Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Feb 1956

Vol. 45 No. 12

Forestry Bill, 1955—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The object of this Bill is to facilitate the acquisition of land for forestry purposes. The Bill deals with three specific types of case:—

(i) cases where defects in the title of occupiers of land are a bar to the acquisition of the land;

(ii) areas to which title is held in common and where not all the holders in common are prepared to dispose of their interests in the commonages, and

(iii) cases of grazing rights or similar rights enjoyed in common where not all of the holders are prepared to dispose of their rights.

Owing to the intricacies of the matters coming within the scope of the Bill, I arranged that a very full Explanatory Memorandum should be circulated with the Bill and I am sure that this Memorandum will have given Senators a clear picture of the purposes of the Bill and of the procedure to be adopted to achieve those purposes.

As to the need for the creation of machinery to enable us to acquire land from persons with defective title, I may tell the House that in recent years it has been a noticeable feature of the work of acquiring land for forestry purposes that the average size of individual offers is gradually dwindling and, in order to maintain our current rate of acquisition, as many as 250 individual offers have to be put through in a single year. The fact that some of the offers received, inspected and put through the full procedure of normal acquisition, fall through eventually because of the discovery of some defect or other in the title of the persons with whom we have been dealing, has had a depressing effect on the rate of intake of suitable land, to say nothing of the wasted effort involved in bringing such cases to a state where full agreement has been reached and all that remains is to conclude the legal formalities. In some cases, of course, the difficulty which the occupiers of land experience in showing full title is one of disproportionate cost rather than of an incurable defect in title but the result so far as the Department is concerned is the same. These people will not and cannot be expected to face heavy expenditure to complete a deal where the purchase money is quite small.

The Bill will enable the Minister for Lands to acquire such lands by making formal use of the machinery for compulsory acquisition which already exists under the Forestry Act, 1946. It is, of course, absolutely essential that the Minister's title to any land acquired should be unassailable. The use of these powers will be sufficient to give the Minister a clear title irrespective of any defect in the title of the person from whom he acquires the land. With his proposed new powers under the Bill, the Minister will be able to pay that person the compensation for the land provided he is satisfied that the person has enjoyed the interest in the land for at least six years, that he furnishes reasonable evidence as to his title and that the Minister is satisfied that the person cannot prove full title or could do so only at disproportionate expense.

I would like to emphasise, however, that the employment of this new machinery will not militate against the fundamental right to compensation of any second claimant who may come forward at a later date with cast-iron title. Ample provision is being made in the Bill for recognition of the interests of any such claimant.

Turning now to the question of commonages, I need hardly tell the House that there are in this country many large areas of land held in common which are eminently suitable for forestry purposes and which are, under their present use, of very low productive value as adjuncts to agricultural holdings. One obstacle in the way of the acquisition of such areas will be removed by the powers in relation to payment of compensation in spite of title defects to which I have already referred. Experience has shown, however, that a more serious obstacle to acquisition in such cases is the difficulty in getting all the owners in common to dispose of their interests. Section 4 of the Bill is designed to remedy this position. The application of this section will again involve the use of the compulsory acquisition machinery under the 1946 Act but the Minister for Lands will be enabled to have objectors excluded from the scope of the acquisition proceedings altogether and to leave them in exclusive occupation and enjoyment of a fair share of the former commonage.

The position regarding common grazing rights is similar. Section 5 of the Bill is designed so that when land subject to common grazing rights (or other similar rights) is acquired by the Minister and one or more of the holders of these rights are unwilling to surrender them they may be dealt with by the creation for their benefit of sole rights over limited areas of the land acquired.

Before closing I would like to give some idea of the additional acreage which the Bill will enable us to acquire. I would be guessing in the dark if I were to attempt a firm estimate but I would remind the House that people with defective title have hitherto been reluctant to offer their land because they know, from the experience of their neighbours, that the Forestry Division needed a sound title. Now they will be able to offer. Many of these people are in the West and it is in the West, therefore, that most benefit will accrue from this particular provision in the Bill. The commonage question is also mainly a western one and, since commonage possibilities for forestry have only been emerging in the last two or three years, with the introduction of new techniques, estimation of the ultimate acreage likely to be involved is difficult. It may run into hundreds of thousands of acres.

For my part, I am satisfied that this measure will solve the two problems which must be faced if the Forestry Division is to continue its steady forward progress towards fulfilment of the objective of permanent and steady provision from home sources of all our timber needs with a gain to the country in relation to the balance of payments, a gain in employment and social gains, particularly in the West, of immeasurable importance.

Nílim chun aon rud fada a rá ar an mBille seo mar, sa gcéad dul síos, ní dóigh liom go bhféadfainn a rá gur duine mise go bhfuil anachur amach aige ar cúrsaí foraoiseachta sa tír seo. Ar a shon sin is uile, b'fhéidir go bhfuil tuairimí áirithe agam agus nuair a thagann Bille den tsórt seo fé dhíospóireacht inniu b'fhéidir go mba chóir dom na tuairimí a chur in iúl.

Níl aon dabht ná go gcloisimid morán cainte na laetheannta seo ar cheist foraoiseachta ó dhaoine a chuireann spéis inti. Ó am go ham bíonn altanna sna páipeirí ag cur síos ar an gceist mhór thábhachtach náisiúnta seo— agus tuigtear dúinn go léir gur ceist mhór náisiúnta í.

Tá daoine ann a chreideann go bhfuil morán déanta cheana féin chun foraoiseacht do bhunú sa tír seo. Gan aon agó, is fíor go bhfuil cuid mhaith déanta, ach tá ana-chuid le déanamh fós. Tá daoine ann, freisin, a chreideann nach bhfuil an oiread sin déanta againn i dtaobh na ceiste seo agus a ba chóir a bheith déanta againn. Is é an difríocht is mó, is dócha, ná gantannas talún chuige. B'fhéidir anois—ach nílím cinnte dhe, nó leath-chinnte—go mbeidh níos mó talún le fáil tar éis an Bille seo do chur tríd an Oireachtas Tá súil agam gur mar sin a bhéas an scéal agus go leanfar ar aghaidh leis an scéim mhór foraoiseachta anso sna blianta atá romhainn,

Is cuimhin liomsa an t-am go maith nuair a bhímis ag cur agus ag cúiteamh ar cheist seo na foraoiseachta agus nuair a bhímís ag iarraidh a chur ina luí ar na daoine a bhí ag stiúradh Brainse na Foraoiseachta go mba chóir dóibh aghaidh do thabhairt ar immeallbhord iarrthar na hÉireann agus go mbíodh sé mar aragóint acu-san nár bhféidir crainn do chur ag fás ann chor ar bith san áit sin de dheasca chomh scéirdiúil is atá an talamh mór-thimpeall chósta na h Éireann. Dúradar nár bhféidir le crainn seasamh i gcoinne na ngálaí ón Atlantic. Dob shin í an aragóint agus tuigtear dúinn anois ná raibh sa méid sin ach, mar adéarfá, cur ó dhoras. Dá bhrí sin, is é mo thuairim go bhfuil morán le déanamh sna háiteanna sin san Iarthair.

Ní hionann san is a rá ná fuil in áiteanna eile talamh a bheadh oiriúnach chun crann, agus atá anois imithe ó mhaith chun curadóireachta. Tá a fhios againn go léir—sinne a bheas ag dul mór-thimpeall na tíre agus ag féachaint ar gach taobh dínn—go bhfuil morán talún faoi aiteann, agus mar sin de, scrathan de thalamh go mbféidir úsáid a bhaint as le haghaidh foraoiseachta. Fiú amháin, más rud é nach raibh an talamh sin oiriúnach chun barraí do bhaint as, b'fhéidir go mbeadh sé an-oiriúnach le haghaidh foraoiseachta.

B'fhéidir go mba cóir dom a rá go mbéinn sásta cabhrú le haon iarracht a déanfaí chun scéimeanna foraoiseachta do leathnú ar fud na tíre. Is docha gur chuige sin atá an Bille seo á rith tríd an Oireachtas. Tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh toradh as le himeacht aimsire.

Having spoken in Irish, I suppose I will have to say a few words in English in connection with this matter. I think the formulation of a comprehensive policy of afforestation is a matter that should be given very earnest consideration because some of us, at any rate, regard this question of afforestation as a very important national problem. There are people, of course, who argue that the problem has more or less been neglected over the years and who say that a lot more could have been done to plant trees, but I think that many people who argue along those lines sometimes allow their enthusiasm to run away with them.

I am prepared to admit that a good deal has been done for afforestation in this country over the years, having regard to the difficulties that lay in the way. Of course, one of the greatest difficulties in a country like this, where there is what I might describe as a hunger for land, is to get a sufficient pool of land for afforestation, because it is not every farmer who is prepared to offer his land, if it is good land, for afforestation. The difficulty with many of the farmers is that they are more concerned with the immediate problems of their daily lives than with a scheme that would give no results for years.

We all know that the planting of trees will not give any worthwhile return for 40 or 50 years. At the same time, if many of those people who own land would pause to meditate on the matter, I think they would realise that possibly afforestation over the years would turn out to be as profitable a business as they could embark upon, and perhaps more profitable in some cases, but people are naturally more concerned to get a quick return from their land. They would not be so much concerned about what would take place at the end of a period of 40 or 50 years.

This measure, I take it, is designed to accomplish three things. In the first place, it is designed to acquire land from people who have a defective title. I do not know, of course, if there can be such a thing as a defective title because it appears to me that one has either a good title or no title at all. We know that a good many people in the country get their title to land established by a certain process of law. That is done every week in the law courts. Somebody owning land might have passed away without having made a will and somebody belonging to him would have settled on the land.

It is a common practice for such people to bring their case into court and get their title established under the Local Registration of Title Act but I suppose the Minister and his Department would look upon that as too cumbersome a method to tackle the question of title. In any case, it possibly would not succeed for the purposes of afforestation.

It seems to me that, after the passage of this measure, certain legal difficulties could still arise in connection with the question of title. I could envisage a case or cases where somebody who was away from a particular holding for a number of years might come back and find that the holding of his forebears had been handed over to the Minister of Lands and to the Department for afforestation purposes. It could even happen that the compensation money would have been paid and everything settled up when this person would turn up putting forward his claim to the parental holding.

That could happen and if it did happen I wonder what the position would be? If the person brought the case into the court, I wonder would this measure be sufficient to safeguard the Minister and his Department from any such contingency? I am just putting forward that case. It may never arise. I think it could but I do not know. It is only in the implementation of these measures that we sometimes find ourselves up against snags of this kind. It is quite possible that, arising out of this Bill, certain legal difficulties would be encountered and that it would be so much grist to the mill of the legal practitioners.

