There was a very long discussion on this amendment on the last occasion here and I do not think I could usefully add anything to what I have already said. This power is there already. It is purely a question of policy. The Land Commission are entitled to give land to landless men. If the local circumstances make that proposition attractive, there is nothing to stop them giving land to this class of people. Therefore, this amendment would be superfluous as a matter of law.
Land Bill, 1963—Committee Stage (Resumed).
The Minister can correct me if I am wrong but is it not the point here that at present, as the Minister says, there is no legal impediment to such people being considered in the allocation of land but the practical effect of the order of priorities established by the Land Commission, is that these people, being so low down, their chances of ever being considered by the Land Commission are practically nil?
We have discussed here particularly on this Bill and indeed on several Land Commission Estimates as long as I have been Minister for Lands, this question of the order of priorities. It has been debated both inside and outside this House. For what it is worth, may I say that the NFA in a recent publication would seem to support the same order of priorities as that in practice by the Land Commission. At all events, as has been pointed out time and again, the order of priorities must be determined by the amount of land available. The fundamental duty of the Land Commission is to relieve congestion. That is their policy down through the years. Therefore, these priorities must be adhered to. If the Land Commission or the Government in their wisdom at any time decide otherwise, there is nothing to prevent their doing so. Let me point out in passing that landless men do in fact get land, depending on the local circumstances, where the land is available.
The Minister agrees there is no legal obstacle. While that is true, is it not a fact that the present order of priorities prevents the allocation of land to landless men?
Over a number of years, the Land Commission did give land to landless men in a big way, men who they thought could work the land, and I say without fear of contradiction that these people turned out to be more successful farmers than an equal number of migrants. The Minister may not agree with me but that is a fact. In the area where I live, I know both kinds and I can show the Minister where dozens of these people who had no land and who got land made excellent farmers and went off the labour market.
I do not know whether the Minister is aware of this but now even people who have been employees on a farm which is taken over are not being considered in the same way as they were formerly. I have a case of a man who was for 22 years employed on a farm. He was a landless man who was living in a house on the estate. The Land Commission inspector called to him last week and offered him £450. He would have to get out of his house and find a new job. He said to the inspector: "£450 is no use to me. I want a farm." The inspector said: "But you are a landless man". This man has a grown-up son who could help him on the farm and two or three younger children who would soon be able to help him. Possibly the inspector who came down from Dublin thought he was doing this man a great favour by offering him £450 but what could he do with £450, having no house and no job and with a family to support? The inspector pointed out that he had no stock. He had a cow and a couple of calves. A number of people have been coming into the district and getting farms, although they had no stock and they were able to make a living out of the land.
The Minister should have another look at this section. Many landless men, if they are given farms, are dedicated farmers. They know more about farming than other people who get land and they should be given the right to work it. I am not asking the Minister to give land to every Tom, Dick and Harry. I am not asking the Land Commission to give land, as they did in some cases, to people who will not work it, to give the local drunk five acres of land which he lets as soon as he can and goes off. I am not blaming the Minister or the Land Commission for allowing these things to happen. The fact that they happened in a few cases is no reason why the Land Commission should say that landless men will no longer get land. That apparently has been the attitude adopted.
I should like the Minister to consider this situation and discuss it with the Land Commission. They are on the wrong road now with regard to the pool of land to which the Minister referred again. We could tell him how he could enlarge that pool of land very easily if he wanted to.
I am very sorry the Minister cannot see his way to do something for the landless men. The Minister states, and correctly so, that in special circumstances landless men are entitled to land. This amendment which I moved does not ask the Land Commission to give land out to every landless man who applies for it. The amendment very clearly states that the landless man must be a suitable person to get land, either by long lease or credit purchase. In all fairness I think the Minister should accept this amendment. It is common knowledge that there are many cases of landless men who are well equipped and well financed to work land but who cannot obtain land. Reference was made to employees on the estates the Land Commission have on hands, or have had on hands, and that in many cases such men do not obtain land, probably because the Land Commission deem them to be unsuitable. This amendment which we want inserted asks the Land Commission to give land to landless men, provided they fulfil the requirements of suitable persons as laid down by the Land Commission.
Surely the Minister is aware that there are landless men who take very extensive tracts of land by conacre? I have in mind the case of a landless man on whose behalf I wrote recently to the Minister. This man informs me that he pays between £80 and £100 per year for conacre land despite the fact that there is not one acre of land registered in his own name. I feel that a man who continuously pays £100 or more for conacre must be considered a suitable man. Everyone knows that a man who is taking extensive tracts of land for conacre each year can never hope to make a living for himself, by the time he pays for seeds and the necessary fertilisers for the land and the auctioneer's commission. The position is extremely difficult for any landless man who is devoted to agriculture and who because of domestic circumstances is not in a position to buy land. Everyone knows that it is extremely difficult for a landless man to attempt to buy land today.
The Minister would be very well advised to consider the outstanding case of a number of cottage tenants. Many cottage tenants living in vested cottages are given what are known as accommodation plots of four or five acres for the purpose of keeping a cow or for whatever purpose they may care to use them. There are many cottage tenants who can be described as landless men by the Land Commission and many of them can establish a good case for themselves. Many years ago first class crops such as sugar beet were grown on these cottage plots. The plots were used so extensively that they became affected by beet eelworm and the Sugar Company had, therefore, to discontinue giving contracts to the tenants for sugar beet. These people proved themselves to be people who were not afraid to work and produce sugar beet. We know that during the emergency many of us travelled around the countryside making appeals to the cottage tenants to sow their cottage plots to the fullest extent. I may say with respect to the farmers that these people were outstanding during those years. It was the small farmers and the cottage tenants who helped us to get over the difficulties of providing food for man and beast. Now the Minister has an opportunity of showing his gratitude to the small man, the farmer's son. We know that in many instances there are farmers who have three or four sons who are all anxious to remain on the land, who are all anxious to obtain land either by leasing it or by conacre, and surely, when there is an estate to be divided in the locality, these people, who can establish a good case for themselves and establish themselves as suitable persons for an allotment of the land, should get it.
I recommend this amendment to the Minister and I would ask him to give us an undertaking that between now and the Report Stage he will reexamine the matter and see if there is anything he can do to meet our wishes on behalf of the landless man. You have landless men who are fully equipped and eager to work the land and the Land Commission should have the power to give land to such citizens who are prepared to prove themselves.
(South Tipperary): While the Minister tells us that landless men are not precluded from getting land, and that may be so, theoretically at least, in practice, it seems to be different. Some time ago I tabled a question to find out the number of landless men who actually did get land —I am speaking now subject to correction as I am speaking from memory —and over a period of five years in north and south Tipperary only about five landless men got land. If the criterion is the suitability of the individual to be given land, it seems strange that such a small percentage got land over that period. I do not know what may have happened in the distant past; perhaps, undesirable people got land and that may have caused a reaction against giving land to landless men, but the pendulum has swung too far and it has reached the stage where it is nearly as difficult for the landless man to get land as it is for him to win a Nobel prize. I would ask the Minister to consider this amendment in the spirit in which it has been presented by Deputy Flanagan because, in the circumstances, I feel we have become too strict and too rigid in our allocation of land, particularly as regards landless men who in many cases have no other hope of improving their economic position except by getting land from the Land Commission.
First, in regard to what Deputy Tully said about employees on estates being compensated or not getting farms, that again is a question for the Land Commission, but it was both Deputy Tully and Deputy Flanagan who wrote in a specific section in the 1950 Land Act enabling the Land Commission to give these people money instead of land. Let that go on the record also. Deputy Flanagan says that he knows landless men who have taken tracts of land. Of course, he does, so do we all. We know of small farmers who have taken tracts of land, too, and small shopkeepers and small shopkeepers' sons —in fact, all types and classes in our community—who have taken land on the conacre system. It is completely unrealistic to talk, as Deputy Flanagan did, and deliberately or otherwise pretend that there is land available to provide for all kinds of landless men, farmers' sons, cottage tenants, cottage tenants' sons, labourers, labourers' sons, tradesmen, tradesmen's sons, small shopkeepers' sons, blacksmiths' sons and herds' sons. He has mentioned probably every category——
Except auctioneers' sons.
Except sons of guns. To suggest that we can deal with the congestion problem in this airy-fairy manner is quite unrealistic. Deputy Flanagan knows that the fundamental purpose of the Land Commission is to relieve congestion in the congested areas. That is the purpose for which millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money has been spent down through the years. The Deputy also knows that for every landless man who is given land, the position of two or three people in the congested areas is being disimproved. I think it is indicative of Deputy Flanagan's whole approach to this matter when he suggests that a farmer having four sons should be given a farm for each of them by the Land Commission. That is the height of irresponsibility in the circumstances in which we live.
