We have had an assurance from Senator Hayes a few minutes ago that no Whips were in action. I was sufficiently an optimist to believe that the people who gathered here in such large numbers were rallying to the cause of rural Ireland. I was sufficiently simple to believe, after the debate in the House the last day, that those who had even a remote connection with the land were coming in to take part in a debate on the land problem, to give us their assistance and learn more of the problems of rural Ireland, but seeing the escape they made when the transport problem had been settled once and for all I am inclined to believe that the whip is lost.
Land Bill, 1949—Second Stage (Resumed).
The Senator is not here very often himself.
I am here very often.
He is here now and again for a few minutes.
Whenever there is any suggestion to sit late or to sit for an extra day I am one man who is always consistent; I am always in favour of it. Much as Senator O'Farrell is ready to criticise, few people in the House are more open to criticism than he is. However, he turned up to-day.
Is there any mention of this in the Land Bill?
We have many soldiers of the Land League and I am sure that Senator O'Farrell will give us his assistance which, I am sure, will be valuable.
We finished up the last day discussing the possibility of fixing, under the Bill, a fair price to the owner and to the Land Commission, and I was doing my best to explain that, in my opinion, that could not be achieved. As I already pointed out, if the Land Commission goes to a sale it is immediately known, particularly in a country area. I am quite prepared to agree that such a person may escape undiscovered at a city auction, but people who know rural Ireland will agree that no stranger can come into a district without being immediately spotted.
Strange as it may seem, the result of that could be that the price of land could go up sky high—a price unfair to the Land Commission—or it could be reduced to a negligible figure—a price unfair to the vendor. If it is discovered that the Land Commission are prepared to buy a holding the local people will force up the price and the Land Commission representative will be forced to buy at a price in excess of the economic price. It could work the other way in which case it would be unfair to the vendor. Take a farm of x number of acres which is being sold by the representative of somebody who has died. Three or four local farmers are interested in purchasing the holding and go to the auction. If they see the Land Commission representative or even they think they see the Land Commission representative— and mind you they will be very seldom wrong—they will say that there is no use in bidding against him. As a result the price would be reduced and it would there and then cease to be a fair price. I would be delighted if that section would work and if the Land Commission could buy a holding at a price fair to the vendor which would not be exorbitant so far as they themselves were concerned. I can quite see the difficulty in the Land Commission bidding in thousands for farms because the price of land would be put out of the ordinary individual's reach altogether.
I was speaking of fixity of tenure and quoted the Minister for Agriculture. I was asked to read the statement which I now propose to do. This statement appeared in the Irish Independent of 28th April, 1950:—
"The reason for the continued existence of the Land Commission was to make sure that landlords would never come back again. We are finished with the landlords in this country once and for all. Every acre of land in any county that is subject to permanent setting on the 11 months' system is ripe for compulsory acquisition and for subsequent vesting in farmers who will work it."
Is that all the Minister said on that occasion?
Did anybody ever know the Minister for Agriculture to stand up and only say that much?
Let us have the rest although it might prove funny.
The rest is:
"there were, of course, exceptions."
I want to say that I did not deliberately miss quoting that. I just did not see it. I still say it is a wild statement. I do not think it will be put in operation. The Minister for Lands would not attempt to put such a plan in operation, but if it were it would mean that people who for various reasons were not in a position to work their land would be living under the threat of acquisition. I do not think there is a Senator here who has anything to do with rural Ireland who does not know of cases where a farmer dies leaving a wife and young family and it is usually not possible for the woman to work the land herself.
The Minister excluded that particular type in his speech but the Senator did not quote it.
It is not reported here.
It is in the Dáil Debates.
If he said that and believed it I am delighted to hear it.
He did say so and there is no question about it.
It would be a very dangerous thing if he did not say so and if that policy were put into operation. Senator Baxter need not laugh. I do not cry when Senator Baxter is speaking and God knows you would feel like crying. There is no reason for that kind of attitude at all.
With regard to the division of land I said that I was in favour of larger sized holdings. Everything we have heard for months, in fact for a couple of years, would indicate that the larger holding is necessary. In making such a suggestion I am not talking politics. I suggested it when the previous Government was in power and I am going to continue to suggest because I am convinced it is necessary and more necessary as time goes on because the increased cost of living has a bearing on the rural community as well as on city dwellers.
When I suggested on the last day that a greater acreage was necessary because the younger people were smoking the Minister thought I was saying something funny. It is not funny at all. It is just the march of time. Young people smoke at the present time and they want to go to the pictures once or twice a week which they did not want to do when I was a young fellow and when most of us here were young fellows. The girls wear a different type of clothes from what they wore when we were young and all that costs money. If a family is to be confined to a holding of 25 or 30 statute acres as heretofore I think you are bound to have a dissatisfied community on the land.
We all know that in certain areas land division has been a failure but I think we all know also that in the majority of cases it has been a success where the land was divided among thrifty people who were brought up accustomed to hard work and an economic standard of living. Where it was not possible to pick that type of people, however, and where you had a 20 or 25-acre farm you had one man working for his neighbour or both working on the road. That is a very undesirable state of affairs and it should be avoided in future if possible.
That question is, of course, related to the question of how many acres are available for division. I do not think we got that figure. There was a very long debate on it in the Dáil. One side said that so many people were to be catered for and the other side says so many acres were available. I can see the difficulty of deciding how many acres will be available, but I think it is reasonable to say that there will not be enough land to go round even on the 25-acres basis. In future we should try to have farms on which people could settle in reasonable comfort and I believe that cannot be done on 25 acres. The Minister should use his powers to increase the size of the farms to between 40 and 50 acres.
A very long fight was fought in this country to establish fixity of tenure on the land. It has been discussed here time and again and some speakers would have us believe that fixity of tenure has definitely been established under this Bill. The Minister is taking certain powers under Section 11, I think, whereby in the last analysis he can decide what lands are to be acquired and in certain circumstances he can in fact decide on readjustment what people are to get them.
Where is that in the Bill?
In Section 11.
I did not notice that in it when I was going over it myself. I would like it pointed out as that is a most undesirable thing and I would remove it if it were in it.
That is good. We have the Minister's word.
No, I bow to the Senator's superior intelligence to see what my dull intelligence could not see.
The Minister has said that if such powers are in the Bill he is prepared to remove them.
Sub-section (11) reads:—
"The following matters shall be excepted matters for the purpose of this section:—
(a) the determination of the persons from whom land is to be acquired or resumed;
(b) the determination of the actual lands to be acquired or resumed."
If we could find anywhere in the Bill where paragraph (b) is interfered with, we should be getting places.
In connection with rearrangements under paragraph (b), provision is made for the determination of the actual lands to be acquired or resumed and determination of the persons to be selected as allottees and the price at which land is to be sold to any such allottees.
We were on the question of acquisition.
What is rearrangement if it is not acquisition? I do not know if the Minister will accept my view of it after the tribute he has paid to my superior intelligence.
The Senator is happy that he does not come from a county where they know all too well what rearrangement is.
I think I have had as much to do with land and land division as most other people, and you cannot rearrange a holding without taking land from somebody to give a holding to somebody else. All I say on it is this: I think it is a very dangerous thing for any Minister to have such power, although I am not suggesting that the present Minister would abuse such powers at all, but I feel it a dangerous thing to put that power into the hands of any Minister. We have heard suggestions made from time to time that under Fianna Fáil it was the Minister who dictated who was to get land and so on. I challenge anyone to say that any Minister under the previous Government had any authority or would agree that he interfered in the slightest way with any Land Commission inspector in the distribution of land and I think that is how it should be.
There are various other things which should be discussed under a Bill of this kind, and again I will probably be laughed at when I suggest, as I did suggest years ago, and on several occasions over a long period of years, that it may be considered advisable in certain tillage areas to insist that the houses given to allottees should be thatched houses. The reason I say that is that when the State presents an individual with a farm of land and a house, the State ought at least to have the right to decide what type of house will be provided, taking into consideration, of course, in all cases that the house must be suitable for a farmer and his family to live in. The reason why I suggest that there should be thatched houses in good tillage areas as an alternative to the slated or tiled or other sort of houses is that if the house were thatched it would be a practical certainty that the man who would have the house would at least grow a few acres of wheat so that he would have the straw to thatch his house. It is an alternative to compulsory tillage which ought not to be necessary in this country, and there should be an added inducement to the farmer to till his land if you had even a couple of acres on each one of those farms which are being handed out. It would be a guarantee in a small way that the farmer and his family who would be concerned, would be fairly safe from the point of view of a bread supply in the case of any emergency.
In connection with the fencing of Land Commission holdings, I think most of us will agree that the present method of fencing is very defective. By the present method of fencing, I mean the bank which is built up from clay on both sides, coming to a narrow point on the top. I saw one of those fences the other day—I think it was yesterday —and that was what brought it to my mind, where the cattle had horned the fence. It is a well-known fact that if cattle, particularly at this time of the year, start to poke at a fence and see the clay coming out, they will go along the fence and it is nothing unusual to see a fence which has cost a lot of money practically wrecked in a couple of days. In this particular fence, I saw that wire had been placed at one side but even the wire did not stop the cattle. A good many years ago, in fact, I wrote to the Land Commission suggesting a different type of fence, and I repeat that suggestion now to the Minister. I do not know what kind of fences they use in the Minister's part of the country, probably stone wall fences. Is that so?
That is so.
The stone wall fence is an ideal fence, although I am quite sure that Senators will say that I would not know one if I saw it. I suggest that the most effective type of fence is that which is erected by digging a deep ditch and throwing the earth up on one side and planting thorn quicks. In that way a fence can be made which at least will not be pucked down by cattle. I have seen a great many of those fences around and through Land Commission holdings and county council cottages, and you could practically drive your fist through them if you were feeling any way well at all. I think it would be very wise to go into that matter to see what is the difference in cost. I do not think it could cost any more to build that type of fence than the other type of fence and I have no doubt that it would be rather more effective than the type of fence built now for as long a period as 25 or 30 years.
The next question we have had is that of the buying of land by foreigners. A great many statements have been made as to the enormity of that problem. It is quite evident that, in some districts, foreigners have come in and bought holdings, but you cannot get away from figures. Recently in the Dáil the Minister for Finance gave an estimate of what he expects to get in the coming year from the 25 per cent. tax on property transfers—the sum of £50,000. I think the problem is not as great as some people believe it to be. I know there are grave differences of opinion on this particular subject, but I am in a position to know something about it, and I do not mind stating my opinion, regardless of any Government. It is this: in the majority of cases where foreigners have bought land and holdings—houses and land as distinct from land alone—they purchased big houses which were not being used by the people who owned them before they were sold. As a result, those houses have now been put into habitable condition, and a considerable sum of money has been spent on them. My way of looking at it would be that the country is that much better off by having its property increased in value through the putting of such houses into proper repair and by redecorating them. Some of those people who have come in may stay for a long time; some may stay for only a week. To my mind, it has not reached the stage where there is any danger of its becoming serious. Some people have described it as the return of the landlords, but in my opinion, it is an entirely different problem. The people coming over to this country from England are more in the position of tourists than were the original landlords. The original landlords expected the peasantry, or the small farmers, to raise their hats to them when they were travelling the road. The people coming over now are quite delighted to raise their hats to their neighbours when they meet them on the road. That is the difference. The people coming over here are more in the position of tourists than of landlords and their attitude, so far as I know, has been that of tourists rather than landlords.
In connection with the purchase of some of these holdings, it has been suggested that there is something wrong with stud farms being sold to foreigners. In this regard, I think that the people who think they know something about this problem have a good deal to learn. We have several foreigners in this country who own big stud farms, but we must not, in any wave of enthusiasm, overlook the fact that these people were in a position to bring to this country sires which otherwise would never have come here. In the same way, these people were in a position to keep thoroughbred mares which the average farmer would not be in a position to keep for his own use, and as a result horses have been bred in this country which have made a name for the Irish horse all over the world, so much so that at present the price of bloodstock has improved to such an extent that it is now practically on a par with the cattle industry, from an export point of view. Strictly speaking, the export of bloodstock is in fact more important than the export of cattle, for the simple reason that it is increasingly supplying a market in hard currency countries. We have had record prices for horses here within the last two or three years and we would be most inconsistent if we were to establish, as we have established, a national stud which is a credit to the country, supplying good sires and producing good stock, and, at the same time, were critical of the people who come in here to buy stud farms and bring over stallions which are and will be at the service of the Irish bloodstock breeder.
