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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 13 Dec 1945

Vol. 98 No. 15

Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1945— Committee (Resumed).


I move amendment No. 2:—

In sub-section (1), after paragraph (c) to add a new paragraph as follows:—

(d) by the addition of a new paragraph as follows:—

(k) in reckoning the rateable value, or the aggregate of rateable values, for the purpose of this section, there shall be excluded from such reckoning any increase in valuation arising out of the sale of turf to county councils or under other schemes due to the existence of war or emergency conditions.

The principal section that is being amended by this Bill, that is Section 5 of the Principal Act, contains provisions by which persons who derive their livelihood mainly from agricultural pursuits shall get certain grants, varying according to the valuation of the holdings they occupy. For instance, a person deriving his livelihood solely or mainly from the pursuit of agriculture is entitled under the Act, and will continue to be entitled under this Bill, if his valuation does not exceed £15, to a grant of £70 to enable him to build a house. If, however, his valuation is between £15 and £25, he is only entitled to a grant of £60.

If his valuation is more than £25, he is only entitled to a grant of £45. I am moving that, in considering the valuation for the purpose of fixing a grant that a person will be entitled to under sub-section (c) of the Principal Act, regard shall not be had to any increase in the valuation that has been made as a result of turf sold off a holding to the county council or to any other specially organised agency set up under emergency conditions for the provision of fuel for emergency purposes. From the cases in North Tipperary where increases of this particular kind have taken place I should like to take some samples. There is the case of one person whose old valuation was £16. If that man wanted to build a house, he would be entitled to receive a grant of £60, because his valuation lay between £15 and £20. But, after supplying turf to the county council for a couple of years, he found, quite unexpectedly, that an extra £25 was added on to his valuation, which raised it for the purposes of the Act to £41, so that, instead of being entitled to a grant of £60, he would only be entitled to a grant of £45.

Another case is that of a person whose old valuation was £20. After selling turf to the county council for four years, I think, he found his valuation suddenly increased by £21 to £41. In the same way, the grant to which he would be entitled under the Housing Act is reduced by £15. As a result of what is going on, and arising entirely out of emergency conditions and the fact that the turf was sold in emergency conditions, a number of people are not only finding themselves unexpectedly saddled with substantially increased rates, but in the position, if this amendment is not accepted, that they are likely to be deprived of portion of a grant that they were normally intended to receive under the Housing Act, based on the original valuation of their holdings. That would be an outrageous wrong perpetrated on the men who would suffer in this particular way. I move this amendment therefore so that, whatever may happen when we ultimately get a chance of trying to redress the wrongs they are suffering from, at any rate they will not be wronged under the operation of the Housing Act. Does the Minister accept the amendment?

Not at all. I am waiting to hear the next speaker.

This amendment has been moved by Deputy Mulcahy——

In a very mild way.

I think the Deputy has been very discreet indeed in his language in moving the amendment. When I think of the manner in which the Minister met amendment No. 1 last night, I begin to wonder what is happening in this country. I want to say a few words in as discreet a manner as I can without wishing unduly to embarrass anyone. The Minister resists this amendment on the grounds of "Where is the money to come from to meet the expenditure?" Of course, it is quite a well-known trick of the Government that, when we or the Farmers' Party or the Labour Party propose an amendment, the Government asks: "Where is the money to come from?" Fianna Fáil speakers all over the country have led people to believe that we have absolute control of our own finance and that we are not paying any money to any external authority whatever. They say that the Ultimate Financial Settlement of 1938 relieved us of very great burdens—that is true and I am not disputing that—but they do not tell the people what the burdens are that still remain. We find the State to-day still paying an annuity of £4,355,800 to Great Britain. I suggest to Fianna Fáil that, if they have the courage to-day that they had in 1932, there is at least £4,000,000 to meet this amendment.

That is wide of the amendment.

No, Sir. I will wait for the Minister to say whether he can accept this on the basis that it would cost too much. Last night he asked me, through you, where the money was to come from?

If, every time a Minister or any other Deputy put that question the general financial policy of this country was debated, I am afraid they would be out of order many a time. The Deputy is aware that it is very often a rhetorical question.

I have the figure and the sum in which he got it, and I am putting down here the exact figures, to show where the Minister and the Fianna Fáil Government can get the money to meet this expenditure. I think I am entitled to show them that. I think I am also entitled to say to even an Eamon de Valéra or a Dick Mulcahy that they could take steps to make that money available for the people of this country. As a free man I am entitled to do so.

In the proper place, yes.

I submit, on this Bill, because last night the Minister on amendment No. 1 asked the question: "Where was the money to come from?" I may be prejudicing him and I will give way to him to allow him to say that he cannot accept it, and if he makes the case that he cannot accept it because the money is not available, I am countering it already by saying the money is available, if he takes the necessary steps.

It is quite clear from the speech to which we have just listened that this amendment was not seriously intended. It could not possibly be seriously intended by any Deputy who had a proper sense of his public responsibility Deputy MacEoin asked me where the money is to come from, in fact, he has offered to tell me where I may get the money. Unfortunately, if I accepted this amendment I would not get the money from Great Britain or anywhere else to make good the deficiency in rates, except out of the pockets of the neighbours of those who would benefit by it. If this amendment were carried, naturally the people who have seen the owners of these turf banks drawing substantial sums out of the funds of the county council would say to themselves: "Why are we going to be foolish enough to submit to be taxed in order to help a gentleman, for instance, who has drawn over £500 in royalties from the county council to reconstruct his house, who has drawn over £500 without even putting his hand to a sleán, who did not cut a sod of turf, who did not lift a shovel to drain his bog, who never put a stone on the bog to allow access to it, for whom the roads into the bog were built and the bogs were drained, and his property improved?"

So were the fields of Surrey.

