SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - PART II.—LAND PURCHASE.
I move: "To delete Part 2 of the Bill."
I have taken this opportunity by this amendment to raise certain important issues which, in my opinion, and I hope in the opinion of the Seanad, are issues of great gravity. I want to call attention to certain aspects that cannot properly be treated within the scope of any individual amendment. The first point I wish to make is the extraordinary precipitate haste at which we are asked to consider this most important measure, which I hope to show, not at undue length, is more far-reaching than any measure, in my knowledge, ever put on the Statute Book dealing with this country. The Bill was before the Dáil from, I think, three weeks to a month, and here within one week we, responsible legislators, have got to go through this whole measure, consider its full bearing draft, and try to carry essential amendments which are necessary in the interests of the community.
I, with others, some highly experienced in matters of land legislation, have been considering this Bill to the best of our ability in the short time we have had, and it is only since I came into the Seanad a little over an hour ago, that the point has arisen on this Bill which will give some idea of the magnitude of the questions involved. Under this Bill the Land Commission retain any holding over £3,000 in value. They can only re-sell or they have power only to re-sell up to the value of £3,000. In calculating that sum of £3,000 any other property previously held, freehold or bought under a purchase Act, in the possession of the vendor must be taken into consideration. It shows how important it is to consider this question deliberately and without any undue haste. If an unpurchased tenant has another farm which he bought under a previous Act, or has a farm which he may hold in fee, and that farm is valued by the Land Commission up to £3,000, the Land Commission are not bound; it is entirely discretionary with them to make any further advance to him for the purpose of repurchasing the holdings that they have retained.
If that is the case, look at what it may mean. A landlord may have a demesne—many demesnes would be valued at considerably more than £3,000. That has all to go into hotch potch. All that has to come into the consideration, and any further land he has above that value can be obtained by the Land Commission, and they are not bound to allow any resale. Well, you see what that means. That is the most far-reaching measure of confiscation that it is possible to imagine. And here in 7 days we have got to deal with a measure of which that is only one of a number of most drastic and far-reaching provisions. Therefore I say that so far as I can understand this Bill there are no means in it under which the machinery by which the price of any other land in the possession of the vendor is assessed. There is machinery for arriving at the price in other cases, but not in this case. We have no means in the 7 days to seek legal advice. One has got to do the best one can and even at the risk of being mistaken to call the attention of the Seanad to these important matters. This provision of taking land anywhere for anybody is an important one, from the point of view of security.
There are, before me, instances of the grave alarm there is growing up in the country on account of these provisions. All land, even land purchased under the previous Acts, is liable to be taken and divided up. There may be certain powers which appear to be safeguards in the Bill, but when you come to read them you will find they are only dexterous pieces of phraseology. When you come to argue them before a judge they have a plain meaning, and that is as the Minister said: "We have power to take any land anywhere for the relief of congests." There is power to take land to relieve congestion, you are going to give the Government power to break up land anywhere all over the country. I do not say it is right or wrong. I am not arguing that question now, but I do say it is reducing legislation to a farce to ask us to come in and give one week to enact a measure of that far-reaching consequence. You may only take one farm in a district. But that is going to have an effect on the security of land in that district.
It is going to strike at the very root of our economic life, and yet we are to do this almost unconstitutional act, to ask this to be done as an emergency, practically almost as a matter of panic legislation. For that reason I would ask the Minister whether due weight cannot be given by the Government to this important matter, and whether it would not be possible to take it as an agreed measure, by making such amendments as would take out such dangerous confiscatory provisions. I use the word deliberately. I will argue it later on. This has nothing really to do with what we hitherto believe to be land purchase, which is land acquisition. I ask that the Government allow that to be dealt with after the Election in a spirit of more judicial frame of mind. I know that in making the suggestion I run the risk of jeopardising the whole Bill, and I feel the consequences of that most acutely.
I am told, and I do not dispute it, that possibly I myself, in a small way, and many of my friends, to a greater extent, may get far worse treatment in some future Bill than the present. I assure you that I feel that very acutely. When I got to a quarter mile of where I am standing I spoke to a friend who is reduced almost to destitution. He has to live in three rooms in his own house, and he is reduced to that destitution merely by the fact that he has not received his just dues for three years, and it is a difficult position. I am not easy to know what one's duty is under such circumstances. If I consider my personal inclination, I would say "take all you can, get rid of all this confusion, and let all these things take care of themselves." But as a member of this Seanad I cannot do so. I have the national interests to think of, and I want to rise superior to my personal interest. I think that this Bill is going to do incalculable harm in its broad provisions in the country, and I feel it my duty to make every effort to alter these provisions. I am sure that every Senator here will have that point of view before him and will examine this Bill from the point of view of the national interests only.
In rising to support the amendment I may say that I, too, feel my responsibility in the matter. I say the Seanad will be well advised, and they will do what the country expects them to do, by supporting Sir John Keane's amendment. By doing that they will prevent hasty and ill-considered legislation, and I maintain that is the duty of the Seanad and it is what the Seanad was created for. I have been a constant supporter of this Government. All the measures which we have passed up to now were necessary for the good of the country, and any of these measures which would be found wanting in the near future could be amended any time. If once you pass this Bill and lay down the principles it embodies, you will be creating another land war, a land war which, in its intensity, will be greater than the ones that have passed. I do not think the Seanad or the country realises the sweeping nature of this measure, and I do not think the Government as a whole realises the responsibilities that are being undertaken.
In one clause it is set out that the Land Commission can take land anywhere and at any time. That is a very sweeping clause, and it will destroy security in the land. I am not objecting to land being taken. I say that it is for the good of the country that land should be taken here and there, and taken in large acreages, but the Land Commission and the Government should not rush at such a pace. Land or any other property taken by compulsion should be paid for at the fair market value. According to this Bill the tenant should get a price which would be fair in the opinion of the Land Commission. What would that price amount to? In most cases lettings of good land would be worth £100 an acre. To the Land Commission it will be worth as much as they can let it out to congests and landless men, and these people cannot pay more than the average farmer is at present paying. That would amount to from 25/- to £2 an acre. On that basis the Land Commission would bring the price down to £45 an acre, and that price would work out in actual cash value to about £40 or less. I maintain the Land Commission should not be the judges of the price. If the Government insists on taking land by compulsion, either tenanted or untenanted, they should give us an opportunity of appealing to a High Court Judge. We have all had experience of appealing from an Income Tax Supervisor or Inspector to an Income Tax Commissioner. When your case is heard by the Commissioners they always say "ditto" to what the Inspectors or Supervisors state. If you want to create confidence in getting a fair value, you must have an appeal to the High Court Judge. If the Minister or the Government will grant us this point we do not want to wreck the Bill, and we would be satisfied to facilitate the Government in every way, and to expedite the passage of the Bill.
Earlier in the day Senator Sir John Keane warned us not to create a crisis; now he invites us to create a very grave crisis indeed. He is inviting us, in fact, to create disturbance. He wants the Minister to discriminate, and point out what land it is necessary to take. How in the name of goodness can the Minister do that? How can you frame that in regulations within the compass of the Bill, unless you do it in the innocuous way in which the British did it. They said that a man was not a congest unless his valuation was under £10. Take the case of a demesne; it may be all woodland, garden or pleasure grounds. The home farm might be described as untenanted land. If the Minister framed his Bill to take untenanted land only for the congests of the district, that is the land he should take. In the same district you may have what is commonly known as a rancher. He may have one thousand acres. The congests in the district are to get part of that. The Minister proposes to take every case on its merits.
If any unfairness does arise, and if anything is done by the Land Commission that should not be done, the Minister is to be here brought to account. The Land Commission would say that in the Bill it is in cold print, and they must take land no matter what hardship they might inflict, and they cannot take the other land. We know how the Government have preserved the rights of property owners at enormous expense, and at enormous cost in blood and treasure and risk. Is there any Senator here who can charge the Ministry with having neglected its duties? Yesterday Senator Counihan warned the congests as to the futility of taking land of twenty or twenty-five acres. He said that that land is worth £100 an acre.
That is not so. I did not say that.
I am sorry. In so doing Senator Counihan evidently has not done what Mr. Balfour did when establishing the Congested Districts Board, i.e., he took a visit to Connemara. Mr. Balfour for twenty years refused to do anything for the congested districts, but he was not twenty minutes in Connemara when he was convinced of the urgency of the problem. I invite Senators to go and visit the congested districts. My definition of a congest is a man trying to farm without land. He is on rocks trying to grow a patch of potatoes and corn in the shallow clay in the crevices. At seasons he beholds his crop washed away by heavy rains. That is the man who is warned not to take twenty or twenty-five acres of land.
I appeal to the Seanad to leave individual and party and class interests aside and to take a national view. This Bill is brought in with the intention of dealing equitably with a large section of the community that have been too long neglected. These people have become impatient with golden promises, and any retarding of this Bill will help the flood gates of rising anger. They have waited for this day, and let us not, for minor reasons, withhold what is necessary for them for their existence. I back the Ministry to treat the landlords equitably. They have done that in other portions of the Bill, and why suspect that they will not do likewise in the remaining portion. As to the future, when this Bill is passed, some Senators anticipate the wild rush of congests for land. That will not happen. When the Bill passes, the Minister's difficulties really begin. He will have to go down to the West, and I pity him trying to induce people to leave their little cabins in the rocks and bogs. They would almost as soon cross the Jordan as cross the Shannon. I appeal to the Seanad to help and trust the Minister and his Land Commission, who are trained experts, and who know this question. If any injustice is inflicted on any Irishman of any class or section he can come to the Seanad or the Dáil, and I am sure he will get justice.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood, but I cannot help saying that the very able and interesting speeches we have heard would be more appropriate to the Second Reading of the Bill. I thought that we were discussing the Bill in Committee, and I am anxious that no time should be wasted, and although there will be considerable hostility to the Bill amongst certain members of the Seanad, it surely would be hardly honourable on their parts to try, by a side-wind, to defeat the Bill, for we know if that resolution is carried the Bill is as dead as Julius Caesar. I know that that is not the wish of the Seanad as a whole. I am convinced that the good sense of the Seanad must realise that this is as good a Bill as we are likely to get under present circumstances. No doubt improvement could be made, and I think the Minister has shown his willingness to help those landlords who will be in an unfortunate position when the Bill is carried out, but I do not think it is right to try to destroy the Bill by a sort of side-wind.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, and with reference to what the last speaker has said I desire to say I did this deliberately in view of the extreme haste and the manner in which the Bill has been put before us.
This is the second occasion on which it was suggested that this Bill should be adjourned until after the elections. I do not want to be put in the position of politicians carrying this Bill to get any capital there may be out of it. We did not introduce this Bill from the point of view of the elections, nor from the point of view of the landlords or tenants, but genuinely from the point of view of doing the best thing for the country as a whole under difficult circumstances when Irregularism and other things were flourishing. I know something about the 1920 Bill and the 1909 Act, and when I hear terms like "confiscation" and "most radical piece of legislation on the Statute Book" applied to this Bill by Senators like Sir John Keane and Mr. Counihan, I am strongly tempted to think of the boy who cried "wolf," and I find myself half-wishing that some people would get a taste of confiscation. This resolution was useful, from the point of view of clearing up one or two points which, I think, were misunderstood. The limitations on advances are the same as in the 1909 Act, which says that no advance exceeding £3,000 shall be sanctioned, except under certain circumstances where an advance of a larger amount not exceeding £5,000 may be sanctioned.
