The Minister for Local Government is here now and we will resume the debate on the Dublin Reconstruction Bill. It is well, perhaps, that I should tell the Minister what happened. Senator Brown has moved the deletion of a section that was adopted and inserted in the Committee, I think at the suggestion of the Government. He has moved its deletion on the ground that in his view it does not make sufficient provision or give sufficient instruction to the arbitrator with regard to the different interests of the owner that may be affected. In other words, the expression, "his estate or interest" seems to exclude anything but the ownership of the estate or interest, and pays no regard to the fact that the site may have been the subject matter of compensation by the Government, and also that it makes no provision in a case where a part only of property is taken, or for the damage done by severance to the remaining part of the property.
PUBLIC BUSINESS. - DUBLIN RECONSTRUCTION (EMERGENCY PROVISIONS) BILL, 1924.—DEBATE RESUMED.
In suggesting this amendment to the Special Committee for its consideration I found myself in rather a novel role, that is to say, in the position of acting as a champion of the Dublin Corporation and its rights. We were faced with a rather difficult problem in bringing forward this amendment. We had to reconcile the claims of the Government, of the owner and of the Corporation, which was a very difficult thing to do in a matter of this kind. Under this amendment we thought that these claims would be fairly met if the Corporation paid the building owner for the value of the site and left the owner afterwards his right against the Minister for Finance, in so far as he had a right, for the value of the buildings that were on the site when it was destroyed. That is really the whole point of the amendment. I do not know exactly what Senator Brown's objections to it are.
I think I have fairly summarised Senator Brown's objections to this amendment. He pointed out, in the first place, that by confining the arbitrator to the estate or interest, he is then merely to deal with the actual place itself as distinguished from any rights or interests that may attach to it. He illustrated this by referring to the right to receive a certain amount of compensation from the Government. That added value to the site. Another illustration he gave was that taking part of a site might leave on the owner's hands a portion that was materially injured by being cut in two, and that therefore the arbitrator ought to be empowered to have regard to the injury resulting from severance. In other words, his argument may be summarised this way, that the arbitrator should carry out his inquiry in accordance with the Lands Clauses Acts.
I take it from what the Minister has said that if the parties agree to a price that the owner of the site will have to look to the Corporation for the site value and to the Government for compensation for the destruction of his property. This amendment does not, I take it, include any compensation for severance.
The point is that the owner is not given a double right under this Bill.
I think I can appreciate what the Minister's intention was in framing this section as he did. The intention was that the owner of the site should not get more from anybody than what the value of the site was before the destruction, that is to say, the site with the old house on it. That was to be the maximum of his compensation, but he was not to get that from the Corporation. He was only to get from the Corporation the value which the arbitrator placed on the site qua site, and without any of the advantages that attach to the site. The point is that the owner was to get no compensation for severance or anything of that kind. That was all that the Corporation was to give, and the difference was to be met in the shape of a moral claim against the Minister for Finance; the difference between that and the value of the house before destruction.
I can quite appreciate the Minister's point that the Corporation should get the benefit of the ex gratia grant to some extent at any rate, but I very much object to the principle and to the way in which it is being done here. The way it is being done here is simply by getting a small amount fixed as the value of the site and then leaving the owner to make the best case he can as regards his moral claim against the Minister for Finance. On behalf of the owners of property I object to that and I press on the Minister that the right solution of this problem is to leave the owner of property where he is under the Lands Clauses Acts, and leave it to the Corporation to enforce the moral claim against the Minister for Finance. I desire to say at once that there is no better form of reconstruction than the widening of streets. The Corporation ought to get the whole of the money that would otherwise have been spent on the reconstruction of houses, but at the same time I think that the owner ought to be entitled to get every penny the ex gratia grant adds to the value of the site and that he ought to be left with his rights protected under the Lands Clauses Acts.
I went into the Special Committee holding that view, but my resolution apparently did not cover that.
That is so.
That is my own individual view. Our resolution was not agreeable to the Special Committee because the Government had another one. Therefore, why I did not move my resolution was because I thought I was getting something at all events out of the amendment put in by the Government. Now, I am afraid Senator Brown is going to take away from me the very small bit that fell to my lot at the Special Committee. If I had known that he intended doing that I would take the liberty of proposing again my own resolution, and of letting the Seanad decide upon it. I think it is very unfair the way in which this matter has been treated. The reason we did not agree to the resolution at the Special Committee was that the Chairman of that Committee was about to move to take the whole section out. I think this leaves us in a very awkward position, and so far as I am concerned I will have to vote for the little bit I got out of it. If I do not get that then I will certainly have to move the original amendment to the Bill that we put in in the Special Committee. I think the Corporation is entitled to some compensation when it takes a site for the purpose of street widening, because by so doing it loses for ever on that site the rates that would have been payable on it. The rates are extinguished for ever, and in that way a benefit which the city had been deriving is lost. I felt, however, all the time that the Minister would not agree to the resolution that I moved originally, and then I had to take the next best thing.
