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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 10 Apr 1940

Vol. 79 No. 10

Local Government (Remission of Rates) Bill, 1940—Committee Stage.

(1) In this Act —
the expression "the Commissioner" means the Commissioner of Valuation;
the word "valuation" means a valuation under the Valuation Acts;
the expression "revised valuation list" means a revised valuation list under the Valuation Acts;
the expression "the prescribed period" means the period beginning on the 1st day of October, 1939, and ending on the 30th day of September, 1941;

I move amendment No. 1:—

In line 19, to delete the figures "1941" and substitute the figures "1944".

This Bill provides a period from 1st October, 1939, to 30th September, 1941. It is apparent to everybody that six months of that period have already gone by. I suggest that the Minister ought to accept this amendment, which extends the period to 1944. There are two reasons for that amendment. The first is that the Minister is behind with this Bill and he was behind the last time a similar measure was brought in. I suggest that it is a very short time for legislation of this kind, as we have now just a little more than 12 months to run. A builder has to make extensive preparations and in that respect my proposal would steady the position and show any builder what he had to cope with over a number of years. I suppose the Minister will tell us that by now the policy is settled and that in regard to these concessions which obtain for houses for people who can pay for them as opposed to others who cannot, it is most desirable they should continue and that this species of building work should be fostered. I am sure the Minister will agree that a builder ought to have some reasonable period over which he can plan his work and for that reason it is desirable that this amendment should be accepted.

I would like to support the amendment. As Deputy Dockrell rightly points out, in this particular period it will be more difficult to get a building completed than it was pre-war. It is very difficult to get some materials delivered at the present moment, especially articles such as copper pipes and things of that kind. The holding up of building in consequence of the Bill going through in its present form may prevent many persons from getting grants. I think the amendment is very reasonable and the Minister ought to accept it. On an earlier stage I made reference to the point whether this remission referred to rates on houses built by a local authority and let on the hire purchase system. I would like to know if the Minister has considered that point.

I do not see why remissions of rates should not. There is no grant given.

As Deputies are aware, those measures are purely temporary and have been regarded as such. Last year, when a similar Bill was brought in, it extended the period for one year. Probably when the period set out here expires, we will be coming with another measure asking for a further extension, but, of course, that will largely depend on circumstances then. That is the only objection I have to the proposal made by Deputy Dockrell. As it is only a temporary measure, we can again come to the House if the position has not changed and if encouragement is needed to help building. As it is only a temporary measure, I do not think it is wise to put in a longer period.

Is there any period in between that would meet the Minister? A house will take perhaps 12 months to put up and surely a builder ought to have some period over which he knows that he has got this concession and can plan accordingly?

If the Deputy will leave the amendment over for Report Stage, I will probably give another year.

That would help considerably. I would be glad if the Minister would consider the point I raised. It would be an encouragement to local authorities to build houses to give to tenants on the hire purchase system. Recently, the Wexford Corporation completed a scheme of 14 houses. They got no grant from the Government, and in consequence the rents charged had to be high. You do find certain people who are prepared to take houses at those rents. I suggest to the Minister that the remission of rates ought to apply to those houses in the same way as it applies to houses built by a public utility society. The matter is an important one for local authorities, and I hope the Minister will consider it.

I will look into it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed to.
(3) In this section the expression "rating purposes" means the following (and no other) purposes, that is to say, the purposes of the assessment and levying of any rate raised by a local authority for the service of the local financial year commencing next after the completion of the erection, enlargement, or improvement of the relevant residence or for the service of any of the next following four local financial years, but subject to the following overriding limitations, that is to say:—
(a) if in any of the said four local financial years a general revision of valuation in the area in which the relevant residence is situate becomes effective, that local financial year and the subsequent local financial years (if any) shall be excluded from the said four local financial years, and

I move amendment No. 2:—

In sub-section (3), line 30, to add after the word "year" the words "other than contributions levied under the Unemployment Assistance Acts".

