Wednesday, 21 February 1940
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. MacEntee): I move, that the Bill be now read a second time. The main purpose of the Unemployment Assistance (Amendment) Bill, 1939, is to clarify the position in regard to the amounts that county boroughs, the Borough of Dun Laoghaire and urban districts with populations exceeding 7,000 souls, are required to contribute under the Unemployment Assistance Acts. The corporations and councils of these areas have taken conflicting views—some of them, of course, quite wrong views—as to the liabilities placed upon them by the Statutes in question. I believe the majority of the authorities concerned have calculated their payments on the correct basis, that is, on the basis prescribed by the Oireachtas, and have paid to the Exchequer in full the amounts due by them on that account. Others, having used the correct basis for several years, recently put such interpretation upon the relevant section of the Act as to give an incorrect basis of calculation, and upon the erroneous basis they proceeded, not only to reduce their current payments, but by withholding moneys due to the Exchequer, to recoup themselves for sums which, they allege, were paid in excess of their legal liability. The Bill now before the House is intended to clarify the position and to ensure that henceforward all local authorities will make their current contributions upon a uniform basis. The amount involved in the deductions made by the contributing councils, prior to the financial year 1938-39, was not serious, being in the preceding year, 1937-38, only a sum of £1,500 in all, out of a total contribution of over £200,000.
However, in the year 1938-39 a move was made by the Corporations of Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Cork and Wexford to assess their contributions on the hypothesis that the prescribed poundage should be paid, not upon the rateable value of the areas which they control, but only on the number of £'s of rateable valuation that were actually productive of rates. And not only this,  but they proceeded to adjust the payments made in previous years, by deducting from current payments the amounts which they considered themselves to have paid in excess in those earlier years. The result was a shortage of some £68,000 in the amount which the Exchequer would have received in the financial year 1938-39 if the phrase “rateable value” were interpreted to mean, as the Government and the Oireachtas, and indeed as the bodies concerned had taken it in other years to mean, the total valuation of the urban areas concerned, subject to minor reductions, whether these valuations were productive of rates or not.
In the current financial year the Supplementary Estimate for £21,400 is necessary, by reason of these councils ignoring in their calculations valuations and hereditaments in their areas that are not productive of rates. That is the new latter-day construction which certain local authorities have, of themselves, put upon the definition “rateable value”, contrary to the actual intention and purpose of the Oireachtas when enacting the Principal Act. It is made clear by the fact that payments were made on the correct basis by the Corporations of Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Cork and Waterford, for the years, 1934-35, 1935-36, 1936-37, and 1937-38. Even in 1938-39 the Corporation of Dublin, which is the largest defaulter, struck, levied and collected rates from its citizens on the correct basis, and so also did the other bodies in the four earlier years. I have not heard that either the Corporations of Dublin, Cork, Wexford, or Dun Laoghaire propose to refund to their ratepayers the amounts which they now hold were wrongfully collected and wrongfully paid to the Government. They have collected and have held on to the moneys. I have not heard that, to give logical effect to their contention, they have returned the moneys to those from whom they were originally taken. Accordingly, it is clear that these authorities, in the years to which I have referred, had no doubt whatever as to the plain meaning of the section, and the plain intention of the Oireachtas. They have succeeded  by intensive application in cultivating a doubt since—a doubt which has been cultivated at some expense to the taxpayers. It is necessary to dissipate that doubt now, and to restore to those who control the local authorities that clear and lucid view which, at one time, they shared with the Oireachtas as to the meaning of the original section. No doubt the matter might be satisfactorily settled by litigation.
Mr. MacEntee: ——and, in the end, would benefit neither the local authorities nor the taxpayers. If a doubt has to be cleared up legislation is cheaper and more expeditious. We propose by this measure to leave no room for litigation or for doubt as to the meaning which the term “rateable value” has, and always had in the mind of the Government which was responsible for drafting and sponsoring the original Bill before the Oireachtas and in the mind of the Oireachtas itself. Doubt did not exist in the mind either of the Corporation of Dublin, or of some of the other local authorities who have now put this matter in question. Section 2, therefore, puts it clearly beyond question that the prescribed poundage is payable on the valuations in these urban areas under the Valuation Acts of all properties situated within their boundaries, in respect of which or any part of which any rate is payable, or would be payable, if the properties were occupied, to the local authority, or to some other authority having power, by  statute, to levy rates in respect of the whole or part of the financial year. The valuation of property, such as public buildings, churches, schools— charities which are wholly exempt from rates—are not included in the rateable value on which the prescribed poundage is payable. Neither are the valuations of Government properties in respect to which the State pays a bounty in lieu of rates, but the valuations of fisheries in respect to which boards of conservators make and levy rates are. The local authority is paid in respect of such properties, out of voted moneys, an amount equal to an increase over 1d. in the £ on local rates that the exemption from local rates on such properties involves.
The definition of “rateable value” contained in the Bill, I should inform the House, does not extend the definition contained in existing legislation. It merely, as I have already stated, clarifies it, so as to ensure that all councils required to make contributions under the Unemployment Assistance Acts will calculate their contributions on a uniform basis. Again, I should emphasise that this Bill does not increase liabilities. In fact, in the case of councils such as those administering Tralee, Galway, Sligo, Clonmel, Carlow, Bray and others which have paid their contributions on the correct basis, it may be that they will be found to have over-paid slightly, and to be in a position to have amounts placed to their credit that will reduce the current contributions accordingly. If Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Cork and Wexford had done likewise, they would, in all probability, have found themselves in the same happy position.
I have referred to the fact that the action of certain local authorities in placing what, in our view, is a wrongful interpretation on the existing statutes would, if allowed to go unchallenged, involve the taxpayer in a loss of £68,000 in respect of previous years, and of £21,000 in respect of this year. Clearly, this is a burden which the local authorities concerned cannot be permitted to pass on, in our view, quite unjustifiably, to the general taxpayer, particularly when we remember that the councils required to make these contributions have the advantage that  residents in their areas who are entitled to receive unemployment assistance are paid at considerably higher rates than residents in non-contributing areas, and that residents in the areas of the councils and corporations required to contribute on a poundage of 1/8, receive higher rates of unemployment assistance than residents in the areas of the councils required to contribute on a basis of a 9d. poundage.
For example, the man with a dependent wife and five children would receive, in Dublin, an allowance of 23/- per week, because Dublin pays on a poundage of 1/8. In Galway, which pays on a poundage basis of 9d., he would receive 17/6 per week, and in the non-contributing areas—and those are the areas in which taxpayers would have to contribute more if we permitted the action of the corporations of Dublin, Cork and Wexford to go unchallenged—he would receive only 14/- per week.
Mr. MacEntee: And, of course, the recipients of the higher rates of unemployment assistance living in the areas which have to contribute on a poundage basis expend their allowances within those areas. I think that, bearing this in mind, it is not unreasonable to ask the local authorities, within whose areas unemployment assistance is paid at the higher rates, to contribute towards the maintenance of this substantial advantage. Indeed, if this matter is to be put in issue at all, the question might well be raised whether more substantial justice might not be done as between town taxpayer and country taxpayer, as between one local authority and another, and as between the State and the local authorities in general, by making a uniform scale of allowances for the country as a whole, whether county borough or rural area, and leaving the local authority, if it wished, to supplement that State allowance to the extent it thought necessary, and, of course, to foot the bill accordingly. I wonder how that would appeal to the ratepayers in the Cities of Dublin and Cork and in the Boroughs of Wexford and Dun Laoghaire?
 The House may be interested to see how it would work out in the case of Dublin, Cork and Wexford. In Dublin the estimated annual cost of paying unemployment assistance to residents within the city boundaries amounts to £435,391 per annum. If unemployment assistance were paid in the City of Dublin on the same basis as it is paid everywhere in Ireland, except in the five county boroughs I have mentioned and within the areas controlled by the councils and corporations of towns of over 7,000 inhabitants, the cost to the Exchequer of making that payment would not be £435,000; it would only be £217,695 per annum. Accordingly, the payment of unemployment assistance at the higher rates in Dublin costs £217,000.
What should the Corporation of Dublin contribute to that? Upon the basis of the relevant section of the Unemployment Assistance Acts, as they were originally interpreted, the Corporation of Dublin should contribute towards this additional expenditure of, you might say, £218,000 per annum, £171,000 per annum in round figures, showing a net profit on the transaction to the citizens and ratepayers of Dublin of something like £47,000 per year. What did the Corporation of Dublin pay last year? They ought to have paid £171,000, and last year they only paid £118,013. Mind you, they collected £171,000 from the ratepayers of Dublin for the purpose of handing it over to the Exchequer, and, instead of handing over the £171,000, they handed over £118,000. I do not think, and I am perfectly certain that the people of the country, when these facts are put before them, will share my view, that the Corporation of Dublin, if justice is going to be done to the general body of taxpayers in the country, is going to be permitted to get away with that.
