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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 27 Oct 1960

Vol. 184 No. 2

Local Government (Temporary Reduction of Valuation) Bill, 1960—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

By and large, the speakers mainly from the Opposition benches have in general terms welcomed the various provisions of this Bill. A few questions were raised. Deputy Dillon, the Leader of the Opposition, questioned the advisability, fairness, or justice of the rates remission for 20 years. He asked why it is not possible to give this remission of 20 years to those who have already built, for instance, during the years back to 1st April, 1949.

The Deputy will be fully alive to the fact, naturally, that this problem presented itself to me during the course of the investigation of what might be done and the changes we were about to make. First of all, we must have regard to the fact that rate remissions, whether they are new provisions or merely a continuation of that which existed in the past, are designed to encourage new building of various kinds and in this instance encourage new buildings on farmsteads and out-offices of the farmsteads throughout the country.

It is also quite evident, of course, that those already built do not require the encouragement of this improved rate remission to get them into existence. They are already there. Secondly, the bovine tuberculosis regulations are also making demands which are of pressing and urgent need on many of our farmers throughout the country. You cannot ignore those demands and, at the same time, make people build more in order to make the improvements called for. That was one of the arguments, and I think a fairly sound one, advanced as to why we should try to further encouragement by rate remission on these buildings.

It still leaves unanswered the question why we should not apply this back to the buildings commenced last year, the year before or 20 years ago. It is fairly evident in all these matters of grants or remissions, aid or assistance of any kind by any Department that the question of a dateline is one which has to be decided definitely one way or the other. No matter what dateline is decided, or has ever been decided in regard to benefits of this or any other nature, there are always those who have just missed by a day, a week, a month or a year and naturally enough they think they should get the benefits but the fact is that, no matter how far back one goes, there is always the person who, the year before or the day before, would have been entitled to benefit and who feels he should be included.

Except in this case because prior to 1949 they could not build farm buildings.

Prior to 1949 there was no cement or timber for farm buildings.

Yes, but then one could go back as far as 1939.

Yes if you went back 30 years but the period is 20 years.

It might be just the same. We have to go back to the original idea which is encouragement, the underlying motive in all these remissions, to promote new building, not to encourage it 20 or 30 years from now but within the three years from the 1st April last to the 31st March, 1963; in other words, to give encouragement within that period to erect certain buildings which we feel are necessary but which, without this encouragement, might not be undertaken. That is fundamentally the real case for the remissions, as it has been in other remission Bills in the past.

To suggest that those who have already built are deserving of this concession is no doubt a ready argument and quite an appealing one, but the fundamental principle comes first and that is to provide encouragement to do something that is not yet done. That is what we are trying to do here and that is why we cannot go back 5, 6, 10 or 11 years and give this remission to those who already enjoy, and for some years past have been enjoying, the facilities of improved buildings which, possibly due to their circumstances in those years, they were able to provide, whereas those who have yet to build possibly could not build because they had not the resources or because they may have feared the impact on their rates as the result of new building.

Deputy Corish also raised a point concerning the Valuation Office. As he said, the Valuation Office is not my concern or that of my Department. It is under the Department of Finance. The Deputy made the point on the question of Buncrana that the provision we are now making in this Bill —one which he entirely and fully agrees is necessary — nevertheless shows a fundamental weakness in that it never should have happened, and that the Valuation Office would need to be brought to book to some degree about the matter and that, more or less, under existing law there is possibly some responsibility for the situation that has existed there. However, let us not forget—I do not think any other urban council in future will forget it—that it was the urban council members who brought this about in the first instance——

Hear, hear.

——and without their efforts, without their resolution covering the entire area for a revision of valuation, it could not have happened. It was not due to the initiative of the Valuation Office so that while one might show, as Deputy Corish has said, that some rather ridiculous position may obtain in, certain circumstances as a result of a flaw in the working of the Valuation Office, nevertheless I do not think that, in the case of Buncrana, we can put the blame on that Office. Rather, we should put it where it belongs and where it has long since been placed, fairly and squarely on the shoulders, not of the entire members of the urban council in Buncrana in 1950 but on the shoulders of members who, by recorded vote, not only on one occasion but also on a second occasion, confirmed that they wanted this thing done. It was a split vote of four to four, with the chairman's casting vote in favour of it to make it worse.

I assume he is not on the council any more.

He is not. The fact is that a second chance was given to that council by way of rescinding motion to mend their hand. Though, strictly speaking, it might not have been within the law, the Manager was prepared to sit on the original application, taking the sensible course and helping out, but even the rescinding motion went the same way. No better sense was displayed by those four people on the second vote than was displayed in the first and they confirmed their own downfall. They brought the Valuation Office down on themselves and——

Is it not a fact that any citizen can seek revaluation of any premises?

It has once happened that Thom's Directory was sent by a citizen of Dublin to the Valuation Office. I do not know where that particular issue of Thom's is but I do not think it has since appeared.

The general overall reception of the Bill in the House has been, as one might expect, one of welcome of the continuation of certain of these remissions, of the extension of some remissions and in particular of the alleviation of the undoubted position of hardship in which Buncrana Urban District Council has been placed over the past 10 years. I do not think there is anything further I wish to add.

Question put and agreed to.

Could we have it now?

I think we would want some time. There is no immediate urgency.

Except to get it tidied up and out of the way.

There might be an amendment on that section dealing with the date, 1960 to 1963. Perhaps we could have it on Thursday of next week.

If the House wishes to have it that way, I am in the hands of members.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 3rd November, 1960.