Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 Dec 1946

Vol. 103 No. 13

Private Deputies' Business. - Derating of Agricultural Out-Offices—Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That, in order to encourage the provision of better housing for live stock and better storage for farm produce and equipment, Dáil Éireann is of opinion that all out-offices on agricultural holdings should be completely exempt from rates. — (Deputies Blowick, Cogan and Beirne.)

I do not think it would be fair for the House to allow a motion of this nature to be disposed of without further comment, and, in view of Deputy Maguire's absence, I should like to make a few brief remarks. This is a motion the adoption of which would be welcomed by the farmers. Representations have repeatedly been made to the Minister's Department with regard to grants for the repair and erection of out-offices, and I understand that there is no scheme, other than the farm improvements scheme under the Department of Agriculture, by which such buildings can be repaired. If a motion of this kind were put into effect, it would represent a considerable relief in rates to many of our farmers. Many of them would have more up-to-date out-offices and would probably have extensions built on to existing buildings if they could have an assurance that the local authority would not levy additional rates on them as a result.

The vast majority of our farmers have not got suitable out-offices. The Minister's Department has prescribed regulations whereby it is necessary for farmers to have suitable out-offices for such live stock as cattle, and, under the dairying regulations, the county medical officer will take a very serious view of any farmer who does not keep his cowsheds in accordance with these regulations. It is very hard to expect farmers to have their out-offices up-to-date for the reason that they are not exempt from rates. If they were exempt, I believe there would be a considerable improvement. The storage of farm produce and equipment is very important, and we know how difficult it was during the emergency to secure supplies of agricultural machinery.

We know also that to a farmer a good mowing machine, a good plough or reaper or binder, is his means of livelihood and the means by which he produces food, and our farmers should be enabled to have accommodation for such essential machinery without rates being imposed upon them. In addition, farmers should be encouraged to have lofts for the storage of grain and so on, and for that reason this motion should be put into effect. It deserves the support of every Deputy and I hope it will be adopted.

Deputy Cogan, in moving this motion on the last occasion on which it was before the Dáil, pleaded, in extenuation of the very inadequate arguments which he adduced in support of it, that he was taken by surprise. I do not know whether it is surprise or discretion which has emptied the benches of Clann na Talmhan this evening, but, at any rate, if one may judge by the attendance in the House, it would look as if they themselves were not fully convinced of the wisdom of this proposal. Deputy Cogan, in moving it, seemed to have been prepared, if he had had more timely warning that it would be taken, to support it by citing the conditions under which Danish farmers carry on. He said at column 1602 of the Official Reports:—

"I had intended to produce in this debate, if I was aware that it would be taken this week, figures showing the extent of farm buildings in Denmark as compared with this country."

Any person who listened to Deputy Cogan making his speech on that occasion must have asked himself: what do they know of Ireland who only Ireland know? For those who sit beside Deputy Cogan, every prospect charms so long as it is a distant prospect. For them every field is green, so long as it is a far-off field. Deputy Cogan bases his case on Denmark. Denmark is, for him, the farmer's paradise, a country studded with farm buildings. Perhaps it is true that we have too few buildings on our Irish farms. Most authorities, I think, do say that, but other authorities— authorities on Danish agriculture— take the view that some Danish farms, an appreciable number of them, may have too many.

Did Deputy Cogan ever hear of a gentleman called Einar Jensen? He is the principal agricultural economist in the United States Department of Agriculture. He has made a study of Danish agriculture—which I am afraid Deputy Cogan has not—and in 1933 he published a book entitled Danish Agriculture: Its Economic Development. Here is what he says, on page 136 of that authoritative study of agricultural conditions in Denmark:

"Both these factors—the free ownership of farms which ensures future benefits from whatever investments are made, plus easy access to long-term credit—have encouraged the farmers to invest large amounts——"

and this is the significant comment, "——sometimes too large amounts, in land improvements and especially in buildings."

There are three significant statements in that short sentence. First, that Danish farmers have been encouraged to invest by reason of the free ownership of farms. Our Irish farmers enjoy now practically free ownership. It is true that, as tenant-purchasers, they are paying an annuity, but that annuity represents merely one-half, or to-day even considerably less than one-half, of the market value of their farms as real estate. Accordingly, the Irish farmer in that regard is in as good a position as any Danish farmer.

The other condition which the Danish farmer enjoys, and which is significant also from the point of view of the case which has been made for this motion, is that he has easy access to long-term credits. We here have the Agricultural Credit Corporation, which extends long-term credits to farmers. Most of our farmers have enjoyed what are, in effect, long-term facilities from our banks. Many Irish farmers, in fact, so far from wanting credit, have lying fallow in the banks large amounts of capital which could be suitably invested here.

The Minister is not within a mile of it. The majority of farmers are in debt—and I can prove it.

I understand that Deputy Keating is not one of the farmers who are in debt.

