Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 17 Dec 1937

Vol. 69 No. 18

In Committee on Finance. - Housing and Labourers Bill, 1937—Committee.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
3.—Sub-section (1) of Section 5 of the Principal Act is hereby amended in the following respects and the said section shall be construed and have effect accordingly, that is to say:—
(a) by the insertion in paragraph (b) of the said sub-section (1) of the following sub-paragraph, in lieu of sub-paragraph (iv) now (by virtue of paragraph (b) of Section 2 of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 1934 (No. 30 of 1934)) contained in the said paragraph (b), that is to say:—
(iv) forty-five pounds, if the erection of such house shall have been commenced on or after the 12th day of May, 1932, but before the 1st day of January, 1937, and shall have been completed before the 1st day of April, 1938;

I move amendment No. 1:—

In paragraph (a), line 46, to delete all words after the words "May, 1932," and substitute the words "and shall have been completed before the 1st day of April, 1940".

I do not know if the Minister considers that I have gone too far here.

On a point of order, may I put it to the Chair that this amendment is not in order as, in my opinion, it imposes a charge on the Exchequer?

On that point, may I point out that a limited sum of money is voted in the Money Resolution, that we are determining how the money will be spent, and are not spending more than is provided. The method of spending is a matter for the Dáil.

The point of order raised by the Minister has been considered by the Chair. A certain sum of money, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition, is to be spent. The Minister has discretion as to how it will be expended. A proposal that the money be expended in one way rather than in another is quite in order.

The purpose of the amendment is obvious. We feel that curtailment in this respect will mean a curtailment of building and a slowing-down of activities in that direction. We think that is a mistake and for that reason we are particularly anxious that the grant of £45 should be continued. If the Minister tells me that the figures in the amendment should be "1939" instead of "1940" I am perfectly willing to change, so as to bring this into conformity with the following paragraphs.

I wish to support the amendment, particularly with regard to the position in remote areas where, owing to insufficiency of time, people may not make application for grants. Owing to climatic and other conditions they may not be prepared to go ahead with the work. In many remote areas in West Cork many people have failed to get the benefit of this grant for such reasons.

The Deputy is under a misapprehension. This does not refer to rural areas.

This is dealing with urban areas, then.

I stated when discussing this Bill on the Second Reading that it has reference mainly to urban areas, principally to Dublin City, Dublin area and Cork, and that the amount of money in the way of grants paid out over other areas is relatively small. Deputies in different parts of the House, particularly Deputies belonging to the Opposition, have stressed the fact on every occasion that one of these Bills was before the House, that we were putting enormous financial obligations on the country. That was the tone of Deputy Mulcahy's whole speech last year, that we were placing commitments on the country without any regard to what would be the position in the future. I examined this whole housing question again in view of having introduced a new Bill to get additional money and, having had conversations with builders, I found there was a way by which we could, possibly, save, without doing any serious damage to the prospect of having a continuation of the housing progress that we had tried to push forward in recent years. My information is that the £45 grant, so far as builders in Dublin are concerned, is not a serious thing to them when considering a scheme of housing. Of course they do not like to lose the £45 grant, but the information I got from some of them was that if they were satisfied the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act would be implemented with sufficient money, they would be prepared to forego the £45 grant. It occurred to me that money spent in that way, if it was not of serious importance to the builders in urging and encouraging them to build more houses, could be more usefully spent on slum clearances and, by saving in that direction, and perhaps using the money to greater effect by giving greater encouragement to others, I proposed that the Executive Council should drop the £45 grant. I understand it is not a serious encouragement to the building trade and, therefore, even for the limited period suggested by the Deputy, I do not feel like accepting the amendment.

Possibly the Minister did not correctly interpret Deputy Mulcahy's speech on this matter. What Deputy Mulcahy had in mind, probably, was the accumulating dead weight debt that was arising out of the housing policy. Possibly his view was that the taxpayer of to-day should not be shifting that burden on to the taxpayer of ten, 15, 20 or 30 years hence, who would have to pay a proportion of the costs incurred without getting any of the benefits which are being derived at the moment. The taxpayer of to-day has this advantage, that whatever he has to contribute towards the price of a house in respect of slum clearances, etc., is offset by the advantage of the circulation of huge sums of money. He gets the advantage of the extra employment and of the extra business and so on, but, in the future, when the work is completed, the taxpayer will have to bear all the burdens without having any of the advantages. The proposal in the amendment in respect of the £45 is not in contradiction to that. The contention made from this side of the House is, that this is the cheapest possible method of providing housing accommodation. It is quite possible that in the case of a house valued for £360, something like two-thirds of the cost of the house, and of the service of the debt will fall upon the State—£240.