Every year in this country very considerable amounts of money are devoted to this purpose, running about £3 million a year at the moment. There is a limit to the amount the taxpayer or the Exchequer can devote to the acquisition of land in any particular year and because of that and in order to enable the Land Commission to relieve congestion, there must be an order of priority in doling out the land which is acquired. As I have said, where local circumstances permit, the Land Commission are free, under the relevant section of the 1923 Act, to give land to anybody, including landless men, if the land is there and they consider it proper to do so.
I cannot recollect Deputy Hogan's question at the moment but I think it referred to his constituency and that the figure he quotes did not refer to the whole country.
(South Tipperary): To the North and South Ridings.
I do know that from time to time landless men have been given land. I also know that in the division of estates employees who have been on these estates for a certain period of time get consideration and get holdings. I cannot comment on any specific case such as that cited by Deputy Tully but I can only conclude that if the man was on the estate for a very long time as an employee, the Land Commission, for their own good reasons, must have considered him unsuitable to get a farm. Generally speaking, these people get first consideration where land is being divided.
The short answer to this amendment is that it is purely a question of policy for the Land Commission which can be changed at any time. Legally, they are entitled to give land to landless men where the circumstances permit, but it is unrealistic to suggest that every landless man is entitled to consideration, irrespective of any order of priority. The activities of the Land Commission have gone on for over 80 years and unless they stick to that order of priority, there is no hope of solving the congestion problem in the foreseeable future.
The Minister has clearly defined what we all know to be the truthful situation, that is, that the order of priority operates to disqualify the greater number of the people who apply for land. When we take into consideration the fact that there is a sum of £3 million available annually for the division of land and think of the cost of setting up a farm and house, we can see that those who are low on the priority list have no hope of getting land. The Minister mentioned a case of a farmer with four sons but I can give him an instance of where that happened. The living example is there still and they are all good friends of mine.
Yes, four sons of one man got land on the Delap Estate. They say he got a grant of land as a reward for betraving Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. This is only a matter of history but all of these four men are still there, although they are in their seventies. The definition by category, which is very good in certain other aspects of legislation, is very bad in this case. I know that a road worker can get land and I know that one of them got land less than three years ago in my constituency. I believe that if the Land Commission were acting honestly with themselves—I am not suggesting that they are acting dishonestly with the public—and looked into their own hearts and souls and said straight out that these categories are nothing but an automatic disqualification of 60 per cent of those who looked for land, it would be a better situation.
This matter of disqualification by category is just an easy way out. If you go into any country publichouse in Ireland, you will find that of 12 men there seven or eight will have applied for land to the Land Commission, their letters being amongst the ass-loads of letters which arrive in Merrion Street every day. The automatic disqualification may be all right from the point of view of the Land Commission but it does disqualify deserving people by putting them into a category in which they have no hope of getting any share of the limited amount of land available.
The position as far as I am concerned is that, no matter how far the Minister is wrong, he is still right. The people who have spoken here are the very people who passed a Bill through this House which made it possible for a person to put his land up for sale, get a fake bidder to bid up to a high price and then get the Land Commission to take over the land, provided they met that high price. That was a shocking situation as far as the people in my part of the country were concerned.
It is rather remarkable that this extraordinary number of amendments has been put down by the Opposition. Why? Simply and solely because most members of the Opposition Party are auctioneers and they want to hold up the passage of this Bill for as long as they possibly can. One has only to glance at the Western People or any other paper circulating in rural Ireland to see the number of sales now being advertised. Who are the auctioneers? They are all members of the Opposition here, without giving any names.
An Leas-Cheann Comharle
Amendment No. 13 which is before the House deals with the question of giving land to landless men.
Yes, and that is exactly what I am dealing with. The point is that I am telling the truth and when a man gets up in this House to tell the truth, he gets himself into fierce trouble. I agree with you, but the fact remains that the Opposition in this House is, as the Minister knows perfectly well, directed towards one purpose, namely, to hold up this Bill for as long as possible so that as much land as possible can be sold at the highest possible price, and which the Land Commission must take up afterwards.
I quite agree, Sir, that probably I am a bit outside the rules of order but it is only fair that someone should draw attention to this matter. These are the people, the auctioneers, who are now deliberately opposing the Minister and making a deliberate effort to hold up this Bill so that they can get fake prices for land.
There is no question about it. There is nobody in the part of the country I represent who has the slightest doubt about it. I ask the Minister here and now, as I asked him earlier on, to vote this Bill through the House, instead of having a debate on it.
Perhaps the best compliment to pay to Deputy Leneghan is to disregard the type of speech he has just made.
You should be shot.
The sooner Deputy Leneghan learns that there is more to Deputies' business in this House than acting the ignoble part of a flea in a bed, doing little harm and no good, the better his constituents will like him.
The cheek of you.
Certainly, if there are many more utterances of that character from Deputy Leneghan——
Look at that fellow.
The Deputy should not interrupt. Deputy O'Higgins is in order in discussing the amendment.
If there are many more contributions of that sort from Deputy Leneghan, it certainly is not likely to assist the speedy passage of this Bill.
The point I want to make and the point on which I want to join issue with the Minister in relation to this amendment is that the Minister appears to regard it as a complete answer to Deputy Flanagan's amendment to say that it is a matter of Land Commission policy and that it is a matter for the Land Commission to decide. The Minister may ultimately produce a better Bill if he alters his approach to the matter in relation to Land Commission policy. It may be Land Commission policy but the Minister is at the moment responsible for the legislation before the House and the House is responsible for deciding on legislation, including this legislation, what the Land Commission policy will be and the acceptance of this amendment can alter the Land Commission policy with regard to the subject matter of this amendment, so that I do not think it is a reasonable attitude for the Minister to take and it certainly is not a full answer to this amendment to say that, after all, it is a matter for the Land Commission; that it is Land Commission policy.
What Deputy Flanagan is suggesting here is that, on landless men satisfying the Land Commission that they are suitable to acquire land, they should be entitled to receive equal consideration with other applicants. Clearly, acceptance of this amendment would entail alteration of the present system of priorities in the Land Commission and it seems to me that what the House should concern itself with and what the House is concerned with in this amendment is the question of the present system of priorities as operated by the Land Commission. In other words, the policy of the Land Commission in relation to priorities is being challenged in this amendment and, therefore, it certainly does not seem to me to be an answer to the amendment for the Minister simply to reply by saying: "After all, that is Land Commission policy".
If the Minister makes the case—and he did the second time he spoke today appear to be making it—that it would do harm or that it would be wrong to alter the system of priorities, then there is a different case to be met by those who speak in support of Deputy Flanagan's amendment.
As far as I am concerned, I have not represented a rural Constituency for very long but in the short time that I have represented the constituency of Wicklow, I have time and again come up against the problem Deputy Flanagan referred to when he spoke here today, the problem of landless men who have to take land, who have a certain amount of capital, who, by reason of taking land, have been able to purchase stock and have the stock carried on the land which they have on letting or lease. They are in a position where they have capital, where they have stock but where they have not land and every now and again, by reason of a change of ownership in the land in question, these people come up against the situation where they cannot get the land for another eleven months and are faced with the position that they have to sell out their stock and get out of the farming business, although they are people who are genuinely interested in farming and want to carry on what for many of them is a tradition going back over the years. They cannot do it because they cannot get land. It is that kind of situation, among others, that Deputy Flanagan is trying to deal with in this amendment. I would respectfully suggest to the Minister that if he wants to convince the House the amendment is not worthy of consideration, he must give much stronger arguments on the question of whether or not it is right to alter the policy of the Land Commission. It is not enough simply to tell us it is the policy of the Land Commission.
Taking last things first, Deputy O'Higgins put his finger on the whole problem when he said he was not familiar with rural constituencies. If he were, he would know that there is hardly one individual in any town or village who would not qualify for land under this amendment. What Deputy Flanagan wants to do is to write into the law a provision whereby the Land Commission would be compelled to give four farms to the four sons of a farmer, where land was available, to the exclusion of any congest and to the disruption of Land Commission policy.
Since section 12 of the Land Act of 1950 became law, the question of policy, the question of priorities, is not a reserved matter for the Land Commission but for the Minister in charge. It will be a matter for me. What I am saying is that the policy as at present exercised is flexible, that the Land Commission under present policy are allowed to give land to landless men if they consider them suitable and if local circumstances permit it. It is done as a matter of policy which can be changed at any time by the Minister. Those people opposite, who are so fond of quoting rural organisations, should refer to the recent public approval given by the NFA to the order of priorities recently established by me in the division of land.