The suggestion of Senator Brown that the Corporation should go to the Government to get anything from them is really very funny. What chance would the Corporation have of getting justice from the Government? I am afraid, in view of recent events, it would be very little indeed. I am in the same position as Senator Mrs. Wyse Power. We put down a new section to be introduced into this Bill in the Select Committee; it was not accepted by the Select Committee, and that Committee accepted the alternative suggestion of the Minister. In view of the fact that it was so accepted by the Committee, and that we were not aware when we met in the Select Committee that an attempt would be made to delete the section after it had passed through Committee it leaves us in a very awkward position. I certainly will vote against the proposed addition to the section as it was introduced into the Committee.
It is only right to state that in the Select Committee none of us could really fathom the meaning of this added section, and although we did agree to put it in, in lieu of the one proposed by Senator Mrs. Wyse Power, it was distinctly understood it was to be re-discussed and was still open for discussion on the Report Stage. I should be very sorry indeed if Senator Mrs. Wyse Power thought that I, in any way intentionally, deprived her of the advantage which she had got.
We seem to be losing sight in this debate of the right of the unfortunate man who owns the site. The interest of the Corporation is being taken care of and the interest of the Government is also being taken care of, but the unfortunate individual who happens to own the site and from whom the Corporation wants to buy it, is undoubtedly losing by this amendment the rights which he held at the moment. I doubt if the Seanad is wise in acting thus towards the individual. Part of our duty here is to protect the rights of individuals. No doubt the Corporation is going to get this site. for admittedly less than it would get it if an arbitration was carried out under the Lands Clauses Acts and the individual is to be left with his moral claim upon the Government. What I am speaking of now is the attempt by the Minister himself and by Senator Mrs. Wyse Power and Senator Farren. But I do not like to see the Seanad knowingly accepting in any way a solution like this where a right is taken away from an individual and that right divided up between the Corporation and the Government. It is a bad precedent — this happens to be a site where there is only one house in one street—but if we once admit the principle that you can alter the law so as to take away from an individual the right he has now got, for the purpose even of widening a street we open the way and we establish a principle which I hold might react against every single one of us as ordinary citizens. It is the right and duty of the Seanad to take care to defend the individual from any such attempts being made.
I do not know that it is quite correct to say we are taking away the rights of private owners. We are leaving them with the same rights, but we divide them up. At present the individual has only a moral claim upon the Minister for Finance, and we are not interfering with that claim. Of course there may be some reason to complain of the division of the right. On the other hand, if we did not give some guarantee to the Corporation that they will be recompensed for the expenditure which they have been put to in acquiring this property, I am afraid there would be no chance of going ahead with this scheme of the improvements of streets at all. They never would have thought of improving the city if these buildings had not been destroyed, and if they find themselves now placed in the position when they have to compensate the owner, without any security of compensation from the Government, it is very likely they will drop the whole proposal. It was bearing that point of view in mind that we drafted this amendment. However it is a matter that I am perfectly willing to leave to the Seanad, and let them decide upon it.
Would it be possible to frame a clause in such a way as to enable the Arbitrator, as it were, to divide his award; that is to say, to find that a certain amount is the actual value of the site in the words of the Section at which the Corporation could acquire it, and then to say how much additional the interests of the owner was worth.
We might make a provision for that, but the difficulty is that we are not able to bind the Ministry of Finance. The owner has only a moral claim against the Ministry, and if the Ministry wishes to turn down that claim he has no redress.
I have an amendment dealing with that point, but unfortunately I have not got it with me at the moment.
Of course the amendment would not bind him to pay it, but it would be a finding by a competent body of the amount of the ex-gratia grant to which he was entitled.
I think it would be very useful if we had the Senator's amendment.
I am sorry that I have not got it here at the moment. I do not know whether there is any extreme hurry about this Bill. If it could stand over until this day week I would undertake to produce a draft amendment of that kind.
I think possibly that might meet the views of the parties, because that would enable the Corporation to acquire the site at its site value, and it would give the Minister an opportunity of ascertaining what should be attached as the value of the ex-gratia grant.
So long as the owner will get the value of the site now it is all I insist upon. I do not want that the owner from whom the land is taken should have to go with his hat in hand to the Minister for Finance with the moral claim.
So long as the grant is ex-gratia he will have to go with his hat in his hand or his hand in the Minister's pocket.
It is true that the grant is an ex-gratia one in the sense you could not sue for it. Grants will have to be paid for the reconstruction of these houses as they are put up, and that condition being attached to the site, there is a market value in it, and a very large market value, as we know from the sales that have taken place.
Perhaps you will have an opportunity of conferring with the Minister upon the matter. We have two or three other amendments to discuss, and that will give you sufficient time to draft something upon the subject.
I might say with regard to the prospects of business that so far as I have been able to ascertain, we shall have no fresh business sent up to us from the Dáil for next week. There will be no fresh legislation, at least of sufficient weight or magnitude to justify my convening the Seanad for next week. It all points to an exceedingly and unnecessarily strenuous time later on, but I cannot avoid it.
I take it that there is no information as to the Bills which were to be originated in this House?
I have no further information. We pressed for it from the President, you may remember, and he stated that the intention of the Government was that they would originate some business here, but I have heard nothing of it since.