The first provision of the Bill concerns the acquisition of land in connection with which the title would be in doubt. I think that is about the best way I can say it without using the expression "defective title" because, as I have said, the title is there or it is not and, if it is not there, it cannot be good, bad or defective.

The second provision of the Bill is that which will enable the Minister to acquire commonages. I have not any great experience myself of these commonages, I must admit, but I understand that commonages are very numerous in the West of Ireland and I suppose in other parts of the country as well—in places such as West Cork and parts of Kerry where a number of people together have the ownership of land and where they enjoy the rights that would be ordinarily enjoyed by a sole tenant.

I take it that there is provision in this Bill to acquire these commonages for afforestation. If, as I think the Minister said—if he did not say it here, I think he said it in the other House—one of those tenants in common holds out or refuses to come into the scheme, his case will be dealt with in another way. He will be given whatever amount would be proportionate to his interest in the commonage but will he be compelled to accept the position that will be worked out for him under this Bill?

That means then that there is a certain amount of compulsion enshrined in this measure even though I understand that the Minister repudiated the suggestion in another place. There is compulsion then and it would appear to me, at any rate, that the Minister is riding two horses. He fulminates against the idea of compulsion while at the same time we have it in a rather indirect way in this Bill —that is about the best way I can put it. However, I am not here to discuss the propriety or impropriety of compulsion. I am not very much in favour of compulsion if it can be avoided; perhaps in some cases, it cannot. It seems that the Land Commission have found over the years that compulsion cannot be avoided but it may be said that it is a different matter to use compulsory powers for the purpose of acquiring land for division among congests and uneconomic holders and to acquire it for purposes of forestry. The problem of settling people on the land, of making uneconomic holdings economic and providing for the congests, is an immediate one, and certain measures would be justified in a case like that which would not be justified in the other case.

It is right to say here that in order to succeed in this question of afforestation it is necessary to have a bold policy. Whoever will be entrusted with the implementation of such a policy must allow no obstacles to come in his way in carrying out the intentions and wishes of the Oireachtas. I am sure the vast majority, if not all, of members of the Oireachtas would be behind any worthwhile scheme of forestry that would be inaugurated here.

In all these cases, it is necessary to have a certain amount of fanaticism. People who are fanatics about these national problems are sometimes ridiculed by the general public, but they will have to be fanatics about them to carry them to fruition and bring about results.

The third provision of the Bill as explained in the explanatory memorandum is to acquire land over which people have grazing rights. This, I take it, is distinct from people who have tenancies in common. There is a clear distinction between the two. There are many cases, especially along the western seaboard, where people have grazing rights over turbary. There are places, for instance, where the Land Commission have taken over turbary and given the grazing rights to the people of the place. I take it that it would be possible under this measure to acquire land which is the subject of such grazing rights. We could describe these rights as easements or profits a prendre. I suppose that if a person who holds such rights refuses to come into the scheme he will be left there with a specified portion of the grazing just as would be the case in the matter of commonages, but there again it could quite easily happen that that person who would not want to come into the scheme would find himself in a worse position than before. It could also happen that he would find himself in a better position, but in any case it would be right to say that he will find himself in a different position than before. There, again, we can say that there will be an element of compulsion.

I often think in relation to this question of forestry that the necessary steps are not being taken to bring the importance of afforestation home to the people of this country. When I make that statement I may be asked in what way this can be done. Can it be done by education, by lectures, propaganda, pamphlets and so on? I suppose a certain amount could be done in that way, but one practical way would be to enlist the support of certain organisations which are already giving their attention to the problems of rural Ireland, such as Muintir na Tíre, Macra na Feirme and so on. The Minister and his Department would be wise to enlist their support and sympathy. I am sure the sympathy is there already, but their support should be enlisted and organised for such a scheme as this important one of national afforestation. These are people with great experience of the problems of the country, and they are progressive organisations as far as the solution of the problems of rural Ireland is concerned. It would be a step in the right direction for the Minister and his Department to have some sort of liaison with these organisations.

Again, I sometimes think that there should be more contact between the Department of Forestry and local authorities, because no doubt local authorities are keenly interested in this matter of afforestation and the planting of trees. I have read accounts of the deliberations of certain local authorities in the papers, but the difficulty, of course, is the expense. I saw that members of one local authority put forward a proposition to have a forester appointed for the county. The members were all in favour of the appointment of such an officer, but the question of expense arose and they gave expression to the view that they were already under a certain amount of expense by reason of the fact that they had to have agricultural instructors without having to pay further salaries.

When I mention local authorities, I refer in particular, of course, to the county committees of agriculture. There should be a well thought out policy as between the Department and the county committees of agriculture. I do not know whether any move has ever been made in that direction. I know these county committees are interested and are trying to do certain things in the way of establishing shelter belts and so forth. There, again, the question of expense arises. The finances of these local bodies are circumscribed, but, at the same time, they are in a position to do a lot of the work and that work could be of tremendous assistance to the Forestry Division if the services of these committees were enlisted by that Division for the purposes of afforestation.

In relation to future forestry development, it would be a good thing, I think, if courses in silviculture were incorporated in the curriculum for those doing the Faculty of Agricultural Science in our university colleges. The graduates assigned subsequently to local authorities would then be in a position to offer advice and assistance to people prepared to do their own planting on their own holdings. We should encourage private afforestation, the planting of trees by private individuals, because a great deal could be done in that way. Enough encouragement has not hitherto been given to private individuals and sufficient encouragement is not being given at the moment, in my opinion.

I understood the Minister to say in the Dáil that he had instructed the inspectors of his Department to furnish him with up-to-date information as to the amount of land available for afforestation. I suggest that now is the time when the Minister should get his inspectors all over the country to make a survey in order to find out exactly how much land is available for afforestation. Has any attempt been made to do that so far? Is it being done properly? Is it being done systematically? We are all aware that there is plenty of land going waste, potentially good land covered with furze or whins, bracken and briars and so forth. A good deal of that land could be converted to use for afforestation. Now my remarks in this respect are not confined to the West of Ireland alone. I know there is a lot of waste land in the West of Ireland which could be planted with trees. There is also an abundance of waste land in the eastern part of the country. Those travelling the roads see acre upon acre covered with brushwood and bushes and bracken. It is of no earthly use to those who own it. If that land were utilised for afforestation, it would add considerably to the pool available to the Minister.

I think the Minister said in his opening remarks that 250 offers of land had to be abandoned because of defective title.

I did not say that. I was pointing out that it now takes 250 offers to acquire the necessary amount of land, whereas a few years ago we could get the same acreage with eight or ten offers. The average size of the offers made is falling.

I misunderstood the Minister. He could not give us any approximate figure for the acreage he anticipates will come into the pool as a result of this measure. I agree that it is difficult to arrive at a figure. We are after all attempting something novel here in endeavouring to acquire land to which there is no title and in endeavouring to acquire commonages and grazing rights. At the same time, I think the Minister should be in a position to give us some round figure as to the acreage which he thinks will accrue as a result of this measure.

The Minister has been criticised for not holding out any hope that the target of 25,000 acres per annum will be reached in the foreseeable future. There was a time when the Minister and some of his colleagues thought there would be no difficulty whatsoever in reaching that target and even in exceeding it entirely. Now, in the light of experience, people have to be more cautious and more circumspect. I sincerely hope that the implementation of this measure will have the effect of making more land available for afforestation and that the old complaint that it was not possible to get the necessary land will not be cropping up again. Sin a bhfuil agam le rá. B'fhéidir go mbeadh rudaí eile le rá ach ní maith liom bheith ag chur isteach ar an Seanad ró-fhada.

As one who is very interested and whose family have always been interested in the afforestation of this country, I consider that any measure which is brought through the Oireachtas to encourage the further development of forestry is to the good and should be applauded. Therefore, if the Minister succeeds in acquiring more land through this measure, I congratulate him and wish him well.

In general discussion about forestry, either in the House or outside it, there is a great deal of talk about the need for a lot of money and for acquiring land, while we are neglecting all the time the necessary propaganda to get it into the people's heads that each individual should be adding to the pool of forestry. Every person with any small amount of land at all should be encouraged in this respect. The previous speaker has referred to propaganda. I think propaganda in regard to forestry is very essential. It is noticeable that more people are taking an interest in forestry in recent times, but the need of, and the possible profit and gain to the individual, by the development of forestry, have not yet permeated the minds of a number of people.

To encourage private planting, the Department, the Minister and the Government, whoever is in charge, might consider, and ought to consider, increasing the grant per acre, or in whatever way it is to be administered. The planting of small pockets of land here and there would be of advantage to the country and if the people with the land consider that the amount now offered is too little to give them per acre — I think it is £10 — the amount should be increased. I am interested in the group which calls itself "Trees for Ireland" and in going around the country, I find that, when people become interested and you ask them to make an effort, they say that this £10 is very little to offer them. When you consider that they must prepare, drain and fence the land, you will realise it is not sufficient. The Minister might consider that as well spent money, increasing that grant per acre to the people who would be encouraged to plant on their own land.

Another thing in the propaganda line that might be done is that in places where people want to commemorate some dead leader, or patriot, perhaps, instead of erecting busts or beautiful pieces of stone, they might be encouraged to plant a small memorial forest or plantation. In the future, we in the South of Ireland certainly must do something to commemorate the two murdered Lord Mayors of Cork, and I would suggest that in other places the same thing might be thought of. In Cork — I do not know if this should be said, but I am saying it — we intend to have a memorial forest for those two men. I and many others consider that it would be the very best way to commemorate their memory.

Again, by way of propaganda, farmers might be encouraged to plant land as dowries for their daughters and for their sons. In the Minister's printed speech here, he speaks about the dwindling amounts of land that are being offered. Where these small amounts are being offered and where it may not be an economic proposition for the Department to do it, I think the Minister has an excellent case for offering an attractive amount of money to the farmer to do the planting himself. I congratulate the Minister and wish him success with his Bill.

I am perfectly certain that every Senator is in favour of afforestation and I personally believe that it is probably one of the directions in which more could be done than any other to benefit the country and make the country beautiful. I think, however, that a good deal of the present Bill is purely of a legalistic nature. It does not deal with afforestation as such, but rather with enabling the Minister to exercise compulsory powers and the way in which compensation is to be given, if these powers are exercised. What we are really discussing on this Bill is what is to happen when the compulsory powers of acquisition are exercised by the Minister or by a public authority, and the question of the very meritorious object in view under this Bill is rather irrelevant.