On top of that, some of these men drew as much as £590 in royalties from the county council, yet it is proposed here now to give it to them with both hands, to pay not only the £591 in royalties but also to exclude from the calculations of their valuation for the purposes of this Bill the increase which has occurred in the value of their property by reason of the efforts of the State. I think I remember Deputy Morrissey talking very eloquently, when I was Minister for Finance, about the taxing of unearned increment. There was a time when the Deputy wanted ground rents taxed on the basis that they represented a certain amount of unearned income, arising from the development of the ordinary resources of the State by the community at large. Here is a clear case of unearned increment.

Mr. Morrissey

That is an invention, of course.

Deputy Anthony proposed and Deputy Morrissey seconded the amendment. There was a Private Deputy's Motion.

Mr. Morrissey

The Minister is not thinking about the time he made the valuation of five-fourths?

The Minister is inventing since he began to-night.

Here is a case of unearned increment. There was a virgin bog with searcely a ditch drained, without any means of access but an ordinary cart track. It was drained by the State, the roads were provided by the State and the value of the property was so increased that inside three years the owner of the bog has drawn over £590 in royalties, payable by the consumers of this State, payable by the neighbours of these gentlemen, in some cases; yet here it is proposed to ignore for the purposes of this Bill the increased value of that man's property.

What man is the Minister talking about?

One of the gentlemen to whom the Deputy has referred.

Would the Minister tell us who he is?

I am not going to mention names.

The Minister is drawing entirely on his imagination.

At any rate, the Deputy, before he put down this amendment, did not make the necessary inquiries, or he should have seen what the effect would be. I am now telling him, apparently to his surprise —I quite realise that if he had studied the material facts carefully he would not have put down the amendment— that he is now putting before the House a proposal which would have to apply to all others in that position. It would exclude the increase in the value of the holding from the calculations necessary for the purpose of administering this Bill and, if you do it in this Bill, you will have to do it in every Act where there is a limitation on valuation. Then we would arrive at the position where the increase in the value of any property was not to be taken into consideration for any purposes whatever. I think the amendment is ridiculous.

The Minister has very carefully avoided the point I made that this money is available. He has said why certain people should not get certain advantages and he has made the case against Deputy Mulcahy's amendment that, because they have got this improvement, they should be put on an increased valuation. You might as well argue that, if I have a good crop of wheat in a field this year, my valuation should be increased automatically, or, alternatively, that because I have a bad crop of wheat, it should be decreased. The Minister can only base his argument on whether it is just or equitable and, finally, whether the State finances can afford it.

The Minister has carefully avoided the point I have made, that they are paying the British Government an annuity of£4,355,800, notwithstanding all the Fianna Fáil statements that that money is still available for a Government with the courage of their convictions to do all that is necessary for the housing of the people. I suggest the Minister should address himself to that particular question before he goes off upon a facetious subject as to whether Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Anthony did something 20 years ago. I suggest, respectfully, that he was completely out of order when, in his imagination, a motion was put down by Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Anthony.

Mr. Morrissey

The Minister alleges that he has a case before him where a person, whom he refuses to name, got £591 out of public funds in respect of a virgin bog.

A virgin bog.

Mr. Morrissey

It was a bog on which the owner never cut a sod of turf and never put a stone on the road. It so happens that I live rather close to most of the people immediately affected in so far as North Tipperary is concerned. It also happens that I have first-hand information of some of the bogs and the people concerned. Assuming the statement made by the Minister is correct, I can go to the other extreme. I know of a case where the county council went in on a man's farm. This man had three acres of a callow field; his whole frontage was to the river, which he used principally for watering his stock-indeed, watering his whole farm. The county council went in on that piece of land and cut this way, that way, through the centre and the corners. It was one of the most valuable fields on the farm. After two years' cutting, the man, having gone to considerable trouble over the matter, got somewhere in the neighbourhood of £30.

The county council were not conferring any benefit on him; they destroyed a valuable field. On top of that, in one of the trenches cut and left unprotected by the county council, the man lost a valuable horse worth £40, for which he is not entitled to compensation. I am glad to say this, that I know fields in North Tipperary that were five years ago full of rocks and bushes and that could not be cultivated and grew nothing but scrub. By the utilisation of the farm improvements grant these fields were cleared and made valuable, and within the last two years they have been growing root crops and cereals. Will the Minister say that, because those fields were made fertile and the farm improved thereby with the assistance of a State grant, the Government should thereupon increase that man's valuation?

Coming back to the turf, in some of these cases the county council cut turf for one year and went away. In some cases they cut turf for two or three years and then went bag and baggage out of the place. There is no turf being produced in those places, yet the valuations have been increased very considerably and they will remain so for ever. Not only are the valuations increased, but these increases are to be used against the people to deprive them of grants to which otherwise they would be entitled. So far as I know, there is no law under which land can be reduced in value in this country. I am speaking out of the depths of my ignorance as a layman, but I believe that is so. No matter how much the land may have deteriorated since Griffith's valuation, and even if it is growing only bulrushes and is nothing but a swamp as a result of flooding, there is no law under which you can get the value of that land reduced.

By a side-wind these valuations have been increased. The first notice these people got was a demand for rates. The rates had been substantially increased. I know this district and I know some of these farms. They are poor, mountainy farms, up on the sides of the hills. This is the first time in the history of those farms that the owners were able to say they had £1 to put on top of another. The Minister is now about to penalise them. If that is to be the practice, if valuations are to be increased and people are to suffer not only from the increases but from the other things instanced in this Bill, what is the use of talking about the national development of turf? Why talk about the development of our natural resources, if we use it to put liabilities on the people? If we suggested at any time, and particularly within the last ten or 15 years, that this House should do that, we would be accused immediately of sabotaging Irish industry.

