Thursday, 5 July 1928
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. KENNY: When the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill was adjourned I was dealing with objections made by some Senators as regards the intervention of the State in matters of this sort. I think all countries have found it necessary at some time or another to intervene with regard to the control of timber. It is a sort of natural right that a Government has to do that, because the State has an asset and an interest in timber growth and in the afforestation of the country. That is because it has so many national phases. The country is affected very largely by the timber industry and its distribution. Timber growing has certain effects on the climate, on the temperature, and on the rainfall of a country, and consequently it affects the soil. It means greater productivity and earlier harvests. Therefore, a Government has a sort of natural right to intervene at some time or other in the control of timber production and in its preservation. In large areas of Canada, America and Australia, where one would think that the supply of timber was unlimited and everlasting, the Governments of these countries have found it necessary to intervene at some time because of the indiscriminate thinning out and destruction of timber. The most valuable kinds of timber in America and Australia were being destroyed through this indiscriminate thinning out. This modern destruction of timber  that went on destroyed all the male trees, and large areas of the forests in these countries, extending over many square miles, ceased to be self-planting. No new saplings came out, and the result was that the supply of timber in these countries was being threatened.
These, of course, are aspects of the case that do not trouble us here. Apart from the national aspects I have mentioned, there is another aspect of this which intimately concerns us, and that is the beautifying of the landscape and the preservation of the scenery of the country. Large tracts of landscape which are not dotted over with trees grate on the eye from the point of view of a sense of beauty. That is not the sort of picture that tourists would expect to see in a garden country like Ireland. That is a very important aspect of the question from the national point of view. As to the commercial side of it, we should see that we produce sufficient timber to supply at least our own needs. The matter of compensation was mentioned. I can visualise, as other members of the House have done, that some instances may arise in which there may be a conflict of interest between the State and the owner of certain belts of timber. That timber may have been planted for some time, but the land may now be required for a certain purpose, and the owner perhaps may propose to clear away the timber in order to have the use of the ground for some other purpose. The State may intervene and find that that particular belt of timber serves other purposes from a purely State point of view, and in a cold-blooded manner may issue a prohibition order against the cutting down of the timber. The owner, seeing that this belt of timber was an asset that he himself had created, may have an equitable claim as between the State and himself. I think that in such a case there should be the right of appeal, so that the whole equities of the case can be gone into in a court of law and right done to both parties.
MINISTER for LANDS and AGRICULTURE (Mr. Hogan): This Bill was changed considerably in the Dáil. As some Senators pointed out, when the  Bill went originally to the Dáil there were certain provisions in it which aimed at preventing anyone from cutting a tree without a licence. That was the principle of the Bill. As the Bill has come to the Seanad there is a complete change in it. Under the Bill as it is now, people can cut trees freely unless they are prohibited. That is a distinction and, in my opinion, a considerable difference. It was held in the Dáil that it was necessary to take some steps to prevent the wholesale cutting of trees. That is generally agreed. In fact, it was agreed by practically everyone here. It was equally felt that if it was necessary to get a licence before anyone could cut a tree that inevitably delays would occur, and that the Forestry Branch of the Department of Agriculture would have a great many applications to deal with. They would have to deal with a considerable amount of correspondence, and considerable delays would occur before a licence could be issued in each case.
It was also felt that it would be out of perspective to expect the Forestry Branch to give a licence for the cutting of one ash tree or a hedge. The principal objection to the Bill, as it stood originally, was that it was necessary for the Department to give a licence in each case before a tree could be cut. Considerable delays would ensue because of that, apart from any other considerations, such considerations for instance, as the question of refusing a licence, and for that reason we changed the Bill. I draw Senators attention to that point, because I think many of them said that this Bill would lead to considerable delay, and that considerable confusion would be caused to people who were endeavouring to carry out a quite legitimate commercial enterprise.