The question of compulsory acquisition by a public authority really arose first in the case of the building of the railways. It was obviously impossible for a railway to acquire compulsorily and, by agreement, all the land along its route and it was really at that time that the idea arose of giving a public authority compulsory powers to make people sell, whether they wanted to or not. In order to do that, there were passed what were called the Land Clauses Acts, the effect of which was that if a competent public authority with the necessary statutory powers wished to acquire land compulsorily, they could do so after going through certain procedure. The compensation would be fixed by arbitration and paid if the owner had a good title, and if he had not a good title, the authority would lodge the moneys in court. When the authority lodged the amount in court, the owner who had failed to prove title up to that time had to go to the court and satisfy the court that he had title, which is, of course, a tremendously expensive operation. Over the years a great deal of money has from time to time been lodged in court in that way which it is really impossible for the owners to recover, because the expense of proving an absolutely perfect title is practically out of the question.

As I understand this Bill, the effect of it is really to try to strengthen the hand of the Minister in the two cases of acquisition of lands that may arise. One is where the owners is quite willing to sell, but cannot produce a perfect title. In that case, the public authority might have to resort to compulsory powers, just as if the owner was unwillings, and, as I read the Bill, it really amounts to saying that, in certain cases of that kind, the Minister is authorised, if he thinks that a pretty fair title is being given, to accept that title and to pay the owner for it.

Of course, in recent years, we have had bodies such as the E.S.B. and Bord na Móna, who, for their statutory functions, have had to acquire land all over the country, and in their cases exactly the same problems arise.

I think everyone would agree that anything that would simplify, on the one hand, the problems of the public authority or the Minister and, on the other hand, would relieve the owner of the very great burden, sometimes, of being able to establish an absolutely perfect title, is a reasonable things.

Mention has been made of defective titles, but that is scarcely the correct way to look at it. When a person wants to sell his house voluntarily, he prepares a careful contract and in that contract tries to protect himself against all the queer sorts of questions that may arise in a title. One cannot do that when dealing with a public authority that is acquiring compulsorily; one has to satisfy it absolutely.

I think, therefore, the general principle of the Bill in that regard is a reasonable one, giving the Minister power, possibly a very desirable one, in such a case to cut out a lot of the formalities and, when he has looked at the title of the owner, possibly when he is trying to negotiate a voluntary sale or possibly when the owner is reluctant and the Minister has to compel him, to say: "I think in all reason the title is a good title and nobody is likely to upset it. I will pay the money." I think that is sensible, and it is probably an improvement on the legislation that has existed in the past in these cases.

As the corollary of that, there is provision made in the Bill that if, having, so to speak, made a shot at a title like that, it turns out afterwards that there was a mistake made and someone comes along who can show a better title, he can be compensated and, of course, the person who got away with the money has to pay it back.

The one things in the Bill that I have doubts about is the limitation on the period in which what we might call the true owner might make that claim. Under the Bill, it is limited to six years. As I said, under the Land Clauses Act, the money is lodged in court and it is there forever. I think the Minister might consider knocking out that six-year period. The kind of thing that is envisaged there is not likely to arise or, if it does arise, will arise very seldom, that is to say, a person who has agreed either voluntarily or compulsorily to sell presents his title; it looks all right; he is paid and then afterwards it is discovered that someone else had a better title. That will happen very rarely and when it does happen the true owner ought to get paid even although the lapse of time is more than six years.

One can easily imagine circumstances arising, people emigrating or being away on business, or all sorts of things, in which it might happen. It can only happen very rarely and, for the sake of the principle involved, the Minister might consider that.

The reason I am pressing that is that I think the very convenient and intelligent procedure which is suggested in this Bill may quite easily be imitated in future. It is quite possible that this Bill may be used as a precedent in other cases in future to try to cut out some of the difficulties and complications under the Land Clauses Act. If that is so, it would be rather important that it should be examined and made as just as possible.

In general, I would congratulate the Minister on the idea that lies behind it but, just because it is probably a good idea, the details should be examined very carefully. That is one part of the Bill.

The other part of the Bill is the question of dealing with commonage. There, again, I fully agree with the course the Minister is taking. It is, from any conveyancing counsel's or lawyer's point of view, extraordinarily difficult to deal with land which is held in common by a great number of people with many what might be called "queer" sorts of rights of a customary nature which had always been recognised amongst these people, but which, from the lawyer's point of view, are very difficult to define, especially when the land involved is generally of very small commercial value and the money involved probably is not very great, although to the people who are concerned it may be absolutely vital.

I think the Minister's suggestion in the Bill is that in such a case as that he could go in with compulsory powers and try to sort the thing out—very much like the Land Commission could do—take over the land and in some way provide alternative compensation to the people who had it held in common. I think that is a sensible and reasonable idea because, as I have said, very often in these questions of commonage it is practically impossible in any sane way, from a lawyer's point of view, to deal with all the problems that can arise. The mere money involved is quite insufficient to justify what might be the enormous expense incurred in dealing with it.

From that aspect I think the general idea in the Bill is good. As I have said, I really regard the Bill as being a measure which deals with the legal principle, rather than with afforestation in itself, although personally I would do anything I possibly could to help reafforestation.

There is one point, which is really irrelevant to the debate, but it is quite possible that in some of these commonage cases one has to deal perhaps with a question of Brehon law; the kind of ideas that apply to settling the rights of these owners in common are really derived more from Brehon law than from English common law and possibly in examining some of these cases it would be valuable to keep the records of the exact kinds of rights the people claim, because I think it involves the last survival, in a practical manner, of Brehon law. I have met it once in a case involving a fishery on the Shannon at Limerick. It undoubtedly involved Brehon law.

Business suspended at 6 o'clock and resumed at 7 o'clock.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this measure, particularly as it is a means for bringing more land into the hands of the Forestry Branch. As the Minister said in his opening remarks, the offers of land throughout the country are becoming light; there are not as many people offering land for afforestation as formerly. There is information from the Department to the effect that 93,000 acres have been planted since 1948. It is no great wonder then that land considered fit only for afforestation must get scarce and I think this Bill will ensure that the present Minister, or any future Minister, will be cautious that, if land can be utilised for a better or more profitable purpose, especially in areas where there is a land hunger, the land will not be taken over for afforestation. There are large tracts of land in various counties, especially in the West, that are scarely fit for anything but afforestation.

I should like to remind the Minister of the case of a bog in County Sligo involving a large area which, to my mind, and to the minds of a great many people in the area, is particularly suitable for plantation. In my own county, Roscommon, an area of 500 acres has been planted within the last year and I am very pleased to learn that a very large tract was taken over in Galway quite recently. Let me say that I should very much like to cross some of the t's in this measure and I would agree with a lot of what Senator Kissane said here this evening with regard to the useful contacts the Minister could make.

I think I would give priority in that list which he mentioned to the county committees of agriculture, because the chief agricultural officer in each county is naturally very interested in forestry. In most counties such officers are the people who deal with small schemes which local funds can cover and in that way the agricultural overseers under the C.A.O. know practically every farm and household in the county. They know exactly the parcels of land that would be suitable and available and I think a most useful contact could be made with the county committee of agriculture. I entirely agree that the other associations that have been mentioned would be useful. I think that every county council in the country as the parent body of the county committees of agriculture would be most anxious to help out and promote any drive that is made.

Small plantations should also be encouraged. There is scarcely a farm in the country which has not an acre, a half acre or even a rood that is considered waste and while there is, of course, a certain amount allowed to fence that land it is not sufficient. I think it would pay the Department in tackling their problem to develop that aspect of it. I think a more substantial grant should be given, and, to my mind, there is nothing which would beautify the country so much as to have all those waste patches planted all over the country.

As an example of that, you have only to go through areas where the land was divided some 20 years ago and where there were houses built by the Land Commission at that time. They always put a little plantation near those places—perhaps a rood in some cases—and now after 20 years or so, especially in Galway and in parts of Roscommon where that has been done, it is very noticeable. These plantations are an added beauty; in the bleak winter time they are appreciated by everybody and especially by the owners. That is why I think it would be very useful to get in contact with the county committees of agriculture. The C.A.O. through the overseers would know every piece of land in the county and how much of the available land is suitable.

The Land Commission being committed to pay the market value of land which they take over, I am sure the same would apply to land taken over for forestry. Everybody will feel that it is only right that the market value should, be given. I do not know if there is anything in the suggestion that there is a certain amount of complaint in some places. At least there is grumbling about the prices offered up to the present. It is said they are too low for land acquired for forestry and I think the Minister is probably aware of this. Once we know now that the market value is being paid and once the public and the owners are assured that market value will be paid, there will be very little complaints about compulsion. It seems to me that the Minister will not find it necessary to make much use of those compulsory powers at all in regard to most of the land he will get into his hands. When it is pretty well known that the Department is anxious for land for forestry purposes I believe there will probably be many parcels of land offered.

I am particularly pleased that the Minister is taking those steps to ensure a greater acreage. No doubt the present Minister, coming from the West, will be sympathetic to the West and to every other county in Ireland where the situation is similar. I refer especially to Kerry, West Cork and such places. I say I hope the Minister will be sympathetic because he had not very far to go from his native place to see the bleakness of Mayo and I have no doubt he will be sympathetic in his general view and outlook, not alone to County Mayo but to the whole country for which, as Minister for Lands, he is responsible. I am sure he will be very impartial in dealing with the problem. I conclude by expressing the hope that the present measure will bring the success that both the Minister and the House desire.

I think it is agreed by all Senators that this Bill is necessary in order to remove certain obstacles to the acquisition of land. As the Minister indicated, there are three different classifications of property with which this Bill is concerned. The first is the case where the title is not clear. I was glad to hear some of the legal members of the House ticking off the Minister in regard to defective titles and indicating that there must either be a title or not, that such a thing as "a defective title" is not a legal term. I am sure there is quite a number of cases of land being owned in regard to which the title is not clear. By adopting the procedure of compulsory acquisition this difficulty would be got over. The local authorities have, I think, very frequently adopted this procedure in regard to land for housing wherever they think there is not a proper title and it seems to get over the difficulty. I agree with the Minister that, as far as this type of land is concerned, we should not accuse him of compulsory acquisition because I assume compulsory powers are used only when the owner agrees they should be so used.

With regard to commonage I do not think the Minister will deny that he is resorting to a certain extent to compulsory acquisition and personally I am not prepared to find much fault with him in regard to that. If an area of land or mountain owned jointly by ten people as a commonage is being acquired and if one person objects, it would not be right or proper that the entire scheme should be held up. Under this Bill, the Minister will have the power to acquire the property, but to allot one-tenth of the area to the person who objects to the sale.

I do not think that could be regarded as unfair in principle. I assume the same applies to grazing rights, which technically are very much similar to commonages, so that those three points, which are the main objectives of the Bill, are generally accepted as being necessary.

