Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1953—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The object of the Bill is to continue for a further three years, including the present year, the greatly increased agricultural grant introduced in 1946, by the Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Act of that year. The Bill also proposes to make a change in the method of distributing the grant.

The system of allowances which began in 1946 and continued up to last year provided for an abatement of three-fifths of the rates on land valuations up to £20. Where the valuation of land in a holding was greater than £20, two types of additional allowances could be paid in relief of rates on the portion of the valuation over £20. The first was a supplementary allowance of one-fifth of rates and the second an employment allowance of 10/- in the £ of valuation where one or more menwere at work on a holding. The employment allowance was limited to £6 10s. per man, and the Act provided that these two types of allowance taken together were not to exceed the actual rates on the valuation over £20. In other words, a ratepayer could not get more in allowances than he was liable to pay in rates.

In February, 1952, when I was speaking on the Bill which was to extend the 1946 system to the year ended 31st March last, I told the House that I was examining the whole question of this form of rate relief, with a view to giving greater help by means of the agricultural grant to farmers whose methods of farming afforded maximum employment and who were best serving the needs of the community as a whole in regard to agricultural production. I said then that I did not see why this very large subsidy should be paid out without exploring what we might do to induce farmers to give more employment. The Bill now before you represents what I think we can fairly do within the framework of the present system, to use the agricultural grant in the drive for agricultural production.

The Bill proposes to merge the two types of allowance hitherto payable for land valuations over £20. The supplementary allowance paid irrespective of numbers employed will disappear and the employment allowance will be increased to a figure of £17 for each man employed on the holding. No change is being made in the three-fifths abatement in the rates on land valuations up to £20.

The Bill will apply the new scale of allowances to the current year and to the two following years. A three year trial period is necessary in order to give the revised system a chance of proving itself.

The other main provision of the Bill relates to the amendment of rates. That is necessary because the Bill will govern the making of allowances during the year which began on the 1st April last. When I spoke to the House on the Bill which applied the 1946 allowances to the year 1952-53, and to which I have already referred, I said that I would have liked to makethese changes for that year in view of the situation that existed. I was not able to do so then, but I considered it essential not to lose a further year, and although the necessary legislation could not be prepared in time, I wished to introduce the new system in the current year. This presented certain difficulties, since the extensive work of applotment of the county rate and making out demand notes has to go ahead as early as possible after the beginning of the local financial year if local finances are to be kept on an even keel. For this purpose county councils must know beforehand the general lines on which the agricultural grant is to be allocated for the year. The provisions of the present Bill show a departure from the circular letter issued to county councils in May last. The departure is, in fact, an extension of the new scheme and provides an employment allowance of £17 per man instead of £13 as suggested in the circular.

If the 1946 Act had been applied unchanged to the present year, it is estimated that the agricultural grant would have amounted to approximately £5,000,000. It is estimated that the grant under this Bill will not be less. The change proposed means, therefore, that the total amount will be distributed on an improved basis. Some will gain and some lose under the new system but, taking the country at a whole, losses and gains will balance out. The main difference, and the whole idea of the Bill, is that the farmer who will gain will be the farmer engaged in those forms of agricultural production which claim most attention, most supervision and care and, more important still, provide most rural employment.

Listening to the speech which has just been made in so very few minutes by the Minister on such a very large subject, I must say that nobody could accuse the Minister in any way of having a sense of humour. The Minister, without a smile on his face, spoke of the extensive work of applotment of the work that has to be undertaken by local authorities in regard to the rates and thenecessity of having that work done at an early date and immediately after the close of the financial year.

Everybody knows that the financial year ends on the 31st March. Everybody knows that local authorities, after their estimates meeting in February or the beginning of March, set about straightway the completion of the applotment of their rates and that they set about at a very early date in their financial year the completion of their rate demand notes. Yet the Minister, who has just paid lip-service to the necessity for early work, waited until the 20th May last to give any indication to any local authority in the country of what he intended to do for the current year.

It was only on the 20th May, that is to say, seven weeks after every local authority should have started on the work they had to do, the Minister told the local authorities that the work they had done was, to some extent, useless and would have to be scrapped. If ever there was an example of pure bungling in the administration and execution of any plan that was before a Government, the manner in which the Minister handled this Bill is an example of such bungling. Although it has probably meant on an average about £600 wasted money per local authority on pure official red tape, as I know one Deputy opposite would describe it, that is not all. We are going to have now, as a result of the Bill, additional paper work that could have been avoided if only the Minister had properly worked out the plans at the beginning and had properly considered whatever proposals he was going to bring before the House at the present time.

The reason is plain and simple. When the Minister sent his circular letter of the 20th May last to the various counties he was merely trying to implement the decision of his colleague, the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Finance, we all know, issued his famous edict in the Budget that taxation bears lightly on the land and the Minister for Local Government came along on the 20th May and with his letter that he then issued he,too, joined in that chorus; he, too, showed that he was not going to be behind the times in effecting, at the expense of the farmers, savings that the Minister for Finance announced during the passage of the Budget he intended to make.

The circular that was issued on the 20th May last would have meant a reduction in the agricultural grant that would have been paid this year—as near as anybody can make the calculation totting up the figures that were available to each member of each county council, or available in the Department—a loss to the farmers of the country as a whole of approximately between £400,000 and £450,000. It was because the Minister for Local Government got such a roasting and because the Fianna Fáil Party got such a roasting throughout the country from Fine Gael and others over that project to reduce the agricultural grant by approximately £400,000, that this change was made in the Bill that is now being introduced.

Those owners of agricultural land from the end of one county to the other who are having the increases in their rates somewhat reduced from the intention of the Minister on the 20th May last can only thank those people who started a campaign throughout the country and succeeded, particularly in East Cork and in Wicklow, in opening the eyes of the farmers of the country to what was proposed to be done by the Minister for Local Government following on his colleague the Minister for Finance. It was as a result of the fright that Fianna Fáil got from East Cork and from Wicklow that at last they decided to withdraw their hand from the pockets of the farmers to the extent of that additional £300,000 that was proposed in the circular of the 20th May last.

This Bill, the Minister has told us, will mean the distribution of the same amount of money as would have been distributed otherwise under the old scheme. His line has been that some will gain and some will lose. I want to challenge the Minister on that and to say categorically that he is wrong. I have been at some pains to get from various counties the figures of whatthose counties will receive under this Bill, and what they would have received if the legislation that was in existence on 31st March last had been re-enacted. I have not got the figures for every county. I have not got the figure for Cork and I will be glad to hear from Deputy Corry what that figure is.

You will be very sorry when you hear what Deputy Corry has to say.

The whole difficulty about accepting a figure from Deputy Corry is that we want to be quite sure it is an accurate figure.

On a point of order. If that is another legal way for a Deputy to tell another he is a liar, I will find a legal way to reciprocate.

He is not casting any aspersions on Deputy Corry. The Deputy might not be able to find the correct figure.

We all know the legal profession.

Are the figures Deputy Sweetman supplied to the Sunday Independentcorrect?

Has the Deputy any reason to doubt the figures I gave on this Bill?

Yes, I have, and I am going to tell the Minister why.

I thought the Deputy's complaint was that I gave none.

The Minister gave figures a second ago in his speech, showing that the position was the same. I want to state categorically that if the Minister is right the local authorities throughout the country are wrong. I am going to take each county down the line. The estimate of the officials of the County Carlow County Council is that there will be a gain of £758 during the current year. In County Cavan, the Minister's own county, the official estimate is that there will be a loss of £863; that in County Clare this Bill will mean a lossof £8,793. I have not got the figures for Cork and Donegal, but in County Dublin there will be a loss of £11,051.

They must have been shaking a hand at you.

In County Galway the official estimate is that there will be a loss of £13,139; that in County Kerry there will be approximately a gain of £1,000; that in County Kildare there will be a loss of £16,587; that in County Kilkenny there will be a loss of £2,371; that in Laois there will be a gain of £329; the ratepayers in Leitrim as the result of this Bill will find great solace, great benefit, because the official estimate of the effect of this Bill on the ratepayers of Leitrim is that they will gain a solitary £1; in County Limerick it will make a difference of £196 to the good; in County Longford it will mean a loss of £3,267; in County Louth it will mean a loss of £4,956. I have not been able to get the figure for County Mayo, but in Meath it will mean a loss of £5,862; in Monaghan the loss will be £6,296; in Offaly the loss will be £4,817; in Roscommon they will receive under this Bill £4,425 less than they would have received if the legislation that expired on the 31st March last had been re-enacted; in Sligo the gain will be £343; in the North Riding of Tipperary the figure of loss is £4,060; in the South Riding of Tipperary the figure is £5,433; County Waterford, in Munster, will lose £13,562; Westmeath, in Leinster, will lose £16,324. I have not got the figure for Wexford, but Wicklow will lose £646 6s. 9d.

Unless my arithmetic is wrong, and I have had it checked, the total losses which I have just read out—the figures I gave were not my figures but were figures which the members of this Party obtained from the various local authorities in the constituencies they represent—amount to something over £122,400, and the total gains are approximately £2,400, leaving a net loss for those counties of £120,000. I have just heard Deputy Blowick mention some figure for County Mayo. I have not got any figure for that county.Deputy Browne, of this Party, was not able to get it from the officials there as they had not worked it out. I am only giving figures which I am prepared to stand over. They were furnished to members of this Party by the officials concerned, who had before them the basis on which they are going to have to applot the rates.

The figures are completely inaccurate. The Deputy must have got them from the local Fine Gael executive.

I got the figures from the secretaries of the respective county councils. I mentioned a number of counties where the figures were not available to me. In every other case, the figures which I read out were given officially to the members of this Party by the responsible local authority officer concerned, and he is the officer from whom the Minister himself said he had to get his information. When I put down a question earlier this year asking for this information, I was told in the first instance, that the Minister would give the figures for each of the counties on the Second Reading of this Bill to-day. He has failed to do that.

I have not made any such statement in this House at any time. I wish, a Cheann Comhairle, to correct the statement just made by the Deputy that I gave an assurance to the House that I would give on the Second Reading of this Bill a statement showing the exact effect which these proposals, if accepted, would have on each county. I claim that I made no such statement at any time in this House or outside of it.

The Minister knows perfectly well that I put a question to him on the first day the Dáil met on its reassembly in October last, asking him for the figures for each county. His reply was that I would have to wait for the information until the Second Reading of the Bill.

I am prepared to accept whatever the Official Report says in that regard, but my contention is that I made no such statement as that which is now being attributed to me.

I have sent for a copy of the Official Report and when I get it we can read what is in it. There was no doubt left on my mind as to what was the implication in what the Minister said. There is, equally, no doubt in my mind that, whether the Minister said that or not at that time, it was his duty to-day to give the information officially to the House if he had it. I suggest that he must have some information available to him when he contradicts the figures which I have given, and which have been supplied officially to members of my Party by the secretaries of the different county councils.

I want to say categorically, so far as this Bill is concerned, that far from being merely, as the Minister has stated, a way of redistributing the existing sum—it is not so serious as was the intention when the circular was issued in May—it is still a method of ensuring a reduction from last year's basis in the allocation of the agricultural grant.

Are you opposing it?

I am not going to propose a motion and then run away from it, and vote against it, as the Deputy did last night.

Are you supporting it or opposing it?

I am going to show, in relation to this Bill, that it is not the Bill which the Minister alleged it was when he was bringing it in. The primary purpose of this Bill is to save the Exchequer at the expense of the local rates that are going to be paid on agricultural land. In that purpose, the Minister is merely following on the line that has already been set by his colleague, the Minister for Finance. It has, unfortunately, been the purpose in many things lately to shift the burden from central taxation to the local rates. This Bill is going to continue that shift because, regardless of whether the figures for the present year which I have given are correct or not—I have said they have been obtained from the secretaries to thecounty councils—or whether the figures which the Minister has refused to disclose are correct, the fact is that every increase in rates in any county will mean, under this Bill, that there will be a reduction in the agricultural grant which would have been given if the legislation up to the 31st March last had been renewed.

Unfortunately, the rates have been increasing. It is unfortunate that that tendency is there. All of us agree that the trend in regard to rates seems to be towards an increase. The effect of this Bill will mean that, every time there is an increase in the rates, what the farmer-ratepayers will get by way of relief under this Bill will be less than what they would have got under the legislation that was in force prior to the 1st April last. That is, of course, because the supplemental allowance was worked on a sliding scale in relation to rates, whereas now the employment allowance will be on a fixed basis and not on a sliding scale, having regard to the amount of the rates. If the rates were to go down, it would mean that the local authorities would gain, but I am afraid few of us see much prospect of a reduction in the rates. The likelihood is that the rates will tend to increase as they have been doing.

So far as I could understand the meaning of what the Minister said in regard to Section 2, it was that he has a doubt as to whether the existing rate demands that have been struck are legal or not. In that connection, I should like to know whether the Minister was merely referring to the credit note situation that will arise in respect of the additional £4. Whether that is so or not does not affect the general principle, but the fact that the Minister delayed the introduction of his proposals, whatever these were going to be, until the 20th May, shows at best slackness and at worst indecision as to what was intended. A very unnecessary amount of work was done then following the applotment of rates that had already taken place.