What is the position with regard to Cork? Unemployment assistance is also paid in Cork at the highest rates permitted by the statute, and it costs approximately £111,000 per annum. If unemployment assistance were to be paid at the rate at which it is paid in the rural areas around Cork and in the  rest of the country, it would only cost £51,723. The estimated annual difference between these two figures is about £59,330. That is what it costs the Exchequer to pay unemployment assistance in Cork City at the highest permissible rates. How much is the Corporation of Cork expected, under the statute, to contribute towards that £59,000? Less than half. It only pays £19,551. Last year, instead of even paying that £19,551, it only chose to pay a sum of £13,132 and, once again, the general taxpayers of the country, including by far the greater section of the unemployment assistance recipients who are paid at the lowest rates permissible by the statute, had to make good the deficiency. I do not think, when that fact is thought over, it will be agreed by anybody that there is any justice in the attitude which the corporations of the county boroughs and the boroughs concerned in this matter have taken up in regard to their obligations towards the general taxpayer.
In the case of Wexford, where unemployment assistance recipients are paid not at the highest rates permissible, but at the intermediate rates, and where an unemployed man with a dependent wife and five children would receive a payment of 17/6 per week, it costs us £12,017 to make that payment at the intermediate rates; whereas, if payments were made upon the scale at which we are permitted to make them in the rural areas, it would only cost £9,067, a difference of £2,950. How much does the Corporation of Wexford contribute to that £2,950? It should contribute £873, but last year it chose to withhold some of the money rightfully due to the Exchequer, and only paid £738.
That is the justification for this Bill. We cannot permit such actions to go unchallenged. For years the principal local authorities concerned in this matter interpreted that statute as we intended it to be interpreted when putting the Bill before the Oireachtas and as we told the Oireachtas it would be interpreted. For years, as I have said, they interpreted it in a manner in which it would produce, not the whole amount of the difference between what  unemployment assistance was costing the Exchequer when it was paid at the rates appropriate to the areas concerned, but only some part. In the case of the wealthiest and largest centre of population in the country at about three-quarters of what it should cost. In the case of Cork and Wexford at about one-third of what it would cost. For years, as I have said, they continued to pay upon that basis. Then they choose to put another interpretation upon the section, and then, to the grave and serious detriment of public finance last year, they choose to withhold moneys which they alleged to have been wrongfully paid.
As I have already said, that issue might be settled in one of two ways, either by litigation or by legislation. But the Dáil is the taxing authority, and the Government in this matter is acting for the Dáil and the taxpayer. When these Unemployment Assistance Acts were being put through this House they were put through this House upon the definite financial basis that where, because of local circumstances, unemployment assistance recipients had to be paid at higher rates than it was possible to pay them throughout the generality of the country, then the local authorities in those areas would contribute a certain definite amount, and that certain amount was fixed at a definite poundage upon their rateable valuation. That was the basis of the Act. When other people choose to deny that basis, to put another interpretation upon the phraseology of the section which is not in accord with the interpretation placed upon it by the taxing authority, we in whose hands rests the power to pass legislation, to correct any misapprehension of the true meaning of the section, instead of wasting public money and frittering away public time in the law courts, can come to the Oireachtas to clear up the misapprehension and put the situation straight and plain before all the parties concerned.
That is the main purpose of this Bill. There are one or two ameliorations of the present situation in the Bill, not merely in regard to the local authority but in regard to the  recipients of unemployment assistance or those qualified for unemployment assistance. I will deal with those in a few minutes. The main feature and the main thing about the Bill is the provision which is set out in Section 2, particularly in paragraphs (a) and (b) thereof, which may be referred to as the clarifying provisions of the Bill. It will be noticed that in paragraphs (c), (d), (e) and (f) of Section 2 of the Bill there is provision made in the case of four county boroughs and Dun Laoghaire for a reduction by a fixed percentage of the rateable value.
That reduction is made definite by paragraph (b) of this section. That reduction arises in this way: In relation to the County Borough of Dublin and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire, the expression “rateable value” is defined by Section 26 of the 1933 Act, but the main valuation under the Valuation Acts is deemed to be reduced by Section 69 of the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1930, in the case of the hereditaments and tenements situate in these areas, rateable on the municipal rate. Similarly, in relation to the County Borough of Limerick, the valuation was deemed to be reduced by Section 28 of the Limerick City Management Act, 1934, for the purpose of payments to be made in the following financial year, 1936-37. Section 28 of the Limerick City Management Act of 1934 was not operative in the financial year 1934-35. The rateable value which the Limerick County Borough was required to contribute in 1935-36 was not reduced by this section, but the Act does act retrospectively. In this regard it is proposed to require a reduction in the rateable value of Limerick in 1934-35 for the purpose of calculating the payments for 1935-36.
I should like to make it quite clear that it is not proposed in this Bill to take away any of the reductions which were properly allowable under the original Act. On the contrary, the benefit of such reductions, as may be properly made, are to be provided in a form more favourable to the local authority. Paragraphs (c), (d), (e), and (f), to which I have referred, define that particular value to mean 98 per  cent. of what would be the rateable value without reduction. This benefit, as I have mentioned, is to be given for the past as well as for the future. In 1938-39 the reductions under the original statute were 1.9 per cent. of the rateable valuation. We are now increasing that legitimate reduction so as to bring the payment down to 98 per cent. It was 1.6 per cent. in the case of the Borough of Dun Laoghaire and 1.9 per cent. in the case of Limerick. In all these cases, as in the case of the County Borough of Dublin, the legitimate reduction to be made in the rateable valuation will now be 2 per cent., leaving 98 per cent. to be paid. In the case of the County Borough of Waterford, this 2 per cent. reduction will also operate so as to reduce the payments to be made in the first and following financial years in which they are raised by means of the municipal rate. The same will apply to the County Borough of Cork when it likewise adopts the consolidated municipal rate. The extent to which the rateable valuations of these municipalities increase is to be seen, but the advantage to be derived from this standardised reduction will also increase.
Paragraph (g) of Section 2 of the Bill contains a not unimportant easement for the local authority. It proposes to enable the councils to use in the calculation of the amounts payable, any valuations as determined at the beginning of the financial year immediately preceding the financial year in which the payments are to be made but regard is to be had to valuations as determined on appeal on or before the 30th June in the financial year in respect of which the payment is due. In this way the benefit of any change made as a result of the appeals against the valuations is given to the councils in so far as these appeals are determined in the 15 months that will have expired when the first payments fall due. Provision is made in Section 4 of the Bill in the matter of payments by councils of amounts withheld. That provision with regard to amounts withheld or deducted by the councils is, I think it will be conceded, as reasonable as possible. The excess payments in any year will be credited  against the payments in other years. Power is taken to enable payments due to be made by instalments. The full circumstances of each case will be fully considered when fixing the instalments to be made and the times of payment. Having regard to the difficulties encountered in checking the amounts payable by councils, the Bill by Section 5 proposes to have the rateable value on which the poundage is payable, settled in each case by obtaining as the final document for this purpose the certificate of the Commissioner of Valuation. This provides a simple method of obtaining the necessary information in a manner that leaves no doubt as to its accuracy and it is fixed beyond all possibility of dispute. The amount of each poundage which is payable in each case is fixed beyond dispute. Two further matters are included in the Bill, both of which are advantageous to applicants for unemployment assistance. Under the definitions of the word “unemployment” and of the word “day” in the existing Unemployment Assistance Acts, a person who obtains employment beginning one day and extending into midnight on the next day is not entitled to unemployment assistance for either day. It is desirable to bring the position under the Unemployment Assistance Acts into line with the position under the Unemployment Insurance Acts by enabling persons casually employed on night work to receive unemployment assistance for one or two days during portions of which they are employed, and Section 6 of the Bill now before the House enables the Minister for Industry and Commerce to make regulations for that purpose.
The provision in the Unemployment Assistance Acts which requires a person resident in an urban area either to have been resident in such area for at least one year immediately preceding his application for unemployment assistance or to have had three months' employment in such area during that year, was intended merely to discourage persons resident in rural areas from coming into those cities and towns where the higher rates of unemployment assistance are payable. This provision, it is believed, causes hardship  to men who, having resided for many years in an urban area, are called upon to establish residence elsewhere for protracted periods to work or to search for work. On returning to what they regard as their home towns or cities, they have found themselves debarred from unemployment assistance by the existing provision. This causes irritation and, to some extent, induces immobility. To enable such persons to be paid unemployment assistance on returning to what they regard as their home towns or cities, the more flexible alternative of five years' residence in the area at any time is provided by Section 7 of the present Bill. Section 8 is a repeal section, and Section 9 deals with the short title, citation and construction.
I should like to remind the House that this is not the first time it has had an opportunity of considering the general principle enshrined in this Bill. Speaking last May, when introducing the Budget for the current year, I drew attention to one of the special circumstances which had aggravated the position of the Exchequer during the previous financial year and helped to bring about the deficit with which the Budget of the year closed, that circumstance being a deficiency of £68,000 which had arisen in the Appropriations-in-Aid of Vote 61 on account of Unemployment Assistance. As I pointed out to the House then, this deficiency in the Appropriations-in-Aid of Vote 61 arose through certain public authorities withholding payment of moneys due, under the Unemployment Assistance Acts, to the Exchequer. I said that “a Bill which will fully clear up the position in that regard will be introduced in due course”. Later, in the same statement, in considering the monetary provision which would have to be made for the public services for the year, I said:—
“There is another sum which, in our present need, may be appropriated for the purpose of this year's Budget. I have already mentioned that a factor in making up the deficit of last year was the non-payment by certain local authorities of moneys totalling £68,000, which it was always intended they should pay to the  Exchequer under the Unemployment Assistance Acts. I have also said that a Bill to clarify the statutory position in this regard and to provide for the due payment of the sums withheld will be introduced at an early date. In the circumstances of the present year, I do not think that it would be right to saddle the general body of taxpayers with a burden of £68,000 when that amount which was withheld to their detriment in the last year will be paid over to us in this. I am, therefore, bringing it in against the year's expenditure.”
