Thursday, 11 December 1952
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. J. Flynn: When the debate on the Estimate was adjourned, I was expressing the opinion that our people in Kerry welcome this proposal. I would like the Minister to consider some points which I desire to bring to his notice. I am aware, from what the people have told me, that they now have confidence in this scheme so far as small holdings are concerned. I find from the official list that the number of applications from Kerry sent into the Department was 750 while the number which the Department have agreed to take up is 35.
In Mayo, which is a county somewhat similar to ours, I find that 250 schemes have been agreed from a similar number of applicants. That bears out the statement I made earlier, that so far as we in South Kerry are concerned the scheme is not working out as it should. My colleague, Deputy Palmer, or if I may describe him as my sparring partner, made the case here yesterday that Fianna Fáil objected to this scheme because it was introduced by Deputy Dillon. That is not the case at all. Our people would object to it in any case because it was not working out as we thought it  would. We would be prepared to give Deputy Dillon all the credit that is due to him if the scheme were a success.
There are certain ideals and ideas involved so far as certain aspects of this land rehabilitation scheme are concerned. It could be a very good scheme if approached properly and handled in the right way. My experience of the officials in County Kerry was not very happy. Without saying anything against them personally, I think their approach from the small farmer's point of view was hopeless.
I ask the Minister when dealing with this question of contractors also to be very careful. Employing contractors is all right if there is competition and if you have a sufficient number of them who will compete against each other. Then the farmers will get the benefit. But the danger I see in it is that it may result in a combination by a group of people to do something which would upset the whole idea behind the Minister's proposal. There is one fact that he must be aware of, that in my county if a contractor is given the right to operate in a certain area he will take very good care that he will work for the larger farmer at a high price in preference to going to a congested district where he will have to work for a number of smallholders at perhaps a lower price. These points are very well worth consideration. I ask the Minister so to arrange this scheme that that could not occur.
There is no doubt but that the scheme as visualised by the previous Government could have been a good scheme, but very expensive machinery was employed. I know one or two cases in County Kerry where there was a breakdown in the machinery and men were left idle for days and weeks by the people in control of these larger machines which were being worked by the Department at considerable cost to the people concerned.
Great play has been made about the Minister's proposal to sell the machinery. I suggest that the Minister could get hundreds of offers from practical farmers and farmers' sons, who will purchase this machinery and work it as it should be worked, not in the  haphazard way in which it was being worked. It is well known that when machinery is being operated by a Department of State there is an inclination always to assume that if there is a breakdown it will be made right at the expense of the taxpayers, and that you need not care very much about the depreciation of the machinery. But if you get practical farmers' sons, who will purchase the machinery or lease it from the Department, you will have very good work done at lesser cost than it has been done heretofore, and in a more satisfactory manner for the people concerned. The great thing I see about the Minister's proposal is that it will give these farmers' sons such an opportunity. They have some capital and would be prepared to invest it. I know several of them in my own county who would be prepared to avail of the Minister's offer, and purchase or lease this machinery for operation in their own county. That would mean a wonderful advance when contrasted with what has been happening. We had no machinery down there. We could not get any machinery.
Look at the expense of sending officials round the country examining holdings and preparing maps, etc. That seemed to be a grand thing on the surface but, as I said before, of 750 applications only 35 were accepted. These inspectors come along at considerable cost to the taxpayer and they might be operating for the next five years. The people were laughing at the way in which the scheme was working out. I am not aware of how it worked in other counties, but I am giving a true report as to how it worked out in my district.
Reference was made by several Deputies to the cost per acre. Everyone is aware that the cost, when the scheme was being operated by the Department, worked out on an average of £50 per acre, while all the farmer doing the work himself could obtain was approximately £20 per acre — £9 10s. to be exact. There is no play-acting in this proposal I have to make. Deputy Palmer stated yesterday that the Fianna Fáil Party were play-acting or playing politics. This is a sound business proposition. I suggest that it could be done in this way. The  Minister could strike an average between the present cost of £50 per acre and the £20 per acre allowed to the farmer and increase the amount to the farmer to £35 per acre. That may appear an exorbitant demand. But when you consider the cost of inspection and all the work which had to be done by the Department in connection with doing the work themselves and the fact that it cost the Department £50 per acre while the farmer doing the work himself got only £20, it would be only justice to the farmer that he should be given £30 or £35 per acre for doing the work. I make that suggestion to the Minister on behalf of the people I represent.
In regard to the ground limestone scheme, we are aware that it is difficult to handle limestone in the congested and mountainous areas. As we have local limestone deposits in South Kerry of excellent quality, it might be possible for the Minister at some future date to give facilities for the establishment of a small plant down there, say, in Killarney or Kenmare district. Quite a number of people would be prepared to invest capital in that if they got the proper facilities and encouragement to do so and it would be better than bringing the ground limestone from Buttevant to Ballin-skellings or places like that. I think it will be more economical and less costly to the State to have all these areas developed from a centre located in the areas I have mentioned. I am aware that there are farmers and business people who would have invested in such a plan and tried to make headway in regard to it but they felt they could not compete against a system that was able to deliver ground limestone from outlying places like Buttevant or Cahirciveen. It is only natural to expect that a State-controlled scheme would be more comprehensive; it would be very difficult for the local people to compete against it and it would be unfair to expect them to do so.
Whilst paying every tribute we can to the Minister for the introduction of this scheme and giving full credit to him for the way in which the scheme is planned and the intention behind it, I would like to go further and examine  the snags or the deficiencies in the way the scheme works out so far as we are concerned.
There are certain areas where smallscale drainage works can be undertaken under this land project and this machinery will play a very important part in that connection. I have mentioned on several occasions in the House, areas where the Minister for Agriculture could lease out machinery through the Board of Works or alternatively co-operate with a view to carrying out these small drainage works in certain districts. It would be a great advance instead of waiting for a number of years for a larger drainage scheme to operate. I have a particular case in mind where we were asking the Land Commission to prevent flooding and erosion of land. We pointed out to the Land Commission that the excavation and removal of a sand deposit and the diversion of the river itself to its proper channel would be a great saving to the farmers and that the necessary machinery could be very usefully lent from the Board of Works to the Land Commission.