I referred to this matter on the Second Reading and I think I made the position clear. The position under the Bill is that all the rates levied by a local authority, for whatever purposes, are remitted to the extent allowed by the Bill. I am prepared to admit that it is for the ultimate benefit of a local authority that house building should take place and, therefore, that other people resident in a locality should bear a proportion of the rates on new houses in order to encourage building. Eventually that leads to an increase in the valuation of the area. I cannot, at the same time, see that the same consideration applies to contributions under the Unemployment Assistance Acts, because in regard to these the local authority really only acts as a collector for the Government. The local authority has to collect on the full value of the house. I can see no possible justification for asking the older inhabitants of an area to pay more than the proper amount on their valuations in respect of these contributions, simply because there happen to be new buildings in the area. I feel the Minister must see that there is commonsense in my argument, which is that new houses shall only have their rates remitted in so far as they relate to local services, but not to national contributions such as we are dealing with here.

I think there is a good deal to be said for the amendment. There was a good deal said on this arising out of the assessments made on local authorities for unemployment assistance purposes. I do not think it would be unfair to anybody if these rates were allowed to be levied in full on every house. This is a national charge, and I cannot see why a person living in an old house should be mulcted for this charge and the person in a new house allowed to escape, especially in view of the fact that the ratepayer in the old house, in addition to paying his own contribution, has to pay a portion of the assessment levied on the person in the new house. I think the Minister ought seriously to consider the matter.

If rates could be selected for new houses there might be some force in the arguments put forward in support of the amendment, but then it should apply to similar services to the one mentioned. As I understand it the basis for doing what is laid down in connection with the Unemployment Assistance Acts was this: that the local authorities were relieved of the payment of a certain amount of outdoor relief which they would have had to pay if the Unemployment Assistance Acts were not in operation. The rate is raised only in towns with a population of 7,000 or over. The county councils contribute by way of deduction from the Agricultural Grant.

What the Minister has said really makes the position worse. In Wexford, for instance, you have four urban areas—Gorey, Enniscorthy, New Ross and Wexford. Because of the fact that Wexford town has a population of over 7,000 it has to pay, as one may put it, for all the rest. Surely that is not fair. The same thing applies to the City of Dublin as compared with the County of Dublin.

I cannot see that there is any force in the Minister's reply. It does not seem reasonable to me that the older inhabitants of an area should have to pay an excess contribution, as against newer ones, on this particular service.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In sub-section (3) (a), line 39, to insert after the word "years" the words: "Provided that the existing valuation of the relevant residence shall have been reduced by reason of such revision of valuation."

The object of this amendment is to prevent the taking away by one hand of something given by the other. If there is a revaluation, it is important that houses which are now being given a concession should escape this provision for a few years. The idea seems to prevail that a reduction in the valuation of houses enables somebody to get away with something—that he has perpetrated some fraud on the other ratepayers. I want to repudiate that idea. What I want to ensure is that, when a person embarks on the undertaking of buying a house, the burden for that person should be eased in the earlier years. The whole object of the amendment is to induce people who are hesitating about closing a deal in the matter of house-buying to go ahead and do so. The point may appear a small one, but I submit to the Minister and to the House that what I am seeking in the amendment is elementary justice. If a house is entitled to a concession of rates for four years, it ought to get that concession whether revaluation takes place or not.

If we were to accept this amendment we would nullify the whole Bill. This is a principle that has been in operation here since 1927. In Section 12 of that Act has been carried on that principle all the time since. The basis of the present valuation is a pre-war basis and it must be accepted that in any revaluation that takes place, if one compares the pre-war position in 1914 with the present position there must be an increase in valuation.

Not in all valuations.

Not in all valuations.

The Minister is not speaking of the Valuation Bill now.

No, I do not want to get into that. I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 4.

To delete paragraph (b) of sub-section (3).

I suppose if the Minister will not give us the major concession I can only appeal to his generosity for this minor concession.

I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 put and agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 and the Title put and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Report Stage fixed for Wednesday, the 17th April.

The Minister has undertaken to introduce an amendment with regard to the year?

Yes, on the Report Stage I will bring in an extra year.