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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Dec 1974

Vol. 276 No. 9

Private Members' Business. - Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1974: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of this short Bill is the continuation of the legislation which provides for relief of rates on agricultural land by way of the agricultural grant; existing legislation is due to expire on 31st December 1974. This grant is paid by the Exchequer to county councils to enable them to give abatement of rates to occupiers of agricultural land. In the coming financial year more than £30 million will be paid over from the Echequer to county councils by means of the agricultural grant to reduce the rates burden on the agricultural community.

The effect of the Bill is to provide for the continued payment of the agricultural grant on its present basis for the year ending 31st December, 1975, thereby providing for the continuation of the existing allowances. In the case of land holdings the valuation of which does not exceed £20 the primary allowance relieves 100 per cent of the general rate; this allowance effectively derates 77 per cent of all rated holdings of agricultural land. In the case of holdings between £20 and £33 valuation the primary allowance relieves 100 per cent of the rates on the first £20 of the land valuation and the rated occupier is liable for rates on the remainder only. Land holdings with valuations in excess of £33 qualify for a primary allowance of 80 per cent in respect of £20 valuation and a supplementary allowance of 30 per cent on the remainder of the valuation. In addition to the aforementioned allowances, an employment allowance of £17 per workman is available, in appropriate cases, towards the relief of the net rates payable after deduction of the primary and supplementary allowances on holdings with land valuations over £20.

I commend the Bill to the House.

This Bill is very similar to Bills which have been brought before the House on previous occasions to continue the rates relief on agricultural land. We are happy to support the Bill in its general purpose.

Perhaps I may be allowed to ask the Minister some questions which arise from the statement he has made and also from statements which the Minister made in the past. The idea of making available an employment allowance of £17 per workman was subjected to very severe criticism when I came before the House with the Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1972. It was criticised by the members of the Labour Party as being a waste of money and it was criticised by the Fine Gael party spokesman as being too small. They said the £17 could be increased. Sums of £50, £38 and £40 are mentioned but, generally, the figure of £17 was ridiculed on that occasion.

The Bill brought in by Fianna Fáil continuing the rates on agricultural land was for a longer period than one year and, as I understand it, this Bill is merely to continue rates relief for the next 12 months. I should like to ask the Minister, therefore, why he has decided only to continue this Bill for another 12 months. When this subject was discussed in July, 1972 there was criticism of the fact that continuing Bills were being used by the Government rather than permanent legislation to regularise the situation.

To come forward with a Bill merely continuing this for another 12 months seems somewhat contradictory of the sentiments expressed then. The principal contradiction is that the Minister, who expressed strong views against the payment of the £17 employment allowance then, has now decided to continue it and, in so deciding, I am surprised that he has not implemented the views expressed by members of the Coalition Government when they were in Opposition that the amount should be increased. I stated then that I had an open mind. I was inclined to agree with the arguments put forward by Deputy Tully that its discontinuance might be very little loss because it had very little effect. I accepted there was a valid point in the arguments advanced by the Opposition spokesmen in that debate and these arguments would be kept in mind when preparing further continuing legislation.

Speaking on the Estimate for the Department of Local Government on 6th July, 1972, Deputy Donegan, the Minister for Defence in the present Government, said at Columns 951 and 952 of the Official Report:

The employment allowance of £17 on the rates should be scrapped.

This was a contrary view to that expressed by some of his colleagues at the time.

The political line that has been taken in respect of the west of Ireland was that when holdings were derated, the people would be given an employment allowance also through the Department of Social Welfare, but there is a case for a higher employment allowance through the good areas of Ireland. Would any farmer decide to employ or not to employ a man on the basis of £17?

That was the query posed by Deputy Donegan at that time. Deputy Tully interjected:

It is a complete waste of money.

Either it should be discontinued altogether or the amount of money should be increased considerably ... In relation to agricultural work anybody who suggests that £17 would be the decisive factor in employing a person, not for one week in the year but for 52 weeks, is being unrealistic. That is the reason why both Deputy Tully and I wish for a change of Government.

It is one of the reasons.