Also in connection with the Department of Agriculture I would like to see a system operating where, whether the machinery was owned by the Department of Agriculture, by the men working under the Department or by contractors, if the Land Commission decided to carry out certain development works in certain areas, the machinery would be available as time went on for that purpose. If there was an understanding between those three Departments, the Board of Works, the Land Commission and the Department of Agriculture in regard to the drainage of the smaller areas, great progress could be made in that direction.
I believe this matter should be approached in a practical way and not by playing politics as did Deputy Palmer. He did not approach this question in the proper, business like or practical way. Deputy McQuillan and Deputy Seán Collins did approach it in a practical way. It is a matter we should all approach on its merits because it is a vital scheme to our small-holders in the different counties As I  suggested before, if this machinery is leased out to small farmers' sons and to farmers' sons in any district, it will result in great work being done and steady progress being made. I again thank the Minister for this proposal.
Mr. W. Murphy: As one of the Deputies representing County Clare, a county to which this scheme had been most applicable and a county which, for the little that had been done in it under the scheme, had shown very good results, I believe it is my duty to stand up here to-night and pass a few simple remarks as to what I think about the change-over which is now about to take place. I will commence by saying that since I came into this House a year and a half ago I always felt and still feel that the outlook so far as the agricultural industry in this country is concerned is very optimistic indeed. My reason for saying that is that as the months and the weeks had been passing by since I came in here, I always looked upon it as a grand thing that no matter what other phase of policy we disagreed on, there was one thing we all agreed on and that was that the agricultural industry of this country had pride of place in this House, and that we believed that no matter what emergency this country might have to go through, the agricultural policy was the one and only policy that would pull us through.
For that reason, I feel it is a pity that at this stage any change should occur in the working of that policy, particularly in a scheme such as the land reclamation scheme which certainly had furthered the agricultural industry a great deal and, if I may say so, added a few more cogs to the big wheel of that industry. I certainly felt disappointed sitting down here last night listening to some of the sarcastic and, I might say, caustic remarks which had been passed on that scheme by some of the Deputies from the Government side of the House.
I feel it very much, particularly as I do not believe they were genuine in their sarcastic remarks about a scheme which has done so much for the Irish farmer. One of them went so far as to style it “Dillon's Baby”. I do not  disagree with that description because every Deputy knows that Deputy Dillon is the father of the scheme. I would like to remind Deputies who call it “Dillon's Baby” that they must have had some vision of the future career of the baby, because there is no doubt about it for the past 18 months they have taken good care, in the words of the old song, “To keep walking that baby back home”.
In the same breath in which he criticised the scheme one Deputy boasted they had got more work out of the baby in the last 18 months than the father of the baby got during three and a quarter years. One of them congratulated the Minister on bringing private enterprise home to the farmer. I believe that private enterprise so far as the farmer is concerned is and must be at all times in his own farmyard. Believing that, I shall look forward to seeing how the private enterprise now being introduced by parting with this machinery to contractors will affect the life of the farmers.
I think it is a pity that a scheme such as this, a scheme holding out some ray of hope to the Irish farmer, should be in any way jeopardised. Under the scheme the farmer saw looming before him the day when he would stand on his own doorstep and see the land that was his father's before him brought back into productivity. More important still, he could see the day when his son would be no longer anxious to fly from the land, but would say to himself: “There is something here to work for, and there is something here to live for”, and that boy would stay at home on the little farm, work it and live on it, and enjoy the amenities which none of his predecessors enjoyed.
The Minister should bear in mind, when disposing of this machinery, that he is not the owner of the machinery. Neither is it the property of the Department of Agriculture. If the Minister believes he can further the interests of the Irish farming community he should state his objectives clearly and he should stay his hand until such time as he has put his ideals before the people, told them what he intends to do and how his intentions will benefit them. The  Minister referred to bigger grants for the farmers. What machinery does he intend to set up to put these grants into proper working order? We all know that the one thing the farmer lacks to-day is manual labour. The farmer of to-day is lucky in that he lives in a mechanical age, and he has a substitute in machinery for the manual labour that he lacks. Until such time as the Minister puts the facts clearly before the people he will not dispel from their minds the impression that it is not the machinery that is being sold but the Dillon scheme.
Mr. Lehane: I do not want to approach this Supplementary Estimate from a political point of view. We have had a lot of sound and fury and a lot of political angling in connection with this Supplementary Estimate. That is a pity, because the land reclamation scheme is one of very great importance to the country as a whole, and I congratulate the Minister on introducing an increased Estimate for this very important work.
On every occasion during the past four or five years the farmers have been told by city Deputies that they had got £40,000,000 for land reclamation. The facts are that in some years they got £100,000 and in some years a couple of hundred thousand pounds. Despite the fact that the Minister has now introduced this Supplementary Estimate, only a small proportion of this £40,000,000 is being expended on this very important work.
There is no doubt that the land needs reclamation, and the greater the delay the slower we will be in increasing production. The Minister, in taking the initiative and increasing the grants in the smaller schemes and the amount available for contractors, is doing something to ensure that part of that £40,000,000 will go to the farmers and help the drive for increased food production.
Unlike other Deputies, I am not worried about the transfer of this machinery to private contractors. No State body can operate a machine as effectively as an individual in the country who knows the conditions in the country. It is impossible for a State  organisation to shift machinery here and there and to get the personnel that understands the conditions so well as those who live in the country understand them. There are many people in the rural areas to-day for whom there is no room on the land. This will provide them with a useful opportunity of getting employment.
Deputies on both sides of the House have pleaded for the private lorry owner, and have spoken of the invaluable service he can give in the rural areas. The private contractor can give the same service as the private lorry owner. He can give a much more efficient service than any State-operated body. In handing over these machines the Minister should take steps to ensure that they are not collared by some group, some trust or some organisation which wants them for purposes other than that of land reclamation.
I suggest to the Minister that he should have some tie on all these machines and that there should be an obligation on whoever gets them to operate them solely for land reclamation work so long as there is work to be done in that sphere. As an inducement or as a help to people in areas where the work requires to be done. I think the Minister should continue the system of giving grants in respect of these units of machinery so as to ensure that they are used for the purposes for which they were bought.
I should like the Minister to give us an undertaking that in the levelling-up of the amount paid on the smaller schemes against the amount paid on the bigger schemes there will not be any reduction on the bigger schemes which are described, I think, as B. schemes.
I should also like the Minister to tell us whether the getting rid by the Department of this machinery absolves the Department in any degree from the carrying-out of work which they should undertake where a farmer elects to have the work carried out by the Department.
