Valuation (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 11
Debate resumed on Government amendment No. 21:
In page 7, line 5, to delete "assesses" and substitute "estimates".

We are discussing amendment No. 21, but amendments Nos. 21 to 25, inclusive, are being discussed together.

When we finished up on this previously, we were discussing self-assessment. While self-assessment is a laudable quick fix for rates, I could not trust myself to provide a self-assessment regarding rates. I imagine the Valuation Office might suggest 5X whereas I might suggest 2X.

We are at a serious juncture with this Bill. I suggest that when the Cabinet and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, proposed the introduction of a self-assessment or partial self-assessment process, this was what they intended. When the Bill was approved by Cabinet in August 2012, the Minister in his press release made a big issue of this and on numerous occasions in the Dáil, the Minister's replies to questions referred to the principles of self-assessment to be utilised in the revaluation. What seems to have happened, unless there has been some change in the meantime, is that this part of the Bill has been completely gutted. I object to this. Previously, the discussion was on the extent of self-assessment and how far it would extend, geographically, across the country. The Minister of State has brought this Bill to the House, but the wishes expressed by Cabinet and the Minister two years ago now seem to have been superseded during the long process of getting the Bill to this Stage. I do not know if there has been political involvement in this.

I thank the Chair and the Seanad for facilitating the resumption of Committee Stage.

I made many of my comments on this during our previous debate on Committee Stage and have looked at the issue again in the light of comments made by Senators. I am satisfied that what the amendments seek to do is in line with what the Bill always intended to do. I am also satisfied that the amendments make the system better for occupiers. To give an example, up to now we had a situation whereby if occupiers got the valuation wrong, they were always at risk of having a retrospective higher evaluation as the valuation officer could come back and say they were wrong and owed a certain amount. Under this system, once an occupier assisted valuation is agreed with the Valuation Office, the occupier cannot be at risk of the office coming back and saying he or she owes more. Under this legislation occupiers will also be able to make representations, even in cases where they are not happy with the valuation they have given themselves. They can even appeal their valuation. This is about ensuring the list is equitable and fair. It is about ensuring we arrive at a situation whereby occupiers can provide information, but also about requiring the Valuation Office to agree that it is an acceptable valuation. If people do not like that, we have a robust and streamlined appeals process in place; therefore, I am satisfied with the amendments we are putting before the House.

We have already had a discussion on the appeals process and our problems with it. Serious problems have been raised and we take issue with the idea there is a robust appeals process and have mentioned the Constitution in that regard. I am aware that even this morning the Department's officials had meetings regarding the appeals process. How, therefore, the Minister of State can say he is satisfied there is an appeals process in place when his officials are still discussing that process with relevant interest groups is questionable.

This section in the Bill, as provided on Second Stage, states the commission - this is being changed to the Minister in amendment No. 22, with whch we agree - may make regulations providing for the carrying out of the valuations of relevant properties under this Act. Regulations about the valuations are being changed by amendment No. 23 to valuation or the taking of one or more of the steps that comprise such valuation. Essentially, the Minister of State in gutting this section has changed the process from a self-assessment valuation to enabling the Minister to make regulations that force people to give information to the Valuation Office through one or more of the steps comprising the valuation. He is putting more of a burden on occupiers, without giving them control or the self-assessment they were promised.

There is self-assessment for property tax, with penalties in the case of under-valuation, with I have no difficulty. We do not want people cheating the system. We also have self-assessment for the Revenue Commissioners. Self-assessment was promised in this area, but I contend it has been completely gutted by this system. It has been gutted in a way the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform did not intend, judging by his press statements and replies to questions.

I reject any implication that this did not receive a political input or that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and others were not involved. A memo was brought to Government on these changes in July 2014. The amendments I am bringing forward in the House have the approval of the Cabinet collectively. I am eager to stress that the fact we continue to engage, as the Senator asked me to here during our previous debate, with industry bodies such as the Irish Hotels Federation, is not a sign of weakness within the legislation; rather, we are ensuring that having waited so long for this and nothing having happened in regard to reforming valuation over a long period of years, we are getting the best possible legislation. We will get to the issues raised by the Irish Hotels Federation and others.

The reality is that under the legislation, the occupier will have multiple ways of ensuring that he or she can contest a valuation with which he or she is not happy and to provide information and work with the Valuation Office to arrive at a valuation that is fair and correct. That is what we all want. We want to get to a situation where valuations are equitable and fair. I believe that occupier-assisted valuation is the best method of doing this. It allows the Valuation Office to work with the occupier and for the occupier to provide information to arrive at a valuation that is equitable and fair. Therefore, I stand over the proposal in these amendments.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 22:
In page 7, line 7, to delete "Commissioner" and substitute "Minister".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 23:
In page 7, lines 8 and 9, after "valuation" to insert ", or the taking of one or more of the steps that comprise such valuation,".
Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 13.

  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Thomas Byrne and Terry Leyden.
Amendment declared carried.
Government amendment No. 24:
In page 7, line 12, to delete “under such assessment” and substitute “for those purposes”.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 25:
In page 7, line 18, to delete “submission of valuations” and substitute the following:
“submission of valuations (including submission by electronic means) and other matters under this Part”.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Amendment No. 26 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 27 to 30, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 27:
In page 7, lines 31 and 32, after “Commissioner” to insert the following:
“, including provision for extensions to the deadline in cases in which such submission is made by electronic means”.

Amendment No. 27, which is similar to amendment No. 25, provides for an extension of deadlines where material is submitted online or electronically. This is good practice.

Amendment No. 28 makes provision to restrict occupier-assisted valuations to certain components of a valuation. This might, for example, be the exclusion of particular types of specialised property or categories of property.

Amendment No. 29 provides that regulations made by the Minister may be specific to certain components of a valuation.

Amendment No. 30 provides that a published valuation list may include a combination of properties that were subject to direct assessment by the valuation manager and occupier-assisted valuation by the occupier.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 28:
In page 7, to delete lines 42 to 49 and substitute the following:
“(i) the specification of classes of properties that shall be, or shall not be, the subject of valuation under the regulations;
(j) the specification of geographical areas within the rating authority area that shall be, or shall not be, the subject of valuation under the regulations.”.