More than five houses can be constructed costing the State an immediate £45. Our contention is that the provision of those five houses will, to some extent, ease the problem which faces local authorities in dealing with the provision of houses for the working classes, because there are people who would be able to purchase, or take on lease, one of those houses in respect of which the £45 will have been paid. It has taken years to get speculative builders into this particular sphere of building activity. Our contention is that it is unwise, at a time when the number of houses still required to be built is considerable, that any phase of building activity should be retarded, and for that reason we are supporting the amendment.

The Minister has made some statement which, while containing a certain amount of truth, yet give a false idea of the real position. Deputy Cosgrave has referred to the talk about expenditure, and to the criticism of expenditure made from this side of the House. We certainly regard the provision of houses as a very desirable form of expenditure. As I said on the Second Reading of the Bill two days ago, I am particularly interested in the position of Dublin. While I say that, I do not want it to be taken that I do not wish well to the rest of the country. But the position is that the population of Dublin is increasing, while the opposite is true of the rest of the country. Hence, I would like to make a few remarks about the housing problem as it affects Dublin and district.

The Minister, I think, will admit that there is a very grave housing problem in Dublin. It is possibly one of the greatest problems that confronts us at the moment. What has caused that problem? Dublin is an old city and a walled city. Some people blame the Danes for our housing problem. If that reason consoles them, they are welcome to it so far as I am concerned; but we have inherited this problem, and we have got to solve it. In our opinion the ideas of the Government in approaching this problem are far too narrow. That is the first point I want to put before the Minister. If, in his opinion, any wrong statements are made from this side of the House on this question, I hope he will take the opportunity of contradicting them.

This is a very complicated problem. There are many sides to it, and it can be approached in a variety of ways. I think it is a pity that in the last couple of years we have not had some debates on the housing problem. A couple of years ago I twitted the Minister on that, but we have not had any since. If we had such debates they would help to educate us on this problem. For one thing, they would help to prevent the Minister contradicting himself. It would be a great advance if we could find out whether the Government have any logical ordered idea of the way that the housing problem in Dublin should be tackled. I said before that the building industry, if it was to contribute its share to the problem, would require to know some years ahead what was expected of it. I observe that the Minister made this statement in the Dáil two days ago:—

"Subsequently it was decided to restrict the floor area of houses in urban areas that would be eligible for grants to 800 square feet. Up to then a house of 1,200 square feet in floor area was eligible for a subsidy. It was hoped that the reduction in area would induce speculative builders to engage in the production of houses suitable to the requirements of the average working-class family, and thus to some extent relieve the demand on the local authorities."

Now, that is sheer nonsense, and I will tell the House why. The Minister seems to think that the speculative builders have a sort of double dose of original sin, and that they have set out to combat the supply of houses for the working classes. The trouble is that they have got to cater for a certain small portion of the community who can pay for their houses. If the working classes could pay for houses the speculative builders would put them up for them, and in a couple of years there would be no housing problem. That is the point. It is not the speculative builder's sin that he puts up a house that is slightly bigger than the house that is required for the housing of the working classes: it is because he finds there is a market for that type of house.

The next point is that when one of those, houses is put up it results in the moving of a family out of a house in Dublin, and leaves the problem of the housing of the working classes temporarily less acute. I would like to suggest to the Minister that, supposing 10,000 houses of this type were put up in a single year and that a very big portion of the City of Dublin was vacated, would not that solve the housing problem temporarily for a certain number of years? That is why you have got 3,000 houses unfit for human habitation, that they cannot be pulled down because you cannot put people under canvas. The problem is that there are not enough houses available, due to the fact that people have crowded into Dublin, and that building is only going on at a certain rate.

The next contradiction that I would like to bring to the Minister's notice is to be found in his own statement made the other evening, in which he said:—

"Deputy Dockrell raised the question of the £45 grant in urban areas. 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 suppose the Minister considers that that is a responsible statement and that we ought to take him at his word, but apparently he has only made up his mind to that in the last few days, because on the 17th November the following question was addressed to the Minister:—

"To ask the Minister for Local Government and Public Health if his Department have ceased to issue certificates A under the Housing Acts to builders, and whether he is aware that this proceeding is likely to stop the provision of houses under the Acts."

The Minister's reply to that question was as follows:—

"The issue of certificates has been temporarily discontinued pending the annual determination of the number of cases where certificates have been issued and works are not being proceeded with. I am not aware of any grounds for the statement in the latter part of the question."