I am glad to see that the demand for ground limestone is increasing though it requires to be increased much more rapidly. However, before limestone  is put out in the quantities in which it should be put out, facilities must be made available for spreading it on the land. There is no point in taking loads of ground limestone and throwing them on the side of the road four or five miles or a mile or even half a mile from the farmer's premises and expecting him to load it, if he can load it, in winter time and to spread it on the land.
I hope the Minister will be quite consistent in his attitude. If the Minister's attitude now is to get rid of these machines that are being operated by a State body I hope he will follow that logically and will not hand the matter over to a monopoly, to chaos in excelsis, which is Córas Iompair Éireann, or to some other body which will be quite inefficient in their handling of it and thus prevent farmers from benefiting from it.
Mr. Cafferky: It is seldom, if ever, that a Vote of this kind comes before the House which is not generally approved and welcomed. I believe that most Deputies—even some on the Government side of the House—are in a dilemma on the question of how the Minister is going to dispose of the machinery. I will be quite frank about this matter. A short time ago, at a meeting of our little organisation in Mayo, the land rehabilitation scheme was discussed very thoroughly and a suggestion was made something on the same lines as that put forward by the Minister. That suggestion was put forward by delegates at that meeting — ordinary farmers, young and old. I must say that, having been present at the meeting in County Mayo, I was rather surprised to come into this House and hear the Minister put forward similar suggestions — especially the suggestion in regard to increased grants in relation to Section A of the land rehabilitation scheme. We approve of that very much. We think it will go a long way towards helping the farmer to avail of the land rehabilitation scheme.
There are very few farmers in the West who avail of machinery. The work is mostly done by hand even on 40, 30, 20 acres down to ten, five and two acres. The big obstacles in the  way of our availing of the land rehabilitation scheme are the need for arterial drainage and the reduction in the amount of work done under the Local Authorities (Works) Act in connection with the cleaning of small rivers and drains. A lot of the land in County Mayo is waterlogged. We are all only too conscious of the position there in regard to the River Moy and its tributaries. The relief which the Local Authorities (Works) Act brought can hardly be measured. It is a pity that over the past 18 months that work has now been brought almost to a standstill. I know many farmers who have applied to the Department of Agriculture to avail of Section A of this scheme and who have been told that they cannot be considered because there is no fall for the water from their land.
The increased grant will, I think, be an incentive to the farmers to avail more readily of the scheme. They will be more anxious to carry out the work themselves. I should like to refer to my dilemma if this matter is put to a vote. I should like to support the Government on this Supplementary Estimate but, before doing so, I must get some information from the Minister as to how this machinery will be disposed of. What guarantee have we that a certain type of farmer will not, so to speak, be put at the back of the class? Take a man with £10,000, £15,000 or £20,000 worth of machinery. There are two, three or four farmers in a locality — one with 100 acres of land and the others with less. It is quite natural that the man with the machinery will go to the farmer with the 100 acres. It may be that the gentleman who purchases this machinery will consider only the larger applicants, to the detriment of the smaller ones. When we vote on this matter it will not be a political vote. It will be a serious vote from one angle, and from one angle alone — the utilisation of this machinery. If we could get some information from the Minister in the course of his reply as to how he will dispose of this machinery — who is going to buy it, whether it will be dispersed throughout the three provinces, whether in fact he has any purchasers in mind, or what he is going  to do with it — it would help us in our decision. The Minister has not given any indication in that respect. Therefore, though it may be said that in opposing this Supplementary Estimate we are opposing the larger grants to the small farmer, we shall have to vote against it though that is not our reason for doing so.
Mr. Cafferky: That position must be made clear. I want Deputy Corish to understand that we know that we are voting on an amendment tabled by Deputy Sweetman and dealing with the machinery aspect of the matter.
People down the country know very little about the business that is transacted here in the Dáil and our object in voting against this Estimate could easily be misrepresented or misconstrued. The Minister may have the best intentions in the world and his proposals may turn out better than any suggestion coming from this side of the House, but we fear that will not be so. For that reason the Minister should make clear in the course of his reply how he intends to dispose of this machinery. If he is unable to give some guarantee that the small farmer will not be left out in the cold, or that he will not give some consideration to their place in the community we are bound to oppose the suggestions of the Minister for the disposal of this machinery.
I should like to remind the Minister, seeing that this Estimate deals with lime, fertilisers and land rehabilitation in general, that there is a grievance in the West of Ireland in regard to the fact that when applications are made to the Department, some of the applicants are kept waiting for a year or 18 months. That is not due to any neglect on the part of the local officers. From what I know of them they are very courteous and very keen in their desire to help farmers but there is definitely a delay somewhere as a  result of which some applicants have to wait a year or 18 months before their applications are considered. At the same time, I am prepared to admit that in the past year or thereabouts things have been speeded up. The suggestion has been put forward that during the term of office of Deputy Dillon, who initiated this scheme, as much work was not done as in the last 18 months but it is only natural that the scheme could not make the same progress in its infancy as when it was properly organised. He had to organise the whole thing and it had to grow gradually. It is quite natural that as the years go on this scheme will expand and that it will be possible to expend a much greater sum of money upon it.
Deputy Lehane said that erroneous statements had been made from time to time to the effect that £40,000,000 had been handed over to the farmer. The fact is that the scheme is to cost £40,000,000, but naturally that is not going to be expended within six months, a year or five years. I think Deputy Dillon suggested that it would take about 20 years to utilise all this expenditure but, even if it takes ten or 15 years, it is money that will be well spent and it is bound to produce good results in the long run.
We feel that the land of this country requires the type of help that is suggested in this scheme. There is a considerable area, running into 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 acres, that could be reclaimed and brought into productivity if the land were properly drained and if lime, fertilisers and essential ingredients were applied to it. The scheme should be a big success in the years to come. We cannot expect results immediately, but I have no doubt that in ten, 15 or 20 years the money sunk in the land will produce good results. The scheme will also provide much needed employment. I know that even amongst the small farming community, the scheme has provided employment for a number of young chaps in these areas. They have gone around taking a couple of acres here and there on a piecework basis.
I should like some information from the Minister in regard to Section B of the scheme. Will the work be given out  by tender? Supposing I have machinery and apply to the Department for a contract for the rehabilitation of 100 acres, how will that work be set to me? Is it by tender in competition with somebody else?