Does that take into account any other property which the vendor may have in his possession?
Of course it does. If a tenant receives advances under the 1903 Act that would be taken into account. We allow the Land Commission to make an advance of £3,000. We allow the Land Commission to exceed it, and to go further, and taking all the circumstances into account which influence them in exceeding it they could give a man a little more land if they are prepared to take money for the balance. Our terms are every bit as good as those in the 1920 Bill. Now, with regard to any land anywhere the only radical difference between this Bill and that of 1920 not accepted by Karl Marx, but accepted by Lord Balfour, Mr. Chamberlain, and Lord Birkenhead, and the Executive Committee of the Land Owner's Convention, is that we give the Land Commission power under well defined circumstances to acquire purchased land for the relief of congestion. Untenanted land, even demesne land, could be acquired under the 1920 Bill. If any Senator has any doubt about it I will read the section for him, and I think that Senators before making wild statements should read these Bills. The only substantial difference so far as the powers of the Land Commission are concerned to acquire land is this : that we give the Land Commission power to acquire compulsorily. I will explain that when we come to Section 24.
Now, with regard to the price I wonder was Senator Counihan speaking as a farmer when he talks about price. I heard a good deal from the farmers in the Dáil. Their idea was not the market value or a £100 an acre, but present rents reduced by 50 per cent. and capitalised. Senator Counihan who is a farmer says that this land should be bought for a £100 an acre. That should have been stated earlier. I draw attention to this point that we are not back into the 1920 Bill, or the 1909 Act, or even back to the price discussed by the 1903 Conference. I do not think that it would suggest that the market value, or £100 an acre, was suggested in the 1903 Conference.
What I suggested was that when you acquire compulsorily, tenanted or untenanted land you should pay a fair market value for it.
It is a pity we did not hear that earlier. That was not the idea of the farmers in the Dáil, especially when it came to the landlords. The least we ought to do is to be consistent. We have suffered up to the present from undue influences. On one side you have people wanting to get rid of their own liability on something like compensation terms, and on the other side you have people when it comes to pressing their own interests who want to bring us back to the good old days of the Conservative English Governments of 20 years ago. Is that an exaggeration after listening to the speeches we have heard? It is hard to settle the land question. There is no doubt now with regard to appeal to the High Courts. There is an appeal on every vital point that arises under the Bill. There is an appeal to the High Court Judge; there is an appeal to the Judicial Commissioner and the Land Commission Bill which was passed a long time ago deals with the Judicial Commissioner under Section 3. Now the Judicial Commissioner is head of the Land Commission. We abolish the Estate Commissioners. We have only the Judicial Commissioner and the Land Commission left. The Judicial Commissioner is retained in every line of the Land Commission Bill, and has the last word in every important matter. People say it goes too far, and that the judge would interfere with the administration. He is to be a High Court Judge assigned to that office not by the Executive Council, but by the head of the Judiciary.
In this Land Bill we arranged deliberately knowing that it was necessary to give the Land Commission wide powers and knowing that it was important that these powers should be exercised fairly and judicially in order to meet everyone of these points which are rather troubling some Senators that the High Court Judge who happens to be a Judicial Commissioner shall have the last word. When I hear Senators talking about what the Land Commission will do and will not do, and suggesting that it will be grossly inefficient and even worse in this matter, I want to know why are the Land Commission under this Bill going to do what the old Land Commission never did; that is, act inefficiently and act corruptly, for they would be acting corruptly if they did some of the things suggested here.
I think the Minister should be more precise as to which Senators, if any, made suggestions of corruption. I certainly never did.
I will say this new Sub-section 3, Section 24 reads "notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing Sub-sections where the Land Commission before the appointed day declare in the prescribed manner that any land wherever situated hereinbefore excluded from the operation of this section (other than land which comes within the description in Clause F of Sub-section 2 of this section) is required for the purpose of relieving congestion, then such land shall vest in the Land Commission pursuant to the Section."
If the Commissioner decided that this referred to landless men he would be acting corruptly. That is all about it, because there is no question of doubt about it. Since the Act of 1881, "relieving congestion" is a well-known term which occurs in every one of the Acts. I suppose it has been used by Judges 50 times over. No Judge could ever mistake the meaning of it. No Judge could possibly think that a congest was a landless man. On the face of it, any Judge who decided that a landless man could be a congest would be acting corruptly. We have an appeal on every important issue arising out of this Bill.
Not on price. I had not been thinking for the moment of price or arrears because there was no discussion, even on the Second Reading, as it was agreed that the price was the best that could be done under the circumstances. There is not an appeal on price as far as judicial tenancies are concerned, but on all other tenancies subject to rent other than judicial rents.
Certainly. On every issue arising out of it you have a High Court Judge to decide the case. We put in these provisions expressly, as I say, because we knew that this Land Bill would have to give wide powers to the Land Commission. There is just one other point, the re-sale Sections. The re-sale Sections are taken word for word from the 1920 Bill, except that they are brought together. The 1920 Bill deals, on the one hand, with the congested districts and, on the other, with the non-congested districts. We have practically abolished the distinction and we bring the provisions together. But for every provision in our Bill in regard to the re-sale of retained holdings, there are similar provisions of the 1920 Bill. If any Senator sees any differences I invite him to show them. With regard to the re-sale of untenanted land I will read the 1920 Bill on that question, Section 13: "Where the owner of a parcel of untenanted land which is vested in the Congested Districts Board by virtue of this Part of this Act resides on the land and uses and cultivates same as an ordinary farm in accordance with proper methods of husbandry, then if the price of the land does not exceed £3,000, the Board shall...."
What are our provisions? "Where the owner of a parcel of untenanted land which is vested in the Land Commission by virtue of this Act uses and cultivates the same as an ordinary farm in accordance with proper methods of husbandry, then (a) if the price of the parcel together with the value of any other lands in the possession of the owner as ascertained by the Land Commission does not exceed £3,000, the Land Commission shall re-sell to him.” Note the distinction. In the 1920 Bill the owner must reside on the land. We take that out. We do better in regard to the re-sale sections. We take out the express provision that says that the house must be on the land, and we say that the Land Commission shall re-sell £3,000 worth of land without it being taken into account whether there is a house on the land or not, if the land is being worked as an ordinary farm. These sections have been described as Socialistic and confiscatory and all the rest of it. In regard to the resumption price of holdings our provisions are also the same. If anything, our provisions are better than the 1920 Bill, which was the policy for the settlement of the land question of Mr. Balfour, Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Birkenhead, and which was adopted by the Landowners' Convention and by the Farmers' Union, in agreement with the Landowners' Convention, at the offices of the latter in 1920.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Before we proceed with the rest of the business I want to ask if it is in order to allow persons who are not representatives of the Press into the Press Gallery. I have no objection provided it is made a general rule, but I want to call the attention of the Seanad to the fact.
There is nobody present in the Press Gallery other than members of the Press with my permission.
There are people in the Press gallery who are not members of the Press.
I understand that a request was made to one of the officials of the Seanad as to whether there would be any objection on the part of the Press to two of their seats being occupied by representatives of a particular interest, and the Press were good enough to say that, as far as they were concerned, it did not interfere with them in any way, and they had no objection.
I have, personally, no objection, provided the same facility is afforded when other interests require facilities.
I can only repeat what I have said, that I was entirely unaware of the fact that these gentlemen were there, and my consent to it was never asked. I have not been asked with regard to any representatives of any other party. When the application is made to me in connection with each of them, I will deal with it on its merits.
I should certainly object to the principle that the Press should have the right to allocate seats to anybody else without the permission of the Seanad.
Permission was given to the gentlemen to attend. It is only a matter of where they sit that arises.
It is quite apparent that the gentlemen sitting there, to whom personally I have no objection, are expert advisers to certain people in the Seanad, and the point raised is that at a later stage other sections in the Seanad may require expert assistance, and will the same facilities be afforded to them?
If I am asked, I will be very glad, as far as the accommodation of the House enables it, to provide facilities for interested people. Had I been asked, in the case of the persons referred to, I should probably have agreed, but I was not asked.
In justice to the Press, I have to state that they have not been requested by anybody.
That shows you how history is made.
Question: "That Section 18 stand part of the Bill," put and agreed to.
(1) In the case of every holding to which this Act applies rent and arrears of rent accrued due up to and including the gale day next preceding the date of the passing of this Act shall not be payable by the tenant and no proceedings against the tenant for recovery of arrears of rent shall be begun, continued or enforced after the passing of this Act.
There shall be payable by the tenant to the Land Commission a sum hereinafter referred to as "compounded arrears of rent" ascertained as provided in the sub-section following.
(2) Compounded arrears of rent shall be a sum equivalent to the total rent and arrears due on the gale day next preceding the passing of this Act in respect of rent accrued since the first gale day in the year 1920 less a deduction of 25 per cent.: Provided that any payments made by the tenant after the second gale day in the year 1920 shall be appropriated to the rent which accrued since the first gale day in that year. In any case where a hanging gale is customary any payment of rent shall be deemed to have been made in respect of the gale next after the gale in respect of which it was actually made.
(3) Compounded arrears of rent shall be payable, as to so much thereof as does not exceed 75 per cent. of the annual rent, immediately after the date of the passing of this Act and as to the balance, if any, on such date or dates before the appointed day as may be prescribed by the Land Commission: Provided that in any case where not less than three years' arrears are due and the tenant so requests in the prescribed manner one half-year's compounded arrears of rent shall be added to the purchase money and repaid by means of a purchase annuity calculated at the rate of 4¾ per cent. on the amount thereof added to and consolidated with the standard purchase annuity for the holding.
(4) Compounded arrears of rent shall be collected and accounted for to the person or persons entitled thereto by the Land Commission in accordance with rules made by them. Provided that the Land Commission shall when paying over the amount collected first deduct therefrom income tax and such sum to go towards costs of collection as the Land Commission consider reasonable and proper.
(5) Where any money has been levied or recovered by a landlord after the 28th day of May, 1923, under or in consequence of any judgment or decree in any proceedings against the tenant of a holding to which this Act applies for the recovery of rent or in ejectment then:—
(a) if such money shall have been levied or recovered prior to the 3rd day of July, 1923, and so much thereof as consisted of rent exceeds the sum to which compounded arrears of rent would have otherwise amounted, or
(b) if such money shall have been so levied or recovered on or after the 3rd day of July, 1923, and the entire amount thereof (including rent, costs and expenses) exceeds the sum to which compounded arrears of rent would have otherwise amounted,
the difference between such rent or such entire amount (including rent, costs and expenses) as the case may be and the sum to which compounded arrears of rent would have otherwise amounted shall be set off against the moneys to become payable by the tenant in lieu of rent as hereinafter provided, and the equivalent payment by the Land Commission shall be proportionately reduced.
I beg to move: Sub-section (2):—To delete, in line 19, the figures "1920," and to substitute therefor the figures "1921." The meaning of this and the next amendment is to reduce the amount of the compounded arrears of rent from three to two years, less 25 per cent. This is the most objectionable section of the Bill from the unpurchased tenants' point of view. Three years are to be paid, one year at the present time, one year at the passing of the Bill, and the balance before the appointed day. That would cause a great deal of hardship to a large number of unpurchased tenants, and the payment of these arrears will leave them in a serious financial embarrassment at the beginning of their career as tenant purchasers. From the National point of view it is very desirable that they should have a fair start, and that they should not be encumbered with a load of debt. I am not aware that there was any general cessation of payment of rent for a longer period than one year.
