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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Dec 1937

Vol. 69 No. 16

Housing and Labourers Bill, 1937—Second Stage.

I move that this Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill, for which I ask a Second Reading, is the annual Bill carrying on the provisions of the Housing Act, 1932. Each year, since 1932, we have had similar Bills making provision for the carrying out of the terms of that 1932 Act, and sometimes there have been amendments or changes, but usually of a not vitally important form. This time there are some changes suggested that, I think, will be useful and helpful and that will, perhaps, enable us to make a little more rapid progress, particularly in regard to the question of slum clearance. As to the details of the measure, I have some facts to put before the House. The main purpose of this Bill is to provide a further sum of £700,000 for the making of grants for the erection and reconstruction of houses by private persons and the erection of houses by public utility societies, bringing the total provision under this head since the 1932 Housing Act to £3,500,000. Under the Act of 1932 we provided for this work £700,000. This was increased to £1,400,000 by the Act of 1934, and under two Acts in 1936 the sum of £1,400,000 was increased to £2,800,000. That amount has been fully allocated and as the time for completing the work expires on 31st March next the Government have decided to provide for the fifth time a sum of £700,000 to enable the work of building and rebuilding to continue to 31st March, 1939.

The amount of money allocated to private persons and public utility societies at 1st November, 1937 for the erection of houses in urban areas was £596,595 for the building of 11,481 houses and in rural areas £1,212,337 for the erection of 17,881 houses making a total of £1,808,932 for the building of 29,362 houses. The amount allocated for the reconstruction of existing houses at the same date was £967,063 in respect of 25,086 houses. These figures represent a total of £2,775,995 in allocations in respect of the erection and reconstruction of 54,448 houses.

The number of houses built under these grants at 1st November, 1937, was 19,954 of which 8,616 were erected in urban areas and 11,338 in rural areas. At the same date the total number of houses reconstructed by small farmers and agricultural labourers was 12,780. The total number of new houses built and reconstructed by private persons and public utility societies up to November was 32,734 as compared with 19,694 on 1st June, 1936. The amount paid by way of grants from the Act of 1932 to 1st November, 1937, was £1,893,390.

It is proposed to continue the payment of grants at the existing rates up to 31st March, 1939 with the exception of the grant of £45 in respect of houses erected in urban areas. Houses erected in these areas up to the 31st March, 1938, which comply with the statutory conditions will be eligible for grants. Section 3 of the Bill also makes provision for the payment of a grant in respect of houses in urban areas that are at present ineligible for grants because the houses were not completed by end of March 1937.

Outside Dublin City and County there has been very little done by private persons and public utility societies for the erection of houses in urban areas. When the first Housing Bill of 1936 was before the House on 19th February, 1936, I said that I was satisfied that in urban areas assistance could be withdrawn or, at any rate, considerably modified as regards the size of houses which should qualify for subsidy. Subsequently it was decided to restrict the floor area of the houses in urban areas that would be eligible for grants to 800 square feet. Up to then, a house up to 1,250 square feet in floor area was eligible for subsidy. It was hoped that the reduction in area would induce speculative builders to engage in the production of a house suitable to the requirements of the average working-class family and thus, to some extent, relieve the demand on the local authorities.

The change made in the law in 1936 has not materially altered the position. The bulk of the houses provided in urban areas are erected for sale. Very few are available for letting and in view of the growing demands on the Exchequer for slum clearance schemes it is felt that the time has come when the resources of the State must be reserved for this purpose and for the provision and improvement of the homes of small farmers and agricultural labourers in rural areas.

A portion of the additional grant of £700,000 to be provided under this Bill will be available for the improvement of housing accommodation for the working classes in urban areas. Hitherto grants for reconstruction have been confined to the improvement of the dwellings of small farmers and agricultural labourers. Representations have been made to me for extension of grants towards reconstruction of houses in urban areas. In these areas there are many houses structurally sound but defective in sanitary accommodation which, if reconstructed on proper lines, could be made suitable as single dwellings or converted into two or three self-contained dwellings. The reconditioning of houses which are structurally sound in such a way as to bring them up to modern standards of comfort and sanitation will help towards a solution of the slum problem in urban areas.

Under the Housing Act of 1931 an urban authority is empowered to require the owner of a house which can be put into repair at a reasonable cost to carry out necessary improvements. Most of the urban authorities have failed to exercise such powers and there are many houses occupied by the working classes which, by reconditioning and abatement of overcrowding, could be converted into suitable habitations. In determining whether a house is fit for human habitation regard must be had to the extent, if any, to which by reason of disrepair or sanitary defect the house falls short of any by-laws in operation governing the general standard of housing accommodation for the working classes in such district. Much has already been done in the removal of families from unfit houses in urban areas. From the passing of the Act of 1932 to the 31st March last 9,852 houses were ordered to be demolished. These houses contained 12,071 families, comprising 53,398 persons. The number of houses actually demolished was 6,122 which were inhabited by 7,853 families, comprising 36,535 persons. The clearance of slum areas has been well advanced throughout the country with the exception of the county borough areas.

The provision which is now being made for the reconstruction of houses should offer sufficient inducement to the owners to reconstruct them on modern lines and provide adequate sanitary accommodation. A grant not exceeding £40 or one-quarter of the cost of reconstructing a house unfit for human habitation, which is otherwise suitable or capable of being made suitable will be met out of Stage funds. In the county boroughs and the borough of Dun Laoghaire the State grant, will be conditional on a like contribution being made by the local authority concerned. In other urban areas it will optional for the local authority to supplement the State contribution. Power is being taken in the Bill to secure that the rent to be charged for a reconstructed dwelling will not be increased by reason of any expenditure from State or local funds.

I would like to make it clear that grants will be payable only in respect of houses that can be converted into suitable family dwellings. It is also intended to confine the grant to houses situate outside places that will require to be cleared under the provisions of the Act of 1931. In Dublin and other cities there are many houses on principal streets inhabited by the working classes the life of which, by proper reconditioning, can be extended for many years, and thus enable the local authority to confine its immediate operations to the clearance of the overcrowded and insanitary areas. The present proposals are of an experimental nature and will be subject to review as soon as practical experience of the extent and utility of the operations can be measured.

The Bill also provides for the funding of arrears of rent in connection with the labourers' cottage purchase schemes framed under the Labourers Act, 1936. When that Act was before the House it was suggested by several Deputies that arrears of rent might either be remitted altogether or funded. On the Committee Stage I said I would consider the suggestion in so far as it concerned funding but, at that time, the case put forward did not seem to warrant the amendment. The cottage purchase schemes under the Act submitted by boards of health have been examined in conjunction with the returns of the rent collections, and I am satisfied that a removal of the restriction on sale imposed by Section 16 of the Act, 1936, is necessary to enable speedy provision to be made for the sale of cottages and to facilitate the collection of the arrears. The method of funding the arrears is left to the board of health to decide according to circumstances.

As the Minister pointed out, this Bill is really a continuation measure making the necessary provision for the grants required to carry on the housing schemes. The Minister gave us certain figures which showed the amount expended in grants, but I do not think he gave us what are the nation's commitments in the matter of housing. For instance, in reply to a question the other day which Deputy Corish raised on the adjournment, the Minister made a statement which was quite true: that so far as the Government and the people were concerned it was the one people who were paying all the time, irrespective of whether the Government or the local authorities made the grants. In order that we should get a true picture of the situation the Minister should have given us the figure of our entire commitments, including the grants which the Government have made for housing and the commitments with regard to payments on certain cottages. We would then have at least a fuller picture to show us where we stood or what were our entire commitments in the matter.

There are a few points in the Bill to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention. A case was made here before, about 12 months ago or possibly prior to that, with regard to the valuation limit for reconstruction, and I think it was pointed out at that time to the Minister that very grave hardships were inflicted on certain people who happened to be just outside the valuation limit. I entirely agreed with the Minister when he said on that occasion that there must be some figure fixed. That is true, but I think that, after all, the Minister has got over that difficulty in the matter of the major grants for new houses by fixing a graded scale of £80, £70, £60 and down to £45 for new houses. In the case of reconstruction grants, however, we have an absolute limit, of £25 valuation, fixed. That is an absolute line of demarcation and, in practice, it means that you have a man with a valuation of, say £24 15s. in fairly comfortable circumstances getting a reconstruction grant irrespective of his means, where as a man with a valuation of £25, who is in very poor circumstances, is not able to avail of that grant at all. I should like if the Minister would take advantage of the introduction of this Bill to remedy that state of affairs. The grants for reconstruction could be graded in the same way as the main grants have been graded.

I see that the Minister has altered the floor space from 750 to 800 feet, but I do not think that that will make any material difference. The Minister pointed out, with regard to another matter, that he made an alteration the last time in the hope that it would bring about a change, but it did not. I do not think this will make any change either. What I should wish the Minister to do would be to eliminate this condition regarding floor space altogether, because personally I do not see that there is anything in it. I am sure the Minister is well aware of what is happening. If a man wants to qualify for a grant for his house, he builds the house to conform to the specified floor space. He then applies for the grant and, as soon as he gets it, he adds to the house. I do not think that the Minister is at all escaping the payment of grants in the case of larger houses by this provision, whereas, if there were no fixed floor space mentioned, the man would in the first instance probably provide himself with a better type of house, a house that would not be so unsightly, possibly a house that would be more suitable and more of an asset to the country than the house which he has built to qualify for the grant eventually turns out to be.

Coming back again to the question of finances, I have certain figures which are gleaned from replies given in this House from the Department of Local Government. If they are correct, I think the total commitments of the nation towards houses amount to £6,500,000. That includes grants and commitments for loans. I should like if the Minister would say something about that because after all there is a limit to the nation's resources. The Minister recognises that sooner or later we may, possibly, have to go a bit slow. At least it would be no harm to know where we are. It would be healthier to know exactly how we stood in many matters.

With regard to Part III of the Bill, the Minister makes arrangements for the funding of arrears of labourers' cottages, but I do not know that the arrangement which the Minister suggests in that part of the Bill is going to be a satisfactory one. I do not know exactly whether the Minister is satisfied, firstly, with these house-purchase schemes. As far as I am personally concerned, I do not know that he is, because, although we have formulated a scheme, we have not got as far as the point where people would make offers to purchase.

They are not sanctioned yet.

Possibly not. Of course, I know that would hold it up, but I am afraid that the scheme which is drafted within the Act is not going to appeal to very many. The funding arrangement seems to be a little bit mixed. As the Minister pointed out, it appears that the board of health is going to have the right to fix the funding period, irrespective of anything else. They have the sole and entire right to fix the funding period. There is always a danger when you have two calls being met, like a rent call and a funding call. I can visualise a situation like this arising. For instance, the purchase scheme may extend over a certain number of years, say 30 years, and the funding annuity may extend over 15 years. According to the Bill, such an arrangement can exist. There is always, then, the danger that at the end of the 15 years nobody will take stock of the position, because under paragraph (f) of sub-section (3) of Section 9, it appears that the two will be to a certain extent consolidated. At least they will be paid together. There is an obvious danger that once a labourer starts paying his annuity, which is part funding and part purchase, when the period of funding should come to an end, probably nobody will take notice of the position, and he will continue to pay on. Mind you, that can happen. I have known it to happen in another case. After all, if a man has to pay for 15 or 20 years, possibly he may die during that period, and his widow or son continues to pay after his death, and nobody knows when it should stop. I do not think that is really satisfactory.

There is another matter to which I should like to draw attention. Matters are made very difficult for us here when we have to consider legislation by reference, which is the kind of thing we have here. I have endeavoured to find out exactly where we stood in regard to certain sections and sub-sections that were being continued, repealed, and so on. As a matter of fact, having had recourse to the authorities in the Library, I believe that if we pass the Bill as it is now printed, with certain enactments repealed, we shall not have done the job that we think we have done, because if my study of the Act, No. 19 of 1932, has been correct, there is no such thing as sub-paragraph (iv) of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 5. At least, that is not in the copy in the Library, and I presume it is not in the Act. Of course, there is always the danger that an error of that kind can creep in, and I think the Minister should endeavour, for the sake of adding an extra word or two in the Bill, to make these matters clear, and let us have finished with legislation by reference. It is very unsatisfactory to people who have to study Bills. It is very unsatisfactory to everybody, and I do not know how people down the country, who take up an Act like this, would be able to follow it or know what it means. Consequently, I would ask the Minister, when Acts like this are coming in in future, that he would at least go as far as he possibly can to clarify them, and not have us legislating by reference. It certainly is not satisfactory.

