LOCAL GOVERNMENT (COLLECTION OF RATES) BILL, 1923—SECOND STAGE.

I beg to move the Second Reading of the Local Government (Collection of Rates) Bill. When I was introducing this Bill I referred to the fact that many local authorities were in a very serious financial condition. Many County Councils are working on heavy overdrafts. For example, in Cork the amount is £150,000; Leitrim, £76,000, and Tirconaill, £60,000. The total amount of overdrafts obtained by local authorities is something like one million pounds. This financial situation is largely the result of the very large amount of arrears of rates still outstanding, amounting to something like three million pounds. If vital local services are to be continued, it is absolutely essential that these arrears should be recovered without delay, and it is for this purpose that we are bringing forward this Bill. The Bill proposes to expedite the collection of rates, by strengthening the law and extending the powers of executive officers, and by providing additional or alternative machinery, namely, by making use of the Post Office where necessary for the collection of the rates.

The Bill also provides, in those cases where the Post Office has been substituted for rate collectors, for the performance of the other functions of the rate collectors by the Civic Guard, and it also makes other provisions of a more or less machinery character. As a result of the general demoralisation in the country, owing to the last few years of turmoil, there has grown up a general indifference on the part of ratepayers to meet their obligations, and it has accordingly been found necessary to introduce very drastic measures in order to bring defaulting ratepayers to a sense of their responsibilities. At the present time rate collectors have two remedies for the collection of the rates. First of all, they can distrain and sell goods under their warrants and, secondly, they can proceed in a Civil Bill court. The first remedy is encumbered by restrictive statutory provisions, and has been practically in abeyance for the last few years, owing to the danger of distraining without military protection. and to the reluctance of rate collectors to look for such protection, and also owing to the large number of young and inexperienced rate collectors who were appointed during the last few years. When summary proceedings are taken, and a warrant of distress is issued by the District Justice, it is practically impossible to have it executed as the Civic Guard are unable to act, and District Justices and rate collectors find it impossible to get any other person to act as special bailiff, owing to the low statutory fee.

With regard to the second power of the rate collectors, namely, to proceed in a Civil Bill court, that remedy is too tedious and too costly to be effective. The power of the rate collector not being adequate to deal with the situation, we have been accordingly thrown back on the sheriff. As the law stands the District Justice cannot direct warrants to sheriffs for execution without their consent and, even if he could, their powers are not sufficiently wide to deal in the drastic manner required with defaulters. This Bill, accordingly, proposes to give power to the Minister for Local Government to issue warrants to under-sheriffs to levy, by seizure, and to sell goods for a period of twelve months in respect of arrears of rates due up to the 31st of March, 1924. The Bill includes the provision of Section 7 of the Finance Act of 1923, and extends that section to include the seizure of all goods found on the rateable property. The rate collectors had this latter power under their warrants. This clause can only be enforced in these districts where a Minister has publicly declared the provision to be in operation. The Bill also secures to a rate collector the same speedy remedy for recovering arrears of rates after the full amount of his warrant is lodged as he had before. As the law stands at present, the rate collector may be obliged to go to very considerable trouble and to incur considerable expense in recovering these sums, as he is obliged to proceed in a county or a higher court.

The Bill also proposes to give power to a tribunal independent of the local authority, namely, the District Justice, to amend the rate book at the request of the local authority, but it restricts his jurisdiction to inserting the name of the individual who should have been rated. There is also a provision in the Bill for serving certain notices by post which, in the ordinary course of events would require to be served by hand. This is necessary owing to the fact that the speed with which this Act can be enforced is the essence of the whole Bill, and also because of the fact that in those districts where the Post Office is being employed instead of the rate collector, there is no other medium for serving these summonses. The provision with regard to collecting the rates through the Post Office is, frankly, experimental, and has been decided on at the request of several local authorities. At the moment it is only intended to apply these provisions in those counties where the ordinary system of rate collecting has broken down.