We have had the change of Government but we have not had the implementation of the views expressed on that occasion by two Opposition Deputies who are now members of the Government. I would like the Minister to elaborate somewhat on his real thinking because we must accept that his real intentions are those expressed now in this Bill. I accept that he must have considered this matter, having held those views then, and has obviously decided to come down in favour of continuing the £17 employment allowance. This will cost the Exchequer roughly £500,000 next year, quite a substantial sum when taken in one lot. Broken up into pieces of £17 per workman it does not really have any great impact on whether or not a man's employment will be continued or whether a man will be offered employment by a farmer. The sum of £500,000 assumes special significance when one remembers that the Book of Estimates recently published shows a cut of 50 per cent, the equivalent of £500,000, in the amount being provided next year for local improvement schemes, very worthwhile schemes and very necessary in rural Ireland in bringing people up to a certain standard of living by providing them with decent roads to their isolated homesteads. But this Government apparently decided to reduce the amount by half a million.

I fail to see how this is relevant to the Bill under discussion. This is a very limited measure.

It certainly is.

The amount is significant. If the Minister sincerely held those views in 1972, would it not have been better for him to ensure that the local improvement schemes maintained their level of output at the same figure as that provided in the past of £1 million rather than cut off £500,000 off that sum? If he was short of money, he could have found that money by adhering to his clearly expressed views in 1972. He has let down many people in rural areas. This is a matter we shall have to discuss on another occasion.

I notice this measure provides that the employment allowance may be paid for workmen who have holdings under £20 valuation. It did apply to holdings under £15. Towards the end of his short introductory statement the Minister said:

In addition to the aforementioned allowances an employment allowance of £17 per workman is available, in appropriate cases, towards the relief of the net rates payable after deduction of the primary and supplementary allowances on holdings with land valuations over £20.

The rate has been increased to £20 obviously. Naturally, we do not object to the Bill. It is very similar to the one we introduced. We would, however, like to have the benefit of the Minister's views now on the criticisms he made when he was on this side of the House. Speaking on 4th July, 1972. when this Bill was being discussed, Deputy Tully said at column 535 of the Official Report:

Like Deputy Clinton, I feel the £17 unemployment allowance is a bit of a joke, but for a different reason. I believe there is no point in paying £17, that it is a complete waste of money and that nobody at present employs a man because he is allowed £17 off his rates ... If the Minister wants to save whatever small amount of money is involved he could do so and nobody would cry salt tears if they lost this £17.

Later at column 536 he said:

The Minister might forget about the £17 altogether.

Deputy Clinton, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in the Coalition Government, speaking on the same day had this to say, at column 533:

The Minister must be aware that there has been endless agitation and discussion all over the country in county councils, in the General Council of County Councils, in committees of agriculture and in the General Council of Committees of Agriculture and resolutions have been passed going back many years asking successive Ministers for Local Government to come up with a realistic figure. It is certainly many years since the £17 figure was arrived at and if at that time it was regarded as a figure that might induce a farmer to employ an extra man it certainly would not do so now. It is altogether unrealistic as an inducement.

There is need now for some explanation for the change in thinking following on the movement from Opposition into Government. In 1972 the Minister described this whole thing as a joke and he said the provision of £17 was a waste of money. If those views were sincere, then the House is now due some explanation as to why the Minister is continuing the joke and the waste of money.

This Bill must be viewed against the background of the farming activities which exist at the moment and against the problems created by the Government from the farmers of Ireland. This Bill, which is similar to the Bill introduced in 1972, should indicate to the farmers that the Government are prepared to go one better or two better than the Government did in 1972, for no other reason than that the farming community are now demanding better treatment, are demanding action by the Government and are demanding that their lot, which has deteriorated drastically over the past 18 months, should be improved.

So far, in other fields the Government have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to their requests and their resolutions and their letters, and to all the pleadings from this side of the House that they should do something for the large number of small farmers who this year are suffering and, so far as we can see in the foreseeable future, will suffer heavy losses in their incomes.

I cannot allow the Deputy to travel that road. This Bill deals solely with the abatement of rates for occupiers of agricultural land.

