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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Nov 1931

Vol. 40 No. 13

Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1931—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be read a Second Time. Those who have interested themselves in productive industry in this State or in the discussions which have taken place on many previous Bills understand that our housing policy has been referable mainly to two very important considerations—the first, that with a building industry decaying or stagnant neither State subventions nor official energy nor new laws could remedy at once a serious housing shortage; secondly, that where there is no natural increment in the number of houses being built the pulling down of old houses merely adds to the number of homeless and increases the need. These matters and particularly the trend of building costs since 1922 must be dealt with in what I have to say to you. I must preface my remarks on this important measure by emphasising that the regrettable prevalence of slums is in no way whatever due to official neglect or apathy. On the contrary a policy now shown to be successful has brought us sooner relatively than has been the experience of other countries to a point when with competition in our building industry we are encouraged to further develop our policy by an attempt to eradicate directly the worn out or insanitary house.

From the middle of the nineteenth century it became recognised gradually that it was a proper function of the local authorities to organise and to subsidise the building of houses for the poorly paid classes of workers in urban areas, and especially for the lowest paid workers whose houses were overcrowded and insanitary. In our cities a huge amount of work remains to be done. In our small and urban districts when we compare the rehousing necessary with their financial resources of the urban districts, the work before them is comparatively large. There is now a widespread appreciation of the primary and urgent importance of this problem. It is realised that not only can there be no relaxation of endeavour but that the continued existence of homes in slums has become intolerable. The advancing knowledge of the essentials of public health is adding day by day to this realisation. Apart from that, our obligations are pressing upon us all to do all we can to provide at least modest homes for Christian families.

Attention is sometimes drawn to the fact that the Government policy of accelerating the erection of houses since 1922 has in effect improved the housing conditions of the better paid workers and of the middle classes and that there has been slow consequential improvement in the conditions of the poorly paid workers or of those living in insanitary areas. The present Bill introduces a radical change in the application of State and local funds to the provision of housing. It is, however, a natural sequence to the policy obtaining since 1922, and is a development which would have been impossible without the patient work of the last 9 years. This Bill is designed mainly for the clearance of insanitary areas and the provision of houses for the poor. It does not cut off assistance for the rehousing of the ordinary better-paid working classes, but it leads, we hope, towards conditions in which the well remunerated ordinary working class will not have to rely solely on local authorities or on subsidies for the provision of houses. Many have been restive because of the continued existence of the slum and the slow rate of its eradication. There are complaints that better results should have been shown earlier. What are the facts?

The last houses built under the Dublin Corporation before the advent of the Provisional Government in 1922 were built at Fairbrothers Fields. They were five-roomed houses. The all-in-cost of them was £1,000 each. When subsequently in 1922 the Provisional Government made available £1,000,000 for the building of houses for the working classes, 947 houses were built in Dublin. Of these 848 were of five rooms and the all-in-cost per house was as great as £857. These figures must indicate to every thoughtful person that any successful direct attack on the demolition of the slums could not have been begun either with our financial resources of 1922 or with the building industry in the state reflected by these costs. In 1922 the Government gave a free grant of £1,000,000 to local authorities to build houses. To this million was added an eighth of a million raised from the rates by the local authorities and three-eighths of a million borrowed by the local authorities from the banks. £1,500,000 was thus supplied to revive the house building industry—but the building costs were enormous—the building cost of a five-roomed house in Dublin was £675 and the average cost throughout the country was £635. The general circumstances at the time, and these building costs were such that the Government could not, without serious prejudice to its credit and to its financial reputation, have risked putting any considerable amount of borrowed money into housing, and particularly housing for the working classes and more particularly housing for the poorly paid working classes. The Act of 1924 began the policy which, by means of Government grants raised from revenue and given to private persons undertaking the building of houses, induced private capital into house building. Similar grants were made to public utility societies and later in 1924, when the local authorities had completed their million pounds scheme, these grants were made available to local authorities. The total number of houses where building had been arranged for under the 1922 to 1930 operations of the Government were, by the 31st March, 1931, 24,566. State grants to the extent of £2,550,000 have been made available; £6,000,000 approximately has been provided by private persons; and £2,500,000 by local authorities; a total of approximately £11,000,000.

Throughout, by the careful administration of the Acts, by the supervision of schemes proposed by local authorities, by conference, by negotiation, by unwearying examination of costs, of plans and of specifications, on the part of the Department, we have secured marked reductions in costs of building. Whereas the square foot cost in 1922 was 14/—15/-, that in 1924 and 1925 was 12/6, and in the case of 32 different schemes carried out during 1930 the average square foot cost was 9/4, and the average cubic foot cost 8.7d., reaching on some schemes as low a figure as 7/8½ per square foot, and 7½d. per cubic foot. Partly owing to the reduction in cost, partly due to the more efficient state of the industry as a result of the Government fostering of it, and partly owing to the secure establishment of the country's credit, the Government were able in 1929 to open the Local Loans Fund, and afford State loans to local authorities for the full cost of their housing, and repayable over a period of 35 years.

Prior to April, 1922, there had been built throughout the country 42,023 labourers' cottages. In urban districts throughout the country there had been built prior to 1922 9,022 houses for the working classes, of which 3,367 were in the City of Dublin. Looking back to-day we find that there had been built in urban areas since 1922 as a result of Government policy and Government assistance, by private persons 3,568 houses; public utility societies 1,156 houses; local authorities 8,195 houses; a total of 12,919; and in rural areas during the same time, by private persons 11,084 houses; public utility societies 178 houses; local authorities 385 houses, or a total of 11,647 houses. Those who seek to spur us on to greater efforts may at least derive some solace from these totals, and see in them implied much achievement in the future.

In this measure we direct our policy more definitely to eradicating the insanitary house, and providing for its occupant, and for the poorer classes.

Apart from the actual provision of houses, the Bill deals with four very important matters—the clearance area, the improvement area, the derelict site, which may be required for housing, and the insanitary house.

Where a local authority, after suitable examination, resolves that in a particular area all the dwellings and other buildings are so unfit for human habitation or dangerous and injurious to health that they ought all to be demolished if the unhealthy conditions are to be finally removed, they may declare that area a clearance area, and may proceed to secure the demolition of the buildings in one or other of two ways or both. Either they may purchase the area by agreement or by compulsory purchase order and demolish the buildings thereon, or they may order the owners or owner by means of an order referred to in the Act as a "clearance order" to demolish the buildings in the area. If the local authority decide to proceed by compulsory purchase order the Second Schedule to this Act sets forth the procedure to be followed by them. That schedule provides a simple method by which the order is made by them and submitted to the Minister for confirmation, suitable provision being made for the publication of the fact that it is proposed to submit the order to the Minister, and service of notice on all owners, lessees and occupiers being provided for. A period is allowed inside which objections may be made to the Minister. At the end of that time if there are no objections the Minister can confirm the order, with or without modification, and if there are objections the Minister will arrange a local inquiry at which the objections will be heard. And then after having considered the report and objections he may confirm the order with or without modification, and there shall be no appeal to a court except as to its validity on the ground that it was not within the powers of the Act, or that any requirement of the Act has not been complied with. If the local authority desire to proceed by ordering the owner to demolish the buildings the First Schedule to the Act prescribes suitable notice to all persons concerned of the making of a clearance order and procedure similar to that of compulsory purchase order as regards public notices, objections, inquiry and confirmation. Both those orders will be final and conclusive save that an appeal will be to the High Court on the ground of their validity or that any requirement of the Act has not been complied with. The clearance order will require the vacation of the buildings inside a specified period and will require that the owner will have demolished the buildings and cleared and levelled the site before the expiration of six weeks after the vacation, or before the expiration of any other longer time that the local authorities shall think reasonable. Failure to carry out the necessary demolition and levelling of the site within the specified time will give power to the local authorities to enter the site and carry out the necessary work of demolition and levelling, and enable the local authorities to recover, by action or before a summary court, the expenses involved in carrying out the work.

Where a clearance order has been given effect to any development of the cleared area shall be subject to the approval of the local authority, and if the owner of the cleared area has taken no steps to develop the area, the local authority may, after eighteen months from the date of demolition, acquire the land by compulsory purchase. The compensation that shall be paid for land compulsorily acquired in a clearance area shall be the value of the site as if it were cleared of all buildings, and where it is proposed that part of the site shall be made available for the housing of the working classes there shall be a reduction in the amount of compensation paid arranged for under the Housing Act, 1919. This reduction shall be spread over the whole area according to the formula contained in Part I of Schedule II.

Many areas though decidedly unhealthy are not so unhealthy as to warrant total demolition of buildings but are such that conditions could be improved by the opening of the area and admitting more light and air. Such areas are intended to be dealt with by the method of the improvement area.

The local authority may declare an unhealthy area to be an improvement area where they are of opinion that matters can be effectively remedied there without the demolition of all the buildings in the area. Such a declaration imposes a duty on the local authority who may require of the owner the demolition or the repair of the unfit dwelling houses within the area, and to purchase any land which, in their opinion, it is necessary to acquire for the purpose of opening out the area and giving more healthy conditions. If a person is aggrieved by an order ordering the execution of any work in connection with an improvement area he has, within 21 days of the service of the notice, an appeal to the Circuit Court.

An important precautionary provision is that before passing a resolution declaring an area to be a clearance area or an improvement area, the local authority must first satisfy the Minister that in so far as suitable accommodation is not available for the persons of the working classes who will be displaced the local authority can provide or secure such accommodation, and that its resources are sufficient for the purpose.

A derelict site is a site situate in or in close proximity to a working-class area which is the site of a ruined and uninhabited dwelling, and which has been lying vacant for a period of not less than three years. It is proposed that local authorities can acquire compulsorily any such site for purposes of Part III of the Act of 1890, and that pending this being put to such use it can be temporarily used as a playground or recreation ground. The compensation shall be cleared-site value, less cost of clearance.

Part III deals with unhealthy dwellings, and is intended to enable a local authority to deal with individual unfit houses where they are not so ruinous as to enable the local authority to proceed by way of clearance area or improvement area. Where a local authority are satisfied that houses suitable for occupation by persons of the working class are unfit for human habitation, but are capable of being rendered so fit at reasonable expense, they may require the owner of such a dwelling to do what is necessary to put the house in a fit condition. A person aggrieved by such a notice has an appeal to the Circuit Court within twenty-one days after the notice. If the work is not carried out within the appropriate time, the local authority may themselves carry out the work and may recover the expense of so doing by action or summarily as a civil debt. They may require that the sum so spent shall be repaid either as one sum or by weekly or other instalments, if necessary, over a period of thirty years, and with additions for interest at such rate as the Minister, with the approval of the Minister for Finance, shall determine. If the local authority is of opinion that the house cannot be made fit, with reasonable expense, they may order the demolition of the house, after consideration of any proposals that the owner may make as to the future use of the house. The owner will be given suitable notice, and may enter into an agreement with the local authority that he will carry out repairs which he thinks can be carried out so that he may continue to use the house as a dwelling house.

The Government will provide loans covering in the case of all local authorities the total cost of acquiring sites and the building of houses. Public utility societies and private persons may, through the means of the Housing Act of 1919 and the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, obtain in the case of public utility societies 75 per cent. of the all-in-value of the house, and in the case of private persons up to 90 per cent. The local authorities will have power in the case of private persons to make instalments of the loan from time to time as the work progresses, provided that the total of the amount paid by way of instalments shall not at any time be more than 50 per cent. of the value of the work done, including the person's interest in the site. Up to the present accommodation under the Small Dwellings Act has not been available outside Dublin, which did its own borrowing, and in Dublin this accommodation has only been available to a limited extent. The administration of the Act will cause little expense to the local authority. They can make their own regulations as to the number of instalments that may be made and the times at which they shall be made. The valuation will be carried out by a valuer appointed by the local authority and will be chargeable to the applicant for the loan.

In addition to these loan facilities the Government propose to give direct financial assistance to the provision of houses. In the case of houses built by local authorities as part of a re-housing scheme, whether the houses built are flats built centrally in our large cities or separate houses; and in the case of houses for the working classes built apart from any connection with a clearance or improvement scheme; and in the case of labourers' cottages and public utility societies, assistance will be given by means of grants payable over a period of years towards the repayment of interest and principal. In the case of houses built by private persons, under certain conditions assistance will be given by means of small grants paid on the completion of the house, and through the local authority, and on condition that the local authority pays a similar grant. In the case of housing of the tenement type already existing and purchased by a local authority for transfer to a philanthropic body who will maintain and house poor persons, a grant by way of lump sum towards the cost of acquisition and repair.

To re-house those deprived of their present habitation by a clearance scheme or an improvement scheme in some of our cities it will be necessary to provide apartments in large blocks in central areas. Much as is our desire to do so, we could not find space to erect single family dwellings in the centre of the city for workers who required to be near their work and who are now living in unsuitable accommodation in the centre of the city. Both to provide for those and to use suitable areas it will be necessary to erect apartment houses. Any experience we have had in the building of this class of dwelling shows that the cost of a set of apartments in a scheme like this is considerably higher than the cost of a single family house of the same capacity. In the case of an apartment of this kind the Government proposes to pay 40 per cent. of the loan charge of the all-in-cost of the premises for a period of 15 years, and 33? per cent. of these charges for a subsequent period of 22 years. We do not think that the cost of such an apartment should cost more than £450, and it is not proposed that the Government would pay the percentage of the loan charges on any higher figure than this. Expressed in terms of present worth and in relation to a loan of £450, the subsidy of the State will be £162. It is contemplated that the percentage of the total capital cost borne by the State will be 36 per cent.; borne by the local authority, 36 per cent.; borne by the occupier, 28 per cent.

Where re-housing is affected by the provision of single family houses the total all-in-cost should, in our opinion, not be more than £350, and up to that limit the Government will pay 30 per cent. of the loan charges for 15 years and 20 per cent. for a further period of 15 years. On the sum of £350 the present value of the subsidies will be approximately £82.

And here it is contemplated that the percentages of the capital cost shall be borne by State, 24 per cent.; local authority, 24 per cent.; occupier, 52 per cent. It is contemplated that as far as possible a standard rent should be fixed, and that reductions in the cost of building should go to the ease of the State and the local authority. Where local authorities build to standards above those implied by the figures quoted, £450 and £350, the excess cost must fall on the local authority or the occupier. Where, apart from re-housing, local authorities build houses for the working class, the State subsidy will be given by means of a 15 per cent. payment of the loan charges for a period of 20 years. If the all-in-cost of such a house is £400 the value of the State grant will be approximately £45. A similar grant will be given to public utility societies who build houses under certain conditions for renting to persons of the working class. In the case of labourers' cottages the Government subsidy will be 20 per cent. of the loan charges, interest and principal for a period of 35 years, the present value of this subsidy being approximately £60 on a £300 house. Hitherto under the grant system it has been arranged that local authorities will repay their loans on the annuity system. It will now be arranged that local authorities will repay their loans on the instalment system. This will mean that the amount to be repaid will diminish as the period of the loan comes to an end, the heavier payments will be made in the beginning. Grants to private persons were originally given in 1924, when grants varying between £100 and £50 were given to private persons building houses from five rooms to three rooms. The amount of the grant was gradually diminished until the 1929 Act, when it was reduced to £45. The object of these grants was to assist private persons at a time when building costs were abnormally high, and when the value of houses then building was expected to depreciate inside a few years owing to the expected fall in the cost of building. They were also intended to induce private capital to come into the building industry.

It has been suggested that the time has come when these grants to private persons should cease. This opinion has been expressed by various members on previous housing discussions here. Valuable work has been done in urban districts as a result of these grants. When we look at urban housing conditions now, and particularly in large centres of population, we find that the local authority will be providing houses at anything up to a cost of £400 all-in-cost, and renting them to workers at a rent relieved by means of subsidy. We see that those other than local authorities who are building houses are building between the £800 and £1,000 figure for the most part, and we must consider who is going to build for the person who, not being able to find a suitable house to rent, is nevertheless prepared to pay for a house whether by rent or purchase, the all-in cost of which would be £500 to £600, i.e., a house of a better class than that provided by local authorities. While realising the extent of the work that requires to be done in relation to re-housing and in relation to the housing of the very poor, it would seem that a case can be made for assisting the erection of such houses until such time as the building industry, transferring at least part of its efforts towards the provision of houses for this particular class, shall have relieved the present shortage. The Government, therefore, propose that the subsidies for houses of this particular class would be continued for a short time—the subsidy being paid half by the State and half by the local authority, and being raised out of revenue—total grant, £40—that is, £20 from the State and £20 from the local authority. These persons may have the assistance of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act in respect of houses whose valuation will not be more than £800.

If there be any case for dropping grants to private persons in urban areas, I think the case could not so easily be made for dropping it in rural areas. Rather remarkable work has been done by private persons in rural areas with the help of the Government grant made available since 1924, and, in particular, some of the inequality between different counties in the matter of housing accommodation provided under the Labourers Acts has been to some extent redressed. In the rural districts of Limerick there are 20,688 inhabited houses. Of these, 4,075 cottages, or practically one-fifth, were built under the Labourers Acts; 795 houses have been built in Limerick under aid from 1924-1930 Housing Acts. In Mayo, on the other hand, with inhabited houses numbering 35,345, only 320 of these were houses erected under the Labourers Acts; but under the Housing Acts, 1924-1930, the number of houses built in Mayo is 1,508, or five times those built under the Labourers Acts. This tendency and the desire to improve rural housing by way of example suggest that assistance to rural areas should be continued for a further period. Responsible local judgment will be brought to bear on the matter by the provision that the subsidy will be borne half by the local authorities. Should they come to the conclusion that the facilities which they can make available under the Acquisition of Small Dwellings Act are in fact sufficient to maintain the improvement in rural housing reasonably desirable, then the time will have come when assistance by way of direct grant may be stopped. Besides the State assistance given towards the erection of labourers' cottages, Part V of the Bill proposes to increase from 1s. to 2s. in the £ the rates that may be levied by a local authority for the purpose of these Acts. In special cases the rates may be raised to 2s. 6d. This amendment has been found necessary because certain districts which have reached the existing limit of rating nevertheless wish to provide for additional cottages. About 2,500 cottages were authorised prior to the war, but were not built. Where a local authority has not completed arrangements for the erection of the cottages within two years after the confirmation of the provisional order, they may be compelled to reconvey the land to the original owner. Provision is made in the Bill securing the local authorities possession of these lands for another period of five years. The local authority is also given power to acquire any buildings in a rural district capable of being made fit for habitation by agricultural labourers.

