In relation to the rates Bill there is a very antiquated, unfair and inaccurate form of assessment. The Minister should try to do something about it. The existing valuations bear no relation to a farm's capacity to produce. I know of one parish where there is a 70 acre farm with a valuation of £130 and in the same parish there is a 140 acre farm with a £70 valuation. It is obvious that this savage increase will be imposed very unfairly. Any impositions of rates or tax should be seen to be fairly distributed. In County Cork, for instance, the north and south carry over 85 per cent of the extra burden.
When the Coalition Government removed health from housing which accounted for £5 in the £ and when we removed the 25 per cent from the rates, there were no strings attached. During the election campaign we were told nothing about this and we were projected as an anti-farmer party. Now we can see the reality, that it is only now that farmers are being treated badly. When the £17 employment scheme finished, bringing a revenue of about £½ million, there was uproar in this House but now £7 million is being taken and there is nothing about it. It has been suggested that the rates can be used to offset income tax. The category of people who will be involved under this are people who are involved in heavy borrowing and who have big families and so on, and they are usually not liable to income tax, so that suggestion is of no benefit to them. These people are faced with an additional bill which could in cases amount to £1,000 along with all their other commitments. When one considers that that is being done in order to give free rating to very well-to-do people with houses costing up to £¼ million it can be seen how unfair this is. This is why I oppose it. If everyone was to be treated fairly under this Bill it would be all right, but discrimination is wrong and cannot be defended. The category of the people affected by this Bill enjoy few benefits, they must pay voluntary health and university fees for their children and so on. This is a savage slap at one section of the community. The Minister should amend this, even in a small way so that people who are not liable for income tax would not have to pay the extra involved under this Bill. Even if the Minister could give us assurances that it would not be over 11 per cent in the years ahead that would be a step in the right direction.
The Minister should not proceed with this Bill as it stands because he is working on a wrong premise. We were not altogether without blame when in government, because we based the income tax on that premise, but two wrongs do not make a right, and if we are to continue with farm rates we should look for a different system of assessment. When speaking about farm taxation I was inclined to promulgate the idea that we should have one form of tax such as income tax. I do not see why the farmer, unlike his Northern Ireland or UK counterparts, should be put into a non-competitive position. When the effect of this Bill is fully realised there will be widespread dissatisfaction. I appreciate that every Government must collect a certain amount of revenue but I am opposed to this manner of doing it because it is hitting at a small section of the community who can ill afford this extra burden.
I appeal to the Minister to think about this again in terms of removing farm rates altogether. At present one section is carrying the can for everybody else, business people and others, even in respect of such things as malicious damage and so on. It is not proper that they should carry additional burdens year in year out and be singled out in this respect, especially when they are given no indication in advance.
I should like to see the whole rates system scrapped leaving instead, as is desired by the farming organisations, one form of taxation. Then if somebody did not wish to keep accounts they would have an alternative, something based not on valuations but on adjusted acreage. The Minister does not really have to go through the whole rigmarole of having revaluation done because in the Agricultural Institute they have worked out fairly well a system of adjusted acres; for example, if somebody did not wish to keep accounts then he would pay a few pounds per adjusted acre. That would bring in revenue and would also solve the problem of the farmer who did not wish to keep accounts. In the case of the farmer who is caught in the tax net the alternative of the notional system is out for him now and he must keep accounts even if he is making no profit. And, having properly costed out farm accounts very often he would be paying little or no income tax assuming he is a progressive man, has heavy borrowings, is developing his farm and rearing a family. At present that man with a 70 to 100 acre farm would be paying little or no tax on the basis of keeping accounts. On the basis of my figures he will now be asked to pay £500 or £600 extra for no reason whatever.
This emanates from a Minister whose Government went into office on the basis that they would create a better Ireland for everybody, that they would create more jobs. I ask: what effect will this have on job creation or on production? If one hinders a man buying a new machine or extra fertilisers by requiring that he must give the Minister £500 or £600 extra how can he possibly produce more? How can he provide more jobs? The Minister is hampering that man, and I take that point very seriously to the Minister. This is a bad Bill, an anti-production Bill, an anti-job Bill and will be seen and identified as such when its full implications are realised.
If there was a sort of state of euphoria when we could give everybody free rates, including the farmers, fair enough, or if the whole rates bill could be abolished and provided equitably some other way that would also be fair. But nowhere did I read— in any election manifesto or anything else—anything from the Fianna Fáil Party that this would be their treatment of rural Ireland. They gave no such indication. In fact they came into office as the saviours of Irish farmers and this is what they do. The Minister should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.