unless you are prepared to do that, the whole land settlement is going back into the boiling-pot and God knows when it will come out. Do Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party understand what is going to happen if this amendment is carried? Every tenant purchaser in this country can have his land taken from him at a moment's notice. His only security is that if he has less than £2,000 worth, he must be offered land of equal market value anywhere else in the country the Land Commission chooses to offer to him.

Do Deputies of this House believe that that is in the best interests of the country as a whole? I am sure it is not, and I invite the Minister to bear in mind that, when he leaves office, he will be succeeded by a Government which will restore to the tenants the fixity of tenure which he is now taking from them. I submit it would be very much more in the interests of the community, instead of having changes of that kind in something that approximates very closely in this country to the fundamental law, we should come together and agree on some principle which would govern the land purchase and distribution activities of whatever Government was operating in this country, from whatever Party it happened to be drawn.

I am afraid that Deputy Dillon is carried away by his own eloquence in regard to this matter of land purchase and land acquisition. I am perfectly certain that he has misinformed himself if he thinks he is ever going to get any Party in this House, whether it is in the Government or not, to go back on what was done in the 1923 and subsequent Acts in regard to the powers given to the Land Commission to acquire land and to finish land purchase. There was just one old cliché which Deputy Dillon forgot to say to-day—that a man's land is his own to do what he likes with. He is very fond of it, but perhaps he has progressed from that. He repeated what Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said, that if you give a man a desert in security, he will turn it into a garden. The principle for which Deputy Dillon is supposed to be fighting, that a man's land is his own to do what he likes with, turned this country, which is one of the most fertile in the world, into a desert, simply because the owner of the land had no personal and immediate contact with the land. The people of this country rose in revolt and got rid of that type of ownership.

What was done in 1923, and done since, I am attempting to do now, to confirm what our forefathers did, so that mere nominal ownership of land will not allow somebody to defy the national interest and the interests of his neighbours. We are trying to secure that a man will so work his land that he will be put beyond the reach of anyone interfering with him. In the old days, when a man worked his land to the utmost, and enhanced its value, the landlord took that as a sign that the rent should be raised, or that he should be thrown out and the land given to someone else; but under the Act of 1923 the better a man worked his land the better security he had. It is stated definitely in the Act of 1933 that the Land Commission cannot take land for any purpose except for the relief of congestion in the same locality or the provision of certain sports fields. They cannot take any land which is producing an adequate amount of agricultural products and providing an adequate amount of employment.

What section is that?

Section 32 (3). We are providing in another section of this Bill that wherever the Land Commission go below £2,000, or below the market value, they would have to give an alternative holding of equal market value. The 1923 Land Act had much wider powers in regard to at least one-fourth of the land not yet purchased, and the late Deputy Hogan took certain powers there which, if operated in a tyrannical fashion, would create hardship. He was perfectly entitled to take wide powers to deal with a very difficult problem, knowing that he could depend on the Land Commissioners operating these powers in a common-sense fashion. It is quite a different state of affairs now from the conditions that operated in the old days. If anything goes wrong with the Land Commission's operations now, there is a question about it in the Dáil the next week, and a debate on the Adjournment. A number of Deputies claim that on certain occasions the Land Commission should get even further powers for the re-arrangement of holdings, and for certain other problems that are special to the western areas. We know perfectly well that it is impossible, with democratic government here, and with a Parliament House, to give the Land Commissioners the power that the Congested Districts Board formerly had.

Was not the Congested Districts Board under a democratic Parliament?

It was, but no question about its powers could be raised in Parliament.

Why not?

That board was given the absolute right to do what it thought right without any appeal.

Is the Minister labouring under the delusion that no question was asked about the Congested Districts Board in Parliament?

Questions were asked in order to get them to go faster but they had the right to do what they thought best for the locality, without any appeal. Deputy Davin objects to Fianna Fáil clubs having a view about their neighbourhood and expressing an opinion as to whether certain land should be acquired or not. I do not see why Deputy Davin should deny that right to Fianna Fáil clubs. It is a power that the Deputy exercises very frequently. As a matter of fact, he puts down more questions, asking when land will be divided, than most Deputies. I do not say that he should not do so. He is perfectly entitled to have his opinion, as to whether a piece of land should be divided or not, and so is Deputy Dillon, Deputy Roddy or any other Deputy. It is the same with the Fianna Fáil clubs. But that is not saying that Deputy Davin, Deputy Dillon or a Fianna Fáil club should decide whether or not a certain piece of land should be acquired and divided. As a matter of fact the Minister for Lands cannot decide that question. It is reserved to the Land Commissioners under the 1933 Act. These remarks apply also to some criticism by Deputy Dillon. He said that the Minister had the power to determine who should be put on land and that he had the right to take away fixity of tenure and to put anybody out and so on. As a matter of fact, the Minister, in that regard, has no more power than Deputy Dillon, Deputy Davin or anyone else.