I am talking about occupiers of agricultural land.

The Deputy is seeking to create an economic debate about the condition of farmers generally. This is not on, on this Bill.

This is a means and a method, I hope——

The Deputy may not circumvent the ruling of the Chair. I must ask him to confine his remarks to the Bill under discussion in the House, a Bill dealing with the abatement of rates on agricultural land.

This is an aid to farmers. I am making the case that this aid is not sufficient to remedy the problems it purports to aid. I am trying to demonstrate that there is not sufficient aid in this Bill. For what? The Chair, I think, will agree that I must enumerate the ills from which the farming community are suffering.

I am afraid the Deputy must leave that for another day. That is entering into a much wider area altogether which was never intended under this measure.

I am not suggesting any aid other than this one, But I am trying to show that this aid is not sufficient. This aid could be improved and should be improved to do (a), (b), (c) and the other things we on this side of the House would like to see done. That is logical. It would be unfair for you, a Cheann Comhairle, to rule me out of order on this.

I am ruling on the Bill before us. We are all circumscribed by the measure before us which deals with the abatement of rates on agricultural land.

I refused earlier today to act as a temporary chairman——

That is hardly relevant to this debate.

——because you are stymieing debate on this side of the House.

The Deputy is now proceeding to attack the Chair.

I will refuse to act as a temporary chairman until we get better treatment from the Chair.

Because I seek to keep the Deputy within the rules of the House.

The House will judge the logic of this.

The House is quite entitled to do that.

On a point of information, could I ask the Chair why he is not allowing Deputy Cunningham to discuss allowances to farmers which are the whole purpose of continuing agricultural rates relief? The deductions of rates on land and the £17 allowance surely play a substantial part in farmers' income over the 12 months.

The Chair will give Deputies the fullest latitude in accordance with the Bill before us.

Could I mention that, due to the cuts in the Estimates, more money is necessary through this medium? Could I point out some of the reductions and say that the gap caused by the reductions made by the Minister in allocations to the local authorities in fields which benefit farmers could be filled to a certain degree by better provisions in a Bill dealing with relief of rates on agricultural land? The Minister is not doing this. He is not living up to his responsibility. He is taking away money from local authorities in order to save the Exchequer. Whether or not he has the money is a different matter.

If the Minister came in here and said: "Deputies, I cannot do better than this at this time, the kitty is bare; I have not got the wherewithal to do the things which I myself advocated in 1972; I have not got the Lsd to do them; therefore, this is the best I can do", we would say: "O.K. Probably better times are coming." Perhaps this is why the Minister has given this Bill a life span of 12 months only, which is unusual and which is out of line with previous Bills dealing with relief of rates on agricultural land. Perhaps it is because he is going through a rough time. Perhaps it is because of the £27 million which the Minister for Finance got the other day. Perhaps he told the Minister: "This is the distance you can go because I am not giving you another ‘bob' to increase it." Perhaps that is why he has not introduced a better Bill. Fair enough—if he says that, we will say: "Maybe you will be able to do better next year." Maybe he will not be there next year and it would be better for the country if he was not there if this is the sort of trick he is to play on farmers.

It is not very pleasant for a Deputy when he becomes a Minister to have to eat his own words. That is what the Minister is doing. He is swallowing the £17. The farmers are demand-a lot more than that. We say "ditto" to every word Deputy Molloy quoted as issuing from the mouth of the Minister when he was a Deputy in Opposition in 1972. We say he was right. We said so then. We do not agree now that this Bill is sufficient. There has been a lapse of almost three years. There has been a serious deterioration. An SOS is going out from farming organisations for the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the Government to come to the rescue and the aid of farmers. We are echoing that now and saying to the Minister: "Can you not or will you not do better than this? "

The Minister's puny effort to alleviate the rates problem has been aggravated by direct Government action since 1972. The rate in Donegal this year is £9 in the £, the highest ever in the county, and this rate is doubly high in the farm situation which exists.