The latter part of the question referred to the possible stoppage of the production of houses. Apparently, therefore, on the 17th November, the Minister thought that these grants had merely been temporarily discontinued. Now, to-day, he tells us that they have been discontinued. I should like the Minister to look at what the effect of that is. He told us that builders had informed him that they did not want the £45 grant if they could get the Acquisition of Houses (Small Dwellings) Act implemented under the corporation. The truth about that matter is that a £45 grant is no use to a person who has not got the money to buy a house. The Minister has translated that into saying that the £45 grant is no use, but that is a very different statement. What is the position as regards the Corporation (Small Dwellings) Act? I think that £250,000 was made available in January, 1936. Now, that has been gobbled up—that is the only word I can use to describe it—and practically anybody now can go into the corporation and put up a scheme and, unless somebody has fallen out or there is some invalidity in their suggestion, they cannot get on with that.

There is another class of person to whom the £45 grant is a very serious matter. As I have said before—and I should like the Minister to correct my ignorance if I am wrong in saying this —the problem of housing in Dublin must be taken as a whole. I say that there are three main sources of supply, and each one of them is serving just as useful a purpose as the other. I have referred to the provision of houses by the corporation for the working classes. Now, it is very desirable that that should be gone on with just as quickly as possible, and, if it can be got on with any quicker, I should be very pleased to see it. At the same time, the corporation are doing an enormous work and I think they will find it difficult to increase their production. As I said before, if they are able to increase their production I shall be very pleased to see it. Now, you have got another source of supply, and that is the person who is going to be helped by the corporation to buy a small dwelling. As I have said, that is being gobbled up.

There is money available.

I think there is over £1,000,000.

Does the Deputy mean in connection with the acquisition of small dwellings?

Yes, I think so, but do not take me as being correct. However, I think there is about £1,000,000 available.

I think the Deputy will find that they got £250,000 and that it is nearly all gone. However, I shall not fall out with Deputy Kelly if there should be £1,000,000 available.

I already told the Deputy not to take the figure as being necessarily correct.

There is grave danger of the Chair falling out with both Deputies on the ground of irrelevancy. Deputy Dockrell, presumably, is dealing with the amendment on the paper, but he is sailing around it to a considerable extent.

Are we discussing amendment No. 1, Sir?

Yes, supposedly. I hope Deputy Dockrell does not aim at originating a debate on the whole housing problem in connection with this limited amendment?

No, Sir. I do not wish to originate a debate on housing.

At the same time, Sir, I think you have very accurately described what I am trying to do. I am trying to keep around the £45 grant, because I regard the question of housing by the corporation and the question of small dwellings as being interlocked. I do not want to say any more than that or to get outside the provision of that. Of course, I will say that I was a very little bit tempted by Alderman Kelly's statement that there was £1,000,000 available.

Yes, there was a danger.

I told the Deputy that that figure might not be correct. That is the third time I have told him so.

I am only saying that I think it has been gobbled, and if I am wrong I shall be very pleased to hear it. Now, to get back to the third source of supply, namely, the house for which this £45 grant is to be made available. The Minister made great play with the £700,000 that was being made available. I do not know how many shillings out of that are going to be made available for the finishing up of the subsidy to the builders that has originally been started and that the Minister has in his original Bill. Here is the position with regard to that: I have informed the Minister that the speculative builders who cater for this £45 grant have not got more than a few months' work ahead. In fact, it is a nice question whether they even have that much ahead, because, as the Minister is no doubt aware, there was a very extensive strike in the building industry in Dublin this year. The speculative builders saw that coming and what they did was to finish up houses that were capable of being finished and they did not start any others; so that really the position is that Dublin, due to this particular trouble in the building industry, has been done out of about 600 houses this year that, in the ordinary course of things, would have been provided by the speculative builders. That has nothing to do with the dwellings of the working classes.

I should like to put before the Minister some of the arithmetic in connection with this £45 grant. As I said, Dublin really has been done out of 600 houses which, at £45 per house, would have cost the Exchequer £27,000. That seems a very big sum. But what is the position? That would have made houses available for people who, when they cannot get that class of house, will enter into competition for a corporation house—the "also-rans" is all you can call them. The class of persons who would be catered for by these houses would be foremen, senior clerks, etc. Can they find the deposits necessary now? That £27,000 which the Exchequer would have to pay would have gone to the relief of housing in Dublin. What is the position with regard to the class of house that would have been put up under that scheme? People who are going to buy these houses now find themselves faced, as a result of the strike, with a 10 per cent. increase in wages, as well as an increase of over 20 per cent. in materials, due to world causes. A house of 800 square feet—that is the £45 house we are talking about—would have sold pre-strike at about £650, the deposit being from £100 to £120. The new price now will be about £750, and a deposit of from £130 to £160. If the grant is taken away, the new price will be £800, and the deposit from £175 to £210. Is that a position in which people who are going to buy that class of house do not care whether they get the £45 or not? That is arrant nonsense.

