RULES OF THE CIRCUIT COURT. - LOCAL GOVERNMENT (RATES ON SMALL DWELLINGS) BILL, 1928—REPORT.

I move: That the Bill be received for final consideration.

I would like to know if there is any chance the Minister would have the Act applied to the collection of this year's rates. Only a few days of the financial year have passed. The situation in a great many towns is getting worse every year so far as the collection of rates is concerned. A huge amount of arrears is being carried forward year by year, and for that reason I ask for a consideration as to the advisability of making the Act applicable, if possible, to the collection of this year's rates. Possibly there may be legal difficulties in the way.

That raises a rather serious problem. I was doubtful when the Bill was going through as to whether it was going to throw a serious liability on the owners of houses. From what the Deputy has said there is no doubt that that liability is going to accrue as a result of this measure. That being so, I would like a little consideration given to that particular aspect of the measure, because anything that is going to throw a further liability on the owners of houses is going to postpone the getting of houses, that is to say, people are not going to invest money in houses if they are going to incur liabilities greater than they have had.

Would the Deputy say what extra liability is going to be incurred?

The further liability that the Deputy was anxious to transfer from the tenant to the landlord under this Bill. It is proposed that the liability for rates should be put on the owner of the property and not on the tenant, as it is at the moment. The Deputy has pointed out to us, as one who has a good deal of experience in this matter, that at present there is a very considerable difficulty on the part of the local authorities in collecting the rates from tenants. Under this Bill it means that if the local authority cannot get the rates off the tenant the landlord will have a very poor chance of getting them. The result will be that the landlord will be saddled with this additional liability, and consequently people will be very slow to invest money in houses with a liability of that character accruing. That was an aspect of the question I was doubtful about, and I am very glad the Deputy has intervened to show us the seriousness of the situation. I suggest that while this measure may be of advantage in the county boroughs and in the urban areas, it is very doubtful as to whether it is going to be of any advantage in the rural areas. The Minister, I suggest, should apply this measure to the county boroughs and urban areas before he extends it to the rural areas. He has a similar privilege with regard to the valuation of houses, that is to say, there is a provision in that case that while all houses under £8 valuation come within the jurisdiction of the Act, the Minister has power to extend the valuation to £12. I think there ought to be a similar provision in this case, and for that reason I suggest the Minister should limit the application of this measure and give it a trial before he extends it generally in the Saorstát.

I must confess I am rather at a loss to understand the attitude taken up by Deputy Good at this stage of the Bill. I am not suggesting that the landlord should take any further liabilities in so far as the collection of rates is concerned. Deputy Good ought to know that a certain position prevails in practically every town to-day. I explained, on the Second Reading of the Bill, that up to a certain period the landlords were collecting the rates on behalf of the local authorities. They were included in the rents and were handed over to the local authorities, but some time after the advent of the Rent Restrictions Act they ceased to pay rates at all, although they were collecting a great proportion of the rates in the rents. That has contributed to a state of absolute chaos in the various towns. We are not asking the landlords to pay the rates on behalf of the tenants. Those of us who have encouraged the Minister to bring in this Bill consider that the landlord should have power to collect the full rate and include it in the rent. That is all that is being asked for. I think Deputy Good has taken up a wrong attitude in the matter.

A point Deputy Good forgets is that this proposal would make it easier for the tenant to pay rates. Poor people find it very difficult to make up the half-yearly instalments of the rates, whereas if they paid it in weekly instalments they would not feel it so much.

While that is so in the urban areas and county boroughs, in a great many of the rural districts the rents and the rates are collected quarterly, and in some cases half-yearly.

Do not be shifting your ground now.

I am not.

Rates are collected half-yearly in the towns. I am aware that the public bodies find it extremely difficult to get the rates from the poor people. A considerable portion of the rates has to be written off every year, and if the proposal now made is accepted that could be avoided in the future.

In reply to Deputy Corish, it was quite clear even a couple of months ago that it was not practicable to have this Bill applied to the rates for the current year. The various landlords will have a certain amount of adjustment to do in determining the amount of rates to be paid in respect of each particular small holding they have to deal with, so that even if the Bill had been actually passed into law by the 1st March last I would hesitate in the interests of the success of the Act to throw suddenly on to the landlords the amount of work that would follow in that respect. The Bill has not yet passed through the Seanad. It must be clear to the House that it would be impossible to apply the Bill to this year. The problem the Bill proposes to solve is of such importance that it is very desirable it should get a clear start, so that anybody who has to perform any function in connection with the matter, whether local authorities or owners of houses, will have plenty of time to make preparations and so avoid confusion in the matter. Deputy Good was replied to by Deputy Goulding. I do not think any heavy obligations are going to fall on the owners in connection with this Bill. It would be wrong at any rate to magnify them without clearly showing what the circumstances were. It has not been shown in the discussion on the Bill that the work that will be thrown on owners will be very great. Deputy Good suggested that the Bill would not be of any great service in rural areas, but I think that the rural occupier is as familiar to the general run of Deputies in the House as any other class in the country. It has been suggested that there is a difficulty in regard to rural occupiers. I feel as regards any difficulties so far as rural occupiers are concerned, I would be put up against those by the more rural Deputies if there were any serious difficulties.

I do not happen to represent a rural constituency, but I have had representations from those representing rural constituencies, and I think the Minister will possibly hear of them in the Seanad.

Yes, but the point is that I have not had any representations from any of the Deputies who represent rural areas.

Question put and agreed to.
Fifth Stage ordered for Friday.