Friday, 27 March 2020
An Bille um Bearta Éigeandála ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail (Covid-19) 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I thank the Minister for his response. I note the Minister stated, and I assume meant, it is deferral of a payment as opposed to deletion of an obligation. The Government is saying it does not have to be collected for the moment but the bill will stand, existing into the future. Businesses that are shut for two months and are not trading commercially will still be required to pay their rates in the future. The bill has not gone away. It has merely been deferred, which is an improvement over not being deferred but only that.
I appreciate that if this amendment was accepted we would have a problem with paying everything next week but I want to put on the record of the House that plenty of businesses that are shut for two months, in many cases as a result of Government advice or direction, including bars, restaurants, hotels and hospitality, are being charged local authority rates while they are shut, not trading and not generating revenue. This amendment, which I will not be pressing, provides a mechanism. There is no point in us forcing businesses that will go bust if they have to pay rates. In some cases, it can involve large amounts. It could be the difference between surviving and not surviving.
It is important that the Minister and the Government appreciate the significant amount of money that is collected in the commercial rates sector. If we can do other things - extraordinary things have happened this week and we acknowledge many of them are worthwhile - it is important we appreciate all that is being offered is a deferral of the date that the bill has to be paid. I am not asking for a rates holiday for every business or anything like it. There will be businesses, however, that will be hugely adversely affected and in many cases closed, and they should not be expected to pay rates for the two or three months that they are closed as a result of Government advice or direction.