(Cavan-Monaghan): In so far as this Bill contains relief I have no objection to it and neither have those Members on this side of the House. In so far as those sections which do not contain relief are concerned, I am totally and absolutely opposed to the Bill. The fact is the Bill contains relief only on agricultural holdings up to £60 valuation. I am wholeheartedly in favour of that but section 1 (2) of the Bill specifically deprives rated occupiers of holdings with a valuation in excess of £60 of relief. That is written into the Bill in black and white. Subsection 2 provides:
A rating authority . . . shall not apply the Act aforesaid to a person, as respects a local financial year, if the valuation of all the tenements of agricultural land in respect of which he is rated equals or exceeds the amount standing specified, on the first day of that year, in section 15 (3) of the Finance Act, 1974.
There you have a specific direction to the rating authority to get at the farmer with the £75 valuation this year and at the farmer with the £60 valuation next year. This is a doublecross. This is a going back. This is a cynical betrayal of the farming community. This is a total disregard of the promises made by the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues to the people who supported them.
I have made the case as strongly as I could, with the able assistance of Deputy Bruton and practically the entire Fine Gael Party, and we have failed to prevail on the Minister to amend the Bill. As it stands now it is an instrument designed to kill relief. What other interpretation could section 1 (2) bear? Why has the Minister put that section into the Bill? He has put it in to take away the relief which these categories of rating valuations enjoyed for 50 years. That is the object of subsection (2). Subsection (2) is the section which the Minister, with the assistance of agricultural Deputies from Cavan, Monaghan, Meath, Louth, Cork and the midlands and every agricultural Deputy in the Minister's party, put on the Statute Book of this House. It is no wonder they are ashamed of themselves and have nothing to say. That is the subsection to which I have objected.
We have done everything in our power within the rules of order of this House to try to persuade the Minister by force of argument that he should have deleted section 1 (2) but we have not succeeded. We do not propose voting against the entire Bill because it contains relief up to the £60 valuation but subsection (2) takes away relief from other categories and that is what I am against.
As Deputy Bruton pointed out, when the first Finance Bill was introduced by the National Coalition, the Minister for Finance, sitting on this side of the House beside the then Deputy Lynch, asked: "Are you not going to tax the farmers?" The Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment have the machinery in subsection (2) to reduce the threshold to nil and take away the agricultural relief utterly and entirely.
If there was an argument wanted in favour of what I am saying and if it was necessary to prove it beyond doubt, I would point out to the House that Deputy Bruton and myself offered amendments today to substitute £75 for 1978 and £60 for 1979. In other words, to tie the threshold to the existing figures in this year's Finance Act. But these amendments were quite properly ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle in the following terms: "I regret that amendments Nos. 1 and 2 tabled by you and Deputy Bruton must be adjudged out of order because they involve potential charges upon the revenue."