Mr. S. Collins: We shall say that a scheme comes into the Minister involving the rehabilitation of 60 or 70 acres. That may be spread over three or four holdings. Has the Minister the right to say that priority should be given to any one holding?
Mr. Walsh: That is usually governed by the time the applications are made. If you had an application from a particular area, and two or three other applications came in, in order to avoid the expense of transferring the machinery to another area we might direct that the work should first be completed in the area in which the machinery was already operating.
Mr. Cafferky: Deputies have been asked on a number of occasions to explain how these schemes are given to contractors. They are not advertised. Suppose you have an application for the reclamation of 100 acres from each of ten applicants, no advertisements are inserted in the papers setting out that 1,000 acres are to be reclaimed and inviting tenders for that work.
Mr. Cafferky: Farmers down the country feel that a good deal of money is being wasted and that if the work were allocated on a contract basis, as a result of tenders in the same way as other public work such as the building of houses or hospitals, you would have people coming forward to tender on a competitive basis and in that way a scheme could be carried out for perhaps two-thirds of the amount which the Department is now prepared to allow without advertisement or without competition. That aspect of the matter has been put up to me by farmers who got 20, 30 or up to 100 acres reclaimed. They maintain that the amount paid the owners of machinery is exorbitant and that the Department is paying out too much money altogether. They suggest that the work should be allocated by tender and let the best horse jump the ditch.
We welcome the proposal to expend this £1,500,000 on the development of our agricultural industry, and we are fully in agreement with the Minister in increasing the grants under A Section of this scheme. That is a proposal that was long overdue. It will provide a great incentive to the small farmers to employ their sons and neighbours on these schemes. Our only difference with the Minister and his Department is as to how this machinery is going to be worked when it leaves the hands of the Department. We have failed to get a guarantee from him that the farmers will be protected and that there will be fair play for all, such as was the case when the Department's officials were in charge.
Mr. M. O'Reilly: I think it has been fairly evident that Deputy Dillon succeeded in making a fair mess of a very important Vote. I am sure he did not do so intentionally, but because he had not studied the question. Deputy Sweetman succeeded in creating a lot more confusion by putting down an amendment to reduce the Vote by £10. Deputy Cafferky also created a certain amount of confusion by his speech. The strange thing is  that the whole of the Opposition agree that this is a good scheme, an excellent scheme. Nobody appears to have any objection to it. Deputy Dillon's real objection seems to be that the Government decided that it was time to drop State ownership or State control of these machines and to have the work done by individual effort.
Mr. M. O'Reilly: I think we are all agreed that individual effort is the correct thing. The Opposition is agreed on that. Is it not a pity, therefore, that we should have spent so many hours discussing this Estimate? Deputy Dillon succeeded in damaging himself. The same is true of Deputy Sweetman. I think that was uncalled for. We here could not oppose this scheme because it was Fianna Fáil who originated it. Deputy Dillon, in his time, developed it, and we in turn increased that development. It is now to be developed to a still greater extent by getting contractors to do the work. I am not at all satisfied that there is going to be a mad rush by capitalists or others to buy this machinery. Already, we have contractors who hired out machines for threshing, reaping and ploughing. You will have the same position in regard to this scheme. We have quite a number of young men with capital who will be inclined to take these contracts. We all know that the reaper and the binder is beginning to fade out, and that the combine is taking its place to a very large extent. The same will happen with regard to this scheme. A lot of people who understand machinery will get employment.
I should like to refer to one point that has not been mentioned so far. When we reclaim all this land there will be a good deal of drainage. I wonder what the position will be when that drainage needs to be maintained? I observe that some of it at the present time requires further maintenance. Is there any compulsion on the farmer to maintain it or will the State come in again and do it? A good deal of this reclamation work was done years ago, but the rivers and the drains have now  filled up. It is true that they had no pipes then. Now, we have to go back again on that work. I should like the Minister to tell us what steps are to be taken to maintain this useful work when it is completed.
I have seen the results myself, in a number of cases, of work done under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. There was a lot of money spent on it, but there is no maintenance work being done. They got the water to run with the main stream and some of it to run in the opposite direction. The result is that as regards some of those rivers on which work was done, they are now nearly all closed in again. One farmer told me that that was not doing him much harm, and that he would not put a shovel to it. I want to know will steps will be taken to maintain these schemes when they are completed.
I think it is a pity that we had the confusion which was created by Deputy Dillon. He stated that we meant to scrap this scheme entirely. I think, in view of the fact that the Supplementary Estimate makes pretty substantial provision for the further development of the scheme, that such a statement as Deputy Dillon's was very damaging. From the political point of view, perhaps it has been of advantage to us. All the Opposition did was to succeed in creating a bit of confusion in their own ranks. It was only this morning that a man who, I think, is favourable to Deputy Dillon, asked me: “How did he start that bit of confusion in regard to such an important business as this?” The farmers regard this as a very important scheme, and if we succeed in carrying it out efficiently and properly then I think it is going to bring inestimable advantages to the farmers.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I do not intend to delay the House on this Estimate. It has been under discussion for 11½ hours. It could have been disposed of, in my opinion, in half an hour. I desire to strike the same note as my colleague, Deputy M. O'Reilly, the note that it is perhaps just as well for us that we had this long drawn out discussion on this very important Estimate.
When the Minister had concluded his opening statement the Estimate was  received with open arms by Deputy Seán Collins, but immediately Deputy Dillon saw that there was something peculiar, something tantamount to corruption in it, he started a hare. That is one of the old tricks which the same Deputy has used in this House over the last nine or ten years. Immediately Deputy Dillon started that hare, we had Deputy Sweetman moving his amendment to reduce the Estimate by £10. Perhaps it is just as well that the discussion should have gone on for the last 11 hours. It is admitted now, on all sides of the House, that we are in favour of the land project scheme. There may be some difference of opinion as to whether the sum mentioned by the Minister is too large or too small. I listened to a lot of Deputies speak about machinery. It seemed to me that they knew nothing either about machinery or the scheme.
Deputy Sweetman insinuated that there was something very sinister in the mind of the Minister when he sent some units of State machinery down to Carlow and Kilkenny. I know that in Limerick and Kerry there has not been a single State unit of machinery. The extraordinary thing is that in one rural area in West Limerick over 6,000 miles of pipes have been laid without the use of machinery by contractors, who only employed manual labour.