Further unnecessary pen-work will now have to be done by reason of credit notes that will have to be issued, all of which could have been avoided ifthe Minister had brought his proposals to the House in time. The House knows that the existing legislation terminated on the 31st March last; that without some legislation there would not be any grant in relief of rates for the current year; that therefore if we are to oppose this Bill, if the Dáil does not pass this Bill on its Second Reading, it will mean that there will not be any relief in rates for agricultural land for the current year. Because of that, it is clear that all of us must agree that the principle behind the Bill for the relief of agricultural land from a portion of the rates is a principle which we must all accept. We of course accept that but on the Committee Stage, within the limits provided by the rules of order which prohibit Deputies other than Ministers from putting down amendments which involved a charge on public funds, we shall submit to the House certain amendments, and particularly an amendment for the continuation of relief which is in existence and which it is purported to remove by sub-section (1) of Section 1 of this Bill before the House, in regard to supplementary allowances.

We have here—I want to be quite fair to the Minister—the question of the 27th October last in which I asked the Minister for Local Government if the amount payable to each local authority under the Bill now circulated would be the same as it would have been if last year's system had been continued. The Minister then made it clear that he had not the information available in the Department and that it could be supplied only by the local authorities concerned. I suggested a second ago that the Minister said then that he would circulate that information on the Second Reading of the Bill. That is not correct. I think that must have been in regard to a question I asked in July about the cost of his circulars because he did give that reply in regard to some question I asked him. But he is quite correct in stating he did not give that reply in regard to the question I asked on the 27th October last. It does notexcuse him from giving the information to-day.

I knew there was something wrong with your head this morning.

Sometimes those of us on this side of the House who do not hear exactly what Deputy Corry says have to gauge what he is saying by whether he is nodding or shaking his head. It would be easier for us to judge whether he meant yes or no if we were near enough to hear the rattle inside him.

Unfortunately your rattle is a very bad one this morning.

That reply to which the Minister was kind enough to refer me and without which reference I might not have remembered the exact terms of his reply said—it was the Minister himself who answered—that the information could be supplied only by the local authorities concerned. The figures that I have stated in this House have been supplied by the local authorities——

Would you read my supplementary reply in its entirety please?

"It could be supplied only by the local authorities concerned after examination of the terms of the proposed new legislation."

Which we are now examining.

And the local authorities concerned were asked to give this information not on the basis of the circular I have mentioned but on the basis of the Bill that is already before the House. The query sheet that was made out made that clear beyond question—that it was not on the basis of the circular and that it was on the basis of the Bill that had been introduced, that they produced that information. They were the people whom the Minister said would be the only people able to give the information. On that basis, excluding the Counties of Cork, Donegal, Mayo and Wexford, it means that £120,000 less is being given in relation to rates this year than would have been given if last year's legislation were renewedand re-enacted. Those are the figures whether the Minister likes them or not.

Are you including Kerry?

As gaining £1,000. I read that out earlier if the Deputy was here. Those are the facts and that is the effect of this Bill—that £120,000 more is being asked to be paid as a result of this Bill by the very people to whom lip-service—and only lip-service—in respect of increased production is being paid by the Minister and his colleagues.

I think it is a great pity that the Minister in his opening statement could not have given us the figures which Deputy Sweetman gave us. After all a Minister in control of a Department has opportunities over and above those of a private Deputy and it seems quite unreasonable to suggest that the Minister in introducing a Bill such as this, a Bill that is bound to be controversial, could not have given us the facts, and all the facts as he was in a position to obtain them. Since he has not given us the facts, we in the Opposition have got to try to make it crystal clear to the Minister and to those on the benches behind who are supporting him, that this Bill is not acceptable to the farmers of Ireland and is not going to be of benefit to the economic position of the country and to production generally. It is a bad Bill. It is an ill-conceived Bill.

Deputy Sweetman has made it clear that we on this side of the House will not oppose the Second Reading of this Bill because the purpose of it is to make a belated attempt to give the farmers that which they should have had since 31st March last. I can see no reason why there was not a continuation of the state of affairs that existed then and the Minister has given no reason as to why this Bill was not introduced six months ago.

Furthermore, if the Minister intended to make a change in the rates position as applicable to agricultural land he could have worked out his scheme with the assistance of his advisers beforehand and then come inhere and given us the detailed statement to which we, as public representatives, are entitled. I take it other Deputies have had experiences similar to mine, irrespective of whether they are sitting on this side of the House or on the Government Benches; I am sure they have had innumerable letters from their constituents asking if it is legal for the Minister to do what he proposes to do in asking the farmers to pay the full rate. The position would appear to be that it is legal. Quite frankly, I think it is sharp practice, and nothing more.

The Minister is himself a farmer. Most of us here are farmers. Anyone concerned with or associated in any way with land knows that it is essential for farmers to make arrangements well in advance. If there is one profession in the world in which it is necessary to plan not only one year in advance but several years in advance, it is farming and for that reason the farmer is entitled to know what his charges and his costings for the ensuing year, or years, will be.

I submit to the House—I think it is a fair submission—that the farmers have no indication from the Minister or from the Government as to what their rateable charges will be in the coming year. I know that that is so because of the letters I have received from my constituents in relation to this matter. Deputy Sweetman has given the House certain figures. The Minister has said that those figures are inaccurate. I do not know whether or not they are accurate but they have come from the only source from which it is possible to procure such figures. They were obtained from the secretaries of the local authorities who replied to Deputy Sweetman. I fail to see why all the secretaries of all the local authorities should not have answered Deputy Sweetman. It is our function and purpose here to debate Bills that come before the House. We are not a pack of yes-men. We are entitled to offer our opinion. As the main Opposition Party we are entitled to receive the courtesy of a reply from local authorities when they are written to by Deputy Sweetman on behalf of this party. There was a certain amount of sneering on the GovernmentBenches because certain county councils did reply. As a responsible Deputy I assert that every local authority should have replied, the more so as we did not have any information from the Minister and the only means left to us of obtaining the information we required was through the medium of the local authorities themselves. It would have considerably simplified this debate if we had had replies from every local authority. Those that we have had speak for themselves. The farmers will lose approximately £120,000 this year. That is a hypothetical figure. They may lose a great deal more than that.

I thought it was an accurate figure.

I knew it would not be long before Deputy Allen interrupted. If Deputy Allen would keep quiet for a few moments and allow me to develop my argument we would get on more rapidly. I am sure Deputy Allen will give us a discourse later on local government affairs which will enthrall this House. The only people who are in a position to produce a figure are the secretaries of the local authorities. That figure is a hypothetical figure. It is hypothetical because the Minister is basing his claim in relation to this Bill on the fact that it will give more employment. That is one reason why the figure is a hypothetical one. He is also founding this Bill on the fact that the rates will remain static. Does any Deputy believe that the rates will remain static? Has it not been acknowledged by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare that the rates will go up by 2/- in the £ as a result of the Health Act? That, again, is a hypothetical figure. The figures we have procured—we should have had these figures from every local authority —are hypothetical for two reasons: they are based on the assumption that the rates will remain static; and, secondly, that the level of employment will remain static.

Who will be hit most by this Bill? The bigger farmers will lose most. It is, of course, good political tactics tohit the bigger farmer and commend the small man. Up and down the country we have heard public appeals by Ministers for increased production. Who is the man who bears the heaviest load in agricultural production? Who is the man who takes the biggest risk? Who produces most? It is the big farmer. Who is the man who will lose most by this? It is the big farmer.

Who is the man who gives the least employment?

Does the Deputy seriously suggest for one moment that the big farmer gives less employment than anybody else?

Definitely, in proportion to the number of acres he holds.

That may be so, because the small farmer is himself a working farmer. In the main, the major portion of agricultural employment is provided on the bigger holdings. I am not now arguing the case of the big farmer as against the small farmer. It may be economic to have more small farms. It may be the policy of Fianna Fáil to seize the large farms and break them up. But, if it is, there has not been much sign of that policy being implemented during the years in which Fianna Fáil has been in office.

In the last analysis we depend on what we can produce and what we can sell. The cities and towns depend for their very existence on what the farmers can produce and sell. This Bill will take money out of the pockets of the farmers and, irrespective of whether it will take that money from the big farmer or the small farmer, it is sharp practice and nothing else. The one-fifth remission is to go. Originally the allowance ceiling was £13. That is now to be raised to £17 as a result of public outcry. Deputy Sweetman stated to-day that that increase was given because of the by-election and for no other reason. Is there any guarantee that that £17 will encourage the farmers to employ more labour? Is there any guarantee that it will force them to employ more labour? The more we can put into employmenton the land the better it will be. Is there any indication, judging by the trend of circumstances, that more people will be employed on the land? There is no indication of that and there is no indication that this Bill will confer any benefit on the agricultural community as a whole. There is no reason for removing the one-fifth allowance quaagricultural rates relief over the £20 valuation figure unless it is that the Government wants to save money or hold more money back in order to devote it to other purposes.

There is no use in Ministers going about the country paying lip-service to agriculture. There is no point in the Government's attitude in relation to this Bill. I said in the beginning that we were entitled to proper information on this Bill. We have not got that information and we have a very strong suspicion, when all is said and done, that it will not be a question of £120,000 being taken away from the farmers; it may be a far bigger sum than that.

What every agricultural worker wants and what I would like to see him getting is employment the whole year round. The more the overhead burden on the farming community is relieved the more employment will be created. That is common sense. This Bill, it is stated, is designed for that purpose. Personally I cannot see it. The best thing that the Minister could do would be to restore the one-fifth allowance which he has taken off so that the farmers may know where they stand. I repeat that if it were not for the pressure exerted by this Party, and the fact that we showed the people throughout the country what was behind this scheme, the Minister would not now be offering the farming community the reliefs he is offering them to-day.

So you are taking credit for the Bill you opposed.

I interrupted Deputy Sweetman's statement about gains and losses by various counties. I was not present for his opening statement but I understood that he said that Kerry would gain £1,000 under the arrangement.I am not clear as to whether he meant that the ratepayers would gain £1,000 under the original arrangement or under this new arrangement. The Deputy read out a list, I understand, giving the advantages and disadvantages to the ratepayers in each county under the previous legislation and this new legislation. Am I to understand that the Deputy stated that Kerry would gain £1,000 under the old arrangement? If that is the statement made, I would question it. At our county council meeting last Monday, there was a motion put down by Mr. M. J. O'Connell as follows:—

That we consider the effect of the Government's decision to reduce the agricultural grant in Kerry.

In reply to that, the county manager allowed the county secretary to make a statement that we would lose £6,000 under the previous arrangement made by the Minister. How does that contrast with Deputy Sweetman's statement that we would gain £1,000?

One refers to the circular. The other refers to the Bill.

You cannot make one case here and the other case in Kerry to suit each circumstance and each group of people. Members of the Deputy's Party made great propaganda on this whole question.

That is quite true.

And signs on it, the circular was changed.

The circular was changed in consequence.

That Party tried to make it appear, as they did at our meeting on Monday last, that the ratepayers of Kerry would lose considerably.

And they would have if the circular was not changed.

They would have.

I contradicted the county manager's statement and the secretary's statement and that of themover of the motion by saying that this legislation was being put through in the same financial year as the year for which we were considering the rate in Kerry and that the county manager was not yet in a position to say whether he would have a loss or otherwise, before the end of the financial year. I stated at the meeting on Monday that we did not have a loss because our valuations are, comparatively speaking, low valuations. I made the case that before final figures could be produced by the county manager, even if we did have a loss, the new legislation would be retrospective and the whole position would be readjusted. They seemed to realise as a result of my statement that they could not make a bald statement to the effect that the ratepayers would lose £6,000 as a result of the arrangement made by the Department some time ago.

Therefore, I say that this camouflage, as I call it, this propaganda, is of no service to the ratepayers. It is misrepresentation of the position as between this arrangement and the previous arrangement in order to gain a political point. In counties like Kerry, where the valuations are low as compared with other counties the circumstances are different. I was amazed that any county manager or county secretary would give a definite figure of a loss of £6,000 when he was not in a position to have the whole period under review and the whole question examined.

There is one important matter that concerns Kerry which I would mention to the Minister in the hope that he may be able to do something about it in this legislation or at a later date as a result of this legislation. The farmers in Kerry have been agitating for years for some adjustment of the employment period. It is a well-known fact that in our county and in other southern counties farmers cannot get employees to give the full 12 months' period of employment. The nearest we can get to it is a nine or ten months' period, and under the arrangement if they cannot at the end of the year show through their returns and through their statements and all the rest of itthat they have been employed by the farmers concerned for the full 12 months' period, that allowance cannot be granted and no allowance in respect of their work can be granted.