This is not a discussion about the famous virgin bog the Minister has referred to. It concerns quite a large number of counties —Clare, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Roscommon, Tipperary. I take only the counties that are affected to a very large amount and for that reason I am anxious to address myself to a larger number of Government Deputies than are in the House at the present moment. I suggest there is not a quorum present.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and, 20 Deputies being present

This is not simply a case of this virgin bog the Minister has studied so very carefully. It affects nearly every county, but it particularly affects a county like Clare where operations in connection with turf production, through the county council machinery, were of such a nature that the present overdraft of the county council is £40,000; a county like Cork, where the overdraft is £47,000; a county like Galway, where the overdraft is £46,000; Kerry, where the overdraft is £122,000; Mayo, where the overdraft is £57,000; Roscommon, where the overdraft is £59,000, and Tipperary South Riding, where the overdraft is £44,000. The North Riding of Tipperary which we are now considering has an overdraft of only £14,000, but, as a matter of fact, operations in that riding extended over £250,000 since the beginning.

We are dealing with the case of practically every person who sold turf or who allowed his turbary to be worked by the county council for purposes of the turf scheme, and we are not seeking by this amendment to put additional charges on anybody. I would not be allowed to move the amendment if it imposed additional charges on the country. I am seeking to secure that rights which were secured for these people earning their livelihood out of agriculture, under the 1932 Housing Act, will not be taken from them because they assisted the local authorities to provide turf during the emergency, and I think Deputy Morrissey is quite right in drawing an analogy between the production of turf and the production of wheat during the emergency. Why should a person who, before the emergency, was entitled to £70 grant because of his valuation, be deprived of that now, to the extent of either £10 or £25 because he assisted in providing turf during the emergency? It is not a question of putting an increased burden on either local authorities or the Government; it is a question of securing to people rights which they have.

The Minister has painted a certain picture of the burdens which have fallen on local authorities under this turf scheme. The Government gave very definite undertakings to local authorities that if they threw themselves into this necessary emergency work and did their share, they would not suffer financially, and, if the question were fully gone into, it would be found that the people who have been paying 64/- a ton for turf in the cities have certainly to a great extent borne the brunt of the cost of this turf production. The Minister also attempted to paint the picture that we sought to look after the interests of persons who made substantial amounts out of turf production during the emergency. Apparently the Minister would almost put in the position of a racketeer the man, big man or small man, who gave his turf bank for turf production. It is a very interesting slant on the Minister's mind and very interesting that we get it in December, 1945, and did not get it in the early part of 1941 or 1942, when the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the late Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Flinn, were filling the House with very long dissertations on what a magnificent thing it was to get our people to throw themselves into the production of turf.

The Minister quotes some virgin bog which has been made an absolute El Dorado for some person. I do not know whether he is to get £580 a year, or whether he managed to get that during the whole emergency, but apparently nothing was left undone by the local authorities out of their money, or by the Government out of their money, to build roads and develop this area in an extraordinary way. I only know of the cases about which I have had complaints and I know of only one case where a road was built into a bog. The Minister says that in the case he has in mind the man did not do a hand's turn. In the case about which I have information the man contributed £50 to the building of the road, provided two horses for a long period and provided his own men. He made a substantial contribution himself to any increased road facilities which were made available into the bog.

I am speaking of the people big and small in Clare, Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Kerry, Tipperary North and South, Roscommon, where there was big expenditure, and also in Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leix, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Monaghan, Offaly, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow—of people in all these places, who, if they have not yet got the surprise of their lives, are apparently going to get it some fine morning when their county manager wakens up to the Minister's attitude in relation to what has been done in the only place in which I know it has been done up to the present, North Tipperary.

The people who provided turf in the past were no more racketeers than the people who provided our wheat, and, if the Minister proposes to fall short of the financial commitments with local authorities into which he entered, it is no reason why local authorities should seek to get the valuations of these men raised in order to get increased rates. If, however, the Minister proposes to fulfil his commitments to local authorities, it is an outrageous thing and contrary to decent national administration that he should now seek, through the operation of the Housing Acts, to "scrounge" a possible £10 from an individual here and a possible £15 from an individual there who may want to build a house, or £25 under paragraph (h) of Section 5 from a person who might want to improve his home, simply because he had done his part in the general national work of seeing that, in so far as he could help, through his work or his turbary resources, fuel was provided for the country. I would ask the Minister to throw his mind back a little further than this particular virgin bog case. If he wants to stick to that case, then he ought to give us more information about it. He should tell us who owns the bog, and give all the details. We are here in the Parliament, and let us have from the Minister the information that he has. I would welcome all that, but even that would not be sufficient, because I have shown that there is a wide field over which this problem is going to arise if it has not arisen already, and that we have responsibility for dealing with it here. We are not asking for additional expenditure. We are asking that men will not be deprived of their rights because they served this country during a very serious emergency, and used their own resources in doing so.

It is quite clear that the Deputies who have been speaking on this matter have not even taken the trouble to inform themselves of the governing factors in relation to it. Deputy Morrissey painted a pathetic picture about the man whose field has been taken, and, he said, cut up by trenches—probably these trenches were drains—cut diagonally and laterally across the field—and, to crown matters, that a valuable animal fell into the drain and was injured. A very sad case, all right—at least it would be if generous compensation were not available to the man whose land was damaged.

If it was not, the facts can scarcely be as the Deputy has represented them.

Mr. Morrissey

I can assure the Minister.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the Deputy is trying wilfully to mislead the House or myself. It may be that the man is unaware of his rights under the Emergency Powers Order, 1944, because there it is quite specifically laid down that where the council of a county enters on land for the purpose of cutting turbary, the council

"shall pay by way of compensation to every person having an interest in the land such sum as fairly represents the diminution in the value of such interest occasioned by the exercise of any right of turbary over the land, or any right to prepare or store turf thereon".