The special facilities for the reconditioning of houses afforded in subclause 4 of Clause 60 are introduced at the instance of the Dublin Corporation. It is hoped that these facilities will now extend and promote the interests of voluntary and philanthropic associations everywhere in the housing of the very poor. Creditable efforts have already been made by various associations who, at their own expense, have remodelled tenement houses, but the heavy outlay entailed has made progress slow. There have been also the truly remarkable achievements of the Morning Star and Regina Coeli organisations which have attained results of which Dublin may well be proud in providing homes for destitute men and women. There is at least this advantage attaching to most of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century tenements in Dublin and other cities—these old houses have spacious rooms and good cubic capacity. Any steps to be taken which will arrest their decay and secure that the necessary maintenance is carried out must redound greatly to the advantage of those whose earnings are scant and precarious.

In discussions at our recent Public Health Conference special attention was given to the position of materials of Irish manufacture in Housing Schemes. We pointed out that the use of native materials should be possible to the extent of 47.3 per cent. of the total necessary materials in the concrete houses, and that if the use of brick be justifiable this percentage would increase to 70 per cent. It has been the uniform practice of the Department to advocate the use of Irish materials where possible and practicable, and it is felt that further progress might be made if some of the home producers were more active in bringing their goods to the notice of local authorities and their engineers.

With every desire to promote home industry and to secure the employment it represents, it becomes necessary, however, to sound a note of warning— All who are sincerely interested in housing must give first consideration to the cost of the house with all the implications to the financial capacity of the proposed occupier, of the ratepayer and the taxpayer. And where in a scheme enhanced costs due to preference of home materials mean less houses a dilemma arises. Take the case some time ago of South Dublin. Here the local authority put forward a scheme for 48 cottages to be built in masonry and roofed with Irish slates. This involved an expenditure of £2,250 in excess of the cost of the cottages if built in concrete and roofed with asbestos slates. We had protracted discussions with the local authority, as it appeared to us that the £2,250, representing seven cottages, should be saved for more housing. We ultimately agreed, with some reluctance, to the use of Irish slates at the increased cost of £600—that is, the cost of two additional cottages. With housing needs so emergent as they are, it is a serious responsibility on the part of the Department to agree to any course which in effect postpones for anyone indefinitely the hopes of being rehoused.

As already explained, the Bill confers extended powers in connection with the clearance of unhealthy areas in which the dwelling houses are unfit for human habitation or are dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants. Areas so cleared may be dealt with in either of the ways laid down in clause 10 of the Bill, and it is to be noted that the powers to provide housing accommodation include a power to provide and maintain, with the consent of the Minister, playgrounds or recreation grounds or open spaces for the persons for whom accommodation is provided. I propose to introduce very shortly a measure which will give local bodies additional powers in the replanning of such areas. Under the proposed measure a local authority may prepare a plan for their entire area or any part thereof, and in the case of urban districts the area to be planned may be extended under certain conditions to include portion of an adjoining area. There will also be a general power for the planning of regional areas. In the cities of Dublin and Cork special regional areas will be proposed. The powers conferred on local bodies will be exercised with due regard to all legitimate interests affected. It is true that there has been little demand from local bodies for town planning powers, but it will gradually come to be recognised that the public welfare stands to gain immeasurably by a proper regulation of the growth and development of local government areas. While planning affects every sphere of municipal activity, it has perhaps a more direct relationship with the provision of housing accommodation, and I am anxious that the new measure should become law as soon as possible.

In conclusion, I may say that I am conscious that the high cost of building must continue to receive anxious consideration from all who interest themselves in the housing problem. Many causes are assigned which naturally reflect somewhat the personal interests of those engaged in building— there are the costs of labour in workmen's wages and hours, output, materials, contractors' profits, etc. In all these matters my Department and myself will remain only too willing to participate in any conversations which appear likely to promote any enlarged provision of houses at prices conformable with the resources of our community.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be read a Second Time."

The apologia that the Minister made in the opening of his statement introducing this Bill, as to the attitude of the Government towards the slum problem, will, I think, not be accepted as very convincing, at any rate in these areas where the slum problem is as bad to-day as it was when the present Ministry took office. That is so in the City of Dublin, and certainly it is so, I believe, in Cork, and I suppose in all the county boroughs and certainly in some of the towns of the Free State. Not alone is the slum problem as bad to-day as it was when the present Ministry took office, but it is worse. Nothing that the Minister has said to-day can, in my opinion, be accepted as a defence for that state of affairs. It cannot be accepted as a defence of the fact that after nine years in office and starting out at the very inception of the Government, and having at its head a gentleman who for a good many years on platforms in Dublin and elsewhere outside of Dublin, spoke at great length on the housing problem, and particularly on the slum problem, the problem remained unsolved. He used the slum problem as one strong argument for getting rid of British control. We have got a certain measure of control here, and President Cosgrave got control as President of the Government in order to protect the slum dwellers. As I told him before in this House, he climbed into power on their shoulders and then he kicked them aside.

It would appear from the statement of the Minister that the Government have begun to realise the magnitude of the housing problem, and the magnitude of the slum problem. I wonder if it is the near approach of a General Election that is responsible for their present change of mind. It has taken nine years to drill into their heads the fact that the poverty stricken people in the City of Dublin are in an abominable condition so far as housing is concerned. For nine years they have ignored the poorly housed people of Dublin. Now with a General Election coming on they wake up to the fact that there is in the Twenty-Six County area, a slum problem to be adjusted and attended to. It is better late than never. Even though late we are glad that some steps are to be taken in order to facilitate the municipal authorities in abolishing the slums.

I have spoken at length from these benches on this question. I have placed my views before the House a good many times before I came in here. I do not propose to cover the same ground again. Probably those who listened to me in the past got somewhat tired of the subject. I am not myself enamoured of the subject, but I deem it my duty to press it on the House. I feel satisfied that the hammering home of this question from these benches by myself and others has had some effect in making the Minister and his Government realise at last that this is a question that must be tackled. I am only sorry that they have not tackled it in the way I believe that a proper solution of the problem could be brought about. Although tackling it now at last, still, to some extent they are only fiddling with it. They are not tackling it in the manner in which a pressing problem of this nature ought to be tackled.

Two and a half million pounds was spent from 1924 to 1930 by the Commissioners appointed by the Ministry of Local Government, and, with truth I think, it cannot be said that any of that money, big as the amount is, helped to abolish the slums. There is not one slum dweller less in the City of Dublin as the result of the spending of that two and a half million pounds. There are as many in unhealthy dwellings, and particularly there are more unhealthy cellared dwellings in the city to-day than there were when the Ministry took office. The question of cellared dwellings is to some extent dealt with by this Bill. There is a proposition there which will enable the Ministerial authorities to go further in abolishing these cellared dwellings, but so far as I know the opinion of the Municipal Council they are not quite satisfied that it goes quite far enough, though they are pleased to see the provision there.

I have mentioned figures before as to the number of families and people living in one-roomed dwellings in the State. In 1913 there were 73,973 persons living in one-roomed dwellings in the City of Dublin, and in 1926 the date of that last census, that number had increased to 78,934. It has gone on increasing since. I have not the figures, but I am told on reliable authority that instead of diminution, the number has increased. In 1913 there were 15,018 tenements unfit for human habitation; in 1928, six years after the Free State Government came into office, that number had increased to 17,044.

I know that there are many in this House who take a serious view of this problem. If that was not the case I doubt if they could have pushed the Government even as far as it has gone. But it takes all the pressure that has been used in this connection, and more, to induce the national and local sanitary authorities to realise the abominable housing conditions in the Twenty-Six County area, and to induce them to rate themselves sufficiently to get rid of that state of affairs within a reasonable time.

A few days ago one of the officials of the Dublin Corporation gave me a copy of a return, indicating the number of people living in one house that is not ten minutes walk from this building. I will quote one example to give Deputies some idea of the conditions in Dublin. The return was made on the 14th July. In the top left room lives Mrs. A with her husband, three daughters and one boy, whose ages range from 20 to 8 years. The boy is in the Free State Army. The husband is a builder's labourer, and was idle from Christmas until the 8th July, 1931. The family was 17 years in occupation of the room at a rent of 3/- weekly. The top right room was occupied by Mr. B, a widower, with two sons, aged 21 and 16 years. They live on outdoor relief, have been 18 years in occupation of the room, the rent of which was 3/- weekly. The left drawing-room is occupied by Mr. C and his wife and six children, whose ages range from 12 to 1 years. They live on outdoor relief. The rent is 3/9 weekly. The family has been 14 years in occupation. The right drawing-room is occupied by Mrs. X, a widow, with three sons whose ages range from 23 to 17 years. One has an Army pension of 26/8 and another boy earns 11/- weekly. The rent is 3/9. The family has been 12 years in occupation. The left parlour is occupied by Mrs. X, a widow, with one boy and three girls, whose ages range from 22 to 6 years. The total income is 17/2 and the rent 3/9. The family has been 25 years in occupation. The right parlour is occupied by Mrs. X, her husband, and eight children, whose ages range from 14 years to 3 months.

The husband is a coal-heaver, and the income of the family is about £2 per week. The rent is 3/9. The family has been in occupation for 13 years. The left kitchen, one of the underground dwellings that has been so often mentioned, is occupied by Mrs. C, her husband and ten children whose ages range from 21 to 3 years. The man is a builder's labourer who, after being unemployed for a considerable time, had just been re-employed. The rent was 2/3. The family were in occupation for 16 years. The right kitchen was occupied by Mrs. C., her husband and eight children whose ages range from 16 years to 6 months. The income was 18/6. The husband has a pension of £18 yearly from the Free State Army. The rent was 2/3. The family was in occupation for 18 years. The total number of persons in occupation was 59. That is not an exaggerated case. There are thousands of houses in some of which there are larger numbers of people in occupation.

In speaking on this subject here and elsewhere I have stated that I do not blame the Free State Government for these conditions, but I blame them for having so long allowed these conditions to continue and to increase. These conditions were there for many years when the Government took office, but since they came into office they have done nothing—and that is the gravamen of my charge against the Free State Government—to meet the abominable slum problem with which we are faced in Dublin. What is true of Dublin is equally true of Cork and Limerick, to my own knowledge, and I am sure it is true of other places as well. We all know that there are difficulties, financial and otherwise, to be dealt with, but a Government is placed in power to get over difficulties and to find ways and means of doing so. Though a good number of houses have been provided, to a very large extent they have been provide for people who could have provided for themselves. I say that the slum-dwellers have been forgotten and have been ignored. Dublin is heavily rated, perhaps some people would think too heavily rated. It has big problems. But I am satisfied that the Municipal Council and the citizens in general are prepared to bear their share of the burden.

I have heard men occupying very high and important positions in the commercial life of this city, men with very big financial interests, speak just as strongly as I am speaking on this subject and clamour for assistance from the Government in getting rid of this problem of housing. They pledge themselves, with the financial interests which they represent, to bear whatever share of rating is necessary to meet adequately the problem of the slums and the slum dwellers. Dublin City needs to be treated with special generosity by the National authority. For economic reasons, Dublin has been almost the only place where work of any kind could be found. It is the only large city in the south and it has been the Mecca of hundreds of thousands of men and women who failed to find work in other parts of the country. Dublin has had to bear very considerable burdens because it is the capital and because, for political as well as economic reasons, its history in the last hundred years has been sad from some points of view. It needs very special consideration and generous treatment by the national treasury. Instead of that, what has it got from this House and from the Government? One large source of income which the Municipal Council had developed—its electric lighting undertaking—was, for perhaps good reasons, taken from it. A revenue of from £70,000 to £75,000 a year was brought into the Municipal exchequer by the electric lighting undertaking. The rates were aided to a considerable extent by that revenue and the municipality, as a consequence, could bear heavier burdens for housing. That revenue has gone. An undertaking, valued very moderately at one and a half million pounds, was taken from the city. I think that the Government and this House ought at least to make up for that. What was taken from the city ought to be made up to the city if for no other reason than to assist the municipality in getting rid of the slums. If they were to get within the next year, or year and a half, one and a half million pounds, they could build three or four thousand flats or cottage dwellings for the families now living in the slums. Even if the question of the electricity undertaking had never arisen, it would not be asking this House or the Government to do too much for the slum dwellers to spend at the rate of a million a year out of the National Exchequer in order to get rid of that slum scandal, which ought to shock our moral sense and which does shock foreign visitors to our city.

This Bill provides machinery to speed up the acquisition of derelict sites, which is a good thing. The Municipal Council has been clamouring for legislation of that kind for a long time. There are 800 derelict sites in the city. Heretofore it has been an extraordinarily costly process to acquire those sites. The Municipal Council in Dublin has had to pay from £2,000 to £11,000 per acre for sites in or near the centre of the city. A case was reported to me not long ago by the City Manager in which the Corporation endeavoured to buy a site, the area of which I do not remember. They got some private person to make a bargain. The owner was willing to sell for £100, but before the contract was sealed he discovered that it was the Dublin Corporation that wished to buy. The Corporation had eventually to pay £1,900 for that site. This Bill will considerably assist the Corporation in acquiring the sites at a reasonable figure. It will also provide facilities for clearing unhealthy areas, speed up the demolition of houses in such areas and the acquisition of sites which the Corporation desire to acquire. In that connection it has been pointed out to me that so far as the assessment of price for such areas is concerned, the process set up by the Bill is not much of an advance, if any, on previous legislation. It is also pointed out that the work of the arbitrator will be as costly as ever. It is maintained by some of the experts to whom I have spoken that the costs of arbitration are far above what they ought to be. In the Third Schedule of the Bill there is set out the machinery to be adopted by the arbitrator. It seems to me to be complicated, and that it could be, with advantage, simplified. It is not as much an advance on the provisions of the 1890 Act for acquiring derelict sites as are many other provisions of this Bill. I do not know whether or not the municipal authorities in Dublin have brought their views to the notice of the Minister. I asked them to do so, and I hope they have done so, and that the Minister will give their views consideration.

I notice that in the part of the Bill dealing with the Labourers Acts and labourers' cottages specific power is provided for the Commissioners of Public Works to lend money for the erection of labourers' cottages. I wonder if it would not be possible to provide power for the Commissioners to lend money to urban and municipal authorities as well? It is possible that some of these authorities might be able to borrow money as cheaply as the Government, but in most cases they would not, and if the Government would authorise or give power to the Commissioner of Public Works to lend money for the purposes of housing in urban areas it would probably be of great advantage. I would like to add to what I had to say in regard to the failure to deal with the slum problem adequately, that I think it is unsatisfactory that greater provision is not made for housing in rural areas. I am not referring to labourers' cottages, but to houses for small farmers or small ratepayers. There is under the Bill a total of £25,000 to be given by way of grant to private builders. These grants of course are subject to the local authorities giving a similar amount. I am inclined to think that under present conditions local authorities in rural areas will not be inclined to give much facilities for the building of houses. There is fairly general depression. Rates are very high, and I think that the provision in this Bill will not encourage, to the extent that one would like to see, the building of houses in rural areas. We know that housing conditions in rural areas, especially where the farms are small and the valuation low, are bad. They are not what they should be. I am afraid the amount of encouragement given here in this Bill, being a very big diminution of what was granted under the previous Bill, will not, under the conditions laid down in the Bill, be availed of to any great extent.

I would just say one word more with reference to the Minister's remarks on Irish manufacture. Of course, as the Minister says, the cost of building is high, wages and the price of materials are high, but we have got to face the facts such as they are, and, even if those costs are high, people cannot be allowed to continue to live in the backward conditions in which they are living to-day. We will have to face up to this and bear with it, to try, as I am sure the Department and other bodies have tried, to get reduced costs in the last ten years, and it should not be an excuse to slow up building or to stop building.

On the question of Irish manufacture, I would say that in my opinion at any rate it is better economy to spend the money at home, even though we pay a dearer price for the goods. If you spend money on materials manufactured at home, at any rate you are giving employment. If you send that sum of money abroad, your people are idle in the meantime. The Minister mentioned the question of slates. Deputy Lemass reminded me of something I had heard, when I heard the question of Irish slates discussed not long ago, that Killaloe slates are guaranteed for 100 years, and asbestos slates are not guaranteed for more than a year. These facts should be taken into consideration when one is discussing the question of Irish manufacture versus foreign manufacture. It is worthy of note—I am sure the Minister and his Department have heard of it before—that there are many hundreds of thousands of slates being exported from Killaloe quarries to Glasgow every year for some years past to roof houses in Scotland. Surely if the municipality of Glasgow or private builders in Glasgow find it to their advantage to use Irish-manufactured slates, they should be equally advantageous here. At any rate, for my part, I would be inclined to err on the liberal side, on the side of Irish-manufactured goods, on the understanding that the money put into circulation keeps people at home and reduces the poor rates. If you cannot give them work, you have to house them in some way or another, and every penny spent out of the country for materials of this kind that could be usefully and properly spent at home is taking the food of life to which they are entitled from some of our own people.