Subsection (j) states: "the specification of geographical areas within the rating authority area that shall be, or shall not be, the subject of valuation under the regulations”. Does that concern the trial period for this or the test case that will be launched at the start? Will the Minister of State explain it further?

It is to give flexibility to allow for occupier-assisted valuation in an entire geographical area or an entire category. It is, therefore, to provide for flexibility within the legislation.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 29:
In page 8, lines 5 and 6, to delete all words from and including “or” in line 5, down to and including "order.” in line 6 and substitute the following:
“(b) specific to a particular valuation order, or
(c) specific to certain components of a particular valuation or to certain of the steps that comprise a particular valuation.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 30:
In page 8, to delete lines 10 to 12 and substitute the following:
“(b) the other Parts of this Act shall apply with any necessary modifications, and, accordingly, a valuation list published under section 23 may include property to which this Part applies.”.
Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 31 to 37, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 31:
In page 8, lines 15 and 16, to delete “at any time (including after the effective date)” and substitute “at any time prior to the publication date”.

Amendments Nos. 31 to 37, inclusive, are the remaining amendments to sections in Part 5A dealing with occupier-assisted valuation. Amendments Nos. 31 to 33, inclusive, propose to change section 26(d). Under what was proposed in the Bill, there was provision for the occupier, after having submitted an initial valuation, to be asked to submit an alternative valuation. The new proposal is more streamlined. Where an occupier of a property submits a valuation that is considered not to be accurate, or where he or she fails to submit a valuation, there is a provision to allow for a substitute valuation to be proposed by the valuation manager.

Amendment No. 34 is a new provision to allow an occupier to make representations where an alternative valuation is proposed by the valuation manager instead of the submitted valuation, thus bringing the occupier-assisted facility into line with the generality of provisions relating to the right to make representations already provided for in the 2001 Act.

As a consequence of the amendments to this part, a valuation list or part of a valuation list compiled using the occupier-assisted provisions will now be subject to the same appeal provisions applicable to a valuation list compiled by way of direct assessment by the valuation manager. Amendments Nos. 34 to 37 are a combination of renumbering, referencing, renumbered sections and a wording change to the final section on the submission of a known false valuation. This wording is extended to include recklessness in the submission of a valuation and brings the provision in line with an existing similar provision in the 2001 Act. That provision is in section 48(2)(b) of the 2001 Act.

In respect of the provision being changed by the Minister of State, he describes it as streamlining the process - a valuation would be submitted and would not be substituted by the person valuing the premises but by the office itself. The Minister of State is taking a further step away from the reforms announced by the Government two years ago. We welcomed these reforms and really only queried the geographical extent of them around the country.

I mean no disrespect to the Valuation Office, but it seems to be dictating the pace when it should be taxpayers and ratepayers who dictate the pace on this issue. This is making the whole thing unnecessarily complex in what is an already complex system. We should be looking to make things easier for people and to make valuations real for people if that is the system we are going to have if the Government is not going to bring in a site valuation tax, which would be much simpler and more efficient. We are going to stay with a complicated and inefficient rates system where the ratepayers are forgotten and every burden that can be put on them is put on them. We had some hope that this burden was going to be lifted slightly by self-assessment.

With self-assessment, we would have been delighted with an ability to pay clause. A Minister who brought in self-assessment plus an ability to pay clause would be considered heroic by the small business community around this country. One can imagine the jobs announcements that would flow from that. The more I study the Bill and the more I listen to the people who have contacted me and the Minister of State describing the amendments he is making, the more I believe we have a system that is over a century old and possibly older and is not fit for purpose and should be radically overhauled. A special commission should be set up to look at what we can do to raise money. Is it to be this system or will it be a site valuation tax or some other form of taxation? We should make it simpler and give taxpayers and employers a break. This Bill is doing nothing of the sort. These amendments are going backwards rather than forwards.

I disagree fundamentally with Senator Thomas Byrne, which probably does not come as a great surprise to him. First, it is not fair to level criticism. I know the Senator said he meant no disrespect to the Valuation Office but the amendments and legislation before this House are signed off on by the Cabinet collectively. All the amendments before the House today have the collective support of the Cabinet and I am happy to stand over them.

The Senator talks about the burden on ratepayers. The greatest burden on ratepayers has been an inability to have a fair, uniform and equitable value attached to their premises. It has been the fact that we have an archaic system and have not been able to access outsourcing, use modern technology and help people to conveniently give information that will be of use and material benefit to the Valuation Office in assessing a fair and correct method. The people I meet regularly, including those in the hotel industry and pub trade, ask me whether we can hurry up and get this legislation in place so that we can revalue as quickly as possible. That is what they are saying as recently as this week. They ask me whether we can get the Valuation (Amendment) Bill done and dusted. I am not claiming that the Bill is a solution.

Why has it been on the shelves of the Seanad for years?

I am not going to get into the tit-for-tat of why it has been two years. I could ask the Senator why the previous Government did nothing in 14 years.

We did. We introduced legislation in 2001 from which the Minister of State quoted. He quoted 14 years.

I am not going to play politics with the Bill. It is an honest attempt to try to modernise the system. What I and nobody else in government have done is suggest it is an answer to all the challenges faced by small business. In the last exchange we had here on Committee Stage, I outlined my view that there was a role to play in terms of local authorities and in respect of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This is a valuations Bill and that is all it is. It is not pretending to be anything else and it is a very honest attempt to try to improve the system.

The Minister of State has resorted to the stock response of "What did Fianna Fáil do in 14 years?," which is becoming very tiresome. They talk about 14 years in power. During those 14 years of government, we were amending a Bill we brought in in 2001 so the idea that we did nothing is wrong. The reason people are giving out to the Minister of State about this Bill not being brought through is because it was published in 2012. It has been sitting on a shelf in the Seanad Office since Second Stage. We have got to Committee Stage and we find that changes to the Bill are drastic. I am trying to find out what is going on, why these changes are being made and why the reforms are not being substituted.