That class of house is being put up, as I said, for foremen, senior clerks, etc., people who are just outside the working classes. In fact, I suppose they would possibly class themselves as the working classes. How can they find such deposits? There are no building societies here, and the Government have not given any help in that direction. These people, as I said, will join in the race for corporation houses. In other words, there will be from 600 to 1,000 more competitors for corporation houses. What will the corporation have to pay for these houses? If we take 800 houses at £450 a house, that amounts to £360,000. Interest and sinking fund at 6½ per cent. comes to £23,400 per annum. Two-thirds of that amounts to £15,600 per annum for 35 years. And that is to save a single capital expenditure of £27,000. This is a scheme which the Minister says does not help the corporation housing schemes and that the people do not want. I say that they do want it, and I invite the Minister to say I am wrong in that statement.

I have said it.

I am sticking to my statement.

And I am sticking to mine.

We cannot both be right.

Perhaps we are.

The whole housing problem in Dublin is interlocked. It is possible that this is not as desirable as building 600 or 800 houses for the working classes but it would help to solve the problem. I will not go into the question of the employment it gives, but how does the Minister expect people who are providing that class of house to go on from day to day? They ought to be cutting the foundations at present, now that the labour trouble is over, for some hundreds of houses. These houses ought to be gone on with in the fine weather and finished in the autumn. I spoke previously about the builder who had to find an estate on which to put those houses. It is a gradual process. The Minister has left these people from day to day and hour to hour in such a position so that they do not know where they are. On November 17th these grants were temporarily suspended and now apparently they are done away with, and we are told that they do not matter. I should like to urge on the Minister that these grants do provide a solution for the housing problem in Dublin, that he has saved that money on the houses that were not put up this year, and that in justice to these people and as a help in the solution of the problem he ought to accept Deputy Brennan's amendment.

I am not quite clear as to whether the intention is to withdraw the £45 grant from every house about to be erected in the country.

In urban areas only. Deputy Dockrell rather doubted that I gave a pretty definite warning more than a year ago that this grant would be withdrawn, and to satisfy him of the truth of my statement I shall read for him what I said on the 19th February, 1936:—

"I am satisfied that in urban areas assistance can be withdrawn or at any rate considerably modified as regards the size of houses which should qualify for subsidy without lessening the extent of building which is at present being undertaken in urban areas."

That is with regard to the size of houses.

Was it not the larger type of house to which the Minister was referring?

This is what I stated on the 1st July, 1936:—

"Deputies will remember that on the Second Stage of the previous amending Bill—the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1933—I stated 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. I have given the question careful consideration, and, in view of the persisting housing demand and the volume of applications, I have thought it best to meet the situation by restricting the floor area of the houses to 800 square feet."

Will the Minister say that he had in mind in that statement the restriction of the grant in the case of the larger type of house?

I had in the earlier one. In the latter one I had in mind the withdrawal of the £45 in urban areas, but there is another phrase that I am trying to get.

It is not expressed in either of these two.

There is another phrase which I have asked for. Aside from that, Deputy Dockrell stressed the fact that the withdrawal of the £45 means the collapse of the building of houses by the type of builder who has been interested in that grant up to this, in building the 800 square feet house or the 1,250 square feet house. As I have said—I said it a couple of days ago when we had the same debate and a similar speech from Deputy Dockrell, I said it this morning, and I am going to repeat it now—I have been told by builders that the £45 grant was not a very big consideration to them in making their plans for their housing schemes. They insisted, in deputations to me and in talks which I had with private persons amongst the builders, that if they were assured that money would be made available under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, they would forego the £45. That has been stated, and Deputy Dockrell cannot deny that. If that is so, why spend the £45? The better policy is to see that money will be made available under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act.

Deputy Dockrell also seeks to prove me guilty of misrepresentation. He points out that in November, in answer to a certain question, I gave a reply which misled the builders. I have not the text of the question in front of me now, but as far as I recollect it dealt with grants under the present Act, and referred to complaints around the country that the grants were being withheld or withdrawn. Our purpose was—seeing that we were coming to the end of our year and the end of our tether, as far as money was concerned —to examine the situation, so far as people were concerned to whom grants had been allotted a year or ten months before and who had not used these grants. We had to make an examination of cases in which people had been allotted grants a year before and had not, as it was represented to us, taken any steps to use them.

Was there not six months still to go?

That would be taken into consideration.

It would make a very big difference.

Consideration is given to that.

Did the builders give consideration to that before the strike took place?

