Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Bill, 1977: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am indeed very happy to be in a position to bring this Bill before the House, a Bill that when enacted into law will end once and for all the creation of future ground rents on ordinary dwelling-houses. The next instalment of landlord and tenant legislation that I will be promoting will tackle the problem of existing residential ground rents. Meanwhile. what we are concerned with in this Bill is to put a stop to the creation of such rents. It is a question of putting first things first, of doing first the most urgent job and then turning to the next most urgent job.

The first question to be asked concerning this Bill is whether it is justifiable inasmuch as it proposes to restrict in a certain way an owner's freedom to dispose as he wishes of one particular kind of property, that is, residential building land. I do not think this is a question that need be argued at length nowadays. The situation that this Bill proposes to change is a situation where a house purchaser having paid a considerable sum for the site of his house —either as a component of the price of that house or as a separate transaction —is thereafter required to make further annual payments by way of ground rent. That is a system that is no longer defended by a representative section of the community.

In the past, before the enactment of the 1963 Planning Act, there may have been a case to be made for the system of selling dwelling-houses on the basis of long leases that reserved ground rents and imposed restrictive covenants on the owner occupiers so as to preserve the amenities of the neighbourhood. The necessity nowadays to get planning permission for new building and for alterations of a kind that could affect the amenities renders the leasehold system obsolete. Its only real significance nowadays is a financial one for the landlord, but for the tenant it is more than that. It is a system which denies him full ownership of the home which he has bought or is buying—a system which has given rise to understandable emotional objections in an era when the concept of full home ownership is regarded as a social ideal by all sections of the community and one which is actively supported by the State.

Another question which may be asked is: what will be the cost of this prohibition? In particular, will it make new houses more expensive for young people? The answer to this is of some importance to me because the increased cost involved in making developers sell houses in fee simple rather than by way of a lease was given as the main reason for not going ahead with a prohibition on the creation of ground rents when the Bill for the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1967, was before this House. Indeed, my predecessor of the time, Deputy Lenihan, was very keen to introduce a prohibition but he was reluctantly forced to the view that the extra cost at that time might, as it were, be the straw to break the camel's back for many young people who were buying a home for the first time. It must be remembered that around that time the purchase price of a £20 ground rent would have been at least £250 and that the same sum would then represent the deposit on a typical Small Dwellings Act house.

It would be too easy for me to say we should have grasped the nettle in 1967 and, despite the possible hardship, introduced the prohibition. Be that as it may, it is clear that things are very different now from what they then were. I am fully satisfied that today the grant of a fee simple instead of a lease reserving a ground rent will not have any appreciable effect on the price of new houses. The new system will certainly have no ill effect as regards the total repayments which a typical house purchaser has to meet following purchase subject to a mortgage or loan.

On the positive side the prohibition proposed in this Bill will be an important step in the termination of a system of property ownership which is particularly offensive to many people. It will also—in good time— help to create a system of legal title based on ownership in fee simple. This will be far clearer and less expensive to deal with than the present morass of leasehold titles with its resultant "pyramid of interests" which has been so rightly criticised in the past.

Perhaps I might now deal with the actual provisions of the Bill. What the Bill proposes in the private sector is that apart from renewals of existing ground leases any future attempted ground lease of an ordinary dwelling will be void. This means that apart from the special provision in section 2 (4), which I will discuss in a moment, any such attempted lease will simply be a nullity. As far as the public sector is concerned, the prohibition on the creation of future ground rents on dwelling-houses is, by section 4 of the Bill, being extended to local housing authorities. I shall also come back to this provision later on.

Renewals of existing ground leases are excluded from the prohibition under section 2 (2). The right of a ground lessee to obtain a renewed lease, known as a reversionary lease, as an alternative to acquiring the fee simple under the 1967 Ground Rents Act, is an important right in itself. I think it is important to preserve this right. This is in keeping with the general principle enshrined in the existing ground rents legislation that the tenant is given the right to terminate his liability to pay ground rent but is not forced to do so. Even if it were decided to abolish this right in the future on the ground that the grant of a fee simple on termination of a lease is a better alternative, it would not be appropriate to do so in the context of this Bill. Such a change would be better dealt with in the context of any future changes in the law relating to renewal rights.

The Bill does not extend to multiple-dwelling buildings, as the definition of "dwelling" in section 1 of the Bill makes clear. I am aware that newly-constructed self-contained flats are nowadays sold under arrangements that can involve payment of rent. However, transactions involving the sale and purchase of such flats are in a special category where different considerations apply and they are accordingly outside the scope of the Bill which I am bringing in for the benefit of owner-occupiers of ordinary dwelling-houses.

It may be useful to mention at this point that after the Bill has become law any attempted creation of a fee farm grant of a dwelling-house will be void, as well as any attempted ground lease in the ordinary sense of that term. I am aware that over recent years the ancient form of conveyancing by way of fee farm grant has become more popular. However, it is a form of title which does not give the tenant full ownership. It is not a fee simple—the legal estate which most closely reflects full ownership. What this Bill is all about is ensuring that houseowners will be full owners of their homes.

The prohibition on giving fee farm grants is achieved by providing in section 5 that the Bill when enacted into law shall be construed as one Act with the preceding Landlord and Tenant Acts. In the preceding Acts the expression "lease" is defined as including a fee farm grant. Consequently references to a "lease" in this Bill include where appropriate a reference to a fee farm grant. That means that in effect the proposed prohibition will extend to every known kind of arrangement that could be availed of to create a ground rent in the future.

As to the means by which this is done I must say that, unfortunately, it is not possible simply to prohibit "ground rents" as such. If this were possible the text of the Bill would be a lot more simple. But it is not possible because there is no legal definition of the term "ground rent". Ground rents can be described as rents reserved by particular types of leases which may vary quite a lot but all of which record a landlord and tenant relationship in which the tenant can be seen to own the "bricks and mortar" interest.

These categories of leases have been identified at different times and described in various enactments, particularly in the Landlord and Tenant Acts of 1931, 1958 and 1967. The most extensive existing description of the kinds of leases concerned is in section 3 of the 1967 Act and it is by reference to this that section 2 (1) of the Bill sets out the proposed prohibition. These are the kinds of leases under which the lessees have the right to purchase the fee simple under the 1967 Ground Rents Act.

There is one addition to this list provided for in the Bill. The Landlord and Tenant Commission furnished a report—their second report—in which they identified further classes of ground leases in addition to those covered by the Act of 1967. However, in practice only one of these further types of ground leases could give rise to the creation of a ground rent in the future. This one type of ground lease—with which section 3 deals—can arise where the housebuilder or developer is himself the owner in fee simple of the lands involved, where the house is already built or partly-built at the time of purchase, and where the builder or developer sells the house by way of a long lease usually with a substantial fine and reserving a ground rent.

As I have already mentioned, the means proposed in this Bill to prohibit the creation of future ground rents is to declare void any leases of the kind which are known to reserve such rents. I have had examined exhaustively all the possible effects of this mechanism and the provisions in subsections (3) to (6) of section 2 have been inserted to deal either with possible loopholes or with practical difficulties which might arise.

