Seanad Éireann - Volume 38 - 31 May, 1950
Land Bill, 1949—Report and Final Stages.
Government amendment No. 1:—
In page 13, Section 24, line 41 to delete “so held in conjunction” and substitute “purchased or subject to a purchase agreement as aforesaid”.
Minister for Lands (Mr. Blowick) Joseph Blowick
Minister for Lands (Mr. Blowick): This is a drafting amendment, to obviate the possibility of ambiguity when the Bill becomes law.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:—
In page 20, Section 29, to insert the following sub-section before sub-section (18):—
(18) The reference in sub-section (4) of Section 69 of the Land Act, 1923, to sub-section (1) of that section shall be construed as a reference to this section.
Mr. Blowick Mr. Blowick
 Mr. Blowick: This is a drafting amendment also. Sub-section (1) of Section 69 of the 1923 Act is being repealed and replaced by Section 29 of this Bill. Sub-section (4) of Section 69 is not being repealed but to prevent its being nullified it is necessary to delete from it the reference to the repealed sub-section (1) and to substitute a reference to Section 29 of this Bill. That is what amendment No. 2 does.
Amendment put and agreed to.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 3 is out of order.
Mr. Hawkins Mr. Hawkins
Mr. Hawkins: There is a question I would like to ask the Minister. Senator Mrs. Concannon drew the Minister's attention to the wording of Section 28 and the Minister gave an undertaking to have the matter examined, to satisfy himself that there was sufficient provision whereby the Land Commission could, in particular circumstances, compensate a former employee by giving him an allotment of land, where compensation was not given. Is the Minister satisfied that this section does not preclude the giving of land or make it essential that the only way a former employee can be compensated is by the giving of a gratuity?
Mr. Blowick Mr. Blowick
Mr. Blowick: Senator Mrs. Concannon raised that point and I regret that I overlooked replying to it, on the occasion when she raised it. I think the point that Senator Mrs. Concannon and Senator Hawkins have raised is that it could be argued that the giving of a gratuity would preclude the Land Commission from giving a holding under any circumstances. Is that the gist of the argument?
Mr. Hearne Mr. Hearne
Mr. Hearne: Yes.
Mr. Blowick Mr. Blowick
Mr. Blowick: That is not so. The Land Commission have absolute discretion to give a holding where, in their opinion, the person is entitled to a holding and would make good use of it. In the other case, they have absolute discretion to give a gratuity, if they so wish, but it does not preclude them from giving a holding. Just as it does not compel them to give a gratuity, it does not compel them to  give a holding. It leaves the whole thing to their discretion. The giving of a holding to any employee is not precluded by the section.
Amendment No. 3 ruled out of order.
Question: “That the Bill be received for final consideration,” put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the Final Stage to-day.
Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”
Mr. Hawkins Mr. Hawkins
Mr. Hawkins: When the Minister introduced the Bill, members on this side of the House put forward a number of queries so as to elicit more definite information as to what the Minister proposes to do and as to how the many matters for which he attempted to make provision would be carried out. I regret to say that we have not had from the Minister any great clarification as to how market value should be arrived at or how purchase of land in the open market would be accomplished, and so forth. In reply to my last query, we have had a definite statement from the Minister in regard to a matter which an amendment of mine attempted to safeguard. On Committee Stage, an amendment was put down to ensure that every employee who, in the view of the Land Commission would not be a suitable person to get an allotment of land would at least receive compensation. We were assured on that occasion that ample provision was made under the particular section that where land would not be allotted to a former employee compensation would be granted. To-day the Minister has told us that the section is a very broad section, that it does not compel the Land Commission to give a holding and does not preclude the Land Commission from giving a holding, that it does not compel the Land Commission to compensate in any way a former employee. There is nothing we can do about this matter now. The Bill passes from this House to the other House and into law.
I can assure the Minister, for my part, and speaking on behalf of every member on this side of the House, that we wish the Minister every success in  his endeavour to solve this national problem. Our fears were, and are, that there is little if anything contained in the Bill to achieve the desired objects. If, however, in operating the Bill, the Minister finds, as I am sure he will find, that the dangers we indicated exist, he will, I am sure, introduce amending legislation to do the work that he proposes this Bill should do.
Mr. D. Burke Mr. D. Burke
Mr. D. Burke: This Bill represents a certain achievement on the part of the Minister. The Minister has enunciated the principle of paying full compensation to those who are dispossessed of their land. If it is the policy of the State to take land from the owner, it should also be the policy to pay adequate compensation. In that respect the Bill is a good Bill. That is a principle which we have tried to apply all round. The Minister has done it unequivocally in this Bill and there can be no doubt in the minds of anyone that, in future, where land is taken, the owner will be paid the full market value and will not have to pay the redemption cost of the land annuities out of the purchase price. That was a grievance which many landowners suffered for many years past.
Further, the Minister has excepted 14 matters as against seven in previous Land Acts. That means that the Minister has removed seven matters from the realm of politics and transferred them to the administration of the Land Commission. That is a further achievement attained by the Minister in this Bill. Finally, he has brought in machinery to allow rearrangement of land in congested districts, to remove many of the troubles that arise under the rundale system that is common in the West.
