Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 Jan 1961

Vol. 53 No. 8

Derelict Sites Bill, 1960—Committee Stage.


I move amendment No. 1:

In line 26, after "land" to add the following: "other than land used for agricultural purposes which is not situate alongside a main road or county road."

The purpose of this amendment is to narrow somewhat the defination of "land" as defined in Section 1. Everybody will be agreed that there is an urgent necessity for clearing and removing derelict sites from towns and villages, and indeed I would go further and say within a reasonable distance of the main thoroughfares throughout the country, for the purpose of creating a good impression not alone among tourists but among the citizens as they pass along these thoroughfares. We cannot be unaware of the fact that there has been a great deal of emigration from rural Ireland, which recently has taken the form of whole families closing down their dwellings, locking them up and leaving them unattended. As I say, that is something of recent origin.

I am quite well aware from my own experience of people who close down their dwellings and bring their families to England solely for the purpose of earning sufficient capital to come back and settle down at home. That type of person is frequently met with in the west of Ireland. It is often a surprise to me but there have been quite a number of people who have left what would be regarded as good jobs in London and returned home to the old family place and re-established themselves on small farms.

I have no doubt that buildings which are already in a poor condition, when neglected for a period of even two or three years will come under the definition of "derelict site" as set out in Section 1 of the Bill, and I want to avoid the possibility that the local authority, which I take it would be the county council in all of these cases, will have the right to serve notices by posting them on stable doors, and so on, in the absence of people in England and will demolish the buildings and clear the sites. As the Bill is drafted, it appears to me that that power is being vested in the local authorities and I do not think it is either desirable or necessary that it would extend to sites of the kind I have in mind in rural Ireland. For the protection of the people to whom I have referred the Minister and the House should accept the amendment.

I would be happy, to a degree, if I felt that the operations under this enactment would be as sweeping as Senator O'Quigley would seem to contemplate. It would appear that his view is that local authorities throughout rural Ireland will go about seeking sites that they may declare derelict in out of the way places as well as on the roadways and adjoining the roadways in their functional areas. I cannot see this happening. I cannot even see the stage anticipated by the Senator being approached even remotely. Apart altogether from that, the idea that we can tie up the closing of farmsteads with the exclusions from this measure seems to be a rather queer way of approaching the matter.

If a site is declared to be derelict for any of the various reasons stated in the Bill, the clearance of that site is in the public interest. The safeguards for the owner or occupier, or non-occupying owner in this case, are fool-proof. It is a question of the common good and the public interest being considered in relation to the neglect of private property in given circumstances. I cannot see that Senator O'Quigley's amendment is one that is called for.

Secondly, the amendment, to a large degree, would nullify the very basis on which this measure rests, that is, that the public interest and the common good must be regarded and where that in some way impinges on a private individual it does so only where there has been neglect to the extent that property or premises have become derelict. I do not think it is right to regard such property as being sacrosanct as property properly maintained by the owner or occupier would be.

I fear the Minister has not applied his mind to what is contained in the amendment. What I am seeking to do in the amendment is to exempt land used for agricultural purposes and which is not situated along a main road or county road, that is to say, the ordinary derelict sites that are in the heart of the country and that might become the subject of interfering local authority officials for one reason or another. I have no doubt that the Minister will state that the local authorities are extremely responsible people. I have no doubt that that is so but if one were to listen to the Tánaiste on the Fluoridation Bill on the last occasion, he brings all local authorities to the level of a letter signed "Democrat" in a copy of the Evening Mail, which the Tánaiste read to the House for its edification. When a Minister of State of such high rank as the Tánaiste takes that view of local authorities, it behoves us in this House of Parliament to take particular care as to the power we vest in local authorities.

The Minister speaks about the common good and the public interest. All legislation is directed towards the common good, and the Minister is familiar with the phrase "in the public interest". We must bear in mind, however, that within that large context of the common good and the public interest, it is necessary to define with some precision the kinds of things we want local authorities and other such bodies to do and not to do. The Minister has not at all addressed himself to the real possibility that some people may get in touch with local authorities and say they are not at all happy to have "Jack Johnson's" old shed which is along the road into their house maintained in that condition. All they have to establish is that it is in a derelict condition and affects the amenities of the neighbourhood, even though the proprietor of that building intends to return to this country when he has earned sufficient money in England. It is perfectly obvious that the Minister has no regard or sympathy for the plight of people who are forced to emigrate from rural Ireland: when they are gone, their votes are gone and the Minister is not concerned with whether this Bill will affect them adversely or not.

I am beginning to wonder whether this amendment was put down for the purpose of helping this Bill or as a prelude to the coming general election.

Coming shortly.

Listening to Senator O'Quigley moving the amendment, one would think we were taking to the hustings immediately. I cannot see much sense in his amendment. This is not a coercive Bill. It is a Bill designed for the first time to co-ordinate a scheme of grants to encourage people to help to clear derelict sites. It is not designed to coerce somebody into doing anything he does not want to do. We are all familiar with houses that are unoccupied. Senator O'Quigley's point would deal more with migration than emigration in the strict sense of the word. The problem he has mentioned regarding migratory labourers has obtained for a very long number of years, particularly in the west of Ireland, and we have all been familiar in the past with that problem. While a large number of labourers may migrate, it does not follow that all the houses are locked up. There may be a house here and there locked up for a period but that does not obtain generally.

There is a second point in regard to this amendment. The Senator suggests: "after `land' to add the following: `other than land used for agricultural purposes which is not situate alongside a main road or county road' ". I should like to know from the Senator what he would deem to be land not used for agricultural purposes. Most land in this country is suitable for agricultural development and as far as I see the amendment would only muddy up the section and get us nowhere.

I wonder has the Senator who proposed this amendment taken into account the difficulty of defining a main road? Just this week, there was a case in the papers where a justice had difficulty in deciding what was a main road. I understand a county road is definable but when it comes to an accident at a road junction, there is difficulty in deciding which is the main road. I believe we would only be adding difficulty to our legislation if this amendment were accepted.

Senator Ó Donnabháin is not very helpful when he makes observations of the kind he has made. What the learned justice had difficulty in determining was surely something in relation to the Road Traffic Acts. That does not at all arise in connection with this Bill. As I understand, there are such things as main roads and county roads for local authority purposes and the people who know what are main roads and county roads and, in fact, who determine what they are are the local authorities themselves. In this Bill, we are issuing instructions to the local authorities who already know what are main roads and county roads, and as far as that is concerned, no difficulty need arise. If that is the only objection Senator Ó Donnabháin sees to this amendment, there can always be another time to clarify this difficulty, if it is a genuine one.

My main concern is to protect people who have left this country and whose houses may have fallen into a dilapidated and derelict condition, from having to put these into a proper state of repair while they are away. Senator Carter has now reduced the problem of emigration—which according to recent figures published in England is on the increase—to one of migration. That is not relevant to this Bill.

It was the Senator who raised the matter of emigration. I did not raise it until he raised it.

I raised the problem of emigration and Senator Carter reduced it to a problem of migration. That is what you do when elections are coming on and when the figures published recently in England are not favourable to the Government.

We shall not discuss emigration on this Bill. Will the Senator keep to the amendment?

I put down this amendment because I believe it is a proper amendment. I have no information as to when there will be a general election. By the time a general election comes, people will know nothing about the Derelict Sites Bill and anything we say here now will not influence them when they go into the polling booths. This amendment was put down not for propaganda purposes but because it is a proper amendment to put down. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

If the Minister is anxious to make a statement, the Chair will facilitate him.

I presume I have similar opportunities on amendments still to come.

Within the rules of relevancy.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed to.

There are three amendments which may be taken together—amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Perhaps Senator O'Quigley would agree to that and, if he wishes, we can have a decision on amendment No. 2.

I move amendment No. 2:

In subsection (1), line 6, to delete "an offer" and substitute "a proposal".

Is the Senator agreeable to having the three amendments discussed together?

Yes, they are all the same. I think I can assure the House that there is no political content in this amendment, whatever about the first amendment. This is purely a matter of drafting and I trust the Minister will see his way to accept the amendment.

As I see it, the position in this section is that if a local authority are of opinion that some plot of land constitutes a derelict site and want to have it cleared up to their satisfaction, they communicate with the owner or occupier and all that it is intended that they should then do is to ask the owner or occupier what he proposes or intends to do to clear up the site. The word "offer" in this context, to my mind, has no meaning whatever. An offer is something which is initiated by the person who offers. Here is a case where the local authority are the initiating party and they will ask the owner to say what he is going to do.

I put down this amendment because in law the word "offer" has a particular connotation in the law of contract. The whole of the law of contract is based upon the two principles of offer and acceptance. I do not see that a word, such as "offer", having a particular use in law should be imported into a statute such as this, with an entirely different meaning from what it ordinarily has in the general law of the land. It would be much better, and it would read a great deal better and more intelligently, to say that they are inviting the owner to make a proposal within such period as may be specified in respect of carrying out works to prevent the land from continuing to be derelict. That is all; it is purely a matter of the proper use of the word "offer" in a legal document and I heartily recommend the Minister and the House to accept the amendment.

The Senator sounds very convincing but I am afraid I am not convinced. Candidly, I do not follow the Senator's reasoning although I agree that in his profession he should undoubtedly have a fair grasp of the difference between various words such as these. Nevertheless, in the ordinary usage I have no doubt in my mind— and in following this matter up since his amendment was put down my view has been confirmed—that the word "offer" in the context to which the three amendments relate is in fact better. If there is anything in it—and there may not be much between the two words—the word "offer" has it. I am quite satisfied about that.

Evidently the Minister has given this a great deal of consideration. I should like him to tell the House, as this matter is of some consequence to my mind, what consideration swung him over on the side of continuing to use the word "offer" rather than the word I suggest, "proposal"?

It is the Senator who is suggesting that the word "offer" is not the proper one to use. He sounds convincing but he has not convinced me. Probably he can convince the House and he may yet be able to convince me that his proposed change of words is correct.

The Minister is avoiding the issue. He says that he has taken the trouble—and I am sure he has—to go into this matter and that there is not a great deal of difference between the two words "offer" and "proposal" in this context, but that, whatever was in it, to his mind, lay on the side of the word "offer" used in the Bill. I have clearly indicated that in our system of law the word "offer" has a particular signification. It has not that signification in the context of Section 2.

In this case what would in fact happen is that the local authority would say to the owner of a site which they believed to be derelict: "This site is derelict; it will have to be cleared. What are you going to do about it?" That is ordinary English but they are not asking him to make an offer. They do not tell him to come along and offer to do anything. He is being compelled, under the threat of the local authority coming in and clearing the site at his expense, to do something. They are asking him what in those circumstances he proposes to do. An offer, to my mind, is something connoting voluntary action on the part of the offerer. That is not this case. Reading this, I can see the lawyers wondering what possessed the Oireachtas to use this word when an ordinary word such as "proposal", "plan" or "scheme" would be much better in the legal context than the word "offer".

In my view the Senator has confused himself. Many people will agree that it is common enough for, as Senator Sheridan puts it, legal luminaries to confuse themselves with words——

It is the Fianna Fáil legal luminaries that Senator Sheridan was talking about.

Would the Senator who is now interrupting explain how a proposal can exist unless it contains an offer? It is my view that a proposal cannot exist unless it offers to do something and it appears to me that because of the legal phraseology with which the Senator would like to impress the House, he wants this word changed from "offer" to "proposal". The word "offer" is more definite and people with ordinary common sense using it will take a particular view. It is not ambiguous.