I think, in view of the promises that have been made by the Minister within recent months, that this Bill, in so far as its financial provisions are concerned, must be looked upon as very disappointing, particularly in the various parts of the country outside the large cities. It is obvious to me, at any rate, that this Bill has been drafted with the express object of doing something for Dublin and the larger cities. One has to recognise that in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and places of that kind, the slum evil is a rather large one. It is one that must be tackled, and tackled courageously. I am of opinion that Dublin has a problem of its own, and that the Dublin problem should be dealt with through the medium of a Bill of its own. I am prepared to admit also that the sections in this Bill dealing with the slum problem are a great deal in advance of the powers that were conferred on local authorities in the past, but I am also of the opinion that a great deal of time will be lost if local authorities have to go through the procedure that they are asked to go through under this Bill. A period of six weeks is mentioned here. There is also power given to an aggrieved person to make representations to the courts and to do other things which to my mind will hold up the housing schemes for six months. I do think that the Minister should have thought of places outside Dublin when dealing with the question of housing.

If I understand the Bill rightly it is almost impossible for a small local authority who have what might be described as a clearance area or a slum area to build houses. Whilst there are very bad housing conditions in a great many provincial towns in Ireland, I do not know many places in Ireland that can be looked on as slum areas or that can be described as areas where a clearance order can be made. There are isolated cases of bad housing in the various towns in the country, but if one is to take these isolated cases, so far as one can see under the Bill, the financial assistance which will be given to local authorities will not be sufficient to warrant their proceeding with housing on any large scale. As far as I can see, the position that has prevailed since the passage of the last Bill—I think it was in 1929—is more acceptable to me than the present Bill. I would prefer to see a continuance of the £60 grant and to go on building as we have been rather than to take advantage of the financial provisions of this Bill. I am prepared to admit that what the Minister says is correct, that houses built with the aid of Government subsidies during the past ten years are, in most cases, occupied by people for whom they were never intended. I am prepared to admit that in the earlier stages when the Government provided subsidies to build the houses that people were housed who should not have been housed and who should have provided houses for themselves. The position, however, was that a house cost the local authority a certain amount of money and they had to find people who were prepared to pay an economic rent in order that they could build more houses.

I would appeal to the Minister to withdraw the differentiation scale which prevails under this Bill in so far as the subsidy for housing is concerned. As far as one can see, unless there is an actual slum area and a clearance order is made in the district, if a local authority proceeds to erect houses the amount of subsidy available will only be at the rate of 15 per cent.; and that would make the position absolutely impossible in so far as the local authority proceeding with the building of houses is concerned. And supposing for a moment that there is a slum area and that a clearance order is procured for the abolition of that slum area, in certain provincial towns the people in that particular area—I have a certain country town in my mind—are paying 2/6 to 4/- a week for their houses, and does the Minister suggest that these people would be in a position to pay the rent that they would be called upon to pay if they are rehoused under this Bill? As far as I can make a calculation, under the Bill the rent would be something in the vicinity of 7/-; and, to my mind, it is absolutely preposterous to suggest that a person's rent should be increased from three or four shillings to seven shillings per week, in view of the fact that the tendency at the moment is for wages to decrease.

I was glad to hear the Minister saying that there is some alteration to be made in so far as the Local Loans Act is concerned; but one would like to know what the changed terms are. If it is as I have heard, five per cent. for a period of 40 years, that certainly does not ease the situation, because if houses were to be built say for £230 each—the Wexford Corporation have completed a scheme at £230 per house—and if the cost of these houses is to be calculated at five per cent. for 40 years with a subsidy of 15 per cent., as far as I can see that house works out at something in the vicinity of 9/- per week. Surely that is not any great advance in the housing of the working classes in this country. Surely the Minister does not take any pride in this Bill, the Second Reading of which he has given us to-day, if that is all this Bill is going to bring about. And I would again appeal to him to endeavour to extend to the local authorities a 40 per cent. subsidy all around, because what suits Dublin and suits Cork and suits Limerick does not suit the remaining portions of the country and to my mind, instead of advancing the cause of housing in the country, it is going to impede the progress that has already been made in the various provincial towns. I have had a good deal of experience of housing for the past ten years, and as far as I can see unless we are going to get some extraordinarily better terms from the Local Loans Fund than we have been getting up to the present moment, this Bill is not an advance but a set back The Minister ought to take us into his confidence and let us know what the changed conditions are in so far as the Local Loans Fund is concerned. Under the old terms of an annuity of £6 13s. 4d. per cent. if it is still to prevail, the difference between that subsidy and the £60 grant in the beginning would only be a difference of 2d. per week to the tenant. Certainly that is not anything to shout about.

In so far as rural housing is concerned the Minister has agreed to give a 20 per cent. subsidy off the sinking fund and interest charges on the cost of the houses. Let us assume that a house in the rural area would cost £200—and I think that is the average price of a house in a rural area—at £6 13s. 4d. per cent. taken off sinking fund and interest, the rent would be 4/1 per week. Surely the Minister does not suggest that an agricultural labourer is able to afford 4/1 per week for sinking fund and interest charges, without anything at all being taken into account so far as rates, depreciation, insurance and rent collection are concerned. In a great many cases the wages of the agricultural labourer is 9/- per week. That he gets certain food in addition I am prepared to admit, but he has to try to keep his wife and family upon the 9/-. Surely the Minister is not suggesting that he is doing anything to help the agricultural labourer by providing a 20 per cent. subsidy only for the provision of houses of this class. A great deal will require to be done, in my opinion, before the agricultural labourer will be in a position to occupy any of these houses.

At the beginning I stated that it was obvious that this Bill was drafted on the experience of what was happening in Dublin, and I think the Minister, on consideration, will have to admit that. The slum problem is all over the paper. It suggests that dwellings should be rebuilt to replace the slums. Well, that kind of dwelling does not prevail in other centres. The Minister has granted a 40 per cent. annual grant in order to meet the cost of those dwellings. I am not in a position to say what the Dublin people want, but I do say that in the provincial towns this policy will not be tolerated by the people at all. To my mind it is the setting up of a sort of perpetual slumdom. I think we ought to get away from the "flat" idea altogether. There is no encouragement in this Bill to local authorities to try and secure virgin soil in order to put the people into houses where they will have healthy surroundings. The idea in the Bill is to create another slum in the immediate vicinity of the slum in respect of which a clearance order has been secured with the sanction of the Minister for Local Government. The new grant or virgin soil subsidy proposed by the Minister is only 15 per cent.; and I do think in all seriousness that it is tinkering with the situation to suggest that any local body in the country, in face of the present economic depression, when people are hard set to pay their rates—it is tinkering with the situation to suggest that any local authority would be prepared to build houses with that subsidy. As far as I am concerned, I prefer the old arrangement under which a £60 grant was given, and I believe that to local authorities generally that system would be more acceptable. I hope when the Minister is replying that he will tell us what the changed conditions will be as regards advances from the Local Loans Fund. When we hear them, we may be in a better position to judge how these new financial clauses will operate.

The Bill is certainly a disappointment to me, as I expected a great deal more. When the Minister outlined his proposals at the recent Public Health Conference a great many people were of the opinion that this subsidy towards the repayment of sinking fund and interest was in addition to and not in substitution for the £60 grant per house. I was rather reluctant to believe that the Minister would do that; but that opinion prevails in the minds of a great many delegates who were at the conference, and they will be very disappointed with this Bill. I should like the Minister to clarify the financial provisions of the Bill.

It would appear that it is necessary, in order to secure the full 40 per cent. grant, that the houses must be built in the immediate vicinity of the area which has been made a clearance area by order of the council and with the sanction of the Minister. That may be possible, and it may be necessary so far as Dublin and the larger cities are concerned, but it would not be possible, and it would not be tolerated, so far as the smaller towns are concerned. It is not fair to have the 40 per cent. applied only to that particular class of house. There may be certain areas in towns where, when a clearance order has been made and the houses have been thrown down, it would not be desirable to build houses. It might be not alone desirable, but absolutely necessary that houses should be built a great distance away in order to house the people displaced, and one would like to know if the 40 per cent. is available for that class of house. As I said, apartment dwellings are unknown in provincial areas, and if these people are to be rehoused the local authority will insist on rehousing them in self-contained cottages. According to this Bill, if these slum dwellers are placed in such cottages the 40 per cent. will not be available. If the 40 per cent. were available for that class of house where slum dwellers were rehoused, there would be something in the Bill, but the variation from 40 to 15 per cent. in the case of certain cottages to my mind makes the financial provisions of the Bill farcical and will impede the progress of housing. Now that local authorities have got under way with regard to housing, it is a pity that the Minister should do anything which would interfere with that progress. I hope that the Minister will give us a clear exposition of the financial clauses, and also let us know what the Board of Works are prepared to do with regard to the rate of interest and the number of years for which they are prepared to advance money in future to local authorities for houses.

The Minister and his Department are to be congratulated on this Bill. I hope they will get the co-operation of all Parties in improving it, and that it will get a speedy passage through the House. I was sorry to hear the note struck by Deputy O'Kelly, as he tried to make this a Party question. He referred to the President climbing into office on the backs of the slum dwellers, and he also said that the Government have done absolutely nothing for housing. I should like to remind him that the first year they took office housing was one of the first things to which they gave very close attention. I happened to be chairman of a local council at the time, and the Local Government Department forwarded a communication to the effect that for every pound the local council would subscribe the Government would give a grant of £2. They requested that a rate of 1/- in the £ should be struck to raise a certain amount of money, and said that the Government would give a grant of double the amount so raised. At that time Deputy O'Kelly and his Party were in the wilderness and were not in the Dáil doing the nation's work. They had, however, friends on the different councils, and the anti-Treaty Party on the council of which I was chairman voted against that. "Non-co-operation" was their cry, and when that letter was read from the Local Government Department they said "Put it in the waste paper basket." That is my reply to Deputy O'Kelly when he says that the Government have done nothing for housing. Had his Party co-operated then, perhaps the situation would have been a great deal better. However, they are here now, and let us hope they will co-operate. That is what we want—we want to forget the past. It is a pity that this Party note should be struck in a matter of this kind, especially when there is no foundation for it.

The Bill is absolutely needed, as Dublin at present is crying out for more houses. I shall not follow Deputy O'Kelly in his reference to the slums. He says that the slums are greater than ever they were. I cannot see how that can be, because a great many of the houses that housed people living in one room have been cleared away. I do not know that "slums" is the right term to give to these places. It is hardly fair to call these people slum-dwellers. They are decent, hardworking people, and it is a pity that they are compelled to live in these places. But you will find as devout Catholics living in these places that they call slums as you will find in some of the best streets in Dublin. I do not think that Deputy O'Kelly is right in saying that the slums have increased. A great many old houses have been pulled down and new houses built to take their place. Many of the people who lived in these one-roomed tenements are now living in nice little houses of their own. Of course I know that when people move out of a room other people may come into take their place. We should all face the fact that there is a shortage of houses in Dublin and that many families are compelled to live in one room. In many cases as many as six and seven people, and sometimes ten, have to live in one room. In the Ringsend area I know that as many as ten people have to live in one room. It is very pitiable, but we shall not improve it by bemoaning it too much. We are assembled here to do the best we can to help the Minister in putting the Bill through and to co-operate with him in making it a success.

Deputies have read the Bill and they have listened to the carefully prepared statement of the Minister and to the irrelevant meanderings of Deputy O'Connor. We have also heard read by Deputy O'Kelly the report upon the actual conditions now existing in a tenement house within five minutes' walk of this building. I should like Deputies, therefore, to come to the consideration of this Bill and the housing problem with which it attempts to deal, bearing in mind the picture which they can imagine for themselves, of the back kitchen in that tenement house.

All that we heard from Deputy Bat O'Connor of the magnificent work alleged to be done by the Government, and in the statement made to the same effect by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, must be considered in the light of the conditions that exist, such as this picture which was given us by Deputy O'Kelly, which is—Mr. Kane, wife and ten children, ages from 21 to 3 years; builder's labourer, re-employed within the last week, previous to which he was unemployed for a considerable time, living in the left basement kitchen, for which he pays 2/3 a week, and of which he has been 15 years in occupation. He is in occupation of that particular back basement kitchen for a much longer period than this Government has been in office. He was there when the Government came into office, and he is still there with his wife and ten children, in that back basement kitchen, underground. They live there, eat there, sleep there, wash there, recreate themselves in the confined space of that back basement kitchen of a house within five minutes walk of this building. We should ask ourselves in relation to this Bill, or to any set of proposals brought in by the Government are they going to take Mr. Kane and his children out of that back kitchen, and put them into decent dwellings, where they will have space, and light, and opportunity to grow up in health. If this Bill is not going to do that, then the decent thing is to withdraw it, and stop talking about slums and slum problems, while we have a man with his wife and 10 children in a back basement kitchen, for which he is paying 2/3 per week. If this Bill is not going to give him, for a rent he can afford to pay, a better dwelling, then this Bill is not going to deal with the slum problem, and it is only hypocrisy to pretend it is.

The kernel of the slum problem is the man with a large family. Mr. Kane and his wife and ten children are not in a back basement kitchen because they like it. They are there because they cannot get any better accommodation at a rent they can afford to pay. That is the fact of the matter. If he could pay a better rent that man could get a house, on demand, in Inchicore or Donnycarney, or Cabra or any of the localities in which houses have been built by the Corporation for the working classes. A person with a family of that size has only to ask for a house and he would get it straight away, but he did not ask for one of these houses, and if he were offered one he could not take it, because the rent at which these houses are available is more than he could afford. We are told that this Bill is going to provide an opportunity for a frontal attack upon the slums. If it does it is all to the good, but I say here, if this Bill is passed, and the Dublin Corporation with the best will in the world goes to operate it, no matter how long they try, or how long the Bill is in existence, no matter what energy and ability the officials of the Corporation put into the work, at the end of it Mr. Kane, with his wife and ten children, will be in that back basement, because there is nothing in this Bill to get them out of it. If he is not in that particular basement he will be in some other.

A demolition order may be made and the tenement dwelling in which he is living may be cleared, but this man will not be in a flat or a three-roomed cottage or any other building erected as a result of this measure, because these buildings cannot be given to him under this Bill at 2/3 per week, so that they are no use to him.

Deputy O'Kelly said there was a certain provision in this Bill that facilitated attack upon the slums and because these provisions are in the Bill we are going to let it pass, but we want to make it quite clear to other Deputies that it is our view that this Bill is not going to be an effectual solution of the slum problem. The facilities given in this Bill for dealing with slum areas might be more effectively operated by a housing board such as we suggested in the past than they could possibly be operated by local authorities. But it is well to have them there and framed and to have the drafting work done, because sooner or later some other Government will come into tackle the housing problem in the way we want it tackled, and this drafting process having been accomplished will expedite their work.

Let us try to look at this question from a commonsense point of view. The demolition of the slums and the demarkation of unhealthy areas, the making of clearance or demolition orders and improvement orders must all be secondary to the provision of alternative accommodation for the people of those areas. That is common sense. You cannot possibly clear people out of Gloucester Street or some other similar street unless you have a place to put them. The first thing must be to provide alternative accommodation. No council in Dublin or in any other city or town will dare to make a demolition order or an improvement order until alternative accommodation is ready. In fact, they cannot make that order under the Bill unless alternative accommodation is available. It is in respect of this efficacy in providing alternative accommodation that the Bill must be criticised. Parts II., III. and most of Part IV. do not offer any difficulty. They are, in fact, almost entirely redrafted from the Act passed by the British Parliament last year. We could have got these powers at any time, but they are of no use unless the other parts of the Bill which provide facilities for the erection of alternative accommodation are satisfactory. We have to ask ourselves are they satisfactory in the light of that picture of the back basement in the house in Erne Street to which I have been referring Deputies. I have said that the kernel of the problem is the man with the large family. When Deputy O'Kelly was referring to this particular tenement, I was struck by the fact that the higher priced rooms were occupied by the fewest people and the lowest priced rooms were occupied by the most people; that the man with two sons is able to pay 3/9 a week, that the man with 10 children could only pay 2/3; that the one was at the top of the house where he got air, and the other was somewhere in the basement, with ten children, where he got no air. It is obvious that an employed man can afford to pay for adequate housing accommodation so long as he has no children and that the larger a man's family becomes the smaller is the amount he can afford to pay in rent.

That consideration would suggest that the State assistance to housing should take the form of a subsidy for rents rather than the giving of a flat rate subsidy to a local authority merely to get the building done. The Minister has said that the policy enshrined in this Bill has been that of the standard rent. We can discuss in a minute what the standard rent is to be. I think that that is fundamental, and that we should devise a system by which a rebate in rent would be given to each tenant in proportion to the size of his family. If you do not do that, you are going to leave the worst part of the slum problem unsolved. You will leave the man with the large family in the position in which he is at present, whereas the man with a small family and a relatively larger income will be able to avail of your Bill; but the children—and it is the children whom we want to get out of the slums—will be still in them.

I have said that a great part of this Bill is a redraft of the British Act, but in respect to the manner in which the subsidy is given the British Act was better than this. We have departed from the provisions of the British Act in that respect. The British Act does encourage, in the manner in which the subsidy is given, the local authority to seek to remove from the slums the large family. The subsidy takes the form of an annual payment varying from 45s. to 70s. per week multiplied by the number of persons of the working classes whose displacement has been shown, to the satisfaction of the Minister, to be rendered necessary by the action by the local authority under the Bill. It is obviously to the interest of the local authority to seek to displace the larger family, because the larger a family the larger the subsidy they get. The British Act was not worked in the manner in which our Act does work, but nevertheless it is an improvement.

