In Committee on Finance. - Expiring Laws Bill, 1933—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SCHEDULE 1.

On the Second Stage of this Bill I asked the Minister for Finance if he would invite the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to state the Government's attitude on the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883; on the prospects of providing more labourers' cottages, and their attitude towards the present tenure which labourers have in their cottages. I also asked him to invite the opinion of the Department of Local Government on the operation of the Local Authorities (Central Purchasing) Act. I also provided the Minister with an opportunity of giving a brief review of the success that has attended the Fianna Fáil housing policy.

The Deputy took advantage of this Bill last week to express the opinion, or rather gave it as a fact, that during the period the Fianna Fáil Government have been in power there was not a single tenement dweller moved out of a slum house in Dublin. I said then that I would be able to answer that. The proper time to answer it was not then, because on the following Monday evening it was necessary for the Corporation to meet to give effect to the proposition to raise a loan of £1,000,000, the greater portion of which would be used in connection with its housing schemes within the city. I called the attention of the responsible officer of the Corporation to what had been said, and I asked him to forward details as to the work of the Housing Committee during the last two years or so. He had not those ready on Monday, for some reason or other that I cannot explain. I made reference to it, however, during the debate and to-day he favoured me with a report in the shape of a letter from the Department concerned. He says:—

"I regret that the information regarding the removal of families from tenement houses was not completed to enable me to send it to you on Monday. The official to whom I had entrusted the preparation of it was unavoidably prevented from attending the office on Saturday, which had the effect of delaying its completion. The facts as now disclosed show that on the housing schemes at Cabra, Marrowbone Lane, Beggars Bush and Beggsboro', comprising a total of 1,444 dwellings, allocations were made to about 650 families previously resident in the slums."

Would the Deputy be good enough to read the list of schemes again?

Mr. Kelly

Certainly, but I think I always speak loud enough to be heard.

I am trying to take a note of them.

Mr. Kelly

You should not take a note while I am talking. They are Cabra, Marrowbone Lane, Mary's Lane, Beggars Bush and Beggsboro'. This housing question, as I stated on Monday, and I think most of us agree, is a human question and there should not be an attempt made to make political capital out of it one way or the other. I regret, of course, that these figures are not much larger. I rather think that we should be dealing in thousands and not hundreds. However, having regard to the grave difficulties which are in the way, I think the work has been very well done during the last 18 months. I think if the Deputy makes further inquiries from the City Manager's Department he will find that still further efforts are being made and will be made in future, until we have this slum question finally settled, and these dwellings disappear from the midst of this city.

I welcome the intervention of Deputy Kelly. I do not know that the record he has been in a position to produce is as flattering to himself and to his Party as he hoped it would be. I gladly disown any desire to make party capital out of this business, and I assure the Deputy that if I did keep up a pretty constant stream of criticism on this question, I was quite as vocal when the Cumann na nGaedheal Government was in office as I am now. I will recall to the Deputy's mind, perhaps, that I began to address myself in public to this question in 1930, and I have kept up a pretty consistent demand for the investigation and rectification of the slum problem, not only in Dublin but in the other cities and in the rural areas, since that time. Perhaps the Deputy will understand that criticism of that character is very often helpful to those who, like himself, are doing their best to expedite the clearance of the slums. The Deputy's reply to my challenge as to how many families were removed from the slums, I submit, begs the whole question. He first gave us an estimate of the number of families who were removed from tenement houses. He then says they were transferred to housing schemes in Marrowbone Lane and Mary's Lane. A great part of the objection that I have to the present system of dealing with this problem is that we are taking the people out of one tenement and putting them into another.

Mr. Kelly

Nothing of the sort. It shows your ignorance of the whole question.

It is nothing to boast of that, 20 years after a house has been condemned as unfit for human habitation, we have provided an alternative roof for the tenants of that house. That ought to have been done 20 years ago. What we want to do now is to create a situation which will not involve us in a new tenement problem, or a new slum problem, 20 or 30 years from now.

On a point of order. How is this relevant to any section or schedule in the Bill?

The Deputy has got a great deal of latitude, I admit. Housing policy certainly does not arise on this Bill.

Of course, I have no desire to argue as to whether I am relevant or not, but I should like to know if I can meet the reply made by Deputy Kelly to the question which I originally put him. His reply is that these families have been removed from tenement houses. I desire to demonstrate now that, in fact, they have not been.

It will be very difficult to say when Deputy Dillon thinks he will have replied.

I shall be very brief.

Mr. Kelly

I submit, with all respect, that my intervention this evening was only to correct a definite statement made by the Deputy last week when he stated that during the regime of the Fianna Fáil Government not a single tenement dweller was removed out of a tenement house or slum in Dublin. That was his point. I simply contradicted that here with official figures. I did not want to give my own, but gave official figures. Therefore, the thing should rest there.