The Taoiseach tried this before also. He blamed the Seanad when he was asked where the Bill was by one of the Minister of State's colleagues on the back benches in the Dáil. The Taoiseach said, "Oh we know the way the Seanad does its business." That was his exact reply. Of course, it was in the run-up to the referendum. The reality is the Government made a mess of this Bill. It is trying to make changes. The Minister of State's officials met interest groups and I am grateful that they did so because it is very important but it is a pity it is happening at five minutes to midnight in the week before it finishes Committee Stage here. This is going backwards rather than forwards and I reject the contention that it is something to do with Fianna Fáil.

I said I would not go down that road and I will still resist doing so. The issue is, as the Senator rightly notes, the fact that as today, we are still having a discussion about how we can make sure this Bill is the best possible Bill. The Senator is right in that my officials are still engaging with stakeholders. We still have Report Stage in this House once we conclude Committee Stage. It has not even been introduced in the other House.

Rather than trying to make these debates irrelevant, we are listening to feedback and trying to make it the best and most robust Bill possible while recognising the legal constraints also. Any objective person looking at the Bill will see it as an honest attempt to modernise a system. The Senator has correctly noted that the last Act was in 2001. An awful lot has changed since in respect of valuations and the situations SMEs face. We will continue to engage and hear constructive suggestions.

Government amendment No. 32:

In page 8, line 25, to delete "subject to subsection (2),".

Government amendment No. 37:

In page 9, to delete lines 29 to 31 and substitute the following:

"Where person submits false valuation

26G. A person who submits a valuation under this Part that is false knowing it to be false or being reckless as to whether it is false shall be guilty of an

offence.".".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 33:
In page 8, to delete lines 33 to 48 and substitute the following:
"(2) Where the occupier of a property—
(a) submits a valuation that, in the opinion of the officer, is not accurate, or
(b) fails to duly submit a valuation by the deadline provided, the officer of the Commissioner shall, on or before the publication date
and, in accordance with the matters set out in section 19(5), determine the appropriate valuation in respect of the property concerned, issue a
valuation certificate to that effect and enter that valuation on the valuation list.".
Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 34:
In page 9, to delete lines 1 to 24 and substitute the following:
"Right of occupier to make representations under self-assessment
26E. Where section 26D(2) applies, the provisions of section 26 enabling the occupier of relevant property to make representations and enabling the amendment of a valuation certificate shall apply with any necessary modifications.".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 35:
In page 9, line 25, to delete "26G. An occupier" and substitute "26F. An occupier".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 36:
In page 9, line 27, after "provided" to insert "by, or pursuant to, regulations under section 26B(2)".
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment agreed to.
Question put: "That section 11, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Thomas Byrne and Terry Leyden.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 12

Amendments Nos. 38 to 40, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 38:
In page 10, lines 4 to 7, to delete all words from and including “, subject” in line 4 down to and including “functions” in line 7.

Section 12 provides that section 28 of the Act of 2001 be replaced by a new section 28 to enable the Commissioner of Valuation to appoint a revision manager to carry out revisions of valuation in accordance with the Act and with such guidelines on relevant matters as may be issued by the commissioner from time to time. This amendment has the effect of enabling the commissioner to appoint designated officers in order to exercise his or her statutory function in a more uniform manner. The amendments to section 12 will serve to streamline the guidelines and manner in which the revision manager discharges his or her duties, having been appointed by the commissioner to carry out revisions of valuation in accordance with the 2001 Act. These duties include the appointment by the revision manager of another officer of the commissioner to carry out any of the relevant functions.

The purpose of amendment No. 38 is to delete from the Bill the clause "subject to the revision manager's general superintendence and control". This is to avoid this being open to question on appeal.

Amendment No. 39 proposes to insert the words ", or of comparable powers under the repealed enactments,” in order to avoid a situation in which a material change of circumstance - for example, a type change to a premises - is overlooked during evaluation, or a change occurs between the valuation of the property and the issuing of the final certificate. This could mean that the premises does not qualify for revision and will have to wait for the next revaluation before the valuation can be amended, which would be unsatisfactory and unfair on the ratepayer, or on other ratepayers, as the case may be.

Amendment No. 40 is a simple correction of a typographical error in the new section 28(6) of the principal Act, as inserted by section 12 of the Bill.

Let me make a general query about the delegated functions that are being assigned under this section and the amendments facilitating that. Will the Minister of State explain why this is necessary? Not every organisation or every part of the State operates in such a way that a junior officer needs statutory functions to carry out tasks. I wonder why it is necessary in this instance.

The question the Senator raises is a fair one. The logic behind these amendments is that they would provide greater consistency. At the moment the system is not consistent, and on the last occasion on which we had this debate we heard many examples of inconsistencies in the application of various functions. Having a revision manager to oversee consistency and standards prevents a situation where one could have 50 individual valuation officers, resulting in an inconsistency that can already be seen in many local areas. The idea of a revision manager is to provide somebody to oversee all the other valuation officers. It is a prudent measure, to attempt to ensure consistency.

The general point I am trying to make is that this highlights the archaic nature of this system - that we must appoint people who are mid-ranking civil servants essentially as statutory officers. I do not think it is necessary. For example, I do not think Irish Water has statutory positions, although perhaps it does. Here it is so old-fashioned, archaic and complicated that we must pass a law to give certain people a particular post in the organisation. The more I look at this, the more I think that the whole system needs a major overhaul.

My understanding is that it will be useful with outsourcing and so on. Outsourcing, I imagine, will come up for tender every few years, and the buck must stop somewhere. I am surprised that the Senator cannot acknowledge that for what it is.

I am not complaining; I am querying it.

Yes, but that is my understanding of it.

If it must be done, it must be done. We will not stand in the way of this.

When there is outsourcing, the buck must stop somewhere; therefore, this is a prudent measure.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 39:
In page 10, line 20, after “subsection” to insert “, or of comparable powers under the repealed enactments,”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 40:
In page 11, line 2, to delete “subparagraph (i) or (ii)” and substitute “subparagraph (i) or (iii)”.
Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 11, between lines 38 and 39, to insert the following:

“(13) The Commissioner will also take account of the profitability of current occupier if valuation is based on use of premises by previous occupier.”.