What I have been asked to do and to make representations to the Minister on is to ask if an arrangement could be made that where a farmer can show that he has a man employed for ten months of the year he would get the necessary allowance in respect of that employee. A number of farmers were unable to avail of any concessions that were available in the ordinary way owing to this position. That is the system. We realise that it was no fault of the Government or the Department concerned that this occurred, but owing to our system. It may be a peculiar system, and I understand that it does not obtain in County Dublin, where the employment period is the full 12 months, but in Kerry, in any case, that is the position. I would be grateful if the Minister would examine that. Perhaps it cannot be done now under this special arrangement and under this legislation, but nevertheless I think that it is more or less appropriate to mention it now in the passing through of this proposal, and that is all I have to say at the moment.

We appreciate what the Minister has done for us under this proposal, and despite the misrepresentation and statements that have been made about his actions in regard to the loss to the ratepayers I think there is no justification for it. The facts will prove and have proved that, as I have stated the case here, Deputy Sweetman when it suits him up here will make a certain statement and down in Kerry his colleagues and his friends will make a different statement, and when you examine both of them you have only to come to the one conclusion, that it is a distortion of the facts and misrepresentation.

We saved Kerry £7,000.

I think it was pretty evident from the statement which the Minister for Finance made in introducing his Budget that we would havesomething like this to deal with. When the Minister indicated that he believed taxation rested lightly on the land it thereby became evident that he was going to ensure that it would rest somewhat more heavily.

Hear, hear!

The introduction of this Bill is clearly an indication in that direction. I think that the Minister for Local Government should have asserted his rights and his opposition, and resisted the efforts of the Minister for Finance to put further taxation on the land.

Hear, hear!

He had already calmly submitted to the reduction in the Local Authorities (Works) Act of £250,000 which might go some way towards assisting the farmers to offset any further charge. He had accepted that weakly. He was then entitled, I submit, as Minister for Local Government to insist that no further demands would be made on the farming community. I would like to say now that I think there is a terribly erroneous feeling in this country with regard to the position of the farming community. There are people in this country who believe that the farmers are rolling in wealth. I do not want to suggest that the farmers are not pretty well off but I do say that the present price obtaining for live stock is not yielding the returns to the farmers which many people believe, because while it is true to say that the farmer gets good prices for his live stock which he has to sell, he must replace that stock at considerably enhanced prices and his margin of profit is not what the prices obtained would indicate. If the Government imagine that they can come along and put further burdens on the farming community ad lib.they are making a very serious mistake.

I am concerned mainly with the effects of this Bill in my own county, and from the information which was put at my disposal yesterday we will lose approximately £5,000 in Roscommon. It is true to say that the largerfarmers will suffer that loss, but I want to make this clear, that the larger and middle-sized farmers in any event make the greatest contribution. They make the main contribution to the social services, from many of which they themselves can derive no benefit. That has always been my attitude in regard to this whole question. The middle class farmers who will be hit most by this legislation are the men in many instances who will not qualify for any of the benefits for which the Government claim so much credit in their social welfare services, but on the other hand they must finance it. I do not think that is just or fair.

I want to say quite frankly that I do not think the increase in the employment allowance, especially in this part of the year, is going to mean any benefit at all to the larger farmers, because it is well known now that any farmer who really is intelligent and serious about farming is every year mechanising his farm more and more and dispensing with employing labour, and it is not likely that he will derive any benefit whatsoever from the increased allowances in many instances.

I want to say in that connection that I have always felt it was grossly unfair to confine that employment allowance to males only. I think the Act worked very unfairly, because in many instances a man has two or three daughters and no son and those daughters do good work on the farm and are still doing it, but there is no employment allowance for them. I think that the Act should be made applicable to any male or female employed on a holding to give some compensation to the man not in a position to claim for an adult worker.

I do agree with Deputy Flynn on the point which he has raised in connection with the man who does not employ a man the whole year round. It might impress the Minister if I tell him that in my county there was a man who had a regular workman employed during the first months of the year—from the 1st January until 3rd May last year. On the 3rd May his workman left him and he was unable to get a permanent man until the 1st June, and because of that and althoughhe had a casual workman employed he was deprived of his whole 52 weeks' employment rebate. When he brought the matter to the attention of the county council, they said that if he supplied the name of the casual workman who was employed they would consider the matter, and he did. He sent in the name of the casual workman, but when they discovered that that workman's valuation was over £5, they disallowed the rebate. I think that is sheer absurdity. I believe we could alter this Act very sensibly by allowing a pro rataremission—that in the case where a man is employed for six months the farmer should get 50 per cent. of the rebate and if he worked nine months, 75 per cent. I think it is unreasonable to deprive the employer of the full rebate because he has not his man in continuous employment from the 1st January to 31st December. It is most inequitable and unjust, and I hope that an amendment I intend to put forward will be allowed by the Chair so that the Minister will be in a position under the Bill to use his discretion and deal fairly and equitably with those men. I want to say in conclusion that we of this Party are entirely disappointed at the introduction of this measure, because we feel it is a further attempt to put more liabilities and burdens on the farming community, and for that reason we are opposing it.

We have had this pattern of legislation for some years past, and although the Minister is making certain changes in the Bill this year on the whole the Bill follows the general pattern of our rates legislation so far as agriculture is concerned. But observing the operation of this Act up to the moment and listening to some of the speeches here to-day, I am tempted to ask whether, in fact, we get any real value from legislation based on the principles set out in this Bill. Under the Bill approximately £5,000,000 will be spent by the State in the relief of rates on agricultural land. Five million pounds is a very substantial amount of money, a sum which would more than service a loan of £100,000,000. I wonder if we are gettingany adequate return by paying out that £5,000,000 a year on the basis that we assume—and it is the most facile and unwarrantable assumption I know—that the paying out of this large sum does in fact make the farmer employ labour which he would not otherwise employ? The present allowance is £6 10s. for every adult worker employed the whole year round, that is 2/6 per week. Does anybody imagine that a farmer employs a man for 52 weeks and pays him £4 per week for the privilege of getting 2/6 per week in return by way of relief on rates?

It does not cost £5,000,000 a year to pay that 2/6 a week.

This whole legislation is based on the assumption that agriculture needs to be assisted and one of the devices adopted for that purpose is to give the farmer £6 10s. by way of relief for every man he employs. No man employs an agricultural worker because he gets 2/6 a week rebate. He employs a man simply because he wants him, simply because he cannot do without him. The man would still be in the market place if the farmer did not need him and he would never be induced to employ a man merely because he gets 2/6 a week for relief in his rates. I do not think we can get any really effective return from the payment of this £5,000,000.

Quite frankly, I think that if we were to float a national loan for £100,000,000, buy £100,000,000 worth of fertilisers and say to the farmers: "Here is £100,000,000 worth of fertilisers free" in lieu of this £5,000,000, at the end of 20 years we would have better farmers than you are likely to get by pouring out this £5,000,000 every year because it is putting nothing positive into the land. It is making no special contribution to the small farmer who, because of his financially impoverished condition, is not farming his land; he is quarrying it. He is taking everything he can out of the land but he is putting nothing back into it.

I think from every point of view it would be better to buy, say, £5,000,000worth of fertilisers, load it into aeroplanes, and drop it at random on the soil of the country. The farmer, who at present cannot afford to buy fertilisers, would have a better farm by a process of that kind than he is ever likely to have on the basis of paying him 2/6 a week for every man he employs. I think there might have been a more thorough examination of the whole problem and that some effort might have been made to ensure that this £5,000,000 would be used in a way which would bring us some return from the land and that it would not be used in the money-changing sense, on the facile assumption that we are in some way aiding agriculture. I doubt very much if it does aid agriculture. I think substantial evidence can be produced to show that, in fact, it renders practically no assistance to the agricultural industry as a production unit in the economy of the country.

The assumption in the existing legislation and in this Bill is that because of the aid given in respect to the employment of labour, farmers will be tempted to employ more workers but the facts show that in the 12 months between June, 1952, and June, 1953, more than 21,000 people have left the land. There has been a bigger decline in the employment on the land between June, 1952, and June, 1953, than in any similar period in the last 30 years. Notwithstanding that fact, we still proceed on the assumption, because we prefer not to think about it, that a Bill of this kind induces the farmer to employ more labour than would otherwise be employed. I do not think that one additional person will be employed as a result of this Bill. A farmer will only employ a person because he needs his services. If a farmer puts down on the one hand what it costs him for wages and, on the other hand, the relief he gets under the Bill, I do not think he is going to be attracted by the microscopic subsidy he gets towards the employment of agricultural labour.

As I have said, I think the farmer might be assisted in other ways, in ways that would certainly enhance the value and the productivity of his land. If, however, there is to be anyemphasis in respect of where the money is to go, I agree that that emphasis should be put on the employment of labour. In so far as the Bill does that, I think it is preferable to have the emphasis on the employment of labour than on the mere ownership of land unrelated to the employment of labour. I still doubt whether, in fact, a Bill of this kind does make a real contribution towards providing additional employment but, in so far as anybody believes it does, I am completely out of step with the viewpoints expressed by Deputy Flynn and Deputy Finan in the course of the discussion.

One of the most detestable things about agriculture is the casual nature of the employment in the industry. Agricultural workers are employed when the farmer wants them and they are "fired" when the farmer does not want them. That may be due to the type of agriculture we follow, it may be due in some measure to the size of our holdings but the plain fact is that the agricultural worker has got to live for 52 weeks in the year. You cannot say to the agricultural worker: "I have got nine months' work for you. I will pay you wages for nine months but you can go and hibernate for the other three months and keep your wife and children for these three months as best you can." The agricultural labourer has got to live for these three months and he must get some wages, otherwise he will have to be maintained by the State. Anything that puts a premium on the casualisation of employment in agriculture will beget my fiercest opposition. I think, therefore, the view expressed by Deputy Finan and Deputy Flynn was short-sighted. Anything which would put a premium on putting off the agricultural worker with less than 12 months' work in the year, in other words, casual employment, is something that should not be tolerated by this House.

Suppose his employee goes away and he cannot replace him for a period of say two or three weeks. Is the farmer to be penalised for that?

There may be a difficulty now and again in getting workers but looking at the figures circulated by the Department we see that there arenow at least 70,000 registered unemployed. In Roscommon and Kerry there are quite substantial quotas of unemployed.

They will not work on the land.

Not only have we this large number of people unemployed but we would have a still larger number were it not for the fact that the emigrant ship takes many of our unemployed away from our shores each year.

One may find plenty of registered unemployed in the country but the farmer cannot get them to work.

If he pays them a decent wage——

He is bound to pay them a certain standard.

I should like to see an individual who makes that assertion brought before some tribunal and examined with regard to it. I refuse to believe that a fellow will not work in Roscommon but that he will go to work in Birmingham to face all the evils associated with employment in large industrial cities. I think if you give him decent wages he will work here. If he is not getting decent wages, he is a free man and he is entitled to go to work wherever he likes. At all events there is a residue of 70,000 unemployed in this country and, so long as you have that residue, you cannot at the same time plead that you have an insufficiency of labour. I hope the Minister will set his face against any proposal which would aid the casualisation of agricultural employment by giving an employment allowance for employment of less than 12 months' duration. Every effort should be made to step up the amount of employment which the agricultural worker gets each year and the immediate aim ought to be to try to get regular employment for the agricultural worker in the same way as the industrial worker can, in the main, secure that type of employment. Itis because of the fact that work in agriculture is so often casual that the agricultural workers leave the rural areas and go into the towns where they look for jobs in industry or in commerce because they know that there is regular employment in these jobs as distinct from the casual character of their employment in agriculture.

There is no question at this stage of voting against this Bill because to do so would be completely to deny agriculture all the benefit which it has had for years and which it still requires. But there is a good case, not from the point of view of the farmers in this county or in that county, but from the over-all national point of view for examining this question of aiding agriculture through this medium with a view to seeing whether we could not find some better scheme which would put something more positive into the land and enable us to take out of it a greater volume of production for the nation and a greater return for the farmer who owns the land.

Deputy Sweetman has indicated that it is his intention to support this Bill. We may take it, therefore, that the Bill will be unanimously approved of by the House. That is all to the good. But it does seem rather peculiar that the official organ of the Fine Gael Party, or should we call it the Fine Gael Izvestia,describes this Bill in very large type as a bitter pill for ratepayers. It appears now that the Fine Gael Party have decided to impose this bitter pill on the ratepayers. I think, however, that Deputies who view this matter fairly, impartially and objectively will acknowledge that it is not a bitter pill. The Minister indicated that there will be gains and losses in regard to this alteration of the allocation of the agricultural grant as between individual ratepayers and as between counties, but that these gains and losses will balance out and that the relief given this year will be equal to that which would have been given under the previous arrangement which was first introduced in the 1946 Act.

It is no harm to consider this matter fairly, leaving these little eruptions ofParty feeling on the Opposition side out of account. It is no harm to consider whether this Bill does or does not improve the allocation of the agricultural grant. I hold that it does definitely improve the allocation. It gives greater relief to the man who gives the maximum of employment. The man who provides reasonable employment, not excessive employment, on his holding will gain very substantially by this Bill, and the man who refuses to give employment and who thinks he can sit back and forget that there are other citizens living in this country, forget that he has neighbours with children and ignore their wants will lose something under this Bill.