Unfortunately that is what started it.

Mr. Kelly

The Deputy took advantage of the Bill last week to raise this question and to make that definite statement for political purposes.

Perhaps Deputy Kelly will allow me to finish. What I said on this was that, so far as I am aware, not one tenement dweller in the City of Dublin has been taken out of a tenement house by the Fianna Fáil Government. In reply to that, Deputy Kelly referred me to Cabra, Marrowbone Lane, Mary's Lane, Beggars Bush and Beggsboro'. So far as Cabra is concerned, I doubt very much if many tenement dwellers have moved to Cabra.

They are practically all tenement dwellers who have moved.

I am extremely gratified to hear that from the Minister. So far as Marrowbone Lane and Mary's Lane are concerned, we are not moving the people out of tenements but out of one tenement into another.

Marrowbone Lane consists exclusively of small houses.

What are in Mary's Lane?

Mr. Kelly

Small houses and flats.

I am referring to the flats.

Mr. Kelly

You are very flat yourself.

I had put it to the Minister that the building of other tenements was not a good remedy for the tenement problem. As I understood, the Minister agreed with me in preferring that the residents of tenement houses should be moved thence into small individual houses of their own. Now that this question has been raised by Deputy Kelly, I invite the Minister to say whether, in the expenditure of further large sums of money, he will exercise his predominating influence to prevent huge barracks of tenements being erected in Gloucester Street, Railway Street and in the area in respect of which the Corporation have announced their intention of going ahead with slum clearances in the immediate future. If we are going to have a huge slum colony established on the site of the existing slums, then instead of improving the situation, we are going to make it far worse. The tragic aspect of the situation is that, if it is made worse now, not in our generation will it be set to rights. In my opinion, the construction of another slum of tenement flats in that area will be one of the greatest crimes that could be perpetrated against this country. Before that work is embarked upon, counsel should be taken and the whole situation reviewed. This question arose on the point as to the necessity for re-enactment of the Rent Restrictions Act. I feel deeply on this question. I realise that I have not liberty to discuss it at length now. But I do urge most strongly that the Minister, before he allows Dublin Corporation to build another huge slum in the middle of this city, should set up a competent commission to inquire into the matter. If there are men so dead to their sense of public duty as to create slums in the middle of the city in this age and generation, the Minister should exercise his powers to clear these men out of office and put in men who are competent——

I think that the majority are members of your Party.

I do not care who they are. This is not a question for frivolity.

Address your chief behind you.

This is not a question into which we should draw political red herrings.

I hope you will remember that.

This is a question simply and solely of saving the people of the city. I am not condemning the Minister for anything he has done. All I am asking is that he take steps—he has plenty of time—to secure that this money will be properly spent and the poor decently housed. To do that, a commission should be set up which would give him expert advice and, if need be, give the members of Dublin Corporation expert advice. If they resist that advice or set that advice at defiance, I should not hesitate to recommend the Government to take over their functions and place them in the hands of a competent Minister of State. This is a grave problem and it ought to be met in a courageous way. If the local housing authorities do not deal with it with prudence, it should be placed in the charge of a Minister responsible to this House. If the present policy is to be pursued by Dublin Corporation and other Corporations, the sooner housing is taken out of the control of the local authorities and put in the hands of a Minister responsible to this House, the better for this country.

I regret that Deputy Kelly introduced the work of the Corporation and, especially, the housing work of the Corporation into this debate, as the Deputy knows it was unanimously agreed on Monday night, when we approved of the loan of £1,000,000, that we should approach the housing question in this city as a corporation and not as two political parties. In what I now say, I am not prompted by political motives. What Deputy Dillon said last week, he said not as a member of the Corporation, but as a member of this House. I, as a member of the Corporation, know, and Deputy Kelly knows, that the slum dwellers who have been accommodated in the last one and a half or two years are accommodated in houses built under schemes that were in progress before the present Government came into office. I do not want to get any kudos for the old Government by saying that. I say it as a matter of correction.

The Attorney-General

I rise to a point of order——

I am replying to Deputy Kelly.

The Attorney-General

I submit that all this discussion is irrelevant.

The Attorney-General is perfectly right. The Chair has ruled that the slum problem is not relevant to this Bill. Deputy Dillon, I think, introduced the matter last day. I allowed Deputy Kelly to make a statement and Deputy Dillon to make a counter statement, but if we were to continue in that fashion in regard to every item in the Schedule we should never get finished. I cannot allow Deputy Belton to discuss Government policy further in regard to the slum problem.

Is Government policy on housing not relevant?

Government policy on housing is not relevant to this discussion.

Statements have been made about Dublin Corporation—a body which is doing its best to solve the housing problem. I do not want to make a political statement or a statement from a party standpoint. I want to correct a wrong impression made, I must say, by Deputy Dillon.