Listening to the Minister for Local Government, in his introductory speech, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, one would have thought that his Department was functioning with such efficiency and on such a model system that it leaves nothing to be desired, and that it was only the dose of original sin which is responsible for the decay of the civic spirit among the ratepayers that called for the necessity for this Bill. To those of us who are conversant with the state of affairs in the country and with the situation in our constituencies, the Ministers statement is the most complete and the most convincing and the most abject exposure of the impotence, the futility, and, in very truth I can say, the incompetence of the past and the present local Government administration that ever before was uttered in a representative assembly. The Minister has advanced no rational argument, no serious plea, why the Dáil should proceed further with the consideration of this Bill. One would at least have expected that the Minister would have demonstrated that the existing statutory powers and law applicable to rate collection were insufficient. He has not done so. A little closer acquaintance, a little study of the nature of the authority vested in every local Council, in every rate collector, would have convinced him that there was no necessity for the extraordinary powers he seeks—that they are uncalled for, and that they are superfluous. It is an axiomatic constitutional principle that unnecessary penal legislation should not be enacted, that its need should prove to be imperative and that its powers and mode of operation should be clearly and accurately defined.

In the Bill before the Dáil these maxims are ignored; perhaps I might say, with greater truth, they have never been called to mind by the originators of this measure, and I may say they are unknown to them. What, I ask, is the need for this Bill? Surely we are entitled to know. A Bill which serves no useful purpose, as far as extension of power goes, should not be passed unless it is a measure of coercion for coercion sake, and I ask the Dáil not to pass this Bill until it is clearly proved that the existing powers have been tried and have broken down in the country. The Minister has remained silent as to the causes of the ratepayers' refusal to honour their statutory obligations. I propose to enlighten him. The refusal can arise only from three things. First, unwillingness to pay; second, inability to pay, and, third, a deep sense of grievance. With regard to the first class of persons, they excite no sympathy, and were they the only persons to be affected by the Bill we might applaud the measure and we would rejoice to see it in operation, because we desire to see every person bearing his just share in the common burden and because we want to see service equal for all. But this class represents but a very small fraction of the community.

When we come to deal with the other two classes—men not in the position to pay, or men pushed almost to the wall with oppressive exactions —we come upon the situation which calls for the strongest objection and condemnation of the Bill. Here, again, lack of recognition of elementary constitutional principles can be seen. You must redress ere you coerce. In any line of this Bill there is nothing to foreshadow that the grievous burdens of the ratepayers would be redressed, that their causes of complaint would be removed, that the Augean stable of corruption would be cleansed. Neither has there been anything in the recent policy of the Ministry to countenance the seeds of hope that purity, that efficiency, that economy in civic administration, will be restored. Yet the Minister has not hesitated to come seeking for extraordinary powers to collect rates, and for what end?

Is the Deputy reading his speech?

No, but I am refreshing my memory from my notes.

If the Deputy is not reading, I would like to have the expression "reading" defined.

I have asked to what purpose is this Bill introduced? Is it to maintain universally in this country profligacy, extravagance, waste and worse to bolster up and to give, as it were, artificial respiration to the horrible system I have named? If the Minister was in earnest about restoring decent conditions, he would at least, concurrently with the introduction of the Bill, bring in a large and generous measure of amelioration, a considered system of reform, aimed at an efficient public service, functioning at a cost compatible with the capacity to pay of the ratepayers, which would impose no grievous burdens and to whose up-keep the people would make a ready response and render the Bill before the Dáil unnecessary. In the absence of the ameliorative measure I have indicated, which should precede, preferably for a considerable period, the introduction of this Bill, so that its saving graces—and I speak in the literal sense—could be the more readily discerned, I say this Bill is nothing short of being immoral. There is nothing to indicate, no reason to hope that the money wrung by the Under-Sheriffs will not be wantonly and wickedly wasted, with the undisguised sanction and blessing of the Local Government Ministry, in fancy dress schemes all over the place. I have spoken of fancy dress schemes, and I speak with due deliberation. Some years back there as foisted on the shoulders of the ratepayers a new fad known as amalgamation of Union Schemes. This fad served a treble service. (1) Pseudo-philanthropy as a reform by burning incense, as it were, at the shrine in worshipping the fetish of pauperism. (2) It was a concession to the spirit of revolution by an innovation in the name of an equality which sought to obliterate the name "pauper," and by an inverse process of operation, secured its end by reducing the ratepayers to the level of the paupers. (3) To the wastrels of the Transport Union, who manned the local councils, it offered a golden opportunity of advancing the Union's principle of something for nothing, by the grant of inflated and excessive pensions and gratuities to disbanded officials.

