SECTION 2.

Wednesday, 6 December 1978

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 310 No. 5

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[736]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment 7a:

In page 5, subsection (1) (a) (i), lines 41 to 45, to delete “a decision under section 7 (6) of this Act is made by the Commissioner and is in force or where a decision under the said section 7 (6), as extended by section 7 (8) of this Act, is made by a Judge of the Circuit Court” and to insert “there is in force for the time being in relation to the hereditament a decision under subsection (6) or (8) of section 7 of this Act”.

This is a drafting alteration designed to make the reference to section 7 (6) and section 7 (8) of the Bill consistent in its wording with similar references to be inserted by Amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 15.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I agree with this amendment. It is better and tidier drafting. I think the meaning of it is that—in case the hereditament is a mixed hereditament—the specified valuation in subsection (a) (i) will be the valuation fixed by the Commissioner of Valuations or the Court, on appeal. Is not that what that means?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Amendments Nos. 8, 10, 13, 14 and 16a are related and may therefore be discussed together.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): They are all cognate?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Yes.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 8:

In page 5, subsection (1) (a) (ii) (A), line 53, to delete “Act,” and substitute “Act”.

These are entirely matters of punctuation, amendments Nos. 10 and 14 inserting a comma and amendments Nos. 8, 13 and 16a deleting a comma.

Amendment agreed to.

[737]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Substitute amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 15 are related and may be discussed together.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, subsection (1) (b) (i), line 60 after “buildings valuation” to insert “, or in case there is in force for the time being in relation to the hereditament a determination under subsection (6) or (8) of section 7 of this Act, an amount equal to the part so determined as being attributable to the secondary school,”.

These amendments, which are purely technical, all arise from the same source. Section 2 of the Bill, as originally drafted, overlooked the fact that where a secondary school, community hall, or farm building was associated in the same valuation with a non-domestic property a special apportionment of the valuation could be applied for under section 7 from the Commissioner of Valuations.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 11 make it clear, in the case of a secondary school, and amendment No. 15, in the case of a farm building or community hall, that where such an apportionment is obtained the apportioned valuation will count as the specified valuation of the relevant property.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, subsection (1) (b) (i) (B), line 7, to delete “£40” and substitute “£40,”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 11:

In page 6, subsection (1) (b) (ii), lines 10 and 11, after “buildings valuation,” to insert “or in case there is in force for the time being in relation to the hereditament a determination under subsection (6) or (8) of section 7 of this Act, an amount equal to [738] the part so determined as being attributable to the secondary school,”.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): That is a different one. Could the Minister tell us what it is about?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Amendments Nos. 9, 11 and 15 are related.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Amendment No. 12 in the name of Deputy Quinn has been ruled out of order.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I was not here. I thought my amendments simply on section I had been ruled out of order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Amendment No. 12 is ruled out of order. It involves a potential charge on the revenue. I take it the Deputy was notified.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Then I will speak on it on the section.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputy can speak on it on the section later. The Minister to move amendment No. 13 discussed already.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 13:

In page 6, subsection (1) (c) (i), line 24, to delete “Act,” and substitute “Act”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, subsection (1) (c) (ii), line 30, to delete “regard,” and substitute “regard”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 15:

In page 6, subsection (1), line 33, to substitute the following paragraph for paragraph (d):

“(d) in case the hereditament is a community hall or farm building, [739] the buildings valuation, or in case there is in force for the time being in relation to the hereditament a determination under subsection (6) or (8) of section 7 of this Act, an amount equal to the part so determined as being attributable to the community hall or farm building, as the case may be.”

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 16:

In page 6, subsection (4), lines 44 and 45, to delete “ascertaining the specified valuation of such hereditament the buildings valuation” and substitute “any rate the valuation of such hereditament”.

This amendment remedies another technical flaw in the original draft. The reference to the specified valuation in subsection (4) is inappropriate since this term has relevance only to the amount of rates relief to be allowed. If the specified valuation of a house only was frozen and not the rateable valuation proper, the leviable rate would increase while the amount of rates relief would remain static. The amendment makes it clear that what will be frozen will be the valuation of a hereditament for the purposes of any rate to be levied.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): This is a rate remission section?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes, frozen.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We will speak about that on the section.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 16a:

In page 6, subsection (5), line 49, to delete “1929,” and substitute “1929”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 16b:

[740] In page 6, subsection (5), line 53, after “Housing Act, 1966” to insert “(as amended by section 12 of the Housing Act, 1970)”.

This amendment expands the reference to section 33 of the Housing Act 1966 which has been amended by section 12 of the Housing Act 1970.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Amendments Nos. 17 and 18, are related and may be discussed together.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 17:

In page 6, subsection (5), line 55, before “temporary” to insert “a”.

These amendments each make a typographical correction.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 18:

In page 6, subsection (5), line 55, before “temporary” to insert “an”.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 2, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The effect of subsection (1) is to provide that a secondary school and up to £40 valuation land is derated. Now a domestic dwelling and land up to £1 valuation is derated. This is designed to deal with Deputy Quinn's amendment which was ruled out of order. I think a valuation of £1 in respect of land is too small particularly nowadays when planning authorities encourage a lesser density of house building. I think this figure should be increased. Perhaps £5 might be too high but there should be something in between £1 and £5.