I disagree entirely with Senator O'Quigley on this section. The word "offer" is quite correct here because what is happening is that the local authority has power to do something, to force an occupier to do a certain thing but, before doing so, it asks him if he wishes to make any offer which, if it is the proper kind of offer, if it meets the situation properly, will be accepted and this will enable the local authority to avoid taking any further action.

It is quite clear that the phraseology to which Senator O'Quigley has referred is in fact incorporated in this section because in subsection (2) it says that the local authority may accept "the offer" made by the occupier. So far as phraseology is concerned, that makes it quite clear that the draftsman had it in mind and in fact has used it very effectively. We might consider a very common legal situation that is similar to this, where a litigant is about to take action against somebody and the defendant-to-be is given an opportunity to make an offer in settlement of the demand. If the offer is sufficiently good the litigant will accept it. The situation the draftsman has in mind here is very similar, and the word "offer" used in this context is used quite correctly. The word "proposal" would confuse the issue and make the position less clear.

Senator O'Reilly is always extremely helpful. Beyond saying that, I do not propose to deal with any of the points he made. Surprisingly, Senator Ryan has been more than helpful to me, on this occasion at any rate, because he has highlighted the point I was making. The two elements in the law of contract are offer and acceptance. Under this section a local authority will, with all the power given to it by the Oireachtas, supposedly enter into a contract with the owner of a derelict site. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no question of a contract being entered into between a local authority and the owner of a derelict site where that owner does not want to do anything about the site, has never wanted to do anything, would never make any offer, or do anything about the site, but for the fact that the Oireachtas proposes in this measure to vest in the local authority power to compel such an owner to do certain things; and, if he does not do them, the local authority may do them at his expense, charge him accordingly, ultimately vesting the property in themselves.

There is no question of the normal freedom ordinarily involved in the law of contract as between a willing offerer and a willing acceptor which would warrant the use of the word "offer" in this particular section. Senator O'Reilly is quite correct in his reference to the word "accept". That appears in the section, but there is nothing further from the truth than saying that this is a contract entered into. I have stated my view as to the manner in which the section should be worded. Evidently my amendment is not acceptable and I, therefore, beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments 3 and 4 not moved.

I move amendment No. 5:

In subsection (3) (i), line 22, to delete "the owner aforesaid" and substitute "the person to whom notice has been given as aforesaid".

As I understand the position, under Section 2 of the Bill, notice may be given to the owner. The owner, in the case of a leasehold property, will be the lessor; the person who occupies the property will be the tenant. It seems to me as if notice can be served upon either under this section and I am not clear as to whether there is a distinction between "owner" as defined in Section 1 and the owner who occupies, or is entitled to occupy as set out in subsection (1) of Section 2. The best method of dealing with the position would be to use the phrase "the person to whom notice has been given as aforesaid". That would capture the occupier and the owner, because it would refer clearly to the person who had been served.

My advice is that the words "owner aforesaid" mean, and can only mean, the person to whom notice has been given. That covers the point the Senator is trying to cover in his amendment.

I am not too happy about that because under subsection (1) the local authority may give the owner who occupies, or is entitled to occupy, notice in the prescribed form. Those are two distinct persons. In subsection (3) (i) there is a reference to "the owner aforesaid". Now there are two owners aforesaid—the owner who occupies and the owner who is entitled to occupy. One or other, or both, may be served with notice.

Not both.

That is far from clear. This is the kind of thing which will cause trouble later. There would be no ambiguity if the amendment were accepted. The amendment makes the position crystal clear and leaves no room for either confusion or ambiguity. I can do no more than draw the Minister's attention to these matters.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In subsection (4), line 33, before "or" to insert "or, in the event of the failure of the owner to carry out properly such works as he may have agreed with the local authority to carry out, the local authority may carry out such works and claim from him the expenses incurred by them in so doing,".

In the event of the owner failing to implement the offer accepted by the local authority I want to ensure that such failure will be visited with the same consequences as if the owner had not made any offer at all. It is only fair that the owner should have notice that if he fails to discharge his offer the local authority will be empowered to go in, clear the site, charge him for the clearing of it, and acquire the land. It would make for better administration in the clearing of derelict sites. Possibly the Minister will inform us that this kind of notification will be given to owners of such sites.

In so far as the prescribed form of notice is concerned, I have given an undertaking to forward a copy of the prescribed form to a member of the Dáil who raised a point similar in some respects to that raised now by the Senator. If the House is not sitting when I come to make these regulations, I shall be only too happy to give a copy of them to the Senator or, indeed, to the House as a whole. These regulations will contain in the prescribed form the matters to which the Senator has referred in order that the owner may be aware of what will happen if he does not follow up his offer.

I am grateful that the Minister has made the kindly offer to furnish these regulations to us. In those circumstances I think the amendment has served its purpose and I ask leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I should like if the Minister would explain a statement made in the Explanatory Memorandum. It says:

If the land continues to be a derelict site after the time specified in an accepted offer, the local authority may enter on the land, carry out appropriate works and recover the cost from the owner who made the offer.

On the Second Stage I mentioned a difficulty I saw because the maximum compensation is £100. I envisage the case of a very large derelict site in a town or city where the owner is not able to sell the site. He is then required by the terms of this Bill to remove the derelict buildings so that it will not continue to be a derelict site.

Demolition and the removal of derelict buildings are very expensive procedures. Even the insurance of men working on demolition is at least ten times that required for labourers working on the ground. Therefore, I can see a situation where the owner of a site, because there is no demand for the site at that particular time, may be required to spend more money demolishing the site than the site itself is worth. Can the local authority proceed against this man's private property or against his goods and chattels, other than the value of the site, for the cost of the demolition work? In the local authority of which I am a member we have had difficulties in the past with matters of this kind, and I am wondering what will happen in the future. I want to see that we are fair to the people against whom we are proceeding. We shall have wide powers under this Bill and can compel people to demolish property at a cost several times the value of the site. Then we can proceed against them for that money, so they will be out of pocket to an enormous amount. I feel this is a matter on which the Minister might comment. It may give rise to problems later if not dealt with now.

It appears to me that the matter the Senator has raised is not appropriate to this section. In fact, some of the matters he raised are not even appropriate to the Bill as, for example, the question of the £100 grant and so on. The grant is given under a grant scheme and is not part of the Bill before us.

I mentioned that it had an indirect bearing.

The matter about which the Senator talked is not appropriate to Section 2, but it may be appropriate to later sections. Section 2 refers to work which will be carried out by the owner as a result of his offer and not to any subsequent——

I see the point.

It may arise on a later. section.

Thank you.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."

This is a very important section in that it provides the machinery by which a person aggrieved by service of a notice by a local authority may appeal to the Minister. In connection with the Bill this Minister has already indicated that, where it came to a dispute between an individual and a corporation, he was always on the side of the individual against the corporation. Consequently, people might be put off their guard in thinking a person can appeal to the Minister, having in mind the Minister sitting before us in the House who has expressed that view. But it is not every Minister who would adopt that attitude of favouring the individual rather than the local authority.

I would be glad if the Minister would indicate what form these appeals to the Minister for Local Government will take. There would be little difficulty if the Minister set up a court of appeal in which the arguments for the local authority and the affected owners would be heard. But that is not likely to happen. I am wondering whether appeals in this type of case will eventually be determined by the Minister upon a reading of a whole series of submissions from one side and the other. I have no doubt at all that is a most unsatisfactory procedure. If the appeal is to be determined in person by the person who is Minister for Local Government at the time, that will be a change from what I might call the official outlook, the outlook of county managers and Ministerial advisers.

Most of us would like to be assured that these appeals would eventually be determined in person by the Minister, but if that be the case, it may well impose an unnecessarily heavy burden upon the political heads of the various Departments. If the Minister is satisfied that Ministers of State are equal to that kind of thing and have time for it, that is another day's work. However, I believe these matters should be determined by short appeal to the district court, which can hear both sides and deal with these matters in summary fashion without any great expense. I should be pleased to know if the Minister is in a position to state whether all these appeals will be determined in person by the person who is Minister for Local Government at the time.

I pointed out to the Senator on the Second Stage that appeals under this section relate merely to the question of whether a requirement by a local authority of works to be done by an owner is in fact a proper requirement, whether it is fair and just, and so on. It all comes down to a question of judgement as to whether what the local authority asks the owner to do is, in all the circumstances, a fair and just request under the provisions of this Bill. That the Minister should have the deciding word as distinct from referring the matter to the courts is relevant to this section, in that he has available to him the services of people who are experts in judging such matters as these and upon whom he can call at any time.

My attitude, and I think that of all Ministers for Local Government and, indeed, all Ministers, in relation to the individual versus the corporation, as mentioned by the Senator, would undoubtedly be, in the case of a doubt, to come down in favour of the individual. It will be a matter of judgment as to the amount of work necessary in any given circumstances. The Minister in question will have available to him expert advisers. That will be a far better way of determining these appeals. It will be far less costly and less protracted than having recourse to the courts.

The Senator also asked the form these appeals will take. It might be easier to indicate to the House the form the appeals will not take because they will take all sorts of forms, including representations from members of this and the other House, which is all to the good. These representations will come from people in public life who very probably will have personal knowledge of the circumstances of the case under appeal, in addition to the actual written submission that may take the form of an ordinary letter from a man down the country stating his position and what he feels about the matter, very briefly and very bluntly. The form they may take will be pretty wide, but designedly so, in order that no one, no matter from what level of life he comes, will be precluded by the form from making his appeal, with a little help, guidance and assistance, and it will not cost any money.

In all the Minister has said, he has not indicated whether these appeals will be determined by the Minister, after he has been advised by his officials. The Minister said he would indicate the form they will not take. I am not interested in the form they will not take. What I am interested in is the form they will take. I want to know is the Minister prepared to tell the House will these appeals be decided in person by the Minister, by the person who is Minister? That is a simple and straightforward piece of information for anyone to require, and that is what I am asking the Minister to indicate.

Every appeal of this kind, unless otherwise delegated, surely must be regarded as being decided by the Minister in question. Answering for myself, these appeals will be decided by the Minister for Local Government.

That is satisfactory enough.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 6 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."

In subsection (3) of this section, there is what I must regard as a drafting error. Subsection (3) (a) provides:

Whenever a local authority make a vesting order, they shall within fourteen days after making the order—

in case all the land comprised in the vesting order is in the same ownership, post a copy of the order on or near the land...

That is clear enough——

...and in any other case, post a copy of the notice on or near the land of each owner...

There is no reference in the world, and certainly there is no reference in the section, to a notice. It seems to me that it should be "...post a copy of the order on or near the land of each owner..."

That is certainly a word to which one might take exception at first glance and, in fact, exception was taken to it at first glance by me. I may say this is not a good answer to the question, but it is really the best answer. The most illustrative answer is to ask: what notice could there possibly or conceivably be other than the order already referred to?

We are a House of the Legislature and our function here is to legislate in as clear and unambiguous a fashion as we can. When the Minister tries to equate "notice" with "order," he is asking us to swallow too much. The fact of the matter is that "notice" is a misprint for the word "order." There are no two ways about it. We should not ask the public, or the courts of justice who may be called upon to construe this section, to say: "Well, the Legislature obviously knew that `notice' was the same thing as `order' and deliberately put `notice' in the Bill." There is no justification for the explanation by the Minister of what I believe to be purely a printing error. I do not want to make any other point than to say: "Here is a printing error which we should amend." It is as simple and brief as that.

I do not quite agree. I took the same view as the Senator when I first saw it, but I take a different view now. I ask this question in no flippant manner: what could possibly be posted, under this section, on such property other than the order? What other type of notice: yesterday's newspapers or this month's Dublin Opinion?