The Minister does not know whether he is or not.

If he is in debt, then he differs from the vast majority of his colleagues. The third significant fact which we can glean from this judgment of a person who has studied agricultural conditions in Denmark at first hand and who is competent to form a sound opinion in relation to them is that the farmers have invested sometimes too large amounts in land improvements and especially in buildings.

In this same publication—to which I would advise Deputy Cogan in future to devote some study—the Deputy will find published representative Danish farm accounts and will see that, so far from land being derated, the Danish farmer, in respect of a representative and not very large farm, has to pay taxes on his estate amounting to about £32 per annum in our money and that his mortgage interest—in 1929, remember—was £57.

It is all very well for Deputy Cogan, Deputy Flanagan and others with no sense of responsibility to the community, to put down on the Order Paper motions which appeal to the cupidity of one section and, when such motions come to be debated here, fail to support them by any single argument that would convince a rational man. We know, of course, what the political technique in these matters is. Clann na Talmhan and Deputy Flanagan and others like him are not concerned with the practicability or the reasonableness of anything they put down on the Order Paper. On the contrary, the more unreasonable it is from the point of view of the general community, the more ardently they will support it, because the higher the bribe which they dangle in front of those uninformed people— and the mere presence of these Deputies indicates that we have a substantial number of such uninformed and short-sighted people in certain constituencies—the greater will be its appeal and the more the simpletons will fall for the bait.

We have, however, to consider a motion of this sort from the point of view of its reactions upon the community at large. If we were to admit that a complete exemption from rates is justified, in order that the construction of farm buildings may be encouraged, then it must follow that all other forms of desirable buildings should also be free from rates, that factory buildings and shops, that houses even should be free from rates in order that the erection of all these structures may be encouraged. If we are proposing to relieve farm buildings of rates, and if we have to go further in justice, as we must, to relieve other buildings which are used for productive purposes also from rates, then we are faced with the dilemma which Deputy O'Connor posed to the House: if you derate a particular type of building in order to encourage the stock owner to provide adequate shelter for his stock, and if you go further and derate an industrial building in order to encourage the industrialist to provide a building to shelter his workers and to shelter the processes which they work, what is going to be your answer to those who say: "Well, are you going to put the human being in a lower category than the farm animal or than the industrial machine; are you going to derate houses which are built to house cattle and horses and pigs and at the same time impose a heavier burden upon houses which are built to shelter human beings and to provide homes for families?

Of course, there can be no answer to that. Once you proceed to derate any building, to relieve it of its just share of the burden of expense which is involved in the maintenance of local services you are driven back to this position, that you must derate all buildings. Then, in order to enable the local services to be carried out you must find some alternative means of raising revenue. You have either got then to provide revenue for the local services out of central taxation, in which case one may well ask: what justification is there for a local authority at all? If you are going to provide the cost of these services out of taxation—if you are going to provide the £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 which is raised in rate revenues in one form or another—what taxes is the central authority going to levy in order to provide the money to finance the local services?

Did not the Minister advocate derating in 1934?

We are not dealing with 1934 now.

The Deputy had not reached the use of reason in 1934, and I doubt whether he has reached it yet. I was asking, what taxes are you going to levy in order to raise money to finance the local services if you derate buildings, and if you decide that the money must be provided out of the Central Fund? Everybody knows—I think it is generally admitted; it is certainly admitted in Great Britain by no less than the Labour Chancellor—that direct taxation has reached its limits, and that it has now become a deterrent to enterprise and is tending to yield a dwindling return. For that reason the British Chancellor has indicated that he proposes to adopt new expedients for raising revenue, and that he is satisfied that income-tax, super-tax and the other direct taxes on incomes have now reached such levels that they are defeating themselves because they are curbing and stultifying enterprise. He has introduced a new tax, a purchase tax, which is the most oppressive of all taxes and which falls with the utmost severity on the poorest classes of the community.

Our position in this country is better than it is in Great Britain, undoubtedly from the point of view of taxation, but here, too, everybody is beginning to realise that the level of income-tax and of the other taxes upon profits is acting as a brake upon industry and as a brake upon enterprise. Accordingly, if we have to provide these huge sums which are now necessary to finance the local services we shall have to provide them out of some form of indirect taxation, and that indirect taxation must in its very nature, since it must be a tax upon commodities or a tax upon services which are in general use—or it may be a tax upon business transactions — ultimately fall most heavily upon the poorer sections of the community.

That is one of the alternatives which confront those who have made themselves responsible for this motion. If they are going to proceed to develop their principles to their logical extreme they must derate all buildings, and they must find an alternative method of raising revenue. One of these alternatives is to raise that revenue out of indirect taxation by taxing the food of the poor. This is what I am putting to the Clann na Talmhan Party: do they wish to substitute taxes upon the food of the poor for taxes upon the possessions of the property-owning class? That is one of the alternatives that lies before them. Are they going to take it? The Leader of the Clann na Talmhan Party will perhaps be replying to this debate. I say to him that his motion is, in essence, a motion to relieve the property owner of what is a just imposition upon him. I am asking him, does he propose to relieve that property owner by putting an additional charge on the Central Exchequer, and does he propose that that charge should be met by taxing the food of the poor in order to relieve the aforesaid property owner?