A Chinn Comhairle, the Minister has read us out a great many details about the building of houses, which I have no doubt are true, but I doubt if they give the position as we see it in certain districts in the light in which we think it ought to be shown up. Quite frankly, my interest in this Bill is confined to the City of Dublin and the urban areas. I wish the rest of the country well as regards housing, but I confess that I am looking at this Bill as it affects the City of Dublin and the urban areas. The Minister has spoken about the need for houses. We are all agreed on that. He has read out a long list of houses that have been provided, and as I said I have no doubt that those are correct, but it does not follow that we are all satisfied with the progress which housing is making. This housing problem is a very complicated one, and can be approached from several angles. I do not want to make a speech about housing on this Bill, but at the same time it is very difficult to criticise this Bill without having reference to the other aspects of housing. The Minister has mentioned that certain sections for the building of houses are being extended to April, 1939. As I understand it, that applies to rural areas only, and when we come down to the areas in which I am interested we are only providing for them up to 1st April, 1938. I do not suppose it is news to the Deputies of this House that there has been a very extensive strike in the building trade, which has stopped the production of houses, and that really this extension up to 1st April, 1938, for what is technically known as the 1,250 square feet houses is only an extension for houses that could not be completed up to 1st April, 1937. It does not extend the 800 square feet houses at all.

Housing may be divided into various classes. There are the wealthy people, who can look after themselves. They can either get the house that they want, or have one built to suit their requirements. There are the very poor, who can do nothing, for themselves. They require to have houses provided for them. Between those two classes of the community there is a very large section, some of whom can purchase houses without any assistance; others of whom can purchase houses with slight assistance, and others who require more extensive assistance. I do not know whether or not Deputies in this House will agree with me, but I hold that as far as Dublin and district are concerned practically any house which is put up helps to solve the housing of the working classes. I will give my reasons for stating that: houses in Dublin which have been vacated by the wealthier classes of the population have been moved into by the humbler section of the community, and those houses are serving a very useful temporary purpose, namely, they are housing the working classes. Although they are not by any means ideal suited for that purpose, and I do not consider that that is an ideal solution, at the same time it is a very effective temporary one. I suppose the Minister will not deny for a moment that if some thousands of fairly good-sized houses were provided for the working classes, that would immediately ease the situation. When I say houses for the working classes, I do not mean houses which are specially built for them; I mean houses which would be adapted for letting as tenement houses. In my opinion that would help, as a temporary substitute, just as much as the building of working-class dwellings. I am not for a moment suggesting that the housing of the working classes should not be gone on with as quickly and as extensively as possible, and I think the corporation are doing that to the best of their ability. If we do not all see 100 per cent. eye to eye with them, at least we can appreciate the problem they are up against and sympathise with the efforts they are making.

To return to the population, I think the population of Dublin has increased by about 60,000 in recent years, and the population of the whole country has fallen by 100,000, so it would appear that the urban and rural districts have been denuded to the extent of 100,000, and Dublin has had to provide for an extra 60,000 over and above the ordinary inhabitants. That has helped to increase the problem. Looking at this Bill, I am sorry to say that I really do not see any help by the State for the provision of middle-class and working-class houses after 1st April, 1938. Building is one of those things which cannot be undertaken in a day. A builder has usually been engaged in building all his life. He has got a staff of tradesmen and labourers specialised in the various jobs that he wants done. He is under the necessity of planning his work probably for a couple of years ahead. He has to take over an estate, let us say, and he has to put down roads on that estate. He has to start building houses and he finds, possibly, that the type of house that is wanted is slowly changing. How far has the Minister helped him? The Minister has helped for the next three months. The builder is told that if he started a house before the 1st of January, 1937, he has until the 1st of April, 1938, to complete it, and that is only for the 1,250 square feet type of house.

The Minister has glossed over the fact that he has done away with the £45 grant for this type of house. He says nothing about the remission of rates. He has done away with the remission of rates also. I am charging the Minister with having done away with the rates remission for seven years. That is not extended There is a provision under which the five years' remission goes on to the 31st October, 1938. That only serves to show the haphazard, piecemeal way the legislation for the provision of houses is proceeding. Some day we will have to make up our minds what classes of the community we are prepared to help. We all know that the working classes require houses provided for them, but between them and the people whom nobody would think of helping to build a house is a huge number of people who are looking for houses. I appeal to the Minister to try to make the building of this type of house a whole-time job, and not to leave the builder in the position that he has taken over an estate and he does not know whether he ought to put it up for auction or not. He has got no indication as to whether the £45 grant is going to be extended after the 1st April, 1938.

Everything is increased in price and, if there was an argument for a £45 grant in the past, there is an equally strong argument for a still greater grant in the future. The same remark applies to the remission of rates. That is a cruel imposition to put on a person shifting into a newly-built house. I appeal to the Minister to consider the housing of the whole of the community as interrelated, as inter-locked. There are people classed as working-class people who can buy this type of house. They are qualified for a corporation house and if you get them to embark on another house you have eased the strain for the very poorest section of the community. There is another aspect of this that is rather illuminating, so far as the position in Dublin is concerned. I think the Minister said that 900 houses had been condemned over a period and 600 of them had been demolished.

The figures are 9,000 and 6,000.

I suggest to the Minister that the reason why these two figures do not balance, why there are 3,000 houses not yet demolished, is that they have got nowhere to put the tenants into. There are lots of houses which are unfit for human habitation, and the corporation know that perfectly well. I am not blaming the corporation, because they can say: "Sure, we have nowhere else to put them." As regards the City of Dublin, at the present time, at least so far as one section of the community is concerned, it is probably falling faster than it is being rebuilt. That is why I want to plead with the Minister to consider the housing problem as a whole. I suggest that there is one way of helping to solve the housing problem in the centre of the city. There are a whole lot of houses and they are like the garments that we wear. When our garments get too shabby to appear in before other Deputies, they are usually given away to some deserving person and they serve another turn in a lower walk of life. Houses are just the same. When they have served their purpose as houses for the upper classes, they come down to the lower classes.

But they are not given away the same as the old clothes.

No, they are not, but certainly they serve a useful purpose like the clothes and they form an effective gap, and if the supply of this type of house could be increased it would help to solve the problem. That is why I am urging that every house that the Minister can get put up, even for the middle classes, will help to ease the difficulty. The point is that you will have helped certain people out of houses in these areas and these houses will find their own level at a time when there is such an urgent demand for accommodation. I would like to ask the Minister what satisfaction he can feel in having extended the scope for finishing the 1,250 square feet house up to 1st April next. Surely the building trade are entitled to have a two or three years' programme put forward? We hear a lot about the corporation, that they are endeavouring to keep ahead by surveying sites, etc. I give them the greatest credit for that, but I would also remind the Minister that if the people could get any encouragement at all, if even the existing facilities are not taken from them, that a great deal more progress could be made in solving the housing problem.

I ask the Minister to consider the position of a person engaged in the building trade who sees that he is allowed to 1st April next to finish a house he started before last January. What encouragement does that give the industry? The building trade would like to know what the Government's proposals are. Do the Government consider that this class of house should be done away with? It would seem as if the Minister is going the right way about it. Does he consider that this class of house should not be built? If the Minister thinks there are not enough materials and enough tradesmen to build the houses wanted for the working classes, I should like him to say so, although I would not agree with him. Let him be frank with the House, but what is the reason for bringing in a Bill which, apart from the section which I believe is being gone on with by the corporation as fast as possible, leaves the other sections which are interlocked in an absolutely hopeless position, so far as their future is concerned? I should like the Minister to give us ample time for puting in amendments, because if the Minister cannot see any future for the industry, I think the industry ought to be invited to show what proposals they can put forward. It is absurd to say that in respect of one of our major problems in this city the contribution is to be that the industry does not know where it is.

I sympathise with a great deal of what Deputy Dockrell has said and, like him, I see a lot of difficulties in this matter. It seems to me that this Bill deals with a problem upon which there might be a fairly substantial measure of agreement amongst all Parties. I think everybody recognises that the housing problem, particularly in the urban area and in places like Dublin City, is the major social problem confronting the country to-day, and that, in those circumstances, the whole question of housing, and the State's contribution to the problem, is one that should be tackled in a very big way, in consultation with all the parties concerned and as a uniform problem. I agree with Deputy Dockrell that any contribution to housing helps, in the long run, to solve the desperate problem of the slums, and I think everybody recognises that a very substantial contribution to the problem of housing has been made, for instance, by public utility societies, and that any work that can be done by such organisations, as an assistance to what is being done by the local authorities, should get every possible encouragement.

This Bill is of a highly technical character, and I do not know whether Deputies have been satisfied by what the Minister said, in introducing it, as to what is involved in it. I personally, am not quite satisfied and it is fairly obvious from the summaries of the Bill that appeared in the Dublin newspapers that the Dublin newspapers did not know what the Bill was all about. I think there is a very strong case for having, in the case of Bills of a technical character, affecting matters in which the whole community is vitally interested, and in which every Deputy is, or ought to be, vitally interested, an explanatory memorandum issued by a person who would legally interpret the Bill and make plain, not only to Deputies, but to the community generally, what is involved in it.

Deputy Dockrell, in a passing way, referred to the question of remission of rates. That is a very important aspect of this matter. If public utility societies are to go on with their planned work of providing more houses, and if the classes of people for whom those houses are built are to be in a position to avail of them, it is extremely important that they should know whether it is intended that the provisions of the 1932 Act providing for a remission of rates, should remain in force. I should like the Minister to say definitely, whether it is intended that the remissions of rates hitherto given to the class of houses built by public utility societies should continue. From the provisions of the Bill, I think that the same terms in regard to rates remission will not be given. Would the Minister say if that is correct—that, as from April next, purchasers of the type of houses built by public utility societies, which are dealt with in this Bill, will no longer receive the same terms in the matter of rates remission?

There is a five years' two-thirds remission of rates allowed under the 1927 Local Government Act.

But at the present moment, there is a seven years' remission allowed. I strongly urge the Minister to reconsider this matter, and to recognise that if these bodies, other than public authorities, are to be encouraged to make their contribution to the housing problem, and if the stratum of the working classes which can afford to purchase houses from bodies other than public authorities are to be encouraged, it is a definitely retrogade step that the provisions in respect of remission of rates should be made less favourable for these people than they now are. I appeal to the Minister to consider that aspect and to amend this Bill in such a way as to ensure that the future position in regard to remission of rates will be not less favourable to the purchasers of these houses than they are at present.

I am one of those interested in the problem of housing from the point of view of the rural dweller, and I must confess that I do not think the Minister has been overgenerous in the amount of grants he has given to those who wish to erect houses, having regard to the large increase in costings which has taken place. If these classes of people, who are, perhaps, as deserving as any of the rest, are to continue contributing to the health services by the erection of proper houses, the Minister ought seriously to consider increasing that grant. I was here in 1932, and I heard the Minister pay a tribute to his predecessors in respect of what they had done for housing, in view of the very high building costs then prevailing. At that time there was a £75 grant for a five-roomed house, and a £60 grant for a four-roomed house, and a £45 grant for a three-roomed house. While we do not ask the Minister to go back to anything like that, encouragement must be given in view of the very high building costs which at present prevail in every direction, and which largely tend to discourage those who contemplate erecting houses.

There is a scheme, the non-municipal scheme of housing, in which we are very deeply interested, on the board of which I have the honour to be a member, the South Cork Board of Public Assistance. It is a scheme which has largely succeeded in rectifying the disabilities of dwellers in country villages, and as soon as a scheme which is being sent up to the Minister receives his sanction, we propose to press forward that side of it as hard as we can. Attendant on that scheme, however, is the necessity for clearing the very insanitary houses in country villages occupied by those who now will benefit by the operation of the non-municipal scheme of housing. Building costs are undoubtedly placing us at a disadvantage, but, at the same time, the necessity for providing proper sanitary houses for those who are living in insanitary houses is a matter of such urgency that we have to face them.

