Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 31 Mar 1931

Vol. 14 No. 13

Land Bill, 1930—Second Stage.

Question proposed—"That the Bill be read a second time."


The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands and Fisheries is present in the House, and I appoint him to take charge of the Bill in the course of the debate.

The new Land Bill is divided into four parts. Its provisions have been drafted and designed primarily for the purpose of expediting the vesting of land, tenanted land particularly. The procedure outlined in the Bill differs considerably from the procedure heretofore followed by the Land Commission. Part I. of the Bill deals with a number of financial matters arising out of former Acts and makes provision for the money required for putting this Bill into operation. Two of the most important sections in Part I. of the Bill deal with tenancies on estates in the West of Ireland, purchased by the Congested Districts Board out of their own funds. Annuities were set up on these estates called Clare Island annuities. One of the difficulties the Land Commission experienced in giving parcels of land on estates subject to Clare Island annuities was that of consolidating the parent holding with the parcel of land subject to the Clare Island annuity. Provision is made in this Bill that the deed of mortgage which it is necessary for the Land Commission to obtain in such cases shall in future be exempt from stamp duty. There are about 400 such cases, and it is my opinion that it would be very unfair to ask the tenants to pay the stamp duty. A later section in this part of the Bill provides that these Clare Island annuities shall be consolidated with the ordinary Land Purchase annuities.

The most important and the most far-reaching provisions in the Bill are those contained in Part II., which provide a new and expeditious procedure for the vesting of tenanted land so as to create land purchase annuities at the earliest possible moment and to give the tenants the benefit of the difference between their present payments in lieu of rent and the annuity payments, and also to give them the benefit of the sinking fund payments. Under the present procedure tenanted land is not vested in the purchasers until a detailed and exhaustive examination has been made of every holding. Quite a number of matters have to be exhaustively investigated before the lands are vested in the tenant. All matters relating to tenure, occupancy, rights of way, turbary, grazing rights, easements of all kinds, have to be investigated before a holding of land is vested in the tenant at present. It is inevitable, of course, that a long delay must take place before the vesting order or the final list is published by the Land Commission. There are about 100,000 tenants still to be dealt with in the country, and if the Land Commission were to continue to follow the procedure which has been followed up to the present, it would be inevitable that a long delay would take place before the holdings were finally vested in all the tenants. Various estimates have been made as to the time it would actually take to vest these 100,000 holdings. One estimate places it as high as fifteen years; the minimum estimate would be somewhere about ten years. It is really unfair to the tenants that they should be deprived of the full benefits to which they are undoubtedly entitled under the Act of 1923 for such a long period. Consequently this Bill has been drafted, as I stated at the outset, primarily for the purpose of setting up a new procedure for the vesting of land.

In the proposal contained in the Bill, the landlord's schedule of particulars will be taken as the basis on which the Land Commission will work in future. These schedules will be subject to certain checks. After the experience of the Land Commission, since the Act of 1923, they are now in the position almost to verify the accuracy of every annuity likely to be set up under this Bill. A list of vested holdings, according to the provisions of the Bill, will then be published, and in that list the appointed day will be declared. The appointed day will be some date in or about the date of the publication of the list. It may be a date prior to the publication of the list. For instance, it might be more convenient in some cases to fix the gale day as the appointed day, and that gale day might be a date before the publication of the list. On the other hand, it might be more convenient to fix a date subsequent to the date of the publication of the list, but in any event the appointed day will be a date in or about the publication of the list. From that day the tenant, the particulars of whose holding are contained in that list, will be deemed to have entered into a purchase agreement with the Land Commission. The land will then vest in the Land Commission. The tenants will get all the benefits to which they are entitled under the Act, that is, the difference between the payments in lieu of rent and the full annuities, whether 5 or 10 per cent., and they will also get the benefit of all sinking fund payments.

I hope if this Bill is law before the 1st May to have a big percentage of the lists published on the next gale day, viz., the 1st May. The purchase moneys, of course, will be ascertained in respect of judicial tenancies in accordance with the schedule to the Act of 1923, and in respect of non-judicial holdings where the landlord and the tenant failed to agree, in accordance with the Act of 1929. The compounded arrears of rent will be added in all cases to the purchase money unless it has been paid before by the tenant. After the appointed day the investigation that was hitherto carried out prior to vesting will then be carried out, and all matters relating to tenure, occupancy, rights of ways and easements, turbary, grazing and all other matters that arise in connection with the vesting of the land, will be investigated. Final orders, vesting the holding in the tenant, will be published after these matters have been disposed of.

In Part II. also the question of sub-tenancies has been dealt with. In the section relating to sub-tenancies every sub-tenancy created on any tenanted holding under any Land Act is provided for. There is also a provision in the section, relating to sub-tenants, that the direct tenant shall have the right to recover whatever arrears of rent are due to him by sub-tenants. I might mention that the Land Commission have no record whatever of arrears of rent which may be due by a sub-tenant to a tenant. That payment is made directly by the sub-tenant to the tenant and consequently the Land Commission is not aware in any case if any such arrears of rent have accumulated. The purchase money will come to credit on the appointed day, and land bonds will then be issued and will be placed to the credit of the estate. It would be unfair to deprive the vendor or the landlord of these land bonds, or at least to hold over the land bonds until all these investigations which I have enumerated have been completed. Consequently it is proposed to pay out the purchase money to the vendors the moment they show title to the estate. The moment the Land Commission examiners are satisfied that the title to the estate is perfectly clear, the purchase moneys will be paid out to the landlord. But, lest any errors might arise subsequently, it is proposed to retain a guarantee deposit in respect of each estate amounting to 10 per cent. of the purchase money. I am perfectly satisfied from a computation I have had made in the Land Commission that a guarantee deposit of 10 per cent. is quite adequate for my purpose. I had an examination made of a very big number of estates, and I discovered, as a result of that examination, that the total percentage of error amounted to about four. So that I think Senators may rest satisfied that I have allowed myself a very wide margin in the difference between four and ten. It is unlikely, so far as I can see, at all events, that the percentage of error can exceed 10 per cent. in any case.

Part 3 of the Bill outlines substantially the same procedure as that followed in Part 2. Part 3 deals entirely with holdings on Congested Districts Board estates. The procedure under Part 3 is somewhat different from that in Part 2 for this reason: that we have not any accurate returns in the Land Commission giving particulars of tenancies on Congested Districts Board estates. The Congested Districts Board kept their records in quite a different fashion from the Land Commission, and it is not possible to furnish complete particulars, and accurate particulars, in respect of many Congested Districts Board estates. However, a check is being made at present of these estates, and I anticipate that by the time we will be in a position to publish a list of holdings of Congested Districts Board estates sufficient information will be available to enable us to fix the annuities on these estates and to give the tenants the benefits which tenants are getting under Part 2 of the Bill. It is not possible, of course, to treat Congested Districts Board tenants in quite the same way as we propose to treat tenants under the Act of 1923. For that reason we propose to regard holdings on Congested Districts Board estates for the purpose of this Bill as retained holdings. The tenants will pay from the appointed day fixed in the list, a sum corresponding to the annuity, and on vesting they will get the benefit of the sinking fund from the appointed day.

The majority of sections in Part 4 are really sections introduced for the purpose of enabling the Land Commission to carry out the provisions of Parts 2 and 3. Many of these provisions are taken from earlier Acts, some from the 1923 Act, and more, indeed, from the 1903 and 1909 Acts. There is only one section in Part 4 which I need make any reference to, and that is Section 44. It deals with lands held under leases or fee-farm grants. Senators are aware that these lands have been treated hitherto as untenanted lands. Under the Act of 1923 such lands automatically vested in the Land Commission, and if they were not required for the purpose of relieving congestion were resold to the tenants and vested in them. That provision was extended under the Act of 1927 to include similar lands outside congested districts. They were similarly treated as untenanted lands, and it was a matter entirely for the discretion of the Land Commission either to retain the lands or to resell them and vest them in the tenants. In this section it is proposed to treat all the land as ordinary tenanted land. In other words, these tenants will be treated very much on the same lines as non-judicial tenants under the 1923 Act.

