That was a helpful intervention, because I was not aware of that association. I am aware of another organisation that no doubt the hon. Gentleman will intervene and say that another member of his family was a member of.
The return was pulled back and, in a sense, buried, partly as a result of the events in the Republic of Ireland, where land was being redistributed to the landless peasantry. That redistribution began in the 1880s and finally ended only a few years ago. It proved so effective that, by 1921 and independence, large landowners as a class in most of that country had largely been eliminated.
This is where the history links into the Bill. There is reason to believe that that redistribution of land is one of the essential underpinnings of the Irish economic success of the 1990s, when that comparatively tiny state of fewer than 4 million people drove its gross domestic product above that of the United Kingdom. Without a comprehensive land register, we cannot begin to tackle that issue.
The Republic of Ireland does not require its citizens to pay a council tax or water rates. It provides a far higher level of old-age benefits than almost any other European state. Despite the huge and very British style of intense urbanisation around the capital, Dublin, the community of the Republic of Ireland remains largely rural, although most farms are now adjusted to the post-European-integration reality of deriving one quarter of their income from subsidy, one quarter from farming and a full half from other activities. What has never been analysed is the ''credit accelerator'' based on land ownership, which has drawn money and investment into the Irish economy, as opposed to the economy created in Ireland by foreign investment.
Understanding the way that credit was generated for Irish families through the possession of land on a widely distributed basis is central to understanding why the British economy stalled, not in the last 50 years of the previous century, but possibly as far back as the late 1800s, when economic decline first set in. Another lesson for Britain is hidden in the Irish economy. As real wealth has spread and the value of land and its potential as collateral has risen, so has the pace and nature of housebuilding in the Irish economy.