In this connection also—and I say this not as a representative of the Bloodstock Breeders' Association but because of my interest in farming generally—the working of a stud farm gives more employment than the working of any other kind of farm, that is, if the stud farm is properly run. The proper care of thoroughbred stock, particularly horses, involves the employment of a man to look after each two or three animals, and on the average stud farm it is not unusual to find six or eight men working, with the farm purchasing a considerable amount of hay, oats and milk in the district. While I am quite prepared to agree that it would not be wise to let the whole world come in here and take up the land of the country, stud farms in 99 cases out of 100 are owned and run by people who are an acquisition to the country. We should not lose sight of that fact and should see to it that the bloodstock breeding industry will get every possible encouragement.
Fixity of tenure, I believe, is a very important matter, and I am sorry to say that if the attitude of the Land Commission in certain cases I know is any indication of its attitude in the future, there is an end to fixity of tenure in this country. There is one case about which I spoke to the Minister some time ago and in regard to which, so far as I could judge, the Minister was very sympathetic. It is a case in which a man had approximately 150 acres through which the road ran, leaving 50 acres on one side and 100 acres on the other. The man was in pretty bad circumstances and had been for a number of years and he proposed to sell the 50 acres. He sold them to a man who, according to most standards I know of, would be regarded as a very suitable tenant and was prepared to build a house on the 50 acres and to run the farm as a fruit and vegetable and generally a model farm, to live on it with his wife and three children and to employ a qualified man from an agricultural college to work it. As soon as sub-division was applied for, the Land Commission decided that, because the man sold the 50 acres, he did not need the land and they acquired it. I do not know on what basis the Land Commission can make better use of that land than the man who was prepared to build a house on it and live there with his wife and family. While, generally speaking, I have always been on the side of the people who would want to divide land, I say that the thing can be overdone and if the Minister is taking any extraordinary powers, he should take the power to interfere in cases of that kind, in which I am quite sure the Minister or any other reasonable man brought up on the land would be satisfied that an injustice was being done.
It is said that hard cases make bad law, but there is another case which it is no harm to mention as an instance of what may happen. A farm belonged to a family for several generations. About 80 years ago, the family went "broke" on that farm and sold it to their relations who in turn were not able to hold it and it went back into the hands of the landlord. A son of the man who left the land went to live in the town, and, getting into business, made some money.
In due course, the landlord put the farm up for sale and this man bought it. Since that time, the farm has been used properly so far as anybody could judge, except that the man was not living on it. The farm was used in conjunction with a factory which the man and his brother ran in the town. The Land Commission are now acquiring that holding and I may say that the reason I know about it is that I was asked to give evidence in connection with it in court. In case anybody should think it was a case of political victimisation, I do not mind saying that the man who owns the farm is a brother of a Fine Gael Senator and a very prominent member of the Fine Gael Party. I should like to ask the Minister to look into it because any fair-minded man would say that no good case could be made for the acquisition of a holding of that type.
If, as appears to be the case, there is a trend towards mechanised farming, it is all the more reason why care should be taken to have the farms of sufficient size to justify mechanisation. I was talking to a man to-day who was a great believer in the horse and in using horses on the land. He told me that he had bought a tractor. I told him he was very foolish. He said he would like me to prove that to him because, with a tractor, he can reduce the number of men employed on his farm. If the number of men employed on a farm is reduced by the introduction of tractors, the introduction of tractors generally is a bad system. I do not say for one moment that a tractor is not more than justified in normal times on a big farm, but, again to quote the Minister for Agriculture, if we are to get to the stage where in ten years hence ploughs and harrows will be found only in the museum, I say we are heading for disaster. It is very difficult to argue with an individual and to tell him that a tractor is a bad thing because he can point out to you the saving of labour, the more rapid work and the more efficient work in a good many cases, than could be secured by the old traditional system. But, from the national point of view, it is disastrous, for the simple reason that this country is an island, having no fuel for those tractors except what is imported. If we were to be faced with another world war, we might very easily find ourselves without machinery of any description to work the land if we were to go over to mechanised farming altogether and be totally dependent on petrol, crude oil or some other oil for working the land.
I shall now read a report published in the Irish Press on 6th May:—
"At a National Ploughing Association function at the show, Mr. Dillon presented the shield won by the Wexford team at this year's ploughing championships.
In a reference to the rotary cultivator, Mr. Dillon said that, powered with a medium horsepower tractor, it was now possible to do in one operation what heretofore had to be done with a plough, a disc harrow and a tooth harrow. A man could do from three to four acres of tillage in one day without changing his implements.
He was convinced that outside museums there would not be ploughs or harrows to be seen in Ireland ten years hence. He wanted their farmers to be in the forefront of progress so that they might derive the maximum advantage from the new advance in scientific agriculture. He asked their skilled cultivators of the soil to apply their skill and experience to its use."
That is all very fine. I think it is a good thing that farmers should be up to date. I saw this particular machine, which is a first-class instrument, but to recommend that machine to the small farmers of this country is so much nonsense. I do not know the exact price but, by the time you had any kind of tractor tied on to it, it would cost £200 or more. It looked like a machine that would cost £60 or £70. That is all right for a big farmer like some of the farmers in Carlow and Kildare. For them it is invaluable but it is a mistake to recommend things like that to small farmers. A farmer with 40 or 50 acres could not possibly stand the overheads that would be entailed in changing over to a mechanised tractor.
Cannot he get a contractor to do it for him? That is what some of us do. We do not buy the machines.
I do not know what Senator Baxter's experience is but one finds that a lot of the money which should be in the pockets of the farmers is in the pockets of the agricultural contractors. I have had necessity to employ contractors to do ploughing and harrowing during the war years and, by the time you would be finished with them, there would not be any profit. You can go as far as you like on mechanised transport but, from a national point of view, the traditional method of farming is the only sound method. You can say as much as you like about co-operation in purchasing a tractor but those who know the farming community know that it does not work. It may work in certain restricted areas. Senator Burke told us some time ago that it works in his area but I have contact with a large part of the country and, as far as I know, it is not practicable. Perhaps it is something in our nature but we would all want the cutting machine, the potato digger and the ploughs and harrows on the same day and the only thing we seem to be able to work on that basis is the threshing machine.
It may take a considerable amount of land to feed horses but, at least, we would have the guarantee that if another war started or if we were faced with another emergency, we would have the nucleus of an organ-isation which would save us from starvation and which would be the only thing between us and starvation. Apart from that, we would have the half-bred mares, which can be used for work on the farm, producing high class hunters which in turn would take their place, perhaps, in the jumping enclosures and, like our army jumping team, most of which were bred from that type of mare, keep the Irish flag flying in practically every country in the world.
I want to get my mind clear on some matters in this Bill. Land Bills are notoriously complicated and, as each Bill comes along, things get more complicated because there is so much legislation by reference in it. Uusually, one gets more enlightenment from listening to a debate on a complicated measure of this kind than from reading the Bill but, although I have listened all through this debate, I cannot say that I have got very much light from those who came before me. I thought that most of the speeches would be more appropriate to questions of administration on the Land Commission vote.
I was anxious to get enlightenment on what appears to be the main feature of this Bill, that is, the question of the substitution, in Section 5, of market value of land, for the previous practice. I am still in doubt as to the significance of the change. Heretofore, as I read it, the price was something that was fair to the Land Commission and fair to the owner of the land. Is it in future to be unfair to either one or the other? I take it it will still be supposed to be fair to the Land Commission and fair to the owner of the land.
Senator Quirke was uneasy as to what was to happen in the case of a holding coming on the market and an auction being held and the Land Commission representative going to bid at the sale. I take it that somebody must determine what is the market value of a particular holding that comes on the market and the Minister is bound by the Bill to give that value and to give only that value irrespective of what happens at the auction. As I understand it, before the representative goes to bid at the auction, he must have fixed in his mind what is the actual market value of that particular holding and the amount given shall be that amount, no more and no less. Senator Quirke says of course that if the neighbours heard the Land Commission man was coming nobody would bid and he would get it under the market value.
It might go the other way just as well.
Senator Bennett asked what would happen if at a sale the Land Commission representative were outbid. I may bid for a farm which for many reasons would be more valuable to me than it would be to the Land Commission. If I outbid the Land Commission representative do I get the land? I would like the Minister to explain that.
Some speakers, who I thought should know much better than I, made inconsistent statements. Senator Finan said that when the Land Commission arrives at the market value it is then in possession of the land and Senator Bennett said that the Minister was acquiring the land by other ways besides compulsory acquisition. I do not yet know whether the question of compulsory acquisition is ruled out or not. Listening to the various speeches I thought that when teachers are going for examination one of the questions put to them is to explain a problem "as you would to a class", and I trust that when the Minister is answering he will explain as he would to a class the difference between the previous situation and the new situation which is created by the Bill.
Senator Baxter gave us a case of real hardship where a farm was valued for £8,000 and the Land Commission eventually acquired it for £5,000, but he did not say how the £8,000 value was determined.
The woman finally got £1,200.
A private debt had to be paid out of that and the redemption value, and the real hardship is that the redemption value has to be paid out of the purchase money. The Minister should take steps to see that that will not happen in future. In Senator Baxter's case the person was left with no money though the debt would have to be paid anyway. For my own information and I am sure for the information of many Senators I would like the Minister to explain that.
When the Minister was dealing with the Appeal Commissioners of the Land Commission he said that it was proposed to suppress the posts of commissioners who had passed 71 years, and that compensation was payable. Would I be justified in asking if one is a man who was previously a national teacher?
Yes, so I believe.
So the Minister knows as well as I do. I would like to point out that this particular commissioner served for 34 years as a national teacher and when he was appointed a commissioner 16 years ago his pension as a teacher was notionally fixed as if he then retired. As I understand it, his pension nowadays would be that much plus so many eightieths for the 16 years he has been a commissioner. If that is so it is quite unfair. He would get no more than 20 per cent. of his present salary as pension and, instead of getting a gratuity of 150 per cent., as he would on the whole of his service, he would not get much more than 30 per cent. I think that the Appeal Commissioners have the status of judges, and a judge of the High Court, after 16 years, would get two-thirds of his salary as pension.
If the Senator will excuse me, they have the tenure of office of a High Court judge but not the status. There is a world of difference.
It is a nice distinction. I would also like the Minister to look into this because teachers' salaries 16 years ago were about the lowest payable and a notional pension fixed on the basis of that salary is very much lower than a teacher on pension would now get.
In his opening statement, the Minister said that the Bill proposed to remove the iniquities and inequalities of the existing law.
"Inequities", I said.
"Iniquities" is here in black and white, column 1737.
Maybe there were iniquities.
I take it that the Minister meant inequalities. The Act of 1931, Section 44, enabled the Land Commission to take over certain holdings held under fee farm grants. Under the 1936 Act, if lands were taken over they did not get the benefit of the halving of the annuities. There is a very small number of these holdings paying the full annuities. They were purchased by the Land Commission under sub-section (1) of Section 44 of the 1931 Act. The provision of that section was repeated almost word for word in the 1936 Act but an additional sub-section was put in to say that they would not get the benefit of the 1933 Act, which halved the annuities. The vast majority of land owners have got the benefit of the halving of the annuities but these few people, for some reason which has never been fully explained and which I cannot follow, are paying the full annuity. I would like the Minister, between this and the Report Stage, to look into that point.
Although I know it is not an easy thing I should like provision to be made when land is divided for playing fields especially in the neighbourhood of schools. It has been done in some cases but it could be done to a greater extent. I know that land is valuable and that the neighbours do not always like to see land being taken over as playing fields, but I would like the Minister and the Land Commission as far as possible to have an eye to playing fields especially in the neighbourhood of national schools.