This measure will be of no assistance and nobody in Donegal will thank him for his puny effort. I am sure those sentiments will be re-echoed in every county. It must be remembered that during the lifetime of this Bill we will have, for the first in farming history, income tax imposed over and above the burdens that there are on our farming community.

That is not relevant and the Deputy must know it.

This aid will be of no consequence to those people who will be paying rates higher than ever before. Such people also have another penal tax to pay. The Minister should catch himself on and abolish this system altogether.

Without great difficulty the Minister could have increased the employment allowance. After all, the farmers cannot afford to employ as many workers as they did in 1972. In my view the Minister could afford to double that allowance. Such a move would not have cost him a half penny more. There will be less demand on that allowance because farm workers are joining the queue with other workers at the employment exchanges. The queue of unemployed farm labourers is increasing daily and this queue, like that of other workers, has been created by the Government.

Through this Bill the Minister had an opportunity of remedying the situation. However, the Minister's remedy for unemployment in agriculture is not sufficient. The allowance of £17 is exactly the same amount as that paid in 1972 when farmers had their best year. Surely there is an argument for doubling, even trebling, this employment aid. To increase this aid would not have cost the Government anything more than it cost in 1972. By not increasing that allowance the Government are saving money. It will cost less to administer the scheme than it did in 1972 due to the unemployment problem in the farming community which the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has in part created.

This is the second dirty trick within a week played on the farming community and the population in general. The Minister for Finance added substantially to farmers' costs by increasing the price of petrol and in doing so created a greater need for assistance for farmers.

The Deputy has departed time and again from the terms of the Bill.

This Bill will be of no assistance to the farming community. The Government will save money when it is introduced at the expense of the farmers in the same way as the Minister for Finance did last week. Farmers can see, by the action of the Minister for Finance who evidently is not prepared to give another bob over and above the proposals contained in this Bill in the farm workers allowance, no ray of hope that a serious effort will be made to ease their lot and tide them over what we hope will be a temporary situation.

This Bill falls far short of what I, the public, the farming community and farm workers expected but it is outstanding in one respect. If one delves into the records of this House one will see that some of our present Ministers when in Opposition said that everything contained in this Bill should be done away with and that we should have a new Bill dealing with rates on agricultural land. At least four Ministers were of that opinion in the past. These men had their chance to do something about this but they went back on their word. Their bluff has been called tonight. The Bill is an insult to the farming community, farmers and farm workers.

When in Opposition the present Minister for Local Government was a great man to defend rural workers but when he got a chance to help them he turned his back on them. There are many things contained in this Bill which have no reference to the present situation. The farming community expected that this Bill would contain some reference to farm tax and to show those who were caught in that net but there is no reference to farm tax in the Bill.

This is not relevant to the Bill.

I am referring to the matter of the primary allowance which is not being granted and which, I think, should be given. It is to this aspect that I shall relate my remarks. That has a lot to do with the submissions made by the various farming organisations to the Government, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and, I believe, the Minister for Local Government as well. I believe there should have been included in this Bill a complete derating of land where a man is paying income tax on that land on a valuation basis. I believe that should have been included in this Bill and that we should be passing money for that purpose. If a person is caught in that net the £100 valuation in any county will mean that that person will pay £500 rates, plus the farm tax levied on him.

Rates, as such, are something that are demanded regardless of one's ability to pay. Every Member of this House will agree that it is right and proper that whatever the taxation system we have—call it rates or anything else one likes—it should have some bearing on profits, income and on the ability of the person to pay. I would ask the Minister to seriously reconsider that aspect. Within the last few days there have been men coming to Dublin fighting for their cause on the land, to keep people on the land. They expected that those people caught in the tax net would be given some relief under the Bill being discussed here tonight. But what they have said has fallen on deaf ears. As far as I can ascertain, nobody will listen to them. They can sink or swim as far as the Government are concerned because the Government do not seem to consider how these people will live.

There is the example here of land under £20 valuation being derated. It was derated last year and the year before. God knows, it is a lot more difficult for a man with a £20 valuation, with a wife and a family, to make a living in 1974 than it has been since the days of the Famine. Have no doubt about that. Even during the thirties in the days of the economic war when one had not much income, at least £1 would purchase something with which to feed one's animal but that is not the case today.