Let us examine how this Bill affects the ordinary farmer with a valuation of £120. The first £20 of that valuation will not be affected in any way. There is a three-fifths rebate of rates on the first £20 valuation regardless of the size of the holding or of the valuation. Under the previous legislation the farmer would get a rebate of £30 or one-fifth of the rates on the remaining £100 of valuation, assuming the rates would be 30/- in the £. Now under this Bill he will lose that supplementary allowance. Instead of that, he will gain £10 10s. in respect of each man employed. Where he formerly got £6 10s. he will now get £17. If a farmer employs three men, on £100 of his valuation he will receive £31 10s. over and above what he would have got under the previous legislation. In other words, he will lose £30 and he will gain £31 10s. That is the position of an ordinary farmer giving, not an excessive amount of employment, but just the minimum employment that would be required to carry on a holding valued at £120.

Somebody may say that three men per £100 valuation represent a very high rate of employment. I wonder will anyone be so foolish as to suggest that. In the ordinary course of events we do not refer to our own business, but it is in regard to our own farming operations that we can speak with authority. I have an agricultural valuation of £75 and I employ three men. I find I could not carry on that farmwith fewer than three men, or one man per £25 valuation. I think a farm would not be worked efficiently or well with a lesser number. So that the farmer who employs one man per £30 valuation is not giving excessive employment. If he wants to farm intensively, he has to employ more, and if he employs four men per £100 valuation he will gain £18 10s. as a result of that.

I am not suggesting that any farmer might employ an additional man simply and solely because of the relief given under this Bill or under the previous Act. There is, however, always the question of giving encouragement to the man who is doing the right thing and this Bill certainly does that. For example, a man may be weighing in his mind whether he will till a little more extensively and employ an additional man or carry more live stock for the winter and employ an additional man. If he knows that he will get £17 additional, it will help him to decide on giving that additional employment. That is where the merit lies in this Bill. But even if it did not have that effect, it would still be desirable in justice and in fair play to give the maximum amount of relief to the man who is giving the maximum amount of employment. That is the chief merit of this Bill. I was glad to see that Deputy Norton accepted that point. I would compliment him on his approaching the Bill in a fair and reasonable way, although I profoundly disagree with the majority of the points he made. He asked whether it is right or proper to go on paying out of the Exchequer £5,000,000 per year for the relief of rates. I would like to indicate to him that it is not quite as simple as that. Rateable valuations on land are high, having regard to its income producing capacity. The whole idea of the initiation of this agricultural grant was to offset the injustice to agriculture through the relatively high valuation of agricultural land, having regard to its income earning capacity. Therefore, it is not a question of a subsidy to help agriculture but a question of doing justice to agriculture. The allocation of this £5,000,000 is an attempt to offset aninjustice which was found to exist in the rating system.

Deputy Norton suggested we might do better by borrowing £100,000,000 and dumping it on the land in the form of fertilisers. I have a certain amount of sympathy with Deputy Norton. He probably expressed the view in good faith but it shows a lamentable ignorance of the use of fertilisers. If you dump a very large quantity of fertilisers in one year you are not going to reap a reward over a considerable number of years. They tend to operate only for a very short period. Modern agricultural science indicates that the farmer should seek to use fertilisers with a view to getting the utmost value within one season. In fact, the suggestion that ordinary fertilisers other than lime would have a life of over one or two years at the outside is quite a mistake. In addition to that, fertilisers can be applied only on the basis of a scientific soil analysis. Therefore we have to take it that it is desirable to allocate this £5,000,000 per year to equalise or help to equalise the burden of taxation as between agriculture and the rest of the community. It is not a question of giving a dole to the mendicant farmer or anything like that but of spreading the burden of taxation as fairly as possible over the community.

Having decided that this £5,000,000 ought to be allocated to agriculture, the next question is to decide the fairest method of allocation. As far as the first £20 is concerned I think it is generally agreed that the three-fifths rebate is a fairly substantial benefit, and that three-fifths rebate is being continued under this Bill. A farmer under £20 valuation is not affected in the slightest way by the passing of the Bill.

With regard to a farmer over £20 valuation, he will gain substantially by the Bill provided he is able to employ one man to every £30 of his valuation over £20. That is to say, a farmer of £50 valuation employing one man will gain slightly by the Bill. If he happens to employ two men on a £50 or £60 valuation he will gain fairly substantially.Is there anything wrong with the principle that the man who is farming his land intensively and giving the maximum amount of employment on the land should get the maximum benefit that is provided by the State for the relief of rates?

Hear, hear!

It is a sound principle to help the man who is helping the country by providing employment. The whole campaign which has been waged against the Bill by Fine Gael, a campaign of misrepresentation, is utterly harmful. Surely our most important asset is the land—and land is no use unless it is worked. Is it not a reasonable suggestion that a farmer who employs one man to every 30 acres of good land—that is all that is provided for in the Bill—should gain, whereas a man who does not do so will lose? There is a big principle involved. We have a limited acreage—12,000,000 acres—of agricultural land. It should be the aim of any Government to see that that land is utilised to the best advantage. Socially, it is desirable to ensure that every 20 or 30 acres are supporting a family. We know a family can live on a farm of £30 valuation. They are living on it in many cases. Here in this country and all over the world there are bishops, judges and other people in prominent positions in Church and State who were reared on farms of £30 valuation. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the suggestion that such a farm will not provide enough to pay the wages of one man.

This Bill seeks to ensure that the farmer who employs one man to every additional £30 of his valuation will gain by the allocation of the agricultural grant. A man who employs less than that will lose. The man who employs no one on a £500 to £700 valuation farm will lose substantially— there is no doubt about that. The suggestion was made by Deputy Esmonde that this Bill is designed to hit the big farmer. It is not; it will help him. I know big farmers of £400 or £500 valuation employing men and farming intensively. They will gain substantially by this change in the distribution of the agricultural grant, asthey are employing more than one man to every £30 of their valuation. This Bill does not hit the big farmer but hits the farmer, big or small, who refuses to give employment. It hits the selfish man who says: "I can make a living for myself on the land without regard to my neighbours, without regard to my country, without regard to anyone else and without trying to help to give employment and I refuse to employ any workers on my land."

It is true that that man will be adversely affected by this Bill. However, such men are in a very small minority in the farming community. Most of our farmers, big and small, try to provide the maximum employment on their holdings. They try to get the most they can out of their holdings and to improve them. In my opinion, it is impossible to work a farm of even £75 valuation with less than three men. It is impossible to work a farm of £25 valuation without one man, even with the aid of modern machinery. Of course that is provided you are growing a fair acreage of beet and a fair acreage of wheat and that you are growing feeding stuffs for your live stock. If you are doing that, then not alone are you working your farm well and in your own interests, but you are also doing a service to your country. You will find that it is necessary to employ at least one man for every £25 of your valuation. If you do that, you will gain substantially by this change in the allocation of agricultural grants.

The general principle of the Bill is sound. It is a marked improvement on the 1946 Act and the 1946 Act was an improvement on previous legislation. This Bill will give that little incentive that is needed to the man who is doing the right thing. This Bill will encourage him. He is not employing labour merely in order to get the £6 10s., as the amount formerly was, or the £17 provided under this Bill: he believes in giving good employment and he believes in working his land to the best advantage. That farmer will get an increase of £10 10s. per man in the allowance. That represents a substantial gain.

There are some minor matters in regard to this Bill upon which I shouldlike to comment. Under the 1946 Act, an allowance of 10/- in the £ was provided in respect of each man employed, with a maximum of £6 10s. An allowance of £6 10s. was provided in respect of each man. Now, there is no question of any allowance in the £. What we have instead is a clear and straightforward allowance of £17 per man employed. Take, for the sake of example, a farmer with a valuation of £30, who employs one man. Assuming that the rate is 30/- in the £, the rate over and above the first £20 would be £15. Over and above the first £20, the rate in the £ on his valuation would be £15. Under this Bill, that £15 will be completely wiped out. In other words, the farmer will be completely derated in respect of every £ over the first £20 of his valuation— that is, assuming that his valuation does not exceed £30 or £31. Under this Bill, the valuation of a number of farmers will be completely derated for the first time since this type of relief was introduced. I think that that is rather a good thing. There may be some little inequities as between different valuations but, on the whole, I think the man whose valuation is between £20 and £40, and who has a grown-up son, or who employs a worker, will gain very substantially inasmuch as every £ of his valuation over the first £20 will be completely derated. It is no harm to stress the fact that in this Bill we have for the first time in legislation a measure of complete derating.

Wait a moment. What happens if you employ so many men that it works in a cycle? Does Deputy Cogan suggest that the rate collector would give back money?

No. If Deputy Deering had read the Bill, he would have found that there is a provision in it whereby you cannot get an allowance in excess of the rate you have to pay. I was looking through the Bill to see if that point was in it, and it is.

You could never get money back, even if you were the ideal employer.

I think we may take it that when the rate collector, on his visits, goes around handing out money to the ratepayers, we will have reached Utopian conditions. I do not think that that stage is in sight at the moment. However, it is no harm for the farmer to know that if he employs a sufficient number of men in proportion to the size of his holding he can have a substantial portion of his holding derated. Of course, it is only on very intensively worked farms that that would be effective. Some people farm very intensively and they must, therefore, keep a considerable number of man. There are other smallish farmers with valuations of £40 or £50 who may have grown-up sons working and helping them. They have no rates to pay on that portion of their farm over £20.

I should like to deal now with one or two smaller points mentioned by some Deputies. Deputy Finan, Deputy Norton and Deputy Flynn mentioned casual labour. Farmers have always felt a grievance because they do not get any abatement in respect of short-time workers, weekly workers or workers employed at piece rates. I think that the main objective of this Bill, as of previous legislation, is to encourage the employment of workers all the year round. Everybody will agree that that is a good objective. As Deputy Norton pointed out, the workers have to live during the 52 weeks of the year. In so far as it is possible for a farmer so to organise his work as to provide employment for his workers over the whole year, it is all to the good. Between the termination of a worker's employment and the re-employment of another worker in his place, there is often a gap of a few weeks. In that connection, I think it would be no harm if there were a provision in the Bill to allow for a period of three or four weeks, so that a farmer who has lost the services of one man could get a little time in which to employ another. A farmer who employs a man for at least 11 months of the year should be entitled to qualify as giving full-time employment to his worker.

I come now to the matter of the age qualification. I have not checked upon this, but I understand that a claim for abatement can be made in respect of a paid worker between the ages of 16 and 70. If a member of the farmer's own family is working with him on the farm, abatement can be claimed only in respect of the ages 17 to 70. If that is so, I feel that the Bill should put the farmer's son on the same footing as the agricultural worker and that there should be abatement in respect of every worker over the age of 16.

There may be some minor amendments which it might be possible to introduce in connection with this Bill: I do not know. On the whole, the Bill is fundamentally sound and represents a substantial improvement on existing legislation. It marks the beginning, I should say, of a concentrated movement on the part of the State to give the maximum amount of encouragement, incentive, protection and aid to the man giving the maximum amount of employment, and that is a very substantial advance.

It is not true, as some Deputies have suggested, that mechanisation will eliminate the agricultural worker. I believe that the good farmer can keep as many workers on his holding with mechanisation as without it but the change he will make in his agricultural operations is that he will farm his land more intensively, increasing the area under cultivation and relying more on home-produced feeding stuffs than on imported feeding stuffs. In that way, he will ensure continued remunerative employment for his workers.

It is gratifying to note that this Bill, so far as we have heard up to the present, is being unanimously accepted by the House, and it is also gratifying to note that the campaign directed against the Bill has completely broken down and that those who sought to represent the change as something in the nature of injustice to the farming community have been shown up as being very foolish indeed. Those who condemned this Bill were merely condemning the employment of additional workers on the land. We have an outcry about the reduction of employment on the land and about the flight from the land of our male agriculturalworkers, and, if we are sincere in deploring that, and most Deputies are, irrespective of the side of the House on which they sit, we ought at least do something to offset it, to give encouragement to the man who is trying to maintain the existing number of employees on the land or to increase the number of employees on his holding.

The flight from the land did not happen only under the present Government. It happened under the previous Government also. It was very marked during the years of the inter-Party Government and I commented on it at that time. It is still a marked feature of our economic position. It has got to be tackled and this Bill is a move in the right direction. The tendency of workers to get away from the land is not confined to this country; it has been noted in most other European countries, and, I suppose, in every civilised country in the world. In Denmark, Holland and other countries, however, the number of employees per 1,000 acres is much greater than the number here, so we cannot afford to be complacent in regard to the reduction in employment on the land. That being so, we must welcome the Bill and give it, not the grudging support which some Opposition Deputies have given it, but our wholehearted and enthusiastic support.