As a town member, my contribution to the discussion would necessarily be restricted. The debate, which was very prolonged and very instructive, was also rather parochial. Each Senator gave the circumstances prevailing in his own area, and in this connection, I would like to mention casually the position in my county, Clare. Unfortunately there is very little land there for acquisition or distribution. Whatever land there was available has already been acquired and distributed except for a few resumed farms and they would not go here or there to meet the requirements of the county. In my opinion when migration starts I am afraid that County Clare will have to receive a good deal of consideration. In discussing this problem with wise men from the county I found they hold the opinion that where those small farmers exist, or try to exist, the most economic thing would not be to migrate all such small farmers. I think it would be a better plan if a large farm could be taken over in such an area, and the land divided among the smaller farmers so as to provide economic holdings, while migrating the farmer who had held the larger farm. That is regarded generally as less expensive than the migration of a whole lot of small farmers. I believe that when the Government comes along to study the position, they will see the wisdom of this course. There may be another estate available soon for distribution but not yet.
Apart from that, this Section 5 seems to give the most difficulty in the Bill, and everybody has been discussing it, according to his own lights. My own opinion, after conversations with a few solicitors and a few auctioneers, and they were unanimous on it, is that the Land Commission should acquire land without having to go to a sale—that a sale is not quite the proper place in view of the many things that can happen there. There is no doubt about it, if a man has a farm of land for sale at an auction, where it is known that a representative of the Land Commission is attending as a purchaser also, the bids will run high, because the people at the auction can bid with abandon so long as they know they are not going to get it, and the result would be that the farm would fetch a false price. It is the opinion of good judges that two experienced inspectors from the Land Commission should go to inspect a farm which is available for sale and say: "We are going to take this farm at a fair price", and as experienced men they will make up their minds and consult with the local auctioneer who does business for the Land Commission in the area. There are auctioneers in every area who do business for the Land Commission, and they are competent to advise what is a fair price according to the conditions ruling. Let them not have to put up with the immorality, as you might call it, of a public sale which might not be genuine. In my opinion that is the better way. Going to a public sale at an auction would get you nowhere. There are many people who think also that the new system might get the Minister into difficulties. All kinds of improper suggestions might be made as to what happened and how so and so pushed it up another couple of hundred. That danger could be avoided if the Minister or his inspectors endeavoured to arrive at a fair price having taken local advice. This debate has lasted for a long time and I will not delay the House any longer.
Is oth liom go gcaithfidh mé mealladh a bhaint as an Seanadóir Ó hUanáin a bhí ag ceapadh go raibh deireadh na díospóireachta sroichte. Tá beagán le rá agam mar gheall ar phrionsabal an Bhille seo ach déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall a bheith chomh hathchumair agus is féidir. Is trua liom nach rabhas anseo an tseachtain seo caite nuair a tháinig an Bille ós comhair an Tí. Tá na Díospóireachtaí Oifigiúla ós ár gcomhair, ámh, agus tá staidéar cúramach déanta agam ar an tuarascáil, go háirithe ar óráid an Aire. Ní dóigh liom gur thug an tAire dhúinn an t-eolas go léir a mbeadh muid ag súil leis ar ócáid thábhachtach den tsórt seo. Labhair sé ar "ghríosadh nua." Níl a fhios againn an é seo an gríosadh nua a raibh sé ag súil leis. Ach b'fhéidir go bhfuil rud éigin in aigne an Aire nár lua sé sa mBille. Is rud an-tábhachtach, ar ndóigh, an rud atá ar aigne aige, ach ba mhaith leis an Seanad níos mó eolais a fháil ina thaobh thar mar lua an tAire ina óráid. Tharla an rud céanna sa Dáil nuair a bhí an dara céim os comhair an Tí. Ba mhaith leis an Seanad fios cruinn d'fháil i dtaobh na faidhbe a bhfuil súil ag Coimisiún na Talún í shocrú leis na cumhachta nua a tugadh dóibh. Cé mhéad duine atá ag lorg talún atá ar a liosta, agus cé mhéad duine a baineadh den liosta sin? Cé mhéad duine a bhfuil talamh le díol acu, agus a bhfuil súil ag an gCoimisiún é a thógaint? Ba mhaith liom fháil amach ón Aire cé mhéad duine atá ag éileamh méadú a chur lena gcuid talún; cé mhéad talún atá ag an gCoimisiún; cé mhéad talún a bheadh riachtanach chun an n éadú a thabhairt do na daoine.
Ba mhaith liom fhios a bheith agam ó thaobh na Gaeltachta go speisialta cén chaoi a bhfuil an scéal mar a bhaineann leis an gceantar sin agus ceard tá ar aigne ag an Aire ina taobh siúd. Tá slí bheatha na ndaoine sin cuid mhaith curtha ar neamhní. Is daoine iad go mba mhaith linn iad a choinneáil sa mbaile. B'fhearr liom dá bhféadaimis iad a choinneáil sa nGaeltacht féin—ar an talamh, ar na portaigh nó ar ghnótha eile a cuirfí ar bun—ach má tá siad le himeacht as an Ghaeltacht ba mhaith liom go bhfanfaidís sa tír. Bhfuil aon bheartas ceapaithe amach ag an Aire le freastal orthu siúd go speisialta? Ba cheart go mbeadh fhios aige chomh dona agus atá an chúngracht nó an congestion sa nGaeltacht trí chéile agus ba cheart go mbeadh fhios aige réasúnta cruinn cé mhéad duine go mba ceart dúinn freastal orthu, cé mhéid díobh ar féidir dúinn freastal orthu agus cén chaoi a ndéanfaí é. B'fhéidir go bhfuil mé ag súil le hiomarca. B'fhéidir nach bhfuil ar chumas an Aire an t-eolas a chur ar fáil; ach is dóigh liom ar ócáideacha den tsórt seo nuair atá Billí móra tábhachtacha mar é seo á dtabhairt os ár gcómhair, Billí a bhaineas ní hé amháin le geilleagar na tíre ach le sóisialacht cuid mhaith na tíre is dóigh liom go gcaithfear roint ama a chaitheamh ag tabhairt eolais dúinn ar na ceisteanna atá mé tar éis a lua.
Deacracht eile a thugaim faoi deara ar an scéal, ní hé amháin go bhfuil daoine ag imeacht as an tír ach an chaoi a bhfuil an líon oibrithe talún ag titim. D'admhaigh an tAire Airgeadais féin an tseachtain seo caite sa Dáil go bhfuil lucht oibre na tuaithe ag titim i gcónaí. Bhí sé de shásamh aige agus de shásamh againn go léir go bhféadfaí a rá go raibh go leor acu le slí bheatha d'fháil sna tionscail déantóireachta. Tá sin go maith chomh fada agus a théann sé ach ó thaobh saol na tuaithe, ó thaobh leasa na tuaithe, is ceist í an maith an rud é? Cén chaoi a rachaidh sé sin i gcion ar an scéal seo go léir? Tá an cheist ins an mBille, roint na talún, méid na bhfeilmeacha agus, da réir sin go léir, éifeacht an tionscail talmhaíochta nó éifeacht an tionscail churaíochta.
Thairis sin, ba mhaith liom focal nó dó a rá i dtaobh cuid de na haltanna atá sa mBille. Tá rud amháin soiléir ón méid a chuala mé anseo tráthnóna go bhfuil an Bille doiléir i níos mó ná slí amháin. Mar adúirt an Seanadóir Ó Conaill, ba mhaith leis go míneodh an tAire cuid de na gnéithe mar a míneofáí iad do rang. Ó mo thaobh féin de, tá spéis faoi leith agam in Alt 5, an áit a bhfuil an cur síos ar luach na talún. Tá spéis agam ann ó thaobh na praicticiúlachta. Ba mhaith liom go bhfaigheadh gach duine cothrom na Féinne. Tá spéis agam ann ó thaobh na heacnamaíochta. Dúirt an Seanadóir Ó Conaill go gcuirtear ceisteanna go minic ar mhúinteoirí le linn scrúduithe, an cheist seo nó an cheist úd a mhíniú go simplí, sa tslí go dtuigfeadh an rang é. Mo leitheide a bhionns a plé le scrúduithe is ábhar anchoitianta le haghaidh scrúduithe an t-ábhar seo atá luaite in Alt a 5. Támuid i gcónaí ag iarraidh ar na mic léinn bhochta a rá ceard é luach an mhargaidh agus cén chaoi a socraítear luach an mhargaidh. Ní hamháin sna gnáth scrúduithe ach má tá siad le céim máistir a fháil cuirtear na ceisteanna céanna orthu agus sílim má tá aon cheist i gcúrsaí geilleagair nach bhfuil réitithe fós, nach bhfuil réitithe go sásúil, is í an cheist sin luach an mhargaidh.
Ceist na talún is ábhar speisialta í. Ní hionann an talamh agus go leor rudaí eile. Mura bhfuil mise sásta le mo ghréasaí tig liom dul go dtí gréasaí eile agus muna bhfuil mé sásta leis an bproinnteach thíos tig liom dul go dtí proinnteach eile; ach má theastaíonn talamh uaim níl aon mhaith a rá liom go bhfuil talamh le fáil i gCeanada nó san Astráil. Tá an talamh gann agus ní féidir an ríar talún a mhéadú. Monoplacht isea an talamh agus sa méid gur monoplacht é tá cumhacht agus cumas faoi leith ag monoplacht a rogha luach a bhaint amach. Nuair a bhí mé ag teacht aníos go dtí an Seanad bhí fear ar na staighrí ag caint le beirt seanadóirí. Do glaodh orm agus dúradh liom gur theastaigh ón bhfear sin ceist a chur orm. Bhíomar ag magadh i dtaobh na faisnéise cánach nó an Budget ach dúirt an fear seo nárbh é sin a bhí ag déanamh buartha dó ach luach na bprátaí. Dúradh liom go raibh clann mhór aige agus go raibh na prátaí antabhachtach dóibh. An mhaidin sin, dúirt sé go gcaithfeadh sé 4/- an chloch a thabhairt ar na prátaí. Dúirt sé go mba éagórach an rud é. Ní fhéadfainn féin gan a rá go mb'ea.
Ar bhealach níos láidre, is féidir an éagóir a bheith ann más fíor an meíd atá ráite ag an Aire, go dtiubharfadh sé luach an mhargaidh ar an talamh. Seo áit, is dóigh liom, go mba cheart don Aire agus go mb'fhiú dó, tamall maith a chaitheamh féachaint an bhfeadfaidh sé sainmhíniú d'fháil ar luach margaidh. B'fhéidir go bhfuil sé sin déanta aige. B'fhéidir, tar éis a bhfuil d'eolas ag na Coimisinéirí, tar éis a bhfuil d'eolas ag Airí go bhfuil cliste orthu sainmhíniú d'fháil ar "market value." Cheapfainn féin go bhfuil, go mór mór nuair a bhreathnaím ar Alt 5 (b), an áit a n-abrann an tAire go bhfeadfai cúiteamh nó “compensation” a thabhairt do dhaoine i gcásannaí áirithe, má chítear do na Coimisinéirí nó má chítear don bhinse nach bhfuil luach an mhargaidh fairálta do na daoine. Más féidir sainmhíniú d'fháil ar luach an mhargaidh, cén gá a bheadh le 5 (1) (b)?
Chomh fada agus a bhaineann liom, is dóigh liom go raibh cuid mhaith cúise ag lucht na freasúra sa Dáil nuair dúradar go mb'fhearr an sean riail maidir le luach a shocrú ná an riail nua: "In fixing such sum regard shall be had to the fair value of the land to the Land Commission and to the owner, respectively."
Más féidir leis an Aire, nó leis na Coimisinéirí, tar éis a bhfuil de chleachtadh acu, a rá gur fearr an leagan nua ná an sean-leagan, ba cheart go bhféadfaidís é sin a mhíniú dúinn. Má tá siad mí-shásta leis an sean-riail, ba cheart go bhféadfaí míniú réasúnta cruinn a thabhairt dúinn ar an gcúis go bhfuil siad ag éirí as agus ar an gcúis gur fearr an leagan nua ná an sean-cheann.