This amendment relates to legacy rates. Where a premises has been empty and a new start-up business takes over, it may be rated the same as the previous occupier, although in many cases, particularly in cities and big towns, high rates are one of the factors that force some businesses to close. The argument behind this amendment is that the new rate should be based on the profitability of the new business.

The proposed amendment would result in serious anomalies in the valuation list, which would be at variance with long-established valuation practices and the core principles of correctness, equity and uniformity which underpin the legislation. Under current valuation practices, if one took a parade of ten identical shops which were all of equal rental value and occupied by ten businesses, one should reasonably expect that all those properties would have identical rates of valuation. This would not be the case if profitability were a consideration. The proposition that rates should be levied based on profitability rather than rental value would be a significant departure from the long-standing practice of levying rates by reference to property values. There are already taxes in place which are levied on profitability - for example, VAT and income and corporation tax. Furthermore, the relation between turnover and profitability can vary significantly within sectors, as in retail, and between sectors, such as fuel sales and hospitality. I note the point the Senator is making, but I am satisfied that there are other ways of taxing profit. This would be a significant departure from the valuation method and I do not propose to accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 42:
In page 11, to delete lines 45 to 49 and substitute the following:
“(14) An amendment of a valuation list made under subsection (10), (11) or (12) shall have full force for the purposes of the rating authority concerned making a rate in accordance with—
(a) section 29 of the Local Government Act 1946 (as substituted by section 45 of the Local Government Act 1994), or
(b) section 55 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959, as appropriate, in relation to the property concerned by reference to that list as so amended.”

Amendment No. 42 is proposed in order to align the legislation under which a local authority makes a rate with the revision amendments of a valuation list made by the commissioner. The background to this proposed change is that there are existing provisions in section 28(14) and 28(15) of the 2001 Act which provide for an amendment to the valuation list to have effect from the date of its making and for refunds of rates to be made consequent to such amendments. These provisions are based on rating law rather than valuation legislation and are at variance with the basic principle of rating law that a single rate is made for an entire financial year.

Amendment No. 43 has the effect of removing the provision in section 28(15) in the 2001 Act relating to moneys paid by way of rates and their subsequent refund as circumstances require, because this is considered to be a rating matter, more appropriately to be dealt with under rating law than under the valuation code. In fairness to the drafters of the 2001 legislation, I see what they were trying to do, but it has been inoperable and, therefore, to leave it in this Valuation Bill would be misleading. That is why we tabled these amendments.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 43:
In page 11, to delete line 50, and in page 12, to delete lines 1 to 21.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 12, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 13

Amendments Nos. 44 to 46, inclusive, and 62 are related. Amendment No. 46 is a physical alternative to No. 45. All four may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 12, line 27, to delete “ “40 days” ” and substitute “ “60 days” ”.

The purpose behind this amendment and amendment No. 46 is simply to give people more time to respond.

I thank the Senator for tabling these amendments. Again, I note what she is trying to do, but I contend the Government has already gone some way towards doing what is envisaged. The 40-day period in which to make representations on a revision is already being extended in the Bill from the 28 day period which currently applies. The proposed 40 days in which representations can be made is identical to that in respect of first making appeals to the commissioner under the 2001 Act. It has worked as a reasonable period for the more formal appeals stage; therefore, it should also serve in the same way for the more informal representation stage, in respect of which the 28 day period to which I refer applies. If the period for making representations is extended beyond 40 days, it will provide a further rates-free period for new properties being added to the valuation list for the first time. It will also give the occupier of a new property an unfair advantage over competitors. A new property occupier has probably already enjoyed a rates-free period as he or she waits for his or her property to be added to the valuation list. We are keen to ensure the representations period - the more informal appeals process - will be as accessible as possible. That is why we have extended it from 28 days to 40. To extend it further would just create a logjam.

Will the Minister of State outline the intention behind amendment No. 62?

I will outline the position on amendments Nos. 45 and 62. Amendment No. 45 contains a new provision to equip the commissioner with additional authority in the context of addressing anomalies on the valuation list pending revaluation of the rating authority area. The commissioner will no longer be obliged to rely on the determinations of the Valuation Tribunal or the higher courts to address such anomalies. This amendment is designed to provide for exceptional circumstances where a decision by a revision manager not to change a valuation could lead to inequity and a lack or diminution of uniformity of value between certain properties in the same rating authority area. This would include situations where there has been no material change of circumstances to justify a revision under section 28. In such exceptional cases the commissioner will have discretionary powers to direct a revision manager to amend the valuation of a property which he or she considers to be inaccurate. When considering this matter initially, I took advice from rating consultants and I take this opportunity to thank the members of the Society of Chartered Surveyors in Ireland for their constructive dialogue during this discourse, which led to the preparation of the amendment.

It is also proposed to delete section 40 of the 2001 Act, which gives the commissioner discretionary power whereby if he or she amends a valuation list under section 38 in respect of a particular property - arising from a decision of the Valuation Tribunal or the High Court or the Supreme Court - he or she may also amend, in a manner consonant with the relevant decision, that or any other valuation list with regard to each other property appearing on that list that he or she considers is similarly circumstanced.

The original purpose behind section 40 was to ensure equity and uniformity - as outlined in the Long Title and elsewhere in statute - in order that if a valuation of a particular property was changed, the value of other similarly circumstanced properties could also be changed in order to maintain the relativity between them. As a result of the fact that the new section 29A of the 2001 Act, as inserted by amendment No. 45, will provide the commissioner with a similar but broader discretion, section 40 may now be deleted because it is superfluous. The key point is that the commissioner will no longer be obliged to await determinations of the Valuation Tribunal or the higher courts, as was heretofore the case in the context of section 40, and will now be better equipped to address anomalies on the valuation list pending revaluation. I am sure that, like me, Senators have been informed by stakeholders of instances where, as is an age-old problem, service stations have been bypassed by motorways. What we are doing will give the commissioner discretion to act in such circumstances.