On a point of order, is it proper that interruptions can come continuously from the Labour Benches when a member of our party happens to be speaking? There are continuous interruptions.

They have been so low that I have not heard them; but a Deputy should not be continuously interrupted.

A DEPUTY

Satan reproving sin.

This is one of the many grievances—this excessive scale of pensions.

Can the Deputy show the relevancy of amalgamation schemes to this Bill?

This Bill is to provide the money for the system.

This Bill is to collect the rates which have been legally struck.

Let us consider what some of the effects of the operation of this Bill will be in connection with the arrears of rates. What would be the effect of it in my own constituency in regard to the rates for 1920-21? At that time you had rate collectors appointed without statutory authority or sanction, and who had given no fidelity bonds. The people being then unsophisticated patriots, under the spell, I suppose of the political altruists, paid with a grace never known before, and I doubt if it has been equalled since. What has happened to a very large portion of this money? It has been stated that some of it, at least, has been misapplied—I will not use any stronger term—and there is at least £14,000 outstanding. Last summer, under pressure, the Local Government Department thought to have this money collected, but it was found that ratepayers could produce documentary evidence of payment although they had been returned to the Cóunty Council as defaulters. Can any inspector now come along and report these men as defaulters to the Ministry Can the Minister send down sheriffs and bailiffs to men who have already paid? This is one of the dangers, and one of the reasons why I am strongly opposed to the Bill. It may be said that it is quite easy to find those parties who collected the rates. I doubt it. Some of them are their re-appearance on their tombstones. Others of them are in another hemisphere. Some of them are still on the hill-tops. A few of them have even joined the National Army, and are endeavouring to force respect down other peoples throats for the rights of property and of their neighbours. How are you going to deal with such a situation? When you have caught these men, let us see how they will evade you and throw you off. There is one particular case which is so good that I honestly cannot refrain from telling the Dáil how the misapplication of the rates was accounted for. This rate collector said he hid the rate books and the rates in the hay. His cows broke in, and they eat not alone the hay, but the rate books.

Mr. O'CONNELL

And the rates?

That is not stated; but we will give him the benefit of the doubt. It is, of course, very hard to explain why the cows went in there. It may be that they were conversant with Nietsche or studying the Grammar of Anarchy.

Mr. O'CONNELL

Or with the members of the Transport Union.

There was a Soviet started there, and it may have depraved their bovine virtues and instincts. How will we deal with such a situation? The ratepayers who paid this money to unauthorised collectors can be made the victims of this Bill. Has the Minister any alternative to offer, or any suggestion to make, by which these men who can produce documentary evidence of the payment of rates in these years will not be called upon to pay a second time, and that the bailiffs and sheriffs will not descend once more upon them? That constitutes my principal objection to this Bill, together with the system of extravagance which it is sought to bolster up.

I am afraid I cannot adorn my arguments with the wealth of metaphor with which the previous speaker has delighted the Dáil; but there is just one point in the Bill that I would like to call attention to I am in entire sympathy with the object of the Bill; but I am afraid the Bill will not be effective in particular parts of the country, and that is in the urban areas. The main purport of the Bill, as far as I can see is the power given to the sheriff to levy any goods found on the premises on which the rate was struck, so that a man could not escape the consequences of not paying his rates by claiming that the goods belonged to his wife, or that they were in the name of his child, and so on. That is an excellent provision in the country, where a man stays in his farm and the goods at stake remain on it. But in the towns a man who wishes to escape paying his rates will simply move to some other premises, and the Bill gives no power to seize his goods if he has removed them to another house. They must he seized in respect of the house named in the warrant and on which the rates are leviable. Once a man moves you will not be able to get at him. I hope before the Committee Stage that the Minister will take that into account and see if it is possible to meet it.