I am sure that if there are tenants owing three years' arrears the greater part of that was due to their inability to pay it, and not because they withheld the rent from the landlords. Under no previous Land Purchase Act was there any provision for the payment of such a large sum of arrears. In the Land Law Act it was made impossible for the landowner to recover more than two years' arrears. In the 1920 Bill there was no mention of payment of any arrears, nor was there any statement as to the payment of the costs of providing the landlords' title. I think the amendment is a very moderate one, and that the landlord who gets two years' arrears out of three should consider himself very fortunate. That this Bill is perfectly fair to the landlords, considering all the difficulties we have to encounter in this country, is proved by the speeches that were made in the House of Lords on the 23rd of this month by the Earl of Birkenhead and the Duke of Devonshire. I think that opinion has been corroborated in this Seanad by Senator the Earl of Mayo, who stated that English landowners would jump at the terms offered in the Bill.
That has been thrown at my head several times. I expected when I said that that I should be challenged on it. Nobody challenged me, but now that I have been challenged I wish to state that you must remember that the English landlord has got to keep up his barns and gates and everything on the property but the Irish landlord has not.
I will just read a short extract from the speeches in the House of Lords referring to the comparison between the terms offered by this Bill and the 1920 Bill. The Earl of Birkenhead said:—
The fundamental question was: "Is this Bill as between the different parties an equitable Bill, or is it not?" The price, including bonus payable under the present Bill in the case of first and second term rents, was greater than the minimum price including bonus, payable under the Bill of 1920 (the Earl of Midleton dissented). The noble earl had omitted from his calculations the fact that under the present Bill the costs of sale were payable by the State, a provision which added 2 per cent. at least to the bonus of 10 per cent. payable on the purchase price. Further, provision was made for repayment of arrears of rent, not by the tenant, but by the Land Commission. No such provision was contained in the 1920 Bill, and he doubted, whether if that Bill had passed into law, the landlords would ever have received one penny of the arrears which even then accrued."
That is the statement of the Earl of Birkenhead, which was corroborated to a certain extent by the Duke of Devonshire who said:—
"In the case of first and second term rents, under the 1920 Bill the maximum price which a vendor could receive in respect of a one hundred pounds gross rental was £1,740 5s., and the minimum £1,496. Invested at 5 per cent. the maximum gave the vendor a future income of £87, and the minimum of £74 5s. In the case of third term rents the figures were:— maximum, £1,804 1s., giving a future income of £90 2s.; minimum, £1,770 7s., giving a future income of £88 5s. Under the 1923 Bill now before the Irish Parliament, in which there was a flat rate all round, for first and second term rents the purchase price (taking the same basis) was £1,505, giving to the vendor an income of £67 7s., and third term rents, £1,626, giving an income of £72 5s. The actual money which was given for £100 gross rental under the 1923 Bill (£1,505) was greater than the minimum which was proposed under the 1920 Bill. It was based on £1,496 for first and second term rents, but of course the income was less by reason of the rate of interest being 5 per cent. in the case of the 1920, and only 4½ per cent. under the present Bill. The difference is one which would very severely affect a great many landlords."
That shows that there are very generous terms given to the landlords under this Bill and that they need not ask the full pound of flesh as regards these arrears. In a lot of those cases those arrears would never have been collected. We all know that in a great many cases the arrears of rent have to be wiped out year after year by landlords, and we, as representatives of the State, will have to look into the future of these 70,000 unpurchased tenants, whom we will expect to pay punctually and regularly their annuities for a long number of years. I think it is a very bad policy on our part that we should insist on the payment of the full three years' arrears. Where it is due, two years' arrears ought to be sufficient. I think, if my amendment errs in any respect, it is because I do not propose to provide for a reduction of one year instead of two.
I rise to oppose the amendment. On the Report Stage of this Bill I undertook to consider the whole position as far as I could in a detached manner. I have no interest in the landowners. Yet I feel that this clause would be a great injustice to many small holders in Ireland. I take a concrete case. There are many owners with, say, £100 a year. For the last year or two, owing to the agitation, they found it impossible to collect their rents. They are now met with the position that they cannot provide for themselves. They had to live entirely on the goodwill of the shopkeepers and others who allow them to run up debts. Take, as I said before, a concrete case of a person who has a rental of £100. We assume that they believe that a sum of £300 is due to them. The Government step in and say: "No, £300 is not due to you. What is due to you is £300 less 25 per cent. reduction." Now Senator Linehan comes in further and says. "Why should you get that £225? You will only get two-thirds of it, which would be about £175." So that these poor people who have nobody to represent them or to speak for them are to repudiate all their debts and are to go down unhonoured and unsung. There are a number of people who, I believe, could have paid if they wished to pay. All of us who purchased, discharged our liabilities and paid our annuities. I hope and believe that the new owners created under this Act will discharge and pay their liabilities. If they are not going to do so, I believe the State would not advocate this Bill. Are we now to suggest that because men agitate sufficiently they are to have sums of money owing by them wiped out? That is not a precedent that we should allow as acting fairly between man and man. For that purpose I move my amendment, and I congratulate the Government and the Dáil for having tried to act reasonably between the landlord and tenant in most Sections, and on this particular Section they have acted reasonably. I do not think they have acted unjustly to the tenant.
Arising out of what Senator Linehan has said with regard to his statement that he did not know of any case where more than one year's arrears are due, I would like to point out——
I said that I did not know of any cases where general cessation of payment of rents accrued for more than one year.
I am aware of the fact that Senator Linehan occupies a prominent position as Chairman of the Farmers' Union in Cork. But the Farmers' Union has made a point of acting quite distinct from the Unpurchased Tenants' Association, and that may explain why Senator Linehan is not fully instructed in the matter, because the records will show that in a portion of his own county a substantial portion of arrears of more than one year's standing are due. On a point of arithmetic he suggests that if a further year's arrears are wiped off, you reduce the arrears to two years. The landlord will be getting two out of the three due. If he looks into the matter he will find that the landlord will be only getting one and a half out of three years, because the 25 per cent. deduction presumably remains. With regard to the extracts quoted from speeches in the House of Lords, I have only this to say, that those gentlemen said this Bill was fair, and I do not see why this Seanad should now by accepting the last proposal suggested by Senator Linehan make it unfair.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 24.
- R.A. Butler.
- Cornelius J. Irwin.
- Thomas Linehan.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- William Barrington.
- Thomas Westropp Bennett.
- John C. Counihan.
- Dowager Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Everard.
- Thomas Farren.
- Earl of Granard.
- Mrs. Stopford Green.
- H. S. Guinness.
- A. Jackson.
- Rt. Hon. A. Jameson.
- Sir John Keane.
- P.W. Kenny.
- Earl of Kerry.
- J. Clayton Love.
- E. McEvoy.
- J. MacKean.
- J. MacLoughlin.
- E. MacLysaght.
- Earl of Mayo.
- James Moran.
- William O'Sullivan.
- Colonel Sir Hutcheson Poe.
- Earl of Wicklow.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment 5 (Senator Thomas Linehan): To delete in Section 19, Sub-section (2), line 21, the figures "1920," and to substitute therefor the figures "1921," withdrawn by leave.
I desire to move the following amendment:—
Section 19, Sub-section (2): To insert after the word "year," in line 22, the words "save where, by the usual custom of the estate, the tenants paid their rents yearly after the second gale day of the year, only a half-year of the payment made after the second gale day of 1920 shall be appropriated to the rent which shall have accrued since the first gale day in that year."
I do not think this amendment would be regarded as controversial. It is necessitated owing to the fact that on a minority of the estates rent has been paid annually. I will take a specific case. For the year ending September 30th the rent was paid in November. Under the Bill as it at present stands half of that rent must be set off as against the half year ending March 31st. If that same tenant had followed the usual practice and paid one moiety in May and another in September, no such readjustment of the receipts would be necessary. It is only to make the whole thing more equitable throughout that I move the amendment.
To suggest that any issue arising on the arrears question is non-controversial is to make a suggestion which is hardly correct. This is noncontroversial in one sense. It has been said, and might be argued, that the principle of the section is that any rent paid within the three years should be appropriated to the three years. It is controversial in that sense. I think the amendment does not exactly meet the point which Sir John Keane wishes to meet. If he wants to get in that point, perhaps I might suggest that the amendment would read as follows:—"Save that in a case where the payment of a yearly rent in one annual sum after the second gale day in the year is customary, a half year's rent out of the amount paid after the second gale day in the year 1920 shall not be so appropriated."
That approaches the thing from a different angle. A great many sections and people are trying to reopen the arrears question. I put it that you cannot settle issues in this connection really equitably. At best they are in the nature of a compromise. The general principle is there that a man should pay his debts, and when you are dealing with a man who does not pay his debts you are dealing with him on lines of pure expediency. No matter how I could draft the section, it would not be so perfect as that you could not find some points which could be improved. This is not a very important point. It does not affect a great number of landlords and tenants, and in the circumstances I would ask the Seanad to leave the section as it is.
I listened with great attention to what the Minister has said, and I want to ask him if this was introduced as an amendment and accepted when the Bill originally was introduced in the Dáil? The Minister has made a suggestion, and it is very difficult suddenly to arrive at its effect on both landlord and tenant, but as the clause stands the effect is that the rent due in November, 1921, would be practically and absolutely reduced by 76 per cent.
A matter more pertinent to the immediate amendment is this: The Minister has suggested to Sir John Keane that if this amendment was to be made in the Bill it could be more appropriately made in another way. He suggested that if it ought to be introduced it should be introduced in another form. Perhaps, in view of that it might be as well to let the amendment stand over until the Report Stage, when Sir John Keane will have his alternative.
I am agreeable to that, but I am advised that a number of estates are affected to the extent of half a year's rent, and it is hard that they should be affected merely through accident and not intention. The amendment will possibly be brought up in a new form in the next stage.
I think you should avail of the courtesy of the Minister and confer with him.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move the following amendment standing in the name of the Earl of Mayo:——
In Section 19, Sub-section (4), to delete "all," after the word "facts," in line 42, and to substitute therefor the words "less the statutory deductions and such costs of collection as are actually incurred."
The statutory deductions have been referred to here simply to see that they have not been lost sight of. They may be lost sight of if not brought into the clause in parenthesis. As regards the cost of collection, the draft of the original clause is a little obscure, and its obscurity is in favour of the Land Commission. I think it would be better if the concluding part read "and such costs of collection as are actually incurred." That would safeguard the interests of those people who in the past have been accustomed to the collecting of rents. I refer to agents, etc.
I support that. With regard to the statutory deductions, the Minister may say that it may not be necessary to specify that, as it is inherent in the existing law, but it would make it clearer if it were inserted. It is not an equitable thing to place any additional expense on an owner. Where the owner has been paying an agent or solicitor to collect his rent he should be allowed to do so. Where he does not do so, and where he bears the expense himself, he should have a claim to be appointed collector, and if you like the cost of it should be paid to him.