It is just as well that we should have a discussion on the disposal of this machinery, because I believe that where we had a State unit of machinery operating the cost to the farmer concerned was far in excess of what the cost would be if the work was done by either manual labour units or by private contractors. So far as private contractors are concerned, I believe that they should not be assigned to any particular area. It would be bad for the scheme in general to have in a particular defined area only one contractor, because the work will not be done on a competitive basis.
In West Limerick there are some private contractors who have machinery. Deputy Cafferky asked the Minister how the contracts were arranged. So far as I know, when  the Department officials have a scheme ready for a particular farm they invite contractors to tender, and I have no doubt that the lowest tender is accepted. That is being done on a competitive basis. When this machinery is being disposed of and allocated, there will possibly be a long waiting-list of people looking to buy it. The Department should not take the view that one unit should be assigned to a particular area, because the person concerned will be given a monopoly and the right to demand a high price. Competition should be the keynote of this.
I suggest to the Minister that when men make application to be recognised as contractors who are prepared to employ manual labour they should get the preference. I must say, to the credit of these men who do the work by manual labour, that they are paying a good wage to the workers. A wage of £6 a week is being paid in my area to workers employed by contractors under this scheme. The solution of this problem of the shortage of labour is that if you pay men well they will work well and stay with you. In Limerick, where such schemes are being operated, not alone are the workers satisfied, but the farmers are satisfied.
I am glad that the Department have decided to get rid of State control of this machinery and to pass it on to private enterprise. I believe Deputy Dillon was very ill-advised when he went in for the large units, the heavy tractors and all the heavy paraphernalia that goes with them. From the 1st October to the 1st April, when this machinery goes into some land which needs draining, it is too heavy and destroys the land. A lot of the valuable sub-soil is dragged out on to the road.
Heavy machinery in this country is completely out of place. It requires also a large organisation to work such a heavy unit. The small and lighter type of machinery would suit from 60 to 65 per cent. of the farmers. Unfortunately, Deputy Dillon went on the wrong lines when he went in for heavy machinery. It would remind you of Duffy's Circus going into a bog and not coming out any more. There is  too much of that type of machinery. The smaller type of machinery would be the best type for the work which this Government have in mind and which possibly the last Government had in mind to a great extent.
Of all the speeches I have listened to in this debate the most contemptible was the speech delivered by Deputy Palmer when he said that Fianna Fáil clubs will do this, that they will nominate so-and-so and that they must have their way. I do not blame Deputy Palmer because he is the product of the early training he got outside this country.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I think the charge of corruption which he tried to level at the Fianna Fáil organisation, that they would turn a matter of such national importance as this into a racket, was a contemptible one. Such a thing was never contemplated by our organisation. With others, I should like to congratulate the Minister on the statement he made that under Section A. of this scheme he intends to give an increased grant to farmers to do the work themselves. A good many people were inclined to avail of the grants available under Section B. Farmers should be encouraged to operate as much as possible under Section A and do from 10 to 15 acres. I am pleased that the Minister proposes to give them encouragement by way of an increased grant.
Mr. Crotty: I agree with Deputy O'Reilly that this is the most important scheme ever entered upon in this country. I disagree with Deputy Collins when he says that it should be done by hand, that we should go back to the spade. My opinion about the change in the plan is that the Government are definitely out to finish the  land reclamation scheme. My opinion is that they have not the courage to come out into the open and say: “We will reduce the scheme this year and the next year and finish it the year after.” They have done that in connection with the operation of the Local Authorities (Works) Act. They have cut it down each year. I know that some Ministers do not agree with the scheme and have never agreed with it but they did not think it was popular to say so. Instead of being prepared to adopt the unpopular rôle and saying that this scheme should be finished with, they alter it and say that they will hand it over to contractors.
The former Minister for Agriculture who initiated the scheme gave every facility to contractors to come in under it. Deputy O'Reilly stated that there are young men with capital who would buy this machinery. Did not the former Minister make full provision for any of these young men under which they would get a one-third grant, a one-third loan, and only have to put up one-third of the money themselves? What more provision could he have made than to hand over the machinery to them free, gratis and for nothing? There is not a big number of contractors in the country doing this work. In my county a large amount of work has been done. But I heard the present Minister at a meeting down there stating that he was not in favour of the scheme. That was in a parish where the farmers are very pleased with the work which is being done under it. The Minister stated in 1951 during the last election that he was not in favour of it. He has not the courage now to say that in this House, because he thinks it would not be popular. Some of the other Ministers have the same feeling about it. They think that this is a nice way out of it. In my opinion, this will be the last Estimate brought in for the land reclamation scheme.
I would like the Minister to say, too, when replying, if he is going to sell this machinery in complete units or if it is going to be sold in small sections so that the machinery would never be of any further use in the land reclamation scheme. Furthermore, I would like to know if he is going to make loan facilities available to people to  buy these units of machinery. Perhaps when we have that information we may change our opinion somewhat. Certainly I feel that the Minister should come out openly and say: “We are going to get rid of the scheme for the next few years. We have our minds made up as to what our policy will be but it is not popular to say so.”
Mr. Walsh: We have been flogging this Supplementary Estimate for the past 11 hours. The reason for it, in my opinion, is because of the confusion that has been created in the minds of Deputies by Deputy Dillon. I suppose he thinks that land reclamation in this country was his child and because I, in some way or other, tried to interfere with the white-haired boy it was necessary for him to send his satellites into this House to spew like venomous reptiles.
Mr. Walsh: To return to the Supplementary Estimate, let us approach it as  it should have been approached in the first instance. I came to the House looking for more money. I thought there might have been criticism from one angle and only one angle, and that was on the question of fertilisers. I thought that possibly somebody might have stood up and said I made a mess of it; possibly he might have been justified in saying something like that if there were not reasons for what has happened regarding fertilisers. Deputy Dillon knows the history as well as I do, and the history is that away back in 1950, when he was Minister, we were unable to produce sufficient fertilisers here for ourselves. Because of that he made an arrangement to import a certain quantity, and that quantity was in the neighbourhood of 100,000 tons. In that year fertilisers were cheap and there was no difficulty in getting them. The Korean war had not started, the shortage of sulphur had not occurred, and consequently there was no difficulty in getting all the superphosphate we needed at a price. One hundred thousand tons were imported and a good percentage of them sold.
