Rent Restrictions Bill, 1944—Report and Final Stages.

Thursday, 28 February 1946

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 31 No. 8

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An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  I have to announce that, in addition to the printed list of amendments circulated to this Bill, we received amendments from Senator Patrick J. O'Reilly to-day at 12.30 p.m. In view of the fact that there was only one day's notice, and that this is the last day for consideration of the Bill, I decided to have Senator O'Reilly's amendments circulated, but it is a question for the House now, in view of the short notice, whether they will be considered.

Mr. Hearne: Information on Michael Hearne  Zoom on Michael Hearne  I would like to know what exactly the position will be if these amendments are going to be accepted by the House. Is acceptance of the proposal to consider them by the House to be taken as a precedent? We have rules and Standing Orders governing the conduct of business in the House, and, in giving voice to my own personal opinion in the matter, I would say that the House should stand by its Standing Orders.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I raised this matter yesterday. It appeared to me to be opening up a very undesirable practice. An interval of three weeks is allowed, after the Committee Stage of a Bill has been concluded, for the handing in of amendments for the Report Stage. Yesterday was fixed for the taking of the Report Stage of this Bill. Members, as I say, had three weeks in which to submit their amendments. I should add that 37 amendments were submitted for the Report Stage of the Bill, and the House spent practically the whole of yesterday considering them. The House eventually decided that certain matters arising out of the discussion of the amendments yesterday, [618] after the Bill had been recommitted for the purpose of taking the amendments, gave rise to the needs for the submission of further amendments to-day; but it was not contemplated that any amendment of substance, other than an amendment which arose out of the discussions yesterday, would be submitted to-day.

So far as I have been able to judge, the amendments submitted by the Minister to-day do directly arise out of the discussions yesterday, but the amendments which have just been circulated—I saw them for the first time about three minutes ago—raise new matter. They are not proposals intended to clarify something that was doubtful, or remove some ambiguity or doubt. They are amendments of substance which will require consideration, and which, in my opinion, would necessitate going into Committee again for the purpose of having them considered. I respectfully submit that they cannot be considered adequately unless the House again goes into Committee for that purpose. I think that, in these circumstances, it would be a very unwise precedent to permit amendments of this kind to be moved on this stage of the Bill.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  I am very sorry indeed for troubling the House in this matter, but I think it will be agreed that the conditions which arose yesterday were rather unusual. It is unusual to take the Report Stage of a Bill on the day after the Committee Stage has been finished.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  The Report Stage was fixed for yesterday—not the Committee Stage.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  Personally, I was most anxious that this, the Final Stage of the Bill, should be postponed until, say, next week. I was prepared to come here any time to consider it, because I consider that the suggestions I have to make are vital and important. In regard to what Senator Duffy has said that they do not arise out of anything that occurred yesterday, I actually read one or two of the amendments yesterday, and asked the Minister to give them his consideration in the interval.

[619] They appear actually in the Official Report of the proceedings of yesterday. Now, I look upon this Bill as being one of the most important Bills that we have had before us for a long time. It is a Bill that affects the lives of every man, woman and child in this country, and I am glad to be able to say that the Bill has been very much improved since it has reached this House. I should like to know whether the amendments I have suggested can be discussed now.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  I am afraid that we cannot go into that matter now, Senator.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  Well, then, I would appeal to the House to hear the amendments I have suggested, and I think that, perhaps, a little latitude might be allowed to me under the circumstances.

Liam O Buachalla: Information on Liam O Buachalla  Zoom on Liam O Buachalla  Ba mhaith liom a rá go n-aontaím leis an Seanadóir Hearne agus leis an Seanadóir Ó Dubhthaigh sa méid atá ráite acu i gcoinne na leasaithe seo a chur á bhplé ós ár gcóir inniú.

Ba chóir dúinn leanúint dar gcuid oibre de réir rialacha an Tíghe. Níor chiallmhar an bheart dúinn tosaigh ar chead a thabhairt d'aon tSeanadóir leasaithe a thabhairt isteach ar an nós a tugadh na cinn seo atá i gceist isteach. Bhí an Teach agus an tAire an-chúramach go bhfaghadh gach éinne neart ama an Bille seo a iniúchadh. D'aon-turas fuaireamar trí seachtaine le leasaithe a cheapadh agus a chur isteach. Ba leor an t-achar sin dar liomsa. Ní bhfuaireas na leasaithe seo go dtí go dtáinig mé isteach sa Teach. Feicthear dom go bhfuil abhar nua ar fad iontu thar mar bhí i gceist inndé againn agus ar an gcuntas sin, freisin, tá mé i gcoinne a bpléite inniu.

Molaim don tSeanad claoi le rialacha agus nós imeachta an Tighe.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  I am afraid, Senator, that the House would not give leave to consider these amendments.

Mr. Foran: Information on Thomas Foran  Zoom on Thomas Foran  Would I be in order, Sir, [620] in moving that leave should be given by the House to discuss these amendments?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  Yes, I think so.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  May I suggest, Sir, that this procedure of asking, on a certain day, whether or not an amendment can be discussed, is undesirable? We had the Committee Stage of this Bill two or three weeks ago, and we had the Report Stage yesterday, although the Bill was recommitted in regard to certain amendments, but that was done by agreement of the House. I suggest that if these particular amendments do not arise out of the proceedings yesterday, they are not in order, and if they are not in order, then the House cannot take a decision upon them.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  So far as I can see, Senator, they do arise out of the discussion that took place yesterday.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  Surely that does not apply to sub-section (5) (b)?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  Some attempt was made to deal with this matter yesterday.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Was No. 5 discussed yesterday?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  Yes, indirectly.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  I mentioned this amendment yesterday.

Mr. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  I do not want to be pertinacious about this, but surely a Senator cannot get up and read out something and, in that way, bring it into order?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  Yes, but the Senator did refer to it and promised an amendment. However, in view of the fact that there is not general agreement on this matter, I am afraid that we shall have to proceed with the printed list.

Government amendment No. 1:—

In page 5, Section 2, in sub-section (1), to amend the definition of “statutory tenant” (inserted by the Seanad on recommittal) by inserting [621] after paragraph (b) a new paragraph as follows:

(c) a person who retains possession of any controlled premises under sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (a), or under paragraph (b) of sub-section (5) of Section 40 of this Act, or”.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Boland): Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  This is consequential on the amendment I brought in previously, and it has to do with amendment No. 6. This is concerned with the definition section, and it brings in other sections. I have another amendment later on which will make this necessary. It is rather awkward, but the definition will have to be in Section 2. Accordingly, if the House will agree to accept this now, I can deal with the matter better when we come to amendment No. 6. Otherwise, I shall have to wait.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  The suggestion is that it can be dealt with after No. 6?

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  Yes, after No. 6, and if this is passed, we can then deal with it.

Government amendment No. 2:—

In page 6, Section 3, sub-section (2), paragraph (f), to delete lines 30 and 31, and insert in lieu thereof the following:—

“(otherwise than for breach of a term of the tenancy) must be a notice of not less than three months”.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  This amendment is to delete lines 30 and 31 in page 6, Section 3, sub-section (2), and to insert in lieu thereof the following:—“otherwise than for a breach of a term of the tenancy) must be a notice of not less than three months.” This was discussed yesterday and I promised to bring in an amendment to exclude all yearly tenancies. I do not think there is any need for further discussion on it.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I want to object to this again. I do not propose to discuss the matter because I do not see any point whatever in discussing it further.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  Is the amendment agreed to?

