In some quarters in the Seanad, there seems to be a misconception about this particular Bill. Some Senators have asked that the relief be increased. I think Senator Burke pointed out that this is a continuing Bill and provides that when the rates on agricultural land are increased, so too are the grants from the Central Fund. In effect, it means that of the rate on agricultural land levied on farmers, 50 per cent. is borne by the Central Exchequer. This Bill was introduced some years ago and was welcomed on all sides in both Houses and I think the principle of continuing it has been welcomed, and rightly so. It means in this particular instance that the Government of the day, the present Government, are prepared to foot the bill for this year and next year, whether the rates go up or down. In that respect, Senator Hawkins misunderstood me when I referred to the rates being the same as last year. I meant this present year. Senator Hawkins may have thought I meant the year 1951-52.
This discussion has centred more or less round the question whether the buck is being passed from the local authority to the central authority or from the central authority to the local authority. I think there is a lot of sound common-sense in what Senator Anthony said just now and I would subscribe entirely to his views. Now that there is an accent on increasing rates, it simply means: " Is John Citizen to pay the increase as a taxpayer or as a ratepayer?" In my opinion the raising of money for public works such as those carried out by local authorities is properly done by a system of collecting it by way of rates. I subscribe to that view, in any case. I rather imagine that if the buck were to be passed from the local to the central authority, it would certainly not be an equitable method of raising money for the type of work which local authorities do.
I now propose to quote figures to show that far from being passed from the central to the local authority over the last ten years or so, the buck has been passed in the other direction.
I will quote for the years from 1939-40 to 1949-50. In 1939-40, the total rates collected amounted to £6,510,000 and State grants amounted to £4,734,000; in 1943, total rates collected amounted to £7,434,000 and State grants to £4,685,000; in 1944-45, total rates collected amounted to £7,804,000, and State grants to £4,667,000; in 1945-46, total rates collected amounted to £8,312,000 and State grants to £4,805,000; in 1946-47, total rates collected amounted to £7,998,000 and State grants to £6,587,000; in 1947-48, the total rates collected amounted to £9,111,000 and State grants to £8,230,000, which meant that in that year the State grants were less than the total rates collected by nearly £1,000,000. In 1948-49, the total rates collected were £9,500,000 and State grants £10,749,000; in 1949-50, total rates collected were £10,900,000 and State grants £13,649,000. This means in effect that the State grants only equalled 60 per cent. of the total rates collected in 1939-40, and in 1949-50 equalled 120 per cent. Between 1939 and 1948 State grants were substantially less than the total rates collected while for the last two years they have exceeded the total rates collected. That, I think, entirely refutes the widespread allegation that an ever increasing burden is being placed on the local ratepayer by the central authority; it is not right to say that as Senator Hawkins did.
If we arrive at a position where the central authority subscribes the major portion of the moneys spent by local authorities, local authorities no longer will be local authorities but local agencies. If Dáil Éireann is to vote the major portion of the moneys spent by local authorities, Dáil Éireann will have to be responsible for those moneys, and Dáil Éireann as the central authority will have to have a bigger say than at present in the affairs of local authorities. Every local authority, however, wants to have as big a say as possible in the matters of road construction, house building, hospital construction, the amounts to be provided for health services, home assistance and all such things. If we arrive at the position where in effect hospitals, vocational education and road construction are nationalised it should and must mean that the Government would have by far the major say in the direction of these affairs in the different counties.
Some Senators raised objections— they have been raised many times before—to the system of payment of the employment allowances. There are three types of relief: the first one provides for a primary allowance of three-fifths of the general rate on land with a valuation not exceeding £20; the second provides an allowance of one-fifth of the general rate on land the valuation of which is above £20; in the third case the employment allowance is calculated at the rate of 10/- in the £ where the valuation is above £20, provided that it does not exceed £6 10s. in respect of each man at work. The first two are real reliefs and account for by far the biggest portion of the grant. The third one is not so much intended to be a relief as an encouragement to farmers to keep a man employed for the full 12 months and that principle has been subscribed to by all Ministers who have spoken on this measure since it was introduced. I would subscribe to it and I think that the majority of the House would also subscribe to it. It does not represent a big portion of the total grant and is over and above all an encouragement to farmers to keep their men employed. I can readily appreciate the difficulties in which a farmer would find himself if he had the good intention to keep a man on for 12 months and the man decided to leave; the farmer might be still anxious to keep the man in employment five minutes afterwards and could not get him. A case can be made where it is shown conclusively that the farmer's objective is to keep the man in employment for the whole 12 months.
Senator Bennett raised the question of female workers. This question has been raised from time to time, and I do not think that even the Senator himself expected to get very far on this question.