Committee on Finance. - Vote 47—Lands.

Tairgim:—

Go ndeonfar suim fhorlíontach nach mó ná £25,000 chun íoctha an mhuirir a thiocfas chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú lá de Mhárta, 1952, chun Tuarastal agus Costas Oifig an Aire Thailte agus Oifig Choimisiún Talún na hEireann (44 agus 45 Vict., c. 49, alt 46, agus c. 71, alt 4; 48 agus 49 Vict., c. 73, ailt 17, 18 agus 20; 54 agus 55 Vict., c. 48; 3 Edw. 7, c. 37; 7 Edw. 7, c. 38 agus c. 56; 9 Edw. 7, c. 42; Uimh. 27 agus 42 de 1923; Uimh. 25 de 1925; Uimh. 11 de 1926; Uimh. 19 de 1927; Uimh. 31 de 1929; Uimh. 11 de 1931; Uimh. 33 agus 38 de 1933; Uimh. 11 de 1934; Uimh. 41 de 1936; Uimh. 26 de 1939; Uimh. 12 de 1946; Uimh. 25 de 1949; agus Uimh. 16 de 1950).

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £25,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1952, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Minister for Lands and of the Irish Land Commission (44 & 45 Vict., c. 49, sec. 46, and c. 71, sec. 4; 48 & 49 Vict., c. 73, secs. 17, 18 and 20; 54 & 55 Vict., c. 48; 3 Edw. 7, c. 37; 7 Edw. 7, c. 38 and c. 56; 9 Edw. 7, c. 42; Nos. 27 and 42 of 1923; No. 25 of 1925; No. 11 of 1926; No. 19 of 1927; No. 31 of 1929; No. No. 11 of 1934; No. 41 of 1936; No. 26 of 1939; No. 12 of 1946; No. 25 of 1949; and No. 16 of 1950).

Is gá an Meastachan forlíontach seo mar gheall ar an méadú i dtuarastail agus in abhar tógála i rith na bliana seo caite, rud a mhéadaigh costas tithíochta faoi Choimisiún na Talún. Tá soláthairtí le h-aghaidh na n-oibreacha seo le fáil faoi Mhírcheann (1) (Feabhsú estát, etc.). Dob í an tsuim a deonadh faoin Mírcheann sin i rith na bliana ná £390,000; si an tsuim bhreise atá riachtanach ná £65,000—méadú sé faoin gcéad. An t-airgead a sábháladh—go háirithe faoi Mhírcheann A (Tuarastail, Páighe agus liúntaisí) bainfear úsaid as sin chun £40,000 den mhéadú do choth-romú agus fágann sin £25,000 le deonadh.

This Supplementary Estimate is necessary by reason of the increases in wages and prices of materials during the past 12 months which have raised the cost of Land Commission building works. These works are provided for under sub-head I (Improvement of Estates, etc.) and the original sum granted under that sub-head for the current year was £390,000; the additional amount required is £65,000, which represents an increase of one-sixth. Savings elsewhere on the Vote, mainly under sub-head A (salaries, wages and allowances), will meet £40,000 of the increase, leaving a balance of £25,000 to be granted.

With regard to wages, as Deputies know, it is the rates payable by the county councils which, during the year, increased by about 13 per cent. Over the country as a whole, but the consequent increase in Land Commission expenditure is estimated at 23 per cent. owing to the varying rates of wages and different scales of operations from county to county. In Counties Galway and Mayo about one-fourth of the total improvement expenditure of the Land Commission is incurred and in these counties during the past year the rate was increased in Galway from 60/- to 72/-, or by 20 per cent., and in Mayo from 62/- to 80/-, or 29 per cent.

With regard to materials there have also been increases in progress under the items required for building purposes. The total cost of housing operations under this sub-head is estimated to have increased by about 25 per cent. during the year. About 76 dwelling-houses and 95 out-offices have been placed for contract during the year and a certain amount of work has been done by direct labour, in which case a contract is placed for the material—18 houses and 27 out-houses.

I do not think that the rate of wages paid by the Land Commission is equal to the rate paid by the county councils in the various counties. I do not think they are of the same standard. I want to tell the Minister from my own experience that the result is that Land Commission work is left behindhand because labourers naturally seek work under county councils and desert the Land Commission gangs. Personally, I see no reason for it since the precedent has been established in the Forestry Department. I cannot see why a Land Commission worker should not receive the same rate of wages as a county council worker. In some cases it is quite true that the worker is working on what will ultimately be his own parcel of land or new holding, but that should not be taken into account in view of the fact that the Land Commission gangs are sometimes deserted for county council work, and work very useful from the national point of view undertaken by the Land Commission must be left over until there is a slack period in the county councils. That is a state of affairs which should not exist. The difference between the Land Commission rate and the county council rate, as well as that of the Forestry Department, is so little that it would be just as well to make them level.

The thing I am most interested in is to discover how many of these new houses of which the Minister has told us are being built on new holdings for migrants. This, after all, is the best yardstick by which the most vital work of the Land Commission, in my opinion, outside vesting can be measured. If the Minister would say a few words in his reply about that I would be very grateful. He might tell us how many of the 76 dwelling-houses and 95 out-offices placed for contract, as well as the 18 houses and 27 out-houses being built by direct labour are on new holdings, as distinct from those which are being erected by the Land Commission in the course of rearrangement schemes.

The Minister mentioned that the cost of building materials has gone up, I think, by 25 per cent. I wonder whether the Minister might possibly be able to take advantage of the Forestry Department's timber for Land Commission housing purposes, particularly from Dundrum in Tipperary where, I believe, they have the best drying facilities for timber in England, Ireland or Scotland at the moment.