I gathered from what Senator Bagwell and Senator Sir John Keane said that they expected that there would be considerable correspondence between the Department and every applicant who made application for leave to cut a tree. That is not so, because the scheme of the Bill is this: Before trees are cut a felling notice, in common form, must be served on the sergeant in charge of the nearest Civic Guard barracks, and unless the Department  issue a prohibition order the tree can be cut after the lapse of 21 days. In 95 cases out of 100 what would happen is, that a felling notice in the ordinary way would be served on the sergeant in the nearest Civic Guard barracks. Nothing would occur, and at the end of the 21 days the owner would cut the tree. So far as the commercial felling of timber is concerned, if that programme is carried out it will, I think, be found to be quite satisfactory because no one purchases a wood to-day and proceeds to fell the timber tomorrow. Senators who have experience of the timber trade know that negotiations between the owner of a wood and a prospective purchaser go on for some considerable time. It rarely happens that the purchaser of a wood proceeds to cut it for at least one, two or three months later. Therefore, as regards these ordinary commercial transactions, there is going to be no delay as regards correspondence.
There will only be correspondence in the event of the Department deciding either to prohibit the cutting of the wood or to make further inquiries. It might be that when an application reached the sergeant of the nearest Civic Guard barracks that it would go from him to the Forestry Branch of the Department, and that the Forestry Branch might decide that certain inquiries should be made in such a case. There might not be sufficient time to make inquiries within the 21 days, and for that reason the procedure to be followed would be as follows: A prohibition order would be served. That would stop the cutting of the trees. It would give time to have inquiries made. Inquiries are then made by the Forestry Branch, and if they decide that there is no good ground for preventing the felling of the wood a licence would be issued to cut it. Senators will notice that there are four terms used in the Bill. They are: prohibition order, felling notice, licence, and permit. It may be asked what is the purpose of this licence, and what is the purpose of a permit, in view of the fact that an applicant may cut a tree if nothing is done for 21 days. If the Forestry Branch fail to take steps for 21 days, the applicant may go ahead and cut the  tree without any further correspondence. As regards the licence, it comes in in this way. It applies in the sort of case that I have mentioned: in a case where the Forestry Branch might come to the conclusion that further inquiry should be made, and in order to give itself time to make inquiries it might serve a prohibition order. In the event of the Forestry Branch deciding that there was no good ground for prohibiting the cutting of trees they would issue a licence to cut.
A permit is for the convenience of people planting trees, people who are carrying out forestry operations on their own. They may not care to serve this felling notice and they want to have a free hand. They would have to apply for a permit to carry out any operation that would be necessary in the course of good forestry. That is the explanation of these notices. It is apparently conceded that there must be some limit to the wanton destruction of trees in the country. Not a single Senator failed to make that point. Even Senator Bagwell and Senator Sir John Keane made it. There must be some limit to the wanton destruction of trees. We have attempted to deal with that. There must be some limit put to it. The only way that I know it can be done is by giving someone the power to prohibit the wanton destruction of trees. I know that there are objections to giving the power to anyone, but people cannot have it both ways. I do not profess to have any special knowledge on this question, but in any event the problem is admittedly there. Everyone talks about it.
In this country apparently everyone, if you are to judge by their statements, takes a great interest in forestry. From all classes of people you hear the same story. They all ask what is the Government going to do about this wanton destruction of trees? Might I point out that there is only one per cent. of the country under woods, compared to 15 or 20 per cent. in countries like Denmark, not to speak at all of countries like Sweden and Switzerland, where the conditions are quite different. Comparing this country with Denmark, where they have about 20 per cent. of the country under woodlands,  we have only one per cent., and that one per cent. is rapidly disappearing. There is practically no planting done, except what is done by the Forestry Branch of the Department of Agriculture. Their planting amounts to 4,000 or 5,000 acres per annum. The problem is there, as I have said, and we have attempted to deal with it here in a simple way by giving power to someone to prohibit the cutting of trees. Everyone admits that the problem is there, and they all say that something should be done, but they all baulk at the implications of such a provision as that in the Bill. You must give power to someone if you want to prohibit the cutting of trees. I could quite understand the position of a person who would say, “Well, the trees are being cut by their owners, who have a perfect right to cut them. We agree that, from the national point of view, it is bad business to do that, and it is especially bad in a country like this, where there is no attempt to re-plant. We are going to take the risk; we are not going to give such a power, which might be abused, to any Department of State.” That, I admit, was not the position taken up by Senator Bagwell. He made a long, a very well-informed and able speech on this question, but when he came to the alternative, what was it? Education.