It will not be possible, for example, to circumvent the proposed prohibition by giving a long lease of a vacant site and building a house on the site afterwards. Leases of vacant land as such are not being prohibited nor is anyone suggesting they should be. However, if a long lease of land is made in the future and if that land has a house built on it subsequently and the total area of the land is such that all of the land is subsidiary and ancillary to the house, then that lease will be rendered void by section 2 (3) of the Bill. It will be clear from what I have said that the scope of this provision is restricted to house sites. In effect, if a lease of a vacant site is given after the passing of the legislation and the lessee wants to put a dwelling on it afterwards he will, like any other developer, have to get in the fee simple.

This brings me to section 2 (4). This provision is designed to protect house purchasers in future who might find that having made substantial payments to secure their new houses they have simply been given a void lease. The proposal to give the house purchaser in such a case the right to acquire the fee simple at the expense of the purported lessor is intentionally draconian and it serves to warn builders, developers and others concerned that, after this Bill has become law, they must take due care not to give void leases. On the other hand, section 2 (5) of the Bill protects developers who may find themselves saddled currently with leasehold land in course of residential building development. Such a developer would be unable to sell his houses otherwise than in fee simple because of the prohibition in this Bill. At the same time, he could find himself in the position of being unable to acquire the fee simple at any reasonable price or indeed at any price. Section 2 (5) proposes to give him the right, for a period of one year, to acquire the fee simple in the land under the 1967 Ground Rents Act.

Section 2 (6) of the Bill is a provision of a somewhat technical nature to cater for the difficulty the Bill poses for the trustees of a charitable housing trust who under the terms of the trust are not empowered to sell the houses to their tenants in fee simple and who yet would be unable to sell by way of ground lease once the Bill had become law. Section 2 (6) proposes to give the trustees the necessary power to sell to their tenants in fee simple.

I now come to the provision of the Bill dealing with the public sector. Dwellings provided by housing authorities have been excluded from the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Code by section 3 of the 1931 Act and purchasers of such dwellings have not had a statutory right to acquire the fee simple interest in their dwellings under the 1967 Act. However, under section 4 (1) of this Bill the prohibition on the creation of future ground rents will be extended to sales of local authority dwellings.

A new dwelling can be sold by a housing authority to a person other than the existing tenant, as, for example, to the first occupier when he takes up occupation. In this case the dwelling is sold at cost less the equivalent of any grants payable for new private houses. As those sales are analogous to sales of private houses, it is intended that the fee simple interest should in future vest in the purchaser.

Where a dwelling is sold to the local authority tenant, however, the terms of sale under section 90 of the Housing Act, 1966, are heavily subsidised from public funds as compared with the financial assistance available to private householders. It is necessary therefore for housing authorities to ensure that in the case of a resale of such a dwelling the vendor and his dependants are not left without adequate alternative housing accommodation and also that the intended purchaser is in need of housing. To meet the situation the Bill provides that, while the disposal of such a dwelling will be in fee simple, some special conditions will apply. These will operate for 25 years from the date of sale and will stipulate that the dwelling shall be used as the normal place of residence by the purchaser or his successor in title and that the dwelling cannot be resold without the consent of the housing authority.

I must point out that special conditions, including those I have mentioned, apply to sales of all local authority dwellings at present and extend to the full period of the lease, which is normally 99 years. Under the Bill, tenant purchasers of local authority dwellings will in every case acquire title to their dwelling in fee simple, free of any ground rent, but subject to the two conditions specified in section 4 (2) for a period of 25 years.

Local authority tenant purchasers have never heretofore had the statutory right to enlarge their leasehold interest to a fee simple interest or to obtain a reversionary lease. However, under this Bill the benefits accruing to owner occupiers in general will also extend to future tenant purchasers, subject to the conditions which are designed to ensure that housing accommodation provided at a heavy cost to public funds continues to be used at least for a reasonable period for the basic purposes for which it was provided.

I look forward to a constructive debate on the proposals in the Bill. I believe both sides of the House are united in agreeing with the purpose of the Bill. Since this is so it may well be that much of our discussion may be appropriate to the examination which the detailed provisions will get during the Committee Stage of the Bill. However, before I conclude there is one point I should like to make about these provisions. It would be most unfortunate if we were to deal with this Bill as if it were an unimportant and preliminary adjunct to the task which still faces this House in relation to existing ground rents.

I say this not only because this Bill is designed essentially to stop the creation of ground rents and so, from a practical point of view, it will substantially affect the number of existing ground rents which will fall to be dealt with in future legislation. I say it also because from a technical point of view this Bill will bring about what is probably the biggest change in conveyancing practice ever introduced in this country or which this country is ever likely to experience in the future. From now on all new houses will have to be conveyed in fee simple rather than by way of the normal long lease. This is a matter of extreme importance not only for the legal profession but also for developers and prospective houseowners. For that reason the provisions themselves have to be approached with very great responsibility. I know that this is the approach which all Members will adopt. I assure the House that I will welcome constructive criticism in this regard.

I trust that the Bill meets with the approval of the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.

I welcome the Bill. My only criticism is not what is in the Bill but what is not in the Bill. I say this in the context of the manifesto of the Minister's Government. I shall explain my remarks in that regard in more detail later. The major criticism I have to make of the Minister's most comprehensive statement is that he did not trace the source of this Bill, the authorship of this Bill. It must be made clear to the House and to the public that this is in fact a Coalition measure, and it would be totally misleading to have it seen as anything else but that.

The last Government introduced the Landlord and Tenant Bill in February last and section 108 of that Bill provided the very restriction now covered in this measure. That cannot be overemphasised since people might be misled into believing that this measure in any way meets the Fianna Fáil commitment in regard to the abolition of existing residential ground rents.

We welcome the Bill. It is a development in landlord and tenant law. Since 1967 ground rent tenants have had the right to purchase their freeholds. It was envisaged, and it is important to mention this, that under the National Coalition Bill this right would be extended to other classes of tenants. That Bill fell with the dissolution of the Dáil and that particular reform is not included in this measure. Another important reform which is omitted was that aimed at making it easier and much less expensive for ground rent tenants to purchase their freeholds. A system had been devised whereby this could be done very easily by the payment of the purchase money to the county registrar.

This Bill deals solely with a restriction on the right to create new ground rents. That was covered, as I said, by section 108 of the National Coalition Bill. That Bill contained no fewer than 122 sections and many of those introduced considerable reforms in the landlord and tenant code and a considerable amelioration of the lot of the tenants. I urge the Minister not to be dilatory in dealing with these aspects. These are aspects that should be dealt with as a matter of urgency and he could do that by reintroducing the National Coalition Bill, excluding section 8.

There are some areas in this Bill in which I would not see eye to eye with the Minister from the point of view of draftsmanship. These are matters, however, which can be discussed at length on Committee Stage. I imagine there are various bodies— tenant organisations, landlord organisations, if there are such, the Bar Council, the Incorporated Law Society—which would be interested in studying the provisions of this Bill to ensure that the object the Bill seeks to achieve is achieved. I trust that in addition there are no side-effects, as it were, which will work against the interests of the tenants.

