Committee on Finance. - Vote 45—Lands.

Tuesday, 8 March 1960

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 180 No. 1

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Minister for Lands (Mr. Moran): Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I move:

“That a supplementary sum not exceeding £32,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Minister for Lands and of the Irish Land Commission (44 & 45 Vict., c. 49, sec. 46, and c. 71, sec. 4; 48 & 49 Vict., c. 73, secs. 17, 18 and 20; 54 & 55 Vict., c. 48; 3 Edw. 7, c. 37; 7 Edw. 7, c. 38 and c. 56; 9 Edw. 7, c. 42; Nos. 27 and 42 of 1923; No. 25 of 1925; No. 11 of 1926; No. 19 of 1927; No. 31 of 1929; No. 11 of 1930; No. 11 of 1931; Nos. 33 and 38 of 1933; No. 11 of 1934; No. 41 of 1936; No. 26 of 1939; No. 12 of 1946; No. 25 of 1949; No. 16 of 1950; No. 18 of 1953; and No. 21 of 1954).”

In moving this Supplementary Estimate I am seeking the authority of the House for additional gross expenditure of £65,350 by the Land Commission in this current year on certain items of land settlement. It is anticipated that the gross expenditure of £65,350 will be offset by savings on other subheads amounting in all to £31,600 and by an increased yield of £1,750 in Appropriations-in-Aid items, thus leaving the required net supplementary provision at £32,000. The subheads for which additional finance is necessary and the amounts required are:— subhead I— Improvement of Estates etc., £50,000; Subhead R—Purchase of Interests for Cash, £14,000; Subhead S—Gratuities for ex-employees, £1,350.

Last year, expenditure on improvement works amounted to just over £648,000. This year, a sum of £639,605 was provided for the Subhead but it will be recalled that, when the main Estimate was introduced last June, it was made clear that revised expenditure [62] proposals would be made if the amount proved to be inadequate. The present financial position of the Subhead is that a sum of £613,000 has been expended up to the end of February, leaving a balance of £26,605 available for expenditure for the remaining weeks of the year up to the end of this month. It is in these final weeks each year that land settlement activity reaches its peak, with a pronounced acceleration of improvements operations to facilitate allotment in time for seasonal farming operations. Expenditure in these final weeks is usually well in excess of the average weekly expenditure up to then. Having regard to total expenditure up to the end of February and to the extent of works in progress, it is estimated that an additional sum of £50,000 will be necessary to finance essential improvement works up to the end of this month and to discharge commitments incurred earlier and now falling due for payment.

The additional expenditure is attributable largely to two factors—the exceptional volume of land settlement effected last year and the very fine weather in the Summer and Autumn of 1959 which greatly facilitated the outdoor operations of the Land Commission. Expansion in land settlement inevitably leads to an increase in the volume of essential improvement works. A substantial propertion of the remarkably high allotment figure of last year was effected in the period January to March, 1959, and on many estates it was impracticable to carry out the improvement works until the early months of the current financial year.

This carry-over of works, in conjunction with the demands of the present year's operations, added considerably to the expenditure on the Sub-head.

Subhead R provides the finance for the purchase of land for cash in the open market, pursuant to Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950. The application of this Section is restricted to lands required to provide holdings for migrants or to facilitate re-arrangement of lands held in rundale or intermixed plots. Up to July, 1956, limited progress was made in the application [63] of this Section and from then until March, 1958, operations were suspended as an economy measure. Activity was resumed in April, 1958, and, since then, a gradual improvement in intake has been effected. Last year, the voted provision of £25,000 was fully expended and purchase commitments amounting to £14,000 were carried over into the present year. The discharge of these commitments reduced the effective provision for this year from £25,000 to £11,000. This sum has proved entirely inadequate to finance current operations and, consequently, an additional provision of £14,000 is now required. I am anxious to expand the intake of land through this medium and I hope to provide more money for the subhead in next year's Estimate.

Excess expenditure is also anticipated on Subhead S, which provides funds for the payment of gratuities to persons displaced from employment consequent on the acquisition and resumption of lands by the Land Commission. A sum of £1,750 was originally provided in this year's Estimate but it is now anticipated that £3,100 will be required. It is virtually impossible to forecast accurately the amount likely to be required by way of these gratuities for a full year.