Mr. BAGWELL: Might I point out to the Minister that I did not proceed with my alternative, because it was pointed out to me that I ought to deal with the Bill itself. That is the reason I did not outline some other method for dealing with the problem.
Mr. HOGAN: In fairness to the Senator might I say that I was going on to say that at one period it was pointed out that it would hardly be in order to indicate his alternative. The Senator did indicate as an alternative educative and facilitative methods. That is not a correct alternative. I do not care how long the Senator gets to develop that question he must know that education will take 30, 40 or 50 years to effect its purpose. You cannot create many changes in the point of view of the people except over a very long period of time. Circumstances change. While we can all agree that education  is the ideal way to bring about reforms, everyone agrees that if you can get reforms by education and by continually changing the point of view of the people, then you are likely to have a real reform that is going to last. Meanwhile, while we are bringing about this change in the point of view of the people over a period of 30, 40 or 50 years will not the country be absolutely denuded of trees? Anyone facing up to the thing in a concrete way must realise that in addition to education you must have something else. You must have a certain amount of State interference.
Senator Sir John Keane prefaced his speech by a remark that he has made on every Bill that I ever introduced into this House. He said that he was an unrepentant free trader and a believer in the liberties of the subject, and that he had still a pathetic belief in the doctrine of laissez faire. That really means nothing in the year 1928. The fact of the matter is that Senator Sir John Keane is not a believer in the doctrine of laissez faire in its crude form, and no one at this hour of the day in 1928 is. People 30, 40 or 50 years ago, when that doctrine was enunciated in a very clear and taking way, and when people had no experience of its working out in practice, could only consider it in an abstract sort of way. People were very much intrigued by that particular doctrine, and a big school of thought grew up in England and France and in other countries around that doctrine, but there is no such person who believes in the liberty of the subject now. Even Senator Sir John Keane does not.
The Senator was a member of a Commission that sat. I think, in the year 1922 to deal with certain agricultural problems. In the Report of that Commission he advocated the most outlandish restrictions to be imposed on the unfortunate farmers of the country. He signed that Report. He advocated the most repressive measures in connection with the Dairy Produce Act, the Eggs Act and the breeding of livestock. In fact he made himself the special champion of these repressive measures on that particular Committee. Of course, he changed his mind a little bit later when these measures came before the Seanad. I  think he welcomed the Eggs Act enthusiastically but he reverted to his first love and became an unrepentant believer in the doctrine of laissez faire when we reached the Dairy Produce Act, which he recommended himself. The Senator ought to realise that he must make some attempts to be consistent, especially a Senator like him who made it his special business to push through these three Acts, the Dairy Produce Act, the Eggs Act and the Act dealing with the licensing of bulls. Now he described himself as a believer in the liberty of the subject. He is a believer in the liberty of the subject to do anything he likes with his own. He ought to attempt to be more consistent about it.
The Senator's point of view apparently is that when you are dealing with produce and goods exported from the country you are entitled to take repressive measures to make the producer produce just exactly what is wanted in the export market, but that when you are dealing with produce that is not exported from the country you are not entitled to take any such measures. Whatever is to be said for that particular distinction, at least it can be said about it that it is not scientific. I am afraid that some of Senator Sir John Keane's economic ancestors who started this doctrine of laissez faire would turn in their graves if they heard him make such suggestions as he made here at this hour of the day. I think we might now come back to the Bill. The Bill could be abused by the Minister for Agriculture and by the Forestry Branch of the Department and made exceedingly repressive if it were unintelligently administered. I admit that. But I know no way whatever of stopping the wanton cutting of trees, once you admit that people will cut trees wantonly, except by giving power to someone to prohibit them from doing it. You have got to face up to that. I am not particularly interested one way or the other as regards this Bill. I left it to the Dáil. It is one of the few Bills that I put before the Dáil to do what they liked with it. I said that I would listen to what arguments were put forward for or against it, and that we would try to shape the Bill in accordance  with the wishes of the Dáil. I said to the Dáil that I assumed this was not a political issue, and I asked them to make the best of it. The position is that Senators have got to say either that people should be perfectly free to cut their trees or that they should be prevented from doing so under certain conditions. I want the Seanad to say one thing or another, and not take refuge under something that amounts to nothing such as the education and facilitating of the people. This is not a Bill to arrange for a big forestry programme. We do not want any legislation for that. All we want is money. If the Dáil voted me a million pounds I could spend it on forestry. The Dáil has a perfect right to do that, and the Forestry Branch has powers for spending money. It could spend more money in providing a bigger area under State forests. It is all a question of money. Section 3, I think, is one of the most valuable sections in the Bill.