I hope the Minister will take everything the NFA say as well as he takes that.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 5, lines 14 and 19, after "the date of the" to insert "closing of the".
This is a small point of clarification. I want to make it clear that the vital date for the scheme is the date of the closing of the sale. This will be arranged in the ordinary way between the vendor and the Land Commission and will normally be the date on which final documents are completed and possession is handed over. At the same time, the Land Commission solicitor will hand over a cheque for the cash part of the transaction, if any, and from that date the vendor's entitlement to annuity will run. The amendment will avoid any argument as to whether the date of agreement or the date of closing is the operative date.
This is purely of a technical character.
If the Bill ever goes through, it will be the most amended Bill that has been in the House.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 5, after subsection (3), to insert the following subsection:
"( ) A vendor who on the date of the closing of the sale is unmarried or is a widower or widow may nominate a person who is a dependant of the vendor, and, if such nomination is approved by the Land Commission, subsection (3) of this section shall apply to the vendor and the dependant in the same manner as if the dependant were the spouse of the vendor."
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 may be discussed with this amendment.
All of these amendments relate to one general proposal. On the Second Reading, the Leader of the main Opposition suggested, not unreasonably, that the scheme should be extended to cover many other types of persons besides the elderly and incapacitated and that, indeed, it might be good public policy to buy out, by way of annuity, any person who simply wanted to leave the land. Deputy Paudge Brennan gave a very impressive account of a brother and sister who lived rather miserably by letting their lands, and he suggested that it ought to be possible to buy them out with primary and secondary annuities just as we propose to buy out a husband and wife.
I have considered both these suggestions very sympathetically but I have found that, while Deputy Brennan's idea is fully acceptable, it is not practicable to go the whole way with Deputy Dillon. I trust he will agree with me when I have made my point clear.
Let us assume that the section is thrown open to all and that the Land Commission are offered a good farm by an able-bodied young man who is indifferent to farming and, perhaps, indifferent to honest work of any sort. He chooses a life annuity by way of payment and for years afterwards remains in the locality idling his time while the Land Commission allottees are working the land which he inherited from his father. He is known as a State pensioner and the Land Commission are put in the position of apparently subsidising a waster. Deputies must agree such a situation would be bad for all concerned.
This leads to the conclusion that we must not have any system of life annuities for able-bodied young persons or even active middle-aged persons. If they sell their land to the Land Commission, they should take capital payment and make a new living for themselves in some other sphere.
I now return to Deputy P. Brennan's problem. If an elderly bachelor is prepared to join the scheme but has an elderly sister keeping house for him —not as joint owner of the place but merely as a dependant—it is only right he should seek to provide for her by way of secondary annuity, and I submit the Land Commission should facilitate him. The same argument would apply in any case in which the dependant relative was partly incapacitated or infirm or unlikely for any reason to be able to earn an independent livelihood if the vendor died.
My problem has been to distinguish between the deserving dependent relative and, say, the active niece or nephew who could well earn an independent livelihood whatever happened. The best solution seems to be to allow the Land Commission a say in the matter. In this way we have evolved the idea of allowing an unmarried vendor or a widow or widower to nominate one dependent relative who, for annuity purposes, would stand in the position of a wife or husband. However, the Land Commission would have a veto on the nomination and could reject unsuitable persons.
Deputies may recall that in the case of husband and wife, the system of dual annuities has, for social reasons, been made binding on both sides. A married man must provide for his wife and the Land Commission must accept her as qualified for a secondary annuity if he dies. I propose that the position should be quite the reverse in this instance: the vendors would be free to nominate a dependant or not to do so and the Land Commission will be free to accept or reject the nominee.
Amendment No. 15 makes provision for the possible granting of a survivor's right of residence to a nominated dependant. Amendment No. 16 provides the option to make the nomination. Amendment No. 17 lists those relatives who may be nominated, and Deputies will note that it includes reasonably close relatives only. If a vendor wishes to provide for a distant relative or an employee, he will have to take part cash and make his own arrangements to that end.
To summarise, as Deputies are aware the purpose of this section is to entice incapacitated landowners to give over their lands to the Land Commission and get an annuity and possibly to be left in the house on their own lands while they live. It was pointed out during the debate on the Second Stage that while we were providing for both the primary and secondary annuity in the case of husbands and wives, other family circumstances could arise whereby a somewhat similar system would be desirable. It was pointed out here that you may have, perhaps, an elderly landowner, possibly a bachelor and possibly with an elderly sister depending on him or some other close relative, perhaps incapacitated and dependent on him. That landowner, just as is provided under this section in the case of husband and wife, should also be in a position to nominate an individual for a secondary annuity.
Having considered this, we decided to go part of the way. We feel that every case should be considered carefully by the Land Commission and that the Commission should be free to select the case in which this type of arrangement would prevail. In other words, they could ensure there would not be, for the reasons I have pointed out, Land Commission annuities granted under this law to able-bodied young people but that the suitable case where the Land Commission know the circumstances and know that this elderly person is dependent on the owner although they are within the degrees of relationship set out in amendment No. 17, could allow a secondary annuity in that particular case.
The primary and secondary annuities apply compulsorily in the case of husband and wife, or husband and wife not being joint owners. In this particular instance it is not compulsory. The vendor-owner, should he be a bachelor, must voluntarily opt for the annuity and must also opt to nominate the individual who would qualify for the secondary annuity. It will be appreciated that there will be a very substantial difference. The annuity in the case of a single vendor would be very much higher than in the case of two people coming in succession.
It may occur to some Deputies that there are some categories outside those defined in the definition clause of relatives here that should be brought in. The simple answer to that is that if the vendor-owner, before making his deal with the Land Commission for an annuity, wants one of these people who are outside to be brought in he can do so by conveying an interest to that person in the lands that are for sale to the Land Commission. That would make them joint vendors and would entitle them to consideration under either branch of this section under which annuities and cash payments are provided.
Generally speaking, I think the House will agree that the approach made as a result of the discussion on the Second Reading is a reasonable one. I am most anxious to keep these provisions as flexible as possible from the Land Commission point of view. It is only in the working out of these in actual practice that we shall see from experience what the success of these inducements will be. Deputies will remember these are inducements only and that it is entirely a question of the option of the vendor as to what he or she wants, whether cash or, in particular family circumstances, an annuity provided under this section. This is a widening of the scope of the original section but I was convinced by the arguments on what the Land Commission might meet in practice and decided it was better to widen the scope so that, if we did come up against the odd case of the elderly bachelor with a dependent relative living with him, you might consider that it was in the interests of the dependant to accept a secondary annuity and the Land Commission should be at liberty to deal with him on that basis.
I welcome the amendments suggested by the Minister because without them the section would not be of any great benefit to a big section of the community. I am glad that the amendment will apply to brother and sister, mother and son, father and son, etc. I think that is most desirable. It is now clear that a dependant means in relation to a vendor, a member of the family of the vendor who on the date of the closing of the sale is wholly or partly dependent on the earnings of the vendor. A member of a family means a father, mother, step-father, step-mother, son or daughter, grandson or grand-daughter, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, son-in-law or daughter-in-law. That gives a realistic touch to the section. We certainly accept those amendments. The details as I have outlined are exactly the same as are contained in the Rent Restrictions Act and the Civil Liability Act in relation to injuries. With the next-of-kin so described that should meet the position and I am glad the matter is made clear by these amendments.
There is a great number of incapacitated fathers and bachelors with aged sisters depending completely on them and in many cases we have an aged uncle with probably a niece housekeeping for him who could be clearly described as wholly dependent on him.
I should like to raise one case in regard to these amendments, the case of a mother, daughter and son where the father who was the registered owner died some years ago—15, 16 or 17 years ago. Take a case where a mother and two children have lived on a farm up to 1960 and the son then decided to emigrate and the daughter got married. Whichever left the place, neither has any title that the Land Commission could accept. What provision is made to put the title right so that the Land Commission will not experience great difficulty?
There are many cases where proper title could not be made available until after 12 years of undisputed ownership which in itself would give the person in occupation of the land certain title which would enable the Land Commission to negotiate with him. Until this period will have expired the mother, the daughter or other members of the family will not be in a position to sell to the Land Commission. I should like the Minister to indicate what the position will be in the event of such a case arising. I do not say there are bad titles in the greater part of rural Ireland, but there are quite a number of defective titles.