This Bill is an improvement on the Bill envisaged in the Minister's circular of May last, and, in so far as it is an improvement on that Bill, I support it. I am glad the Minister has gone some way to remedy the weaknesses involved in the scheme outlined in that circular, but there is still one very objectionable feature in this new Bill. Under the old system, there was an abatement of rates of one-fifth, on the basis of the supplementary grant, of rates over £20 and the fact that the Exchequer had to contribute one-fifth of the rates, no matter what the size of the rate, had a deterring effect on the sending by Ministers of Orders to county councils, corporations and other local authorities instructing them to incur certain expenditure which eventually went on the rates.

They still have to contribute the three-fifths.

On rates over £20, the Government had the responsibility of contributing one-fifth. The rates are progressively increasing and we can expect further increases next year when the health scheme charges come into operation. The Government now, however, more or less fix the amount they will pay by way of this grant and as the rates are rising progressively, and, so far as we can see, will continue to rise, there will be no deterrent to the sending down of Orders to local authorities to increase rates and transfer certain commitments which should be national charges to the rates. I do not like that feature of the Bill.

I support the suggestions made by Deputies Flynn and Finan with regard to the period of employment. I agree that every help should be given to the farmer who gives full-time employment but there will be cases of men who will not be able to get an employee for one week. He may have six employees for six weeks but unless he can show that he has a man employed for each of the 52 weeks he will get no credit in respect of the payment he has made in wages to that employee, even though he may have had six or seven men employed for three months as well. At times it is impossible to replace an employee within a week and I think some provision should be made in the Bill for cases in which it is obvious that it is the intention of the employer, and that he has done his best, to employ a man but through circumstances outside his control a week or two weeks elapse before he can get a man. That employer should be given the benefit of the allowances.

I was surprised to hear Deputy Sweetman saying that a member of his Party had succeeded in getting a good deal of information from local authorities. I am a member of a county council but when I asked for certain information from that council I was told that the council could give information only to the Minister or to the chairman.

Actually we were not able to get it from the county council.

We have the same experience.

I was glad to see the competition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as to who is responsible for the good features in the Bill or who is responsible for improving the Bill from the way it was set out in the circular of last May. Fine Gael say that, due to their campaign, they forced the Minister. Fianna Fáil Deputies state that they got the Minister to see reason. The view of the Evening Heraldof the 8th July last was:—

"Every reasonable person would agree that the larger farmers are in a better position to forgo the benefits of Government assistance than many other sections of the community. It is well known that they pay no income-tax worth mentioning and, furthermore, the prices of agricultural produce are still rising. It has now transpired that Deputy Lehane has forced the Government to cave in."

The Evening Heraldis the organ of Fine Gael.

That is the case of an over-all majority.

When everybody seems to be claiming whatever is good in the Bill, I said I might as well put in my claim too.

Hear, hear!

Who put down the motion?

The Deputy put down the motion and ran away from it last night. The Deputy is unique in that respect.

Deputy Norton spoke about paying out £5,000,000 a year to the farmers. Actually, this is only an effort to give back to the farmers some of the money that was taken from them. Considerable sums of money are collected from the farming community by way of rates. We collect about £30,000,000 each year in tariffs which are eventually paid by the farming community. The cost of production andcost of living have increased because the farmers have to buy their products behind a tariff wall. In addition to that, Deputy Norton should remember that in the Six Counties and in Britain there is derating of agricultural land. The £5,000,000 he referred to is to permit the farmers to continue in production. It is an effort to prevent the killing of the goose that lays the golden egg. I think Deputy Norton should remember that. I should like the Minister on the next stage of the Bill to try and make some arrangement whereby the farmers will not be deprived of the benefits of the allowance.

I do not propose to delay the House very long on this particular measure but I do feel that the time has come to get to grips with what I consider the most iniquitous feature of recent legislation. All the talking that anybody can do will not in any way offset the fact that this Bill in relation to last year is raising a further concealed tax on the land of Ireland. It is possibly the result of the cynicism of the Minister for Finance who suggested that taxation had lain lightly on the land. There is no doubt at all but that it is a continuation of the policy of shedding responsibility for the raising of money.

Last year, the Minister for Local Government was the pawn in a different way when a considerable sum of money was raised indirectly for certain purposes. This whole type of legislation is difficult. The conception of it originally might well be argued as wrong. We are in an extraordinary cleft stick position done, I would say, with a deliberate political adroitness of which the Government are the masters. This Bill is somewhat like the curate's egg and leaves us in the position that we cannot deny the people in Ireland limited relief such as this Bill offers.

At the same time, one realises its political significance. It is an effort to save the face of the Government Party. Had not the situation developed when a vote of confidence arose, and subsequent to that by-elections, there would have been a bludgeoning through of the Bill as conceived in the originalcircular of the Minister. I do not care who claims credit for it, whether it is Deputy Lehane who might be entitled to some bit of credit, or Independent Deputy Cogan, as he then was, who apparently boasted that he had twisted the lion's tail. That makes no difference. It still does not in any way take from the fact that there is going to be raised from the farmers of Ireland a substantially increased sum by way of taxation.

I want to say in a deliberate kind of way that this is a bit of political codology. Even though Deputy Cogan may unctuously talk about unanimity in this House, unanimity can be gained in peculiar ways, particularly when one recollects the passage of the Republic of Ireland Bill through this House. Unanimity, as suggested by Deputy Cogan, is claimed simply because we cannot deny to people who are going to get relief that relief. We accede to what might have been the pious desire of the Government in opposing the Bill on Second Reading because we believe we have to assist agriculture in every way possible.

But that does not for one moment gainsay the fact that this is a shabby, contemptible measure. I have seen Deputy Cogan trying to gibe cheaply at a daily newspaper, trying to tie it up in an association that I do not really think exists. To be quite honest, I feel that paper attacks me as often as it praises me. That is its journalistic privilege. Deputy Cogan, the champion of the ratepayers and the political gyrist, who might be described as the acrobatic king of cerebral gymnastics, might find in that article an indication that this shifting of responsibility from one Department to another is an unwelcome feature. The responsibility of raising money is being bandied around in a dangerous way.

We can take the general experience of this House. Whether it was the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs or the Minister for Local Government we have had as a continuous feature of the last year in this House the raising of money in an indirect way. I think that is more than worthy of comment in the public Press of this country. Had it not been for the capricious or, possibly,voracious appetite of the Fianna Fáil Party when it swallowed and digested Deputy Cogan, I am quite sure he would have been the most vociferous denouncer to-day of this type of indirect increase on the rates throughout Ireland.

A Deputy

There is no increase.

Do not talk rubbish and do not allow your lack of concept to intrude too much into the debate.

In regard to the agricultural grant——

Twenty-one thousand left the land last year.

They do not like the story and they are becoming a little bit agitated. The fact remains that you must accept responsibility for this additional impost on the land of Ireland. I am glad I disturbed you.

Will the Deputy please address the Chair?

I am glad I have been able to disrupt the equanimity and the attitude of complacency of a Party which has no thought other than to obey a typical directive epitomised last night by the proposer of the motion before the House being the first to vote against it.

This Bill only carries out and is a continuation of a policy for which you, a Cheann Comhairle, and I stood in this House for the last 25 or 26 years. I remember in November, 1929, the policy as announced was one of seeing that a man who made use of his land, who tilled his land and employed workers, received a relief in rates from the Government aspect alone on that. Away back in November, 1929, I had the honour of introducing here a motion proposing that the relief of rates would only be given to any man who had at least 15 per cent. of his land under tillage. That is a long time ago. That policy was followed by the Ceann Comhairle himself in this House as an ordinary Deputy in 1931, two years later, when he supported a proposal brought in by another Deputy of the Labour Party,Deputy O'Connell, that the relief of rates on agricultural land would only be given to a man who had 20 per cent. of his land under tillage. Those are fundamental policies and they were opposed then, as now, by the Party that represented the bigger landholders in the country. The ratepayer is a rather funny individual and when I look back and quote figures that were given by the Ceann Comhairle, then Deputy Patrick Hogan——

The Deputy had better refer to the Deputy as Deputy Hogan.

These figures were given by Deputy Patrick Hogan of the Labour Party in this House in 1931. He then pointed out to us that in 1914 the rates on agricultural land were 1/10 in the £. They had a long way to go. In 1917 they went up to 2/2; in 1919 they were 3/9; in 1920 they were 4/4; in 1923 they were 5/10; and in 1931 they were 7/-. At that time the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, as they were then, opposed a motion for £1,000,000 relief of rates brought in by the present Taoiseach, then Deputy de Valera, and seconded by me; it was opposed by the Party which held the balance of power and relief was given to the extent of £725,000.

It was not bad on 7/-.

It was a good squeeze, and it was good on 7/-, as the Deputy says.

That was more than one-third of the total rates.

At that time, the Cumann na nGaedheal Party, sitting here on these benches, had one rule: "We will give you £1,000,000 relief in rates; we do not give a hang how high they go, that is all you will get." Although rates went up from 5/- in 1924 to 7/-, the same amount of relief was given. There was this difference as well: it did not matter whether the farmer had 500 acres or 100 acres, he got the samerelief. Neither did it matter whether he had a man and a dog on the 500 acres or whether he employed 40 men. The policy then announced by the Fianna Fáil Party was that the man who tilled his land and gave employment was entitled to whatever relief was going. That policy was brought into force and this is only the continuation of it.

I remember very well the nice things that were said in the by-election in Cork. Deputy Sweetman alluded to that to-day. I admit at once that although we are an intensive tillage area, this particular measure will weigh heavier on the people in my constituency than on those in any other because the valuation per statute acre in my constituency is somewhere between 25/- and 30/- per acre.

In East Cork.

In Cork County?

No, in East Cork, in the place that produces all the wheat, all the grain, all the beet——

The Deputy can afford to give back a little bit.

——and all the beet and all the milk.

And all the good men.

Yes, and all the good men.

The average valuation in Cork is only about 8/-.

I am anxious for more reasons than one that the Minister should be aware of this; as a matter of fact this will be one of the reasons why I intend to look for a separate county council in East Cork.

Some other time, not on this Bill.

This is a Bill which will weigh heavily on the people in my constituency although the amount of labour employed there is higher than inany other part of the county, taking it on an acreage basis. This is an area where tillage is carried out intensively. In no case will you find there any holding on which less than about 40 per cent. of the land is under tillage.

I suggest that, before we go much further with legislation relating to rates on land, there should be a complete revaluation of the land of the country. Values have changed completely. The proximity value that was attached to land at the time of Griffiths valuation has, in the present transport age, gone. I have seen holdings in other portions of Cork County which would carry as many milch cows, and produce as good crops as the land in East Cork and having only one-third of the valuation. I have seen land in the Coachford area of Cork where the valuation is 10/- per acre as against 30/- in the Midleton and Cloyne areas. I think that, instead of having this constant chopping and changing, if rates are going to continue on agricultural land, there should be a complete revaluation of the land.

There are some defects in the Bill to which I would like to refer. One refers to non-payment of the allowance if there is a break in the 12-month period in which an agricultural worker is employed, a break that may be due to illness or some other cause. In that connection, I might say that we hear a lot of shouting about the flight from the land. We hear a lot about it from Deputies on the opposite side and from Deputies on this side, too, but in my opinion the flight from the land will continue under the present conditions of affairs where you have the agricultural labourer being paid roughly 50 per cent. of the wage that is paid to an industrial worker.

That is not true.

It is absolutely true.

Deputy Desmond proved that it was not.

Deputy O'Sullivan should not interrupt.

I could give the Deputy cases of the kind I have mentioned. The father of a family is working as an agricultural labourer at £4 5s. a week. Two of his sons, who used to work with farmers, are now in industrial employment, earning £8 a week each. Cases of that kind are quite common in my constituency. In view of that, how can you expect agricultural workers to remain on the land? One brother, say, is working with a farmer. He has to work on seven days a week because cattle have to be fed and cows milked on Sunday as well as on Monday. His brother, who is in industrial employment, finishes his work at 12 o'clock on Saturday and is getting nearly twice the wages of his brother who is with a farmer. Is it any wonder, in view of those conditions, that there is a flight from the land? Nothing is going to stop it as long as those conditions prevail, and there is no use in pretending otherwise.

I suggest to Deputy O'Sullivan that he should take a ramble out about six miles from the town of Mallow. If he does, he will find that the conditions prevailing in that area are exactly the same as they are in my area. The father of a family there may be working with a farmer at £4 5s. a week. His brother is working in the Mallow factory and is getting £7 or £8 a week.

Agreed, but that is only seasonal employment.

I am speaking of men in constant employment, of men working for Irish Steel. We had, for a number of years past, and at present, a number of agricultural labourers working in my area. A gentleman comes down from Dublin and starts to build a sanatorium. I have seen 18 agricultural labourers in my district walk away on a Saturday night from the farmers by whom they had been employed to take a job on the building at Glanmire. At once, of course, their wages went up at least one and a half times. I agree that the ordinary worker has nothing for sale but his labour and who is to blame him if he tries to get the highest price he can for it? I certainly would notblame him. I have described the conditions which obtain in rural areas to-day, and I suggest that while those conditions are present there is no good in talking about the flight from the land.