Senators must remember that the Forestry Branch has power to acquire lands compulsorily for forestry purposes. It has that power under the Act of 1919, and application had to be made to the Development Commissioners. These Commissioners are no longer in existence, and the application has now to be made to the Land Commission with an appeal to the Judicial Commissioner. Moreover, Section 6 is a very important one. It provides that the Forestry Branch may acquire land compulsorily even where the owner is unknown, and it provides machinery for wiping out the easements that may exist on the land. Senators may consider that there never is a case where the owner of land is unknown and where the easements are indefinite. In point of fact, the Forestry Department often have such cases. That Department is often dealing with mountain land. There are big areas of it at present suitable for forestry, but it is difficult to say who are the owners, and still more difficult to say what ancient rights of grazing or easements existed over these lands. At the same time the Forestry Branch cannot take the risk of purchasing lands and then find when the lands were planted that they were  open to an action by somebody who had never exercised his rights, and whose rights were of no value and getting an injunction against the Department. This section provides that easements may be bought and that any rights attaching to the land will attach to the purchase money. That is an important section. I agree with Senator Bagwell that Section 7 has been weakened considerably by paragraph (e). It leaves the right to anybody to cut trees on his own land for firewood, and prevents the Forestry Branch, even if they wish to do it, from interfering in such cases.
Senators will note that a felling notice must be served in every case, and that notice may be acted on if there is no prohibition within twentyone days. Section 7 sets out there can be no prohibition in certain cases, that though the felling notice must be served the Forestry Branch cannot prohibit under certain exemptions, and one of the cases is mentioned in paragraph (e) which deals with the cutting of trees for the purpose of domestic fuel. It would be possible perhaps to limit that to some extent. The point of view in the Dáil was that people should have the right to cut trees for the purpose of firewood. I think it should be limited still further, and that the same sort of limitation should be inserted there such as you have in paragraph (d). I think a limitation should be put in the section so that no tree required as an ornament or as shelter could be cut as firewood, and that would go to meet the objection Senator Bagwell enunciated against Section 7. I cannot agree with Senator the Marquis of Lansdowne, that you can draw a distinction between clumps of trees and large woods. You cannot draw this distinction in an Act of Parliament. I was pressed from another angle to do it in the Land Act of 1923. It was proposed that there should be compulsory powers as regards the landlords, but that there should be no such powers in regard to the class called tenants. I indicated that you could not make a distinction between persons. It must be based upon other grounds such as tenures.
I do not see that there is any case for making a distinction between a  large and a small wood. I think it is illogical on the part of those who object to the Bill as being a rather oppressive measure to state at the same time that they consider Section 7, which deals with these small woods on farmers' lands, should be strengthened. I think that is illogical. I think you must apply the same rules to the big as to the small woods, to the landlord who has very large woods on his estate and to the tenant who has only small clumps of trees. I would ask the Seanad not to make distinction.
It was suggested by several Senators that there should be some appeal from the Minister in this matter. I regard that as absolutely unsound. I do not see how any judge of the High Courts could try a question as to whether a wood should be cut or not. It is purely an administrative matter. Why should a judge who is there to interpret the law be asked to go into a forestry matter that requires technical knowledge of forestry and not a knowledge of law? A Judicial Commissioner was mentioned, but he is a High Court Judge. He may be a Judicial Commissioner one day and presiding at the High Court next day or sitting in Green Street. I do not see how any such judge could on appeal try a question as to whether a wood should be cut or not. What law has he to go on? What facts has he to take into account in a judicial way? I think it is a false function for a judge, and it is making him an administrative officer, making him really the head of the Forestry Branch of the Department of Agriculture.
