Thursday, 24 June 1926
Dáil Éireann Debate
MINISTER for LANDS and AGRICULTURE (Mr. Hogan): I move the Second Reading of this Bill. Perhaps the shortest way of dealing with this matter would be to take the Deputies through the sections of the Bill in which the main principles of the Bill are raised. Section 2 deals with compounded arrears of rent, and though the section is long the proposal is quite simple. Deputies will remember that the provisions of the Land Act, 1923, in cases where three years' arrears, were due were to add a half-year  to the purchase money and to collect the remaining two and a-half years. Practically one year has been collected, but there is some of the first year still outstanding. That leaves one and a half years fully due, and the proposal here is to add all the arrears, the one and a half years, and what is due to the purchase money. I need not go into Section 3, as it speaks for itself. Section 4 deals with building ground. The operations of the Land Act, 1923, revealed that there were certain directions in this regard in which the Act could be usefully amended. It was found that there were a number of farms, for instance, near Dublin, Cork, and other cities and towns, where there was a certain frontage, on the road, perhaps a small frontage, of 5 acres, extending a hundred yards along the road, suitable for building. For that reason the whole farm of 100 acres, or perhaps 200 acres, was excluded from the benefit of the Land Act. That undoubtedly was a grievance. The proposal now is to sub-divide the holding into two portions, one portion suitable for building ground, and then you are left with the rest of the farm. This section provides that the rest of the farm shall be purchased as a separate holding, and that the tenant shall continue as the tenant of the building ground with exactly the same tenure as he had previous to the Act. We could not meet the case in any other way. I am not prepared to ask the Dáil to say that building ground, as such, should be purchased. I think it would be a retrograde step. Every country in the world is making provision empowering municipalities and such like to acquire land for building purposes at something which is not its market value. I am not going to prejudice that case. My position is that I am leaving the building ground exactly as I found it. I think it would be unfair to hand over the tenant's interest to the landlord, or the landlord's interest in the building ground to the tenant, and consequently to concentrate all the effects of whatever legislation may in the future be put into operation as against one particular party.
Mr. HOGAN: I am only prophesying. It would not affect the local authority even if afterwards legislation would be introduced to acquire building ground at some price which was less, or more, if you like, but which was different from the market value. The fact that the entire interest in the building ground had been transferred to a single individual under this Act would not, of course, affect the right of the local authorities, which they had obtained presumably by an Act of Parliament, to acquire these rights from that person, but I do not think we should in any way interfere with the building ground. I do not think that we should interfere with the tenures. I do not think, at this stage, we should transfer ownership from one person to another, and thereby concentrate all the profits, or all the losses, in one person. I suggest that the position, so far as building ground proper is concerned, should be left as it is, but, so far as the rest of the holding is concerned, it should get the benefits of the Land Act. The section provides that.
Section 5 is an important and rather unusual section. It provides that the compulsory powers given to the Land Commission under the Act of 1923 for the acquisition of land for, say, congestion or other purposes, shall be limited to this extent: that where, in the opinion of the Department of Agriculture the land is being used for the raising of high-class breeding-stock, the compulsory powers of the Land Commission shall not operate. It would take a long time to go into the merits of that section, and I really went into them during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Agriculture. I think that possibly that may result in a very big increase in the production of high-class stock animals, and, if it does, it will confer great benefit on the country. It would be difficult to measure exactly how much it would run into, but it would be a great many millions. I believe, further, that this will not interfere, to any appreciable extent, with the powers of the Land Commission, and that the real effect will be that people, in order  to insure themselves, will begin to breed high-class stock animals on their home farms. Section 6 gives the right to subtenants on purchased holdings to purchase. That is all that is to be said about that. Section 7 deals with drainage, and provides that out of the purchase money a capital sum may be set aside for the reconstruction of, say, an embankment or any other drainage work. Reading this section with the sections in the previous Acts, it will mean that the Land Commission will have power to set aside, out of the purchase money, a capital sum, or, rather, land bonds, which will yield interest, and which may be liquidated, for the reconstruction of existing embankments, which were neglected or were in disrepair. Also there is power already to set aside a sum, the interest of which will accrue for the maintenance of embankments. The position will be that the Land Commission may require the county council to take over the maintenance of drainage works, and the county council can recoup itself. The drainage will be paid for out of the rates struck on the lands to be benefited, and the rates will be recouped from this fund.
Section 8 is purely technical, and so is Section 9. Section 10 is rather important. It was found, for instance, under the Land Act of 1923, that it was difficult to acquire land on which a number of years' arrears of rates had been due. The lands were vested in the Land Commission, and perhaps there was a couple of thousand pounds' rates due. They were let in for the purchase money, and also for the arrears of rates, amounting, perhaps, to one-quarter of the value of the land. The Land Commission found that they could not take over possession. There are cases of that kind at present. Even if they did acquire the land, and paid the purchase money, which would cover not only the cost of the land but the arrears of rates, and if they had to sell again, the tenants' annuity would be far too high. This section makes the Land Commission liable for the rates from the date on which the lands become vested, and the owner shall be liable for the rates up to that date. There is also provision that arrears of rates of that sort, in the last resort, may be paid out of the purchase money.  Section 11 is somewhat similar in principle. It enables the Judicial Commissioner to make an order vesting the lands in the Land Commission on the appointed day in cases where the owner refuses to give up possession. I think a case of that sort was debated in the Dáil. The appointed day is named, the objections have been dealt with, and legally the land is vested on the appointed day. The owner refuses to give up possession. The Land Commission at present is under the necessity of going to law with the owner before taking over the land. That delays the purchase operation. In this we give power to the Judicial Commissioner to issue an order on the Sheriff to place the Land Commission in possession of the lands. That is, to some extent, in the interests of owners, as they have been squatters on the land, and have difficulty of getting rid of them.
Section 13 deals with the point I have covered regarding the transfer in connection with embankments to the county council. Section 14 is of little importance. It is really technical. Section 15 empowers the Land Commission to discontinue proceedings where they have come to the conclusion that the price, as finally fixed by the Judicial Commissioner, is too high for the purpose of re-sale to the tenants. Section 16 allows the Land Commission to aggregate three or four estates, and thus make up the losses in one case by the gains in another. They may, for the purposes of exchange, buy very cheap land, and have to buy another farm, subject to the land purchase annuity. That farm will be expensive, as the annuity has to be redeemed out of the purchase money, and it is necessary, in the interests of common fair play, to give the owner a fairly good price, because otherwise nothing would be left after the redemption of the annuity. This enables estates to be aggregated to make up the losses on dear land by the gains on cheap land. Section 17 deals with the question of the collection of arrears of land purchase annuities, and gives the Land Commission all powers in connection with arrears which the county council has for the collection of rates. I think it is a necessary section, and, if this  Bill passes and becomes an Act, we propose to ask the Land Commission to take advantage of it immediately. I think it will have a big effect. The tenant purchaser is sued now for arrears, and a decree is given with costs, to which some people object. The sheriff goes out and gets a return of no goods. Somebody else is grazing the land. That is quite common, and is happening all over the country. It has defeated the Land Commission in its work of collecting arrears. Under this section the Land Commission may seize any goods on the land, no matter to whom they belong. It is provided also that the remedies given by this section to the Land Commission shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any other remedy that they already have for the recovery of any such arrears. It is also provided that a certificate, purporting to be under the common seal of the Land Commission, shall be evidence in a court of law as to any sum due, and that such sum is payable to the Land Commission by the person named in the certificate.