On a point of order. In certain matters you, Sir, have ruled that the Minister should be the person made responsible to this House. If I have been misled by confusing the Land Commission and the Minister I express my regret. I am not alleging against the Minister that he is acting corruptly in the administration of the Land Acts. Expressing a personal opinion, to which I suppose the Minister does not attach any importance, I should like to say that my information is that a Minister does not interfere at all.

I certainly wanted to correct what might be a wrong impression. In regard to the acquisition and division of land the Act of 1933 reserved all such questions to the Land Commissioners and not to the Minister. That Act does not take away the right of any citizen to make representations to the Land Commission, either through a T.D. or directly, and I am certainly not going to stop Deputy Davin or a Fianna Fáil club from making the representations they think it right to make.

On a point of explanation, I do not object to Fianna Fáil or any other clubs making representations but I think it is wrong for a Fianna Fáil or any other club to say that land is about to be acquired when, in fact, no such decision has been taken.

I have no law to stop that any more than I have power to stop the Deputy if he wanted to say it. Deputy Dillon said that we should decide to have some limitation to the acreage of land. I want to say again that there is no fixed standard of value in regard to land. The poor law valuation is absolutely hopeless in regard to the valuation of land. The poor law valuation of a farm might be £10 now, and it might be worth £1,000 in the market, or it might not be worth 10/-. While I was inclined to have some sort of clause in the 1933 Act providing a certain minimum, below which the Land Commission could not touch a holding without giving an alternative holding to the owner, I found I could not express that minimum either in terms of acreage, poor law valuation, or the amount of the land annuities. Instead of attempting to express it in terms of poor law valuation we expressed it in terms of market value—a market value of £2,000. If land were vested in an occupier under the 1923 Act or any of the other Acts, the Land Commission could not go below a market value of £2,000 unless they gave an alternative holding of equal market value to the man whom they disturbed.

But not of equal suitability.

Equal suitability is one of those wide terms that it would be impossible to define.

In fact you gave fixity of tenure to a man who had only £2,000 worth of land.

The Land Commission are human beings, and as human beings they carry out their work with as little trouble as possible to themselves. It is foolish to think that the Land Commission would move a man who has a holding of 40 or 50 acres to the value of a couple of thousand pounds to some other district just for the mere pleasure of doing it.

They have the power to do it. That is all we are concerned with.

They have the power to do it when they consider that it is necessary for the relief of congestion locally. Deputy Roddy can tell Deputy Dillon, if he wishes, how long the Land Commission has cogitated about moving even one individual and will assist him to come to the conclusion that there is no extreme danger to be attached to that power. One of the most difficult tasks with which the Land Commission is faced is to get alternative holdings for those who are migrated. That is a difficulty that they are not going to increase by moving people unnecessarily. That £2,000 market value is, in my opinion, almost as complete a security as we can give. Remember that if, under the relevant section of the 1933 Act, a man uses his land properly, having regard to food requirements of the country and unemployment conditions, he has to get an alternative holding. I think it would be wrong if the Land Commission had no power to interfere with new landlords. Our people abolished the landlord system because the landlords had no personal interest in the land. They were simply there to get as much out of the people who were working the land as possible. We have confirmed what our forefathers did. We say whether a man is an old landlord or a new landlord, if he does not work his land, if he sets it for other than temporary convenience, if he sets himself up as a new landlord, then he is going to be subject to the same disabilities as landlords of the past.

I have no objection to that.

Every ordinary farmer who works his land as well as is necessary in the national interest—and that is not a whole lot at the moment, because with a very low standard of cultivation we could produce all the food required for ten or 12 times our population—is secure in possession. The other type of man, the man who sets himself up as a new landlord, we have every right to abolish. We are not confiscating his land. We are giving him a fair price for it.

Could the Minister give us an instance of one of these new landlords? Is he a man who lets his land on the 11 months' system?

If Deputy Belton or myself speculates in land in County Meath or Louth, and buys a holding of 200 or 300 acres with no intention of living on it, but simply for the purpose of subletting it on the 11 months' system, where the competition for land is keen, he or I would be a new landlord.

I agree.

There is plenty of that going on.

I think I have done all I could to give Deputies a realisation of what the Land Acts contain at the moment, and I think in regard to this section that, as the 1923 Land Act left these people, from a legal standpoint, stark naked with no protection whatever, we are entitled to give them the protection which they had not previously. We are entitled to give them that with certain limitations which we consider to be right in the national interest. Deputy Davin, I think, mentioned the case of a man who has 20 acres of land, but that is not a good size for my illustration. If a man has 200 acres of land, if he is not vested, if he has yet to be purchased under the 1923 Land Act, the Land Commission has an absolute discretion to take every rood of land he has. If we see no immediate prospect of that 200 acres of land being required for distribution and if the Land Commission vest it in the occupier, I see no reason why we should not limit his very strong fixity of tenure to the £2,000 limit. Remember, he has none at present, whatever, in regard to a single acre of it.

