Thursday, 19 July 1923
Dáil Éireann Debate
The PRESIDENT: I move “That a sum not exceeding £162,149 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March 1924, for expenditure in respect of Land Commission.” I think this Vote is in much the same state of transition as the Development Grant Vote. The money of course will be required although there may be alterations in connection with the Land Act. I take it until the Land Act is passed and is law this cannot be regularised. I suppose there will not be any objection to this Vote.
Mr. O'CONNELL: I would like to know if the Minister is in a position to give us information with regard to the Land Settlement Department for which provision for salaries and travelling expenses is made. There is nothing in the details to show what exactly are the operations which this department carries out.
The PRESIDENT: It is not set out separately. I take it that it means that the old Dáil Department had been merged in the Land Commission. As Deputies know we only took over the Land Commission on the 1st April and these Estimates were prepared before that date and up to that date it was a service administered by the British Government. I believe the Land Settlement Organization that was functioning under the old Dáil has been merged now in this, and that is the reason for the addition of those words. I do not think that I have any further information that would interest the Deputy.
Mr. WILSON: I desire to ask the President with regard to the item under sub-head for contributions for excess stock and bonus is this sum of £25,500 the whole amount that the State has to contribute in connection with the excess stock to land purchase?
The PRESIDENT: I explained the whole sum involved was £160,000. You will find page 53 gives excesses £134,500 and that, together with those sums, make £160,000 which as I explained was our total temporary contribution to the cost of excess stock and bonus. We have already voted £154,000. I explained that at the last financial adjustment conference a sum of £160,000 was agreed on between us without prejudice to the final considerations of how the whole loss on excess stock and bonus was to be met. That sum was agreed as the contribution we had to put up this year pending the ultimate settlement.
The PRESIDENT: The Deputy has asked me a very hard question. If at the ultimate financial adjustment it was arranged that our contribution was to be  nil we would not have to pay any more after the date of that adjustment but I am not altogether sanguine that that would be the case.
Mr. JOHNSON: The main question I want to raise and I may as well follow Deputy Wilson and ask whether in this estimate the sum of £242,000 as compared with £200,000 last year is an increase that might be reasonably expected to follow upon the Land Bill, and whether that is now included. In the drawing up of this Estimate was provision made for the extra expense that would almost inevitably follow upon the passing of the Land Bill and does that account for the increase of the £42,000.
The PRESIDENT: No, the £20,000 was an arbitrary sum, simply an estimate last year of our conception of what this particular service would cost us. Last year up to the 1st April the expenses on administration of this service was borne by the British Government and the department was not handed over to us until the 1st April so that the sum of £200,000 is really a shot rather than an Estimate. The Estimate was not graded, I forget whether that is the exact term, but it meant a distribution as between the North and South of Ireland of the whole service of the Land Commission which had to be undertaken. That occupied a considerable time. Deputies will remember that at the time of the passing of the Constitution considerable difficulty arose about any Civil Servants engaged here upon Government work as to whether they automatically came over to us on the 6th December, and there was something very little short of a puzzle at that time to arrange how we should work the Land Commission while we had got over the other services, we had not got the Land Commission and the reason was that the “scheming” of the staffs as it was called had not been undertaken and consequently we did not know what we were in for. Now that operation took place in the meantime and the only difference between the estimate of last year and this was that last year the sum was put down at £200,000. I see under the sub-head “Land Settlement Department” that “salaries,” etc., and “travelling,” etc. “expenses” are down under J and K. I do not know that any extra expenses in connection with the Land Bill were in contemplation when this estimate was being prepared. I rather think not.
Mr. JOHNSON: Coming to the question of this £5,000 under J. “salaries etc.”, and £1,800 “travelling &c.” no details are given as I already pointed out. I think that the Dáil would be interested to know what exactly is the position in regard to this Land Settlement Department. Is it a continuation of the old Dáil Settlement Scheme, because most of us were under the impression that that had been suspended, or is it a preparation for a new scheme of land settlement and the latter is in contemplation on the passing of the Land Bill? I think that perhaps with the exception of Deputy Wilson and his colleagues and perhaps the colleagues sitting behind Ministers we are not very familiar with the work of the Land Settlement Department, that is since the change. We all knew something of it in the times when they were trying to settle the land troubles in the old Dáil but we are not familiar with the work of the present Land Settlement Department and I think the Dáil will be interested and has some reason for asking a question, as to how this money is being expended and what is the work being done which necessitates this £1,800 in travelling expenses.
The PRESIDENT: I regret that the Minister for Agriculture is rather tired, after dealing with the Land Bill, and I can only give what is my own idea on the subject. As far as I am aware, speaking from memory, something like £300,000 worth of sales took place under the old Dáil. Now I am very much afraid that they were not altogether a success. The Department officials worked very hard, but one can understand that without good Government machinery behind them, and some resource the type of settlement which they endeavoured to effect, lacked a good deal of solidity. In other words they sometimes bought an estate and bought it at a pretty considerable price and disposed of it to a number of persons who put down certain sums of money. In effect it was not Land Commission work, as we know it, but an endeavour to either get land for landless  people or to get additional strips of land for congests. I am sure that there are a number of officials engaged on this work. They had service with the old Dáil but, as far as I know, they have not yet been apportioned into the service. We are drawing in the old Dáil officials into the service and that is the only reason I know of that there should be put down “travelling expenses.” I may mention an estate where a distribution of land took place. It occurred in a neighbouring constituency to my own. There were several reasons why the land should be taken; it was an historic farm and there was a popular movement in favour of getting it and I think that generally speaking the real defect in connection with any work done under the old Dáil was due to the fact that land was at a very high price during the years of the operation of the Land Settlement Courts, and that what was an economical proposition some years ago as far as land is concerned is no longer economic now.
Mr. JOHNSON: May we take it then that the sum for salaries and expenses is for salaries to men taken from the land settlement work of the old Dáil and taken over by the Land Commission to continue this or similar work? I take it it is not that men are being brought in.
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