Section 18 is of very little importance. As a rule a decree has to be renewed every year. This section alters that. A decree obtained by the Land Commission against a defaulter need not be renewed more than once within a period of six years. Section 19 gives the sheriff the same power in the execution of a decree as he has already for rates. Sub-section (3) of the section is somewhat similar to the provisions already in the Enforcement of Law Act. Sections 20, 21 and 22 deal with cases where holdings are put up for sale on foot of a decree for arrears of annuities. Of course everyone knows what happens in such cases. No one will bid for the land. Even the mortgagees will not bid. Suppose there is a holding subject to a land purchase annuity and somebody has a mortgage on it. The Land Commission gets a decree against the owner for arrears of annuity; the sheriff finds no goods or chattels on the land. The Land Commission is then under the necessity of putting the holding up for sale and it is advertised. In a great many cases there are no bidders, not even the  mortgagee, not even people who have claims on the land. They all feel so absolutely certain that no one will bid that they just leave it so.
There is no sale and no collection. They all go along to the county councils and abuse the Land Commission for not collecting the arrears. They point out that there are great losses to the rates owing to the arrears, and the particular representative from the locality is generally able to make a very convincing case against the Land Commission and in favour of the poor unfortunate ratepayers of the district who are mulcted to pay the arrears, but not a single one of them will bid for the land. We propose to alter that; we propose to vest the land in the Land Commission first of all, subject to no charges except Board of Works charges and the annuity. The Land Commission may put the holding up for sale. The mortgagee may buy it. If he does not his mortgage lapses. He has an opportunity of buying in the land, but if he does not his mortgage lapses. I see no way out of that. The Land Commission has clear and full possession and is entitled to divide the land. These are very drastic steps, but I see no way out of the difficulty we are faced with but by taking these steps and I have no sympathy with the people concerned.
Remember that as a rule people like to get cheap land in this country and that they are not deterred by most considerations from buying cheap land if it is on offer. Remember, on the other hand, that in these cases the ratepayers have to pay the arrears of the Land Commission annuities, due very often to the default of the owner— there are, of course, some cases of hardship — due to the fact that he had not been working very hard and had been taking advantage of the immunity which he had enjoyed for some time. Remember also that the mortgagee, who as a rule, if it were a shopkeeper sold out the land would come in immediately with a claim, will not bid for the land. If the ratepayers themselves will not help themselves and will not do what they ought logically to do in all the circumstances, the Land Commission must protect the credit of the  State. We are taking powers here to take over that land, to acquire it and vest it in the Land Commission, subject to no other charges except public charges, that is to say, the Board of Works charges and the charge for the land purchase annuity. We may not divide the land perhaps. We may not be able to divide the land, but we will hold the land and we will put the owner out of possession. If the Dáil agree to these propositions, we propose to put these measures into operation stringently.
We also propose, in Section 22, to transfer the land to the county council where the county council so desires That, perhaps, may look a little naïve to some people, but there are cases already where a county council took over such land and was surcharged. It was decided afterwards that they had no right to pay money for it. I believe if they took over the land and paid the annuities they did the right thing. In the case of a holding where no annuities were paid, they took it over for the purpose of recovering the annuities. We propose to give every county council power to do that, and if we give them the power, and they exercise it, there will be very little unavoidable arrears. The county council, in the case I have mentioned, I am glad to say, was the Donegal county council.
Mr. HOGAN: They will. Sections 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 deal with the cases popularly known as the committee cases and Land Bank cases. I will deal first with the committee cases. Land was purchased in 1920, say, when land was very dear, at something like what would now be regarded as three or four times its actual value, purchased at anything from £30 to £80 per acre by committees with a view to dividing it amongst themselves, or purchased by a committee on behalf of others in the district with money that was borrowed from the local bank at a rate of interest of 6 per cent. Prices fell in 1921 and to-day the land bought at £50 an acre in 1920 is not worth half the money. In addition, in view of the times, in view of the fact that  usually there were no farm buildings on these farms, and that a farm of two or three hundred acres could not be suitably farmed by a group of farmers, they had no alternative except to put stock on them. It was possibly a long way from their houses. They could not adopt the same methods as they would have adopted in connection with their own holdings. The farm was too far away to cart manure to it, and they could not till it. They simply grazed it, and then they met with all the loss of stock perhaps in 1921. Possibly they did not buy their stock to the best advantage, and possibly they now find the original sum with big arrears of interest facing them. That is an impossible position.
It is somewhat the same with the Land Bank cases. The Land Bank advanced the purchase money to the purchaser, who had to deposit with them one-fourth of the purchase money. They very often had to borrow that deposit from the local bank, and pay a high interest on it. In addition, they had to pay the interest on the full purchase money to the Land Bank. Everything that happened in the case of the committees happened in the case of purchases by the Land Bank. They now find themselves faced with the capital unpaid either to the Land Bank or to the local bank, and there are big arrears of interest. There is complete confusion in the sense that some have got grazing rights and others have not. The lands are not being farmed properly. Nobody is taking an interest in them. They are all hoping that something will happen to relieve them.
The proposal here is fairly drastic, but it is the only proposal that will meet the case. We have to recognise this is a legacy from the past and the situation must be cleaned up. The Land Commission under this section may buy the land at the full price; they may resell at whatever price they think the land is worth and the Minister for Finance finds the difference. In each case, of course, the Land Commission will be the judge of what the land is worth. It is provided here that the Minister for Finance should be consulted in regard to these cases in the course of the operation of the Act. In  the main, subject to certain details that are set out in the schedules, those are the provisions of Sections 24 to 28, inclusive.
The Bill, therefore, deals with compounded arrears of rent, the right of a tenant on a purchased holding to purchase his holding, provision for embankments and drainage works, and the giving of additional powers to the Land Commission to collect land purchase annuities and to deal with difficulties arising out of the fact that rates on land to be acquired by the Land Commission are in arrears. It exempts from the compulsory sections of the Land Act, 1923, farms that are used for the breeding of high-class stock.
Mr. HOGAN: Decidedly not thoroughbred horses particularly. I have in mind—Deputies can decide for themselves whether I am putting them in the order which they deserve— cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, and possibly hens. There might be possibly a case where hens would be concerned. It is not by any means intended to be confined to horses. Finally, the Bill deals with these Land Bank and Committee cases in the way I have indicated.
Mr. GOREY: We welcome this Bill inasmuch as it goes portion of the way to meet the necessities of the case. The Minister proposes to amend some of the defects of the 1923 Act. He did not amend them when he had the opportunity of doing so, but I suppose there is no use in trotting out the phrase: “We told you so and you had a right to do it then.” We welcome the Bill because it goes a further step in the right direction. I will ask the Minister to go still further in the same direction. The principal sections of this Bill are in response to the appeal introduced in the Seanad, and some of the suggestions made by ex-Senator Butler are embodied in it. A few sections that we consider very important are omitted. The Minister has carried  out his promise to us, and he has done so very fairly.
I would like the Minister to be more explicit—I hope he will be in Committee; I think that is the proper place —in regard to Section 3, especially sub-section (3) of Section 3, which deals with cutting down and uprooting. The section is very bald, very definite and very drastic. Section 4 deals with potential building ground, and that matter is very important. The Minister said the Act of 1923 was not fair; he found it applying unfairly in the neighbourhood of Cork and Dublin. I want to remind the Minister that it applies still more unfairly in the neighbourhood of provincial towns where the same meaning was given to the section and where there was no chance in our time of having it operative. Decisions were given around provincial towns under this section that could not be justified. Whatever can be said of the conditions around Cork and Dublin, nothing at all can be said for enforcing these conditions around provincial towns.
We welcome the proposal omitting portion of the holding; we would much further welcome it if the section were omitted altogether, but as we have it we would ask the Minister to put some sort of a time limit on the operation of this section with regard to potential building ground. It may be in ten years' time. If so, it is a reasonable proposition. It may be in fifteen years' time, and even still we would not call it an unreasonable proposition; but if it is away in the dim future, 50 or 100 years hence, we say it is not a reasonable proposition. There should be a limit, and this proposal is not reasonable inasmuch as there is no definiteness with regard to the period over which the provision should operate.