Another alternative, and it is an alternative which has been chosen elsewhere, as I shall show, is the alternative which has often been argued in this House over the period from 1933 to 1938. During that period there were several motions put down by members of the Fine Gael Party advocating this alternative in one form or another. The alternative is this: if you are going to derate buildings, and if you are not going to provide the revenue which is necessary to carry on local services out of the Central Fund by indirect taxation, are you going to put a tax upon land? That is another way. Land is a fixed property; land is undiminishable and, therefore, the value of land is easily determined. It is a very suitable tax, if one likes to impose it, for the purpose of raising local revenue. It does not fall immediately upon the poor. I am not prepared to say that it might not ultimately fall upon them in the form of increased prices for their food, but it is an alternative form of raising local revenue which has been adopted in other countries, notably in Deputy Cogan's earthly paradise, Denmark.

It is a great pity that Deputy Cogan was taken at such short notice in moving this motion; it is a great pity he was not able to dilate at length upon the joys of the Danish farmer. I am not asking the House to take anything I say upon my authority. I shall give some quotations from a very recent article dealing with conditions in Denmark, that blessed State to which Deputy Cogan and, apparently, his colleagues in Clann na Talmhan, aspire. The article is an extract from Land and Liberty, for August and September of 1946. It is headed “Denmark Revisited”. I am giving only some quotations from that article, the significant ones. The article states that the national land value tax—mark that, the national, the State, land tax—is now at the rate of 6d. per mille, corresponding to 1½d. per £ capital value or, say, 2/9 in the £ of annual value. That is imposed on all land in town and country alike.

Is that what Deputy Cogan proposes as the alternative? It would be one way of finding the money to derate buildings; it would be one way of finding the money for the national Exchequer if the burden of the local services were to be cast back on the national Exchequer. Are Deputy Cogan and Deputy Blowick, in this motion, leading up to the blessed position which obtains in Denmark of having a national land value tax at the rate of 2/9 in the £ of annual value? The writer of "Denmark Revisited" goes on to say that also over the whole country and on all land the local taxation of land values applies. In Denmark, this far-off field which so appeals to Deputy Cogan, not only have they a national land tax, a State land tax, but they have in addition, a local land tax. The writer goes on to say that the local taxation of land values applies to all the land, bringing in, on the average, 40 per cent. of local revenues in counties and rural parishes, but in towns considerably less.

We see this, therefore, in this motion, one of the concealed objectives—because I take it that the Deputy is quite logical in what he proposes to do, and fixed in his purpose—of Clann na Talmhan is to institute not only a local but a national land tax. In Denmark, where the urban population is relatively much greater to the agricultural population than it is in this country and where, accordingly, the value of urban property is relatively greater in proportion to the value of the agricultural land than it is in this country, the position is such that the local land tax brings in more money in the rural than it does in the urban areas.

That is not all of it; that is not the only boon and blessing that the farmer in Denmark enjoys. In addition to the national tax and the local taxes on land values, there is a special increment tax which takes some part of the increase of the value of any land. The datum line is the 1932 valuation, and the increase is determined on each subsequent periodic valuation. It is not charged once for all but is an annual tax levied on that part of the land value which is shown to have increased in the interval. We must ask ourselves how happy the Irish farmer would feel if he were in the position of the Danish farmer, the Danish farmer with his land studded with farm buildings, if every year or two his land were re-valued and if any increase which had taken place in the valuation of that land in the meantime were subject to a tax. The unfortunate farmer in Denmark gets no compensation if, over the period between one valuation and another, the valuation of his farm has gone down; he does not get any refund but is merely taxed as long as the value of the farm is going up.

I wonder what the position of Clann na Talmhan would be if we were to introduce the Danish tax-system into this country. I suppose if we were walking down Grafton Street we should see there in one of the shop windows spectacles such as the populace of Copenhagen witnessed a week or so ago. I have here in my hand a photograph. I do not know whether we can include this photograph in the records. It would be a very beneficial thing if we could do so, because when Deputy Cogan began to sigh for the Danish heaven he could go to the appropriate volume of the Official Reports and he could look at this pathetic picture.

The picture shows a little pig enclosed within a child's play-pen, complete with ball-frame, and I read that behind it in the shop window there is a placard which declares: "When I grow up I will be sent to England for the price of 20 kroner and instead you will receive roller skates, transfer pictures and other utility goods for which the English demand outrageous prices. How long are we going to put up with it?"

Suppose they sent it to Monaghan, to the factory?