With regard to the first part of the amendment, "less the statutory deduction," I do not quite understand the point. Surely the deduction, for instance, of one-eighth is made from the assessment and not from the income tax. Surely what happens is that when the assessment is settled with the Revenue Commissioners the statutory deductions are made on the assessment, and the vendor pays income tax on the final figure as assessed. If the Land Commission did not take over these estates the vendor would settle his assessment with the Commissioners of Inland Revenue and pay income tax, and afterwards if his rent was less than the amount which he had actually paid he would get a refund. Here we get the rent, and pay the same as we would pay dividends. We deduct the income tax. The assessment is a matter afterwards between the Revenue Commissioners and the vendor. He settles his assessment, and gets, say, a deduction of one-eighth, and that figure is so many pounds. If his income tax is too much he goes to the Commissioners and gets a refund, just as he would have got a refund if, after collecting his rents, he was able to show the Commissioners that he was assessed too high. This amendment, if it means that we should prepare the assessment from which the statutory deductions are made, would mean that the Land Commission would have to do the functions of the Inland Revenue Commissioners.
That would be impossible. I may be misunderstanding the amendment, but if you are asking us to take the assessment and the statutory deduction from the assessment you are asking us to do what the Inland Revenue Commissioners are paid to do. There are no statutory deductions that I know of from the actual rent. They are made on the assessment. I think there was some idea that we would say that this was not rent, that it was compounded arrears of rent or payment in lieu of rent, and that there would be some technical point arising by which the vendor could not get his usual deduction of one-eighth. There is no danger about that. The fact that your rent is reduced by twenty-five per cent. does not directly or indirectly prevent any vendor from getting the usual statutory deduction he would get in respect of the assessment on his property.
I think there is some misunderstanding, but it can be cleared up in the passage of this Bill. The practice hitherto has been that any owner of land can elect to be assessed either on Schedule A on the poor law valuation less the statutory deduction or on the rent received less the statutory deduction. Whichever method he adopted, the statutory deduction of one-eighth was allowed.
No, that is where we differ. I am advised to the contrary. I am advised it was always allowed whether you elected to be assessed on the poor law valuation or on the rent received. In any case, these compounded arrears are income, and all the landlords are asking is that the practice hitherto prevailing will still prevail.
You cannot expect the Land Commission to find out how the owner elects to be assessed, and then make out the assessment on the rent and make a certain deduction. It would take a tremendous staff to do that. There is no question of doubt, if the Land Commission deducts the rent the owner can go to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, get all deductions, and have the matter adjusted. The Land Commission are saving vendors a lot of trouble by taking over estates and collecting rent for them, and handing it over to them as if it was interest in lieu of rent. On the other point, the cost of collection, it is apparently feared that the Land Commission would pay some of their own officials and would not act fairly in the matter.
No, I do not think that—not that the money should go to the Land Commission, but that it should go to the people who collect it.
The Land Commission collect it. They will employ the agents and pay them for work done. That clause was put in as it was thought to be the fairest thing from the vendor's point of view.
I do not think that the Minister has met the case of the owner who is keeping no agent. It is not reasonable to ask him to appoint an agent for this purpose as he would have to take over his books and so forth. Where an owner has been acting as his own agent I think nothing should be deducted, or he should be paid the cost ordinarily payable to the agent.
Section 22 deals with the matter. The Land Commission must employ clerks and agents, and other officials of that sort who are in the employment of the vendors. A man who has no agent or clerk will be asked to give particulars, and we will be able to give him his rent without any cost.
We thought it better to have it in general terms.
You will not charge costs in that case?
Then, I withdraw my amendment. I take it that the Minister, possibly on the Report Stage, may receive an amendment after consultation with the Income Tax Authorities?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I propose the following two amendments:—Section 19, Sub-section (5): "To delete, in line 51, the figure ‘3rd,' and to substitute therefor the figure ‘1st'; and also, to delete in line 55 the figure ‘3rd' and to substitute therefor the figure ‘1st.'"
Unless there is some substantial reason for fixing the date as the 3rd of the month, I think it would be more convenient to have it fixed on the 1st or the end of the month.
The 3rd of July; there is not an arbitrary date. On that date I propose to do what we have put into the Section. We fixed the date for the 3rd rather than the 1st, because we thought it right that the vendors should have notice that this was to be done. They got notice on the 3rd of July, and we therefore inserted it. I do not think it ought to be changed.
After that statement I ask leave to withdraw my amendments.
Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to propose the following amendment:—Section 19. To insert after this section a new Section 20, as follows:—"20. In any case where an abatement or allowance of the rent of a holding to which this Act applies is voluntarily given by the landlord, the nominal rent, less the amount of such voluntary allowance, shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be the annual rent to which such holding is subject at the passing of this Act."
There are some cases where tenants of non-judicial holdings have been for years in the habit of receiving temporary abatements, and if something like this is not inserted in several of these cases the compounded arrears of rent, calculated according to the Act, will be greater than the amount of rent which they have been paying for some years past.
I have got a receipt here in one of these cases where the rent was put down at £10 13s. 9d. half-yearly, with an abatement of £3 4s. The cash is £7 7s. If some clause like this one is not put into the Act, instead of that tenant paying £7 7s. he would have to pay £8. The compounded arrears of rent unless such a provision is made will be greater than the actual rent they have been paying.
I want to draw the Senator's attention to the latter part of Section 22, Sub-section 3 which says:—
Any question arising between a tenant and a landlord regarding the accuracy of any particulars furnished pursuant to this section shall be determined by the Land Commission in accordance with rules made by them, save that in the case of a holding subject to a judicial rent the record filed in the Land Commission shall be final and conclusive in all matters appearing thereon except that where the judicial rent was fixed before the 1st day of April, 1899, the adjustment provided for by Section 54 of the Local Government Act, 1898, shall be taken into account in determining the amount of rent, and save that any question as to whether an agreement for an abated rent was in fact an agreement for a new rent or any question as to the amount from which the deduction of 25 per cent. is to be made in ascertaining compounded arrears of rent and payment in lieu of rent shall be determined by the Judicial Commissioner, whose decision shall be final.
That I think meets the merits of the case.
The Judge may require an agreement, written or verbal, as to when the rent was reduced. These receipts only show a temporary abatement.
Your amendment could not possibly work, because it does not provide any test as to the duration of the abatement. If it was given for a half-year according to you, it would be enough, whereas every other half-year there might be no abatement. You specify no period, and I think you would be very wise to leave it as it stands in Section 22, so that a judge could consider the fact.
The receipt I quoted is dated 1897.
Your amendment fixes no period at all.
I would ask the Minister to look into the section, and see if it fully covers cases of this kind.
When you say cases, there is no case of any kind in your amendment, but you have a case where you produce a receipt. I think it would be better and safer to leave it in the words of Section 22.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question: "That Section 19 stand part of the Bill," put and agreed to.
(1) In the case of every holding to which this Act applies, rent shall not be payable by the tenant in respect of any period after the gale day next preceding the date of the passing of this Act. There shall be payable by the tenant to the Land Commission as from the gale day next preceding the date of the passing of this Act an annual sum in lieu of rent equivalent to 75 per cent. of the annual rent to which the holding was subject at the passing of this Act which sum is hereinafter referred to as "payment in lieu of rent."
(2) Payment in lieu of rent shall be collected by the Land Commission in accordance with rules made by them.
(3) Payment in lieu of rent shall continue to be payable up to the appointed day.
(4) There shall be payable by the Land Commission to the person or persons entitled to receive the same a sum equal to the amount to be collected as payment in lieu of rent, from the gale day next preceding the date of the passing of this Act up to the appointed day, less income tax and such deduction towards cost of such collection as the Land Commission shall consider reasonable and proper. This sum, less such deductions as aforesaid, shall be paid in equal half-yearly instalments, and in accordance with rules made by the Land Commission.
(5) If the interest of any person entitled to receive the rent of a holding or holdings shall not be sufficient to constitute him a person having power to sell to tenants under the Land Purchase Acts, any rent payable by him to the next superior landlord in respect of the holding or holdings shall be reduced by 25 per cent., and, if necessary for the purpose of ascertaining the rent payable by such person in respect of the lands comprised in the holding or holdings, any rent payable by him shall be apportioned by the Land Commission as the justice of the case may require. Similar provisions shall supply, and proportionate reductions shall be made in the case of any superior rents payable by any superior landlords who have not an interest sufficient to constitute them persons entitled to sell under the Land Purchase Acts.
I move: Section 20, Sub-section 5, to delete the sub-section. This is a very intricate section, and excessively difficult to understand. I have not moved it in any hostile spirit, and if the Minister would like to explain it I should like to be allowed to say something afterwards.
This Section was meant to meet the case of a judicial future or present tenant whose holding was occupied by a sub-tenant. It does not apply, as it states, to any person whose interest is not sufficient to constitute him a person having power to sell under the Land Acts. It does not apply to long leases of more than sixty years, or fee farm grants, or leases for life renewable for ever. It only contemplates the case of a tenant having a sub-tenant on a holding. When we had to deal with arrears we thought it only fair to spread the loss. Take the case of a judicial tenant whose rent is £80. He has a sub-tenant who is paying £100 rent. The sub-tenant pays £100, leaving a profit rent of £20 yearly. Under our proposals the £80 will be reduced to £60 and the £100 to £75. The section provides that the rent of the sub-tenant and the rent of the tenant shall be reduced by 25 per cent. As a result of the reduction the judicial rent is £60 and the rent of the sub-tenant £75, leaving a profit rent to the judicial tenant of £15. If we omitted the section the result would be that the judicial tenant, the middleman, so to speak, would still be paying £80, whereas the sub-tenant would be getting a reduction of 25 per cent., and would only be paying £75, so that there would be a loss on the tenant of £5 yearly. The section is to meet the case of a tenant with a sub-tenant on his holding, and who has not sufficient title to enable him to sell.
"If the interest of any person is not sufficient to constitute him a person having power to sell." Who could such a person be? He can be a tenant who had a sub-tenancy. The tenant would be entitled to receive rent from the sub-tenant, but would not have sufficient interest to entitle him to sell He could be a man with a short lease, or a lease for lives not renewable for ever. The man we are talking about could not be the owner of a fee farm grant or a long lease.
I listened to that, and I feel there is still a fence to get over. If the Minister will look at the beginning of Sub-section 5 it says "If the interest of any person." The Minister has qualified that by the words "shall not be sufficient to constitute him a person having power to sell to tenants under the Land Purchase Act." The Minister says that it constitutes him a tenant, and not an owner.
Or someone who holds under a short lease.
It is very difficult indeed to understand this. If you divide it into two parts and stop at the word "necessary" you have a clear understanding of the section. And then you go on, "for the purpose of ascertaining the rent payable by such person in respect of the lands comprised in the holding," etc. My contention is that "a person" comprises all persons who hold land. The effect of that is that a middleman or sub-tenant whose interest is not sufficient to constitute him a person having power to sell may be in receipt of rents from the occupying tenants of £500 per annum, while the rent payable by him to the superior landlord may be £100. Does it mean that the £100 per annum is to be reduced by 25 per cent.? If so, it would be manifestly unfair to the superior landlord. If the superior landlord question is wiped out I have nothing more to say.