Let me repeat that a man with a large family is the kernel of the problem in this House or other Houses. The man with nine or ten children is in the basement, the lower-priced rooms; and as the family gets smaller, the rent which he can pay becomes larger, and consequently the accommodation can be improved. Our legislation should be directed to taking the man with the larger family out of the slums, and we cannot do that unless we have some system by which we can assist him to pay the rent. We have got to consider the rent to be charged under this particular Bill. The Minister has said that a three-roomed flat would cost £450, and that a three-roomed cottage could be built for £350. I do not want to raise the old debate as to whether we should seek to provide three or four-roomed dwellings. I am strongly of the opinion that if we are to tackle the problem we should tackle it on right lines, and that a three-roomed dwelling is not the right kind. You cannot imagine any distribution of a family of six or eight in a three-roomed dwelling which will permit them to live under decent conditions. The limit should be a four-roomed house. We should be prepared to give a subsidy or in some other way to enable a four-roomed dwelling to be provided at least at the rent which a three-roomed dwelling could be provided under this Bill. If we set out to build three-roomed cottages in the City of Dublin in the next few years and put in them denizens of the slums, we will find ourselves in the position that we will have to start the whole thing over again to provide larger accommodation.

The recognised method of calculation referred to in the Census Report is that any house with more than two persons per room must be described as overcrowded and that any family of six, seven or eight in a three-roomed house are living in what are described as overcrowded conditions. However, this Bill contemplates the three-roomed flat. The Minister has in fact stated that the Government assistance will be given on that understanding. The £450 flat is a three-roomed flat. The £350 cottage is a three-roomed cottage, and if the local authority wants to provide better accommodation they must finance it out of the rates. The Government assistance is to be granted on that basis. The total annual expenditure in respect of the £450 flat would be £40 10s., and the Government is going to subsidise that to the extent of £11 8s., leaving £29 2s. per year, or 11/2 per week, to be found in rent and rates. Consequently, the rent to be paid for a three-roomed flat as provided is 11/2 per week. Is what the local authority will contribute towards that to be levied on the rates? Let us consider the case of Mrs. Kane, who has three children and who is living in a back room in Erne Street, for which she is paying 2/- or 3/- per week, and who wishes to get a three-roomed flat. Will the Minister or anyone else go in to Mrs. Kane and say: "At long last the problem is solved. We are taking you out of this back basement kitchen where you are living with your three children and we are going to give you a lovely three-roomed flat." Mrs. Kane will be delighted about that, but when you tell her that the rent may be 11/2, but certainly will net be less than 6/-, 7/- or 8/-, you will hear what she has to say, and you will be convinced that that is not a solution of the housing problem as far as Mrs. Kane, or any other occupant of a slum dwelling is concerned. We are told that the total annual expenditure in respect of a £350 cottage will be £34 3s. 4d. and that the Government contribution will be £6 13s., leaving £27 10s. 4d., or 10/7 per week to be found rom rent unless the local authority is willing to subsidise the rent. The amount of help the local authority can give in the way of subsidy to rent is, of course, strictly limited.

The man with a family who is earning £2 a week, even if he is earning that regularly, cannot pay more than 3/- or 4/- or 5/- per week in accordance with the size of his family, for rent, and any solution of the housing problem that will not provide accommodation for him at that figure is bound to fail. If the Government want this policy to be operative it should so regulate the facilities and the subsidies which it gives the local authorities that they will be able to let them at these figures and vary the rents per dwelling in proportion to the number of people in the family. You are bound to fail if you attempt it on any other lines in so far as you will still leave in the slums the people with the families whom you want to get out of it, for the simple reason that they cannot pay the rents you must charge for these flats or cottages. These people in the three-roomed houses in Erne Street, in relation to whom this scheme was submitted, are paying from 2/3 to 3/9 per week, and they will remain in these tenements paying that rent in preference to paying for your flats 7/- or 10/- a week, because they can do nothing else.

We have been discussing this Act in relation to the man with £2 a week income and who can set aside 4/- or 5/- a week for rent: but let us consider it in relation to the man who is not employed, or has only casual work. What are you going to do with him? He is making the slums. You cannot provide houses for him. Then you will not abolish the slums, no matter how many demolition orders you will make.

Those who talk about the responsibility of the Government and about our Christian duty as individuals to eliminate hardships and miseries wherever they exist should bear in mind that unless you can eliminate that difficulty and provide accommodation for the man with a family at a rent that he can pay, all your talk must sound to those people as so much blatant hypocrisy. Deputy O'Connor's remarks provoked me into commencing this speech in the middle. I think it is necessary that we should examine this particular Bill in the light of the part which it plays in the whole Government housing policy. We have had to give the Government housing policy some consideration here from time to time. It is, as Deputies know, based upon the local authority. It consists of providing legislative facilities and subsidies for local authorities to enable them to deal with housing conditions in their areas if they are so employed.

That policy has two chief defects. First, it has no driving force behind it. It depends upon too many factors to make it operative. There is no reason whatever why it should procure the erection of a single house unless public opinion in the area of the local authorities is sufficiently aroused to overcome the natural objection of the ratepayers to the expenditure of money and force that authority to proceed with the erection of houses. The second defect heretofore has been that it entirely ignores the existence of the slums. As the Minister for Local Government and Public Health has been telling us, however, that policy has been partly successful in dealing with a section of the housing problem. It has resulted in the erection of some 20,000 houses. These are mainly five-roomed dwellings for the lower middle class. These have been erected since 1923. It is probably safe to assume that not half of that number of houses would have been erected if the Government had no policy at all.

As Deputy O'Kelly, however, has been telling the House, the Government policy has failed heretofore entirely to touch the slums. Originally the Government had an idea that if they built a sufficient number of houses for the upper and lower middle classes that the pressure upon the slums would be eased and that the housing problems and the slum problems would settle themselves. They have, however, since discovered that that policy was not effective. Instead of the pressure upon the slums being eased, the number of people in the slums is increasing and the number of unsuitable slum dwellings is increasing. In fact, the magnitude of the problem and the fact that the Government policy has only touched the fringe can best be indicated by quoting the Census figures, which will show that in 1926 two-thirds of the entire population of this State were living in dwellings of less than five rooms. The Government's policy has been mainly successful in procuring the erection of five-roomed dwellings. The number of people living in houses of less than five rooms in 1926 was 21,700, and approximately 8,900 five-roomed houses have since been erected.

Before I go on to criticise in detail the provisions of this Bill, we have got to consider the general policy enshrined in it and to ask ourselves is there an alternative policy. As Deputies know, we on these benches have been advocating an alternative policy in season and out of season. That is a policy which has the support of the Labour Party and the support of such bodies interested in housing and housing affairs as the Civics Institute. In order to get our minds clear upon these matters, there are certain questions which must be asked and answered. The first of these questions is why assistance on the part of the State or the local authorities should be given to housing at all. Is there any special reason why the State should set out to assist people to get houses rather than that the State should assist them to get clothing or food and so on? It is obvious that there are such reasons. The fact is that this State came into existence with a serious housing deficiency which has not yet been made good. The second reason is that the building costs are so high that private enterprise cannot provide houses at the rents that the working classes are able to pay. Now there is a special obligation upon the Government to make good the housing deficiency which was found there when it came into existence. That obligation it sidestepped by throwing the responsibility upon the local authorities, who have not the resources to carry it out. The provision of houses for the working classes is a social service. We have some social services which are financed by and administered by the local authorities and some are directly controlled by the State. It is merely a matter of getting the system which is best suited to meet conditions, and it seems to us clear that the social services of providing houses for the working classes can be conducted more efficiently and economically by the State rather than by the local authorities.

I think it will be generally agreed that if our housing policy is to be effective there is to be a systematic planning of some kind. You cannot have that systematic planning if the provision of housing is left to the spasmodic efforts of the local authority. The system we have been advocating is to give to the State power to engage directly in the erection of houses, exercising that power through a State Department or through a board established by the Government. We think that it is a national duty to make good the housing deficiency and to provide living accommodation for our working classes. That is an obligation which the State should not seek to avoid by passing it on to the local authorities. If a State Department or State housing board were established to deal with this particular part of the housing problem, several immediate advantages would be realised.

That board could review the situation as a whole and prepare a national plan to deal with it. Such national plan does not now exist. It could secure a substantial reduction in building costs in a variety of ways. It could guarantee permanent employment to building operatives for a long period of years and thus secure an increased output. At the present time we know that a number of building trade workers are unemployed, and that number is rapidly increasing. Undoubtedly the number idle now, as compared with 1926 or 1927, has increased. It is the ever-present fear of unemployment in the minds of those workers which makes it impossible for us to get from them the same services as we might get if they were certain of regular, well-paid, whole-time employment. A State housing authority contracting for supplies in large quantities for a number of years ahead would result in a considerable reduction in the cost of building materials and an increase in output. In this way, too, there would be promoted competition with imported materials, and thus employment would be given in other ways.

The Minister for Local Government referred to the higher rates which must be paid for native materials, and stated that the higher costs are largely due to the fact that there is not available here the regular market which exists in other countries. A State housing authority which could estimate over a long period the quantity of materials required could place orders with native producers of these materials which would permit them to produce them at prices which would be, at least, as low as, if not lower, than the prices we are now paying for imported materials, generally of inferior quality. There are other ways in which a central housing authority could eliminate costs which must be borne by local authorities and thus reduce the price at which houses could be made available or the subsidy which must be given from State funds under present conditions.

We have to consider the Bill that is before us. I am sure that Deputies who read it, and who subsequently read the English Bill, of which it is mainly a redraft, will have come to the conclusion that there are some outstanding defects in it. Its main characteristic is that it is left entirely to the local authorities to decide whether or not they will avail of its provisions. The English Act was not perfect in that respect, but it did require that local authorities should make a five-years housing plan and submit same to the Ministry: that it should in each five years review the housing position in each area, make a definite plan for dealing with the position and submit that for Ministerial approval. The Minister had power to require a local authority to make that review at any time, if he was not satisfied that the authority was making sufficient progress. In this Bill that particular section has been deleted. It must have been deleted of deliberate intent, because the parts of the British Bill that preceded that section, and the parts that followed it, are not in this Bill. There was substituted for the provisions in the British Bill a mere provi sion in Section 27, which says:

It shall be the duty of every local authority to cause an inspection of their district to be made from time to time with a view to ascertaining whether any dwelling house therein is unfit for human habitation....

That is not worth the ink with which it is printed. The only force operating upon local authorities, and which will continue to operate on them, if this Bill is passed, is the force of public opinion, and it is very difficult to know what the force of public opinion is in relation to housing. Speaking on the matter recently, Right Rev. Dr. Gregg, the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, appeared to be quite optimistic. Referring to the housing question, as reported in the Press of 23rd October, he said:

...the apparent hopelessness of dealing with it effectively, the patience of the poor, and over famili arity with it, has led to it being shelved again and again. But it would seem as if the shame of the slums had forced itself upon the public conscience, and a real deter mination to end a public scandal had been born.

I do not know if we can all feel precisely the same degree of optimism. The ratepayer who has to pay for slum clearance and re-housing is sceptical of the use of helping the slum dweller. You will meet people, otherwise sensible, who will tell you that money spent on slum clearance and re-housing the slum dweller is largely wasted. They will tell you that those who live in the slums will, when they enter the other houses, take in lodgers, put the coals in the bath and things like that. Until we can meet and counteract that argument and show that a person who has lived all his life in the slums is capable of being taught how to care for property, we will not get the full force of public opinion bearing upon this problem. I think there is an opportunity here to teach them. When a clearance order is made, and a building demolished, some temporary accommodation must be provided for the people who have been deprived of their dwelling, until new accommodation is available. It is possible to use that period of temporary accommodation in training and instructing the people how to care for the new homes that are to be made available. The Minister for Local Government went to Holland last year, and when he came back he announced the housing policy that was going to be devised. Most of us thought that he had become enthusiastic about the Dutch system, because the Dutch certainly brought that system of inserting an intermediate stage between the taking of the people from the slums and the final installation in new dwellings to a fine art. Families are removed from slums to dwellings where there are instructors and other people capable of training and educating them. From time to time they are promoted, as it were, into the final dwellings. In certain English cities they are adopting the same practice with greater or lesser success—in Glasgow, Bristol and districts around London. Whether that system would be suitable to the Irish character I do not know, but some attempt of the kind might be made.

Did the Deputy ever inquire about it?

What was the result of his inquiry?

The result was that in certain English cities it was very successful.

And in Ireland?

I am not certain if it was tried in Ireland.

The President knows more about it than I know. Any such system would help to overcome the public apathy that exists with regard to the slum problem. I am not denying that everyone you meet will sympathise with the poor and express the pious sentiment that something should be done to help them. But when you come to ask them to put up the money to enable that help to be given, they will begin to question the efficacy of your plans, to talk about the impossibility of taking people from the slums and putting them into decent dwellings, or to expect them to be able to take proper care of these dwellings. I am not contending for a moment that these people are correct in their attitude, but it is useless to ignore that that is their attitude.

Who are they?

I am talking of the general ratepayer; the man you meet every day.

I never heard that story.

The man who has to pay the cost of slum clearance schemes. In any case we think that if the only force behind this Bill is the force of public opinion, there is no guarantee that it will operate at all, and the higher the burden that is put on the ratepayers the less likely is it to operate. The fact is that at present a charge of something like 2/6 in the £ in the rates will be required in Dublin for a three-roomed dwelling, the rent of which will be 7/6 a week. A rent of 7/6 a week is too high and is more than the slum dweller could pay. If you could reduce the rent you would have to increase the rates, and a large increase in the rates will very definitely decrease the enthusiasm of the ratepayers for slum clearances. We cannot afford to allow the problem of slum clearance to rest upon the force of public opinion that might exist in particular areas. In some areas public opinion might be strong and in other places weak. I say that there rests upon the Government an obligation to deal with the housing problem irrespective of local considerations. I have dealt with the main defects in the Bill, the main defects being that the new accommodation available cannot be given at a rate which the average slum dweller can afford to pay. That is the main defect, and because that defect is there the rest of the Bill is practically useless.

I would like to say a few words concerning other provisions of the Bill. The State grant available for encouraging private building is reduced from £45 to £20, on condition that the local authority will provide another £20. It is hard to say what justification can be advanced for that reduction, seeing that building costs have not been reduced. On the contrary, since the depreciation of the British pound certain building costs have gone up.

Prior to Britain going off the gold standard, Belgian cement was coming in here at remarkably cheap rates, because the Belgians were engaged in a price cutting competition and were trying to establish themselves in the market. Since the collapse of the £ that competition has disappeared, and the price of cement is going up. Other building costs are similarly inclined to go upwards. Consequently, no case for diminution of the grant rests upon a reduction of building costs. We know that the Government operate upon the theory that by reducing the subsidy they reduce the cost of building. I have tried to show in the past that that theory was unsound. Apparently, it still exists in the mind of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.

Apart altogether from the reduction in the size of the grant, there is, so far as the city of Dublin is concerned, a much more serious objection to that part of the Bill in the reduction of the floor area of the house in respect of which the grant is available. In future, this grant will only be available in respect of a house the floor area of which does not exceed 750 feet. That is for a three-room house. Has the Minister seriously considered the question: who is going to spend money erecting or buying a three-room house for the purpose of getting a £20 grant? The only person to whom that grant is of any use is a person who proposes to buy a house. Nobody can buy a house, either through the medium of an insurance company or the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, or in any other way, unless he can put up £50, £60 or £100. A person who is able to put up from £50 to £100 is not going to buy a three-room house. That part of the Bill will be inoperative. The Government cannot have considered what they were doing at all when they decided to make that reduction in the floor area of houses to which these grants are applicable.

There is to be a remission of rates of two-thirds for a period of seven years. I think that that period is inadequate. A person who buys a house generally does so through an insurance company or a building society. He is required to put up £200 or £250 and he gets a loan of the remainder, which he pays back by annual instalments. Generally, he can put up £250 only when he has borrowed it and thus he has a double charge to meet. He has to meet the annual charge in respect of the advance of the building society or the insurance society and he has to make repayment of the cash he received in order to obtain that loan. It would help him to meet the double charge if the remission of the rates were given for ten years. The original scheme of the Government by which the remission was total in the first year, nineteen-twenthieths in the second year, and so on, was a better one than that contained in this Bill. I am aware that local authorities have been complaining about remission of rates on new buildings but we have got to consider that the main function of this legislation is to secure the erection of houses.

Part 6 of the Bill deals with the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. I have been trying to find out why, when the Government decided to amend the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, they did not do so thoroughly. We have had a report from the Town Tenants Commission in relation to that Act. That Commission considered the matter so urgent that they produced an interim report dealing with it. They showed that there were quite a considerable number of defects in the Act which made it practically inoperative. They made a number of recommendations. They recommended that the limit should be raised to enable advances to be made in urban areas in respect of houses not exceeding £1,200. The Government have turned down that recommendation. I should like if somebody would tell us why.

The Deputy was told that before.

I was not.

Is there any reason why the limit should not be higher in urban areas than it is in rural areas?

That is a question for local authorities.

It is a question for the Government.

No. The local authorities advance the money and they want to get it back.

The President knows quite well that the cost of houses is altogether different in urban and rural areas. A limit of £800 in a rural area is equivalent to £1,000 in an urban area.

That is not the point.

[An Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair.]

The recommendation of the Commission was that the limit should be increased in urban areas.

Has the local authority asked for that?

That does not matter. The question is whether they should not be provided with these facilities. The local authority need not operate the Act at all.

Who will operate it if they do not?

Nobody under those terms.