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  No, I want to be recorded as being opposed to it.

[622] Amendment agreed to, Mr. Duffy dissenting.

Mr. Hearne: Information on Michael Hearne  Zoom on Michael Hearne  I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 11, Section 16, to insert in paragraph (b) of the new sub-section (2) (inserted by the Seanad on recommittal) after the words “immediate landlord” the following words: “of an occupying tenant”.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  This is a purely drafting amendment. The insertion of the words “of an occupying tenant”, which the amendment proposes, will bring paragraph (b) of the new sub-section (2) of Section 16 into conformity with the provisions of paragraph (a) of that sub-section.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  In which amendment was this raised yesterday?

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  It came under No. 14, paragraph (b).

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  Yes, I follow it now.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. M.J. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  I find that amendment No. 4 in my name deals with the same matter which the Minister's next amendment deals with, and accordingly I do not move amendment No. 4.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Mr. Hearne: Information on Michael Hearne  Zoom on Michael Hearne  I move amendment No. 5:—

In page 22, Section 40, sub-section (3), to delete in the new paragraph (a) (inserted by the Seanad in Committee) the words “or any part thereof”.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  The main object of this amendment is to ensure that paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) of Section 40, as that paragraph has been amended in Committee by the Seanad, will not interfere with any right the tenant may have to sublet. I undertook last night, after the discussion on this, to bring in an amendment.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  I am afraid that there may be some misunderstanding [623] on the part of some members of the House as to what type of “sum” is contemplated in the section. I think it was mentioned yesterday that the money is what is called key money. That is what is intended. There is nothing, then, to prevent persons from subletting a premises provided that they do not take money for it. The adjustment that I would make is that the original amendment proposed by Senator Kingsmill Moore be allowed to stand, but that after the word “sum” the following words be inserted, “except a sum or sums asked for or received periodically in the form of lawful rent”.

If these words were added, it would make it perfectly plain that if the statutory tenant has rights otherwise, he would be entitled to sublet and take money for such subletting and the original intention would be upheld, that is, the intention of preventing people getting key money in respect of part of premises which they sublet. The section, as a whole, prevents people from receiving such sum, but there is a certain ambiguity about the word “sum”. I suggest that if these words were added the section would be made perfectly clear and the original intention, which is an excellent one, would be upheld.

Mr. M.J. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  I am afraid that Senator O'Reilly has not quite grasped the meaning of this amendment. On the amendment which was proposed on the Committee Stage it was pointed out that such a provision would preclude a statutory tenant from subletting portion of his premises because, when subletting he would have to give possession. The intention of this section as originally set out in the Bill was the same as that effected by a similar section in the early Rent Restrictions Acts, namely to prevent people from obtaining key money for the key of the whole premises. But in order to enable a statutory tenant to sublet he must be in a position to give portion of his premises for subletting. It has been held in England, on the 1920 Rent Restrictions Act, according to a section similar to a section in our [624] 1923 Act, that a statutory tenant may lawfully sublet portion of his premises provided his contractual tenancy does not contain anything to prohibit subletting. So, in order to allow the law to remain as it is I suggested the amendment which the Minister accepted and which is now before the House. Senator O'Reilly would appear to think, assuming that the Minister's amendment is accepted, that something still remains in the sub-section which would prevent a landlord from receiving rent from his sub-tenant. There is nothing in the section to preclude a landlord who has lawfully let portion of his premises from receiving rent; the sub-section merely deals with giving up possession, and when the words have been deleted the question of receiving rent for portion of the premises does not arise at all.

Mr. O'Reilly:  May I say——

Sir John Keane: Information on John Keane  Zoom on John Keane  On a point of order, are we not on Report Stage?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Goulding  Zoom on Seán Goulding  We are.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Hearne: Information on Michael Hearne  Zoom on Michael Hearne  I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 22, Section 40, to insert at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—

(5) Where, on or after the operative date, controlled premises are lawfully assigned by the statutory tenant (in this sub-section referred to as the assignor), then, in the absence of any express agreement between the landlord and the assignee, the following provisions shall have effect:—

(a) if the premises are, at the date of the assignment, being lawfully used wholly or in part for the purposes of any business, trade or profession, the assignee shall, from the said date, be deemed to hold the premises in accordance with whichever of the following subparagraphs is applicable:—

(i) in case evidence is forthcoming that the premises were, immediately before the creation [625] of the statutory tenancy therein, held by the contractual tenant thereof under a tenancy from year to year or for a term of years or other certain period (not being less than one year), or depending on the fall of a life or any other uncertain event, the assignee shall be deemed to hold the premises from the landlord under a tenancy from year to year, terminable, on or after the expiration of the first year thereof, by either party by three months' notice expiring on a gale day and, subject thereto, on the same terms and conditions as the assignor;

(ii) in case evidence is forthcoming that the premises were so held under a contract of tenancy to which sub-paragraph (i) of this paragraph does not relate, the assignee shall be deemed to hold the premises from the landlord under a contract of tenancy of like duration as the contract of tenancy under which they were so held, and, subject thereto, on the same terms and conditions as the assignor;

(iii) in any other case, the assignee shall be entitled to retain possession of the premises on the same terms and conditions as the assignor;

(b) if the premises are premises to which paragraph (a) of this sub-section does not relate, the assignee shall be entitled to retain possession of the premises on the same terms and conditions as the assignor.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  These are very elaborate provisions. They are merely to secure that a person who gets a premises will not have better conditions than the original tenant had. The provision is very elaborate and I am satisfied that the matter is very well covered. Amendment No. 2 which we have passed, excludes a yearly tenancy subject to three months' notice from the provisions of the Bill. When this amendment was drafted, three months' tenancies were included. The three months in sub-paragraph (1), sixth line [626] of this amendment, was put in on the understanding that a person holding a yearly tenancy of which three months' notice had to be given was inside the Bill. We have, as I have said, passed an amendment which excludes that type of tenancy and I, therefore, propose to substitute “two months” for “three months” in that provision.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  The two amendments would be inconsistent otherwise.

Amendment to amendment, as suggested, agreed to.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Louis O'Dea  Zoom on Louis O'Dea  I suggest that there should be a little addition to sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a). Would it not be necessary to add to the end of that sub-paragraph “but his tenancy cannot be terminated without notice to quit”? If that is not put in, it will not have the effect I had hoped and will not entitle the tenant to claim under the Landlord and Tenant Act.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I understand that he will have a contractual tenancy in that case.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Louis O'Dea  Zoom on Louis O'Dea  I do not think he will. He will get only the same tenancy as the assignor had.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  That is, before the original tenancy was terminated and he became a statutory tenant. The words used are “immediately before the creation of the statutory tenancy”.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  This amendment covers the point raised in Government amendment No. 35 yesterday and my amendment to it. The amendment is in the form in which it was circulated in advance to Senator O'Dea and myself.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 1 again proposed.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  Is sub-section (5) of Section 40 in the Bill?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  It is in amendment No. 6.

Amendment agreed to.

[627] Question—“That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration”—put and agreed to.

Agreed to take the Final Stage now.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass”.