What about amendment No. 62? The Minister of State did not mention it.

I dealt with both amendments.

Section 15 agreed to.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 13 agreed to.
SECTION 14
Government amendment No. 45:
In page 12, to delete lines 32 to 39 and substitute the following:
“ “29A. (1) Where a revision manager decides not to—
(a) amend the valuation of a relevant property under section 28, or
(b) amend any other material particular in relation to that property as it appears on a valuation list,
the Commissioner may, exceptionally and provided he or she is of opinion that it is necessary to do so in the interests of equity and uniformity of value or, in a case falling under paragraph (b), in the interests of maintaining the valuation list in as accurate a state as practicable, direct the revision manager, as appropriate, to amend—
(i) the valuation of that relevant property, or
(ii) the material particular that, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is inaccurate, and to issue or cause to be issued a new valuation certificate in relation to the property concerned.
(2) For the purpose of complying with a direction under subsection (1)(i), the revision manager shall determine the valuation in accordance with section 49 as if the valuation were being determined for the purpose of section 28(4). Following that determination, the revision manager shall issue or cause to be issued in relation to the property concerned—
(a) in accordance with section 29, a copy of the new valuation certificate proposed to be issued under subsection (6) of section 28, and
(b) in accordance with that subsection (6), the new valuation certificate (in the terms as originally proposed under section 29 or, as the case may be, as amended under subsection (3) of that section).”.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 46 not moved.
Section 14, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 16

Amendments Nos. 47 to 57, inclusive, are related; amendments Nos. 49 and 51 are consequential on amendment No. 48; amendment No. 54 is consequential on amendment No. 53, and amendments Nos. 56 and 57 are consequential on amendment No. 55. They may all be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 47:
In page 13, lines 1 and 2, to delete “(other than where section 19(1A) applies) or section” and substitute “or”.

The 2001 Act introduced a new first-line opportunity for ratepayers to challenge proposed valuations by means of making representations, a matter to which I have referred during the course of this debate. This relatively informal process was designed to allow and has enabled the Valuation Office to engage constructively with ratepayers before valuations are finalised and published. The Act also preserved the existing appeal to the commissioner and the subsequent appeal to the Valuation Tribunal. There is a further appeal to the higher courts on points of law. This provides ratepayers with up to four occasions of appeal, which is out of kilter with practice in other jurisdictions. In order to streamline the appeals process while maintaining due process and appropriate appeal opportunities for ratepayers, the Bill proposes to abolish the appeal to the commissioner while preserving the right to make representations on the appeal to the tribunal and, thereafter, to the higher courts on points of law. The proposed abolition of the appeal to the commissioner following the determination of a valuation under the 2001 Act will mean that all formal appeals will be heard by the Valuation Tribunal.

Amendments Nos. 47 and 48, which relate to section 34, are required as a consequence of amendments proposed elsewhere, particularly those to section 26 and provisions relating to occupier-assisted valuation. It will now be possible for an occupier who assisted in the valuation of his or her property to appeal the final determination, which is quite important. This correctly aligns the right of appeal of occupiers who participated in the occupier-assisted valuation with the right of appeal with the right of appeal of those who had their valuations determined directly by the Valuation Office in the traditional manner.

Amendments Nos. 49 and 51 involve renumbering, while amendment No. 50 deletes superfluous wording.

Amendment No. 52 provides, in the interests of fairness, that the appeal provisions previously enjoyed by appellants to the commissioner will now apply in respect of appeals to the tribunal. As a result, an appellant will now be able to pursue any appeal to the tribunal which he or she could pursue by way of appeal to the commissioner heretofore.

Section 45 of the Valuation Act 2001 empowers an officer of the commissioner to serve a notice on a person who is the owner or occupier of a property requiring him or her to supply within a period specified in the notice such information as is specified in that notice. A person who fails to comply will be guilty of an offence in respect of which the Act provides for prosecution and penalties. The purpose of amendment No. 53 is to encourage and incentivise an occupier of a property to provide information when requested and to ensure fair procedures in appeals coming before the Valuation Tribunal. This will be done by precluding the occupier of a property from gaining an unfair advantage in the consideration of evidence which, under current arrangements, could occur if the occupier withholds the required information until he or she presents it for the first time at a hearing of the tribunal when there is no opportunity for the commissioner, as a respondent to the appeal, to examine the material presented and make a substantive response. A practical interpretation of this amendment must be assumed. If the occupier could not have had the information when it was sought, he or she will not be put at a disadvantage. A person who fails to comply with a request for information under section 45 can already be found guilty of an offence. People are rarely, if ever, prosecuted for such offences. As a result, the more practical outcome is to provide that the withheld information cannot be used for benefit the appellant to the detriment of other occupiers in the relevant rating authority area, including his or her competitors who will have already provided accurate information or not withheld it during an appeal.

Amendment No. 55 arises as a consequence of the proposed changes to the occupier-assisted valuation provisions contained in section 11 of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 54, 56 and 57 are minor and technical in nature and involve renumbering.

In the context of amendment No. 53, I was astonished to hear the Minister of State refer to fair procedures and to fairness with regard to the commissioner having access to certain information. That is outrageous. We are referring here to taxpayers. It appears that we do not want to give the latter an advantage over the officials or the Department. That is the wrong base from which to start. We should be seeking to put in place fair procedures for taxpayers and ensuring that they have every advantage in the context of properly and legally complying with their taxation obligations. What is involved here relates to those obligations because rates are based on the valuations provided. Amendment No. 53 is completely inequitable. The idea that somebody is going to withhold information in order that he or she might make an appeal is terrible. What is proposed denies ratepayers access to fair procedures and completely hampers their right to a proper hearing of the evidence.

It removes fair procedures from the ratepayer and hampers his or her right to a proper hearing of the evidence. I would like the Minister of State to set out the section which specifies that new information can be provided. I have not read that in the section. As I read it, the reality is that new information cannot be provided on appeal. That is, in my view, extremely unfair. I cannot envisage how, as the Minister of State said, such events would happen to the detriment of other occupiers. It seems to be the case from what the Minister of State read out that there is a danger of ordinary citizens getting one over on the tax man. That is wrong. We are looking for ordinary citizens to have their right to have the proper valuation carried out and have every piece of information available to them, even if it arrives late or at an appeals stage. It should be noted that in a planning hearing with An Bord Pleanála it does not restrict itself to the file before the county council. This amendment should be opposed.