I shall not go into details which I understand would not be in order at this stage. There is disappointment that acceptance of the principle of the abolition of existing ground rents is not in the Bill. That sentence does not come from my own mouth; I found it in the contribution of the present Minister on the National Coalition's Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1977, last February. These being the Minister's own words, at this stage he must accept the sense of urgency on this side of the House to see something being done about existing residential ground rents. There was a clear commitment by the Minister and his colleagues in their manifesto to provide a scheme which would lead to the abolition of existing residential ground rents. This Bill does nothing to implement that commitment. Why do we not have such a Bill before the House? Why not have one Bill covering the two points? It is because the Minister at the time of the commitment or even at this stage has not decided how this commitment can be honoured?

There may be reasons for dealing with the abolition of future ground rents in a separate Bill and, if so, I presume the Minister will explain them. It would not be very important if, in fact, a second Bill were being introduced to deal with existing ground rents. What worries me—and it is a legitimate worry—is that the Minister has now produced a Bill dealing with future ground rents, and, as far as the House and the country are concerned, that may be the end of it for a considerable time. For that reason it is very important that stress should be laid on the fact that this Bill was a Coalition measure which is re-introduced and even now, with the present Government five or six months in power, nothing has been done in respect of the commitment made to existing ground rent tenants.

Subject to points that may be raised on the Committee Stage the principle in the Bill is welcomed by my party. It is a good development in the whole social structure to have householders owning the freehold of their own houses. This principle was accepted by my party in the past and this very provision was included in the Bill introduced last February by the National Coalition. The Minister will receive, I believe, the total co-operation of the House in getting the Bill through but at the same time it is necessary to voice the anxious demands of tenants to the Minister to get on with the job of implementing the commitment he made to the electorate to abolish existing ground rents. My major criticism of the Minister is that we have not seen such a Bill and we and the country are waiting for it.

I also welcome the Bill on behalf of the Labour Party as we would welcome any measure directed towards ending the ground rents system. This Bill is very much overdue and indeed all the actions of both Governments in the past 12 months have been overdue.

In 1964 the Conroy Commission set up to inquire into and report on the whole question of ground rents reported. They recommended that tenants be given full rights to buy out their ground rents and recommended means of achieving this. It also advised that creation of future ground rents should be prohibited. The lapse of 13 years since that report reflects no great urgency on the part of any Government to remedy the situation. We have reached a position, however, where there is no disagreement in principle: we all hold that the ground rents system in respect of residential property, ordinary dwellings, as they are described in the explanatory memorandum to this Bill, is an archaic system that is a relic of feudal days creating a great deal of hardship for a great number of people and that it should go.

We agree that the benefits of the system in the main go to landlords, their heirs or successors, people who draw large unearned incomes from the basic primary need of less fortunate human beings. There may be exceptions to that, people whose sole income comes from ground rents. There are probably some of those, but in the main there is no sympathy for those who derive a large, unearned income from ground rents. As the Minister said, it is an emotive subject because very often these are people who have little or no moral claim and very often less interest in the source of this income. It is a system crowded with anomalies. In bygone days leases were so short that householders had a very precarious existence. With the growth of more enlightened attitudes through the years, progress has been made resulting in a huge volume of legislation in the area of land and land tenure. One could read all 900-odd pages of Wylie's Irish Land Law into the record. There are people who would have the stamina to do it and obviously there are people on both sides of the House who could do it with more effect and with more familiarity with the text than I have.

This is not the point. We must look at matters as they are now and do our best to improve them in the interests of overburdened householders. From my experience I believe that the 1967 Act was not of any great benefit to the people whom it was meant to help because of the difficulty in tracking down titles, because of the protracted nature of some of these dealings and because of the heavy legal costs. Householders very often knew in advance that the sum demanded would be substantial and many of them could not get it together. Even if they could get it together they very often needed the money for something else.

A great number of householders were not covered under that Act also. There are still areas where landlords or their heirs cannot be traced and where in some cases the last known heirs are presumed to be dead. All over the country there are whole sides of streets where people cannot get title to their property. Some of these properties are residential dwellings and some are residences combined with a small business. People who want to buy out their property are frustrated by the difficulties which surround this matter at present. Progress made up to now has not been to anyone's great credit and we will not serve any great purpose if we start haggling amongst ourselves about who did the most in the past.

The Bill introduced in 1977 by the previous Minister for Justice was a big, complicated and very far-reaching step forward. It was geared to implement the provisions of the Conroy Commission. It would have been law now had the general election not intervened. The case put forward for whatever delay existed was good. There were over 100 sections and there were many amendments. In the nature of things these matters take time to sort out and we could not have a Committee Stage of that magnitude in a matter of a week or two.

In the intervening time we had valuable legislation. We had legislation in the whole area of social welfare, women's rights and workers' rights and the last few months of the last Dáil were devoted to very useful purposes. While I would have liked to have seen the 1977 Bill become law, there is no question but that the legislation which took precedence over it in the time schedule of the previous Government was very important legislation. The present Minister, very understandably and very legitimately at the time, took advantage of the lapse and, it being election time, came in and announced the intentions of his party to abolish ground rents completely or at least to introduce a scheme which would lead to the abolition of ground rents completely.

A lot of the debate that has taken place since then has hinged around that promise. I have doubts about election time promises, but in this situation the Minister repeated very firmly last week that it was his intention to introduce a scheme that would lead to the abolition of ground rents within six months. I was very sorry not to have been in a position, due to circumstances beyond my control, to be present during the debate last week. In view of that election promise and in view of last week's repetition of that promise, most of us can be forgiven for wondering why the Minister chose to implement this promise in two stages and why we do not have one Bill catering for the whole thing. From the Minister's statements it appears that it is his intention to fulfil the promise within the six months he allocated to himself, but we are almost five months into that period now. Why this period should be split into two phases within a period of one month is something I do not understand.

We can be forgiven for eagerly awaiting the details of the second Bill. We have been told that the Constitution will not be changed. We understand from statements made by ACRA, by the Minister and by speakers on behalf of his party that there may well be no question of compensation. I do not know whether these speakers know something that we on this side of the House do not know. I cannot conceive of a situation where the Minister would elaborate on his views to anybody outside the House, no matter how interested they are, before elaborating on them for us in the House. We wonder whether the terms of the second Bill will lead to the abolition of ground rents or a scheme leading to the total abolition of ground rents. The Minister may increase the incentives, he may reduce the multiplier, he may, through aids of various kinds, make it easier for the lessee to buy out the ground rent. No matter what the Minister does the initiative will be with the lessee, and I do not know how the Minister could guarantee that this would of necessity lead to the abolition of ground rents. Will the second Bill merely streamline and improve the provision of the 1967 Act, or will it do what the Minister has promised it will? I sincerely hope that the Bill will do what the Minister promises. A lot of people are looking forward to that, and expect nothing less.

We welcome this legislation in so far as it prohibits the creation of future ground rents. The Minister in his speech said that the ground rents system as it existed denied the householder full ownership of his house and that it was a system which could not be accepted by the community today. I fully agree. I am happy that the Minister is satisfied from his inquiries that a situation where the creation of future ground rents is prohibited will not result in houses being more expensive for young people. A lot of the aims intended by Parliament to make houses more accessible to young people often result in houses being more expensive. The Bill covers most aspects of the situation where a long term lease might be granted and a house built afterwards, and it covers the position of local authority tenants. I might have some reservation here. I agree it may improve the position for some local authority tenants. A number of local authorities impose restrictions on the outright sale of houses to new tenants —there is an imposition of 25 years residence in some cases.