I am glad of this opportunity to raise one question in connection with Land Commission houses. They are without sanitary accommodation or plumbing. Might I say that the Land Commission policy even during my own period of office was rather niggardly regarding the equipment of these houses? While ten, 12 or 20 years ago it might not have been so noticeable, nowadays the Land Commission should provide these facilities particularly when they see the Department of Local Government and county councils all over the country providing sanitary accommodation in their houses. That applies particularly to migrants' houses. The Land Commission should set a good example, move with the times and keep up with what is rapidly taking place all over the country. The Minister can verify from his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, that over 90 per cent. of that Department's housing grants are for houses in which sanitary accommodation is specified. I do not want to see the Land Commission lagging behind them. I do not want to see the Land Commission accused of trying to pawn off on migrants or rearranged tenants houses which are antiquated and which may be described a few years from now as barbarous. When foreigners come to our country we come in for very severe criticism because so many houses up and down the country are without sanitary accommodation. The Land Commission as a Government Department should keep up with the times and provide it in their houses. The Land Commission are a little bit stingy about making their houses modern or comfortable. I want to bring to the Minister's notice that some of the houses they are turning out are rather bare and cold and more like out-offices than dwelling-houses except for their outer appearance. They have concrete floors and no fireplace except a hole in the wall and no sanitary accommodation—perhaps room is left for it. That is a most unsatisfactory position. Although it might cost a little extra to improve them, it would be money well spent because of the good example it would give round about.

I would be better pleased if the Minister had had to come for a larger sum under sub-head I. Whether he is aware of it or not, there is a vast amount of grumbling and discontent up and down the country, especially from those who expect relief from the Land Commission, which is a Government Department established for a specific purpose, at the land held in the hands of the Land Commission which is not being allotted. The Minister may give the excuse that he has not sufficient outdoor staff, but I will not take that, because I remember that he has some 150 outdoor inspectors at the present time. That was the number when I left office, and it has not diminished since, as none of them has been lent or seconded to another Government Department. There is grave discontent at the idea of the Land Commission letting land and raking in the grazing rent instead of allotting it. The Land Commission, I think, are obliged by law to dispossess themselves of land as soon as may be after they have acquired it, that is, to those persons who are entitled or qualified to receive it. I would even go so far as to say that, apart from its being bad practice and giving bad example, it is illegal for the Land Commission to hold land which, by a little extra effort, they could dispose of. It is the duty of the Land Commission to make the existing tenant farmers land owners by vesting them. I consider that that is the primary and most important function of the Land Commission. Next to that, and no less important, is the gigantic task of the relief of congestion. The relief of congestion can be tackled, and I am glad to say that there is a good healthy outlook on the Minister's side of the House now, I believe, for the first time for a long time. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach need not laugh. If he persists in laughing, perhaps I will give him a few examples of things that happened in the past which I do not want to introduce at this stage, but which, perhaps, may change his countenance. There is a healthy outlook at the present time, or at least a reasonable outlook, and I would ask the Minister to hold firm.

I want to impress on the Minister again not to be so stingy in the matter of the erection of houses and the fitting of them for migrants. In some cases, that policy is discouraging. The saving of a few pounds per house has the effect of discouraging migrants who otherwise would be very glad to accept a change.

The houses that are required and particulars of which I have given are almost entirely for migrants and tenants of rearranged holdings. About 40 are for migrants in eastern counties. As regards the question of sanitary accommodation, that has been provided, as the Deputy is aware, in one county, Kildare.

Why not in all?

The reason is that we are trying to get as much work as possible done with the funds at our disposal and I think we are doing fairly well because, as the Deputy knows, it is really the congested holdings included in rearrangement schemes, apart from the migrants, that are benefiting and as compared with the local government grants, I think ours are fairly reasonable. Perhaps they ought to be better but I am not in a position —I do not think any Minister is—to ignore the situation, if costs continue to increase in the way in which they have been doing, and increase the grants accordingly.

I cannot understand the Deputy saying that we do not pay the same wages as county councils unless it is that in a particular case it may have happened that there was some time lag, perhaps more than there should have been, in the Land Commission following the rate laid down by the local county council. That is the rule.

County Mayo does not pay it.

Expenditure has increased very substantially by reason of that fact. There is, of course, a scarcity of labour in certain areas. Inspectors tell me that they find it difficult to get labour, there are so many persons, farmers, institutions, public schemes, competing with them and, of course, Land Commission work is not permanent or even semi-permanent. A certain amount of improvement work has to be done in connection with a particular scheme and when that is completed it is not possible for us to retain the workers.

With regard to housing, we have difficulty in allocating contracts. The Land Commission has dealt with men who are generally small contractors tendering for perhaps a few houses in some midland county, providing for migrants. There is difficulty in getting these contractors at the present time. We have been trying to get over that by doing a certain amount, where possible, by direct labour. That also involves administrative difficulties. The tradition had been in favour of housing by contract and I think it is the better way if we can get the contractors.

In the case of migrants, for example, housing would need to be started about a year in advance to enable migrants to take up residence in a particular spring period, so that a good deal of planning has to be done in advance.

I do not know that there is any other point that the Deputy has raised that I have not mentioned. With regard to Land Commission improvement work generally, it is very largely confined now to the congested areas, to the rearrangement of holdings of which we have over 20,000 and a majority of these will probably have to be rearranged. In connection with that, we are trying to do what we can to provide land in the Midlands to which some of these tenants—the larger the number the better—can be transferred to make more land available to enable rearrangement schemes to be carried through.

Vote put and agreed to.