I explained the reasons for this Bill and the provisions and implications of the Bill at considerable length on First Reading, and I need not go over that ground again.
If the option allowed is exercised by all county councils then instead of paying a rate this year of £2,315,000 out of agricultural land the rate payable will be £771,666 and the amount of the abatement will be £1,543,334. This money will be borrowed by the county councils from the banks, with which they keep account and may be repaid by an annuity extending over a period of not more than seven years. The annual payment of interest and sinking fund for the seven year period approximates to about £250,000. If the scheme is applied to two typical cases: (A) who owes one year's arrears, and who is in addition liable for his current rate, and (B) who owes no arrears, and is only liable for his current rate, and if it is assumed that the rates payable out of agricultural land for the year 1923/24 and 1924/25 are the same, viz., £60 in each case for the year 1923-24, and £57 in each case for the year 1924/25, the position will be made quite clear. (A) will pay his year's arrears £60, plus one-third of the current rate, £19—a total amount of £79—and his abatement will be £38. (B) who owes no arrears will pay £19 out of his current rate of £57 and will be relieved to the same extent, viz., £38. In each case, instead of paying £38 this year each will pay it over a period of seven years from the 31st day of March, 1925, and the first payment will be made in 1925-26.
There is just one Clause of the Bill to which I wish to draw Deputies attention. It is Section 4, (5) and it reads:—
"Where a County Council makes default in the payment of any sum payable in respect of a loan borrowed under this section, the Minister may on complaint being made to him by the person to whom such sum is payable and after notification to the County Council concerned direct that the amount of such sum shall be deducted from the amount payable to the County Council out of the agricultural grant, and the sum so deducted shall be paid to such person in discharge of such sum; providing that this enactment shall be without prejudice to the Guaranteed Fund under the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891."
This clause gives the security of the Agricultural Grant to the banks for the necessary loan. The banks have met us very fairly in this matter, and on the strength of this Clause are ready to facilitate by lending the money at five per cent. and making the necessary arrangements to accept repayment over a period of seven years from the 31st March, 1925, by equal annual instalments.
The interest and sinking fund under the scheme will be comparatively small in view of the considerable period over which the loan is to be repaid, and there will be no excuse whatever for any county council who fails to collect it and who thereby forces the Minister for Local Government to make a draw on the quota of the agricultural grant applicable to that county. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.