The superior landlord is not wiped out in this sense. We ask the superior landlord to take the rent reduced by 25 per cent. I can imagine a case of a judicial tenant with a rent of £10. He let his holding, if you like, to a sub-tenant for £200. It would be, in the circumstances, unfair. It would be taking a very great advantage if he could reduce the head landlord's rent of £10 yearly by 25 per cent. Of course, he would be receiving his rent less 25 per cent. We are again dealing with tenants and with a general question. When you reduce rents by 25 per cent. you are certain to do some individual hardship. The question is to do as little as possible. Our idea was to try to spread this loss of 25 per cent. I do not know if we are agreed on that. We wish in Sub-section 5 to deal only with tenants who have sub-tenants. We considered it very carefully from that point of view, and that was the only possible way we could draft the section. We meant to make it clear, and I am told by the lawyers it is clear, that the only sort of middlemen who would not have power to sell under the Land Purchase Acts would be tenants who are middlemen or owners of short leases.
An owner for life in fee-simple can sell, and so can the owner of a fee-farm grant or a long lease renewable for ever. The only possible middlemen we could refer to are tenants or owners of short leases. If it is a judicial holding, an ordinary tenancy, and if such a tenant has a sub-tenant on the holding, he must under the Act get the reduction. That is only fair, that the tenant who is a middleman should be entitled to a reduction as against the landlord. If the middleman had not a sub-tenant on the holding there would be no question about it. It would be unfair that the landlord should have the benefit by reason of the fact that the tenant was unfortunate enough to have a sub-tenant It is clear, if we did not give that reduction to tenants who have sub-tenants, and if we gave the reduction to the sub tenants and not to the tenants, cases such as I have quoted would arise.
I am informed, and I think it is quite possible, that a middleman or sub-tenant has found farms and has been able to buy cheaply because the tenants have suddenly become hard up. He has bought several of these farms, and holds them and has to pay very little rent. Therefore, the landlord ought to be able to get his full rent without any reduction from men who have really gone into the country to speculate on the poverty of tenants who have not been able to carry on.
You refer to people who bought tenants' interests. For the one case of a man who bought a tenant's interest cheaply—and it was not easy to buy a tenant's interest cheaply during the last five years—there are any amount of other cases of widows and that sort of people where the judicial or present tenant of holdings have sub-tenants. These cases are far more numerous, and we must give them the same reduction in rents as the people who have no sub-tenant. The reason they have sub-tenants is because they are poor and because they are unable to stock their land. You might have hardships in the other direction. You may have cases, as you suggest, where the tenant has a rent of £10 and gets £200 from a sub-tenant, but, on the other hand, you might have far more hardship in the other direction. We could not give a reduction of 25 per cent. to every tenant, except a tenant who happened to have a sub-tenant.
The superior landlord has to suffer with the rest.
Why should not the landlord to whom the head rent is payable also get a reduction? Although the point does not arise on the amendment, I have never been able to understand that.
The point does not arise now. This section deals with judicial rents. The other question is a very big one, as to whether we should not reduce head rents.
I am very much obliged to the Minister; but there are in many cases people who have been speculating in this way. That is the reason I raised the question.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 20, 21, 22, and 23 added to the Bill.
(1) Where the whole or part of a holding of tenanted land, which is vested in the Land Commission by virtue of this Act, is sublet, otherwise than for the purpose of temporary depasturage, agistment or conacre, or for temporary convenience or to meet a temporary necessity, then for the purposes of the provisions of this Act, as to the standard price and as to resales by the Land Commission, the following provisions shall have effect:—
(a) If the entire of the holding is in the occupation of a sub-tenant, the rent payable by the sub-tenant shall be taken to be the rent payable in respect of the holding, and the sub-tenant shall be taken to be the tenant,
(b) If the entire of the holding is in the occupation of two or more sub-tenants, the portion in the occupation of each sub-tenant shall be treated as a separate holding held at the rent payable in respect of the sub-tenancy and the sub-tenant shall be treated as the tenant thereof.
(c) If portion of the holding is in the occupation of the tenant, and the remainder is in the occupation of one or more sub-tenants, the portion in the occupation of the tenant shall be treated as a separate holding held at an apportioned part of the rent payable in respect of the entire holding, the apportionment being made according to rateable value, or (if that portion is not separately rated) according as may be determined by the Land Commission (other than the Judicial Commissioner) and the tenant shall be treated as tenant thereof, and so much of the remainder of the holding as is in the occupation of any sub-tenant shall be treated as a separate holding held at the rent payable in respect of the sub-tenancy, and the sub-tenant shall be treated as the tenant thereof.
(d) Where portion of a holding is sublet and that portion is of such character that it ought not in the opinion of the Land Commission to be treated as a separate holding for the purposes aforesaid, the Land Commission may treat the holding as if the portion was not sub-let or in the occupation of the sub-tenant.
(2) For the purposes of this Section, Sub-section (2) of Section 15 of the Irish Land Act, 1903, shall apply with the substitution of "the Judicial Commissioner" for "the Land Commission," and the substitution of "the Vendor" for "the owner of the Estate."
I beg to move Amendment No. 12 and 14:—To omit all the words from the word "and" in line 45 of Sub-section 1, Section 24, to the word "land" in line 48, and in Section 24, Sub-sections 2 and 3, to delete these sub-sections and to substitute therefor the following new sub-sections:—
(2) Where the Land Commission, be fore the appointed day, declare in the prescribed manner that any land, wherever situated, is required for the purpose of relieving congestion, then such land shall vest in the Land Commission, pursuant to this section.
(3) Where the owner is not in possession of more than 300 acres of arable land the foregoing sub-sections shall not apply to—
(a) Any land which has been purchased under the Land Purchase Acts or is, on the appointed day, the subject of an actual purchase agreement thereunder, lodged with the Land Commission before the date of the passing of this Act; or
(b) Any parcel of untenanted land which is a demesne, home farm, park, garden or pleasure ground, or any holding usually occupied by a person regularly employed on such demesne, home farm, park, garden or pleasure ground; or
(c) Any parcel of untenanted land which consists of or forms part of land which was purchased under the provisions of the Irish Church Act, 1869, for a sum not exceeding two thousand pounds; or
(d) Any holding or parcel of untenanted land which, in the opinion of the Land Commission, possesses a substantial value or utility, whether potential or actual, as building ground; or
(e) Any “glebe,” as defined by the Act of 38th and 39th Victoria, Chapter 42, which now is, or hereafter shall be, held or occupied by any “ecclesiastical persons,” as by the same Act defined.
The foregoing sub-sections shall not apply in any case to:—
(a) Any land which is not at the date of the passing of this Act substantially agricultural or pastoral, or partly agricultural and partly pastoral in character, or any land comprised in a holding the main object of the letting of which was for a residence; or
(b) Any land which is vested in or held in trust for the State or any Government Department, or is held by any local or public authority (otherwise than as tenants thereof) for the purposes of their powers and duties as such, or is held by any corporation for the purposes of a railway, tramway, dock, canal, water, gas, electricity, or any other public undertaking.
This matter of purchased tenants is of the greatest importance, and it is a question that will be very seriously raised throughout the country, that the lands of purchased tenants are no longer sacrosanct. I believe it will cause very great trouble. It is from this point the biggest objection to the Bill comes. The Minister knows that I am just as much in earnest about the question of congests as anybody else. It is of the greatest possible importance, and it has to be settled somehow. The difficulty one has to face is how to get sufficient land for them. I have tried to make arrangements by this amendment, and to effect a compromise. The whole of my amendment is to make a sort of compromise with the Minister, and to say to him: "Yes, we have land. You want land for the congests; you can take it, but with one exception, that a man must be allowed to have and to hold 300 acres of land which you cannot touch." If he has 400 acres of land, the Land Commission take away 100 acres. If he has 700 acres, they can take away 400 acres, and so on. The real reason is that the Land Commission shall have the power they claim on condition that they leave the owner of the homestead 300 acres and on condition that he cannot be turned out of it.
The amendment is an attempt to allay some of the difficulties that have already been raised. The Minister, in reply to the question of confiscation, stated that the only real change in the matter had been in bringing two classes which were formerly excepted within the powers of the Land Commission—namely, old purchased tenants and demesnes.
As I understand this amendment, I am not very clear about it. It seems that any land in excess of 300 acres can be put into a sort of heap and used for congests and other purposes the Government may see fit. I only wish to deal with one aspect of this case now, which arises out of amendment 12. This question of relieving the congests is the essence of the whole measure, and I am sorry to get my teeth into it, but I cannot help it. I feel that the whole future of our country, our peace and happiness are involved. The Minister said we were quite safe in the hands of the Oireachtas and its servants in the Land Commission, and, above all, we have got behind that the power of the Judiciary in the form of an appeal to the Judicial Commissioner. I am not satisfied on the mere technical aspect that those safeguards are assured, and I will take these things as if I were trying to argue them before a Judge.
The Land Commission schedules certain lands they require for the purposes of congests. They come before the Judicial Commissioner with their scheme. They naturally are unable to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's" of the scheme. They are not bound to give the particulars of every individual they propose to put on the land. They put up good bona fide cases. There are groups of congests in the same county, and there is a scheme to migrate other congests. The Judicial Commissioner vests the land. When that is vested the owner has no more to do with it than any other person in the community. The title has passed completely out of his possession. Now we come on to the Land Commission again. For good cause they find that they cannot bring their scheme into operation. It might be that these congests will not come. It may be that circumstances of which we all know may have come into operation. At the Agricultural Commission we had evidence that there is to-day an estate in the congested districts with houses built on it and ready for occupation. The peculiar circumstances of this case have been of long standing. Agrarian crime and unrest have not coincided with irregularism. For various causes these houses are unoccupied. The power of the law is not sufficiently strong. The vendor of that land is out of the question.
The Land Commission may have unwittingly to revise their scheme, and if they find that it is not possible to get congests to come to a particular area, they may have to go to other people. I need hardly say there are plenty of people willing to come in and enter upon the land. Now, that land is being applied to a totally different purpose for which it has been taken and vested, and the owner has no legal status to argue his case before a Court. A gentleman, a high legal dignitary, suggested to me that this might be got over by the owner asking to be heard as a ratepayer in the public interest. Was there ever anything so fanciful? In the cases I have outlined the Land Commission can put in anybody they like under Section 31. They can put in all these people, "including any other person to whom, in the opinion of the Land Commission, an advance ought to be made." When the Minister says my fears are illusory, I would ask him to deal specifically with the cases I have raised.
I argue that the Government are seeking those powers to take any parcel of purchased lands no matter how small for the relief of congestion. I am always willing to give the Government every reasonable power to acquire land for the relief of congestion; but to give them the power to take any untenanted land anywhere for the purpose of relieving congestion will be to render the security of any man who has bought land parlous in the extreme. If it is done, I think, the security of the country will be absolutely diminished, and the desire expressed by the Minister that we should secure and enhance the stability of the country so that money could be advanced on loan, will be destroyed. I may be told there is no possibility of these farms being taken. I would ask Senators to deliberately apply themselves to the section. I would direct their attention specially to Sub-section 2. That specifically includes any land purchased under the Land Purchase Acts.
My reading of that clause is this, that no matter how small the farm, it is in the power of the Land Commission to take it if they require it. I do not think that the Seanad would consider it just to take a small farm of 30 to 60 acres for the purpose of relieving congestion. I may be told it would not be so used. We can look a little bit ahead. I think it is our duty to guard against the possibilities of anything being subscribed to by us at this moment which would render it possible for a man who is a small owner, and who would require the rights for his people that those rights should be filched from him. I, as a juror, read such into it, and for that reason I support Colonel Moore's amendment that these words be deleted, and then I feel that under this section there is no danger that a small portion of land will be taken for the purposes of congestion.