I should also like the Minister to indicate what the position will be in the case of two children of a family remaining on the land after the death of the father, the registered owner. One child has left and married into the neighbouring parish. Twenty years after the father's death one of the two remaining on the land dies without leaving a will, and the person who has married in the neighbouring parish has an interest in the land in common with the mother and the remaining child.
I should like to know what provision the Land Commission will make to deal with problems of title. There will be people who will have a legal claim and a legal right to be paid off. This section and the amendments give no clue as to how these problems will be overcome. I can assure the Minister there are numerous cases in rural Ireland in which he will meet with great difficulty in putting this section into effect. The amendments will be of little use unless there is some machinery whereby incapacitated owners who want to take advantage of the section will be in a position to negotiate with the Land Commission. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us as to how these difficulties will be overcome, and as to how incapacitated owners who have not got clear or full title, will be in a position to give a title to the Land Commission which they do not already possess clearly themselves.
I know the provision of clear title will be at the expense of the Land Commission, but will the Land Commission undertake to put the title in order and to pay off any legacies or claims which members of the family may have? I can see great difficulties arising, and it is only right that before they arise the Minister should enlighten us as to how they will be overcome, and what machinery is at his disposal to deal with problems of this kind.
Would the Minister consider embodying in these amendments adopted children? There are several cases around the country of adopted children who have given service to the family and are dependent on the earnings of that family circle. I should like if the Minister would consider embodying them in the Bill. It may be said that an adopted child is a member of the family, but if it is not embodied in the Bill some difficulties may arise later on. I want to draw the matter to the attention of the Minister.
During the Second Reading of the Bill I described this section——
This is a free-for-all.
There is a landless man up there.
I did not catch what the Deputy said.
He did not say anything at all. He only thought he did.
I commented that this section is much ado about nothing, because I am sure the Minister and his officials are well aware that there is no such thing in this country as an old person with a big farm and no relatives. I know as much about the country districts as anyone else, and I have yet to find someone who is old, or incapacitated, and in possession of a farm, and has not got a relative who will appear on the scene before he dies. For that reason there is much in this Bill which will never be put into operation.
These amendments bring the Bill into line with other Acts. The phraseology is the same. I presume an adopted son or daughter will be a member of the family and will later be considered in the normal way. I think it is just cod to suggest that there are people in the country who will be prepared to make an arrangement with the Land Commission under which they will receive a small annuity and in return hand over their holding. That is just cod, particularly when we know that those who have sizeable holdings will be well advised to sell them. Those who have small holdings will know quite well, as the Minister explained, that portion of the annuity will be counted against the old age pension and that, in fact, they will only be doing themselves harm if they are even tempted to do this.
The Minister should not hold up the Bill arguing over this section because I should be very interested to see the first case in which an old person has a farm and has no relative and, therefore, has to make such an arrangement with the Land Commission.
Down in my county, believe it or not, the Minister is accepted as the best legal advocate there. Whether he likes it or not the fact remains that he is the best legal advocate there and, therefore, I am inclined to back him. A lot of opposition has been thrown up here. Most of it comes from the auctioneering gang who want to hold up the Minister's good intentions. I do not think for one moment that the people in this House will stand idly by and allow the auctioneers of this country——
The Deputy should not refer to a Deputy's personal occupation. That is disorderly and irregular.
A big point is being made on the question of what I might call succession. Members of the Opposition talked about inheriting farms. If we want to go into the question of succession we will have to start at the bottom. If we do it will be very awkward for the people who raised the question because they will find, as I happen to know, that some of their leaders were born not more than five or six months after their fathers and mothers were married, and I should like to know how they will deal with the Minister when looking for land.
In reply to the point raised on the question of title, there are certain instances of deficiencies of title that could be got over or could be dealt with under section 28 of the 1950 Act. However, I should like to underline for Deputy Flanagan the fact that we are dealing here with proposed vendors of land to the Land Commission and, naturally, they must be able to show title to the Land Commission in the same way as if they were selling the land to anybody else. I dwelt on this question of deficiency of title as far as land is concerned at some considerable length in my Estimate in this House some couple of years ago when I foreshadowed many of the provisions of this Bill.
I am aware that there are many cases in rural Ireland in which there are deficiencies of title. It would be utterly impossible to deal with that situation under a Land Bill like this. That situation must be dealt with under an Intestate Estates Bill. My colleague, the Minister for Justice, has such a Bill in preparation. For many years, I have made no secret here or outside of the fact that I consider the law on this issue to be completely unsuitable to our circumstances. There has been far too much uncertainty about the ownership of land when a landowner dies intestate. It is utterly unrealistic that the son who has to remain on the land, and possibly to support his widowed mother, should have to squat there not alone for a period of 12 years after the death of his father, but perhaps for another 20 years because of the necessity to trace people who have died subsequently— brothers at all ends of the earth, Australia, New Zealand, America, and so on.
I believe, in dealing with our land structure, that there should be much more certainty as to who will be on the land when the owner dies intestate. Furthermore, the period of limitation should drastically be reduced to ensure that certainty and that continuity. All the implications of that matter could not possibly be dealt with in a Bill of this kind. The deficiencies in the title to Irish land must be dealt with under something like an Intestate Estates Bill.
If the provisions about a pension for old or incapacitated landowners mean nothing to Deputy Tully, I am very glad he will facilitate the passage of this section and will not waste time.
I said the Minister was wasting time.
I am not thinking of big farms but of the hard core of rundale estates. We are trying to induce old or incapacitated people to join in a rearrangement scheme. Whatever doubts Deputy Tully may have, I have no doubt that with a pension from the Land Commission of up to £3 a week, which will be disregarded for old age pension purposes, it should be an advantage for old people in these situations to do business with the Land Commission and at the same time to be left in their old homes and not be shifted.
Is the Minister trying to cod us about £3 a week on a rundale estate?
It is proposed under this scheme that any pension up to £3 a week will not be taken into account for old age pension purposes. In small rundale estates, whatever pension they would qualify for will come to them in full and, on top of it, they can get the old age pension. That will be a very substantial inducement to them.
For the larger people who will qualify for a pension of a higher amount, depending upon actuarial age and the value of land rendered, up to £3 a week will not be taken into consideration for old age pension purposes. The Deputy may scoff at these provisions. I have no doubt about their desirability in trying to deal with the job with which I am concerned.
I shall look into what Deputy Coogan said about an adopted child. The relative degrees of kindred here were taken from definitions in other statutes. I did say, in relation to any other category outside those I have defined here, that should it be found desirable by the owner of the land or the vendor to give a secondary pension or to qualify a person for a secondary pension, there is a way of doing it by the owner transferring an interest to that person in the lands. Then they would make a joint sale to the Land Commission and, therefore, qualify for the different Land Commission propositions that can be made to them.
Could the Minister not embody that now—about the member of the family—in that amendment?
I have told the Deputy I shall consider the matter. I cannot give an ad hoc answer.
Is the Minister tied to the figure of £3? Consider a life annuity of £3 a week in addition to the old age pension. Can he give us any guarantee that from time to time this figure will be looked at with a view to having it increased? I feel it might be a greater encouragement to such people to do business with the Land Commission if the figure of £5 a week were mentioned. Naturally, £5 per week plus the old age pension would be a more attractive figure than £3. More people would be inclined to avail of the provisions of this section and to do business with the Land Commission if they thought the sum of £5 per week plus the old age pension would be made available to them.
I agree with the Minister that every effort should be made to encourage people to deal with the Land Commission in this matter. There are very many such people—incapacitated, old, gone beyond their years of work—who could serve the community very well by giving over their holdings to the Land Commission while being permitted to remain on in the house. It is a very good idea that the Land Commission are prepared to leave such people in the homes in which they have been living all their lives. For that reason, I feel it will be the duty of every Deputy and, indeed, of every public representative in constituencies where there are such people to encourage them to do business with the Land Commission. I feel the Minister will not have any great difficulty in soliciting the sympathy and support of members of this House in relation to this matter. I would ask him to review the question of the life annuity and to have the amounts very substantially increased.
The Minister should have another look at this section and bring a breath of fresh air into it. I notice in the White Paper that mention is made of the Department of Social Welfare and that, between the Department of Lands and the Department of Social Welfare, they will work out the scheme whereby the annuity will be at a reasonable rate while a means test is there. This is no place to deal with the Department of Social Welfare but even in that Department they are coming around to the idea that the means test must go.