I have read the debates on the Budget statement with some little care, and I have not been able to find that, in the course of these debates, anyone in any section of the House had the hardihood to challenge the principle enshrined in this measure—that is to say, that local authorities should contribute to the relief of unemployment in accordance with the original intention of the Oireachtas, that they should pay upon the basis on which they paid in 1934-5, 1935-6, 1936-7 and 1937-8, and that those who, in the year 1938-9, levied upon their citizens a rate the public purpose of which was to enable them to fulfil their commitments to the Exchequer in respect of unemployment assistance should now pay over to the State the money which they collected from their own ratepayers. That is the principle of this Bill. That is the purpose which it is intended to secure, and I am perfectly certain the House will not reject it.
Mr. Brennan: We are opposing this Bill, but we are not opposing it for any Party purpose. We are opposing it because it is inequitable and unjust. The Minister has endeavoured to cover up what is really the issue with verbiage. The question at issue is not whether or not the local authorities ought to make a contribution towards unemployment assistance. The question at issue is whether the local authorities ought to be compelled to collect rates on what are ineffective valuations. That is the issue, and nothing else.
It is certainly a rather sad commentary on the Minister, on his Party  and on his Government that after eight years of progressive Fianna Fáil Government, when we were to have the exiles brought back from other countries to do the work that needed to be done in this country, the Minister is compelled to come in here to haggle with the local authorities over a few pounds so that he may be enabled to keep bread in the hands of some of the people in this country. That is the position.
Mr. Brennan: No, and the Deputy does not have to go without bread, and never had to do so, or anybody belonging to him, thank God. Is not the case simply this—the case of the local authorities—no matter how the Minister tries to hide it: that the Minister is compelling local authorities to pay rates on what is not an effective asset at all? There is nothing else at stake. If the valuation of a town or of a city is £100,000—let us take that as a basis—and the local authority, in collecting its rates finds that there are £10,000 of that valuation on which it cannot collect its own rates, the Minister wants to compel that local authority to pay him on that £10,000 nevertheless? Is not that the case? It is the case, and there is nothing else whatever in it, and it does not matter how the Minister tries to camouflage the position. He has brought in here for discussion things, which to my mind, with all due respect to the Chair, were wholly irrelevant to the matter that is before the House. The rates of allowance that are payable in the cities and towns and in the country are not relevant to this, because the urban authorities that are mentioned in this Bill are paying their contribution in order to meet the high rate of assistance. They are paying their contributions but they have refused to pay on what is not an effective valuation.
The Minister says that there were two ways of deciding this matter: one, was by the law courts and the other was by coming to the House. The  Minister did not go to the law courts and I think he was wise in not going to the courts because, in any case, no matter what way the decision went, he would be sure to come in here and look for his pound of flesh, as he did before. The Minister says that this is a Bill to clarify the position. It is not. It is a Bill to see that the Government gets the last penny it possibly can get out of the local authorities in order to pay for unemployment assistance. That is what it is—an attempt, on the face of it, to get an unjust contribution payable out of an asset that does not exist.
Now, if the Minister were to tell this House, as I thought he would tell the House, that the Government, beforehand, had to make a calculation upon some basis and were in fact obliged to take the valuations as they found them, there would be some case for the Bill, but the Minister has not made that case, and it is not the fact. He has come in here, however, to make a case with regard to the rates of unemployment assistance that are being paid in the cities as against the rural districts. The uninitiated, the persons who would not understand the position, would feel that for the moment what is happening is that the Minister is making the whole contributions in the cities and that they are not contributing anything at all. Of course, that is not so.
The Minister refers to the muddle that now exists in connection with some of these local authorities that had struck the rate before they put a certain interpretation upon the Act. Well, it is nothing worse than all the other Fianna Fáil muddles that we have had for the last eight years. We had the same muddle over the annuities when the Minister, also in order to clear up doubts, had to bring in a Bill to give the Government authority to hold the annuities in their hands, and to do certain things with them. It is the same case over again now; we are just muddling through. I think that the local authorities have a perfect right to put upon the Act that was passed by this House the interpretation that they have put upon it.
 The Minister tells us here what were the intentions of this House at the time they passed that Act. What does he know of the intentions of the House so far as that matter is concerned? It never came up for discussion whether the demand would be upon the existing rateable valuation or upon the effective rateable valuation. It was never discussed or even mentioned. The Minister, apparently, being a thought-reader, is able to tell us exactly what was in the minds of the members of the House at that time. The Minister quoted for us here extracts from speeches he delivered in the House on the Budget matters, where he refers to bringing in this Bill at some future date, and he refers to the absence of criticism upon his references to this matter. Well, I am sure that the Minister will pardon the House if he only throws his mind back and recollects the major matters that had to be discussed at those times in comparison with this. If, however, the Minister would go back a little further —let us say, to about the years 1929, 1930 and 1931—and read the speeches that he then delivered in this House, he would be amazed. That was the time that he had a plan to cure unemployment, the time when everybody would be living in an EI Dorado if the Minister got a chance, and when there would be no unemployed in this country. After eight years of his Government, what do we find? We find this haggling with the local authorities over a few pounds in the payment of unemployment assistance. There is nothing at issue really with regard to the amounts payable in unemployment assistance or to the contributions, except the one point and the one point alone, and that is whether or not the local authorities will be compelled to pay upon an ineffective valuation.
We are opposing the principle that they ought to pay. I am sure that if the Minister, when he was Minister for Finance, had to make a contribution out of general taxation or out of say, income-tax, upon a pro rata basis, and if he were charged with making the contribution upon the basis of his original assessments, we would have a very different story to that which we  have had to-day. I think that he would then hold that the matter should be on the basis of effective valuations. What we have now is that the Government are trying to rake in all that they can from the local authorities. We are opposing the Bill because we feel that it is unjust and inequitable, and we feel that it ought not to get a Second Reading.
Mr. A. Byrne: Deputy Brennan has given an outline of most of the points I was going to make, and I think he has expressed clearly the view of those of us who are opposing the Bill. I am a representative in this House, with others, of a municipal authority that is now to be mulcted by the Minister's Bill to the extent of £67,000 arrears and a sum of £14,900 per year afterwards. When this matter was brought to the notice of our city manager—and I think this point should be of interest to the Minister, as I believe the Minister represents that area known as the Crumlin and Kimmage area, or a portion of it—the city manager informed us that by the Minister's action in bringing in this Bill to put 1/-, or otherwise a fraction over 11d., on the rates of the people of the City of Dublin, the Minister will be increasing the rents of the cottage dwellings of Kimmage and Crumlin by 2d. per week. Now, a very large number of the tenants in the Minister's area are unemployed and, owing to the Minister's action, they will be called upon to contribute to this sum that he is now demanding. He said it is to clarify the wording of a previous Act. Why does not the Minister do what would be done in the ordinary course of events? Why does he not go to court and give the municipal authorities an opportunity of proving to him that they were justified, on legal advice, in stopping the moneys, in refusing to pay the additions which he has asked?
What is the opinion of the Dublin Corporation law agent? The law agent stated that under the 1933 and 1938 Unemployment Assistance Acts the corporation and certain other local authorities were required to pay annually to the Minister for Industry and Commerce a sum equal to a rate  of 1/6 in the £, subsequently increased to 1/8 in the £ on the rateable valuation. In 1938 the corporation took the opinion of senior counsel, Mr. E.J. Kelly, who advised them that they were bound to raise a rate of 1/8 in the £ on the net valuation on which they had power to assess the municipal rate, and that they should deduct from the next payment the amount of the over-payments in previous years. The corporation acted upon that advice and so informed the Minister, who later announced that he did not agree with counsel's advice. Well, it is not a matter for the Minister to say he does not agree. Is it not a matter for one of our High Court judges to decide? I think the introduction of this Bill has proved that the corporation were properly advised, and it is a tribute to the counsel who gave that advice that the Minister now brings in this Bill.
The Dublin ratepayer's back is now almost broken with the burdens that this Government have put on it. The ratepayers generally are not able to stand the strain any longer. Unemployment is definitely a matter for the national purse. It is not a matter for the already overburdened city people, especially when that burden has to be largely borne by the unemployed population. They try to pay rents, and under this measure introduced by the Minister their rents are to be increased. That was the definite announcement by the city manager, that this Bill introduced by the Minister will mean 1/- in the £, and that an increase on the rents will follow from what the Minister now demands.
The Minister mentioned that the Dublin Corporation's contribution would be about £117,000. It might be thought that that represents the only contribution of the City of Dublin to the relief of unemployment, but that is not so. This year the Dublin Board of Assistance, for the upkeep of its institution and the unemployed in it, will cost the city ratepayers £317,414, and in order to meet the upkeep of the increased numbers who have gone in, together with the increased cost of materials which the Minister and his Prices Commission have allowed, that  authority is asking for an additional £110,000 which will have to be borne this coming year by the Dublin ratepayers. That will mean a total sum of £437,414 to meet the requirements of the unfortunate people who are forced to seek the protection of the Dublin Board of Assistance. Again, the corporation are collecting this year for unemployment assistance a sum of £158,525. You will see, therefore, that the corporation, so far as the Dublin Union and the unemployment problem are concerned, is involved in an expenditure of over £500,000, which comes from the Dublin ratepayer, from a city with an increasing unemployed population.