This is legislation. We are not writing letters to one another, or exchanging New Year greetings, or anything of that sort. A word is a word and has a meaning— indeed at times a very specific meaning. You cannot switch the word "order" to the word "notice" in a paragraph. You just cannot do that. There is no method of doing it that is known to me. I do not profess to be a keen student of languages in this sense, but from time to time, of necessity, I have had to look at the meaning of words. When the word "order" is used right down through a section, you cannot change it to "notice." The subsection says: "...post a copy of the notice..." I take it that is where the owner cannot be found or something like that.

Frankly, I think we cannot get away from the fact that the word should be the same all through the section. If it is intended, as the Minister suggested in his question, to be the same word, then it ought to be the case right through the section. I have heard nothing about this matter previously. I have not studied the Bill. If it has some other meaning, I am not aware of it. If the Minister is aware of some other meaning I am quite prepared to accept the Minister's view of it.

I do not know how this happened. It may well be that somebody had something in mind or that Senator O'Quigley's view on the matter is correct. It is only a matter of changing the word. That can be done in this House without amendment. A word like this can be changed. Nobody would make any point about it. Since the Minister asked the question, I want to make the point quite simple. The word "order" is not the word "notice".

It seems to me that "notice" is a much better word here. It is a broader word. The distinction seems to be this. The "order" is the statement that you must do certain things with the site.

The "notice" can be concerned with the whole thing. It can give the date on which the order was made and any preamble and additional information which is significant. In other words, the notice can give the date of the making of the order and various other details which need to be posted on the site. The order is the legal statement saying you must do this or that whereas the notice gives a wider range of facts which may be valuable for the purpose envisaged in this section.

I am a layman. Is there a reason for the change of wording? Is there a reason for "order."

Not that I am aware of.

Why change it?

Why should we change it back?

If the word is intended to be the same word, then it should be the same word.

Obviously, it is not intended to be the same word.

I should not like to have to deal with Senator Stanford in a court of law because of his ingenuity in trying to impart into the word "notice" in a subtle fashion a meaning that is not there. If the Minister would only admit it, this is a drafting error. I insist it should be changed. We are not constituted into a revisory Chamber of the Constitution and tolerated and paid by the people to do so. The function of this House is to consider legislation in every detail and express its views about it as a Second House of Parliament.

Putting it at its lowest, here is a human kind of drafting error. There was a juxtaposition of the words. You will see, running through legal documents, that whereas you serve a civil bill if the person is out of the jurisdiction you will otherwise serve him a notice. There is a difference between notice of an order and a copy of an order. It is the same kind of thing as we had here on the Bill which constituted Córas Tráchtála into a State body. The present Minister for Industry and Commerce then said: "I agree with Senator O'Quigley. It is manifestly wrong. However, the Dáil has now risen and we must pass the legislation now as it must go through before a certain date." At that time, I reluctantly agreed. I will not permit a thing of this kind to go through now. That is not what the Second House of the Oireachtas was constituted to do.

Strange to relate, I would agree with the Senators who have suggested this. From the phraseology of the clause I think the word "notice" is inappropriate though I think you can have a notice, a sheet of paper, a poster on which an order is printed and the word "notice" would be different from the word "order" in that case. But, from the phraseology of the clause here, I think the meaning would be far more suitably shown by using the word "order" instead of "notice." I suggest, if there is no difficulty, the House could change the word "notice" to "order." I believe "order" is more satisfactory from the way it is raised there.

I agree with the proposer although I cannot use that word because he has not proposed an amendment. I want to express my surprise at Senator O'Quigley——

I did not see it in time.

——because he did not think fit to submit it as an amendment to the House. However, as he has now submitted it to us, it is inescapable that we must change the word. The paragraph reads:

(a) in case all the land comprised in the vesting order is in the same ownership, post a copy of the order on or near the land and, in any other case, post a copy of the notice on or near the land of each owner, and

That is making a distinction between part-owners and whole-owners of land. If you own all the land you get a copy of the order. If you own part of the land, the wording makes a distinction and says you shall get the notice. If you look through the Act you will not find a definition of "notice." You can only presume it is the same thing as the "order." Therefore, you have carefully made a distinction for the purpose of making no difference and that is very odd indeed.

If you leave it in the present state the legitimate presumption of the courts is that the Oireachtas would never have used two words unless they intended to convey some subtle difference. Lawyers may argue at great length in the courts and get great fees for trying to demonstrate that since two different words were used there must be two different meanings. You would not use two words in the same paragraph in a single document to mean the same thing. Therefore we are in honour bound to save money from the lawyers and to change this to "order".

I think it should be changed to "order". Supposing one reads this and is puzzled by the word "notice". If he refers to Section 9 he will see a reference back to Section 7. Referring back to Section 7, he will find the word "notice" used in a different sense. That might be important in the interpretation of the subsection.

I should like to withdraw what I said. It would be better to use the word "order" than the word "notice" here.

I wish I were quite as happy in my withdrawal, if I were to withdraw, as Senator Stanford. Despite the fact that I can see, from what has been said, the difficulty about the use of the two words apparently to describe the same thing, I am not happy that "order" substituted for "notice" alone is the answer. In Section 10, to which we have not yet come, there is a prescribed form and prescribed regulations in regard to the form of these vesting orders. If it would meet with the wishes of the House I am willing to consult with the draftsman as to whether or not—in relation to the prescribed form of the vesting procedure which will have to issue if this becomes law—the change might be made in the manner suggested. I shall also satisfy myself as to whether or not the word "order" is the proper word there. I believe that the posting up of the order with the word "notice" on top would be a better form of posting up the notice than the mere posting up of an order in its bare form. I would suggest to the House that in regard to the prescribing of the form of the vesting order, I could consult the draftsman's office and the draftsman on the issue now raised here and submit to the House the form of the prescribed order procedure in advance of its issuing. That might meet the case.

I appreciate what the Minister has now said, but do I understand that there was some idea like this in relation to the word "notice"—to post a copy of a notice containing a copy of the order, or something like that, on or near the land of each owner? Perhaps that, to some extent, clarifies the net point involved in the discussion, that is to say, that instead of the word "notice," you would say: "post a copy of a notice containing a copy of the order" or something of that sort. That would make it quite clear.

Do I understand from the Minister that he is not asking for all Stages to-night?

I should like to get them to-night.

If the Minister wants all Stages to-night——

There will be more sites derelict if we hold on much longer.

They have been a long time derelict.

We want to legislate properly but we are legislating in a manner which is a disgrace. I am not going to be a party to legislating in a manner which is a disgrace to a House of Parliament.

I want to direct the attention of the House to Section 3 where it refers to the service of a notice in the prescribed form. Subsection (2) of the Section states:

"A notice under this section shall include an estimate of the cost of the works specified in the notice."

This is an entirely different type of document from the type of document we are talking about in Section 9. Subsection (3) of Section 3 states:

Whenever a local authority give a notice under this section to any person, the local authority shall, within fourteen days after giving the notice to the person, post a copy of the notice on or near the land to which the notice relates.

That is perfectly intelligible but it is not intelligible in the sense in which it is used here and no amount of dickering round with regulations that may be made under the Act can cure this kind of deficiency. It would be better if the Minister accepted what is the apparently unanimous opinion of this House, from Senator Ó Donnabháin, who rarely finds it possible to agree with me, right through to the other people who were convinced on argument, that this is an amendment which ought properly to be made. It is one which Senator O'Donovan has been suggesting can be made within the rules of this House on Report Stage. A slip of this kind—it is no more than a slip, unless it is inflated into some important matter by the Minister or some other people—can undoubtedly be corrected on the Report Stage and need never go back to the Dáil.

If, as the Senator said, this is a matter which comes within the competence of the House to deal with and can be dealt with here on those conditions, I should be happy to accept the amendment and get the Bill through.

I should not like the Minister to be under any misapprehension. Is the Minister accepting the view that the word "notice" can be changed into the word "order" without going back to the Dáil?

That is what is being put to me by Senator O'Quigley. If that view can be upheld and if this would be regarded as a printer's error and dealt with within the House, I should be quite happy to accept.

This would call for a drafting amendment and not a verbal amendment. In that case, I fear it would have to go back to the Dáil.

It seems to me that the word "notice" has no meaning in the context. I do not want the Minister to accept something on grounds which might prove afterwards not to be valid. I would be inclined to agree that if we take out the word "notice" and put in the word "order," it must go back to the Dáil. That is not such a grievous thing. It would be better to send it back to the Dáil properly drafted and amended than that this House should let it go without having taken notice, if I might make the pun. There is a mistake in this.

I think it is necessary to make this change. Otherwise, I can see a local authority being put in a very difficult position if they attempt to make a vesting order and if there is any objection to it for any reason and the matter is brought to court. The fact that they have not complied with this section can be argued very strongly because if they posted the order, they will be told that they have posted a notice or if they posted a notice, it is not clear from the section what the notice should contain. Although there is some difficulty about making an amendment at this stage, I believe that, unless it is made, a local authority at some time in the future may find themselves in an extremely difficult position and may be precluded, in fact, from making a vesting order to such an extent that it would be impossible to make a vesting order until an amendment is introduced at some future stage.

I do not feel that we in this House should be prevented from making this change from "notice" to "order" by the consideration that it would then have to go back to the Dáil because the underlying assumption there is that we can talk our heads off but must not amend anything.


Hear, hear!

I do not accept that assumption. If we are prepared to make it, we cannot make this amendment because it will have to go back to the Dáil. That would apply to all our amendments and it would be a tacit admission that we are wasting time putting down amendments. I feel that argument is irrelevant.

May I make this suggestion to the House? Let us continue the discussion on the Bill and should the Committee Stage finish before the tea adjournment, allow the Minister to come back on the Report Stage at 7 o'clock. That would give him an opportunity to look into this matter to see if he can agree to the amendment. Would that meet the Minister?

With all respect, there does not seem to be anything that the Minister can do about it. I am not saying that to the Minister personally, but for anybody in the Minister's position. If the word "notice", as has been demonstrated on both sides of the House, is the wrong word, then we certainly should put in the right word. The fact that that will mean that another month will pass before the Bill is enacted and come into operation is not really an unsurmountable difficulty. This matter has waited for years and it can wait for another month.

There is no doubt at all that we ought to insert the correct word and there is no doubt that this type of amendment is not something which the officials of this House or the other House could do. The changing of the word "notice" to the word "order" is a very substantial change on the face of it. It may be a printer's error but that is a different thing. It seems to me that consideration of the matter by the Minister will not carry us any distance and that the change should be made. As I say, it is just too bad but it cannot be helped. Our duty is to see that things are right and in this case there is no doubt at all that the object is to make things right by taking the word "notice" out and inserting the word "order". If there are other results then they are simply unavoidable.

I regret to disagree with so experienced a Senator as my colleague, Senator Hayes, but on the occasion to which Senator O'Quigley referred, in relation to the Córas Tráchtála Bill, I consulted Standing Orders afterwards and there was no doubt left in my mind that a verbal change could be made. To my mind, this word "notice" in the section means nothing. Clearly, the word should be "order". That is my opinion and I think it right that I should express my opinion irrespective of what decision is taken. Every aspect of this matter should be considered. There is no doubt in my mind that under Standing Orders this House has the right to put in the word "order" instead of the word "notice" in a case like this, without the need arising to return the Bill to the Dáil. That is my firm view until somebody gives me a legal opinion to the contrary. I looked up the matter on the Córas Tráchtála Bill when there was a phrase in it which meant nothing and to my mind this House is entitled to make a change.

