Seanad Éireann - Volume 23 - 20 July, 1939
Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1939—Committee and Final Stages.
Bill passed through Committee without amendment and received for final consideration.
 Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”
Mr. Baxter Mr. Baxter
Mr. Baxter: I should like to ask the Minister if any consideration has been given by his Department to the question as to whether the basis of giving relief of rates could not be measured somehow in accordance with production. The main problem before us on the land in the future is to have greatly increased productivity. I can see the burden of rates increasing with no corresponding assistance from the Exchequer, and I do not know how the burden can be carried one year after another unless there is greatly increased production. I put it to the Minister yesterday that, in my judgment, the present scheme does not increase production. I may say that I have given a certain amount of consideration to this aspect of the problem, and while I have no very pronounced views, I think that what ought to be examined is this, whether the relief of rates now and in the future could not be distributed somehow on the basis of production. As I pointed out before, the present scheme makes provision for relief on the basis of the number of people employed. You could have a situation whereby a small farmer gets relief because he has sons. While he gets that relief because his sons, apparently, are with him, they are, probably, working here and there with neighbouring farmers, rather than on the particular farm for which relief was given, and if the productivity of that farm could be examined, the Minister would really discover that relief given in that way was not yielding anything at all like the return to the nation that should be expected from it.
Elsewhere we are going to be up against the whole question of derating, and a demand for greatly increased sums for the relief of rates. All sorts of arguments could be used as justification for an increased amount of relief for farmers. It seems to me that the aim ought to be to get increased production from the land. Whatever scheme of taxation is devised in relation to local authorities, as far as the Department of Local Government is concerned, the Minister ought to devise  it in such a way as to ensure that there will be greatly increased production. Apparently, increased employment may not guarantee increased production, because what might appear to be employment might not in fact be employment at all. As I indicated yesterday, and as is known to Senators in every part of the House, many farmers employ a good deal of casual labour without getting any relief. If we could examine the possibility of relating relief to production, money would flow where it really ought to flow. Relief should be given to people who are worth relieving, and who work for it. It is true, of course, that if farmers have increased production they are better able to bear the burden, but to increase production it is necessary to stimulate productivity in various ways, psychologically as well as financially. There is no scientific basis about the present method, and I am not at all satisfied that it is bearing the fruits I should like to see coming from it. If the Minister went down the country and saw things as they appear to other people, he would realise that the present scheme is not a good one.
In the future we should endeavour to get the best value possible for this money. That is what we ought to get. I think even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance urged it as a slogan which ought to be shouted from the housetops by everybody, that what we want is to get better value for our money. If the Minister were in the position to judge this problem for himself, if he could judge the effects of this legislation, he would be satisfied that he is not at present getting the best possible value for the money. A county like mine might be benefiting, perhaps, to a greater extent than certain other counties. It is at the moment because of the figures of population and the position in regard to employment. I do not say that under my scheme of things it would not continue to benefit. The people who produce would benefit. These are the people we ought to encourage and stimulate. When we are giving relief, that ought to be the aim. I put it to the Minister that that  is an aspect of this question which he ought to have examined. With a little more experience he would be quite convinced that this is not working out according to plan.
Mr. McGee Mr. McGee
Mr. McGee: I am sorry I cannot compliment the House or the Minister on the proceedings here. We have spent the best part of three hours discussing tourists coming into Ireland, and when we have our hand on the most vital organ of Ireland itself we do not spend as many minutes. This relief amounts approximately to 9d. per man per week. I think that speaks for itself.
Mr. Quirke Mr. Quirke
Mr. Quirke: I agree with Senator Baxter that it would be a great idea if the Minister could do something such as the Senator suggests. It would be one way of getting greater productivity from the land. But Senator Baxter has not told us how that desirable situation is to be brought about. If increased employment does not mean increased productivity, I do not know by what other way you get around to increased productivity. If I were working on the land for a day, I might produce more than Senator Baxter, or vice versa. You cannot lay down a hard and fast rule by which that thing can be judged and by which these results can be brought about.