Following the remarks of Deputy Cooper, I do not know if it is possible for the Minister to amend the Bill in the direction the Deputy spoke of. I suggest that if the Minister refers to an old Act which had application to Dublin alone, he will find, I think, that it imposed upon the owners of such property, as Deputy Cooper speaks of the liability of paying the rates. While we are asked to support a Bill for facilitating the collection of rates, we hear of action being taken by local authorities to throw upon the rate collectors the task of collecting urban rates from hundreds of small occupiers, instead of as hitherto calling upon the landlord to pay. That is not facilitating the collection of rates by any means, rather the contrary. I would urge upon the Minister that he should consider either in this Bill, or in a future Bill, the possibility or the desirability of making it an obligation that for small rated property, in urban areas at any rate, the responsibility for paying the rates should be upon the landlord or owner of the property, and not upon the tenants. In that way the rates are much more likely to be collected easily and cheaply and the local authority is much more likely to get the rate that has been levied. I hope the Minister will frown on the efforts of local authorities that he may be aware of, who are trying to impose upon rate collectors the responsibility of collecting rates from scores, and perhaps hundreds, of householders and occupiers in place of, as hitherto, collecting them from the owner of the property.

I am in agreement with the suggestion of Deputy Johnson that the responsibility of collecting from small rated holdings in urban areas ought to be transferred to the landlord. As a matter of fact, I asked a question in the Dáil on that point sometime ago, and the reply I got from the Minister for Local Government was that the matter was under consideration. Undoubtedly that would be a more effective method of collecting the rates. The occupiers of these small holdings find that half-yearly demands for rates are more than their resources are capable of meeting. If the rate was merged in the rent, and if there was a weekly or monthly collection, as is usual in cases of the kind, it would not be felt by the occupier of the premises. It would be a matter of convenience to the occupier, and would result in greater revenue for the local bodies. It has these two points to recommend it, and, after all, it is only adopting the system that was in force until the Act of 1898 came into being.

As regards the general purpose of the Bill, after all, in a sense, you have nearly all the authority claimed in this Bill under the existing law if it were fully exercised. Where is the hardship in asking ratepayers, many of whom are in a better position to pay rates than some of those who have paid, to discharge their duty to the community? The man who declines to pay his rates simply transfers the responsibility to his neighbour, because if the budget is not balanced this year the adverse balance will have to be brought forward. The result is that men and women who pay will have to pay not only their own share, but also the share of those who shirked their responsibility,. One of the encouragements to the Irregular element in the community at the last election was that if they were able to carry through, rates and rents might be repudiated. A great deal of the arrears accumulated as a result of a too ready adoption of such a policy. Only a few days ago a statement appeared from a certain County Council in Ireland pointing out that owing to the fact that annuities had not been paid in the county, a sum of £60,000 had been stopped out of local grants. That £60,000 will have to be paid by the ratepayers to accommodate that section of the community that repudiated these annuities. In the same way, if ratepayers were permitted to repudiate their liability to local bodies, then the deficit will have been transferred to those who are already bearing the burden of not only their own rates, but the arrears that accumulated from other years.

Let us see to what extent is this a penal proposal. As the law stands, the rate collector is bound to lodge the amount of his warrant before he can close his books. Does Deputy Hogan propose that the rate collector who is compelled by law, as it exists, to lodge the full amount of his warrant, should do so to benefit the unaccommodating ratepayers in the community and that he should have no means to recover it? He has the means under the existing law, but it has proved in a sense ineffective. An enormous accumulation of arrears exists at present, and it is only when people realise that the law for the common good is going to be put into active operation, that you will find these people discharging their liabilities to local bodies. I do not anticipate that you will have as much trouble as is predicted by Deputy Hogan. When the people find that they are going to be made pay the visits of the Sheriff will be like angels' visits—very few, and far between.

Mr. HOGAN

I suppose that is the first time Sheriffs have been called angels.

Their visits will be angelic in their infrequency. To my mind, the Bill is simply strengthening a provision that the law already gives. It is only making a common demand on every member of the community. I am certain that when effect is given to the Bill, people who hitherto have repudiated legal and honest obligations, that their neighbours have discharged, will be found, with very few-exceptions, prepared to discharge them.