You allowed Senator Moore to travel over not only the amendment the last Senator was discussing, but the whole of Clause 24. Clause 24 is the real kernel of the Bill. It is the clause which gives immense power to the Land Commission and to the Government to take land all over Ireland for the purpose of congestion, and for the purpose of putting landless men on the land. In the Second Reading debate where the Minister explained his Bill, he said very truly that it would take many years to settle congestion. Many Governments on the other side of the water had tried it, and many Governments had tried to remove congests from one part of Ireland to another. I quite understand the wishes of the present Government to deal with congestion. I know what congestion is. I have seen it in its worst aspects. I feel that in this new Government the question must be dealt with, and I may have something to say on it later on in the clause. I am not in favour of deleting the whole of this clause, because that is what Senator Moore's amendments mean.
I am transferring the whole power of taking land out of that clause and leaving them very much greater power in Sub-section (3). The seizing of land is divided between Sub-section (1) and (3), Sub-section (3) being much larger and more extensive. I did not see any reason for that.
I quite understood the meticulous explanation that Senator Moore has given, but the fact remains that this clause is the kernel of the Bill, and later on I shall have something to say about its details. The whole gist of Colonel Moore's speech was to wipe out this clause. That is the impression he made upon my mind, and I daresay on the mind of some others. If Section 24, Sub-section (1) and the others are all moved together, I for one shall not vote with him on that. When it comes to dealing with the clause in certain parts then I reserve what I shall have to say on it. My experience in this Committee, and I have had some experience on Committees on the other side, is that the Minister in charge of the Bill has done his best under the most difficult circumstances, and I know the pressure that is being brought to bear on him, pressure of all sorts, from all sides, and from interested and uninterested parties, and parties on the other side that wish to make mischief in this country.
Senator Colonel Moore's two amendments attempted to meet the case by allowing us to do everything we wanted to do under the section, provided that we must leave a man £300 worth of land whether it be demesne or purchase land. It was a genuine attempt to meet the difficulty. I have considered this question from every point of view. I am afraid that distinction makes all the difference. There is enough of untenanted land in Ireland to deal with congestion. When I speak of untenanted land I do not mean demesne land or purchased holdings, and I do not mean that portion of tenanted land which is over £3,000 in value. It is extremely hard to get accurate figures on this question of congestion. The operations have been so complicated as many things have occurred, and occurred so rapidly, with regard to the land question during the last twenty years. The best figures which I have got lead me to the conclusion that there is enough of tenanted land to deal with congestion if we had the land in the right place. Shortly there are not more than 150,000 congests in Ireland purchased and unpurchased. These are, in my opinion, the maximum figures.
Do you mean families or individuals?
Families. There are 30,000 or 40,000 of those who cannot be dealt with, and who present a problem that must be solved outside land purchase. They cannot be dealt with for this reason, that there is no untenanted land, demesne or purchased land, or any other kind in the neighbourhood. There are no big tenants amongst them who can be migrated, and it would be quite impossible to migrate them without taking down a regiment of soldiers and doing something which would take on the character of a big eviction, and who, by reason of the fact that they are living in out-of-the-way places like Connemara, are unsuitable for migration, and are unable to adapt themselves to a new environment, and in whose neighbourhood there is no other untenanted land of any kind, demesnes or purchased holdings, or even big holdings of other tenants. It is a problem of the future to deal with that. That would leave 100,000 congests, who could be dealt with. Now, there are between 900,000 and 1,000,000 acres of untenanted land and arable land, leaving out demesne land, unpurchased in Ireland. These figures are for the whole country, but they give you the perspective. The land is of a valuation anything between 15s. and £1 per acre.
These figures are the result of a lot of investigation, but certainly the figures with regard to areas of land are accurate enough for our purposes, and undoubtedly 100,000 congests could be dealt with on the 900,000 acres of untenanted land if we had all the land in the right place. The average valuation of the congests is about £4 10s. or £5. Therefore, it would take land of £5 valuation to give each one an economic holding. If you assume that the 900,000 acres are worth a valuation of 15s. you will find that the figures fit in. As a result of all the research I have made I do feel that there is enough of untenanted land in Ireland to deal with 100,000 out of 150,000 congests, and possibly with the 150,000 if we had the land in the right place. We have not the land in the right place. If we could carry the land around with us there would be no difficulty about it. If those figures are correct there is only one way to deal with congestion, and that is by substituting or migrating the big tenant. You will get a small percentage of the small tenants to migrate within the same county, but the problem will have to be really tackled by way of migrating the big tenants and migrating the owners, or even the purchased holders to a certain extent; but if you are not prepared to give the Land Commission power to resume the holding of a big tenant and migrate him, and offer him the equivalent elsewhere, and to resume holdings, where necessary, of big purchased tenants and migrate them, then say so, but you cannot solve the question of congestion and you can make no decent attempt to solve it.
Whatever we do, let us be quite sure of the effect of what we are going to do. Senators are quite sure that the provisions in the Bill are going to lead to general insecurity. You can be far more certain that you cannot deal with congestion, and that you are only playing with congestion if you do not give the Land Commission power to take purchased holdings in certain cases. Of course, the Land Commission will offer what the Judicial Commissioners consider equivalent holdings elsewhere. Senator Colonel Moore suggested that we should leave 300 acres of land sacrosanct where it is demesne or purchased holdings. I realise it is a serious thing to reopen the work done under the 1903 and 1909 Acts. I know there are many influences through the country who want to re-open the whole question. I know it, because I have been pressed on this question, and if Senators only realised the number of other directions in which a great many people want to re-open the operations of the 1903 Acts they would probably be surprised.
The Government realise fully the seriousness of re-opening the operations completed under the 1903 and 1909 Acts. We know it is a serious thing for the State to give a holding, and then to come afterwards and take it back. That can only be justified by very serious reasons, and should only be given to the Land Commission under very definite safeguards. If the Land Commission has not power to take purchased holdings where necessary, to resume the holdings of large tenants, as well as power to take a certain amount of demesne land, then they cannot deal with congestion. We are only playing with it, and let us make up our minds that we are not to deal with it, and that we could only deal with it at too big a price. This is only for a specific purpose and where no other land is available, and I am willing to make that clearer, though I maintain it is clear in the section. I had thought along the lines that Senator Moore suggested of making a maximum, but we found that that distinction made all the difference. To meet the case of the general insecurity, the case put up that small purchased tenants all over the country are at present trembling in their shoes for fear we are going to take their holdings, I had thought of putting in some maximum. There are 13,000,000 acres of land purchased out of a total acreage of 20,000,000, including towns, waterways, bogs, etc., and I should say that nearly 75 per cent. of that area represents holdings under £25 valuation. Does anybody suggest that any of these tenant purchasers of £20 or thereabouts valuation are really trembling about this Bill and the prospect of the Land Commission taking their land? There is no use talking about general insecurity. There would be no general insecurity amongst people owning 75 per cent. of the purchased land.
If they knew it there would be.
They know it perfectly well. If one thing is fairly well known, it is, if we propose to take any land of any kind anywhere for the relief of congestion. You might say, "Why not lay down a limit? If 75 per cent. in area of the purchased land is owned by holders so small that you are not going to take that land in any circumstances, why not make that clear in the Bill?" We could do that. We could say that we would not touch any holding of £20 or £25 valuation, and that would settle the case once and for all as far as 75 per cent. of the area of purchased land was concerned. But would it be worth while, especially as it would suggest to everybody over £25 or £30 that we were going to take their holdings, when in fact we are not? Here is the difficulty. I lay down a limit of £3,000, and say that a man's land up to £3,000 is sacred. That is just the kind of farm you might want to take. Lay down a limit, if you like, of £1,000. If you go into Mayo, Kerry, Donegal, or any of the congested counties, you may have thirty little congests stuck there together, with one purchased farm next them of only 100 acres, and no other untenanted land of any kind near them. You could, perhaps, make them economic on that farm. Say there are five congested tenants stuck away in a corner of Connemara, with one fairly big purchased holding near them, which is a very common thing. That is just the holding you will want, and your limit of £1,000 bars it out.
If the Land Commission have a general discretion, and if you protect that discretion, as I claim we have protected it as well as we possibly could, they can go to that man and say to him, "We will sell you a nice holding in Meath, and they could migrate him. We may have acquired untenanted land in Meath; and why not? I am talking now of untenanted land—land which is not demesne. We may have acquired it in any county—Co. Galway, for instance, where there is a great deal of untenanted land not purchased yet, although half of it is a congested county. We could go to a man and say, "We will give you a holding a little better than your own, with a decent house on it, in some county thirty or forty miles away, and will sell it to you." He is a fairly well-off man, well educated, and able to adapt himself to the new surroundings. We are in a position to compel him to go, and he will go. If we could not compel him to go, he might tell us that in no circumstances would he go. The best we could hope for would be that he would go up to see the holding in the next county, and want at least twice as good a holding. That is a typical instance of what the Land Commission and the Congested Districts Board are up against. The same applies to tenanted land. We must have power of resuming tenanted land.
The Land Commission at present can resume tenanted land for a public purpose. The 1920 Bill, realising that, gave us all these powers in regard to tenanted land. We must have power to resume this land, because a very common case will be where we will find a large tenant with 100 acres in Connemara, with twelve or fourteen small tenants around him. They could be made economic on his holding. We could give him a better holding outside. In 70 per cent. of cases he will be glad to go. In 30 per cent. of cases he would not go. There is not the same hardship in making him go, because he is better able to adjust himself to the new surroundings, as he is better educated, and in the public interest we must take these steps. That is the reason I say that we cannot have this £3,000 limit, and that I find it impossible to put down a limit. As I say, we could put a limit, and say we will take no purchased holding over £25 valuation. That would be no good. We might find ourselves with a 40-acre holding in Achill or on the coast in Mayo. I know there are such cases. The Land Commission know that there are plenty of cases of purchased holdings of 40 acres that would just deal with the congestion around them. We should have power to take them, especially as we can give the tenants better holdings elsewhere.
If you are not prepared to give us power to take purchased holdings, where necessary, hedged round with suitable safeguards, and if you are not prepared to give us power to take demesne and resume tenanted holdings, we cannot deal with congestion, and we may as well say so. With regard to Senator Colonel Moore's suggestion, that this £3,000 limit would apply to demesnes, here is the difficulty. You have a demesne of 300 acres with one congest adjoining it. Five or ten acres would make him economic, or otherwise we might have to migrate him. It is too bad that we could not take the five or ten acres in a case like that. That is the difficulty of putting down a limit. The question is so complicated, and the facts and circumstances are so varied, that you must leave somebody to deal with this difficult question. No Act of Parliament could be drawn so subtly and so closely as to cover every case. Anyone who knows anything about the land question knows that the circumstances are extraordinary and that it would tax the ingenuity of the subtlest draughtsman to cover every case. It could not be done. You must give wide powers—that was always recognised—to the Land Commission. That is the fairest way in the long run. We can and do justify giving wide powers to the Land Commission by saying it is the only department with a High Court Judge at the head, and its acts must be carried out judicially.