Taking account, therefore, of the savings on other Subheads and the increased yield from Appropriations-in-Aid, the net provision for which I am seeking the authority of the House is £32,000, to finance the important land settlement items to which I have referred.

I need scarcely mention that the business of the Land Commission and the whole subject of land settlement will come up for general discussion very soon when the Estimate for Lands for the year 1960/61 comes to be debated in the House. Meanwhile, I confidently recommend the Supplementary Estimate of £32,000 now presented.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  There are some details in respect of this Supplementary Estimate on which I wish to comment. I notice there is a further sum of £14,000 under Subhead R for the purchase [64] of interests for cash under Sections 27 and 28 of the Land Act 1950, and that the Minister forecasts his intention of expanding activities under the provisions of this Act in the coming year. That is a refreshing declaration for those of us who sat where he is now and heard him and Deputy Vivion de Valera tearing passion to tatters about the iniquitous and deplorable character of these very powers when the 1950 Land Act was before the House as a Bill. It is astonishing the number of conversions of which we are witness; it is becoming a positive embarrassment. At present the Minister for Industry and Commerce is clasping the Irish Industrial Development Authority to his bosom having denounced it in this House and having solemnly pledged the electorate he would not be back in office very long when——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That scarcely arises on the Supplementary Estimate for Lands.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Except in so far as this practice is becoming infectious in the Government.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy should confine his remarks to the Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The latest Minister to have caught the measles is the Minister for Lands. He is now doing public penance for his past folly. The only thing which sometimes tends to exasperate me is that I have never seen a body of men suffering from political measles which showed less evidence of rash upon their countenances. They seem to have lost the capacity to blush. However, it consoles me to remember that in an ordinary case of measles, when the rash does not come out, the measles prove to be a fatal disease. I trust this will pass over into the sphere of political measles and that the Government's incapacity to blush for their deplorable inconsistencies is evidence of their early political dissolution and the substitution of a Government who have some coherent policy to put before the people.

[65]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy may not discuss this matter on the Supplementary Estimate for Lands.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am discussing this because of the intention announced by the Minister for Lands to maximise the purchase of interests for cash under Sections 27 and 28 of the Land Act, 1950, which he himself denounced in this House in all its moods and tenses as bad legislation under which no Minister for Lands should operate. It is good that he should be reminded of it so that he will go back and further study the speeches of Deputy Blowick when he was Minister for Lands and thus acquire more wisdom than this Supplementary Estimate provides evidence of.

The purposes under which land may be acquired under Sections 27 and 28 are restricted; one of them is migration, and the other is relief of rundale. There would be no difficulty in the mind of any of us as to the desirability of operating, as far as it can operate, the relief of rundale, but we ought to ask ourselves a question as to the general administration of the Department of Lands in regard to the migration of tenants. When I first had anything to do with the Land Commission, it was thought that a 20-acre holding was an economic holdings. That was increased to 25 acres and now I think it is 33 acres. These figures had relation to a situation in the past. The position now, certainly in that part of Ireland which is west of the Shannon is that there is a very strong pull on our people to leave the land in favour of industrial employment in Great Britain and the United States because the monetary wages obtainable there have become so attractive. However, that is not the only spur to migration from the land in the west of Ireland.