My complaint is that we appear to have a separate attitude to local authority tenants. Undoubtedly they are subsidised, but we subsidise private houses as well; we subsidise business people and farmers, but we seem to preserve a special hold on local authority tenants. That is not to say that I object totally to what is in the Bill but I will reflect between now and Committee Stage on what is proposed in the Bill in regard to local authority tenants. I repeat that I welcome the Bill as a major step forward and I look forward to a follow-up Bill in the coming months.

This Bill, like the bulk of the legislative work which the House has been engaged in since 12th October, is the product of the work of the National Coalition Government. It might have been expecting a superhuman display of virtue, of generosity, from the Minister to expect him to admit as much in his opening statement, but so much of the time of the House is being spent considering work done by the National Coalition that I am inclined to think that some indication of the truth in this regard in common decency might be expected from members of the Government who, on being elected to office, found a rich array of valuable work waiting for them to be completed, quite apart from the record number of measures which the 20th Dáil passed.

This is yet another piece of National Coalition legislation and it makes me wonder whether we shall ever see the end of National Coalition legislation during the 20th Dáil. This Dáil is being run still by the National Coalition—that is the simple truth of the matter. Only three Fianna Fáil measures of the faintest substance have been seen in this House since the resumption on 12th October, and I must tell the House what they were.

I do not like to interrupt the Deputy but we are dealing with a particular Bill, not with other measures which either have come before the House or will be coming before the House. Would the Deputy deal with the Bill before the House?

During the four-and-a-half years of the National Coalition Government a lot of the time was spent listening to Fianna Fáil Deputies foaming at the mouths because this or that was not being done, and they used the most trivial excuses to get that on the record. No matter what the measure before the House was, it was used as an excuse to drag in a whole lot of extraneous matter about which the then Government were alleged to be indifferent.

I do not want to trespass or tread on the Chair's indulgence, but I want to put on record that this House has been doing nearly nothing but National Coalition work since 12th October. Apart from the European Assembly Bill and the two Ministers and Secretaries Bill, which could be boiled down to the proposition that the Government members were not sufficiently distinguished by their titles and needed to be decorated a little more—they needed to pin a few more decorations on themselves of a verbal kind—we have seen nothing worth talking about before the House in the past six weeks that was not already there when the Government arrived in office, all provided by the sweat and efforts of the National Coalition and of the devoted public servants who stood behind them. I am sure the present Minister for Justice is having the same impartial devotion from his officials, and I foresee that we will appreciate that as this debate progresses.

As Deputy O'Keeffe succinctly told the House, this Bill is a re-enactment of part of the Landlord and Tenant Bill of early this year. The guts of this Bill propose to re-enact section 108 of the earlier Bill. There are other ancillary provisions which did not appear in the earlier Bill. In regard to that earlier Bill, a large number of amendments were put in by both sides, fair play to Fianna Fáil in that regard, after the Second Stage. That measure was introduced by Long Title, or if not it was promised, by the previous Minister for Justice nearly two years before the Dáil was dissolved, and I spent a lot of time trying to ensure that it would not be caught in a legislative bottleneck. I pressed the then Minister for Justice repeatedly about that legislation and it was only after I had made myself a nuisance to him that he told me the whole story about the Bill's complexities, the large number of tricky points which made it necessary to have the Bill sent back and forth between the Department, the draftsman, the Attorney General and so on, and having seen the Bill that emerged, I understood that.

Because the present Minister has chosen to take only a small part out of that Bill, the same considerations of delay do not apply. The main problem which I see was adverted to by Deputies Desmond and O'Keeffe. It is the effect of this measure on the price of houses.

It seems to me that we as politicians have not been honest with the people when discussing topics like ground rents with them. "Ground rent" has a nice feudal ring about it, something that is an easy target for agitators, but money invested in a ground rent is not any different from money put in the Post Office Savings Bank, into Government securities, into a commercial company, into house property or into a farm or any other form of investment in which the person investing does not ally with that money his own sweat. There is no essential difference between a ground rent and those other forms of investment. I admit that its connection with landlordism and all the other paraphernalia and junk of an unhappy national past gives the thing an overtone which makes it an easy and convenient target, but politicians should not be in the business of egging people on to attack easy and convenient targets. They should be trying to call halt, trying to lead the people to a true version of what is going on.

Ground rents are a form of investment protected, like any other form of investment, by the Constitution, as the Minister admits because I have heard him put it on the record of the House. Ground rents are not in any way a legitimate target for propagandists or agitators, even when the recipient of a ground rent is an absentee. Somebody living in Dublin and drawing money from an investment in an English company, in ICI or some such company—there are many small investors of that kind, humble people— are absentee investors every bit as much as the owner of a ground rent. They have not the faintest interest in what happens to the workers in ICI. They have not the faintest interest in the kind of business the company may be doing, good or bad. They are drawing their money out of an enterprise which is worldwide, but which is centred outside this country and which has got its capital and its workforce outside the country. The only interest which the Dublin investor has is to get a dividend and possibly to see his capital appreciate. I have to say that in justice and fair play to people, many of whom are perfectly reasonable people in no way deserving of the obloquy which has been heaped on them in consequence of this agitation about ground rents.

A large proportion of building speculators go to the wall because they cannot do their sums or because they are not experienced enough in the business, but a builder who minds his business will calculate his outlay, his likely profit and so on; and it may suit him to lay out his money in such a way that he gets a large proportion now but a certain amount remains outstanding in the form of a rent which he will receive over the years. If the law permits him to use the second part of that investment package it will be reflected in relative modesty in the first part.

This is naturally so. If I can raise capital and venture that capital by building houses or by becoming the type of entrepreneur so often talked about by the Minister for Economic Planning and Development and the Minister for Finance, building a factory to make insoles and exporting them to Taiwan, that is an investment too, admittedly in this case allied with more of my own sweat. In a case like that I equally make calculations about the length of time before my capital will return with interest and when there will be a surplus. If I am prevented from calculating any return after a certain date, I will look for a certain return before that date. I am certain that the Minister's advisers are more versed in the realities of this than I am. I am surprised that the Minister sheered away so quickly from that topic. He did say that in 1967 a £20 ground rent could not be bought for less than about £250, but that nowadays it is not such a problem. I wish that he would have spelled out the size of the problem. At what figure does he estimate its true dimension? That is the figure by which the cost of houses such as attract a £20 ground rent conventionally will be increased in the price of the fee simple.

It does not suit the politicians to tell the people that. I would be very surprised if any of the ACRA deputations have heard those cold facts. Although I mention politicians, I blame the Minister's party—and will continue to blame them until they change their spots—for being ten times worse in this than the rest of us. It does not suit them to tell the people the truth; it suits them to tell the people what is easy and what is soft. In the late election they threw to the people every cheap sop, every soft option they could think of, ones that had been asked for sectionally and ones that had not been asked for.

The Minister for Finance made a speech last week which did not get the attention it deserved. I did my best to publicise it subsequently by attacking it, but the Press and the public did not take any notice of that either. The Minister said last week that he was a bit depressed at the way we were becoming a society of "lobby-power" and sectional interests.