Will they get the 25 per cent. reduction?

Yes. By doing that we will certainly confer very substantial benefits on the tenants themselves, and we will undoubtedly simplify considerably the work of the Land Commission. Quite a number of these tenants have been dealt with already under Section 11 of the Act of 1927, and there is provision made in the Bill that tenants not considered eligible under that section can now come under this section and have their land dealt with by the Land Commission as tenanted land, provided the Land Commission are satisfied that these lands can rightly and justly be treated as tenanted lands. There are many other sections in Part 4, but practically all the remaining sections deal with administrative matters not involving any principle, and I do not think it is necessary for me at this stage to deal with them in detail. One section deals with the rectification of vesting orders. Of course, we have similar legislation already in previous Land Acts. Another section gives the Land Commission additional facilities for resuming lands for the purpose of carrying out rearrangement schemes. A further section gives power to make grants or loans to migrants in respect of removal expenses. Other sections deal with turbary, grazing, etc. I do not think it is necessary to deal with them in detail. I have really dealt briefly with the important parts of the Bill, and I think Senators are already thoroughly familiar with its main features.

The other day a certain plea was made that we should put this Bill through in order that the tenants might get the advantages of it by 1st May. I agreed at that time because I thought it was desirable that everything should be done to help the farmer. But when I come to read this Bill I find it is an extremely complicated one and not at all so simple as the Parliamentary Secretary, who talks very fluently on these matters, seems to suggest. The main object of the Bill, of course, is rapid vesting. It does not seem to me that the Bill in any way helps that. On the contrary, it is far behind the Act of 1923 in that respect. The 1923 Act proposed that an appointed day should be established almost immediately, and that from that day the tenants would become practically the owners of their farms. That was not done. If it had been done, the land question would have been practically settled by now. But on account of administrative delays, and perhaps expense, too, may have come into the question, every difficulty was put in the way, and the matter proceeded very slowly. So far from this particular Bill hastening the matter, I think it will do exactly the opposite. As a matter of fact, rapid vesting has nothing to do with Acts passed by the Oireachtas. Vesting is entirely administrative. If the administration wanted to carry through sales under the Land Acts that have been passed they could do so perfectly well. The Wyndham Act of 1903 was the best Act we had. It carried out sales very rapidly, although they had not much records in their hands except perhaps the valuations that had been made. Still, the land passed very rapidly into the hands of the people, with the result that the sales amounted to £2,000,000 a year under that Act. Then the 1909 Act was passed. The officials thought matters were proceeding too quickly and that they would lose their jobs and, therefore, instead of hastening matters they went very much slower than before, and the object of that particular Act was to attain that end, so that instead of £2,000,000 a year of land being sold we find that in the next few years only £300,000 worth of land was settled.

Then came the Land Act of 1923. There have always been Land Acts of one kind or another going through ever since I remember. The first time I ever visited the British Parliament, in 1870, there was a Land Bill under discussion, and there have been Land Bills ever since, and there will continue to be Land Bills even after this is passed. Our generation and the next generation after it will have passed away before the land question is settled unless the administration is greatly hurried up. That is my opinion, but, of course, people say I take a very pessimistic view in these matters. Mr. Wyndham said that one of the great objects of his Act was economy; the whole object was that the land would be settled in quite a few years and that by that means they would save the pay and the pensions of a great number of officials who had to be employed in connection with the land up to then. Nothing of the sort happened. When the Minister for Agriculture brought in the 1923 Bill he said the same thing, and we have had five or six Acts since, and on each occasion we were told that the matter was going to be settled at last. Here to-day the Parliamentary Secretary comes along and tells us that a settlement will occur in a very short time. We can take that for what it is worth, just the same as we took what his predecessors told us.

The Land Commission, as it stands, costs something like £600,000 a year. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that something like 100,000 tenants have to be settled. I do not know how much of the £600,000 that will entail. But I think about £300,000 a year goes in pay to officials. I cannot tell what the exact sum is, but, at all events, it seems to be a very scandalous state of affairs that this country should, each year, pay £600,000 a year, and that that should be going on for 30 years—the figure was not so large perhaps at first, but now we are told that it is something like £600,000 a year, and no prospect of that coming to an end. I cannot see what all these difficulties are about seeing that the question has been going on for so long. The Land Commission, and the Congested Districts Board ought to have had a full record of every tenancy in Ireland. The landlords ought to have the same. The landlords keep their books to-day with some efficiency. Originally there was not much efficiency shown; but latterly the landlords, in keeping their books, have every tenant noted down, what he had to pay, and what he did pay. No questions ought to arise on boundaries or any of those things. Whatever differences there had been were settled by the Land Commission at the time they proceeded to value the land. All the land in Ireland was valued in the years before the 1903 Act. Inspectors walked over the land marking down a certain value, and there was no difficulty. All these things ought to be in the hands of the Land Commission if they had been doing their duty, and I expect they had. There ought to be very little difficulty about settling this whole question if the officials and administrators choose to do so, but that is quite a different matter.

Sections 4 and 5 of the Bill lay down that certain money belonging to the Congested Districts Board is to be handed over to the Exchequer to be used just as the Minister for Finance wishes. The Parliamentary Secretary has not explained in any way why that money should be handed over to the Exchequer to be used as the Minister for Finance wishes. He has complete power to use it for anything he likes, to balance his budget or anything he likes. It can be simply gobbled up by the Minister and used for anything he wished. It is difficult to understand why. In the contentious parts of the Bill, Sections 9, 12, 13 and 28 the question of vesting is dealt with. The method, up to the present, is this. Some inspector comes down, sees the land and makes up his mind as to what sort of land it is. He gets the tenant to sign a temporary agreement. The tenant signs and probably expects that the matter is going to be settled, but not at all: it may go on for years, and in many cases it has gone on for years. Anyway it goes on for months. Then after the officials have considered the matter they look up the books, and again there are various rigmarole arrangements, and somebody comes along and says to the tenant here is a permanent agreement. He signs his permanent agreement and then thinks he is all right. Not at all, he can do simply nothing with his land until after some months when a vesting agreement is made out; there is incessant delay.

There is no agreement to be signed under these sections.

I did not say there was. The present system proceeds to do a certain amount of vesting, but whether the appointed day comes in or not I cannot say. The Bill does not say anything about it. But if the Parliamentary Secretary says those agreements, temporary and permanent, do not come into the matter at all in the future——

Nor at present.

No time is laid down for vesting. The Parliamentary Secretary says he hopes to have the whole list of vesting out immediately or in a month, or four or five months. That may or may not be so, but if we are to judge by the past nothing of the sort will happen. At any rate, it is only a certain number he is going to publish. When he has published these lists the matter is not at all finished because it has to go through a variety of other things before he finds out what is to be done.

Sections 9 and 12 deal with that. Section 9 leaves the matter in the hands of the Land Commissioners. Then Section 12, as I understand it, vests it in the tenants, but a long time may pass in this way. Why does not the Parliamentary Secretary put in something which would ensure that these things would be done by a certain day? We would then know where we were. It is only at the pleasure of the Land Commission that these things are now done. These things do not happen in a minute. Section 12 only begins to inquire into and to gather together all the information on the subject, whereas it could have been acquired from the Land Commission or the Congested Districts Board or the landlords long before. At the end of that time the Minister may do what he likes. He may scratch it out and say: "Oh, no. This is no longer vested." That is under Section 13.

Coming now to Section 42, I find that it gives the Land Commission full power to do what they like with the lands. They can vest them and unvest them at any time so that the poor man whose lands have been vested is put back into the position which the tenants occupied years ago, and is liable to be evicted just at the word of the Land Commission. The owner never knows when he may be evicted. I think that if the Act of 1923 had been carried out properly by the officials the whole matter would have been settled much more quickly. If we want this question settled the Land Commission will have to be abolished wholesale, and the carrying out of this matter handed over to some people who will do it quickly and effectively. If we do not do that, generation after generation will pass, and it will never be finished. This £600,000 a year may be used for the migration of the tenants, which is advisable. I will end by quoting from the Bible what Solomon said on one occasion: "Of the making of many books there is no end," and I can say that of the making of many Land Acts there is no end and never will be until the wholesale stoppage of the Land Commission comes.