This is a difficult Bill to deal with in Committee in that practically every amendment put down by the Opposition will be ruled out of order as imposing a charge on the Exchequer. For that reason I did not put down any amendments. Dealing with the Bill has not been [741] made any easier because it is being taken in the dying days of this session and I understand the Minister wants the Bill into the Seanad before Christmas. I do not believe that will be possible and I think it is unreasonable to ask us to deal with this Bill in this way remembering that it was introduced 12 months ago, almost to the day, on 14 December 1977.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We have had a good long debate already.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Yes, but there are a good many sections and we could be here for a good while yet. I say this because I fear the Minister would be slow to accept amendments and that is why I argue it is difficult to deal with this Bill in Committee because we could not put down any amendments and, even if the Minister wants to get the Bill into the Seanad before the Christmas recess, the likelihood of his accepting amendments is, to say the least of it, very slight. He has, of course, a fair majority in the House and the situation is compounded by the fact that the Bill is being rushed and the Minister has such a majority. It is unfortunate that the Minister is not likely to want a proper Report Stage because I think there are many things requiring amendment. It is a very complicated, technical Bill introduced to implement promises made by the Government party prior to the last election.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The 25 per cent is involved too.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I agree it covers the 25 per cent remission provided by the National Coalition in 1977. As I say, I do not think a valuation of £1 in respect of land is sufficient. It is certainly not sufficient when there is no limit on the size of the house that is to be derated. The house can be as big as one likes and it will still be derated. If we are going to have fairly large houses derated then it is only reasonable that the derating should also apply to a reasonable area of land as an [742] amenity with the house. Some figure between £1 and £5 as a maximum I would suggest but, if the Minister thinks that is too big, I would go so far as to say £3.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  A limit had to be set and wherever one sets a limit there will always be people who will argue that it should be greater and include them. The £1 was set after consultation with the Valuation Office. It was not just decided in my Department. With regard to £3, there are parts of Ireland where £3 could almost be a small farm. That is true of my own county. I agree it could be poorish land but it could be as much as ten to 20 acres.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): But is it not derated anyway?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  It should be but £5 or £3 could vary from the point of view of the amount of land. One pound would be the usual amount. If it were more than £1 one would nearly have to employ someone to keep the grass cut or dig the garden and people do not like having to do that any more. Most people cannot afford it. One pound would appear to be adequate to cover the amount of land with any dwelling house. It could be up to one acre or it might be down to half an acre. After consultation with the Valuation Office it was decided this was the fairest approach.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If one could change the name of the Minister on the Order Paper to my name the fact is the Minister has made the best argument yet for the amendment tabled by me which was ruled out of order. He has just demonstrated clearly to the House that the valuation system is not constant and universal throughout the country. Neither could it be.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We have always said that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Right. Now the Minister has a golden opportunity to reduce the discrimination implicit in that valuation system which is based on factors, as the [743] Minister and I know, that no longer apply. Certainly in the context of enjoying land as part of a domestic dwelling the valuation process has nothing to do with it, it was for that simple reason, quoting the Minister's own words that it is approximately one acre, that I attempted to equate the two. I know the Chair is bound by certain rules in these matters and there was no discretion involved but the Minister could accept the spirit of the proposal on Report Stage. The amendment is not on the Order Paper but does the Minister consider it fair that a situation could readily arise—indeed, he put the words into my mouth—where a £1 valuation could amount to half an acre in one part of the country and an acre in another part.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes, and two acres in another part.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Therefore some people could have three times the size of a garden which could be put to considerable use—it is not just used for cutting grass these days—and is there no other simple way, such as a statute acre, that could be used to clarify this? It devalues the process of law when you discriminate in fact between one part of the country and another and any Minister who has the opportunity to make it clear and unequivocal and equal for anybody enjoying this benefit should avail of the opportunity to do so, whether it be poor land in Clare or rich land in Meath so that all would have the same area apportioned to their houses.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  In this Bill we are dealing with valuations and not acreages or areas. It is on valuations the rating system is based and so we have to stick to the valuation system. I agree, and we have always agreed, that the valuation system is an unjust one but we would have to revalue the entire country to do anything about that point. We are dealing with valuations where rates are concerned.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I accept that that is what we are dealing with but that limitation is somewhat self-imposed.

[744]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The rating system is based on valuations.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is it not possible in this instance simply to put in here the “either, or” definition, £1 valuation or one statute acre? A statute acre is a clear measure that can be readily tested by any local authority.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Will rates be payable on this land?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  That is the point I was about to make. Outside urban areas land is derated, irrespective of the size, if it is less than £20 valuation.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I appreciate that. There is a certain tendency in the Minister's response to this and to other measures to rely on other Acts which are outside the context of this. The fact that land outside urban areas is derated at present could conceivably change in the next four or five years and the Minister for the Environment will not have any say over whether it does or not. As this is a piece of draft legislation going through the House there is a responsibility on us all to try to make it consistent, clear and unequivocal in the eyes of any court that may have to adjudicate on it. The inclusion of one statute acre or £1 does not seem to pose enormous difficulties. Unless there is a special reason why the Minister is limiting this to valuations I cannot see why my proposal is not accepted.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  If we take the existing position outside urban areas and assume that continues——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): When the Minister refers to “urban areas” does he mean a town with an urban district council?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  A separate rating authority from the county.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): What is the position with regard to a town that does not have an urban authority?

[745]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Such towns are treated as county and enjoy the same as any part of the county. If we accepted Deputy Quinn's suggestion the valuation officials would have to remeasure and we would have readjustments to make. Rates are based on valuations. The figure of £1 will in most cases cover the piece of ground that goes with houses. Very few will carry a valuation greater than £1. I do not think there will be any difficulty with regard to £1. If I accepted the Deputies suggestion I would be creating a big problem and a lot of extra work. The figure of £1 is fair.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): This is another example of the absurdity of the rating system. Many big towns do not have urban district councils and they are larger than some towns that have such councils. A person who builds a house on a piece of land which carries a valuation of £2 in the urban districts of Naas or Ballinasloe—two towns which have a lot of land inside their urban boundary—will have to pay rates on the land because those towns have urban councils. If that person built his house adjacent to such towns but outside the urban area on a similar piece of land he would not have to pay any rates. That is absurd and unfair. There is a precedent for taking a £5 valuation. Under the Act of 1965 the sale of land to foreigners is subject to the consent of the Land Commission, except in cases where the poor law valuation of the land does not exceed £5, or five acres. The Minister is being unduly restrictive in confining this to £1.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  There will be very little victimisation in the areas referred to. A person in Ballinasloe who builds on a piece of land which has a valuation of £3 will be exempt for the first £1, in accordance with the Bill, and a two-fifths reduction of the remaining £2 in most urban areas. Nobody will be hurt very seriously if they have a valuation in excess of £1.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I should like to raise a point which is referred to throughout the Bill which contrasts the attitude of the Minister and of this side of the House. [746] The Minister seems to be satisfied as long as he hits 95 per cent of the likely categories of people who would normally benefit from this. He has told us that the number of people who will fall in the 5 per cent category will be small and will not cause much concern. The fact is that there will be a legal obligation on the local authorities to collect these rates. We have had the nonsense with the water charge where £1.2 million was collected from all local authorities. The cost of the administrative charge of collecting that kind of money is mind-boggling to say nothing about the time delays. We have an opportunity now to close off those minor bits and pieces and reduce such anomalies. Why is the Minister reluctant to accept my proposal? We cannot table amendments but we can draw his attention to possible loopholes. We could make better progress if the Minister was to honestly tell us that matters of reasonable accuracy brought to his attention as a result of scrutiny on Committee Stage will be dealt with on Report Stage to meet our points. We are not attempting to prolong the proceedings of the House but this is important legislation and we have not got close to the meat of it yet. The Minister should sincerely take honestly intended points brought to his attention here and decide to clear them and not respond by saying that his proposal will clear 95 per cent of the cases and he is not worried about the minority.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I would not confine it to 95 per cent. It will probably clear most people. The Deputy wonders why I cannot accept what appears to him to be a reasonable increase in the valuation. I think the £1 is reasonable as it stands. Wherever a limit is set there will be a percentage of people outside that limit. The same kind of argument could be made irrespective of where the limit was set. Deputy Fitzpatrick referred to areas such as Naas or Ballinasloe. A £2 valuation in either case could be in respect of two acres or even more. An area of half an acre attached to a house is quite a lot of land to look after, even to the extent of keeping the grass cut. If a person has two acres of land with a [747] valuation of £2 in an urban area, surely he will make some commercial use of it? If he plants apple trees he will have apples to sell. Even if he puts a few cattle or a horse on the land, that is putting it to commercial use. It is farming on a small scale. Even more beneficial to the owner would be to engage in market gardening in an urban area. That would be a commercial use. I see no reason why a valuation of £1 should not be considered very reasonable. It could be in respect of one acre of land in many instances. We set the figure after consultation with the Valuation Office. We did not pull the figure out of the sky. Deputy Quinn's proposal made reference to “up to an acre”. That would mean measuring land and excluding those parts that are in excess of one acre which would have come under the £1 valuation. People could be victimised in that way.