There are only two matters that I want to touch on briefly in regard to this Bill. One of these could hardly have been mentioned in the Bill itself, but I expected to have heard something about it in the Minister's speech commending the Bill. The other is an omission from the body of the Bill that I think is somewhat noteworthy. It is, of course. within the Minister's knowledge that a great deal of the withholding of rates —I am not standing in any defence of that—is caused by dissatisfaction with existing County Councils. It is right that these rates should be collected. I am in entire favour as we all must be, of having every method taken in order that the rates shall be brought in.

It is well to understand some of the causes that prompt the withholding of rates. I had occasion, as the Minister will recollect, to introduce a deputation to his Department, and the statement was made there by members of that deputation that if they could see some prospect of more satisfactory County Councils in the near future, the causes of their recalcitrancy would very largely be removed. Therefore I expected, when the Minister brought forward this measure, and stated that it was necessary that these rates should be collected and most stringent methods taken to enforce collection, he would at least have accompanied that statement by some promise that at a near date these bodies, which have ceased to be a reflection of the public mind, if they ever were, should be removed and others introduced that would be more nearly representative of the people for whom they claim and exercise administration. When we hear ratepayers from different counties stating that the county councils are partial in their administration, expensive in their administration, and other complaints of the same kind, then it is surely time that we should recognise the fact that if we were to have a new set of county councils, in whom the people of this country had a more perfect confidence, several of the causes of the withholding of the rates would be removed. I urge that upon the attention of the Minister.

The second matter to which I wish to refer, is that I had expected to hear from the Minister some reason why the public Bodies Order, that prevailed up to about the year 1918 and since then has been allowed to remain a dead letter, and what is likely to be done to see that it is enforced in the future, and also why there is not a provision that some such Order should be reinstituted. Under that Order, it will be recollected, the rate collectors had to close their accounts twice a year, at the end of September and March, I think; and, if they did not close their accounts at these periods, then no claim for poundage would be recognised. If such a provision were introduced in the Bill a very important stimulus would be provided to rate collectors. I was moved and touched by the allusion to Deputy Connor Hogan's rate collector, who gave a very luxuriant excuse as to why his rates were not collected. No such excuse would be provided if a provision were put in force in this Bill that rate collectors were to be compelled to do what they once were compelled to do namely, to close their accounts at certain periods, and, if their accounts were not then closed, no poundage would be allowed. I believe that these two matters are worthy of the attention of Ministers. The first is that new county councils should be created at the earliest moment which would reflect the public mind and carry public confidence. The second matter is that a stimulus should be provided to the rate collectors themselves requiring them to close their accounts at certain periods, or they would have no claim for poundage. If that were done I believe that a large portion of the problem, with which the Bill proposes to deal, would be greatly simplified.

So far as I can see this Bill should have been introduced at least twelve months ago. There are a very large number of people who have taken advantage of the times since the year 1920. Some refuse to pay their rates on political grounds, more say that there is not sufficient law to comPel them to pay, while others again say: "Why should we pay when the Government may be kicked out tomorrow, and when the new Government comes in there will be the same demand?" If the rates had been paid in a regular manner it would have gone a good way in relieving the thousands of people 'who are now walking the streets or going to the Labour Exchanges. For the first fifteen minutes of Deputy Hogan's speech I found it hard to know whether he was in support of the Bill or whether he was opposed to it. I maintain that there are three classes of people who are not paying—those who refuse to pay, those who call afford to pay, and those who require extreme measures to be taken to compel them to pay. There are big landlords in the different towns who own a large number of small holdings and who used to pay the rates on them. I can mention a towns, in fact two or three towns, in my own constituency where small holders have been taken to court and decrees given against them for rates which they never paid before. I wonder was Deputy O'Mahony serious in suggesting that the few bits of furniture which they have scraped together should be seized?

I never made such a statements. On the contrary, the tenor of my remarks was in the other direction—to relieve these people. In poor cases where the amount of asset is very small, even if a decree is given the rates are not collected. I never made the suggestion attributed to me by the Deputy.