Section 7 deals with drainage and maintenance. This is a provision that we insisted on being contained in the 1923 Act; it was contained in it and it dealt with particular sales under that Act. I do not know if the Minister has taken power in this Act to deal with the sales previous to the 1923 Act. Perhaps the time is ripe when provision should be made to deal with these particular  cases. In all the previous Acts no provision was made with regard to drainage and maintenance. Estates needing drainage, and that were drained at one time, were handed over to bodies of tenants without any provision with regard to the maintenance of waterways or the condition of the drains. The result was that the responsibility was placed on the individual tenant. It should have been on the body of tenants and provisions should be made compelling them to maintain the drainage system.
The result of that neglect is that at present you are faced with the necessity of, practically speaking, a national drainage scheme. That was not the case at the time of purchase. More attention was paid to drainage inasmuch as the landlord carried out supervision of the work done by the tenants. Once the change came about every tenant became a force unto himself. One knows the differences amongst a body of tenants; one could not agree with the other, and the present state of affairs came to pass. I have no hesitation in inviting the Minister to step in on any estate and see that land is not deteriorated. Land, in fact, should be brought back to the state in which it was handed over to purchasing tenants 15 and 20 years ago.
Section 8 also deals with the problem to be found in the country where the tenants purchased under the previous Act and sub-let. The sub-let portion is held since he bought it, and now the sub-tenant is not in a position to be able to buy. This section proposes to remedy that, and we will welcome it. Section 12 deals with this question of the repairs of embankments, and that, we think, is a wise and a necessary provision. Section 13 deals with the maintenance of those embankments and makes provision for handing them over to the county council. That, too, is a necessary and wise provision.
With regard to the other sections, I have very little comment to make, and any comments I have to make will find expression in Committee. So far that is dealing with what the Bill contains. I would now like to talk about what the Bill does not contain. One class of  tenancy from our point of view should have got equal consideration under this and the previous Bills. They should have got the same consideration as the other class of tenancies. That is the tenancy with the title of fee farm grant, long leases or leases renewable for ever, that from the nature of the letting had no right whatever to be designated by either one or other of these terms. I refer to cases where we find fee-farm grants carrying a rental of £2 an acre, 50/- an acre, and in one particular case—and I find other Deputies have the same experience—£3 an acre. Those tenancies on the face of it are not fee farm grants, long leases or leases renewable for ever. They are not in the same category at all. We have on the one side a picture of a real genuine case, bearing and deserving this title. The lands bear a rental of 1/-, 2/6, 5/-, 7/6, and 10/- an acre. These on the face of them are what they purport to be. It will be also found that the time at which the lease commenced will give some real justification, some real claim to come in under those particular heads. These lettings will be arrived at through family considerations, marriage settlements, moneys advanced or lent on the lands, and one or other of the technical matters that would find expression in that sort of a letting. But where we have tenancies of a very recent creation we will also find in the cases I have referred to—family settlements, moneys advanced and so on—that they all date back previous to 1880. They all date back and have some histories and associations attaching to them. But if you go into the newer creations, the ones bearing the rentals I have referred to, they are all of recent creation and the term was put into the letting in order to evade any land legislation that might be enacted. I can speak with authority on this question. I have before my mind and in my attache case a letting to my predecessor and to myself where one of the provisions in the letting was that this holding was not to be subject to the operations of any Land Act. The legal adviser in this case and the lessor thought they were amply provided against any future Acts. They find now that they were not. They did not select the proper term. They had not  the best advice. But the lawyer who was able to give advice said:—“Put fee farm grant at the head of the agreement, or a lease renewable for ever or a lease renewable for life, or a long-term lease, and that is the only safe ground you have got. In that way you will evade the Act and the intentions of the Legislatures in Great Britain and Ireland.” Up to now they have done it. And according to the Minister's new Bill they are to be allowed to do it. Now we ask the Minister to get at the back of these smart people, these rogues, and not allow them to get away with it. The intention was obvious. With regard to what I should call the genuine cases, the cases deserving of this term, the rental and the term hung together. One was explanatory of the other. A small nominal rental and the title were understandable to anybody. Both explained each other. The rental explained the term and the term explained the rental. In all these cases it was a nominal charge. Now the use of these terms in the other class of letting that I have described is not a use but an abuse of the term. They have no claim whatsoever to the term. All the essentials of the letting, that is the prices charged for, have no claim whatsoever to the term. The term has no application whatsoever to the nature of the letting. The term has no application to the price. When we hear of a fee farm grant at £2 or £3 an acre then we know that is a contradiction in terms and it has no application in fact. I repeat that people who have recently been trying to make lettings have, with their lawyers, been casting all round them for a term of evasion, for a term whereby they could evade any Land Act that might be passed, for a term that would not bring them in under the Act. Some of them have been lucky in the selection of a particular term, lucky in the provision of a particular section. These are the people whose lawyer suggested to them the term fee farm grant or lease renewable for ever. All the rest have gone by the roadside.
Lettings of any description, no matter what the title was, had the same meaning fifty years ago; indeed, they had the same meaning forty-five years  ago. The particular description might have mattered a little to the landlord but it mattered nothing at all to the tenant, for whatever document was set before him he paid the fine going in, and put up with it. He agreed to a rental, and whatever the document put before him was he signed it and did not know what was in it. They were all the same that time—all lettings were the same. There was no land court then. To the tenant they all meant the same thing. I do not see why the particular lessor that was lucky enough to select a fortunate term should be put in a better position than any of the others who were less fortunate in selecting a term. He is protected by a term in a title that he has no right to. He is simply hiding behind a legal phrase, and he has no more right to protection from that legal term than a robber would have to seek immunity from robbery if he hid himself in a law court—the robbery would be no less robbery.
Mr. GOREY: The Deputy is saying nothing of the sort. When the Deputy is finished the Minister can reply in his own way and defend his own particular pets—that is, if he is adopting them. I hope he is not.
Mr. GOREY: I hope he will. It is even possible that the Minister may see what is right. A tenancy that carries a rental up to and above the full agricultural value—a hundred per cent. higher than the value that was fixed by Land Courts in the last thirty years— cannot be called a fee farm grant in essentials. As a matter of fact, these particular tenancies were the highest rented tenancies of any that were in existence thirty years ago. These people have no claim whatsoever in equity to shelter behind that term. Probably the Minister will meet me with the argument that this class of tenancy—fee farm grant tenancies and all the rest—can be redeemed by making application to the Land Commission.  That is true — we do not deny that — but that is not sufficient. All the benefits that tenant purchasers had under previous Acts are denied to such a tenant. He has never had those benefits and he will be subject to the redemption of the fee-farm grant, according to whatever value the Judicial Commissioner may put on the land. We know the price that a Judicial Commissioner would fix on land three years ago would be in excess of what he would fix to-day; and we know that what he would fix to-day will be vastly in excess of what should be fixed a few years hence, and vastly in excess of what would be fixed in 1914, when conditions were normal. They are below normal to-day, but the minds of men are not normal—even judges' minds are not normal in this connection. They are basing their judgments on the fictitious price paid to-day for agricultural land which, as a commercial proposition, is not worth anything like the price paid for it. We do not think that a value put upon land in present conditions would be a just agricultural value, regardless of the fact that the seven shillings in the pound and the allowance for arrears have been availed of by other tenants that come under previous Acts.