If the Deputy does not know that, he does not know anything at all about the subject.

I do not know much about the subject, but I want to know why the Government has turned down these recommendations.

You have been told.

We have not been told.

The Deputy was told that the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act is operated by the local authority. What is the meaning of that? The meaning is that the local authority borrows money from the State at a certain percentage and lends that money. Is it the Deputy's contention that in respect of a £1,200 house the local authority should be compelled to lend 90 per cent.?

The local authority is not bound to lend anything.

The Deputy wants them to lend 90 per cent. of £1,200. The local authority wants security for the money it advances. Has it got security if it lends 90 per cent. in respect of a £1,200 house?

Has it got security if it lends 90 per cent. in respect of a £800 house?

It has not and that is a question for the local authority.

You are going to facilitate them by giving 90 per cent. in respect of a £800 house while you refuse it in the case of a £900 house.

The local authority is the body which borrows the money. No request has come from the Corporation, on which I understand the Deputy has some friends, in respect of that service.

I am not concerned with any request from the Corporation. The Government, with great eclat, established a Commission. That Commission submitted a report in 1927 which contained a number of recommendations. This is the first attempt made by the Government to give effect to any of the recommendations, and they refuse to give effect to this particular recommendation.

We were not asked.

I am asking the President to give effect to this recommendation now.

The Deputy is not a local authority.

I want to know if the Government has considered these recommendations and, if it has, why it has rejected them?

They did not reject them.

Why did they reject this recommendation?

They decided that it was for the local authority to ask for these facilities if it wanted them.

The Government is coming in here with a Bill, Part 6 of which deals with amendments of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. When they were framing that part of the Bill they had before them the report of the Town Tenants Commission. They put in these amendments on the recommendation of that Commission and they reject other recommendations of the Commission without consulting any local authority.

The local authority should consult the Government.

Did the local authority ask for the amendments made here?

I do not know. Ask the Minister in charge of the Bill.

If it is the policy of the Government not to do anything except on the request of the local authority why did they make these amendments? The President is trying to humbug the Dáil.

The Deputy is not serious. The Deputy has been talking for 15 minutes about a subject of which he knows nothing. He knows that.

I am trying to learn. There is a report available on the Table of the Dáil of the Commission established by the Government. That report contains a number of recommendations, a report on which the Government was supposed to act. Can we find out why they did not act on it?

The Deputy has been told.

I have been told nothing of the sort. I have been told that our local authorities could make recommendations to the Government and that no local authority has done so. The Bill before the House proposes to amend the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act in accordance with some recommendation of the Commission, but not in accordance with others. We have that Commission solemnly established by the Government telling us that the Act is inoperative because of certain difficulties, and that it should be made operative by the Government.

Does the Deputy recommend an advance of 90 per cent. on houses costing £900, £1,000 or £1,200?

That has nothing to do with it. The local authority is entitled to do it. Ninety per cent. is the percentage fixed in the Act. That is the law and the Dublin Corporation have done it.

It has lent 90 per cent?

It has lent 90 per cent. and can do it again to-morrow. This is not merely a question as to whether we should put a limit of £800 on advances or increase the limit to £900 or to £1,000. The question is whether we are going to permit money which is borrowed by the local authority from the State being repaid by the local authority in the form of annuities so as to permit the local authority to seek repayment of its advances in the form of annuities, whether you are going to facilitate the elimination of delay and the expense of repeated examinations of title. I do not know whether the President knows anything of the fantastic charges imposed by solicitors on persons who have to buy houses. If a person goes to buy a house he has to pay the costs of three solicitors. There is many a man who sets out to buy a house costing £800. He says: "I have £250 and I will borrow the balance from an insurance company. I will pay £200 in cash, leaving £50 to provide furniture, curtains, etc." He finds afterwards that he has to borrow another £50 to pay the legal costs which were and are fantastic. One of the recommendations of the Commission was that repeated examinations of title should be eliminated so as to reduce costs. The Government is not prepared to do that despite the solemnity with which they established the Commission unless the local authority presses them forward. Apparently they are never prepared to do anything unless they get a tow from somebody to make them move.

The Bill allows an opportunity for town planning also. We are told by the Minister that a Town Planning Bill may be introduced in the near future. We have been told that so often that I think the Minister would be well advised to put it on a gramophone record so that he would not have to waste his breath in saying it again when questioned on this matter, but would just put on the gramophone record when the matter was mentioned. In this Bill the local authority is confined to the formula contained in Section 7, which states that where "as respects an area declared by them to be a clearance area, a local authority determines to purchase any land comprising the area, they may purchase also any land which is surrounded by the clearance area and the acquisition of which is reasonably necessary for the purpose of securing a cleared area of convenient shape and dimensions and any land adjoining the clearance area the acquisition of which is reasonably necessary for the satisfactory development or use of the cleared area." The introduction of the word "reasonably" in that definition would seem to impose a very heavy burden of proof on the local authority. The inducement to local authorities to town plan which are contained in it are very slight. There is no inducement whatever to the local authorities to continue to own land acquired by them under the Act. We can deal with those matters, perhaps more effectively, on the Committee Stage. I merely want to say that if this is the Government housing policy about which they have been talking since the Sligo-Leitrim election of 1929, then they have been fooling the people all the time. This Bill is not going to prove ineffective in dealing with the slum problem in Dublin or in any of our cities. It is not going to contribute anything more towards the solution of the slum problem than the previous Bills which the Government brought forward. As Deputy Corish states, it is in some degree a worse Bill than any of their previous Bills. If, instead of boasting in advance of what they were going to do, they had been apologising for their inability to devise a better method to take the necessary steps, and had cleared out of the way and let others do what they cannot do, they would be much better occupied.

That is a great joke.

At this stage I intend only to make a few general remarks in connection with the Bill. I must first of all express my surprise at the audacity of Deputy Lemass who, on occasion, claims here that he and his Party have formulated a housing scheme. The scheme which they suggest they have formulated they have lifted bodily from the Irish Labour Party programme, a continuous housing scheme, etc. They have now put forward as their policy a policy lifted bodily from the Irish Labour Party programme.

We did not lift you from them.

While the Labour Party had a housing policy the Fianna Fáil Party were engaged in building castles in the air when they were not engaged in some other fantastic operations and activities in the country. The policy which Deputy Lemass suggests has been formulated by their Party has been lifted bodily from the Irish Labour Party programme.

I pass on to deal with Part II of the Bill, which deals with the clearance of areas. I suggest that no area should be cleared unless it is the intention of the local authority to build on it, and that the building should be subject to certain features or conditions. I suggest that at least half a dozen conditions should be fulfilled. I would suggest that in a proper housing scheme a broad survey of the present needs and future developement of the town should be taken into consideration. In that connection schemes on the outskirts of towns will give greater room for development and greater space than that which existing schemes afford.

The second condition which I would suggest is the proximity or nearness of the site to schools, the relation to future suburban sites, and the relation to future, if any, factory sites. Then regard should be had to economy in the provision of sewerage, water supply, places for playgrounds, sufficient room for shops, and last, but not least, proximity to churches, markets, and railway stations. These aspects should be taken into consideration in conjunction with the clauses of the Bill which deal with unhealthy houses. What would be the use, for instance, of clearing a site and rebuilding on that site if the conditions which I suggest were absent? I would also suggest that the Minister should consider the grouping of cottages in rural areas. Those of us who come from the cities, who have all the amenities that city and corporate management may confer upon us, have little or no idea of the hardships inflicted on people in the rural areas who have to travel long distances from their houses or cottages for water, and who have little or no sanitary accommodation. I would suggest that these cottages in these rural areas should be in groups of three or four. In these circumstances economy will be manifest in such things as sewerage and water and so on. You find frequently in the country that in the rural areas you have one water supply to one cottage and so on. It would be much better, and more economical, if we had these cottages built in groups of three or four. This system would also have a certain effect upon the social amenities in the district, and it would in that way be a benefit to the State.

The Bill is very largely devoted to the housing of the working classes, and, in my view, it is rather disappointing in so far as it relates to the ordinary labourers. Many public bodies who borrowed under the old Labourers Act have had to borrow money from outside companies—I mean insurance companies, and other bodies outside the Free State who have lent them money. This is, I submit, a thing that should be avoided as far as possible. There is one feature of this Bill which, I think, requires a little explanation from the Minister, that is, with regard to the reconstruction of houses. I am aware that in the cities and in many towns there are people who are most anxious to reconstruct or remodel, in some cases, existing houses. Under the old Act no grant was available for this purpose. One of the sections of this Bill deals, in my view, in a rather haphazard way with this feature of building. I would much prefer to see this section more definite, allowing grants for reconstruction throughout the whole of the areas in a general way, and not as suggested here, the giving of grants for the purpose of housing a number of people under one roof.

As regards another matter. I think it has been suggested here by the Labour Party on many occasions that, if we had a thorough estimate of the housing requirements of our people, we should be able to purchase in very large quantities the various materials which go to the building of a house; and again, we might be able to establish a cement factory in this country and be independent of the products of the Belgians and the English combines who frequently run up the prices of cement to suit their own purposes. There is another section of the Bill upon which we require more information. Under Section 5 of the Bill the local authority is empowered upon the consideration of official representations or other information to do certain things. I have a fear, and it is quite a natural fear, that on some of those public bodies there may be persons who represent vested interests. It is quite possible, and it has occurred, that on many of those public bodies slum property owners are fairly well represented, and these slum owners might for quite selfish reasons be able to pull the strings, and, in a certain area, to declare a clearance area. Here again I would suggest that the Minister or his officials should be perfectly satisfied that nothing in the nature of graft or anything of that kind should occur. Vested interests, as we know, are bound to crop up in these matters.

Again under sub-section (3) of the same section it is stated that "the declaration of any area under this section to be a clearance area shall be a reserved function." I want to know to whom does this reserved function apply. Is it to the City Manager or to the Corporation?

The passing of a resolution declaring an area a clearance area is a reserved function, and when the Corporation has decided that everything that is to follow is for the Manager.

Mention has been made of the cheapest houses, that is, three-roomed houses in urban and rural areas. Here again I would suggest that the Minister might depart somewhat from the stereotyped three-roomed houses in the country areas. The three-roomed house is not intended for a man with a very large family-and we are a prolific race—and I would suggest that provision should be made for a room on top which might be reached by means of a ladder. That would give the occupants an additional room at very little added expense and would be for the benefit of the State.

I feel that the Bill is at least some attempt to meet the housing difficulty. I shall have something to say at a later stage by way of amendment to some sections of the Bill. I would suggest that the Minister take into consideration the importance of the suggestions that I have made with regard to the provision of that extra room, which would entail but a little added expense, for the labourers in the rural areas, and the question with regard to the clearance of unhealthy areas, and the aspects to which I referred should precede the clearance of any of these areas and that they should be rebuilt under the conditions which I have suggested.

I think that it is a matter much to be regretted that Deputies opposite cannot approach any problem of this kind without attempting to score a little bit of political capital out of it. Even in doing that, the two deputy leaders of the Party opposite exhibited another example of the divided counsels so obvious amongst the leaders of that Party, because while Deputy O'Kelly rather welcomed this Bill as a contribution towards a settlement of the housing question and tried to make the case that it was owing to the efforts of his Party that this measure was introduced, Deputy Lemass, speaking within an hour after Deputy O'Kelly, said that if this Bill is the policy of the Government, the Government had been fooling the people all the time. Deputy O'Kelly suggested—and this is what I complain of in the attitude of Deputies opposite, their attempt to secure political advantage out of every matter and every subject introduced for discussion in this House—that this Bill was being introduced now because there will be a General Election in the near future, and he told the House that for nine years his Party had been attempting to drill something into the heads of the Government by way of promoting housing reform. It is deeply to be regretted that the Deputies opposite did not adopt the tactics of the Labour Party in discussing this measure. I suggest that the reason for the difference in the attitude of the two Parties to this matter is that the Labour representatives have before their minds that the principal matter to be discussed here is the amelioration of the conditions of the people, and the Fianna Fáil Party have before their minds the amelioration of their own political chances.

And the experiences of the North City by-election and the results.

Deputy O'Kelly talked about the work his Party has done for nine years in attempting to procure amelioration of the housing conditions. Let me remind Deputy O'Kelly and his Party of their contribution a few years ago to the solution of this question. When the Committee on Unemployment was sitting, it invited suggestions and evidence from organisations and individuals as to what best could be done to solve unemployment. That Committee, I may say incidentally, devoted most of its time and took most of its evidence in relation to housing, and nearly half of the report was taken up by that problem. The response of the Party opposite to the invitation to give some contribution or suggestion on this matter was that the Committee should recommend the Government to reopen the Ultimate Financial Settlement and to withhold the payment of national debts. That contribution was signed on behalf of the Fianna Fáil organisation by Deputy Lemass and, I think, Deputy Boland, as Secretaries. That was their contribution to the solution of the housing problem in 1927. I have not heard at any time any constructive proposal put forward by that Party as regards this matter.

It has been suggested that the Government have been doing nothing until now when they are approaching a general election. That followed the speech of the Minister for Local Government when he gave the number of houses built since 1922, and the amount of money expended on these buildings. We are told by Deputy O'Kelly that the Government have done nothing for housing in face of these figures: 24,566 houses built since 1922 and the amount of money expended on these buildings over 11 million pounds. In 1927 the Committee on Unemployment, which included two very experienced represenatives of the Labour Party, referred to what had been done up to that period. It cannot be said that the general election of 1932, or whenever it may be, was approaching at that time. They referred to what had been done by the Government up to that date under the Acts then in force, and they gave these figures: under the Acts from 1924 to 1926, up to 1st December, 1927, a total of 11,114 houses had been built or were in process of building in the Saorstát. Taking that figure, and comparing it with the figure to-day, it is a rather hardy performance on the part of speakers from the Opposite Benches to say that the Government have done nothing or were not doing much for the solution of the housing problem.

Will the Deputy say how many of these houses were privately built houses as distinct from houses subsidised by the State?

The Minister to-night stated that the number of houses built was 24,566; that State grants to the amount of £2,550,000 had been made available and that £6,000,000 had been provided by private persons and £2,500,000 by local authorities. It will be obvious that if the State had not provided the enormous subsidies mentioned the very large sums spent by private persons would not have been expended, because the inducement to expend the money was the assistance and the stimulus given by the Government to building. Deputy Lemass rather condemned, and I think Deputy Anthony rather agreed with him, the provision of three-roomed houses. I think that is ignoring the fact that a very large number of families who are not provided with proper accommodation are small families. I have not the figures at hand at present, but there is a very large percentage of families living in the poorer districts in Dublin consisting only of two or three persons. These would be mostly cases of a husband and wife with no children or cases where the children had grown up and had gone away to houses of their own. I do not think it is sound criticism to say that three-roomed houses should not be built. There is a considerable number of families for whom a three-roomed house would provide ample accommodation and who would find an extra room a burden on their hands and something which they would have to pay for and which they did not really require. I think, also, that in recommending this proposed scheme of State building, Deputies who speak in favour of it are leaving out of account one of the great incentives to the reduction of cost—the incentive of competition. It has been found by local authorities, certainly very much so in Dublin, that prices are cut very keenly by the builders who are competing for the contracts to build large numbers of houses. I do not think you will ever succeed in setting up a State department that will keep down costs any better than they are doing, because they must cut their profit having regard to what will be done by their competitors.

There has been a great deal of criticism on the question of slums and the fact that the slums are not abolished. Deputy O'Kelly ought to be well aware that it has been a matter of considerable difference of opinion between persons who have studied this problem in other countries as well as this as to whether it is a wise policy or not to attempt to abolish the slums rather than to recondition them.

I think that the opinion in most countries is that it is necessary, at the present time at all events, to try and recondition the better class of houses in the slums and put them in a proper and habitable condition, rather than try to get rid of them altogether at one great sweep and build new houses instead. Deputy O'Kelly's criticism was to the effect that nothing had been done for people living in the slums. I agree that the building of, say, 100 houses in the city does not mean that you are going to get a move up from the tenements, that you are going to get relief for 100 families, or anything like that, in these tenement houses. But, in the end, the building of houses does percolate down to the tenement houses. A number of families in poorer class houses move into better ones, and there is a move up which relieves the pressure below. When the Deputy says that there is no relief to the tenement dwellers, I think he is leaving out of account this fact, that no sooner is there a move up than the constant movement of the population of the country into the city is responsible for filling up these rooms again. I think the Minister is to be congratulated on the Bill, in which he provides for the clearance of areas and for the improvement of areas. I think the Bill is by a long way the best advance yet made towards the solution of the problem in this country.

Deputy Rice criticised the references to this Bill made by Deputy O'Kelly on the one hand, and Deputy Lemass on the other, and sought to establish the fact that they are two different views, and, because of those two different views, that we on this side of the House are not sincere in our desire for some amelioration of the condition of the slum dwellers in the city and urban areas. Deputy Rice, of course, has had some experience of studying the particular situation because he was chairman of a committee of the Dáil on unemployment. Now, even if the Fianna Fáil Party did not send along people to that committee to give expression to their views and suggestions as to what their ideas were, nevertheless Deputy Rice, as chairman of that committee, had the rest of the community at his disposal. He certainly should not or could not, therefore, have any other impression than that the conditions in this particular respect as regards the slums in Dublin were very serious.

I never suggested they were not serious.

No, the Deputy could not be of any other mind but that they are serious. He referred to the fact that Fianna Fáil, when invited, sent along a certain answer, but Deputy Rice must have known that this Party always stated that the only way to deal with the housing question was on a national basis, and that it was for the Government to attack it as part of its national programme as a social service. Deputy Rice may not agree with that.

What does the Deputy mean?