I cannot enter into that now, but a sum of £15,659 was withdrawn in urban areas. Notice was given to these people that the grants would be withdrawn, and in any case in which any of them said to us: "We have not started yet, but we will start in a month or two," we would not withdraw the grant. We were pressed by people who were making application for money. This Bill had not come before the House to get the additional £700,000, and the sending out of letters to people to whom allocations had been made, telling them that they must go ahead or that the grant would be withdrawn, caused the idea to be circulated that the grants were being withdrawn. It was in reference to that that the question was put down, and that the answer was given. Grants were withdrawn from 329 persons in urban areas. Some of them had grants allocated to them for two years, and had done nothing.

Was that in Dublin?

There was hardly a case in Dublin.

That is what I thought.

But the Deputy was trying to prove me guilty of misrepresentation when I stated that the grant question was under consideration in November, and that I changed my mind and changed my policy in the last month. I did nothing of the kind.

If the Minister thinks that I said he was guilty of misrepresentation——

The Deputy said so.

I should like to put it in this way, that you were speaking with two voices.

That is not true.

Anyway, it misled a number of people. I should like to remind the Minister that a person starting a house in November could not finish it by the 1st of April.

I am allowing for that. It has been the practice in every one of these Bills to hold over about 100 cases from last year's Act, in which the people were not able to complete the houses within the year, and to make provision for them in the new Bill. The Deputy knows as well as I do, but he wants to misrepresent the situation, that there has not been a single person who lost a grant in Dublin because of the fact that he was not able to complete the house within a month or two of the end of the year. We try to meet them if they are any way reasonable at all in pushing on the work. If the law does not allow payment to be made under the 1937 Act, we will make provision in the 1938 Bill to pay these people their grant, even though they have not strictly complied with the law as far as the previous Act was concerned.

I agree with Deputy Dockrell that the Dublin housing problem is a very big problem. The Dublin area presents us with the biggest problem we have, and I would not consciously do anything to prevent additional houses being built. Anything I could do to promote the building of additional houses, the houses that are most urgently required, I would gladly do, and anything I am proposing is based on the information I have got that the £45 grant alone would not urge a builder to put up one additional house. It is not sufficiently attractive to urge him to put up one additional house. There are other things that are more important. If the purse is to have a bottom in it, if it is limited, and if we must provide a certain sum of money for building houses of the class most urgently required, if there is any choice to be made, I would give any money I have to slum clearances. What Deputy Brennan proposes would take a very considerable sum of money out of the £700,000 proposed to be made available under this Bill. If Deputy Brennan's proposition were adopted, on the basis of the 1936-37 figures it would cost £160,000, and that would be more than we could afford to spend for that purpose. I do not think there is anything else I can do. I am not anxious —in fact, on the contrary, I would be upset if I thought I were doing it—to take the building trade unawares in this matter, or fail to give them due notice. If Deputy Dockrell is strongly of opinion, and if those for whom he speaks are strongly of opinion, that I have, in suggesting the taking away of the £45 grant, given them short notice, and that they feel that they would be penalised, especially having the strike period in view, I would be prepared to accept Deputy Dockrell's next amendment and extend the period for six months.

As I see Deputy Dockrell's difference with the Minister, it is one of misunderstanding. As I understood Deputy Dockrell's case, it is that if you can get more houses by doing this why restrict it? The Minister says that the problem here is one of £160,000. The country expects from the Minister and from the House, as a matter of fact from all of us, every assistance that can be given and all the wisdom that can be accumulated in this House to solve this problem. It is now reduced to one of money. Deputy Dockrell's case I think was not so much in regard to misrepresentation as that every avenue through which the housing problem can be approached should be explored. This matter of getting speculative builders to build a type of a house other than a house for the working classes is a good thing, and tends towards the solution of the housing problem. As he says, those men cannot build houses unless they have got customers to buy them, and he gave figures. I really think that, even if it is a question of £160,000, the Minister should not close any avenue which would lead to the production of houses. I think there is a lot in Deputy Dockrell's case that if houses of any kind are built the people who move into them will be making room for others in the houses which they leave. It may not be the best type of house, but it would get them out of the horrible conditions under which they are living at the moment. That is what he aims at.

As far as I understand him, he aims at mobilising all the available forces to solve this problem. He is not quarrelling so much about the misrepresentation. There was undoubtedly trouble about the floor area. This matter of chopping and changing the floor area is a bad thing in my opinion. The Government— whether this or any other Government —should have a definite plan with regard to size, and there should be no chopping or changing. We had a case where a man started to build a house I think about 15 or 18 months ago. Last year's Bill changed the floor space. He had begun to build the house, and by the time sanction was given the floor space was changed. In my opinion there should not be that chopping and changing. There should be a scheme which would be adopted by this House and applied by every Government. Then anybody who wanted to build a house would know what he was undertaking to do, and would know that there was not going to be a change.