Let us take the case of the mental hospital. A number of the unfortunate people who are in the mental hospital have been driven there by hardships and through unemployment. Their upkeep comes to £141,869, and the hospital authorities are requesting an additional £30,000 for this year. You see there that Dublin's contribution to social services, poor law relief, unemployment assistance and mental deficiency is nearer to £750,000 than to £500,000. All that expenditure is being borne by the ratepayers, who are being crushed day after day, and whose means of living are being made more difficult by the Government's action.
I suggest to the Government that to force the local authorities to pay these large sums now under an Act of Parliament amounts to an unconstitutional way of collecting arrears. Large numbers of people are talking about it. I submit that this shakes the security of legislation. How do we know that something we may do to-morrow or next day will not, in the course of a year or two, be described by the Minister as wrong, and he will then have to introduce an amending Act? The security of the State is shaken by the introduction of a measure like this.
I suggest to the Minister that it is the Government's duty to tackle the unemployment problem in a big way. They should make some big effort to help the unemployed. They should endeavour to put them on the land and  give them a reasonable price for what they produce. That would be the proper thing to do.
Dublin ratepayers have also been burdened up to the present with an expenditure of £30,000 on A.R.P. They do not know where they are or what the Government wants them to do regarding A.R.P. They have suggested no policy in that respect. Again, several municipalities throughout the country will be faced with increased taxation in consequence of the decision in regard to the railways. That claim of the railways, if we do not find a way out, may cost the Dublin ratepayers another £28,000. Where is it all going to end? We now have this measure hanging over our heads. It would appear that the Dublin ratepayer will be mulcted by increased taxation up to an additional 2/10 in the £. That will mean that the poor people living in tenement rooms will be called upon to bear their share.
The assistance which the unemployed are being given does not arise on this measure at all. Nobody wants to make that point, that we are interfering with the rate of assistance. The question of the assistance that is being given to the unemployed does not arise at all. Under this Bill they are not going to get one farthing more than they got last week or the week before. In my view, the unemployed are a patient people. They are living a bare, miserable existence; they are compelled to live, in many cases, on nothing but dry bread. I think something better ought to be done for them. They expected something better from a national Government. There should not be so many of our people barely existing on a miserable allowance that enables them to have a cup of weak tea and some bread and margarine. That is what is going on.
None of us believes that the amount of assistance to be paid to the unemployed is involved in this Bill at all. One of the corporation Labour members made that point clear, that it is not a question of the amount of assistance that is paid, but rather is it a question of the method of collecting and forcing upon already overburdened  ratepayers a sum which they are not able to bear. I oppose the Bill. I hope the Minister may be able to see his way to amend it to some extent and see that the arrears are not collected. Of course, we cannot stop him from doing so because we know that he has a majority in this House and that with that majority he can pass the Bill. At the same time, we are of opinion that he would be taking a very unfair advantage if he were to use that majority in order to force the Dublin ratepayers to pay him £67,000.
Mr. Corish: I agree with the point made by Deputy Brennan when he asserted that the Minister for Industry and Commerce had, in the course of his speech, mentioned matters in connection with this Bill which do not arise on it. The Minister tried to lead people to believe that the difference between what councils thought they were called upon to pay and what the Minister thought they should pay was the difference between the rural rates for unemployment and the rates paid in the boroughs and urban areas mentioned. Everyone knows that is not the fact. The one big point in this Bill is concerned with the question as to what really is a 9d. rate in an urban area and a 1/8 rate in a county borough.
I agree with the Minister when he says that that matter was raised during the discussion on the 1933 Act. I remember distinctly asking the then Minister for Industry and Commerce what he considered a 9d. rate would produce, and whether it would be upon the effective valuation or upon the gross valuation of a particular area. The Minister, at that time, seemed to be doubtful. He thought that it would be on the gross valuation. I am of the opinion that, so far as the first Act is concerned, the proper interpretation is that the 9d. rate would be upon the effective valuation of a particular area, because that is how rates are levied for every other purpose in the boroughs and urban areas of the country. If it were otherwise, it would be something foreign so far as the application of the rating law is concerned. I am perfectly satisfied that both the Minister and the  Government are doubtful as to the validity of their powers in enforcing that particular clause in the 1933 Act.
The Minister, in the course of his statement, said that it would not be fair to call upon the general taxpayers to pay the difference between what might be called the effective valuation and the rateable or gross valuation of a particular area. In reply to that I want to ask the Minister if he thinks it right to levy rates upon the poorer sections of the community? In so far as the ordinary taxpayers are concerned, let us take the position in certain county boroughs where a remission of rates is given to people who have built new houses. Take the case of a man who, by reason of the fact that certain grants were given by the Ministry and that certain loans were made available under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts, was able to build a house for himself. He built that house in accordance with the law enacted by this Oireachtas. Having built the house he, and others in a similar position, were given a remission of two-thirds of their rates over a period of seven years. In other cases, a remission representing 19/20ths of the rates on their houses was given for the first year, so that they had not to pay the full rate until a period of 21 years had elapsed. The particular council in whose jurisdiction those people are, is not in a position to collect 100 per cent. rates on their houses, but the council has to pay 100 per cent. to the Minister under this Bill, whether it collects it or not. I want to ask the Minister does he think it is fair to levy the poor in a particular district to pay the rates for those men, instead of the general taxpayer.
In a great many urban areas, if not in all, when the rates are increased there is an immediate increase in rents by the landlords, and through that medium the poor, in a particular community, pay the rates for those getting a remission of rates on their houses. That is because of the fact that the Minister insists on getting the gross amount which a penny rate would produce if it were on the whole valuation of a particular area. I think that  is very unfair. I think it would be far better if the Minister were to come to the House and ask for power to increase the rate: to say that in Dublin it should be 1/10, and in other areas 10d. or 11d., rather than act in this slipshod fashion. I think this is a rather loose way of doing things, and is a thing unheard of, so far as the application of rating law is concerned. It creates the position that no local authority really knows where it stands.
The Minister mentioned Wexford. So far as I know, Wexford has fulfilled all its obligations up to last year, and the reason payment was then withheld was because of the fact that counsel's opinion had been obtained, showing that the interpretation which has been placed upon the 1933 Act by other areas is the correct one. I think it would have been far better if the Minister had gone to the courts and endeavoured to find out what the exact position is.
The Minister says that certain deductions will be permitted under the new Act. I would like to know from him what is going to be the position of urban authorities so far as the railways are concerned. The Minister is aware that the railway companies have made application to practically every local authority in the country for a refund of moneys paid by them to the local authorities over the last couple of years. If the railway companies succeed in getting a refund, and if there is no way of the local authorities getting out of making the refund, will the local authorities have that fact taken into consideration by the Minister when he comes to collect his arrears under the Bill that we are now discussing? I think it is due to the House and to the local authorities that we should be told something about that.
So far as the members of the Labour Party are concerned, we supported a similar Bill to this in 1933. We considered at the time that it was the duty of every local authority to contribute to the relief of the unemployed. The Minister, in the course of his speech this evening, tried to lead people to believe that it was the local authorities who were responsible for the unemployed in the country. We think  that this question of the unemployed should be treated as a national matter. As a matter of fact, before this Government got into power they definitely stated that they accepted it as a national matter, but having got into power they changed their tune very quickly and shoved a good deal of the cost involved over on the local authorities. Within the last few weeks the Department of Local Government and Public Health have sent out circulars to local authorities asking for economies in the public services. The only economies that can be made in the public services, in my opinion, are those that can be made through the medium of the Government itself, because if the public services and local services were to be examined it would be found that any increases that have taken place, and that have been placed on the local authorities, are services in respect of which the Government itself has a very definite responsibility. It was largely responsible for any increases that took place in local services. Therefore, I say that so far as the rates are concerned, the Government should help the local authorities to economise.
As I said at the opening, the only definite outstanding point in this Bill arises on the question as to what is a 9d. rate and what is a 1/8 rate. I suggest to the Minister that what he is proposing in this Bill is the wrong way to do it. It is a way that so far has been unheard of, and it will be wrong in its application. It is something that was never done before so far as local rating is concerned. As I said before, the Minister tried, in the course of his speech, to make the country believe that what the local authorities were doing was trying to prevent home assistance recipients getting the amount of money which had been stipulated. The difference between what they are paying and what the Minister expects them to pay is very small and would not affect, to any great extent, the difference between what is paid in urban areas and what is paid in rural areas. There is no use in the Minister trying to get across that kind of stuff. It is a question of the principle of the local  authorities being prepared to pay their share. They have paid their share up to this. The position was not clear in the 1933 Act, and the Minister himself, at that particular time, was not sure of the exact position. I say it is very, very unfair that, whatever remissions are made by local authorities to certain ratepayers in consequence of Government legislation, particular local authorities may be called upon to pay a rate that they themselves are not able to collect. The Minister talks about a rate being collected for a certain purpose and not being handed over to the Government. On the other hand, it is wrong for the Minister to ask local authorities to pay to the Minister rates that they themselves are not able to collect. It would be far better for the Minister to raise the contribution in the £ and keep local rating on a proper basis than adopt a slipshod method of this kind.