A problem that is of vital importance, and which the Minister, perhaps, has not taken into consideration, is that of the reconstruction of the houses of small farmers. The small farmers are not in very affluent circumstances at present, and the Minister has seriously retarded the reconstruction of their dwellings by the imposition of a restriction on valuation. In some parts of the country there may be a very small acreage of land to support a family, but the poor law valuation may be high, while elsewhere the position might be different. Take the case of a farmer in West Cork with a valuation of £25 or even £15. In other parts of the country the acreage might be substantially greater because of difference in valuation. If the Minister could make that part of his scheme more elastic and enable men who are seriously embarrassed financially to avail of the benefits of the reconstruction scheme, he would be doing a work for which they would have reason to be grateful, and he would be helping to relieve the insanitary conditions in which many poor and small farmers exist at the present time. An old thatched house with a mud floor and mud walls is not conducive to good health. These people are as much entitled to the Minister's consideration as any other section of the community.

With regard to labourers' cottages, the problem is a very big one. Numbers of labourers are emigrating, and whether we are overdoing housing work or not keeping up with housing needs is a debatable problem, having regard to the population of the rural areas. One thing I am anxious to see carried out is the sale of labourers' cottages to the tenants. Some people contend that it is not to the advantage of these tenants to buy their houses, but I rather think that it adds to a man's independence to own his house. While the scheme of cottage purchase does not err on the side of generosity, the problem of the very large arrears of rent, particularly in County Cork and in the southern area, presents a difficulty. I cannot imagine a man who owes as much as £30 rent on his cottage benefiting very largely by the funding of these arrears. It is questionable whether the boards of health will be in a position to devise any scheme which will enable them to fund the arrears which have become excessive. At present, we have labourers who are not able to pay even the ordinary 1/- a week. Two cottage rent collectors were suspended by the South Cork Board and, when a proposal was made to reinstate them, they refused to go back. They said they could not see their way to accept or occupy a position in which they could only collect arrears or deal with the existing situation by eviction. The Minister is up against a problem as regards the funding of the arrears and up against a problem even in regard to new houses, and I do not envy him his task.

The question of the remission of rates on new houses was alluded to by Deputy Dockrell. There is no doubt that that will be a serious blow to those who are anxious to encourage building. I happen to be secretary of a small public utility society and I confess that it would be a serious blow if, in addition to the increased building costs, the advantage of the remission of rates over a certain period were not to be continued. I appeal to the Minister seriously to consider altering his intentions, as expressed in the Bill, with regard to the remission of rates. That was an attraction and it helped building. I am sure the Minister is sufficiently enthusiastic to desire that building should continue.

I should like to draw attention to a few small points in connection with this Bill. I agree with Deputy Brennan and Deputy Brasier as regards the limitation of valuation for the purpose of reconstruction grants. If the Minister considers that matter, I think he will realise that it would confer a great benefit on a great number of people, who are not very well off from the financial point of view, if he were to issue reconstruction grants on a sliding scale without regard to valuation—somewhat on the same system as the grants for new building. The position at the moment is, as Deputy Brennan pointed out, that a man with a valuation of £24 17s. will get a reconstruction grant, whereas a man with a valuation of £25 will not. A person applying for a grant to build a new house will get from £80 to £45 on a sliding scale according to his valuation. If the Minister would look into that point, he would I think, be satisfied that there is a strong case for applying a sliding scale to reconstruction grants, and that there is a strong case for payment of reconstruction grants to people whose valuations are slightly more than £25.

Another point to which I should like to direct attention is that of floor space. There is one serious objection to the houses built throughout the country since this building grant was inaugurated. I admit that, from the point of view of utility, they are very good houses but I am afraid we shall have throughout the country a series of farmhouses of exactly the same type—and that not a very beautiful type. I am afraid that that limitation of floor space will result in having farmhouses of exactly the same type dotted all over the country. The same remarks apply to houses in other areas. We have houses of the bungalow type—all exactly the same —springing up throughout the country. There is no doubt that the limitation of floor space has something to do with that. There is no great value in the limitation of floor space. If it were wiped out altogether or if the limitation were not so great, we should have greater variety of style instead of having the same type of farmhouse and the same type of bungalow everywhere. Anybody who travels throughout the rural areas will agree that 99 per cent. of the farmhouses built with the aid of grants are of exactly the same type. While they are very good houses, the type is not very attractive. They are of a square type and, while the windows are of good size, in practically every case the roofs come down on top of the windows. One explanation of that which I got was that the limitation of floor space did not allow for any great expansion in the plans. The houses are all being built to the same plan and, owing to this regimentation, we are getting exactly the same type of house everywhere.

Another point which I ask the Minister to consider is with regard to the small towns which are non-urban towns. To my mind, a lot has been done in the urban towns to relieve congestion but, in the non-urban towns, congestion and slum difficulties are I suggest as bad as they are in the urban towns, though of course on a relatively smaller scale. I suggest to the Minister that every possible means should be used, either by persuasion or by pressure, to induce local authorities to get on with the work in smaller towns which are non-urban, and to carry out housing schemes in them. Everyone will agree that in towns with populations of 1,000 to 1,500 the problem of slums and congestion is proportionately as bad as it is in larger places. I suggest that the Minister should use a certain amount of pressure on local authorities to have that work started, so as to relieve congestion and to provide decent houses for the people.

When speaking on this question before, the Minister very kindly undertook to reconsider the question of increasing the valuation for the purpose of re-construction grants, but I regret to say that I do not see any sign of the promise being fulfilled in this Bill. A very small increase would be of great benefit in the midlands and in the west. For re-construction purposes the grant should be increased. Up to £30 valuation would be a reasonable figure and would meet a very grave need. As to building grants for new houses, I think the increased grant of £70 or £80 should go on the system of valuations we had, that is on valuations of £45 and £25. It will be found that farmers who are in very poor circumstances have holdings with very high valuations. These valuations are on land that was considered suitable for forestry and what but that is no longer suitable for such purposes. For some reason not easy to explain the land is no longer of the quality required. People would then think that land valued at £1 to £1 10s. per acre would be good land. In many places in the midlands and in the west the valuations are out of all proportion to the present value of land. People in poor farms with high valuations are unable to build houses with grants of £45. I urge the Minister to reconsider that question and also the position with regard to floor space, when a house is reconstructed. I know that the present provision is a statutory one, but the Minister might make regulations dealing with the measurements. It is very hard, because of the present regulations, that a man cannot get a grant because the floor space is 45 feet or so over, yet his valuation is under £25. Probably some predecessor built an old ramshackle house and left nothing to maintain it. There is no means of reconstructing it except by pulling half of it down, and then it will not be a house at all. I urge the Minister to increase the floor space for the purpose of reconstruction grants, and not to confine such grants to houses that have not such a floor space. Where a reasonable case is made I would go so far as to leave the Minister discretion, so that grants could be given for the reconstruction of houses with larger floor space than is allowed by statute. In the case of a large family it would be a good thing to allow the reconstruction of such houses to take place. That is important where the valuation is under £25, because some of these houses are eyesores in most districts. In some cases it is impossible to devise any plan to bring such houses within the statutory limit. I do not know if the Minister is prepared to consider these suggestions, but I urge him to deal with the questions of reconstruction and floor space.

There are cases where grants have been due for some time, with the result that delay has occurred in the reconstruction and building of houses. Poor men have been encouraged by these grants to undertake work that they were not otherwise able to do. They were encouraged also by building societies or did so on their own credit, but when the time to get the certificates arrived the merchants who supplied the materials were pressing for their money. They wanted it to carry on their business. When it was not there these merchants and the borrowers found themselves in a very awkward position. If the Minister would pay attention to the position of people in such circumstances, and expedite payment of the grants, it would be very beneficial in many ways. It would enable the merchants who had given credit originally to give further credit to other people. I agree with what other Deputies said, that a hard and fast limit of £25 should not be adhered to, and that the time has arrived when there should be a change. While I agree with Deputy Dillon's suggestion that there should be a sliding scale, I do not agree with the scale suggested. The method should be to increase the floor space in houses rather than to reduce it so as to get a larger type of house. That would help to meet the other objection that was raised against having houses of a uniform type.

I think the Minister should consider the points put before him by various Deputies, all of whom are anxious to help him on the housing question. This is a very useful form of work. I believe the time has come when some modification should be made, by way of having more uniformity in the houses and making extensions in some cases. It is hardly fair to confine grants to those with £24 valuation. A man with a valuation of £24 10s. should be entitled to a grant of £80 for building a new house. The man with a valuation of £25 10s. is not entitled to anything. These are points which the Minister would be well advised to take into consideration.

On this Bill I want to bring some points to the notice of the Minister, but not from a technical point of view. Facilities for building are usually granted to building societies and, in many instances, they are in excess of those granted to individuals. I think it is high time that something was done about those societies—so-called building societies —that an inquiry was directed into their activities. In a good many instances we all know that those utility societies are generally a combination of persons got together simply for the purpose of obtaining increased grants from the Government. In other instances they are simply a building contractor with a few nominees. They constitute a society for the purpose of obtaining grants from the Government in excess of the grants to which they would be entitled as individuals. As I have said, I think the time has come when the Minister and his Department should do something as regards inquiring into the activities of those gentlemen. The control that is exercised over these societies is of a very limited character. It is mainly concerned with the question of registration, and that work comes under the control of the Department of Industry and Commerce.

There is another point which I wish to bring to the Minister's notice. Under sub-section (3) of Section 8 of the Act of 1932, it is provided that trade union rates of wages are to be paid by those who get Government grants. Everybody knows that that provision in the Act has been flouted, not only by builders but by the Minister and his Department, although on many occasions absolutely clear cases were brought to the notice of the Department of the evasion of that provision in the Act by building contractors. A number of men went so far as to bring the matter into court.

Is the Deputy not now dealing with the administration of a previous Act?

I am suggesting that the Minister should introduce some provision into this Bill which would tighten up the giving of grants and that would ensure that trade union rates of wages are paid by those availing of grants. Perhaps the Minister might also consider the introduction of an amendment to this Bill which would enable aggrieved men to institute civil proceedings in the courts for the recovery of the rates of wages laid down in the 1932 Act which they should have been paid. There is another point. It is this: that there are certain types of labourers who do not come under the definition of "labourer," such as auxiliary postmen and others. I suggest to the Minister that he should extend the definition so as to include postmen and people of that class.

There is a provision in this Bill by which people, who allow their houses to get into such a state of disrepair that they are condemned by the sanitary authorities, can obtain grants for their repair either from the local authority or from the Department.

Is not that rather a dangerous provision? Is it not an encouragement to people to allow their houses to get into a state of disrepair in order that they may be able to get grants both from the local public health authority and the Department? In my opinion it is a dangerous provision, and one that should be seriously considered by the Minister.

I now want to say a few words on the Bill from the point of view of the labourers. In 1936, I think, when a Labourers Bill was going through the Dáil, the Minister was pressed by the Opposition, and particularly by the Labour Deputies, to insert in it a provision similar to that which we find in this Bill, namely, one for the funding of arrears of rent due by tenants. It was pointed out to the Minister at the time that, if such a provision was not inserted in the 1936 Bill, the measure would be absolutely useless so far as the labourers of the country were concerned, and might as well not be passed. The Minister rose in a state of righteous indignation and accused the Labour Party of advocating a policy of financial heresy. But, in this measure, the Minister is swallowing the words that he used on that occasion. He has become converted to the policy of financial heresy that he denounced the Labour Party for advocating, and so we find the provision that they sought to have inserted in the 1936 Bill in the measure before us.

Is there not, however, another reason for that particular provision in this Housing Bill? Is it not there because the Labour Party, in its endeavour to be constructive, introduced into the Dáil some months ago a Bill which also includes a provision similar to this, but going a little further? When they did that, what happened? The Minister and his colleagues went down through the country and told the people that the Labour Party had gone a little "madder" than usual, and that the only solution for this country was another general election—to have the Labour Party isolated either on Lambay Island or Ireland's Eye. Further, in order to give the Minister time to bring in this legislation, we had other Ministers getting up during Private Members' time and speaking —some of them for a period of two hours and five minutes—thereby holding the fort until the Minister for Local Government was enabled to bring in this Bill. It is quite evident that Part III of this Bill is a very poor attempt, on the part of the Minister, to cover up his shortcomings. In it he is simply emulating the lead given him by the Labour Party, and I want to emphasise that When I say that, I am reminded of an attempt that was made a few days ago by the Government to gull this House and the people of the country.