I should like to correct something I said some time ago. I was wrong when I said that where a valuation is more than £1, for instance £3, that the first £1 would be exempt. That would not be so.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): There will be no exemption?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Except the usual two-fifths of the total.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Effectively there will not be a Report Stage on this Bill.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  That is up to the Deputies.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): It is not up to us because any amendment we put down will be ruled out of order. On Report Stage we can deal only with sections that are amended. Unless the Minister, in the goodness of his heart, decides to put down amendments there will not be a Report Stage on this Bill. That is why it is necessary to spend so much time on Committee Stage.

Is the Minister saying that a person with a valuation of up to £1 will not have any rates to pay and that a person with a valuation of £3 will have to pay rates on the £3 valuation?

[748]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  There will be some remission in urban areas—I believe it is two-fifths.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I wonder if that was the intention? The Bills dealing with capital taxation excluded dwelling-houses with a certain area of land around them. We should be uniform here and give exemption on the first £1 valuation. That would be more equitable. The Minister seemed to think so because he assumed that was the position and I think he was quite right. It is a reasonable approach.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It seems to me the Minister is faced with a choice of equalising the amount of land irrespective of its valuation that would be exempt from rates to any domestic dwelling and saying that if a person has land up to a certain area he will not have to pay rates either on the land or the house. Instead he has opted for the use of the valuation, on the grounds that it would cause less administrative trouble and disruption by opting for a £1 valuation rather than opting for one acre. In that simple choice it seems to me that the Minister is making a choice in favour of administrative convenience as distinct from some kind of equity before the law. On the basis of his own earlier argument that we are talking about minimal numbers of people, certainly less than 5 per cent, it seems to me to be an extraordinary choice. The Minister has stated that he is confining the basis of measurement to valuation, but in this instance he has a chance to introduce a degree of equity that is absolute—in other words, the physical area of land with a dwelling to be constant irrespective of whether the person is an Irish citizen living in Inisboffin or an Irish citizen living in the middle of a town. The choice is self-evident and should be taken and the administrative inconvenience should not be a factor particularly when it is so small.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. J. O'Leary): Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The figure of £1 is reasonable and compares fairly well with the one statute acre mentioned by Deputy Quinn. As far as I know, the average land valuation is in [749] the region of £1.0.10d per acre—I am using the old currency. The £1 would equate fairly well with the one statute acre in Deputy Quinn's proposal.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  In most cases.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  In 99 per cent of the cases. If we went on an acreage basis it would give rise to disputes, conciliation and arbitration and there would be numerous appeals. The Valuation Office, Departments and the various councils would have to engage additional staff to remeasure plots of land attached to houses. The £1 figure meets reasonably well the vast majority of cases, particularly the category that would give rise to the greatest concern and which would cause administrative difficulties, namely, in relation to plots and parcels of land attached to local authority houses, whether purchased or non-purchased houses.

Under the present proposals regarding the £1 limit I do not see any of these being liable for any rates whatever. The valuation on most of the plots is in the region of 10p to 50p maximum and that would entail the plotting of rates and the collection of rates on these plots. Possibly the collection would lead to a loss of revenue to the councils by reason of the procedures local authorities will have to go through in order to collect these rates. The £1 here equates reasonably well with the one statute acre in Deputy Quinn's proposal.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Minister may not be quoting me fully. The proposal as originally drafted by me was after £1 to insert “or one statute acre” so that the anomaly with regard to local authority dwellings would not arise. In the instance quoted by the Minister of State, the more beneficial of the two would be picked. In that instance it would be the £1 valuation and not the one statute acre if it was less than the area of the plot attached to the local authority dwelling. The case I have made is self evident. Despite the arguments, the Minister is coming down on the side of administrative convenience.

[750]Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I am becoming a little more concerned about this proposal that the first £1 valuation is to be rated if the entire land included in the hereditament has a valuation of more than £1. That is unfair. Am I right in thinking this applies only where the house and the land are rated together as one hereditament?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Even if they are separate it applies. It is covered by section 1 (7).

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): A man could have a house and land valued at £1. He is then free of rates on the lot. Across the road that man might have land valued at £50 in a separate rating and he would not be affected at all. He would still be exempt from rates on his house and land valued at £1 irrespective of how much land he had elsewhere.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  All his land holdings should be grouped by the local authority.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): He would be noted as having other land for the purposes of various Acts. If I am right—and I should like the Minister to correct me if I am wrong—a householder who has a house and land attached to it with a valuation not exceeding £1 is rate free in respect of that, irrespective of what other land he may have rated elsewhere.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Could the Deputy repeat that?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): A man who owns a house to which there is attached and rated together land with a valuation not exceeding £1 is exempt from rated on that house and land, irrespective of whether he has other land elsewhere.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  No.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): He is not? I should like the Minister to convince me that is so.

[751]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  His land across the road which the Deputy mentioned would be grouped. Local authorities are obliged to group valuations over £20. This is always done at local authority level. Section 1 (7) reads:

In case any land entered as land in the valuation lists belongs to and is usually enjoyed with a secondary school or a dwelling and wholly comprises a hereditament apart from that comprising the secondary school or dwelling, as the case may be, then the hereditament which is wholly comprised of such land and the hereditament comprising such secondary school or dwelling shall for the purposes of this Act be regarded as together forming a single hereditament comprising a secondary school or a single domestic hereditament, as may be appropriate.

They form one.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Exactly, and it is free of rates.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The two lots form one. If the valuation of the two together exceeds £1, they are not free.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Section 1 (7).

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): With respect I do not agree. It has to be used with the dwelling. This man has his private dwelling-house and land valued at £1. It is used with it and it is in a separate rating. He has other land elsewhere which is not—to use the jargon—usually enjoyed with the dwelling-house. I am satisfied that his land valued at £1 will be exempt. If he has land valued at more than £1 rated with the house he will have to pay rates on it. I do not think that is fair. If the Minister insists on keeping the figure of £1 valuation, he should provide in some suitable language that a dwelling-house and land with a valuation not exceeding £1 will be exempt. Then we would know what we were talking about.