As a rule when a Deputy sits on the Government benches. one takes it for granted that he will support all the extreme measures which the Government introduces. The small holders in urban areas are not, in my opinion, able to Pay rates. One of the reasons is that the people have been unemployed for six or eight months. I certainly agree that these rates should be paid by the landlords. There has already been carried in the Dáil an Increase of Rents Act. The landlords have increased the rents and thev make the occupying tenants pay the rates. That is not fair to small holders. I certainly will encourage the collection of rates from those people who refuse to pay, and I may say that every member of the Farmers' Union here and every Independent member will agree that this Bill should not in any way hamper, punish, or persecute, the genuine citizens of the Saorstát who have paid rates. I maintain that this Bill is introduced for the purpose of collecting the rates from those people who refused to pay since 1920 In County Westmeath at present the County Council has an overdraft of £40,000, and the County Council of Longford is practically in the same position. Those county Councils would not have those overdrafts if the rates had been collected. I know that there are a large number of people who cannot afford to pay, but those who can afford are the people who will not pay I support the Bill, and the sooner it comes into operation the better will I like it.

The Minister, in introducing this Bill, to my mind, did not use any extravagant language. I am sorry I cannot agree with? it the attitude of the Deputy on my own benches on all points. When you try and find out what is behind the Deputy's mind who made the speech, you will realise the position of the ratepayer in the country. The Minister said that the rates had not been collected owing to the disorder. He gave us to understand in his speech that that is the only cause of the rates being uncollected in the country districts. He knows that is not the only cause. The disorder in the country is not the cause, and the Minister would have gone a better way had he stated all the causes that were in his mind. One reason why rates have not been paid was that the ratepayer in the country had against him the economic position. The trade arteries of the country were shut up, and because of this the ratepayer was unable to pay. The Government of this country did nothing to keep them open. The State is not discharging its liability to the ratepayer, and I make a present of that to the Minister and the Government. At the moment, we have numerous and extraordinary charges on the rate-paying public. The rates now represent much more than the rents in many districts, and very much more than the annuities. There are huge rates levied in certain counties in the Free State because of the maladministraltion in the counties. Deputation after deputation has come to the Minister on this head, and pointed out where maladministration took place in those counties, and where it is taking place still. That is one of the reasons why rates have not been paid, and why they cannot be collected. The maladministration has been responsible for it in local bodies—district councils and county councils.

And the farmers.

It does not matter what they are. If the Deputy on my left would cease to interrupt, I think we would get on a little better. Arrears of rates are returned ill other counties as irrecoverable. Why? There is more than a suspicion in counties of which I am aware, that those rates returned as irrecoverable could be recovered, and were irrecoverable because rate collectors and the county councils did not make a serious attempt to recover them from some of those people. We saw in Clare where an influential body of the ratepayers offered the Minister to pay their rates on demand Provided that a serious attempt was made to collected all outstanding arrears. That attempt was not made, and those arrears were put down as irrecoverable, and it was only because of maladministration, and because some of the people owing rates were friends of the rate collectors and administrators that they were not paid. No serious attempt was made by the county councils to collect them. That is one of the serious causes of this discontent in the counties, and the Minister knows it. The game has not been played as it should have been played.

Deputy Mahony has referred, I think, to the fact that the ratepayers want to shift their liability to fellow-ratepayers, His description is pretty accurate. There are such men in the community, and this Bill has now to deal with that class. Every county has its defaulters in annuities and that default is borne by the ratepayer until such time as the annuities are paid up by the defaulting annuitant. Grants will be curtailed by the amount the annuities are in arrears. When the Government go seriously about it and make every man pay his rates and annuities, then we will have confidence and clean administration, and the rate-paying public will have confidence in the local County Councils and the Government. Until the Minister puts his house in order, and until all the ratepayers pay their share, there is no use in talking of the big and little man. If you begin on the poor man, you start a bad principle. You can make a case for A.B.C., but where are you going to draw the line? Why not make a case for D.E., and all rest?

