I have received a message from the Clerk of the Dáil to the effect that the Dáil has agreed to amendments Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6, which were inserted in the Seanad in the Local Government (Collection of Rates) Bill, and has disagreed with amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 2, as I recollect it, was an amendment moved by Senator Sir J. Keane.
SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - LOCAL GOVERNMENT (COLLECTION OF RATES) BILL, 1923—FROM THE DAIL.
Yes; it reads as follows:—
In sub-section (3). After the sub-section a new sub-section (4) added, as follows:—
"No levy shall be made by the under-sheriff under this section against the goods, animals or chattels of a defaulter who, prior to the issue of the warrants under this Act, has delivered to the under-sheriff a writ or writs offieri-facias or a civil bill decree or decrees for execution, until the under-sheriff has made a return to such writ or writs of fieri-facias or civil bill decree or decrees.”
I suppose the meaning of that was that if the sheriff had in his hands writs to be levied for a party who is being made a debtor by the State, there should not be proceedings against him by the same sheriff until the sheriff had exercised these decrees which the individual was trying to recover himself.
I do not quite recollect on what grounds Senator Sir J. Keane based this amendment. I presume what he was aiming at must have been this: that before a distraint for arrears of rates could be served on any person who had unexecuted decrees in the hands of the sheriff, no levy should be made on him for rates, until the sheriff has made a return of what has happened to those decrees. In other words, the suggestion is that the particular individual might be waiting for funds from decrees of his, which the sheriff had unexecuted on his hands, and before he should be made liable for arrears of rates he should be entitled to have a return from the sheriff.
I was not present when this Bill was going through the Seanad, as I had to leave suddenly for the other House, but, perhaps, if I had been here Senator Sir J. Keane might not have insisted on his amendment. Most of us, I think, are in sympathy with the motive at the back of the amendment, but when it comes to putting it into practical operation, I think the difficulties would be insurmountable. It would be impossible for the sub-sheriff with the large volume of work which he has on hands at present, to go through piles of decrees to give priority to such writs before making seizure. The effect, through an oversight on the sheriff's part, to omit giving priority might, if the amendment were passed, make him liable for an action for damages. An additional reason for not accepting this amendment is that it would enable ratepayers to evade payment of rates, even in cases where the writ was in the hands of the sheriff for a trifling amount, or where the execution of the writ was held to be for any reason in the interests of the creditor. On grounds of policy it would be inadvisable to accept the amendment. The ratepayer is under obligation to pay the local authority for services rendered. His liability to pay should not depend on the contingency of the possible execution of a writ in the hands of the sheriff. If the amendment were accepted there is no logical reason why the general principle should not be admitted that the payment of rates should be contingent on all debts due to defaulting ratepayers. It would be impossible for us to admit that principle.
I do not think that the Seanad would be well advised to insist on this amendment. In the first place, any person who has decrees in the hands of the sheriff, either in the High or County Courts, and who complains of delay in execution, has his remedy against the sheriff under the existing law. I think that this would be a very inconvenient amendment in practice and would do little good to anybody.
I move "That the House does not insist on this amendment." If ratepayers do not pay their rates the local bodies will be in a serious predicament, as they have first claim upon such rates because of services rendered.
Senator Sir J. Keane not being here, and as there is no question about the feeling of the House, so far as I, personally, am concerned, I agree that we should not insist on the amendment.