The police, I understand, removed the pig. The next day an even bigger crowd gathered to gaze at a butter barrel draped with mourning crêpe and carrying the inscription: "When I am filled I am going to England."

From what is the Minister quoting?

I am quoting from a newspaper called the Sunday Express, dated November 24th, 1946.

A British paper—well, well!

I do not wish to decry the efforts which the Danish farmers are making to feed the British people. I should like to see the British people well fed, happy, prosperous, contented, industrious, because I think all these things would redound to our benefit and advantage. But I am considering the pathetic plight not only of the Danish farmer, but of the little pig.

I showed this photograph to a colleague of mine and he was so touched by it that he sent it back to me with a message which, with your indulgence, I propose to read to the House:

"In the Bible you will find him; like a leper he's unclean

And he's running down a steep place to the sea,

Hebrews said: ‘The devil's in him,' but no matter smoked or green

The unbelieving Briton loves a rasher for his tea."

And so do we.

"He swells the cost of living, he's a factor Pol.Econ.,

And the Bureau of Statistics juggles him with glee:

But he paid the rent for Paddy in the golden days now gone,

When the British proletariat got rashers for their tea."

From the Monaghan Curing Company.

"‘Before my God' (Horatio), ‘I might not this believe,'

Barnado and Marcellus, do you see the thing I see?

Polonius and Claudius have reason now to grieve,

Since we're subsidising Britain and the rashers for her tea.

There's an educated bonham, with a ball frame in his cot,

In a Copenhagen window looking on the Baltic Sea,

And the gloomy Dane perceiving him is thinking, like as not,

That John Bull has got the best of it in rashers for his tea."

There is a moral in all that and that is——

The Danes are fighting for better prices.

——that, instead of describing the fanciful benefits and conditions which they imagine people overseas are enjoying, it would be much better for us, and much better for the country as a whole, if those who profess to be the leaders of the people, and those who try to shape and mould public opinion in this country, would point out to our people the very real advantages which they are enjoying in this country, under this Government.

This motion cannot be justified by what has happened in Denmark; nor can it be justified by what has happened in any other country where building of any description has been derated. Those of us who study these things know very well that in Great Britain the derating of certain classes of buildings has created very difficult problems indeed for the local authority there and particularly for those local authorities who happen to be responsible for the poorer communities in Great Britain.

The same difficulty would arise in this country. As Deputy O'Connor and Deputy de Valera pointed out, it is not a case of relieving property, in the form of structures, of their share of the local burden and leaving it at that. You must go a step further and provide an alternative source of revenue. It may be that you will say: "We will put it on other houses; we will take it off buildings that house the animals and put it on the buildings that house the family". I think that would be most unwise. I think the social consequences would be bad. It could be challenged on the grounds of equity, though that challenge might be weaker than it would be in the case where you said: "We are going to derate the farm buildings altogether and we are not going to put those charges on the farmer; we are going to ask the urban communities to bear these charges". That might appear to be a very simple matter. To those who are endeavouring to curry favour with the agricultural population, it might appear to be a very advantageous thing to do. I do not know whether any of them have considered what the ultimate consequences of such tactics might be if we had one political group exercising their political power in order to extract advantages for their political section at the expense of every other section of the community. Under such circumstances, how long would this community hold together?

The only basis upon which you can hope to have a happy, contented and united community—as we are, whatever the differences may be upon minor issues—is to ensure that everybody in the community gets equitable treatment. Therefore, if you are going to tax the property belonging to one class, you must tax the property of all classes who hold the same type of property.

It may be that Deputy Cogan does not believe that rates are a suitable form of taxation. He has committed himself to somewhat equivocal statements on the matter on one or two occasions. I am not certain that he has committed himself to such a statement precisely on this occasion. It is important, therefore, in dealing with his motion to consider the nature of rates and the advantages which attach to them as revenue-raising instruments. If we propose to abolish them and do not propose to defray the cost of the local services—by way of taxation—out of the Central Fund, if we are not going to provide the necessary local revenue by the imposition of rates and taxes upon agricultural land, then we must provide that revenue by some other form of local taxation. The fact of the matter is that there is no other form of taxation so suitable for the purpose of raising local revenue as are the rates. In order that a tax may be suitable for the purpose of raising local revenue it must fulfil certain very stringent conditions. The first of these is that it must be a definitely stable source of revenue—that is to say, that the produce of it must not be subject to any very wide variations so long as the rate of tax remains unchanged.

Such as the economic war, for example, and its effect on agriculture.

I said that Deputy Flanagan had not yet reached the age of reason. I think that Deputy Cogan is now playing the part of Rip Van Winkle and he has not yet wakened up. The economic war ceased in 1938.

Its effects are still there.

And the Deputy and his colleagues are still reaping the benefits of the economic war.

You mean we are still paying for it.