I think the Minister would be wise in not withdrawing this £45 grant if for example within the next 12 months 600 houses could be produced as a result of it. Deputy Dockrell has given figures. The cost of the scheme would be £27,000. The alternative scheme would amount to an annual charge of £15,000. I think any business man having those two propositions before him would adopt Deputy Dockrell's scheme as against the other one. It does not hold up the other scheme. What he put forward does not hold up anything. It is opening up another avenue, and I think any avenue which assists in solving this problem is a good one. I do not think the Minister need be aggrieved about misrepresentation. I had no consultation with Deputy Dockrell on this matter, but as a matter of fact the question did arise in regard to a certain house in which I myself was interested. That is by the way. I expect there is nothing serious involved in it. I think we ought to decide on one thing, that the size of the house will be a stationary thing. When people start to build houses they ought to know that what is law to-day is going to be law to-morrow, and is going to be law ten years hence. That is an important thing. While it is not strictly relevant to this section, I think that this sum of £700,000 leads nowhere; having already spent large sums, I think an annual amount of £700,000 should be considered reasonable enough if we are really attempting to get to the root of the problem at all. I would urge that Deputy Dockrell's proposition should be adopted with regard to the maintenance of this £45 grant. I would ask the Minister to adopt this amendment.

I propose to adopt Deputy Dockrell's amendment.

I think the best case that has been made for my amendment has been made by the Minister. The Minister stated in conclusion that if my amendment were accepted it would mean an expenditure of possibly £150,000 or £160,000. That represents a considerable number of houses.

Which probably would be built in any case.

That is questionable. Is the Minister satisfied that they would be built?

The Minister certainly has not furnished us with anything which would lead us to believe that that is true. If we are to believe what we hear, for some of the builders £45 may represent their entire profit, if you like, on the transaction. If it has in any way helped to build houses in urban areas, the £45 grant has been absolutely the cheapest contribution we could make towards the supplying of those houses. If, for instance, in an urban area the provision of the £45 grant in this way could get a certain number of houses built, it relieves the urban authority of the obligation of borrowing, and of its consequent obligations. There is another matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister. It states here "before the 1st day of January, 1937." I propose taking out those words. Is the Minister satisfied that it was possible for all the people who did apply for grants to start before that particular date? It is quite possible that on account of the strike which was here in the city, and because of other matters affecting them down the country, such as rising prices and so on——

And the scarcity of slates.

——there may have been delay in that respect. For some reason or other they may not have been able to go on. Although the Minister has felt obliged, possibly rightly, to cancel 329 grants which were already made, I think that if inquiries were made into the reasons why some of those people could not possibly go on and were waiting——

Waiting for 12 months?

They might have been waiting for 12 months. We have had cases where people were held up for 12 months.

They could apply again.

They could apply again? If my amendment is not carried, what business have they applying?

Those are people who got allocations made to them, and who never started.

Why does the Minister say they can apply again?

In rural areas.

We are not talking about rural areas at all; it is only urban areas. Suppose a person had applied in an urban area—say one of those 329 people—has he the right to apply again?

In an urban area?

Are we not terminating the grant?

As long as the grant lasts, he could apply.

But he must have started before 1st January, 1937?

But suppose he has not done that? Remember, the 1st January, 1937, is a long time past. Suppose he has not started. Where would his application come in now if it was made? As far as I can understand the Bill in any case, if he has not applied long ago, and if he has not actually started before 1st January, 1937, he need not apply now because the whole thing is terminated.

With regard to the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, I wonder is the Minister satisfied that if provision is made under that Act that it is a greater inducement to builders than the £45 grant? If it is, why is it? Is it that they are able to charge a greater price for the house? Is it affecting someone in some other way? Are the reactions bad for somebody else? I do not think the Minister has made a good case for the withdrawal of the £45 grant. I still think it was good business, and, on the Minister's own showing, if it meant the drawing of £160,000, that in itself shows that the grant has been availed of to such an extent that there must be an extraordinary number of houses built and that it was a great inducement. I do not think a case has been made against the amendment, and I intend to press it.

I would be inclined to imagine, from the demeanour of the Minister, that he is really arguing against his own better judgment. I rather imagine the Minister's real feeling is that this grant of £45 should be continued. He has displayed no enthusiasm for the discontinuance of the grant, and I really imagine that, in different circumstances, the Minister would probably say that in his opinion the continuance of the grant was much more desirable than its discontinuance. The Minister says that certain builders told him that the £45 grant was not an important item in the economics of house building so long as money was available under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. I can hardly imagine that builders went to the Minister merely to tell him that alone. I fancy they wanted something else done, and that was probably stated by way of reply to the Minister when he was pointing out to them the benefits of the grant. I imagine the builders were looking for something else the day they made that statement to the Minister.