I could remind the Deputy of a lot of things, too.

What happened after the Labour Party had introduced their Labourers Bill and after we had all the talk at the cross-roads by a number of Ministers who spent their week-ends in the country addressing meetings? We had a very quite little Deputy getting up from the Government Benches asking an extraordinarily well-worded question concerning the introduction of the legislation that is now before us. In answer to that question, the Minister very magnanimously got up and assured the Deputy that the matter was receiving attention and that legislation would be introduced forthwith.

The Deputy is very 'cute to see through all that.

The Minister, perhaps, underestimates my intelligence, and perhaps the Government Party underestimate the intelligence of the electorate of this country. Well, they will know in a short time when there is another general election. That is all that I have to say on this Bill.

Would the Minister, when replying, give some information as to the views of his Department on the quality of the houses built with assistance from the State, either in the way of grants or by local authorities; and, further, some information, if not to-day then on a later stage of the Bill, in reply to the question put by Deputy Brennan? The Deputy asked what the whole cost of the scheme would be to the State; what the annual cost is estimated to be for the present year and next year. The Minister, I think, said that he did not propose to continue the grant of £45 after the 1st of April of next year. If my recollection of his statement is correct, he said that costs had increased and that the programme for dealing with the slums would require the entire resources that were available in order to deal with that problem. Now, perhaps the Minister, with his Department, would consider the main purport of Deputy Dockrell's speech here this evening: and that is that any person who has built a house in recent years contributes in some measure or another towards the relief of that problem; and when you have a municipality such as Dublin, unable to do anything for the working classes with families under, say, six or seven, it is obvious that that problem is going to remain unsolved for some years.

I should like the Minister to tell the House whether it is that the activities of those who are engaged in the construction of houses, which were qualifying for a £45 grant, should be devoted towards the construction of houses which are required by the municipality, or whether it is a combination of the two. From my experience of this question of housing generally, however, I should say that unless other activities than that of the municipality are brought into play, the municipality will be forced, and the State itself will be forced, to contribute towards the housing of a very considerable number of people who, themselves, would be able to pay a higher proportion than that of those who, normally, would look to a corporation or a local authority to provide for them.

There are two questions—the question of speed and the question of costs. On the question of costs, perhaps the Minister would look into the matter of the various impositions that have been placed upon building materials during the past few years. It may be that it is part of the industrial policy of the Government to put on those tariffs, but surely, in the case of an article like cement, which we are not yet manufacturing in this country and which enters so largely into the construction of houses for all classes of people, it is scarcely fair that something like £100,000 should be collected in impositions of one sort or another on that particular commodity. In the case of the other articles which are subject to impositions and which have increased their cost, it would be, perhaps, the Minister's duty to look into the matter and see whether or not there has been any response on the part of those who are providing the materials in this country. If they are of equal price and equal value, or anything approaching it, we would not object to pay a little more, perhaps, but when one sees the cost of building rising as it has been rising during the last few years, it is perfectly legitimate to examine all and every one of the causes that are in question. Deputy Dockrell drew attention to the fact that one of those series of grants is to stop on the 1st April next. Perhaps the Minister would take this into account that if, having given careful consideration to that problem, the grants that would be allowed for those houses could be scaled down so that the grant that is at present, say, £45, could be let run for 12 months at £40, then down to £30, then to £20 and so on, and if he considers that it is not necessary now to have any of that class of houses provided, would he consider the question of the provision of houses by builders—houses which they might undertake to supply in order to enable the housing to be undertaken of people who would normally go into corporation houses. Perhaps the Minister might consider giving assistance in that direction, because it would seem that it would be assisting the State and the local authorities, and at the same time it would be providing housing for a very large number of people as well as providing employment. If in that connection, the Minister could consider some sort of financial arrangement which would enable that type of person to purchase those houses, it might ease the problem, lessen the strain on the State, lessen the strain on the local authorities, and contribute towards making a greater number of people happy either in the building of the houses or in subsequently occupying them.

I want to say at the outset, Sir, that I think that the progress outlined by the Minister in connection with house-building in this country is very satisfactory and very creditable, and redounds to the credit of the Minister and his Department as well as that of the different local authorities through the country. However, I want to say that I agree with Deputy Heron when he said that all Bills of this kind, involving as they do certain technical matters and certain amendments of other Bills, ought to be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum, because it is very difficult to follow the different amendments and changes in the sections of the various Acts since the Act of 1932. I want to join with Deputies Cosgrave, Dockrell and Heron in connection with this question of the withdrawal of grants for private people after the 31st March next. I think it will be agreed by the Minister and everybody else that the private people who have been building houses in recent years have contributed their quota towards the solving of the housing problem. Everybody knows, of course, that housing is the biggest problem that faces the country at the present moment with the exception, perhaps, of unemployment. A great many people have been contemplating building houses in recent years, but owing to the fact that such a huge amount of housing was being undertaken by local authorities, building operatives have been very scarce, and people who had been contemplating building have had to put off the building of their houses on that account. I think, therefore, that the Minister should reconsider the position in this connection.

Now I, for one, am glad to see that the Minister is going to make a contribution to help people in urban areas to repair their houses, because everybody who is a member of a local authority sees from time to time reports from borough surveyors and sanitary officers to the effect that certain houses are in a state of disrepair, both from a constructional and from a sanitary point of view, and that these houses could be put into a proper state of repair if certain moneys were expended upon them. I am not now referring so much to the house owned by a landlord as to the house owned by a private person. On various occasions, in the Wexford Corporation, we have had such cases brought to our attention, and we have always considered it a pity that there was not some fund available to enable a small house-owner of the kind I have in mind to do something for the repair of his house-that would be in line with the report of the borough surveyer or the sanitary officer. As far as we can see now, the Minister is empowered to give a sum of £40 towards the cost of such repairs. What I want to know from the Minister is whether I am to understand from that, that if the repairs would cost £40, the Minister would only give £10 of that —in other words, a quarter of the amount. That would be all right as far as a landlord is concerned, but I suggest to the Minister that he should go a little further in connection with a house owned by an ordinary working-class man, because it would be just as hard for such a man to find £30 as it would be for him to find £40. I ask him to reconsider that particular aspect of it before the Committee Stage. His gesture is a generous one so far as the people who own houses and who have tenants are concerned, but I suggest that, so far as the small man is concerned who has recently acquired his own house—and in a great many cases people have done that—the fact that he is only going to get one-fourth of the cost of repairs will be absolutely useless.

I do not know whether this money is intended to be used for structural alterations or not. If it is, I can foresee that when the valuation officer comes round, as he does periodically, there might be an increase of valuation in cases of that kind, and I think that would be disastrous, because increases which have been made in the valuation of houses in various urban areas in recent years have prevented people from carrying out any reconstruction or additions to their houses. With regard to valuations generally, I raised this matter before. I am inclined to think that the valuations which are being placed upon houses built by local authorities are far too high. I remember in 1923 or 1924 that Deputy Cosgrave, who was then President, gave a guarantee in the House that he would see to it that the valuations to be placed upon new houses would not be higher than those upon houses of a similar capacity built in previous years. That has not been carried out, and the result is that when the rates are calculated in the rents of artisans' dwellings the rents in some cases are prohibitive.

Another matter I should like to refer to is the question of the remission of rates in operation at present. I understood the Minister to say in answer to Deputy Heron that the present system whereby rates are remitted over a period of seven years is to cease. I suggest to the Minister that that has been a big inducement to private people to build houses in recent years. It enabled them to get over a period when they had certain calls on their purses and was certainly a great inducement and should be continued. If the Minister will make inquiries from the Department and from various people concerned he will find that what I say is quite true.

It will be continued for five years.

Under the Local Government Act. But the two-thirds remission for seven years was dropped under the Housing Act.

It is a pity that it could not continue, as it is at present.

Many local authorities have protested against it.

I am not one of those who did, and I do not know that the Wexford Corporation did. Deputy McGowan or Deputy Heron, I forget which, referred to the question of the wages paid on building schemes. I am not going to say that the Minister flouted that provision or anything of that kind, but I suggest to him that sufficient care was not taken by his Department to secure that that particular section in the 1932 Act was carried out, and I ask him to have a tightening up in that connection. I should also like to know if, in connection with the expenditure of the grant which he proposes to give for the reconstruction of houses in urban areas, that particular section will be applicable. If it is not clear in the Bill, I think it ought to be made clear, because I can visualise a position where a man will get a certain amount of Government money to reconstruct or repair his house and have the work done by a handy man, and the efforts of the Minister will be entirely abortive because of the fact that proper tradesmen, at trade union wages, are not employed. In the interests of efficiency the Minister should have that matter attended to.

This Bill does not call for very much criticism, but perhaps in the Committee Stage attention will be drawn to certain matters. Again I say that the progress of housing in this country is very creditable, but it is a pity that the Minister withdrew the subsidy to local people, because they have certainly done their share to solve the housing problem in urban areas.

I think Deputies of all Parties will join in expressing satisfaction at the efforts made with the object of eliminating the slums and rain-soaked mud cabins throughout the country. I think the efforts of the housing department in that connection are worthy of the highest commendation from the House. I have had, over a substantial period of years, occasion to seek the intervention of the housing department and to seek guidance and advice from the housing department in various housing matters, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the courtesy, zeal, and efficiency of the staff of that department, who have spared no effort to assist in every possible way the expedition of housing progress in the country.

This Bill, so far as it assists in the provision of further money for housing, will be welcomed by all Parties in the House. There is only one misgiving I have about this housing question, and that is that I am afraid we are not giving sufficient attention to the supervision of labourers' cottages being erected under the main Housing Act. This Bill proposes to provide further money for the erection of cottages for labourers. I have had occasion to bring to the notice of the Minister and the Department very serious complaints as to the manner in which cottages were erected in the County Kildare. I have no hesitation in saying that in my opinion a good deal of national and local money is being wantonly dissipated there because of the type of labourers' cottage which is being built, and because of the apparent lack of adequate supervision in the erection of the cottages.

I have brought to the notice of the Department particular cases which I investigated personally, showing that many of these new cottages, which have been only erected a year or two, are already showing signs of dampness, that in quite a number of cases there was defective plastering, and in other cases there was merely a sharp dashing of stones against ordinary case concrete, the concreting having only got a skimming coat of plaster. It is not to be wondered at that houses constructed in that way will not resist the elements. I also had to bring to the notice of the Department defects in the tiles used, many of which have not shown a capacity to stand up to porosity tests. I think tenants are going to find themselves in serious difficulty in the future by reason of the porosity of tiles, defective plastering, and the dampness from which a number of houses suffer. But the outstanding defect so far as cottages in the County Kildare are concerned is in the chimneys. In regard to almost every new cottage there has been complaint after complaint as to the defective condition of the chimneys. Wherever the smoke goes in labourers' cottages in other counties, the fact remains that in Kildare the smoke will go anywhere but up the chimney. I have had technical people subject these chimneys to tests.

Were they built by tradesmen or by gobauns?

I will come to that later. Some of these chimneys have been subjected to well-known tests to ascertain their drawing capacity, and they will not draw. Many tenants find it necessary, not merely to leave the kitchen door open, but to leave the window open as well, in order to induce the chimney to take away the smoke.

And to leave the house at some period.

And to leave the house at some period, as the Deputy rightly suggests. A good deal of discussion has arisen as to whether the defect is due to want of skill on the part of the contractor, but an increasing number of contractor are making the defence that the cottages are being built in accordance with the plan and specification of the Housing Department.

Is this not clearly a matter of administration under the main Housing Act? This is an Act to amend and extend the Housing Acts, 1932 to 1936, and to amend Sections 16 and 17 of the Labourers Act, 1936. Is it necessary for the purposes of this legislation that the Minister should remedy all these defects, if it is within the Minister's province? I am not saying whether it is or not.

It is not within the Minister's province.

I am not saying that, but what the Deputy is referring to is a matter to be brought to the Minister's notice as an administrative matter.