Under this provision there will be cases where some people with a house [752] and several acres of land will be exempt, and other cases where people with a house and a small area of land with a valuation exceeding £1 will not be exempt. The sensible thing for the Minister to do is to write in in black and white that a domestic dwelling-house and land with a valuation not exceeding £1 will be exempt. Then we will have uniformity and common sense.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Exactly.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We know the Minister is using his knowledge of rating but we also know that sometimes county councils bracket these farms together and sometimes they do not. If the value of the land does not exceed £20, they are really not concerned with it. The sensible common sense thing to do is to approach this in the way I say and exempt the first £1 valuation in all cases.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The purpose of this is to cover a small garden that could be attached to a house in any area in Dublin or elsewhere. There are many houses in urban areas and towns and cities where there is no garden, no land. They have no exemption to enjoy. They enjoy neither the land nor the exemption of rates up to £1 valuation. This is meant to exempt people who have these small gardens. It is not meant to exempt people with large amounts of land in a town or an urban area.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Is this not a golden opportunity to define the area?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  If the valuation is more than £1, it is possible that the person has two acres of land with a fine commercial value. It could be an area for another site or sites. Why should he be exempt? There is no reason and no justification for it.

With regard to Deputy Quinn's point about one acre, the Minister of State has related it to £1.0.10 which is the average per acre throughout the country. There is no great divergence of view there. I do not think there is any necessity to change the rating system, which is based on valuations, for this one purpose [753] which I would call of minor consequence, and therefore it should not be done for the sake of the small number of valuations which are of £1.

The purpose, intention and spirit of this was and is to exempt people who have small gardens attached to their dwellings from paying rates. There are many people who do not have any front garden and may have only tiny backyards. They do not enjoy a garden and cannot avail of the exemption of up to £1 which we are giving and which I think is very fair.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): If the Minister were to carry that argument to its logical conclusion he might say that houses with only three bedrooms or with so many rooms should be exempt, but he has not said that. A person can have a house with 25 bedrooms, eight bathrooms and several reception rooms and that house will be exempt. If the Minister was being logical he might seek to put a limit on that.

I am satisfied that a man with a £2 valuation of land will have to pay rates while a man with a £15 valuation of land will not have to pay rates, provided they are in separate ratings. That is not fair or equitable. I would like the Minister to spell out how I am wrong, if I am.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Is section 2, as amended, agreed?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We are on the first part of section 2 and there are many subsections I want to mention. The Explanatory Memorandum states that:

Subsections (2) to (6) are concerned with domestic valuations which are subject to a phased reduction for rating purposes.

My understanding of the situation is this. In a local authority area where a house enjoys the normal valuation of £36 and is on a phased reduction over nine years, in year four its actual valuation in terms of generating rates to the local authority is effectively £16. The revenue the local authority would get from that house in year four is £16 multiplied, say, by £10, giving a total of £160. At the end of the [754] ninth year reduction, using the same valuation of £10 to the pound, the local authority would get £360. The implications of that for local authorities that have large new estates is absolutely astronomical. The Explanatory Memorandum, tongue in cheek, recognising the implications of this states:

As a quid pro quo, rating authorities would have benefit of the full valuations of new and improved domestic property which materialise in later years and which would otherwise have been subject to a temporary reduction.

That is great news for later years but it is not good news for today. In suburban areas of large local authorities, such as Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Kilkenny, Waterford and any fast-growing area, there is a great demand for the kind of services which only local authorities can provide and the servicing of which must come out of the revenue from rates. This proposal is cutting the legs from under the natural tax base of local authorities now and, as a quid pro quo moryah it is suggesting that in later years you will get the benefit of new houses. The reality is that local authorities that need the benefit of the full revenue now are going to be deprived of it because, as I interpret this, the Minister is going to freeze these valuations. Instead of the house being valued at £36 it will be valued at £16 forever. This means we will have an unequal tax base comparing one set with another. Have I interpreted this section correctly?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The position is that subsection (2) provides for the making of an order by the Minister under which all the provisions mentioned in subsection (5) would cease to operate. The first effect of the order would be that new house valuations would no longer be reduced for rating purposes. This would mean a substantial gain for local authorities in future in their effective valuations deriving from new houses. This gain would in turn be in compensation for the freezing of existing reduced valuations which the order would affect under subsection (4).

[755] In the past there was always a deficit in the valuation base of local authorities as a result of the provisions of the Housing Acts. The components of the deficit changed from year to year but the deficit itself was permanent. What the order will do is simply freeze this deficit at a certain point in time, thus making it unnecessary for local authorities to calculate it anew every year.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Are all the enactments in subsection (5) rate remission enactments?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yes they are.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Yes, subsection (3) provides that the order will come into effect in the year following that in which it is made and subsection (4) provides for an affirmative resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas before an order can be made by the Minister.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  In other words I have correctly interpreted the provisions of this subsection. While talking specifically to this section I would like to have regard to another aspect of this legislation, that is the way the rate itself is to be established for each local authority. I tried unsuccessfully on the Adjournment Debate last night to unravel this Chinese puzzle. It seems clear that when this legislation becomes law there will not be a differential rate for separate local authorities as there was in the past. In so far as we can judge to date, a percentage increase nationwide would be established if the Cabinet finally decided how much money was available, and that would be equalised and proportioned throughout the country.

If you combine that procedure with the provisions in this subsection, I strongly hold the view that the position of growing local authorities, which are desperately in need of funds to provide services de novo which other local authorities by definition already have or had the opportunity to provide, will be seriously damaged. That introduces an area of discrimination that has social implications of enormous proportions. The order will provide all the normal local [756] authority services that we take for granted in built-up urban areas, but which have not yet arrived in new suburban estates, which in many cases have not been taken into charge by the local authorities because the builder has not met all the obligations of the planning permission. The impact and the potential impact of this order is such that it will penalise permanently these areas while the natural tax base, as based on valuation, will be distorted permanently.

I can understand the Minister wishing to do something about this phenomenon because if he were to go to the other extreme and simply to let subsection (5) of this section stand, there would be a wiping out of all the phased reductions. The tax base would jump immediately from, say, 50 per cent to 100 per cent. One does not have the figures and in an attempt last year to get this information from the Department we were told that the figures were not readily available. Consequently, we do not know fully what time bomb we have buried in this section but it is reasonable to assume that it is way beyond the cost of what the incoming financial year could afford. Allowing for that, and I am trying to be objective with regard to the Minister's difficulties, one would have expected him at least to have allowed some way whereby the tax base would not be distorted permanently and that on a contrary tack he would have allowed the phased reduction to continue, in other words, starting from this year with no more nine-year reductions but that those houses in the process of benefiting from such reductions would be allowed to follow the natural process so that a house generating rates multiplied by four years, that is £16 in this year, would generate an income rate multiplied by five years which would be £20.