The present system is the best which has been put up so far. If Senator Baxter or anybody else has a better system, I am quite sure the Minister will be delighted to consider that system or to get any scheme whereby he will achieve better results. Under the present system the people with valuations of £20 and less, and those are in the majority in every county in Ireland, are benefiting to a greater extent than are the people over that valuation. In Senator Baxter's county the number of people under £20 valuation is 81 per cent. Those people are gaining because of this legislation. There was another scheme which certain people stood for up to a short time ago and which seems to be dropped of late. That was the only alternative we have heard of so far. If that scheme of  derating agricultural land were put into operation, all the people under £20 valuation would lose.
The other people to whom Senator Counihan has called my attention— himself and his followers, people of that type—would gain to this extent, that out of every £, 10/- would be divided amongst 8 per cent. of the people who are the big landholders, and the other 10/- would be divided on a pro rata basis amongst the remaining 92 per cent. The only policy for the Government in existing conditions is to try to bring about a scheme which will do the greatest good for the greatest number and give the greatest amount of employment. That has been done under this scheme and it will confer benefit in every county. People with £20 valuation and under will gain and these people are the backbone of the country.
Dr. Doyle Dr. Doyle
Dr. Doyle: Probably what Senator Baxter means is that production on the land is declining and he wants to devise some scheme that will help it to increase or will prevent a further decline.
Mr. Byrne Mr. Byrne
Mr. Byrne: We all want to increase production on the land, but to abolish this scheme would not help us in any way. The principle of the scheme is excellent and, as Senator Quirke pointed out, it is of great benefit to the men under £20 valuation. At the same time, this is not quite fulfilling all the things the Minister wanted to do, for the reason that the man who does not employ labour gets too big a show under this Bill. In my county it works out in this way, that if you get a certain amount for employing a man, if you do not employ a man you also get a certain amount. After portion of what is allocated is distributed among the small holders and those who employ men, the amount left is distributed over the land not previously relieved, with the result that the difference between the man who employs labour and the man who does not amounts to 25/- in the year. That is not anything like the encouragement that the energetic man should get.
 I suggested earlier that the Minister should give serious consideration to dividing the allocation over all the land. Probably, the Minister may say that it will not amount to a lot, but it will be a help. There is no reason why the man who employs labour should be penalised to help the man who does not. It would also help the small holders. We have heard from time to time many methods of increasing work on the land and helping the farmers. If this scheme could be extended, if there was money available, it would be one of the best ways of getting people to live on the land and to work it.
Mr. O Ceallaigh Mr. O Ceallaigh
Mr. O Ceallaigh: I have nothing but approval for the idea that Senator Baxter has put before us about getting increased production, and anything that I could do in this Bill or in any other Bill that I might have before the Oireachtas, dealing with agriculture, I would be only too happy to do it. I would be pleased to have any Bill so worded and the principles enshrined in it such as would secure the increased production that not alone Senator Baxter but everyone in the Dáil and Seanad would desire. As a matter of fact, the idea that was in the minds of those of us responsible for the introduction of the change in the distribution of the agricultural grant was that of getting increased production. The other system was in operation for a long period, and there were many complaints about the distribution of the agricultural grant.
Mr. Fitzgerald Mr. Fitzgerald
Mr. Fitzgerald: There will be under the new system, too.
Mr. O Ceallaigh Mr. O Ceallaigh
Mr. O Ceallaigh: There will, I am sure. I do not know if one can judge whether there are more complaints about this method, but no matter what method you adopt it will be regarded as unfair by somebody. This method has been in operation for some years. Every time I have had a Bill in the Oireachtas I have heard complaints, and if ever I bring in a measure of this kind again I am sure I will hear complaints. But no better scheme has been put up yet. There is at present an Agricultural Commission sitting, and I  think Senator Baxter is a member of that Commission. If that Commission puts up any scheme——
Mr. Counihan Mr. Counihan
Mr. Counihan: Complete derating?
Mr. O Ceallaigh Mr. O Ceallaigh
Mr. O Ceallaigh: ——they will raise more complaints than we have ever heard before. The Senator knows there was nothing like unanimity in the last Commission on Derating. If the Agricultural Commission finds it possible to consider the problem and put up any scheme, I can assure Senator Baxter that any scheme that would be deemed more equitable in the distribution of this grant by the agriculturists of this country represented on the Commission would be seriously considered. If they put up any scheme that seems feasible to secure increased production and be fairer to all concerned, it will receive most sympathetic consideration.
Question agreed to.
Ordered: “That the Bill be returned to the Dáil.”
The Seanad adjourned at 6.20 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 23 Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1939—Committee and Final Stages.