I do not ask to have these terms— fee-farm grant and lease for ever— ignored, where they are in fact in conformity with each other. Nor do I want the matter to be decided by the Dáil. I want the matter to be decided by a court. I want it to be left to the Judicial Commissioner or some similar judicial person to decide what is and what is not a fee-farm grant. I do not want the Dáil to make a hard and fast rule. I want it to be left at the discretion of a judge, taking into account the nature of the letting, the time at which it was entered into, and the charge per acre that was put on the land, in comparison with other genuine fee-farm charges and also in comparison with the rental fixed by Land Commissioners on agricultural land of a similar kind in the particular district. I do not think that is unreasonable; I do not think that is confiscation, and I do not think that is riding over or interfering with the  just rights of those who hold land, as the Minister states, under old and ancient titles. I do not want these people interfered with. I want to have the shelter torn from over the head of the fly boy, the slippery fellow who is sheltering behind this term.
Mr. GOREY: What sanctity does the Deputy mean is in such a contract? The only sanctity there is—if it can be called a sanctity—is that such a man selected a lucky term and put it into his title and got the tenant to sign it. What sanctity is there in any other title that came under the previous Land Purchase Acts? They are all in the same boat. It is only a question of a word; they all carry the same meaning. I do not want the Dáil to decide this question, but I do want the Judicial Commissioner, or some person of that description, to say who is or who is not entitled to the protection afforded by these titles. Surely we are not going to be told by the Minister that these lucky, clever fellows have hoodwinked the legislature and that the Minister is going to allow them to get away with it. I am sure the Dáil can find a method of doing justice in this matter. If it is not done in the way I suggest, or in some similar way, this Bill will not be doing justice. Two or three pounds per acre is being paid for land which, if it were not for the protection afforded by this particular term, would have had a rent fixed for it in the Land Courts of from 15s. to 22s. 6d. per acre. Indeed the rents I mention would be more like a first than a third term rent.
In illustration of this, I should like to mention the case of the Woodsgift property in County Kilkenny. This was a property in the possession of a gentleman named Hughes, who got into monetary difficulties and sold it. I am not sure whether it was his first mortgagee in Dublin who came into possession. I do not know whether he bought it directly from Mr. Hughes or got it through debt. Anyhow when he came into possession he redeemed the Land Commission annuity. He  came in when things were very low in 1919 or 1920, bought stock and tendered it to the Government of the day. They had to accept it and he got off lightly. The land became his own absolutely. What did he do then? He proceeded to break the farm up into small farms of fifteen or twenty acres. He charged a fine to every tenant going into his land. The fines amounted to more than the redemption value and the debt or the price he paid to the previous occupier. In addition, he charged them from 30s. to £2 or £2 10s. an acre, annual rent, and at the head of the agreement he put in the term “fee farm grant.” Is it people of that description, this man, the Dobbinses and the Lloyds, that the Minister proposes to protect? There are several others I could name. This is a case of recent date, and I think it is enough to prove my contention that these people have been masters of evasion, have studied all the recent Land Acts and their operations, have scored over their fellows and have selected more evasive and better terms. In their case it is the last term that has been reached. All the other terms and leases have been thrown to the wind and disregarded, but this particular term has been retained. I hope the Minister is not going to protect the land jobbers of Dublin and elsewhere even though they belong to the legal profession.
Mr. GOREY: I do not know. I can find it out, but there is no personal reflection on either Deputy Redmond or the Minister. There was also the question of residential holdings not contained in the Act, and I think this also is rather a term that has been taken undue advantage of. This will be, perhaps, a more acute question about the city of Dublin than anywhere else, at least to the extent that there will be very many more cases on the question. My own personal opinion is, where there was an obvious intention on the part of people making lettings that it  was a residential holding and that they hoped at some time to resume possession for themselves and their families, that that should be respected. But in other cases there was no such intention and advantage was taken of this exclusion in this particular Act. We must remember there was no exclusion of residential holdings previous to the 1903 Act, except it contained a park, and what is known as a big gentleman's residence, altogether a different meaning from the residential holding in the 1922 Act. I should protect them where there is a genuine letting and where advantage is taken of this term it should be left to a judge to determine.
Mr. GOREY: Yes: but at present they are reading a different meaning into it, namely, the intention of this legislature. I think the real intention was not to exclude those cases that were not genuine residential lettings. I hope, in the Committee Stage, to put up our point of view and I hope the House will give it due consideration, and that those who represent the agricultural interests of the country will not be tied down by any party tie in the matter.
Mr. NOONAN: I rise to welcome this Bill on behalf of tenant farmers who have not yet got an opportunity of purchasing their lands. If there were any mistakes or drawbacks in the Bill of 1923 this is an honest endeavour on behalf of the Minister to make them good or to confer now any benefits that were not then conferred on the tenant. There are certainly, as Deputy Gorey has pointed out, some necessary amendments to this Bill. I say, all fee-farm grants, all long leaseholds and those who have been excluded by the residential provision or otherwise, and who worked their holdings mainly as agricultural holdings, should be included in this Bill. Under the Act of 1923 some tenant farmers who held land along the river banks and who were known as riparian owners were excluded from the fishing rights. I hope the Minister will include these people under the Amending Bill, and that they will own the fishery rights on their portions of the river.
Mr. NOONAN: At present it is injurious even to those men who hold under the previous Acts that these men are deprived of fishery rights. You may have along the river bank one person, perhaps a next-door neighbour to a man who purchased his land under the Act of 1923. That man's neighbour may be fortunate enough to possess the rights under previous Land Acts, but those rights are absolutely useless to him to-day because a man who purchased under the 1923 Act is deprived of rights because he is not in a way to protect those rights, and the Land Commission at the moment are not protecting them. They cannot protect them. The thing is mixed up. It is not worth while, because you have already so many enjoying the rights under previous Acts that it would not be worth while to protect those lands. I certainly think those are points of which the Minister, when the Bill comes into Committee, ought to consider by way of amendment. I welcome the Bill because I think that it will be a great relief to those who would be compelled to pay compounded arrears of rent; those being added to the purchase money will be a great relief to those people who otherwise would be compelled to pay them under the Act of 1923.
Captain REDMOND: I suppose there was never a Land Bill introduced that did not require amendment, and the Bill we are now discussing proposes some amendments in the nature of extensions and some rather stringent amendments in the nature of restrictions. At the same time, everyone will welcome the proposed amendments of the 1923 Act — great as that Act was and is—and well as it is working, up to the present. There are certain proposals in the Bill which at first glance seem distinctly drastic. I allude to Section 17, which deals with the collection of arrears. The Minister has explained that in future the sheriff may seize any goods, no matter to whom they belong — goods. I presume, mostly in the shape of stock — which are on the holding of a person who has not paid his  annuity. Of course that may be necessary. At the same time, it is distinctly drastic.
I know of a case which occurred in the last couple of years, where cattle belonging to one man had strayed on to a holding belonging to another. The owner of the holding had not paid his annuity. The cattle were seized, under what authority I do not know, and the owner of the cattle had actually to go to the local pound and had to pay £5 a head to get his cattle out. I think there were 10 cattle, so that he had to pay £50, and he has not been able to recover the money. In this case, I understand, the cattle were not on the land by way of agreement or otherwise. They were there, in fact, as trespassers. Perhaps it is more a question for Committee, but I think it should be taken into consideration whether, in all cases, goods belonging to another party should be at the disposal of the sheriff when he is seizing goods belonging to tenants who have not paid arrears.
Section 21 and the following sections also strike me as being rather severe. If a person has a mortgage on a holding, and the tenant of that holding has not paid his annuity, the Minister says the Land Commission are to have power now to take over the holding, and that holding shall be only subject to what has been described as, I think, public charges such as Board of Work charges and of course, the annuity. He went on to say that the Land Commission shall have the further right to put up this holding for sale. He, quite accurately, described the state of affairs at present existing when he said that when such sales take place now, even the mortgagees themselves, for one reason or another, do not make a bid. But it is proposed by this section that if the mortgagee does not bid and buy that holding his mortgage goes. That certainly is very drastic. I think it will have to be considered very carefully, because every mortgagee may not be in a position to bid for the holding. I do not know at what price the holding is to be sold, but presumably it is to be at the discretion of the Land Commission. That is all right, but mortgagees who lend money on land often do it to accommodate their neighbours  and not for reasons of profit. They may not be in such circumstances when the Land Commission puts the holding up for sale as to make a bid. Therefore, I think we will have to consider that position carefully before we give final sanction to it. These are drastic proposals. I admire what I was going to describe as the drasticity of them but, certainly, the circumstances are such as call for drastic measures. At the same time before giving final consent we will want to make sure we are not slightly over-stepping the mark.