I do not agree with Senator Cox that the scope of this debate should be limited in any way to the points raised in this Bill. When a measure of this kind is introduced, the House is entitled to discuss the whole question of afforestation, the progress that has been made and the progress that it is hoped to make in the future. I think that, in the main, the task of speeding up afforestation is bound up to a very considerable extent with acquisition, and, if the difficulties in regard to acquisition are removed, I feel quite sure that the Forestry Department would be capable of tackling the increased acreage and putting it under plantation.

We know that there is a considerable volume of opinion in the country which claims that the carrying out of the work of afforestation by a Government Department is wrong; that it is the type of work which should, instead, be operated by a State company. There is a good deal to be said in favour of that viewpoint and there may be a good deal more to be said for it in the future, when the utilisation of forest products comes under consideration to a greater extent. It would appear on the face of it that a public company, unrestricted by departmental regulations, would be more efficient in carrying out not only the work of planting the timber, but also the manufacture and sale of forestry products. This is a matter which will require very earnest and active consideration in the future.

The immediate objective of the Minister and his Department, however, should be to increase very substantially the area of land annually acquired by the Department, and increase the area planted each year. A target of 25,000 acres was mentioned. I think it was recommended in the Cameron report, and that should be the minimum target, so far as State planting is concerned. I do not think the planting of that area per year would overtax the resources of the community or provide too great an area of afforestation to meet our needs. I make that suggestion with the reservation that the planting of timber should be confined to lands that are not suitable for ordinary agricultural purposes. A very clear distinction should be made in regard to that matter.

There are people who advocate that trees should be planted on the very best land, with a view to more early maturity. I think that would be a dangerous step to take. Except in regard to shelter belts adjoining farmhouses, I do not think that the planting of timber on good land is at all desirable.

The price paid for land is not fair or just and the limitation set by the Forestry Department in regard to what they may pay for lands they may require is too low. One of the first tasks the Minister should undertake is that of raising the ceiling in regard to the price for land. We all know that the value of land has been increasing over the years. Even the value of inferior land such as the Forestry Department require has very substantially increased over the past few years. The time has come when a more generous approach should be made in this matter.

The Minister pointed out in the course of his statement that his Department are now acquiring smaller holdings for planting purposes than was customary some years ago. That means to say that they are acquiring the property of the smaller holders. For that reason, it is desirable that the compensation paid should be just and fair.

It is true to say that the land is only acquired by agreement and, therefore, there could not be a question of injustice. At the same time, for one reason or another, people are often forced to sell who may not have any other possible buyer, except the Forestry Department. I do not think those people should be beaten down to the lowest possible price. They should be treated on the basis of ordinary justice and fair play. Therefore, I say that the ceiling price should be raised, not beyond all reason, but certainly to a considerable extent in some cases. The raising of the price, in addition to the powers the Minister is seeking, would enable his Department to acquire a sufficient area of land.

Another problem also arises and will always arise in regard to the acquisition of land for afforestation. Very often, in acquiring a holding for planting purposes, it is necessary to acquire a considerable amount of agricultural land, because there are many mountain farms which comprise not only mountain but also fairly fertile agricultural land. Since the owner may not be prepared to dispose only of the mountain portion of his holding, it is necessary to acquire the entire holding. It is in regard to holdings such as these that difficulties very often arise.

The Forestry Department may not wish to acquire such a holding because there is too much agricultural land on it which is unsuitable for their purpose and because the price would be beyond what they are prepared to pay. The Land Commission, on the other hand, might be equally reluctant to acquire such a holding because it might not be the type that would lend itself to the purposes of the Land Commission for the relief of congestion. Very often in that way very desirable holdings are passed over and opportunities for planting are lost.

This is a problem which should be tackled. It would be necessary to establish a third body to deal with such land in addition to the Land Commission and the Forestry Department, that is, an authority which would undertake to acquire such holdings—by agreement of course—develop and improve the agricultural portion, reclaim it where necessary, and set aside what is left to the Forestry Department. Such an authority is very necessary and must inevitably be set up because, between the Land Commission and the Forestry Department, considerable areas of land escape and are left unacquired.

In regard to private planting very little has been achieved. This is a matter which ought to be tackled more energetically. Substantial areas can be planted by individual agricultural owners. There are over 350,000 farmers in this country, and if an average of even one acre or half an acre was planted by each of them it would give a very considerable area of afforestation and certainly a very substantial number of trees—because it would be hardly right to refer to such plantation as forests. In the total, it would amount to a very considerable acreage.

The £10 grant, it is agreed, is utterly inadequate. It is not an easy matter to convince the average farmer of the necessity for planting timber, which is not the same as any agricultural crop. It is something which will not give a return for a considerable number of years, and it takes a good deal of persuasion to induce a practical farmer to put a certain area of his land, even the more inferior portions, under timber. The £10 grant is, therefore, entirely inadequate. I am not suggesting that anything over and above what is necessary should be paid, but the grant should be increased.

In addition to that, a loan should be provided to each farmer who is prepared to undertake to plant timber. Such a loan should be sufficient to cover the entire cost of planting, fencing and, if necessary, draining the land he intends to put under timber. Such a loan, if granted, would be a very strong inducement to the man trying to make a living out of the average sized farm, who is not at present anxious to incur expenditure in regard to the planting of timber. He may not have the money in the first place, and, even if he has, he is not too anxious to invest it in something which will not give a return for a very long period. If, however, he is provided, in addition to whatever grant is considered necessary or fair, with a loan which will cover the entire cost of the fencing and planting of those areas, the proposition would be attractive, and in that way quite considerable areas would be put under trees.

I would, therefore, suggest that, in considering the raising of the grant, the Minister might consider paying the interest on a loan for a period of some years until those areas planted, an acre or two acres or whatever it is, begin to be productive. For example, if in addition to the grant of £10 at present given to the private land owner, the Minister also undertook the payment of interest on a loan sufficient, to cover the entire cost of the plantation for a period of, say, 15 years that would be a fairly good inducement. At the end of the 15 years there would be some return from the plantation to the farmer. He could then begin to repay at least the interest and possibly the principal, or the payment of the principal could be deferred until the timber actually comes to maturity. A strong inducement should be offered to farmers who are prepared to put small areas of their land under timber, and that would be a reasonably strong inducement.

I agree with Senator Kissane and those others who have spoken about the need for widespread propaganda in regard to the desirability of planting timber. That propaganda should be put over in the main to our young people, particularly to school children and those attending the vocational schools. It is much easier to convince a boy in his early years that he will see some result from the planting of a tree than to convince a middle aged or ageing man. A boy in his teens may be able to look forward, if he plants a certain number of trees, to seeing them grow and come to maturity even within his lifetime. In regard to timber, there has been a falling off rather than an improvement in the education and instruction given. That is an unfortunate thing, but most of us who are past middle age will admit that in our early days there was more instruction in regard to trees and agricultural matters in the national schools. Some time ago, I met a boy coming from school. I pointed out a particular tree growing beside the road and I asked him what variety it was; after some thought, he said he thought it was a wooden tree. To a great extent there appears to be a weakening rather than a strengthening of the knowledge of our young people in relation to quite elementary matters of this kind. The Minister in charge of the Department of Lands and the Forestry Division could usefully pass on to the Department of Education the advice that instruction in matters of this kind should be given and that a strong feeling should be created in our young people in relation to the planting of trees, and not only to the planting of trees but also in fostering a certain amount of respect for the trees which have already been planted. That sort of civic spirit is long overdue. If that instruction is given to our young people and there is an improvement in the grant given for private planting and loan facilities, I think we could look forward to a time when the efforts of the State would be supplemented in a very considerable measure by private planting on private holdings. That would be of immense benefit to the country, both from the point of view of economic prosperity and from the scenic point of view.

I, too, would like to join in the general chorus of approval for this measure. The Minister is now taking extra powers to enable him to acquire more land for afforestation. I am always anxious, interested as I am in private enterprise, to see how far the State will go in measures of this kind. Private property owners will get a fair deal under this Bill. I know that the Minister is conscious of the rights of private property owners. I know that he is anxious that they should be properly compensated, if and when the State acquires their lands for public good or for public use. From that point of view, I welcome this Bill.

On the question of afforestation generally, I was glad to hear Senator Mrs. Dowdall remark on the tendency nowadays to depend on the State for everything. But that dependence becomes even more marked when we come to afforestation; our citizens seem to rely upon the State to do all the work. In fact, afforestation seems to be regarded purely as the responsibility of the State, whereas I believe that this is one of the activities in which our citizens, individually and collectively, have a large contribution to make. At the moment, it seems to me the average citizen is more concerned with wrecking trees and cutting them down than he is with planting them. That applies right through from the least important of our citizens right up to the road planners and builders of all kinds.

Look at any building scheme in County Dublin or elsewhere throughout the country over the last 30 years. The first thing the builder does is to wipe out every tree. Lovely estates are taken over, beautifully wooded with long-established trees, and beautiful to look at. The very first step— this is happening quite close to me at the moment—is to cut down all the trees; and every night there is a long stream of people pulling away the trees to burn them. Nothing is going up in their place. In a few months we will have a building scheme, a block of concrete and a bit of grass; there may be a few flower beds into which no one will put a seed. Around our cities and towns, there are nothing but unbroken areas of concrete; no trees are left and no trees are being planted.

The dearth of trees is particularly noticeable in the country. I came back from Galway yesterday, and right through the middle of Ireland the scene is almost unbelievably bleak. There are very few trees and the few that are there are pretty miserable-looking. Possibly they are not worth pulling down. From the æsthetic point of view, apart altogether from the economic and climatic point of view, this dearth of woodland is a disadvantage. All we can offer to our tourists are our hills and our sea coast. There are comparatively few woodlands, except in some isolated places. There is an immense value in trees, not only from the point of view of draining the soil, their beneficial effect on climate and the value of the timber, but also from the decorative point of view and from the point of view of the pleasure-value of having our people living in beautiful surroundings, to say nothing of the value from the tourist point of view of having a natural contrast to offer to our fields, our sea coasts and our hills.

Another noticeable feature of our countryside is the stark appearance of our farmhouses and dwelling-houses. It is the exception rather than the rule to see a farmhouse or cottage with a tree of any kind growing around it. A house is built, white—and very often not so white—and stark in the middle of a field, exposed to all the elements and with very little natural beauty. That is not the kind of home which will hold our youth to the country. The contrast with other countries, with England and the Continent, is most remarkable. It is a delight to visit a country where there are trees close to every house, trees planted to protect the homestead from the elements. There are orchards, planted not merely as a practical proposition for protective or economic purposes, but to provide a pleasant place in which to sit. In fact, there is a general "roses-round-the-door" sort of atmosphere.

