In Committee on Finance. - Money Resolution—Town and Regional Planning Bill, 1933.

I beg to move:—

That, as regards any Act of the present Session, to make provision for the orderly and progressive development of cities, towns, and other areas, whether urban or rural, and to preserve and improve the amenities thereof and for other matters connected therewith, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of any expenses (being expenses which are required by such Act to be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas) incurred in carrying such Act into effect.

On the Money Resolution, has the Minister anything to say arising out of the submission of the Bill, after the Second Reading, to local authorities? The suggestion was made in the House that what was really wanted was some kind of Bill that the local authorities would make some sort of an objective attempt to use and it was pointed out that it would be only after some actual attempt in the direction of town planning that we would get some idea as to what purpose a Bill of this sort would serve. We would then have some idea what it was going to cost and whether the legislation was sufficient to carry out the objects that a Town Planning Bill should perform. Will the Minister say whether he has referred the Bill in its complete form to local authorities or any other bodies and has he had any recommendations or communications expressing approval of the lines of the Bill? Has he succeeded in getting information that local authorities are going to endeavour to do something when this Bill becomes an Act?

Under this Town Planning Bill there are general powers of acquisition and entry vested in the Minister or in the planning authority for the carrying out of schemes. In that connection, I want to raise a matter about which I had some discussion with the Minister at an earlier date. I want to know if it is the policy of the Government to use the powers of this Bill for the purpose of facilitating large housing schemes for tenement dwellers outside the city on virgin soils. I remember I once asked the Minister to express his own opinion as to the comparative desirability of building large blocks of flats within the city boundaries for the accommodation of tenement dwellers as compared with the building of individual houses with very small gardens in the outlying districts. I remember the Minister saying that he agreed with me that the latter remedy was the one that he preferred. Nevertheless, at the present moment we are all aware that very comprehensive schemes are under consideration by local authorities that may afterwards become town planning authorities for the erection of large blocks of flats within city boundaries, and we are aware the expenditure involved in these new schemes may be so great as to make it extremely difficult to promote other schemes for the accommodation of town dwellers.

I would like to know if the Minister agrees with me or not in the belief that if we attempt to solve the tenement problem by the erection of large blocks of flats in the city we shall be face to face in twenty or twentyfive years' time with a problem, if not as bad, at least very similar to the problem we have to face to-day? In support of that contention I invite the Minister to consider the Dublin Corporation blocks of flats in Upper Dominick Street. I may add that when these were first built they were admirable and they looked splendid, but the conditions inevitably attendant on tenement surroundings have resulted in these large blocks of flats degenerating into something that is very little better than ordinary tenement houses.

I do not think the Corporation have any flats in Upper Dominick Street.

I may have misnamed the street, but it is a street near the Broadstone Station in which there are very large houses.

They are not Corporation houses.

I do not know who built them, but they are obviously on a modern scale. There are open staircases and they are in the nature of flats rather than tenement houses. I am very concerned to hear from the Minister what his own view is as a responsible Minister on the respective merits of the extra urban schemes and blocks of flats for the relief of tenement congestion. I believe he is in agreement with me, and the object of my raising the question now is to urge him to take a strong stand for his own convictions. If the experts disagree with him, before he yields to the experts, I ask him to set up a Commission who will examine his own viewpoint and see if, perhaps, it may not be true that the Minister is right and that the so-called experts are wrong. He has in his hands the spending of great sums of money. He is charged with the solution of a great social problem. It will largely depend on him personally whether this job is going to be done in the right way or not. What I am asking him to do is, not to give way to his Departmental experts unless and until he has been convinced by unanswerable evidence and by an insurmountable consensus of opinion that his view and my view as to the correct method of relieving tenement conditions are wrong.

In reply to the question of Deputy Mulcahy, I wish to say that after the Bill was introduced it was circulated to quite a large number of public authorities and bodies who, it was thought, would be probably interested in the subject matter of the Bill. As a matter of fact, the Second Reading of the Bill was postponed for a considerable time at the request of some of these bodies—county councils and other bodies—so as to give them adequate time to consider the Bill and formulate amendments. I am sorry to say that in the lapse of time since the Bill was first introduced the amount of constructive suggestions we have received has been at a minimum. They were very few indeed. The Bill was submitted, as I say, to a variety of bodies. The Association of Municipal Authorities, as far as I am aware, has not yet replied. We asked them specially to give consideration to the subject matter of the Bill. We have had replies from the Dublin Corporation, the Cork Corporation and the General Council of County Councils. Some few amendments were submitted by these three bodies—nothing of a very substantial kind, but still helpful suggestions were made. Some suggestions were made by professional organisations like the Institute of Architects and the Builders Societies in Dublin. Some useful suggestions were made which were considered by the Department.

Outside of these very little interest— to my thinking, too little interest—has been displayed in the Bill so far by public authorities. However, it is true that the Bill deals with a matter that is new. Its subject matter is new in this country and, although bodies like the architects and engineers, and some of the premier public authorities in the country give careful consideration to the matter, there has been no practical experience of the working of a Bill of this kind. Therefore, what we are doing this time is trying to get power in law to do a thing about which we have no experience. Probably it will require three or four years working of this Bill, such as it will be when it is put through the House, to enable local authorities to say what advantage it will be to them and to the country as a whole. Then, I am sure that after three or four years working and experience of it, amending legislation of some kind is bound to be introduced.

On the point raised by Deputy Dillon, I do not think this is the time or place to enter into a discussion on the solution of the housing problem. That is a big problem in itself. It is unquestionably associated with the idea of town planning, but it is not directly touched on in this Bill. The Deputy knows what my own views on the matter are, and I think the House does also. How far I shall be able to make my views prevail with the local authorities, I do not know. I shall do my best with them to try to find a proper solution of the housing problem. However, that is another day's work, and I do not think it would be of any particular advantage in a discussion of this Bill to initiate a discussion on the type of houses to be built in Dublin or in other areas where the slum problem requires an early solution.

Motion put and agreed to.