In regard to what Deputy Gorey said as to what are known as fee-farm grants I should certainly like to support him in his appeal to the Minister, not so much to amend the Bill as to extend the Bill in that respect. What the Deputy said is perfectly true that a large number of fee-farm grants that exist to-day are fictitious. They were made, as everyone knows, in recent years, at all events, to evade the terms of recent Land Acts. Perhaps the House may not be fully aware that in certain portions of the country there are clusters of these fee-farm grantees. Now the Act of 1923 makes provision for what is known as tenanted land and all tenanted land is vested in the Land Commission, but fee-farm grants are expressly excluded from the term “tenanted land.” It is true that provision is made in the Act for the redemption of those fee-farm grants but those tenants may not be always in a position to redeem them and, furthermore, even if they did take advantage of the section providing for the redemption they do not get the same advantage as if they had been ordinary year to year tenants. For instance, they do not benefit by the wiping out of arrears. Take a case where A owns a farm in a certain part of the country separated by a fence from another farm owned by B; A being an ordinary yearly tenant his land becomes immediately vested in the Land Commission. He purchases at a reasonable rate; a certain amount of his arrears are wiped out or compounded; B. who has gone through precisely the same conditions in the past as A, and  has been subjected to the same state of affairs, and has precisely the same kind of land and possibly pays about the same rent gets none of the advantages that A gets because he holds under fee-farm grant.
Further we must consider that at a certain period, not very long ago, as at previous periods a longer time ago, the tenant farmers in Ireland were advised to withhold their rents; and they did so in most cases.
Mr. HOGAN: I have not the slightest doubt that there was a general idea to that effect. There is a general idea at all times amongst a certain class of people that they should make as much as they can out of confusion. I do not know, however, that that was ever the official policy or that it was directed officially by the people who were leading the country at the time or given any countenance by them.
Captain REDMOND: I will not quarrel with the Minister as regards the facts. Let me assume, for the purpose  of my argument, that that was the case. Let me assume that A and B adopted the same policy and did not pay their rents. I say it is hardly fair that A, because he is a tenant from year to year, should be excused those arrears and that B, because he is a fee-farm grantee, should have to pay them. That is my argument. There may be what Deputy Gorey describes as genuine fee-farm grants in existence, but I say that the larger number of them — I am personally acquainted with some in my own constituency — in existence to-day are what Deputy Gorey described, and what I describe now, as fictitious fee-farm grants. The grantees are really tenants who would have come in under the previous Land Acts but for the subterfuge that Deputy Gorey has so aptly described. It is true that in the congested districts the Land Commission have power to deal with fee-farm grantees as they deal with ordinary tenants, but it is not for the congested districts I am speaking. I know areas in the south and south-east of Ireland where there are clusters of these classes of tenants. It would not be any disservice to anybody — it certainly would not be any worse injury to the landlords or fee-farm grantors than was the case under previous Land Acts—if the lands held under fee-farm grant were allowed to come within the term “tenanted land,” as defined in the Land Act, 1923.
I know the Minister has considered this matter. I know he is thoroughly conversant with the whole subject — probably more so than any of us. I do not know whether he is in a position to tell us how many of these tenants there are but I would like to know. I would appeal to him on the grounds which Deputy Gorey put forward, and for the reasons which I have stated, to insert a clause in this Bill extending the operations of the Act of 1923 to fee-farm grantees in the same way as they apply to ordinary tenant farmers. I do not think that is an unreasonable request. The matter has probably been under the consideration of the Minister continually since the Act of 1923 came into operation, and I hope he will be able to give the view  we have put forward favourable consideration.
Mr. BAXTER: With regard to Section 22, I want to congratulate the Minister on the confidence he shows in the county councils—a confidence which was lacking in his speech regarding their ability and capacity a few days ago.
Mr. BAXTER: I want to ask the Minister is it because he sees there are possibilities of failure in the Land Commission in certain contingencies that he shows this faith in the county councils? Has he more faith in the ability of the county councils to do certain work than in the ability of the Land Commission and is he, therefore, piling on to them work which the Land Commission is not able to do? I hope he will tell us that. I want to express my doubts as to the ability of the county councils to make good the harm, because that is what it amounts to. I should like to hear how far Donegal County Council made a success of their venture. As regards Section 23, I should like to have from the Minister a definition of “turbary rights.” There may be attached to a holding free bog. A tenant may have the use of a bog on the property and may not pay any rent. In other instances turbary rights were taken into account when fair rents were being fixed. We have other cases then in which the tenant is, conditional on paying 1/- a year, or, perhaps, 10/- a year, entitled to turbary rights. I should like to hear what the Minister's interpretation of “turbary rights” is. These rights differ very much on different holdings. Unless we have a clearer definition than is given in the Bill, a good deal of confusion will eventuate.
Mr. NOLAN: Captain Redmond stated a few minutes ago that in 1920 and 1921 the powers that were, advised the tenants not to pay their rents. That is not so. The Sinn Féin authorities at that time and the Minister for Home Affairs gave directions that rents  were to be collected. I happened to be one of the members of the Sinn Féin Courts at the time and we gave decrees in those courts for the rents. I am sorry to say that another organisation at the time assumed control and advised that payments should not be made. The secretary of that association sent an ultimatum to the secretary of the court asking why decrees were given. As the Deputy referred to it I wish to correct him.
Mr. NOLAN: They did not co-operate in confiscation in any case, and all parties were advised to recognise their liabilities. I do not know whether the Minister means that those who purchased land under the joint stock banks will get the same terms as those who purchased under the Land Bank committees. How far will that go? Individuals who bought land and gave security would be the same——
Mr. NOLAN: If the Oireachtas is to provide the difference between what the land is worth and what was paid for it, it should also provide the difference in the case of those who hold lands under fee-farm grants to meet the difference between what the landlord would demand and what it would be worth to the tenant. One has just as good right to come in as the other. One made a mistake in buying land too dear and the other made a mistake in signing an agreement with the landlord. It does not matter whether it is four or five years old or fifty years old. One made the mistake before the Act of 1881 of signing fee-farm grants and the other made the mistake of giving too much. I think that this is a bad thing to put into the Land Act. A future Government, or a future party outside, might adopt the policy of saying that it would be good for the country to take up more land and divide it in the same way, purchase land and establish a financial institution the same as the Land Bank, come in and say to the Oireachtas, “We will have to ask  you for money to meet the deficiency caused by the high prices paid.” I think that is a bad policy to lay down. It might be adopted in anything else as well.
Mr. CONLAN: I want to say a word about what I regard as an omission from the Bill, that is, that it does not make any attempt to modify the law as regards residential holdings. The manner in which the law is interpreted at present bears very hardly upon genuine farmers who have acquired a certain type of house, a house that perhaps in the past was not regarded as a farm house, but which has lost caste and is now occupied by a farmer working the land. I know one case particularly of a farmer working the land and occupying a house of the class to which I allude who was held to be occupying a residential holding and was excluded from the terms of the Land Act. I think it would be well for the Minister to look into this question and insert a provision in the Bill which would bring genuine holders of that class into its ambit.