Similarly, if a right-of-way is exercised——

Mr. Morrissey

What is the Order?

This is the Consolidation Order of 1944. This appeared in the earlier Order issued in 1941.

How is the damage assessed?

By an arbitrator, failing agreement.

Who appoints the arbitrator?

That does not matter. If an arbitrator is appointed he is going to deal fairly and justly with the applications. Is the Deputy suggesting that the person appointed as arbitrator is going to operate dishonestly, and operate in public dishonestly? The Deputy ought, at least, have some regard for the honour of public officials of this State. One might as well say that a judge on the Bench would be guilty of dishonourable conduct, as the Deputy has alleged here that because a person——

And I will prove it.

——is appointed to be an arbitrator by the Minister, or by a responsible officer, or by anybody else, he is going to act dishonourably, and not deal fairly with those applications for fair and equitable treatment which come before him. That is what the Deputy is suggesting. There ought to be a limit to the insinuations and allegations which have been made in this House by Deputies in relation to this matter. These men are not here to defend themselves. A Minister or a politician on a platform might be fair game for that sort of slander, but men who cannot speak for themselves ought, at least, to secure the protection of every fair-minded man in this House, and I would not exclude from that category even Deputy MacEoin. I am sure that he spoke without due reflection, or he would not have been guilty of the interruption of which he was guilty.

Will the Minister give the number of the Consolidation Order?

The number of the Emergency Powers Order is 310.

What is the number of the Statutory Rules and Order?

No. 51 of 1944. Under this Order there is full protection for any owner of turbary, and the county council — and that means the consumers of turf — and the Government are bound to give full and fair compensation. There is no reservation in that matter. The owner is bound to get an amount by way of compensation fairly representing the loss suffered by reason of such damage. That is the first thing that we have got to get clear in our minds: that if, by reason of these development works, any damage is being done to the property of any landowner that landowner is entitled to be fully and fairly compensated. As regards the plea for commiserate consideration for the amendment, on the grounds of damage to these people's property, the answer is that there is full and fair compensation awaiting them.

Now, to get back to the other point. We have been told by Deputy Mulcahy that these turbary owners were no more racketeers than the wheat growers were. Certainly, I accept that statement, but, if land is made productive to grow wheat, it is assessed, and a rateable valuation is put on it for the purpose of collecting rates.

When? Not during the emergency.

When it was being valued, and when it was producing wheat: when it was productive.

The Minister is on dangerous ground now.

No, I am not, for the land was originally valued on that basis. But, on the other hand, the Valuation Act clearly lays down that a turf bog is not subject to a rateable valuation unless a rent or other valuable consideration shall be payable for the same. Now, what has happened in this case? Until rents, royalties or other valuable considerations were charged by the owners of these turf banks to the community— the county councils were operating in these matters on behalf of the community—there was no rateable valuation put upon them. It was only when the people who owned these turf banks began to charge the community for the produce of them in exactly the same way as the farmer would naturally charge for the produce of his wheat lands, that they became subject to a rateable valuation. If the persons who have drawn, in some instances, up to almost £600 in royalties, are willing to forgo the royalties, then the county council would be equally willing to forgo the rates. I think it is unreasonable to suggest that a public body should pay royalties amounting, over a couple of years, to almost £600, and yet be expected to forgo the £26 or the £27 which it proposes to collect in the way of rates. Finally, the position is this, that—though these bogs have been developed, though roads have been made into them, though they have been drained—if they cease to be productive, if the county council ceases to take turf from them, if the owners of the bogs cease to demand royalties, if there is no rent charged for the bog, and if the bog reverts to its original condition as a non income-producing asset, then, of course, the farmer can appeal. It does not cost him anything to appeal in a matter like that, and, if the facts are clear, the rateable valuation will be correspondingly reduced.

Under what section?

I would like to get the Minister's authority for that statement.

I cannot accept in regard to this matter a proposal which the Deputy himself has shown this House is of far-reaching importance. It would cover practically half the community and, once accepted, would be impossible to resist in its application in other spheres. We must have a uniform law in this matter. Valuation, if it applies for one purpose, must apply for all purposes and it must be a fair valuation for all purposes. The people who would ultimately be most affected by the acceptance of an amendment of this sort would be the great majority of the ratepayers of the counties which would be affected by it.

The Minister, of course, completely avoided the point. I am sure a number of Deputies here, from Laoighis-Offaly, Kildare, Kerry, are very interested in this. The Minister said, "when the owner ceases charging a rent". Let me tell the Minister, because it is quite obvious he does not know, that so far as the majority of the owners of turbary in this country are concerned, particularly where there were small pieces of turbary involved, they had no choice in the matter whatever. The county surveyor, working under Emergency Powers Orders, went in, made whatever arrangements he thought necessary, cut the turf and gave the owner of the bog, not a price fixed per foot or per perch by the owner of the bog, but a price agreed upon between the county manager and the county surveyor, and the owner of the bog could take it or leave it.

That is all nonsense.

Mr. Morrissey

The Minister says it is nonsense.

Absolute nonsense.

Mr. Morrissey

Again, that it is absolute nonsense. I can assure the Minister that it is not absolute nonsense. The difference between the Minister and myself is that I have first-hand knowledge and the Minister has not. The Minister said when land was made arable and grew wheat that it was assessed and the rateable valuation increased. Let me repeat, for the benefit of some Deputies who were not here—it is a point which the Minister did not answer—if a county manager can increase the valuation of turbary merely because it was cut, and a certain sum, large or small, was paid to the owner, I want to hear from the Minister or any member of this House, under what authority, under what Act or section of an Act, the valuation of land can be reduced. I want to get that. I have been looking for that for a long time.