Mr. Dockrell: I have only very few remarks to make on this Bill. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not in the position of being on a board of the corporation or on any of the other offending bodies, and so I suppose I can look at this matter somewhat as an ordinary taxpayer would. The Minister has spoken about the poundage on the rateable valuation. The ordinary man in the street understands the rateable valuation to be the effective rateable valuation. The course of this debate has shown to some of us simpler folk that this is not the case. The Minister has made a long story about the wrong-doings of the local authorities. If I am not mistaken, the corporation, and some of the other bodies will be in this position: in order to get a poundage rate of 1/8 they will have to strike a rate of 2/-. When they start to explain that to the ordinary ratepayer, he will want to know who gets the fourpence. That is the way the man in the street will understand it.
I agree absolutely with Deputy Corish that the Minister ought to get on to effective rateable valuation. That is what the man in the street understands, that is what the ordinary ratepayer thinks of, and that is the way it ought to be done. I make the  Minister a present of the dispute with the offending authorities as to how it is to be squared up. Personally, I would like to see effective rateable valuation taking its place.
There is another matter which I would like to take this opportunity to press on the Minister. I do not want to rub it in to him about bringing people back from America. That has been mentioned already. The Minister and the Government stand convicted of being absolutely barren in their ideas about tackling the unemployment question from any original angle. Certainly, the present times are not normal: there is an inexhaustible demand for agricultural produce. Surely, some provision should be made now to transfer people back to where they can make the most effective contribution to the country's economy. I would like to suggest to the Minister that the limits of the taxpayer have been reached. Of course, that has been said very often before. The Minister would find that there is a direct relation between the curve of rising taxation and the rising curve of unemployment; in other words, that, as taxation has increased, a whole lot of people have either been directly thrown out of employment or are ceasing to buy the necessaries or the luxuries which others were employed in producing, or those carrying out work which would employ people have had to cease it.
I suggest that that ought to be gone into very thoroughly. Perhaps that cannot be done between this stage and the Committee Stage. However, I certainly take this opportunity to reproach the Government with having no constructive ideas along the lines on which the unemployment problem can be solved.
Mr. Dockrell: It is a Bill to rectify certain defects in the original unemployment measure. Naturally, of course, I accept your ruling. At the same time I suppose the Government cannot but feel uncomfortable at having to introduce this Bill and I will  leave them with their thoughts about what they ought to do along the lines which you have suggested do not come within the scope of this Bill.
Mr. Linehan: I am afraid that Deputy Dockrell—possibly in a very mild way—was harder on the Minister than the others who have been speaking violently about this Bill. One may say that the Minister, when introducing this Bill, rather misnamed it. After eight long years of our present Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Department of Finance and of his colleague, now transferred to Supplies, in the Department of Industry and Commerce, this Bill might very well have been named “Plan, 1940”. Looking back, however, I am merely going to refer to what the Minister said. He suggested in his speech that one of the objects of the Bill was to prevent any interference between the rates of unemployment assistance in the rural areas and those in the urban areas. He suggested that if this Bill were not passed by the House the higher rates would not be payable, or there would be some interference. This is a Bill to remove doubts, but I do not think it will remove any doubts in the minds of the people. The Minister said there were two ways of doing it: one, that of legislation and the other that of litigation, and that in this case he chose legislation—and it is perfectly obvious why he did so. It was because, like on many another occasion, counsel's opinion when it was taken was definitely given against the Minister, but that ought not to have prevented the Minister from litigation if he thought he was right. The Minister suggested that litigation was a very wasteful way of dealing with that question, but I should like to say to the Minister that in the not very distant past the Government adopted a new precedent—legislation first and  litigation afterwards. The whole position under this is that the Minister introduced a Bill and made a speech for three-quarters of an hour covering practically everything except the real intention behind the Bill. He was ably seconded by Deputy Cooney, who, when Deputy Brennan was speaking, got on his feet and asked were they going to take the bread out of the mouths of the starving people. I do not think Deputy Brennan quite understood the import of Deputy Cooney's remark. One might say to Deputy Cooney: “What has either Deputy Cooney or the present Minister for Industry and Commerce ever done to put bread into the mouths of the starving people?” Is it suggested that this present Bill to remove doubts as to the application of the Unemployment Assistance Acts, 1933 to 1938, is going to put any extra bread into the mouths of the starving people?
The Minister made his whole speech along the lines of suggesting that the action of the various local authorities was something which was detrimental to the interests of the unemployed. One would gather from his speech that his suggestion was that, if the local authorities did not agree with the Minister's interpretation of the Bill, something would happen whereby the unemployed would lose. One might take it that he meant if the local authorities were right, the rates of unemployment assistance payable in urban and borough areas would be reduced. Everybody knows that that is not so; that neither this amending Bill nor the interpretation that counsel gave of the borough areas in the original Bill affected the rates of unemployment assistance at all. The Minister went further. He suggested that there was a period during which the borough areas and the urban areas of over 7,000 population collected rates in excess of the sum they paid to the Government under the Unemployment Assistance Acts, 1933 to 1938, and, he asked, in all justice and in all equity were they going to return that money to the ratepayers or hand it over to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I do not think he ever expected that the point would be reached where they would hand it back to the ratepayers.  That would be too much for even Fianna Fáil Deputies to expect from the Minister. Of course, he may have expected, and he has provided for it in this Bill, that they would hand it over to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He covers up the ground very carefully; in Section 4 he makes it more easy, because he suggests that they should pay it by such instalments as the Minister shall direct. He said if his basis of valuation was the correct one he felt it was quite possible—he was certain—that contributions were made by some borough areas which were too small, but there may have been other areas whose contributions were too large, and if they were too large they could expect a refund from the Minister. How can the Minister possibly argue that, if his basis was correct, any borough area or urban area could have paid him too much? It is no wonder he is now introducing a Bill to remove doubts, when on his own basis, which he holds is the correct one, one local authority may have paid him too little and another local authority may have paid him too much.
Actually, the Minister glosses over his preference for legislation rather than litigation very nicely. It is quite obvious that he could not have gone into court and made the local authorities pay on their full valuation under the Unemployment Assistance Acts, 1933 to 1938. It was perfectly obvious that the court would have decided, on the contention of the local authorities, that the proper basis of valuation was the effective valuation. I put this point to the Minister: If the total valuation is to be the basis of raising the revenue that they have to pay to the Minister, is it not perfectly obvious that, if one-tenth, for example, of that total valuation is non-effective, the people who are paying the rates on the effective nine-tenths will also have to bear, spread over that, the extra one-tenth which is not being collected on the ineffective portion of the valuation? It amounts to this, as Deputy Brennan said, that if you have a valuation of £100,000, and there is only an effective £90,000 on which the local authorities can collect rates, the people who are paying the rates on the £90,000 will  also have to pay the rates which cannot be collected on the other £10,000.
The Minister gave a series of figures. He quoted the figures as if to show that the local authorities, by not paying the amount which he said was right, were doing something which prevented the correct amount of unemployment assistance being paid, or which would lead to that point. Actually the real position is this: the Minister looks at a city, and then he looks at Section 5 of the Bill, and he gets the certificate of the Commissioners of Valuation, which under this Bill decides once and for all what the figure is on which the local authorities shall pay. It does not matter whether 1 per cent. or 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. or, even, 20 per cent. of the valuation represents non-collectible rates; the Minister will expect his full pound of flesh from the local authorities. The Minister's whole speech was entirely directed towards the idea that the Minister was introducing this Bill because the local authorities were doing something which the Minister said was detrimental to the unemployed, and that the Minister is now coming along as champion of the unemployed and bringing in this Bill to improve their position. It will not improve the position of the unemployed, but it will definitely disimprove the position of the ratepayers. Again, I say that if the Minister were honest about the position of the unemployed under the Acts from 1933 to 1938, and, even if the Minister felt that he had to gloss over the shortcomings of his previous Acts by introducing the present one, he might have been honest with the House. I hope that at some future date he will be honest with the country, and that when next he is speaking to the people down the country he will take this historic document in his hand and say: “Here, boys, this is the plan; it was the best one I could get.”
Mr. Keyes: I find myself in agreement with the remarks made by my colleague, Deputy Corish, in regard to the general principles of this Bill. At the present juncture I think that perhaps any measures might be justifiable  in order to save the unemployed of the country and to continue even the miserable pittance they are getting at present. Personally, I do not object to collecting it from the rates. It is perhaps more equitable than collecting it from general taxation, but, in the municipal areas particularly, it is being rendered objectionable owing to the method that has been adopted by the Minister in going back to those retrospective payments. Sufficient has been said on that point, and I want to address myself to another item in the Bill, that is Section 7, where there is a welcome amelioration of the lot of the people who were transferred from one area of the country to another, great hardship being caused to some people who through no fault of their own were transferred from the rural to the municipal areas and were out of benefit for 12 months. I wonder if I could induce the Minister to go a little further in that direction? In view of the nest egg he is getting from the local authorities by going back to those retrospective payments, I wonder if he might see his way to relieve another grave hardship under the existing Acts?