Mr. WHITE: There are some valuable provisions in this Bill, but two or three bad ones. After robbing the county councils of their functions by means of the Local Officers Bill, this Bill proposes to constitute them as bailiffs and emergency men. Section 22 gives an impossible job to county councils and one which I prophesy will be a disastrous failure and a fiasco. County councils will never be in a position to carry out this confiscation proposed in the Bill, and I hope that the Minister will have the good sense to drop this section, as it is an ignominious insult to the decent men who constitute the county councils. When the Bill is in Committee I will return to this subject, when I will have had time to give it more consideration and study.
Mr. RODDY: I wish to say at the outset that this Bill will undoubtedly be hailed with delight by those people who rushed into the market when the price of land was at its zenith, and the trustees of such farms who made themselves responsible for the money borrowed, the major portion of which was  borrowed at an exorbitant rate of interest, will undoubtedly heave a sigh of relief when they read the provisions of the Bill. Latterly, as I happen to know only too well, the banks have exercised extreme pressure on these people in order to recover the money lent, and if the State had not come to their assistance there was no prospect before them except utter ruin. I wish to refer to a few clauses that I do not think have been touched on up to this. In Clause 13 the Minister proposes, by order, to require county councils to undertake the cleansing and maintenance of water-courses, etc. Some of the watercourses on estates that the Land Commission are already dealing with, run through at least two counties, and it seems to me that in order to have unified control the Board of Works is the proper body to carry out, at all events, the initial part of the work.
MINISTER for LANDS and AGRICULTURE: The Deputy is making a mistake. The initial part of the schemes is not to be carried out by the county councils. The only thing that the county councils are to be made liable for is the maintenance.
Mr. RODDY: That is satisfactory. Section 15 states that if the Judicial Commissioner fixes a price that is considered too high the Land Commission may drop the purchase. In other words, the Commission has power under the section to drop any proceedings for the acquisition of lands that they have started. It seems to me that if the Judicial Commissioner fixes an exorbitant price and the Commissioners refuse to proceed further with the matter, some machinery should be provided whereby the Commissioners would have a right to appeal to some higher tribunal, to some body or to the Minister. I observe that this section only refers to land outside the congested districts, and even admitting that there may not be a great demand for land outside these districts, or a great amount of congestion, still I feel that  quite a sufficiently large number of people in the congested districts would be willing to go to outside districts. Section 22 has been referred to both by Deputy Baxter and Deputy White. I certainly think that the Minister should not ask the county councils to undertake the management of farms that have been acquired by the Land Commission on account of debt. The county councils, on account of the additional duties that have been imposed on them, by the Local Government Act of 1925, have quite enough to do without assuming this additional responsibility. After all, the Minister has got a number of officials, the State Solicitors, quite competent to undertake this responsibility. I think that in cases where farms have been vested in the Land Commission and where the Land Commission is not anxious to proceed with their division, they could leave them in the hands of the State Solicitors, who would be sufficiently able to carry out the work. I am satisfied from my experience as a member of a county council that there is every likelihood if a county council were responsible for the management of these farms that certain abuse would inevitably creep in. I have not got quite the same high opinion of members of county councils as my friend Deputy Gorey has——
Mr. RODDY: — but perhaps I may have a more intimate knowledge than the Deputy of the working of these bodies. According to the wording of Section 24 it would seem that any private individual or any speculator in land in those days who rushed into the market and bought at an exorbitant price will be entitled to the benefit of this section——
Mr. CONNOR HOGAN: I entirely agree with Deputy White that there are a few useful sections in this Bill and quite a number of bad ones. The useful sections certainly are Sections 2 and 4, which deal with compounded arrears of rent and the exclusion of tenanted land that is suitable for building sites. We are certainly in agreement with these, and I believe that it was apparent to every man who has gone through the country, estimated the resources and viewed the conditions, that Section 2 is more than overdue. With regard to Section 3. I am with the Government in their opposition to the sub-division of holdings, and in so far as permanent tenancies would be created, to sub-letting. But my agreement ceases at that point. I hold that there should be free working of land. I would even go so far as to say that I believe in land as a free commodity on the market. Permission must be obtained from the Land Commission for a person to make a temporary letting, and as I suppose this section will be very strictly interpreted, the words, “other than temporary pasturage, adjustment and conacre,” should be inserted so as to give widows, who might often find it inconvenient to work their late husband's land, an opportunity to live until their children grew up and were in a position to do so for themselves.
Mr. CONNOR HOGAN: I venture to assert that on a very strict interpretation of this section they would be excluded, because the section says —“shall not without the consent in writing of the Land Commission subdivide the holding or sub-let the same or any part thereof.” It is true, of course, that one Minister might interpret the section very leniently, whereas another Minister, especially if he belonged to the Labour group, with very  definite principles about the sub-division and the sub-letting of land, as was evidenced in the Report of the Agricultural Commission——
MINISTER for LANDS and AGRICULTURE: I am surprised at a lawyer of the eminence of Deputy Connor Hogan confusing the functions of a judge with those of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture, “Sub-letting” is a legal term to be interpreted by a judge.
Mr. CONNOR HOGAN: I also agree with the fact that something in the nature of a public authority, other than those boards of trustees which have proved such a disastrous failure in the country, should deal with the question of drainage. I am wondering whether the county council is the fit and proper body to do that. Bodies subsidiary to the county councils have been suppressed, and the work has accumulated on the county councils, the membership of which has been increased, with the effect that business is often more protracted than it would be in the case of smaller bodies, and I am wondering whether a change is not necessary in this respect. I believe that drainage must be worked from some central authority, certainly with a local advisory body, but I do not know if the county councils could manage this question properly, and it is an urgent and pressing one. With regard to the arrears of rates on land, the Minister was not very informative. He said that arrears of rates on lands were owed for a number of years even for five and six years. That was a blank and bald statement. He never told us why arrears have been owing on some of these farms. I propose to enlighten him. The fact is that in several instances the owners were forcibly dispossessed five or six years ago. Sinn Féin clubs took over the land, worked it on the  communal principle, and, I believe, in some instances, offered it for grazing purposes so much being offered for every beast put out to graze. That was the only use to which it was put. I heard on reliable authority that it was proposed, out of the money thus collected, to pay the rates. Committees were formed but they have gone west and the arrears of rates are outstanding.
Mr. CONNOR HOGAN: Not in West Clare. There were only one or two cases of land seizure in West Clare. In these cases the owners have been out of possession since 1920, but they are called upon to meet liabilities for land they did not work and from which they received no income, having been forcibly put out of it. I hold that is not a fair proposition. It seems to me that the councils did not do their duty and neither did the rate-collectors. The councils and their servants should be held responsible for all the arrears of rates. There was ample opportunity of going on the lands and getting the rates many times, but that was not done. These bodies failed and were wanting in their duty and there is no reason why the Dáil should be unjust to the owners and should let those people who were negligent escape.
I approve of what Deputy Redmond said in regard to mortgages on land. The effect of the Minister's proposals, it appears to me, will be to restrict credit on land. It will not be as easy as in the past to raise money on land by way of mortgage. As Deputy Redmond pointed out a mortgagee is not always in a position, when his land is up for sale, to come in and make a bid. In my opinion he would want a sum of money equal to the original amount of his mortgage in order to secure himself. Roughly the effect will be that the amount that could be raised would be reduced by half, or a little over 50 per cent. If a mortgagee is not able to put up the money to make a bid for a holding a dishonest mortgagor could defeat him by getting a friend to buy the land for the  nominal amount due to the Land Commission.
Mr. C. HOGAN: Certainly. I am not very much in favour of the Government's proposal that the lands should be acquired by the county councils. It appears to me that the councils have enough to do without embarking on land schemes, even though they have the sanction of the Minister for Local Government to do so. The proposal that the councils should strike a rate to retain those lands appears to me farcical. In other words, that means that the ratepayers and the community are to be charged with the maintenance of those holdings where the owners have definitely refused to meet their just obligations. If a sale proves abortive when the land is cut up by the Land Commission — this at least has been my experience — a sale years afterwards will be just as difficult. The real difficulty with regard to Sections 24 to 28 is, as far as I can see, that we have to accept the position as we find it. I strongly protest against the whole policy, which seems to have had its origin in 1919 and 1920, and which has been continued almost up to the present hour.