Deputy Kelly, we are rambling miles from the Bill in front of us.

This Bill would not be in front of us were it not for a lobby. You know that as well as I do, Sir.

The Chair is not supposed to know anything but is supposed to know that the Deputy should speak on the Bill.

Everybody knows this Bill would not be here today were it not for persistent agitation, fomented or at least acquiesced in by politicians of all sides over several years. Other parts of the previous Minister's important and valuable Landlord and Tenant Bill would be here, but this particular Bill might not have been here. It is here in consequence of a lobby, and of the very same use of power about which the Minister for Finance was warning and scolding us last week. He was scolding us for going around in lobbies, although his is the party who have drawn lobbies out of the ground like dragons' teeth. By their invitation to every softie in the country to demand that he be let off any obligation, the Minister's party have encouraged, fomented and fertilised the growth of these lobbies. I will not listen to the Minister at one moment standing behind an advertisement such as appeared in the national newspapers last June, being elected on it and ending up as Tánaiste and Minister for Finance in consequence of it, and in the next breath ticking us off because we are a nation of lobbies, because sectional power is coming to the top. That is not my idea of a straight man or a straight party.

I am wondering if this has anything at all to do with the Bill in front of us. If it has not, please do not read it because I do not want to interrupt you again. If it deals with ground rents it is all right.

The Fianna Fáil manifesto was described as "an action plan for national recovery". In regard to ground rent the Taoiseach said he would "provide for the abolition of existing residential ground rents".

I would ask the Deputy to give the name of the newspaper from which he is quoting and the date of publication. It is usual to do so.

I am quoting from The Irish Times of 4th June. It was a stereotyped advertisement and was to be found in every paper. The Taoiseach leads a party who were always great verbal acrobats. The history of that party goes back to Document No. 2, which is the greatest monument in verbal acrobatics in this country this century. At the same time I do not think that even the author of Document No. 2 would have done anything except stare in bewildered admiration at an advertisement which could describe as an “abolition” a mere mechanical improvement in the mode of buying out ground rents. He would instantly have promoted the young man who had thought of such a simple way to describe a complicated legal process.

I have to live on the flat of the earth like everyone else, and I have transactions every week in housekeeping and otherwise in which I buy things and pay for them. I suppose my grocery transactions next week may include a pound of rashers or a can of gas. Once these things are handed to me I have "abolished" the ownership of the grocer. His ownership is "abolished".

There is nothing in this Bill about groceries, rashers or anything else.

In view of the English language usage which the Government are sponsoring, I demand to say that I am "abolishing" my grocer's interest in these groceries—though of course I am paying for them. This is a fair and accurate description of what is happening; I describe it as an "abolition" of property. As long as I have life and breath and am a Member of this House I will not let that party away with this. They promised the people that existing ground rents— not future ones because the Coalition had already half done that—would be abolished. I do not care what friends they may have in the ACRA court, but I am damned if any rank and file member of ACRA, or the ordinary secretary chairman of a residents' association, will regard his ground rent as "abolished" if he is merely given a simplified mechanism for buying it out.

Mind you, Sir, it will have to be a very simplified mechanism indeed, because a simplified mechanism was provided eight months ago by Senator Pat Cooney. It was a simplified and cheap mechanism, whereby the fee simple would be vested in the person entitled to acquire it by a transaction in the office of the county registrar with only the most limited necessity for incurring court and legal fees. It will need to be a very simple procedure to overtake that one. It is going to be a procedure so simple that it could be carried out by an unlettered tribesman in the Gobi desert—although I would not put it past the Government to try to take lessons out of the book of such a tribesman if they thought they would get away with it. I doubt if they will surpass section 73 of the former Minister's Bill for simplicity.

If they are not going to do it that way, how are they going to do it? As the Minister's predecessor said, there are only two ways of abolishing ground rent, which is a form of property indistinguishable in essence from an investment in the common or garden local post office, whatever its social overtones may be. There are only two ways of doing it, by confiscation or by compensation. Confiscation is ruled out. They cannot be confiscated, because our Constitution, so far, does not permit the outright confiscation of a form of property. The best that can be done is compulsory acquisition with compensation, analogous to the compulsory acquisitions which we already have in some areas, and which have never been successfully challenged. That can be done. Now, there are only two thinkable sources for compensation if existing ground rents are to be bought out. Either the tenants are going to buy them out; or the State is going to buy them out; or a mixture of the two. It is no use talking about buying out for a few years' purchase. There is no point in talking about a "reduced multiplier". If the implication of a "reduced multiplier" is that the ground landlord will be forced to take substantially less than the market value of the ground rent, it will run up against the same constitutional difficulty as an outright confiscation. In so far as it is a partial confiscation, it will run up against the same difficulty.

The Minister knows this perfectly well. He also knows that time is running out for him. He made this promise, which is reflected in his Taoiseach's national statement, and backed it up with a specific promise —which he was man enough to brandish last week during Private Members' Business—when he spoke about the six-month time limit which he had allotted himself. Sir, that six months will expire on 5th January; which leaves the Minister six weeks in which to produce a scheme. He cannot produce a confiscatory scheme; he cannot produce a scheme which is half confiscatory. Therefore he must produce a compensatory scheme. If it is to be completely compensatory, paid for by the ground lessee, he will say to the Minister "Thanks for nothing. The National Coalition gave us that much."

Deputy Kelly is now discussing legislation that is not before the House.

The Minister made two references to this matter during the course of his speech. If it is compensatory and is to be paid for by the tenant, the tenant will not thank the Government, and I will make use of my political prerogative to make hay out of that tenant's displeasure. If it is intended that the State should compensate the ground landlord, the Minister will have to find not £65 million, which is the figure allotted to the replacement of residential rates, but £165 million.

Would Deputy Kelly please return to the subject that is before the House?

I am coming to that. The Minister for the Environment told the people in a recent broadcast that the Government would find the £65 million on what they would save from social welfare through the creation of 20,000 instant jobs. I cannot see 20,000 instant jobs, and I certainly cannot see 20,000 off the social welfare, let alone a sum which would pay for the abolition of residential rates. What would that task be compared with the task of buying out the ground landlords? I am trying to put in simple terms the difficulties that face the Minister. The Minister is a decent and likeable sort of man, and I do not wish him to be in greater difficulties than I would wish on one of my own side. On the other hand, I do not have great sympathy for him, because he has wished this crisis on himself. He and his party, with their reckless issuing of promises, their soft-soaping and rubbing-up-the-rightway of every little lobby group in the country have brought this on themselves—and they are only seeing the beginning of it. They will live through an avalanche for the next four years——

Deputy Kelly, will you please return to the Bill.

——of demands that promises made—and promises never made—should be fulfilled.

The Deputy is discussing something that is not before us. It is in order to suggest that something else should be in the Bill.

You have been patient, Sir. In his reply the Minister should tell the House what is to become of the remainder of Senator Cooney's Bill. The Minister has reached into it and taken from its entrails the provision which deals with the future situation of ground rent. That is only one section. What will happen to the other sections of the Bill? I have no particular interest in it, and it is not my spokesmanship to inquire about it, but in his reply the Minister should tell the House what he proposes to do in regard to Part Three, which is an amending addition to the Landlord and Tenant Acts, Part Four, which refers to reversionary leases, Part Five, which refers to sporting leases, Part Six, which refers to other provisions in regard to the purchase of the fee simple, and Part Seven, which refers to the apportionment of rent, and the Part that relates to covenants and leases. What we are seeing here today has nothing to do with the Fianna Fáil election promise in regard to ground rent.