I am putting this up as an analogy— Deputies from the rural areas know what I am talking about—there are, as I have said, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of fields in this country that five years ago were nothing but scrub and rock. By taking advantage of the Farm Improvements Schemes, farmers removed the rocks and scrub and these fields have been for the last couple of years growing good crops of wheat and other cereals. Following on what it has been sought to do in regard to bogs, are we to take it that because a man's field was improved by the use of a State grant his valuation is going to be increased? What I am coming at is this: Dealing with this particular Bill, the increase which is made in the farmer's valuation not only makes him immediately liable for a higher rate, but it debars him in many cases from getting the benefits under the Housing Acts because his valuation has gone beyond the prescribed limits. This is a very serious and a very important matter, and I want to ask Deputies— I do not care what Party they belong to—are they satisfied that farmers whose turf was cut by local authorities during the last four or five years are to have their valuations immediately increased? That is what is being done. I would be glad to get the authority from the Minister, but I doubt very much if the Minister's statement that those valuations can be reduced subsequently is correct. I doubt it very much.

I say to the Minister again, that this year the valuations of certain bogs have been increased where the county council have not cut a sod of turf for the last two or three years. Therefore, the question of ceasing to ask for royalties or to ask for rent from the local authorities does not arise. I know that the Minister is perhaps labouring under certain difficulties, getting information in a hurry, and so on, from the local authorities concerned, but it is a very important matter and there is a very big principle at stake. If we are going to have the question of the valuation of land in this country affected in any way, then it ought to be done directly and openly and ought not to be done like this. I think that is a principle which ought to commend itself to every Deputy. Again, if one wanted any further evidence of the trend of thought on the Government Front Bench, in respect of all these things, we have got it now.

The Minister said that I made an attack upon officials of the State. I never at any stage of my life made an attack upon any official of this State, but I do make an attack upon a misnomer of the Ministry. The Minister asserts that a person is entitled to fair compensation for the damage done and, if the farmer and the local authority do not agree, that it is fixed by an arbitrator. I want to point out to you, Sir, by way of personal explanation, that an arbitrator is a person agreed upon by two parties to a dispute but, if one party to the dispute nominates the arbitrator, I say he is no longer an arbitrator but a nominee of that party and that he is already a prejudiced agent because he is nominated by that party. Fianna Fáil made very great play, and rightly so, when the British decided that the arbitrator in the land annuities dispute should be confined to the British Commonwealth. Fianna Fáil said, "No, that would not be arbitration." What was fish for them then must be fish for the ordinary citizen to-day.

The facts are that the county council have walked in, not in Longford only, but in Westmeath, Roscommon and several counties, and have taken over arbitrarily a plot of turbary, a piece of turbary or acres of turbary, whatever it may be. I have known them to go in on as small a piece as one acre and leave the farmer without a sod for the rest of his life. Not only that, but they dug holes and left the thing a disgrace to any one who knew the art of turf-cutting. The farmer says that the damage done to him is so much; the county engineer on the spot says, "not at all, it was only so much." I know of cases in which it was agreed that the matter would be left to a local arbitrator but the Government refused to allow that and insisted upon Section 11 of the Order being enforced. The arbitrators must be appointed by the Minister. The Minister says that Deputy MacEoin made a charge against public officials. Who are the officials?

The arbitrators and nobody else.

In my opinion, they are from a Fianna Fáil club in Sligo, Mayo and several other places.

Let the Minister who knows something about it talk. You are not at the cross-roads now. Let the Minister answer as to who the arbitrators are that he nominates to decide what damage has been done. If the Minister says to me that he appoints civil servants only or that the Minister for Industry and Commerce appoints civil servants only, then I withdraw any charge that they are in any way prejudiced or biassed, because my experience of civil servants is that they have never been biassed or prejudiced. I want to bear that testimoney to them, and I will not allow the Minister for Local Government to charge me with having done something I have not done. He has done that before and got away with it. He charged me with having said what I did not say. I say now that I did not say what the Minister charged me with having said. It was just what I would expect from the Minister for Local Government.

In this particular amendment the Minister is asked that, for the purposes of the Housing Act, the valuation should not be increased because of the effort that farmers made during the emergency. The Minister says that, if he accepted that, it would open up so many points that he would not know where to stop and that he must have some standard. I say that the standard is already established and that he is not creating any new one by holding fast to the one we have.

Deputy MacEoin was very wrong in what he said about the arbitrators. So far as I know, the arbitrators act under the Minister for Justice. We have arbitrators appointed in connection with the acquisition of land by local authorities and other things. I do not know, but I assume——

Do not talk if you do not know.

The Deputy spoke and he did not know.

The Deputy said they were members of some Deputy's Cumann. So far as I know, the arbitrators are a well-known body of men who act under the Department of Justice. I am sure Deputy MacEoin's colleague on his left will tell him who the arbitrators are.

Certainly, they are not under the Department of Justice.

The official arbitrators are well known. I do not know any of their names. They are appointed by the Minister for Justice and they act under the Department of Justice.

Read the Act.

Arbitrators are not appointed by the Minister for Justice, but by the Chief Justice. They have nothing to do with this case.

This controversy has arisen on the question of whether, when turf bogs become a source of income to their owners, rates should be paid on them to the county council.

Not at all.

Yes at all. That is fundamental to the whole thing. Deputy Mulcahy objects because the local authorities in Tipperary and other counties apply to the Commissioner of Valuation for a revision of valuation of certain property if it becomes a big source of income which it was not before.

I object to that in an emergency situation. But that is not what we are discussing here.