I should like the Minister to explain why this decision has been taken because it is not possible to do what the explanatory memorandum attempts to do, to palm off today's needs with tomorrow's promises of goodies. Whatever about election promises we are dealing with legislation now. What is being done here is both unfair and unjust. Indeed, there is running through all of this legislation a degree of arbitrariness [757] that is frightening. Disregarding, then, that explanation I should like the Minister to state if possible what would be the additional cost to the Exchequer, the increased sum valuation, in the event of taking up to full valuation those domestic dwellings that are currently in the process of enjoying any of the benefits of remission of rates as identified in section 5. Has that sum been done and, if it has not been done, may we have some indication of the figure, so that we may know the magnitude of the problem with which the Minister has had to deal. Having established that problem perhaps we could consider some ways of coming to terms with it.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  To take the last point first, there is no figure available regarding the increased cost to the Exchequer. In these circumstances, it would not be proper for me to venture a guess because any figure I might give could be very much in error on one side or the other.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I asked a variant of this question in May last. The Minister has stated now that a figure is not available but is he implying that somebody in the Department is doing the sum and that a figure will become available?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  No, but if an order is being made under subsection (2) we would set about preparing an estimate. We would like to have the figure as accurate as possible and to have the estimate available in order to be able to inform the House as accurately as possible during the course of discussion on the order. I assure the House that there is nothing sinister in the provision in subsection (2). The Bill provides simply the legal framework for later decisions on this whole question. The provision cannot have effect unless brought in by way of ministerial order. Not alone is a ministerial order necessary but the draft of such an order would have to be brought before both Houses. A resolution of both Houses approving of the draft is essential before the order can be [758] made. This stipulation will afford all parties an opportunity of discussing practically all the points to which Deputy Quinn has referred.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is reassuring to know that the House will have such opportunity but we are talking about the tax base of local government. Irrespective of who happens to be the incumbent in the Custom House, after this Bill has been passed a directive will issue from a principal officer in the Department of Finance to the effect that that kind of hatch must be battened down in times of economic difficulties. We would be naïve to refer to it in any other terms. Therefore, the Minister's reply that although the provision is in the Bill it might not necessarily come into force until such time as the Minister might decide to bring in an order, the full details being made available then, is not satisfactory because it would then be much too late for the implications to be understood by the local authorities or indeed by us who have responsibility with regard to the drafting of legislation. We have gone well beyond the position of deciding whether the abolition of rates on domestic dwellings was a good or a bad move. As I have said repeatedly we are talking now about the tax base, about the system of taxation for local government. There will always be times during the term of office of any Government when money will be tight. Indeed, money will never be as flush again as it used be. Therefore, we must assume that once the provision is in the Bill for an order, it will be implemented at some stage. But what is the net effect of that in the event of it becoming law?

As I understand it means that in the case of an estate built three years ago in one part of any suburban area of the country and which has a valuation frozen at three times its full value—here again I give the example of the £36 valuation which admittedly relates to an expensive house—the valuation for three years would be £9 per house whereas a similar house in an estate down the road to be built next year and having the same valuation would have a valuation of £36 per house. Therefore, the revenue that a local authority would get as a [759] result of this legislation becoming law would be infinitely more from exactly a similar estate to be built next year than from one built three years ago. This is introducing a new form of distortion and inequality into the tax base of local government. If, for all practical purposes, the requirements of the people in the new estate are to be identical with the needs of people in the older estate, what we are discussing here is nothing less than a device to deprive local authorities of moneys they need badly. I cannot see any justice in that. I have suggested that I can understand the implications of disregarding altogether the rates remission proposal. In other words, if we simply let subsection (5) stand——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Repeal subsection (5).

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  If there was nothing but subsection (5), if all rates remission were to be repealed and the full valuations brought into the taxation base, it would generate a lot of new income for local authorities on a once-off basis. I am not proposing that. Why is it that you cannot let the remissions run their course so that the tax base, artificially depressed for local authorities in some instances, would naturally rise to the level which the Valuation Office and the valuers had assigned to them in the first instance?

We have already in this debate talked about the irrationality and inequality of the old valuation system. Irrespective of that, I presume that all Members of this House on either side of the divide, have some kind of commitment to equality. If this order becomes law, as I must assume it will, you are going to introduce a new form of inequality in the taxation base of local authorities. I find that totally unacceptable. I have not heard any adequate argument as to why that should be so other than financial embarrassment on the part of the Government. I can conceive that there would be some degree of financial embarrassment and therefore I ask why you cannot let the remissions run their natural course so that at the end of what presumably would be a minimum of eight years the taxation base would at least be equalised [760] and you would not have depressed valuation?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The proposal here is to freeze the valuations at the present effective valuation by virtue of the provision in subsection (5). It is argued that the loss of revenue incurred by local authorities as a result of that operation will be made up by the coming into operation of the full valuation on new houses immediately. That is the proposition as I see it, but it is not as simple as that. Those of us who are familiar with urban authorities know that a very peculiar and difficult situation arises there. Most urban authorities have become built up in recent years; in other words, there are no more building sites available and the existing building sites have all been built up in the last few years. Any further building is now taking place outside the urban areas. The result of that is that these urban areas, like Cavan town and Cork city as far as they are apart, will suffer an immediate loss of revenue in so far as the effective valuation of the houses enjoying remission will become a permanent valuation.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  That is right.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We are told that to compensate for that, in the case of the new houses being built in the years to come the Minister will reimburse the local authority on the basis of the full valuation. In so far as Cavan town is concerned every inch of available land within the urban area has been built up, and if what I call the remission valuations are frozen the urban area will suffer substantial loss of revenue. That is not the only place where this difficulty exists. The Finance and Planning Committee of Cork Corporation have appointed a sub-committee. This sub-committee includes such names as the present Lord Mayor of Cork city and Councillor A.A. Healy, a man who frequently occupied the Chair now occupied by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle in this House. The sub-committee have reported and they request that the Minister be asked to amend section 2 of [761] the Bill so that the loss of revenue empowered by this section would be evaded. Under this section the Minister proposes to take power to freeze the valuation on domestic houses, to allow the rate remission stand at the 1978 figure and to regard new houses at whatever figure they are valued. The sub-committee state that this would present a financial problem to Cork Corporation as there is only a certain amount of land left for private house building. Accordingly, from 1979 onwards Cork Corporation would find themselves in a loss situation.