Will you give him fixity of tenure in regard to £2,000 worth?

He will have it under this.

Oh, no. You can move him and give him a farm worth £2,000 somewhere else. Will you give him fixity of tenure on his present holding up to £2,000 worth of land?

He can be moved only when the land is required for the relief of congestion in the immediate locality.

But you can move him.

Yes, for the relief of congestion in the immediate locality. That is a power which I would not take from the Land Commission, because one of the biggest difficulties that we are up against at the moment is to establish congests in a state in which they can carry on and make a living at home. They cannot go abroad at the moment, and we must do as much as possible to enlarge their holdings, so that they can live in a fair state of comfort here at home. If we have to move an odd person for that purpose, it will be done with the least possible worry from the point of view of the community. I see no danger in doing it, and I think it is a very good power to have.

Remember that that power is not as strong as the power taken under the 1923 Land Act in regard to lands that were not then vested. These powers were taken under the 1923 Act because it was known that they would be operated by the Land Commission in a sensible fashion, and that, if they were not operated in a common-sense fashion, the Land Commission would quickly hear of the matter in the Dáil.

I had not an opportunity of hearing the Minister's opening remarks. The first remark I heard from him was that one of the objects of this section was to prevent the owners of land defeating the national interest— whatever that may mean. Will the Minister say that it is in the national interest to put a time limit of seven years to the vesting of land in any tenant purchaser? Does the Minister think that, with that time limit, a tenant-purchaser is going to use that land in the best national interest? Does the Minister imagine for a moment that the man in that position is going to invest money in the land for the purpose of developing its productivity to the utmost? Does it not follow, naturally, that so long as a time limit is imposed, as it is imposed by this section, no tenant purchaser will dream of putting money into land lest the land, when developed to full capacity, should be taken from him by the Land Commission and utilised for the purpose of relieving congestion. Sub-section (1) of this section is calculated to defeat the national interest so far as the development of land is concerned.

The Minister made reference, over and over again, to the wide powers given by the Land Act of 1923 in connection with the acquisition of land. I agree that the Land Act of 1923 gave wide powers for this purpose, but if it did, the exercise of these powers was restricted in many ways, and there was always the right of appeal to a High Court judge—the Judicial Commissioner—and, on questions of law, to the Supreme Court. That right of appeal has been in many respects impaired by the Act of 1933, and it is being further diminished by this Bill. To that extent, the security for the holding of land is lessened very considerably. This section applies entirely to land vested under the Land Act of 1923. The number of holdings vested under that Act is, I think, very small. The overwhelming majority of holdings which come under the Act of 1923 have still to be vested. They are in the stage of what is called "provisional vesting," and the Minister, in the exercise of his powers of resumption, can acquire a certain number of these holdings for the relief of congestion, if he requires them. The powers of resumption which the Land Commission have at the moment are increased by a section of the Bill we are now discussing. Without exercising any compulsory power in regard to land vested under the Land Act of 1923, has not the Minister adequate power to deal with the problem of congestion by resuming holdings of land still to be vested, if he thinks that that is necessary for the relief of congestion.

You are not prompting him to do that?

I should imagine that not more than 10 per cent. of all the holdings coming under the Land Act of 1923 have been vested. It was clearly implied in the Land Act of 1923 that, before these holdings were vested, they would be inspected and that the Land Commission would be satisfied that the holdings were in accordance with the terms of the Act. Some of these holdings have been vested for many years. In the case which this section has been drafted to cover, the land has been vested since 1927 or 1928. That tenant has had his title to that land for a period of eight or nine years. He has probably spent an enormous amount of money on the land in order to increase its value and productivity. The money spent in that way represents a dead loss to him because the Land Commission now propose to acquire that land and utilise it for the relief of congestion. I submit that the lands already vested under the 1923 Act should be left untouched. The Minister has ample power to acquire as much land as he wants for the relief of congestion.

Has the Minister taken the measure of the problem of congestion still to be dealt with? It appears to me that before the Minister proceeds to acquire new and extraordinary powers for dealing with this problem of congestion, he should take the measure of the problem still to be dealt with. When the late Deputy Hogan was in charge of the Land Bill of 1927, either when introducing the Bill or concluding the debate, he gave the Dáil what he conceived to be the measure of the problem of congestion as it existed at that time. So far as I recollect, he said that, even assuming that all the available land at that time was acquired for the relief of congestion, it would only deal with approximately 45 per cent. of the known congests, without providing any land for landless men or other classes of persons coming under the Land Act of 1923. In 1927 the position was that, if every possible rood of available land was acquired for the relief of congestion, it would only deal with 45 per cent. of the total number of congests. Eight years have elapsed since the Act of 1927 was passed and much land legislation has been put through since then. That legislation contained still more drastic powers for the purpose of dealing with the problem of congestion. The Minister should avail of the opportunity offered by this Bill to state what, in his opinion, is the nature of the problem of congestion still to be dealt with and to what extent the acquisition of all the land available will deal with that problem.