I have not the slightest doubt myself, no matter what Government is in power, but that the Land Commission will carry out its duties as impartially in the future as in the past. Senator Sir John Keane pointed out that when the Land Commission took land for the relief of congestion, and that when they went to the High Court Judge they could not have a scheme to show the judge. Of course they could not. Anyone who knows the first thing about the land question knows that. It is very pleasant to quote this dilemma, but it is more difficult to solve it. We will have to show a High Court Judge that there is congestion in a neighbourhood, and that we propose to deal with these congests in that neighbourhood. At the time the claim might be to take out four of these congests. Afterwards, for one reason or another— and reasons change rapidly—we might decide to leave them there, take out a big tenant and put him in the same acreage of land in the demesne, and put the four congests on his land.
We do not say that the Land Commission shall show a scheme to the Judicial Commission when land is being taken up. It would be impossible, but they must persuade the High Court Judge that they want that land for the relief of congestion, if it is demesne land. The judge will have to be rigidly satisfied that it is wanted for the relief of congestion, and that there is no other suitable land available. I am willing to make that clearer if I can. I think it is clear in the Bill as drafted. That dilemma is there, and cannot be got over, human nature being what it is. The Senator says we take this land for the relief of congestion, but afterwards circumstances that we all know arise, and we find we cannot deal with the men there. Senator Sir John Keane was careful enough to point out that that did not start to-day or yesterday. The circumstances are not here to-day, and if we get another few months, there will not be a man in Ireland in another man's holding.
We cannot legislate on the assumption that the Government of the day is not able to maintain the laws. In the piping times of peace the English Government was unable to prevent agrarian outrages, largely because they delayed in dealing with the land question. Notwithstanding all the irregularism of the last year, and the opportunities people had to confiscate their neighbour's property, land, or anything else, at the present moment there is less land in the hands of nonowners, than I suppose in any period for the last fifty years. I do not know of a single case and if there is one, the owner is trying to hide it. There has not been a single attempt that I know of made by the men we have dealt with so drastically, to hit back. I am telling you what we are going to do after taking land bonâ fide for the relief of congestion. You cannot legislate on the assumption that the Government is unable to maintain the law. If the Government is unable to maintain the law——
The Minister misunderstood me. That was one suggestion. I also suggested that the other reasons might be that you might not be able to get the congests to go, and that the land under these circumstances might become redundant.
That is a contingency that no efficient Land Commission would allow to arise. I have said that I am willing to make it quite clear that this land can only be taken when other suitable land cannot be acquired. I have slightly amended an amendment of Senator Sir John Keane. The proviso to Sub-section 3 was put in after Section 2 deliberately. First: we took power to take land; secondly, we made exceptions; thirdly, we provided that in certain contingencies these exceptions could be touched. We did that to make it clear that the accepted land could not be touched when other land was available. As Senators say, there is some doubt about that. I am willing to add this Sub-section:—"The Land Commission shall not without the consent of the owner acquire land from him under the powers conferred on them by Sub-section (3) of this section, so long as there is other unacquired land in the same locality suitable for relieving congestion, which does not come within the exceptions mentioned in Sub-section (2) of this section, and which the Land Commission can acquire without exercising the special powers given by the said Sub-section" I trust that makes it abundantly clear; under Sub-section (3) it is pointed out "and where other suitable land cannot be obtained."
The Minister has made a very clear, concise and subtle explanation. The Minister told us that all the tenant purchasers who were to be disturbed were to be provided with holdings elsewhere. Where exactly is that referred to in the Bill?
In Section 31, under the heading "Advances for Purchase of Parcels of Land." Surely that covers it?
In that Section would the Minister mind altering the word "may" to "shall"? I do not want to leave anything to chance. I want to facilitate the passing of the Bill in every way, but I would like to see that particular point made clear.
The position in the Bill is that we acquire untenanted land compulsorily. We acquire the holding of a tenant purchaser compulsorily; he has no option. We are then in a position to make an offer to him. I do not say it is mandatory on us to do it, but of course that is what invariably would be done. We are in a position under Section 31 to make him an advance, and in all cases it would be much cheaper for the Land Commission to give those men a holding elsewhere. It would be much more satisfactory for the tenant coming in. The transaction in all cases is one of mere routine. With regard to tenanted holdings, our powers are derived under Sections 28 and 29. We resume the tenanted holdings. We retain them first under Section 28, and, if necessary, we resume them afterwards. These are the exact provisions of the 1920 Bill in regard to holdings. The reason I quote the 1920 Bill is that I would have thought a Bill accepted by the Farmers' Union and the Landowners' Convention would be found acceptable.
To my knowledge three or four people wrote that Bill, and would not ask anybody's opinion about it.
A Bill that was accepted more than once by the Landowners' Convention and by the Farmers' Union, and offered by the representative of the landowners at the Conference which was held in the Land Commission, and which broke down three months ago, is now, I find, too radical, and must be made more conservative. With regard to purchased tenants, we take their holdings compulsorily; we can only take them for the relief of congestion, and we can only take them when there is no other suitable land available. In all cases the Land Commission, as a matter of practice, will offer them a holding elsewhere, which would be much cheaper and simpler for them to do. If the Senators wish I would insert a provision that they shall offer those holdings.
Very good. That would meet my point.
With regard to untenanted land, I will not agree to insert a provision making it mandatory on the Land Commission to offer a new holding to a tenant. In 99 cases out of every 100 they will do it. There may be a case where they could not do it. The Land Commission, for the relief of congestion, are entitled to the same powers of resumption as the landlord. I do say there is a special case in regard to purchased holdings. I am willing to go as far as possible to meet that. While, of course, the business of this Bill is to deal with tenanted land, to make tenants tenant proprietors, and to make uneconomic holdings economic, still I will not insert a provision in the Bill making it mandatory on the Land Commission to give an equivalent holding in every case to the tenant whose holding they resume. They will do it in ninety-five per cent. of the cases. It will be much easier and simpler for them, but I would not make it mandatory. There would be circumstances that would make it impossible in a given case.
I want to deal with the figures as given by the Minister, and I shall attempt to support my figures by documents. I hope the Minister may be able to document his before the Bill leaves the Seanad. The matter is complicated, we know. The question of congestion was dealt with by the Dudley Commission in 1908. I will give you a quotation from the digest of the evidence of that well-known authority Mr. Finucane, one of the Estates Commissioners. Here is the operative part of the quotation: "The inference from figures was that the total area of untenanted land was not sufficient to raise half of the existing holdings under £10 valuation to that standard, as the total available was 620,000 acres, while land required would have a valuation of 1½ millions. Defeciency of land was greatest where it was most needed." I do not want to be unfair in controversy. Mr. Doran produced different figures. Mr. Finucane said Mr. Doran's figures were based on personal inquiry, whereas his were based on the valuation figures. Circumstances have altered since, and the case is less favourable to the Ministry now because a certain amount of this land is no longer untenanted, but is in the occupation of other parties.
And used for the relief of congestion.
You will have to trench upon a different class to get it, and you will have to make an inroad into the tenure of men who struggled for many years to gain fixity of tenure. These figures apply to all Ireland. What the quantity is I cannot say, but, admittedly, I think a substantial quantity of this untenanted land must be in the Six Counties, whereas the congests are in the area of the Free State.
Donegal is in the Free State. Then this only refers to the congested areas. What about the congests, notably of Co. Cavan, which is one of the Minister's arguments? We want to bring in Cavan, where there is substantial congestion. I put it to the Seanad to be very careful about this matter. This Bill is being rushed through the Seanad with frantic haste. We have heard, and I think somewhat with apprehension, or without approval, of the wholesale change of populations in the Levant between Turkey and Greece, how people, as a paper scheme, were taken from one place to another, as if they were inanimate, or of the animal species, and removed from place to place. We are getting into the academic and doctrinaire discussion about migrating people. Let us remember that these people have very strong feelings. In these adjustments let us remember they are human, and have many deep affections for their homes. When the Minister stands up. and, with the facility which we admire, talks about compulsory removal of men and sending them from Roscommon to Meath, let him remember that these people cannot be dealt with in that purely formal manner.
I have listened to these figures for some time. The Minister has given us figures which I have taken down myself carefully, and then Senator Sir John Keane has given us other figures. Now, it suddenly occurred to me that he has taken his figures from the Blue Book on the Dudley Commission all about which I remember. Then it occurs to me that I might humbly suggest that the Minister might tell us where he gets his figures from.
I have got these figures from various reports of the Estates Commissioners, from Thom's Directory, from other different directories, from the officials of the Congested Districts Board who have been operating for a long time in these areas, and from the Land Commission. I have tried to put one in against the other, and to arrive at something that would be approximately right. I have a large bulk of documents in my office, and the figures I have got here are extracted from them.
Would I be in order in asking the Minister whether, in dealing with these purchased holdings he has, at all, looked at the question as regards the value of those holdings, what will be received by the holder, and has it any relation to what the holder may have borrowed on those holdings? Because, in a great many cases farmers borrow and sign bills on the strength of the acknowledged value which they have in their holdings.
Merely looking at the proposed change from the banker's point of view, we may have a very large number of bills in each district, to which farmers have placed their names, and the value of their names to the bank depends on the value of their holdings. If this Bill means that these tenants are going to receive much less for their holdings than they are worth to-day before this measure is passed it may mean a serious economic change in the whole banking conditions of the country, and I would like to ask the Minister whether he has given consideration to that point, or whether I am entirely wrong in thinking that this Bill may work a very serious difference to the wrong side in the valuation of the holdings which are being dealt with under it. If it does do so, and if the bankers of the country are put face to face with the position that a Bill like this may take away from the value of the holding of an admittedly honest man who has put his name to a bill—and on which he was perfectly right to borrow—then I say that he may be stepping from one difficulty into another, and I would like to know from him in what way this Bill does affect the value of purchased holdings which we have been discussing so fully.
If we take a purchased holding and give the tenant purchaser a new holding of equal value, we will transfer all burdens to the new holding.
That is to say, A's debt will be transferred to B, who comes in?
I was dealing first with the holding. The burdens on the holding which we are taking up are transferred en bloc to the new holding.
May I ask one question before we pass from that? Supposing the owner of the holding has a considerable amount of debt, and supposing he chooses not to enter into any agreement, might not that entirely wipe away the whole of the bill. The value of his rental might be nil. If he does not enter into an agreement and get as good a holding as he had, all that the banker will have to look to will be the money that he has paid for his present holding. If that is considerably less than it was before this Bill was passed, he might quite easily rob his banker.
The same dilemma would arise in the case of any other owner of fee-simple land.
It is a revolution in banking.
Did not the same set of circumstances arise in connection with the land taken under the 1903 and 1909 Act? Had not you the same security or the same chance in regard to the debts of the owner of a purchased holding as you have in regard to the debts of a landlord whose land we take? Perhaps he is heavily encumbered and owes money all round. They are exactly the same set of circumstances, except that when we take a holding we must buy it as untenanted land, and pay him for it if he does not take an exchange of holding.
I am only dealing with it from the point of view of what I have been hearing this afternoon. It seems to me that quite outside of the question of the rights the tenant has, that there are other rights. Probably there is a large banking question involved in the matter. I am not putting forward these things with any view to obstruction. I am taking the point of view of a banker. Here is an entirely new lot of holdings to which such a thing has not applied before. We have not had time to consider what the effect of this will be. What I would like to do would be to sit down with some of our banking experts and see how this does apply. Take a county in which there are a lot of these holdings. I would like to ask the banker how many bills have we got there? How will this affect us? Will this matter mean a lot of our security being taken away from us? I have not had time to make such an inquiry.