I should like to submit that it is not for us to consider whether this should or should not go back to the Dáil. If an amendment is necessary we should go ahead with it or else dissolve and not be fooling ourselves by saying that we cannot change it because the Dáil is not in session.

I am in agreement with those Senators who say that we should give full consideration to all these matters within our own competency. At the same time it seems to me that sometimes we are inclined to attach undue importance to words. The meaning of the section and of the subsection is of far more importance than any word contained in it. I am not entirely convinced, although I have listened to the debate, that leaving in the word "notice" instead of the word "order" would make such a great difference to the section. If we take a look at Section 10 we see that it says that "every vesting order by which a local authority acquire any land shall be in the prescribed form" and that there is no reference to "notice". It continues: "and shall be expressed and shall operate to vest the land in the local authority in fee simple" and so on. In other words, the fact remains that the person concerned will not be without getting all the necessary particulars of what it is proposed to do. If that is the case, does the substitution of one word for another make such a difference?

"No" means the same as "Yes". "Black" means the same as "White".

"Fianna Fáil" means the same as "Fine Gael".

Reference was made to the question of an amendment, but, in fact, we are not debating an amendment because no amendment has been put down.

We are on the section.

No amendment has been put down.

Again, I want to indicate to the House that any change on the lines indicated is more than a verbal change; it is a drafting change which must go back to the Dáil. I merely mention that for the information of the House.

Surely our position is that if this is a necessary change in the Bill we should make the change in order to have the matter right and then whatever consequences flow from that must be accepted. I sympathise with the Minister but nobody can help it. If we find that this change needs to be made, it is our business to make it. Whether it is made now or on the Report Stage I have no objection. The intention, I understand, was to meet next Tuesday and the Minister may like to postpone the Report Stage until Tuesday and in the meantime he can have all the advice which he needs.

Senator Ó Ciosáin referred to Section 10, subsection (1), which refers to vesting orders and the prescribed form of these orders. I believe there is nothing to prevent the prescribed form of order describing the form of order as containing the word "notice" and that that notice so prescribed by Section 10 (1) would conform to the majority of views as expressed here and avoid the conflict that now seems to arise between the use of the two words.

There is a lot in the point made by the Minister, that the order could be made in the form of a notice and therefore "notice" and "order" in subsection (3) (a) would in fact mean the same thing. The reason I disagree with the Minister in stating that that would cover that particular case is that subsection (3) is a vital subsection. That would be all right if the courts merely interpreted a section that was not of such importance but the section says: "Whenever a local authority make a vesting order, they shall within 14 days after making the order...", and it is a fundamental proof of making a vesting order that a copy of the order shall be posted up. The courts in interpreting any matter of such fundamental proof would look into it very closely and for that reason it would be much more appropriate if there was one form in each of the two alternative methods of posting up the order. It should be either "notice" in both cases or "order", to have the matter clear. If there is to be a distinction in the language used it will only make for litigation.

There does not seem to be anything more that can be said about it. I think this ought to be left over to Report Stage and I will put down an amendment for the Report Stage, whether that will be taken this evening or when next we meet.

There seems to be some exception being taken to the fact that this is being brought up at this stage.

Nobody took exception.

In connection with the Electricity Supply Bill, 1959 something similar was done. Government amendments were put down consequential to a matter that was raised similar to this.

I would point out that Senator Lenihan who was discussing the word "notice" in subsection (3) (a) of Section 9 was talking about an entirely different type of notice which is not to be confused with a vesting order. It is not a question of one vesting order as against another. This is a vesting order not to be confused with a notice. Section 3 refers to a notice requiring the owner to carry out works on a derelict site. The one we are talking about in Section 9 is a vesting order, the particular land having been taken over. That is what I took it to be at any rate and I have made the point that the prescribed form as laid down in Section 10 would appear to cover the situation and avoid objection to the apparent ambiguity of the words "notice" and "order" as appearing in Section 9, and that we can resolve both our difficulties by getting the form prescribed in Section 10 to contain the word "notice". That is a way that I see out of this difficulty but if the House sees differently, that is entirely a matter for themselves.

The fact that the Minister has to make ingenious argument in favour of this really shows its weakness. I am sure that if I sat down I could make an argument in favour of it also but the real difficulty on the face of it is that it seems to be something about which it is possible to have argument. While practising lawyers may prefer arguments and fees, our business is to see that it is as clear as possible. That is the difficulty.

Despite the fact that the motive may appear to be there, that is not my difficulty at all. My difficulty is that if this House wishes me to accept that the word "order" be substituted for the word "notice", if the House feels that the word "notice" must be changed, I am not satisfied at this stage that the mere substitution of the word "order" for the word "notice" would in view of all the arguments made in this House be sufficiently adequate to cover the whole thing fully.

Then postpone the amendment until the next Stage.

If the House wants to change the word I would wish then to be able to ensure and to assure myself in the meantime that the mere interchange of the two words is all that is necessary because I have a feeling that a little further change may be necessary.

We would all agree with the Minister on that and with giving the Minister facilities for that.

The Minister can be sure that the substitution of the word "order" for the word "notice" would fix the whole thing.

I do not take the Senator's word as easily as that.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 10 stand part of the Bill."

This is a section which, frankly, I do not understand. A local authority makes a vesting order. I can understand that operates by virtue of this statute to vest the property the subject of the vesting order in the local authority but what I do not understand—and this is the point to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention specifically—is why the device is being adopted of registering these vesting orders in relation to these derelict sites in the manner prescribed. Perhaps the Minister would indicate why the title of local authorities could not be registered under the Local Registration of Title Acts because a lot of that property will be property which is freehold in character and if somebody is buying from a local authority and the local authority are selling this to somebody, I do not understand how people are going to search in the Registry of Deeds against the title of the previous owners and in the Land Registry subsequently. In fact, I do not understand how it will operate at all.

I can quite see in relation to lands under the 1903 Land Act that in relation to all agricultural land all of that has to be vested upon a particular date by vesting orders in the various tenants and the title of these tenants is subsequently registered in the Land Registry. That is a whole scheme of registration of title in relation to the whole of the agricultural property of this country which is all held upon much the same kind of title. Here we are going to have property which will be held under leases, held on ordinary monthly or weekly contracts of tenancy, and they may also be fee simple property. How all of these will be registered in the Land Registry is something which I do not understand. I do not know how it will work out in practice. Perhaps the Minister would give the House some indication as to what will happen in relation to this property once it is registered in the Land Registry.

There is a second question that I want to ask the Minister. If this property is subsequently sold by the local authority, as it may be, is there any particular provision or can the Minister say how this property will devolve upon an intestacy because land which is not subject to registration under the Registration of Title Acts devolves differently depending on the circumstances surrounding its purchase? I do not understand the section at all.

Might it help the Senator and the House somewhat—although I do not think it will—to know that whatever may be the difficulties as to how it will work, it was during the drafting stages that the Land Registry requested that this would be the form which it would take and they are the people who will have to handle this.

They have requested that it be done in this specified form that we are now talking about under this section.

There are various people around the country who happen to own property which is in one state of dereliction or another and property of this kind will, over the years, be acquired and vested in local authorities and then it will be registered in the Land Registry in the name of the various local authorities. That is a very simple procedure. I take it that the local authorities will be entitled to sell this property; if they have to keep it on their hands permanently, it will never produce any revenue for them in the form of rates, nor will they be able to realise the capital expenditure involved in acquiring it or the capital value of the property as it stands? I can see the difficulty of the Minister, but it does not do to say that this is the way in which the Land Registry want this particular section drafted. That is not sufficient, because there are people like myself who take up this and see that land which is held under various forms of tenure is going to be vested, apparently, in local authorities and I do not readily know how any person buying property from a local authority would begin to establish the title of the local authority to this particular property. Would it be registered without equities, discharged of equities? What is the position going to be?

The Minister is right in saying I do not understand the section. I do not understand how it will work and I am not consoled by his saying this is the way the Land Registry want it, because they are a group of officials who want to have this so that they can deal with it in a way most satisfactory to themselves.

As the Deputy will have seen from Section 10 (1) this land will be free from all incumbrances. The local authority may do with it what they think is best in their own and in the general interest. Whether they build on it, use it for some purpose or other, or dispose of it, will be a decision arrived at by them after due consideration as to what is the best use to which they can put it if and when they acquire it.

We are prone to fall into the mistaken idea that the result of this Bill will be large-scale acquisition of sites and land throughout the country. In fact it is the end product of four different stages and it will be on the rare occasion rather than the frequent occasion that lands and sites will be acquired at all. If and when they are acquired, Section 10 (1) provides that they will be free from all incumbrances. The use to which they may be put thereafter is not confined.

We can assume that most of these acquisitions will be of very little value and it would surely be unwise to fetter the local authority in regard to what they may do by way of disposing of them in future. By and large it will be sites lacking in value which they will come to acquire by virtue of a default in regard to any of the other actions which can take effect. Therefore we can take it the number of cases will be small, the value of the sites in question will be negligible and they will be free from any incumbrances. It is reasonable, therefore, that local authorities should not be fettered in putting these sites to whatever use they think will give the best return to the local authority, the ratepayers and the people generally in their functional area.

I can see the difficulty of the situation and the Minister may perhaps misinterpret me. What I am concerned about is the situation in which the local authority is registered down in the Land Registry as owners of various sites and they are not even in a position to sell them; nobody would dare to buy them because they do not know the title under which they are held. The Minister is right in saying these properties will be registered free from all incumbrances but I am not at all satisfied that under the definition of "owner" you may not have a position in which there will be people entitled in remainder, and a person, who is not an owner for the time being as defined in this section, has certain rights.

These are the things that may crop up on the purchase of the property from the local authority. The Minister is perhaps right in saying that the vesting of the properties will be the end product of the activities of the local authority under this Bill and correct in saying it is the least valuable sites which will fall to be acquired by the local authorities. Be that as it may, it is extraordinary that when a site is cleaned up or a building put into a state where a purchaser does not have to begin knocking it down before he builds on it, it becomes very attractive to prospective purchasers. It may well be the local authorities will be able to sell quite a number of these. In fact I can think of some in my home town of Castlebar, sites that were cleared up and built on.

All that I am concerned to ensure is that we know where we are going in the section in providing that all titles of any kind will be registered in the Land Registry. Colleagues of mine to whom I have spoken about this section, no more than myself, did not understand how it was going to work and indeed I might say, no more than the Minister.

What does the Senator want to know, because I am afraid I have not grasped it so far?

I do not know if the Minister can assist me.

If I get an understandable, intelligent approach to the matter from the Senator I shall try to assist him and if I cannot do it myself I shall try to get assistance to assist me to assist the Senator. I cannot offer to do more.

I am not blaming the Minister at all because I think this position is extremely difficult. What I am talking about is this. There is certain property the title to which is registered in the Registry of Deeds and there is other property the title to which is registered in the Land Registry. What we intend to do in this Bill after the vesting orders are made is to have all property registered in the Land Registry. When somebody is buying property from the local authority which has been vested in them under this section and which was up to that time registered in the Registry of Deeds, will he be able to establish that he is getting a clear title from the local authority by virtue of this Section? It may well be he is but it is not as easy as that to say it can be registered free from all incumbrances because there are some people who have rights which no Act of Parliament, without compensation, can take away from them.

Unlike the previous section this is a very clear section and I cannot understand Senator O'Quigley's approach. Section 10 (1) provides that every vesting order by which a local authority acquire land "shall operate to vest the land in the local authority in fee simple free from incumbrances and all estates, rights, titles, and interests of whatsoever kind..." That includes the estates in remainder about which Senator O'Quigley is concerned. There is a global, sweeping section to the effect that the land is vested in the local authority in the Land Registry free of all incumbrances, estates, rights, and so on, that may be attached to the property. That is a very clear provision. Subsection (3) goes on to set out the procedure whereby the vesting orders shall be conveyed to the registering authority and that registration is effected free of all incumbrances, rights, and so on, that may have arisen before.