As far as I can see, this House has completely forgotten, under this Fianna Fáil Government, that as you increase the cost of living you can compensate the wage earner by an upward adjustment of his wages but the small farmer, the 20 to 30-acre farmer in the west of Ireland, is being caught between the upper and nether millstones in that his cost of living is rising steeply and the [66] cost of everything he has to sell is going down. The situation is rapidly developing in which a 33-acre holding is no longer a holding on which a farmer can rear a family.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  On a point of order, I understand that under the rules governing the House, I am precluded from discussing on this Supplementary Estimate the general policy of the Land Commission. Deputy Dillon has now entered upon that and I suggest he is out of order.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  We are asking for money under Subhead R, and I am trying to protect the Minister from the danger of making useless payments. There is no use in migrating a man from Connemara to East Mayo if, on the following morning, he pulls up his stumps and migrates to Birmingham.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  That might well be in order on the general Estimate for my Department but I suggest it is out of order on the Supplementary Estimate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister, in his opening statement, mentioned the question of the resettlement of migrants and the rearrangement of land, and I understand Deputy Dillon is referring to that matter.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The size of the holdings.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  The Minister is losing sight of this point, and I am not without hope he will learn wisdom from me and from Deputy Blowick. I am asking why we should provide money to migrate a man from 12 acres in Connemara to 26 acres in East Mayo because I think that is nugatory expenditure, that we are simply moving him from the absolutely impossible to the virtually unworkable. I am suggesting that if we are to migrate families hereafter with the intention of settling them permanently in their new abode—and it is an expensive operation to migrate a family at all—we ought to see they are settled in an abode which will provide them with a modest standard of comfort sufficient to dissuade them from abandoning it and moving to London, Manchester or Birmingham. I wonder if Deputies realise the extent [67] to which whole families have migrated in the last few years from what used to be regarded as economic holdings in Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Clare.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The size of the holding allotted to a migrant would not arise for discussion on this Supplementary Estimate. That would be a matter for the main Estimate on which discussion on administration and general policy would be in order.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am arguing that we should not spend this money transferring migrants in order to enable them to pull up their stumps, abandon the holding and leave the country. The purpose of this power is to allow the Minister to buy holdings in the relatively—I use the word “relatively” deliberately—uncongested areas. I am suggesting that if the Minister contemplates doing that and moving families from the extremely congested area or from rundale, he will have to face the fact that he will have to acquire holdings of a size and character which will operate to persuade the migrant to stay in his new abode.

I might make a suggestion of an alternative character but it would involve legislation and I know I am precluded from discussing that on this or on any other Estimate. But I do want to urge upon the Minister that in operating this section—as I am glad to see he intends to operate it—he should bear in mind the kind of holding that is suitable, in the light of the vastly increased cost of living which the small farmer has to bear and the rapidly-dwindling income which is to be derived from his labour. I am prepared, in deference to you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, to pursue this matter in greater detail on the general Estimate and the Vote on Account, but I think the members of the Fianna Fáil Party who are here present ought to join with me in extending congratulations to the Minister for the very modest degree of illumination which this Supplementary Estimate suggests he has derived from the wisdom of his predecessor, Deputy Blowick.

I think the five members of the [68] Fianna Fáil Party here present will join with me in suggesting to the Minister for Lands that this would be a suitable occasion on whch to do penance for his past performances. He repudiated the Land Act of 1950, with special reference to Section 27 and Section 28. He now wants more money to expend under these sections and he tells us that next year, he will want still more and more. I am glad that Deputy Blowick is here to see the spiritual regeneration of one whom he and I at one time thought irredeemable. The age of miracles has not passed. It is a source of satisfaction to me to be able to say of the Minister that one things I know: whereas he was blind, now he is beginning to see.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The Minister tell us that up to the end of February, a sum of £613,000 had been spent, leaving a balance of £26,000 for the remaining weeks, the month of March. I understood from the Minister that now an additional £50,000 was required, along with the £26,000. Is the £26,000 on hands part of the £50,000? In regard to Subhead I, I want to ask the Minister if he continued a device—I can find no other name for it—of his immediate predecessor, Deputy Childers, in regard to expenditure under this subhead. I refer to the attempt to get the allottees who obtained an addition to their holdings to fence their holdings themselves.

If the Minister is continuing that scheme, I want to describe it, first, as mad, secondly as futile and thirdly as very bad management and as indicating a very poor understanding of the type of allottee. The ordinary allottee in many cases can only afford to work off the little holding which he has and cannot afford to fence his holding. If the Minister is continuing that, I want to warn him that he is doing a very foolish thing, because he is asking people to do the impossible because they are absolutely unable to do such a huge job of work.

I am very glad to see that expenditure under this subhead is up but the Minister did not give us the reasons for the increase. He condensed his remarks very much. Have wages gone [69] up in different parts of the country? Is it due to the increased volume of work, or have the materials for building houses, outoffices and so on gone up, or again, is it all due purely to the increased volume of work which has been carried out? If that is so, I am very proud of it and I should like to congratulate the Minister, because the Minister will probably find, as I found, that it is not easy to get money for this subhead. It is money that is employed on one of the best jobs being done by any Government Department.