I am sure the Seanad will approve of the main principle of this Bill. The Bill has been described as an administrative Bill. I think it can truthfully be described as a speeding-up Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that this Bill gave them power to vest immediately the holdings of 100,000 tenants. That in itself will be of great relief to those tenants who are entitled to have their lands vested under previous Land Acts. It will do more than that. It will give the tenants a further relief of 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. off their payments in lieu of rent. It will give them an added interest in their lands, and it will give them an added security which will be helpful if the tenant wants a loan. It will give an added interest to the lands should they wish to sell them in the open market. At the present day no one would care to buy land which is not vested.

The Parliamentary Secretary has made an honest and bold attempt in this Bill to rectify many errors in previous Land Acts. He has made provision for speeding up the vesting of land. To my mind he has done that for the good and benefit of the tenants while not inflicting any hardship on the landlords. I understand that this Bill deals in a very comprehensive way with certain classes of tenants who, through the terms of their leases, were excluded from the benefits of previous Land Acts. The Parliamentary Secretary explained that aspect of it in his opening speech, but I am not quite clear as to how it is going to operate. I would like if he would give us some further explanation as to how it will work out. Everyone recognises that dual ownership of land is finished; everyone recognises that the time has come when all classes of tenants of this country must be put on the same footing. No matter under what tenure they hold, all tenants of agricultural land must be in a position to look forward to becoming the owners of their own holdings at some future time.

The Parliamentary Secretary made a statement in the Dáil with regard to the taking away of the right of appeal from the decision of the Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court. I would like if he would tell the Seanad if that is so. In his reply to Deputy O'Connell in the Dáil he said: "Deputy O'Connell referred to the position of the Judicial Commissioner and inquired if there is any appeal to the Supreme Court. I quite admit that under Section 24 of the Act of 1923 there is the right of appeal from the Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court on a question of law. There is no such right of appeal under this Bill. That is a matter that I would like the Dáil to discuss more fully on the Committee Stage of the Bill. My reason for altering the procedure in this Bill is that these appeals inevitably mean delay, and as the appeals, perhaps in the majority of cases, would be from the tenants, and in some cases from the vendors, I personally was not satisfied that it was really necessary, in view of the experience we have had, to continue that right under the new Bill."

If I am right in assuming from that statement that the right of appeal is taken away by that Bill—and I cannot see that it is—then I think it is quite wrong. The taking away of it would lessen the confidence of the people. I think nobody has any fault to find with the judgments of the present Judicial Commissioner. But a time may come when the people would not have a Judicial Commissioner in whose judgments they would have as much confidence as they have in the judgments of the present Judicial Commissioner. For that reason I hope that the right of appeal from the Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court is not taken away in this Bill.

Another matter I would like to refer to is this. I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary would insert a section in the Bill repealing the section of the Land Act of 1923, which states that the Land Commission may acquire any land anywhere for the relief of congestion—at a price fair to the Land Commission and fair to the owners of the land. That section, in my opinion, is a blot on the Land Act of 1923, and it should be repealed. It is a contradiction in itself, for you cannot have a price fair to the Land Commission and have, at the same time, a price fair to the owners. The price fair to the Land Commission is the price at which they can purchase the land for re-sale to congests or landless men without any loss to the State. That is to say, to divide such lands amongst congests or landless men at an economic rent without any loss to the State. The price fair to the owner is the price which he could obtain if he sold the land in a free, open market. Under the present section of the Act of 1923 that cannot be done.

Up to the present I have not heard any great number of serious complaints about the attitude of Land Commission officials in the exercise of the powers given them under that section of the Act. They all do what they can to give justice and fair play to everybody; but, after all, the officials of the Land Commission are only civil servants who must administer the law as they find it, and they cannot give a price that would be fair to the owner of the land when they have to resell it to congests or landless men at an economic figure. I would be satisfied if the Parliamentary Secretary excludes the words "fair to the Land Commission" and leaves it to the officials of the Land Commission to fix a price fair to the owner. I think the Parliamentary Secretary has acted very honestly and boldly. He has introduced a very useful Bill for the country. I am sure his efforts will be appreciated. I would like him to consider the suggestion about repealing one section of the Act of 1923.

We agree that if the Bill vests the tenants who came under the 1923 Act rapidly, it is deserving of a Second Reading. We must not, however, be mistaken. The reason this Bill is introduced is not so much for the purpose of vesting tenants as to meet the necessity that exists for the issue of land bonds before the end of next year. The British guarantee for the land bonds issued to the vendors will expire before the end of next year and, therefore, it is found necessary to vest the land in the tenants in order that the land bonds may be issued and the guarantee obtained. That is the main reason why this Bill has been submitted in this shape. The Land Act of 1923 had two objects in view. One object was to deal with £1,250,000 of a rental. It had a bigger mandate and that was to relieve congestion in the Free State whether it existed in what are known as the congested areas or in other parts of the 26 counties. It stands to reason that the Land Commission officials could not do their work rapidly, having regard to the fact that they did not know what land would be required for the relief of congestion. It was necessary to make examinations, and the delay was due to the fact that they could not vest the land in the tenants one day and then a few months subsequently come along and say "Your land is required for the relief of congestion and, therefore, we will give you a resumption price and put you out."

It took a considerable time to proceed with the work of relieving congestion under the 1923 Act. That particular process would not have come to a head were it not that owing to fortuitous circumstances the guarantee bond under the Act expires next year. All the land held by tenants in 1923— land not purchased under previous Land Acts—is absolutely under the command of the Land Commission. In addition to that, all the untenanted land in the congested areas is under the immediate control of the Land Commission. The tenants who purchased under the previous Acts are also under the control of the Land Commission, but they have a safeguard. They cannot be interfered with in their holdings unless there is no other land in the neighbourhood suitable for the relief of congestion, and if they have to be removed the Land Commission gives them an alternative holding of equal value.

Senators can readily understand that the Land Commission could not give up the rights they possess under the 1923 Act until they made a searching examination of the land position in this country. They had to investigate the amount of land that would be required and to consider on what terms they could give alternative holdings. The fact of the matter is that they had the whip hand over the unfortunate tenants. I am referring now to the men who did not sell. They were held in subjection for the last seven or eight years with the threat hanging over their heads that the land would be taken from them at a resumption price, or they would be transferred to another place. If they did not go to the alternative holding they would have to take the resumption price. That position could not have been remedied on account of the mandate which the Land Commission received to settle the matter of congestion. For the last seven years a rental of £250,000 out of £1,250,000 has been dealt with, leaving 80,000 tenants with a rental of £1,000,000 to be dealt with. You can understand that £15,000,000 of Land Bonds are going to be issued, and it is the necessity to have a guarantee on that amount that is responsible for bringing in this Bill.

This Bill ought to have been brought in five or six years ago. There is nothing extraordinary about it. Those lists were to be furnished in August, 1923, and the Land Commission have had those particulars all the time. Where Senator Moore is wrong is that there is no agreement. The appointed day is announced. Every tenant on the list is supposed to have entered into a subsequent purchase agreement with the Land Commission. There is no such thing as an arrangement of the type suggested by the Senator, nor will any such arrangement take place under this measure. The tenant is supposed to have entered into a purchase agreement with the Land Commission, and that finishes the deal so far as he is concerned.

It is necessary, as Senator Colonel Moore has pointed out, to have machinery by which a wrongly-vested farm can be excluded from the Land Act. There is provision made under Section 13 by which a wrongly-vested farm will be excluded, and the landlord is to be put in the same position— that is, he is to receive the 25 per cent. which has been docked off him for the last seven years by the Land Commission. Following upon that, the converse case is dealt with in Section 14— that is, where a farmer is excluded unjustly from the benefits of the Land Act. The Parliamentary Secretary has not said a word about placing the tenant in the position in which he would have been if he had had his farm vested in 1923. There is no provision to place that tenant, who was unjustly excluded from the benefits of the Land Act of 1923, in a position whereby he would receive the 25 per cent. he has lost for the last seven years. I hope that on the Committee Stage we will pass an amendment to deal with that injustice. The landlord gets the benefit under Section 13, but the tenant does not get the benefit under Section 14.