Not only have I done that, but I have done it on a large number of occasions. I think you will recollect that at the outset of my remarks on the Bill I said that while I applauded and lauded the efforts to provide houses for the people, I had just one misgiving, and that was that there was not adequate supervision of the money which we are being asked to vote in this Bill for the erection of further houses.

The Deputy is not now speaking on the Financial Resolution. He is speaking on the provisions of the Bill.

I suggest that one of the provisions of the Bill is to make money available for the purpose of erecting additional labourers' cottages.

What section? This Bill proposes to amend Sections 16 and 17 of the Labourers Act, 1936, and to provide for certain other matters consequential upon the amendment of these sections. The Deputy's remarks would arise on the Minister's Estimate.

I am clear that it arises on the Minister's Estimate, but I think I am also clear that the object of the Bill is to provide an additional sum for housing, and that, when you come to deal with the provision of money for housing, you inevitably deal with the question of the provision of moneys for local authorities for grants and for advances under the schemes for the erection of houses.

In so far as this Bill proposes to amend the main Act, the main Act can be referred to, but only in so far as it proposes to amend the main Act.

Is it not the object of the Act to increase the expenditure on housing under the Housing Act of 1932 and subsequent Acts? It is under these Acts that labourers' cottages are being built. I do not want to stress the point at any great length. I shall deal with it in greater detail later, but I do suggest to the Minister that a much more rigid supervision should be exercised by his Department in order to ensure that the money spent in the erection of labourers' cottages is spent to the utmost possible advantage. It is not being spent to the utmost possible advantage, so far as I can see in County Kildare. I speak of that county because I know first hand of the enormous number of defects which have been shown up in cottages spread over a wide area in the county. I can hardly imagine that the Minister's Department, from the information in their possession, are satisfied, but I cannot help thinking that a good deal of dissatisfaction arises out of the unsatisfactory engineering arrangements in the county. Various engineers in the county are responsible to the board of health, but there is no technician on the board of health capable of judging the work of the local engineers.

I would suggest to the Minister that his Department ought to give some consideration to the question of putting in charge of local engineers some person to whom these engineers would be responsible. That person should have some technical qualification enabling him to judge the manner in which work is carried out by local engineers and the standard of work performed in connection with the erection of labourers' cottages. If the Minister will do that, I think he will avoid what I am afraid is inevitable if the present position is allowed to continue, namely, a colossal expenditure on repairs in a few years. If we are going to permit the erection of labourers' cottages, which are not satisfactory and which in the first few years are going to show defects, I think the effort of the State to provide cottages and houses generally will be thwarted by the inefficiency of people engaged in the erection of these houses under these schemes.

This Bill has one notable feature about it inasmuch as it provides for the discontinuance of the £45 grant which was made in respect of certain houses in urban areas up to the present. That grant is now to be discontinued under this Bill and I am afraid the effect of discontinuing it will be to slow down the erection of houses in urban areas. We are still far from satisfying the demand for houses in urban areas. Building costs have increased considerably of late. A firm, asking for more capital the other day, advertised the fact that its profits had increased substantially since 1932, which was the year of the advent of this Housing Act. The costs of building materials have apparently been so high in the view of the Minister for Industry and Commerce that he has felt it necessary to refer the price of building materials to the Prices Commission for investigation. I understand that the Prices Commission has reported on the matter. We have not yet seen the report although, in a matter of this kind, one would expect that the report would be made available so as to ascertain the views of an impartial body such as the Prices Commission on the question of the cause of the substantial increase in building costs in recent years. The price of building materials certainly has increased considerably. We ought to know whether, in the view of the Prices Commission, that increase is justified or whether it is not just a case of some people taking advantage of the fact that the State is subsidising housing on a very extensive scale and endeavouring to get "rich quick."

I think the effect of the discontinuance of the £45 grant for certain houses in urban areas will inevitably slow down house-building in urban areas. If you take the discontinuance of that grant with the proposal to drop the provision whereby there is a remission of two-thirds of the rates for a period of seven years, I think the combination of both factors will certainly have an adverse effect on housing in urban areas. One provision is bad, but a combination of both, I think, would make the position very much worse, particularly at a time when the cost of building houses has increased very substantially. Architects who have been consulted on the matter in connection with building schemes initiated by local authorities all recognise the fact that, in the past two years, building costs have increased by approximately 20 per cent. over the costs of two years ago, we select this moment to discontinue the grants in the urban areas and to withdraw the remission in rates. I think it is a mistaken policy. I think the effects on house-building will be bad, and I think it is not calculated to continue the impetus in house-building which has been a feature of housing activity in recent years.

There is to-day a considerable amount of unemployment in the building trade. Whatever might have been said about the scarcity of certain types of building operatives in recent years, there is certainly no scarcity of building trade operatives to-day. I think if the Minister consults the employment exchange records he will find that there is quite a considerable number of unemployed building-trade workers. Those who are in a position to judge the present condition of the industry, and the prospects of the industry in the immediate future, are all agreed that the tendency will be for the industry to absorb less people because of the present high cost of building. Now, we have a further aid to a slowing down in house building, namely, the discontinuance of the grant and the withdrawal of the rates remission for a period of seven years. I did not have an opportunity of hearing the Minister's introductory speech. I do not, therefore, know what case has been made for the discontinuance of the grant of £45, but, whatever case has been made for it, I think it is rather a short-sighted policy, and one calculated to impede house building. If it was felt desirable in other years to provide grants even much higher than £45 to assist in house building, I do not know what has suddenly happened to justify the discontinuance of State grants for this purpose. I am afraid that the effect of it will be to cause further unemployment in the building trade, which in this city, at all events, has not by any means recovered from the effects of the recent dispute in the industry.

The Labourers Act is also associated with this amending Bill. When the Labourers Bill was going through the House we endeavoured to secure that provision would be made for funding arrears, because we realised that, with many tenants owing a considerable sum of money for rents, it would be impossible for those people to take advantage of any suitable purchase scheme. That is particularly true when one remembers the position in Kerry, and I think in Clare too. In Kerry, which gives the classic example of arrears, we find, I think, that the average figure for arrears is about £7 15s. per house, which means that on an average the tenants are in arrears on the cottages for over two and a half years. How one can imagine that those people will suddenly pay off those arrears, and proceed to purchase their houses under the Labourers Act, is something which I do not purport to explain. I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to provide now for a scheme of funding under this Bill. I do not, however, think that that makes the Bill anything more attractive. I welcome it just as an indication that the Minister realises that the main Act has one defect; I hope it will not be long before he realises that the Act has a number of other defects as well.

The Minister must know, and the Housing Department must know— certainly Deputies in touch with cottage tenants know—that there has been widespread objection by tenants to purchasing their cottages under the Principal Act. Under that Act the tenants were given a reduction of 25 per cent. in their existing rents, but in lieu of that 25 per cent. reduction they were made liable to keep the cottages in repair in the future. Even though an inadequate sum of money is at present being spent on the repair of labourers' cottages, such sum as is being spent works out annually at more than the remission of 25 per cent. in rent to the tenants under the purchase scheme. I think the national average is that the repairs to cottages cost about 5d. per week, but the tenant is not going to get a reduction of 5d. per week under the purchase scheme. Of course, everybody who has any experience of labourers' cottages and the demands of tenants that their cottages should be kept in a proper state of repair knows perfectly well that, if the repairs were carried out as they should, 5d. per week would not at all keep the cottages in repair, particularly if allowance were made for the fact that for quite a long period inadequate sums were spent in carrying out repairs which should have been properly attended to in other years. I think, too, that another objection of the tenants to purchasing under the Principal Act is that the period for the payment of the annuity is too long. The period provided in the Principal Act was 65 years, and I think that period inordinately long. The length of that period, and the fact that they are required to pay 75 per cent. of the existing rent, the other 25 per cent. being regarded as a set-off against the liability to keep the cottages in repair, have induced the tenants to take the view—and I think the correct view—that under an Act of that kind it is not in their own interests that they should purchase their cottages. It is much better for the tenants that the local authorities should continue to own the cottages rather than that they should purchase under a scheme of that kind, which I think will not lighten the burden on the tenants but will, in fact, increase it.

If I were a wealthy ratepayer in a county, I would urge every cottage tenant to purchase under the Principal Act, but if I were interested in a tenant I would tell him not to purchase under the Principal Act, because under the provisions of that Act a burden will be taken off the wealthy ratepayer and put on the backs of the tenants. When you have got to make a choice between two elements of the community as to who should bear a burden, I think the burden ought to be put on the back of whoever is most capable of bearing it. From the point of view of the tenants, at all events, I think the Principal Act is not a good Act. It requires much more than the introduction of a funding arrangement to make it an attractive Act from the standpoint of the tenants. I think, however, it is very desirable from every standpoint that the tenants should be encouraged to purchase their cottages under a satisfactory scheme. At a time when the drift from the rural areas to the towns is most marked, and when the effect of that drift is to cause serious social problems in the town, we ought to be doing everything we possibly can to keep the people on the land. That can be done in a variety of ways, some of which it is not permissible to discuss under this Bill.

There are many things which cannot be discussed under the Bill.

Is the Deputy withdrawing his own Bill?

If I am given an opportunity of moving the Second Reading of the Bill I will tell the Deputy.

The Deputy is discussing it now.

No. I am only complaining about the shortcomings in the Principal Act, and saying that the amending Bill ought to go further.

It is dealing with arrears only and not with the purchase price.

I am saying that the Minister, having taken that step, ought to take two more steps. On the Second Reading of the Bill I am allowed to criticise what is not in it, and on the Fifth Stage I am allowed to criticise what is in it. I am availing of my rights as an ordinary Deputy to do that. I think there is a good case to be made for encouraging tenants to purchase their cottages under the Principal Act, and I would very much like if the Minister could see his way to go further in amending that Act than he has done in this measure. At a time when there is a drift from the rural areas to the towns and cities, it is very desirable to anchor people to the land, and one of the best ways to do that is to give them an interest in their homesteads. Anything that ties the people to the land, such as the ownership of a house, is a very valuable national safeguard and tends to minimise the dangers which are inherent in a constant drift from the rural areas into the towns and cities.

I hope the Minister will not stop at amending the Labourers Act in the manner outlined in this Bill. I will express the hope that he may see his way to go further by reducing the period over which the annuities may be paid, and reducing the amount of the annuities as well. If that means a little additional financial burden on the local taxpayer, it will, nevertheless, be money well spent. We have to recognise that the tenants who occupy those cottages are, in the main, a class of people whose conditions of livelihood are marked by low wages and social amenities which are not enviable, and if the central authority or the local authority must make a contribution towards brightening their lot and helping to avoid the evils of congestion in the towns and cities, money spent in that manner would be well spent. I hope the Minister will see his way to introduce further amendments to the Labourers Act of 1936. I hope he may find it possible to reconsider the discontinuance of the £45 grant in urban areas which, I am afraid, is likely to impede instead of encouraging further house-building efforts.

I had not the good fortune to hear the whole of this debate and, particularly, I missed the Minister's speech. There is just this clause with regard to grants to urban authorities that I would like the Minister to explain, if he has not already done so. I would like him to explain as fully as possible the principle that underlies that provision. It seems to me to be a very remarkable innovation that without a means test, or without any inquiry as to the income derived from property, the owner of urban property can get the Government to help him to put such property in order, to help him to improve it, that he will get a free grant for it. We all know there are people making very big incomes out of house property, very big incomes indeed, and in many cases they are in the position of improving such property to any extent that may be desired. It is altogether to their interests to do so. I am surprised to find that Deputy Norton had nothing to say on that very big principle. So far as I know, it is a new principle that the Government voluntarily come to the aid of such people and say: "If you im-improve that property that you are already making a very big income from, we will assist you with grants."

Did the Deputy hear Deputy Corish's speech from these benches?

Deputy Corish made a very slight allusion to that matter.

Further, there is the remarkable principle that where such grants are given, a Government Department will bargain with the owner as to the rents that are to be charged. There is no provision in the Bill as to the criteria to be adopted, the principle to be accepted in bargaining as to rents. There is the simple provision that the Minister will have the right to fix a maximum rent. It looks to me as if there is an infinity of trouble in store there. Once one set of rents has been fixed by a Government Department, it is obvious that nearly all rents will have to be fixed. I take it that wherever a grant is given by the Government the rents for all such property will come under the supervision or control of a Government Department. That is much more than the thin end of the wedge. It is half the wedge in towards the full control of the rents of all urban property.