To come back to the point that I started on, that a farmer must have a man in his employment for the 12 months of the year before he can get the allowance, I should like to point out to the Minister that an agricultural labourer may get sick or he may leave a farmer to better his position. When the employment period is broken in that way, the Bill will deal unfairly with the farmer. It will take the farmer at least a fortnight or three weeks to replace that man. In the event of that happening, the farmer loses his grant. Any break such as I have referred to destroys continuity in the employment of the worker on the land. I suggest that the Minister should remedy that by introducing an amendment, because I think that any man who employs labour on the land should get the full allowance, and that breaks, such as I have referred to, should not count against him. I also think it is unjust that because a farmer had a break in that employment, because a man left for one reason or another and it took him a fortnight or three weeks to replace that man, he should lose a benefit or allowance for that year, because of what will happen, I might say, with 50 per cent. of the men employed. No man can blame a labourer for bettering his conditions— they will try to better themselves, anyway, whether you like it or not. If a man working for me is offered £6 or £7 a week——

I think the Deputy told us that before.

——I cannot blame him for going, and if he goes and leaves this gap there is no reason why I, as a farmer, should lose the allowance that I would be entitled to in the ordinary way because of that gap, and because it took me a fortnight to find a man to replace the man who had gone.

country you have this tendency increasing every day and every week, this tendency of workers to change. I also consider that in some crops at present you have an enormous amount of employment being given by farmers for which they can get no credit, and I wonder how the Minister is going to consider matters like that. I allude to the 150 men we brought down from County Mayo this year for the purpose of singling beet. We brought them down again for the purpose of harvesting beet. It was a laudable thing to do. It gave needed employment to men who otherwise would have to go to the foreigner looking for this employment and I suggest that those are matters—now that we are changing and a greater benefit is being given to the farmer who does employ labour—that deserve consideration by the Minister.

If we are going to meet this system at all, if we are going to have this standard that a man is to be paid on the amount of labour he employs, and as it seems to be an accepted thing now on all sides of the House that it is a laudable thing to employ workers on the land, then I think the men who find that they cannot get sufficient labour and who go out of their way to other counties and bring down labour from other counties should be given some allowances. I think this yearly basis should go out. If a man proves that he employs labour—if you put it on the basis of £17 a year—then if the man proves that he employs 20 men for a month and another 20 men on another location for another month, that should all be made up, and for every month he has a man employed he should get a credit of £17.

Tillage and the old type of employment of labour on the land in this country are completely changed. You no longer have happening what occurred in my young days, and up to ten or 15 years ago. I had one man for 19½ years. Other neighbours of mine had them for 19 or 20 years. A man came in as a young fellow, got married and lived in a cottage on the farm all his life. That is gone in this country. The young men now growing up look

In my particular portion of the forward to the half-day on Saturday, and to being free from Saturday at 1 o'clock until Monday morning. They look for the employment in which they will get that condition of affairs. They look further than that. They look also for the higher wage that they will undoubtedly receive in any industry in this country as against farming. Those are the facts. Therefore, I would suggest to the Minister that the particular points I have put up are points that should be considered and put into effect now in the shape of amendments to this Bill.

Deputy Sweetman mentioned this morning that the Minister bungled the situation for both county councils and county council officials and rate collectors. I do not think the Minister did. I think that the Government did—the Government of which the Minister was only the spokesman. The Minister was carrying out the considered policy of the Government as expressed by the Minister for Finance, that taxation lay lightly on the land of Ireland and that they must pay up. I appealed at that stage, when the Minister for Finance spoke, to Deputy Corry to get busy as the farmers were going to suffer this impost. Now, for whatever reason, the Government and the Minister have changed their minds, and the £13 per labourer grant is being raised to £17. I am not going to argue as to what brought that about, because it does not matter. It has been increased from £13 to £17. That, of course, is a considerable advantage to farmers who have a son or two working on the land with them. It is an advantage where there are a number of men employed, where the valuation is up to the standard that can carry the allowances upon the men, because in the case of the £30 valuation farmer or the £20 valuation farmer, it does not matter how many men he has, he gets no reduction of rates notwithstanding all the tears that Deputy Corry shed about the farmers in 1927, 1928 and 1929.

Before dealing with that, I would like to remind the House—now thatDeputy Corry has brought it in—that when £750,000 of agricultural grant was available in 1929 it was almost one-third of the total rates of this country. At that stage the total rates of the country were around the £3,000,000 mark, and Fianna Fáil wept tears of sorrow—crocodile tears, I admit—but they pretended to weep for the hardships that the farmers were suffering because the rates were 5/- and 7/- in the £. They told the farmers of Ireland they should have complete derating of agricultural land and that £20,000,000 central taxation was an outrage and that Fianna Fáil would reduce it by £2,000,000.

We never stood for complete derating, Deputy.

The Minister was very young then.

I am not discussing my age, but what you have said is inaccurate.

I will produce evidence of what your elders did in Fianna Fáil.

I would like if you would because I understood we never stood for complete derating.

I will get the advertisements for you. All you had to do in order to get complete derating, and central taxation reduced by £2,000,000 was to vote Fianna Fáil. All you had to do, was do that and the people would be in clover. Another thing mentioned was the remission or the non-payment of land annuities, but I only touch on that. These were the tears of sorrow that were wept for the agricultural community of that day, but to-day the total rates of the country which were then £3,000,000 per annum are now over £15,000,000. The farmers are being loaded more heavily than they have ever been. Deputy Corry wept for them in the past and said we were opposed to a differential payment as between the large and small farmer. I would like to point out that for the first time it is the large farmer who will get the benefit under this Billbecause he will employ a number of men and the more men that are employed the greater the benefit will be. I am not complaining of that. I am merely making the point that that is the effect this measure will have. What benefit will the farmer with the £30 valuation get?

On £10.

Exactly, and no more. The supplementary allowance would be greater than that.

One cannot give a man more than his rates.

It could be brought up so that he would get the same as he gets under the primary allowance and the supplementary allowance. In that way he would not lose.

If he is entirely relieved of rates on £10 what more can one do for him?

He is not being relieved.

He will be if he has one man employed.

Or a member of his family.

I will give the Deputy that for the moment. Supposing he has two daughters employed, or his wife and two daughters, he will get nothing.

That is his own misfortune.

Suppose they do all the milking and feed the pigs and poultry and do all the other work that is done by women there will not be ¼d. benefit. They will still be slaves, the forgotten class. There will be no recognition of their services. Very often they have done, and do, more work on the farm than half the men in the country.

Do not forget that the same will apply to two sons.

The farmer will get some benefit for one son.

The large farmer will not apply for it.

Deputy Corry said a moment ago that the farm labourers in Cork ran away to the sanatorium in Glanmire because they got one and a half times greater wages than the farmer could pay them. Deputy Corry did not blame them for that. Can anyone blame the women if they run away because there is no compensation at all for the work they do?

They used to run away in a different sense before there was ever any rate relief.

I do not know any girls that ran away. The Minister may have known them; he evidently knows a different type of woman from the type I know.

I hope the Deputy understands.

I understand thoroughly, but the women I knew did not run away. They stayed at home.

It was a laudable enough object in those days.

It does not seem to be relevant to this Bill.

The Minister likes to get away from the problem of making an allowance for the women who work on the farm. I am putting it to him that he should consider their position. The female, remember, is recognised as an agricultural worker under the national health insurance scheme though the stamp is cheaper than that necessary for a domestic worker. Why not afford the same recognition right through? Of course, the object of this measure is to save £300,000 to the Exchequer. Deputy Cogan, Deputy Corry and the other Fianna Fáil speakers say that there will be no reduction and no saving effected. That is not correct. Deputy Sweetman showed clearly through the medium of the replies obtained from the secretaries of the county councils—and we got replies from practically all thecounty councils—that increased rates will have to be struck and increased payments will have to be made by the agricultural community. We gave both; we gave the county councils that will lose and the county councils that will gain. We did not suppress anything. Where the information was against us we gave it. It has been established by statistics that 27,000 men left the land inside the last 18 months. Now, the secretaries of the county councils have based their calculations upon last year's returns in relation to the number of men employed on the land.

It will be clearly shown when the time for accounting comes that the proposed saving to the Exchequer will work out, assuming that figure of 27,000 is correct, at something in the region of £359,000 and, therefore, next year there will be a saving of something like £90,000 over and above what the Minister for Finance budgeted for. We have the situation then in which the Minister budgets for £x, but that £x will never be paid, because the men will not be there to earn that employment relief.

The Deputy sounds very pessimistic this morning.

This will entice some of them back.

On that, may I say that no matter what Fianna Fáil did to us or to the people in the past, we have been able to survive it? We will survive in spite of all the hardships. I will deal with that matter more appropriately on the Estimate for the Taoiseach's Department. I am proving now that statistics show that there are 27,000 less employed on the land this year. Calculating at £17 per man, Deputies can work out for themselves the saving the Exchequer will make.

They may employ more men.

Would the Deputy take out a butt of pencil and write down the figures for himself? He will find that my figure is correct. DeputyNorton said that 21,000 had left the land.

Inside of 12 months. The 27,000 is over an 18-month period.

That will mean a saving to the Exchequer of £300,000 and the Minister for Finance achieves the object at which he aimed in the first instance. The Government, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government have decided to save on behalf of the Exchequer.

This was all carefully calculated.

It is calculated to have more men employed.

What the Government is doing now is holding a nice red carrot before the donkey's nose: Fianna Fáil would not dream of taking anything from the farmers—the Deputy Corrys, the Deputy Lehanes and the Deputy Cogans. Not at all! The Government would not do that. But the Government will do it and do it in the most ignorant way and the costliest way it can be done, because the ratepayers will have to pay more than ever before in rates. We are supposed to like that and do well with it.

I think when you consider that 21,000 men left the land last year—I stand corrected on that because I am taking from the figure of 27,000 as the figure of the men who have gone off the land since 1951—if there were 21,000 last year, it may be more or less than that, but whichever it is, on the basis of 27,000 since 1951 it shows that even at £17 or even at £25 per person the Government still effects the saving that they set out to achieve, and remember that the object of this Bill was to effect a saving.

To employ more men.

The object of this —and there is nothing that the little Deputy from Donegal can do about it —was indicated when the Minister for Finance stated that taxation bore lightly on the land and they were going to take something off it in a direct wayor in an indirect way. Therefore they are saving that.

I assert that the Minister now should extend the grant to the woman or girl who is working on the land and in that way give some relief to the smaller farmer whose daughter is working on the land and working hard on it. Nobody knows that better than the Minister himself. In the old I.R.A. days he knew the amount of work the women of Ireland put in on the land of Ireland and it would be a recognition and give them the same standing as the male of the species; and when you give them the grant you are only observing the Constitution that says that everybody is equal. Every person, male or female, man or woman, has a vote. A woman has a vote just as well as the man—I want to remind you of that—and you will have to think twice about this thing and not still make them the slaves and refuse to recognise their worth to the people. When you consider that everybody, even the Tánaiste, admits that agriculture is of paramount importance, and that agricultural produce and the export of it and the consumption of it at home— but particularly its export—is one of the most important factors, I am perfectly satisfied that if the grant were extended not only to the male but to the female worker we would increase production to a great extent.

There are other factors, of course, which I will go into on the Taoiseach's Vote, please God. I would like to add a word of support to Deputy Corry's appeal to extend it to the part-time worker, that that would in itself be an assistance. I join my voice to Deputy Corry's in making that appeal. In doing that the Minister will bestow considerable benefit and it will be an improvement; but if he does not do it and he sticks at the figure and remains tied to that figure that he has given of £17 and does not change the Bill in any way, then next year—this year perhaps not so much—the saving to the Exchequer will be the best part of £350,000. Therefore the Minister will have achieved the object which he set out to secure when he made his Budget speech.

It is quite evident to anyone that this Bill is nothing more or less than the outcome of the Minister's statement in his Budget speech that has been quoted so often since this Bill came into the House this morning, that taxation lies lightly on the land. This Bill is nothing more or less than a very clever, cunning device to squeeze at least £300,000, if not more, out of the ratepayers of this country for the benefit of the Exchequer. It is one of the many hidden or concealed forms of taxation which Fianna Fáil so loudly disclaim but yet are so active in putting into effect every chance they get. There are a few aspects of this Bill that are very disquieting. Most Deputies who have spoken so far seem to think that the effects of this cutting down will not touch the under £20 valuation farmer. I hold the very opposite view. Outwardly it would seem that the remission which the farmer of over £50 valuation gained would be lost to the farmer himself and he would have to contribute it. That is all very well, perhaps, for this year, but next year and each succeeding year that will be levied over the small farmers of under £20 valuation, farmers who are not getting a penny relief under this Bill and whose rates instead will be increased, in my opinion, next year and the year after and more as time goes on. When we bring it down to brass tacks what we find is that the small farmer of under £20 valuation is now being asked to contribute towards the £17 remission that the farmer who can employ five or ten or 15 men will enjoy for each one of the number of men he employs. I want to say this, that I do not think any farmer who employs a man wants his neighbour on a smaller valuation of under £20 to contribute towards the payment of his wages, but that is exactly what this Bill is doing, but doing in a fairly cunning, concealed way.