The first thing the Minister should do at this stage—if he is to have any dealings with smallholders, rundale or otherwise—is to guarantee that whatever annuity is given will not be subject to a means test. Cut out the idea of £3, £5, or any other number of pounds, and say simply that there will be no means test. If the Minister does not do that, I am afraid that, as Deputy Tully says, discussing this section will be a waste of time. There is nothing so aggravating as two forms of inspection, the Land Commission and its officials anxious to help and the Department of Social Welfare prepared to come in and, shall we say, co-ordinate their efforts. Between these two dead bodies and a cautious attitude on the part of some elderly person, listening to all the rumours and all the local lawyers, it could be ten to 15 years before a decision would be arrived at.
The Minister shows a progressive mind. If he decides to go ahead, without the assistance of his colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, whatever else may happen, will he clearly give a guarantee to the vendor that this transaction between him and the Land Commission will have no bearing on his old age pension? The Minister knows perfectly well that an elderly person in the west of Ireland, whose land is going to waste is very often in receipt of a substantial sum from a son, a daughter, or some other relative in England, or elsewhere. If it is known that that money is coming in, the Department of Social Welfare will take the necessary steps to assess it for means test purposes. There will be that type of check, in addition to the Land Commission proposal. There will be a great deal of activity and, as I have said, very little achieved.
Again, right in the heart of this section, there is the hand of the Minister for Finance: the Minister may with the consent of the Minister for Finance make regulations for the purpose of giving effect to this section. Where the Minister for Finance is involved, I hope he will be involved only in so far as broad principles are concerned and that the determination of this section will be a matter for the Minister's Department. I hope it is only where the actual amount of money involved is concerned that the Department of Finance will be entitled to come in and say: "This is as far as you will go; this is the amount we will make available." I trust that the Minister for Lands will not have to consult with the Minister or with the Department of Finance in regard to the proposals and suggestions which may be made to various individuals throughout the country.
It would be better, I think, if we first disposed of the amendments and then discussed the section, as amended. The Deputy could get in what he wants to say on the section. Would the Deputy allow me?
I heard what you said. I am not going any further on that.
Could we not dispose of the amendments before the House and then consider the section, as amended?
The only other point I have to raise is with regard to adopted children. My personal view is that under existing legislation an adopted child is automatically entitled to succeed. I should be amazed to find it is necessary to write that in specifically into this legislation. I am glad the matter has been raised, however, because the Minister will now have an opportunity of considering it before the Bill is passed.
We are really discussing the section. Could we dispose of the amendments first and then discuss the section, as amended?
We have discussed almost the whole section. It is hardly worthwhile altering the situation at this stage.
I just want to ask the Minister one or two questions. I do not see any mention of this figure of £3, although it is in the explanatory memorandum. I take it the Minister intends to implement this by regulation. He is taking permission to make regulations in this section.
The Minister for Social Welfare will also bring in legislation.
That is one point. The other is with regard to adopted children. As from now, I think adopted children will be covered.
Legally adopted. There are others.
Before the Adoption Act, it is doubtful if there were any legally adopted children. The Minister might consider the matter before the Report Stage because there might be an individual who, because it was not the practice 20 or 30 years ago to be legally adopted, would be defined now as a person who is not a relative at all.
I shall look into the point with regard to adopted children. Deputy Flanagan may be under some misapprehension with regard to the question of pension. The pensions under this Bill will be actuarially determined. They are not confined to £3 per week. They will depend on the value of the property being sold and the circumstances of the people. What is provided for the first time is that that portion of the pension up to £3 per week will not be included by the Department of Social Welfare when it comes to assessing old age pension. This is an inducement and the Department of Social Welfare cannot take any sum up to £3 per week into consideration when it comes to assessing means for the purpose of the old age pension. That pension of £3 per week will be clear in addition to the full old age pension. That is the inducement. That is the purpose of this section.
It is all very fine to say there should be no means test of any kind and that all should be entitled to old age pensions. That can be argued on another occasion. All I am ensuring here for the first time, by way of inducement, is that the pension of up to £3 per week will be excluded when it comes to assessing old age pensions. It cannot be used for the purpose of reducing old age pensions.
Again in regard to this provision exempting such proposed Land Commission pensioners from the means test under the old age pensions code, that will be covered in a Bill which is being prepared by my colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 5, lines 57 and 58, after "spouse" to insert "or dependant".
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 5, after subsection (4), to insert the following subsection:
"( ) In this section—
`dependant' means, in relation to a vendor, a member of the family of the vendor who, on the date of the closing of the sale, is wholly or in part dependent on the earnings of the vendor;
`member of the family' means father, mother, step-father, step-mother, son, daughter, grandson, grand-daughter, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, son-in-law or daughter-in-law."
The explanatory memorandum in dealing with section 6 states:
So much of a relevant life-annuity as does not exceed £3 a week, is not to be reckonable for old age pension means test purposes;
A sum of £3 a week is not an overgenerous or excessive sum. When we talked of £3 a week 25 years ago, we were talking about big money. Today £3 a week is only the equivalent of £1 seven or eight years ago. That is why I am wondering if the Minister has been in consultation with the Minister for Social Welfare on this matter. I am glad to note that the officers of the Department of Social Welfare will not be taking into consideration for old age pension purposes the first £3 of the annuity to be paid by the Land Commission. I understand this annuity will be based on the family circumstances, and the acreage which the Land Commission will be volunteered by the recipient. That is why the Minister ought not to tie his hands in this matter. He ought to avail of the opportunity in section 6 of this Bill to extend a greater measure of encouragement to those who are likely to participate under this section and to extend to them the greatest possible generosity from the Land Commission. If the Minister tackles this matter in a courageous way, it may be the means of enabling him to have at his disposal more land for congests. Therefore, he might consider declaring that the full amount of the annuity payable by the Land Commission will not be taken into consideration by the Department of Social Welfare for old age pension purposes.
The Minister may regard himself as going halfway to meet such people as will qualify for this annuity under section 6. I put it to the Minister that to go halfway may not be going far enough. I want to assure the Minister that we on this side of the House do not desire to be unduly critical of any section of the Bill, least of all section 6. He has my unqualified support in encouraging people to avail of section 6 and also to avail, for the first time, of the annuities which will be paid to such people as will negotiate with the Land Commission in the matter.
Whether it is the dead hand of the Department of Finance or whether it is the rigidness of the Department of Social Welfare that has intervened in this matter, I cannot say, but where people of 65 years get an annuity of £3, £4 or £5 a week, they should be reinforced in the knowledge that when they reach the age of 70, their old age pension will not be reduced. If we are to devalue the £ in the future as it has been devalued in the past, by the time this Bill is in operation and by the time these people are in receipt of the amounts prescribed, the £ will be of less value to them. Therefore, I would ask the Minister to ensure that the full amount of the annuity payable will not be taken into consideration for old age pension purposes.
I would also ask the Minister that, in the case of a disabled Old IRA landowner in receipt of a special allowance administered by the Department of Defence or in the case of an incapacitated woman in receipt of a Cumann na mBan special allowance, these allowances will likewise not be taken into consideration. It may happen that a person incapacitated by service will be in receipt of a special allowance and the moment the Land Commission proceed to pay such a person the annuity, the Department of Defence will clamp down on the special allowance and deprive the Old IRA man of what he is entitled to.
This section has reference only to an annuity agreed on the sale of land.
The first £3 will not be taken in for old age pension purposes. Have we the same guarantee from the Minister in respect of Old IRA special allowances? I feel that now is the time we should have from the Minister a clear explanation of this matter. He knows, and every Deputy knows, the exactness with which the pension officers are exercising the rules and regulations as laid down by the Minister for Social Welfare. While the Minister for Lands is not responsible for the administration of the Department of Social Welfare, he has stated that the Minister for Social Welfare is preparing legislation to cover this matter. It is only right that we should ask the Minister to consult with the Minister for Social Welfare before that legislation is brought in. I would ask him to request the Minister for Social Welfare to disregard this annuity for old age pension purposes and also in the case of persons who are in receipt of special allowances.
I am glad to hear from the Minister that the Minister for Justice is bringing in legislation for the purpose of clarifying the whole question of land title. As has been pointed out, there are many holdings which the Land Commission will have to disregard until such time as the Minister for Justice puts that Bill through the House. Can the Minister for Lands give us any information as to when we can expect the Minister for Justice to introduce this Bill? Many sections of this Land Bill will be held up until the question of title is regularised.
It is typical of rural Ireland that many disabled and incapacitated landowners have never taken out administration of the wills of the great grandfathers, if ever there were such wills. The Land Commission are going to deal first with the cases of people who have goods title to their holdings and, for that reason, perhaps the Minister would repeat for the benefit of the House the undertaking he has given that the Land Commission will be responsible for the payment of all legal expenses involved in the clarification of title in such cases.