That report is very helpful because it is typical of what will happen all over the country in many urban areas; they will suffer a permanent loss of revenue. The valuation will be permanently cut back and the reasonable thing to do is to let the remission work itself out as it was doing year after year. This is simply a proviso by which the Minister will save money. We see many things creeping into this Bill that certainly were not spelled out in the manifesto about which we heard so much and are hearing less as time goes on. The example that this sub-committee of Cork Corporation have spelled out is typical of the situation prevailing in many urban areas and certainly in my own urban area of Cavan. There are only a few urban areas that have plenty of land left. I spelled out a couple of them this morning: Ballinasloe and Nass are typical examples of urban authorities who have building land to spare as far as one can see into the future. But they are very much the exceptions.

The urban areas all over the country need to be revised and extended but the present procedure is so cumbersome and difficult and the obstacles in the way of extending them are so effective that members of urban authorities, having tried to extend the urban areas, simply become frustrated and do nothing about it. That is why this proposal in the Bill is so serious. I know that it does not come into operation unless the Minister makes an order. I know also that the order must come before this House, but it is then on a take it or leave it basis, a yes or no. We saw yesterday that an order [762] brought in cannot be amended and it is up to the House either to accept or reject it. If a Minister makes an order and brings it into this House for approval it becomes a matter of principle with him and we know that it will go through as a matter of form, especially in the present Dáil. That is why this matter is so serious. The Minister should have second thoughts about it or seek to justify it with a better argument than has so far been put up.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Under subsection (2) the Minister may make an order. There is no obligation on him to make it; he may make it. No decision has been taken yet as to whether or when an order will be made. Existing arrangements will continue unless the order is made, and the order will then be debated in full in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Deputy Quinn naturally is concerned about the urban areas but these are the very areas which may be presumed to continue on a substantial housing output over the coming year and the corporation or the council will benefit under the existing arrangements. They will, therefore, derive the greatest benefit from there being no reduction in future on their new house valuations.

All that is involved at the moment is a provision to clear the way for a simple streamlining of administration at some future date. With the abolition of domestic rates the idea of rates remission for new or reconstructed houses makes little sense. People are no longer paying rates on their dwellings so the idea of giving them as individual ratepayers a remission of rates has no meaning. The only purpose the remission arrangements now serve is as a factor in the calculation of the State grant. All these housing remissions taken together at any one time give a certain reduction in the amount of what would in past years have had to be paid by the domestic ratepayers as a body but which is now paid by the State grant in place of domestic rates.

As things stand the amount of the reduction would have to be adjusted each year as the remission on each house moves from nine-tenths to eight-tenths to seven-tenths and so on. This [763] adjustment would have to be made for both existing houses entitled to the remission and for new houses coming into the valuation list. The thinking behind the Bill and this subsection is that at some particular time the remissions relating to houses already built and valued could be regarded as frozen at whatever point they have reached, be it 1/10th or 9/10ths or anywhere in between. This would mean a loss to local authorities unless some further action is taken. The further action provided for in the Bill would be to allow the valuations of all new houses to be added on as effective valuations without any remission. My Department estimate that this situation would, on an overall basis, balance out any loss which local authorities might otherwise suffer through the freezing of existing ratings although, as I said before, we have nowhere near an accurate estimate because this estimate will be prepared if and when an order is about to be made.

We should not quarrel unduly with the thinking behind this section. It is a sensible attempt to tidy up the situation which arises because domestic rates are being fully, finally and permanently abolished. With no rates payable on houses the fairly elaborate legal arrangements for giving special relief by way of rates remission to the individual occupier of new or improved domestic property are obsolete and should be got rid of. Deputy Quinn seems to be concerned in case local authorities would lose out because certain statistics about value of existing remissions are not available. He is quite right to raise the matter but he need have no worries.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  As long as the Fianna Fáil Party are sitting over there I will always be worried.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  On the overall basis the losses and gains will balance fairly well. I realise that the balance could be upset in the case of individual local authorities. It is my intention to have the effects on individual local authorities examined in detail before I bring forward any draft order to implement these provisions and this includes urban and [764] county relationships. Both Houses will have an opportunity at the appropriate stage of going fully into whatever is involved.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The explanations given so far by the Minister of State do not really satisfy the points I have raised. The first point is that it is stated in the Bill, and repeated by the Minister of State, that there is only a provision in this section that would enable the Minister to come in and make an order and if such an order were to be made it would have to be debated in the House. Am I right in assuming that, once this legislation becomes law, there will be no remission for any new houses constructed after the date on which this legislation is signed by the President? If I am right in that assumption we are talking anyway about a fixed time period of no more than ten years at the very outside so that the provision in which an order such as the one we have talked about could only be made within a period of ten years. That is the first thing. After a certain length of time new houses constructed from the time this legislation becomes law do not benefit in any shape or form from remission on rates. That is my understanding of it. There is an inbuilt time limit when this thing goes through.

If the Minister of State is seriously suggesting that the temptation to use this provision in that period is going to be resisted at all times and it is only a minor matter why bother to have it at all? We on this side of the House must operate on the basis that once the provision is there it will be taken up. It is not an unreasonable assumption to hold the view that there will be the suggestion that it will be taken up on the basis of economic saving. There is an element of swings and roundabouts in all this because if the taxation base of a local authority is, say, £100,000 and they prepare their estimates and come up with £8 in the £1 rates and they say therefore that they need £800,000 of which 50 per cent would come from a direct grant for the purposes of this provision, that amount of money will have to be paid by the State. If the tax base is lower than that the costs presumably are still going to be the same [765] so, while the tax base may be only £50,000, as a result of the freezing of rates, they are going to need double the amount of rates in order to generate the same revenue. Therefore the State is going to have to pay the same sort of money at the end of the day.

Frankly what amazes me is that here we have a clear provision put into the Bill. Leave to introduce the Bill was sought on the 14 December last year. The Bill itself was circulated in the spring of this year. Questions in relation to this particular provision were asked by myself and undoubtedly were asked within the confines of the Custom House. The Minister of State is still saying officially on the floor of the House that he does not know the full cost of the implementation of this provision. With the best will in the world, either he is not doing his job or he is simply sitting back and relying on the 84 seat majority to run this thing through and not bothering to do this kind of necessary work until such time as he decides to bring in an order. While that may be acceptable to the Government's own backbenchers I can assure the Minister of State that it is highly unacceptable to this side of the House. The Minister of State is making a proposal with major costs implicit in it and he is not giving us one single statistic or fact in relation to what it actually is. That is sloppy management at the best of times, to be honest. It indicates a certain lazy reliance on the fact that the Government have an overwhelming majority that does not require them to do this kind of work. The Department have resources and the time to do the kind of sums that can answer these questions and not have us speculating here on the floor of the House at two minutes to one.