Is ceist í an raibh an sean-riail míshásúil. Caithfidh go raibh sé míshásúil nó ní thabharfaí an leasú seo isteach ar Alt 23. Cé mhéid míshásaimh a bhí ann? An raibh mórán daoine ann a bhféadfaí a chruthú nach bhfuaradar cothrom na Féinne? Is cuimhneach liom nuair bhí an tAire ag caint sa Dáil—níl fhios agam, díreach, na focail—ach bhí sé le tuiscint ón méid a dúirt sé gur oibrigh an sean-riail go maith, nach raibh mórán mí-shástachta ann. Chuala mé trácht ar chásannaí fé leith ina ndearnadh éagóir ar dhaoine faoin tsean-riail. Má rinneadh éagóir orthu fén dlí, tá sin mar atá sé ach, má ba léir don Aire nó na Coimisinéirí go raibh éagóir chinnte déanta orthu ó thaobh an Chirt nó Equity, ansin ba cheart go dtiocfaí ós comhair an Oireachtais le ceist na ndaoine sin a mhíniú agus féachaint le cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt dóibh.
Má bhí an sean-riail sásúil, ní fheicim gur gá an riail nua a thabhairt isteach, go háirithe nuair chuimhním ar an deacracht a bheas ann maidir le luach an mhargaidh a shocrú. Pé ar bith lochta a bhí ar an sean-riail, is dóigh liom go mbeidh i bhfad níos mó lochta le fáil ar an riail nua agus feicfidh an tAire é sin gan mórán moille. Sin mar chítear dom é. B'fhéidir nach bhfuil an ceart agam. Is ag an Aire atá i bhfad níos mó eolais ná atá agam agus beimid ag súil go dtuigfidh sé nach bhfuilimid ag iarraidh truisle a bhaint as, nach bhfuilimid ag iarraidh an scéal a dhéanamh achrannach dó. Teastaíonn uainn go n-oibreoidh an Bille. Tá súil agam nach mbeidh an tAire cosúil le daoine eile a tháinig ós comhair an tSeanaid agus go dtuigfidh sé go bhfuilimid dairíribh agus go mbeidh seisean dairíribh linn agus go dtuighfidh sé an scéal i gceart agus go dtuigfidh seisean gur ag iarraidh cuidiú leis an scéal a thuisgint i gceart a bheas muid.
Níl ach aon phointe amháin eile a mba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh dó, sin é, na cumhachta atá an tAire a choinnéail aige féin faoi Alt 11. B'fhéidir gur féidir leis an Aire cuntas a thabhairt dúinn ar chomh riachtanach is atá sé go mbeidh na cumhachta sin aige, go háirithe, na cumhachta atá i gceist sna fo-ailt (a) go (d). Ná ceapadh an tAire go bhfuil mise ag cur ina lui go mbeadh sé cam, leatromach ar dhuine nuair a deirim nach maith liom na cumhachta sin a bheith aige. Ó thaobh cúrsaí rialacha, ó thaobh cúrsaí Rialtais, ó thaobh iompair, de gach sórt, sílim go mba é leas na tíre agus feabhas an Bhille seo dá bhfágadh an tAire na cumhachta sin ina dhiaidh agus an scéal d'fhágaint mar a bhí go dtí seo. Choinnigh mé an Seanad níos fuide ná mar ba cheart agus b'fhéidir gur cheart é sin fhagáil go dtí go mbeimid ag cur síos ar na céimeanna eile.
I welcome any Bill that will give more powers to the Land Commission and to the Minister to acquire lands for the relief of congestion.
Coming from a congested part of County Roscommon and Leitrim, I see so many people living on congested holdings and uneconomic holdings, that I wonder what will happen if something is not done, as regards the congestion that exists in those areas. I cannot at all agree with Senator Finan's contribution, as regards migration from the West. Far more people are being migrated from Galway and Mayo to Roscommon than ever migrated to the Midlands. I would ask Senator Finan, as he should know Roscommon better than he knows the Midlands, whether there has been one failure of a Mayo man or a Galway man in Roscommon. If Senator Finan's contribution as regards migration is right, then the whole policy of land division fails. I want to remind the Minister that, in allotting estates, he should see that the people who have the greatest claim to the land are the first to be considered. An estate has been divided in the vicinity of where I live, and I wonder how any Minister or any inspectors could justify some of the people who have got land, and some more of the people, who as claimants, have been refused land. In the village of Keadue, where I live, two publicans, one of them 70 years old, with a wife, and no family, and another man, 60 years, with a sister much older than himself, both have small portions of land away at the back of the village, while a butcher, with six in family, who always tilled two or three acres on the estate, kept cows, and supplied milk to the creamery was not considered for land. These two publicans have got, each of them, what I call some of the best portions of the estate. Now, one of these publicans sold a portion of land two years ago.
Might I ask, on a point of order, is this in order?
Why should it not be in order? It is referring to land division that has taken place.
The Senator is giving examples of how not to divide land.
One of these gentlemen sold a portion of land last year and another portion this year. He did not till that portion he gave to the Land Commission. He never tilled it, and only left it as waste for years. I wonder is that going to be the policy with any further land that will be acquired. How are lands going to be divided, on the just claims of people or are they going to be divided on their political affiliations? Now, on this estate there was another holding, another part of this estate, where there were 1,000 acres.
On that estate, a gentleman came into it as steward two years before it was acquired by the Land Commission. That gentleman, when he heard that the estate was going to be bought up by the Land Commission, went in and took possession of the residence. The portion that the residence was on came into the part allotted to the Forestry Department, and the residence and seven acres were put up for tender. Nobody tendered for it but this gentleman, who had sold a farm for £1,600, and he got it at £500. He demolished portion of the building and he realised over £1,000 for the portion he demolished. He had another non-residential holding about one mile farther away, and I am informed that he went to the Land Commission looking for an addition to the residence and seven acres he had purchased from the Forestry Department. I am informed that the Land Commission asked him to give up 35 acres of his 88-acre non-residential holding. He gave up 35 acres, and he received from the Land Commission 83 acres of land.
On a point of explanation, may I take it it would be in order to reply to matters of administration, as distinct from the legislative matters contained in the Bill, when I am replying?
I am allowing the Senator to give these examples of mistakes in the division of land.
If we were to do that we would be here for six months.
It is here in this House these matters should be shown.
On other occasions.
I claim that the people in the vicinity are entitled to know whether the Minister considers that land division should be utilised for the benefit of the people who are prepared to work the land. This gentleman to whom I refer has nobody but himself and his wife. He is an oldish man and he never did anything more than ride a horse, wearing a derby hat, and leggings on him.
Perhaps, Senator, these are sufficient examples of how not to do it.
They are very interesting. We should hear more of them.
There is another thing, and Senator O'Connell has raised it. There was a school, with an average of about 80 children, in the very vicinity, and no playing field was allotted to the children.
When was it divided?
Inside the last month.
Would the Senator give me the name of the estate?
The Kingston estate.
I live 30 miles away and I knew it was the Kingston estate he was referring to.
I am strongly informed that a henchman of the Minister or a henchman of the Clann na Talmhan Deputy for that area visited his Department, and he had the full particulars of how the estate was to be allotted before the scheme was sanctioned, before it went back to the inspector who was dealing with it.
I submit this is an attack on officials who are not here to defend themselves. The allocation of land is purely a matter for the Land Commission. It is an excepted matter, over which the Minister has no control.
The Senator is giving us an idea of the people who are entitled to land being distributed.
In my opinion, in fairness to the inspectors, who, I believe, are honest, hard-working men, and in justice to these inspectors, and the people who live in the vicinity of this estate, it is only just and fair that an inquiry should be held as to how some of the lands were allotted; and I believe that the Minister, in order to have the respect of the people as regards land division, to keep up the respect there should be for a Department of the Government, should hold an inquiry into why these people were excluded from having land, those congested people around the estate, when those people I have mentioned got allotments.
We are dealing with a new Bill altogether, Senator.
We are dealing with a Bill that is going to acquire land, giving to the Minister more power as regards land division, and more power as regards how the land is to be allotted.
There are no powers in the Bill to deal with land that has already been allotted.
The Bill, Senator, deals with land to be allotted in the future.
I submit the Bill makes provision for land that is acquired since the 1st of December.
And that is to be allotted in the future.
Is the Senator not entitled to point out abuses which have happened and to suggest that they should not happen?
I have allowed the Senator to give examples proving how land should not be divided but I would ask him to deal with the Bill in future. The Bill has nothing to do with what was done in the past. It deals with the division of land from now forward and the Senator will give no more examples of what was done in the past. He may say how he considers it should be done in future.
I want to refer to land which was allotted in the last month, not back over a period of 15 or 16 years.
This Bill has not yet become law.
Am I not entitled to refer to abuses in regard to land division in the Bill?
I have allowed the Senator to do that up to this but he is dealing with things of the past.
If the Minister tells me that he will hold an inquiry into the matters I have related, I am quite satisfied.
I want to assure the Senator that there is no power whatever in this Bill to hold such an inquiry.
I have a lot of sympathy with Senator Lynch because it is very seldom that anybody in this House gets a chance to refer to the activities of the Land Commission.
We are not discussing the Land Commission.
There are plenty of chances.
Perhaps Senator Baxter will mind his own affairs and everybody else will mind theirs. I suggest that Senator Baxter is not a Dean around this place.
The Senator might deal with the Bill.
There has been a lot of criticism of the Land Commission and talk of the things they should do and do not do.
I am sure it is not given to many of us in a lifetime to see achieved a thing that was dear to his heart. That being so, I am sure it is a source of great gratification to Senator John Counihan that this Bill ensures that the full market value will be paid for acquired land as it is for resumed land. As I am sure the House will agree, Senator Counihan was the first to argue that this should be done. He went to every possible limit to get this House to achieve that position, and I am sure he feels very gratified that he has lived to see this happen. Many of us are happy because he is happy that that has been achieved.
Many people criticised the Land Commission for many things during the discussion on this measure, particularly for its slowness. Many people, but particularly Senator R.M. Burke, referred to the slowness of the Land Commission, the long delays in acquiring land and in the payment for acquired land and in the preparation of plans for the re-distribution and resale of land. Was it not a pity that nobody had a good word to say for the Land Commission? One would think they were slow in all things. They are not. I do not know much about the activities of the Land Commission except in one regard. The Land Commission has not been very active in County Leitrim except in one sphere of its activity and in that I can assure the House there are no delays. It is the collection of land annuities.
We are not discussing the collection of land annuities.
A lot has been said about the acquisition of land by foreigners. It would be a terrible state of affairs if the country were bought up in pieces having regard to the hardships of our people during the land war and their unhappy history on the land. A little more should be done to ensure that foreigners who have already acquired land should use it properly in the best interests of the nation by tilling it and then perhaps many of them would not be so anxious to acquire land. Property has responsibilities as well as rights. I wonder is the responsibility of their property shouldered by these people about whom we complain—I am complaining myself because I feel I have as good a right to complain as anyone. If they had to do so, they would not be so anxious to acquire it.
Senator Orpen welcomed this measure in so far as it brought back justice into land legislation. I could not help taking down that remark. Apparently there was an implication that, prior to the introduction of this Bill, the land legislation was unjust. It would appear to me that he was trying to pretend that by his suggestion that there was no provision in our existing land code for the payment of the full market value for resumed land. That is so, and it is quite a debatable point, and many of us have our opinions and doubts as to whether it is at all desirable. I have my own doubts——
I want to tell the Minister and the House that the 1923 Land Act vested in the Land Commission all the land previously held by landlords and let to tenants, and the process of vesting has not been completed. It was that type of land that was resumed at full market value. My opinion is that whatever position there is, it was created by the 1923 Land Act, and different Governments have been in power and many different Ministers for Land have been in charge of the Land Commission ever since. But, apparently, only now it has been discovered that that system was unfair, and that acquired land should be on a different basis from the resumed land taken over under the 1923 Land Act.
Irrespective of the fact that I am told I should be ashamed of my views, I say that it is only now, and because the large parcels of land are acquired and distributed, that we are getting down in many counties to acquiring the large type of farmland which is being worked. In many counties we are getting down to taking over the farmer with 100 acres and, possibly, giving him land in the Midlands, or if that is not being done, or it is the case of a widow's farm, we are told the price should be fixed at the full market value. That is all right in the case of land of that type, but——
Tell us when it is not all right.
It is not all right, in my opinion, that people should have more land than is socially good and, if the titles were probed back far enough, they might seem to be good on paper, but I wonder if they could be morally sound.