That is a situation in respect of which there are two views again. The other point I have raised is as to how such property devolves on intestacy.

As all registered property.

No. Some registered property devolves as personalty and other property devolves as freehold.

Property under the 1891 Act devolves as personalty.

Some property registered under the Registration of Title Acts devolves as personalty; other property registered under the Local Registration of Title Act, 1891, continues to devolve as freehold. We have nothing here to indicate how the property will devolve on intestacy. Will it devolve as freehold or personalty?

As personalty under that section.

I am asking the Minister. Can the Minister tell us how it is proposed the property will devolve?

The Minister is not going to tell the Senator because no matter what I have told the Senator here this evening he has not accepted it. He has come here to exercise his mind, his vocabulary and his knowledge of the law, which undoubtedly he has, to educate the rest of us who know nothing about it. No matter what he is told he refutes it.

That is a most unwarranted and unkind remark.

It is the most unkind of the year but the year is not very old yet.

The Minister is now apparently showing his true form in relation to Section 10 of the Bill.

Is that not what the Senator wanted—my true form?

No, I did not. As far as I was concerned, I indicated that this could be dealt with on the Report Stage and again I indicated the Minister could have all stages tonight. That was an attempt to be of help to the Minister because I felt that while raising it at this stage I ought to have raised it by way of amendment but even if I put down an amendment at this stage the Minister would still not have the Bill in operation as it would have to be referred back to the Dáil if the section were amended. It was quite untrue to suggest that I was exercising my mind. I happen to take some interest in legislation passing through this House and I examine every Bill, section by section, and I shall continue to do so and to put down amendments if I think it proper to do so. I shall continue, with the help of God, to sift every piece of legislation that comes before us. That is what we are paid for.

Why did the Senator miss that word then?

I am asking the Minister how would property vested under subsection (1) of Section 10 devolve upon intestacy? That may seem to him a mere exercise of legal knowledge but it is a matter of some consequence because property under the Registration of Title Act, 1891, which is the subject of Part IV, all farms that were bought out under the Land Acts, devolve as personalty. Property purchased and registered prior to that still devolves as freehold. There is all this business of equitable conversion and so on, to be determined in relation to property registered under the Registration of Title Act, 1891. The 1942 Act has nothing to do with it. That is purely amending procedural difficulties in the Land Registry. I am asking the Minister a simple straightforward question in relation to land that is always arising and the Minister becomes offended so early in the new year because I ask him what, if I may say so, was an intelligent question.

The Senator got an intelligent answer and would not accept it.

Not from the Minister.

If we are going to have any order in our proceedings we must have some regard for reason. Senator O'Quigley had a very good point on the previous section, but why flog a dead horse and waste time on a section which to me seems perfectly clear and self-evident? If this land is vested, as stated, under the 1891 Act it will devolve as personalty and the Senator knows that as well as I do.

No. This is not land being bought out under the Land Purchase Acts.

That is the point, Land that is not compulsorily registered under Part IV of the Act will devolve as personalty. The Senator knows that. The registration will be made following the making of the vesting order by the local authority and that land will devolve as personalty under Part IV of the 1891 Act.

All I can say about Senator Lenihan is that we had some little difficulty previously in relation to the procedure of local authorities, and I think the House knows who was right on that occasion.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7.

In subsection (1), line 25, before "after" to insert "or such longer period as the local authority may in any case allow".

The purpose of the amendment is to accommodate the law to the natural disposition of our people. We are all inclined to leave things a little late, not to attend meetings in time and so on. Here is a case where compensation may be paid if the person applies within a year after the making of the order. I merely ask that, as is commonly found in all these cases where times at which various proceedings may take place are set out, some latitude be given where a person may be ill or out of the country or unaware of his rights if no great damage can accrue to the other side and they are willing to extend the time.

In this case I would ask that the local authority be allowed to extend the time within which a person may apply for compensation. As it stands, the Bill is too rigid; it is quite easy for something to happen at a time when a person is unaware of his rights; time catches up very quickly. Under this amendment the local authority would be entitled to exercise some discretion in favour of somebody who would otherwise be debarred from getting compensation. I imagine that even the local authority itself would be debarred from paying compensation even though they felt entitled to pay it if the order to pay is not made within the 12 months.

I should like to support Senator O'Quigley. There are many cases where such provisions in legislation would be a great help as for instance in the case of malicious injury claims. There have been cases where, when the time limit had elapsed, individual owners of property were not in a position to assert their rights. I feel that the safeguard—the mild safeguard—suggested by Senator O'Quigley is a good one because it affords an opportunity of dealing with the individual case. I think it is a well-phrased amendment; it does not seek any great change in the Bill and it should be accepted.

Under the 1940 Act which, as somebody has mentioned, was quite a while on the Statute Books and is still there, three months was the time allowed and during all the years since 1940 only one claim is recorded as having been made outside the three months. In this Bill we extended the period of three months to 12 months. Circumstances under this Act are not likely to be appreciably different from those under the 1940 Act and I feel that an adequate advance has been made—more than adequate judging by the history of the past 20 years—in extending the time from three to 12 months. It is for more or less the reasons now being put forward that we did make this extension of time and we felt in making it that if there was any error we were erring on the side of making the period too long rather than too short.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is the amendment being withdrawn?

I should have thought that in any legislation of this kind where a time limit is being provided it would be considered desirable —it is not at all unusual—to allow somebody to have discretion to extend the time where the extension will not do any damage to any of the interested parties. That is quite a common procedure. I have no desire to delay the House. I do not think there is much chance of the Minister accepting this amendment and I, therefore, withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 10, in the name of Senator Sheehy Skeffington, may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In subsection (1) to delete all words from and including "equal" in line 29 to the end of the subsection and substitute "calculated at the rate of one farthing per acre or per part of an acre."

The first two amendments are different in degree; the third and fourth amendments are consequential. These amendments relate to the compensation to the owner of a derelict site which is being acquired. In the amendment I have moved, I propose that the owner should be compensated at the rate of one farthing per acre. The second amendment is an alternative to that, to meet those Senators who may not approve in full of my first suggestion. The alternative is that the owner should be paid compensation at the rate of 20 years' purchase of the average yearly income derived from the land acquired over the five years immediately preceding the making of the vesting order.

These amendments are based on a point I made on Second Reading. In my opinion, there is no reason at all for compensating an owner of a derelict site, which is defined in this Bill as a site "on which either there are no buildings or all the buildings... are in a ruinous, dilapidated or dangerous condition" or a site "which is or is likely to become injurious to health or to the amenities of the neighbourhood by reason of its objectionable or neglected condition". In those circumstances, to use the word "compensate" is to misuse a word. We are very fussy in this House about the meaning of words, and I think we may legitimately ask, if we use the word "compensate", compensate for what? Surely it is legitimate to ask: compensate for loss of what? For the loss of a site on which the buildings are in a ruinous and dilapidated condition and which has become injurious to health and to the amenities of the neighbourhood because of its objectionable and neglected condition? What sort of meaning can we attach to the word "compensate" if we propose to give the owner of such a site anything more than a nominal sum? I believe one farthing per acre is plenty.

Would the Senator raise it to one penny—a farthing a rood?

The common legal form is one farthing, not one penny. You do not award one penny damages where the damages are purely fictional or merely nominal.

The farthing is not legal tender now.

It is possible to obtain farthings here, as I tested to my satisfaction only the other day. The Senator can walk into any bank and get farthings, if he gives due notice.

They are not legal tender.

Any local authority, even a local authority which had the benefit of Senator O'Reilly's advice, would, I think, be able to get farthings for the purpose of compensating owners of derelict sites which are both injurious and dangerous. I should like to remind the Seanad that there is in law a tenet laid down by Lord Lieutenant Drummond. He was one of the few good Lords Lieutenant we had. He said that "property has its duties as well as its rights." That is what he said to the landlords of his day.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

With all respect for this interesting historical data, I do not think it is relevant to the amendment the Senator has put down.

I am sorry I have not made its relevancy sufficiently clear. We are dealing with compensation for the acquisition of property from owners of derelict sites. The owners of such sites had certain duties in relation to the sites, duties to prevent the sites becoming injurious to public health, duties to prevent them injuring the amenities of the community, duties to prevent the buildings becoming ruinous, dilapidated and dangerous. In that connection, Lord Lieutenant Drummond's well-known saying is supremely relevant. These people, in order to have a right to compensation, should have demonstrated previously their sense of duty to the community, by not allowing the sites to get into the state in which they are.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

All these things might have happened before they became the owners of the sites at all. They could have happened in the era of Mr. Drummond, the UnderSecretary for Ireland.

I accept the validity of that argument in the case of some, but what we are asked to do here is to compensate people for the loss of property of the kind specified, and which we can acquire only if we can demonstrate that the sense of responsibility and duty which should accompany ownership, as well as the sense of rights, has in fact been glaringly absent. I suggest that in order to compensate for deprivation of ownership, that ownership should in the past have been justified by use.

By very definition, no use was made of these sites for a long time. No income was derived from them. No rates were paid. No income tax was paid. There can be, therefore, no right to compensation. It is not the practice to rate site values. We tend to put valuation on buildings. Where buildings have had the roofs taken off and have become dilapidated, no rates are collected. Local authorities decide, by implication, that a derelict site has no value, and no rates are collected on it. It is legitimate to argue that compensation should not be paid for a site which has no value.

If the Seanad holds I am unjust in that, I am prepared to concede that that may not be so in certain cases. I would ask the owner of such sites to prove that over the five years preceding the acquisition order, he has been deriving a certain income from the sites and I am prepared to allow him 20 years' purchase of that income. That is the purport of my alternative amendment. If the owner can prove that the site was not valueless and that he was deriving some income from it, and presumably paying income tax on it, I am prepared to say: "All right; let us pass this second, alternative, amendment which will grant such owners 20 years' purchase of the average yearly income over the five years immediately preceding acquisition". I suggest, too, that if they are able to prove that, in many cases that proof may be of interest to the Revenue Commissioners. As I reminded Senator O'Quigley, it is quite common form in judicial circles, when attempting to assess damage done, which appears in the view of the courts to be largely fictional, to assess that damage as being valued at one farthing.

These derelict sites with which the Bill deals are eyesores, and are directly and positively detrimental to the property of other people and to the amenities of the whole community. Not merely have they not been put to good use, not merely have the owners, whom we are asked to compensate, sinned in a negative way by neglect, but they have also sinned in a positive way in making a big and positive contribution to the bad appearance and bad amenities of the whole township in which their dangerous, dilapidated and injurious sites are situated.

This land, in the cases which will come up under this section, will have been lying there probably for long years without the owner doing anything at all about it. It is quite possible—and I made the point on the Second Reading—that while the owner has been doing nothing, while the site has become more and more derelict, more and more dangerous and more and more dilapidated, all this time, due to the initiative of other private owners around the site, or of the community or of the local authority, it is quite possible that the market value of the land as building land has been going up, through no effort on the part of the owner but purely because of the effort of other people.

