On the final stage of this Bill I should just like to say a word with regard to the last remark made by the Minister. I have not opposed this Bill because it is much better, to my mind, that it should pass in its present form than that it should not pass at all. But I do still think that the Minister has not differentiated in his mind between what I should call two types of possible extension or improvement. There are certain businesses, either large or small, which get to the stage at which they simply must make an improvement or business will suffer. In that case the Minister's argument would be complete—they will do it in any case—and, if they can afford to pay rates, I suppose we had better make them pay them. As far as a very large number of smaller businesses is concerned, more particularly shops and the like, that does not occur for a very long time. It is highly desirable that in our cities shop fronts should be kept up to date and improved as frequently as possible, and if that leads to an increase in the total valuation it is a gain to the ratepayers as a whole. If they do not get that gain for three or five years they do not gain it for that time but they ultimately gain it. That is, of course, if the work would not be done otherwise or if it would be postponed for a considerable time otherwise. Several cases have come to my notice where owners of small and moderate-sized businesses in considering the question of whether or not a new shop front should be put in—I am taking this case because it is the most common and most obvious and the actual case that has come to my notice— found that if they spent, we will say, £500 on improving the front they would probably have an increase in the valuation of somewhere about £30. This is a concrete case and that is what they were advised. They more or less decided not to do it but the shop fitter who was interested pointed out to them that they would get a remission of two-thirds of the increased rates and the result was that they eventually decided to carry out the scheme. Portion of the money had to be borrowed and interest had to be paid on that. They reckoned that by the time the five years were up they would have been able to repay the total amount and they would then be able to pay the increased rates without any substantially increased charge.
The only case, to my mind, for allowing improvements in business premises is to induce people, who might not do so otherwise, to increase the total value of the rates and so increase the wealth of the community. It is true that benefit can be obtained by powerful and wealthy organisations such as banks, who may make improvements to their premises but, if the Government at any time later do find that there is need for work and that it is better to encourage it, it would be the simplest thing to limit the total amount of remission which could be granted. It could be limited to, say, two-thirds of, say, £60 or £70. That would mean that the benefit to large and powerful bodies such as banks would be negligible and would not be taken into consideration by them.
I do not desire to argue the point further. The Bill is going to pass, and it is not practicable for us to amend it here, but I am putting this case forward because I think this will arise again, and I would very much like the Minister's Department to watch and see whether the removal of this concession has not had a tendency in the past three years to reduce the improvements of a minor character, such as shop fronts, for instance, in Dublin, and I would like to see whether, whenever this matter comes up for consideration again, it should not be extended. I do not for one moment argue with the Minister on the point of new buildings. I quite recognise that if a site is available in a city or town, and if that site is taken up and a new building put on it, it is reasonable that they should pay rates on the valuation, but where there is an existing shop and where it is desirable in the interests of the State as a whole, from the point of view of appearance and total rates, I think that concession should be made. It is very often a considerable difficulty for moderate-sized businesses to find the money to make a frontal improvement, and they are deterred by the apprehension that if they touch the front building they are almost certain to have increased rates.