It is not about disadvantaging taxpayers, rather it is about ensuring that every taxpayer is treated equally. It is about ensuring a taxpayer, when having his or her rates assessed or having a valuation done, having provided all the information in regard to his or her premises, is not put at a disadvantage by somebody who has not. I will give the Senator more detail. This provision only applies in very specific circumstances. However, it does require occupiers of rateable properties and their agents to provide information when requested to do so. There is nothing peculiar about this. This is as it should be, as the introduction of relevant information which the occupier already had but withheld until the appeals stage should not be allowed to disadvantage other rate payers. Why should we disincentivise people to provide the information?

If two competitors in an area are being valued and one ratepayer is willing to provide the trading information they are meant to while another does not, the Valuation Office estimates the trading value. The occupier always had the information. There is an appeal at which the occupier provides the information. The person who has been upfront, has complied and has done everything by the book is disadvantaged by those who blindside the people carrying out work on behalf of taxpayers, which we all are. Since the enactment of the Valuations Act 2001, it has been a criminal offence to fail to provide information requested or to supply information which is false. As it is already a criminal offence, why should we have an appeals process which allows information which has been withheld to be submitted? It is very important to note-----

That is not what the section states. The section refers to the information the person so failed to supply. What about information that comes to light after the procedure? It seems to be excluded by the amendment.

I take the point the Senator is making. To be very clear, the only purpose of this provision concerns those who had the information when it was sought.

Where is that stated in the section?

If one has new information, one is entitled to produce it at the tribunal.

That is not for what the section provides.

The provision does not do anything to prevent people providing new information; rather, it prevents people from holding onto information and withholding it until they get to the appeals stage. In that regard it is quite fair. It is also important that at representation stage people can provide all the information they want. There is a process in place at representation stage to provide information. We cannot have a situation where information which was withheld at the representation stage, but was within the gift of the ratepayer, is then produced at a tribunal. It is very important that people are not at a disincentive by complying. It is also important to note the amendments refer only to information which was requested and not supplied. They do not concern information one was not asked for or which commissioners only thought about later. It concerns people who were requested to provide information which their competitors were also asked for, but who chose not to provide information which was in their gift to provide.

I cannot see that somebody, to advantage himself or herself, would withhold information at the start of the process and then provide it during the appeals process. I cannot see how that advantages anybody in the long term. No matter what the Minister of State says, if the information was not given or falls into the category specified in the notice it cannot be used in an appeal even if the information is absolutely crucial and, on a reading of the section, it comes to light after the initial process has been completed.

It is very important that the Bill is read as a whole. If there is a situation where any information one has can be provided right up to the issuing of a certificate and though the representation stage, the amendments refer to the fact one was asked by the Valuations Office to provide information which every other ratepayer can be asked to provide. It is not something it thought about later and should have asked a ratepayer about. It refers to situations where a person was asked to provide information and did not. As we have said and agreed, it is a criminal offence to withhold information. Why, therefore, would we have an appeals system which would allow information which had-----

Is the Minister of State telling me that information which comes to light subsequent to the initial certificate but before the appeal can be used at appeals stage?

Any new information can be provided right up until representation stage.

That is not what I asked. What about tribunal stage?

We are only referring to information which has been requested. If the Valuations Office estimates a valuation because no data has been provided, the appellant will be able to provide that data at appeals stage. It refers to people who have been asked for information but did not provide it. It does not refer to anything else at appeals stage. The ratepayer still has the opportunity to provide that information through the representation process. We have extended the period of representation to 40 days and right up to the issuing of the certificate. People do not have the option under this amendment to then produce information they had at that stage.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 48:
In page 13, to delete lines 7 to 9.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 49:
In page 13, line 10, to delete “(f) any decision by” and substitute “(d) any decision by”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 50:
In page 13, line 11 to delete “or section 28(9), or”
Government amendment No. 51:
In page 13, line 12, to delete “(g) in the case” and substitute “(e) in the case”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 52:
In page 13, line 14, to delete “section 28(7).” and substitute the following:
“section 28(7), or (f) any decision of the revision manager concerned that the circumstances referred to in section 28(4) do not exist for the exercise of the powers under that section in relation to the property.”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 53:
In page 13, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“(3) A person who fails to supply information specified in a notice served under section 45(1) prior to the issue of—
(a) the valuation certificate pursuant to section 24 or 28,
(b) a global valuation certificate, or
(c) a notice under section 28,
shall not be permitted to ground or support an appeal to the Tribunal by reference to information that the person has so failed to supply.”.
Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 14.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Thomas Byrne and Terry Leyden.
Amendment declared carried.
Government amendment No. 54:
In page 13, to delete line 17 and substitute “(4) In this section—”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 55:
In page 13, to delete lines 21 to 23.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 56:
In page 13, line 24, to delete “(c) the date of” and substitute “(b) the date of”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 57:
In page 13, line 26, to delete “(d) the date of” and substitute “(c) the date of”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 16, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 17

Amendments Nos. 58 and 59 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 58:
In page 14, line 4, to delete “is incorrect” and substitute the following:
“is not a determination of its value that accords with that required to be achieved by section 19(5) or, in the case of an appeal from a valuation made under section 28, with that required to be achieved by section 49”.

These amendments provide for the insertion into the section of the Bill the grounds on which a ratepayer may base an appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

The change of service is to strengthen the concepts of correctness, equity and uniformity as the pre-eminent principles on which the valuation code is grounded. It also aligns the grounds of appeal and the determination of value in a revaluation or revision scenario.