It seems to me an immense extension of State activity. It seems to be a very remarkable development of State intervention. I think it will inevitably follow that other rents will be fixed, even where no grants have been given, and that it must follow that the State will fix the rents for such other property. I would not like to say definitely that I think the decision of the Government to take such a step is right; and, similarly, I would not like to say it is wrong; but certainly it seems to me a very remarkable development to be introduced as a mere aside to a Housing Act. I would like the Minister to tell us if we are to understand that in a city like Dublin, for instance, if the municipality can be got to subscribe half the cost, the Minister will be prepared to subscribe the other half up to the extent of £40 for each separate dwelling, and that he is going to do that irrespective of the means of the applicant and irrespective of any inquiry of that kind, and that it simply is on the condition that he will be at liberty to fix the rents.

How is he going to fix the rents? Does it not mean an immense amount of new work for his Department? I take it that it cannot be done in any arbitrary or slap-dash way. Will it be done, having regard to what the rents previously have been? Will it be done, having regard to the cost of putting up such a building? Will it apply to all flats? If a house that is laid out in flats is the subject of such grant, will that mean that each flat in that building, even where the flat is not affected by the improvement, will be subject to the Minister's control with regard to rent? I think it is one of the biggest developments of State interference we have seen, and I look forward to the Minister's explanation, if he has not already full explained the matter.

I have listened for some time to this debate, and it certainly surprised me how quickly the Labour Party can change their minds from one week to another. Ten or 12 days ago we had Deputy Corish practically at the throat of the Minister for Local Government over one matter, that on the admitted advance in the price of building materials an increased grant was not given before last September. We have heard him to-day throwing bouquets at the Minister for Local Government. For what? For withdrawing the £45 grant from the urban districts. That is all I can see in this Bill. This £45 grant is now to be withdrawn, and Deputy Corish, Deputy Norton and the Labour Party congratulate the Minister on that. It is certainly a great injustice. To give a £40 reconstruction grant in urban areas may or may not be a benefit. I do not happen to live in an urban area, but £40 of a reconstruction grant in an urban area, where the trade union rate of wages has to be paid, is almost useless. I should like the Minister to reconsider that question of the £45 grant. Even on the admission of the Labour Party, you have an increase in the cost of building materials within the past few years. That increase amounts to at least 20 per cent. On top of that you have the increase involved by the Conditions of Employment Act, amounting to about 8 per cent. One can safely say that inside the last few years building costs have gone up here by at least 30 per cent. I ask the Minister to consider that and, instead of withdrawing grants, to increase them. In the West of Ireland the local authorities have done very good work, and, seeing that the increased cost amounts to about 30 per cent, the Minister should make some contribution towards that increase. If that increase is not met, there will be a hold-up of building even in the case of private individuals.

I should like the Minister to tell the House why building costs have gone up to such an extent. Some of us have a fairly good idea of the reason, but it would be no harm if the Minister would let the House know. Perhaps he would tell us whether the tariffs on building materials and the subsidising of factories engaged in the production of material for building construction have any influence in the matter and whether these activities are a paying proposition or not? Take nails as an example. Up to 18 months ago, they were being bought at about 14/- per cwt. or £14 per ton. What is the price to-day? Is it not £28 per ton? I ask the Minister to say whether there is a nail factory in this country and whether it is operating under a tariff of 75 per cent. Perhaps the Minister for Local Government or the Minister for Industry and Commerce would give us that information. I would also like the Minister to say whether the 75 per cent. tariff compensates for the inconvenience caused to people engaged in the building industry. We have also a duty on cement of 5/- a ton. The Minister knows as well as I do that, inside the last two years, cement without any duty has gone up in price. When it is going up in price, the Minister should recommend the removal of that duty. Then, as to roofing, we all know that the roofing of these houses with tiles is bound to increase the cost. Tiles are much heavier than slates and there has to be heavier timber work in all these houses on which tiles are used —even labourers' cottages. Can nothing be done to develop the slate industry? Is it possible that, after 14 or 15 years as an independent country, we cannot develop the slate quarries and produce sufficient slates for our own needs? Even the ordinary individual cannot get a few cwts. of slates at present. We have slate quarries in Deputy Corry's county, in Donegal and in other counties and, at the same time, nine-tenths of the houses are being roofed with tiles. It is good for us to realise what local authorities have to contend with in the way of increased costs and duties on materials which are not being provided in this country. We have steel windows for our houses which are just as good as timber. People object because they are not made in the country but the timber put into the wooden windows is not made in the country either. Something should be done if building is to be brought within the means of people anxious to build.

We heard Deputy Norton talk about supervision. In the County Galway, we get enough supervision. In that respect, the Minister and his Department are carrying out their duties. I do not know what is really lacking as regards the formation of the houses or the chimneys of which Deputy Norton complains but, as regards supervision, I had, inside the last 12 months, four inspections of a scheme of labourers' cottages in one day. If that is not supervision, I do not know what is. Deputy McGowan mentioned that contractors and their friends were applying for grants. That is a serious charge to make in this House. It amounts to saying that there are Private contractors in this country who nominate employees, or friends of their own, in order to get grants for houses which they will not occupy afterwards. I heard such a charge made before and I think that, on one or two occasions, they were investigated by the Minister's Department and were found to have no foundation. Now the charge is made definitely here. The Minister should certainly be in a position to answer such a charge which is definitely against his Department and, if investigated, I think it will be found to have no foundation. Great advantage has been taken of housing facilities in rural districts, in spite of increased costs, and I appeal to the Minister, instead of hampering these people who are inclined to do the best they can, to provide them with some grant that will help them. We all know that the £45 grant was a very small help, and with the 20 per cent. increase in building alone—and I think the full percentage increase is 30 per cent.—in the last two years, I think that instead of reducing or withdrawing this grant it should be increased.

I wonder is the Vice-President having a little doze? I am not sure whether we are delaying him too long on this matter. Since I came into this House I have heard criticisms which suggest that the high building costs have given many Deputies a hint as to profiteering by those engaged in the building trade. I am not anxious, nor would I be allowed, to refer in any detail to the causes, or to the facts, but I might mention that although costs have gone, and are going, up, it does not necesarily mean that those engaged in the building trade— builders' providers or importers—are making profits accordingly. I will leave it at that, but if anybody wants a detailed debate on that subject here, it can be had at any particular time. There has been in the past too much bandying about in this House of such terms as "frauds" and "profiteers" as applied to persons engaged in different businesses, and to-night we have had hints about the building trade as a whole. Deputy Moore referred to a section of this Bill as an extraordinary innovation, as a dangerous thing, as if those who had property which had got into disrepair, and the rents of which, by reason of the property getting into disrepair, were withheld, should receive no assistance whatever in getting their property back into repair and getting a decent clean deal in the matter of rents. That is what I understand this section to mean. I am sure the Minister will explain it in more detail, but it seems to me that those who have property, those who pay moneys to the Government in direct taxation, are always to be attacked and to get no assistance whatever. These people who have big responsibilities as citizens, and are willing to meet them —they have done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future— always seem to be made the object of attack.

When Deputy Norton was speaking here, the Chair ruled that he was going outside the scope of the debate. I had intended to follow on certain lines, but out of consideration for the Vice-President, and for the Chair particularly, I am not doing so. I notice, however, that utility societies come into this debate again. On previous occasions I referred to bogus utility societies, and I remember that the Minister bowed agreement with my statement that there were and had been utility societies formed, registered as such, with no capital and which had gone bankrupt and left houses unfinished. There are at the present moment, not far from where I live, several houses unfinished in respect of which money was voted by this House. I cannot say if these houses were erected by these societies, but there are four houses unfinished, and I do not know the reason for it. Deputy Norton spoke about the houses in Kildare, and I am sure that the Minister's Department will see to it that there will be more attention to detail and more supervision in future. Whether it is due to a shortage of staff or not, I do not know, but Deputy Norton's statement can be verified to a large extent by me. It seems to me that the available engineering officials are not able to cope with the work placed upon them.

Finally, I should like to pay a tribute to the officials of the Housing Department who, in view of the chaotic and complicated Bills and conditions, labour associations and all the difficulties attendant on the carrying on of an intensive housing policy, such as the difficulty of meeting the mutual interests of all and bringing about all-round compatibility, have one of the most difficult tasks of any Department. They have shown themselves tireless and efficient, courteous and most helpful to us all. I wish to reiterate that the allegations of profiteering made against those in the building trade are not true. If anybody wishes to give details in this House in respect of these allegations, they will be replied to.

I wish to congratulate the Minister sincerely on the introduction of this Bill. Urban authorities and boards of health, in many cases, have been put to very great expense to provide houses for people who were living in condemned and insanitary dwellings. Under the Minister's proposals in this Bill the owners of these houses can now get reconstruction grants. It is true that the grants are small, but they will enable people to put these houses into a habitable condition. Undoubtedly that will relieve a certain burden that now falls on local authorities.

I am glad the Minister is taking some power under this Bill in connection with rents. I hope that principle will go further. Undoubtedly rents in urban towns and in all parts of the country are contributing very largely to the high cost of living. I do not take much notice of what Deputy Norton said about labourers' cottages. Deputy Norton is in the happy position that the more that is done the more he looks for. It is a very happy position to be in when one has no responsibility. Personally, I would be anxious to see a 50 per cent. reduction in the rents of labourers' cottages. I would even be anxious to see a reduction of 75 per cent., aye, and to see the tenants getting them for nothing, but when we face the responsibilities and see what has been done, and consider the burden the State has undertaken, it is another matter.

Cork County Council provided £250,000 for the first scheme of labourers' cottages. That was done because this Government made provision by which 60 per cent. of the loan charges and the labour would be paid by the Government, leaving only 40 per cent. to be paid by the tenants and the ratepayers. That was a fairly big burden for the State to undertake but it was done because for 30 or 35 years there were no building schemes. As no cottages were built in the rural districts since 1914 the State had come to the rescue. The cottages that were built in County Cork out of the £250,000 cost about £250 each, and £150 of that was provided by the State. Immediately the tenants went into occupation of these cottages, the rents of which are about ? a week, they could proceed to purchase them, as well as the acre of land attached. Under the purchase scheme the rents were reduced by 25 per cent. I do not think any Deputy will allege that there would be an enormous amount of repairs needed on new cottages. Tenants of older cottages, under the proposals here, if they notify their intention to purchase, the board of health is compelled to put them into proper repair, so that they purchase houses in perfect condition. The cottages should not need repairs for some years. In that way the State has gone a long way to meet people whose rents are admittedly low. The general run of the rents is between 9d. and 1/- a week for the house and an acre of ground. When the rents are further reduced, in the case of the 1/- cottage to 9d. weekly, the tenants will be owners, and surely the little repairs that may be required will be no great burden upon them. As far as Deputy Brodrick's friend is concerned, if he looks at the Cork Examiner he will find an advertisement in it for Irish slates every day. If he wants slates I will send him all he requires.

They are advertised in every paper but they cannot be got.

I will get Irish slates if Deputy Brodrick will give me an order. I will see that they are delivered within a week—all that is wanted of them.

A week next year.

If the Deputy is prepared to give it I will take the order.

Ask Deputy Beegan.

I would like to mention, for the information of the Minister, that undoubtedly certain engineers to boards of health have a prejudice against these slates—a very definite prejudice.

They have, because they cannot get them.

They do not want to get them. I suggest to the Minister that he should send instructions to boards of health that in all cases where Irish slates can be provided, they should get preference over anything else. Undoubtedly they provide a roof for a house that is not provided by anything else.

If you wait, you will have ancient monuments.

I saw some monuments that were erected in the Deputy's constituency during the recent general election.

Deputies are travelling very far from the Bill.

I am sorry. Certainly any slates that are required can be provided. If any Deputy has a difficulty in that respect, I suggest they should communicate with me. I will have all the slates wanted sent on.

The Deputy will have many communications.

Is it in order for Deputy Corry to avail of a discussion on this Bill to act as a shopkeeper?

I can assure Deputy Allen that I am not interested financially or otherwise in this question, but I do not agree that Deputies should stand up in this House for the purpose of villifying Irish materials.

The Deputy should not act as a commercial traveller.