Suppose the title is good?
There were many cases where land was acquired from those people and it was proved that they were better off without it. Very often it was a dead weight on them, because they had more land than they were fit to manage, and I see no reason why market value should be paid for that type of land. It has been done in the past and Senator Baxter knows it, because he was a supporter of the then Government, but he took no steps over a long number of years to remedy the position. It is only now when we are coming to the large farm——
Give us one example that you know of.
Will Senator Baxter be less quick to interrupt? When he interrupts like that we are often inclined to say things to him that would make us sorry afterwards.
Senator Baxter likes the facts.
I do not know why he interrupts so much. Perhaps it may satisfy his vanity to get a certain amount of notice taken of him when people reply to him here.
I asked for one example.
I have referred to the statements that it is only now, according to them, that they are bringing back justice to land legislation. That may be their opinion, but there are some people talking who might have taken steps long ago. I am sure that Senator Orpen has told us what is his honest opinion, but many people seek to justify it now, although they took no steps to do anything about it when they had opportunities in the past. I cannot criticise the Land Commission or its activities very much, because it is so seldom, irrespective of the opinion of Senator Baxter, that people get a chance to discuss its affairs here. I hold that we are entitled to discuss them on this Bill so far as the Chair in its wisdom will allow. I suggest that we should be entitled to give our views on what we consider would be good policy for the Land Commission and the country.
Why not give them on the Appropriation Bill?
We are not discussing land. We are discussing a Land Bill dealing with the acquisition and distribution of land.
I am sure that Senator Baxter would be fair enough to agree that the Seanad has no chance of debating a particular Department like the other House, because we have no say over the spending of money except under a couple of Bills. The Estimates for the different Departments do not come before this House.
Might I respectfully intervene to point out that Senator O'Reilly is under a misapprehension? The Appropriation Bill enables this House to discuss any matter that arises on any Vote of the Dáil. We cannot discuss administration on ordinary Bills.
The Senator can put down a motion.
While agreeing that that is so——
We must not be led into an argument about the Land Commission.
In reply to that point, I would say there is in my opinion little advantage in having a long discussion on single items of Government activity on an Appropriation Bill when there is only one Minister, the Minister for Finance, present. There has never been any guarantee given on an Appropriation Bill that the matters raised will be brought to the notice of the Minister responsible. It is impossible therefore to have a satisfactory debate when the Minister for Finance is the only Minister present in the House.
Might I inform the Senator that the principle is always followed that the Minister responsible will study what the Senators say in the Seanad debate?
I cannot criticise the Land Commission, but I cannot help noticing the ability and energy with which they always set about collecting the land annuities. I want to refer to the report on the activities of the Land Commission, and to draw the attention of the Minister to it since it is only by studying the activities of the Land Commission in the past that we get any idea what they are likely to do in the future.
Senator, we are not discussing the Land Commission in the past. We are dealing with the Bill.
I suggest, Sir, that we cannot see how the Land Commission is going to carry on in the future unless we learn it from past experience. Is it too much to hope now that there will be a new departure in land policy? It seems to be a feature of every new Administration that no sooner is a new Minister for Lands appointed than he immediately brings in a new Land Bill. The present Minister is not departing from our experience of the past, and he has given such a display of enthusiasm and energy that some of our hearts begin to rise again and we ask if there is a new spirit to be brought into the Land Commission at last. The present Minister shows signs of doing that, and it has been done before, but our hearts have been raised so often in the past that they may not go up higher this time than they have done in the past. I will say that if the Minister is able to keep up that pace of enthusiasm even for a short time—and that is all any Minister for Lands is able to do—we may hope to see the day when we will get a solution of the position in the congested districts. I am hopeful that the situation in the Department will improve because there is a lot of leeway to be made up.
I want to refer to the position in County Leitrim, which is the most congested county in the whole country. Our average poor law valuation is under £10, and, according to the report of the Irish Land Commission for the year from 1st April, 1948, to 31st March, 1949——
Will the Senator permit me to ask him to relate these matters to the Bill? He has quoted examples, as other speakers did, of things that should not have been done. Will he now give some idea of what should be done under this Bill?
I am coming to that.
Let the Senator take up any section and relate his remarks to it.
Perhaps he has not got the Bill at all.
The Senator happens to be wrong, but even if I had not got it, I object to Senator Baxter always seeking to get notice by interruptions. I do not like to say things about him for which I will be sorry after. I did so before and was sorry afterwards, so I will restrain myself. He need not worry in the least. I have the Bill.
Will the Senator take any section of it and relate his remarks to it?
I am referring to the section which proposes to acquire land and to pay full market value for it. In the report of the Irish Land Commission to which I have referred, there is a table on page 30, and, according to that table, the total amount of land dealt with or distributed in Galway over the whole period was 463,628 acres; in Leitrim, 31,310 acres; in Mayo, 331,536 acres; in Roscommon, 140,971 acres; and in Sligo, 66,837 acres. I should like to know from the Minister if something will be done about these figures. Can anybody justify to me the singling out of Leitrim for that sort of treatment when it is, as I say, the most congested county in the whole country?
Was that not done under Fianna Fáil?
It represents the total activity of the Land Commission up to 31st March, 1949, under Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and, mainly, Cumann na nGaedheal. I wish Senator Baxter would refrain from introducing such issues as they may have the effect of making me say things in reply for which I would be sorry after.
Will the Senator now give his suggestions as to how the position may be remedied?
I will, if Senator Baxter will cease heckling me.
Could you get the Senator to talk about the Bill, Sir?
What is going to be done to relieve that position in Leitrim as shown by the figures? I quote these figures in all sincerity and honesty and out of a sense of duty to the people I live amongst. I welcome the Bill on the whole and I am glad to see any effort made to solve the congestion position in the West. I hope the Bill will solve it, but I doubt it, because I am one of those who believe that it is only through an all-powerful authority, with powers such as those possessed by the Revenue Commissioners, by which they can do many and various things, that this problem will ultimately be solved. As I say, we were made hopeful before with other Ministers and the Minister may say that I am playing the part of a devil's advocate now, but if this Bill does help to solve it, and I hope it will, I shall be very pleased. I will wish any man godspeed in any effort he makes to solve that problem in the West.
In the case of Leitrim, one would think that there was some evil spirit in the people in charge of the Land Commission which induced them to say: "There is a people we will leave to be destroyed." That is the only explanation of the figures in relation to a county which, as I say, is the most congested in the whole country. Only in part of Kerry is there a congested area, but probably all Clare would be nearer to Leitrim than any other county. Only part of Galway, part of Mayo, part of Donegal, and a very small part of West Cavan and North Longford are congested areas. No other county, except possibly Clare, shows figures comparable with those for Leitrim. Yet these are the figures after many years of activity under three different Governments and the fact is that the people of Leitrim would not mind if Beelzebub solved the problem for them.
I wish the Minister every success and I hope that useful work will be done in a short time to relieve congestion. The only way in which it can be done in County Leitrim, where there are no large tracts of land, is to take the larger type of farmer out of Leitrim and give the land to the man who has only a miserable patch, and give the original farmer a farm in the Midlands. There are many such farms which might be dealt with on that basis and there are people who would go if they got a reasonable offer from the Land Commission, but the fact is that, during the past ten years, only four people were moved from Leitrim. The legislation at that time was ample and are we to expect the same sort of thing under this Bill? I hope not. The only way to solve the problem is to acquire some of the larger farms and give the people from whom they are acquired land in the Midlands. These people will not surrender their land in return for land bonds and they would be very foolish if they did. In view of the difference between land values in the Midlands and in the West, the Minister will agree that it would be very foolish for him, in his constituency, to advise people to surrender a farm of 100 acres in a congested district and to accept land bonds for it. I am sure the Minister would not do it. He would be wrong in doing it and I would be wrong in doing it in my county.
The only solution is to take over the larger type of farm in the congested districts and to give suitable farms in the Midlands to the people from whom it is taken. I hope that will be done in the West generally—Mayo, Kerry, Clare, Donegal, Galway. Having regard to past failure to ease this problem, I hope that, when this Bill is passed into law, the Minister will have particular inquiry made, having regard to the figures in the last report issued by the Land Commission. I know from experience as a public representative that the cause is that there has been no land offered to the officers working in County Leitrim. With the exception of one case, there was never a plan of resale. Any migration that took place was on a haphazard arrangement of taking one or two persons but there was never a plan in so far as Leitrim was concerned and it is the only county in the congested area for which a plan was not prepared.
I hope that much useful work will be done under this Bill. I wish the Minister every good luck in his effort to solve this problem. May I again express the hope that, having regard to the figures, the Minister will have them inquired into and will see that the Land Commission will make some attempt to give elementary justice to Leitrim?
I am prepared to leave the question of land in this country to the farmers, but I want to know from Senator O'Reilly if he means to imply that the people owning 100 acres or less in Leitrim should be taken over and their lands divided? It is rather a dangerous proposition that one must not farm more than 100 acres of land in this country, if one observes the ordinary usages and customs of husbandry in this country. I want to know is that the policy advocated by the Senator.
If that could be read into anything I have said, the only explanation is my poor way of putting things.
I leave it to the House.
I did not suggest that land should be acquired from farmers with 100 acres. It would be very undesirable that that should be done, but in the West—possibly Senator Anthony may not know it—in Galway, Mayo and Donegal there are many big, wild farms. In congested districts a big farm very often is more uneconomic than a small farm because, unless there is enough labour to work it properly, it can become a wilderness and unproductive.
Unfortunately, that is not the truth.
If it is poor land or mediocre land. I am suggesting that, where farmers are prepared voluntarily to give up the land, they should get a farm in exchange in the Midlands.
The Senator has answered the question. There is no necessity to elaborate it.
I have listened with a good deal of interest to this debate. In his opening statement, the Minister seemed hopeful that a great deal could be accomplished. If that is the case, no one will be more pleased than I. This is a very big problem. It should be considered, as the question of Partition is considered, as a big national problem. It is my opinion that the land question in Ireland will not be fully solved until there is an all-Party, national commission established to consider the problem, and that would have regard to the rights of everyone concerned.
There is a number of economic holdings. There is a number of landless men. There are various opinions in regard to the problem. Some people consider that it is a good thing to move the bigger farmers, but it would be hard to get that done. All these matters have been confronting us for the last 25 years and, while credit is due to each Government that helped to ameliorate the problem, there is a big problem remaining. In the West the problem is solving itself to a certain extent, but in a rather sad way. The coming generation are not satisfied to stay on the smallholdings of five or six acres in Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim that their parents have worked, with the result that in every parish the families are being reduced to an alarming extent. Political issues should be left out of this question. The whole-hearted co-operation of everybody in the nation will be required to solve it once and for all. We are aware that there is not sufficient land in the country to give enough to everyone that wants land.
Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.
I was at the point of suggesting a national conference, and I mentioned the lines that I think would be advisable to deal efficiently with this question of land division. It is my opinion that we will have to take a broad outlook on it. As I said, cutting out politics, it is really a big national issue, which will take the best forces of the country to solve properly. The present Bill is not going that far. I regret that it is not a national conference that has been set up, but the Minister seemingly has high hopes, from his opening remarks, that he will solve the problem or that it is, at least, a start, and in so far as it is, I wish the project every success. I would like to know from the Minister the number of smallholders, say, under £10 valuation, in the country, because, after all, they are the type of farmers that are living, if you like, more or less on the verge of poverty in some cases, and for most of them it is hard work. They are in that position a great many of them in Connacht and, I suppose, also in Donegal and down in Kerry. I am speaking of those of whom I have intimate knowledge in Connacht. These people and their families have worked very hard and made a decent living on from five to ten acres in the past. The sons now in many cases are not inclined to do that, and I think it is a great pity for the sake of the country and of national prosperity that any of these will be lost.
For that reason, I would be glad if the Minister would give us an indication of the number of these men, and if he can give any assurance whether it would be possible to relieve them to some moderate extent. I have listened to the debate, and to the various speakers coming from the various other provinces, and in their outlook they have a very different opinion of economic holdings. To my mind, it is not the number of acres that make the economic holding. A lot depends on where it is situated, and how it is managed. I know of people with 15 acres of land, and if they had five more acres or six, they would feel they had not enough.