As I have said thousands of times, the money spent on improvements, additions and enlargements to uneconomic holdings will give a chance to people to live economically without any help from the State. These people who find themselves on uneconomic holdings are not responsible for it to a large extent. It is shrouded in the mists of history and goes back to the days of Cromwell when the people were told “To hell or to Connaught.” It was fiercely accelerated later on by the disastrous method of subdivision.

I want to compliment the Minister's officials in the Land Commission on the progress made. The amount of work to be done now in the relief of congestion, migration and the development of uneconomic holdings is very small. On the main Estimate, I should like the Minister to give us an idea of how long the remaining hard core will take to crack up, because it is a hard core now.

Under Subhead R, relating to the purchase of land for cash in the open market by the Land Commission, the Minister is looking for an additional sum of £14,000. I presume that amount is to defray commitments already entered into for the purchase of holdings. Will the Minister tell us where they are, whether they are for migrants only or whether they are for migrants and the part relief of congestion?

There is rather a big jump under Subhead S, dealing with gratuities to displaced employees. There is a sum of £1,350 under that subhead and in that regard I want to make one brief remark. My experience was that under the methods employed to determine [70] compensation for displaced employees the compensation was rather tight-fisted. I shall not use the word “niggardly”, but it was approaching that. I suggest that the Commissioners, in their determination of what is fair compensation for displaced employees —for what really amounts to loss of employment—should be a little more generous.

The inspectors, of course, dealing with cases where employees are knocked out of work through acquisition have to furnish reports and so on. Of necessity, they furnish a very cold and matter of fact account of the displaced person's means and so on, and very often the displacement or the loss of employment, particularly where it was employment over a long number of years, is accompanied by something else, the personal interest the displaced employee had in the work. That is not taken into account, and it should be. In the acquisition of land, sometimes allowance is made for disturbance of occupation, which is much the same thing. It does not apply to displaced employees and it ought to.

On the general work of the Land Commission, I want to say that I am very glad the progress they are making is so speedy, because, now and again, we read, or hear from uninformed people, that the work has been going on too long already. That does not take into account the fact that the Land Commission have had many jobs saddled on their shoulders which were never thought of when they first started to work. It does not take into account the fact that wars, and various other events, have hampered them and frozen their activities. I know from my own experience of the inspectorial staff and the other officials in the Land Commission and the Department of Lands, that they have done a magnificent job which has been looked upon with envy by other countries which have a fragmentation problem such as we had 60 or 70 years ago. Switzerland, parts of Spain, and some of the small European countries, are looking with envy and admiration at the work which the Land Commission have carried out here under the British and our own native Governments.

[71]Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I should very much like to associate myself with what the Leader of the Opposition stated, with very special reference to the manner in which the Minister's views have altered and changed, particularly in regard to the Land Act, 1950. There are those of us who remember the determined, energetic and bitter opposition which the Government displayed to the 1950 Land Act, and there are those of us who recall in bitter memory the savage and brutal attacks made on that Land Act, and the unwarranted criticism which hampered the actions of the Minister for Lands at the time and the Government which brought in that Act.

We were even told by the Fianna Fáil Party that whenever the opportunity presented itself, in view of the serious nature of the terms of that Act, they would lose no time in having it repealed. However, time and a calm perusal of the position on the part of the Fianna Fáil Party have now forced them to admit the wisdom and the wise counsel of the Minister at the time, and the wisdom of this House in passing the 1950 Land Act. I welcome the Minister's most recent conversion and I trust that his extraordinary conversion is only one of many conversions to follow.

In this Supplementary Estimate, we see that an additional £50,000 is provided for the improvement of estates. I should like to urge that many of the improvements carried out on estates by the Land Commission—and particularly estates on main roads—should embody more up-to-date and modern structural and architectural work. I think the concrete stakes and wire are mean-looking on improvement works.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That seems to be a matter of detail which is more relevant to the main Estimate.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I am suggesting the types of improvement which should be carried out, and I am trying to convey to the Minister that, if he intends to spend this £50,000 on the type of improvements that have been carried out on holdings, it might be [72] better if he sought a larger sum than he is seeking, and did the job in a more up-to-date and modern way, even it were to be of a more expensive character.