Many people may be anxious to participate under section 6 of this Bill but one of the great hindrances to doing so will be the difficulty of satisfying the Land Commission as to title. If the Land Commission are going to tell these people to consult their solicitors on the matter of title the whole thing will become impossible, so perhaps the Minister would tell us who will be responsible for the legal expenses involved in satisfying the Land Commission as to title. The Land Commission is interested in the relief of congestion and therefore it is not too much to expect that if legal expenses are involved in clarifying the title, the Land Commission will pay those expenses.
We all know that a number of holdings are registered in the names of people who emigrated long ago to Britain, America and elsewhere. Those left at home did not go to the expense of putting the title in order and it will arise that those who are now in occupation of those holdings have as little title to offer to the Land Commission as we would have. The Land Commission are very exact. They move only with every caution and care. There will be many landowners who will be expecting the benefits of this section of the Bill and, in order to make it easy for them to avail of these benefits, the Land Commission would be well advised to give them the services of their efficient legal staff in cases of complicated title.
I am sure that the Minister can see the possibility of these snags cropping up and I hope he will sympathetically consider the points I have raised with sincerity and anxiety so that everything possible may be done to help the people who wish to avail of this section.
I have said that there will be an exemption of £3 a week, and Deputy Flanagan says £5. If I said £5, Deputy Flanagan would say £10 and we would go on up a progressive scale. There are other people in receipt of pensions and they must be taken into consideration in the assessment of old age pensions. This concession of £3 a week is the first concession that has been made. Deputies may debate the means test and the question of those who should or should not be given relief on the Estimates for the Department of Social Welfare.
Regarding the point about legal expenses raised by Deputy Flanagan, it would appear that he did not go to the trouble of reading the section. If he had done so, he would have seen that under subsection 4 (b) (2) the Land Commission will pay the expenses arising from the sale of a holding. The Deputy will appreciate from the reading of that section that his point has been already thought of and taken care of. We are going quite a distance in this Bill to induce the type of people we want to co-operate with the Land Commission to give up their lands.
I see no reason at all, whether logical or otherwise, for completely disregarding the means of any individual for the purpose of assessing an old age pension. Surely to exclude the first £3 of such pension is a sufficient inducement to entice these people to do business with the Land Commission. The rest of their pension as such would have to be taken into consideration by the Social Welfare authorities in the assessment of their old age pensions but the whole of the pension of any other category is taken into consideration in dealing with their means. It is a question for the House to deal with that general principle when discussing social legislation here.
At all events, this provision is being made for the first time and I am satisfied that for a commencement it is going quite a distance to provide an inducement for the kind of elderly or incapacitated landowner whom we wish to entice under this section. It must be remembered that these people at present, if they apply for the old age pension, have their means from their farms, big or small, taken into account by the Social Welfare authority. Here, if they surrender their land, it is going to be written into the law by a Social Welfare Bill that up to £3 a week will be excluded. That is a generous inducement and it can be justified only because we are endeavouring to make the provisions of this scheme as attractive as possible, particularly to solve the hard core of congestion where we still have rundale estates or still have estates on which re-arrangement is essential but has been held up for years because we cannot get the agreement of those concerned. The section is generous in its terms and I do not think there is anything further that I can usefully add.
I do not want the Minister to commit himself but has he any information as to when the Minister concerned will be introducing the legislation? Will it be during this session?
All I can say is that the matter is under active consideration by the Minister concerned. I could not say when the draftsman will have the legislation ready.
I agree with the Minister in regard to what he has said. I listened to Deputy Flanagan and I should like to explode his myth. Has it ever been known that an auctioneer has been given a holding for sale and that he was not able to come before the people who were expected to buy it and could not produce, at least to his way of thinking, a very good title to it? Surely if an auctioneer can provide a title for land anywhere, there is no reason why the Land Commission should not be able to do so. I think Deputy Flanagan is barking up the wrong tree.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 6, line 3, after "Land Act, 1933," to insert "or in section 42 of the Land Act, 1939,".
This amendment deals with a very technical type of matter and it may apply to very few cases, or it may not apply to any case at all. To put it another way, no case may arise under it. Part III of the 1933 Land Act contained the general provisions about the revision or halving of land annuities. Subsequently in section 16 of the 1936 Act, it was provided that persons who received advances totalling more than £3,000, or in some specified cases £5,000, must pay in full any annuity in respect of the excess over that figure. Before I come to what happened later on, let me say that what I have just said applied, in the main, to tenanted land or perhaps to over-standard migrants, migrants who would have got holdings say, between 1933 and 1936, the cost of which exceeded £3,000. Holdings which were over-standard and cost over £3,000 were subject to the full annuity and were not entitled to the 50 per cent reduction. That deals with these limited cases. Subsequently, in the history of the matter, it transpired that the Land Commission from time to time had to try to get rid of what I would describe as "white elephants"—big, old houses with small portions of indifferent land. It was recognised that this provision was a hindrance when the Land Commission came to offer for sale these lands which were subject to an annuity or in respect of which they were prepared to give an advance for re-sale. In some of these cases, the Land Commission had to make advances available for the purpose of re-sale. As the law then stood, it was impracticable for them to have to put in an advertisement to the effect —and I am still speaking about these "white elephants"—that "We offer this land at £x per annum but if the purchaser already has lands with advances totalling £3,000, we shall be obliged to double up and charge him £2x per annum on the same advance." Section 42 of the 1939 Land Act provided in effect that where lands were sold by the Land Commission by auction or by private treaty, this rule about excess advances and excess annuities would not apply; the purchaser could be sure of having the annuity halved, one way or the other.
In section 7 of this Bill, it is provided that certain annuities must be paid in full, notwithstanding Part III of the 1933 Act, and in case there should be any doubt about it, I want to ensure by this amendment that section 42 of the 1939 Act does not provide any escape from this rule. I could not visualise this arising very often. Indeed, I am advised that this matter may not arise at all. In actual fact, I could call this a drafting amendment because it is only by way of putting a peculiar interpretation on the section that one could visualise this arising but it is just to ensure, as I said, that there will not be any doubt about the matter. Section 42 of the 1939 Act was written into the Statute Book for the purpose of dealing with what I have described as "white elephants" and this is to ensure that there will not be an escape clause from the general provisions of the section.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 6, line 7, after "purchase annuity" to insert "purchase money in cash,".
The words "any other payment" in lines 7 and 8 were intended to cover, inter alia, the cases in which allottees pay cash or part cash for allotments and to have the same effect, whether they pay in one sum or by instalments over a few years.
It has been put to me that, in case of dispute, the courts might rule that these cash payments were not eiusdem generis with the other types of payment mentioned in the text and were, therefore, excluded from its operation. I think it safer to make the position clear as in the words of the amendment before the House. There would, of course, be no justice in having one man escape with a 50 per cent payment merely because he paid cash, while his neighbour, in similar circumstances, paid the full annuity.
It is, again, a drafting amendment to make clear that this applies to cash payments amongst these categories, putting them all on the same basis.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 6, line 19, after "land" to insert the following:
", and provided that this section shall not apply to a payment in respect of land or an incorporeal hereditament which the Land Commission (by reason of a default in the payment of any money, a breach of condition, or any other default) have either caused to be sold or have taken up or obtained possession of, and the purchase annuity or other payment in respect of which has been revised under Part III of the Land Act, 1933".
Again, this is an amendment designed to remove doubts. I have been considering the possible effect of section 7 in certain cases, not very common these days, in which holdings are sold in default, for non-payment of annuities or for some other reason, breach of condition, and occasionally are sold subject to additional advances to repay arrears and costs.
I fear that the section could be interpreted to mean that the annuity on the defaulter's holding which had formerly been revised would become payable in full and that any additional annuity on it would likewise become payable in full. It will be appreciated that it is often difficult to make a satisfactory sale of a defaulter's holding and in some cases it would be quite impossible to effect a sale at all, if prospective purchasers were faced with the possibility of having to pay full annuity. Accordingly, I think it is advisable to exempt defaulters' holdings from the effect of section 7 by excluding them entirely in the terms of this amendment.
Deputies will also appreciate that in some of these cases it would be most necessary for the Land Commission to make advances to enable the new purchaser to take over the defaulter's holding.
It is to remove doubts that the full annuity under that advance would have to be charged to the new purchaser that this amendment is necessary. It is, again, removing doubts about the application of this section to defaulters' holdings.
It is indicated on the amendment sheet that the Labour Party are opposing this section. We do so because of the fact that we believe it is entirely contrary to common justice. I do not know who thought up the bright idea but the Minister a few minutes ago said something which covers our objection. He said it would be entirely unjust that one man would have to pay the whole of the annuity while another man would pay 50 per cent. That is our objection to this section.