Would the Minister tell us what benefits the farmers reaped from the economic war?

I was saying that a tax for the purpose of raising revenue for a local authority must have, as its first quality, stability. Rates are a very stable source of revenue. No matter how feloniously inclined a man may be and no matter how destructive he may be he can never destroy or run away with a piece of land or the building which is sited on it. As a rule in peace time buildings last very much longer and have a more useful life than those who occupy them. Once their value has been ascertained and definitely noted a tax can be levied upon them without very much trouble. We have decided that the persons who occupy these buildings ought to pay this tax and the fact of occupation is easily ascertainable as a general rule by the local rate collector, who is the local tax-gatherer.

Another tax that might be thought to be stable would be a consumption tax. But a local consumption tax has this disadvantage as compared with a tax upon permanent property, upon real estate, that it can be easily evaded. If we were to put a tax, say, upon produce coming into a town, if we were to put a tax upon produce sold within the town—cigarettes or vegetables or anything like that—it would be possible for persons to purchase these commodities elsewhere and in that way evade payment of the tax which had been imposed for the purpose of raising local revenue.

A local income-tax has sometimes been suggested as an alternative method of raising local revenue. In that case, however, what would happen would be that, unless the tax were levied, so far as towns are concerned, at a uniform rate on every part of the country, levied upon every individual in the country, including farmers, it could be easily evaded, because the wealthy classes, the people who would be counted on to pay the greater part of the income-tax, need not live in the towns at all. If the rate of income-tax were to vary between one town and another, they would leave the more heavily taxed town to settle down in the more lightly taxed. As a rule, by reason of the fact that the social services fall most heavily upon the poorer communities and are more largely required by the poorer communities, it would happen that the rate of income-tax in the poorer community would be higher than the rate in the wealthier community. Therefore, if we were to raise our local revenues by levying income-tax upon inhabitants, we should find that very shortly the taxable capacity of the poorer communities would be exhausted.

Therefore, we come back to this position, that if we are not to ask the central authority to bear the cost of the local services, and if the only suitable way of raising those revenues is by means of the rates, then as I have shown, if we relieve any class of building from bearing its fair share of the rates, we shall inevitably be driven back to the position in which we shall have to relieve every other class of building as well. We will put ourselves in the happy position in which the Danish farmers are, who have their lands not only taxed by the State, but taxed by the local community as well.

That is what this motion is leading us to. Once we accept the principle of derating buildings, there is no logical point at which we can stop short. We may say that we know it is unfair to derate buildings belonging to one section of the community, but, because we are politically powerful, we are going to insist that that particular concession will be given to our particular class in the population and we will expect every other class in the population to grin and bear the share of the burden which ought to be ours. As I have said, as a community we cannot hope to live happily and to prosper if that attitude of mind is to become the dominant factor in shaping our political decisions. We can live and thrive as a community upon a basis of equal justice and equitable treatment. Accordingly, since this motion is, in essence, inequitable and unfair, I hope that the Dáil will reject it.

I think this motion should commend itself to every Deputy, especially after the very feeble case the Minister made against it. As a matter of fact, he has made no case against it. He has taken us to Denmark and told us how the farmers there are suffering. I notice that the Minister failed to mention the kind of Minister for Agriculture they have in Denmark. He took great care to steer clear of that. He avoided mentioning what the Minister for Agriculture here and his Party have done for agriculture and the farmers since they got into power. He just touched on the economic war and then shied away from it like a startled horse. He knew that that would not go down very well with the people of this country, particularly the farmers who have been salted to the tune of something like £82,000,000, as has been admitted by members of the Government.

He did not tell us that the Danish Government, if not actually a farmers' Government, is more than sympathetic to the farmers' interests and not diametrically opposed to the farmers' interests, as the Fianna Fáil Government has proved itself to be since it took over office. He did not mention, for instance, that the Danish Government have built up and organised an export trade which we would do very well to copy in this country, instead of wrecking our industry, as has been done here. He did not mention that in an intensely agricultural country like this, owing to the bungling and incompetence of the Government, a position has now been reached where the most plentiful item of produce from our farms formerly has to be rationed, where town and city people have to be cut down to six ounces of butter, where sugar is done away with altogether, although the beet is lying in piles all over the country rotting and the farmers are being compelled to feed it to the cattle, because the Minister for Industry and Commerce has refused to handle the situation and the Minister for Agriculture to-day disclaimed all responsibility for it. I wonder what we would think of the Danish Government if they were treating the farmers there in the same way as we are being treated by the crowd of gentlemen on the other side of the House who call themselves Ministers.