The considerations such a judge would have to take into account are considerations which are not judicial and ones which a judge should not be asked to consider. I think from the point of view of putting the judiciary to the administration of the Act that such a provision would be entirely wrong. Personally, if such a provision were inserted, I do not think the Bill would be a very valuable one, and I would prefer to do without the Bill if it was inserted. It is unsound from the point of view of the Department and the judiciary. The best security the owner of property has is  the presence of the Dáil and the Seanad, which are always there to take up their case and discuss it with full knowledge. With such a right there, it would be extremely difficult for any Minister to administer the Act in a foolish or unduly strict way. Even if this Act were passed, I agree with Senator Bagwell that it will be quite impossible for the Department to stop the cutting of trees to any great extent. He was right when he said that the provisions of the Land Act were practically a dead letter. Are we to throw up our hands and say, “This Bill would be useful if we could deal with a few cases”? Everyone will agree it is not right for a man to buy woods in Wicklow, in a well-known beauty spot, cut them down wantonly and then clear out. That is the sort of case that can be dealt with. We may deal successfully with such a case under this Bill. You cannot administer strictly. If you did you would have to flood the country with inspectors. A felling notice has to be served on the Civic Guards when it is intended to cut down trees. The Civic Guards have a fair idea of what is going on in a district, and the sergeant knows if any notice has been served in regard to a wood. He will be able to deal with the cases, and possibly bring back a certain amount of fear of the law and a certain amount of co-operation for one reason or another between the owners of the woods and the Department. It is possible, in view of that provision, that we may be able to administer this prohibition of this measure more successfully than the Land Commission were able to administer similar provisions in the Act of 1909. I would like to have plenty of time to consider this Bill. If the Bill gets a Second Reading I do not object to it being postponed until the autumn. There is no immediate necessity for the Bill, but as far as I am concerned, if Senators think they ought to have a good look at the Bill and would like to study its details, I would be willing to postpone it to the autumn, but I would like to get a Second Reading this session.
Sir WALTER NUGENT: I support the Bill. I think it is a good and very necessary Bill, and I hope it will not  be postponed. I think every Senator is agreed that things are not as well as they should be, and if something is not done the whole country will soon be deforested. I do not think any Senator said he would vote against the Second Reading. Even Senator Bagwell, although he did not approve of the Bill, as far as I can understand. suggested the Minister should withdraw the Bill and introduce another. I have read the Bill very carefully, and it appears to me that an effort has been made in the interests of all the people concerned. I cannot see how anybody with large plantations will be placed at a disadvantage by anything in the Bill. I think the position was ably stated by the Senator who moved the Second Reading. In parts of the country the conditions as regards forestry are dreadful. Portions of land have been bought by people who are only interested in the timber on it. The forests have been cut down and the land turned into an absolutely wild state. Every day that passes by the cost of replanting that area will be greater. We all know that in lands purchased by the Land Commission in many cases woods are retained by the former owners, whereas the lands surrounding are divided among different owners, and we know what happens in these cases. One by one the trees disappear. I quite agree that the present Bill will not prevent these acts of vandalism being committed, but it makes their committal much more difficult. If notice has to be sent in before cutting a tree a person will hesitate before he cuts it, and the result will be that it will be easier to protect forests and acts of vandalism will be fewer. This Bill has been fully debated, and I sincerely hope it will get a Second Reading. Every interest is more or less protected by the Bill, and I am sure that by amendment this Bill could be made as good as one could desire.
Mr. HAUGHTON: As one of the few Senators directly connected with saw-milling and the import of timber into the country, as well as dealing with native timber, I should like to make a few remarks on this important measure. The Bill will be generally welcomed  by the trade itself and also by the entire country. As the Minister has said, this country is very largely denuded of its trees, and on less than one per cent. of its area is timber grown. I must protest against the expressions that have been used in this House and in the Dáil, and by the public, to the effect that members of the trade are wholly unconcerned with the results of wholesale tree-cutting, and they have been criticised with wantonly destroying the woods. The Minister himself used the expression, “This wanton cutting down of trees and woods.” I need not remind the House that they were largely cut down for a very specific and desirable purpose. There is a gentleman sitting beside the Minister who knows all about it. I remember meeting him on many occasions. The timber was used up on a most important and memorable occasion.