I do not know how the Fianna Fáil Party ever allowed this section to be put into this Bill because, since the Economic War, we have been listening to statements about the halving of the annuities. Every time an election meeting takes place reference is made to the halving of the annuities and the wonderful things that have been done. Now, there is introduced a section which proposes that those who come from a congested district will continue to pay half of the annuity while those living outside the congested district, with the exception of two categories, will have to pay the full annuity.
As somebody said here to-night, the Minister is the best lawyer in Connacht. I do not think he can justify this section and I would ask him to withdraw it because I am sure he will find the greatest difficulty in the world in attempting to defend it.
It is stated in the explanatory memorandum:
Section 7 provides that, in future, certain classes of persons who will receive allotments of land on an annuity basis in non-congested areas will not benefit from the "halving" of annuities conceded under the Land Act, 1933.
The classes affected are:—
(i) farmers with existing holdings who may receive enlargements in non-congested areas and
(ii) cottiers and other persons who may get allotments in non-congested areas, where surplus land is available.
Corresponding provisions are included to cover relevant sales by public auction or private treaty, But all allottees in congested areas, together with displaced employees and migrants getting holdings in non-congested areas, will continue to get the benefit of the "halving" of annuities.
How, in the name of all that is wonderful, can anybody try to justify a situation where two farmers are set up side by side and one of them pays half the annuity and the other pays all the annuity, or what was the idea behind this entire section? I should like to hear the Minister's comment on it before I say anything more about it.
I cannot understand for what reason or on what grounds the Minister for Lands has framed section 7 in the manner in which it is framed. I agree that this section, as I read it and as the Minister has explained it, is opposed to common justice. I hope, when the Minister hears the views of Deputies who are deeply concerned about this matter, he will reconsider his entire attitude to it. I cannot understand why one man should be asked to pay the full annuity and another man half the annuity. It does not seem commonsense to me. It is unintelligible; it is unsound and unworkable. It will lead to a certain amount of dissatisfaction and will revive the whole question of land annuities. There was enough said about them in years past.
One of the great boasts of the Government was the halving of the land annuities, having arrived at the position that every landowner had been reduced to the stage at which he was just walking through the gates of the county home. Now the land annuity question is arising again. I feel that during the course of this-debate there will be a ghost haunting this House in relation to the activities of the Government in 1933, 1934 and 1935.
I hope the Blueshirt uniform ghosts of that period will not be trotted out.
I do not think it right for the Minister to adopt that attitude. He should take example from me and adopt a gentlemanly attitude in relation to this matter.
I am taking example from the Deputy, unfortunately.
If I read section 7 in the way it has been read clearly and distinctly by Deputy Tully, I can see that one man pays the full annuity and another man pays half the annuity. This is an effort by the Minister for Lands to counteract the halving of the annuities. He now says, in effect, that we have got what we require out of that and therefore that we must drop the question. This is the thin end of the wedge. If this section is agreed to, the people who get land from the Land Commission will have to pay the full annuity and eventually we shall reach the stage when the halving of the annuities will be of no benefit whatever because the Government will have decided to collect as far as possible the full economic rent of a holding.
Section 7 deserves the fullest possible consideration by this House because it is an entirely new approach to the fixing of rents. It brings to mind again the three F's and clearly lays emphasis on the first—fair rent. This section lays that matter open to serious attack by the Government. Later on we shall be dealing with fixity of tenure and freedom of sale. This section provides that in future certain classes of persons in non-congested areas will not benefit from the halving of the annuities conceded under the Land Act of 1933.
The Minister is a man of high intelligence, for which we all give him credit. Why then should he allow himself to be handcuffed and blindfolded by the Land Commission and come in here in an endeavour to get this section through the House? I cannot understand his attitude at all. The people mainly affected will be farmers with existing holdings who may receive enlargements to those holdings in non-congested areas. Is there anything to stop the Minister under this section from declaring any area a congested area in the event of an estate coming up for division?
This section is an example of grave injustice. It is wrong in principle and we have not got any explanation from the Minister as to why he introduced it. Like Deputy Tully, I am waiting with eager ears to hear his explanation. The section also affects cottiers and other persons who may get allotments in non-congested districts where land is available. Take the case of a cottage tenant who will receive an accommodation allotment of five or six acres. He will have to pay the full rent for that land if it is in a non-congested area, whereas a migrant coming in will not. In a congested district, such a cottier would have to pay only half the rent.
That is unfair and unreasonable because it does not give equal rights to landowners. It will give rise to unpleasantness because of the anomalous situation it will create. People may get land at half rent if the land is in a declared congested district. If it is not, the full rent must be paid. I feel sure the Minister foresees many difficulties arising. This sections seems to me to be the most serious defect in the Bill because it destroys and abolishes completely the benefits of the halving of the annuities in 1933.
If this provision had been introduced by a Fine Gael Minister for Lands, I can well imagine the opposition it would meet from the present Minister. He would be most loud in his criticism of any effort to deprive landowners of the benefits of the halving of the annuities. This is a disastrous section which will have most detrimental effects on cottiers in areas other than declared congested districts. It will cause a great deal of uneasiness or what we describe in this country as begrudgingness. I have very strong views on the seriousness of this section. The Government are now retracing the steps taken in 1933 and 1934. This is bad and unless the Minister has some grounds and reasons which he has not yet disclosed, he should give us a clear explanation of why he is taking this unfair, unjust and unreasonable step.
What ground has he for putting the full rent for the same type of land on a person in an non-congested district as on a person in a congested area? This will cause a good deal of rural uneasiness and I ask the Minister to rectify a very great injustice to many landowners. Applications reaching the Land Commission are mainly from people seeking additions to existing holdings. Statistics already referred to show the vast number of holdings of less than 45 acres. If the Minister is now making a serious attempt to bring up the size of holdings to 45 or 50 acres it means that a rent will have to be charged which the smallholders will be unable to pay because the area in which they live has not been declared a congested district.
We shall reach the stage when land will be divided in, say, the Midlands and certain people, such as cottage tenants, will be offered it. How is the cottage tenant who takes five or six acres and is not in a congested district expected to pay the full rent for this plot to the Land Commission? His next-door neighbour may be a smallholder of 12 or 13 acres. How will he pay a full rent for the extra 20 or 25 acres the Land Commission will give him to make his uneconomic holding economic? This will be a very great discouragement to many people and prevent them seeking the aid of the Land Commission.
In common justice, the provisions of this section are wrong and the Minister would be well advised to reconsider them, having regard to all the circumstances of very smallholders and cottage tenants not living in congested districts. The whole section is a disastrous one that should be reconsidered. There may be grounds and good reasons for the Minister's approach and he may be able to convince those of us with strong views of the sincerity of the Government in introducing what I consider an unreasonable and unfair section. I shall be very interested to hear what these are.
I shall not say very much but Deputy Flanagan's remarks have prompted me to say a few words. There are people in my constituency who dread to take Land Commission houses and farms because of the very heavy rent imposed on the young men concerned and their families. The Minister should be very careful before he taxes a young man to the extent that he will make him a very poor farmer in a very short time if the young man is out of luck for a few years. It is well known that the rent charged on the Land Commission houses and farms surrounding them is very heavy and I have known people to refuse to accept holdings in some cases. I heard recently of a man who refused—he was a good, enterprising young farmer, married with a family—to take a plot of land offered by the Land Commission despite the fact that he had made several visits to the Land Commission seeking land. The land he was offered was anything but good and when the figure was pointed out to him, he said: "No, that is an enormous price."
My experience is that people in my constituency were never more anxious to get land. Heretofore they could work on a smallholding but, due to the increased cost of living, that can no longer be done and that is something that should be borne in mind.
Let me first point out that, generally speaking, the annuities in respect of all the land have been held under the 1933 Land Act at the expense of the Irish taxpayer. Secondly, generally speaking, the lands now coming in to the Land Commission, and coming in the future, will be lands in respect of which annuities have already been halved. The fundamental reason for this section is that I believe the State should concentrate the resources that may become available from time to time to solve the congestion problem and for that purpose all State resources available for this great social work should be applied in the first instance to the congested areas. The annual cost to the Exchequer at the moment is approximately £3 million of which approximately £1 million goes by way of subsidy to the farmers to enable them to buy out the fee simple of their land. This is a realistic approach to the whole problem.