Mr. Kingsmill Moore: Information on Theodore Conyngham Kingsmill Moore  Zoom on Theodore Conyngham Kingsmill Moore  I think that I should be in order at this stage in expressing my gratitude to the Minister and the Minister's staff for the patience, care, courage and consideration which have been shown throughout debates on this exceedingly complicated Bill. I have no doubt that the Bill is leaving this House a better measure than it came to it. That could not have been possible had not the Minister and the Minister's staff given a very considerable amount of time to the task and been in a mood to consider every point put up from every side of the House. The remark was made yesterday by a person who was listening to our proceedings that, for the first time, he had seen a legislative Assembly working as a real organism in which the Minister, the Civil Service and members of the House from different Parties seemed to be co-operating like the organs of one body towards a single end—that of producing a better Bill. That is, I think, what the Seanad was for. That is, I think, what the Seanad can be. The fact that we have co-operated in the production of this measure in that manner is due very largely to the way in which the Minister and his staff have been willing to put their time and attention at the disposal of members of this House in discussing in an unofficial way some of the difficulties which must arise on a technical Bill of this nature. I am, probably, expressing the feeling of the House, as well as my own, when I make these remarks.

Sir John Keane: Information on John Keane  Zoom on John Keane  If Senator Kingsmill Moore had not caught your eye before I did, I had intended to mention how gratifying it has been to the House and, especially to older members like myself, to see the spirit of cooperation that prevailed between the House and the Minister. I have been in the House for many years and I [628] have never seen the House work under better, more harmonious or more useful conditions. Personally, I do not like the principle of the Bill but I realise that one cannot always get what one likes. I hope the Minister will be alive, in the interest of enterprise in the building industry, to the necessity for decontrolling the higher denomination of houses as soon as he considers it advisable to do so.

Professor Johnston: Information on Joseph Johnston  Zoom on Joseph Johnston  I should like to make a few valedictory remarks about the policy implicit in this rent restriction legislation in the light of everything that has gone before, including the very valuable discussions we had in Committee. May I join with other speakers in saying what I, too, had intended to say—how much we appreciate the attitude of the Minister to the House, his genial tolerance of suggestions from every side and his willingness to help in disentangling the scheme contained in a very difficult Bill. I hope it will not sound impertinent on my part if I also say that the Bill has profited considerably by the expert discussions that have taken place in which many Senators participated but, particularly, the legal fraternity whose presence in the House has greatly strengthened its deliberations.

In spite of my admiration for the Minister and my feeling that the House has excelled itself in its treatment of this whole matter, I felt that I was making my best contribution on the other stages by sitting back in open-eared, if not open-mouthed, admiration for the talents of the Minister and my colleagues. Nevertheless I had the feeling that the House was engaged in a kind of Sisyphus task. Senators will remember that, in pagan mythology, a certain gentleman called Sisyphus was condemned, in the lower regions, to roll a stone up to the top of a hill. The stone immediately it got there, commenced to roll back, so that he had to keep repeating the operation. I admired the straining backs and creaking muscles of my Senatorial colleagues and the Minister in rolling that stone to the top of the hill.

This policy of rent restrictions began about 30 years ago. It is a British [629] policy, and the essence of it has been continued under our present régime, and the fact that it is not of Irish origin will, I hope, enable me and, I hope, the House, to consider it with a certain freedom of mind which might not be so easily available if it had been a policy of distinctly Irish origin.

May we inquire, for a moment, what would have happened to rents and to the value of houses if there had never been any rent restrictions at any time during the past 30 years? In the first place, rent would have risen very substantially in the years following the first Great War, and the value of houses would have risen very substantially, too, and there would have been no substantial difference between the market value of a house with vacant possession, and a house, subject to a tenancy, but there would have been a limit to that rise in the market value of houses and the rents of houses.

That limit would have been defined by the cost of reproducing equivalent to housing accommodation under the conditions of price of materials and labour and so on, that prevailed in the inter-war period, and as soon as the older houses had risen to that level, then there would have been a balance between supply and demand, and house values would have settled down at whatever level was determined by that balance. The fact that large profits were made by the owners of old houses and new houses would have stimulated new buildings, and, under conditions of private enterprise, this building would have flourished in a profitable atmosphere, and we would have had a continuous building of houses.

Probably we would have had a less acute shortage of houses to-day than we have had in that event. However, for various reasons, the régime of those days decided that that policy was a bit too strenuous for the community to tolerate and we had the restrictions of rent. If we had no restriction of rents, the owners of existing houses would have made considerable windfall gains, so-called unearned increments, which would, of course, have aroused the envy of their fellow-citizens, but it might perhaps have [630] the effect that the builders would have gone on investing their money in building houses. We might, in consequence, have had more money for housing if we had allowed a certain section of the community to get away with all windfall gains.

But, the policy of rent restriction has not had the effect of abolishing the windfall gains of all owners of old houses. It had the effect of confining gains to those landlords lucky enough to get vacant possession of their houses to enable them to sell them at a higher value with vacant possession. On the other hand, there arose a difference between the value of houses which were not subject to incumbrances. It became more advantageous for landlords no longer to let their houses, but to sell them, and there was a great increase in the number of houses for sale, compared with the number for renting, which tended to aggravate the problem of housing in another way.

Another effect of the Rent Restrictions Act was to divide the windfall gain between the owners of old houses and the tenants occupying such houses, in cases where those houses were occupied by tenants who acquired statutory rights. The rent restrictions legislation, in effect, gave two of the three “f's” to the tenants. It gave them fair rent, or at all events, a rent defined by law, whether fair or not, and fixity of tenure, and I am not sure that it did not make it possible to acquire something in the nature of a saleable asset in the form of tenant right.

It had the effect of transferring a substantial share in the totality of rights which constitutes ownership, from the landlord to the statutory tenant, and, in effect, it brought about a situation of dual ownership of houses rather similar to that which existed under the Land Act of 1881, which gave the tenants fair rent, free sale and fixity of tenure.

This share of the windfall gain which went to the tenant under the rent restrictions legislation, was, in effect, money's worth and it was extremely difficult for the law, and I believe even impossible, to prevent that money's [631] worth from becoming money in certain indirect ways. If you like, you can define the tenant's share of that windfall increase as the capitalised value of the difference between the controlled rent he was paying and the rent he would have to pay in a free market if there had been no control, or, more precisely, you can say the tenant's share of the windfall gain was the difference between the market value with vacant possession and the value of the house sold, subject to a controlled tenancy.

With regard to the possibility of turning money's worth into money, I might mention an experience of my own in which, if I had known more about the law, I might have turned into actual hard cash. In 1918, I succeeded to the tenancy of a small house in Ranelagh at a rent which a previous tenant had been paying, and was, doubtless, protected by the law. The landlord offered to sell me the house for £400, and foolishly, I did not take him on. Equally foolishly, about three years later, I left that house and the landlord proceeded to sell it for about £1,000. If I had been wise, I would have bought the house in 1918 for £400, left it in 1921, and then sold it for £1,000. In that way I could have turned into money this element of money's worth which is one form of gain, and which is partly transferred to the tenant under the operation of this rent restriction legislation.