The fundamental point I was making still applies and the Minister has not dealt with it. If this order is taken up—-and we must assume for the purposes of this Committee Stage that it becomes law and it is taken up—is it not true at the end of the day that within a given local authority one estate is going to have a de facto lower tax base than another and that there is going to be a new distorted valuation introduced into [766] the tax base of local government finances on top of the already existing distorted valuations? If that is the case—and I am subject to correction on this and the Minister does have resources which neither myself nor Deputy Fitzpatrick have—is the Minister seriously happy that he is going to introduce an additional distortion to an already distorted system of valuation by virtue of taking up this provision? I cannot understand why this should be and why he wants to do it because at the end of the day the amount of money expended by the Exchequer is a multiplication of the tax rate by the rate in the £1 and if one goes up, the other by definition must come down because the revenue required at the end of the day is approximately the same so we are arguing something less than cash at this stage. We are talking about the principle of valuation. We have no idea what may arise in the future with regard to valuations of properties for other purposes of legislation, for conveyancing and all sorts of other things and we can have the crazy anomaly where a house built three or four years ago would have half the effective valuation as another house built at exactly the same time. That is bad law. It is introducing an unequal valuation into this process and I simply do not understand why the Minister is proposing to do it.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Am I right in thinking that the notional system will continue after this order is made?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The existing arrangements will continue unless an order is made.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Where is the provision for seeing that the full valuation of new houses will become effective immediately when the order is made?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  In subsection (5).

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): When the enactments in subsection (5) are appealed it will affect [767] them. The Minister of State, when he intervened, seemed to recognise that there is a difficulty in regard to urban areas when all the new house development that can take place within the area has taken place and future development will take place outside it. He did not say how he proposed to deal with it beyond saying that he would look into individual cases. Does the Minister concede that that difficulty exists? Many urban areas have been built up recently and many of them still enjoy rates remission but there is no land left for further housing development. This will take place outside those urban areas and in the areas of other local authorities and other local rating areas.

We do not have to leave Dublin city where much of the development is now taking place in the county. The effect of what the Minister is doing might seem to result in the revenue for the city proper being run down while that of the county would increase dramatically. That is also occurring in Cork city and in less dramatic ways in many urban areas throughout the country. What proposal has the Minister in mind to deal with situations like that if and when he brings this section into operation?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  It is our intention to have the necessary examination of the effects of unusual local situations examined in detail before any draft order to implement those provisions is brought before the House.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Has the Minister any preliminary work done on it to date?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  No.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): It is hard to believe that there are not some views held in the Department about this.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  There will be no question of additional distortion between urban and county districts and between county health districts and county borough corporations. The existing arrangements will continue until such time [768] as an order is implemented, if and when it is done.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We have the overall view that it will balance out.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): It would balance out if the whole country were one but when you have completed all the development that can be done in an urban area and when development in the years to come will be in the county how will that balance out? Does it not simply mean that the urban area will suffer a loss of revenue and will not get any compensation on account of new buildings because the future building will take place in the county area rather than in the urban area? How will that balance out?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  It is fair to assume that if an urban area is saturated with buildings that there will not be any new buildings if we never had derating.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): They would be outside the urban area.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We mean outside the urban area when we refer to the buoyancy in certain areas. Buoyancy can be important, apart from the benefits which would appear to flow to a particular rating authority. If we take Dublin city against Dublin county, if they are building outside the urban area it means that the infrastructure will cost a lot more to provide for the new buildings so they will need more money for that purpose.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Is the Minister saying that what is lost by freezing the remission valuation at its present level will be made up for by the full valuation of new houses coming into operation immediately?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Yes, if the order is made.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Yes, but the Minister is saying that when his order is made the loss of revenue incurred by an authority [769] will be made up by the coming into operation of the full valuation of new houses immediately without any remission. When the Minister was absent from the House I read out a memo from Cork Corporation saying that there is no more land for development within Cork Corporation area and that if the Minister brings in an order they will lose out because the valuation of existing houses under remission will not grow and they will get no compensation in the city because the development will take place outside the city. That is happening in urban areas all over the country. What views has the Minister on it?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  What the Deputy is saying will happen in relation to Cork Corporation will apply only in the event of an order being made. At the moment there is no question of making an order. There is provision made if it is necessary in the future to make an order, having examined the effects all over. At the moment there is no intention of making an order so what the Deputy is saying is very hypothetical. An order is necessary before it has the effect the Deputy is worried about.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister is now running away from the subsection and saying that we should not worry about it, that it will never happen. This is an enabling section and I have pointed out the effects of it in some places like Cork, Dublin and Cavan. This is a typical example of what will happen all over the country. The Minister's reaction is to say that this will happen only if an order is made, I know that, but we must, presumably because this is in the Bill, proceed on the basis that the order will be made. Is the Minister now telling us that a uniform order will not be made and that if he makes an order it will apply to some parts of the country and will not apply to others?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  No.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I assume it will be uniform. If it is uniform how will the Minister [770] compensate the urban areas who will lose with no possibility of gain? The Minister and the Minister of State have pointed out that this thing will balance out and that what one loses on the swings one gains on the roundabout. In certain areas there are only swings and there will be no roundabouts. What is the thinking of the Department and of the Ministers on this? It is not good enough to tell us not to worry about it, that it will not happen. If it will not happen it should be taken out of the Bill and the Minister should come back in with an amendment when he has done his homework and he knows what it is all about. As Deputy Quinn said, it is a dangerous thing to have in the Bill, because we know the power of the Department of Finance and we know that the Minister will be simply told to operate section 2 or whatever the section is as from next year and he will do it. There will not be time then to think how to make up the loss these local authorities will suffer. What is the thinking of the Department on this topic? If they have not given it any consideration this section should be removed.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  It is an enabling provision. It is to a certain extent hypothetical but nevertheless enables it to be done. In the event of reaching the stage where an order would be under consideration we would know the effect it would have on the different types of local authorities to which the Deputy has referred and consideration would then be given to the detrimental effects in certain areas. We would not know until such time as serious consideration would be given to the making of an order and the other side of the coin would be the way in which we would deal with the local authorities mentioned by the Deputy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We have spent a lot of time on this point. It is very important but there is a lot of repetition.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It is not my intention in any way to hold up the proceedings of this House but to a certain extent we are being put off with answers which do not specifically relate to the questions we are [771] asking. That is not our fault. If we must re-phrase questions lest they were not understood the first time, it will occupy the time of the House.