In my constituency, quite a lot of land has been divided and, in the past 12 months, a number of new homes have been erected. I note that because the out-offices are so convenient to the homes, it takes the good look off the fairly decent and respectable-looking houses erected. Not too far from the town of Mountrath, the old clodbank fence was used, even though it has not been thought a good deal of in many quarters and it looked better than the wire and concrete stakes. I would urge on the Minister, when he is in consultation with the Land Commission with regard to improvements to farms, that the question of expense should be taken into consideration in relation to the situation of the holdings improved. I shall have much more to say on that subject on the main Estimate.

Subhead R. provides funds for the purchase of land for cash in the open market. In the past 12 months, the Land Commission have not gone sufficiently into the open market. I remember the Minister making a statement in the House, certainly within the past 12 months, when I asked him a question about the general policy of the Land Commission in getting more extensively into the open market for the purchase of holdings. I am sure the Minister will agree that, pursuant to Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950, entering into the public market for the purchase of lands for the relief of migrants is a very wise and very good step. Many farms have come on the public market, and many farms are still coming on the public market, and the amount the Minister now seeks is only a fly-blow compared with what I am glad to see will be provided in the main Estimate for the next financial year.

Providing more money for the purchase of holdings in the open market is, in my opinion, a wise and a good policy. It gives a guaranteed market for the vendor who is anxious to sell. I am glad to say that in my experience, [73] when the Land Commission entered the public market, they have always paid a fair price for land. As well as that, they are looked upon by the general public as a good purchaser and a good customer. Most of the disturbance we have had in connection with the acquisition of land for the relief of migrants would not have taken place if more regard had been had to the fact that lands are better taken by purchase and agreement with the vendor, rather than that the Land Commission should use compulsory powers to acquire lands.

The Minister only now sees the wisdom of that policy, but, if that policy had been implemented continuously since 1950, I venture to say greater strides would have been made in the relief of congestion, the rearrangement of holdings and the placing of migrants.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  General policy is irrelevant on a Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I shall deal with it in the main Estimate and that is why I shall not say any more about it now. I should like to ask the Minister would he not use Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950, for the purchase of holdings for the resettlement of farmers in the Shannon valley?

I do not know what type of people the Land Commission have in mind for the holdings they will get when the lands under Section 50 of the Land Act are purchased. I presume they mean the economic smallholders in the West of Ireland. We are all anxious that those people will be catered for and will be given good land that will enable them to have a good existence. Since the 1950 Land Act, such holdings may be provided on the open market and purchased for migrants.

Does the Minister consider the Shannon Valley an area in relation to which he can describe those who are anxious to get out of it as migrants? If not, I would ask him to do so. Whatever may be said about the small holders in the West—in Connemara, Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim [74] or wherever they may be—the small farmers, particularly the very small farmers, on the banks of the Shannon, deserve priority in cases of resettlement on decent holdings in the midlands and elsewhere.

The Land Commission's generosity has been questioned here on the payment of compensation to those who lose their employment when the Land Commission acquire by purchase, compulsorily or otherwise, a large holding for the relief of congestion. It is very difficult to purchase a holding without affecting someone's employment. The Land Commission have the power, the authority and the means of generosly compensating such people as may lose their employment. Unfortunately they have not been overgenerous in their treatment of such persons.

A man may have given long and faithful service and maybe, on a very large holding, a few generations of his family may have given good service there. Due to the intervention of the Land Commission, the employment of industrious agricultural workers is immediately endangered. Most of these people would be very glad to be provided with a small house and a portion of the land on the estate. For some reason or another, the Land Commission do not seem to offer land to such people and prefer to compensate them financially.