There is none of that atmosphere about our houses. They are stark and bleak and cold. Now, that is something for which the Government has no responsibility. Scenic beauty cannot be brought about by Act of Parliament. It is for the individual citizens to plant trees around their own homes, without any incentive from the State by way of grant or anything else; but if an incentive has to be given, I do not think it should cost very much.

I am stressing the aesthetic side now because I think the other points have been adequately dealt with by other speakers interested in the economics of the matter. I think it would be a good idea to plant trees along our main roads and side roads. Indeed, I have to admit that trees do exist on our side roads. The main roads, on the other hand, are like flat autobahns. If one closed one's eyes on any stretch of these roads and did not open them for an hour, there would be no appreciable difference in the scene that would meet one's gaze. One could be in any part of Ireland for all that the stretch of road would convey. Our roads are just so many flat, straight uninteresting highways, where the only object seems to be to get from one place to another at the quickest possible speed. One might as well travel through the country with one's eyes shut.

Wexford has done some planting of apple trees along the roadsides.

I wish other countries would do that. Take a case in point: Wicklow is supposed to be one of our principal beauty spots from the tourist point of view. Most of us, when asked to take English visitors or Americans on a tour, make for Wicklow immediately and the Glen of the Downs. Now it is almost possible to see Newtownmountkennedy from Bray. It is rather astonishing. That stretch of countryside used to be one of the most beautifully wooded; now every tree has been cut down and, instead of being one of the most beautiful spots, it is one of the most barren.

In the same way, I see this building going on around where I live in Foxrock and the trees are going to disappear. During the war, when I was a district leader in the L.D.F. and for military reasons people were not allowed to cut trees, unless they got permission from the military authorities, I was going along the Stillorgan Road when I saw a number of trees and noticed that they were all going to be cut down. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with the military authorities, and I am glad to say those trees are there still, but I do not think they will be there much longer, because there is a building scheme a few yards away and when the military authorities are not able to interfere, nobody will be able to interfere, and there will be another stark spot there.

It is not right to expect the State to carry out all the afforestation in the country. It is important, of course, that the State should take over the main job of reafforesting the country which was so sadly depleted over a long number of years; but I think every citizen, from the smallest boys to the biggest groups, the biggest land owners, have a duty to the country not only to preserve the trees they have but to add to them. If by any chance trees have to be removed, they should be replaced as quickly as possible. We all know how beautiful some continental cities are with their avenues of trees and their boulevards. We could have the same in Dublin. We have trees in our cities, but for some reason or other, they are not allowed to develop. I notice that a line of trees in a street like Baggot Street are just becoming furnished when they are cut to bits because there are electric wires 20 feet up in the air. The result is that just when the trees are beginning to look beautiful, along come men and cut them to the bone and they have to start growing all over again. Along Merrion Road, they simply cut the trees to bits and now there are huge trunks of trees with a few little growths stuck out of the top of them.

We must have some sense of beauty in this country because, God knows, we need it and where we have beauty, we should preserve it and add to it instead of taking away from it. I think trees are one of the most beautiful things in life. They are easy to grow because all one has to do is to plant them, take reasonable care of them and God does the rest. Even though it is a long term policy, we owe it to posterity to hand on something beautiful from this age rather than have it looked back upon as an age of destruction in the name of progress.

I wish to join with other members of the House in welcoming this Bill. This Bill has a great object, the removal of obstacles in the way of acquisition of land for the purpose of forestry. We all welcome that and hope that the Bill will be passed through the Oireachtas speedily and that its effects will soon be felt through the length and breadth of the country.

The Minister, however, has not, in my opinion, gone far enough in this matter. He has not touched at all the kernel of the problems that beset the forestry people, that is, the fact they are being hamstrung by the Department of Finance in being permitted to pay only so much per acre. Until they are free to act as an independent Department, they cannot hope to make progress. Public speakers, Ministers, and so on, frequently speak about how short we are in this country of mineral resources. We were all agreed that the greatest mineral resource we had in this country was our bogs. They provided fuel for the nation, and according as they were developed and the turf removed, it was discovered that the cutaway could be used for afforestation purposes, or could be reclaimed and made fit for most agricultural pursuits.

It would be only right that a fair price should be given to the men with land that is suitable for forestry. They are willing to hand it over, if they get a decent price for it. After all, when we buy raw material for some industry from abroad, we have to buy it in a seller's market. If a man has a steep mountain grazing, that land has a definite value to him and if you offer him only a couple of pounds an acre for it, he will hardly be willing to hand it over. He is better off to stick to his bit of mountain grazing than to accept the maximum price the Forestry Department have to offer.

I am not blaming the Minister for this state of affairs. He is doing his best under the conditions which are there and under which his predecessors had to act. It is most unfair that he should be limited to that extent. The land is there all the time when you buy it. When you have the raw material to start off with, it becomes your stock in trade; you grow one crop of trees and in due course, you can have a second and a third crop, and so on. The whole amount that would be involved between an economic price and an uneconomic price for the poor fellow with the strip of mountain would never stop the State from functioning. It is a pity that the forestry authorities, who are as willing to do a good job as any other set of men, are not freer to go out and acquire the land at a reasonable price. When I say a reasonable price, I mean something around the market value. If that principle were accepted, I am sure the forestry people would get plenty of land. They would probably find themselves in such a position that they would be able to leave out the people with defective title and still have plenty of land to carry on with.

Most counties will benefit to a certain extent by the expansion of the operations of the Forestry people. In the county I come from, Limerick, you often hear about the Golden Vale, but we do not hear about the mountainous parts. These places would be suitable for forestry and land could be acquired, if a reasonable price were offered. It would be an ideal thing if those areas were developed for afforestation. Apart from anything else, during some months of the year, the people cut turf in these areas and if the Forestry people stepped in, their activities would fill in a gap until the time came round again. All the time, whatever land was taken would be developed. Year by year, planting would take place and employment would be provided.

Afforestation is of national value. That should be taken into consideration. It is part of the national economy. Its value should be viewed in a broad national way, not in a narrow, departmental way.

I hope the Minister will try to do everything possible to get power and authority to go ahead and to give what he in his private capacity would be prepared to give for land that is acquired, in other words, the market value, which would be fair to the man who owns the land and would put him in a position to buy other land. The man who surrenders such land should not be given merely a few pounds to carry him to the boat or that will keep him for a couple of years, with the possibility of finishing his days in the county home. That is confiscation and differs very slightly from what happened in the landlords' time.

It is all very fine to say that individuals should do a great deal more. If this work is left to individuals, it will take a long time before afforestation of any national significance can be achieved. Timber takes a long time to mature and a man will not get back the money that he invests in planting. That prevents the ordinary individual from engaging in forestry on a large scale. The only people who went in for planting were the spoilers, the landlords. They had the land for nothing. It was easy for them and they considered it as good a way as any in which to spend a few pounds. Perhaps they saved income-tax by doing it. They were the only people in a position to plant in days gone by.

There is an idea that it is wrong to cut a tree. If trees had never been cut since Noah came out of the Ark there would be a great deal of useless timber. Trees have a certain life and should be cut when they reach maturity. That is the natural order.

Senator McGuire was rather severe on the farming community when he said that he sees no trees around farmers' places. As far as my county is concerned, the Senator is wrong in that and I do not think my county is the exception. There are trees around 99 per cent. of the houses. In many cases they may not be very suitable trees. Forty and 50 years ago, ash and elm were planted too near houses. I could show Senator McGuire cases where doctors ordered the felling of trees that were planted too near dwelling-houses. That happened because there was no guidance in this matter. At that time there were not horticultural instructors in every county. Planting of trees was done rather haphazardly.

For the last 20 to 25 years useful trees have been planted. People have planted evergreens around their houses. Evergreens give better shelter and look better. They are as good in winter as in summer whereas the ash and elm and other trees give no shelter when it is most needed and their roots extend to the same length as the height of the tree.

If Senator McGuire were to suggest to every county council that trees should be planted along the roadside, very interesting debates would follow, considering that the farmer who has a hedge must cut it. If we were to have trees along roadsides they would exclude sunshine. The roads are already costing the people too much to maintain. If Senator McGuire's suggestion were carried out, the roads would be always wet and would deteriorate more quickly and would cost more. His suggestion would not be practicable.

I would appeal strongly to the Minister to remedy the unreasonable and unfair position that exists, that the maximum payment for land is subject to Finance. That is most unfair. It is in the nature of a reflection on the Forestry Division, that they cannot be depended on, that if given a free hand, they will ruin the country. They are as sensible a body as could be found in any State Department. If given a free hand they will do a good job and land will be got in due course which is suitable for afforestation and which cannot be more satisfactorily used for any other purpose. Continuous employment will ensue and forests will be grown that will be a national asset when some of the people responsible for having the work done will have passed to the Great Beyond.

I thank the Minister for everything in the Bill. I ask him seriously to consider the suggestion that he should get a free hand to get all the lands that he can possibly acquire and which cannot be as economically used for any other purpose.

I want to assure the Minister that, in seeking the powers envisaged in the Bill, he has my support and the support of every member of this House. The powers are not very revolutionary. Where there are large areas of land held in common and where one person objects to acquisition, it has been impossible for the Minister to take the land. Under this Bill he has certain powers whereby an objector may be given other land in return for the commonage surrendered. I think the powers he has asked for are not too revolutionary.

There are just one or two points I should like to make and they are on behalf of the private planter. I think the grants given to private planters should be increased; if they were increased I believe a large acreage of land would be planted by private individuals.

As we are well aware, one of the reasons why private individuals are not planting more is the time that elapses between planting and the period at which the forest becomes productive. The period during which the planter has to await a return on his capital is too long and, even if the forest were to produce profits in ten years, the private planter would still need a grant to enable him to cover the expenses involved in planting. I should also like to say a few words in favour of more extensive planting in West Cork, although the Minister was down there recently to take over a large area for planting. I think that area was very suitable for afforestation and we were all very glad to have the Minister down; in fact I can assure the Minister that if he travels down there again he will get a great welcome.

As I have said, there are very large areas in West Cork which are most suitable for afforestation. These tracts are not too suitable for anything else. I refer especially to the Beara Peninsula, to Baltimore, Ballingeary and Inchigeela. In all these districts there are large areas which are most suitable for afforestation. Certain landowners in these areas have offered land. Perhaps some of the areas are in the course of acquisition and I would ask the Minister to do his best to acquire as much of these lands as he can lay hands on. I should like to repeat the hope I expressed earlier that the amount of grant to the private planter should be increased; I would suggest that it be doubled or trebled. I can assure the Minister that the private planter would come to his rescue and plant a very big proportion of the amount of land now dependent for planting on the Forestry Branch.