My principal reason in speaking was to deal with the labourers' cottages, about which Deputy Norton spoke. I am glad to see the Minister improving the position regarding arrears of rent. That was a very serious question when it came to the taking over of the cottages.

What about the rural areas and the £45?

Shut up.

Will the Deputy get on with the discussion?

As far as the £45 is concerned, as the Deputy is anxious to hear about it, I sat for about six years on the benches that the Deputy's Party now occupy, and during that period he always carefully walked into the Lobby to vote against any reconstruction grant whatever for small farmers, about whom he is now so anxious.

We gave them a grant of £75, and £45 is now being taken off.

When sitting on the opposite benches I appealed time after time for some grant for small farmers for reconstruction purposes. We had several divisions in the House on that question, and I recollect that the Deputy voted in favour of giving no reconstruction grant. Of course, he has changed his mind since. I would appeal to the Minister to raise the limit of valuations, so that it will be possible for him to give a £40 grant for the reconstruction of the dwellings of small farmers. In certain areas of the country you find a £25 valuation on a holding of 15 statute acres. There are hundreds of cases of that kind in my constituency. I do not think anybody will contend that a man with 16 acres of land is a large farmer. Yet, these people are prevented, under the present valuation limit, of availing of the reconstruction grants. Most of those valuations were fixed at the time of Griffith's valuation. If the Minister were to increase the valuation limit from £25 to £35 it would mean that many of the people I speak for would be able to live in decent houses. At the present time the houses of a great many of them are in a worse condition than the labourers' cottages that Deputy Norton complained of. If the Minister were to do what I suggest, I am sure there are from 150 to 200 people in my constituency who would be able to avail of the grants.

I think the Minister should give this concession to the people in the rural areas now that he is extending his generosity to the owners of urban house property, to people who, because of their neglect to keep their property in a proper state of repair, have thrown a severe burden on the local authorities. On the whole, I welcome the Bill. I think it is an improvement, as every Bill has been that the Minister for Local Government has introduced in connection with housing. All his Bills mark an advance and an improvement on the previous ones. That view, I venture to say, is held in all parts of the House. There is nothing but praise for the work that the Minister has done to improve housing conditions. Of course, one hears growls here and there, but the world would not be the world it is without them.

I join with Deputy Moore in the diffidence that he has expressed in connection with the rather novel section in the Bill which is intended to benefit the owners of house property. It certainly marks a very big departure from existing legislation and practice. The section, as one gathers, is intended to benefit the owners of property in towns and villages, and in certain circumstances in county boroughs. I am not worried by the fact that it is an experiment. If it helps to solve the problem that the State and local authorities are faced with in dealing with housing, as we know it to-day, then the departure is one that can be welcomed. It will be all to the good if some of the property concerned can be saved from complete demolition and made available for families in sore need of decent housing accommodation. The scheme we find outlined here is one that, I venture to suggest, will need very careful handling. The proposal is that 50 per cent. of the cost is to be put up by the local authority and the remainder by the Department. If the local authority has to face that burden, then it will have to ensure that there will be proper supervision of the work carried out under the scheme. The Department will have to be careful to see whether or not a particular property is entitled to come under this beneficial legislation. Recently, we have been demolishing house property in most of our towns. In some cases the property got into a bad state of repair through no fault of the owners. But at any rate the cost to the local authority has been pretty severe. In other cases local authorities have had to deal with house property owned by usurers, people who never showed any mercy to the unfortunates who occupied their property, and never made any attempt to keep it in a decent state of repair.

The good type of landlord and the bad type of landlord will be met under the scheme outlined in the Bill. I suggest to the Minister that the Department, before giving a grant under this scheme, should seek advice from the local authority and ascertain whether a particular property is worth considering. That precaution, I think, should be taken before a local authority is asked to put up half the cost of the repair of property in its locality. If that is done, it may result in getting good results from this rather novel experiment. Proper safeguards are, in my opinion, essential if the scheme outlined here is to be a success. Unfortunately, we cannot get all the new houses built that we require, or with the speed that we would like, but if the safeguards that I have mentioned are taken in connection with this scheme, local authorities will be enabled to afford increased housing accommodation for the many people who are badly in need of it. I could not quite follow Deputy Brodrick's statement about all the bouquets that have been thrown at the Minister from the Labour Benches. I did not get any perfume from them. On the other hand we had Deputy Corry suggesting that we were throwing bricks at the Minister. A remarkable thing about Deputy Corry's speech was that, while he did not deal with the Bill, he made a splendid defence of the main Act. When concluding, he did admit that the amendment introduced by the Minister into this Bill is an improvement on the main Act. Listening to the Deputy one would imagine that it was impossible to improve the main Act. He went to great pains to denounce the Labour Party, and Deputy Norton in particular, for suggesting that further amendments to the main Act could be usefully made.

The amendment the Minister is embodying in this Bill is the minimum that he believes necessary to make the main Act acceptable. But I venture to suggest that even this plum, which the Minister is offering to the cottiers of the country, will not be sufficient to induce any great number of them to purchase their houses. I believe that, if Deputy Corry would speak his mind, he would admit that the labourers of the country would be justified in asking for a 50 per cent. reduction in their rents. That is not being conceded to them in this Bill. I believe that, without it, they are not going to avail of the provision to purchase. It is all very well for Deputy Corry to point out that the rentals of labourers' cottages are low. But the Deputy must admit that farmers' rents are also low, and while that is so, that they have been getting, now for some years, a remission of 50 per cent. in the amount of their annuities. There has been no corresponding reduction in the rents of labourers' cottages, so that what we find at the present time is that the sum that a labourer has to pay in rent and rates for his cottage is about the equivalent of what the owner of a 20 acre farm is paying for his holding. I think he will have to admit, in view of that, that there should be lower rents for labourers also.

I want to agree with Deputy Corry in one point that he made, and that is in connection with the question of repairs to the houses of small farmers; and I would urge on the Minister, particularly since every Deputy in the House who has spoken so far has advocated an extension of the facilities for the repair of the houses of small farmers in the country, that he should give more favourable attention to such people, or at least that he should give equal attention to the demand that has been made on behalf of other people. It must be remembered that many small farmers, starting, perhaps, in very humble circumstances during the war years, got an extension of their land, and it must also be remembered that that increased portion of land they got has become a burden on them now. It has become a burden more than anything else on the type of a farmer of whom I am speaking. Now you have labourers' cottages springing all round the country, but the biggest eyesore at the present moment is the house of the small farmer who is residing, perhaps, in a thatched house and under most insanitary conditions. The people to whom I am referring are not able to undertake the repair of their houses. I hope it will be understood that I am not attempting to make a comparison such as, let us say, Deputy Corry made, but I believe that there is no section of the community in this country more entitled to get relief from what, undoubtedly, are the slum conditions under which they are now living, than the small farmers of the type to which I refer. I think that the Minister, therefore, should try to extend the facilities herein provided so as to increase the valuation. I think that the £25 valuation grinds very hardly on people of the type I have mentioned. I think it has been admitted by all Deputies who have spoken on this matter that, in some counties, it may be a source of very great hardship. From what I have heard from the Minister, it seems that there is no hope of a re-valuation. The Minister himself says that he is not inclined to go in for a general national re-valuation, but it must be remembered that there are certain counties where there are real hardships on account of the high valuation under which farms of this type are suffering. One reason for these hardships is the disability of not being able to avail of the housing grants provided. I think that the Minister ought to get away from the £25 valuation, and that he should extend it to £30 and £35 valuation, in order to enable such people to avail of this.

One other point to which I should like to refer is the question of supervision and the question of the payment of reasonable rates of wages and reasonable conditions of employment for people employed on the erection of such houses throughout the country. I think it is only reasonable that, when the State provides money for such purposes, the State should exercise proper supervision as to the control and expenditure of these moneys, and that the State ought to institute sufficient supervision to see that reasonable rates of wages are paid to, and that reasonable hours of work are worked by, those who are employed on such schemes. If that were to be taken into hands by the Minister and his Department, and if the provisions of the Conditions of Employment Act were to be enforced with regard to such workers, I would be satisfied; but I put it to any Deputy who has spoken in this House on this matter— whether Deputy Brodrick, Deputy Minch, or anybody else—that an attempt has been made, in connection with the building of these houses, to evade the provisions of the Conditions of Employment Act in connection with the building of houses. There have been cases of men working by candlelight, moonlight, and so on, and working under the most unfair conditions generally; and I say that that is unfair and that it does not give even a guarantee of a reasonably good house being built, equivalent to the money that has been spent on the building of the house. I believe, so far as I can find out, that, in the view of some of our engineers throughout the country, they are not happy with some of the work that has been done. I will admit that the matter of supervision has been tightened up and that engineers and clerks of works are making more frequent visits, but I am afraid that these works will not bear the test of time, and, in my opinion, that is mainly due to the lack of proper supervision and to allowing people to evade conforming with the provisions of the Conditions of Employment Act.

The Minister to conclude.

This, Sir, has been a rather protracted but an interesting debate. I had hoped that, being near Christmas time, the Bill would have taken only about half-an-hour or an hour, and that we would have the same experience, as I have had once or twice before, and get the Bill through in a short time. That, however, was not my good fortune to-day. However, I had the good fortune to hear many interesting speeches and some useful suggestions. Before I enter into anything else, however, I should like to thank those Deputies who have been so kind as to refer to the Department of Local Government and Public Health and its officials in such eulogistic terms as they have done. I could not say too much in praise of the officials of the Department, from my knowledge of them; and I do not think there is any Deputy in this House who has ever gone to these officials—particularly the officials dealing at the moment with the matter of housing schemes—for help or guidance, or even with complaints, who would say that he has not been met with courtesy and sympathetic consideration at all times. Naturally, that is what one would expect from civil servants, but it is not always what one receives from certain people in this world. I am glad, however, to hear Deputies paying a tribute to the fact that they have always got such sympathetic consideration from the Department.

Hear, hear!

One matter that has been spoken of so often by Deputies who took part in the debate is the question of the valuation of holdings in rural areas for purposes of reconstruction, and it is a matter to which I should like to refer. I am afraid that there is no likelihood of getting an increased revaluation so far as this Bill is concerned. We have a problem to deal with in connection with the lower valuations, which is still a very big problem, and I think that, until we have considerably reduced the problem in which those who are in greatest need are concerned, it would not be right to take up the question of people who are not so badly off. That is the way I take it. After all, a valuation of £25 in this country for an agricultural holding means, generally, that it is a pretty good holding. A man who has a valuation of £25—not always, of course —is generally able to provide for himself and for the reconstruction of his house, but certainly a man with a valuation of £35 or £45 ought to be in a better position than a man with a valuation of £25 or under. In any case, we still have obligations to some 14,000 persons who are living in agricultural holdings of less than £25, and I think we have gone a great deal further on the road towards dealing with the poorer classes. For these reasons, therefore, I would not be in favour of increasing the grant at the moment. Possibly something could be said for it, but I am anxious to get all stages of the present Bill through as quickly as possible, because we have come to the end of our tether so far as finances are concerned, and if we do not get the Bill through rapidly allocations might be held up. It might be possible, however, to bring in at another time an amended scale such as, I think, Deputy Brennan suggested.

A graded scale.

Yes, but I think that, before we even think of that, we ought to think of the poorer people first—people whose houses in many cases are falling about their heads, and people who, in my opinion, have first claim on any grants that may be available. These have, I think, the first claim on any Government resources available.

Some Deputies spoke about the number of agricultural holdings over £25 valuation there are in their constituencies. I have not the total number of agricultural holdings with valuations up to £25—they are not made out in £5 units—but I have the number up to £30. The total number of agricultural holdings in the country up to £30 valuation is 314,226. There are about 60,000 holdings above that valuation. Altogether there are in the country 376,369 agricultural holdings from £1 up to over £200 valuation, and of these 314,000 are below £30 valuation. We might take it that 300,000 of them have a valuation of £25 and under. So that we are dealing at present with more than three-fourths of the problem in dealing with the people of £25 valuation and under. Until we have cleared off these poorer people, I think there is not much of a case on the numbers given for increasing the valuation.