In many cases, I expect the displaced workers would be anxious to seek employment elsewhere and would be prepared to accept a substantial sum of money from the Land Commission. In such cases, I would ask the Minister to bear in mind, and to convey to the Land Commission, that the Land Commission should consider the special circumstances of the ability of the displaced person for work in accordance with his age and his family circumstances and whether or not he may be able to find employment in his own country. If he and his family must emigrate I urge that special consideration be given to his case and that as far as possible the financial compensation to be provided for him will enable him to educate his family, [75] if he has children, and if possible, assist him in setting up any little industry he may be anxious to establish. If the Land Commission see fit not to give him a portion of the land on the estate I urge that they give special thought under this scheme towards assisting him, if he so desires, to purchase a portion of land in the area.

A number of people have lost their employment through the intervention of the Land Commission in estates. They claim they have not been over-generously treated. This is a very important section in our Land Acts and it is one in relation to which the Land Commission should extend their generosity. Such cases are not too numerous. The Land Commission should treat them as generously as possible. Whatever the manner in which they are to be treated, I urge that they be provided for. The Land Commission should look a long way ahead in seeing that wherever compensation is payable will be based on regard to the family position of the displaced person and will be generous.

I am not altogether in favour of the present administration of the Land Acts. I am in complete disagreement with the general policy of the Land Commission. That is not a matter which we can explore to-day; it will come up for review on the main Estimate. I trust that the Minister for Lands and the Lands Commission will bear in mind that they have probably the greatest responsibility of all in this State to-day, namely, the setting-up of our people on the land; the keeping and maintenance of our people on the land and the provision of proper economic holdings for those who have not got them. It is a great responsibility. The amount of money provided in last year's Estimate has not been at all sufficient to cope with the demand.

The manner in which the Land Commission have expended money in my constituency deserves a word of praise. The manner in which the money has been spent may have fallen short of our expectations but it is only right that the difficult problems facing the inspectors and officials [76] should be recognised. It is not possible to please everybody. They are men of commonsense and sound judgment. All they need is a progressive land policy on which they can work.

I am glad the Government have taken the first step towards a good land policy for this country by concentrating on the Land Act of 1950. I trust we shall hear more from the Minister on the main Estimate because of his statement to-day that he is anxious to extend the intake of land through this medium and hopes to provide more money for the Subhead in this year's Estimate. Is it too much to ask the Minister that, when preparing his speech for the Estimate for the coming year, he will, as far as possible and in as great detail and length as possible, indicate the programme for next year in so far as the spending of money under this Subhead is concerned?

The improvement of estates, the purchase of interests for cash and the gratuities are the main items to be covered by the Supplementary Estimate. We have no objections on this side of the House to the passage of the Estimate to give these moneys to the Minister for Lands, but I hope he bears in mind the fact that over the past 12 months, the amount of the emigration that has taken place from rural Ireland can be described as fantastic and the small farms in the country that now have galvanised iron across the windows and padlocks nailed to the doors are probably beyond count. It is only by means of a courageous land policy that we can face up to these problems. I hope the Minister will devote his energies to giving to our people a land policy which will bring about revolutionary changes in that regard, which are both necessary and desirable, if we are to keep our people on the land.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I should like, first, to refer briefly to what Deputy Dillon and Deputy O.J. Flanagan referred to as being some fundamental change in my view on the 1950 Land Act. My view on the 1950 Land Act has not changed in one iota from the view I formerly held, that is, that it was the [77] greatest political fraud dangled before a fading political public by the Party then in power, in the hope that it would induce them to think that the congestion problem would be solved overnight or, indeed, that it would make some revolutionary change and ease the lot of the land-hungry people in our community.

Deputy Dillon, in the one breath, when talking about my conversion to the allegedly wonderful provisions of the 1950 Act, suggested that it was too restricted. Even he in his own mind would appear to have certain reservations about this much-vaunted 1950 Land Act. I think that possibly the best indication for the House on this issue of the efficacy or otherwise of this wonderful Act about which Deputy O.J. Flanagan waxed so eloquent are the actual figures expended, not by me, but by Deputy O.J. Flanagan's colleagues, including Deputy Blowick, when he occupied the post of Minister for Lands.