I should like to deal with another case that arises under the Bill. Let us assume that a farmer has all his land vested and that he has got his maximum advance from the Land Commission. If he has got this £3,000 advance, he is at liberty to go into the market and purchase vested land—land bought under any of the previous Acts —even up to the extent of £10,000. There is not a word said against that. Let us suppose now that a farmer has some of his land vested and that he has got an advance up to, say, £2,500. His second farm may not have been vested. When his case comes to be dealt with, that second farm becomes a retained holding and it is dealt with under the provisions of the 1923 Act. He is forced to accept what is called the "resumption price," whereas if he had had all his land vested, he could have gone into the market and bought land vested under previous Acts to an unlimited extent. That case is occurring daily. Although you may have got the maximum advance, you can in these circumstances go in and buy land vested under previous Land Acts. If you have not all your land vested, you have portion of your land prepared as a "retained holding," dealt with under sub-section (6) of Section 28 of the Act of 1923. I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether the section under which he gives compensation for disturbance applies to surplus retained holdings under sub-section (6) of Section 28 of the 1923 Act? Will the owner of the retained holding get compensation for disturbance? I should like also to know whether fee-farm lands and long-lease lands, which will be vested under this Bill will get a reduction in rent, and, if so, what reduction? There is no provision, so far as I see, for any reduction of rent in those cases. The Bill deals with compounded arrears of rent, but it does not deal with rent in those cases. Again, I should like to know whether these rents will be considered non-judicial or judicial.

I am going to vote for the Bill. I am satisfied that, with the machinery in the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to carry out a portion of his promise, at least, because we know that the schedules of particulars of nearly all this land are already in the Land Commission. It is, therefore, only a question of advertising and fixing the appointed day in order to have vesting on a considerable scale. Nobody is going to vote against an operation of that sort, particularly when so many of these people—the Cinderellas of the tenants of this country—have heretofore been placed in a bad position by the landlords and are now held by the Land Commission in a state of suspended animation. Under this Bill those tenants will be placed in a better position. They will have fixity of tenure, the right to sell, and other rights.

Senator Colonel Moore said that the Land Act of 1903 was the best Land Act of all. Why was that the best Land Act of all? Because the landlords under the Act of 1903 got a capital sum which, compared with the Act of 1923, would be in the ratio of 19 to 13, or 4¾ against 3¼. From the landlords' point of view, it was a very good Act. I have no hesitation in saying that Senator Colonel Moore was very pleased with that Act.

Unfortunately, I did not benefit by it in any way.

There is a good deal of what I might call enthusiasm for this Bill. Had the farmers kept to their organisation for the past eight years, they would have been vested long ago. Had they stuck to the Farmers' Union and kept together they would have had their lands vested before now.


That is outside the scope of this Bill.

They dissipated their political strength between the two big Parties and lost the opportunity of having their cause advocated in Parliament. These 80,000 tenants—400,000 or 500,000 persons if we include their families—with a grievance as regards 10 per cent., massed together, would have had a grand case. They could have thrown out any government or put in any government. They would have been vested long ago if they had been properly led. Unfortunately, their leaders were no use.

I have always admired the courage of my friend, Senator Wilson, but never more than now when I heard him say that if the farmers had stuck by the Farmers' Union they would have been vested long ago. He forgets that the historical fact is that the Farmers' Union did not stick to the farmers. I admire Senator Wilson, also, because he has shown a very considerable knowledge of the Land Acts and a liberal spirit in that regard. I should like to see all interests treated fairly. I do not think that all interests are treated fairly under this Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary introduced this Bill with great modesty. He was remarkable for his modesty. My first words in regard to him will be complimentary, because, in my opinion, this Bill represents a great amount of labour, and also in certain aspects a considerable amount of ability. But I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary did not think it was his duty to pay a compliment to Deputy Derrig for giving him the idea of his Bill, in words which, in my judgment, were clearer and better suited to effect the purpose of vesting than those contained in the present Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary introduced this as a Bill providing for the expeditious vesting of land. In so far as it is a Bill providing for the expeditious vesting of land there will be no opposition to it in this House because it is quite unreasonable, when most of the tenants in Ireland are in possession of vested holdings, that the remainder should be left, as it were, as a sort of forlorn hope, unvested, paying 10 per cent. more than they would have to pay if their holdings were vested. But this Bill goes further than that. In so far as it deals with machinery I have very little to say against it. So far as it deals with the principle—a very important principle—I would like to criticise it as strongly as it can be criticised. My first criticism of this Bill is that it provides for prices to the owner in fee which are too high. The Parliamentary Secretary will say that these prices have been fixed under the Act of 1923, and that they cannot be altered now, as the prices fixed at that time represented a reduction of 30 per cent. on fair rents fixed in 1911, and 35 per cent on fair rents fixed before 1911, and that in cases where no rents had been fixed, there could be a valuation at the option of the landlord and tenant. Still, I say that under this Bill provision is made for paying prices which will be more than the economic value of the new descriptions of land that come under its operation.

There are two main descriptions of land coming under the operation of this Bill. Townparks is one description, and the other kind is the land which Senator Wilson perhaps knows something about, the kind of land in respect of which the tenant had not tenants' right. I have experience of this land, and probably other Senators have also. It is land—I think it includes a very wide area of the best land in Ireland—on which the tenant was not entitled to have fixed a fair rent. Clause 5 of the Land Act of 1881 excluded from the operation of the Land Acts any holdings upon which the tenants did not reside, and which were used for the purpose of pasture. I think these are two classes of tenants which will come within the operation of this Bill. Of course, the townpark tenant is paying more than an economic rent at present.

There is not a word about them in the Bill.

Are townparks purchaseable under the operation of the Bill?

They were always purchaseable.

They are purchaseable under the operation of this Bill. Are grass lands in respect of which no fair rents could have been fixed under the Act of 1881 purchaseable under the provisions of this Bill, and under the Act of 1923? I submit they are. What I say is this: There was no rent fixed on townparks. The Parliamentary Secretary will say: "We passed an Act two years ago providing that they should be vested at a reduction of 35 per cent., but that that could be altered at the option of the landlord, or at the option of the tenant, either of whom could serve a notice and have a valuation." I presume the same thing will apply in regard to holdings purchaseable under the Land Acts passed by the Oireachtas. My submission to the House is that the townparks man will be very anxious to get his holding, that the grazing man— who, by the way, can, at the discretion of the Land Commission, get more than £3,000—will be very anxious to get vested immediately, and that they will cause no trouble. Both the townparks and the grazing lands will be vested at prices in excess of the economic value of the land. The State has an interest in that. It may be said: "The tenant did not look after himself; he should have called for an inspection" I say, whether the tenant calls for an inspection or not, when you are going to deal with these vast masses of holdings, the State should have an inspection made in order to see that the land is value for the annuity to be put upon it. That is, on the question of price, one main objection.

Notwithstanding what my friend Senator Moore said—and we are entitled to have different opinions upon this question—I do think that the landlords have been very generously treated in the past and are, under the provisions of this Bill, being treated with great generosity. They are going out with colours flying. Let us see what provision is made in the Bill to deal with tenants who are in the position of landlords to their under-tenants. There is a section in the Bill, Section 35, dealing with sub-tenancies, and I would like Senators to read it. Senators can read that section at their leisure before the Bill goes to Committee, but they can take it from me that the provisions of that section are most unjust to small tenants, many of whom may have very rich men as sub-tenants on portions of their holdings. The Land Commission will recognise the sub-tenant. It will sell to the sub-tenant at an economic price, and the middleman—who generally is a small farmer, sometimes in worse circumstances than his under-tenant—will be robbed under the provisions of this Bill unless it is amended.

Let me now deal with another aspect of the case. I would imagine that a Parliament which is supposed to be representative of National Ireland would treat the persons who were their friends at least as generously as those who were their enemies. If this Bill is to wind up land purchase I would expect to see in it some provision made for the evicted tenants in this country, the people by whose sacrifices those in office to-day were enabled to attain to office——


I think that the evicted tenants are outside the scope of the Bill, and you ought not to allude to them.