The Minister was asked by Deputy Dillon if it was his intention to reduce the holdings of land to a common level. In his reply, he said he was anxious to fix a level but that, on account of the difficulty of estimating the value of farms, it was quite impossible to do so. It seems to me that that is not an obstacle at all. It is true that the value of land varies considerably in different parts of the country. In many cases, too, according to statements uade by Deputy Corry and others in the course of the debate on this Bill, the annuities are out of all proportion to the value of the land. Leaving aside the question of value altogether, there are factors which would assist the Minister in coming to a conclusion. The acreage and the quality of the land are factors which should enable the Minister to form some estimate of the amount of land which, he thinks, farmers should be allowed to hold with a feeling of perfect security.

Could the Deputy put that into legal language?

That is not the Deputy's business. That is the Minister's job. I am certain that if the Minister reached a decision on that point, he would find his legal advisers willing and ready to assist him by drafting a suitable section for the purpose.

It would be a Valuation Bill—not a section in a Land Bill.

I should like to know from the Minister how many holdings have there been already vested under the 1923 Land Act to which this section is intended to apply?

I could not tell the Deputy.

This section, as drafted, gives the Minister the widest possible power and in giving the Minister the widest possible power to acquire land already vested under the Land Act of 1923 it creates insecurity. There is no man whose land has been vested under the Land Act of 1923 who will not feel insecure because of the introduction of such a section as this. The section is a disastrous one and undoubtedly it will have disastrous effects. When the Land Act of 1923 was going through the Minister who introduced that Bill gave the Dáil to understand that it was a final settlement of the land problem in this country. These words were, I think, used by the Minister in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill or on the final Stages. Now apparently there is to be no final stage in the settlement of the land problem for this Land Bill introduced now means really revising and reversing the work that was supposed to be done by previous legislation. It appears to me that the Minister is in very much the same position as his leader, the President of the Executive, who is trying to level the standards established by his predecessors, in order, as he says, that he may be able to set up new standards more in conformity with his own views and notions.

The Minister is going to set up a land code after his own pattern, and he is going to revise the position of the land code devised by his predecessors in office. If that is to continue surely to goodness the Minister must realise that the farmers in this country will not be able to use their capital at all in the proper development of their land. As the Minister has used the words "in the national interest", surely he must realise in these circumstances that the national interest must suffer disastrously. Before we depart from this section, I suggest to the Minister that he should give the Dáil to understand what, in his opinion, is the nature of the problem of congestion with which he has to deal and to what extent the available land in this country and the land which he can possibly acquire will enable him to deal with that problem of congestion.

I have listened to the debate on this section from both sides and I do not think the matter is becoming any clearer. Personally, I am getting more confused by the whole discussion. I do think it is time that we fixed some title in land. I have no doubt that the big principle which was recognised by the British Government with regard to the acquisition of land was a sound one, namely that the Land Commission should not interfere with land that had already been the subject of land purchase transactions. That big principle was violated before the present Government came into office. I have not the least doubt about that. I took a big part, with others, in opposing the 1923 Land Bill. I remember a saying of the late Mr. P. Hogan, then Minister for Lands and Agriculture, that they were taking powers in that Bill to take land from anybody, anywhere. I think that saying can be found in the records of this House. I was against that principle then, as I am against it now, because you must have a settlement of land purchase some time in order to start from that time with any chance of progressing. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney quoted a saying which was developed and laboured by Deputy Dillon. We all know that what he said was quite true. The man who takes conacre and pays a big price for it has one object in view. What does he set out to do? To use a vulgarism, he sets out to tear the guts out of the land. That is what every farmer will do in the future if he is only going to get a seven years' tenure of his land. Deputy Davin complained that the Fianna Fáil clubs and others were putting pressure on Deputies and on the Land Commission in the matter of the acquisition and distribution of land. I entirely agree with what the Minister said in his reply—that the power is there to take the land and when that power is given to these people why should not they avail of it. We may think that that power is either right or wrong; but if it is right for us to give it, then it is right for those people to exercise it. They are exercising their natural rights. When the Fianna Fáil or any other clubs put pressure on the Land Commission to get land they are acting within their rights. If they want any little kudos out of it they are entitled to that kudos. The Land Commission cannot stop people from acting in this way.

