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

SECTION 1.
Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister said that legislation will be required again next year. Either the introduction of this legislation to continue rates relief on land was forgotten until the last minute or this continuing Bill is being used as a device to maintain the position as before. We are told that the Minister will take another hard look at the Bill prior to its being brought in next year. In my opinion, the Minister forgot all about this Bill until the last minute, and therefore, he did not give it enough thought.

The Minister has been in office since March, 1973. There was plenty of time to have a look at this Bill, particularly when such strong views were expressed by members of the Coalition Parties when in Opposition. They expressed those views not alone about the size of the employment allowance but also about the valuation limit on farmers employed as farm labourers. I thought that the £15 allowance had been increased to £20 but I realise I was mistaken.

This Bill does not make any change in the law as it stands. Over the years there have been continuing Bills affecting rates on agricultural lands. In the years past, two Coalition Governments were in office and these were the only periods when no improvements were introduced in the continuing Bills. When Fianna Fáil brought these Bills before the Dáil they made changes which were intended to improve benefits, allowances and the effectiveness of this legislation. The last Bill which I brought before the House in 1972 increased this valuation limit for farmers who were seeking employment as agricultural labourers from £5 to £15. That was an improvement. No improvement has been carried out in this Bill.

In view of the opinions expressed two years ago, it is disappointing that no thought has been given to this area. The Minister made it clear that he is totally opposed to the spending of this £500,000. He said the way it was being spent was a joke. This is a very serious statement and two years have elapsed since it was made. He tells us now that next year he will have a hard look at this and might do something about it. We have not been inundated with that much legislation that the Minister did not have time to study this short, simple matter and make a decision on it. It is expecting a lot from us to accept the argument that he will have a good hard look at it next year. If he said that it had been changed under the Exchequer and Local Financial Years Act, 1974—which changed the financial year to December as against 1st April—that this had come on him suddenly and all he could do was ask us to support the Bill to keep the remissions and reliefs in operation, that he forgot all about it but would definitely try to implement some of the views expressed when he was in Opposition in next year's Bill, if he had said that those were the facts we would accept that. It is hard to expect that this could have happened since the Minister has been in office for the past 18 months. His supporters will be very disappointed that he is not making any contribution——

I am sure the Deputy will not sleep to-night worrying about my supporters being disappointed. Never mind, they will get over it. The fact that this was only a nine month year is not the main reason. The real reason is that we had six major Bills from the Department of Local Government which Deputy Molloy should remember better than anyone else.

There was only one, the Constituency Bill, which the Minister used to gerrymander the constituencies.

That was a good day's work but there were a number of others too.

We made you sweat on it.

The other Bills were discussed at length in this and the other House. The result was that we did not have the time to give the necessary attention needed for this question of rating and grants.

Is the Minister serious?

Yes, I am.

As the Minister said, he had to wet the towel, put it round his head, sit down and swot over this for hours and hours.

No, I saw the towel in the Department of Local Government which the Deputy used for a long time. It was like the bathing suit that never got wet. He did not tie it round his head very much because he had not got anything to tie it with. As far as I am concerned we will be reviewing this matter in the next year. The next Bill which will come before the House will, I hope, contain major changes. That is the only explanation which I need give this House.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill reported without amendment.