I am sure I know of instances where if people had 25 acres of land and if they got a present of more, that is for their own use, except to dispose of it or give it to friends or something like that, it would not be acceptable. I know a number of cases down in our county that would consider 25 acres or 30 acres a very decent holding. I would like the Minister to give us an idea of how many of those he hopes to relieve and in what period he hopes to relieve each county or a number of centres in each county. As most speakers have already said, the ideal would be to induce large farmers to exchange their places and move into another district. I mentioned at the beginning that the problem was so acute that in many cases the problem was solving itself by people locking up their little homes and going to England or America. I even know of cases where the son who was intended for the farm did not stay on it because if he remained until his parents died, as was the custom formerly, he would be rather old and settled in life. The custom is being established of the son or daughter taking the parents to England and locking up the home. That has happened in many homes in parishes adjoining mine, and the clergy of those parishes have called attention to it.
I would strongly urge that provision be made for the sons of farmers, men who have been brought up in a tough sphere and who understand all about the land. They make ideal farmers. They are not afraid of hard work or ashamed of it, and they have a natural talent and taste for the land. Is it the policy of the Government, having provided for uneconomic holders, to look to those people? I know the case of a farmer who got ten Irish acres from the Congested Districts Board some 45 years ago. He raised a family of 11 and he was in a position ten or 12 years after getting the land to give £500 for another farm which he has paid for. He has seven sons, and I have no hesitation in saying that every one of them would make as good a farmer as himself. It would be a great national assest if such people could be retained in the country instead of their going to England.
Is it the Government's policy to give land to cottiers? People are not quite clear on that question.
I have spoken as plainly as possible of the matters which occurred to me as a result of my everyday intercourse with the farming community of the West of Ireland and I have a fairly good idea of their wishes and needs. I have no hesitation in stressing that the number of acres is not so important. The amount which would be economic in one district would not be economic in another. If the people in one parish got 30 acres they would think a lot more of it than people in another if they got 100. People who have raised families and who have done what has been accomplished by some people deserve some consideration, and I have no doubt that the Minister, coming from the bordering county of Mayo, will be able to vouch for some of the claims I have made.
Roscommon has the name of being a ranchers' county, but I would like anybody who believes that to take a tour of the north and west. The Minister's inspectors should take note of the very great congestion which exists in west and north Roscommon, largely if not entirely composed of that class of hardworking tenant farmers of which I have spoken. I cannot stress too strongly that I hope that the Minister and his officials will take them into consideration. When land is divided in Roscommon the people with first claim should be these uneconomic holders and after them the people of the rest of the county. After that the people of Roscommon will welcome migrants from other areas. People who have already been migrated from adjoining counties have, I am glad to say, lived very happily and peacefully with the people of Roscommon.
At the very outset I should like to say that I am very pleased with the tone of the debate which has obtained all through this discussion. It has not been quite as fiery, or should I say, as full of politics as the debate in the other House, but I suppose that is to be expected. I must say though that the debate centred more on administration than on matters directly connected with the Bill which is before the House at the moment.
Perhaps, Sir, if you bear with me, I may reply to some of the matters concerning administration, even although they do not rise directly on the Bill, but I feel that in thus trespassing on the generosity of the Chair, I would be giving Senators some useful information seeing that they have requested that information. I suppose it is only on the occasion of the Land Bill coming before this House or on the occasion of a motion raised by some Senator that Land Commission policy or the activities of the Land Commission in general get a chance of a hearing here. Senators, for that reason, unless they follow the Dáil Debates closely, cannot be expected to have really as up-to-date a knowledge of the work of the Land Commission as they would like to have, or as they would have if they were members of the other House. Some of the questions raised centred on the Bill itself. I think if I take the Bill first I might give an outline of the principal changes which it is proposed to make.
Might I suggest that as a matter of helping the Seanad, if the Minister would deal with the problem with which he is faced first, then we would see the importance of the Bill in relation to the problem? That may not appeal to him, but I think it would be the better way to approach the matter.
I quite agree with the Senator and, at his suggestion, I will do that. The problem facing the Land Commission to which the Government has determined to give major attention is the problem of the relief of congestion. That must not be mixed or confused with the question of buying land and dividing it among allottees for the sake of dividing it. The whole activity of the Land Commission under the control of the present Government will be for the relief of congestion and for that alone. I hope that is clearly understood now. The Congested Districts Board was established in the congested counties many years ago. There is no need to go back to the circumstances of the time and the earlier history of the board, but by the time this country regained its freedom the problem was just about half completed in these congested counties. When I speak of the nine congested districts and counties I do not want it to be taken that the Land Commission is relieving congestion only in these counties. The problem is to relieve congestion in any county where it exists. That is the one cardinal principle I would ask the members of the House to remember. The work of relieving that congestion entails many different kinds of work for the Land Commission and its outdoor staff. It entails, first and foremost, the acquisition of land, the building or providing of new houses and the rearrangement of rundale and intermixed holdings in the areas where such rundale or intermixed holdings occur. It entails fencing, draining, building bridges and general improvement of holdings that have been seriously and badly mismanaged in the days of the old landlords, and have been handed down to us untouched ever since with the result that there are still villages isolated from the rest of the community.
I know of one such village consisting of 103 families into which there is no road, with the result that even the ordinary horse cart or side-car or trap cannot be brought any nearer than a quarter of a mile from the nearest house in the village. All goods have to be carried by the people, either in their hands or on their backs, as the case may be. That is just one example —I may say it is a bad example, but it is one which has existed over a long number of years of self-government. Both in the Dáil and in this House I have been asked how many congests are still to be relieved. There is no accurate survey of the number of congests whose holdings need enlargement or rearrangement for the reason that the number is constantly changing, particularly in the western areas. Holdings are changing hands and the holding that is non-residential to-day might be purchased to-morrow for anything from £50 to £80, £100 or £200, as the case may be, and some young man having it in his mind to get married and settle down will build a house, perhaps with a thatched roof to enable him to do so. For that reason it is impossible to give an accurate figure, but I would say that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 holdings which have yet to be rearranged and enlarged in the whole country.
I felt very proud to be able to say when introducing my Vote in the Dáil that during the past year 1,250 holdings had been brought from what I described as the poverty level up to the economic level. In other words, 1,250 families have been raised from a level of £1, £2 or £3 valuation as the case may be up to £10, and above £10 in some cases. There were 1,800 allotments all told, about 300 of which were bog, but all the allotments did not bring up those holdings to an economic level. That is why I asked the Dáil a short time ago, and I ask this House now, to consider the major problem before the Land Commission and before this or any Government that will take its place in this State. If there is a change of Government to-morrow that problem will come before the new Government and it will come before any Government that might take office in a week or ten years.
The last Government went out on a policy of dividing land. That proved to be a failure. I did not come here to castigate them for that because everybody, even a Government, must do the best according to the way they see the problem, and must shape their policy accordingly That policy was a failure. They had to drop it and they swung around, in the latter years they were in office, to the relief of congestion, but before I pass from that subject, the giving of land to a certain type of people proved to be such a failure that in 1946 a special Act had to be brought in by the last Government to deal with the problem that had arisen as a result of their earlier work in the Land Commission. These are all milestones along the road to the final goal. I think it was Senator J.T. Ruane who said that this Bill seemed to be putting off the question of finality and establishing the Land Commission as a perpetual body in this country. Such would be most undesirable. The reason I have this Bill before the House at present is that I want to see finality to the work of the Land Commission, because otherwise the land of this country for which so many sacrifices have been made will be constantly in the melting pot.
Let us not forget that the land is our principal asset. We are not an industrial country. We have no other sources of wealth to the same extent that agriculture produces, and therefore we must watch our main industry with as much care as England, Germany and the United States guard their huge iron and steel industries, and so on. They watch these very jealously, and we also should watch our land and our agricultural position very jealously. Agricultural production in this country is based on the fact that the farmers own their land and not on the idea that they are tenants, and the question of price enters very largely into this matter of the feeling of security.
Might I ask the Minister if, in giving us a picture of the problem, it would be possible for him to deal with the questions I raised and which were underlined by Senator Meighan?
It would be better to allow the Minister to proceed and to put the questions after.
There is a lot to be said for that, but I should like to get this into some kind of order as I see it.
We would all claim the same privileges.
I want to assure Senator Ó Buachalla that I am doing my best to give the problem as it faces the Land Commission and the Government to the House. I have said that no accurate survey can be taken or is available to show how many congests are to be relieved. I pointed out, first, that the policy of this Government is the relief of congestion. Congestion is no more or less than the overcrowding which occurred during the period of occupation by England and which was caused by the landlord system. It is the overcrowding together into uneconomic holdings of vast numbers of our people. The easing of that congestion, the transfer of some of the holders to farms where the pressure is not so great, that is the relief of congestion and that entails the enlarging of these uneconomic holdings to an economic size.
While the economic level differs very considerably in many areas, the question of what size of holding is sufficient enters into it. The size of a holding varies from one area to another and it varies for many reasons. A small holding of arable land will give a better standard of living to the owner if it is land of reasonable fertility, fairly near a town, than twice or three times as large a holding seven, eight or ten miles away, the owner of which has not a town close to him for the disposal of many kinds of produce like eggs, milk and the one thousand and one things produced on a holding.
The farmer himself enters very largely into it. Every one of us knows farmers who keep their houses as neat as dolls' houses, houses which are a pleasure to look at. There may not be more than 15 or 20 acres of land, but the houses are neatly whitewashed, the roofs are right, the out-offices are clean and the general surroundings clean. Such a farmer may have reared five, seven, eight or perhaps ten of a family on these 15 acres in a great measure of comfort because of his thrift, his carefulness and a certain ability to knock the very most out of every perch of land he has. Across the road there may be another farmer with 50, 60 or 100 acres. In that case the fences are down and you could not walk through a field without leggings because of the thistles. You find the neighbour's stock in it every night and possibly not turned out during the day. The man himself sleeps until 12 or 1 o'clock, when he will come out minus his vest or coat looking to see what kind of morning it is and what his neighbours are doing. You have all that in rural Ireland.
The size of a holding depends largely on the ability of the Land Commission inspector to judge his man in most cases and that has to be taken into account where a holding is to be allotted. It is an intensely complicated question, and the longer I am in the Land Commission the more I take off my hat to the outdoor inspector, who is a good inspector, because he has literally to be a jack-of-all-trades. He has to be a psychologist, a first-class engineer and a thousand and one things besides, and his problem is anything but an easy one.
I have said that the policy of the Government is the relief of congestion. I have told the House what congestion is for the benefit of Senators like Senator Quirke who admitted that he did not know what a rearrangement scheme was. Happy Senator Quirke or anybody else who can say that! A good deal of emphasis has been laid on the acquisition of land. I want to repeat what I said in the Dáil in that regard. I am not interested in the acquisition of land or the acreage acquired in any one year, except in so far as it is going to be a means towards relieving congests. There are 20,000, 25,000 or 30,000 families at present living in poverty. Some under the £4 valuation level are drawing the dole and some of them are trying to rear families in the most depressing circumstances and in hovels in which none of us would house cattle. All this must be done away with. It is a problem, and in order to do away with it land must be acquired.
Questions have been raised in the Dáil time and again requesting the Minister to ask the Land Commission to acquire such and such a farm. A point was raised here about foreigners buying land. I want to state clearly and emphatically that the Land Commission is not a scavenger department for the purpose of cleaning up odds and ends of jobs as they arise. It is one of the most responsible Government Departments with a very responsible job in front of it—the relief of congestion. The question of foreigners coming in is largely a matter for the Minister for Justice and the Minister for External Affairs, in the first instance. I will have a few words to say later with regard to foreigners coming in here and buying land, but I want to say that I will not allow the Land Commission to buy land from an Irishman, a black, a Greek or anybody else unless that land is eminently suitable for Land Commission purposes. They are not going to buy up huge estates regardless of what use they will be when they get them. We cannot allow any Government Department to squander the people's money. It is not my money or the commissioner's money that is being spent; it is the money of the taxpayers which is being spent, and we must not allow the Land Commission or any other Government Department to squander public money. We must ensure that the greatest use is made of it for the benefit of the people of this and future generations.