This motion was tabled, not for the purpose, as the Minister stated, of asking some section of the community to carry a burden for the farmers, but to increase the output from every farm. Fianna Fáil have proved more conclusively than any other source, inside or outside this country, that agriculture is the basic industry of this country and will remain so. It has taken them a long time but they are beginning to see that although they are not doing anything about it. That being so, there is nothing wrong in trying to get the industry on its feet after the murderous blows it has sustained in the last 15 or 16 years. The Minister may offer a view to-day and may come along with the relief that is asked for a few months later, as the Minister for Finance did in February last. We are asking in this motion for relief of approximately £200,000. The rateable valuation of farm buildings in this country is about £300,000. £200,000 would be a very fair figure to take.

The Minister was asked by Deputy Cogan to-day for the poor law valuation of the farm buildings in this country. With all the staff at his disposal and all the machinery of Government, the Minister was unable to tell us. He could tell us what is the poor law valuation of the land and all the buildings but, although they are taxing them very highly, he could not tell us the poor law valuation of the farm buildings. A few men working for a few weeks in the valuation office ought to be able to provide that information.

Out of the 380,000 farmsteads in this country there is scarcely one homestead where there are sufficient out-offices. The Minister has quoted Denmark as a country where they ran wild and sank a lot of capital into farm buildings. I do not think any farmstead could have enough farm buildings. It is absolutely necessary, and the Minister knows it, that, in the particularly wet climate of this country, crops, both hay and corn, should be housed. In not one out of 50 cases is corn housed. The corn is built in stacks with resultant loss in damage and waste. The farmer has to take the threshing-machine on whatever day it comes and on wet days has to strip his stacks. There is always a certain amount of damage. There are tremendous losses in wheat, barley and oats. The chief operations on any farm are the production of the crop and the harvesting and husbanding of it. Owing to lack of buildings, the crop has to be stacked in the open. The cause is obvious. We have in the rating of agricultural buildings a relic of the landlord system. That question has been shelved in this country by two successive home Governments. Let the Minister say what he likes, the day will come when it will not be shelved. He may not do anything about it but we will, or some other Party will. It is part of the old landlord system under which when a farmer improved his land, by draining, fencing, or increasing the fertility, the landlord or his agent came along and doubled his rent. If he improved his house by fitting a door or a window, he was taxed for his industry. We have the very same system existing to-day.

The moment a farmer improves his farm, by adding a building, the reviser comes along and claps on an extra rate. The result is that many farmers are thinking of diminishing the number of their farm buildings. Last year there was a by-election in Kerry. While I was there, a farmer admitted to me that he had dismantled a building 45 ft. by 25 ft., simply because he could not pay the rates. He admitted that his stock and equipment had to be left out in the open because he could not afford to pay the rates. That is a nice state of affairs.

The Minister talks about a property class. How many of the so-called property class are there in my county? How many are there in any county along the western seaboard from Donegal to Kerry? Is the man of five or six acres of bog, or even 10 or 20 acres of bog, a property man?

How many farm buildings would the man with 10 or 20 acres of bog build?

Take off the valuation, take away the fear of the reviser coming, and that man will build as much as he wants to house his crops, his farm equipment and his stock. He is entitled to do that. What right or authority has the Minister or his Government to put a brake on the activities of the farmer, as the landlord did in days gone by? Have they no higher outlook, after 25 years of self-government, than to put a tax on the industry of the hardest working section of the community? If that is their outlook, it is a poor one, of which they should be ashamed. The Minister quoted from a book dealing with Denmark and gave us facts and figures. I shall not go so far afield. I will take the Report of the Committee of Inquiry on Post-Emergency Agricultural Policy. At page 220, the Report says:—

"Housing for farm animals is both inadequate and unsuitable. From the point of view of animal health, labour economy in feeding and milking, as well as in the interests of hygiene, new cow byres are necessary on the great majority of farms...

"...It is being assumed, therefore, that new accommodation would need to be provided for 500,000 cattle."

Again, speaking of the pig population and the management of the pig industry the Report says:—

"To facilitate feeding and management, new pig houses would be a universal need."

In connection with poultry they say the very same. For all this work they put down huge sums—for cow byres £30 millions, for the accommodation for the 500,000 cattle £3.5 millions, for proper pigsties, and so on, £15 millions, for proper poultry houses £10 millions.

We do not propose to spend all that. No Government in this country could face the gigantic task of equipping every farm with proper housing accommodation. All we ask is, take off the brake and the farmers will do the building themselves and will be only too glad to do it. We have 380,000 farmsteads and we must take into account the loss through crops not being housed, the loss in tools and equipment and the biggest loss of all is that there is not enough stock housed during the winter to provide sufficient farmyard manure. During the period of the war the principal difficulty in carrying out compulsory tillage was that there was not sufficient farmyard manure to treat one-tenth of the land. In 99 per cent. of cases there were not sufficient buildings to accommodate enough stock to produce the manure. It is very popular to call on the farmers to steal the fertility of the soil and convert it into food in times of emergency but we should take time by the forelock and ensure that that fertility will be restored before the occurrence of another emergency. It is within our power to do that and it should be done.