My county, I have been informed on very reliable authority, will lose between £11,000 and £12,000 this year. In other words, the Government grant is being cut down by between £11,000 and £12,000.

If we take into account that the LocalAuthorities (Works) Act cut amounted to over £70,000 this year, that means that the present Government will be salting Mayo ratepayers to the tune of almost £80,000 all told this year alone, and more as time goes on. Outwardly the Bill appears to confer benefit on the man who employs a man. It proposes to increase his allowance from £6 10s. to £17 remission for each man employed. But in my county there are very few farmers who employ more than one man. The number who employ even one man is very few, because we have the very opposite kind of problem in County Mayo, and indeed, I might say, over the whole West of Ireland, to the problems of the other two provinces. It was only just now that Deputy Corry pointed out that 150 men from Mayo were seeking work at thinning beet in his constituency this year. That is a fairly accurate account of what is happening. The result is that our problem, instead of being one of employment, or, rather, one of trying to induce the farmers to employ, is that most of our farmers are looking for employment themselves. The majority of them have not sufficient land to live on. The holdings are too small. That is one of the reasons why, in County Mayo particularly, the work of the Land Commission is one of outstanding importance and why it is that the clamour to relieve congestion is so much there.

I want to make it perfectly clear that the Government, instead of conferring a benefit on the western counties, is blistering them. Galway is losing £13,139, Roscommon about £4,825, and Mayo will be denied between £11,000 and £12,000. I have not an accurate figure, but I am informed on reliable authority that between £11,000 and £12,000 is the amount the ratepayers of Mayo will be levied this year if this Bill becomes law.

Deputy Norton said that he hoped that the casualisation of agricultural workers would be stopped, but the very nature of agricultural work is casual in itself. When somebody can provide crops that will grow uniformly and yield uniformly all the year round,or when somebody can give a guarantee that the weather will follow a very strict pattern—then and only then can continual employment be given on the land. I could quote several cases in the West of Ireland. Take those engaged in strawberry and fruit growing. At one season of the year—this might seem strange—some of those people have actually to employ casual labour perhaps for a matter of only a few weeks, but at another end of the year those very people who employ casual labour at one period are seeking employment themselves in order to make ends meet. That class of people will not benefit under this Bill, but on the contrary they will lose by it. Deputy Corry seemed to be of opinion that all farmers, particularly the farmers who employ men, are a very poor crowd altogether. He took up the attitude that he took up here some years ago when he described the small farmers of the West of Ireland as a crowd of hen roosters. That was his attitude, showing his contempt for the small farmer who claims to employ men.

Now I want to refer to farmers who have a man or two in employment. Perhaps some time during the year between 1st January and the 31st December such a workman for various reasons may decide to change his employment. Perhaps family reasons may compel him to give up his work. Perhaps he may decide to emigrate to better himself. Perhaps he may decide to go to different employment in the same locality to better himself. None of these things can be helped. As a matter of fact I have not yet met the man who would not seek to benefit himself. What happens to the farmer who makes a claim for that period? He finds that because the man left him, say, in April or May or June and a week or a fortnight or a few weeks elapsed before he could get a man to replace him, he loses the remission completely over that little technical slip. It is no fault of the farmer and certainly no fault of the worker who wants to improve his lot and better himself. I think that the Bill could be very usefully amended so that where a worker walks out and leaves his employment with a farmer to betterhimself a statement to that effect should be quite sufficient to cover the farmer, and would avoid the possibility that in some cases a farmer might try to fire his workman and at the same time to get the benefit of the remission. I think the Minister should look into that side of it.

Many have spoken on the question of the womenfolk of the household who work on the land. It is quite true that very often they give very good help and very good assistance on the land, yet at the same time they are never counted, there is no remission for them and they are never even mentioned here in the House. I can quote whole districts like Achill, particularly, and every place where there is congestion and where migration has been adopted all down during the years and will be continued I suppose for some time to come to make ends meet. The male labourer clears out to work and it is the women who look after everything, put down the crops, raise them and care them during their period of growth and harvest them in most cases, from the month of March right up to the end of October.

Are they over £20 valuation?

The bulk of them that I am speaking of are not over £20 valuation.

They cannot get the employment allowance then.

And why not? Is not their lot hard enough as it is? They are separated for perhaps nine months of the year from their menfolk who have to go to England or Scotland to make ends meet.

Separation allowance.

Is that a sensible policy? The earlier that this Bill will apply to that kind of occupation the better. Why not? I do not see why these people should not be entitled to some help or some inducement to stay on the land, because it is the neglect of all that type of person that is thecause of all the rural depopulation and flight from the land that we hear so much about but about which so little is done.

Now we will come to those whom Deputy Allen would like to speak about, those over £20 valuation where womenfolk work on the land. Why should they not be included in this Bill? When Deputy Allen is speaking he might give us one sound reason why they are not included or should not be included. I do not see why they should not, because in most cases it would be impossible to work the land to full capacity without their help. I think that it is a grave fault in the Bill that they are not being provided for.

I want to impress again that the saving which the Exchequer will benefit by under this Bill will fall ultimately on the back of the small farmers. It might be said that it will affect only the farmers of over £20 valuation, but that is a fallacy, because when the county council comes to strike its rate they will have to take account of the drop in the previous year, and that will be spread over the small farmers, and eventually it will work out that while a farmer who is paying men will get a remission of £17 on his rates for each man employed according to the scale of valuation up to £30 and above £30 and so on, the farmer who has a small valuation in the same county will eventually be contributing some of that £17, and that is a condition that I am sure the man who is paying the labourer does not want to have.

Deputy Cogan seemed to think that all unemployment on the land is now going to end so long as any farmer is going to get £17 remission. I hold the very opposite. I hold that this Bill, this £17 inducement, will not induce any man or cause the employment of one extra man all over the whole country, because if we take it to pieces we find that it means that if a farmer gets a remission in full that will mean 6/6 per week for men, but who, in the name of goodness, is going to pay a workman £4 a week because he will get a remission of 6/6 a week in that workman's wages? The thing is absolutely silly.

I want to ask the Minister why is it that it is only now that this Bill is being brought in? It is being talked about since last March but all the county councils of the 27 we have in this country are completely befuddled and do not understand where they stand. They are issuing credit notes, withdrawing demand notes and issuing new demand notes, and the result is that there is not a single county which has not been put to expense, ranging from £300 to £800, in the withdrawal and countermanding of orders and the issuing of fresh orders, demand notes and credit notes.

I want to ask the Minister why he did not bring out the Bill last May or June before all this trouble had arisen? If he anticipated any delay in drafting the Bill because of necessary consultations with the Department of Finance why did he not adopt the procedure which has been the practice in former years, namely, make an announcement in the House as to his intentions in the matter until he was ready to give the terms of the Bill? Even when the Bill reached the white draft stage before it came up for consideration by the Government would have been time enough to have given notice of his intention, but his action in first giving the terms of the original Bill, withdrawing it and then rehashing it again has left the county councils in a complete mess. Even yet they are not quite clear as to their position under it. They cannot be as, naturally enough, no county council dare anticipate legislation as it will ultimately emerge from the two Houses here. I think the whole thing is part of the scheme that was envisaged by the Minister for Finance in his Budget speech when he said that taxation rested lightly on the land. The Minister for Local Government seems to be in the unfortunate position of being kicked about by the Minister for Finance. He was compelled to come in here last year to blister farmers who used tractors, to blister hackney car owners, lorry owners and every person who purchases petrol for any reason. Now he has to come in here and make another contribution by hitting the farmers again.

As Deputy MacEoin pointed out, 27,000 men have gone from the land inside the last 18 or 19 months. In the last 12 months 21,000 have gone. This further taxation of land is part of the bungling and mismanagement to which the whole agricultural industry has been subjected since 1932. It is difficult to understand why that bungling should be supported by farmers, some of them good farmers like Deputy Allen. One thing I could never understand is why the present Taoiseach, after having repeatedly proclaimed that agriculture is the principal industry of the country, should proceed to give us the worst Minister for Agriculture he could find, each one knowing less about the industry than his predecessor. I believe that in the Fianna Fail Party there are some good farmers. Although we may differ politically, I believe that Deputy Allen, for instance, would make a better Minister for Agriculture than Deputy Dr. Ryan, Deputy Smith or even the present Minister.

You are completely wrong.

He was very disappointed that he was not made Minister.

You are completely wrong.

We cannot discuss that question on this Bill.

I shall not discuss it further and I am sure that Deputy Allen is delighted that I am leaving the subject. I want to say, in conclusion, that Fianna Fáil have completely bungled and mishandled the situation in regard to the relief of rates. This is but one other indication of the bungling and mismanagement that have characterised the Government's handling of affairs in regard to the farming community.

So far as I can see, the principle of this Bill has been accepted by the whole House. It has been accepted unanimously.

The principle of this Bill has not. The principle of the previous Bill was accepted.

Even Deputy Blowick is not opposed to the principle of the Bill. No Deputy has the hardihood to oppose it. Deputy Sweetman, the Fine Gael Party and Deputy Blowick's Party have campaigned for many months this year against the principles laid down in the Bill.

We campaigned against the circular and we made you change it.

Am I allowed to speak?

Deputy Sweetman cannot make another speech.

The Fine Gael Party and Deputy Blowick's attenuated Party campaigned up and down the country against the principle of this Bill.

But having come together and more closely considered it, they dare not face the people of the country and say to them that they are opposed to the Bill. They dare not oppose an effort to keep more people employed on the land. They dare not go to the country and say that they opposed and voted against the principle of such a Bill. Deputy Sweetman told us that he was all concerned about the ratepayers and that if Fine Gael opposed this Bill the ratepayers might not get any relief in rates this year.

Through your bungling.

We can tell Deputy Sweetman and Deputy Blowick and his satellites that the ratepayers of the country will get the full relief set out in this Bill irrespective of whether they vote for it or not.

Less £300,000.

They now come along with their tongues in their cheeks after a campaign of four or five months in the country telling the people of the penalties that were being imposed on them by the Fianna Fáil Government. The propaganda must end when they come into this House and are face to face with realities. They must face across the House at close quarters the sponsors of the Bill who are in a position to answer that propaganda. Deputy Sweetman read out a long list of county councils which are going to get less relief under this Bill. At least 20 of the Twenty-Six Counties are going to get less, according to Deputy Sweetman.

According to the secretaries of the county councils concerned.

No secretary of a county council in the Twenty-Six Counties could, before the 15th October this year, have given any indication of the amount of the agricultural grant or what number of farmers would be claiming in respect of the employment allowance this year, because, legally, no one could apply up to the 15th October for an employment allowance in respect of the present year's rates. They could not know until after the 15th October or probably a month later——

It was after that date I got the information.

The Fine Gael Party machine, when it was put into operation against the Government, sadly slipped up in that respect.

It did not.

So far as my information goes, they have been looking for particulars to build up the propaganda machine since June or July last. I am aware of that. The county councils could not possibly give that information in June last.

Would the Deputy be interested in the dates on which the various county councils have given the information?

No, I am not interested. I do know that the information had been sought by the Fine Gael propaganda machine away back last June.

Certainly on the circular. We have now got it on the Bill.

They apparently think that this is a new duty that should be performed by county councils, to undertake to provide propaganda material for the Fine Gael Party machine. This Party have always been in favour of the relief of rates on agricultural land and we have accepted the principle that the largest possible amount of the money provided should be given to the small farmers, who are the backbone of the producers of the country. The amount of production from the small farms is far greater proportionately than it is from the larger farms. It is right, therefore, that the Government, in giving relief of rates on agricultural land, should give the relief to the smaller farmers in the first instance; and, secondly, to the larger farmers who employ labour. That is a sound principle and this Government can be proud of the fact that they initiated that principle and have carried it down through the years. I am sure it is one with which Deputy Davin and his Party will thoroughly agree, because a great many years ago they were prepared to support that principle.

From what we can gather from Deputy Norton's speech, I think he is supporting that principle. But Deputy Sweetman cannot get away with it. He would love to get away with it on behalf of the large ranchers that there are still in County Kildare and some other parts of the country, and see that they get relief of rates, even though they are giving little or no employment. The Government, I think, have a right to indicate to farmers who hold a substantial amount of land that they should provide a fair share of employment. I think that is a right principle, and that it could not be argued against on any basis.