Let me say clearly again that the Land Commission is not a scavenger Department going around cleaning up odds and ends of jobs as they occur. They are engaged in much too serious work, a most splendid work, to have tagged on to them such things as roads, odds and ends of drainage work and various other jobs which arise. When a debate takes place in the Dáil on the Land Commission, I often think of the man returning home from the market who was asked by one of his neighbours why it was he bought only one bonham and who replied that he had to get the bonham in order to use up a lot of things which were going to waste around the house. I do not want the Land Commission to be looked on as a stray bonham knocking around the place gobbling up things that would otherwise go to waste. That is the position which many people would force us into. The making of roads across farms, regardless of whether they are useful to the allottees who will get the farms or not, and the making of these roads in such a way that the county council will take them over and make county roads of them—these are matters for the local authority. There are many other jobs suggested, such as providing spring water in farms which were vested 15 or 20 years ago and of which the Land Commission has washed its hands.
The primary purpose of the Congested Districts Board and the Land Commission was to but out the land of this country from the landlords who owned it and to make the tenant farmers the owners. That handing over of ownership occurs in the act of vesting. A farmer is vested or unvested. If he is unvested, it means that the ownership of the particular estate or farm on which he has his tenancy, which the Land Commission took over from the landlord, is still in the Land Commission and has not been passed on to the tenant. It is passed on to that tenant in the act of vesting. That was the first problem of the Land Commission, the Estates Commissioners and the Congested Districts Board in pre-1923 days. In 1923 the late Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Hogan, brought in the 1923 Act which abolished landlordism in this country at one stroke and took over something like 9,600 landlords, covering 107,000 tenants and almost 3,000,000 acres. The defining of each tenant's holding clearly, the making of the folio map which must be lodged in the Land Registry Office and the handing over of ownership with good, clean, sound title to each of these 107,000 tenants was a mighty and tremendous job. I do not want Senators to run away with the impression that that job has been completed or is near completion. It is not. Last year, we vested 16,000 of those holders and there are upwards of 50,000 of such holders yet to be vested.
After the passing of the 1933 Act, the energy of the Land Commission was completely dissipated for a large number of years. That should not have occurred. I do not want to lay the blame on any particular Party, Minister or Government. I am telling this House exactly the situation as I find it and what I would like to see done. I will not be easy until every one of the remaining 50,000 tenants is vested and is the owner of his land. I will not be easy until the 20,000 to 30,000 uneconomic holders are brought to an economic level. If I am still Minister for Lands, when that is done, I will be proposing a Bill to wind up the Land Commission because it will have done its work. When every tenant farmer is made his own owner and the vast majority of the uneconomic holders have been brought to an economic level, the Land Commission work will have been done. When that day comes, it will be a matter for the then Government to review the situation and to see if any evils have arisen during that period, which I would estimate at about 15 years if the Land Commission is allowed to deal with congestion only during that period.
We relieved 1,250 uneconomic holders last year. I said in the Dáil that I will not be easy until I see that stepped up to 2,000 per year. If the present Government and the Government that will follow and the Government that will follow after that, keep to that, I have not the sightest doubt that in 12 to 14 years the question of congestion will be at an end and it will then be a matter for the Government of that day to review the situation. Perhaps, in the meantime, evils may have arisen which will demand a further Land Bill or further intervention by the Land Commission or the Government.
A close watch is being kept on the purchase of land by non-nationals. I want to assure the House that there is no need for alarm. Some have bought the land at fantastic prices and have burnt their fingers. The number of purchases by foreigners is so small that no action is necessary at the moment in regard to it. I want to assure the House on that, for fear there might be alarm as a result of some of the speeches made here and in the Dáil. The question is not a serious one, by any means. Some Senators are afraid that there will be a new conquest of this country by money, that foreigners will buy out this country. The only thing I can say is that they will want to hurry up to make any impression at all, because at the rate of purchase for the last ten years, it will take 2,400 years to buy up the land of this country.
I like evils or dangers to be brought to my notice or to the notice of other Ministers, but I do not like to see anybody being frightened of shadows. It is not an evil that has to be taken account of yet. The House can take it that the very moment the matter becomes serious I will be the very first to go to the Government to ask for some measures to deal with it. It is the duty of any Minister the moment he finds some evil threatening the people or the property of this country to ask the Oireachtas for remedial measures at once. That is exactly the line I intend to take.
I hope Senator Ó Buachalla is satisfied with that presentation of the problem. I am sorry that the one thing I cannot give him is the number of uneconomic holders still to be relieved, but I believe the figure to be between 20,000 and 30,000.
And the number of people asking for new holdings?
We do not take account of them, because the number of people asking for new holdings, if we start giving out new holdings, will be the total population of this country. I do not say that by way of joke. If we start giving out holdings to those who apply for them, anybody who does not apply should not be at large, but should be locked up. That is the view I take of it. The big problem facing us is the fact—I am sorry to admit it —that many thousands of parents are trying to rear families under the most fearful conditions, conditions that I know in my own county. I was literally ashamed to admit the conditions in the other House, they were so bad. I will not dwell on it beyond that.
There are many parents anxious to fix their children up in farms. That is a problem.
I know it is a problem. There is also the problem of parents whose children are going on for the professions or trying to enter the Civil Service, or for whom they would like to buy a public-house, or whom they would like to apprentice to carpentry or anything else. That is a problem that is ever present. It is a tough one, I admit, for the parents.
I sympathise with the Minister. The fact is he has not been able to outline the problem in toto for us.
I have outlined it.
Certain features of it.
I am not setting my cap at anything outside the relief of congestion until congestion is relieved.
The Minister has been quite clear on that.
Perhaps I have not a good way of making myself clear. That is the first problem.
I think I made it quite clear that that problem is about to be solved. Then it will be the duty of the Government to review the situation and to see if there are any other evils present in the question of land ownership and distribution. Then they can use their brains on it and devise their own ways and means of settling such evils as exist.
Posterity will look after that.
Senator O'Reilly mentioned the price of land. He said that Senator Counihan was pleased with this. The alteration in the method of paying or the method of fixing the price of acquired land was not brought in to please anybody. I am glad if people are pleased, but it was not brought in to please anybody. It was enshrined in this Bill to establish the principle that this State should not be a highway robber. One of the first things I told the Taoiseach, when I had a chance of reviewing the situation, after the change of Government was that if the present method of paying for acquired land were to continue he would have to seek a new Minister for Lands, that if he wanted me to reign over a Department or to run a Department by which many people were little short of plundered and their land and property confiscated, I would not stand for it and could not do so. This was brought in in common justice and fair play to set the example that the State should not take any man's property at less than its value. The State has ample powers to deal with any citizen or outsider who tries to possess himself of any man's property illegally. The State should set the good example and the headline. That is what I am doing under Section 5.
It is quite possible that, for a long number of years after the passing of the 1923 Act, in which these principles were first enshrined, no evils resulted. I could come on down through the years but Senator Baxter quoted a case that made my hair stand on end. I do hope that in the short period that I have been in office no serious case of taking property at a wretched price has occurred. I have made the Bill retrospective to 1st December last and that is as far as I can go. I think it was Senator Denis Burke who asked me to make the Bill retrospective to the date it was introduced. I have examined that proposal since the Senator made his speech. I find it would be utterly impossible to go back. It would create a terrific problem for the Land Commission if we were to go back farther than 1st December. I amended the Bill during its passage through the other House to cover cases of acquisition where possession was taken of the land on or after 1st December last. Although prices may have been fixed or agreed on in the meantime, within six months after the passing of this Act, they can apply to the Appeal Tribunal to have the price redetermined, because I want the greatest possible measure of fair play to flow from this Bill. I also want to make it clear that the Land Commission is not going around with their pockets bulging with money for anybody to pluck or plunder. We are prepared to pay a fair price for land, and only a fair price. We think we are entitled to get land at market price, just the same as any citizen of the State is.
While, on the other hand, it was definitely wrong, and it is a very serious matter for the Land Commission to take forcibly any man's property at a less price than what that man would get for it in the open market, I do not want Senators or people outside the House to think that now we are going to go around as a kind of Father Christmas with a bag of money and with our eyes closed to wait for some rogue to pluck us. We will take very good care that such is not the case. As I said, we will give market value. A good deal of criticism has centred on the question of market price and market value. What is the difference between the two? My opinion is that if there are two members of this House or any two persons, and one of them has an object or article to sell, and the other has an article to buy, and if they agree on the price, that agreement is market value, and the money that passes over is the price. There is no quibbling about it. We will pay the market price. We will agree to pay the market price that is agreed beforehand as the market value.
What if the element of monopoly enters, as it must do in the case of land?
I do not follow that.
The market price is what results when the market is free, when buyers and sellers are free to conclude a bargain.
Is it in order that a Senator should be allowed to sit and address the House in this manner?
It is just a question. I suggested to the Senator before that he can put any question to the Minister when he has concluded his speech.
The market will be perfectly free. The Land Commission acquires land by the compulsory powers which it has under the previous Acts and which are not minimised or touched on or diminished in this Bill. They will fix the market value for that land. They will not fix it according to the old formula, which bade them to have regard to the fair price to the Land Commission and to the owner. It was that system that caused such grievous hardship, particularly in the last eight or ten years. It was then that most of these cases were brought to our notice. The market will be free. Remember this, I come from a county from which one man whom I feel very proud of— Michael Davitt—sprang. It was he and his two companions, Dillon and Parnell, established the three F's, fixity of tenure, free sale and fair rent. Free sale is just as sacred to-day as it was in Davitt's time, for this reason, that any man who says to me that I shall not sell what is mine or attempts to have a say in the sale immediately denies me full ownership and implies that he has a share in the ownership with me. I want to see that every tenant in this country with half a rood of bog or 50 or 100 acres will be able to own that land, and will be able to stand on the fence or gate and say that no one will come in here except according to the authority of law. There will be no interference with free sale.
Speaking in connection with Section 26, which gives power to the Land Commission to purchase land in open market, I gave an assurance, and, I think, more than an assurance, to the other House that should any evils arise as a result of the entrance of the Land Commission to the open market I would immediately ask them to desist from further purchases. It has been pointed out in this House and the other House that the two bugbears in this, if I any call them so, are inflation and deflation. They could appear, and should they appear, and the people whom I intend to benefit under this Bill, should they take it into their heads to take the law into their hands or try to do a good turn to the Land Commission or to help them out, and this causes inflation or deflation, the reply will be swift and sudden. The Land Commission will be asked at once to withdraw from the open market. Senator Quirke spoke about who is going to buy. I am not going to tell this House or tell the lower House or tell anybody who is going to buy land for us in the open market. I presume no offence will be taken when I say this, that I think it is auctioneers who will probably be interested in this. I do not blame them for that. A little curiosity is definitely pardonable. I do not know what system we will have to use. The whole system is such a new and radical departure. It is purely exploratory. I will be asking the Dáil for a small sum of money to see how it will work. I believe that it is going to achieve big results. I want to be in a position to buy, instantly and rapidly, the small non-residential holdings which occur in rundale villages and in villages which we rearrange, holdings of five or six acres or eight or ten acres which are intensely valuable to us. I want to be in a position to buy the nice standard holding which is for sale on the open market and which is ready and available to put a migrant in straight away.