Under this section, as it is at present phrased, we are being asked to allow the local authority to compensate the owner for the work done on his behalf by other private owners, by the community and by the local authority itself. I suggest that is nothing short of scandalous—the giving out of public moneys to compensate a person for the loss of a value he did nothing to create—quite on the contrary. There is land in this city, used for building purposes and acquired by the Corporation, for which as much as £6,000 per acre has been paid in the past. I suggest it would be quite scandalous if a piece of derelict land, such as described in the definitions I have quoted here, were to be compensated for under the terms of the section to the tune of something like £6,000 per acre to a person who never lifted a finger to develop the site, who in fact has, by his positive neglect, allowed it to become a menace to the whole community. It would in fact be far more equitable, instead of rewarding such an owner for damaging the community, and for pulling down the value of all the adjoining sites, because that is what he has been doing, if he were to be fined rather than rewarded.

The Senator does not like property owners.

I am very surprised to hear Senator O'Quigley join the good property owner with the kind of property owner whose site has become injurious to public health and to the amenities of the community, and whose buildings have become so dilapidated as to be dangerous and ruinous. It is quite unfair to the decent, reputable and responsible property owner to have them all lumped into one by Senator O'Quigley. That is one of the things we must fight against in this Bill, and for which I am responsible as a Senator and for which Senator O'Quigley is responsible—to make a differentiation between the good property owner and the bad. Senator O'Quigley sees no difference. I am trying to convince him that there is a difference between the propertyowner who sees not merely rights but also duties, and the property owner who talks exclusively about rights, and for whom, I am sure, the Senator would have no sympathy at all if he were to look into his heart sufficiently deep.

I never like looking into my heart after a certain man carried out that operation.

The Senator implies that he does not like what he sees when he looks deep into his heart and therefore avoids doing so as far as possible. I will suggest, however, that in that heart of his, which we all accept is fundamentally good, he cannot fail to agree with me on the point that there is a sharp distinction to be made between the responsible owner of property and the totally irresponsible and anti-social owner of property. It is for that reason I suggest that in the case of the owners of these derelict and dangerous sites, it would be more equitable if they were to be fined for their neglect and damage rather than rewarded and compensated for it.

However, in the name of compromise, I am not proposing that they should be fined. I am suggesting a compromise and proposing that for land which has been put to no good use, and which, so far from having being put to good use, has been allowed to lapse into a state of dangerous and damaging misuse through neglect, the compensation should be purely nominal to the amount of a farthing an acre; or, as an alternative, if the Seanad do not accept that, which seems entirely reasonable to me, they might be inclined to ask: "Well, what about the case where some small income was genuinely being derived from this neglected site in some obscure way, when, perhaps, it was used occasionally as a car park or something like that?" To that, I am prepared to say: "All right; accept my alternative, which is to allow the owner to prove that he got an income of a certain average amount over a certain period of time and let the local authority buy him out over 20 years." It is with those considerations in mind, therefore, that I propose these four amendments, the third and fourth of which are consequent upon the acceptance of one or other of the first two.

I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise that such a doughty, staunch and consistent supporter and defender of the poor as Senator Sheehy Skeffington has been in the past should make a proposal such as is in this amendment. The idea behind the amendment, of course, is highly punitive. He says that some of these people who own derelict property and who allowed it get into that state of dereliction should not be compensated because they are guilty of neglect; but I suggest there are two types of neglect—wilful neglect and positive neglect. Many people owning this type of property are not wilfully neglectful. Because of the fact that they are poor, they are unable to do anything. The site has fallen into their hands in some way or other and they are not able to do anything about keeping it in a proper condition. Senator Sheehy Skeffington has suggested in these amendments that if the property has not earned any money or rent over five years, these people should not be compensated. He is merely looking backwards instead of forwards. In the future, property like this might be of considerable value.

By reason of other people's efforts.

No, but by reason of the property being where it is or what it is. At some stage in the past somebody had to pay for that site, to pay for it by the sweat of his brow or by earning the money with which it was bought. They have proper title and right to the property. What has happened in the course of time is that for some reason or other, by reason of action other than their own, their property may have deteriorated, perhaps through some Act or law which put them out of business. The site may have no present value, and they have not enough money to do anything with it, but its future value should be taken into consideration. Again, I was surprised to see such a strong supporter of the poor as Senator Sheehy Skeffington, visiting the sins of the rich on the poor. Because people who were rich in the past have done wrong, as the Senator quoted, the people who are poor nowadays in our present Irish society should not be penalised.

They should have the same duties and rights.

I was surprised also to hear him say that such people should not only have their property taken from them but that they should be given a farthing compensation. I do not know how that farthing would be divided up over a site about 30 or 40 yards square in a village street. I think Senator Sheehy Skeffington also used the word "indecent" comparing good land owners and good property owners with those he now mentions who are, in fact, only poor. Apparently now, it is indecent to be poor.

I did not say "indecent".

I think the Senator did. I took it down. That is the only point I want to make. I am surprised that Senator Sheehy Skeffington who has been a strong supporter of the poor should have put down these amendments, which, in fact, can only be directed against the poor. For that reason and because of the fact that I believe these people have something of some value, if not in the immediate present or the immediate past, in the future, these amendments should be rejected.

I feel that if Senator Sheehy Skeffington knew anything at all about life anywhere in Ireland, he would not have put down amendments such as these. The previous speaker had made the sort of case I wanted to make, but I should like to add a few points. On a few occasions during his peroration, Senator Sheehy Skeffington said that people's property could appreciate by reason of other people's efforts. I want to assure him that, as I see it, people whose property appreciates in value through other people's efforts are entitled to that appreciation.

An unfortunate small shopkeeper could be living on £5 a week in a village and have a derelict site next door, and because of other people's efforts—perhaps more luxurious and better fitted shops were erected on the far side of the derelict site—he could find that his site had appreciated. He is fully entitled to that chance. There is no one here who could not also cite a case where a factory, perhaps, was built across the road from a private house, which caused fumes or obnoxious smoke, and the value of the private house depreciated. That is the luck of the game and the owner of the property, which is not a gilt-edged investment, must accept his luck. He must take his appreciation or his depreciation.

I find it fantastic that anyone in this country should suggest that property should be taken from the owner and that he should be paid a farthing compensation, if all that could be said was that the property was not suited to the district or that it interfered with the amenities of the district.

Injurious to the district.

Injurious to the amenities of the district. If there were a derelict site in a residential area on the outskirts of this city or any of our towns, I could understand the inhabitants of the area wishing to have it removed and thinking that to have a derelict site five or six doors from them —perhaps a galvanised iron structure —was injurious to the amenities of their district. They would certainly have a case. If one were to take the word "amenities" as including the view and the appearance of the street, one could see the injury that could be done to the amenities by the existence of a corrugated iron shed on a derelict site, but if a person happened to own a pretty valuable site in the middle of the residential area and was endeavouring perhaps to keep it until his son had enough money to build on it and stay in the area and if that site were to be acquired for compensation of a farthing, it would be most unjust. It would be most unjust if a person who was keeping for his son a site which could be described as injurious, at the particular time, to the amenities of the district, had to bow to the powers-that-be and accept a request for the site, have it taken from him and properly developed and be handed a farthing compensation.

This question of ownership and rights of property continually vexes Senator Sheehy Skeffington. I concede immediately that ownership of property has duties as well as rights but when he speaks on this question, the boot always seems to be on one foot rather than on the other.

The left foot.

I have reminded Senator Sheehy Skeffington two or three times before, but I want to remind him again, that there are such people as poor property owners. In this city, there are a great number of property owners who are poor and there are unfortunate people who have sites or houses from which they gain very low rents. Those poor people are the kind of people who would be hit, as Senator McGuire explained. The sort of example that Senator Sheehy Skeffington gave of land being sold at £6,000 an acre and derelict sites becoming valuable was extraordinary.

If we take this matter in its ordinary context in business all over the world, we find that risks are divided into two categories: the ordinary business risks involved in ownership of property of any kind and the gilt-edged risks which are not risks at all, unless a Government falls or something like that. I feel that the risks must also carry with them the chances, and if it is a bit of a horse race to own property, that has always been the case. There is nothing wrong with a person who owns the horse having the chance of his property appreciating as well as the chance that he sometimes suffers, namely, that his property may depreciate.

I do not think we were expected to take these amendments very seriously. I strongly suspect that Senator Sheehy Skeffington drafted them during the Christmas festivities and decided to carry the joke into the New Year.

It is a very good season.

Assuming for the moment that he did mean them seriously, I think the first one is quite unnecessary, because subsection (1) provides that the local authority shall pay compensation of an amount equal to the value, if any, of the estate, interest or right. It is quite clear that the draftsman visualised the possibility that some, at least, of the property owners would be of the type Senator Sheehy Skeffington mentioned. It is quite possible that some of these people from whom the derelict sites would be taken would be irresponsible owners who do not deserve any compensation, but they will fall into the category of irresponsible owners, into which category I think Senator Sheehy Skeffington would put most property owners. If that is the case, there is no necessity to give them any compensation and that is provided for in the Bill.

On the other hand, it must be realised that there will be many cases in which, through no fault of the owner, the land will become a derelict site. In that case, the local authority should be entitled to give him some compensation, depending on the extent to which he is entitled to it. Secondly, I think the tying-down of the local authority to a particular sum, to one farthing an acre, or anything else, is quite impracticable. I do not think it is intended to be taken seriously.

The second amendment specifying 20 years' purchase could be rather dangerous. Under the heading of derelict sites, we might easily have such a thing as a disused coal mine or a disused mine for valuable minerals. Will the local authority be forced to pay 20 years' purchase on a yearly income which in the five years before the coal mine became a derelict site might have been many hundreds of thousands of pounds in the year? If the local authority were tied to that valuation I think they might have to pay far more for a site than the owner would be entitled to receive.

I think well-to-do people and big capitalists and the shrewd mainchance people whom Senator Sheehy Skeffington has not mentioned but who we know he believes are a threatening group in all our society to-day do not own derelict property. I think Senator Sheehy Skeffington's amendments are aimed at the wrong target.

Like Senator Ryan, I thought when I saw these amendments that not alone was Senator Sheehy Skeffington having a merry Christmas but that he was having a hilarious Christmas. It was funny to see him put down an amendment that people should be compensated at the rate of a farthing an acre, less income tax. If that is his view on compensation, the proper course for him to take is to suggest that we delete Section 11. I suppose that at this merry time of the year we are entitled to a little humour even over derelict sites. It is remarkable, too, that Senator Donegan had in mind the same thought that came into my mind when Senator Sheehy Skeffington was speaking, namely, that Senator Sheehy Skeffington does not know anything at all about the Irish people.

He has not the foggiest notion.

All his talk is directed against the big owners of factories in England and America and so on. These people do not exist in this country. There are no big capitalists here who are out to do us for all time and to use the iron heel on the Irish people. Senator Sheehy Skeffington thinks that those people are the owners of derelict sites. He thinks they are now being facilitated after years of neglect, to fall into tremendously big fortunes by way of the compensation they will get through the Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919. I would say that under that Act this amendment is quite unnecessary and that people would get very little compensation even for valuable property—people who, I am sure, the Senator would like to see compensated properly.

What would Senator Sheehy Skeffington have to say about a widow with some children who is running a bar and grocery business in the main street of the principal town of a county in this country and whose premises are burned down? She has three children to rear and herself to provide for. The premises were uninsured. That site becomes derelict within a matter of 24 hours. Is she not to get any compensation? That is the Senator's first amendment which he asks us to take seriously. If that is the kind of view he holds it would clarify my mind for future amendments. That is not the view accepted by the Irish people and that is not the way to treat a widow whose uninsured property has been burnt down.

The widow of a Senator gets no compensation at all.

If a Senator is burned up here or hereafter and his widow gets no compensation that is no reason for saying that persons placed in the unfortunate position I have just outlined should not get any compensation. Does Senator Sheehy Skeffington not read the local newspapers of this country? Does he not read about arguments over rights of way and small pieces of land and of the hundreds of pounds spent by people to indicate their rights in regard to whether a boundary should or should not be on one side of a ditch? Have we not in our Constitution a provision that property cannot be taken from people without paying them compensation?