Deputy Brennan also spoke of the great cost and of our commitments. Deputy Brennan's predecessor, when speaking on Housing Bills, used to complain sometimes that I had not told the people often enough what we are committing the country to in the way of expense. Deputy Brennan mentioned the figure of £6,000,000. I have not the exact figure, but he is right in saying that in or about £6,000,000 has been the cost up to the present of our housing work under the 1932 Act. That is a very big figure. I do not want to hide it. I should like the country to know it; and I should like everybody to understand what we are committing the country to. I should like them to realise at the same time that there is a necessity for that expenditure. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, there has not been one penny spent on housing under the 1932 Act, or even under previous Acts, that is not good expenditure, good money well spent on housing the people. There is no better way you can expend the nation's money than on the provision of decent, sanitary housing accommodation for our people.

Deputy Cosgrave also asked if I would give the annual commitment. The annual commitment varies with the growth of the housing schemes of our local authorities. The annual commitment of our local authorities last year, in round figures, was £196,000; this year, £302,000; and next year it will probably be £340,000 or £350,000. Commitments are heavy, unquestionably. £6,000,000 is a heavy burden for this country, but it is not too heavy in proportion to the liability in the way of bad housing that we have to meet. If we are spending the nation's money for good social services, I think there will be a return afterwards in the help and benefit to the community that will be even out of proportion to the amount we spend.

Deputy Dockrell raised the question of the £45 grant in urban areas. That £45 grant, it is proposed, should cease on the 31st March next. It does not come as a surprise to the House, I am sure, that that £45 grant should cease, because it was mentioned here on the last two occasions on which I spoke in introducing the annual Housing Bill. Certainly on the last occasion I made a pretty specific pronouncement that the intention was not to continue the £45 grant after the expiration of the period covered by that last Bill. I am one of those who like to see houses of every type being built. We are badly in need of houses. We are very much in arrears in Dublin City, in particular, and in the urban areas around Dublin; and any measure which would encourage houses to be built in considerable numbers I should like to adopt. But I do believe that, so far as the private builder is concerned, the £45 grant has been but very little encouragement to him in undertaking new building schemes. I have had that view expressed to me by private building speculators. What they have put to me is: "If you can help to secure that loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act will be available for local authorities, you can keep your £45." That has been said to me more than once. I do not see any reason why there should not be money available under that Act. If at any time the case is made to the Government by the Dublin Corporation or any local authority that there is a difficulty in getting money for that purpose it will get serious consideration.

With the £45 grant in urban areas there goes, of course, the seven years' concession with regard to the remission of rates. That is a matter of consideration, first of all, to the speculative builder, and probably also to the purchaser of a new house. Deputy Dockrell, Deputy Norton, Deputy Heron and others spoke about that matter. I shall look into that and see what we can do with regard to a further extension. I do not know whether we can do it under this Bill, because it may require an amendment of the Local Government Act, but I will look into it anyway.

Deputy Brasier said that the Minister was not over-generous in grants to dwellers in rural areas. I have made the statement before in this House, and I have made it elsewhere, that no Government in the world has given more generous grants out of the nation's purse towards the rehousing of the people than has been given by this Government under the 1932 Act, and is being continued by this Bill.

There is no country where it is more necessary.

That is true, so far as I know. I do not know what the necessity may be in other countries. There may be other countries where it may be equally necessary, but I do not know. I do know that there is no other country where more generous grants have been given or grants anything like as generous. Even official inquirers from wealthy countries like the United States, who have been sent to study our housing schemes and who have gone over Europe studying housing schemes and housing legislation, have in conversation with me admitted that they could not get their Government to face up to giving grants either to local authorities or private persons such as we have given. Loans, I think, are now to be granted in the United States on a larger scale than anything ever done in this country, but they are only loans, at a high rate of interest, and will have to be repaid. There are no grants, nothing in proportion to what has been given here. The grants here are very generous, no more generous than they should be; but they are generous grants, and they are available in town and country. I am glad to say that they have been availed of to a very great extent indeed in the rural areas, both housing grants and reconstruction grants.

The point made by Deputy Norton with regard to the supervision of housing which had particular reference to County Kildare was, I think, mentioned by the Deputy before. I have had the matter examined more than once. I have not had a final report of the examinations that have been made as yet, but I think I can say this much: that all the charges which he has made will, I believe, not be found to be well founded.

Any of them?

There may be some. Wherever they are well founded we shall do our best to get the matter remedied. Deputies, especially those who have any special connection with local authorities, will know that it is not possible for the Minister or his Department always to get local authorities to do things as the Department wants them. It often happens that a Deputy, sometimes a member of a local authority, will come in here to the House and make complaints, or that a member of a local authority who is not a Deputy will write to me or the secretary of my Department making complaints. Afterwards we, through our inspector or by correspondence, ask the local authority to carry out certain suggestions and you know the type of answer we get—sometimes more forcible than polite. "It is not our business; they have their own business to do. What does that fellow up there in Dublin think he is—a Mussolini?"

That is quite true.

It sometimes happens that the Deputy who makes the complaint, when the letter goes down to the local authority, will be the first to say: "Let the Department mind its own business." However, despite all that, we try to do our best. I never try, even though I could, to act the Mussolini. My policy would be to write down a courteous letter, to send down a courteous inspector to talk to the officials and, if necessary, to talk to the members of the local boards and try to get them, through their officials, to do these things that we think should be done. Even though we are not always successful, we do our best. We cannot compel them. Deputy Lenihan talked about the Minister compelling local authorities to do this, that or the other. We cannot do that. We are constituted on democratic lines in this country. I often wish, when I read the sort of criticisms that one sees in the local Press about what we have failed to do, and about all the things that should be done, that I had the power to go right down and get the job done myself.

You will learn all about that, now that you are in closer contact with Italy.

Deputy McGowan was the first to raise a subject which some other Deputies also mentioned, namely, the question of trade union wages. I have always, during my public life, stood for the payment of trade union wages. Wherever I have any power, authority or influence, I would like to see trade union wages paid. That has been my view always. Deputy McGowan went so far as to say that the Minister and the officials of his Department flouted the section in the Housing Act. That is untrue. He has no right to make a statement of that kind for which he has no foundation. Other Deputies who spoke on the Labour Benches would not say that the Minister or the Department flouted Section 8 of the Act which deals with the payment of trade union wages, and the observance of trade union conditions. At any time that a complaint was made to us from anywhere, that trade union wages were not being paid, we took the matter up immediately with the authority concerned and no grants were paid unless we were satisfied that trade union wages had been paid.

Was there not a case in County Dublin?

We had a complaint.

Was there not definite proof in the County Dublin case?

We did not get proof and we asked for proof several times. We wrote letters several times asking the trade unions concerned to put their complaints definitely on paper before us but they did not do it.

My information was that the Minister admitted that the facts were as alleged but that he was not prepared to take action.

If we got definite information that trade union wages were not being paid, we would not pay the grants. These are the orders on which the Department has acted. There is one case which the Deputy has in mind and which I have in mind——

Is that the Belton case?

What is the use of mentioning names? The Deputy only wants to attack a man who is not here to defend himself. The Deputy knows as well as I do that that man is not here. I am not going to mention his name, and I think I shall say no more about it as the Deputy has mentioned his name. There was one case we had where men in the building trade took action against a builder for the payment of trade union wages. They said they had not been paid trade union wages, and we were doing our best to secure evidence of the fact that they had not been paid, but it came out in the court that they had made an agreement with the builder before they started on the job that he should not be obliged to pay them the full trade union wages. Therefore these men lost their case in court. I believe it happens in some cases, not so much in Dublin City but around Dublin, that agreements of that kind are arrived at. Agreements are arrived at, not in the city, but not far from the city, under which men arrange with the builder to take something less than the standard rate.

Is that not a violation of the principle?

It is, but it is very hard to discover. We discover it sometimes when the job is finished.

When it is discovered, is there no redress from the employer who enters into an agreement with an individual to pay a lesser rate? When that man accepts a grant and does not pay the full rate, does he not break the law?

After the grant is paid there is no remedy.

I think that is something that the Minister ought to look into. There should be some redress or these men should have some recourse to the law to enforce payment.

There was one case where the men concerned did have recourse to the law, but when it was proved in court that they had made a bargain with the builder in advance they were thrown out of court.

I admit that the Minister has always been very strong on seeing that trade union rates of pay are observed, but I suggest that if the law is defective in that matter something should be done about it.

I should be glad of the help of the Labour Party in seeing what can be done about tightening it up.

I would suggest to the Minister——

The Minister has not given way. He has risen to conclude.

Deputy Heron and Deputy Corish talked about the Bill requiring an explanatory memorandum. I could understand that from Deputy Heron, who is new to the House, and who perhaps has not had an opportunity of studying the four or five other Bills which preceded this. This is merely an annual Bill to provide £700,000 more. The basis of that is the 1932 Act. The additional £700,000 is voted annually here in the Dáil. It gives an opportunity, naturally, for debate, but there is usually no new principle of any kind in the Bill, and it is more or less taken for granted. This time there were several new things put in the Bill, and it was slightly more complicated than the last, but I am surprised at Deputy Corish making that statement when he should have known the matter off by heart.

Would the Minister allow me to say this? The Minister said it was providing more than was previously provided, but he knows that the Bill contains provisions taking away certain advantages, such as the remission of rates. All I suggest about a memorandum is that it would be a good thing for the members of this House, and for the community generally, if they could get an explanation of a highly technical Bill of this kind, dealing with a matter vitally affecting a large number of people. The Minister will probably agree with me that the newspaper summaries of the Bill demonstrate the fact that the newspapers, which presumably might read legislation of this kind with a somewhat expert eye, were themselves not aware of the actual provisions of the Bill.

I should not like to assume that the newspapers were so ignorant as all that.

Perhaps they were designedly so.

I do not agree that the Bill is a highly technical one. It is one of the simplest Bills ever brought into this House.

What about the references?

I just want to say a word on the funding of arrears. I think it was Deputy McGowan who talked about financial heresies or who said that I talked about the Labour Party's financial heresies. I do not think I ever used that phrase, although I am sure that I might often have used it with truth and advantage. I do not think I ever did. He talked about our inconsistencies, and about changing our minds. Thanks be to God, we have that liberty, anyway, left to us.

The Minister reserves the right of a woman to change her mind?

It is a good woman who acknowledges that she changes her mind, and twice as good a man. It would be a poor type of man who would not change his mind when he got new facts, new figures and new information entitling him to change his mind. That is what I have done. A merciful Providence fashioned us hollow in order that we might our ideas swallow, from time to time.

The Minister takes a lot of his ideas——

I took a lot of my early training and ideas from good men who were amongst the older members of the Deputy's Party—not in his time but in Deputy O'Brien's— who were associated with me and taught me a good deal.

We have advanced a lot.

I am afraid it will be a long time before you get up to his standard or mine in that direction. I am afraid you will be with your toes up before you arrive at the social advancement and experience and wisdom which I have arrived at long before you.

I should like to ask the Minister to permit me to say a few words in regard to conditions of employment. I have personal experience of the Minister's anxiety always to see that trade union conditions would be observed. I must pay that tribute to him. But I suggest that if a contractor breaks his contract by placing into a piece of work which he has contracted to perform something that is inferior, or something that is wrong, he ought to be brought to book about it, irrespective of whether he has got the subsidy or not.

When on several occasions a contractor has been proved guilty of not paying the standard trade union rate of wages, I submit that he has broken his contract, and that there should be some means of dealing with him. He enters into a contract, undertaking to observe trade union conditions, such as wages and hours of work. Trade union officials have proved that in a contractor's wages envelopes the amount stated on the outside did not correspond with the amount contained inside, but because he had got the subsidy beforehand no redress could be obtained. I suggest that there is some leakage there, and that some tightening up should take place. That man is undoubtedly a fraud on the Government, and he is a fraud on the worker. If he enters into a contract on conditions laid down by the Government which are in conformity with the local conditions as observed by the trades unions, I submit that he has no right to enter into separate conditions with an individual.

The Deputy has been allowed to make a submission to the Minister. He may not make a second speech.

I would submit to the Minister that, a contract having been entered into on conditions laid down the contractor has no right to enter into separate conditions with the individual.

Can the Minister tell us the amount of arrears of cottage rents to be funded under this Bill?

As far as I can recollect, the total arrears of cottage rent amount to something like £50,000.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 17th December.