Each year as the relief on agricultural land comes up for review, it isquite obvious that a considerable sum of the total amount of money provided goes to the people whose valuation is under £20. I think about £3,250,000 out of a possible £5,000,000 is being paid to those people who get an abatement of three-fifths of the first £20 valuation. The sum is over £3,000,000 anyway. Many counties benefit very much by that. The ratepayers in Deputy Blowick's county benefit very considerably as a result of that. That principle was first brought in by the Fianna Fáil Government some years ago and counties with a very big proportion of small farmers, such as Monaghan, Cavan, Kerry, West Cork and the counties on the western seaboard have benefited very much by it. I suppose about two-thirds of the holdings in this country are under £20 valuation, and the owners have three-fifths of the total rates paid for them by the State and have only to pay one-fifth. People over that valuation who give employment are entitled to an allowance.

I am glad to say that my county, where there is a big lot of employment given, instead of being one of the 20 counties which Deputy Sweetman stated would lose by this, will gain roughly between £8,000 and £10,000. The sum will be over £8,000 at any rate. The people there will gain that because of the fact that they give a big lot of employment as some 6,000 persons are claiming the employment allowance in County Wexford. They produce more than a fair proportion of the wheat, beet and other cereal crops, as well as cattle, pigs, etc., and they are entitled to that relief. The same applies to any other county where the farmers give employment on the land. If they are over £20 valuation and give employment, they get the balance of the money that the State is providing out of taxation, and they are entitled to that.

I do not think that principle can be argued against by anyone. We know that there are people with large farms who are best able to bear the burden in most cases and that exceptions can be pointed out. But we are told that exceptions make bad law. There may be people in certain counties who will be badly hit by this, but they are veryfew. Those who will be most affected will be the people with the higher valuations who are giving no employment.

I am glad that the Fine Gael Party and the Clann na Talmhan Party have come to see common sense. We would have liked them to oppose this Bill on principle here just as they have been opposing it for the last four or five months. Why did they not do so to-day and argue against the principle embodied in the Bill? If Deputy Sweetman was honest he, as one of the leaders of Fine Gael, would come in here and argue against the principle embodied in this Bill, that relief should be given on three-fifths of the first £20 of valuation and on valuations over £20 that £17 per person employed whole-time should be given. Let him argue against that principle and then we will know where we stand. But he cannot now tell the people who did not understand this that the Minister for Finance wanted to save £250,000 by this Bill. There was no foundation for that whatever.

There was very definitely foundation for it in the circular issued.

There is no relation whatever between this Bill and the Minister for Finance's Budget. I am aware of that and I am aware that the principle of the Bill was being considered six months before the Budget came to be drafted. There was no question of saving money for the Exchequer. That was not the intention of this Government. If the rates increase in the coming year—I hope they will not —that will mean an increase in the amount which the Exchequer must provide in respect of the three-fifths relief on holdings up to £20 valuation, and if there is more employment given on the land it will also mean an increase in the contribution from the Exchequer. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent that increase taking place. If county councils put up the rates by 1/-, 2/- or 2/6, under this Bill the Minister for Finance next year and for the next two years will provide anincreased grant from the Exchequer. It is nonsense to say that it was for the purpose of helping the Minister for Finance to balance his Budget that this Bill was brought in. It had no possible relation to it whatever.

There are a few matters in connection with this Bill which were adverted to by Deputy Corry to which I hope the Minister will give consideration in the Committee Stage. One is the question of a short break in employment during the year. Some years ago when this employment allowance came into operation, if there was a break in employment for a month or six weeks during the year, the county councils allowed for that break and paid the full employment allowance for the year. Things have stiffened up since the coming of the manager. The local government auditors have stiffened up and unless there is full and absolute employment for the 12 months the agricultural grant is not allowed in respect of any employee. An amendment should be brought in to cover that problem.

A case or two was brought to my notice in the last year where, because a man was out sick for a month and was not in the employment of the farmer at that time, the farmer lost the agricultural grant. That is most unfair and there should be some provision in the legislation to cover such cases. Ordinary sickness can overtake anyone. The farmer should not be penalised because the employee, through no fault of his own, is ill for a short period or for any period. The farmer tries his best to get help or an employee if he can, but they are not always available. A man may leave a farmer's employment, having changed his employer, and the farmer may not be able to find another employee for a week or a month. He should not be penalised on account of that short period. If provision is not made in law, it will tend to make farmers dishonest in making returns. They will find ways and means of covering it up. When they find out why they are penalised—because an employee is sick for a month or they are without a man for a few weeks—they will find ways of covering it up. It makes for dishonesty. The law should not leaveany loophole for any section of the community to be dishonest and certain provision should be made in that respect.

I disagree with Deputies Blowick and MacEoin that provision should be made for female employees. I do not know in my county of any female employee working on the land.

You have no dairying?

I do not know of any working on the land.

You must have no cows.

It is seldom that women employees do agricultural work on the land. I doubt very much if there is much of it in Longford in Deputy MacEoin's constituency. The amount of such work done on land in some midland counties is not large.

Digging "spuds."

They may go out for a day to pick potatoes for the dinner and may sow potatoes for a day or two also.

Deputy Blowick wanted the House to accept a new viewpoint. We never heard of this before. He wanted to make some provision for the wives of migratory labourers when they go to England, Scotland or to Cork. He wanted them to get some allowance for the loss of the husband during that period when they were migratory labourers. That is a new principle and I would like to see Deputy Blowick trying to bring in an amendment to the Bill to embody that in it.

You have it in the Army.

However, I challenge him to do it. He suggested it could be done. It is a new point that needs to be covered, according to Deputy Blowick. The majority of farmers in Mayo and other counties like it are getting a big part of the agricultural grant; and it is quite right they should, as they are small poor farmers. Many of them havethe three-fifths rates. Some people have asked how the ratepayers in Mayo are able to pay £2 in the £. The big majority have three-fifths of it paid by the State. That is how they pay them. I suppose that if there were larger farms the rates might not be £2 in the £.

This legislation considered to-day has been accepted in principle by this House for a good number of years now. It is a long way back to the time when there was a fixed agricultural grant. The fixed agricultural grant was £680,000. Fianna Fáil from the beginning have stepped that up and it is £5,000,000 now.

The rate was 7/- in the £ then.

There was a fixed grant, no matter what the rate was. When the rate was 3/- in the £, it was £680,000, too. Deputy O'Sullivan should be aware of that. Now you have a changing agricultural grant. It goes up now as the rate increases. Fianna Fáil first brought in that principle. At that time the counties were not getting half the health services grant. The cost of mental hospitals was subject to a small fixed grant also, but 50 per cent. of it all is being paid now. With all the new charges on the ratepayers compared with 20 or 25 years ago, they are not paying as high a rate in proportion as they were at that time and the charges on land are not as high. The State from central taxation is meeting a greater portion of the total charges on land at the present day than it met 20 or 25 years ago. There is no doubt about that.

I am glad the Opposition Parties are afraid. They are running away from everything they said in the last four months on this Bill. They ran away from it in the House to-day and they are not prepared to oppose the principles embodied in this Relief of Rates on Agricultural Land Bill.

I am very glad I did not intervene in the debate until now, as I find that every succeeding speech from the Government side brings extraordinary revelationsto the House. Deputy Allen has just informed us that this Bill was actually in preparation six months ago; that the Party had given its benediction to the principle of this Bill six months ago. Am I being unfair in asking why the circular of last May was issued? What good purpose was that intended to have? Is the Minister, the Government and the Party aware of the confusion and expense caused to every local authority in Ireland as a result of the original circular sent out? At the very time, the Government were facing two by-elections, in Cork and Wicklow. Deputy Corry will recall that the Fianna Fáil candidate and Fine Gael candidate were lodging the nomination papers on the morning on which it was announced by the Minister in the Press that it was the intention of the Government to extract an extraordinary amount of money from the farmers in the coming year by way of this change. It was accepted by the local authorities and by the ratepayers that there would not be any change. There was no intimation whatever of the far-reaching changes that were to be made in this method of rate abatement.

The House is well occupied with ascribing to various individuals and Parties the reason for the extraordinary change in the Bill now before the House as compared with the original proposals. The author of this business, which was intended to be a tragedy, somewhere around the end of the first act found—as a result of the propaganda of this Party, as quite truly said by every Fianna Fáil Deputy who has spoken; and in particular by the emphatic results in East Cork and in Wicklow—that this indeed was something which the Government could not stand behind. Therefore, a letter was sent, post-haste, to the local authorities changing in some way and reducing the drastic effects that were originally intended.

There is not a Deputy who has spoken from this side of the House who has not cited one sentence of the Budget statement of the Minister for Finance. We are not taking that fromone another. None of us was aware that every one of our colleagues put down at the top of his headings for reference to this measure the following statements from the Budget speech of the Minister for Finance: "Taxation presses lightly on the land...." and "Economies will be effected in the coming year...." The economies were not detailed. This is a very minor economy. We have had others in the course of the past 12 months. To give the Minister for Local Government his due, he has certainly taken much of the blame off the shoulders of the Minister for Finance by raking in so much in the way of taxation on vehicles, and so forth. This is merely a small addition.

Government Deputies seem to be amazed at the information which Opposition Deputies have. In my two and a half years in this House, I have never seen a measure in respect of which the Opposition have had such effect in changing the Government's mind. I have often heard arguments for a strong Government, arguments for a Government with a very narrow majority and arguments for a strong Opposition. I think that this is the greatest proof we have had of a Government with a very minor majority because the Government have been brought to heel by the feelings of people throughout the country, reflected in the statements of the Opposition and the activities of the Opposition over the past few months since this matter was first mooted.

Earlier to-day, Deputy Sweetman gave details relating to the counties which will lose and the counties which will stand to gain a very small amount. In the aggregate, the Exchequer will benefit—that is, assuming that as many will be employed this year as were employed in past years. Looking at the evidence of past years, is there any indication of even stopping the flight from the land? Is it not clear that in the past 12 months 21,000 employees left the land? Consequently, in view of this diminishing return, the Government may, in the years to come, look forward to considerably greater savings than it is proposed to rake off this year.

We are not opposing the Second Reading of this Bill, but surely we are entitled to give our reasons and to state here that, were it not for the light brought to bear on the matter by this Party, the Press, and the people throughout the country, there would not have been any change in the proposals that were made by the Minister for Local Government in the course of the by-election campaigns in Cork and Wicklow.

It is extraordinary that Deputy Allen should inform us that the Government were considering this matter six months before the circulars were issued to the local authorities. Will every member of a local authority make a note of that and consider the expense that was involved by local authorities in the matter of changing the demand notes, and so forth, apart altogether from all the confusion that was created in every local authority throughout the country for months past in relation to this matter?

I consider that the members of this Party and anybody else who made an approach to the secretary of a county council since this Bill was circulated were quite entitled to do so. How were we to make up our minds on our approach to this measure without the information which we required? I am not a member of a local authority. I have not had as much experience as some other Deputies of the iron curtain that hangs over many of our county council offices as a result of the County Management Act, but on this occasion it was forcibly brought home to me in my own county when the secretary informed us that he did not think he was at liberty to give us the information we sought and that it could be furnished only through the chairman of the county council. I am not well versed in the legalities of the County Management Act but I understand that the regulations set out that the manager and the chairman must give information. The Minister may correct me later in this if I am wrong, but I know of no regulation which prevents the manager or the secretary from giving information to any person regarding a matter of this nature. It is an extraordinary state of affairs ifthe elected representatives of the people are to be treated in such a manner by officials of the local authorities. In any event, we have sufficient replies before us to indicate that a saving is to be made in relation to the country as a whole.

It is said by some people that the intention is to encourage more employment on the land. Can any Deputy make the case that, as a result of this change, a greater number will in effect be employed? I contend that there will not. Those who have higher valuations are the people who could afford to give this extra employment but they are the very people who have mechanised their holdings. I claim that the people who are giving real employment in agriculture to-day are those who have not the wherewithal to purchase machinery. There is not any relief in this measure for the people who are giving real employment. Take, for instance, a man in a dairying area with a valuation of, say, £25. If that man has a young family none of them will qualify under this Bill and, even though his children help him in various ways on the farm and bring the milk to the creamery, and so forth, he will lose the allowance under this Bill, whereas his neighbour who has a higher valuation and a grown family will possibly gain, somewhat. I ask the Minister and the House if that is equitable.

A case has been made here for some recognition in respect of female labour in this country. Deputy Allen stated that female labour is unknown in his constituency, but it is easy to recognise that it is not a dairying county. If Deputy Allen lived in a dairying area he would know that, in the matter of assessment of claims for workmen's compensation, and so forth, it is obvious that there is a considerable female employment content and that they are rated by insurance companies in relation to accident on the same basis as agricultural labour running the same risks and so forth. If that is so, then why not include them in respect of the abatement of rates?

Government and Opposition Deputies have made a case for some approach to the matter of occasional employment.It is rigidly stated in this Bill that employment must be for a period of a full 12 months. Deputy Corry mentioned that additional and seasonal employment is given in his constituency in relation to beet-lifting operations, and so forth. I have a simple suggestion to make to the Minister whereby it would be possible to get an accurate and, I would say, an honest statement in relation to occasional help employed, in addition to regular employment, and that is by giving a farmer credit when he furnishes to the local authorities his wages declaration for the previous year in respect of accident insurance.

Debate adjourned.