A person born out of this country whose mother at the time of birth is not supposed to be ordinarily resident in this country is held to be not a national for the purpose of the Unemployment Assistance Act. I think I can give a classical instance that came before me recently. A boy I know was born in London and lived there for seven years. He came back in 1900, I think it was, and lived until 1929 in this country. He then went back to London and worked and lived there until 1939. He applied to the High Commissioner for Irish citizenship and was informed by the High Commissioner in London that he was already an Irish citizen and that no further registration was necessary for him. The circumstances in England have forced him to come back home and apply for unemployment assistance. He is told by the appeals officer—and it has been confirmed by the appeals officer in consultation with myself— that there is no power to give this man benefit for five years on the ground  that, according to a section of the 1933 Act, a person born outside Saorstát Eireann or the area then comprising Saorstát Eireann, whose mother at the time of his birth was ordinarily not resident in Éire, is not a citizen of this country. Because this boy's parents lived in England for five or seven years they could not be held to be ordinarily resident in this country and he must suffer the disability of being an alien, so to speak, and live five years in this country before he can get benefit.
That is not by any means an isolated incident. Many such will arise when our people are coming back from England. I suggest that when the Minister is taking the very praiseworthy step of wiping out the hardship in the case of people who are transferred from rural to urban areas who had to spend 12 months in the new area without getting benefit, that he should look into that particular point. I am anxious to know if he would bring these people into conformity with our conception of nationality and citizenship. On the one hand, they are held to be Irish citizens, but because of a technical phraseology in this Act it is not possible for the unemployment assistance authorities to give any benefit. The man to whom I referred has a wife and family resident in the County of Limerick. He is unable to find employment. People who have been there longer than he cannot find employment. I think he has not a very good case to go to the poor law authorities but he has to get something; he cannot be allowed to starve. I suggest to the Minister that, having made a step in the right direction in Section 7 of this Bill, which will bring gladness and joy to the hearts of very many unemployed persons, it would be a praiseworthy effort on his part to make it possible for the persons to whom I have referred to get benefit. Even if it were necessary to put another penny on the rates I would not object. I will support the Bill, although I, personally, have objection to some of the methods applied. I hope this is the foundation of a new Bill we will be hearing about shortly to make a generous advance to the unemployed. The present cost of living is at an impossible figure. I am very anxious  that the Minister should consider the point I put to him of having Section 7 extended.
Mr. Doyle: As most of the points I intend making in opposing this Bill have already been dealt with by previous speakers, I do not propose to address the House at any length. Listening to the Minister on the Second Reading, one would think that the collection of the revenue which it is proposed to collect under the Bill was intended to be used in some form to increase unemployment assistance. Of course, that is not the case. It seems to me to be a rather novel method of imposing further liabilities on the local authorities, particularly in the cities of Dublin, Cork and Waterford. It confers powers which do not yet exist. In that respect I might say that it is an admission on the part of the Minister that the attitude that was taken up by the corporation for the last few years in this matter was a correct one. I think if the Minister had contented himself with introducing legislation to clear up this doubt as to collecting the rate on the effective or general valuation that he would not meet with so much opposition. Not, I am sorry to say, that that opposition will have any effect in changing his mind, because, with the Government majority, we are faced with the position that this Bill is bound to pass. But, when it comes to the Committee Stage. I ask the Minister to consider very carefully any amendments that are put to him which might relieve the situation. I am appealing to him particularly in regard to the City of Dublin. There are others here from the other boroughs. I ask him to consider how far it is possible to deal with the question of retrospective legislation which is implied in the Bill. The Bills that have recently been introduced by the Government seem to be for the purpose of collecting more money from the ordinary ratepayers and bringing certain responsibilities on to the ordinary local ratepayers which should be national charges. Quite recently a Bill was introduced here in connection with local government assistance, public assistance, or relief, in which it is left open now to people to come from  any part of Ireland and be a burden on the City of Dublin. The provision requiring two years' residence has been changed and we are faced with a big imposition of responsibility in that respect in the City of Dublin. This Bill comes as an addition to that burden. All these are coming at a time when there should be some effort made to keep down the cost of living. What I rather fear as a result of most of this legislation as it is affecting the ordinary ratepayers is that the higher the rates go, in the City of Dublin, for instance, there is bound to be an increase in unemployment. That is already evident from what we see around us at present.
To-day we had an instance of an increase of several hundred people seeking relief. That is going to happen every week. We find that the burden on the city is becoming very serious, and it is with that point of view that we are opposing this Bill. We believe it is unjust and, certainly, an imposition on the areas with which it deals. However, the Minister has his mind made up and there is no alternative except to ask that at the Committee Stage when amendments are put to him that he will give them reasonable consideration.
Dr. Hannigan: I do not propose to say more than a word or two on this Bill because I understand that Deputy Alfred Byrne has already expressed the view representing the opinion of the majority of the members of the Dublin Corporation who, in effect, represent the ratepayers of Dublin and the citizens generally in matters relating to municipal affairs. There are just one or two points I should like to emphasise. At a meeting of the corporation the other night, Deputy Cooney, who is, I see, present in the House, while he indicated in no uncertain terms that it was his intention to support this Bill, at the same time laid very great stress on the unfairness of collecting at a time like this when the ratepayers of Dublin are so very hard hit such a huge sum as £62,000 which, I understand, represents the retrospective payments.
Dr. Hannigan: In addition to that, I would focus the Minister's attention on the fact that it has been computed that the contribution of the Dublin ratepayers towards unemployment and the direct and indirect consequences of unemployment amounts to £650,000. Surely in a city in which the rateable valuation is only slightly in excess of £2,000,000 a contribution of £650,000, or 25 per cent. of the rateable valuation, is a very generous one. Lastly, I would remind the Minister—and this I think is the most serious aspect of the whole question—that our advisers, the financial experts of the corporation, not to speak of various experts outside, have expressed the view that any further increase in the rates will result in a diminished return. For these reasons I express the hope that the Minister will at least meet the point of view expressed by his colleague, Deputy Cooney.
Mr. Broderick: Like other speakers, I intend to be very brief and to confine my remarks on this Bill to a very narrow compass. Deputy Keyes stated that he has no objection to a local levy and that he is more concerned with the administration of the Bill. On the other hand, I am more concerned with the entire finances of the Bill. I was present in this House when the motion was put down by Deputy Morrissey expressing the opinion that everyone was entitled to work or maintenance in this country. That motion formed the basis of the present Insurance Act, but the conception then held by everybody was that the financing of that Act was to be provided by a national charge. Nobody contemplated that it was to be a local charge or that the people were to be called upon to contribute in any other form than by way of national taxation. Some months afterwards the Minister thought fit to make local authorities, or at least some of them, contributories. He did so by way of imposing so much in the £ on the rates for which these bodies were responsible. Now he has brought in the present Bill because, according to the local authorities' interpretation of the Act, their contribution was to be based  on the effective collection of so much in the £, but the Minister wants the entire amount of the levy. It would be much simpler for the Minister without naming any specified sum in the £, to make a capital levy and to hold them up to ransom for that amount.
I do not think it is a correct or a fair interpretation of the Act to say that when local authorities fail to collect rates due to them—rates which for some reason or other may be wholly or temporarily irrecoverable—they must hand over to the Minister the full amount of his demand based on the total valuation of premises. Apparently the poor ratepayer is the only person in this country who is to be treated as an outlaw, the only person for whom there is to be no consideration. Even in the case of some of our huge industries, they are allowed exemptions in certain circumstances, but the unfortunate ratepayer in this case has to hand over to the Government more than is really collected under this heading. I think it is extremely unfair. He has no redress, no court of appeal; he cannot go before any judicial court to claim exemption on the ground that his profits have dwindled. He must pay on his valuation. There is no consideration for him and he must make good the failure of every other section of the community. No matter what the circumstances are, he has to pay the full amount.
I think the Minister ought to be quite satisfied that the ratepayers and the local authorities, in their own interests, have done their utmost to collect the full amount of this contribution. If they have failed to collect it for themselves, they cannot be expected to collect it for him. The Minister has another factor to take into consideration. The rates have gone up considerably in the effort to finance other public services. In the City of Dublin, for instance, the rates have to contribute to the maintenance of the unemployed through home assistance. In County Cork, expenditure on home assistance and hospital treatment has increased this year by £46,000. That may not be quite germane to this debate, but a fact which is germane to the debate is that we are also being  called upon to refund £28,000 to the railway company in respect of rates already paid. That means that we have to provide an additional £74,000 this year—£46,000 of which has to be provided by way of home assistance owing to the failure of the Government to meet their liabilities for unemployment assistance. I think the Minister ought to amend this Bill, remove from it altogether the question of a charge on the valuation, and fix a capital levy on each district. We would at least then know where we were. I objected to this Bill in the first instance because there was any deviation from the principle that unemployment insurance should be a charge on the national authority and not on the local authority. I object now to the fact that it is apparently to take the form of a capital levy. I say without hesitation that the whole disposition of the Ministry on this, and every other question, is to shirk as much as possible of its own liabilities and to transfer them over to the ordinary people of the country. As I have said before, the unfortunate ratepayers of the country are treated as outlaws for whom there is to be no consideration.