It means that the State must take responsibility absolutely upon its shoulders and not try as they are doing by this Bill to put it on the shoulders of the local authorities or speculative builders when they know themselves better than members of corporations and local authorities what is the position of people living in insanitary slum tenement dwellings and the numbers and size of families living under such conditions. They know perfectly well the number of applications that local authorities receive from persons who do conform to the requirements of the local authorities for dwellings. In Rathmines not so long since there were 2,000 applications for 75 vacant flats. Every one of the applicants conformed in every way as regards wages, size of families and so forth.

What would the local authorities do if they wash their hands out of the housing question?

Local Government in the cities and in the country has a lot to do besides the providing of houses, and the Minister knows that. I do not want to approach this question in any spirit that subsequent speakers might try to develop from it a desire to score political points. I approach it from the point of view of the man faced with the problem by hundreds of people in distress every day of the week. The President himself was for many years a member of the Dublin Corporation. To-day in that Corporation the President is remembered and often quoted and he left behind him an honoured name as regards his services. At that particular time the President took an active interest in this particular matter and he cannot pretend now to have forgotten the circumstances and conditions of the people of the City of Dublin.

Deputy Rice quoted certain figures given by the Minister for Local Government as to the number of houses built, the amount of money spent on the building, and the State contribution. It would be far more honest if he had given the number of houses that were built by private people and speculative builders which had nothing to do with the State or the local authorities and were built from the luxury point of view and for persons who could afford to pay for them and the building of which did not get any subsidy because they were outside the floor space prescribed. It would be far better to deal with houses that got the State subsidy, even houses of the better class that could not be considered by the ordinary working man for whom most of us here are seeking consideration. Deputy Rice talked about the relief of the slum dweller. He said that as each hundred houses are built a hundred families move from one set of slums into better and said there was a gradual process of going out. But Deputy Rice forgets that there is a continuous increase of the population and that that rate of increase is far greater than the rate of relief.

I mentioned that fact.

Then why refer to hundreds relieved when thousands are necessary.

I said that building 100 new dwellings did not mean there was relief for 100 people in tenement houses, and I said that one of the reasons the slum position remains stable to a great extent was that when houses are vacated there is a constant movement in of a new population from the country to the city.

I say that the population of the slum dwellings is not remaining stationary, but is increasing. Deputy O'Connor referred to Deputy O'Kelly and wanted to know where he got his figures from. The official figures so far as the city of Dublin is concerned are these: The number of tenement dwellers in single rooms in 1913 was 73,973; in 1926 that figure had increased to 78,934.

These figures are given in the Unemployment Committee's Report for 1927.

I am quoting them because Deputy O'Connor seems to think that Deputy O'Kelly brought them out of the thin air and that he quoted them to secure some political purpose. I am glad that Deputy Rice has confirmed them. The number of tenements unfit for human habitation, officially certified as unfit in 1913 was 15,018; in 1925 that figure had risen to 17,044, although all these and the additional ones were still occupied. Every one of us representing Dublin, north or south, and those representing the county also, know the conditions under which people are living. We can also deal with the number of Kitchen dwellings, and the fact remains that we are confronted with a very serious situation. Certain efforts were made to deal with this question and certain efforts are proposed to be made here. I agree with Deputy O'Kelly that from the Party point of view and from the Corporation point of view this Bill does give some opportunity to the Corporation in a certain way to deal with certain cases of slum poverty. From that point of view alone, while it is not nearly what is required or expected or what anybody thought the housing scheme was to be in the Bill which we were promised by the Minister, we welcome it because the Corporation will make an effort to do something under it. As Deputy Lemass said, at least there will be so much spade work done for whatever Government will succeed this one. I agree with both speakers in regard to the fact that it gives little, and I am disappointed with the great amount it does not give. I hope that Deputy Rice will understand that a person can have both these viewpoints.

I can understand anything existing in the mind of the Deputy.

Deputy Rice should be the last to speak about housing. A by-election was fought in the city of Dublin for Deputy Rice. I do not know how many houses we were promised, but we received very few of them. Deputy Flinn tells me that we were promised £15,000,000 for housing.

That is not true.

As a corporator as well as a member of this Dáil—the President will probably laugh as he sneers at every person who says they are interested in the subject—I say that any person acquainted with the City of Dublin or his own constituency knows that slums exist. The people in the slums are craving for relief from the exorbitant rents they have to pay, and secondly they want to live under healthy conditions. I wonder if Deputy Sir James Craig, in view of the Public Safety Act, has the courage to-day to threaten to hang all the landlords from the trees in the Pheoenix Park.

Anything I say I have the courage to repeat.

I hope Deputy Sir James Craig will repeat it, because he knows what the slums of Dublin are, and he knows the vile treatment the dwellers get at the hands of the slum landlords. He spoke as strongly as any Deputy on the Government Benches and I hoped his plea would be listened to and that we would get something other than what we did get. The Minister for Local Government is in touch with the local authorities. One would imagine that he would take some notice of the opinion of the officials of the local authorities as well as their elected representatives. In this particular Housing Bill, as in the case of the Traffic Bill, he has treated with contempt and he has ignored their various viewpoints and recommendations. I do not believe that in the Traffic Bill the Minister even read the amendments suggested. In the case of this Housing Bill I do not know what his attitude is going to be. We have come to the conclusion that it is useless to send deputations to the Minister for Local Government because on one occasion he was not there to meet them and on other occasions they got no satisfaction. If the Minister for Local Government considered sympathetically the viewpoints of officials of the local authorities, we would feel more sympathetic towards this Bill. With the experience of the Department which I have I know that this Bill is not introduced for the purpose of facilitating in the general scheme of eliminating the slums. It will give the Corporation some time to do some spade work so that another Government coming into power will be able to do something.

When the Commissioners were in office in Dublin they built a great number of houses which were very spectacular, in my opinion. Everyone can see them but they are not the class of houses to suit the pockets of people living in kitchens and slum dwellings. As Deputy Lemass pointed out, if you are going to start off providing dwellings at 7/6 per week you should first of all find out how many slum dwellers can pay 7/6 per week. Here is a particular situation. The Dublin Corporation before the introduction of this Bill had certain powers to deal with certain types of houses in certain conditions. Yet the Dublin Corporation could not, in some cases, act on their own powers because they admitted that they were powerless. They had no place to put the inhabitants of the condemned dwellings and they had no hope of completing the work in a reasonable space of time. That is why insanitary dwellings are on the increase. We have power to close down tenements in the Dublin Corporation without this Bill, but we cannot put the inhabitants on the streets. Our trouble is that the Government are not giving sufficient financial aid and the local authorities cannot burden the ratepayers. With the greatest goodwill in the world the Dublin Corporation set out to solve their problem but could not do it. If we were to eject the dwellers under the powers we have at present we have no place to put them. We have not sufficient financial aid from the State.

The Government have been neglecting this problem until it has become a national danger, not alone from the point of view of the people inhabiting the slums, but in other respects also. I had hoped that we were going to get something which would mean something. As far as Dublin City is concerned it means very little and the real problem is being postponed. I realise that the Government has difficulties and that they cannot wave a wand and provide the necessary wherewithal to do it, but I say that for the past seven years they have not done it. When the North City by-election was on they realised the extreme importance of the thing and fought the by-election on that. Years have gone by and this is what we have got now. We are going to support this measure because it means something, even though it means very little.

If the Minister would say that this is a temporary solution, that in six months' time there will be something further done, it would be a different matter. But if this is going to be the final solution of the slum dwellers' problem, particularly in city areas, all I can say is that the country has in store for it another long spell of the sore that has afflicted her. If anybody cares to travel to the back of any prominent street in the city of Dublin—he will not have to travel very far from Leinster House or from Merrion Square—he will find these slums. He will see there things of which no city can be proud and which any Minister for Local Government should try to eliminate at the earliest opportunity.

While this Bill contains some provisions that are useful, the feeling uppermost in the minds of the representatives of the rural areas like myself is one of disappointment. I would like to say that I find it pretty hard to read the Bill, because running through it there are references to other Acts of the Oireachtas and one finds it difficult to get the sense of the various sections that are so drafted. I regret very much that this Bill sounds the death knell of the assistance to private persons who build houses. I think that system has been of very great advantage in the country and that it has had a very beneficial effect on the housing problem, certainly in the rural areas. I agree that in recent times it developed some defects. In some quarters houses that were not very well constructed were built by persons who were purely speculators. Rents were charged in some small towns such as in the area I come from and these rents were altogether too much, taking into account the cost of the construction of the houses and the income of the people who were living in them. I think, however, it is a pity that that provision has disappeared as it will disappear on the 31st March next as a result of the passage of this Bill.

I would urge at this stage, if there is any use in doing so, that the Minister might consider retaining some provision of that kind for the present if he wants to see houses built in which people can live. I have said that the provisions for private persons will disappear. In effect that will be the result of this Bill. A section of this Bill provides that a grant of £20 may be given by the local authorities under the operation of this Bill, but it seems extremely unlikely that that provision will be availed of. I say that because the local authorities, if we know anything of their mentality in matters of that kind, will not be anxious to supplement the State grant by advancing a similar amount.

I notice that Deputy Briscoe's complaint was that the provisions of this Bill would do very little for housing in Dublin. My complaint is that while this Bill will enable something to be done for housing in Dublin, it will do very little, if anything, to solve the housing problem in other areas. I think the most that can be said for the Bill is that it is an enabling Bill. The outline of a housing policy is contained in it, but the details are not worked out and the machinery by which it may be given effect to does not exist. I feel that one of the provisions of the Bill should be a provision to make it mandatory on local authorities to embark on housing policies, having some regard to the particular area, to the limitations, on the financial side of the local authorities. I would suggest that some such provision should be embodied in the Bill in addition to the facilities that are offered to the local authorities, because I know that those facilities will not in the great majority of cases be availed of. Certainly, some pressure should be put on the local authorities to go ahead with a housing scheme of some kind or another.

Provision is made in the Bill for the erection of labourers' cottages. It seems very difficult to say how much can be done in that respect. On look-over the Bill and bearing in mind the statement of the Minister it seems that the rent of a labourer's cottage erected under this Bill will be, let us say, 4s. When one considers that the person who will be looking for that house is a labourer who in many parts of the country is earning a weekly wage of 7s., 8s., or 9s., one sees how utterly impossible it is for that man to accept responsibility and liability for a rent of 4s. a week. The other alternative, of course, is that a rent of a lesser amount than that should be charged, the balance to be made up out of the local rates. There at once one sees the difficulties of promoting the schemes as generously and as widely as one could wish. This has become a very acute problem all over the country. All of us who are members of boards of health are aware of the fact that when cottages come to be let we have not one or two or three applicants, but in a great many cases we have dozens of them. One always sees the jealousy that has arisen amongst the applicants and the difficulties that arise for the local authorities by reason of complaints, some justifiable and some unjustifiable, as to the type of tenant who resides in many of these cottages. All these provide an indication of the great desire that exists in the country to avail of the benefits of the Labourers Acts. Whenever a cottage is available one sees the competition there is for it.

I am glad to note that the Bill contains an important provision. It enables local authorities to retain sites already earmarked for the erection of labourers' cottages. I am afraid that some harm has been done through the absence of any provision in that respect heretofore. In fact, the position is that sites of that kind have been for some time past gradually slipping out of the control of the local authorities. As the House knows the position is that the owner of the land who disposes of it to the local authority for the purpose of erecting a cottage on it, was entitled under the Act of Parliament to take it back after the lapse of two years if no cottage had in the meantime been erected on it. I think it was officially understood that the Expiring Laws Act enabled the local authority to hold sites of that kind, but some time ago a case was heard in the courts in which the owner of the land compelled the local authority to hand back the sites. A good many applications had been made to the local authorities in certain parts of the country and I am afraid that a good many suitable sites for the erection of cottages have reverted back to the original owners. I do not know whether anything could be done in that direction. I just mention the matter because there is a provision in this Bill to retain sites of that kind. That provision is a very valuable one and it will help to some extent to give effect to proposals for the erection of cottages.

The Gaeltacht Housing Act serves a very large number of people in the country. In my judgment that Act is proving very useful at the moment. This Bill will enable certain persons to be served also. In parts of the country there are people residing in areas to which the provisions of the Gaeltacht Housing Act do not apply. These are the type of persons to whom a small housing grant in their capacity of private individuals would not be of much assistance. Their condition remains in the same hopeless state. By reason of the fact that they live in an area that is excluded from the benefits of the Gaeltacht Housing Act, they cannot avail of the provisions of that Act. They are not in a position to build houses with the ordinary Housing Acts. No provision, as far as I can see, except by way of a loan, seems to be made in the Bill for a large number of people who are in that unhappy position. I had hoped that powers would be available in this Bill so that certain material that will be used would be of Irish manufacture. I have in mind certain slate quarries in the county that I come from that are turning out excellent slates. I hope the Government will do what the local authority in County Cork is endeavouring to do to stimulate the local slate quarries, by refusing to entertain applications for loans unless Irish slates are specified.

While I appreciate the statement of the Minister that it is impossible to give a very wide preference, I think that could be met in another way by having in this Bill a provision, such as was contained in the Housing Act of 1924, but which was never given effect to as far as I know, for central purchasing of material. That is not a strange doctrine to advocate. As a matter of fact it is in operation in the Gaeltacht Housing Department. They have been very successful in the purchase of very large quantities of materials which they have placed at the disposal of the people at keen prices. If substantial orders for materials were given, and if these materials were placed at the disposal of those concerned, that would be very satisfactory, and the question of giving an unjustifiable preference would not arise. I regret that no attempt was made to give effect to the proposal made in respect of the Housing Act of 1924. I think the matter might be considered now, and that some such Department as that which controls the purchasing of commodities in the case of local authorities might deal with the combined purchasing of building materials, and co-operate between the local authority and the Department.

I wonder if I could get any information from the Minister with regard to certain types of sites that are vacant or derelict for many years. There is great doubt in ascertaining who are the owners in law of these sites. I know places where enterprising people endeavoured to acquire sites on which they proposed to build, but satisfactory title could not be produced. There are such sites in many of the small towns. Is there any provision in the Bill whereby the Minister or the local authorities could get over a difficulty of that kind in order to obtain possession of what would make suitable sites for houses? The Bill is not as far-reaching as one would expect, and in the rural districts, where a good case can be made for the extension of housing facilities, the principal feeling will be one of disappointment. The Bill goes a certain distance, and in that respect it is welcome and useful, but it needs to be substantially supplemented and amended. I hope that will be done. I want to deal with a matter that was referred to by Deputy Anthony. I am frankly amused at the claim made that the solution of the housing problem by the setting up of a Housing Board was the special property of the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not think it is wise to make capital out of the matter, but in any case we ought to be fair. It is only fair to remind the House that as far back as the Trades Union Congress which was held in Drogheda in 1919, this method of stimulating the construction of houses was decided upon.

I noted with pleasure that the official Opposition here subsequently decided that that was the wisest way of dealing with the problem. Having so decided their assistance will be useful and welcome. It is a rather impudent claim to make that the policy decided as far back as 1919 was the policy of a Party which only seriously considered this matter within the last two years. I do not want to say anything offensive. I am sure my explanation will be understood by Deputy Lemass and that he will realise that he made a little mistake which he would hardly defend if he wanted to be fair and generous to the Labour Party.

My views on this question are well known, but Deputy Briscoe has thrown out a challenge which I must attempt to answer in my own way. Some time during the past year I made representations to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health that a clean milk Bill was overdue. The Minister told me quite frankly that he had two Bills on hands in which he was interested, the Traffic Bill and the Housing Bill, and in view of that I told him that I would do nothing to hinder him bringing in these Bills, particularly the Housing Bill. As the Minister has pointed out the Government since 1922 has spent 2½ millions and the public have spent about 6 million pounds on housing, so that a fair amount of money has been spent during these years. The present Bill must be acceptable in so far as it goes to remedy the housing problem. No one suggests that it is sufficient. I would like to see at least 5 millions being set apart, but the Government have not got the money and they must as it were cut their coat according to their cloth. I was greatly impressed by the statement by the Minister, that he has made provision in this Bill for clearances in certain areas, for improving houses that do not require to be pulled down and particularly for the demolition of insanitary houses. Deputy O'Kelly made special reference to a matter which caused me some little surprise. The Deputy quoted from a return which was given to him by an official of the Corporation showing that there were 59 people in one house.

What struck me as amazing was the small rents that these people were paying. Of course, they were in occupation for a number of years, but I was surprised to find that the rents were 2/3, 2/6 and 3/-. Although I did not count the number of rooms, I came to the conclusion that the landlord was not asking more than £1 per week to house 59 persons.

You would not hang him.

I have no fault to find with that man. He is giving accommodation to people and charging a very small rent. Although I shall not go the length of saying that I should like to see all the offenders hanged, what I did object to and what I do object to is men out of employment, with wives and families, being charged from 10/- to 12/- per week for a single room. I want to see that ended and I want to see the system of cellar-dwellings ended. One of the greatest objections to the conditions pointed out by Deputy O'Kelly is that if there is an illness of epidemic character in one of these houses, it is almost certain to spread with great rapidity. The fact that the hospitals are available to poor people in cases of these epidemics relieves the tremendous difficulty that would otherwise arise with regard to the spread of disease in these tenement dwellings. I have still the courage of my conviction and I say that I do not know any punishment which would be great enough for those landlords who are charging exorbitant rents for single rooms—rents out of all proportion to what the people are able to pay. An example comes to mind of my own chauffeur, who wanted accommodation for himself, his wife and three or four children. The could only get one single room in a lane behind Merrion Square, where I live, and he was asked to pay 15/- per week for it. The result is that I have to let him live in Bray. He has to go home every evening, but he is able to get a house at six or seven shillings a week. I believe that this Bill will do something to relieve the tremendous pressure that exists. Another point I was interested in for a long time was that, in the clearing of the spaces, there should be play grounds or breathing places left for the children. It is bad enough for these children to be housed at the rate of 59 in each house, but it is a much greater evil when there is no place in which they may play, and when they have to go out on the streets they are liable to be run over by motor cars. We should have some sort of arrangement by which, every area, there would be sufficient space for children to play. I am glad that under this Bill some arrangement will be made in that connection.

