If the House is agreeable, Sir, I should like the Final Stage to be taken now.
Committee on Finance. - Rates on Agricultural Land (Relief) Bill, 1936—Committee and Final Stages.
Continuing our policy of facilitating the Government in any reasonable way, we shall be glad to fall in with the Minister's suggestion that the Final Stage be taken now.
That the Bill do now pass.
On that motion, Sir. The provision generally made for a supplementary agricultural grant now is a substantial reduction on the amount of supplementary agricultural grant that was available for relief of rates on agricultural land, say, three years ago. In the meantime, the farmers find themselves in the position, at the end of each of the last two financial years, that between the arrears in rates, amounting to £1,000,000, and the arrears in payment of land annuities, amounting to, say, £1,250,000, that they are faced with, apparently, a stabilised debt for the end of the financial year of £2,250,000, representing payments that they are unable to meet inside the proper year. I do not know if the Minister has given any consideration to the position which that discloses, and whether he contemplates during the year increasing the amount of money that would be available for the relief of rates on agricultural land.
I do not contemplate that there will be any increase in the amount of relief given on the question of rates on agricultural land during the current financial year. Undoubtedly, there are arrears —not as great as Deputy Mulcahy suggests——
Oh, there are.
——but still there are arrears of rates due in different parts of the country and also arrears of annuities due. I submit, however, that the agricultural community is this year in a much better position financially than they were last year or the year before, and that there has been a not inconsiderable increase in the prices of certain agricultural products. I think the prospects for this financial year are good, and that the arrears that were shown on the 31st March, that have now been considerably reduced, will not be anything like as great as they are this year when the end of the financial year comes.
The Minister suggests that the figures are not as great, and I admit that, as far as rates themselves are concerned, the amount of arrears of rates at the 31st March, 1936, was slightly less than £1,000,000, but when the arrears of land annuities and rates are taken together, the 31st March, 1936, disclosed that in the gross total there was an increase of more than £100,000 of arrears. Now, I should like to feel that the Minister was correct in thinking that the farmers' condition was such that the arrears would be reduced by the 31st March next year. Personally, however, I do not see anything in the situation that indicates that.