I have not suggested taking it without paying them compensation.

Not at all. The Senator would pay them one farthing an acre, not even one penny per acre. The Senator then says we ought to be careful about the meaning of words. He wants to say that the phrase "compensation at the rate of a farthing an acre" means paying compensation in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution.

Compensation for the loss of what? Twenty years' purchase.

I am talking about the widow. First things first. I am talking about the Senator's first amendment. He asked us to take that seriously. The Senator is asking us to accept that, after the season of Christmas and feeling the generous down-draught from the chimney for Santa Claus, his heart has softened and that we should now give them 20 years' purchase. The Senator should stick to one amendment or the other.

Are we to take both amendments seriously?

I offered them to the House as an alternative. Presumably whichever will be given majority support will be accepted.

He wants us to pay the widow in the main street of a town, whose uninsured house is burnt down, compensation at the rate of a farthing an acre.

If she is a Senator's widow she will get nothing.

The Senator should not trifle with the House. The first amendment is really trifling with the House. My view as regards the second amendment is that if people are to be compensated it should not be on some preconceived notions of 20 years' purchase price based on the average earnings of the previous five years. People should be compensated in whatever sum an impartial tribunal established under the Constitution determines they are entitled to. I spoke before about this form of tribunal. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity of speaking on the amending Act recently. My view is that these matters ought to be determined by the court. Some people may say that this is the kind of thing they always hear me talking about and that lawyers always like to keep the thing in the court because that is the way they make fees. Every time any money is to be made or money is involved—the reference is to the arbitrator under this Act of 1919—lawyers are always there. They never lose.

We have courts, some of which may not have over-much to do sometimes. That does not apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court but the other courts are not all the time fully occupied. They would be well occupied and discharging their constitutional requirements and position looking after matters very much appropriate to their position as courts in regard to compensation between man and man and matters of that kind.

For that reason also, I would oppose Senator Sheehy Skeffington's second amendment. I trust that the Senator in withdrawing his first amendment will tell us that he was affected by the influences which prevail at this time of the year so that we may in future consider his amendments to Bills and what he has to say seriously.

Or in relation to the time of the year.

I am glad to note from the last speaker that it is not beneath him to express in regard to his colleagues in the Seanad the view which I expressed as to his motives in some of the things he said earlier. However, that is only by the way. I have sympathy with Senator Sheehy Skeffington in that I believe, as distinct from his colleagues' expression, his enthusiasm for the operations which he can foresee under this amendment tends to run away with his possible good sense in dealing with those who have brought about the situation wherein this derelict site business has become almost a national disgrace.

The question of the value of a site and the compensation to be paid is one which I would agree should not be treated in a mere amendment or part of an amendment because of the fact that you would be undervaluing it in some cases and, in fact, overvaluing it in other cases. The alternative of the 20 years'purchase would have an adverse effect. I am not stretching my credulity to the point which Senator Ryan mentioned of a mine becoming a derelict site and his point in relation to the criterion whereby compensation would be paid by the local authorities.

It is quite possible that the 20 years' purchase idea could be an extremely costly and very over-exaggerated compensation for a relatively unimportant site of little value. I think the system proposed in the Bill is the in-between. It is neither the one extreme nor the other and it has the merit of dealing with all these sites regardless of whether the person who owns them wilfully, positively or negatively brought about their state of dereliction, as it were. They will be paid compensation, if any, on the basis of the value of the cleared site, less the cost of clearance. I do not think anything could be more straightforward than that—the market value of the cleared site, less the cost of clearance. let that value be high or low. The fact that it was a derelict site and that we had to bring in this new enactment to clear it and improve conditions in general for the public amenity, the public health and the public good does not mean that, having taken power to clear it by compulsion, if necessary, all else having failed, the person who owned the site should, in fact, be blamed and punished because he has allowed it to get into that condition.

Immediately we start thinking in those terms, we must examine, possibly in detail, the long history up to the present day of how each and every derelict site came to be in its present condition. If we were to be fair and follow that approach, we would have to make the punishment fit the crime and the greater the offender and the longer he has retained a site until it has become injurious to health, the greater would be the punishment of giving him nothing, although it now had reached the state of having a very considerable value.

Today's market value of the site as a cleared site, less the cost of clearance, is far and away the least objectionable manner in which this matter can be dealt with. The owner of a derelict property, if it is valued, must be in very difficult straits, indeed, if he has allowed the site to fall into the hands of the local authority, considering that he will have got, under the terms of this Bill, various opportunities of doing the work himself and it must be that purely from a financial point of view he will have failed to do the work and retain his own site. If it is of considerable value, which, Senator Sheehy Skeffington complains should not be given to him in compensation because he allowed it to become derelict, why has he allowed it to become derelict in a positive way? Certainly he will not have allowed it, as a valuable site, to fall into the hands of the local authority by default of his doing anything with it, if it were more profitable to retain it and clear it himself.

It may be because of his inability, financially or otherwise, to do anything with this site. Therefore, it comes into the hands of the local authority. Suppose the site cost £5,000 or £6,000, why should the local authority come to reap the benefit to the tune of £5,999 19s. 11¾d. with the farthing out for the site? Why should they be given, by virtue of legislation here, even though it is for the good of the ratepayers, the benefit of the values of the sites which they declared derelict and which have fallen into their hands through Acts of the Oireachtas? Why should they be allowed to make money on sites, the value of which is the property of the person owing the site? That is where the money value comes in.

The suggestion by Senator Sheehy Skeffington is that compensation for loss of value, which a person has done nothing to create, is a scandal. I wonder how many people here this evening in their present position—I do not mean in the sense of membership of the Seanad but in the ordinary material sense—can be said to have attained that material state without any particular effort on their part? Is it to be taken that if that is so in the case of a number of people, their material goods could and should be taken from them and that no compensation should be payable to them?

That, to my mind, seems to be Senator Sheehy Skeffington's trend, but, as I say, I do give him credit that his approach to this matter, in both his amendments—both extremes, as I regard them—has arisen from the enthusiasm he feels for the job which he thinks can be done under this Bill, that that job is well worth doing, that it is crying out to be done and that the sooner it is done the better. But I do not think we need be so drastic in our approach nor that we should be punitive in our approach to neglectful owners of derelict sites. Let us hope that the terms of this Bill will be quite fair to all concerned and that despite that fairness, even to those who have been neglectful in the past, over the years its operations will ensure that derelict sites will not abound and spread over the country, over the towns and cities as they now do, to the detriment of the appearance of these areas and, indeed, to the economy of the country.

I do not propose to hold up the House for long but I cannot give any guarantee about how long the debate on the remainder of the section may take. As always happens when one makes any reference to property owners in this House, Senator McGuire and others made a plea which seems to imply that an enormous number of property owners are very poor. Senator Barry suggested that it was practically unheard of to have a wealthy property owner.

I said a wealthy derelict site owner.

Senator McGuire played down the definition of derelict sites which is that to be considered as such they should be dangerous to health, dilapidated or ruinous or injurious to amenities. He said that people should be compensated not for the value of what is being taken from them but for its "future value". I suggest that if Senators like Senator McGuire believe at all in the economy of private enterprise, in supply and demand, the reason that these derelict sites have not been bought up by keen-witted private enterprise businessmen, for the purpose of development along the lines of "future value" is that they have no value until the community takes them over and the community is going to make a "go" of them as it has in other spheres. Public enterprise makes a "go" of it, and then you are asked to compensate the irresponsible owners for a "future value" that is being put into the derelict site by the community solely through its own efforts.

Senator McGuire and others, including Senator Donegan, talked about the poor property owners, these poor owners of derelict sites. It is also, of course, the poor who pay the rates, and it is the poor who will be paying the compensation to these irresponsible and neglectful owners, but nobody mentioned the ratepayers who are poor. When the compensation is paid, it will be paid out of the rates, and those are paid by the poor just as much, in proportion, as by the rich. I say that to throw money to neglectful and irresponsible owners of dangerously neglected property is wrong and scandalous. We are in fact throwing them the money of many poor ratepayers.

Senator Donegan said, and some other Senator echoed the statement—I think it was Senator O'Quigley—that even to put down such amendments as mine showed that I had no knowledge of the country. I submit that they apparently have not heard of "that respectable class, the men of no property" and who happen to be in the majority. As far as I can see, in the minds of Senator Donegan and Senator O'Quigley, derelict site owners are all widows or, if not, they are at least orphans.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I think that, even in the New Year, the development of the idea of no property in these amendments is really a bit far-fetched because even the poor ratepayers are not men of no property.

The point was made against me that I did not know anything about the country, since I did not realise that many poor people owned neglected property, and I am returning the compliment in dealing with the number of poor people who have no property at all. Senator Donegan tells us that to own property is "a bit of a horse race". I do not think we will go into that, because I do not think it is fair to the property owners of the country. I regard the ownership of property as being just a shade more responsible than the transactions conducted in a turf accountant's office.

Senator Donegan regards the owning of property as the basis of a lottery or a gamble. I feel that a more responsible attitude towards property would do Senator Donegan good. He tells us that property appreciates in value and that the owner should get the benefit of that. I also suggest that if property depreciates he should not be compensated for that depreciated property on the basis that it is going to appreciate when somebody else works it, when that property improves by reason of community effort and because trains and roads are brought through it through no effort of the owner. Senator Donegan wants these irresponsible owners to be compensated for the great efforts made by other people. It seems to me that that is wrong and irresponsible.

Senator Ryan suggested that perhaps it was the Christmas spirit that made me put down this amendment. Perhaps he regards the Christmas spirit as a bad thing. The irresponsible and grasping property owner acts in the manner of Scrooge, and that does not seem to be the best form of Christmas spirit. It seems to me that the defenders of irascible property owners have Scrooge as their patron saint. The defence put up by Senator Ryan could not deceive even himself. He imagines a derelict site with a coalmine on it which just before the vesting order was made, was making enormous profits. It went "phut", and then for this coalmine—or perhaps it is a copper mine—after twenty years we have to pay excessive compensation under my second amendment. The fantastic, exaggerated example which Senator Ryan felt necessary to bring forward to support his case shows how weak he knows his case to be.

Senator Barry made the point that in this country derelict property is not owned by big capitalists and so on. I did not talk about big capitalists. I talked about irresponsible owners who have allowed their sites to become not merely dilapidated and ruinous but injurious to public health and public amenities. He says that big capitalists do not own such sites. Perhaps, but I suggest that on the day of the passing of this Bill, with its mention of compensation on the basis of the market value of land calculated with a view to what it is going to become, these derelict sites will begin to be bought up. It is with that in mind that I think we should be very careful about the basis on which we calculate future compensation.

Senator O'Quigley was shocked to the core at this attack upon property, and even went so far as to suggest that I was asking for confiscation without compensation, which I think was unfair since my proposal is to give what the Courts themselves regard as a legitimate amount when the damage done is purely nominal, that is to say, a farthing damages.

I would remind the Seanad, indeed, that during the war we passed legislation and approved it in both Houses to allow that farmers who were not developing their land and using it for the national advantage could be deprived of it. We were prepared in the case of irresponsible owners not fully using the land, to deprive them of it. Admittedly the powers were never used to any wide extent but they were voted—similar powers were voted in Britain—on the basis that ownership carries with it responsibilities related to use, and that is the basis and that is the principle upon which I am urging these amendments.