This goes to the heart of the issues discussed about other sections. In the light of these discussions and even after two years after the Bill was first published, will the Minister of State simply withdraw the amendment and come back on Report Stage after discussions with the industry? I have read some of the representations made to me concerning the legislation’s provisions and do not agree with all of them. On this one, the taxpayer must have his or her rights protected as much as the office must. This is fundamentally unfair and goes to the heart of the debate. I, therefore, urge the Minister of State to withdraw the amendment.

I share Senator Thomas Byrne’s concerns and believe it is premature to be pushing the amendment at this point when there are discussions ongoing. It is important to have an appeals process that is fair. Will the Minister of State withdraw the amendment until Report Stage?

It does seem logical to request the Minister of State to withdraw the amendment since he is obviously not completely decided as he is still in discussions. Accordingly, it seems prudent and practical to withdraw the amendment and resubmit it on Report Stage if his officials can clarify the matter to his satisfaction. I support Senator Thomas Byrne on this point.

In the interests of being prudent, if there are further grounds for appeal to be agreed, could they not be dealt with in an addendum to the Bill later?

I thank Senators for the acknowledgement that my officials have engaged with various stakeholders on this issue. However, it is important to note that the substance of the discussions to date has been that if there are to be further amendments or addendums, they will be to section 19(5), as opposed to the actual appeals section.

Last time, we spoke at length about the fact, based on several court decisions and best practice, that the valuation appeals tribunal needed to examine a valuation of the same measure as the valuation manager. That involves two principles, the principle of a correct value and the principle of equity and uniformity. Concern has been expressed by some stakeholders that one of these principles could trump the other. It is a concern on which I have an open mind, as it is a complex issue and several stakeholders have sought legal advice.

I am satisfied that the amendment is robust enough. I am grateful to the Irish Hotels Federation and the Society of Chartered Surveyors for meeting my officials at short notice to discuss this matter and being constructive on it.

I am satisfied that amendments Nos. 58 to 60, inclusive, are robust and that any further amendment will refer to section 19(5).

While the Minister of State is technically correct, if we insert this section, we are referring to section 19(5) as amended the last day. We did not know discussions would take place this morning. I am glad that the Irish Hotels Federation is being open on this matter. It is performing an important civic duty on this incredibly complex - I contend unnecessarily so - area of law. If the Minister of State was to withdraw the amendment, it would be a sign of good faith for the discussions. It would allow them to continue and he could return to it on Report Stage. As the Bill will not be law after today, he would have nothing to lose in withdrawing the amendment.

I do not want to be argumentative because there has been a constructive effort in the House and by the stakeholders to ensure a robust and fair system of appeal will be in place. However, I must reiterate that any change to section 19(5) will not affect the appeals provision. All we are saying is that the appeals provision needs to take cognisance of section 19(5), namely, the two principles.

It is a problematic section.

Concerns were expressed last week on Committee Stage when amendments to section 19(5) were debated. I undertook to ask officials to engage with the relevant stakeholders on the concerns raised. Meetings have taken place with the Irish Hotels Federation and the Society of Chartered Surveyors. One concern relates to whether the methodology used by the valuation manager in drawing up the valuation list can be challenged in an appeal to the tribunal. The wording proposed in the amendment does not prohibit such a challenge and never set out to do so.

Another concern is that equity and uniformity might be seen to enjoy a higher weighting than correctness. There is no intention on my part to give one precedence over the over. Both criteria are necessary, as outlined in the High Court Carlton Hotel judgment and one serves as a check on the other.

In response to the arguments made last week on the proposed amendment to section 19(5), we have engaged with the interested stakeholders to ensure there is a full understanding on both sides of the issues and perspectives involved. I have received submissions from the Irish Hotels Federation and my officials have met representatives from it and the Society of Chartered Surveyors. I appreciate the efforts made by these organisations to consider the implications of the proposed amendment in such a short timeframe. While I acknowledge that some of the consultations did not have time to reach a definitive conclusion, the engagement to date has helped me and the House to have a more informed view of the concerns raised. The advice of legal experts has also been sought. I have been assured there are no fundamental flaws in what has been proposed. However, the engagement with the two bodies in question will continue. I am satisfied that amendments Nos. 58 to 60, inclusive, are robust and that any further amendment will refer to section 19(5) and can be dealt with on Report Stage.

As I understand it, the Minister of State is saying that in a situation where there is no specific provision for an appeal, an appeal is not specifically precluded either; therefore, an appeal could be made. Perhaps I do not understand him correctly?

No. The issue at hand concerns the criteria by which the Valuation Tribunal must assess an appeal. The amendments I proposed the last day to section 19(5) were cognisant of High Court judgments.

Those amendments indicated that the Valuation Tribunal needed to consider that the correct value was attached in a concrete sense, as well as uniformity and equity in terms of other premises in a geographical area. The concern has been expressed by some stakeholders, as I have outlined, that one of those principles could be viewed as having precedence over the other. I am very eager to ensure that is not the case, as it has never been the case with this legislation. We have been engaging with stakeholders and seeking legal advice to ensure that is not the case. I give a commitment to the House that I will continue that engagement between now and Report Stage, and if wording can be put forward that will improve the position, give clarity and prevent a legal difficulty, I would be very happy to try to accommodate this.

The substance of the appeals process will not be changed and it must reference section 19(5), to which we can potentially return on Report Stage, subject to ongoing engagement. I am happy to keep Senator Thomas Byrne and others abreast of the issue.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Government amendment No. 59:
In page 14, to delete lines 5 to 12 and substitute the following:
"(ii) in accordance with the matters set out in section 19(5) or 49, as appropriate, what the appellant considers ought to have been determined as the property’s value,",".
Amendment agreed to.
Question put: "That section 17, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Crown, John.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Thomas Byrne and Terry Leyden.
Question declared carried.
NEW SECTION

The acceptance of amendment No. 60, a Government amendment, involves the deletion of section 18.

Was the vote not on amendment No. 58?

The vote was on section 17, as amended.