I am not concerned who made it, and I am not concerned about the Dublin Corporation. That body, so far as my experience goes, is well able to look after itself. We cannot look after the interests of the Corporation here. We must confine ourselves to what is relevant to the Bill before us. The slum problem in Dublin is not relevant to the Bill.

I bow to your ruling, but would you permit me to say that we are prepared to take helpful advice from any quarter. We shall not resent any advice; it does not matter from what political party it comes. I must say that the Minister co-operates with us well in our schemes. I should also like to inform Deputy Dillon that the elected Council for the City of Dublin is not the housing authority for the City of Dublin. That is the Manager's function, so that the Minister, through the Manager, is already the authority responsible for housing in Dublin. We are only advisers. We can raise money and give it to the Manager for this purpose. If the work be not well done, the responsibility is not that of the elected members, but of the City Manager, or rather the Minister acting through the City Manager.

Mr. Kelly

I hope Deputy Dillon will be more careful in the future.

I raised three points and, if I may refer to the Official Report, you will find that the Minister for Finance said the three points raised would be dealt with at a later stage. No attempt has been made to deal with any of the points then raised.

The Deputy knows that the Chair has no power to compel a Minister to reply to points raised.

The Attorney-General

The Deputy also knows the points were all irrelevant both on the Second and the Committee Stages.

This is what the Minister said:—

"I merely want to say in concluding the debate that the points that have been raised by the Deputies will be brought under the notice of the Ministers concerned, and I hope that on the Committee Stage their criticisms will be dealt with."

If I were to deal with one of the points raised by Deputy Dillon I would not be as merciful to him as Deputy Kelly has been. I will not use the words "a lying statement," but this is the Deputy's statement: "...not one tenement dweller in the City of Dublin has been taken out of a tenement house by the Fianna Fáil Government." I will not characterise that statement as I would like to, but I certainly say that it was a very unworthy statement coming from Deputy Dillon.

The Minister will admit that any of them who have been taken out of the tenements have been taken out by the Dublin Corporation and not by the Government.

I must protest most emphatically against the employment of the language used by the Minister. He has used language very unlike anything he has used heretofore. He takes an excerpt from my statement and uses in connection with it language which is a disgrace to the seat he occupies. Here is what I did say:—

"We have heard a great deal of talk about houses and we have actually passed a number of Acts dealing with houses, but I would be very much interested to hear from any Deputy news of a substantial addition to the available housing accommodation. I invite contradiction of the statement that, so far as I am aware, not one tenement dweller in the City of Dublin has been taken out of a tenement house by the Fianna Fáil Government."

I went on to urge the responsible Minister or a Deputy to produce a contradiction of that contention. The Minister for Finance said these points would be dealt with later, and the Minister for Local Government now has the insolence to rise in this House and characterise the statement which I made here, inviting a correction, as a lying statement. That observation does the Minister no credit.

I did not characterise the statement as a lying statement. I said I would very much like to.

It is very unlike anything the Minister said before and it is really unworthy of him.

It is unworthy of Deputy Dillon, who knows Dublin well, and who knows what has been done in Dublin in the last year and a half or two years, to make such a statement.

I stand over every word I have said.

It is more unworthy of the Deputy now that he knows the facts; he did not know them a week ago. I did not think it was in him to make a statement of that kind. I am surprised that a Deputy occupying a responsible position would make such a statement. As regards the other point the Deputy raised and that he wants a reply to, I do not think it is a worthy statement either. It is a foolish statement.

To which statement does the Minister refer?

The statement referring to the Combined Purchasing Department. I do not think it should be replied to. There was something about a man buying three screws from a shop. It was hardly worth the Deputy's while raising the point. It was merely wasting the time of the House to raise such a small point and it would be merely wasting time for the Minister to reply to it.

Has the Minister read what I said?

I did feel like, and I admit it, using strong language in reference to the statement on the housing situation in Dublin—the tenement situation. Nothing like what is necessary has been done in Dublin. I know that as well as the Deputy and probably as well as most of the people in the House. Nothing adequate to the situation has been done; but it is certainly untrue to say that no tenemen dweller has been taken out within the last year or year and a half, and the Deputy knows that. One other Deputy spoke on the question of combined purchasing last week and he also made a statement which, so far as my information goes, was very far from being true. He made a statement, with regard to the Local Government Department, that he had called the attention of the Department to certain irregularities by local government officials in connection with purchases made under the Combined Purchasing Act and that the Department had refused to make investigations in the case. That statement is not correct. The Deputy referred to—I do not know if he is in the House—did in a general way bring some cases to the notice of the Department. He referred in a general way to abuses that were committed by officials of local authorities. He gave no details that would help us to identify these officials and we could not find any evidence that the Combined Purchasing Act had been wrongly used by officials. We would be very happy if he or any other Deputy would give us detailed information that would enable us to trace offenders.