I say it is a principal in administration to make the distinction that and-So cannot pay. It breeds a want-of confidence, and when you breed a want of confidences in the rate-paying public then you have sown the seeds, and you need not be surprised at the crop you will reap. I suggest to the Minister to put his louse in order, and to see that these arrears are collected from everybody without discrimination, and if the local bodies will not do it, I suggest to the Minister that it should be done from headquarters. If that is done, there won Id be no necessity for this Bill. The rate-paying public who can do so will pay, provided they have confidence in the purity of the administration. To my mind, the Bill is all right, and the measures contained in it are all right, provided that the administration is right. The sooner we see that there is a square deal all round and everybody paying their liability, the better it will be for the State.

I also suggest to the Minister one thing, and it has perhaps something to recommend it. The local elections have been postponed time after time; the Present County Councils are still functioning; there will be a new rate struck immediately. I suggest that no new rate be struck until new County Councils are elected that the people will have confidence in. A rate struck by some of the County Councils at present will lead to trouble and chaos. I am anticipating the view of another Deputy on this matter, because he wanted to raise it, and will do so in another form; but I suggest to the Minister that he should be very careful about the present County Councils striking rates. Deputy Hogan has used a good deal of flowery language. I have not much flowery language to use, but I am trying to get down to hard facts. I say to the Minister that if he wants to have confidence in his measure he should see that the County Councils should do their duty fairly and squarely, and that no one section has to Pay for the rest, as they have been doing in several counties.

I desire to say that so far as I Personally am concerned I am in agreement with the main Provisions of this Bill, and to that extent I agree with Deputy Gorey, and disagree with Deputy Hogan. Deputy Darrell Figgis has stated, and Deputy Gorey has rather supported him in that view, that the reason why the people in certain counties have not paid their rates is because of the alleged non-representative character of the County Councils concerned. As far as I know, those who compose the county councils were selected, or nominated the national organisations in existence at the time when these men were appointed.

On a point of Personal explanation. If the Deputy is referring to my speech, I want to say that several county councils that I know of are all right. There are only a few, five or six, perhaps, in the saorstát, that my remarks apply to. They do not apply to the general body of the county councils a all.

What I wanted to laboure was this, that if the farmers, or the people whom Deputy Gorey is so much interested in and claims to speak on behalf of, have not got representation on the county councils at present it is due to the fact that they did not share in the national organisation, or the sacrifices that were being made by those organisation when these councils were selected. I have yet to be told, even in the case to which Deputy Gorey referred, where these county councils do not actually represent the ratepayers. It is a fact, at any rate in the cases that I have in mind, that the people who have not and who will not pay the rates up to the present are, strange to say, many of those whom Deputy Gorey claims to speak on behalf of. In the constituency that I represent, strange as it may seem, the farmers dominate the county councils— both in Leix and Offaly—and any bad administration that may exist in that area—and it certainly does exist—is and must be due to the people Deputy Gorey speaks on behalf of.

On a point of explanation, I am not speaking on behalf of every irregular farmer in Queen's county.

I would like Deputy Davin, as a matter of expediency, to leave that particular point and to come to the collection of rates rather than to be blaming particular classes for the alleged incompetency of particular county councils.

I was dealing with statements made by Deputy Gorey in giving qualified support to this Bill. I, and my other colleagues representing that constituency, have received urgent notices this week that Home Help cannot be paid from last month in one area in the constituency on account of the non-payment of rates and annuities in that area. There is no use in ignoring the true facts in regard to the position arising out of that situation. About two years ago a section of the People in the district, claiming to speak on behalf of the farmers of that area, advised, straightforwardly advised, their followers not to pay rates. What they had in mind was this. They did not want to be responsible for the upkeep of the main roads of the area, and they were not in agreement with what they considered to be the existing high rate of wages for the road workers, and giving the advice to their followers not to pay rates was influenced -by the consideration that their action would help to reduce the rates of wages of the road workers, and throw on to the Government the direct responsibility for the upkeep of the main roads. That is partly responsible for the position that exists in my constituency.