If Deputy Mulcahy owned a farm in Tipperary and, during an emergency situation, that farm was found to contain a gold mine or a platinum mine for which he gets royalties, he would object to the local authority levying rates on his property for that reason. I wonder why Deputy Mulcahy objects to the local authority in North Tipperary, a democratically elected body, I am sure, seeking to collect rates on a larger valuation as the result of activities in that county which had not hitherto been carried on. Does he think that the valuations in North Tipperary should never be increased for any reason? If houses are built in North Tipperary during the emergency, should they not be valued for rating purposes? Does Deputy Mulcahy object to valuations in North Tipperary being increased in any circumstances? That is fundamental to this whole argument—that the local authority should not operate the Valuation Act of 1852 in respect of turf bogs. Will Deputy Mulcahy answer that? Does he object to local authorities getting an increase in rates in order to provide for the social services within their county? The Deputy objects to it in all circumstances.

I wanted an opportunity to argue that yesterday, but you denied me an opportunity by your votes.

You have every opportunity now. I am asking a straight question. Does the Deputy object in all circumstances to an increase in the valuations in North Tipperary or any of these other counties? If farmers in these counties are fortunate enough to have their property improved as a result of the emergency situation, and to have the big income that they had not before from a certain type of property on their farms, does he object to these farmers having to pay an increased rate to the county council in North Tipperary or any other county that he mentioned? That is fundamental to his whole argument. If gold mines had been found on these farms, I am sure Deputy Mulcahy would raise a similar objection. The Valuation Act provides that, if turf banks are giving a revenue to the owners, then they become assessable for rating purposes.

There is no question of increasing the rates on land, as Deputy Morrissey maintained. The rates on land cannot be increased or decreased under the existing law, except in cases where the land is continuously flooded. Deputy Mulcahy, I am sure, knows that under the Valuation Act the valuation of land cannot be increased or decreased by any authority or by the Commissioner of Valuation. I think this suggestion of Deputy Mulcahy's is absolute humbug. I am sure local authorities will resent this very much. We have been very concerned in this House on many occasions about the position of local authorities and the Government putting increased charges on them. Here is an opportunity now for certain local authorities to improve their revenue and it is objected to by the Leader of the Opposition. Local authorities are allowed by the existing statute law to apply to the Commissioner of Valuation for a revision of valuation on certain property within their county and, because they put the law into operation and valuations are increased, Deputy Mulcahy objects. He objects to these county councils being entitled to levy rates that will improve their revenue.

Listening to Deputy Allen, one would think that the last had been said about this matter, that there was only one side which had equity and justice. He states that, where there was an improvement made in this turbary there was an obvious conclusion that the county council was entitled to make an increased valuation and to put on that increase. I have a case in mind, one of the individual cases concerned, where a man had three acres of cutaway bog at Annaholty on the Tipperary-Limerick line. The valuation was 10/-. It is now £19 and the property has been affected to the extent that it is excavated away completely and he is left with a lake. The Tipperary County Council, acting in the best patriotic interests for the emergency, utilised every available place where turf could be delved, using machinery and pumps where the ordinary holder was not able to use them. They came to that holding in conjunction with others on the North Tipperary side and excavated turf from a cutaway bog with a 10/- valuation on the three acres. Has it been improved? Deputy Allen says it has been, but I say that it is non-existent, that it is a lake now. They have given £18 or £19 a year as rental for that turf and there is a rate to correspond with that and he paid £12 6s., I think, as rate. He is finished with that now, as there is no more turf and he has a fine lake of water. It is an inequitable proposition that he should be levied on a valuation of £19 10s. So there are two sides to every story. Deputy Allen seems to think that the Tipperary County Council (North Riding) have improved the holding and are justified in increasing the valuation.

I did not speak about the improvement of the holding.

That is not the case in many of the instances. I am quoting a typical case. These people had to be brought to Nenagh Court to be prosecuted for non-payment of rates. It was advertised in the Press and that was sufficient notification, but they did not get any individual notification and the proceedings were not resisted. They now have to appear in court and they are liable, I take it, as the valuation is there. How long is that to remain on the people? They have given their holdings and have got a payment for whatever turf was in them and even what was below the surface was excavated in the national interests during the emergency. Is it fair to continue mulcting them to the extent of an increase from 10/- to £19 on three acres? If that is a fair and equitable proposition, I submit that the English language has lost its meaning entirely.

This matter calls for very careful investigation. I think that it would be necessary to have something like a private Bill or some other step like that might be taken as a matter arising out of the emergency. If people are going to have this adjusted—and I think it can be readily adjusted—as it was adjusted to meet the emergency, when there was a reduction from the original valuation, if there is a change, it should be made because of the destruction. They got a rental at the time the turf was excavated, and I think there should be something coming to them now.

They can apply for compensation.

Is it not a fact that under the valuation law a county council is bound to report for valuation any property in which there has been an increase in value? Is it not also a fact, under the same law, that a person concerned has the right to appeal every year, if the value of that property decreases or if it becomes of no value? In view of some of the things put up by Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Keyes, I would say that there is the right, at any time the property decreases in value, to have the value reduced.

Mr. Morrissey

They have not. Let us get the Act.

If the old and distinguished practice of presenting white gloves had not gone entirely out of fashion, I would be delighted to present white gloves to Deputies Allen and Colley, as neither in Wexford nor in Dublin does the county council seem to have cut a sod of turf to help us out of the present emergency.

There is none in it.

Therefore, Deputy Allen and Deputy Colley have nothing to do, apparently, with this case we are arguing here. With all his virgin innocence of this particular question, Deputy Allen asks me if I would object to a local authority having the valuation increased, if somebody found in the virgin soil of Wexford gold or platinum.

Mr. Morrissey

Or Wicklow.