The Minister is very sympathetic with the taxpayers and the poor people of the towns and cities and the poor people of the country. He wants to know where we propose to levy the extra taxation. We do not propose to levy it anywhere because that is a matter for the Minister for Finance and the Government. The Minister for Finance did not ask this House or Clann na Talmhan where he would get the £1,000,000 for derating, on the 8th May last. When he wants to effect economies and taxation and so on, what does he do? He reduces income-tax by one shilling in the pound. He reduces petrol by a certain amount. In other words he took every care to safeguard the big man's income but I did not hear him say a word about reducing the tax on tobacco or on any of the ordinary commodities which go into the small man's household. It is plain to see that the Minister cannot see any class at the present time or that he has no fear of any class but the big propertied class. I assure him however that they are a very small crowd in the country as a whole. No matter what the Minister may say about the motives of Clann na Talmhan in putting down this motion, we know the Minister's tactics and outlook. I have heard some of his outbursts in this House on certain occasions and they were disgraceful. They certainly should not come from the Ministerial bench. However, that is beside the point.

The Government is about to establish two new Government Departments and the Minister tells us that there will not be any expansion or any extra cost involved. I hold that there will be extra cost.

The creation of these Ministries has nothing to do with this motion.

The Minister brought in these things. He has imputed certain motives to members of this Party and I am trying to answer him and to point out how inconsistent and insincere he is.

The Deputy ought to dwell on the fact that he and his Party were not here to oppose the Bill when it was going through. He had better explain that in Mayo—that he did not vote against the Bill.

The Government is establishing two new Ministries and I hold that in the very near future, perhaps in the next Budget or in the Budget after that, we shall have a demand for £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 for each of these Ministries. Yet at Budget time they have not a word to say about the poor down-trodden people about whom we heard so much insincere lip sympathy from the Minister to-night.

Deputy Corry, Deputy Cogan and Deputy Maguire rose.

Deputy Cogan must be allowed 20 minutes to conclude and the debate must finish in 23½ minutes from now.

I am prepared to give way for a few minutes.

Deputy Maguire.

Deputy Maguire spoke before on this motion.

I assumed, Sir, that the debate on this motion was not to be resumed until 9 o'clock this evening and I had the right to resume.

If it is true that the Deputy spoke before, he cannot intervene now.

I was under the impression that the debate would not be resumed until 9 o'clock.

I cannot help that now. Deputy Corry.

I am sorry. Deputy Cogan has kindly given me five minutes——

I think he said three minutes.

I shall make the best use I can of the three minutes. I have not much interest in this question of assessing people's liability in regard to rates. I think that is the responsibility of the Government. It is purely, as the Minister put it a while ago, a question of taxing the food of the poor but if the farmer has to bear a burden—and I do not consider with all due respect to my friends here on my left that the rates on farm buildings are any big burden—under the Bill that has been guaranteed to this House by the Minister for Agriculture, a Bill for which I have been fighting for the last five years and which will establish a tribunal to fix prices for farms produce, we can bring up our costings before that tribunal and get our cost of production plus a reasonable profit, the same as every other section in the community, the same as every other industry.

There were some remarks made in the course of the debate with which I should like to deal shortly. The Minister spoke about a land tax in Denmark. The Minister is Minister for Local Government, and I happen to be chairman of a board of assistance down in County Cork which embraces Cork City and the rural community. Hear what is happening there in regard to lifting the burden off the town and shifting it on to the shoulders of the rural community. The rural population pays three-fourths of the total levy for home assistance in that area and the City of Cork one-fourth but, in the distribution of home assistance, the city gets three-fourths and the country boys get one-fourth. That is the manner in which the game is worked to suit the plutocrats who pay income-tax and surtax in Cork City. The unfortunate farmers have to pay three-fourths of the home assistance distributed amongst the poor of that city. I think that is one of the items the Minister might study if he thinks of levying a land tax such as they have in Denmark. He will find that the two are very nearly related.

We hear a lot about another matter to which the Minister alluded to-day— it seems to be a common practice all over the country—namely, the amount of money which the farmers have in the banks. That is trotted out on every occasion but I would invite the Minister to go down the country and see how the farmer and his family eke out an existence. Farmers' children generally are stopped from school at the age of 14, and they are brought into work on the land as unpaid labourers. They get their clothes, their bed and perhaps they get a "bob" on Sunday.

I shall take the case of a farmer with four such boys who broke off from school at 14 years of age. I often see the old lad shaking himself and saying: "I will be soon getting the gorsoon of 45 married now." I shall take the farmer with four sons who work from the age of 14 up to the age of 30 on his farm and I allow them £1 a week for their services. The Minister would be rather surprised to know that that goes into what is known as the pool, to give a fortune to Mick or Thady or to provide them with some means of livelihood, but the Minister will hardly be surprised to hear that the total earnings of these four boys from the age of 14 until they reach the age of 30, at £1 per week, amounts to £3,328. That is not the farmer's property. It is the property of his family who gave their unpaid labour during all these years in order to produce cheap food for the aristocrats of the country.