When I came into office in June, 1951, I found there were about 18,000 tons of superphosphate in this country. These phosphates at the time were costing something over £11; they were imported at £9 8s., and there were transport costs charged on them, and so forth. I had to review the position then regarding the importation of fertilisers for the following year, and we had been warned by F.A.O. that there was going to be a shortage of superphosphate in 1951. F.A.O. published the return from every manufacturing country but, due to the Korean war, due to the shortage of sulphur because it was being employed in other industries for the manufacture of war materials — and war, of course, in the minds of many people, was far more important than the manufacture of superphosphate — there was a difficulty in getting them, number one, and they were a higher price, number two. Actually the price went up by 60 per cent. and what could be imported in 1950 at £9 8s. was in 1951 costing £16 0s. 11d. per ton. We were unable to control that; it was outside our control. What we did do was to import  40,000 tons at that price. We paid the handling charges at the ports, the transport of them inside, and that cost us more money.
Then, in order to give us the opportunity of getting rid of the manures at a uniform price, we married the two prices, because we could not distribute 18,000 tons all over the country. There would have been a favoured few, whether wholesalers or retailers, even whether or not they were farmers, that would have been getting 18,000 tons at a reduced price, and every farmer or retailer who would not be in a position to go into the market at that particular time for the want of capital, for one thing, for want of storage or something else, would have been at a disadvantage. Consequently, we married the two prices.
We found last year that we were unable to sell all these fertilisers. It was not merely in this country that happened. It happened in the Six Counties and it happened in Britain, that there was a reduction in the use of fertilisers in 1951, even though in Britain and in the Six Counties there was a subsidy. We discovered, as well, that we had an agitation here against the use of fertilisers, an agitation against the production of beet and wheat, in many of the counties. However, at the end of the season, we had 55,500 tons; we were under commitments for the sugar company, and it is because of that I have brought in this Supplementary Estimate for fertilisers. Anybody who has gone through the paper I have circulated knows the reason why that has to be done.
As regards ground limestone, it is a different matter. Here is where we have burst the bottom out of the Estimate. We have spent more on this Estimate than we thought we could spend last year, and I hope that this year the quantity will represent about 50 per cent. of what it is going to be in 1953. There is nothing this country needs more at the present time than lime.
The country has been surveyed and it is estimated that we now need 12,000,000 tons of lime. In the future  we will need from 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 tons per annum. I am considering a plan which I will put before the House in the near future in order to help in the development of ground limestone production. I hope when this scheme comes before the House that it will not be received in the same manner as the reclamation scheme is being received. I hope it will not be treated with the suspicion with which that scheme is being treated. I am charged with responsibility in this House and I am charged with responsibility in the country and it is because of that responsibility that I hold that I will utilise the moneys voted by this House to the best advantage and that is why I am making this change in land reclamation.
Mr. Walsh: I have already told Deputy Sweetman how that stands. It has to await a meeting of Congress. There seems to be a lot of confusion about land reclamation and land rehabilitation. People talk of land reclamation here as if it was something that came into existence two or three years ago and that it was only when machines went out into the bogs and the knocks to clear away the furze, the briars, the whitethorn and the blackthorn that we had land reclamation. We all know that is not so. We know reclamation has been going on for the last 12 years. It was carried on under the farm improvements scheme. If there is now a change from the spade to the machine, is that not a natural development? How many tractors had we on the land 12 years ago? We had 1,400. To-day to have 14,000. Is not that a  fair indication of the mechanical age in which we are living? Has not the same thing happened with regard to transport? The old methods of transport have disappeared and we are again in the mechanical age there. No matter what Government was in power it was a natural development when war terminated to go in for machinery. Irrespective of whether it was Deputy Dillon or I who happened to be Minister for Agriculture we would have had to introduce machinery if we intended to continue with land reclamation.
Mr. Walsh: Let us see what was happening during the years Deputies tried to skip over and tried to pretend that we were not doing land reclamation. It is not necessary that I should give separate statistics for every county but over the period 1940-1949 there were 132,348 acres reclaimed at a cost of £645,471.
Mr. Walsh: Over the nine years from 1940 to 1949. There was £454,000 spent on the cleaning of water-courses. Fencing cost £240,000 and there were 242,000 people obtaining grants for the purpose of reclaiming land. In 1949 a new scheme was introduced and machines came into operation. We started out by retaining the old scheme under the guise of Scheme A, and we developed a new scheme described as Section B. Section B was at first purely a machine scheme. It has developed since then. The only good feature about Scheme A that was not in the old farm improvements scheme was the opportunity given to the farmer, if he was not in a position to put down the cash to reclaim his land, of going to the Land Commission and having it added to his annuity.
In the other scheme grants were given and I think there was an unfair approach to the old farm improvements, whether it was deliberate or not, because the grants were not equated. The farmer who was prepared to carry out his own work was not given the same financial benefit as  was given under Section B and, because of that, we have had all the applications from all over the country coming in under Section B.
Mr. Walsh: The financial arrangements were not as beneficial under Section A. There was a large number of applications under Section A, and I am sure the House will be surprised to learn that more work has been done under Section A than has been done under Section B, notwithstanding the fact that we have machinery carrying out the work under Section B.
Mr. Walsh: It does not. For the past two or three years Deputies on these benches have been taunted by the Opposition every time agriculture has come up for discussion: “The reclamation of land and the rehabilitation of land is our scheme; you are trying to kill it; you are doing your damnedest to kill it.” Where is the evidence that we have killed it? Is not the evidence all on the other side? Does not the evidence show that we, who started the reclamation of land, have given the scheme every chance? We have developed it, and for the first time in the history of this scheme the bottom has been burst out of the Estimate I am getting from the House.
Mr. Walsh: I will give the figures. When I came into office in 1951 there were 34,336 grants approved. To-day there are 61,168 grants approved. The acreage at that time was 150,000. It is now 283,000. The amount of cash grants involved in 1951 was £771,000; it is now £1,519,000. Now this is an important point: out of the 34,000 there were 8,836 cases certified for payment. In a year and a half we have put on to that 18,538, making a total of 27,000. We have not been idle. We have been carrying on the work. We have given it every chance to discover whether or not it was a successful scheme.