I come now to the famous £17 per workman. Was there ever a greater insult done than to print that in this year of 1974? We have had decimilisation, devaluation, the green £. Yet a Minister of an Irish Government can come in here and tell us there is going to be an employment allowance of £17 per workman available off the rates if one has a workman, or a farmer's son works on the farm. I should like to ask the Minister one question. There are many farmers who do not want to fill up the form to get that allowance this year for their sons at home on the land because they are afraid the Revenue Commissioners will assess that son as having an income equivalent to agricultural wages. Will the Minister tell me whether or not that is so? Can the Minister tell me if it can be used? Silence?

The Minister will reply in due course.

That is a very important question. Can a man, with safety, sign in order to gain the £17 abatement in respect of his son and know that that young man will not have to pay, perhaps, four times the tax on the £17 gained by the family? Will the Minister answer that question in his reply?

We cannot have orderly debate by cross-examination. The Minister will reply in due course.

I thought the Minister would say at least that he would answer the question but there is silence. Is that not a shocking state of affairs? We have Bill after Bill introduced here and a Minister will sit there and will not even say that he will answer a straight question. I hope the Minister will because there are many people looking forward to the answer and I hope it will be a good one. The sum of £17 per workman does not mean much nowadays. If a man lived any distance at all from Dublin it would not even take him to an All-Ireland and home the same day. Let us be fair about it. He would not have a big day out; neither would there need to be a whiskey strike to ensure that he could exist on that £17.

Certainly the Minister must be aware that people are leaving the land in rural areas. That has been the case for many years, something that has happened all over the world. People tend to move to the larger cities, to the urban areas, into what we term the brighter lights. I cannot understand why we do not avail of this opportunity to help out the farmers. We had the experience the other day of the butter allowance disappearing under some EEC regulation dug up overnight. It did not exist at all in the last couple of years. It is a wonder the Minister did not dig up another to get rid of the £17 per workman abatement of rates because it is like something he would do. Why would the Minister not increase it to almost £100 to encourage farmers to have men working on the land? What good is £17 to a farmer with a valuation of £22 who applies for that abatement? He might have three or four other younger children. The maximum number of cows he could keep would be 18 or 19. He may not be in the best of health. Yet all he will receive in relief of rates is £17. Not only that but the Minister certainly is aware that that man's son will not qualify for unemployment assistance because the social welfare office will decide that his maintenance in the house is more than the means test would allow for unemployment assistance. Therefore, the young boy remains at home on the land. Even if the father has 20 cows he could not possibly make £1,000 net profit this year. Yet he is supposed to support his wife, probably a son of 18 or 19 years of age and, perhaps, a couple of other younger children all of whom are supposed to live off that small holding. But, when the winter comes, he will get from the State only £17 and he will not even qualify for unemployment assistance and, if he does apply for the £17, he is not sure that the Revenue Commissioners will not try to snatch some form of income tax from him.

I think the Minister would be doing a good job with regard to this Bill if he placed it under his arm, brought it back to his office and brought in something new worthy of discussion here. The Minister may smirk and smile but the day of defending the rural worker has disappeared. The Government are being caught out in this bluff and well the people know this. I could go on and on but the Minister knows the position with regard to farming at present. The Minister knows how difficult it is to keep people working on the land. It is the first time these people have been caught in the income tax net. The fact that they were not so caught in the past was an encouragement to people to work on the land. But that day has long since vanished. Yet the Minister comes in here and says: "It is still £17 abatement of rates, no more, no less. I said when in Opposition it should be done away with." Yet, when he becomes a Minister, he introduces the very same thing regardless of the cost of living, what has happened since or of the position obtaining in the farming community. The Minister would be doing a worthwhile job if he redrafted the Bill, having considered the submissions made to him, and gave some relief to those people caught in the farm tax net. Surely they deserve to be considered —as they have asked—and not be placed in the position of being caught in the two nets.