There is another aspect of this rent restriction business, and that is that it introduces a new element of uncertainty into the whole business of providing houses for renting purposes from the point of view of private enterprise. It is a common-place to say that every addition to the risk that is associated with any form of private enterprise causes an increase in the percentage return on capital which is necessary as a minimum income of inducement to move the spirit of private enterprise. All this rent restriction legislation operates to increase the risks associated with the enterprise of building houses for renting purposes, and, therefore, raises that minimum income of expectation which I have just referred to. If the law goes further [632] than that and says that you may not receive more than 8 per cent. or 15 per cent., or any given percentage, in return for any given expenditure on alterations and improvements, and if the private enterpriser considers that that fixed maximum return is less than the amount necessary to move his spirit of private enterprise, then private enterprise will simply sit back and do nothing, and there will be a paralysis of that element in our economy on which we have hitherto relied for the increase of necessary wealth.

At the moment, besides the additional risk incidental to the fact that the mailed fist of the law has come in to determine the relationships between house owners and house tenants, and has taken the place of the velvet glove of free contractual relationships, in addition to that, we have also the uncertainties which are part and parcel of the present situation in which the world finds itself. Nobody knows what the future level of prices will be in the world as a whole or here in Ireland. No one knows what the price of materials and labour concerned with the building of houses and the like is going to be in the course of the next two or three years, but, some people may quite legitimately suspect that, after a preliminary rise, there may be a fall, or that, after a disastrous inflation, which is also quite possible, there may be a disastrous collapse, so that the business enterpriser who contemplates investing his money in the building of houses may find that a house now costing, say £1,500, may very well be worth only £1,000 or £800 in five or six years' time if there should be as serious a collapse in prices as that which occurred in 1929 and 1921.

I do not undertake to prophesy what will happen, but my hope is that it will be possible to stabilise prices at a level not very far from the present level or, possibly, somewhat below it, but you never can tell. The business man will be justified in regarding this additional factor of uncertainty as a reason why he requires a higher percentage return on his capital. He will require that his percentage return on [633] his capital in a new investment should be higher than it otherwise need be in order to move the spirit of private enterprise.

Let me illustrate that point in relation to a small enterprise which I am contemplating at the moment myself. I have arranged to build a greenhouse. It will probably cost me about £25. If I build it for my own use and amusement, I shall probably grow tomatoes in it. From that point of view it does not matter a hoot whether it is worth £10 in three or four years' time, or £30. Suppose I was building that greenhouse to rent to somebody else as an investment, and to draw income from it in the form of rent; under one of the sections of this Bill the maximum dividend, or interest, that I might receive from that investment would be £2 a year, or 8 per cent. I might reckon that if I let it at the legal rent of £2 a year that after four years I would have got four sums of £2, but equally, after four years I might quite reasonably find that the whole house would be only worth about £15, in which case the element of depreciation would more than swallow up the whole return that I would get under this fixed maximum rate of interest. In fact, I think nothing less than a rent of about £5 would induce me to consider renting the greenhouse on which I have just spent £25 at present prices. That illustrates the present uncertainty that is hanging over all this kind of thing. I think that the same principle operates in connection with the expenditure of capital on alterations and improvements of houses, as well as in the building of new houses. That will tend to restrict the activity of the private enterpriser, because of the rigid limits put by law on the return that the private enterpriser may receive.

So far I have been rather gloomy, pessimistic and destructive in my criticism. I hope to end up on a more constructive note before I sit down. My feeling about this whole kind of legislation, and the control which it imposes, however necessary it may seem from some points of view, is that it is essentially negative, and creates perhaps more problems than it solves. If it kills private enterprise in one sector of our economy, among that class [634] of people who engage in private enterprise on a small scale in building houses for renting, if it has the effect of killing private enterprise in this important sector of our economy, then it is going to diminish the increase of wealth in the course of the next few years, and create a gap among our services and commodities, including the provision of housing accommodation. It is going to intensify the danger of that inflationary situation which now threatens the whole world, for there is no sovereign remedy that I am aware of for that kind of inflationary situation except the most rapid possible increase in goods and services of all kinds. To kill private enterprise is to create the danger of diminishing the production of goods in the next few years unless our economy is so Sovietised that public enterprise will replace private enterprise in the sphere vacated by the latter. Unless this is so we may be in some danger, in our effort to safeguard the interests of the tenant, of throwing out the baby with the bath of water.

I think that we must bear in mind that the policy involved in this Bill must be supplemented by some more positive policy, or else this whole process of rent restriction may do more harm than good. I would have said a few weeks ago that the policy involved in this legislation had produced no alternative except that public enterprise should step in and undertake, as a social responsibility, the whole duty of providing houses for every class of the community. Now that that duty is no longer going to be undertaken by the kind of private enterprise with which we have hitherto been familiar, there is perhaps a third alternative which may take the form of a kind of corporate private enterprise, a kind of large-scale organised private enterprise, different in scale and different in its economy and methods from the small scale operations of the builder who puts up two or three houses, and capable, therefore, of effecting considerable economies in the cost of the maintenance and repair of houses. My ideas naturally travelled in that direction in consequence of having read in [635] the Press the report of a body known as Associated Properties, Ltd. The Minister may probably be aware of that body.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  More especially as one of the Deputies of his Party is one of the directors of the company

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  Oh, yes.

Professor Johnston: Information on Joseph Johnston  Zoom on Joseph Johnston  Yes. However, I should like to put on record some of the contents of the report of that body. The report says:

“Notwithstanding the very large increase in such items during the past ten years no tenants of the company have ever had their rents increased. They enjoy a compact house with two living rooms, three bedrooms, kitchenette, bath, etc., with garden plot front and rere. Service for electric light, power and gas, at all inclusive rents ranging from 16/- to 23/6 per week.”

The report goes on to say:

“On the liabilities side, issued and paid-up capital of £317,886 shows no change from last accounts. A full year's dividend on the 114,660 new preference shares issued on 8th October, 1944, is charged in the accounts for the year.”

This body, I understand, owns about 1,000 houses in various suburbs in Dublin, all of which are let at rents of that kind, and they contemplate building more houses as soon as materials and labour are available. Now, Deputy O'Connor, who is a director of the company also says:

“Shareholders will no doubt be interested in the effect of the new Rent Restriction Bill. There was never any danger that the income of this company would be reduced or affected in any way by reasons of rents being controlled. The rents and conditions of tenancies are so much better than any other property owners could hope to provide, that there was no danger of reductions being made by reference to rents of comparable premises built since the [636] year 1919. There has always been a keen demand for tenancies of our houses, and this fact alone is sufficient evidence of the favourable conditions offered by this company.”

So that, although I had thought at first that private enterprise had been killed stone dead by this legislation, still it would appear that in this kind of private enterprise they were able to pay a final dividend at the rate of 6 per cent. per annum, less tax, on the preference shares and a final dividend at the rate of 9 per cent. per annum, less tax, on the ordinary shares, on the capital invested, for the half-year ended 31st December, 1945, which was quite an attractive return on the capital invested. Now, if I had any interest or any influence in advising the owners of existing property, let at rents, in cases where these owners are concerned only with one or two houses, I would say to them first of all to bear in mind the fact that under this Bill the owners of such property are being ground between the upper millstone of this rent restriction control and the lower millstone of rising costs of administration of property, with the result that in such neighbourhoods as, say, Fitzwilliam Street, net profits from rents are diminishing.