I heartily agree with the suggestion of Deputy Dillon to fix a limit to the size of a farm and to let that limit remain. I remember a saying of his late father, John Dillon. Indeed, I never forgot it. He spoke at a meeting of the Lawyers' Society at University College 25 years ago and what he said is perfectly true to-day. At that meeting an able young student, the late John A Ronayne, was giving an address and at the end of that long and laboured address he reached the conclusion that the land question was a question that it was very hard definitely to settle. When Mr. John Dillon was called on to reply he described Mr. Ronayne as a young man on the threshold of public life, and he referred to his remark about definitely settling the land question. He said: "Mr Ronayne has just discovered what I and my colleagues discovered 25 years ago, that the land question is a question for every generation and the best we claim was that we have solved it with a certain amount of success for our own generation; the question is a recurring one; it will be a problem for every generation." John Dillon spoke the truth. We realise that we have to take up the solving of the problem where the late John Dillon and his colleagues of the Irish Party left it. If the suggestion of Deputy Dillon were adopted and we were to fix the maximum size of a farm, we could only fix it for to-day; somebody else could come tomorrow and say it was too big. If you are going to interfere with the size of farms or land tenure, and if you are not going to take as a base line that land which has been the subject of land purchase proceedings will not be touched and stand upon that, I do not see where you can stand or anchor yourself, because I do not see where you can establish yourself on a big principle. If you do not work on a principle and just take some point of expediency, it is only a matter of opinion as to what point is expedient. You may be right at that time, but somebody else will come along with a different view to deal with the problem in different circumstances and he will shift the point of expediency.

I see great difficulty in handling this matter considering what has gone before. I am certainly not enamoured with what the Minister said—the man who uses his land properly. I think the Minister will agree that everybody uses his land as properly as he can. Nobody with property can afford to let it run to waste. I take it that every man who possesses land is handling it properly. There may be an odd exception here and there, just as some men are not handling publichouses or grocery houses or drapery houses properly, but they will find their level. You do not want legislation to put such a man as that into his proper place. A man who is not handling his business or his farm properly will not be long in the business or on the farm, and I do not think this House need bother about him. Ordinary economic pressure outside will look after that man. The Minister also said "a man using his land in the national interest." It is not for the Minister for Lands to dictate what is in the national interest. The Minister for Agriculture has that responsibility. It is for the Minister for Agricultural to devise such an agricultural policy as will not force people to use land in a particular way, but will induce them to use land in a particular way, and that particular way, I suggest, should be the way to work the land in the national interest.

The Minister pointed out that land must be taken in order to relieve congestion, because people cannot emigrate now. These are not his words, but I think that is what he meant to convey. Is he enabling land to carry more people by taking it from one man and giving it to another? I know that men who are in good employment are better off at present than 90 per cent. of the small farmers. Taking a large farm and breaking it up into four or five farms under present conditions, is putting people into slavery. We had it only this week that the best that could be made out of land was 5½d. per gallon for milk wholesale in the City of Dublin. The Minister produces milk on his farm in the County of Dublin, and I challenge him to say that he produces it at 5½d. or even 6d. a gallon, apart from sending it into the city. What about the people who are in the slave trade of producing that milk? Why do they not get out of it? Because there is nothing they can go into that would be even as good as that.

What about wheat?

They will not grow wheat, because even milk at 5½d. per gallon is a better paying proposition than wheat. That milk is produced on the best land in Ireland, or perhaps in the world, quite close to the City of Dublin.

It will not grow wheat.

The Deputy should not be tempted by Deputy Davin, and should keep to the section.

The Deputy says that Dublin land will not grow wheat. I do not think that requires any further comment. They attempted to grow wheat in Leix.

And succeeded.

I could talk for a long time on this matter, but it would be more or less a repetition of what others have said. It is a national loss and a national danger that we have not fixity of tenure for land in this country. There is absolutely no doubt about it that there is no fixity of tenure at present. Even the Minister, in trying to emphasise that we have, has not said without qualification that we have fixity of tenure. He said that we have fixity of tenure if certain things operate. I agree with what Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney has said, that fee-simple has disappeared from this country. There is no fee-simple or fixed title to land. The Land Commission can take land from anybody any time they like. It is a very serious matter at present, because the real loss to Irish agriculture is the want of capital in the industry. I am sure the Minister is aware that Irish agriculture is very heavily in debt at present, that it owes millions to the banks, and that as things stand at present, there is no hope of paying that money.

The interest is all right.

The interest will not be paid.

They will get their interest.