Mr. C. HOGAN: The land policy of the Government. They have learned a little wisdom with the passing of the years. In connection with this question of land settlement, I question whether the Government is pursuing a wise and safe policy. I have on many occasions in this House given expression to my views on that matter. Of course the unfortunate people who have been let in, and who were duped into taking land under those conditions, for them I feel the greatest sympathy, and I do not propose to resist the relief that is going to them under this section,  but I do indict the attitude and policy of the Government through all these transactions.
Mr. C. HOGAN: Who started this policy of land settlement other than the present Government under the Land Bank system? Were not the Sinn Fein organisation and the First and Second Dáil the fathers of such a scheme? It appears to me that these people who were put into occupation of the land are defaulting now, not so much because the land was bought at an excessive price, but because in most cases they were poor men without any capital. Without capital, with the holdings too small and trying to put too many men on the land, trouble arose, because they were given uneconomic holdings at a stiff price, which they were unable to bear. Take the case of men who bought land in the open market in 1920. In the Land Bank cases they got the fee simple. Some men bought land in 1919 or 1920, and paid every bit as much per acre for it as people who bought in the open market. In some cases they paid more, and in other cases they bought inferior land and relatively they paid a higher price for it than was paid for land bought in the open market. They cannot come to the Government looking for assistance. Men bought securities in those days which have since depreciated very considerably in value, but they cannot look to the Government to be recouped. Men made an investment which was quite legitimate and for the good of the country. Every man who contributes to the national wealth is a good citizen. A great number of men did their utmost to contribute to the national wealth and suffered losses by doing so, and yet they have no relief and no redress to get, but as a matter of fact they are taxed to maintain the failure and the impossible policy inaugurated in 1920. I am not going to resist the relief that is going to these people, because I commiserate with them in their position, but for Heaven's sake let this be a  warning for the future, a warning that impossible prices cannot be paid for land, and that you simply cannot put people on the land without some capital. The earnings from land are limited, and one or two bad seasons may create and precipitate a famine. There is one further objection I have, and it is that the Minister did not tell us the sum that we have to meet. From a rough calculation, I estimate that there is a direct loss of between £200,000 and £250,000 in those cases where land was bought either by the Land Bank or those Committees that were set up. The scheme itself for purchasing the land was defective to this extent: that the deposits should have been applied to reduce the overhead charges. That should have been taken into consideration as part of the purchase price, and only on the balance outstanding should the annuity have been charged. That was not done, and that in itself was enough even in better times to damn any hope of success that there was or that could have resulted from these societies. I hope that what has occurred will be taken as a warning. This has also to be taken as an indication that it is part of the salvage we have to pay and the inevitable price that we are called on to meet as a consequence of what occurred in 1920. Let us take a warning from the land bills that we are now called upon to foot.
Mr. McGOLDRICK: There are just a few words I wish to say on this Bill. At the outset I endorse the appeal of Deputy Gorey for the inclusion of fee-farm grants and long leases. That is an omission in the 1923 Act that I think ought to be rectified. There were a good many men who took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves and who, as Deputy Gorey stated, had their lands re-sold and redeemed. These tenants are now ruled outside the Bill and with Deputy Gorey I agree that they should be included within its scope. I hope something in that direction will be done before the Bill is finally passed. In my opinion Sections 9 and 2 are very valuable and will facilitate the vesting of land. Sections 9 and 6 will, I think,  help to get over the difficulties created by people who failed in the past to look after the regularisation of their title to land. We all know that this failure on their part was a great source of obstruction in the past and caused great delays in matters relating to the ownership and acquisition of land. A good many tenants, unfortunately, were rather remiss in attending to this matter. The land passed from father to son and when this was not done in a regular legal manner, great delay afterwards took place in the matter of investigation of title before, under a purchase scheme, land could be vested. Many tenants have a great grievance in that respect. Because of their inability to comply with all the regulations on the appointed day, they could only get a reduction of twenty-five per cent. on their rents whereas if they were in a position to submit the necessary proofs they would have been entitled to a reduction of thirty-five per cent. The matters dealt with in the Bill with regard to the question of vesting as well as the machinery for the appointed day will facilitate tenants in getting the benefit of reductions which they should have got under previous Acts. With regard to building ground and drainage, these were dealt with in the Act of 1923 but not in a satisfactory way. I am glad to find that provision has been made in this Bill to rectify the omission in the Principal Act. Of course I suppose at the time we could not have foreseen all these things. I hope that under this measure that we are now arriving at the final stage whereby we can settle in an equitable way this question of land purchase.
Mr. WILSON: I do not propose to range over the Bill as it has already been fully dealt with. I want to deal with the effect the proposals in the Bill will have on credit facilities to farmers. I want to point out what I consider inconsistent treatment in different sections of the Bill with regard to banks. It is common knowledge that the main mortgagors of farmers are banks. In Section 21 the proposal is to cut out the bank altogether if at a sale it refuses to buy a farm. That is what it really means. The Land Commission takes a  particular form, and if the bank is not there to buy the whole thing goes by the board. In the other case the banks have advanced the money and the Government comes along and proposes to pay the banks the last penny. I maintain that is inconsistent policy, and, while I am all the time for the collection of rents and rates, I do not know how we could allow Section 21 to remain portion of this Bill. The Minister looks at the bank as a mortgagor in one case and says it has no rights. Could he not have looked at the banks in the other case and propose to pay them 10/- in the £. Would not that be a better proposition than the Minister's? I merely say these words just to give an indication of my opinion regarding the proposals, which will not, and cannot, be accepted by the tenant farmers. I support all that Deputy Gorey has said in connection with the fee-farm grantees. The Minister need not pride himself about the fact that he will have to deal with all the fee-farm grantees in Ireland. If he did it would not involve any loss, and I think those who are fee-farm grantees should be included, and I hope to get them in on the Committee Stage.
MINISTER for LANDS and AGRICULTURE (Mr. Hogan): Deputy Gorey said he would refrain on this occasion from saying, “I told you so.” Well, I am glad of that, for I would be under the necessity of asking him who told me, for I got advice from all sides on the question, and from certain Deputies, and really the position is that I think Deputy Gorey's Party is in a position to say, “I told you so,” whether I was bringing in a Bill dealing with those points in the measure now before us, or whether I was bringing in a Bill to repeal all land purchase Acts. Deputy Connor Hogan has gone as far as that, for he told us he is against land purchase as being conservative.
MINISTER for LANDS and AGRICULTURE (Mr. Hogan): Exactly. What else does it come to? The Deputy  is a very intelligent man, and he knows exactly what he means. It is as Deputy Johnson said, free trade in land — that is repealing land purchase. I hold that he has repeated that one hundred times in different forms. I could go to the Seanad, and I think we all know what they think of land purchase. I think we may leave it at, “I told you so,” or we would never go forward. Dealing with the sections, as to the meaning of Section 3, sub-section (3), which I was asked to explain by Deputy Gorey, the sub-section is: —
The tenant of a holding to which the Land Act, 1923, applies shall not without the consent in writing of the Land Commission cut down, or uproot or permit to be cut down or uprooted any tree upon the holding, and if any such tree is cut down or uprooted in violation of this condition, the tenant shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and shall be liable on summary conviction to a penalty not exceeding five pounds for each tree so cut down or uprooted.