The labour content of an afforestation programme is very high and an extensive scheme in West Cork would be welcome from that viewpoint alone. In West Cork also we have a number of small areas which could be planted but I believe the Forestry Branch do not want small scattered areas. I could see their objection some years ago when the price of wire, especially net wire for keeping out rabbits, was very high and when the requirements of this net wire were large in comparison with small parcels of land. Now, with the rabbit gone, I cannot see the necessity for using net wire so extensively. There is no other pest besides the rabbit which would require this kind of fencing. I think ordinary barbed wire would suffice to surround the smaller plots. However, the Minister might look into that. I know he has been offered several small parcels which could suitably and profitably be planted without the necessity of net wire fencing. Again I should like to congratulate the Minister on this measure and would add that, on any occasion on which I approached him, he did his utmost on behalf of afforestation. I can assure him of a warm, hearty welcome any time he comes to West Cork.

If the main objects of this Bill are to simplify the requirements of the Minister's legal advisers in making title to land and to enable the majority of commonage owners to dispose of their interests for afforestation, the provisions enshrined in it are, in my opinion, desirable. At present, however, in the case of registered land—and that comprises a considerable portion of the land in this country—it is necessary to produce to the Minister's solicitors evidence sufficient to enable equities to be disposed of and frequently this entails going back 40 or 50 years in order to make title. The Minister will appreciate that along the western seaboard, from which so many people emigrate, it is possible that the grandfather, who may have been deceased when the holding was first registered in his name, is still the registered owner and the present occupier is the grandson or grandnephew. Naturally the present occupier has not gone to the trouble or the expense of getting out administration or probate in order to effect the transfer.

At present, the officials in the Land Registry treat a holding worth £50 in the same way as they treat a holding of 50 times that value. Unfortunately that is one of the weaknesses of land administration. In the old days, when one went into a solicitor's office, he was familiar with the history of the title of the holding and the solicitor may have been satisfied with much less evidence of title than is now required to be produced to the Land Registry Office. Much more evidence is now required and this means considerable expense in order to have the title to the deceased registered owner cleared up. I assume that despite the provisions of this Bill it will still be necessary to go to the expense of taking out administration or title in order to transfer the holding of a deceased registered owner. The Minister in the Dáil as reported in Volume 153 of the Dáil Official Reports, said that title to 90 per cent. of the holdings had to be proved. I can confirm that the same complications arise in portions of West Donegal in which I practise.

Practically all the land in that area is registered and has been for the past 30 years. As I have already stated, it is extremely seldom that the person now in occupation is in a position to give proper title to the Minister. It is quite easy, therefore, to understand the considerable delays that are entailed in making title. That is a severe burden on the person who is transferring and that must be taken into consideration in connection with the purchase price that is paid for such holdings. The Minister stated that the acquisition of land is practically the only reason why there is not a much greater afforestation programme. At column 1321 of Volume 153 of the Dáil Official Reports he is quoted as saying that he would not be surprised if the extra land that would come in as a result of this Bill would amount to 10,000 acres a year.

The Minister has stated this evening that hundreds of thousands of acres may come in as a result of that Bill. I am not inclined to accept that optimistic view of the Minister. He did not state over what period he expected that increased rate would apply. If it applied over a period of 30 years, in each of which 10,000 acres would be acquired, it would mean 300,000 acres. Furthermore, the Minister must realise that if there is a difficulty in acquiring land now it is because of the objections of certain commonage owners. I assume that these objections will still apply and that the people concerned will naturally appeal to the lay commissioners to prevent the lands being taken over. I feel quite sure the lay commissioners will take cognisance of the cases these owners make.

For instance, if the total area of a commonage is 100 acres, and if there are 20 owners of that commonage, the area concerned in an individual objection would be five acres. If such an objector were to force the partitioning of his portion he would require that that portion should be fenced off from the rest of the holding. That man, in that partitioned portion, would have difficulty in getting the same amount of rough grass in winter and the same amount of shelter as he enjoyed before the commonage was acquired. The portion fenced off may also be a considerable distance from his home. For that reason I felt sure that the lay commissioners would have to consider the position very carefully and very cautiously. Furthermore, a considerable portion of that area of common is mountain, particularly in western districts, as the Minister is aware. It may be that, owing to lack of shelter, owing to the fact that it is on a high altitude, it is not suitable for afforestation. Accordingly, the Minister's optimistic views as to the additional areas which he will acquire may not be practicable.

I believe that much more land could be acquired in the western areas, if a proper approach were made to this matter by the officials of the Department. For instance, if an organised campaign were initiated and a survey made, as Senator Kissane has already mentioned, a good portion of land in the undeveloped areas might be brought in. In my opinion, the Minister should concentrate his activities principally on areas where there is a considerable amount of emigration and where there is a considerable amount of unemployment.

It is obvious that the Minister intends, and rightly so, to plant for social purposes, that is, for the purpose of providing work in particular areas. I do not believe that some of the areas which will be planted in these western districts will be an economic proposition. The rotation, for instance, will be pretty slow. However, if the Minister is anxious to provide the employment which is so necessary in those areas at the present time, he should see to it that all the land that can be offered will be made available to him. If he does that, I believe he may be surprised and the Minister for Finance may be shocked by the amount of land that will be made available.

One method of approach that I would suggest would be the sending out of circulars to the clergy in rural areas, asking them to announce the type of land that is required, the approximate area of the bloc of land which it is desirable to procure and the approximate price that the people may expect for the land. I believe it would help if it were announced that officials from the Department would attend in a certain place at a certain time with maps of the particular parish. I believe that, in that way, a considerable amount of land could be brought in.

I have never yet been able to ascertain the basis on which the Minister decides on the value of the land which he is anxious to take, despite the fact that I have had considerable experience in this matter. I have acted for over a dozen people in different parts of my area who have sold land to the Minister and I have never yet been able to find out on what basis the land is valued. I may tell the Minister at this stage that the average price that has been paid is something less than £4 an acre.

But the vendors agreed to it.

The vendors agreed to it.

Very well, then.

I might say, however, that the first offer the Minister made was a good bit less than that——

That is a good old Irish custom.

——and that it was only after a long period of correspondence, which delayed considerably the time when the land was made available, that agreement was reached. If the Minister made a firm offer, in the first instance, instead of haggling as one would haggle over the sale of a cow at a fair—which, the Minister says, is a good old Irish custom—it would be much more practicable. If a Department of State are anxious to buy land below the price which they will ultimately pay for that land, it is not the best method of approach and, as I have already stated, it has delayed considerably—possibly sometimes for years—the acquisition of that particular land.

I do not consider that the amount that is even offered at the moment is sufficient, in view, for instance, of the fact that, in mountainy land, the price for black-faced wool in 1939 was 1/2 per lb. and that now the price for that wool is approximately 3/10 a lb. That is practically three times what it was valued for in 1939. Therefore, the price the Minister should offer should be practically three times the amount he was prepared to offer for the land in that year.

In my view, if the Minister were empowered to increase his offer even by £1 an acre, it would be a considerable inducement to people to sell their land. It takes, apparently, about £100 an acre to develop land for afforestation. If that is the case, then a difference of between £4 and £5 an acre would mean very little to the ultimate cost to the State.

Senators have already referred to the fact that there is not sufficient propaganda in connection with the value of afforestation and forestry. If officials from the Department went around to the various districts which had potential value for afforestation and lectured the people there on, say, the advantages of shelter belts, the amount of labour that they would give, the benefit afforestation would be to the climate and to the land generally, I believe it would be a good service to the country.

Could the county committees of agriculture not do something in that direction?

Yes. I think that if the Minister also had the co-operation of the county engineers, the parish agents, agricultural instructors and such like people who are so familiar with the land that could and should be acquired, a good deal of assistance could be given.

Senator McGuire referred to the difference between this country and countries on the Continent, so far as trees are concerned. When one travels through France, one sees all the trees along a roadway properly pruned and cared for. It would be well if county councils in this country were encouraged to set trees in barren parts along main roads and also to cut off the ivy which is damaging some of our trees.

They cannot cut the ivy off the trees they have along the main roads.

Certainly it would improve the growing of those trees and their ultimate quality. It has already been suggested that vendors and their solicitors are responsible for a considerable amount of delay in making title. I have already set out the difficulties which arise in satisfying the Minister's solicitors in this matter. For that reason, I feel that the charge is rather unwarranted. When one considers that vendors cannot receive their money until they have completed the sale and that the solicitors for the vendors will not be paid either until that is done, it is not reasonable to assume that they are in any way deliberately responsible for the delay that occurs.

I know, for instance, that considerable delay takes place in connection with the survey. From the time the land is offered until it is surveyed, possibly six months may elapse. One of the reasons is that there is great delay in getting the Land Registry maps from the Land Registry. I suggest that the Minister should see that the staff in the mapping department of the Land Registry is increased in order to make maps more readily available. I do not know much about maps in connection with unregistered land, that is, land held by the Land Commission, but I am certainly aware of how long it is before an offer is made from the time the land is offered to the Minister. Furthermore, I know of substantial areas in my county that have been turned down as unplantable and, in view of the new mechanical methods of cultivating such land and the use of heavy machinery to solve drainage problems, would the Minister consider having a further survey made of land which has previously been rejected as unsuitable for afforestation?

In connection with the suggestion that an autonomous board would be more suitable for the administration of afforestation, I am inclined to agree. I cannot imagine any branch of the Civil Service being as efficient as a board. I realise the difficulties of a board, in the sense that the Oireachtas loses control of the day to day administration. I realise that the Minister would not be in a position to answer questions in the House in connection with the day to day administration, as in the case of C.I.E., Bord na Móna or the E.S.B., but I think there could be some happy medium whereby the board would be semiautonomous and, at the same time, the Minister could get replies to the questions which might be put down in the other House. Departments of the Civil Service are far too careful; they are not encouraged to have much initiative and their idea is to keep themselves right on paper and the red tape of the Civil Service clogs and delays matters because there are so many checks as there must be so many controls.

If the Minister were responsible to the House, it would become more efficient. Would it not be more effective if the Minister is not responsible to the House?

About the Land Commission, yes, but about Forestry, no. I am fully responsible for Forestry and Gaeltacht Services.

At any rate, the Minister is fully responsible for Gaeltacht Services and industries, and, in view of the tremendous loss which has occurred recently at a time when tweed sales were booming, it is not indicative of the efficiency of any Department of State in running a business. Last year, of the amount that was spent by the Department, the cost per acre would be approximately £150 and that, in my opinion, is another reason why the control should be taken out of the hands of a Department and put into the hands of a director who has a good deal of expereince in a business capacity, and who will permit his officials in the country to make decisions. I think that, in the E.S.B., inspectors or officials in rural areas have a fair amount of discretion.