The three minutes are now up. In fact six minutes have passed since the Deputy began to speak.

I am rather glad that I gave way to Deputy Corry to the extent of a few minutes. He has answered one point that was made against this motion, perhaps better than I could have done myself. He has shown that this old cry of the farmers' money in the bank is a delusion and a fraud. The exact figure of the total amount that farmers have in the banks has never been accurately ascertained or stated. The deposits of business people in co-operative societies have been mixed up with the deposits of farmers. In addition, Deputy Corry has shown that the so-called large deposits of the farmers in the banks are merely the hoarded earnings of the unpaid members of the farmers' families. Undoubtedly, there are farmers of about 70 years of age—men who worked since they left school and never married—who have small deposits in the banks. This is a cry which is frequently raised against the farmers and it is one which should be exposed on every possible occasion.

The Minister's case against this motion was so pathetically weak that one felt that it would be almost unkind to refer to it at all. King Brian Boru defeated the Danes at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. The Minister for Local Government thought fit to waste the time of this House carrying out some mopping-up operations. His attack on the Danes is unworthy of a Minister in dealing with a friendly nation. It would be amusing, if it were not so humiliating, to find a Minister of an Irish Government attacking the Danes because they sought to make a case for a better price for their produce in the British market. That was the subject of the quotations and illustrations from the Sunday Express to which the Minister treated the House. He was simply showing what efficient propagandists the Danes are when it comes to fighting for a better price for their agricultural produce and what a hopelessly incompetent Government we have which does not seek to obtain a better price for our produce in the British market. Instead of learning a lesson from the progressive Danes, the Minister tried to bolster up a hopeless case. The hopelessness of his case must be recognised when we remember that he did not deal with the main argument I advanced in support of this motion. He did not deal with the fact that the valuation of agriculture is excessive. I pointed out that it was right that every citizen and section of the community should contribute to the upkeep of the State and the local authorities, according to their means. In introducing the motion, I pointed out that the farmers received one-third of the total national income while the valuation of agriculture is two-thirds of the total valuation of the State. The Minister knows that there is no answer to those figures. Because there is no answer to them, he roams over Europe and concentrates upon the unhappy Danes. There may be something radically wrong in the State of Denmark but I think that the Minister for Local Government should be the last man in the world to undertake a remedy—the man who, on this motion, displayed a mentality so prejudiced, so biased and so muddled as to show that he is incapable of understanding a clear-cut and logical argument.

The Minister spent some time quoting the views of some economist who said that the Danes had invested too much money in their agricultural buildings and out-offices. Does the Minister and this so-called economist dare to suggest that agricultural economy in Denmark is inefficient because of the high standard of Danish agricultural buildings and equipment? Does the Minister not realise that Danish output is more than double the output of the agricultural industry here? Does he not think that the equipment and the facilities which the Danish farmers have secured, through the assistance and encouragement of an intelligent Government, have contributed in large measure to the efficiency of Danish agricultural economy? The Minister should engage in a little more study before he sets out to oppose a motion of this kind. There is nothing unfair or unjust in this proposal. The arguments used by the Minister in regard to the shifting of the burden to other sections of the community were used by the Minister for Finance when we tabled a motion for the derating of agricultural land. A few months later, the same Minister had to eat his words and provide £1,000,000 towards the derating of agricultural land. He realised that the case we made was unanswerable. When he consulted the people down the country, they made him realise that the case we had put up was unanswerable. When the Minister for Finance, who is perhaps a more intelligent man than the Minister for Local Government, goes down the country and consults the intelligent people of his constituency, or any other constituency, he will find that it is their verdict that the small concession we ask must be granted.

The Minister talks about this proposal as a bribe to the farming community. The Minister should be a good judge of bribes. We all remember when the farmers were promised complete derating of agricultural land and buildings. That was the promise made by Fianna Fáil when seeking office. That was the bribe held out by them when the Minister was seeking his present position. That was a promise which was shamelessly broken, like many other promises. The Minister should not have the audacity to come in here and taunt this Party with offering bribes to the farming community. We offer no bribe to any section of the community. All we ask is fair and equitable distribution of the burden of taxation and this motion will be a step in that direction.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 51.

  • Beirne, John.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Cafferky, Dominick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Coogan, Eamonn.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Heskin, Denis.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • Reynolds, Mary.


  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Honor Mary.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Furlong, Walter.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Fráncis.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Connor, John S.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Skinner, Leo B.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Spring, Daniel.
  • Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
  • Walsh, Laurence.
  • Walsh, Richard.
Tellers:— Tá: Deputies Cogan and Beirne; Níl: Deputies Kissane and O Briain.
Question declared lost.