They are not getting their interest. Evidence was given at the Banking Commission that the interest is not being paid, that there are frozen debts. How are you going to re-establish the credit of agriculture? How are you going to increase the borrowing powers of agriculture? Any business that has not credit enough to be able to go into a bank and get an overdraft is foredoomed to failure. This section will diminish still further the asset in land because the individual who owns land has now only a seven years' agistment lease, and during that time he is going to take all he can out of the land. I had concern for ten years and did fairly well with it. Then I deliberately said to myself that I was going to take out of that land all that I put into it, and more.

Had the Deputy no conscience?

It would not pay anybody who takes conacre to have a conscience. I am sure that the Minister himself, if he took conacre, would leave his conscience behind him, and so would the Land Commission.

Deputy Belton referred to the recurrent character of the land problem and to the debates on that question long ago. Surely what those debaters had in mind was this: that though we may distribute the land in a given generation, unless we retain machinery for land distribution what will inevitably happen is that certain speculative persons will gradually become landlords again. They will buy up holdings so that gradually one man will have 60 or 70 holdings, all of which had been at one time the subject of Land Commission transactions, so that perhaps in a period of 50 years we will be back in exactly the same position as before, with a series of large land-holders having tenants on their land. It was, therefore, necessary to keep the Land Commission machinery to remedy that situation if it should ever arise hereafter. I fully appreciate the difficulties of the Minister and of his predecessor in preserving fixity of tenure and, at the same time, of providing against the danger of the reappearance in the country of a new class of land grabbers which, it is manifest, could not continue in this country because the public peace and the people would not stand for it.

Therefore, you have got to apply to this extremely difficult problem the best common sense available to the particular generation to which you belong. Neither Deputy Belton nor I can answer for what our grandchildren will do in regard to land in this country. All that we have got to do is to give it as our opinion, in the circumstance in which we find ourselves, what is the most prudent method to pursue. What we do say is that, so long as we are in public life, and speaking on behalf of the generation to which we belong, we believe in some fundamental fixity of tenure, and that we are going to fix what that fundamental fixity ought to be. We admit that it is a difficult thing to do. I think the Minister is right in fixing the minimum quantity of land that a man may hold in terms of market value. We do not deny the right of any citizen to hold at any given time more than £1,000 worth of land, but, in the existing state of affairs, we cannot guarantee to every citizen of this State, as regards his surplus of land over and above the £1,000 worth or the £2,000 worth that he holds, or whatever the figure may be that is finally arrived at, that his tenure in the land over and above that figure will be absolutely fixed against all interference. What we do say is, that below that figure there will be absolutely no disturbance without his consent. It is a truism to say that no given generation of men can determine any given state of affairs for all eternity. It is beyond human power to do that. We may fix a man with the best intentions in the world on the west coast of this country, and the elements may then sweep in and blot out his farm. That is not our fault.

The Deputy is not suggesting that the Land Commission is as dangerous as the Atlantic waves.

I am afraid that it is going to be very much worse in existing circumstances. I want to give security to the man whose holding of land is below the figure arrived at, whatever that figure may be. I also want to be able to say to the man who wants more than that "if you want to live by the land in this country you cannot be a swell; there is not enough land to allow people to become plutocrats in land, but if you want to live a farmer's life in Ireland you must be content with a modest standard of living, such as can be extracted by a good husbandman out of £2,000 worth of arable land. If you desire a more luxurious form of life then you must follow some other profession." While I say that, you must ensure that, if a man puts his fortune into land, he is absolutely secure in his homestead so long as our generation has control of the public life of this country, and I think nobody can say more than that. If all Parties in the State come together and by way of compromise fix a principle, then I believe that succeeding generations will pause long before they break in on that principle. They may say that they are in altered circumstances and that they must sweep away settlements arrived at in the past, but at least there is a point at which any succeeding generation will stop before they tear up settlements that had been arrived at following negotiations and compromise carried out between all sections of the community at a given time, because they will know that, if they sweep an agreement of that kind away and can only put in place of it the wishes of one individual party in the State, they will have something much more transitory and unstable than the old agreement that was founded on the unanimous approval of all parties. That seems to me to be the common sense of the question, although I feel the same longing as Deputy Belton for some rock principle on which I could stand and never get off.

I have the feeling that was expressed in that debate, to which Deputy Belton so gracefully referred, that the very nature of the land problem means that each generation must settle it for themselves. All that we can do is to try and give some anchorage which will serve until some succeeding generation can find a safer and a better one to put in its place. Let me put this point to the Minister with regard to the prospect of the deterioration of land if effective fixity of tenure is not immediately given. The Minister himself has land in the immediate neighbourhood of the City of Dublin. If, for instance, one of his fields was next door to the local graveyard, that looking over the wall of that graveyard he saw that it was filling up and that in all human probability in the next two or three years the local authority would be coming to notify him that it wanted his field in order to extend the graveyard, what would his reactions to that particular field be? Would he not break it up into tillage and tell the man in charge of his farm to get as much out of that field as he could in the next two or three years, because there would be no use, he would say, in nourishing that land in order to provide grass to smother the graves that were going to be made in it. The Minister's tendency in that case, I suggest would be to say that there was no use in wasting his good farm yard manure on that field. His tendency would be to take all the good out of it and to let the land run down.