It is pointed out to me in non-congested areas by those concerned that they would be delighted if the Land Commission stepped in and purchased lands on the open market and they would willingly pay the full annuity if they got such land instead of paying, as they have been doing in the congested areas, up to £25 and £30 an acre for conacre. These figures were given to me by deputations from congested areas. They certainly appear to think that if the Land Commission would act as what I might call agricultural bankers on their behalf and purchase lands on the market and allow these people under the terms of the Land Acts to repay the full market value and so make the land available to them as against the individual whom they describe as the person with the long purse or unlimited cheque book, then they would regard that as a very good form of Land Commission activity.
In the non-congested areas the activities of the Land Commission are necessarily limited, and have been for quite obvious reasons. The whole purpose of the Land Acts, and the whole purpose of the Land Code, was to try to deal with the situation in the congested areas. The halving of the annuities in the 1933 Act in the congested areas, and the expenditure of tremendous sums under the improvement vote of the Land Commission to enable housing, roads, fencing and so on to be provided, amounted to a very high cost indeed, year in and year out, over the years, to the Exchequer. Because of the great grave social reasons involved, such a policy has been justified and is now justifiable. That is why that policy is being continued in the congested areas, with the increased activities which it is hoped will be achieved by the Land Commission under the provisions of this Bill, in an attempt to make a quicker and more rapid impact on the problems within the congested areas.
I know Deputies have said—and no doubt will say again—that there is congestion in every county in Ireland, and that there are people with very small holdings in some of the richest counties in Ireland. That may be correct, but everyone who knows this problem, and knows the congested areas, knows that it is not true to say that the conditions obtaining in the non-congested counties bear any relation to the conditions obtaining in the congested counties. The whole pattern of the fragmented small unmixed holdings in many cases in the congested counties, remote from markets and centres of population generally speaking bears no resemblance or relation whatsoever to the conditions, economically speaking, in the non-congested counties.
People on small units of land in the non-congested counties are still on units of better land. Generally speaking, there is no comparison between the type of land that prevails in the congested areas and the type of land in the non-congested counties. Even if their holdings are small, their land is much more valuable by virtue of the fact that they are not in isolated areas. They have the benefit of proximity to markets for their products. In most instances they have the benefit of the creamery system, which has only recently permeated into the congested areas. The people who came up in the very early days from the congested areas and got small migrants holdings, found the small units to which they were migrated a vast improvement on what they had left, and they have had an opportunity down through the years of endeavouring to better themselves which their less fortunate brethren in the congested areas did not have.
In the non-congested areas the Land Commission will, in effect be acting as agricultural bankers to enable the people on the smaller units of lands to purchase adjoining lands for division between them at prevailing prices, and to give them the benefit of financing that operation. That is what this section amounts to in the non-congested areas. Any representations that have been made to me by people from those areas are in favour of the Land Commission increasing their activities in the non-congested counties, and buying more land that is coming on the market, which these people say they are unable to buy because wealthy farmers are purchasing it. They have stated openly to me—and, indeed, I get letters every day to this effect— that they would be prepared, and would think it quite a fair deal, to reimburse the Land Commission fully for the cost of purchasing the lands involved. They think the Land Commission should purchase the land and enable it to be divided amongst the people in the non-congested areas who are better off than their less fortunate brethren in the congested areas but who still need more land.
I do not believe I will impress the House by going into the practices adopted in other countries, because we have our own circumstances, and we have different traditions here, but I should point out that no country I know of at the moment is going as far as we are in dealing with this problem. Most countries, of course, do not have the same problems as we have in our congested counties, due to our history. For instance, those who get reclaimed land, or what are called polders, in Holland, have to go through an intense form of agricultural examination, and satisfy the land authority that they are fully equipped with capital and machinery, and they also have to pay, and do pay, the full cost involved in the reclaiming of the land. Here it is the job of the Land Commission and the problems of the congested areas have been dealt with on that basis for some 80 years or more.
I feel it is time for us to concentrate our energies on dealing with the congestion problem where it really exists, that is, in the nine congested counties. The real answer to Deputies who are opposing this Bill is in section 4 because in section 4, as Deputies are aware, we can declare any pocket of congestion in any county outside the congested counties a congested area. Any pocket of congestion in a non-congested county having been declared a congested area, all the provisions of the Bill dealing with congested areas will apply to that area.
As soon as the Land Commission become geared in the matter of personnel and organisation to deal with what is envisaged under this Bill, it is their intention as soon as may be, to declare, under section 4 of this Bill, those pockets of congestion which, in their opinion, correspond in structure and economics to a similar pocket of congestion in congested counties to be congested areas within the meaning of this Bill. That, I think, is the real answer to those Deputies who argue that you will get congested conditions or pockets of congestion in the non-congested areas as well as in the congested areas.
I think that perhaps Deputy McLaughlin did not quite appreciate that it is not proposed to apply the provisions of this section to migrants' holdings. If I understood him correctly, he was talking about people being afraid to take holdings but this section does not apply to such cases. I did come across a couple of very odd cases where people refused to take an addition of land but they had their own very peculiar reasons for doing so. In the vast majority of cases the row is about not getting enough land or being excluded from the Land Commission scheme where land is going.
About half an hour ago, Deputy Flanagan was holding forth to us about landless men paying up to £200 per annum for land which they were renting. In this section, he tells us that if the people had to repay, by way of annuity, the ordinary cost of the market value of the lands, they could not possibly afford such rents. Both arguments, of course, expose the real approach of the Deputy to this section.
All the evidence I have got from non-congested counties does not concern complaints about the rents the Land Commission are charging but complaints that the Land Commission will not move in and take more land. Time and again, it is represented to me—even during this very past week— that if the Land Commission would move in and acquire lands, they would be quite happy to pay the full market value for them. I have indicated to the House the amount of money provided by the Exchequer for this purpose. I have informed the House that out of an annual expenditure of £3 million, no less than £1 million is subsidisation. I suggest to the House that the available resources of the State should be concentrated, under the powers to be conferred on the Land Commission under this Bill, on making a real effort to deal with the land in congested counties scheduled here.
Let me emphasise that every Land Act passed in this House or, indeed, before the foundation of this State, was designed as its primary objective to deal with that problem. We are still dealing with it. I think any reasonable Deputy will agree that the time has come when we should concentrate our efforts in this particular way. Whereas, in the non-congested counties, some few people here and there may not be up to standard, certainly there is no comparison economically between their standards or the type of land they occupy and the lands of their less fortunate brethren in the congested areas. There is, therefore, every reason for a differential between these categories and these, in the main, are the reasons for this section. To those who have fears about pockets of congestion which they think are intense in any of the non-congested counties, the answer is section 4 of this Bill which will enable such areas to be declared congested and to get any of the benefits that apply to the congested counties.
The chips are down. We now know what the Minister is talking about. If only he could have seen the wild expressions behind him on the faces of people in the same position as myself while he spoke. The Minister said that, in order to make more land available for migrants, the land will be made too dear for local applicants. Correct me if I misquote. That, in fact is what the Minister said and what he meant. I am quite sure that the people who support the Fianna Fáil Party do not support that point of view. We had all the talk about what a wonderful thing the halving of the annuities was. It is almost 10.30 p.m. and we shall probably have another session on it, but if the Minister gets away with this section it is the red light for every farmer outside the congested areas that it is only a matter of time until the Minister introduces a system which will make every farmer pay the full annuity. If he does not do that, he proposes to create a situation, in respect of two farmers, one a local man and one from a congested district, in which they will get the same sized farm. The economics of farming are thrown overboard. The unfortunate man in the midlands will pay the full annuity and the migrant half the annuity. If there is justice in that, I do not see it.
If a foreigner or an Irishman with plenty of money bought the farm, rather than let the Land Commission have it, then it is all right: the question of the annuity does not arise at all. The only time there is any question of paying the full annuity is when the unfortunate tenant from an area beside the farm gets the farm from the Land Commission. He therefore must pay the full annuity.
The Minister, on occasion here, has accused me of being very anti-migrant. I have tried to point out to him that when they do come, we in County Meath have always treated them well but I do not want to see them coming and I make no bones about that. The Minister has made it clear that he is anti-everything except congested areas. The suggestion that eventually every area in the country can be declared a congested area is a lot of cod. I am afraid the Minister does not know much about the economics of a small farm in the Midlands or he would not talk as he is talking here.
Consider the migrants who came to Meath in the early days and who got from 15 to 25 acres. All those people are now moving into what the Minister would describe as non-viable farms. Every one of those people is living in a congested district. All that the Minister has to say in relation to Gibbstown, for example, with its 100 migrants, is that it is a congested district: that they are not living on economic farms and therefore can be considered congests. Has the Minister any intention of doing that? Of course, he has not. He has made quite clear tonight that he is interested only in the present nine congested districts to which he referred. He will not get away with this section, if I have my way.