I support in the heartiest way any effort made by the Government to minimise the evil effects as regards slum dwellings. I know that the Government would do a great deal more if they had the wherewithal. The question is whether it would be possible to raise a loan to do the work on a larger scale. This is not, as Deputy Briscoe suggested, the end of all things. The Government have done something to remedy this evil; they are doing something more now and they will, I am sure, continue their efforts in a very short time. But it might be an injudicious thing to give too much money at once to meet housing requirements. There would be great difficulty in using £5,000,000 economically at present. I am not going into the question of costs, because I do not understand that sufficiently. But everybody knows that there cannot be any great extension of house building while the cost is so great. That has kept the Government back from doing things, and it keeps those of us who would like to press for the erection of more houses from pressing them too much, because it would be rather a stupid thing to build houses which would cost so much in rent that a tenant would not be able to pay. Other Deputies would suggest that there should be such a large subsidy that the rents chargeable would be small. I should like to see the man earning 30s. to 35s. a week spending only a very small proportion of his earnings in house rent. I should not like to see him spending more than 5s. per week in rent, if possible.

In Dublin?

What about outside it?

And 3/6 in rural areas, where the people get a smaller wage. However, I am not dealing with the economic aspect of the question at present. I am not sufficiently expert to deal with it. I have seen the ball rolled from Deputy Good to Deputy Davin and back again. One Deputy says that labour costs too much. The other says that the contractor wants too much. One side alleges that there is profiteering on the other side, and none of them seems to give way. What is keeping back housing is the cost.

Of materials.

The cost of building. I do not see why Deputy Briscoe should have introduced my name or suggested that I would not have the courage to stand up and say what I said before. I might have said it then on the spur of the moment, without thought, but I do not think that any punishment is great enough for the person who charges exorbitant rents for rookeries.

Mr. Bourke

I believe that the Government will never succeed in solving the housing problem until they give sufficient grants to the local authority to enable them to let houses at a rent of 5/- per week. Recently, the Limerick Corporation built 70 houses and they are about to charge 10/- per week for those houses. They had over 2,000 applications for the 70 houses.

I am certain that not one of the slum tenants made application for these houses because the unfortunate slum tenants could not pay that rent. I also believe the Minister should insert a clause in the Bill providing that Irish materials should be used wherever possible. I know the housing conditions in Limerick City and County are appalling. I visited places in County Limerick recently and the slums I saw there were most disgraceful.

We expected that the Minister in introducing a new Housing Bill would have paid some heed to the appeals made to him here last year from all quarters of the House on the question of providing for the reconstruction of rural dwellings. We have heard different arguments put up from one side of the House or the other, as to the amount of money spent on housing in the last few years and when we come to fine them down we find that most of the money which is provided by the rural population, I might say three-fourths of it, was spent within a radius of two miles from this House. I do not think I am going beyond the bounds in stating that only one-fourth of it found its way down the country. The Minister has been steadily endeavouring in each new Housing Bill to prevent the rural dweller getting any benefit whatsoever. We have the statement made by Deputy O'Connor that when we were out in the wilderness the Minister was kind enough to give permission to local authorities to strike a rate of 1/- in the £ for housing. I am sure the Minister behaved on that occasion, with the customary generosity with which we have seen him act here always, when it comes to a question of taking something out of the pocket of somebody else. If Deputy O'Connor casts his mind back he will remember that at the very same period the Local Government Department raised a loan to relieve the farming community of one half year's rates so that the farmers would be able to pay three, four, five or six years' arrears of rent to rack-renting landlords, for which the 1923 Land Act provided. At that very same period, so that the farmers might be able to pay up the arrears of rent due to the landlords, a special Bill was brought in to give them relief in rates for that half year so that the landlord might be able to get his pound of flesh. It would be a very big mistake to look for a rate of 1/- in the £ for housing purposes when the Government themselves had to relieve the farmers of half a year's rates.

No provision, whatsoever, is made in this Bill for reconstruction. When the last Housing Bill was introduced we brought in an amendment to provide a sum for reconstruction. That amendment was ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle as the principle of the Bill did not provide for reconstruction. We will find probably the same condition of affairs existing now. The Minister in his travels round the country might perhaps cast his eye along the mud hovel of the unfortunate man with a valuation of £5, £10, or £15 living on the mountain-side, with the gable ends of his mud hovel falling in, or with a few sheets of corrugated iron or a sod fence built up against it. He is now kind enough to suggest that these people should provide funds for the building of labourers' cottages. That is the only assistance that the Minister or his Department is going to give to these unfortunate farmers, the unfortunate men living on uneconomic holdings, who can never hope to raise the money to reconstruct the walls to keep out the winter's rain. If there is one thing needed in the matter of housing in this country, it is provision for reconstruction, provision which will enable the farmer to build an extra room for his house, to put on a new roof or something of that kind. No provision, however, is made here for them.

When we come to examine the provisions made under the Labourers Acts we find that this Bill, like the last, has been specially prepared to prevent local bodies taking any advantage of it for the building of labourers' cottages. I am talking of labourers' cottages costing £300 each. I am leaving the cost very low at that seeing that another department of the Ministry provided £1,550 for the building of a dwelling house for four single Civic Guards. If four Civic Guards cannot live in a house costing less than £1,550, surely the labourer and his wife and family who have to provide part of that £1,550, are entitled to £300 for a house. The least rent at which a local body could let that house is 5s. or 6s. a Week and that is putting it very tight. The Minister is aware, at least we have letters enough from him on the subject, that we find it very hard at present in view of the distress occasioned in County Cork through the suicidal agricultural policy of the Executive, and through the complete ignoring of the demands made for the protection of our industries and the consequent unemployment, to get labourers at the present day to pay even a rent of 1s. a week for their cottages.

When we remember that 277,000 acres have gone out of tillage and that the labourers who found employment on these 277,000 acres are at present living or depending on what they can knock out of their acre for existence, and when we consider that the maximum rate fixed by the Minister for road workers who work for three months of the year and are glad to get that three months, is £1 9s. per week, when you add up these things, the Minister need not be surprised if he has to write down to every monthly meeting of our Board of Health calling attention to the enormous amount of arrears accruing at 1/- per week on labourers' cottages. Still the Minister brings in a Bill under which the least rent we can charge for a labourer's cottage is 5/- per week. How can he pay 5/- out of the 9/- wage and feed his wife and children on the other 4/-? I admit he receives his own support from the farmer for whom he works, but how can he support his family on 4/- a week? That is a question which the Minister might very well refer to those who fixed the cost of living bonus and I would suggest that he refer it to them. This Bill is absolutely useless to the rural population. I am not judging its effect with regard to Dublin City, but I say it has been specially framed so that the local authorities cannot make any use whatever of it.

I cannot see how any local body can find money to start the building of labourers' cottages under the conditions imposed by this Bill. I cannot see, for instance, a local body striking a rate of 6d. or 1/- in the £ to provide funds to lessen the rent. I cannot see any local body trying to do that at present when we remember that the Minister and the Executive Council, knowing that the burden of rates on the farming community could not be met, had to raise £750,000 this year to pay rates for them.

Knowing that condition of affairs, we know that the local bodies cannot bear further burdens, and we know that the labourer working in the rural districts at the present time cannot pay 5s. a week for rent; and there is no use building houses when you cannot get anybody to pay rent for them. This Bill is worthless to the rural population. And if what Deputy Sir James Craig has said, that £5,000,000 is going to be provided under this Bill, I should like to know who is going to pay it. Is the unfortunate man whose condition I have described a few minutes ago, the unfortunate man living on a small farm with a valuation of £10 in a mud-walled cabin, the sides of which are falling in—is he going to pay portion of the £5,000,000? These are the matters that we should like to hear about. If this Bill is to be of any use, if this £5,000,000 is to be provided by these people, we want a straight answer to the question asked by Deputy O'Kelly and Deputy Lemass. Is this Bill going to make provision for a house for the unfortunate family described by Deputy O'Kelly and Deputy Lemass, the family of the man with his wife and ten children living in one room here in this city, who can only find 2s. 3d. a week rent? If it does not, our £5,000,000 that is being provided by the rural community is being wasted. It is not going to relieve these people and put them under better housing conditions. We have enough of waste of money in this country. I consider the policy of the Minister a mean and shabby policy— the policy of reducing the amount of the grant from 75 to 45 previously and now, under this Bill from 45 to 25. I consider that a mean and shabby transaction, and worthy of the Minister, and of nobody else.

There is no problem facing this State that I feel so keenly about as this housing problem, and that is the reason why I think that a Bill of this kind should be faced in a non-Party spirit. The housing problem is a big and serious matter; it touches the social, intellectual and possibly, the moral well-being of the community; and it is too big a matter to warrant any Party advantage being taken out of any attempted solution of it. The problem should be faced in a proper spirit; and that is the reason why I was hoping that this measure which was promised us would deal more fully and more adequately with this problem as it faces us than this measure, as it is now before us, does.

This Bill, as I see it, is only a further manifestation of what I described here before as the metropolitant mentality. It does not visualise the problem as a national problem. It has not seen it as it exists in the four corners of the State. It has not taken the problem as it exists in the small towns and in the villages throughout the country. It has seen it only from the viewpoint of the City of Dublin and possibly the City of Cork. It certainly has not taken it in in the way it manifests itself throughout the entire State. Let me point out one aspect alone where the proposed solution only attempts to touch the problem as it exists in the cities. In the slum area there is a payment of 40 per cent. by the State for rebuilding tenements. That possibly might be a fair proportion of the cost, a fair advance towards a solution of the problem. But what do I find in rural districts, in the small villages and urban areas? A provision for the payment of 15 per cent. That is to say that unless you have what is described as a slum existing in your urban area or in your villages, you are penalised to that extent. You are getting only 15 per cent, while 40 per cent. is given in the city. That is one manifestation of the metropolitan mentality in dealing with this problem.

I do not know whether the Minister is aware of the huge problem that exists with regard to the country generally. I have asked him before when discussing the vote on his estimate to cause a survey to be made of the towns and villages in rural Ireland that are non-urbanised, so that he may have an opportunity of seeing the problem that faces him and an opportunity of erecting proper houses such as would enable parents to rear their children properly. I feel that some of the conditions that prevail in the country towns and villages at the present time are a crime against social order, a crime against the child in whose case an endeavour should be made to rear him up with any reasonable chance of developing his intellect, his physical wellbeing, and possibly his moral well being also. Let me point out that it is not in Dublin or in Cork alone that a big problem exists. I know the problem as it exists in Dublin. I was through the greater part of the slum areas in Dublin when I was working in an office here. But I want to point out to the Minister that the problem also exists in rural Ireland. It exists in my own county of Clare in a very acute form though I will not say in as acute a form as in Dublin. In my own county in the town of Ennis, with a population of 5,518, there are 238 people living in one-roomed dwellings and 980 people in two-roomed dwellings. In Kilrush, with a population of 3,345, there are 245 people living in single rooms and 597 in two-room houses. These are the only two urbanised towns. But let me point out that a similar problem exists in the non-urbanised towns such as Killaloe, Ennistymon, Kilkee, Miltown-Malbay, Tulla, Scariff, and other small places. In non-urbanised areas, 689 people live in one-roomed dwellings and 2,429 in two-roomed. These facts will give some idea of the extent of the problem which exists outside the cities, and yet we do not find that that problem as it exists in non-urbanised Ireland and in urbanised Ireland has made that impression upon the Bill which the Minister has presented to the House that it ought to have made. Let us endeavour to see how this Bill will work out in practice, what power this Bill will give to the public authority in Kilrush or Ennis in an endeavour to work out a scheme.

Let us say that the very smallest amount of money that will erect a four-roomed house in these areas is £200. The Minister proposes to give 20 per cent. of that. That works out at 4s. 6d. per week alone on the money. I am making no provision for rates on a valuation of possibly £3, which might come to 6d. per week more. I am making no provision for insurance, for the cost of collection of rent, and for the cost of the land, which would add something more. Does the Minister think that the provisions in this Bill are going to remove those people who are living in one-roomed and two-roomed dwellings and put them into decent dwellings? I do not think he does. I do not think that he has made sufficient use of the reports and information from the various boards of health, boards of assistance, inspectors, etc., which he has at his disposal to find out what exactly this Bill is going to do.

I listened to Deputy Sir James Craig with some interest, as I believe he has an interest in endeavouring to remove the slums. I believe that he was quite right, and that he need not retract what he said with reference to the landlords of slum property, that it might be right to give them a jaunt in the air on a suspension basis. He spoke of the difficulty of obtaining money. There is at present a good deal of public money invested in what might be called non-trustee stock which ought to be available for housing. There is at present something like £700,000 invested by the National Insurance Commission in what is described as trustee stock. I shall just take one stock—I do not know whether the Minister will argue that it is a trustee stock—4 per cent. G.S. & W.R. Preference. I wonder does the Minister consider that a trustee stock. If he had money to invest, which would he select—G.S. & W.R. Preference stock or housing with the security of the public rates behind it? Money invested in housing would give a better return, and housing could be more rightly described as a trustee stock. I put it to the Minister that that £700,000 might very well be made available by some means to solve the housing problem.

The question of Irish material is a very important one and ought to be carefully considered by the Minister. There was a slate quarry in my county, and slates from that quarry which are on houses built over fifty years ago are still as good as they were when put on. I think it is a great mistake to be allowing money to go out of the country for the purchase of artificial slates which will not give half the wear of Irish slates. Using Irish slates may put up the cost somewhat, but it is a question whether we ought not to consider the advisability of using them.

I do not think this Bill will facilitate house building. I rather think that it will retard house building. I am not very much concerned with the curtailing of the amount of money given to speculative builders. My objection in the past has been that a great deal of money given for the construction of houses found its way into the pockets of speculative builders. I would sooner see more money given to public authorities and that it was made possible for them to get money on terms which would enable them to construct houses at a rent that working people could afford to pay. To propose to build houses which would cost people 4/6 per week to repay the money alone at 5 per cent. interest on £200, not calculating rates, depreciation, insurance, the cost of the land, or the cost of collection of rent, is certainly not the way to facilitate public authorities in solving the problem.

I rise to support the Bill. I do not say that it will go the whole way to remove the difficulties of towns and non-urbanised villages in coping with the housing problem. Of course later on we shall have to go through the Bill section by section in Committee. I believe that I am voicing the feelings of local authorities when I say that the 20 per cent. grant for the erection of houses in urban districts is too low. I believe that it should be increased at least to 35 per cent. Of course the cost of these houses has never been met, because after a certain number of years they require to be repaired from time to time and it is more or less a continuing account as far as the original outlay is concerned. Then there is the question of the reconstruction of houses in rural districts which is very essential. Many small farmers with valuations from £15 to £25 are living in houses which are not dilapidated but require to be roofed. A loan for the reconstruction of these houses would recoup these people for the amount which they will have to pay in taxation to enable the rural authorities to build cottages. If there was provision made in this Bill to give a certain amount of money for the reconstruction of such houses, instead of being an eyesore they would help to beautify the country. These small farmers are inclined to do away with the thatched roofs, and it is essential that a loan at the cheapest rates should be advanced for that purpose. Criticism has been directed to what the people in the rural districts will have to pay in taxation towards the cost of these building schemes. Deputy Corry referred to the man living in the mud-walled cabin having to contribute to the erection of houses in cities and towns. Some time ago Cork county contributed £140,000 by way of a rate of 6d. in the £ for five years towards the cost of the destruction caused by the Deputy and some of his associates. The people who had to foot the bill in that case have no objection to footing the bill in this case when it is a question of housing a certain section of the people. Formerly landlords in the towns built houses for the workers, but under the new regime for the past nine or ten years they have not built any houses. Consequently there is a shortage of houses. That is one of the reasons why our town councils have to face the building of houses for the workers. These landlords were able to get material at a cheap rate and consequently were able to let the houses at a very small rent. Now when the Government are taking over the task of building houses these landlords have stopped building altogether.

I would impress on the Minister that as far as local authorities are concerned the subsidy proposed to be given by the Government is too small and should be increased. It would be also advisable to insert provisions in the Bill for the reconstruction of houses. If it is sought to take the control of the building of houses from the local authorities and hand it over to a Government Department it would be a very bad precedent to lay down. It has been said that the local authorities have been persuaded not to build houses in the belief that it would be too much to put upon the rates, but I have been a member of the local authority for nearly twenty-four years and whenever we put up a scheme of housing we found the ratepayers were always ready to contribute their share towards the erection of houses for the poor people. The great difficulty is that the rents cannot be paid by the ordinary working man. In certain urban districts many of the houses are occupied by tradesmen, and I think it would be well if these people could be got to leave these houses and take the new houses which are being built lately. I will not say that that ought to be made compulsory, but it would help a lot and would enable the poorer people to occup the cheaper houses while the better off workers could take up their abode in houses built under this Bill. I say on the whole and taking everything into account the Bill is not a bad Bill by any means. I think it will be appreciated later on and by improving some of the sections in Committee it will be found to be a very workable measure.