Couple that natural feeling which all of us must have with the apprehensions that must be in the mind of the person to whom reference has been made. If his land has improved more rapidly than the land of his neighbours, his neighbours may come to covet it. If land has to be taken for the relief of congestion in that area, then that man's land is going to be taken because it is better than the land of his neighbours. Couple those two resultant developments from the absence of fixity of tenure and imagine in your own mind what effect this is going to have on the land of the country over a period of years. In my view it will result in a very serious deterioration of the fundamental national wealth, and that is something I want to avoid if I possibly can.

The scheme I throw out in rough outline seems to me to be the only way we can avoid it and that scheme has the additional advantage of removing from the minds of the people that feeling of uneasiness and that readiness to suspect which is so closely interwoven with any interference with the rights of the people in their holdings. These are things which are bad for the body politic as a whole and I would like to eliminate them. It is for that reason I feel so strongly about fixity of tenure. From a word the Minister dropped, it would seem that there is not, perhaps, so much between us. He said that when he was devising the £2,000 section in the 1933 Act he cast about to see if he could devise a form of words which would give a fixity of tenure and the £2,000 clause was as near as he could get to it. I do not think it is and I believe that if we got nearer the ideal which would satisfy us all, then his functions as a Minister administering land legislation would be much easier for himself, and the position would be improved for all of us.

I did not intend to intervene to any great extent, but I feel that I should like to make some reference to this question of security. I think security is the most important consideration in connection with any land legislation. If there is any interference with the security of farmers in their holdings, there can hardly be any doubt whatever that it will have very disastrous results. If any one wants to realise the condition of things prevailing in the country, it is only necessary to refer to Deputy Davin's speech. The Deputy suggested that the Minister might convey his intentions and the intentions of the Land Commission to people down the country and that he should endeavour to curb their activities in certain directions. After all, what is legislation for only to convey in the very clearest terms not only the Minister's intentions but the intentions of this House? Deputy Davin's suggestion simply means that the title of people in their land is dependent perhaps on their political sympathies. That is the only interpretation that I can put upon it. That, in itself, is sufficient reason to make the Minister look more carefully into this question of security and to ensure that it does not rest upon the whim of any particular persons, even of a Minister himself. The present Minister's intentions may be quite all right, but another Minister may be in his place and there may be a change in the personnel of the Land Commission. Another Minister may have a different viewpoint and the Land Commission may change their minds. Unless you put down in black and white what are the intentions of the Dáil in passing this legislation, then there is a danger either in the immediate or the remote future that the legislation may be misinterpreted.

On the security of land a good deal rests. In my young days the people of Ireland were fighting to secure the three F's. Fixity of tenure was regarded as the most important of all, because it gave the people an interest in their land. They could realise it was their own land and they could afford to put labour and money into it to improve it and make it more fertile. They would know that whatever they were spending was in their own interests, and they would have the right of free sale if they wanted to sell. Once this legislation is passed, no man can feel he is secure. Human nature being as it is, nobody could be expected to expend labour and money in improving his holding. The position of any man who is in possession of land would be the same as a man taking a holding on the 11 months' system. He will get all he can out of it, and he will pay little attention to the fertility of the soil. That condition of things would not be in the interests of the nation. Does not everybody realise that the best way to get the most out of a thing is to give the people security? Let the people realise they are working for themselves.

If the principle is adopted that the State should own the land, then the State will have to exercise very rigid control. They will have to employ further officials to see that the land is worked in the way they want it worked. I do not care how they multiply their officials, it would be an impossible task to undertake. The simplest and the surest way is to give the people a certain amount of security in their holdings. I agree with the suggestion made by Deputy Dillon that there might be some limit set down and below that every man who holds land could feel quite secure. That suggestion should meet the difficulty. There is no difference of opinion with regard to giving all the powers necessary to the Land Commission to acquire land when it is necessary to relieve congestion. But in securing that object the Minister should be very careful that he does not do harm that might outweigh the good he hopes to achieve by this land legislation.