I move:— In section 7, to delete, in line 19, the figures "1930,' and to substitute therefor the figures "1934." The object of the amendment is to extend the time at which the increased valuation will come into effect. People will be obliged to spend considerably more money on new buildings that will be allowed them. If they are handicapped by very high valuations on account of the expensive structures they will have put up the handicap will be a very severe one. In the Reconstruction Act of 1916 there was an allowance of twelve years from the time the buildings were destroyed until the new valuations would come into force, and that was found very workable and very successful. I appeal to the Minister to give the matter his favourable consideration.
I second the amendment.
I would like to support the amendment. The cost of building is very high and the result is that instead of new houses there is quite a stagnation in building. It is getting worse and worse every day, and one of the reasons I believe, a very strong reason, is that if you either reconstruct a house or build a new house the valuation goes up at least two or three times. If it were possible to make these new buildings immune from rates altogether for a period of five or seven years I think it would have a very good effect on rebuilding in the city of Dublin. Building is really stagnant and young people have no earthly chance of getting a house of any kind except they are able to buy one at a 200 per cent. advance on 1914, which young people cannot afford to do. If they could it would not be good business. I think the amendment is very reasonable and if the Minister were to think it out, think out the necessity of making new or reconstructed buildings immune from increased rates for a fixed number of years—five or seven years— I am sure it would give a great fillip to reconstruction and rebuilding in the city.
The original Section was that new valuations should not come into force before the 31st March, 1927, and in Committee it was extended to 1930. Now it is coolly proposed to extend it to 1934, which is robbery without violence. What it means is this, that any citizen who rebuilds his premises has to pay rates on an increased valuation. The people whose premises have been destroyed have been given ample compensation, and now it is coolly proposed, when they rebuild, that the increased valuation of the premises should not take effect until 1934. In other words, you propose to compel the rest of the citizens to pay increased rates in order to make a present of something to the people who have got compensation, and who are going to rebuild in the destroyed areas. In effect that is what it means. I think these people have been met very fairly. The time has been increased to 1930, and I do not think any further extension would be fair. The Corporation, and even the Commissioners like the Government, have to budget for a certain amount of money on which to run the city. They strike a rate on the valuation of all the property in the city, and if some people do not pay what they are entitled to pay, others must make up for it by paying increased rates. Therefore think this is a preposterous proposal. The Government itself fixed 1927; in the Select Committee it was extended three years further, and now it is coolly proposed to add another four years. I must oppose the amendment.
I wonder if Senator Farren had in his mind, when making the somewhat strong remarks he has just made, the desirability of improving the architecture and the type of buildings in Dublin. Supposing a man has an old building, valued at £100, I think everybody would be unanimous in saying that it would be most undesirable and in fact it would be impossible to improve Dublin if another building of the same kind were put up. It would be most desirable that the building should be improved. With regard to the amount that is demanded in rates, is any man likely to improve a place with a certainty that his valuation will be doubled or trebled in a short time? I think it would be well worth the Minister's, while to consider whether, having regard to the creation of a suitable thoroughfare in Sackville Street, which will be a credit to the metropolis of Ireland, this amendment should not be adopted. Senator Farren says that the people have been most generously dealt with, and have received ample compensation, but we heard a few moments ago that they would have to go with their hats in their hands to the Minister, or with their hands in the pockets of the Minister, to get him to give this compensation.
No, that is not so; they have been awarded it.
Whether they will get it or not is quite another question.
I want to, point out to Senator Barrington this fact. If there were persons who had property in this thoroughfare or the other, if their lease fell in and they were to rebuild, the local authority would not allow them to put up any building they liked. They would insist on their putting up a proper building suitable for the thoroughfare. Every municipal authority has to do that. In every city the municipality has the right to say what class of building should be erected in the main thoroughfare. If any other people are going to rebuild premises in any other part of Dublin they will have to pay on an increased valuation. It is unfair to make one section of the community pay for rebuilding while another section of the community whose premises, mark you, are being rebuilt for them, are to escape their responsibilities.
I am quite aware that you have to get the assent of the local authority but you would induce a man to put up a building which would go far and above what the local authority would require by giving him immunity from increased taxation for a number of years.
The valuation that a man will get is going to be the same whether we leave the date at 1930 or 1934. I take it for granted that the valuation will be put on according to certain rules in those matters. It is not a question of its not being revalued, or the valuation not being increased. We considered this very carefully in the Select Committee, and those of us who sat there came to the conclusion that this was a reasonable and fair compromise to make to extend it from 1927 to 1930. I feel at any rate as a member of that Committee having arrived at that decision, and considering it a fair and right thing to do, that I should be obliged to agree with Senator Farren and to vote with him. I would not like to upset the resolution of the Committee. It seemed fair then, and it seems fair now.
I am in the hands of the Seanad in this matter. We considered this question very carefully in the Joint Committee and we all agreed in adding the three years. It is for the Seanad now to decide themselves as I have no particular view on the point.
Amendment put and negatived.
In face of the last amendment being defeated I shall not move the next on the Order paper.