In my opinion, these are the three principal achievements under this Bill and represent a great advance on previous land legislation. There are other matters which were raised in the House but to which I am not entitled to refer on this stage. I am sure the Minister has taken serious note of the suggestions that have been put forward by various Senators and that before long he will take an opportunity of introducing legislation to give effect to the many valuable suggestions that  were made from both sides of the House. I was very pleased by the way in which this Bill was discussed and by the manner in which the points were received by the Minister. I would ask the Minister to consider the various suggestions for the improvement of land law that were made during the passage of the Bill through this and the other House. In that way I believe we may get a land code, with the assistance of the Dáil and Seanad and the Minister who is in power for the time being, which will reflect credit on us and be an inspiration to other people who want a proper system of land law.
Mr. Blowick Mr. Blowick
Mr. Blowick: Senators who have read the White Paper must notice that this Bill proposes to make ten radical changes. The first is that full market value will be paid for acquired land, vested land, and that was not the case heretofore. That is a big change and a step in the right direction.
The second is the re-organisation of the Land Commission, and I think everybody will agree that a little re-organisation here is not out of place.
The third is that powers are given to the Land Commission to purchase land where they find it for sale. There had been a lot of difficulty with previous methods and the acquisition of land compulsorily was, and must necessarily be, a very slow process because of the system of land tenure which we have in this country. That system had great respect for private ownership. The reason why I prefer the method of purchase in the open market is that I always believed there was a big stream of land flowing past the Land Commission's door which they were unable to tap, and I could ever understand why they should not have the powers to tap it. The best system was to leave the commission free to purchase the land in the open market, leaving it at the same time the other alternative of compulsory acquisition. I only wish that this power to purchase in the open market had been given to the Land Commission a long time ago.
I do not see either why the Land Commission should not have the power  to purchase small residential holdings complete with out-offices and fences and also the larger non-residential farms which might come on the market and to which a farmer could go into immediate occupation.
The payment of gratuities to displaced employees is another big and welcome step. Previously two or three employees might find themselves left aside on the division of a farm simply because their length of service with their previous employer did not justify giving them a holding of vested land. There was no between method to give them something to compensate for displacement. That meant that they were thrown out and that they had to seek fresh employment simply because a scheme had been put into operation to benefit their neighbours. Under the new Bill, provision is made to compensate such displaced employees and give them something to enable them to make a fresh start. This applied to people to whom it was not found possible in view of their short term of employment, to give a greater State contribution.
There is another section which gives the Land Commission power to partition commonages. That is a very necessary power because there had been a lot of disputes recently about these commonages and they had in fact been becoming more frequent. Since the Government announced the increased forestry programme numerous people were anxious to sell their shares in such commonages to the Forestry Department. In cases where 20 people shared a commonage 17 or 18 might want to sell their portion to the Department but the other two or three would not. The Land Commission now has power to partition such commonages, and that is something which I was very glad to have done.
In the matter of certain free farm lands this may not have had much interest to Senators but it was a big matter for the farmers concerned who, because of a technicality, were kept outside the scope of the Land Acts. It would be a big matter to five Limerick farmers and to a few in Longford.
The land annuities on certain types  of submerged land are also dealt with as well as lands formerly allotted for cow parks, town parks, etc. In these matters the powers which were vested in the Lords Lieutenant under the old British régime in connection with certain cow parks were never transferred to any Minister and that position had to be cleared up in the interests of the trustees.
Senator Hawkins has said that there is nothing very much in the Bill. I wish the Dáil had taken the same view as this House because if there is very little in the Bill then I wonder why it was delayed for so many months? The Bill is a very definite attempt to deal with the whole problem of congestion without interfering with our main industry. Bad handling of the problem by the Land Commission could result in a complete bankruptcy of our whole agriculture. Our agriculture depends on the right of the Irish farmer to his land, and if we take away that right we will do untold damage to agriculture because then each farmer would try to take all fertility out of the land, and land is of no value if it is not fertile.
The land has no value, in my opinion, from the food-producing point of view if it is not fertile. Every farmer is a good farmer or a bad farmer according to how he maintains the fertility of the soil; in other words, the food-producing capacity of the soil. Take his right of ownership away or cause even the least uneasiness and at once it is reflected by a decline in agricultural exports from the country and in agricultural production at home. Security is what I am aiming at. Coming from the land as I do, I think I know the farmer's mind as well as anybody in this House or the other House and this Bill is framed along those lines. Congestion cannot be overlooked, cast aside or considered by any Government as not being worthy of its attention. Congestion is something which has been handed to us as a result of conquest in the past but nevertheless that does not absolve the Government of responsibility or permit it to wash its hands of congestion and refuse to have anything to do with it. The method of solving congestion is in this Bill. I venture to prophesy that in two or  three years' time, when it goes into action, every Senator and Deputy who understands the land problem — even if he has no other good word to say for me — will thank me for this Bill even if he has nothing else for which to thank me.
Mr. Quirke Mr. Quirke
Mr. Quirke: I should like the Minister to clarify a statement of Senator Burke's. I do not know whether it was intentional but he suggested that several things had been taken out of the realm of politics. I presume that he referred to the excepted matters in Section II. If he means by “politics” the Minister, I should like to make it clear that the Minister never had a say in such matters at all. It is not a good note on which to finish to suggest bribery and corruption. I do not believe that it ever took place in the Land Commission and I do not believe that it ever will under the present Minister or any future Minister.
Question put and agreed to.
Ordered: That the Bill be returned to the Dáil.
Seanad Éireann 38 Land Bill, 1949—Report and Final Stages.