I believe they are able to get a good deal of work done because of the fact that they are able to make decisions on their own, without always having to refer to headquarters. Now that the forestry section is becoming so big that it requires to be decentralised, local inspectors require to have more discretion than is permitted in a branch of the Civil Service.

In connection with the acquisition of land generally, the Minister is aware that, last year, owing to the delay in acquiring land, the Minister was able to save £60,000 on that Vote as against the previous year, but if a proper approach were made to this matter, I feel that the land is available, but that there is far too much delay in acquiring it.

This has been a most interesting discussion and one in which we are all in accord with the Minister. Every Senator will agree that we are discussing a subject that commends itself to every one of us. Senator Louis Walsh discussed some legal points and many other aspects of the subject with which he is conversant, but I should like to make a few remarks on the beauty point of view.

In this Bill, the Minister asks for more power to acquire more land for afforestation. I think that is something which we will give him readily. At the same time, he wants to be empowered to pay a reasonable price for land so acquired. I am in complete agreement with the Minister. I often think it is a great tragedy in this country, especially to those of us who take so much pride in our country, that we are so sadly denuded of all that gives a country a beauteous appearance, particularly to travellers from other countries. Trees, as far as I am concerned, always breathe peace and this atmosphere has been very peaceful, with no spirit of acrimony introduced into it. I sometimes wonder if we are a tree-loving people. Personally I doubt if we are. It seems a pity that we have to discuss here ways and means of planting the countryside more rapidly, particularly in the, shall I say, rougher mountainy areas of which we have a considerable number in this country.

My colleague, Senator J. O'Sullivan, mentioned there are vast tracts of land in West Cork and I agree with him that they could be acquired, assuming, of course, that the Minister was prepared to give the owners of these vast tracts of land a reasonable price. I come from the east side of Cork myself and the land there is of a more valuable nature and one cannot embark on afforestation schemes so readily. At least one cannot do it as quickly as in the case of poorer land. I doubt if we are a tree-loving people. One can travel through a great part of the country and not see a tree perhaps for two or three miles. I realise that the planting of trees in rich soil that produces crops of barley, oats, wheat or beet would not be reasonable, but up and down the country, particularly in the West, I have often been struck by the fact that it has a wild beauty which could be considerably enhanced by the planting of trees, of which it is completely denuded.

Many members of this House have gone abroad on numerous occasions. In my wanderings around this country and on the Continent of Europe for the past 25 or 30 years, I have been struck in cities such as Paris, Lucerne and Rome, by the lovely appearance of trees growing on the sidewalks. Listening to this very interesting debate, a thought flashed through my mind. Could it not be made part of the school curriculum to inculcate a love of trees in our boys and girls? Every year we should have an Arbor Day in every school in Ireland. If every child in those schools planted a tree and called the tree after itself, you would thereby ensure that the growth of that tree from a sapling would be the child's liability. I think that would be an excellent idea.

Ireland is indeed a grand country, but we are not doing enough to adorn it with what nature has given us so freely. Our soil is fertile and, goodness knows, we have plenty of rain to ensure that the roots of the trees will be kept moist. Might I ask the Minister to bear that suggestion in mind and seek to give effect to it after a talk with his colleague, the Minister for Education?

If you throw responsibility on the boys and girls, you will develop in them a sense of beauty. They will be proud to see the trees they have planted reaching maturity. We realise that the county councils throughout the country are doing good work in providing trees practically free, but would it not be an excellent idea to give to the holders of rough lands a certain number of trees and ask them to pay for the planting of them themselves? The cost of the planting could be met by putting a small sum every year on the rent and it could be spread over a period of 25 or 30 years. I realise that every section of the people are trying to get something out of the State, but if you put more responsibility on the people themselves, I have no doubt that they will respond. The idea is well worth considering.

We are all behind this Bill. Small grants could be given to people and they could pay them off on the rent over a period of 25 years. By planting trees, you help to beautify the country and you give a considerable amount of employment. In addition, you leave to posterity something that will be of benefit. In my part of the country, along the river Blackwater, which has been called the Irish Rhine, above the famous bridge which I am glad to see has been erected at last, there are many woods that I remember as a young man. They were cut down during the first World War in 1914-18. They were not replanted. That is something to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention for the purpose of discussion in the offices of his Department to ensure that the trees cut down 35 or 40 years ago would be replanted.

Nobody wants to see land acquired which is more suitable for the growing of agricultural produce. Senator O'Sullivan says that there are vast tracts of country in West Cork that should be planted. If one travels to Inchigeela, the pass of Keimaneigh and Glengarriff in the month of May, the first thing that strikes one is the spectacle of thousands of acres in full bloom. It makes an indelible impression on tourists and travellers. Looking at it for the first time, it creates a memory which is never forgotten.

The land in the West of Ireland may not be up to the standard of the land in the South or the East. It is really a pity to see the exodus of young men and women from the West of Ireland. One would like to try and encourage them to remain at home by providing for them employment at a fairly good remunerative wage. Those born in the areas to which I refer will not emigrate to England or America, if they can stay at home.

These are a few suggestions I should like to make to the Minister. A love of nature should be instilled into the boys and girls in all our schools. They should be encouraged to plant trees. There is a well-known song, which I sometimes sing—Trees. Only God can make a tree. I think trees are lovely. Indeed, there is nothing lovelier, but we are not tree minded. Some years ago in my own town, we planted 50 or 60 trees. They were hardly 12 months or six months in the soil when 15 or 20 of them were cut off with a jagged knife. We replanted them and now they are growing, enhancing the beauty of the entrance to the town. We are in a peaceful atmosphere and I should be glad if the Minister would give my few suggestions some consideration when he goes back to his Department.

Senator O'Gorman has painted a very vivid picture for us of the young people living in the vicinity of Glengarriff and their anxiety to live there still. I can assure Senator O'Gorman that the people in Connemara and Mayo have the same anxiety. It is from that angle that I should like to ask the members of the House to deal with this Bill. What does it propose to do? What does it enable the Minister or the Land Commission to do? I am sorry to say that the Minister asks us to give power to the lay commissioners to recommend to him as the Minister of State the acquisition of a particular holding. There are at least three questions I should like to put to the Minister in relation to this whole acquisition problem.

We are all in sympathy with the development of afforestation. We would like to see more trees grown, provided they were grown for the benefit of the people of this country; but in this Bill the Minister asks us to give him permission to make an acquisition and the Land Commission are the people who are going to decide the matter. Fifty or 100 persons may be living on a commonage and a percentage of them may be prepared to give up their holdings, but the Minister, under this Bill, is the only person whom we authorise to make a recommendation to the Land Commission to request that this question should be taken into consideration.

There is no provision made whereby one or more persons in this particular holding may have the same privilege as the Minister, and therefore, the Minister is the privileged person. I should like to have specific figures as to the total acreage of these commonage holdings and how many acres he proposes may come under his jurisdiction because of the forces he may be able to put on some tenants.

We provide here now that the person who is not prepared to accept the decision of the lay commissioners is going to be provided with a holding which will be something in relation to what he had under his previous holding. Therefore, what we are suggesting is that if there are five or six people in a commonage of, say, 1,000 acres and those people are aware that 500 acres of it are not suitable for agricultural purposes, they may opt out, and because of their opting out, they will be the people who will benefit most out of it. We are encouraging objection to afforestation, which it is not very necessary to do in an area where land fever is very prevalent. We are making it more difficult for the Forestry Department. We should give some assurance to those people who are not prepared to opt out that they will get at least the same benefits as those who will insist on their rights.

It is very hard to convince people up here of the circumstances which may exist, but under this legislation we are going to encourage people to leave the land. We have had over a number of years criticism of the number of people who left the land, but these are the people who this Bill suggests should have the right in the commonage areas. People living on smallholdings in the West of Ireland—Mayo and Galway—have not sufficient in their holdings to maintain themselves. They rely, in the main, on the sheep or cattle grazing they have in the commonages to keep themselves going.

This Bill proposes giving the Minister certain compulsory powers. The Minister may say that he does not want compulsory powers. The fact remains that compulsory powers are there and the Bill we pass to-night will enable the Minister to go to the Land Commission and say: "I am making representations to the Land Commission to acquire a holding in North or South Mayo, or Galway, of so many acres." Is that not a fact?

If it is not a fact, then this Bill is not worth passing. But that is the fact. We are empowering the Minister to do that in this Bill. Because we are doing that, we want certain assurances. We have three questions to ask and we would like a reply to them. First of all, what is the procedure in relation to the acquisition of these lands? Is it necessary for one or two applicants to make an application to have the lands acquired? What is the procedure in relation to the value of the lands? Who will assess the value? How will the Minister ensure that those who are put out will have a greater benefit under this measure?

I should like at the outset to express my thanks for the reception given to this Bill, for the encouragement given and the constructive attitude adopted by all those who have spoken on the measure, with the exception of the last speaker who seems to be labouring under a misapprehension. I will endeavour now to allay some of the doubts Senator Hawkins has. He seems to be under the impression that the Minister will have certain compulsory powers under this Bill. That is not so. All I am seeking is an extension of the compulsory powers the lay commissioners already have under the 1946 Act. The Minister has no compulsory powers; the Minister is not seeking compulsory powers. He will not seek compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for afforestation. I admit I would be the first to seek compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for the relief of congestion, but that is a horse of a different colour.

Senator Hawkins seems to have some doubt as to who will fix the price. I will explain the proposed procedure under the Bill and that may relieve the Senator of any fears he has. Wherever compulsory acquisition proceedings are initiated, they will be initiated with the consent of the owner. Before compulsory proceedings will be initiated with the consent of the owner, I am practically certain that the price will have been settled as between the Minister for Lands and the owner. The question of an appeal against price will not, therefore, occur as it does in some other directions. The compulsory powers sought under this Bill will be put into operation only with the consent of the person or persons willing to sell. The first move will come from the owner or owners of a commonage or grazing rights. They will inform the Forestry Division that they have land which they are willing to sell.

There will then be an investigation of title and where a person has a faulty or defective title—some Senators took exception to the expression "defective"—the compulsory powers under the 1946 Act will, with the consent of the person holding the land, come into operation. There will be one important difference. If compulsory acquisition was resorted to under the 1946 Act the price was fixed. In this case, because compulsory proceedings will be initiated only with the consent of the vendor, the price will be agreed on beforehand. In broad outline, that is the way in which this Bill will operate; I think that should set Senator Hawkins' mind at rest. Most of the other speakers seemed to have a good grasp of what is intended in this measure.

A good deal was said about afforestation in general. Many speakers referred to the grant given for private planting—that is the grant of £10 available to any person who plants an acre of his own land. It is a free grant. Most speakers seem to think that the grant is too small. I will examine that matter and if I find that a better grant is merited I shall have no hesitation in approaching the Government for a larger grant.