It is so near Wicklow that you might get it there. No matter where it may be, the very Act of 1852, which is being used to take back from those who provide turbary during this emergency some of the moneys paid to them for it, would protect a fellow who found gold and platinum, for a period of seven years. Section 12 of the 1852 Act, upon which people are relying to increase the valuation, says:—

"Provided also, that no mines which have not been opened seven years before the passing of this Act shall be deemed rateable until the term of seven years from the time of opening thereof shall have expired; and no mines hereafter to be opened shall be deemed rateable until seven years after the same shall have been opened".

Now, would the Deputy answer Deputy Morrissey and put him right in regard to turbary?

I will answer Deputy Keyes and thank him for his suggestion. He suggested that this is a matter which might more satisfactorily have been dealt with in another way. I attempted in every possible way to have it dealt with more satisfactorily. I asked to raise the question on the adjournment, so that we might get more information. I put down a motion on the Order paper for the purpose of having a discussion and the Government would not grant time for it. The motion was:—

"That the Dáil is of opinion that the valuation of land, turf bog or turf bank should not be increased by the operation of emergency legislation; and more specifically by reason of the taking or purchase of turf therefrom by or for disposal through local authorities, or through schemes intended to provide fuel during the emergency contemplated by the Emergency Powers Act, 1939; and that proposals for any necessary legislation should be introduced forthwith by the Government".

I had asked in my question that the prosecutions be held up until an inquiry had been made into the matter and we would see whether the action taken was a test action or not, if we could not get a discussion in this particular way. If the Fianna Fáil Party are going to do their best to see that, out of the so-called royalties being paid to these people for turf, the county council is going to snatch back some moneys in an increased valuation, then I cannot prevent it. What we are saying here to-night is: "If you are going to hound these unfortunate people like that—and they are being hounded—do not add, on top of that damage that you are going to do by reason of the valuation added on them in these emergency conditions, the withdrawal of the rights they had to get grants for housing before this turf business was ventured upon at all." That is all we are asking here in this amendment. The amendment says that, assuming you are going to do your damnedest in this matter of increasing their valuation, you should not, as well as taking additional rates out of them, withdraw from them also the rights that they have to get grants to improve their houses, if their valuation is under £25, to get £70 grant if their valuation is under £15 or £60 grant if it is under £25 or £45 if it is over that. That is all I am asking. That is all we are asking, but the Minister's attitude lights up a sinister move in the whole business, and the cloaking down of discussion of this matter in the more orderly way that Deputy Keyes speaks about draws attention to that, too.

What happened in North Tipperary, where there was a group of 12 who gave certain rights to cut turbary in a particular area to the county council? All their valuations were increased, all of them got bills for increased rates. Only five of them were summoned and when they asked to have an adjournment in order that they might get counsel's opinion, whoever was dealing with the case from the point of view of the State, objected.

What does the Deputy mean by "from the point of view of the State"?

Whoever was conducting the prosecution.

The court proceedings were on behalf of the local authority.

Whether it was from the point of view of the local authority or otherwise, they wanted to deal with five of them first; they did not want to break all their sticks together. For some reason or other they did not dare to take the 12 prosecutions together. They wanted to take five only and when they would dispose of the five they would take the remaining seven.

The Deputy is making statements he cannot stand over. Ordinary civil proceedings are not prosecutions.

I have not been consulting dictionaries with the assiduous application with which Ministers have been consulting them recently.

Of course they were prosecutions, civil or criminal as the case may be. The Minister does not know what he is talking about. You prosecute criminally or civilly.

All that is apparently settled by the attitude of everybody who has been dealing with this matter from the Government side, and particularly by the attitude adopted yesterday. I want to say to the white-gloved Deputies from Wexford and Dublin, the only people we have heard on this matter, that if what they say is true that these valuations can be reduced, why should a man, who got royalties in 1941, 1942 and 1943 and who in 1945, when his valuation is increased, is getting none, be deprived of his ordinary rights under the Housing Bill?

These valuations are increased and increased rates have to be paid, substantially increased rates. Deputy Keyes gave the House one case and I gave another where a person whose valuation was only £16 and who was paying £6 odd in rates had his valuation increased by £25 and his rates by £16. I am only asking that these men will not be deprived of their rights to get grants under the terms of the Housing Act, 1932.

I should like to say a few words on this question of an increased valuation being put on bogs. This is merely a bit of propaganda from the other side of the House. I think the various county councils rose very well to the occasion when there was an emergency and when we had to rely on our own resources in order to warm our houses. The county councils came out and organised their workers. They took over bogs and they worked them well. There were people who thought it very hard to give their bogs to us and now if they have minerals on their land it is only right to make them pay for those minerals.

I have been charged by Deputy MacEoin that I was not at the cross-roads. I do not know what the Deputy means. I was charged by another Deputy on another occasion that at one time I was at the cross-roads. I know that I am now in my own House of Parliament and not at the cross-roads. I am not ashamed of that. I did not run round to the cross-roads to get a strong vote and I do not have to go to the bog workers. I helped the people of my country in my time. I deprecate what Deputy MacEoin said here. He is an honourable opponent and I like him, but I thought it was a nasty thing to say that I was not at the cross-roads. I met him on platforms in my constituency. I was well able to fight him and I believe I would beat him on a vote.

There is another gentleman on that side of the House who made certain remarks about me. I am prepared to take whatever a man says if he says it in fair play. I back my Government and I think they are right every time —I am quite sure they are. I expect in the near future we will do bigger things, please God, with our valuations, as far as housing is concerned. I will ask the Minister to reconsider many little things with regard to the reconstruction of houses. I think that this is a great Bill—the Bill that is being brought in by the Parliamentary Secretary—and we will be well able to see that our housing will go forward and that we will not charge too highly for the houses. I deprecate some of the remarks that were made. I am sorry I had to cross swords with Deputy MacEoin because he said I was not at the cross-roads. I was as often at them as he was.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 34; Níl, 55.