They walked into it.

Yes, foolishly, and the Minister is now capitalising their foolishness. From the way the Minister said it,. I think the remark was made in reply to a statement from the Minister that the State was giving them the benefit of the grant. Wanting something else, I fancy it was then the builders said that the £45 grant was not very much use. One can imagine that they were looking for something more and, being anxious to counter the case made by the Minister, they made that statement. Contrary to what the Minister has declared was the statement made to me. I saw a deputation of builders during the last few days and certain persons connected with the building trade unions, and they expressed considerable apprehension as to the effect of this section on future house building in urban areas and particularly in the city.

The builders and the trade union representatives, looking at the matter from different standpoints, pointed out to me that there is already a considerable amount of unemployment in the building trade and, with the rising cost of building, the position will tend to get worse by reason of the operation of two factors under this Bill. One is the withdrawal of the £45 grant from the central authority, and the second is the discontinuance of the remission of two-thirds rates over a period of seven years. Both taken together certainly do constitute a withdrawal of advantages which were formerly available and which acted as an incentive to house building. Whatever the builders may have said to the Minister, the position is that the builders and the building trade unions are gravely concerned about the effect of this measure; they believe it will have injurious effects on house building in the cities and urban areas.

It is quite clear, at all events, that the State never accepted the viewpoint of the builders that the grant of £45 was of no use to them so long as the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act was available for the advance of money. That Act has been available for a number of years, notwithstanding that the State continued to give grants, not merely of £45, but at one stage of £70. Although he knew that money was available under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, the Minister came here and asked us to pass various housing measures and went to the extent even of giving grants to private builders and utility societies of as much as £70. If the Minister thought it wise to urge then the making of grants of such an amount at a time when the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act was available, I think it is the clearest possible evidence that the Minister did not then accept the builders' viewpoint that money under the Act was not in itself a sufficient inducement to accelerate housing activities.

I think the effect of this amending Bill will be to withdraw certain benefits which have been made available to those engaged in the erection of houses. Whether or not we like the method, the fact remains that the grant of £45 is a very definite incentive to proceed with the erection of houses. The remission of rates is also a very definite incentive and at a time, particularly in urban areas, when there is such a shortage of houses, and particularly when, as in this city, there is a slum problem of gigantic dimensions to be dealt with, anything that has the effect of slowing down the building of houses will be injurious to the State in the long run. The Minister may say it is the corporation's job to deal with the slum problem. It is true in the main that the task will fall on the corporation, but anybody who helps to put up an additional house and thereby relieve the housing shortage, to some extent makes a contribution towards providing houses for the people and in some degree makes a contribution towards lessening the evils which inevitably flow from a very serious slum problem.

I think that the Minister would be well advised to continue the grant of £45 as a means of giving an impetus to the erection of houses in the urban areas. The housing problem in urban areas is far from being solved. It is particularly acute in this city, notwithstanding the efforts made in recent years to deal with it, and the withdrawal of the £45 grant at this stage would, I think, have injurious effects, That is the view of builders and the building trade unions, whose unemployment registers are the best barometer of the condition of the housing trade at the present moment. If housing costs were tending to reduce instead of increase, one might understand the withdrawal of the grant, but it is generally acknowledged that there has been a substantial increase in housing costs within the last two years. The withdrawal of the grant in such circumstances will have even much more serious effects than its withdrawal in normal circumstances would have.

I hope the Minister will see his way to accept the first amendment in order to enable the grant to be continued for a further period of over two years. At least something of that kind will enable those engaged in house building to plan their activities ahead, with the knowledge that the grant will be available for that period. It might, in fact, act as a special incentive to builders to proceed speedily with the erection of houses between now and April, 1940, in the knowledge that after that date the grant might not be available. The termination of the grant in April next or, as suggested in Deputy Dockrell's amendment, in October will not make any effective contribution between now and then to the housing problem. That would be especially the case if the grant were to stop in April next. Even if it were to stop in October next, the effect of the extension would not be nearly as valuable as Deputy Dockrell thinks it would be because, in order to obtain a grant between now and October, 1938, it would be necessary for the house to have been commenced before the 1st January, 1937. A house commenced after the 31st January, 1937— even a house commenced this evening or to-morrow morning—would not participate in this grant even though it were extended to 1938. The Minister might as well accept an amendment extending it to 1948, once the first restriction, that it must have been commenced before 1st January, 1937, remains.

