HC Deb 04 December 1916 vol 88 cc762-6

(1) No hereditament or tenement upon which was built any building or house damaged or destroyed, nor any such building or house when rebuilt or restored, shall be liable to be valued under the Irish Valuation Acts at a sum larger than the valuation in force on the first day of April, nineteen hundred and sixteen, for a period of thirty years from the passing of this Act.

(2) No building or house damaged or destroyed, nor the land on which the same stood, shall be assessed or liable to any poor rate or local rates from the twenty-fourth day of April, nineteen hundred and sixteen, until the expiration of one year from the rebuilding or restoration and occupation of the said house or building.

(3) The amount of any Licence Duty paid in respect of any licence for a public-house or hotel destroyed during the recent disturbance for the period between the twenty-fourth day of April, nineteen hundred and sixteen, and the date of resumption of trade in such licensed premises shall be repaid to the person or persons entitled to the said licence.


Sub-section (3) is out of order, as it involves a charge on the revenue.

Clause (Sub-sections (1) and (2)) brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The city asked for something, and the Corporation of Dublin very generously met them and said, "You put up your premises in accordance with our design, and if we put you to more expense in erecting premises for your own purpose, we will meet you in this respect, that your premises shall not be subject to increased valuation for a certain period of years." It is in consequence of the corporation doing that that an agreement has been come to such as is indicated in the new Clause. It will not in any way affect the Treasury. The valuation will remain the same, and the Income Tax for thirty years, but this concession was made to the citizens in consequence of the corporation imposing upon them burdens which they would not have had to bear otherwise. We ask you to ratify the agreement, and to say that on behalf of the Treasury you have no objection.


This is a proposal that no land built upon or any house rebuilt shall be liable to valuation at a sum larger than the valuation in force on 1st April, 1916, for thirty years. That is a very strong proposal to prevent any increase of valuation. I see that the hon. Member does not propose to stereotype the valuation and prevent it, for instance, coming down. Really this is a provision which would benefit the owners of these particular properties to the disadvantage of the other ratepayers. It would not be fair to the poorer ratepayers of Dublin, who would have to pay higher rates, because you had given a special privilege to these particular owners, or occupiers. I do not see how that proposal could be justified. It may be that the valuation of the property is as high as it is likely to be for a long time.


That is so, as there was a revision of the valuation last year.


All these exceptions to the general principle of valuation are bound to lead to unfairness to different classes of ratepayers, and I think ought always to be resisted. We have got cases in the City of London of privileged ratepayers, and I think it always leads to friction in after years. It merely means that the person who owns the property and who has a privilege in rating it puts the difference in his pocket, and it adds to the value of the property of particular owners. I do not think it is at all fair as between different classes of ratepayers, and as far as the Treasury is concerned we cannot accept it.


The right hon. Gentleman seems to be more solicitous for the citizens of Dublin than the citizens of Dublin seem to be themselves. This is an agreement and concession made at the expense of the Corporation of Dublin to bring about this settlement. What moral right has the right hon. Gentleman or the Government to try and upset that agreement? I think the right hon. Gentleman's motive was not that which he avowed, but another motive altogether, and that he is looking at the matter from the Treasury point of view. He is aware, I suppose, that if this Clause is accepted he will not get as much Income Tax out of that part of Dublin as he otherwise would, and that he will not get as much Licence Duty out of public-houses that may be restored. If that is the explanation of his action his interference in this Debate and opposition to this proposal is of a rather mean and shabby character. The idea of the Government allowing the Chief Secretary to settle this matter, and then, on a point of small pecuniary importance, trying to upset the settlement altogether, seems to me to be a perfectly extraordinary proceeding. I do not know whether my hon. Friend will persist on the present occasion in proceeding with his Amendment. I would advise him not, but to reserve it for the Report stage, and I promise the Secretary to the Treasury that he will hear more of it on that occasion.


I rather think the Financial Secretary to the Treasury does not realise the fact that this arrangement made between the corporation and the property owners is one of the fundamental bases why this agreement was arrived at, or the difficulty which "might stand in the way if it were not carried out. We want this Bill carried, and one of the reasons why an agreement was arrived at was because the corporation agreed to forego the taxes for a certain time and that the valuation would not be increased. Therefore, I think the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Clancy) ought to be accepted and this matter deferred until the Report stage, so that we may have an opportunity of arriving at an agreement.


I should like to hear what the Chief Secretary has to say on this matter as he was in Dublin. The moral aspect of it would appeal to him, as he knows the difficulties we had about it.


The parties composed their own differences and proposed to provide a solatium for one of them at the cost of the Exchequer and the local ratepayers. My right hon. Friend is here to speak for the Exchequer.


He will not speak for the City of Dublin.


He referred to the proposal to stereotype the valuation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury says that they are not parties to this arrangement. As regards the ratepayers, if I were sure that the multitude of the ratepayers with poor and small assessments were parties to the proposal that ratepayers in some of the best sites of the city should receive a boon at their expense it might influence my opinion, but as yet I have had no such indication that that is the view of the poor ratepayers, and we know there is a very great number of those small ratepayers.


The Chief Secretary knows that it is quite impossible to get an authoritative expression such as he has mentioned from the mass of the ratepayers, but the representatives of the citizens of Dublin in the corporation have agreed to this proposal. I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman of his previous statement, that if we agreed on a plan to solve these difficulties, the Government, and he especially, would be exceedingly glad to carry it out. We have done so, and now he backs out of it. The motive of the Treasury is not the interests of the city of Dublin, but that they will receive less Income Tax for thirty years. What a nice light it throws on Treasury methods that they should be moved by motives of this character in a matter which, as the Chief Secretary knows, excited bitter passions, and was very difficult to settle, and which almost the whole of the citizens of Dublin would regret if it were not settled in some way or another. I trust it will not subsequently have to be said—for the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not fail to hear of it—that after all the Treasury opposed to the arrangement that he himself was willing to make.


Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not aware that in some cases the revaluation of Dublin has increased by upwards of 50 per cent., and in one case of which I know by almost 60 per cent. The new valuation of Dublin alone brings in, unasked, to the Treasury as a police rate £32,000. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should consider that point. The increased rate of the Dublin Corporation has brought in, unasked, something like £70,000 a year to the Government in Licence Duty and in Income Tax. It is not too much to ask, having regard to the fact that the lost trade in some of the houses may take twenty years to bring back, that the property of those people should not be revalued for at least thirty years. If the suggestion cannot be carried out perhaps the matter might be postponed until the Report stage, so that the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Treasury may make inquiries and see what the revaluation of Dublin will bring into the Treasury thirty years from 1916.


Under this Bill the corporation claims the right to have buildings erected according to. their design and there will thus be a considerable increase in the valuation of those premises. If that is done in the interest of the city as a whole, if the corporation insists upon a structure twice the size of that ordinarily erected before, and which will be twice the valuation, in the interests of the beautification of the city the people who are concerned in it ought to have the consideration for which we plead.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.