I think that what such people should do is to get together and amalgamate their interests along the lines of the Associated Properties, Ltd. I suggest that 100, or so, of these people should get together and form a company and sell their houses to that company, and set up a large-scale organisation to provide for keeping all these houses in the best possible way. Of course, the owners would be paid for their houses not in money, but in shares; in that way, they would become shareholders in an amalgamated company and might obtain a reasonable return on the capital invested. If you had, say, 100 houses concerned, there would be a capital of something like £500,000 involved, and various economies would arise from that, assuming that the people concerned had the necessary type of organisation and had the proper management to provide for the maintenance of their houses. In that [637] way, they might widen the margin between the gross rent obtained from their property and the cost of administration and maintenance.

There is also another case: that many houses may be carrying heavy mortgages. I think that about 6 per cent. would be the interest on some of these mortgages, and it would be quite possible for a company of that kind to refinance these mortgages at a somewhat lower rate of interest. Later on, when materials which cannot now be imported are available, that might provide the nucleus for the provision of new houses in the suburbs. After all, a housing corporation or association, with £500,000 worth of house property let at a rent, would be in a very strong position to issue mortgage debentures for, say, £100,000, and in that way money would be forthcoming to provide new housing for the Marine Lake or Ballymun areas or elsewhere. In that connection I might say that there are various bodies, even including the trade unions, who cannot get more than 3 per cent., and if you had corporate bodies of the kind I have mentioned starting up all over the city you might get an organised demand for fresh loan capital, which would be a gilt-edged security to large-scale lenders, and which would lead to increased building activities on a financial basis.

I have discussed that question with people of my own professional outlook and, so far as I can see, it sounds quite correct theoretically. The only question is whether houseowners will react to the situation and endeavour to help themselves and the public generally to escape from some of the consequences of this rent restriction legislation, which has killed small-scale private enterprise in building houses for renting.

I hope the State will do everything possible to encourage such development. For example, if the State would allow the sale of individual houses to private housing corporations free of stamp duty it would be a concession, or encouragement, to corporations of this kind. In this connection I would remind the House and the Minister of the American proverb regarding the [638] proper relations between Government and private business. It is that an ounce of public stimulus or encouragement should produce a ton of private enterprise and initiative. I want to see the revival of private enterprise in some form and I think corporate private enterprise is the only possible form for this purpose.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I did not expect to speak at all at this stage, but I thought it might be unfair to the Minister if the eulogies which have been extended to him were confined to those who postulated the interests of the landlords during the passage of this Bill. I do not want to get into an argument with any of my colleagues here concerning the rights of landlord or tenants, but I think it must be obvious to any one who reads this Bill now after it has been amended, that two of the three Senators who have spoken before me made very good use of their time in considering this Bill. My only regret is that before the debate seemed to reach its conclusion Senator O'Reilly did not participate, because if he had carried his congratulations to the Minister I could imagine that when he had finished a lot of salt would have been rubbed into the wounds in the Minister's soul. I would seriously suggest that when the Minister goes back to the Dáil with this Bill and asks it to accept the amendments inserted here, against my voice and vote, he should tell the Dáil, frankly, that a number of things have been done to the Bill which will weaken it from the point of view of the tenant. One of the things we did yesterday was to pass an amendment proposed by the Minister—amendment No. 16— which authorises a landlord to charge 15 per cent. in respect of any sums expended by him in excess of two-thirds of the basic rent of the premises during certain specified years. That concession, he did not enjoy from the Dáil. In addition to that the tenants of small premises, when the Bill left the Dáil, were entitled to go into the office of the clerk of the District Court and have their complaints listed and disposed of free of cost, but now this privilege is confined to premises erected after the 2nd April, 1919. There [639] are a number of other amendments which have been inserted in the Bill which make it less unsatisfactory from the landlord's point of view. Senator Sir John Keane said he would prefer that there would be no restrictions at all, but since restriction is inevitable, he accepts this Bill as the best of its kind from the landlord's point of view.

I would like to ask these people who think that there should be no restriction in respect of rents, what is likely to happen in a market in which there is short supply without restriction on price? Is it not obvious that if you take away this restriction on rent, if there is no fixing of rents, the sky will be the limit? A certain poet one time visualised an earthly paradise somewhere east of Suez, where there were no Ten Commandments. I think you could have a similar paradise west of the Shannon or east of the Shannon if some of the boys who invest their spare cash in houses had their way. Senator Johnston read a report from a particular concern of rather recent growth, which had a very small investment of public money but their assets were now something more than £500,000. I do not want to be emphatic on this because I have not checked the figures but I think the total sum provided by the public was £175,000. My recollection is that each house erected by the company was showing a net gain of £150, and I believe they erected about 1,500 houses. That would give an accumulated profit of £225,000 or more. That was a satisfactory method of investment, but we have now guaranteed them that if they spend any money on improvements or repairs they are entitled, so far as this Bill is concerned, to charge 15 per cent. on that money spent on their own property.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I do not think it is fair for the Senator to misrepresent the position in that way. They can charge 15 per cent. on money spent in excess of a certain amount. It is grossly unfair to suggest that they can charge 15 per cent. on all moneys spent on repairs, and I do not want that to get out.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I am going to quote from the section so that there will be no mistake:

[640]“In the case of a landlord, during a period comprising the two years 1945 and 1946, or 1946 and 1947, or 1947 and 1948, or 1948 and 1949, or 1949 and 1950, expending an amount in excess of two-thirds of the basic rent of the premises in putting the premises into a reasonable state of repair, he will be entitled to a sum equal to 15 per cent. per annum on such excess or excesses of expenditure.”

I am not going to argue whether that is a large sum or a small sum. I am merely drawing attention to the fact of what we have written into this Bill in this House. To some people this may seem a small sum; to others it may appear large but I merely refer to it as evidence of a tendency, evidence of the approach of this House to the problem confronting it. One of the points made here by Senator Johnston at one stage of the Bill—he contradicted it later so that I am not sure which horse he is riding in this race —was that this procedure of rent-restriction was going to kill private enterprise.

Professor Johnston: Information on Joseph Johnston  Zoom on Joseph Johnston  Small-scale private enterprise.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I read a statement in yesterday's Daily Mail regarding what is happening in Great Britain and it is at least as likely that the present British Government will promote collective enterprise in building as the Irish Government will. I do not know whether our present Government is Socialist or not. It seems to me that it is Socialist— baptised in the waters of a totalitarian Jordan. At all events, the Government of Great Britain clearly endeavours to promote public, as against private, enterprise in house-building. What is the result? The Daily Mail said yesterday that private builders had made by far the bigger contribution to housing since the end of the war; they had erected 1,116 permanent houses on new sites in England and Wales, compared with the local authorities' achievement of 352. Seventy-six per cent. of the houses erected in Great Britain since the war have been erected by private enterprise [641] and 24 per cent. by public authorities. There is no reason to think that legislation of this kind, which corresponds with legislation in Great Britain, will have a different effect here from what it has had in Great Britain.

The figures quoted by Senator Johnston afford ample proof for the contention that big profits are being made out of housing and out of building houses for letting. The concern with which he has dealt has been paying 9 per cent. on its ordinary shares. It made a flotation about 18 months or two years ago and issued its £1 shares at 26/-. A considerable sum was involved—about £175,000. The shares were bought up in 20 minutes or half an hour.