Mr. HOGAN: I think not. The tenant who purchased the holding can cut down trees without the consent of the Land Commission. Now, in fact, all holdings are purchased, for the legal position is not the actual position, which is that as from the date of the passing of the 1923 Act, all tenanted lands came under control, at least for some purposes of the Land Commission, and will be purchased, and, therefore, we might as well have the same regulations and laws in regard to tenanted lands not yet vested as in regard to purchased lands. That is all that is in it.
Mr. HOGAN: I do not think so — that that goes any further in regard to tenanted lands subject to payment in lieu of rent than sections in the previous Act dealing with purchased lands. We may go into that in Committee. It is not very important, but there is a similar section in the 1909 Act. Regarding building ground, I do not think I need say any more on that subject. I agree with what Deputy Gorey has said. I stated that this case applied not only to cities like Dublin and Cork, but also to provincial towns. That is to say, we have there also a grievance under the 1923 Act, that the whole farm is excluded because a small portion is building ground and could not be purchased.
Mr. HOGAN: That is the point the Deputy made, and he suggested a time limit. I am thinking over it. There are many objections to a time limit, and it will be very hard to fix it. There is no finality about the land purchase. There is not a terrible grievance if a man purchased all his holdings except a small portion that abuts on a road near a town. I think he is doing very well as he has special advantages over a farmer in the country, because he is living near a town and close to a good market and he also has his farm at an extremely low rent. A question was raised in connection with maintenance of embankments or drainage works on lands purchased under previous Land Acts, and it was suggested they should be also dealt with in this Bill. Again I am sure Deputy Connor Hogan will agree with me that it would be a very dangerous proceeding indeed to reopen the previous Land Acts in that respect, and it would be very difficult. Arrangements in fact were made with every purchaser. In the previous Acts there were powers to make general arrangements but there was nothing specified as to what the arrangements were, for the sales were all qualified and consequently subject to negotiations. Certain allowances were made  to the landlord or tenant or anyone concerned before the prices were fixed, and in fact arrangements were always made in that way for the maintenance and upkeep and reconstruction of embankments. What happened was a certain sum of money was deducted from the purchase money and vested in trustees for that work. Generally also the Land Commission before handing over works put them in order. One would imagine that was a reasonable arrangement for all concerned. Imagine a farm adjoining the sea, and a fairly large drain running through that farm. It was put in order for the purchaser. The Land Commission did all the reconstruction that was necessary. They vested the fee simple in the lands of the tenants adjoining and vested a sum of money in trustees for maintenance. That would affect, say, 60 or 70 tenants and they consented to three trustees who had no financial difficulties. They got a sum of money and had only to administer that trust. All their interests were in keeping the drains and embankments in order but they would not do it. That was due to petty jealousies. One man said one thing and another said another. The trustees, perhaps, disagreed amongst themselves and allowed the drains to be choked or the embankments to fall in and they would not repair them. I do not know whether it would have been right to let them get out of their own difficulties. They should have sufficient social sense to do it for themselves. It is absurd to suggest that such work should be transferred, not to the county council but to the central government. Some Deputy suggested that it should be transferred to the Board of Works.
Mr. HOGAN: I know that. I am dealing not only with what you said but what others have said. It was suggested that this work should be transferred to the Board of Works. Imagine the Board of Works being responsible for a comparatively small embankment running through the lands of, say, fifty tenants in the country and having to send down an inspector. It would  be three times as expensive as if the trustees or the county council looked after it, because they are much closer to it. I do not think that the Dáil should agree to transfer work of that kind to the Board of Works. Deputies are very fond of protesting against centralisation. Here is work essentially for local bodies, and it could be done much more cheaply by local bodies than by a central government. Is it suggested that because it requires a little public spirit or a little combination among people, that this should be sent to the Board of Works so that these people may at least unite in denouncing the Government? Fee-farm grantees have, in fact, all the benefits that tenant purchasers are entitled to, with this exception, that they do not get the same treatment in regard to arrears. Fee-farm grantees in congested districts do get the same treatment. In cases which, as Deputy Gorey would say, are thoroughly authenticated cases, the Land Commission resells the land to them at the purchase money, and out of that all fees are paid. In fact, fee-farm grantees in congested districts really get all the advantages of tenant purchasers, and the only point in this is the point about arrears. It is all very fine to talk about such lands at £5, £6, or £10 an acre.
Mr. HOGAN: The Deputy quoted a case of a man who bought land, I think, on the Dobbyn Estate, and who let it out in fee-farm grants at a big price, having got a certain amount of compensation. What is the difference between that and a man who lets his land for grazing for £5 or £6 an acre? You should not complain of high rents in that connection. If I had lands to let I would let them for high rents, too.
Mr. HOGAN: In any event we can debate all these points in Committee. Deputy Noonan raised a question about fisheries. That is another vital question. At present the fisheries are transferred to the State who may let them to tenant purchasers or anybody else. This Bill has no jurisdiction over fisheries which are not appurtenant to lands. It has no reference to several fisheries. As to the question of arrears, Deputies are surprised and are prophesying most shocking consequences from the exercise of these powers. These powers, however, are in existence already in regard to rates, and rates are often as heavy as land annuities. Is it an interference with the land? It is not, except that it is interfering with the fraudulent letting of land. Deputies do not seem to be aware that if there are two mortgages on land, one mortgagee is in a position of selling the land on his own mortgage, and if he cannot get a better price, the second mortgagee is out. From the point of view of credit there is, in fact, no change. All the excitement over this section is due to the fact that Deputies do not realise that these provisions are in full operation in regard to rates and in regard to charges by people other than the Land Commission. We are merely putting these land purchase annuities in line with the rates, and the Land Commission in line with certain other classes of mortgagees.
The common practice of a bank is to go in and buy as mortgagee. They do it every day. What really is interfering with the land as security for credit is the difficulty of selling it. If credit is tightened far and away too much, as it has been, and if farmers find it difficult to get credit, that is one of the principal reasons and we will have to face up to it. The difficulties of selling are due to the habit some committees and some farmers have, who are in a position to do it, of borrowing money. Then a farmer writes to a bank manager to say that he was  at the first meeting held by John Mitchel and was afterwards at Mitchelstown with Mr. O'Brien, and if he sends down the sheriff to evict him out of the holding which his father held before him there will be trouble. That is the sort of thing that is interfering with land as security. No one is going to compel the county council to do anything which they do not wish to do. We are merely giving them the option if they wish to take over the land. I am not in love with this provision, and I merely inserted it as a compliment to the county council of Deputy White. As regards turbary rights, if the turbary is part of the holding it is purchased by the tenant at a reduced rent. Deputies know how the tenant purchases. If the tenant is a first-term man he purchases at one reduction, and if he is a second-term man, at another reduction, and so on. If the turbary is part of the holding it is purchased with it, but if it is not, this gives us power to buy turbary as untenanted land, and to vest the turbary in the tenants. That covers that point.
Mr. HOGAN: I have said all I want to say on that point. That can be discussed very fully in Committee, and I welcome discussion on it. It is not a big question when you come to examine it, and the problem to be solved is not very big. This is a rather contentious and technical Bill, and the more it is examined the more evident that will become. I am anxious to make it as complete as possible, and I would ask the Dáil to adjourn its consideration over the Recess with a view to having full consideration of it. I know that it is not going to be the last Land Bill. There never will be a last Land Bill. It is rather complex. We learn as we go along, and I hope we will discuss all the points raised here separately, one by one, and in the light of particular sections. That is the only way to do it, as you must not only take into account sections in previous Land Acts, but you must take them in conjunction with the sections in this  Bill. I think the Deputies will find that some of the points raised have been met in previous Acts.
The PRESIDENT: I move the adjournment of the Dáil until Wednesday next, and I anticipate, if there is no undue delay, we may be able to take the first adjournment on Friday. It may, however, be necessary, if the business is delayed, to sit late on Friday in order to finish. I hope to be  able to indicate on Friday on what day, or days, we should come back to receive any Measures which may come from the Seanad.
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