We are not making very much progress. We have had practically a full-dress Second Reading debate on this particular amendment of Colonel Moore's. I think it is time that that should be closed. These other questions will all inevitably arise on sections later on. At present we are dealing with the amendment of Colonel Moore. You have got to take these two amendments together in order that they should be intelligible. He proposes by Amendment No. 12 to omit all the words from the word "and," in line 45, to the word "land," in line 48, for the purpose, and only for the purpose, of then moving his Amendment No. 14, with the object of preventing the application of these sections to an extent that would deprive a man of any land under 300 acres.
I am altogether in favour of one amendment and I am against the other. Why should you not put them separately?
I will certainly put them separately, but I want you to understand the two amendments first. I only want to make the amendment quite clear.
I think that I ought to say a few words now. This is probably the most important amendment on the whole Bill, certainly on the most important part of the Bill—in fact, the hinge of the whole Bill. We have listened to the Minister, who spoke extremely fairly—nothing could be more so—and showed an absolute knowledge of the whole subject. I know the subject pretty well. Everything he said was true. I do not contradict it, but I think he has exaggerated the difficulty of removing congests. I have seen a large batch of congests moved from the Party mountains to near Lough Mask, some fifteen miles off, and put on demesne land which was vacant adjoining my own home. Houses were built for them, and they moved down there without any great trouble. They took land which other people thought they had a right to get. I thought there would be a great row about it, but there was not, and they are living there now.
I do not think it is quite impossible to move congests. I know there are great difficulties. Everybody likes to live in his own home, but you have to balance that against the large owner—I mean a farmer of 15, 20 and upwards to 50 or 100 acres. The owner of the land may have purchased his holding. He may have been born in the place, and struggled to buy it and improve it, and are you to sacrifice all his sentiments merely for the sake of obstinate congests who will not move out of little bog holdings up in the mountains? We know that those people flock by thousands to America. They have no hesitation on a week's notice taking a ship from near Cork or some place else, and sailing off to America. They are as much at home there as they would be in their own districts. They are getting letters from home, and they have relations and friends there. According to the Minister, they will not move twenty or thirty miles away from their homes. You have in this matter to balance the reluctance on their part against the hardships that you are imposing on men who had the foresight to buy their lands. The hardship is very great. Are you going to let the obstinancy of these little congests living on the mountains stand against the rights acquired after great hardship and at great cost. I am not speaking for the landlords at all. I am speaking for all the people of Ireland. When you bring down a lot of congests and stick them into a little demesne or into a park-demesne, say, with 300 acres of valuable land, the demesne is no longer of any use.
Hunting is gone in a great part of the country, I am sorry to say, and so is shooting. The man who lives in the country must have something to do. The only thing left to him is farming, and this he cannot do if you are going to put these congests in and utterly ruin his demesne, merely because they will not move a little further off. Senators do not know as much about these matters as those of us who live in the congested districts, with congests all around us. It is well you should think of what you are doing—the injury you are doing one man and the advantage you are giving to another. I am not prepared to do that. I admit all the Minister says. Yet I would not feel competent to advise this great revolution and harsh taking of the land against the will of the owners. The Minister said that a great many of these large farmers can be induced to move. If they can, there is nothing more to be said about it. I cannot vote for taking away the land of a number of people in this way.
The Minister says that he will provide for purchased tenants who migrate. Does he stick to that promise?
Amendment put and declared lost.
Might I draw your attention, A Chathaoirligh, to the 10-minute Rule.
I am quite aware of that Rule, but, having regard to the conditions under which this Bill has been debated and the anxiety of the Senators to hear the Minister, I should be very sorry to apply that Rule to him or, indeed, to the Senators themselves unless I was coerced to do it.
I did not suggest that you should enforce it, but I thought Senators might perhaps enforce it on themselves.
I do not know what the object of this forcing is, or why this Dissolution should take place on Friday.
Order, order, Senator Colonel Moore.
I must remind Senator Colonel Moore that under the Standing Orders when I call him to order it is his duty to sit down, and not to repeat the offence.
I beg to move Amendment 13:—In Sub-section 1 of Section 24 to insert after the word "County" in line 45 the words "unless the Land Commission shall think fit to determine that any such untenanted land was not to be vested." This amendment was brought forward in the interests of a comparatively small parcel of owners who are resident in congested districts, and whose expropriation, I think, would be very undesirable not only in their own interests, but in the interests of the State generally. There are a number of retired business men and retired professional men who are living in these counties, and in some cases they have from 50 to 100 acres attached to their holdings, and they supplement their incomes by farming.
Under this Bill it is in the power of the Land Commission to take the land attaching to those residences, which may be in ring fences like a small demesne, or which may be some little distance away. We have heard a great deal about congestion, and I am quite alive to the evils that the unbridled exercise of the powers given to the Land Commission under this Bill may bring about. I should like to see as many as possible excluded from the operations of this Act. These people have been connected with these counties for a long time, and if you deprive them of these small holdings attached to their residences you will probably drive them out of the country. A great many big owners have been driven out of the country already by the destruction of their homes and it is not in the interests of the State that any owner, large or small, should be obliged to leave the country. This amendment would exempt these small residential holders who have a reasonable plot of land attached to their residences.
It does seem hard that under this Bill on a given day everybody in a congested district is to have his land transferred to another body. On a given day you are no longer to be the owner of your land. By various processes which can hardly be described as simple, but which may be effective, you can proceed to buy them. Could not the Minister, without in any way giving up any of the essentials of this Bill, do that somewhat more gently and more gradually and more considerately? Why is it necessary except that it is in those two mysterious documents? The 1920 Bill did not even receive a First Reading in the House of Lords. Except that it is in that Bill, why is it necessary to do it in this way? If it is going to be done, cannot it be done gradually? Cannot the counties be taken and the appointed days distributed so that the parties can go before the Land Commission and make out their claims for re-purchase? It is part and parcel of this formalist and doctrinaire and distinctly inhuman method of treating owners of property.
First of all, may I correct Senator Sir John Keane? The Bill he refers to was read a second time in the House of Lords and then it was dropped.
Now, Senator Sir Hutcheson Poë, in supporting this amendment, mentioned retired army officers and those sort of people who come and settle down in the congested districts to live quietly and enjoy the sport to be found in these wild parts of Ireland. He also spoke of them bringing up their sons like country gentlemen to enjoy field sports and open air sports and delights which every Irishman enjoys from time to time, and he talked about getting on a pony and taking up a gun and going out to shoot blackbirds. There is an amount of sentiment about that, but it is ingrained in these gentlemen, and it is ingrained in their children. There was a statement made the other day in the Observer, that a great many of the people who left Ireland were sorry they had left it, and were longing to come back. I do not want these people in the Congested Districts to get it into their heads that they are going to be driven out of this country. No Minister, whether he belonged to a Free State or Republican Government, wants to drive these people out of the country. They are perfectly harmless. They do not mix in politics, and are respectable members of the community. I would like, therefore, to hear from the Minister what he is going to do in regard to this amendment.
I think the amendment is unnecessary. What the Senator seeks to accomplish is already provided for in Section 24. There will not be one appointed day for vesting all over Ireland. It will be impossible to do that. There will not be anything like a thunderbolt when the land does vest.
But the owner does not own the land any more after it vests. The land is removed entirely out of his control. Nothing that he has paid on it can be recovered. It is taken away from him. It is like as if I had £100 lying on deposit receipt and someone came to me and said: that now belongs to the Government, and not to me any more. I cannot see any difference, and that seems to be what Sir Hutcheson Poe is driving at. The owner does not seem to have a voice in the matter at all, except when the Land Commission has acquired it for the purposes of re-sale it will no doubt be left on his hands, but he will have no further ownership in it. We have not even an assurance that before the Land Commission declares the land to be required that the owner will be heard at all in defence of his own title to be left in possession of the land.
I see the Senator's difficulty. If the land is untenanted, and if it vests in the Land Commission then the Land Commissioners are owners, and all claims against the land attaches to the purchase money, but that is no new doctrine. It was the doctrine of the Land Act of 1903, and of the Act of 1909.
But not against tenanted land.
This Clause deals with tenanted or untenanted land. With regard to untenanted land, if the Commission takes it all claim attaches to the purchase money. With regard to tenanted land, only the landlord's interest in the tenanted land vests in the Land Commission, and until all the estate is re-arranged, and all other arrangements made the land vests in the tenant. That is the arrangement in the Bill.
What I want to be assured about is that if the land, for the moment, vests in the Land Commission, in the case of these small residential holdings the Land Commission will determine that the greater number of these will not be disturbed. You may require one or two, but you do not want to take the whole, and I want to ensure that these people will be left in possession.
There is a provision for that in the Bill, and better than what was in the 1920 Bill, because we do not require a residence. We shall re-sell if the holding is not valued for £3,000, and we do not put in any provision about the necessity for having a house. The Land Commission will endeavour to administer the whole interest, and where they can cause the least hardship to a party it may be taken for granted that they will do so. That is their desire. I feel there is some misunderstanding between myself and Senator Jameson. We may, perhaps, be at cross-purposes.
I am trying to get my mind made up as to what the effect is to be, but I would like a little more time before I vote on this question.
The landlord's interests are the amenities attached to his residence, his grounds, his garden, and so on. There is a great deal of sentiment in that. I am talking about tenanted land, and the gentleman who lives in the house upon that land.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 14.
- John Bagwell.
- William Barrington.
- Dowager Countess of Desart.
- Sir Nugent Everard.
- Henry Sey mour Guinness.
- Rt. Hon. Andrew Jameson.
- Sir John Keane.
- The Earl of Kerry.
- The Earl of Mayo.
- Col. Maurice Moore.
- Col. Sir William Hutcheson Poe.
- James Green Douglas.
- Richard A. Butler.
- J.C. Dowdall.
- Michael Duffy.
- Mrs. Alice Stopford Green.
- C.J. Irwin.
- Patrick W. Kenny.
- J.C. Love.
- Edward McEvoy.
- John MacLoughlin.
- Edward MacLysaght.
- James Moran.
- Bernard O'Rourke.
- William O'Sullivan.
Amendment declared lost.
The Seanad adjourned at 7.20 p.m. until 8.30 p.m.
I do not know what the view of the House is as to the continuance of this debate or as to the length of time during which it is to continue. A suggestion has come to me from some Senators that we should adjourn the Committee Stage now until to-morrow morning, and that we should utilise some of the time at our disposal for the purpose of passing three or four urgent Money Bills which are not likely to be contested. This is a matter not for me, but entirely for the House, to say whether they prefer to continue or to adjourn further consideration of this Land Bill until the morning.
I suggest that we adopt the course suggested by the Cathaoirleach.
Would the other Bills keep us more than half an hour?
That depends on the time occupied by Senators in discussing them.
I would suggest that we go on until 10 o'clock, and continue the Committee Stage of the Land Bill after the three Bills have been disposed of.
I think, as we have to get through the other business you mentioned as well as the Land Bill, it would be much better to do the former business at this time of night than to take exceedingly contentious matters.
If it were the wish of the House, I suggest that we should take up the next amendment and discuss it up to 9 o'clock. At 9 o'clock I understand the President will be able to attend, and we could then get rid of these pressing Money Bills.