But, if we oppose this Bill, it is obvious that the Minister will have a majority because the people around him will stick by him in government for as long as they can. They do not care what happens the farming community. The Government should think over it because the consequences could be serious. The Minister should consider raising the £17 to something worthwhile and completely exempt from rates the man caught in the farm tax net.

I shall confine my remarks mainly to the question of a rebate in respect of agricultural workers. This Bill is not going far enough in this regard. When there is reference to agricultural workers many people think solely in terms of men employed by farmers but there are also many farmers' sons concerned. In these days when there is much talk of women's lib, we must not forget about the many farmers' daughters who stay home and do a lot of work on the farm, especially in cases where there is no son to help. Surely the relief should apply in respect of these people, too. This is something that we have been taking up for years past with the county committees of agriculture. The £17 allowance is unrealistic today.

Deputy Meaney raised the important question as to who can avail of this relief. The position is that if a son is employed on off-farm work he is not taken into consideration in respect of the relief. In order for the relief to apply in respect of a son, he must have been employed on the land for the full year in respect of which the claim is made. This is very unfair. It precludes from the provision a boy who would find it necessary to work outside the farm for, say, six months in the year because his father's farm might not be big enough to provide him with a living for the whole year.

Another hardship clause is that which precludes the allowance being paid in respect of the son of a man whose valuation was less than £20. I am in favour of farmers whose valuations are more than £100 being brought within the income tax net because it is my view that such a person should be taxed but no one should be asked to pay two taxes. In regard to the man whose valuation is between £20 and £50, there is relief of rates on the first £20 but if the man indulges in any off-farm employment, he will only qualify for relief of half his income tax in respect of that employment. This Bill afforded the Minister an opportunity of increasing the £20 level in respect of rates relief. We all know that farmers who come within the lower valuation bracket must seek off-farm employment. This is especially so at present because everybody knows that a man could not make a living on a small farm.

As Deputy Molloy has said, we are not opposing the Bill. Little as it may be, it is better than nothing. We can expect that during the coming months there will be redundancies in so far as agricultural workers are concerned. This is a problem that would probably affect the Minister's area more than mine because there are not many farmers in my part of the country who can afford to employ labourers because of the high wages paid to these people.

The £17 allowance, inadequate as it is, should apply also in respect of the daughter of a farmer. I ask the Minister to consider this suggestion and also to consider increasing the £20 valuation to £30 for derating purposes. This would help the person who had to seek off-farm employment and who, at present, would be paying more in tax than he had ever paid before. Many people do not realise that the son of a farmer, be the farmer big or small, who engages in off-farm employment is entitled to relief of only half what his income tax would be otherwise. So far as the daughters of farmers are concerned we must ensure that there is equal status for them.

We have had four speakers from the other side of the House. Deputy Molloy's comments were reasonable enough and, as usual, Deputy Callanan's comments, while a bit off the beam, were reasonable also. The remarks of the other two Deputies made it clear that they did not know what they were talking about. It is not unusual to find this happening in the House. People make comments that are so far removed from the facts that it is difficult to comment on them at all.

Deputy Molloy wanted to know why the period of this Bill should be only 12 months. The reason is that it is an interim measure. Legislation will be necessary in the coming year and the present allowance will be reviewed before the end of next year. The £17 allowance will be reviewed also. Deputy Molloy is correct in saying that for a number of years I have been expressing the opinion that the £17 was a waste. I still believe that to be so. But there are people who believe otherwise. In any case, this is one of the matters that will be dealt with in the coming year. Since the official Fianna Fáil view seems to be that the allowances should be abolished, I would be prepared to do what I could in this regard.

That view was not expressed.

That was the point of view put forward by Deputy Molloy. On July 4, 1972, he said, as reported at column 546, Volume 262 of the Official Report.

I would be inclined to lean towards Deputy Tully's argument in that field.

He said also, as reported at the same column:

... The fact is that the level of £17 was originally intended to act as a stimulus to farmers to employ agricultural workers or to keep them in employment. The validity of that is very much in doubt now.