I regret that the Bill has been altered in this House in a manner which will make it of less service to the poorer tenants, in particular, than it would have been as it came to the House. I have no desire during these closing stages to hinder the progress of the Bill in any way. The majority in this House are entitled to alter the Bill in any way they wish and they are entitled to get facilities for doing so. I do, however, regret that we allowed a number of those amendments to go through yesterday and to-day without all the consideration they required. When we see the Bill printed, some members of this House may come to the conclusion that it contains provisions the significance of which they had not fully appreciated.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  Senator Duffy anticipated that if I were to join in this debate I should rub salt into the wounds of the Minister. I do not intend to do anything of the kind. I should like to express my high appreciation of the manner in which the Minister met the House, generally, and myself, in particular. His method of approach was the most tactful and most admirable exhibited during my membership of the House. So far from doing the nasty thing, as suggested by Senator Duffy. I wish to thank the Minister for the manner in which he met the amendments which were submitted. I might rub salt into the wounds of Senator Duffy if I said——

[642]Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I have not been wounded.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  ——if I said that the drafting of an amendment to a Bill is a very serious thing. If the amendment is not wisely thought out, it will give untold trouble to the Minister and his staff and waste the time of the House. If there were a competition between Senator Duffy and myself as to the number of amendments proposed, I should imagine that he would win. I did put in amendments which I had taken over, more or less, second-hand. I am sorry that I gave a certain amount of trouble to the Minister in so doing. I have made up my mind that, no matter what advice I get or who gives it, it will, in future, have to meet my own approval before I submit an amendment in accordance with it. Homer can nod on occasion and mistakes are made in places in which one would not expect them to be made. Members of the House could help Ministers by being extremely careful in preparing and submitting amendments. If that were done, we could reduce the number of amendments and give greater consideration to those put forward.

At a very early stage of the proceedings—before Christmas—I dealt, more or less, with the philosophy of rent restriction and admitted that the Minister had to contend with untold difficulties. He had to please quite a large number of people and, sometimes, no matter what he privately and personally thought would be the right thing to do, he had to make sacrifices so as to get the support of the great majority of the people. This question of rent restrictions is a very delicate affair. It affects the life of every man, woman and child in the country, and, therefore, the Minister must be very sensitive to public opinion. I said something yesterday about the ideas we got from the West. I also had to complain about some of those put forward by Senator Duffy. I think that Irish public opinion has got to be moulded before any Minister will be able to put forward an ideal Rent Restrictions Bill. The Minister cannot move too far in advance of public opinion, and public opinion must be trained and educated. We must even [643] forget our selfish interests before we can form a true and unbiased judgment on the various elements of a Rent Restrictions Bill.

Now, we worship, as it were, false gods, too often, and we do not know we are doing so. Senator Duffy feels in his heart and soul he is worshipping the true God, such as that he advanced this evening. Those who have been accused of advocating the landlords' interests may, too, in themselves, suffer from super-egotism and selfishness, and they may be wrong. The idea is to find the happy medium where we have to bear in mind that suffering must be undergone by both sides.

Senator Duffy refers to English conditions, and, if I do not make a mistake, I think I am right in saying that we in this country have gone in advance of English laws in the matter of rent restrictions. The question of consent being unreasonably withheld is covered in England by the requirement that the written consent of the landlord must be secured in the first instance. So far as I know, the policy in England at the present time is expressed in the philosophy of the words “without the written consent of the landlord”. Too often we interpret these words in one way, and one way only.

If we look at the persons of the judiciary and trace up their history, we see they are part of the national history. There has been a struggle from time to time against people owning property. There is a sort of natural bias in the direction of favouring tenants as against owners of property. That has been put in rather vulgar terms by saying: “we are agin the Government”. We have to remember now that we have our own Government, and it is our duty to support it rather than to go against it. I would suggest that Senator Duffy might look up how far we have gone and he will see that we are a little in advance of people outside, but while we have gone so far, public opinion regarding private property has got a very severe shaking. It is my advice to the Minister that he should try to do [644] something to restore the confidence that has been lost since the Rent Restrictions Acts came into force. I do not know how many houses Senator Duffy has—perhaps he would enlighten the House on that matter?

Mr. Hayes: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  Answer the question.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  I have asked how many houses Senator Duffy possesses at the moment?

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  I do not come here to represent the landlords.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  One Senator to my right made an assertion that he owned only one tenancy, and he used that as an argument in favour of his own impartiality. That particular Senator was opposed to the landlords' and owners' interests and was entirely in favour of the tenants. But, taking human nature for what it is, what other attitude can the normal person adopt——?

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  Might I make a suggestion to the Senator? It is a question of equity, not a question of taking the landlord or the tenant's view.

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  We understand what you mean.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  Do we?

Mr. P.J. O'Reilly: Information on Patrick John OReilly  Zoom on Patrick John OReilly  I am trying to put the case for an equity which is, if you like, absolute and not based on references to some particular interest. Senator Duffy expressed regret that certain amendments were not accepted by the House. I am pleased with some of the amendments that have been accepted and I think the Bill has been enormously improved here. But there are one or two amendments with which I am dissatisfied, and it is my regret, and will always be my regret, that the House did not see its way to consider the amendment which I wished to put before it. I endeavoured to cover one of the big clauses in the Bill, and I venture to tell the Minister and the House that the operations of the Bill in the near future will prove that to be a fault, and I would be surprised if the Minister has not to come to the House again to ask that the Bill be amended. [645] I do not intend to specify the particular faults I see, but, again, in conclusion, I wish to thank the Minister for the fine, tactful way in which he received the House, and I wish to thank him also for the amendments he accepted at my own particular request.

Mr. Douglas: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  It will probably be almost out of order not to start by thanking the Minister or praising the Minister, so much so, that he is probably getting a bit suspicious. I do not propose to follow on that line. Contrary to Senator Duffy, I think the Minister deserves a measure of credit that this Bill has been dealt with in this House very much as a Bill ought to be dealt with. There has been very free discussion in which all members have taken part. There has not been that show of power in which after the Minister says: “I will not” everybody jumped into the division lobby to follow what he has said. In this case, there has been the feeling that if there was a consensus of opinion, as a result of discussion, it would probably lead to amendments in many cases. I do not agree with Senator Duffy that there has not been adequate time for the consideration of this Bill. We took the full time allowed to us under the Constitution, but the other reason why I rise to my feet on the Fifth Stage is because it seems to me that there seems to be a very prevalent view—it should not be here although it is, perhaps, understandable outside the House—a peculiar attitude with regard to the position of landlord and tenant. Let me say that it is my conviction that there are few things the country wants more than more landlords. There is a gross and serious need for houses to let. You can buy a house, but it is almost impossible to get a house to let.

You want more landlords, whether they be individuals or companies or as Senator Duffy presumably wants it, the State. Now, the State can be as exorbitant in its claims as we all know, as any individual landlord, and in its charges on the individual. It seems to me that the man or company showing the initiative to build houses is doing just as much useful work for the community, if not more at the moment,, than any manufacturer endeavouring to [646] develop our national resources, or professor or politician, or auctioneer or builder, and is just as much a useful member of the community. The sooner we get out of the old idea that it is a bad thing or a doubtful thing to be a landlord, the sooner we will get into a healthy state with regard to housing. Until we do that we should get further restrictions out of our heads. It may be said that being a landlord myself I am expressing only a landlord's point of view. But my attitude is in common with most other Senators. The word landlord is not liked.