Mr. T. Kelly: I presided at the meeting of the Corporation, of which we heard, on Monday evening last. I endeavoured to get the members to accept a very reasonable amendment to the resolution proposed by Deputy Cooney, but it was no use. They were all on the war-path, out against the Government, with their scalp-knives gleaming, waiting to plunge them in. If they had accepted my proposal there, we would have a conference with the Minister, and we would have put before him the case of the City of Dublin. The case I want to present to him, and I would ask him to have some consideration for it, is that the rates in Dublin are now over 19/-. If this £67,000 is to be gathered in, the rates will go up very much.
Mr. Kelly: I am not going to tell you what I am going to do. As far as I am concerned, I always do the right  thing. I want to put before the Minister the fact that the rates in Dublin are now 19/2 or 19/4 in the £. A further increase will bring them over 20/- in the £. I am rather uneasy at that figure, very uneasy indeed. I would say to him that, after all, if the corporation made a mistake in not making presentments to cover the points in the Minister's Bill, they went and looked for good advice. They got eminent counsel to advise them as to what money should be raised, and they accepted that advice. Not only that, but our own law agent and his assistant agreed with counsel. Having regard to that fact, if a rate was struck on their advice, surely the Minister ought to take that into consideration? When he is dealing with this Bill in Committee, I hope he will listen attentively and give relief in this matter because it is a rather big sum to look for. In my opinion retrospective legislation certainly shakes confidence.
Mr. Kelly: I am sorry I got that “Hear, hear!” I hope the Minister was deaf to it. But it does shake confidence to find after legislation is passed one year that something may be wrong in it in a year or two afterwards, while, in the meantime, the citizens, as good citizens, have acted on it, only to find that they have done wrong. I am sorry that the corporation did not put its members in the position in which I would like to see them, because then I do not think we would be troubled with the Second Reading of this Bill to-night. I think the Minister would have received us, and having heard what we had to say, might promise to do something for us. I do not think he will promise to do anything at present. However, I have a hope that Fianna Fáil members of the Dublin Corporation will have some sympathy expressed to them by the Minister when they meet him on the Committee Stage.
Mr. MacEntee: Perhaps I ought to remind the House that this Bill is really brought in to make secure a position  that, so far as the largest contributor under the Unemployment Assistance Acts is concerned, held for no less than five years. In the original Act the basis upon which poundage was payable by Dublin Corporation and by other local authorities concerned in this matter was prescribed. It was laid down there that the expression “rateable value” means, in relation to the county borough of Dublin, the valuation under the Valuation Acts as deemed to be reduced by Section 69 of the Local Government Act, 1930, on hereditaments in such county borough.
Deputy Corish with admirable candour has reminded the House that when this Act was going through in 1933, the Minister gave the House to understand that the poundage would be levied upon the gross valuation as so reduced, whether the whole of that valuation was productive of rates or not. That was the position which the Dublin Corporation accepted in 1933-34, 1934-35, 1935-36, 1937-38 and 1938-39. In that year the Dublin Corporation elected to put another interpretation upon the section, and that interpretation, if it were to be effectively challenged in the courts, would mean long and expensive litigation, for which neither I nor any sensible citizen can see any warrant. We are bringing in the Bill to remove all doubt, to clarify the position, and to make it clear to the Dublin Corporation, to the Dun Laoghaire Borough Corporation, and to the Corporations of Cork and Wexford, that their first interpretation of the definition in the Act of 1933 was the proper interpretation, and the interpretation which will henceforward have to stand. That is the sole purpose of this Bill. Perhaps I might say that the Bill might also be described as one to relieve the taxpayer. We have heard a great deal recently on public platforms and in the public Press about the burden of taxation, but, at any rate, whatever we can say about this Bill, it is a Bill which will relieve the taxpayer of certain burdens which in our opinion it is sought to impose unjustly upon him. Those who are opposing this Bill are opposing that relief to the taxpayer, either because they think the taxpayer is not entitled to it, or they are opposing it because they think the rates of  unemployment assistance at present being paid are excessive.
I am going to deal now with the point made by Deputy Broderick. It was a very valuable one, and threw a searchlight on the whole position. I am leading up to it. I said that those opposing this Bill can only oppose it on one or two grounds, either that they are opposed to any relief for the taxpayer, or that they think the rates of unemployment assistance are too high. If this Bill does not go through, the taxpayer in this year will have to find an additional £60,000. That may mean one penny on petrol, or one penny on tobacco, or a fraction of a penny on sugar. If this Bill does not go through, the taxpayer this year will have to find an additional £60,000 and an additional £14,000 every year hereafter, for as long as the situation which the Dublin Corporation and the other municipalities concerned have created, is permitted to stand, or else the rates of unemployment assistance will have to be reduced. If people tell me that they think the burden of taxation is too heavy, and accordingly do not want to see it increased, and yet oppose this Bill, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they base their opposition on the presumption that the rates of unemployment assistance are too high.
One of the persons opposing this Bill is Deputy Alfred Byrne, a former Lord Mayor of Dublin, who, in the same speech in which he announced his intention of voting against the Bill, demanded that the rates of unemployment assistance should be increased. In the same breath in which he told us that people are being crushed by taxation, he asked us to undertake further expenditure which could only be met out of taxation. The same inconsistency ran through every speech that was made against this Bill. All those who are opposed to it want to have it both ways. In this world they cannot have it two ways.
What we are concerned to do is to ensure that the status quo which existed prior to 1939 will continue, and that all those who have a responsibility for helping the unemployed will continue  to share that responsibility in an equitable way. Deputy Broderick has reminded us of the origin of the Unemployment Assistance Act. He told us that a motion was put down by a leading member of the then Opposition Party which demanded that the unemployed should either be provided with work or with maintenance. The principle of that motion was accepted by the Government. Subsequently the Government gave effect to that principle in the Unemployment Assistance Act. Deputy Broderick says that while he was in agreement with the motion, he was not in agreement with the manner in which the principle was given effect to by the Government. He said that in his view unemployment assistance should be made a national charge. Now I pointed out in my introductory speech that unemployment assistance is paid upon different scales in different parts of the country, that what might be taken as the basic scale are the rates which are paid in practically the whole vast area of the Twenty-Six Counties, in what might be described as the rural and small urban areas. This scale is lower and, in some cases, quite sensibly lower, than the rates paid in the larger urban communities, just as the scale paid in the medium-sized urban communities is again sensibly smaller than the rates at which unemployment assistance is paid in the largest and wealthier urban communities, such as Dublin and Cork. If we were to make unemployment a national charge in the sense in which, I think, Deputy Broderick suggests it should be made, that is to say, that we should levy everyone, the town dweller and the country dweller, the agricultural labourer, the wealthy city merchant, the wealthy manufacturer and the wealthy professional man, alike for the purpose of paying unemployment assistance in the various districts of the country at these different rates, the consequence would be that the agricultural labourer and the small holder, the person who could not draw, and who would not be entitled to get, unemployment assistance under the present scheme of things at the same rate as the man living in Dublin City,  would be bearing exactly the same proportion of the national burden for unemployment maintenance as the wealthy merchant, manufacturer and professional man living in the wealthy City of Dublin. Of course, that would not be just; it would not be equitable; and it would not be right.
If unemployment maintenance is to be made a national charge, the incidence of the charge has to be fair. Under our present system it is a national charge, because all elements in the community contribute to it, some in varying proportions. The method which has been devised to ensure that, is that there is a basic level which might be represented by the general contribution which the Exchequer makes to unemployment assistance. Then there is the levy imposed upon those who are actively engaged in industry and industrial occupations, that is, the contribution exacted from the employment insurance fund. That might be taken to provide for the broad, basic expenditure of the scheme and, over and above that, there are these special levies made on the wealthier urban communities. I think Deputy Broderick will concede me this: that if you are trying to do this thing fairly, so as to ensure that an equitable and just contribution is made by every section and interest in the country, according to ability to pay, you could scarcely get a fairer system than that.
I think the Deputy will concede that we have proceeded on this proper basis, that, in general, the taxable capacity of the larger urban communities is greater than that of the rural community, and certainly that the taxable capacity of the community living in Dublin is greater than the taxable capacity of the peasantry living in Letterfrack or upon the slopes of Mount Hunger, and that, accordingly, we are justified in asking the people who live in the large urban communities to pay a larger proportion, if necessary, of the total cost of unemployment assistance, bearing in mind, as I said at the outset, that those who are in receipt of unemployment assistance and living in these large urban communities receive it at greater rates  and on a more generous scale than can be afforded to the rural community. The choice which now lies before the Deputy is: whether the wealthy community in Dublin will pay its fair share, or whether the people who live in Letterfrack or upon the slopes of Mount Hunger, along the shores of Berehaven in West Cork, are going to have to pay more than they ought to. That is the choice before Deputy Linehan and Deputy Broderick when they vote on this Bill.
Mr. MacEntee: That is the principle involved in this Bill, and that is the principle which you have to elect whether you are going to accept or reject. If you vote against this Bill— make no mistake about it—you vote to make the poverty-stricken inhabitants of the west and south-west of Ireland bear a share of the burden that should be borne by Dublin, by Cork, and by the other more prosperous urban communities in Ireland, and there is no way out of it.