I think the best proof of our interest in having land reclamation carried out is the figures which I will give in a few moments. The total cash grants payable from the 1st June, 1949, to the 13th June, 1951, amounted to £154,079. These moneys were paid by my predecessor. Since I came into office I have paid out £474,180 in 18 months. Who stands up now and tells us that we killed the scheme or tried to kill it? That was under Section A. Under Section B, we have reclaimed 37,000 acres during the existence of this scheme.
Mr. Walsh: We have not the figures up to date, but I will give the June figures. In June last, according to information obtained from district officers, of 17,800 acres, on which work had been completed, 10,600 acres had been dealt with by contractors and the balance by the Department's  machinery. The estimate for this year — that is, up to the 31st March — is 37,700 acres, and 25,000 acres of that will be carried out by contractors, leaving a balance of 12,700 acres to be done by the Department. Two-thirds of the work under Section B of the scheme has already been done by contractors. I want the three-thirds of it to be done by them because I believe that it is a better way of doing it.
Deputies have stated that the small farmer has not a chance if the machinery is taken away from the control of the Department. Let me give the figures of what we have up to the present. These figures can be verified. I issued this circular in mid-October. The information is to be found in columns four and five and it is very easy for Deputies to discover whether I am right or wrong. The total acreage, where the work had been completed or was in course of completion, at that time was 35,603. The number of applicants doing that work was 1,803, giving an average of 20 acres. That has been the average that has been done by machinery — 20 acres. I heard Deputy Giles talk about the unfortunate small farmers of Meath who had to get this machinery in to reclaim their lands. The unfortunate small farmer in Meath is a man of 61 acres because that is the average for the county.
Mr. Walsh: Let me give the figures. Take Carlow, for instance. The average done by machinery in Carlow is 31 acres. In Cavan, the average is 22 acres, Clare 20 acres, Cork 18½ acres, Donegal 12 acres, Dublin ten acres, Galway seven acres, Kerry 23 acres, Kildare 31 acres, Kilkenny 26 acres, Laoighis 26½ acres, Leitrim 11 acres, Limerick 21 acres, Longford 17 acres, Louth 20 acres, Mayo 13 acres, Meath 61 acres, Monaghan seven acres, Offaly 20 acres, Roscommon 21 acres, Sligo ten acres, Tipperary 23 acres, Waterford 20 acres, Westmeath 22½ acres, Wexford 25 acres and Wicklow 18 acres.
Mr. Walsh: The reason is that the grants given to them were too low. My scheme is different altogether. I know that if we were depending on the machinery we have at the present time it would take not ten but 15 years to cope with all the land we have available for reclamation. The farmer who would do it under Section A of the scheme is not able to hire a contractor or a plough. He is not able to hire a plough to cut a drain for him. He has to do it by hand. If he had to hire a plough he would have to pay for it out of his own pocket. The grant is too small. He cannot afford to buy the pipes. If the grants are equated so that he is enabled to do a job on four or five acres and if there is a plough in the district he will hire it—and if he has to remove scrub he will hire a bulldozer to do so. We will advance him the money there and then to pay  for his tractor and his plough. He will not have to wait until the completion of the job.
Mr. Walsh: The chief argument is that the small farmer is not going to get an opportunity to reclaim his land. My argument is that he has a better opportunity of having his land reclaimed. If we were depending on the machines which we have in the country at present the land of this country would not be reclaimed for the next 20 years — even by increasing the grants under Section A of the scheme — because we have not the distribution of manual labour nor the contractors.
I am going to be critical now. We have Government machinery here. I say this as a businessman and farmer. The man who conceived the idea of buying machinery and putting it out into the country without a depreciation fund or a maintenance fund or a service fund was not fit to occupy the position of Minister for Agriculture.
Mr. Walsh: Yes, the cow that was milked every year when the Budget came in here. Was it not only a continuation of “Come day, go day, God send Sunday”? The glaring effect, as far as this scheme was concerned, was shown up here——
Mr. Walsh: There is no danger that the land will not be reclaimed. As I have said, Fianna Fáil were the fathers of the reclamation of land in this country. Deputy Dillon came in at a time when that scheme needed to be developed. He developed it and he gave us the machinery. I have worked that machinery, but I find that I can work it more economically and give better results by asking the House to  give me the supplementary Vote to do that.
Mr. Walsh: I am selling the machinery to contractors who are prepared to do this work. Let Deputies on the far side not think that I am going to sell the machinery to people who are going to put it to other uses.
Mr. Walsh: As regards machinery worked by existing contractors, we have 16 large units comprising, generally speaking, crawler tractor, drainage plough, excavator and ancillary equipment; five other contractors approved for large units who are working excavators while awaiting delivery of crawler tractors and other equipment; five medium units, that is, single excavators or a medium-sized tractor and ancillary equipment; 44 small units, that is, Fordson tractor and Barford tractor and rotavator, tractor and winch, rock-drill, compressor, etc., tractor and mole plough. We have also applications for the purchase of machinery awaiting sanction under the scheme.
Mr. Walsh: We have applications for new contractors for 11 large units comprising machinery and ancillary equipment to the value of £90,000; medium units comprising machinery to the value of £10,000, and 11 small unitstractors and Barford machines, tractor and which, etc. — comprising machinery to the value of £13,000. The total value of machinery represented by applications on hands is, therefore, £165,000. These are people looking for machinery who are prepared to go and reclaim the land of this country, and why should we import machinery if we have that machinery here ourselves? I was surprised at the way in which Deputies on the far side talked about Government schemes. I was not aware that they had turned “pink” or that they had become Socialists. Deputy Cowan put his finger on the trouble when he said that the Front Bench of Fine Gael had turned “pink”.
Mr. Walsh: Anything could happen to the members of the Fine Gael Party, seeing that they have gone out in the last few days on the recruiting platforms. I want to point out, and I believe it as a person who looks after my own business, that I can do my own business better than anybody else. I believe that any individual farmer can do his own business better than any group, whether they be civil servants or other people. I do not know whether people in Fine Gael are bereft of their senses seeing that they have changed so much from their opinions in the past, but I am a firm believer in private enterprise, and I  believe we could do far better if we had more private enterprise in the country. It is because of this belief that I make this recommendation to the House. We want to give an opportunity to small farmers to produce more, to reclaim land and to drain land, and to let farmers' sons who are able to put up £500, £1,000 or £2,000 get into this work. People of that type will work possibly harder than other people would at this particular work, and we should get more land reclaimed. I am giving an opportunity to the farmer to go and pay these men for doing the work. He had not that opportunity before because the grant he was getting to reclaim his land was not sufficient to enable him to pay for the machinery he might bring in.