Senator O'Quigley told us that the landlords had long since gone out. I wonder where he lives, certainly not in this country if he really believes that the notion of landlordism has disappeared. I shall not develop that. I merely underline it.

The local authorities are the biggest landlords now.

Senator O'Quigley gave us his example of the poor widow doing very well out of a pub but failing to insure it. Then he tried to draw tears from us by wondering what on earth would we do about this poor widow. What does the insurance company do with her if she is not insured? Does the insurance company say: "After all, she was earning a good income and her place is burned down; she did not insure with us, but, of course, we will give her a pension"? I suggest that if you have people, be they widows or Senators, who are so irresponsible in business as not to insure themselves against reasonable risk, it is no part of the community's duty to step in and say: "We will compensate you for your own folly". That is what Senator O'Quigley says he would like, and he suggests that that is the "Irish attitude" towards the widow, and one which would demand that, of course, she must be compensated. In fact, the Irish attitude towards the widow is that she does not matter a widow's curse. In point of fact, every time there is any suggestion for a pension for widows in this House, there is hardly a Senator who will get up in support of the view that civil servants' widows should be entitled to pensions, that Senators' widows, Deputies' widows, widows of teachers and so on, should be entitled to pensions. The Irish people, as represented by this House and by Senator O'Quigley himself, do not give a widow's curse about the widow. That is the official attitude

This is going too wide.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator is not answering Senator O'Quigley's point at all. The Senator is not really dealing with the arguments made by Senator O'Quigley.

Senator O'Quigley has invented this totally unrepresentative case and I am reducing it to its fundamental absurdity by dealing with it by the same method, which he does not like when it is applied to him. I would, furthermore, suggest to Senator O'Quigley that hard cases make bad law. I do not know whether he regards himself as a hard case, but this widow he referred to is essentially a hard case, and I suggest that we cannot legislate on such grounds.

I was pleased to note that the Minister saw the serious principle underlying this, and noted that Senator O'Quigley had accused me of "trifling with the House." The Minister talked about compensation on the basis of the market value of a cleared site once the cost of clearing it has been paid for, and he made a case for the legitimacy of that as a basis for the calculation of compensation. I would answer in two parts to that: first during all the period of neglect of this site, which has been damaging to the community, that site may well have "appreciated" by reason of its situation in the community, and consequently the market value upon which we are going to compensate the owner bears no relation to what the owner paid for it or what the owner merits getting out of it. Secondly, during all this time of neglect, that site has been damaging other property and depreciating it and damaging the community; and yet the owner of that neglected derelict site is not being asked to pay any compensation to the community for this past damage done by his own neglect.

Consequently, I would suggest that the Minister's view that compensation should be on that basis is nevertheless a view which would give over-ample compensation for the acquisition of sites in which all the buildings are, in the words of the Bill, in a ruinous, dilapidated or dangerous condition and where the whole site has become injurious to health or to the amenities of the neighbourhood by reason of its objectionable or neglected condition. In those circumstances it seems to me that we should be prepared to pass one or other of these amendments of mine, one of which would pay at the rate of a farthing an acre and the other on the basis of genuine income derived. I should like to ask that they be voted on separately, if we can achieve a vote on them, because while the same basic principle is involved in both amendments, the second amendment would provide that if a person can prove an income, he will be compensated at the rate of 20 years' purchase of the average yearly income over the five years immediately preceding the acquisition. I would therefore press both of the amendments.

Very briefly, I should like to say that the Christmas spirit mentioned in relation to these amendments by Senator Sheehy Skeffington was not the spirit of Scrooge; it was spirit out of a bottle. We felt that he must have been feeling gay when he put them down because they are something that would be associated with fairyland.

I reiterate my view that the owner of property is entitled to take his risk on its appreciation or depreciation and I quote what I said before, that if a factory is built beside a private house and there is a depreciation in the value of that house, the private owner must take it. Similarly, if there is something which is desirable built near a house, such as a sewerage system, a regional water scheme or that sort of thing, the private owner is entitled to his chance of appreciation of his property. That is the only law I know of in relation to property of any kind, whether it be movable property, house property or land. There is no other way. I go so far as to say that the only other way that I know of operates behind the Iron Curtain. The law that I have referred to is the economic law of private enterprise and of the sort of place we live in. Any other suggestion can be attributed to the old-fashioned Shavian socialism which would suggest that everyone who has twopence is bad and everyone who has nothing is downtrodden. That idea is 30 years behind the times. I reiterate that Senator Sheehy Skeffington knows nothing about Ireland.

Is there any hope of introducing realism into this debate?

Probably I am somewhat to blame by suggesting a peppercorn instead of a farthing. At this stage, I am sorry that I did. The debate on this section has developed into the sort of debate one might expect from a debating society for schoolboys or, should I say, university men. There has been no attempt on any side, except on the part of the Minister, to look at this matter from a practical point of view. The mover of the amendment paid scant attention to what the Minister had to say. There was much more concern with scoring debating points across the floor of the House than with paying reasonable attention to the Minister. Many speakers adopted a cynical attitude towards the mover of the amendment. There is nothing to be gained by being cynical towards him.

How far is this relevant to the section?

I want to refer to two derelict sites, not in the one town but in the functional area of a certain local authority. One of those sites was in a central position in a town. It was an eyesore in the opinion of everybody, except that of the owner. The owner might be regarded as a derelict person. He seemed to live an aimless existence; nobody knew very clearly how he existed. This is not a laughing matter and I hope to convince the Senator of the injustice that his amendment might bring about.

The local authority acquired this site. In many cases, it can be hard to get title to a derelict site, that is, title that would appeal to a purchaser. However, when a local authority does acquire a site and then is in a position to give title, it may be possible to sell that site and use it for building a good house. The Senator ignored that fact. I shall not accuse him of deliberately ignoring it; maybe he did not think of it. When that site was acquired, compensation was paid to the owner, this person who led such an aimless existence. The site was sold and a good house was built on it.

In another village in the functional area of the same local authority there was a dangerous building with slates coming off. One person suffered slight injury as a result of the dangerous condition of this building. The local authority decided to serve the usual notice threatening to take over unless something was done about this site. The person who owned the building could be regarded, by the standards obtaining in that area, as a fairly well-to-do person. The local authority did not get the chance of acquiring that site.

On a point of order, how is this relevant?

I think I am in order. Let us not be glib about this. There has been a lot of clever talk on this matter already. I am trying to put another point of view and I intend to do it, if the Chair allows me.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator may continue.

If I want to be long-winded, it is my tragedy.

It is ours.

This site was owned by a well-to-do person. When the local authority proposed to acquire that site, which was a fairly valuable site if properly developed, the owner then saw fit to take steps to develop that site. That person being well off could secure a loan from the local authority under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. That was before the then Minister for Local Government, the late Deputy Murphy, made it applicable only to new property. That person secured the loan which he obtained from the local authority with securities in gilt-edged British industrial undertakings. Why? Because it was cheaper to borrow the money from the local authority than to sell the holdings in those industrial undertakings. If the Senator's amendments were accepted, it would mean that the unfortunate owners of derelict sites would suffer as a result of the farthing compensation and the well-to-do owners would suffer no hardship at all.

The mover of these amendments seems to think that he and only he has a right to guard the interests of the poor, that everybody else is out to grind the faces of the poor. He should grow up and realise that there are many members of this House who have a just approach to those people in issues like this. The Senator should not be so childish in this matter.

He will not convert the Senator talking in that way.

The Senator will not be improved by the glib cleveralities which can be used and have been used.

I listened to all this debate and tried to understand the arguments put forward. I took Senator Sheehy Skeffington's arguments seriously and I agree with a great deal of what he said. I do not think, however, I could support the amendment because he has not faced up to the arguments made by the Minister which I think were the same arguments as those which Senator O'Reilly made. In relation to these proceedings, not necessarily in all cases but in many cases, the poorer owners of derelict sites would be unable to avail of the facilities and would have the sites taken over by the local authority. The people who could afford it and who availed of the facilities would develop the sites themselves and the people who had not sufficient money would have the site taken over simply because they were unable to develop it. That would be an injustice to them and no matter what the Senator may say, would tend to be confiscation. I think the provision in the section as it stands, that the compensation should be determined as provided in the section is fairer, and because of that, I cannot support the amendments.

I wish to correct a few mistakes made by Senator Sheehy Skeffington. It is all very well for the Senator to refer to what has been done in the past. He talks about the acquisition of an acre of ground somewhere in the city at £6,000. One would imagine from that that all derelict sites were going to be bought at the rate of £6,000 per acre. The Senator talks about property appreciating in value because of drains and other services provided by the local authority. Quite an amount of property in this city and suburbs has been appreciated in value because of roads being made at the expense of the people now occupying the houses. The people paid for them. The builders who develop the site have to bring in the water and put down the sewerage. That is merely the extension. These things must be done by the builders. They are not getting any advantage from the local authorities. There is that class of appreciation which does not arise by reason of any effort of the community. My case of the widow still stands.

In listening to this sort of thing, one must be very careful with Senator Sheehy Skeffington because he is most skilful in debate and he likes nothing better than this sort of subject upon which he can wax so eloquent, say so much and mean so little in reality.

And he loves it.

He rejoices in it.

He is not alone in that.

Senator Sheehy Skeffington talks about the rights of ownership. We all agree that ownership has duties as well as advantages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

It is now after half-past six. Will the Senator be very much longer?

No; I shall be finished in two sentences.

Two sentences?

They are fairly long sentences. When Senator Sheehy Skeffington wants to draw succour from what happened during the war years, he tells us that at that time the duty of property owners in rural areas was recognised and that they were obliged to put part of their land at the disposal of the community at large. He does not tell us that obligement was laid on the farmers of the country because of Article 28. 3. 3º of the Constitution. It was because the Constitutional guarantees were set aside that these laws were applicable to farmers during the war. That is one sentence.

The Senator would never get the Leaving Certificate for that sentence.

When Senator Sheehy Skeffington referred to property in a state of being injurious to health, to the amenities of the neighbourhood and so on, he does not tell us that the other half of this section contains a proviso making such property liable to compulsory acquisition under this Bill. That is my second sentence.

I do not intend to answer any of the other points. They seem to be irrelevant but I do wish to press the amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Perhaps the simplest way to decide this matter is if those in favour of amendment No. 8 would rise?

Senator Sheehy Skeffington rose.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator will be recorded as dissenting. The Senator may have a separate decision on amendment No. 9, if he wishes.

Yes. I move amendment No. 9:

In subsection (1), to delete all words from and including "the value" in line 29 to the end of the subsection and substitute "twenty years' purchase of the average yearly income deriving from the land acquired over the five years immediately preceding the making of the vesting order."

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Will those in favour of the amendment please rise?

Senator Sheehy Skeffington rose.

Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator will be recorded as dissenting.

Amendment No. 10 not moved.
Section 11 agreed to.
Sections 12 to 24 inclusive agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Next Stage?

I do not think we have been officially informed why we are meeting on Tuesday rather than on Wednesday. Might I ask the basis for that decision when Standing Orders say that we shall meet on Wednesdays?

It was suggested that, to facilitate many members of the House who are engaged on Wednesday of next week, we should meet on Tuesday and it was agreed to do so. I take it the House will have no objection.

We have no objection.

I feel the House should be more widely consulted before we depart from Standing Orders. We have not been told what will prevent some members of the House from being present on Wednesday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Perhaps the Senator could discuss the matter with the Leader of the House before the end of the tea adjournment. I understand that there was general agreement that the House should meet on Tuesday. There is a possibility that we may have to meet on Wednesday morning also.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, January 10th, 1961.
Business suspended at 6.45 p.m. and resumed at 7.45 p.m.