One Deputy in criticising this Bill said he found on examination that it was no great improvement on the Government's old housing policy. That, and subsequent statements, of the Deputy's, as well as statements made by a number of other Deputies, I think, disclose an absence of knowledge and a lack of information on the subject that could only come from such a source. An examination of the matter shows there was a problem here long before this Government took office. That was admitted by more than one speaker. It was a problem that affected not Dublin alone, but the entire country. In every city and town, throughout the country, there was marked congestion as far as housing was concerned. That might have been due, in its very acute form, to the war and to the fact that there was practically no building done during that period. The policy which any Government would have been bound to take up in 1922 and the policy which a housing board or national board would have been bound to take up in 1922, was exactly the policy the Government adopted at that time.

There was congestion all over the country. There was now little building activity in any part of the country, and, as I said before on many occasions—and I suppose the oftener repeated the sooner people will appreciate what it meant—out of the 94 local authorities throughout the country who had the opportunity in 1922 of getting £2 of Government money for every £1 that they put up, only 74 took advantage of that extraordinary distribution of public money. The cost of housing at that time was somewhere about £700 per house—let us put the figure if you like at £755. There was a free grant of £500 from the State. Nevertheless, certain local authorities throughout the country came to the conclusion that they could not build houses, and let them, at what Deputies on the opposite benches are pleased to call an economic rent. I want to know if there is anybody outside a lunatic asylum in this country, or in any other, who is holding on to the perpetuation of a policy such as that. Neither this State, nor any other State in the world, is rich enough to solve the housing problem on that basis.

Acute congestion in Dublin arising from various causes was the first problem which concerned this Government and which this Government had to make an effort to solve. What has been its contribution towards it? Two sets of figures have been given of the number of houses constructed under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts or any other Acts. Up to the year 1922 the figures under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, as given in the Report of the Department of Local Government and Public Health, are 2,468, and there is an asterisk which shows that that included 217 dwellings converted from property acquired by the Dublin Corporation. Since 1922 6,500 houses have been put up not by a national board or any one of those grand institutions about which Deputies are so eloquent, but by the local authorities or through aid given by the central authority.

Reference was made by Deputy Lemass to the policy of his Party in connection with the solving of the housing question. The Labour Party immediately entered the lists and said: "That is not your policy! It is ours!" The facts are we must go back a number of years to find out who owns this policy.

From the Report of the Departmental Committee on Housing Conditions in Dublin held in 1913 and published in 1914 I find in paragraph 67, page 25, the following:—

"Leaving the question of finance, we are confronted with the question of future administration. It was suggested by some witnesses that it was not desirable that the corporation on account of its many other duties, should be left to undertake housing operations on a large scale, and one witness (Mr. Aston) put forward a concrete proposition for the formation of a housing authority."

The two Parties have been trying to rob the credit for this—the Labour Party, in the first instance, have attempted to rob Mr. Aston of the credit for his policy. The other Party, the younger and more acquisitive Party, have attempted to rob the Labour Party of its policy. Now later on in the year 1918 Mr. P.C. Cowan, the then Chief Engineering Inspector of the Local Government Board, in his report on Dublin housing, page 31, stated:—

"To deal fittingly with the issues involved in the unprecedented and lamentable state of affairs in Dublin, an authority with a constitution, aims, abilities and endowments similar to those of the Congested Districts Board or the Development Commissioners, is required, and it should have legal powers as prompt and drastic as those of the Defence of the Realm Acts. A proper and lasting solution of the Dublin housing question would, indeed, be a most valuable measure for the Defence of the Realm, and one to which the highest abilities might properly be applied."

The two Parties opposite are going back true to British type in this matter. I listened here this evening to a number of Deputies on the opposite benches and not one of them referred to the Bill or to what was in it. I propose to refer to the Bill. In the first place I want to perform one of the conditions of the Sacrament of Penance, that is, Satisfaction. I want to restore to Mr. Aston what is his due and I want to restore to Mr. Cowan what is his due. I want to restore what the public pilferers took.

Will the President tell us something about housing?

Perhaps the Deputy will allow me to make my own speech.

Why is the President supporting Mr. Aston?

At any rate Mr. Aston concerned himself with housing when the Deputies on the two benches opposite were concerning themselves with other matters. We were to have boards up and down the country, boards in and out. What was condemned during fifteen or twenty years on Sinn Féin platforms all over the country, the Fianna Fáil Party is now resurrecting. They are resurrecting that old policy that was condemned by Sinn Féin. I notice that there is a slight change this evening in the speech of Deputy Briscoe. The Deputy says that this is a national matter. Who is engaged at this work at the moment? Practically every local authority in the country has got some machinery at its disposal and is at present operating it. Are we to drag them all here to the centre? Are we to mobilise them here in Dublin, give them new names and titles, put "national" on their backs instead of "local" and tell them "you are not to concern yourself now with your local problems in Wexford or Cork or somewhere else; you are to concern yourselves with the national outlook and the national problem"? And these are the two Parties who a couple of years ago were shrieking to Heaven in Dublin and Cork about the administration of the city being taken away from local control and from local representation. These now want with a single stroke of the pen to have new institutions established, say a national housing board in the country—anything to take from either Party if they ever get into power responsibility for answering anything here. They want to give the administration of the business of the cities and towns of Ireland to a central board here.

What about the E.S.B.?

The Deputy must not interrupt.

I am getting in an odd one or you would not hear a word out of them. It is when their tender spots are touched that they cry out. Deputies, when speaking on this measure, have disclosed a lamentable ignorance and lack of knowledge of housing conditions. Deputy Lemass concerned himself in his criticisms with taking a man out of a slum dwelling and said that such a man would abuse what we would now call a new dwelling provided under this Act; he said that in some cases it had been reported that coal had been put into the bath. I heard about that a few years ago from the principal officer of the Dublin Corporation in connection with housing. I made inquiries about it, and the principal officer of the Dublin Corporation told me the facts. It was also contained in a report of the housing inspectors in a case where a slum area had been cleared. He said, according to this report, we cannot point to a single one of the persons who have been deprived of their habitations and put into one of the new houses, as having abused his new dwelling. He said that obviously if we go on that policy we are not achieving the purpose for which that Act was instituted, and for which the Corporation cleared that slum area. He said we must give those people a chance. What happened? Seven out of nine of these persons who may have abused the new dwellings, within twelve months were quite as good as any of the other tenants that the Corporation had. Within two years the whole nine of these people who had been removed from the slums were quite up to the standard required by the Corporation. Exactly the same story could be told by Mr. Byrne, who was Clerk to the South Dublin Rural District Council, responsible for building 600 houses, which are a credit to the County Dublin. In some cases it may have taken a few years, but there was never a case in which ultimately there was not built up an appreciation of the improved conditions made possible and an acceptance of responsibility for that improvement.

That is exactly what I say.

The Deputy did not make any statement of the sort. If he had that in mind at all, what was the necessity for making the rigmarole of a speech about a subject like that and being quite vague at the finish? I did not hear the Deputy saying anything like that. I observed an absolute desire on his part, and on the part of Deputy Briscoe, to get away entirely from the details of the measure before the House when speaking on housing. Deputy Lemass is concerned with what this measure is going to cost the City of Dublin. There are other places in Ireland besides the City of Dublin. There are other places that have got as big a problem relatively to solve in the matter of housing as the City of Dublin. If it costs 2s. 6d. in the £ to solve it, it is money well spent. Deputies, in considering this matter, are concerned more with the politics of the case than with the actual merits of the housing question.

Not all of us.

Now I am not going to give any free advertisement to anybody in this matter. It would be better if the political methods of certain other people were adopted by the Parties opposite and that they had a week of silence now and again. In 1918, Mr. Cowan stated that since the date of the Report of the Departmental Committee in 1914—I suppose there are certain people who will regard that as an untouchable document—956 tenement houses in which 3,989 families lived had been closed by the Corporation of Dublin under its statutory powers. In the same period he said only 327 new houses had been erected by the Corporation and a very much smaller number by other agencies. Deputies do not waste time reading documents like this report of Dublin housing in 1918 in order to see what are the real circumstances of the case. I spoke about congestion. Here you have a proof as to how this matter works out. There is a proof of the problem, a proof that nobody when the Departmental Committee sat in 1914, could conceive what is likely to occur within four years. We have constructed 26,000 houses since 1922; while other people were only talking about housing we were having them erected.

We give the Government credit for all that.

And there are more people in the slums to-day than ever.

Assuming that that was so, is the Deputy's contention now that the slum problem should have been tackled in 1922?

When the slum area is cleared and a reconstruction scheme is put into operation, what are the facts? How many people are in houses built in a cleared area as compared with the number living there before the area was cleared? The Deputy never concerned himself about that. The fact is that out of 3,000 persons affected in respect of a small area clearance, not more than 2,000 people and possibly not more than 1,500 people can be put back in their place under a new housing reconstruction. Yet that is the method that Deputy Lemass is going to adopt in order to solve the housing problem. Just imagine what the position would be. The position would be that actually more people would be dehoused, to frame a word, in the course of a clearance scheme than you could possibly house.

Is not the situation the same now?

No. Deputy Briscoe, who is a little more in touch with the problem, says that if it is going to be tackled practically the first task is to deal with the 2,000 persons in the kitchen dwellings. Now we are getting something like an appreciation of the difficulties of the job. If Deputy Briscoe were not a member of the Dublin Corporation he would know nothing about that side of it. But being a member of the Dublin Corporation, what is his solution for it? It is to hand the baby over here. It is our job! As if we had not been attending to it when the Deputy was attending to other matters of major importance and having his eyes, like other great men, fixed on the ends of the earth.

You have done nothing whatever.

If there is one criticism that can be urged it is that the amount of money and houses that could be provided since 1922 could not be provided unless someone were taxed to the extent of £2,500,000. We would have taxed them to the extent of two and a half millions to deal with the slum problem which Deputy Lemass said we should have tackled in 1922 when the cost of construction of houses was at a far greater height. That is the time we would have to undertake the most difficult, the most expensive and the least ameliorative policy of all the housing policies. That is what will be poured out on the Dublin platforms for the next three or four months and will be handed out by people who never built a house in their lives and who do not know what it costs to build a house and who do not care so long as they can hand it across here and say, "that is your job." What was the Dublin Corporation's request to the Minister for Local Government in connection with this problem? What was their own suggestion? They asked for a 60 years' loan at 3 per per cent. The Corporation's proposal was a 60 years' loan at 3 per cent. The subsidy for flats under the Bill is 40 per cent. of the cost for 15 years and thirty-three and a third per cent. principal and interest. A loan at 5½ is practically equivalent to the Corporation's proposal. The present difference between a loan at 3 per cent. and 5½ per cent. for the period is approximately £169, while the present value of the subsidy is £162. I have as much experience of administration as two or three of those Deputies put together. When a local authority comes along with a proposal to the central authority or anybody else do they expect to get what they are asking for? Do they not ask for more than they expect? To their amazement I presume they have got out of £169, £162. That was their request, £169. They have got £162 and it is not enough.

What about the loans?

I will go into all that. I have 15 minutes yet and some of the Deputies will have a nightmare after it.

A Deputy

We have one already.

You are looking very well on it.

Deputy Briscoe has one already.

Deputy Reynolds is looking well.

I want to know whether I am right or wrong that this problem has got to be solved at the expense of the State, and that Dublin is not to be asked to contribute anything towards it.

That is not the suggestion at all.

It is the State's responsibility for the whole problem, but not the whole cost.

As I said before this evening, I have had much longer membership of local authorities in this country than the Deputy is likely to have. It is my native city.

You abolished the Corporation when you got a chance.

Did the Deputy say that it was anybody else's problem except the Corporation's?

The less the President says about the Dublin Corporation the better. It comes badly from him.

He is entitled to say anything he wishes so long as he is in order.

Does the Deputy say it is not the problem of the Dublin Corporation? He is silent.

I say it is.

Then there is a dispute over there. Deputy Briscoe says it is a problem and he is the latest recruit. What about Deputy Lemass? He says nothing. It is his night of silence. I did not hear Deputy Lemass.

I believe the main responsibility is on the State.

I presume the Corporation had in mind what its conception of the State's responsibility was when it put up its proposal for £169.

I did not say it was the proposal of the Corporation at all.

That is where we have a difference. There are two members over there and the job is to pick between them. They have never made a study of the subject, and they cannot solve it; if they were to work from this until Doomsday, they would never put up a house. They will shed tears of blood for the unfortunate slum tenant, but when there is an honest effort made to meet the problem they will get up against the Bill.

Leave out Dublin and the Dublin Corporation.

I have disposed of the claim of the Deputy and his Party to their having a national housing scheme. The Deputy and his Party can now see that their particular solution for this problem is the recommendation made by Mr. Aston, supplemented by Mr. Cowan. The Deputy should say "that is our policy; let us be honest about it." The Minister for Local Government in his speech stated that it is contemplated that the percentage here of the total capital costs borne by the State will be 36 per cent.; that the percentage borne by the local authority will be 36 per cent., and that the percentage borne by the occupier will be 28 per cent. Deputies opposite in considering this measure never once adverted to that fact. This measure does not affect only one municipal authority in the country. It affects them all. More than one-third of the cost is undertaken by the State.

Just for the sake of information will the President point out where in the Bill is it stated that the local authorities will undertake 36 per cent. of the cost? Would the President point out where in the Bill are the local authorities made liable for that percentage?

The point that was made is that the erection of an apartment flat to replace a slum dwelling in a central area ought not to cost more than £450. When the State pays the contributions towards principal and interest proposed to be paid here, on a flat costing £450, contribution will be £162. When you see, in present worth, what the contribution of the State is through the means of its annual grants, what the contribution of the local authority is through its bearing any deficit and what the contribution of the occupier through the rent that might normally be charged, the occupier is only called upon to pay in rent 28 per cent. of the total cost of the house.

What is that in £ s. d.?

I do not see anything in the Bill to bear out that statement. That is in the Minister's mind and he is thinking of the City of Dublin. What I want to point out is that, unless there is a slum in a particular town, the council may as well give up building houses because this subsidy of 15 per cent. is too low. Dublin is visualised all the time. What about overcrowding apart from slums? How is that to be dealt with?

The Deputy's Council has reported that there are 94 houses in Wexford required to replace houses which are not up to a reasonable standard.

Is that a slum? If the 94 houses are scattered over a town, is that a slum?

Where the local council applies itself, as it ought to, to replacing these houses by good houses, it will get a grant the present value of which will be £80. In that case, taking the State grants and the deficit the local authority might reasonably be expected to meet, it is anticipated that the occupier of one of these houses would contribute in present value in weekly payments 52 per cent. of the cost of the house, the cost being £350. The Deputy wants to know where money will be saved. In Wexford, houses are being built by direct labour to a standard that reasonably satisfies the needs of the people that are to occupy them. These houses in Wexford are being built at a cost of approximately 11/3 per square foot. If they were built at the price at which houses are being built in Tipperary, Thurles and Monaghan, the cost of these houses would be £170 or £175 and the difference between what the present cost is—£256 according to our estimation, and £230 according to the Deputy—£60 at least could be saved in building. That amount could be saved if the houses being built in Wexford by direct labour were built by the contractors who are building the houses in Tipperary and Monaghan.

That has nothing to do with the question.

The point I was dealing with is a very important point. The Minister has stated that there are 94 houses in Wexford unfit for habitation. These 94 houses are scattered over the town. They could not be described as a "slum area." If the Corporation proceeds to build houses to replace these, they will only get a 15 per cent. grant.

That is nonsense.

What do they get?

Where re-housing is provided by means of single family houses, the total all-in cost of which would not be £350, the Government will pay, up to that limit, 30 per cent. of the loan costs for 15 years, 20 per cent. for a further 15 years and, of the sum of £350, the present value of the subsidies will be approximately £82.

The Bill does not say that.

What is the rent in shillings and pence?

I have not got the rent.

It would be 11/2d. per week less whatever contribution the local authority is prepared to give.

The Deputy says that is too much.

Of course it is. It is not going to solve the slum problem.

The question is: more money is to be provided at a reduced cost compared with what we were invited to do in 1922. The sooner Deputies come down to earth the better. The case put up by Deputy Lemass and, to a very large extent by Deputy Briscoe, is the poorest man in the poorest and worst slums of the city. Obviously, the local authority, knowing what it is up against, knowing what it is going to get from the State, knowing what it is going to impose upon itself, will deal with those who are in the better position, following down that line of policy. It is nonsense to suggest that this question could be solved by a housing board in twelve months. Nobody knows it is nonsense better than the Deputies making that sort of speech. As far as this problem is concerned, knowing full well that there are representatives of all the political parties on the various local authorities, the cry is: "Do not go to the local authorities to solve this question; it is too serious; it is too costly. Somebody else has to pay besides the State and we do not want that."

Nobody said that.

That is the view of these two Deputies and, if I have to say a word to the citizens of Dublin, I shall tell them the type of representative they are sending here.

The re-housing grant is not necessarily to be connected in any way with a clearance area or an improved area scheme. If, in Wexford, an insanitary house is done away with and replaced by another house, a grant of £82 is available.

What percentage is that?

It is 30 per cent. of the annual loan charges for a period of 15 years and 20 per cent. of the loan charges for the subsequent 15 years.

That part of the question is settled. Now, take the question of an over-crowded area, which would not be a slum in the accepted sense. Is it not too much to expect a council to build houses for people of that kind since they will only get 15 per cent.?

You get the equivalent of £45 as against the £60 you get now.

Is that how it will work out at 15 per cent.?

The grants we are giving to meet loan charges in respect simply of new houses are equivalent to a grant of £45, replacing the £60 grant at the moment.

The Minister talked about the change so far as the policy of advances from the Local Loans Fund was concerned. Perhaps the Minister would tell us what that change is.

There will be another opportunity to answer these questions.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.