In 1954-1955, the purchase money expended under the operation of this section of the 1950 Land Act for the purchase of land was £4,530. You would pay as much for one reasonable farm down the country. In 1955-56, the amount expended was £9,650 and, in 1957-58, £19,228. These are the figures over a three year period of money expended under the Act that was held up to be the new instrument for the solution of our congestion problem. I must say that at that rate of progress and operation, we would be a very long time, not alone in making any impact on the problem which we face nationally in this regard but in letting the people know that such a section as Section 27 of the 1950 Land Act was written into the Statute Book. Not alone that, but, in July 1956, the people on the opposite benches who have just spoken on this issue suspended completely the operation of this section and provided no money whatsoever from that period until the time they left office for any operations whatsoever under it.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The sum of £19,000 was expended in 1957-58. How can the Minister reconcile that with his statement?

[78]Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I am pointing out to the Deputy that, in July of 1956, he himself, being the then Minister for Lands, stopped the expenditure of any money under Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950. I pointed out the figures actually spent for the three years, 1954-55, 1955-56 and 1956-57 until Deputy Blowick stopped the operation of Section 27 of the 1950 Act.

Does anybody even now, in the light of these figures, suggest that an expenditure of £4,000 for the relief of congestion under this Act would get us anywhere; that a figure of £9,000 in another year would get us anywhere or that £19,000 in a third year would get us anywhere? This is the wonderful instrument for talking about which Deputy Dillon suggests I should have measles. I suggest that Deputies who talk that way on the opposite side should certainly have scarlet fever after listening to these figures and the operations that took place under their own direction under this instrument which was placed on the Statute Book in 1950.

At all events, it is there and in so far as it is there, we have to use it. It will not, until it is amended or expanded to the extent that it can become workable, make any appreciable impact on the problem with which we have to deal, but in so far as one can operate such a section in such an Act as this, in the last year, my Department spent £36,280 under it, practically doubling the maximum amount ever spent by the authors of this section of this Act.

I do not want to anticipate a general debate or to be drawn into a discussion on land policy generally because it would be out of order on this occasion. Some questions were raised regarding fencing. In reply to Deputy Blowick, I should say that the increase here is not a reflection of increased wages or increased prices but of more activity under the Land Acts during the year under review. It is that which accounts, in the main, for the increased Estimate I am now asking the House to pass.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  While the Minister is on that point, might I ask him if he [79] wants the additional £50,000 for subhead I along with the £26,000 remaining unspent, or is that sum of £26,000 included in the £50,000?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The two, to complete up to 31st March.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  That is, £76,000 approximately?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  That is right. We need, say, £50,000, plus the balance of £26,000 for improvement works to the end of March and this works out about the average for March over the past few years. The point I want to make is that cost increases are not a significant factor in the figures I have given the House. The increase mainly reflects an increase in the volume of work which is going through.

As far as the people in the Shannon Valley are concerned, five of them were migrated, and there is nothing to stop this section, if it had been utilised and if it were necessary to utilise it, being used for the purpose of acquiring holdings for such migrants, should that be found necessary.

The other main point mentioned by different Deputies—certainly by Deputies O.J. Flanagan and Blowick— was the question of dealing with ex-employees on estates. Again, I find myself in this position: the change in dealing with ex-employees on estates in this way was provided for by the 1950 Act introduced by Deputy Blowick and the standards and regulations laid down for this purpose were approved by Deputy Blowick as Minister for Lands.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  There were no regulations laid down in respect of what the Commissioners would decide as fair remuneration.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  There were forms which I found in the Department of questionnaries which go to these people. They go on certain rules. These people had to be over three years in employment before they qualified for anything. A kind of rule-of-thumb method of administration was worked out whereby they would get approximately [80] half a year's salary or at most a year's salary. All these matters were matters that were certainly settled by the Commissioners or by somebody in the Department when the Deputy was the Minister responsible.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  That is purely an excepted matter—one entirely for the Commissioners.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Very good. But the change in dealing with the employees was made under this much-vaunted 1950 Act introduced by the Deputy.