I will not proceed further with that. There may, however, be many things said in the course of the discussion which will be outside the scope of the Bill, and there were some things brought in by the Parliamentary Secretary during the discussion in the Dáil which could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to be within the scope of the Bill. I will not pursue the point further beyond saying that the landlords, the remnants of the landlords, are going out with colours flying, because the English, with a great tradition, have always stood to their friends. This Government certainly has not stood to the people who made sacrifices during the long struggle through which we have passed. There is another provision in the Bill which provides for the vesting of land. It has been very well done, and has been done on the same lines as were laid down in Deputy Derrig's Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary in his opening statement impliedly admitted that ever since Deputy Derrig's Bill was introduced he has been working on the lines laid down in it, although, for party reasons, his party would not allow it to become an Act of Parliament.

The Parliamentary Secretary has admitted that his inspectors have been making inquiries, that his lists have been made out, checked and verified, and that the Bill will enable most of the holdings to be vested on 1st May. I am glad to hear that from the Parliamentary Secretary, because he speaks with engaging frankness, and we know what is in his mind when he gets up to speak. He has, however, let the cat out of the bag, and has admitted that he has been working for two or three years on the lines laid down in Deputy Derrig's Bill.

There are two or three other matters in respect to the Bill to which I would like to refer. The Parliamentary Secretary told us nothing about a clause which, in my opinion, is of the greatest importance. I will take the liberty of reading it, because it is very short, and I advise Senators to read it. Clause 43 says:

"Where, in the opinion of the Court, it would be inequitable that the Land Commission should resume a holding or part of a holding on payment to the tenant of compensation fixed on the basis on which resumption prices have heretofore been fixed, the Court in fixing the compensation in respect of such resumption may include therein compensation to the tenant for disturbance, and also may have regard not only to the value of the land to be resumed, but also to the damage, if any, which will be sustained by the tenant by reason of the resumption of the lands as affecting his user of other lands or otherwise causing injury to such other lands."

In my opinion that section puts an end for ever to the compulsory acquisition of land, and I will tell the Seanad my reason for saying so. Land must be let or sold to the congests, to the men who are transferred from one part of the country to another. It must be sold at such a price that these people will be able to live on the land —that is, it must be sold at an economic price. Under that section it is not going to be bought at an economic price, and if it is not going to be bought at an economic price, and if there is no fund to provide for the difference between those prices, how can it be sold at an economic price? The man whose holding is about to be resumed is first to get the price of his land on a compulsory basis. The Parliamentary Secretary may tell us that no extra money is to be paid by reason of compulsion, that it is statutory, but I tell him, from my own experience, that any honest man valuing land which he knows has been compulsorily taken will give more than the economic price for that land. That is human nature. If he is a rogue he will give less, but if he is honest he will give the full value. The man whose holding is to be resumed will get more than that. In addition to the full value of his land he is to get compensation for disturbance.

I had a case the other day in the courts in which a tenant who kept a lodging house in Earlsfort Terrace was awarded £500 for disturbance. That is to be put on top of the full value of the land, but not merely that. There is to be compensation for any damage sustained by the tenant by reason of the resumption of the lands as affecting his user of other lands. Here you have the omnium gatherum or drag-net clause: "or otherwise causing injury to such other lands." When I read that section I came to the conclusion that the compulsory acquisition of land for re-distribution was at an end. The Parliamentary Secretary may disagree and say that we can have retained holdings under the vesting clause, but I tell him that there will not be retained holdings, because, as soon as this Bill is passed, its administration will go out of his hands. He is a ministerial officer, and the pressure of the tenants, the political necessity of vesting the land, and a whole series of forces, will at once operate, and there will be no holdings retained or, if they are retained by the Parliamentary Secretary, they will cease to be retained in three, six or twelve months.

The Senator does not understand the section. A holding must be retained before it can be resumed.

I know that thoroughly well, but I say that they may be retained in the first instance, and the Parliamentary Secretary may have the intention of distributing these lands, but their distribution will be a process of fifteen or twenty years, and the vesting of land is to be a matter of six or twelve months. Let not the Parliamentary Secretary say that I do not understand these Land Acts.

I said the section.

The Parliamentary Secretary is a very able man and has been working very hard, but he is only an apprentice as regards this question. He is not in the full trade yet, and I may tell him what the trade is and how this section is going to work out. I have stated so much merely to emphasise this one fact, namely, that under this measure, taken in connection with the Act of 1923 and other Land Acts, and having regard to the fact that the English guarantee will expire in twelve months, there will be no more compulsory acquisition of land. People may think that I am objecting to that. I do not see any great reason for objecting to it, provided the Parliamentary Secretary does another thing, namely, reconstitute the Department or body that should never have been dissolved, namely, the Congested Districts Board. Provided he remodels that Board and applies its operations to all Ireland and also provided he gives to such Board——


You are going outside the scope of the Bill very much.

I do not think so.


Would the Senator show me anything in the section alluding to this matter?

I am going to make this relevant, and, if I may say so with great respect, I do not want to be interrupted in what I consider to be an important analysis of the Bill.


Show me one allusion to the Congested Districts Board which you are criticising?

I say that the compulsory acquisition of land is being put an end to by the Bill, and I would be quite satisfied if there is something substituted for the Congested Districts Board. Am I within my rights in saying that the very publication of this Bill has caused the value of some grazing farms in Meath, Kildare, and other counties to rise, to my knowledge, from £1,600 to £4,000?

Senator Counihan's grass again. Am I within the terms of the Bill when I state that without any compulsion whatever, it would be quite possible to buy from the banks, who are the mortgagees of 90 per cent. of the big farms in the country, the tenants' interest at a reasonable price?


I really must intervene.

I submit that in showing that it would be impossible to carry through the compulsory provisions of these Land Acts, that there is an alternative method of doing it, a better method which I hope will be adopted, I am keeping within the scope of the Bill. There is another point to which I would refer. It will be a surprise, I am sure, to Senators to learn that there are hundreds of tenants throughout Ireland whose annuities will exceed the rent which they are at present paying under the provisions of this Bill. There are many estates in the South of Ireland where tenants had a reduction of 40 per cent. and more on the judicial rents that were fixed before 1911. When these holdings are vested the reduction of the judicial rent will be only 35 per cent. at most. Therefore, these tenants will be actually paying by way of annuity an increase of from 5 to 10 per cent. on the rents they are paying at present. That may be said to be a matter for the Committee Stage. I think that it is a matter that ought to be looked into in Committee. I, for one, will not be satisfied, and I hope that the Seanad will not be satisfied, when it is said, without any proof whatever, that these reductions were obtained at the point of the gun, because, to my own knowledge, many of them were not obtained at the point of the gun.

There is one last matter to which I would like to refer. It is a matter to which, as a lawyer, I suppose I ought to have referred at first. That is, the method by which the purchase money is to be paid out to the landlord. There is one clause in the Bill which provides a most ingenious way. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary himself drafted it. That is the clause for enabling landlords to get their purchase money without proving their title. The Parliamentary Secretary may say: "Oh, we will always see that these titles are correct; we have a sufficient guarantee with this two, three or four per cent." The matter is dealt with in Sections 34 and 35, which were somewhat improved in Committee. The general effect of the sections is that although title is not perfect and although it is possible that the estate may be the estate of another man, it is competent for the judge, without full investigation of title, to pay out the purchase money if he is satisfied that there is no reasonable chance that another claimant will make a claim. This is a most curious section. I do not think I am misstating the effect of the section. If I am, I will be put right. It is the most curious section I have ever seen in an Act of Parliament. The absurdity is heightened when you read on and see the provision made for the case of the rightful owner turning up. If the rightful owner turns up, he has to get compensation, such compensation as the court may think proper—not the value of the land but such compensation as the court may think proper, and who do you think is to pay the compensation? The State. Now do you think the landlords are going out with colours flying? Now what do you think about a provision whereby a poor unfortunate middleman with 40 acres of land, who has a sub-tenant on his land, could be absolutely squeezed out? There is no provision made for State aid for him, no provision for compensation to him to make up the difference between the economic value of the sub-tenancy and the rent which he is getting.