Will a farmer get a grant if he plants a quarter of an acre?

The grant is for one complete acre. No smaller grant will be paid for anything less than one acre. The Senator may think that a grant should be paid for half an acre, and I am all the way with him there.

I was looking at it from the point of view of encouraging people to plant waste land.

I would have no objection to paying a grant for half an acre. A smaller area than that would involve fairly costly fencing and it might not prove a profitable proposition for a person to plant such a small area. There is, of course, the shelter belt scheme. Many farmers in the West are availing of that and ten or 15 years hence those shelter belts will add considerably to the beauty of the countryside.

The work we are engaged on here is national afforestation. We are not planting timber to beautify the country or provide employment. We are planting timber to provide our own future needs. We are only too pleased that useful employment can be provided and the scenic attractions of the country improved, but our primary object is to provide this country with the timber it will require at some date in the future when what we are planting to-day will reach maturity. At the moment we are using about 37,500 standards per year. Some experts regard that as very low in comparison with other countries. It is low. Per head of the population we use less timber here as compared with any country in the western hemisphere. I believe, as do most people who have a knowledge of trends, that the consumption of timber per head will increase very much as the years go on. I have taken Mr. Cameron's target as being a fair one, that is, that, in 50 years' time, the consumption of timber per head in this country will have increased almost four times as much, which would be 150,000 standards for the whole country in a single year.

The next question we come to is what will produce 150,000 standards? In other words, in 50 years, if this nation is using four times as much timber, how much timber would we want to plant to-day to guarantee that? Let me say that approximately 12,000 acres of good mature timber will produce 150,000 standards, or four times our present consumption of timber. The Commission on Emigration which furnished its report some years ago, stated that there is not much likelihood of a population increase. I do not want to pass comment on that, except to say that I hope they are wrong in their findings, but on the basis that there is not a population increase, or only a small one, this year we have planted 15,000 acres and of that 15,000 acres, we have planted 12,000 acres to meet four times the present-day consumption when that timber will fall mature, and 3,000 acres for export.

Lest Senators should take it that, because we have planted more than our needs, that is the end of the thing, that is not the case. If that were so, if 15,000 or 16,000 acres a year were the Government's target, there would be no need for this Bill because we are getting in just enough land to meet that 15,000 acres target. We are not content with that and we want a greater intake of land, and that is why I am asking the House for this Bill. The Bill was designed specifically because the intake of land in some cases was very slow. In many cases, offers of land which the Forestry Division was very anxious to take because it was most suitable, fell through simply because the owner or owners could not prove title.

Some Senators seem to think that there should be a rough and ready way of brushing aside this question of title, and say: "Why are the Minister and the Forestry people so concerned about title?" But the State must be just the same as any individual here. If any of you bought a holding or a farm, you would first go to your solicitor and ask him to make sure you have good title, so that in five, ten or 20 years somebody cannot come along and say: "I have a claim on that holding. The person who sold it to you has not full title. I have a claim on it." What can happen to the private individual can happen much more easily to a Government Department like the Forestry people. It is just as essential for the Minister for Lands and the Forestry people to have absolutely water-tight title to their land as it is for the private individual—hence the trouble.

Each Senator listening to me knows quite well that if any person came from England or America after a lapse of some years and found part of the old paternal home, as Senator Kissane described it, planted under trees, that person would go to the nearest solicitor who would examine his title and say: "You have a case against the State." Goodness knows what would happen then. It is only right and just that any Minister should be as careful about the public money as he would be about his own.

A good deal was said about the price we pay for land. Senator Kissane and Senator Hartney in particular seemed to think we were not paying enough, and Senator Cogan was, I think, in step with them. Would it surprise Senators to know that only 1 per cent. of transactions fail because of disagreement on price and that where there is disagreement on price between the owner of land who is selling and the Forestry people, the individual is looking for a fantastic price? That only happens very occasionally, so that it does not matter.

If Senators have got any complaints from people who have sold land and are dissatisfied with the price, on the one hand, or received any complaints from people in cases where they were willing to sell, but for the fact that the Department were not giving a good price, I would like to hear of them. I have got no complaints and as a rule the Minister is the first to get complaints, genuine and bogus. Every Minister is under constant bombardment by people writing in to complain on different subjects, but no complaints have come in to my Department on the question of price.

I think it was Senator Hartney who thought the Department of Finance had a strangehold on Forestry and that it was the stranglehold Finance had on the Minister for Lands that caused the Minister for Lands to bring in this Bill to obtain a greater intake of land. Such is not the case, for once. The Department of Finance is usually under fire from every Minister, but in this particular instance that is not so because this Bill will not improve the price of land.

Our difficulty in this regard was not the question of price, but that of title. Let us take the case of a man who owns a holding or farm most or all of which is suitable for forestry and which he wishes to sell. What I propose to do is to go to that man and ask him will he sell. If he agrees to sell, I fix the price with him. Then we investigate title and may find he has bad or faulty title. Perhaps he is one of a family of four, five or six, whose parents died intestate and consequently all the family have some claim. If these people have been away a number of years and the person who has stayed at home wishes to sell, I propose to ask the lay commissioners for an acquisition order, with the consent of the person selling.

I want to take Senators over the ground step by step in case any member of the House may think we are taking an advantage in this respect. The lay commissioners will make an acquisition order, giving the Minister for Lands perfect title, although the person who sold it has not perfect title to give him. Then the price is agreed. If thereafter, within a period of six years, any brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts or any other person who has a claim on the farm, come home, the Minister for Lands will pay him again. The Minister for Lands in one part of the Bill is taking power to recover the amount from the person who was paid formerly, but I cannot envisage many such cases occurring. I am afraid in most cases the person who sells will either have disposed of the money by the time that happens or will have left the country and brought the money with him. In any case even though the commissioners give the Minister for Lands perfect title by the acquisition order, if any person who has a claim proves that claim to the satisfaction of the Minister, he will be paid again. I do not think that is taking an unfair advantage of anybody.

Senator Cox mentioned that the period of six years was establishing a precedent. It is not. As a matter of fact, there are precedents for this period of six years, going back to the Labourers Act of 1906, to the Land Act of 1931 and several other Acts not dealing with land. These have all taken that period for establishing claims to compensation. It is not a precedent and in fact I am following many precedents set both before this State was established and since.

In regard to commonages, Senator Hawkins and Senator Kissane thought we were taking an unfair advantage of the common owner who may object to acquisition. I will describe the position and then leave it to the Senators themselves to judge whether I am being unfair in this matter. The usual number who own a commonage is ten —at least that is the case in my part of the country, in Mayo, Galway, Sligo and Leitrim. Supposing eight of the ten are willing to sell, what I do is to ask the lay commissioners to make an acquisition order for the whole commonage. From the moment I ask the lay commissioners for an acquisition order, the person whose land I am acquiring has the very same status and standing before the commissioners as the Minister. The Minister has no advantage over him in this Bill. In the case of a commonage, the commissioners may make an acquisition order for the whole commonage, but I am making provision in Section 6 of this Bill whereby the commissioners can allot a portion of the commonage to the objector or objectors which will be equal to the right they had on the common beforehand. I hope that satisfies Senator Hawkins.

It is true that the objectors may be discommoded in this way, that formerly they had the run over the whole 1,000 acres of the common, but we should not forget that if each of the other owners made full use of the belt and each of the other owners stocked the common to the full strength of his band, then the person now objecting would not be discommoded. Suppose the band in a particular common was ten collops, if each of the ten people who had the right to the common put ten collops on the common, that would be all right, but what generally happens is that those who are willing to sell have not had the opportunity or the cash to stock the commonage and, if my information is correct, two or three lucky ones, from the point of view of being near the common and having the cash to buy the stock, are stocking the whole common and enjoying the profit of the whole common.

These people, naturally, will object to acquisition, but when the lay commissioners have given them their share of the commonage, which would be equal to the number of collops that they enjoyed, they will not have anything to grumble about, because they will have exactly the same profit as they had from their share of the common. They will not have the profit that their co-partners in the common could have had, if they had stocked their portions, and I do not pity them in losing that. It is true that it may discommode the one or two objectors in that respect.

We must take into account the seven or eight who wish to sell. They must have their rights respected and it would be too bad if the one or two who had been gobbling up the rights on the commonage should now be able to prevent the others selling what is justly theirs.

The same applies to grazing rights. In case there are Senators who are not familiar with practice in mountain areas and country districts, I will give this illustration. X owns a certain area of mountain or grazing. What has happened is that X takes in Y and Z and several others as grazing tenants. These people have established grazing rights down through the years. In that case, we propose to acquire the whole area from the fee simple owner and, if there are objectors amongst the grazing tenants who do not wish to give up their rights on that particular piece of hill, just as in the case of the commonage, the lay commissioners may allot a certain proportion to them or may turn down the Minister's request to have the particular grazing right acquired.

I want to assure Senators that there is no compulsion in the Bill, other than the compulsion enshrined in the 1946 Forestry Act. Senator Kissane seemed to be under the impression that we could use the method envisaged in the 1946 Act, which was the same as that employed by the Land Commission for the acquisition of land for the relief of congestion. We could not, for this reason, that the method employed under the 1946 Act was that the lay commissioners could acquire compulsorily for the Minister for Lands a particular piece of land, but then they paid in the purchase price to the courts and that immediately put the onus of proving title on the person dispossessed of the land. In many cases, the persons dispossessed could not prove title because that would involve, for some of them, getting surrender of the claims of brothers and sisters in Australia, America or Alaska, with the result that they were no longer in possession of the land and the money was locked up with the court and they could not get at it, until they could prove title. In many cases, they could not prove title. There had to be some way out of that deadlock, which was the principal matter holding up land acquisition for forestry.

I hope I have explained the Bill and dealt with most of the points made. In conclusion, let me again thank the House for the helpful way in which they have met this Bill. If I may make so bold, I would ask for all stages tonight.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to take the next stage?

I want to make an explanation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Second Stage of the Bill has been agreed to. The only question now is when the next stage will be taken.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 15th February.

On a point of explanation. I think the Minister misunderstood me. I definitely made the statement that the Forestry Division were debarred from giving a higher price for lands that they wish to acquire, because they are tied up by Finance. I made that statement. If I am wrong, the Minister can tell me so. I wanted to say that, if a better price were paid, the Minister would have sufficient land for a number of years to come and would not need this Bill to solve all the difficulties of title and otherwise. That is what I tried to convey to the Minister. He seemed to misunderstand me. I would be very glad if the Minister could tell me here and now that he is free of Finance to-day.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The matter may be raised on the Committee Stage.

In order to see if we could finish the Second Stage of the Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Bill, would the House agree to sit not later than 10.30 p.m.?