Mr. MacEntee: No; I am sorry to deny the Deputy that opportunity. We had a most extraordinary speech from Deputy Alfred Byrne. I am only sorry that the Deputy is not in the House, because I should like to say some things which I shall have to keep locked in my breast until another suitable occasion arises. The Deputy has, on a number of occasions, talked about people going to mental homes, and being driven into mental homes, in consequence of the position of affairs which exists in Dublin City under the Dublin Corporation—and he implies that the Government is mainly responsible for that. He wants to know where it is all going to end. The Deputy for ten years held a position in this city, the nearest analogy to which that I can conceive being that of an American city boss, and during that period he drew reasonable emoluments from the city.
Mr. MacEntee: If Deputy Dillon thinks that Deputy Byrne did more for the City of Dublin than I will do in the whole of my lifetime, and if, notwithstanding all that Deputy Byrne has done for the City of Dublin, people are still being driven into mental hospitals, and if their plight is as he has described it so often here, I should like Deputy Dillon to take that report of the local government auditor upon the administration of the City of Dublin during the period when Deputy Byrne was Lord Mayor, when he was supposed to look after the interests of the city, and was the only check and guardian that the ratepayers of Dublin might have upon the way the corporation was run, and then ask himself if the Deputy is justified in coming in here and making these sickening, hypocritical speeches which he makes from time to time.
Mr. MacEntee: We have heard a lot from Deputy Alfred Byrne about what the Government has been doing to the City of Dublin. I say that it would be well if Deputy Byrne examined his own conscience, and saw how the city progressed during the period when he was the city's chief magistrate.
 We had—I was saying—an extraordinary statement from Deputy Byrne. I should like to know what foundation he has for making it. I do not believe that he had any authority whatsoever for the statement he made here. He said that he had been informed that this Bill will impose an additional 1/- in the £ on the rates, and involve an increase of 2d. per week on rents in Kimmage and Crumlin, two areas which he assumed were in my constituency. I know Deputy Alfred Byrne's tactics. He sees here an excellent opportunity to misrepresent the whole position in the City of Dublin; he sees an excellent opportunity, as he thinks, to make an attack upon those colleagues of his in the Dublin Corporation who do not see eye to eye with Deputy Alfred Byrne politically; and he sees an excellent opportunity to make an attack upon those Deputies who happen to sit for constituencies in the City of Dublin, and who, in voting for this proposal, are going to do their duty and to see that some relief will be given to the taxpayer, and that those in the City of Dublin who can well afford to pay any increased burden that this Bill may impose upon them will pay it, if it be necessary for them to pay it. I want to emphasise that—if it be necessary for them to pay it, because the Dublin Corporation's position in relation to the contribution which they ought to have paid into the Exchequer last year under the Act of 1933 is a most peculiar one.
Deputy Alfred Byrne has said that if this Bill is passed it means an increase of 1/- in the £ on the rates and 2d. per week in the rents of certain working-class dwellings in Dublin. Let us see what is the position of the Dublin Corporation in relation to the Unemployment Assistance Acts. In 1934-35 the poundage on the rateable valuation required by the Unemployment Assistance Acts was 1/6 in the £. The rate actually levied by the corporation for unemployment assistance in that year was 1/8. That is understandable because they had to make provision for vacancies and for premises which, though levied under the Acts, nevertheless they would not collect the rates in respect of. In 1935-36  the position was the same. The poundage on the rateable valuation was 1/6 and the rate actually levied by the corporation was 1/8.
In 1936-7 the poundage was 1/6 and the rate actually levied by the corporation for unemployment assistance was 1/7½. In 1938-9, due to the persistent demand for an increase in unemployment assistance rates, a demand which Deputy Alfred Byrne was very vocal indeed in expressing and most insistent in pressing, the unemployment assistance rates had to be raised. Consequently, the contribution of the Dublin Corporation towards the fund had to be increased from 1/6 to 1/8 in the £ on the rateable value. The rate actually levied by the Dublin Corporation for unemployment assistance that year was 1/10 in the £.
It will be seen from this that the corporation, in each of the years in which payment under the Unemployment Assistance Acts had to be made from 1934-5 onwards, collected a rate which was adequate to make the full payment. The corporation did, in fact, make payments on a correct basis, as I have already told the House, for the years 1934-5, 1935-6, 1936-7 and 1937-8. There were differences of a few pounds in the total, but, on the whole, the basis was correct. Now, in 1938-9, the corporation, as I have shown, actually levied a rate of 1/10 in the £ to meet a poundage of 1/8 on the rateable value. What happened? Did they pay over the proceeds of that 1/10 rate to the Exchequer on the basis of a poundage rate of 1/8 on the valuation? Not at all. As I have already told the House, instead of paying, as they ought to have paid, £171,000 in round figures, the corporation only paid to the Exchequer £118,000. They collected the rate, but they did not hand it over to the Exchequer. As Deputy Dillon might say when he has recourse to his most effective vocabulary, they stuck to the money. They stuck to the £53,000 which they collected from the ratepayers on the plea that they were going to hand it over to the Exchequer as a contribution towards unemployment assistance. So far as I know, the  Dublin Corporation has that £53,000, or they ought to have it, unless they have misused the funds.
That is a matter to which, perhaps, Deputy Alfred Byrne, instead of coming in here and starting to criticise the Government and attack them and stigmatise them in the terms in which he has, ought to devote some attention. He ought to ask, as I have no doubt the citizens of Dublin will now proceed to do, where that £53,000 is gone. Because if that £53,000 were available, and if it were reflected in the provision which the Dublin Corporation made for its contribution towards unemployment assistance in this year; if that £53,000, I repeat, were at the moment available and were reflected in the rate struck by the corporation, instead of that rate being 1/8¼ to-day, as it is, it would be something in the neighbourhood of 1/4½.
Mr. MacEntee: Because they do not control the corporation and have not controlled it for the last five years. It is the Deputy's friends, it is Deputy Alfred Byrne and supporters of the Fine Gael Party who control the Dublin Corporation.
Mr. MacEntee: Accordingly, I cannot see what justification there is, what foundation there is, for the statement which Deputy Alfred Byrne has made. If that £53,000 were available, there could not by any means or any stretch of the imagination be any justification for increasing the rates in Dublin City by 1/- in the £ because of this Bill. If the money is available, I think the utmost increase that might take place would be something in the nature of perhaps  1¾d., and that 1¾d. would be necessary because the Dublin Corporation, instead of striking a rate of 1/10 in the £ in the year 1939-40, as they did in 1938-9, failed to make proper provision and only struck a rate of 1/8¼. The true position in this matter is, if it had not been for their own action, if they had struck the proper rate of 1/10 this year, if they had met their obligations last year, if they had not endeavoured to filch back from the Exchequer £53,000 which was properly paid in the preceding four years, that no increase would be necessary in the rate to be struck by the Dublin Corporation for unemployment assistance, and there would be no necessity to increase the rents on any single workingclass house in Dublin. The fact of the matter is that simply because they thought they could create a difficulty for the Government—because that is what is at the back of this—simply because they thought they could create a difficulty for the Government they acted upon what we believe to be a wrongful interpretation of the Act and they withheld this money. They withheld more than they were entitled to withhold, even if they were properly advised as to the interpretation of the Act, and I challenge Deputy Alfred Byrne or any spokesman of the Dublin Corporation who is opposed to this Bill——
Mr. MacEntee: ——to say whether, when they got counsel's opinion on this matter, counsel told them that they would be entitled to withhold this £53,000? Was there any counsel's opinion taken on that? Not at all. They withheld the £53,000, and now they have got to face the difficulties into which they have landed themselves, and into which they have landed the citizens of Dublin. If the rates in Dublin City have to be increased because of this Bill, they have to be increased because those who were responsible for the City of Dublin, and those who were responsible for carrying on the affairs of the municipality, did not honour their undertaking under the Act. They say they got counsel's  opinion which told them that another interpretation could be put upon the Act other than that which was accepted for a number of years. I doubt whether that counsel told them that they were entitled to withhold the £53,000. They withheld that £53,000, which they collected last year for the purpose of contributing to unemployment assistance, and when they did that, they converted to their own use moneys collected for the Exchequer; now, these municipalities have got to make good that £53,000; they have to make restitution of the moneys which quite wrongfully they did not pay.
Dr. Hannigan: Is the Minister aware that the right to withhold this money was vested in the city manager? Is he aware that no member of the corporation, whether on this or any other side of the House, could interfere with or alter the accounts of the city manager?
Mr. Dillon: The Minister spoke of the demand which would have to be made on the people of Letterfrack in connection with this Bill, and the taxes they will have to pay. Might I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce what taxes do the people in Letterfrack pay?
Mr. Dillon: I can assure the Minister that the people of Letterfrack know. The Minister has forgotten that he is the first Minister who is responsible for putting taxes on the people of Letterfrack. He was the Minister who evolved a method of taxing the food and the necessaries of life of the people.
Childers, Erskine H.
Corry, Martin J.
De Valera, Eamon.
Fogarty, Patrick J.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Kelly, James P.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Lynch, James B.
McDevitt, Henry A.
Murphy, Timothy J.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
Rice, Brigid M.
Walsh, Laurence J.
|Bennett, George C.
Broderick, William J.
Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
Cosgrave, William T.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Henry M.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Esmonde, John L.
McFadden, Michael Og.
Mongan, Joseph W.
O'Donovan, Timothy J.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
Redmond, Bridget M.
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