It is quite true, however, to state that the people who are mainly responsible for giving that advice, in the recent election supported the party that was out against the authority of the existing Government. As far as I can learn, and as far as my information from the officials in the County Council in the area goes, the people who have actually paid the rates are the people who are least able to pay, and the people who have not paid, from documents I have seen, in one county in the constituency at any rate, are the big people who have money lying in the ban6 or invested in British War Loan. I will give every possible support to the Minister in enforcing the terms of this Bill, and in compelling that particular class to pay all the rates that have been properly struck by the Councils properly elected, or whom they had a share in electing. With these few words, I wish to say that I heartily support the Bill.

I am not going to attempt to follow Deputy Hogan through the rhetorical and metaphysical maze which he endeavoured to get the Dáil to follow him through. I think it is a sufficient answer to him to mention the fact that Clare is the worst county in Ireland from the point of view of arrears of rates. That should be a sufficient answer, and it is also, perhaps, an explanation of his attitude. Deputy Cooper has raised the point of the inapplicability of the Bill to certain urban areas. He has referred to the danger of People leaving their houses when the rates have become due, and in that way escaping their obligations. I will take that matter into consideration, but I really do not think there is much danger to be feared in that respect, because while it is quite an easy thing to leave a house at present it is a very difficult thing to get into another. I think if people leave their houses to escape their obligations they will have to go into tents.

Deputy Johnson has raised the point of the advisability of making the landlord in all cases liable for rates. That would undoubtedly simplify the matter from the point of view of the rate collector, and it would considerably facilitate us, but it involves a principle which I think we should rather discountenance, because our policy at present is to try and encourage a civic spirit, as much as possible, and develop it in all classes of society, and there is nothing that develops that spirit so much as the obligation to pay rates. When a man has to pay rates himself be naturally looks to see that the money he pays is expended in the most businesslike manner possible. For that reason, I think it would be inadvisable to entertain that suggestion. Deputy Figgis has raised two points, but I think the Deputy will agree with me that it would be very inadvisable for the Government to bargain with anybody on what basis they were to fulfil their legal obligations.

I do not want to interrupt the Minister except to say that I did not in any way suggest a bargain. I was merely suggesting that if there were an assurance of the early renewal of the County Councils a great deal of extra confidence would be created that would help the Minister.

Well, it is as broad as it is long, I suppose. Deputy Gorey has supported Deputy Figgis in taking up the attitude that he would like some statement as to when local elections would be held, and that it would stimulate people to pay rates if we could undertake that the elections would be coming on pretty soon. As Deputies are aware, a new register is being compiled, and I think it would give considerable dissatisfaction if we had an election on the old register, and it would probably lead to an outcry for another election when the next register would be compiled, so that I do not think it would be advisable to promise an election until the new register is ready, which will probably be next June. Deputy Gorey has also supported, to some extent, Deputy Hogan's attitude in condemning the Government. He has also complained that I did not state all the reasons why the position of rate collection is not all that it should be at present, but I think I gave as a reason the general turmoil in the country. I think that included all the reasons that Deputy Gorey afterwards stated, including, to some extent. maladministration in various counties. So far as my Department is concerned, we have done everything in our power to prevent that maladministration, and I do not think Deputy Hogan has anything to complain of. He complained to me some time ago about the condition of affairs in Co. Clare, and I agreed immediately to hold a sworn inquiry. I sent down a man to conduct that inquiry, and he is holding it at the present moment. I do not think Deputy Hogan could ask for more. I do not think there has been much opposition shown to this Bill, and I hope it will pass through the next stages with the same expedition.

May I ask the Minister if he would say something as to some provision, either in the Bill or in administration, with regard to the renewal of the Public Bodies Order to which I referred.

The Minister has ample powers at present to enforce these provisions, but for some time it was not considered advisable to enforce them. and it was not considered an equitable thing owing to the difficulties that the rate collectors were up against, having no protection, or similar reasons.

May I also suggest to the Minister that he has not dealt with my suggestion as to the inadvisability of the present County Councils striking a rate for the present year?

I have no legal method of preventing that, and even if I had think it would be a very inadvisable thing to do.

Question: "That the Bill be now read a second time"—put and agreed to.
Third Stage ordered Friday 25th January.