Mr. Hearne: Information on Michael Hearne  Zoom on Michael Hearne  Call him a houselord.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Louis O'Dea  Zoom on Louis O'Dea  Tighnearna na dTighthe.

Mr. Douglas: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  I have no doubt that there may be some such title some day but, in the absence of sufficient knowledge of the Irish language, we must carry on with the old title while trying to get a different attitude towards it. I think that rent restrictions are just as desirable, or undesirable, as any other type of price restriction. It is justified when there is an acute shortage, but it is not nearly as good as a measure of competition. Perhaps, it might be necessary if there were too many houses, but there are not too many houses at present. During an emergency, it is justified—it is one of these things all parties have to accept. If you are not prepared to have some form of rent restriction, like price restrictions in an emergency, injustices may be inflicted on certain individuals, because there will be no balance, and too much money will flow in one direction to the detriment of another. For that reason, I am not against rent restriction.

Some of the provisions of the present Bill are not the best, but I do not agree with Senator Duffy that the Bill is entirely bad, or that it will worsen the position of the poorer classes of tenants. It is mainly for the poorer classes of tenants that you have rent restrictions in an emergency, but, in this case, it is needed in the public interest. In conclusion, I would like to say that this Bill does not solve the housing problem; it may aggravate it. I hope the Government will not imagine that, having passed another [647] Rent Restrictions Act, which will last for five years, they have reached a position of providing houses to let in any way whatever. The most they have done is to control what is an awkward situation due to the want of houses.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Louis O'Dea  Zoom on Louis O'Dea  Just from this side of the House I should like to join in praising the Minister for his great patience and industry in connection with this Bill, and also the very able staff he has around him. The Minister saw from the start that all of us here who raised questions on the Bill did it for the purpose of improving the measure, and for that reason, I think, he was anxious to meet us as far as he could. He did not meet me as far as I wanted him to go, but he met me to a certain extent, and for that I am very grateful. I think when he took out of the restriction clause business houses, he has done a tremendous lot of good for the tenants of Ireland. It is a very big improvement on the Acts passed by previous Legislatures, both in England and in this country. I do not like to take up the time of the House, but I should like to join in saying that we are very grateful to him for the patience he has shown in attending to our suggestions.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  I wish to join with the other members of the House in bearing testimony to the manner in which the Minister has piloted this Bill through the House. It has been acceptable to every member of the House, and he has listened to every suggestion, good or bad. He has done his best to please every part of the House, and he has succeeded.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  With few exceptions.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  He has succeeded, I think, in the main. Of course, we cannot please everybody in this world. I am sure the Minister does not intend to endeavour to carry out that impossible task.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I would not try.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  In the course of the discussion some members of the House [648] have said this is a good Bill. Well, that point of view is, at any time, a subjective one. A landlord may say a Bill is a good Bill if he finds something in it to his advantage. A tenant may say it is a good Bill if he thinks he may gain something by it. This is a type of measure which was first introduced during the 1914-1918 war in England. The first Rent Restrictions Act was passed on the 23rd December, 1915. It contained five sections and it was entitled an Act “To restrict in connection with the present war the increase of the rent of small dwellinghouses and the increase of rate interest on and the calling in of securities on such dwellinghouses”. It was an Act which was passed as a war emergency Act for the purpose of restricting the rent of small dwellinghouses. It was also an Act which enabled persons to retain possession of these small dwellinghouses. So far as Ireland is concerned the Act applied only to houses not exceeding £26 poor law valuation. That Act of 1915 was the mustard seed of this legislation which has now grown to a very big tree. The Act of 1923 passed by the Oireachtas contained 20 sections. This Bill contains 59 sections. The Act of 1915 provided that it should last for the length of that war, six months afterwards, no longer. The Act of 1923, by Section 20, provided that it should last for three years. This Bill provides that it shall expire on the 31st December, 1950. Out of that simple problem of endeavouring to prevent the dispossession of small tenants from their houses and preventing them being imposed upon by landlords in respect of increased rent, have grown a number of Acts. Unfortunately, since then, in the course of this legislation, a number of people with interests have endeavoured to cash in. That, of course, is not limited to this country. It also exists in England, with the result that every Rent Restrictions Act that has been passed has presented an almost insuperable problem in its construction by the courts, and in carrying out whatever may have been the intentions of the Legislature. We have come, I say, to the end of a perfect day as far as the Seanad is [649] concerned, but we have not come, I would say, to the end of a perfect world.

I have a feeling that this Bill contains provisions which are not altogether germane to rent restriction or the retention of possession of houses by tenants of the under-class. Since the 1923 Act was passed, there has been passed here the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1931; and in the impatience of the Legislature for an amending Act to the Act of 1931 certain provisions of the 1931 Act have been included in this Bill, such as the right of the landlord to withhold consent to the assignment of a statutory tenancy. This Bill provides that this consent shall not be unreasonably withheld. That brings in some of the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1931, with the result that there will be more overlapping in legislation as between this new Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1931. Now, I do agree that the manner in which this Bill has been treated by the Legislature is most satisfactory from a legislative point of view. It is somewhat like the old Romans where the people assembled on the hill passed laws and everybody went away happy. I have a feeling myself that within a short time anomalies will be detected but just at the present moment it is impossible to foresee.

Natural legislation is not what I would call a slow and deliberate process. We have had what may be described as last-minute amendments, and these when introduced into a Bill may produce results which might be foreseen if more time were available. I think that, on the whole, a genuine effort is being made to bring the legislation up to date. The task has been a very heavy one and, of course, a Rent Restrictions Bill now is not what it was in 1915. At that time you had poor tenants and rich landlords. At the present time you have rich tenants and poor landlords. The tables have been turned socially upon the two classes, landlords and tenants, so that while in the earlier Acts the Legislature took the view that the landlords were well able to look after themselves, the position has now been reached in [650] which the tenants are better able to look after themselves than the landlords. Therefore the landlords require at least as much consideration from the Legislature as the tenant.

When I hear Senator Duffy say that some amendments have been inserted in this Bill which make it a less valuable Bill, I understand that he means that some provisions have been inserted in the Bill in this House which will make the Bill when it becomes an Act, less favourable to the tenant than it was when it left the Dáil. Even though it may be less favourable to the tenant, it may be more just as between landlord and tenant.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  Will the Senator explain that point in relation to the part of the Bill that we were dealing with— small premises?

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I will explain it.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Michael J Ryan  Zoom on Michael J Ryan  The Minister will explain that for me. I am not here to expound the Bill. That was really not my purpose in speaking, but I would simply say that the mere fact that the position of the landlord has been improved in this House does not necessarily mean that an injustice has been done to the tenant. The same argument might be put forward by a landlord spokesman who feels that the tenant has got some advantage by some amendment in this House, but I think myself, speaking for people who have, so to speak, no axe to grind either as between landlord and tenant, that this House, as a whole, has taken what we may call a detached view of the Bill, and that the members of it have endeavoured, as best they could within the scope afforded to them by amendments or otherwise, to do justice as between landlord and tenant.