There is also a matter in one of the later sections of the Bill dealing with these long-term leases. In regard to that I would only like to know from the Minister why it was that the section in the Act of 1923, which seems to me to be in the same terms or to the same effect, was a failure, why it was not sufficient to meet the needs of the case. At the moment what I am referring to is Section 44 of the present Bill, dealing with untenanted land held under fee-farm grant or long lease. When I read the section it occurred to me that it had already been dealt with by Section 11 of the Act of 1927. I, for one, do not understand why this very long, complicated section has been introduced. These are some of the matters of criticism which I am glad the Seanad have listened to so patiently. Having said that, I think I can repeat again that in many ways the Bill deserves a Second Reading. But if it does deserve a Second Reading, if only for the sake of the immediate vesting which is very clearly provided for, my submission is that it needs amendment in a great many particulars. It needs amendment in regard to the congested districts, in regard to the prices to be paid for resumed holdings, and in the case of sub-tenancies. I ask the House, whatever else they do, to see that the State does not pay for the land more than the land is worth.

I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the attempt which is being made in this Bill to expedite the vesting of holdings. I should like also to draw his attention to the great dissatisfaction which exists amongst landless men owing to their claims to be put in possession of economic holdings being disregarded. It is absolutely unfair to the rural labourers, a great many of whom are undoubtedly suitable for being put in possession of small holdings. A considerable number of that type of men purchased land through local committees in 1919 and 1920. They have held on to these lands during the last nine or ten years of depression in agriculture. The fact that they were able to pay off during that period a considerable proportion of the purchase money satisfies me in any case, and should also satisfy the Government, that if such men as these were given facilities which tenants get under the 1923 Act the vast majority of them would put the land to a useful purpose and be able to make a livelihood for themselves and their families out of the land. At the present time, and for a number of years past, the amount of employment given on the land has decreased to such an extent that there is nothing facing large numbers of rural labourers except to emigrate or otherwise look for relief from the county board of health. We all know that the prospects of emigration at present are not very favourable for agricultural workers. The situation in America and in other countries is not very encouraging to them to leave this country, even if they were in a position to do so. Since 1923 scarcely any such men were put in the possession of land, though, as I said, during 1919 and 1920 considerable numbers of such people bought land through local committees and have since paid interest to the bank in cases that I know of varying from 5½ to 8½ per cent. The fact that these men were able to carry on during these lean years, and to pay this high rate of interest, ought to satisfy the Parliamentary Secretary that other men of the same class are reasonably entitled to a share of land. In the absence of employment on the farms, I see no other hope for these men except to put them on the land or else support them indefinitely in the county homes or by way of outdoor relief. It would facilitate the giving of land in many of these cases if the labourers' cottages were taken over by the Land Commission where there is land convenient.


The Senator is going very far away from the Bill in dealing with the question of labourers' cottages.

I suggest that in the course of the passage of the Bill heed ought to be taken of a practice which I find has come into being within the last few weeks, and that is the owners of demesne land in Co. Meath, in spite of the fact that there are a large number of smallholders living adjacent, putting up certain parcels of land for sale by private treaty and offering it at a certain price with a certain rental on it. We were led to believe, when the 1923 Act was passed, that it sounded the death-knell of landlordism, but now, in 1931, we have landowners setting up a new kind of tenancy. Senator Moore has stated that Land Acts would have to be passed long after the present generation had disappeared. If this practice is allowed to continue I certainly agree with him in that. Some clause ought to be put into the Bill, if the Land Commission has not already the power, to prevent this state of affairs. Where there are, as in this case, men holding from three to twelve acres adjacent they have undoubtedly the first claim on these lands that are put up for sale, no matter if it is demesne land, and no matter who is the owner of it. The Oireachtas should see to it that the people who are in grave need of more land and have to maintain large families out of small parcels of land should have the first claim on whatever land these landlords are prepared to sell, whether in the open market or by private treaty.

I speak as an ignoramus on this land question, but in the course of the discussion two queries have been raised on which I should like to have some explanation. In Section 5 there is reference to moneys which may be derived by the Land Commission from the sale of land which was the property of the late Congested Districts Board, and to the disposal of the proceeds of the sale. I should like if the Parliamentary Secretary could give the House an approximate estimate of the value of these lands, the proceeds of which will go to the Exchequer. There is another small point to which I would direct his attention in the hope that he will clear my mind and save discussion on the Committee Stage, and that is in respect of Section 7, where provision is made in regard to the sale of lands under the Irish Land (Soldiers and Sailors) Act.

There is provision regarding the sale by the Land Commission at an enhanced price of such land and where the enhanced price is due, in whole or in part, to expediture on improvements made with the use of money provided by the British Government, that so much of the purchase annuities paid into the Purchase Annuities Fund, or the Land Bond Fund, in respect of such price, as is attributable to such expenditure, shall be paid or credited to the British Government. I see there a danger that what will be really unearned increment may, under this provision, be paid into the British Exchequer. I think something much tighter than the words in the section should be included to make the matter safe. We must make it quite clear that the unearned increment in the value of such land must be solely and directly attributable to the expenditure of British money, and that any incidental expenditure or improvement made with the aid of that money which made it possible for the land to become more valuable owing to social and communal improvements, should not go to the British Government. Perhaps the Minister will make it quite clear that the present section is safe and sound in that respect, or else that he will make some amendement of the section to secure that end, or agree to some amendment being made from the point of view raised by me, to make it more satisfactory.

I could not help but note, when Senator Comyn was replying to Senator Moore, that the care that was required by Senator Comyn would not be possible if there had been that urgency and speed that Senator Moore desired. I certainly think that vesting and complete transfer might have been more rapidly carried through if there had been less regard paid to the landlords' claims. The legal claims of the landlords have undoubtedly been very carefully considered and met, but I think that was very largely the reason for the great care in ensuring that the property was the landlords'. I think the delay probably had something to do with the care of the landlords' interests, and that if less regard had been paid to the landlords' interests under the 1923 Act probably vesting would have been more expeditious. In regard to the two points that I raised dealing with the Bill, although they may be small, I hope they will have some consideration.

There is just one point that might be made on a Second Reading debate such as this that I have not heard anybody deal with so far. Every speaker has said that the main object of the Bill is to facilitate the vesting of land in the tenants and to give them the benefit of the Land Purchase Acts, and, of course, the Bill will get its Second Reading. That is the main object of the Bill. One speaker mentioned that up to the present the Land Commission cost something like £600,000 a year. It is suggested that by passing this Act the land will all be vested in the purchasing tenant probably in about ten years. I suppose the idea was that this £600,000 a year may at the end of ten years cease to appear in the annual amounts that have to be raised by the State. There are certain things in the Bill that show that although the tenants may get all their rights and may be dealt with, still, looking at it from the point of view of the ordinary taxpayer, I wonder has the Parliamentary Secretary formed any idea as to when the Land Commission is going to go out of business and when this £600,000 a year is going to cease? There are certainly some sections in this Bill which show that the State has to pay money. I wonder has any estimate been formed as to what extra money the State is going to pay to carry out the conditions of this Bill. There are some sections in the Bill that undoubtedly point that way. The thing cannot be done without money being provided by the State. Is there any idea how much the State has to provide in order to make this Act work properly? If it is a reasonable amount, I hold the State should certainly provide it. It is in the interests of everybody in the State that the present condition of affairs in regard to tenants wishing to purchase should be put an end to at once. But I wonder how much it is going to cost? Senator Comyn referred to one section which states that the State provides the money. But he said if you read the Bill aright the money can be claimed back from the man who gets it originally. That appears to be all right. There are other cases in which the State will have to pay money, and I would like to know if there is any provision made for that. The Wyndham Act was wrecked because the British Government would not put up the amount of money required to make it a success. They diminished the amount of the grants, year after year, and, finally, killed the Wyndham Act. Mr. Wyndham himself said that he had got all the money out of the British Exchequer that he could get to free land purchase, but the British Government went one better. They were able to stop the money that was necessary under the Act, and were it not for that a great many of our troubles to-day would not be with us. Something may arise out of this. We find the tenant farmers in the position of having had all the benefits of the Land Acts, yet the State may find the Land Commission in full service, investigating titles, for many years to come.