The Deputy has discussed it for 20 minutes.

This Bill is being fraudulently sold to the media and the people as being a delivery of the Fianna Fáil election promise. It has nothing to do with that promise.

It has nothing to do with the existing ground rents.

This, Sir, like so many other Bills we have seen since the 12th October, is a piece of National Coalition legislation. This Dáil is still being run by the National Coalition, and long may it remain so.

I welcome the Bill. The Minister has fulfilled his promise of last week that he would introduce a Bill to abolish future ground rents.

In relation to Deputy O'Keeffe's remarks, I should like to remind him that the National Coalition made a promise in June, 1974, to take measures similar to those the Minister is taking today. At their meeting on 6th June, 1974, the Government decided that legislation should be prepared on the basis of proposals submitted by the Minister for Justice, Deputy Patrick Cooney, TD, on the subject of ground rents. A statement was issued after that meeting to the effect that the Minister intended introducing legislation as soon as possible and that it would contain a provision to prohibit the creation of future ground rents. It is easy to confuse the issue by raising matters before and since that date, but it is significant that a clearcut statement was made on 6th June, 1974, on behalf of the Government, and that a Bill has not been introduced until now. The Minister has been criticised for not going far enough and not doing enough but at least he has taken action.

The second point I should like to make relates to the statement by Deputy O'Keeffe that a Bill dealing with landlords and tenants was introduced in February but had not achieved anything before the Dáil was dissolved in mid-May. From February to mid-May is a long period for such inaction. Certainly, there is no indication of any great sense of urgency on the part of the last Government about the Bill or in relation to the prohibition of the creation of future ground rents. The National Coalition boasted that during their term in office 100,000 new houses were built and it must be stated that a simple measure like that being introduced by the Minister today would have benefited those who purchased or occupied those houses.

I should like to refer to Deputy Desmond's contribution. I realise that the provisions in the Bill are the same as those which apply currently under the transfer order which applies to local authority houses so that in effect the same measures will be used to ensure that local authority houses are not speculated upon. I share Deputy Desmond's point of view in relation to local authority tenants and I am sure she will agree that in a number of cases those living in such accommodation are subjected to the kind of speculation which this measure was designed originally to do away with. Deputy Kelly made a heated contribution to this subject. He told us that the National Coalition promised two years before the last Dáil was dissolved to introduce a Bill similar to this. He also told us that there were complexities which delayed such an introduction. The Deputy told us that the National Coalition had gone half way towards abolishing ground rents at that time. In my view the National Coalition made promises earlier than 1974. To tell us that the National Coalition succeeded in half abolishing ground rent is a new aspect to this question.

Deputy Kelly also asked a question about the price of new houses in future if ground rents are abolished but the Minister has told us if this did not have any effect in 1964 and 1967 it would hardly be of any significance at this stage. The removal of a ground rent amounting to £15 or £20 annually will not have any effect on the price of a new house. It can only be regarded as a device to have a hold on a householder. I do not accept the point he made in that regard. I was amazed at the scathing attack and the insinuations made by Deputy Kelly against those who have pressed for years for a change in this law. His contribution in this regard surprised and disappointed me because I would regard this as the age of responsible lobbying. There are many lobbies here other than the ACRA lobby and they all press their own points of view. I accept that it is the prerogative of a government to decide between the points of view but it is also the responsibility of such organisations to responsibly represent the views of their members. I was horrified at the view taken by Deputy Kelly of such organised lobbies and the campaigns they undertake, particularly in view of the fact that in the context of the EEC we must be an effective lobby or few people will give attention to us. ACRA is not the only lobby here. We also have the IFA, ICMSA, NATO and a variety of medical, teachers and community organisations involved in this useful and rewarding method of representing the views of the people concerned.

At their annual general meeting in 1973 ACRA passed a resolution calling for the abolition of ground rents. That was an indication that people were convinced that it was time to do away with ground rents. That was not the first occasion the question of ground rents was discussed by ACRA but it was the first time a resolution was passed at an annual general meeting. On 7th May, 1973, ACRA set up a special ground rents sub-committee to investigate all aspects of ground rents and advise the general body on the best means of abolishing them. The Chair may think that this is not relevant but——

It is not entirely relevant because we are dealing with the creation of ground rents in the future.

The fact that the question of ground rents was discussed in 1973 is an indication that there was a need then for the introduction of legislation to deal with this matter. On 12th June, 1973, 11 residents of an estate in Cabinteely faced ejectment proceedings for withholding ground rents. I mention those matters to indicate that this was a serious problem as far back as 1973. I understand that currently in the region of 3,000 families have been served with civil bills. Rather than denigrating the efforts of those who work voluntarily to bring about the changes dealt with in the Bill we should be giving them every credit for the responsible way they have acted in the last few years.

The Minister has included many detailed provisions in the Bill. I was impressed by the detailed considerations brought out in his speech by the efforts he made to ensure that no legal device will be found readily to offset the clear intention of the Minister, of the House and of the people in bringing this Bill into being at present. The Minister has succeeded in giving us what was requested and what is desired in relation to future ground rents, that is, ownership in fee simple. It is the first step in his promised measures and I merely want to welcome it at this point.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I shall not delay the House very long. We had a debate here last week on ground rents and their abolition. It emerged clearly from that debate that in 1975 the present Minister put down a motion urging that future ground rents be prohibited, that the procedure for the buying out of existing ones be enlarged and that the whole question of their prohibition be considered. The Minister's predecessor introduced a Bill known as the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1977 in January, 1977. That Bill received a Second Reading in February, 1977. The House then, through the Opposition and Government parties, set about following up that Second Reading debate by putting down amendments to that Bill. Somewhere between 100 and 120 amendments were put down between the end of February and 20th May, 1977 by the present Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Deputy Haughey. That Bill was working its way through the House as quickly as possible.

In the course of the debate we had on ground rents the Minister said at some length that his predecessor introduced the Bill in 1977, then placed it in cold storage, did nothing about it, killed it and implied that he never intended to proceed with it. I admit the Minister did that partly in reply to interruptions and remarks from this side of the House. However, I should like the Minister now, on reflection, to concede that what he said then was not correct, that the Bill of 1977 was being processed through the House as quickly as was reasonably possible between its Second Reading in February, 1977 and the dissolution of the Dáil in May, 1977. I put it to the Minister that it was unfair and that he misled the House in saying that that Bill was delayed, that it was killed by his predecessor, put in cold storage and that he never intended to proceed with it. The point I am making is that that Bill did all that this Bill now proposes doing. It prevented the creation of future ground rents. It enlarged substantially the category of persons entitled to buy out existing ground rents. In that respect it went further than does this Bill; it conferred further rights on existing ground rent tenants than does this one. This Bill does not extend at all the category of people entitled to buy out their ground rents whereas section 66 of the Minister's predecessor's Bill did. I should like the Minister to explain why he did not introduce that portion of the former Minister's Bill and confer on many people the right to buy out their ground rents, a right they have not now got, that they have been demanding for quite a while and that the Minister said they should get in his private motion debate in 1975. The Minister proposed then to confer that additional right on those existing ground rent lessees which he is not now doing.