Government amendment No. 60:
In page 14, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 37 of Principal Act
18. The Principal Act is amended by substituting for section 37 the following:
“37. (1) The Tribunal shall consider an appeal made to it under section 34; in considering the appeal, unless the issues in the appeal do not relate to the value of property, the Tribunal shall achieve a determination of the value of the property concerned that accords with that required to be achieved by section 19(5) or, in the case of an appeal from a valuation made under section 28, with that required to be achieved by section 49.
(2) Having considered the appeal, the Tribunal may, as it thinks appropriate—
(a) disallow the appeal and, accordingly, confirm the decision of the Commissioner, valuation manager or revision manager, as appropriate, or
(b) allow the appeal and, accordingly, do whichever of the following is appropriate—
(i) decide that the circumstances referred to in section 28(4) existed for the exercise of the powers under that section,
(ii) in accordance with the matters set out in section 19(5) or 49, as appropriate, increase or decrease the valuation as stated in the valuation certificate,
(iii) decide that the property ought to be included in the relevant valuation list, and determine the valuation in accordance with the matters set out in section 49,
(iv) decide that the property, ought to be excluded from the relevant valuation list,
(v) decide to amalgamate relevant properties, the subject of 2 or more appeals, and determine the valuation of the amalgamated property, in accordance with the matters set out in section 49,
(vi) decide that the property ought to be subdivided into 2 or more relevant properties, and determine the valuation of each such subdivided property in accordance with the matters set out in section 49,
(vii) amend any detail, other than the valuation, as stated in the valuation certificate,
(viii) amend any detail stated in the notification made under section 28(7).
(3) The Tribunal shall endeavour to make a decision on an appeal made to it under section 34 within 6 months from the date of its having received the appeal.”.”.

The conversation on amendments Nos. 58 and 59 probably leads into this area. This amendment aligns the consideration by the Valuation Tribunal of appeals with the grounds on which an appeal can be made under section 35 and with the determination of value by the valuation manager, under section 19, or the revision manager, under section 49, as appropriate. These amendments are a response to the debate that centred on what the tribunal can consider when considering an appeal that concerns the value of a property. The wording published in the Bill was considered too restrictive and, as we have already discussed, there has been extensive consultation with stakeholders in arriving at the working now proposed.

The amendment seeks to preserve the principles of correctness of value and equity and uniformity of value throughout the process from initial determination of value through to the decision on appeal.

Where the Valuation Tribunal allows an appeal under section 37 with a view to amending the valuation, it is required to achieve a determination of the value of the property concerned that accords with what is required to be achieved by section 19(5) or, in the case of an appeal from a valuation made under section 28, with that required to be achieved by section 49. In essence, the Valuation Tribunal is based on a similar position of the valuation manager or revision manager, as the case may be, when determining the value of a particular property. The objective is to ensure that the valuation manager and the Valuation Tribunal on appeal apply the same criteria when determining values. I could continue but I would probably be repeating the arguments I made in respect of amendments Nos. 58 and 59. This is something we will continue to engage with stakeholders on in advance of Report Stage.

We objected to the last section because the issues we raised were so serious that they impinged on the Constitution. We believe there was a major unfairness in what was proposed. I acknowledge the comments of the Minister of State to the effect that he will continue the dialogue. We are keen to ensure that this dialogue would continue in an orderly way and yet that the Bill would not be delayed unnecessarily because of it. It has already been delayed by over two years at this stage. Notwithstanding the comments of the Minister of State about dialogue we called a vote because of the seriousness of the matter and to try to emphasise the points that we have made.

The entire thrust of the Bill seems to be to clip the wings of the tribunal, to remove the discretion that exists and to restrict the scope for it to make decisions that are different from the original decisions. We believe that is unfair. It seems to be a complete and total reaction to the decisions of the court and the tribunal. That is no way to bring forward legislation. We should not be legislating every time a court rules in favour of members of the public. In this case it was two hotels, but they could have spoken for citizens everywhere. Effectively the process ruled in their favour but large parts of this legislation seem to be designed completely to restrict that. We have to emphasise this.

I am determined that the Bill will not finish today. That is why I am talking about this issue. I am emphasising the points because, frankly, I am determined that the talks continue and that major changes should be made to the Bill before it goes ahead. Too few organisations representing business have been involved in the Bill. The Minister of State has received representations, as have we, from two organisations, but there are chambers of commerce, business groups and small firms associations that need to begin examining the Bill to see how it will impact on their members.

We have all met people who have had valuations. We have assisted them, with their professional advisers, in making representations. We are keen to ensure this is fair. The bottom line is to get away from a system whereby the top is telling the bottom what it should pay and to ensure the bottom actually has rights in the process. The businessman and the employer should have recourse to a fresh appeal but every part of the Bill seems to be designed to restrict this.

I have said all I can, other than to repeat that the talks are continuing. We are having a constructive engagement. However, any constructive engagement would relate to section 19(5) as opposed to this amendment and I urge the House to agree to the amendment.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Question, "That section 18 be deleted," put and declared carried.
NEW SECTION
Government amendment No. 61:
In page 14, between lines 42 and 43, to insert the following:
“Amendment of section 38 of Principal Act
19. Subparagraphs (i) and (ii) of section 38(b) of the Principal Act are amended in each of those subparagraphs by inserting, after “situated”, the following:
“and, where the appellant is not the occupier or the rating authority, that appellant”.”.

Persons other than the occupier are entitled to appeal a determination by the commissioner.

May I protest? The clock clearly shows that it is 5 p.m., at which time we were to conclude

I have a clock in front of me and I am in the Chair. The Senator is interrupting the House.

I am pointing to what is on the screen.

I am looking at the clock in front of me.

It says it is 5 p.m. I can see it from here.

The Senator is wasting my time.

An tAire Stáit, please.

You are breaking the rules of the House, as much as you always do.

I am not breaking the rules of the House.

I assure Senator David Norris that I will be speedy on the matter.

Persons other than the occupier are entitled to appeal a determination by the commissioner. These include the rating authority, another occupier in the rating authority area or an interest holder. This is a technical amendment to ensure that where the valuation list has been amended to take account of an appeal decision of the Valuation Tribunal, the High Court or the Supreme Court, the appellant is notified of the amendment by the commissioner in situations in which the appellant is not the occupier of the property subject to the appeal.

Amendment agreed to.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.