That was fair comment. The Deputy is now in the same position as I was during his days as Minister and I, now, am prepared to say what Deputy Molloy said then. Having said that, I intend to allow the allowance to continue and I shall leave it at that. I think Deputy Molloy mixed up two sets of figures—the £15 and the £20.

I have realised that since.

The £15 limit is on the valuation of a land holding which may be occupied by an agricultural employee who was covered by unemployment allowances. I do not know in which way I should attempt to deal with Deputy Cunningham's remarks. Vulgar abuse in this House seems to have become the order of the day with everybody abusing the Minister concerned or the Chair in the hope that somewhere in the papers a line will appear saying that a certain Deputy said something sensible. I cannot find anything sensible in Deputy Cunningham's remarks. He refers to the rates having been increased in Donegal and he asked why something should not be done by way of relief.

I would point out that 77 per cent of all holdings of land in the country as a whole are of less than £20 valuation. These holdings are all derated. So far as Donegal is concerned 91 per cent of holdings are of less than £20 valuation. Therefore we are talking about the other 9 per cent. They are partially derated and there are a few big ranches. If Deputy Cunningham wants to cry about the poor farmers with the big areas of land who are not getting the rates devaluation he hoped they would get, and because they may have to pay income tax or whatever the rates are, while everybody who is employed in any other job pays his tax and his income tax, I will cry no salt tears over them.

I was a little surprised that Deputy Meaney seemed to fall into that trap too. He talked about something which is not a matter for me and which could not be included in the Bill, that is, whether or not the £100 valuation farmer should have to pay rates.

Should it not be either rates or income tax? One is acceptable but not both.

If everybody in the country was allowed to decide what kind of payment he would make to the State, he would pay as little as he possibly could. As regards the £100 farmer, by the time the various allowances which he will get are taken away, he will not be too hard done by at all. Most certainly the farmer who has to pay income tax will be doing pretty well. Like other Members of this House, I believe that anybody who is due to pay income tax should pay it.

It will be like the petrol. It will be down to £50 valuation in a couple of years. It is the thin end of the wedge.

Deputy Meaney was talking about the amount of petrol which the farmers would be using. I would not go too far along that line, because it is only petrol that is involved, and other users of the road will have to pay the full amount on it, while the farmer who is getting this rebate in his rates will not be using so much petrol except when going to Mass on a Sunday or going into the shops or into the town on Saturday night. He has not so much to complain about.

He will not be going into town any more.

Somebody said farm workers might be inclined to leave the land. For donkeys years they were leaving it at the rate of 12,000 a year and Fianna Fáil said there was very little anybody could do about it. The life blood was drained away from the land and Fianna Fáil did nothing about it. They now talk about the danger of unemployment in agriculture. I do not believe such a danger exists, and most certainly there will be nothing like what occurred during the long years of Fianna Fáil rule.

One hundred thousand staring you.

The amount being given here, the £17, is very small. It certainly will not encourage any farmer to keep a man. The question was asked why we should not do something about female employees, and Deputy Callanan answered the question himself. He said the girl who stays at home does a great deal of work in the house, that she works as much as the man. This is not an allowance for girls or women who work in a house. This is an allowance for men who work on the land. When I was on the far side of the House and before I went deeply enough into it, I also felt, as Deputy Callanan does, that there might be a case for the female agricultural worker, not the girl who works in the house, not the farmer's wife who would be at home anyway. I do not believe any allowance should be given for them. This is for people who work on the land.

Deputy Meaney also asked—and this is a matter which has nothing to do with me—whether if a man has a son who works on the land that son will have to pay income tax if the farmer applies for him as an agricultural worker. Whilst it is not a matter for my Department but for the Department of Finance, I would say that if there is a man working on the land, whether he is a son of the house or not, and he is receiving a rate of wages that is higher than the tax free allowance made to anybody in this country, why should he not pay his share of income tax the same as anybody else? Is there any good reason why only the man who is engaged in industrial work, only the man who has no farm and who depends on his wages, should be the only one to pay income tax?

The Minister is completely twisting what I said.

I am not twisting it. I am giving the Deputy a straight answer.

I was talking about a man and his wife with four children who must live on 13 or 14 cows.