This Bill does not abolish ground rents. The Minister in his election manifesto said he would do that. There is no doubt that the Minister undertook in that manifesto to abolish them but even in plainer and more direct language in a newspaper advertisement before the election he said he would abolish existing ground rents.

This Bill actually provides for the renewal of ground rents. He admits that when he says that renewals of existing ground leases are excluded from the prohibition of section 2 (2). That means that ground rents will continue to be created because everybody knows that when the long lease of 99 years expires, as many of them are doing, there is provision for their renewal and for substantially increasing them. I admit that the current market value is not charged. I speak subject to correction, but it is something like one-fourth or one-sixth of the market value—I have not the papers with me. That means that ground rents could be increased under the provisions of this Bill from a paltry £5 to perhaps £100 or £150 if the percentage of market value is to be taken into account. I want to know why the Minister was unable to find some way of preventing people having to buy out ground rents of £100 or £150 instead of £5 or £20. Not alone does the Minister do nothing in easement of people who will have their ground rents renewed and substantially increased but he writes into the Bill in black and white that he will not do anything about them, that these renewals and increases will take place.

I wonder do the ground rent tenants who, through their organisations are so grateful to the Minister for introducing this Bill, realise that many, perhaps hundreds of their members, will, month in and month out, be confronted with the renewal of their existing ground rent leases and also substantial increases in their annual ground rents.

It is the business of this side of the House to spell out the meaning of legislation going through the House. With regard to a person who is in occupation of a house that is subject to a lease containing a ground rent, when that lease expires—whether next week or next year—so far as this measure is concerned the lease will be reviewed and the rent will be increased. That is a shabby going back on an election promise. It is the duty of this side of the House to study Bills and to tell the people what they are about. It is particularly our duty to do that now in view of the solemn promise in written form given by the Minister and his party only six months ago that they would put an end to ground rents.

Another category of people are not dealt with in this Bill. More and more people are purchasing flats; this is becoming much more common in view of the cost of houses. Many of the flats are comfortable, even luxurious, while others are good or just average. The Minister is telling all and sundry that ground rent landlords can go merrily along; they can continue to impose ground rents on flats and he will not do anything about it. That is what the Minister said in his opening speech today and the Bill specifically excludes flats. Whether it is a block of 100 flats or simply two flats in a building, there is nothing to prevent the creation of new ground rents.

I would ask those Members sitting behind the Minister what is the difference between a person who builds a house for which he can obtain a grant, one that comes within the 1,250 sq. ft. regulation, and who is asked to pay a ground rent and the person who gets accommodation in a block of flats and who is asked to pay a ground rent. I cannot see any difference. Blocks of flats are being built throughout this city and in towns in rural Ireland; whether the blocks contain four flats or 104 flats does not matter. For the people concerned their flats are their homes. It is not a question of a person taking a bedsitter in a converted house. People are buying self-contained flats which contain a number of bedrooms, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. I cannot see any difference between that and a house.

The Minister is going to permit the creation of ground rents in respect of these buildings. I cannot see any difference between a semi-detached house containing three bedrooms and a two-bedroomed flat, other than that one has three bedrooms and the other has two bedrooms. Nevertheless the Minister has seen fit to find a difference and he has permitted the creation of new ground rents for flats. If one were looking for an argument one might come down in favour of flats because the semi-detached house has some ground but the owner of a flat is using very little ground.

I should like the Minister to deal with the points I have raised. First, he should concede he was unfair when he accused Senator Cooney the other day of being dishonest—that was what it boiled down to—in introducing the 1977 Bill. All the facts show that Senator Cooney was processing the Bill as quickly as possible.

I should like the Minister to deal with the question of renewal of ground rents. With all the advisers and machinery he has at his disposal he should prevent bad from getting worse. In the future people will be dealing with the situation of buying out ground rents not only of £20 but of £50 or even £100. I want the Minister to explain why flats will continue to be subject to ground rents and why new ground rents may be imposed on flats.

I am curious to know why the Minister did not introduce in toto Senator Cooney's Bill in 1977. The Minister agreed with it in principle because he put down amendments to it. Why did he not introduce the portions of the Bill with which he agreed? In reply to a question I put to the Taoiseach today he intimated he proposes to reintroduce the Road Traffic Bill, 1976. As Deputy Kelly has pointed out, it is true that to date this Dáil is living on the work of the National Coalition Ministers and it looks as if that will continue for some time.

I should like to welcome the Bill and to congratulate the Minister in putting it before the House so speedily. It is important that we do not cloud the issues in this debate. This is very straightforward legislation and, of necessity, it cannot be all-embracing. It is not intended to cover existing ground rents. One could debate at great length about the validity of legislation that would embrace existing ground rents and also new ground rents but this legislation directs its attention to the prevention of any new ground rents and in essence is welcomed by everybody. I see this as a measure that puts the brakes on. It is a forward progressive step which prevents new ground rents.

Deputy Fitzpatrick referred to what I think is a very pertinent question, that is, the purchase of new flats. He wanted to know how the Minister would tackle this problem. The Minister will give it very sympathetic consideration. This is a new departure and in his reply I am sure he will explain his reasons for not including flats.

Existing ground rents were referred to by many Deputies and, with the patience of the Ceann Comhairle, I feel it will clear the air if I refer briefly to them once more. With existing ground rents the great problems have been the covenants which people have found impossible to wrangle out of. Everyone realises that the immense complexity of leases which vary from 20 to 900 years cannot be dealt with in one fell swoop. The Minister is forward-thinking in that he is tackling one aspect of this complex problem, and is fulfilling a very serious commitment given to the electorate earlier this year.

In fairness to others who may wish to speak I will conclude my comments. I congratulate the Minister and welcome this legislation which will be welcomed across the land and will be seen for what it is: a solution to one aspect of the problem. I urge the Minister to address his attention to tackling the other more complex part that is of existing ground rents. However, this has to be kept in perspective. It is a separate issue and does not come within the framework of this legislation.

I thank the Members for their contributions, which I welcome, even though I do not necessarily agree with some of them. I am particularly sorry Deputy Kelly is not present because he raised an interesting point which, even if it were out of order, nevertheless I will have to reply to. He raised the question of lobbying or pressure being exerted by lobbyists on parliamentarians.

Deputy Kelly should know that his party leader and fellow spokesman on agriculture only this week met members of a particular lobby group and had discussions with them. The Deputy should also know that his leader is on public record as saying that they might not be in Opposition if they had kept in touch with the people and their representatives throughout the country while they were in Government. I do not want to say anything further on that point because I am not interested in making any political points. Perhaps better communication between the Deputy and the Leader of his party might be helpful when the Deputy is contributing in this House.

Deputy O'Keeffe and other Members of his party were most anxious that this Bill should be labelled a Coalition Bill. At no stage during my introductory remarks did I claim it was my Bill or their Bill. If it helps any Members of the Fine Gael Party to think that this is their Bill, then they are at liberty to do so. It is a question of political lollipops. I do not mind who gets the first or second suck as long as we get this legislation passed. That is all I am interested in.