I think the intention of the Dáil should be quite clearly registered in this measure, and there should be no need for the Minister to point out later what his intentions were when this Bill was going through. There should be no need for anybody to explain what interpretation should be put upon it. This legislation should explain itself, and it should be made clear in it that the security that the tenant-farmers of Ireland fought for half a century ago is not going to be taken from them now. It should be made clear that this is not simply a transfer from the old landlords to a State landlord. Any interference with security on the land will have very harmful results. It would be certain to affect the free sale of land. If the Land Commission are given power to tell any man that they want his land— it may be a small or a middling-sized farm, or whatever it is—it will make people feel insecure. It will lead to the position that there will be difficulty in ascertaining what is the value of land, because for all practical purposes land will case to have value. The people will be placed in exactly the same position as they were in before 1879, or whatever time the land agitation started, because the State would have exactly the same power as the landlord had in those days. It may be said that there is a safeguard—that the Land Commission would give them what they might consider a fair value. But it is very easy to fix values upon land. Government policy can change the value of land, and I think that Government policy has changed the value of land here in the last four or five years. I distinctly remember reading in the Irish Press about four or five years ago articles written from day to day by some gentleman whose name I forget. He laid it down that it was good sound policy to reduce the value of land so as to enable the Government to take it over for anything they like to offer. Those may not be the exact words, but that was the trend of the articles, and since 1932 that policy is being put into practice. In the first place, the Government got up a sham economic war and left the farmers without any market for their produce, except the home market and such market as they begged outside. They are begging markets all over the world now——

The history of the economic war is not relevant to this section.

I am dealing with the whole question of land.

The whole question of land does not arise. It is a question of whether the lands vested under the 1923 Act shall or shall not be relinquished.

I am not questioning your ruling, Sir, but I think that consideration of land value and land security ought to come under this section. If the security that people have in their land is of a precarious nature, then they are going to take no interest in drainage or in fencing or in doing anything to make the land more valuable. In short, they are not going to have any regard at all for the future. They will be living from day to day and taking whatever they can get out of their land. I do not see how that can be in the interests of the nation. I hold that it is altogether against the interests of the nation that this policy should be pursued, and that the people's interest in the land should be interfered with. Another question that arises is in regard to the type of men to whom land is being given. We should like to see settled upon this land men who would turn it to the best account. Deputy Roddy referred here to people who have been brought from the western seaboard and put on land in County Meath. They are unable to pay their rates——

That has nothing whatever to do with this section.

I am not going to dwell on it, but I want to suggest to the Minister that a better type of men should be put on the land, so that they will not be a burden upon the ratepayers.

The type of tenant has nothing whatever to do with this section.

Very well. I do not want to go into that any further, but I should like to impress upon the Minister that he should not pass over this section without amending it and making his intention quite clear, so that there will be no doubt in the mind of the Land Commission what the Minister's intentions are, or rather what are the intentions of the Dáil, in regard to this piece of legislation. That would save a great deal of trouble, not only to the Minister, but to the Land Commission. If the matter is made clear it will save a great deal of expense, because otherwise doubts will arise from time to time, and the matter will go to the courts. The most serious part of all is that the people who are on those lands do not know exactly where they stand. It is a very serious matter, and now is the time to deal with it. A great deal of time has been spent on this section, but if there were to be a month spent over it it would be well worth it, provided a good job was made of it, because it is the root principle of the whole land legislation. It is the one thing above all others that the farmers of this country, supported by the labourers and by every section of the community, fought to secure in the '70's and '80's. The security was completed somewhere about 1923. Everybody felt satisfied that that was the end of the land war, and that the people had security.

Provision was then made to secure distribution, wherever it was desirable, to congests and others. Nobody objects to a continuation of that principle, provided that the security of those who hold reasonable portions of land is beyond doubt. Otherwise there will be continuous trouble arising day after day and year after year. The Minister would be well advised to leave nothing undone to see that the security of people who hold a certain quantity of land is not interfered with, provided they are using it in a proper manner or using it in what they think is the best manner in their own interests, because after all if they use it in their own interests it must inevitably follow that they are using it in the interests of the country. It is not so easy for anybody to be a judge of whether land is being used in the national interest. One man may hold that when land is being used in one particular manner it is being used in the national interest, and another will disagree with that. It is just as hard to find two men of a mind as it is to find two men of a face: just as we can distinguish between the appearance of two men, so we can also distinguish between their minds. No man or no Minister is entitled to say what really is the best use to which land can be put. If a man does not hold too much land, and is using it in his own interests—he certainly will use it to the best interests of himself and his family—he is using it in the interests of the nation. The accumulated interests of the whole farming community must eventually accrue to the interests of the nation.

I think the Minister should look carefully into the suggestions that have been made by Deputies on this side of the House. If he does, it might be possible to settle on some principle upon which all Parties can agree, because there is really no difference of opinion. We are all agreed that the Land Commission should have certain powers, and that land distribution should go on. We all sympathise with that principle, and I think if something could be settled with regard to giving security to the farmer there is very little difference of opinion. We ought to be able to agree that those who do not hold too much land, and are doing their best to use it in their own interests, should feel secure that they have a right to do so.

Progress reported; the Committee to sit again on Tuesday next.
The Dáil adjourned at 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday next, 28th July.