I want to be in a position, also, to buy the big farm, if it is put up for sale, provided that our interference or presence at the sale does not interfere with the price, that it does not, on the one hand, cause the seller to sell at a lower price or, on the other hand, be the cause of inflating it on the normal buyer who might otherwise buy. I know that is a new departure. I think it is going to be a success, but if it is going to produce any evils in its train, it will disappear as quickly as it appeared. I want the members of the House to know that, and to realise it. Many and varied were the directions given to me as to how the Land Commission should acquire land. Some said that all land that was being sublet for a number of years should be acquired. Other said that it should not be. The Land Commission are the only authority who will decide what particular land is to be acquired. The Dáil and this House determine the type of land and the kind of persons from whom the land will be acquired. Section 39 of the 1939 Act and Section 23 of the 1933 Act determine the kind of persons from whom land will be taken. These guiding principles are the rails on which the Land Commission have been running for years. The question of the acquisition of any particular lands should not give rise to any controversy good or bad. The Land Commission are not going outside their sphere. Senator Quirke mentioned a few cases he knew of in Tipperary and several other Senators mentioned cases in which the Land Commission should not take land, but I fully agree with everything which the Minister for Agriculture said in the Dáil the other night; that land which has been let for a number of years. which is a kind of return of the landlord system, is the first land to which the Land Commission should direct their attention and that is my direction to the commissioners. I did not like the line which Senator Quirke took when he quoted a certain amount of what the Minister for Agriculture said. The Minister for Agriculture distinctly said that in cases where such acquisition would cause a hardship that writ was not to run. Perhaps there is a husband and wife with a big family and all of a sudden God sees fit to take away the breadwinner leaving the widow and children badly provided for. If the widow decides to let the land the Land Commission are not going to be all-devouring monsters and turn the poor widow woman out on the road. I would not like that to happen under my direction of the Land Commission at any rate. The first land to which the Land Commission's attention will be directed is land which is let by someone who has an alternative means of livelihood, who owns land but will not work it. He owns it but lets somebody else reap a profit from it. If we are not to take the land from them from whom are we to take it? From the man who is working his land? I do not think so. From the widow in poor or straitened circumstances? We must turn to those who are making less use of their land and to those upon whom the acquisition proceedings would impose the least hardship, persons who have been constantly letting their land while they themselves were well fitted and well equipped to work it.
I am not so much interested in land acquisition as in the enlarging of uneconomic holdings and putting an end to congestion. I want to see the end of this feeling of uneasiness that does obtain and which has obtained for a long number of years through the activities of the Land Commission. I want to see every farmer, big or small, secure in his holding and not terrified. I want him to go to bed with as easy a mind as the shopkeeper or the carpenter who has a little shop and is secure in it knowing that no neighbours want to take it from him or will start a conspiracy to take it from him. Farmers are entitled to that. Farmers have fought too long not to have that, but that does not interfere with the work of the Land Commission in relieving congestion.
Some principles have been enshrined in this Bill with regard to the fixation of prices. The redemption value will not now be taken out of the purchase price paid to the previous owner of a holding and I think that is only right. Heretofore if a man with a farm put it up for sale with a redemption value of £100, £300, £800 or £1,000, Johnny Burke might buy the farm and give £2,000 for it. There is no question for him about the redemption value; Johnny Burke did not insist on getting it free of rent but the Land Commission because of the law had to. We are abolishing that under this Bill. Whether it is vested land or unvested land the owner will now get the full market value without having the redemption stopped out of it which was a serious complaint heretofore.
Senator Quirke and Senator Hawkins seemed to be under a complete misapprehension about the powers I was seeking under Section 11. I am taking powers and I am very sorry they were not taken long ago, but I want the House to understand and clearly realise what has been done under this Bill. The Minister will not have power to acquire as much land as he would leave his hat on. Is that clear and emphatic enough for the House? I have taken no power whatever under the Bill to acquire or resume land. I would not take power to acquire or resume land if the office of Minister for Lands carried a salary of £20,000 a year. I am seeking to delegate power away from the commissioners in Section 11 in the case of rearrangement schemes and, as that is as radical a departure from the previous practice as giving market value, I think it is only fair to the House, although they might think me a bit long-winded, to explain it in detail.
Section 11 repeals at one stroke Section 6 of the 1933 Act, but it reembodies the main principles of that and that repeal has only been done for the sake of tidying and for the sake of not legislating by reference, which is a nasty thing, if it can be avoided. In Section 6 of the 1933 Act there were seven excepted matters: the persons from whom land was to be acquired, the lands to be acquired, the price to be paid, the allottees to whom it could or should be allotted and the price at which it was to be sold. For the purpose of clarification, I have doubled that number to 14. So that Senators may know what excepted matters are, I may say that the Minister, under the Bill, will now have control of practically everything in the Land Commission except the excepted matters. They are called excepted matters to show that they are handed completely over to the discretion of the commissioners. The commissioners and the commissioners alone may perform any of the matters from (a) to (n) in sub-section (1) of Section 11. Section 6 of the 1933 Act sought to clarify the powers of the Minister and of the commissioners. It failed.
An attempt was made in the 1939 Act to set up a clear dividing line between what the Minister should do and what the commissioners only could do, and again it failed. I am making a still further attempt in this Bill, and I am vain enough to think that I have done it, and I hope I have done it. This sets out for the first time what the Minister can do and what the commissioners should do. Senators who wish to know what excepted matters are should look at Section 11, sub-section (1) (a) to (n). These are matters over which the commissioners have complete and absolute control. The Minister, the Government, or the two Houses of the Oireachtas, except by passing a special Act, cannot interfere in any of these functions, but all the rest goes to the Minister, and will be performed by the Minister's officials. I hope that is clear.
Among these matters is rearrangement, and great play was made about that in the Dáil. In the case of a new allotment to enlarge an existing holding the commissioners and only the commissioners shall make or approve of that arrangement. The Minister does not do it. The allotting of a new holding to a migrant is done by the commissioners and by the commissioners only. The Minister will not do it, but a senior inspector of the Land Commission shall have authority under this Bill when it becomes law to sanction a rearrangement scheme, and that brings me right down to what a rearrangement scheme is.
Seeing that there is one Senator in the House—and possibly more—who is not familiar with the conditions I am sorry that I have not a Land Commission map of a typical rundale townland or village. In most cases the holdings are mixed hopelessly like a patchwork quilt. Let me quote a case not a mile from the town of Castlebar where a man had seven statute acres divided into 33 unfenced plots with no two of those plots touching each other. It is not easy for people who are used to regular holdings in the countryside to visualise what that means. It is like a huge draughts board. All the squares are little fields or gardens, all unfenced. No one man owns any two which are side by side for, if he did, they would not be two plots at all. When the inspector went in he aimed at putting them all in one rectangle with a suitable site for a house in the rectangle. In order to get an even division of good land and bad land there might be two portions. The very moment that the Land Commission inspector goes into such a townland, each tenant in that townland immediately looks forward to getting the best slice of the loaf he possibly can and it is very hard to blame him, but the trouble is that every other tenant is closely on the watch to see how the land is being divided and each tenant knows the quality and value of every garden, whether it is good, middling or bad.
If the inspector is unskilled enough to make a bad job of the rearrangement the tenants do not agree, saying: "We are not taking that while the other fellow is getting more than his fair share of the good land." If the tenants are not content the scheme falls through and it sometimes takes months of an inspector's time and worry and often burning of the midnight oil to get a rearrangement scheme through by the time he has got all the tenants to agree to the scheme. He then has to submit it to the inspector in charge in the local county town. That inspector studies it and passes it on to his divisional inspector for further consideration. Every examination of the scheme means further delay because perhaps a divisional inspector would have the control of three or four counties. Having passed the divisional inspector the scheme must then come to the acquisition and resales branch of the Land Commission who have to put it under the microscope and examine it for flaws, consider whether there is not too much expenditure or whether the boundary agrees on a check with the boundary on the old map handed in by the landlord in days gone by.
This may take a year or more and at any time it could be sent back to the original inspector to explain some minor detail in it. In some cases all these delays added up to a year, 18 months or perhaps two years from the time the inspector first sent the rearrangement scheme out of his own hands to his inspector in charge. After that he saw it no more, and by the time it came back to him a couple of years would have elapsed. During that couple of years one holding may have been sold. One tenant may have gone to a neighbouring townland, another may have gone to England or somewhere else, and the inspector on his return is greeted with something like this: "Musha, where did you go to from us? We thought you were lost. You can go back now to wherever you came from. We do not want your rearrangement scheme," so that all his work and worry is gone down the drain and he probably is sent to some other townland and everything is back again where it started. My point under this Bill, and I want it to be clearly understood, is that I want the divisional inspector to have power to sanction a rearrangement scheme himself.
In other words, I want the position to be that the moment the tenants are ready to agree the divisional inspector will have power to sanction it on the spot and say "Go ahead." I want to end this business of waiting two or three years before the inspector goes back to the village. I want him to be able to go back the next day with his scheme and to be able to start gangers at work before the tenants have time to change their minds. There is nothing concealed about that. I want to tell this side of the House, and it is my point of view, that the Fianna Fáil Minister should have done this years ago. If he did, half the congestion and half all the other problems would not be there for me now to settle.
I have dealt with the question of land offered for sale. There is only one other change of any consequence in it and that is a change in the constitution of the Appeal Tribunal. Let me tell the House and those who may not know it that the Land Commission consists of a Judicial Commissioner and six lay commissioners. In other words, the whole commission consists of seven members, a judge of the High Court and six commissioners. Two of these commissioners sit with the judge of the High Court on what is known as the Appeal Tribunal. That is the tribunal that determines the disputes that arise from any cause. There is no appeal from their decision to acquire land or resume land by the Land Commission. There is no appeal from that except on a point of law. The Appeal Tribunal consists of the Judicial Commissioner and two of the lay commissioners raised to tribunal status.
The number of appeals has been falling off in recent years, and I am asking in this Bill that the Appeal Tribunal should consist of the Judicial Commissioner only who is a judge of the High Court, and I am asking you to give me back two Appeal Tribunal commissioners to carry on the work of acquisition and resumption, because two of the commissioners will be retiring under this Bill. Instead of the two commissioners, we will be asking the Judicial Commissioner to do the duties himself. We anticipate that these duties will not be beyond his capacity. They will not be so numerous as to so overstrain him with work that I will have to come again to the House asking for a change in the Bill.
Another change which this Bill seeks to make is to provide a gratuity for displaced employees instead of the usual holding given in nearly all cases. When the Land Commission takes over a big farm or estate there is generally a herd; and there may also be a general man or two—a cowman or a ploughman a long time in the service of the previous family. The practice up to this in the case of good old employees, old reliable employees, was to give them holdings.
Let me say that just as the question of allotting holdings to landless men under the present arrangement resulted in the bad use of a lot of the holdings and compelled the last Government to bring in the 1946 Act, the same thing applied, but not for the same reason, to the cases of some employees and I believe myself, having a fairly intimate knowledge of the country, that the man who has been brought up or has been accustomed to earn wages or getting his salary paid every Saturday night, does not take kindly to a holding of his own. He could not do so at 25, 30 or 40 years of age. It is difficult for a man who has spent a long time at the same job to adopt a totally different method of living and to change over from a system where he was paid every Saturday night to another system in which he would get £150 or £200 for cattle on one day of the year, and in which he cannot adjust himself so readily as to make that sum go the whole round of the year. I believe that is the cause of so many holdings being recovered from people who did not appreciate them. I am not saying they did not appear to appreciate them, but I am thoroughly convinced that it is a cruelty to ask a man of 35 or 40 suddenly to change his method of livelihood. You might as well ask a carpenter to switch over and become a perfect watch repairer—it is as big a change as that. That has brought us up against the question of whether we should have power to pay a lump sum because in many cases such displaced employees ask for a lump sum and do not want the holding. Instead, when they knew the Land Commission had no authority to give them a lump sum, they asked to be vested in the holding which they were allotted, because they were displaced employees, so as they could sell and get the cash the other way.
I believe in getting the thing straight. The question also arises in cases where there were three men on a farm which has been taken over. One man may have had service as a herd for 20, 30 or 40 years with the previous owner. Another may be a man of only three or four or five years' employment and who has reached middle age. It is very hard to turn down the latter's claim for a holding when the others get one, but, at the same time, we feel that his period of service might not be long enough to qualify him for a holding in view of the fact that there may be many more deserving applicants for land in the neighbourhood.
I have delayed the House longer than I thought and I apologise for doing so. Many other questions, I know, were raised by Senators, and perhaps I have overlooked them, but what I would say to Senators is this: when it comes to the amendment stage I would be only too glad when we are taking the Bill to pieces bit by bit and putting each piece under the microscope, to give any information or enlightenment on the work of the Land Commission or on the repercussions which may follow the working of this Bill.
Once again, I want to say that I am very pleased and thankful to the House for the lines on which the debate developed. Every Senator, without exception, expressed willingness to help me out in this matter. The problem facing the Land Commission is a big one, but I am not in the least daunted by it. I want all the help I can get, however, and will be thankful for any such help that I get.