We must assume this order will be implemented and any suggestion to the contrary will not be entertained. Deputy Fitzpatrick has already given an adequate response to that. I want to know clearly and unequivocally whether it will result in a situation where valuations of similar properties will be different by virtue of the fact that one property was built after the coming into effect of the order and the property built prior to that will enjoy the remission. Will that happen? Is the Minister happy with that?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  We are referring only to the rates liability and valuations will not be affected. This deals with the rates liability and the remission of rates. We are bringing in a Bill which gives statutory power and effect to derating of domestic dwellings and the other matters involved. I appreciate that it is our duty to try to bring in the best possible legislation. The two Deputies are assuming that an order will be made anyway. An order can be made but there will be changes from year to year. There could possibly be extensions of the Cork or Ennis boundaries or any other boundaries—

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): That has been going on for some time.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  ——and such changes would have to be considered. It might be necessary to consider making an order but it would not be the intention that some local authorities would suffer as a result of that order. Their position would be considered. Due to changes which may occur in boundaries, it is necessary to have this enabling clause.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am grateful for the Minister's clarifications. It is quite clear now that the actual valuation of the property will be as originally set but that the tax base for the local authorities will be different from one estate to another. It was stated that in some local authority areas there are simply swings and no [772] roundabouts. Where is the provision in this Bill whereby the Minister can differentiate between the increase in the rates for one local authority as against another?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Such an order would apply to all local authorities.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Assuming this order becomes law, in some built-up areas where there are swings but no roundabouts the tax base as distinct from the valuation would be reduced in absolute terms. The Minister stated that he would be in a position to compensate for that if such a situation arose. Where is the enabling mechanism for that compensation? It could be that the percentage increase for Cork city would be somewhat greater than the percentage increase allowed for Cork county, where there are both swings and roundabouts.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair feels we should get away from this point. Repetition is not in order. Deputies may not repeat questions over and over again, even if they consider they are not getting satisfactory answers. That has nothing to do with the Chair.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The Deputy is getting satisfactory answers. We could not at this stage assess what might happen in the future. The Deputy wants to know where there is provision in the Bill to compensate those who would suffer. If we reach the stage where it is necessary to make an order, there is nothing to prevent the Government, through me, making the necessary compensation available to those who would suffer. At present there are no grounds for saying that anybody is suffering. It may well happen and it will be considered then. Even though it is not embodied in the Bill, there is nothing to prevent us from making compensation.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I want to register a protest against this. It is becoming clearer to me now why the British politicians who came here in search of knowledge as to how we operated derating went home as wise as when they came.

[773]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  They did not tell us that.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Although I do not approve of it, I can understand the manifesto being published without the knowledge of how it would work, but I cannot forgive and will not accept a Minister coming into this House after 18 months with a Bill like this not knowing how it is to work and not having given any consideration to the effects of this proposal. I agree it is an enabling proposal but it will place authority in the hands of the Minister. It is not good enough to tell us that Cork Corporation could set up a sub-committee to isolate their problems in a month or two. The Minister has now been in office for 18 months and this Bill was introduced over 12 months ago. This is a very important section and it is clear that neither the Minister nor his Department have given any thought to what the effect of this power will be if it is operated. The least that a Minister in charge of a Department and asking for powers like this should do is to tell us what effect the exercising of these powers will have and to say that if these powers are put into effect any hardship inflicted on a local authority will be relieved in this way.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I have said that.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We were simply told to take the thing in good faith. I would like to know where this proposal came from and what the real object of it is. It is more than a tidying up operation. I strongly protest about the way the House has been treated in respect of this subsection.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I disagree with the Deputy. This is an enabling clause. The scheme will change from year to year and it is necessary to have that clause embodied in the Bill to deal with that. With regard to Cork Corporation they have given an assessment that I have not seen.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): I am sure it is in the Minister's Department if it got to me.

[774]Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I do not know which one the Deputy is referring to, but Cork Corporation are a local authority seeking to extend their boundaries, so there could be a changed situation there as well as in many other local authority or urban areas. The Bill makes provision to make an order if it is necessary because of changes which will occur from year to year in the rating.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): That is not true.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Changes are occurring all the time without any derating, and this section enables us to deal with those. In the event of an order being made to deal with these matters the compensatory element would have to be seriously considered in relation to areas that would be seen to suffer or would suffer. But at this stage I can give no definite undertaking with regard to what compensation might be considered, because we do not know and there is no way we can know because of the continually changing scene.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The question is that section 2, as amended——

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): With all due respect——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Deputies, please. We have discussed this for ages and we are only repeating the points that have been made.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): The Minister said that the object of this subsection is to deal with something that will happen in the future due to changes that will take place. It does no such thing. This subsection purports to enable the Minister to deal with remission of rates and the effects of that, and that is why I complain bitterly that no thought has been given to this and no explanation has been given to the House about it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair must point out that everything that has been said now has been said [775] three or four times already and repetition is not in order. Deputy Quinn. We must leave this point.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I accept that the Chair wishes to get the business done quickly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair has no power to push the House but only power to deal with repetition, and the Chair must deal with it.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  In view of all the discussion on this measure and in view of the fact that the Minister stated that his Department did not bother to calculate the implications of this order if it were to take effect——

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I did not say my Department did not bother to calculate. As I have already said, according to the present assessment on average it will work out pretty well over the country. The changing scence is a different thing.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Deputy Quinn. When Deputy Quinn finishes I am leaving this point.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This is the first time that we officially got the information the Minister has just given.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I gave it already.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Minister previously used the phrase “the thing would probably balance out” but the Minister is now telling the House that it will work out equally and that some preliminary assessment was made within the Department. I am grateful for that information. We would have saved the Chair a certain amount of time had we been given that information some time ago. I and Deputy Fitzpatrick specifically asked that question and we were told that no assessment had yet been made. In view of what has been said and in view of the fact that no detailed assessment has been made, could we reasonably infer from the Minister that no such order will be made under this enabling section when this legislation becomes law for at least a period of two years? If the Minister is not in a position to give such an assurance, [776] the least we should have when we come to Report Stage is a detailed assessment of the impact of this, because the figures would reasonably relate and could be very accurately updated from year one to year two, if we are talking about a period of two years. If the Minister is not in a position to give us the statistical implications of an order taking up this enabling section for 1979 and 1980, could he give us an assurance that this order will not be implemented before that time? If the Minister is not prepared to give such as assurance, will he on Report Stage give us the benefit of the resources of his Department and give us an assessment of the statistical implications of this order?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  The only assurance I will give the Deputy with regard to time is that no order will be made affecting 1979. In relation to the future, due to the changing situation I will not give any assurance after 1979, because we will have to take the changes into account to see whether or not it will be necessary to consider making an order.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Is section 2, as amended, agreed?

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): We will leave that now. Will the Minister briefly explain what subsection (7) is about?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  Subsection (7) is an explanatory provision making it clear that the terms “buildings valuation” and “land valuation” refer to the amounts entered in the appropriate columns of the valuation lists in accordance with the format prescribed by section 6 of the Annual Revision of Rateable Property Act, 1860. Paragraph (b) of subsection (7) lists those enactments, which confer an effective reduction for rating purposes on the valuation of certain land in urban areas. These arise in connection with defining the specified valuation of secondary school land and the land attached to houses.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Sylvester Barrett  Zoom on Sylvester Barrett  I move amendment No. 18 (a):

In page 7, subsection (1), line 25, to delete “it” and substitute “them”.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Business suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.


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