That will happen, too, you may be sure.

I do not know. I should say that the Parliamentary Secretary, in bringing in this Bill, must have considered this kind of thing. I should like to know what is the considered estimate of the Department as regards the time—if we pass this Bill—when the tenants will be dealt with, how long after that time the landlords' titles will finally be dealt with, and when we will come to the end of the Land Commission and its expenses on the whole country. These are things outside the whole debate so far. I should like to hear if any estimates have been formed in regard to these matters.

I wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the very lucid explanation he has given of the Bill and his summing up of what its provisions will mean to the country. There is one particular feeling that I have in the matter of this Land Bill, and it is that an injustice has more or less been done to the tenants in the matter of vesting. This delay in vesting has been the outcome of previous Land Acts, and it has been an injustice both to the landlord and the tenant. Through no fault of their own these tenants have not been vested, and for the last seven or eight years, since the Act of 1923 was passed, they are paying more than they would have been paying had they been vested. They should be entitled to some allowance for that delay and for the loss they have suffered. This is a real injustice to the tenants, and it is not their own fault in any way that this delay has taken place. In the Committee Stage I hope to bring forward an amendment to deal with this matter, which is the greatest drawback to this Bill as it stands at present.

There is a matter on which I would like to ask information. It is in connection with Section 44, and deals with a matter of fee-farm grantees. The section states that

"the rent payable by such owner in respect of such parcel is not less than the rent which in the opinion of the Land Commission would have been the fair rent of such parcel at the date of the passing of the Land Act of 1923."

That suggests that the rent must be either equal to or exceed what in the opinion of the Commissioners would be equal to a third term judicial rent. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if there is any machinery in the Bill in case the amount would be quite uneconomic and quite excessive and would, in the opinion of the Commissioners, not be a fair rent to expect the tenant to pay nor fair security to the State. Is there any machinery in the Bill to bring this class of tenants within a reasonable annual rent, and is that machinery included in this Bill or in any previous section of some existing Act? I wonder would the Parliamentary Secretary make that matter clear?

Yes, I will deal with that. Senator Colonel Moore has certainly justified his claim to be regarded as a pessimist. I have not listened to a more pessimistic speech for a long time. He seemed to think that this Bill was no use in speeding up vesting. The Senator found fault with the Land Acts of 1923 and 1927. He found fault with the Land Commission, and in order to speed up vestings he would abolish the Land Commission altogether. There is no possible answer to such absurd reasoning. Then he went on to pay a tribute to the landlords for the manner in which they kept particulars of their tenancies. I wonder if the Senator realises the amount of trouble we have had in rectifying the errors in the schedules of particulars furnished to us by the landlords. Anybody who knows the history of this country for the last 100 or 200 years, and knows the number of changes that took place in the personnel of the agents, will appreciate how it was that there could be so many inaccuracies in the particulars furnished by the landlords to the Land Commission. On many estates in the west of Ireland the agents were changed every year. They had to be changed. Probably one agent was shot and another agent came in to take his place. These changes were most frequent in the west and the north, and in such case there was no continuity or even consistency in the records. The Land Commission have had to send down their own officials to assist the landlords, or agents or solicitors to compile schedules of particulars so as to speed up vesting in order that the tenants on these estates might have their annuities fixed at the earliest moment. That sort of thing has happened quite frequently. An estimate was made quite recently in the Land Commission of the errors in the schedules of particulars furnished. It was discovered that in only 8 per cent. of the cases were correct particulars furnished by the landlords. Senators will now be able to realise the enormous amount of additional work thrown on the Land Commission in consequence of the inaccurate information supplied to them.

The Senator also made an allegation that the Land Commission is costing the State something like £600,000 a year. The Senator, in making that statement, overlooked the fact that in this £600,000 there is included a sum of £200,000 for the purpose of carrying out improvements on the estates acquired under the Land Act of 1923. There are also included many other items quite apart from salaries and office expenses.

Senator Wilson pointed out, in reply to Senator Colonel Moore, that the tenants are not asked to sign agreements under the 1923 Act. What happens is that the final list is published, and that final list contains full particulars of the tenancies. No agreements are signed at all by the tenants. There could be no delay at all under that heading.

In reply to Senator Counihan, I wish to say there is in the Bill a right of appeal from the Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court on questions of law. The matter was fully discussed in the Committee Stage in the Dáil. It was agreed, and I gave it also as my own opinion, that it was only right that there should be an appeal from the Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court on questions of law. There have been very few appeals of that kind so far, but as there was such a right in the Act of 1923 it was considered advisable that such a right should be preserved in the Bill we are now discussing. Senator Wilson stated that the raison d'être for this Bill was that the land bonds should be paid quickly to the landlord. That matter did not occur to me until the Bill had been actually drafted. This Bill has been under consideration for a long time. A Departmental Committee was set up well over two years ago to discover a means for speeding up the vesting of the land in the tenants. To some extent it was as a result of the recommendations of that Departmental Committee that this Bill was drafted. The Senator must understand that land bonds under this Bill will be issued only in respect of tenanted land, and that the landlords will have to wait for quite a time for the bonds for the untenanted land. The Senator also went on to say that a Bill of this character could have been introduced five or six years ago. I do not know whether the Senator was quite serious in making that statement. The Senator was a member of the Dáil five or six years ago and never, as far as I can recollect, made any suggestion as to how it was possible to speed up the vesting of land. Reference has been made by Senators to the delay in vesting and to certain promises made by Ministers as to the period which would elapse before the holdings were finally vested in the tenants. Senators seem to forget that delay was inherent in the Act of 1923, and no Minister could have possibly made any intelligent estimate as to what time it would take to complete vesting. No Minister in 1923, 1924, 1925 or 1926 could possibly have understood all the difficulties inherent in this very question of vesting. It is an exceedingly complicated question and an exceedingly difficult question, and a Bill of this character would not be possible only for the experience gained by the Land Commission in the years since the passing of the 1923 Act. A Senator asked if fee-farm grantees will get the reduction to which the ordinary tenants are entitled. Yes. The tenants on holdings under leases and fee-farm grants will be treated in exactly the same way as non-judicial tenants. That is provided for in the section. They will get the reduction to which the non-judicial tenants are entitled.

Will it start immediately?

As soon as they have been dealt with by the Land Commission. I can understand now why Deputy Derrig's Bill was such a ghastly failure. I understand that Senator Comyn was the draftsman of that abortive measure, and, after listening to his speech to-day, I can quite understand why Deputy Derrig was unable to make a case for the Bill in the Dáil when called upon to do so. Senator Comyn's speech showed quite clearly that he did not understand the Bill. Senator Comyn, in the course of his speech, succeeded in confusing one section with another. Many of his references, when he did mention a section, did not relate at all to that particular section. His speech, as a matter of fact, had very little reference to this particular Bill. Many of the points he made were quite outside the scope of the Bill altogether. He discussed at some length Section 43, and he said that Section 43 would prevent the Land Commission from retaining land. As a matter of fact, that section deals exclusively with retained land, because before you can resume land you must retain it; that is the procedure in the Land Commission. If the Land Commission propose to resume land they must serve a retention notice on the tenant and subsequently proceed to resume the land and fix the resumption price; that is the ordinary procedure. The section the Senator referred to at such length, and with such vagueness, deals exclusively with the retention of land. It is only in respect to such land that the Judicial Commissioner will have any right to give compensation for disturbance and injury.

The Senator went on to refer to what he termed an economic price. As a matter of fact, the Judicial Commissioner, when fixing a price, does not take into consideration the economic price. The price is fixed under the Act of 1881, and it is based on the market value of the land. The Senator knows quite well that in many of the eastern counties particularly there is no market for land at the present time. In such counties as Westmeath, Kildare, parts of Dublin, Leix and Offaly, and in Meath, there is no market for land to-day. As a matter of fact, whatever value the Land Commission put on that land, and whatever price they put on the tenants' interest, is really the market value. In practice it happens that the landlord is getting approximately fifteen years' purchase; that is the standard price, and he is entitled to that under the 1923 Act. The tenant, for his interest, gets from five to eight years of the standard price. It is only in such areas as these, where there is no market for land, that it is proposed to give additional compensation for disturbance and injury. There are many districts in the country where there is no market for land at present.