Mr. HAUGHTON: I am sure that is so. I would like that the grower of timber in the future would get some encouragement to plant woods again, and so beautify the country. I wish that some of the suggestions that emanated from members of the Dáil would be borne in mind by the Minister, that is, that there should be a remission of taxation for farmers and landlords who plant their lands with wood. Another matter to which I wish to refer is the question of orchards.
Sir NUGENT EVERARD: There are  one or two points to which I want to draw the Minister's attention, and which I think this Bill does not sufficiently elucidate. Taking our stand on the Hill of Tara we can see what a beautiful wooded country there is surrounding. There are few demesnes and the scenic effects of the view are mainly due to the hedgerow timber. I find in leases of about 150 years old where it was obligatory on the tenant farmer to plant hedgerows at so many perches distant, and if the tenant cut down he was liable to a fine of £5 for each tree he cut down. It was the landlord's property. It seemed rather drastic and tyrannical that the landlord could cut a tree down but if the tenant did it he would have to pay a fine of £5. The effect of that has been, as you see, to beautify the country. Only in exceptional instances did the landlord clear all the trees off the property he was about to sell, but I have known cases in which it was done. I welcome this Bill as putting a stop to certain proceedings. There is a use for hedgerow timber that perhaps is not much appreciated by the Minister, and that is that it is a source of fuel supply. Those of us who have visited Brittany, which is a beautifully wooded country, know that this hedgerow timber is used to supplement the fuel supply. The trees are, I believe, the property of the district, and they are controlled by the district. They can be pollarded every eight or nine years, and I am told it is very important as a supply of fuel to the poor people who live there, and, as Senators are aware, the greater part of the country is in the hands of peasant farmers. It is not every tree that it is suitable to pollard. There are some trees that spread their roots fifty or sixty yards along the ground and interfere with tillage. There are other trees that do not, and they can be substituted for these pernicious trees when permission is given to cut them. I have examined the Bill carefully, and I cannot help feeling that there is a restriction on the owner of property in the management of his woods.
I can understand that where an estate is about to be disposed of, and the owner does not care what becomes of it, there might be a malicious clearing on that estate of all timber, and that  should be stopped. There are cases in which for other reasons a landowner may desire to cut down trees. There are two reasons which are considered valid. One is clearing a wood for the purpose of re-planting, and the other is if it is in accordance with the general practice of good forestry. There is a third reason, and that is where trees were put up as a screen when they were first planted, which might be 100 or 150 years ago, in order to hide an ugly object. That object might not be ugly now, and it might be screened by other trees, and it would be an advantage from the point of view of scenic effect to cut that plantation. What I suggest is that the owner should be given more or less control of the cutting of trees on his estate for reasons with which he alone is concerned. The Bishop of Meath put up a Palace within view of the windows of a forbear of mine who did not like the look of it—this was about 1780. A landscape gardener said: “The Bishop is building an ugly lump of a structure and plant it out.” He did plant it out. The Bishop's trees have hid the structure, and I should like to cut the plantation behind it and without any intention of re-planting, but I am debarred from doing so by this Bill. I think that by a slight alteration of Section 9 that could be secured.
Mr. COUNIHAN: In view of the fact that there will be a number of contentious amendments I suggest that we accept the Minister's proposal, and after passing the Second Reading postpone the Committee Stage until the autumn.
Dr. GOGARTY: If we postpone the Bill until November there will be no protection for the timber in the meantime. Estates will be changing hands under the Land Commission and the timber on these lands will probably be destroyed in the meantime. It is rather disheartening to hear the Forestry Department is prepared to wait until November.
Mr. O'HANLON: I can see no reason for it. The Minister has not yet stated that he wishes the consideration of the Committee Stage postponed till the autumn, and I can see no reason for it. There are Senators who are not particularly interested in the Bill, and there are Senators who are interested, and if they are, I am sure that they have read the Bill and read the reports of the discussion in the other House, and I cannot see what purpose would be served by this, unless the Seanad is not prepared to do the business put before it.
Mr. COUNIHAN: There are important Bills yet to be debated. This is a contentious Bill, and those Senators who have spoken and who understand the question will have a number of amendments to put down which will occupy a considerable amount of time. We cannot give these amendments sufficient attention now, and for that reason I support the motion to adjourn further consideration of the Bill.
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