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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Friday, 17 Dec 1937

Vol. 69 No. 18

In Committee on Finance. - Housing and Labourers Bill, 1937—Fifth Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Would the Minister help us on that particular point which we raised, and raised with all seriousness, on Section 5. I do not think it is at all fair that either landlords or tenants should be put into the position that something is being done in this Bill which confers, at any rate, a right which they believe they can stand over in law, while they may subsequently find that they are falling back on another Act of Parliament which is already in existence and that their right under this Act is not there at all. The Minister admits that there is an ambiguity in sub-sections (a) and (b) of Section 5.

I did not say that.

I asked the Minister a point blank question, and he said it was a matter for the courts to decide. If that is not an ambiguity in the section I do not know what it is. We have a section here, and its relation to the Rent Restrictions Act is such that the Minister's only answer when pressed for an explanation is that it is a matter for the courts to decide.

The question that the Deputy raised was a matter for the courts.

I suggest it is entirely wrong that either landlords or tenants, or anybody else in the State, should be placed in the position that under this Bill something is going to happen which may confer on them a certain right, and that they will subsequently find out they have no right at all. Imagine the position of a landlord who, as I said before, is empowered by the Minister's condition to charge a rent of 6/- a week. The tenant pays that rent for a period of, let us say, six years. Subsequently, on seeing a decision in the courts, he discovers that the landlord was not entitled to charge that rent of 6/- that the standard rent was 3/- or 3/6 or 4/-. He then sues the landlord and recovers the excess payments over a period of six years. I think the Minister should at least consider that matter and not leave us with an ambiguity which the courts must decide. I seriously suggest that the Minister cannot say there is nothing in the point. If there is nothing in it, it ought to be very easily demolished. I think it is entirely unfair to the people of this country, who will be in the relative position of landlord and tenant hereafter, that something is going to be done in this Act which will put them in the position that they will not know where they stand either as regards this Act or the Increase of Rent Act.

I am not going to repeat the arguments made on the other stage, but I suggest that if this goes through in its present form the Minister will be regarded by all the lawyers as a universal benefactor. There is enough trouble arising under the Increase of Rent Act at the present moment, and if this complication is put in the Lord knows where it is going to end. Would the Minister not consider, say, excluding this from the application of the Increase of Rent Act? If he put in a small addendum that when a house is the subject-matter of a grant the Increase of Rent Act shall not apply, I think it would get out of the difficulty. Otherwise, I can see myself changing my car from a Morris to a Rolls Royce in a short time, and I will thank the Minister very much for being able to do so.

And let the landlords profiteer?

The Deputy is speaking on the assumption that the officials of the Government who will have control of these grants and make the regulations under which they will be given, and the officials of the local authorities who make those grants, know nothing about the Rent Restrictions Act; that they will ignore it and never think about it. The amendment has been drafted having taken the Rent Restrictions Act into consideration. We are aware that it is there. We know that there will be certain relations between the Rent Restrictions Act and the rents that may be charged under that section. It will be provided in regulations that the new rents will have to bear relation to the legal rights of any tenants whose rents may be altered under the new Act.

If the Increase of Rent Act says that the rent will be 10/-a week, can the Minister come along now and say under this section: "You are going to charge 5/- for your house"?

It may render that section in certain cases inoperative.

Is it the Minister's contention that this Act overrides the Rent Restrictions Act?

Is it his contention that the undertakings given under this will be observed rather than that people will go back to the Rent Restrictions Act?

If they cannot observe them, they will not use the Act.

Then the thing is superfluous?

The people have their rights under the Rent Restrictions Acts?

The Minister says he is going to take cognisance of the Rent Restrictions Act in fixing those undertakings. Consequently, we are just where we were.

A later Act is usually taken as repealing a former one.

This does not propose to repeal.

But it gives certain powers.

The Minister still admits that there is a possibility that some Minister, or some local authority, may disregard the Rent Restrictions Act, and allow a larger or smaller rent, as the case may be. I do not think the Minister should legislate and leave an outstanding possibility, even though it may be a far-fetched one. It is out of possibilities of this sort that litigation is made.

Is the Minister adamant on that?

Question agreed to.