The man with his wife and four children living on 20 cows on a small farm——

And a son of 20 years.

What is he doing with a son of 20 years helping him to look after 20 cows? I was not born in the middle of O'Connell Street. The Deputy is making up mythical stories.

I am asking a straight question. Why should he pay six times the income tax and be paying it on a national basis?

He will not pay on a notional basis. Incidentally, Deputy Meaney should know that the filled up form goes to the county council, not to the Department of Finance; therefore there will be a very small chance of that man being found out, but if he is found out and he is getting over the tax-free allowance, I believe he should pay his tax the same as any other working man. Those are the standards I would go by.

The Minister did not answer the question.

May I ask the Minister a question?


The Minister should be allowed to conclude.

Deputy Callanan is a very decent man and usually makes very good contributions to this House, but he seemed to miss two points. If the man is not employed full-time on the land, he is not entitled to the allowance at all, and the fact that he must certify that he has been working a full year is correct. Why should he be allowed to work in a job somewhere else and get an allowance for working on a farm where he does not work except when he comes home in the evening perhaps to help his father doing something around the farm? That is the mistake which Deputy Callanan made.

No. The Minister misinterprets what I said. I was referring to the six months when he was at home; he should get half the allowance. That is what I meant.

What good would £8.50 be to anybody?

The old age pensioners have only £7.50.

The old age pensioners have more than that. The old age pensioners are now better than ever they were under Fianna Fáil, because we looked after them as we said we would. The trouble with people like Deputy Meaney is that if you were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth you were born with something very similar to it and you do not know what the people have to put up with.


The Minister should be allowed to make his contribution.

He is speaking personally.

There should be no personal reflections.

If Deputy Meaney wants to comment on that outside this House I invite him to do it and see will his mouth be as big as it is in here.

The Minister started it.

There are too many people like the Deputy knocking around who are prepared, under the protection of the House, to make charges. Make that statement to somebody in the Press Gallery and we shall deal with it.

Deputy Callanan also referred to the man who is working on the farm and whose son would be working on it and would not be able to draw unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance for six months of the year when he would not have work. I do not know whether it was Deputy Meaney who made this case. Both of them touched on it. It is not correct to say that because a farmer has a farm and because his son has been working and is for six months unemployed he will not receive any benefit from Social Welfare because he would be ruled out. This again has nothing to do with my Department but——

I did not say that.

Deputy Meaney did. That man is entitled to draw benefit if he has his cards stamped. If his cards are not stamped he is entitled to draw the difference between the assessment of what a free lodging is worth and the unemployment assistance granted to him. Therefore, it is not correct to say that he would be completely cut off.

The free lodging allowance is higher than that.

It is not. If the Deputy looks at document SW4 he will find out for himself. Deputy Cunningham talked about £9 in the £ for Donegal. But for the fact that there was a change of Government, would Deputy Cunningham like to say what that rate would be today? We are paying over £3 in the £ for health and housing charges. Everyone knows that now. Deputy Cunningham is suggesting that we put extra onto the Donegal rates. In fact, we have taken over £3 in the £ off that rate. In other words, rates would be that much higher if we were not in power. Every farmer who pays rates would not have any remission on health and housing if Fianna Fáil were in office because they did not believe in doing that. They talked about de-rating houses alone and said they would not include agricultural land. You cannot have it both ways. The simple fact is that we are subsidising the rates to this amount.

The rates are up again.

If the Deputy does not understand the position I would not like to have to spell it out to him in words of two syllables. In 1972-73 £43.2 million were paid by the rate-payers. This year it has been cut to £16.2 million. We cannot get away from facts. No matter what way they try to twist them those are the facts which the Opposition will have to accept.

This small Bill is repeating what was done over the years and has only one change, and that is, it is for 12 months. I propose within the next 12 months to have a good hard look to see if certain things in it are worth continuing. The £17 is the one to which Deputy Molloy referred. That is why it will come up again before the end of next year. I hope Fianna Fáil will be satisfied with what is contained in it then.

It will be a good hard year.

Question put and agreed to.