The Combined Purchasing Act has been criticised. I often criticised it myself and other Deputies in my Party criticised it. While I criticised it in days gone by, I was always prepared to admit that, taking it all in all, it was a good scheme and I am still satisfied it is a good scheme. It has saved money, thousands of pounds, to local authorities and to the ratepayers in general. One additional tribute to the scheme that we are able to announce is that the Grangegorman Board has, during the last week or two, agreed that they can now purchase through the Combined Purchasing Department many items, running into a large sum of money, that heretofore they used not purchase through the Department. They are giving full adherence to the scheme and are prepared to make their purchases of quite a long list of articles in future through the Department. The Grangegorman Board is a board that has, to my own knowledge, been very well run from the point of view of its purchases and contracts. The members of it have been business-like in their methods. In former times, I believe, they made good contracts and they now find they can do better, certainly with regard to a very long list of contracts, by taking these goods through the Combined Purchasing Department. I think that is a tribute to the work of the Department, coming from a well-managed board like the Grangegorman Board.

I do not know if there was any other point of importance referred to last week. There was, however, a reference by Deputy Dillon to the Labourers Acts. These Acts are necessary; they are the basis of the schemes for labourers' cottages. Deputy Dillon asked about the tenure of labourers' cottages and the possibility of a purchase scheme. The matter of a scheme for the purchase of labourers' cottages is under consideration. Reports were received during the summer from the Committee that was set up but we have not yet had the final conclusions of the officials of the Department who are examining the matter. The recommendation of the Committee set up by us was that a purchase scheme should be adopted. When we have the criticisms of the officials concerned in order they will be laid before the Executive Council, but until then I am not in a position to say whether the purchase scheme will be adopted by the Executive Council and put before this House or not, or what the nature of the scheme if adopted will be. I think Deputy Dillon may take it that in case a purchase scheme is put to this House for adoption or if legislation for that purpose will be put to the House that every proper means will be taken to secure the tenure of the houses to those who do not wish to make use of the purchase scheme.

It is unusual to experience at the hands of a Minister such unparalleled discourtesy as I have experienced to-day and that discourtesy tends to make one unable to discuss the question with the detachment one would like. If the Minister had only referred to Volume 50, No. 1, column 26, of the Official Debates he would have seen at once that on that occasion I asked if the Minister would consider giving the local authorities power to relax the regulations for trivial purchases. The Minister thinks it an absurdity that I should mention the incident of the seven screws. I myself signed an invoice not later than yesterday for one penny. This invoice was issued in connection with the central purchasing arrangement. It took twopence to send that account to the man who got it. It took another twopence to send it back to us. It took twopence to forward it to the local authority; twopence to fill the check and twopence to send it back to us. That is 10d. altogether. That was actually expended over a matter of 1d. Why should it be necessary to spend that much public money without ministerial endorsement? My suggestion to the Minister was that he should consider authorising local authorities to spend trivial sums without reference to the schedule of prices provided by the Central Purchasing Department.

That is done.

If the Minister had courteously said so or if he had said that if I had any reason to complain that that power was not being exercised by any local authority he would look into the question, that would have disposed of it at the time.

I dislike being charged with discourtesy. It is not my nature to be discourteous——

I quite agree.

——but I certainly did feel very vexed indeed, when first of all my attention had been called to the statement made by Deputy Dillon. Deputy Dillon knows what is going on, and I said he could not truthfully have made that statement, and the first thought I had in my mind about it was—to ascribe it to a dirty political motive. Was I wrong?

The Minister knows perfectly well he was wrong.

I am sorry if I were discourteous. If the Deputy reads over again what I said on the matter I think he will understand.

May I say that I would rather accept without reserve the Minister's explanation than to have his remarks read out again.

If the Deputy pays my tram fare I will go round to the Corporation houses with him.

Bill passed without amendment and ordered to be reported.

Bill reported without amendment.
Question: "That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

What steps are being taken to ensure that goods supplied to the local authorities are in accordance with the samples? I have experience of the local authorities getting very bad supplies. The Minister would be well advised to ask the local authorities to see that the goods supplied are up to sample.

I think Deputy Corish knows a good deal about the working of the central purchasing system. I think he knows that the store keepers have to deal with the stores ordered under the purchasing system; if the store keeper has any doubts in his mind that the goods are not up to sample, the local authorities send the sample up to the Central Purchasing Department, and they compare it to see if it is up to the standard sample in the office. One criticism I used to make long ago, before coming into office, was as to the delay that used to take place when samples were sent from the country to the head office. It sometimes took weeks. I do not know if that has been rectified since, but I have heard no complaints. Samples come up every day in the week to headquarters, and these samples are tested and compared with the standard samples held at headquarters. If the sample sent up is not up to the standard sample the store keepers are so advised.

Question put and agreed to.