Mr. T. Lynch: Information on Thaddeus Lynch  Zoom on Thaddeus Lynch  Why does the Minister not repeal it and be done with it?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The administration of that section and the method of operating it were laid down by the Land Commission in the Deputy's time as Minister and the only comment I can make on it is that, in 1955-56, for instance, 20 gratuities totalling £1,705 were paid, giving an average approximately of £85 and in the last 11 months during which I have been looking at this matter, the gratuities paid were £1,817, the average being approximately £107. I do not say that these gratuities are in any way generous.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  They are shabby.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  They have been described by the Deputy as shabby, but I want to point out of the House that this class of people, before the Deputy made the change in the law under the 1950 Act, were entitled to get holdings on the estates on which they were working.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The Minister is making a deliberate misstatement.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  These people did, in fact, get holdings where they had been a long time working on estates and were losing their employment, by reason of the Land Commission taking over. We have many examples of that as the Deputy knows, up and down the country, of estates being taken over and holdings on the estates allotted to these people——

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  And they should still be allotted to them.

[81]Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  If Deputy Blowick is so convinced that these people should be allotted holdings, he should ask himself, or possibly explain to his colleagues, why he introduced the section in the 1950 Act providing machinery for the Land Commission to throw out these people with what he calls a miserable pittance.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I want to point out——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister is in possession.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I want to point out to the Minister that the provision to give gratuities to displaced employees under the 1950 Act was above, and additional to, the powers the Land Commission had to award land. It was brought in specifically to deal with the type of case where an employee, prior to that, was thrown out without either land or gratuity. It does not interfere with the right of the Commissioners to award land in compensation for services rendered to the former estate. The Minister should know that.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  Perhaps Deputy Blowick, like Deputy Dillon, is now very sorry about the type of provision he made.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  No, I am not a bit sorry.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  There is no use in the Minister going on with that nonsense.

(Interruptions).

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The Minister should be more practical.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  How can he be practical when he has not read the Land Acts?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister is entitled to be heard without interruptions.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I thought we were precluded from discussing legislation on Estimates.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister is replying to points raised on this legislation.

[82]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  I am not talking about the Minister in particular. We have had a quarter of an hour's discussion on legislation.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Is it not a fact that the Minister is condemning the 1950 Land Act and, at the same time, conveying to the House that he has spent twice as much as Deputy Blowick spent under the same Land Act? What kind of nonsense is that?

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I am pointing out to Deputies opposite that the authors of the section dealing with ex-employees of estates under the 1950 Act apparently now have the effrontery to come in here and say that the provision was niggardly, although it was they who sponsored the legislation and provided the interpretation of that legislation and left these rules and regulations after them.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The Minister is talking through his hat, making a cod of himself.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  The Deputy can try to explain that to the disappointed people who are now tied by this legislation to getting small cash gratuities, where formerly they were entitled to an allotment of land on these estates.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  That is a complete misstatement.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  It is not true.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputies may not interrupt the Minister in this fashion.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I want to point out——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Blowick will resume his seat.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  On a point of order, would the Chair inform me if Deputies have any redress when a Minister or other member of the House makes a positive misstatement? Are we supposed to sit silently and hear a misstatement going on to the records of this House without bringing it to the notice of the Chair that such a statement has been made and is untrue?

[83]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  For the Deputy's information, that is not a point of order.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  At the very least, it is a point of information and the Chair might have the courtesy to give the Deputy a reply.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputies on all sides regularly differ from one another. It is not within the capacity of the Chair to determine who is making a misstatement or what is a misstatement.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I have put a question to the Chair. When the Minister makes a misstatement here and says something that is untrue, what redress has a Deputy? All I am asking for is advice. Is the Deputy supposed to sit silently and allow such misstatement to go on the records of the House?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Chair has no function in the matter. The Deputy has ample opportunity here to put his own statements on record.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Surely that is not the case.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I can quite understand now that when these matters are pointed out to the Deputies opposite, they are inclined to go back on the eulogies of the allegedly wonderful provisions of this much-vaunted 1950 Land Act.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The Minister will hear a lot more about it. I can guarantee that.

Mr. Moran: Information on Michael Moran  Zoom on Michael Moran  I do not know if there is any further matter raised by Deputies opposite to which I need reply. As I said in my opening statement, with the savings effected, the amount asked for, which is a comparatively modest sum, will be sufficient to tide us over until the end of the financial year. The House will have an opportunity of fully discussing Land Commission policy generally when I bring in the annual Estimate, in a short time.

Vote put and agreed to.


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