I am glad of the welcome given to this legislation, especially by Deputy Eileen Desmond. She was prepared to recognise this for what it is and what it meant, not for what is not in it nor what might be in a Bill relating to existing ground rents and the problems arising therefrom that will appear at a later stage. As I said last week during a Private Members' Motion, this Bill will be introduced later. If the Opposition, and Fine Gael in particular, want to create an atmosphere or say that the Bill will not appear, they are free to do so; but they could be making trouble for themselves at some future date. If they want to knock the Bill even before it appears, good luck to them but I say they should wait and debate it when the time comes.

Deputy O'Keeffe was extremely annoyed—I think that was the phrase he used—that I did not trace the source of the Bill. I kept my introductory remarks reasonably short because we had a three-hour debate on ground rents last week. He also expressed disappointment at the omission of any mention of existing ground rents. I recognise the fact that he eventually welcomed the Bill and I am thankful for that.

There are some differences in this Bill from that introduced by Senator Cooney in February, 1977. I have already spelt out the four main differences. Two points were raised by one of the shrewdest politicians in this House, Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan). Those points are the same in this Bill as they were in the Bill introduced by Senator Cooney.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Do not forget the manifesto which was going to do away with everything.

I listened to Deputy Fitzpatrick speaking for 20 or 25 minutes without interrupting him, and there were many times when I was sorely tempted to do that but it would not have helped the debate. The manifesto he is so keen to wave at all times—and I am delighted about that —was a programme of work for this party while in Government which was accepted by the people. We are going to implement this programme. One would get the impression—I hope wrongly—from certain Opposition speakers that it will be their avowed aim to try to wreck that programme which the people gave us the right to implement on their behalf. If the Fine Gael Party want to earn the title of wreckers, they should be careful. They should know what they are doing and where they are going.

(Cavan-Monaghan): Not at all Minister. We only want to see that Fianna Fáil carry out the programme contained in the manifesto.

Do not worry about that. The people have given us our orders. We were given the sign to put our programme into operation. If you as a party try to wreck it——

(Cavan-Monaghan): It is our duty to see that Fianna Fáil do it.

I do not think Deputy Fitzpatrick and Members of his party are going to get any credit from the nation for doing this. I am not going to become involved with the manifesto. There are people who have more time to talk about that.

(Cavan-Monaghan): It has served its purpose.

However, on the question of the manifesto, Deputy Kelly was talking about the business of the House and saying that he wanted it on the record that this was a Coalition Bill. He wants an admission, as it were, that what we are now doing was already half done by the Coalition when they were in Government. The actions of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties while in Government were reasonably well described last Wednesday night here in this House by Deputy P. Power of Kildare when he said "Yes, you had the cheque written out but you forgot to sign it".

(Cavan-Monaghan): The national growth was 6 per cent. The Taoiseach said that last year that was the best in Europe.

I cannot hear what the Deputy is saying. He is out of order anyway, so I had better not rise to that. The phrase used by Deputy Kelly was "All support on the occasion is on this side of the House". I do not know if the man is as serious as he should be. I have nothing but regard for Deputy Kelly, Professor, and it is a pity he went off, as he did, at a tangent and talked about everything except what was in the Bill. If he wished to believe that the Coalition still rule this House and went on to say "Long may it last", so long as he is doing it from that side of the House I will not be the least bit worried about upsetting him.

On the question of the blocks of flats which Deputy Fitzpatrick mentioned, the Bill does not extend to multiple dwellings. The definition of "dwelling" in the Bill makes that clear. I am well aware that self-contained flats are sold under arrangements that would involve payment of rent. However, transactions involving the sale of such flats are in a different category where different considerations apply and are accordingly outside the scope of the Bill which I am bringing in for the benefit of owner-occupiers of dwellings. I fully accept that this was what was in the mind of my predecessor, Senator Cooney, when he was bringing in the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1977. I understand that there would be a number of difficulties with regard to flats because different considerations apply. Generally rents in such cases cover services and maintenance of common areas and things like that and these are not generally regarded as ground rents. However, I will not close the door on it. I will give the matter further consideration and we can talk about it on Committee Stage.

(Cavan-Monaghan): I do not want to interrupt the Minister——

For the Deputy's fourth interruption he is doing well.

(Cavan-Monaghan): ——but the Minister is speaking about a different thing. I am talking about ground rents that are left at the time of sale and go on for re-lease.

I am prepared to have a look at the suggestions there and, if there is something in them, when we come to Committee Stage I am prepared to discuss the matter further.

Deputy Fitzpatrick went to some pains tonight and last week when he spoke on the Private Members' Motion about the length of time the previous Government had this Bill before them. Deputy Fitzpatrick is inclined to get a little bit hot under the collar with regard to what I said. I cannot find it now because I have not the Official Report, but I believe that the Bill was introduced in early February, we had a Second Reading on the Bill and it went through reasonably quickly. I admit there were well over 100 amendments. I accept that a number of them were from my party and quite a large number from the Deputy's. I think that at least 70 of the 100 plus amendments were drafting amendments. I say that they were official amendments tabled by the Minister of the day. I certainly did say that.

It is difficult for me to know the inner workings of the Chief Whip's Office of the Coalition Government at the end of their four-year period in Government. It is difficult for a person like me to know the pressures that would be on them with regard to the workload and to what is and what is not to come before the House. Deputy Fitzpatrick said a lot during the course of his contribution about the question that came up which he wanted to be advised on by the Government of the day. Perhaps they were very much delayed. The Bill did not come to the question before Committee Stage, and that is what my assessment of the situation was on 5th July. I do not want to waste the five minutes that I have to find out the exact words I used.

(Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister made several references. Can he not read the whole debate?

There undoubtedly were political reasons.

(Cavan-Monaghan): No.

I do not believe that there were not. I can say there were. The Deputy can say there were not and that will resolve nothing. In general I am thankful for the contributions made by all Members of the House as far as they went in connection with the business of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next stage?

I accept that the Minister is anxious to get this Bill through quickly and I agree with the principle involved and am of the same mind. It occurs to me that major changes of a technical nature are being made which may have wide issues and wide issues should take further consideration. Some bodies such as tenants organisations' and lawyers' organisations' might like a chance to have a look at the Bill. I do not want to delay Committee Stage, but the Minister might consider this matter and we might end up with a better Bill indeed.

I am quite prepared to leave it to the Whips. I suggest we start Committee Stage one week from today if the Whips agree.

This day week is suggested.

Would the Minister think that this would give a chance——

It does not tie us. It is only a matter of fixing a date and the Whips can discuss it.

Do I take it that the Minister has accepted the sentiments I have expressed that there would be bodies who would like to study the Bill?

If there are bodies who want to see the Bill and people who have interests I will certainly give them an opportunity of making their views known. I certainly think, because I gave notice last week that the Second Reading of the Bill would take place this week and also because of today's debate, that it is a fairly live issue and that there is plenty of time for them to come to the Deputy or to come to me to make their views known.

We will agree on this day week and let the Whips discuss it afterwards.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 29th November, 1977.

(Cavan-Monaghan): In future Ministers might see fit to circulate the relevant portion of the manifesto.

The manifesto does not arise at this stage.