  • Anthony, Richard S.
  • Beirne, John.
  • Bennett, George C.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • McAuliffe, Patrick.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • Cafferky, Dominick.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Coogan, Eamonn.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, Timothy J.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Donnell, William F.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Rogers, Patrick J.


  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Brennan, Martin.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
  • Carter, Thomas.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Crowley, Honor Mary.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • De Valera, Vivion.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Furlong, Walter.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Healy, John B.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, James.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lydon, Michael F.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moran, Michael.
  • O'Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Connor, John S.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Shanahan, Patrick.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Doyle and Bennett; Níl: Deputies Kissane and O Briain.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 2 agreed to.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In sub-section (4), page 3, line 51, to delete the words "within seven years".

I take it that the families to which this section will apply will already have had considerable expense in providing medical equipment and assistance of one kind or another, expense over and above that which a family not similarly placed would have. Other families that, in the normal way, would add a room to their house, would have the valuation raised. In this particular case, provision has been made to assist a family or household, a member of which has had the misfortune to contract this disease. I think, therefore, that no increase in valuation should be made. The whole purpose of the section, and the whole idea behind the scheme, is to assist those families not in a position to get a particular patient either to a sanatorium or a hospital, or who are unable to provide additional rooms or additional facilities. The section enables, in such cases, a local authority to build a room on the recommendation of the local medical officer, in accordance with a particular specification. When that is done, the recipient is enabled to receive a grant of £100. The grant is payable out of local and State funds amounting to £100,000 for the whole country.

I suggest that the families affected by this are families that are not in a position to provide themselves with these facilities, and that there is no case whatever for increasing the valuation of their houses. If the Minister thinks that this proposal would defeat the object of the Bill, I suggest that a restrictive covenant should be placed on the sale of the house by the family when it receives a grant for this purpose. That would prevent the family, when the patient had been cured, and there is no longer need for the additional room, from selling the house. In that way the family would not escape the liability which would ordinarily accrue from the additional room.

I am afraid I could not accept this amendment. The effect of it, of course, would be to relieve this additional accommodation provided in the house of the obligation to pay rates. It would relieve it in perpetuity of that obligation unless we brought in another Act to undo the acceptance of the amendment. In addition to that, of course, there is no guarantee that the family, in respect of which this additional room is being provided, would remain the occupier even for as long as seven years. Perhaps that is one of the anomalies of even granting the present exemption for seven years, that the occupation of the house may change in the meantime though the additional accommodation is there, and, in normal circumstances, may fall liable for rating. In addition to that, we have the very important factor to which I do not think the Deputy has given sufficient consideration, and that is that in general—I am not going to say in every case, though I think I could say in the vast majority of cases—the whole cost of the room would have been defrayed by the State and the local authority. In view of the fact that both have contributed—the State very generously and the local authority generously according to its resources—I think it would be unfair that property which they had provided should not become rateable at any time. I think that in these circumstances I could not accept the amendment.

If the Minister is not prepared to accept it in its present form, would he accept an amendment which would allow it to operate, provided the family occupying the house on the occasion of the erection of the room still remained in occupation? I said originally that if the family were to sell the place, then the purpose of the additional room would be defeated straight away. It may be that a particular family receiving this grant would sell the house in a short time. Of course, not alone would that defeat the purpose of the section, but the new occupier or owner would be receiving an additional room which would not be liable for an increased valuation for almost seven years. I suggest that there should be some restriction on sale, and if there is, provide that the person who has received the benefit shall remain in the house until such time as he is prepared to agree to an increase in valuation. I suggest that the valuation should not be raised as long as the family that got the additional room remains in occupation.

I do not think that I can meet the Deputy at all in regard to this. Let us take the case where a family for whom the room is originally provided remains in occupation of the premises all the time. In that connection, we have to bear in mind the case which this provision is intended to deal with. In the vast majority of cases we can take it that the person in respect of whom the grant is given will be a person who does not require sanatorium treatment, that is to say a person in the early stages of this disease who, more than likely, will, with rest and care, be cured. Now, I think it is a great contribution to the welfare of the family to have provided the particular member affected with separate accommodation at a cost which may be very considerable. When that person is cured, as we anticipate the vast majority of those concerned will be, I do not think that we would be justified in allowing that person, or family, to enjoy the use of these premises, and, in some cases, the ownership of this additional accommodation, free of rates as long as they remained in occupation. I do not think that would be reasonable. With regard to the other proposal, to impose a restrictive clause in the case of a person who may be the owner of premises, the Deputy justified his amendment very largely on compassionate grounds, that those who would benefit under the section would be people who had already been put to a great deal of expense by illness in their family. If they owned the house and, for one reason or another, say, because family circumstances had changed or because it was necessary for the family to transfer from one district to another or from one part of the country to another, if, because they had to do that, it became necessary for them to sell the house, this restrictive clause, I think, would inflict greater hardship upon them than the mere imposition on them of the obligation to pay rates for a period of years would do. I hope the Deputy, on consideration, will not press his amendment because, in all the circumstances, I do not think we would be justified in accepting it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 3 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

On the Fifth Stage, assuming the owner refuses to allow an occupying tenant to have the room added, what is the position under the Bill?

I do not think that we have any power as the Bill stands to deal with that situation, but we are hoping that it will not arise. If it does arise it will be easy to ask the House to give us power to deal with it.

I should like at this stage to say, if I may, with reference to the amendment which Deputy Cosgrave has not moved, that I agree that the situation would have to be dealt with.

I take it the Minister is concluding?

Yes, I just want to put it on record that there is a position which has to be dealt with and I am going to see if I can deal with it in a more expenditious and more satisfactory way.

That is in regard to amendment No. 3?

That is the one that had the chequered career.

Question put and agreed to.