Mr. Walsh: I am not going to take it from Deputy Davin that the farmers will refuse to pay. Farmers have met their responsibilities as well as any other section of the community. That is my scheme. I am commending it to the country, and I have no doubt that if I went down to any area in the country and put this scheme before the farmers they would accept it. When Deputy Browne was speaking in this House last night, I told him that the scheme I am putting before the House was the one he had suggested. He was the one person that saw that I was doing the proper thing. I suppose, however, he will be flayed alive if he does not vote against the Estimate. As I say, this Estimate has been before the House for 12 hours. There was no necessity for such a long debate. I know that Deputy Dillon is as interested as anyone else in having the land of this country reclaimed and brought into productivity.
Mr. Walsh: He criticised this scheme because I was dividing into Section A and B. I have already said that I did not know whether it was with deliberate intent he attacked Section A because it was a continuation of the Fianna Fáil scheme. Possibly that was his motive in doing it — I do not  know — but I had as good a right to believe that as anything else.
We have been flogging this Estimate for 12 hours. I am responsible for doing this job in Agriculture, and I believe that I am going to do a better job in the future than I have done in the last 18 months. I have spent more in that period than my predecessor spent in two and a half years. I believe that when, please God, I come to the House next year I will be able to say that I have spent more than I spent in 1951-52. I commend this Supplementary Estimate to the House.
Mr. MacBride: May I ask the Minister a question in regard to the workshops established for servicing and, I think, annual overhaul of this machinery? There was, I think, a central workshop set up which employed 30 or 34 fitters and mechanics to overhaul the machinery annually. Is it the Minister's intention to disperse that workshop as well, or will it be maintained for servicing this machinery?
Mr. S. Collins: In the course of my speech I asked the Minister whether he could give an assurance of continued employment for people who might come back to Ireland to work this heavy type of machinery here.
Mr. Walsh: The only assurance I can give is that there is trained personnel working on these machines at the present time. It is very difficult to get trained personnel. These machines are going to be utilised for the purpose of draining land, and the machine cannot travel without a driver. I take it that those on them will have no difficulty in finding work.
Mr. Dillon: I think the Minister may have inadvertently stated that no provision for maintenance was made in connection with the machinery operated by the Department. I wonder  would he be good enough to clarify the position. Am I not correct in saying that there were two qualified mechanical engineers who constantly travelled with and inspected the machinery for maintenance, that there was an adequate central depot for maintaining every machine working on the land project, and that, in fact, the machinery working on the land project was maintained at a very high standard of maintenance?
Mr. Walsh: I stated that there was no financial provision made for the maintenance of this machinery, and neither was there. The machinery belonging to the Department went into competition with the contractors. The contractor had to maintain his machines, to service them and to replace them. In the case of these machines, there was no fund or funds in the Department for that purpose. When they undertook to go into competition on a job with a contractor they should have put themselves on his level. It would be only fair to him that they did not hold an advantage over him as far as servicing and replacements were concerned.
Mr. Dillon: I want to put it to the Minister that so far as the machinery in the keeping of the Department is concerned, it was amply maintained, and no loss accrued to the State through failure to maintain it. Is that not correct? Will the Minister say if that is not correct? Will the Minister not say that the machinery owned and operated by the Department was, in fact, fully maintained and serviced at all times?
Mr. D.J. O'Sullivan: The Minister stated that some applications were received from new contractors recently asking for grants for the purchase of machinery. Is he aware that a man in my home area who applied for such a grant was informed by the Department that such grants had now ceased as the Department was under the impression that there was a sufficiency of machinery in the country to cope with the work that was being done by the contractors?
Mr. Davin: May I ask the Minister would he mind giving the House, and the country particularly, the total original cost of the machinery which it is now proposed to sell, and the estimated value of that machinery to-day.
Mr. Walsh: The total value of the machinery held by the Department at present is £360,000. That was the purchase value of it. We have not had that machinery revalued yet. Neither have we decided on the means for its  disposal. The country and the House will know when we are disposing of the machines, as well as the system which we are going to adopt for their disposal.
Mr. Walsh: That question was asked last night, and I am sorry that I overlooked giving an answer to it. The total quantity of pipes needed in a year is about 20,000,000. We are producing about 5,000,000 of these clay pipes here at home. It is hardly necessary for me to give the names of the firms manufacturing them, but perhaps I had better do so. The following are the names with the estimated annual production:— Slane Brick Company, 2,400,000; Kill-o'-the-Grange Pottery, Dublin, 200,000; Brook Pottery, Arklow, 1,500,000; Courtown Brick Works, 500,000; Fleming's Fireclays, Athy, 500,000, and Carley's Bridge Potteries, Enniscorthy, 100,000. In addition, we are using a quantity of concrete pipes. The use  of these, of course, depends on the type of soil. They cannot be used on acid soil. Consequently, we do not use as many of these as we do of the clay pipes. The following are the particulars in regard to the concrete pipes, and of the estimated annual production:— Ballina Flax and Concrete, Limited, 600,000; Banagher Tile Company, Limited, 600,000; Kevin E. Martin, Banagher, 600,000, and Irish American Pipes, Limited, Naas, 2,000,000.
Byrne, Thomas N.J.
Costello, John A.
Crotty, Patrick J.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Henry P.
Dockrell, Maurice E.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Esmonde, Anthony C.
Hession, James M.
Kyne, Thomas A.
Lynch John (North Kerry).
Madden, David J.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Gorman, Patrick J.
O'Higgins, Thomas F. (Jun.).
Palmer, Patrick W.
Rogers, Patrick J.
Blaney, Neil T.
Brady, Philip A.
Browne, Noel C.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Collins, James J.
Corry, Martin J.
Crowley, Honor Mary.
Davern, Michael J.
de Valera, Vivion.
Hillery, Patrick J.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lehane, Patrick D.
Little, Patrick J.
Lynch, Jack (Cork Borough).
Maguire, Patrick J.
Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
Rice, Bridget M.
Ryan, Mary B.
Sheldon, William A.W.
Walsh, Laurence J.
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