This is a piece of legislation which interferes with what I may call the right of contract and the right of individuals, landlords and tenants, to enter into such agreements as they may think fit. The Legislature controls such agreement. It interferes with a certain amount of personal freedom, the freedom of contract, and while doing that it must always be careful that it does so for the common good [651] and in a manner that is fair and equitable as between the parties concerned. I think myself that the members of this House have had these purposes in view in their amendments to the Bill and that they have, according to their lights, done their best to do justice as between landlord and tenant.

I trust that this Bill may, at some time, come to an end, and that the law of supply and demand will enable landlords and tenants to resume their contractual relations. That, however, may be a far-off day. Like the earlier Acts that were only to last for a few years, they have lasted for decades, this Bill may last longer than the five years set out in Section 1. At all events, I am confident that, within a reasonable time, unless we have what may be described as an atomic war, landlords and tenants will get a chance of resuming their former contractual relationships, and that there will be a sufficient supply of houses to meet the needs of the population of the country.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I expressed appreciation yesterday of the manner in which the amendments introduced by me had been met. Originally I had 12 amendments down for the Committee Stage, and the Minister met me with regard to ten of them. I was not met as completely as I would have liked in regard to one or two of them, but then in this world we never get all that we expect. I agree with Senator Douglas that this Bill was discussed in a very wise spirit. Another Bill is to come before us, an amendment to a Principal Act, and in regard to which I would say that if the Principal Act had been discussed in the same manner as this Bill has been threshed out, there might not have been any necessity for the amending Bill. However, that is a matter that we can deal with later.

The point that I got up to deal with on this stage of the Bill relates to the question of the cost of repairs to houses that are controlled under this Bill. That cost is mounting up day by day. It is going to be very difficult for those people who own a large amount of property that is let to meet that [652] repair bill, even with the additions that have been put into the Bill. These additions will meet the cost to some extent, but only fractionally. Therefore, we must not fail to realise the fact that in this type of rent restriction that we must necessarily have for the general good, we are imposing special taxation on one particular class of persons, namely, those who own property for letting purposes. I agree that, in the special circumstances that exist to-day, restriction is absolutely vital, but we should not lose sight of the fact that property-owners, in submitting to that restriction, are making a special contribution of their own, clear and above their ordinary taxation, in the effort that is designed to reduce the cost of living on those who cannot afford to bear it.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I want to say that, in my opinion, this Bill has been very greatly improved since it came to this House. That has been largely due to the help that I have received from all sides of the House, and particularly from those who have most knowledge of the rent restrictions code. Senators who are members of the legal profession have given me great help. In the other House certain amendments were put in which had to be modified here. I think the changes made have improved the Bill. Certain anomalies were shown to have been put into the Bill in the Dáil. These would, I think, have led to some embarrassment if the Bill were enacted in that form.

I think Senator Duffy must be dreaming if he thinks that I want to interfere with the right of anyone to take advantage of the cheap legal provision inserted by this House under Chapter III. No such thing was done here. That was done in the other House.

There was no amendment dealing with that aspect of it at all; so the Senator must be thinking of what happened in the other House. So far as I am concerned, I have no hesitation in going back to the Dáil and saying that as a result of the very long and very careful consideration given to the Bill in this House, they should reconsider the matter. Surely, there is no other reason for Parliamentary [653] procedure unless we can deal with things in that way. In both Houses we have done our best to improve this Bill, but, as Senator Ryan has said, perhaps there will still be something wrong found in the Bill, even after all our care. I think that Senator Duffy actually objected to my accepting any amendments from this House — possibly, because his own amendments were not accepted. In some other connection, the Senator suggested that although Deputy Dillon and myself were not friends, I was prepared to accept amendments from him. Personally, I may say, that we are friends, and however we may differ on public matters, I am quite prepared to consider any good case that is put up to me; but, naturally, I cannot accept a case, when it is not even put before me. However, as I have said, we have done our best with regard to this Bill in this House, and perhaps I might be permitted to refer to some of the improvements that have been made to the Bill in this House. First of all, we have the case of the newly erected flats, and surely the provision that has been accepted here is in favour of the tenants of these newly constructed flats. I think that Senators, as well as the rest of the country, will appreciate that that is an improvement. Another case is where houses have been let at very high rents, and provision is now being made to deal with that matter, as a result of proposals here in the Seanad. Is not that an improvement? There is also the point that the court is enabled now to have regard to the 1914 rent in the case of Section 9 cases, and that concerns landlords as well as tenants. Surely, it will not be contended that that is an improvement. Then, again, Section 43 has been improved by safeguarding the right of a statutory tenant, who owns a business premises or a part thereof, to take advantage of what he thought he was entitled to but which, apparently, he was not entitled to. I think that that is a big improvement.

There is also the question of the right of a statutory tenant to assign his premises. That situation has also been improved. Before this, consent might be unreasonably withheld to the assignment, but now that situation is improved. [654] At any rate, before the Bill came into this House, there were, undoubtedly, certain omissions, and as a result of our considerations here we have made many improvements and, in this particular case, I think that we have done away with the greater amount of hardship. Accordingly, in all these ways we have improved the Bill. I may say that I myself had the greatest reluctance—if it does Senator Duffy any good to hear it—in asking the Government to bring in emergency Orders or restrictions in regard to certain classes of houses, because we all know that all these restrictions tend to prevent or retard the building of houses, but because it came to my notice that there were cases of people being put out of their houses because of extortionate rents being demanded, and of other unfortunate people who undertook to pay rents which, obviously, they were unable to pay, I had to take this action. Afterwards, we will ask the Government to bring in permanent legislation to deal with this matter, and not emergency legislation. It was for this reason that I took advantage of the opportunity to restrict the whole of the rent restrictions code, and I think that that will be a very distinct advantage, not alone for the legal people, but also for the ordinary owners and tenants of houses. From all these points of view I think that, both in this House and the other House, we did a very good job. We also took advantage of this Bill to deal with the poorer classes of people, who could not afford to pay legal expenses and who are frightened of going into court because of the possibility of their being stuck for costs and being left in as bad, or even a worse, position as if they had not got the rent reduced. I wanted to bring in that class of people here, and I should like to point out to Senator Duffy that the way in which we have brought in that class of people was done in the Dáil and not in this House. I should like Senator Duffy to remember that.

Mr. Duffy: Information on Luke Joseph Duffy  Zoom on Luke Joseph Duffy  In this House, in one respect.

Mr. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  Yes, but the fact is that I was quite satisfied that a certain type [655] of person might take advantage of this and, perhaps, might flood the courts with cases under the cheap system and, perhaps, elbow out people who might really need help. That is why I wanted to restrict the matter in regard to these people who lived in tenement houses—mostly the type of people who would come under the 1923 Act: the older type of houses. We did not want to oppose cases coming before the tribunal. At any rate, I may say that we are going to make trial of this and we hope that, if the situation is as bad as we have been led to believe, this will prove to be some advance on the present situation. That is all I have to say, but I should like to say that I feel indebted to the Seanad for the way in which they have treated this Bill, and treated me, and I hope that in any other Bill that I may have the honour to introduce here, I will be treated in the same way. As a matter of fact, I may say that the same thing applied in connection with the Censorship of Publications Bill. Even if there were a little bit of heat engendered during the discussion of that Bill, still I must say that I was met by Senators in a very fair way.

Question—“That the Bill do now pass”—put and agreed to.

Ordered: That the Bill, with amendments, be returned to the Dáil.

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