I think the Parliamentary Secretary said that once in the Dáil. I did not think he would have the impudence to repeat it.

It is quite true; everybody knows it.

There is no market for land in many districts. It was never contemplated under the 1923 Act that the tenant's interest in the land was less than the landlord's. In theory I think every Senator will admit that the tenant's interest should at least be equal to the value of the landlord's interest.

Will I be permitted to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question?


No more questions.

I think the wording of the section is perfectly clear. I know that a great deal of capital has been made out of certain portions of it.

How are you going to sell at an economic price when you have to make allowance for the landlord's and the tenant's interests?


I have asked Senator Comyn several times not to intervene, and I will not ask the Senator again.

The wording of the section is quite clear:

Where, in the opinion of the court, it would be inequitable that the Land Commission should resume a holding or part of a holding on payment to the tenant of compensation fixed on the basis on which resumption prices have heretofore been fixed, the court in fixing the compensation in respect of such resumption may include therein compensation to the tenant for disturbance, and also may have regard not only to the value of the land to be resumed, but also to the damage, if any, which will be sustained by the tenant by reason of the resumption of the lands as affecting his user of other lands or otherwise causing injury to such other lands.

This section will only apply in cases where, in the opinion of the Court, the market value is inequitable. If the Land Commission is to carry out its policy of relieving congestion it is necessary that it should have the power of resuming land in many of the eastern districts. We find it necessary very often to take large farmers out of the west of Ireland in order to relieve the congestion surrounding their particular farms, and the obvious place to migrate these large farmers to is the eastern area where there is a good deal of suitable land available. We want to have a certain amount of freedom in dealing with the tenant from whom we propose to resume land and this section will undoubtedly remove a lot of the difficulties which the Land Commission experience at the moment in carrying out negotiations regarding the price of the land. It will save a considerable amount of office time, it will save expense in many directions, and it will also obviate the inevitable delays that take place at the moment.

The Senator made an extraordinary statement. He said that as a result of this Bill the price of land had been already inflated in certain eastern counties.

And western counties.

I deny that, and I would be glad if the Senator will produce the evidence on which he bases that statement. I know as much about the price of land in the eastern or the western counties as does the Senator, and I probably know a good deal more about it. I know very well that this Bill could not influence the price of land by one penny in any county in this country at the present moment. The Senator went on to say that certain tenants will be paying annuities higher than their former rents. That statement carries its own contradiction on the face of it. Every tenant coming under the 1923 Act is entitled to a reduction in his existing rent.

On a point of order——


The Senator will observe that I am standing. If Senator Comyn thinks that the Parliamentary Secretary's answers are not satisfactory it is open to him, on the Committee Stage, to put down such amendments as would bring the Seanad to his point of view. This method of questioning and cross-questioning is not appropriate.

Am I not entitled to call the Parliamentary Secretary's attention——


No. If the Senator thinks the Parliamentary's Secretary's statement unsatisfactory he will have his remedy on the Committee Stage.

But the Parliamentary Secretary made a special appeal to Senator Comyn.

It may be due to my ignorance of procedure in the Seanad. I have not had the honour of appearing here very often. Every tenant, whether he is judicial or non-judicial, is entitled to a reduction of 30 per cent. or 35 per cent. under the Act of 1923. There may have been certain cases where the landlords gave tenants reductions for special reasons and only for a period—perhaps for a year or so. If any tenant has a grievance on that score, he has always the right to appeal, firstly to the Land Commission, and secondly, to the Judicial Commissioner. No tenant whatever has a grievance under the Land Acts on that particular point. If the reduction was a bona fide one, the tenant gets it without any question whatever. If, as Senator Comyn said, it was given at the point of the gun——

I never said that.

If the Senator says he did not say it then I withdraw it. Reductions have, however, been given at the point of the gun, and it should be a matter for some judicial tribunal to decide whether these reductions were bona fide or not. The Senator went on to say that the landlords will get their purchase money without showing title. When introducing the Bill to-day, I made it perfectly clear that the vendor must show title before he gets the purchase money. The money will not be paid out to the vendor until he shows title. That is clearly provided for in the Bill.

Senator Johnson asked me for some information about Section 5. Senator Moore also made a reference to Section 5. Section 5 simply provides that certain assets realised as the result of the sale of lands belonging to the C.D.B. shall be paid into the Exchequer. These assets are not provided for in the Land Law Commission Act or in any legislation passed so far, transferring the property of the Congested Districts Board to the Land Commission or to the State. The assets provided for in this section were overlooked completely, and the section enables the Minister to make rules and regulations for the disposal of these moneys. I forget at the moment the amount of money involved—I think it is over £60,000. The usual procedure laid down by the Oireachtas in such cases is that which is prescribed here. The Minister for Finance must make regulations for the disposal of the funds in hand. Section 7 provides for the return to the British Government —or, to speak more accurately, to the British Colonial Office—of certain moneys advanced by them for the purpose of carrying out improvements on estates purchased under the Soldiers and Sailors Act of 1919. The amount advanced—I am speaking from memory —was £115,000. £100,000 was given by way of free grant and £15,000 was given by way of loan. The section provides for the payment of the annuities on the £15,000.

I was thinking of the incremental value. I will raise the point on Committee.

Senator Duffy raised a point regarding demesne lands. The Land Commission have power to acquire demesne lands. In the county in which the Senator resides we are acquiring demesne lands at present. I was wondering when the Senator was speaking if the tenants referred to were the tenants interested in the demesne lands we are acquiring. However, that is a matter which I can discuss with the Senator later in the evening.

Senator Jameson wanted to know when the Land Commission is going out of business. It would be impossible for me to answer that question at the moment. Under this Bill we hope to finish vesting in about twelve months. As I explained in my opening statement, it would be convenient to fix the appointed day on the gale day. By fixing it on the gale day we will avoid small calculations and save a considerable time subsequently in the office. Hence, I am anxious to have the Bill law before the 1st May, as we will then be in a position to publish a considerable number of lists, with the gale day as the appointed day. It would be impossible for me to say at the moment when these big questions relating to the investigation of title and the distribution of purchase money will be completed. It is proposed under this Bill to increase the staff of examiners considerably, in order to speed up the work of investigating title. I am not in a position to state when there is likely to be an end to the activities of the Land Commission. As far as I can see, the Land Commission will continue, whether as a large or a smaller body, for a good many years. There will be a certain amount of Land Commission work to do for many years. It may be possible in 10 or 15 years to carry on the work of the Land Commission with a much smaller staff than is at present employed.


Senator Jameson raised a point about extra expenditure under this Bill.

The point I wanted to know about was whether there was any chance of this Bill being held up for want of money.

There is no danger of that. It will be necessary, in order to carry out the provisions of the Bill as speedily as we hope, to increase the staff of certain branches of the Land Commission. The increase will not be very great. The largest increase proportionately will take place in the examiners' branch, but there will also be an increase in the inspectorate staff, in order to carry out inquiries subsequent to the publication of the lists of vested holdings. The increase in the staff will be practically negligible, and the administrative section will scarcely cost the State anything extra as far as can be judged. In any event the amount will not exceed £1,000 or £2,000. I am almost certain that the administrative sections will cost the State nothing.

Ten per cent.

That is deducted from the purchase money.

The Minister made reference to the appointment of new examiners. I think the experienced examiners in the Department are about to reach the 65-year limit. Will the Parliamentary Secretary accept an amendment to keep on those men who have experience of this work?

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for April 15th.


The last date for receiving amendments is on Monday, April 13th, at 4 p.m. That gives a long period, and I would like, for the convenience of Ministers and others, that amendments should be handed in before that so that they can be considered.

The Seanad adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until April 15th at 3 p.m.