If there is to be any value in the amendment, it must permit of the grant being made in respect of houses started after 1st January, 1937, and not before that date. I hope that even at this stage, the Minister will indicate his acceptance of the first amendment and the position could be reviewed before the time for termination of the grant arrives. The sudden stoppage of the £45 grant—because that is what it means—notwithstanding the Minister's acceptance of Deputy Dockrell's amendment, will have a very injurious effect on the building trade in urban areas and a particularly injurious effect on house building activities in these areas. The Minister should not spoil an otherwise good housing programme by dropping this grant at this stage.

I wonder why Deputy Norton keeps on talking about the effect of the withdrawal of this grant on housing in urban areas when he knows very well that only two urban areas are really concerned. The grant has been a failure so far as urban areas generally are concerned. Only the two big cities have ever availed of it. Practically speaking, the average town, even the town of substantial size, has been quite unaffected by this grant. That fact surely supports the Minister in his contention that the withdrawal of the grant will not be a serious thing from the point of view of the encouragement of building. Both Deputy Dockrell and Deputy Norton said that this question was interlocked with the slum problem but neither of them cited any facts which would enable us to say how far it is interlocked with the slum problem. From my information, it is only interlocked to a very small degree. Deputy Dockrell was, I think, speaking largely on theory when he said that each new house which enabled a family to be accommodated had the effect of relieving, to some extent, the slum problem.

That is my statement.

That may be so to the extent of about 5 per cent. Everybody knows that the great bulk of these houses are being occupied by people who are entering upon housekeeping for the first time and that the effect on the slum problem is infinitesimal. In my opinion, the Minister is quite right, since a limited sum only can be devoted to housing, in saying that all the money that is available should be devoted to stimulating the direct attack on the slum problem and that, so far as this grant has been of indirect benefit, it has not had the effect that money devoted to a direct attack on the slum problem would have had. The Minister is, I think, correct in his contention and we should show our approval of his desire to increase the tempo of the attack on the slum problem by supporting his proposal.

I do not think that there is anything in Deputy Moore's argument that in only two urban areas has advantage been taken of this £45 grant seeing that, in answer to Deputy Brennan, the Minister stated that, if his amendment were put into operation, it would cost about £160,000. If by putting Deputy Brennan's amendment in operation, to make the grant available for houses completed by 1940, only two urban areas would be benefited, I do not see how the cost could amount to £160,000. I do not think that the Minister has convinced himself that he should withdraw this £45 grant. The only argument he has put before us is that the builders say they can do better under the Small Dwellings Act. If the Minister looks at the accounts of some of the bigger towns, he will find that there is a considerable debt under the Small Dwellings Act. It would, I think, be a good thing if, by giving this £45 grant, that debt could be reduced in those areas. Where the Small Dwellings Act is operating, the debt on the local authorities is going up day by day and the Minister should encourage the reduction of that debt by continuing to make available this £45 grant.

The Minister said that £15,000 had been withdrawn from people who did not build. I should like to know from the Minister if that sum was withdrawn solely from urban areas or if it includes rural areas. If portion of the £15,000 is accounted for by rural areas, will the Minister say if a second application from those people will be considered? I know, and the Minister knows, why a great many people did not build both in urban and in rural areas. During the past one and a half or two years, there has been a sharp advance in the price of building materials. It was thought that such an advance would not continue, with the result that people put off building. I should like if the Minister would say whether this £15,000 has been withdrawn solely from the urban districts.

Yes. Twice as much has been withdrawn in the rural areas.

If the people in the rural areas apply again, will they be allowed the grant?

I ask the Minister to consider again Deputy Brennan's amendment, which is a very reasonable one. It is certainly an encouragement to people to build, seeing that its cost under Deputy Brennan's amendment would be about £160,000. That shows that advantage must have been taken of it. In order to induce people to build and to lighten the responsibilities of local authorities, the amendment by Deputy Brennan should be accepted.

There are a few misunderstandings I want to clear up, but, first, I have to thank the Minister for his decision to accept my amendment. It was my intention that houses should be started at any time, provided they were completed by October, and if Deputy Norton is correct in what he says, I should like his request to be acceded to. I have never suggested that the Minister's Department was acting harshly in the matter of these grants. The Minister and his Department have always taken the line of wanting to see houses put up and the money spent, and of accommodating people within the four corners of the Act as well as they could, and if I have made any suggestion that they were being unduly harsh, I want to withdraw it. A number of people seem to make statements which are not, in my opinion, at issue in this question. The Minister says that he wants the money kept for the housing of the working classes. That is very desirable, but it relates to one type of house and so far as Dublin is concerned—I still continue in my parochial view and consider Dublin and district—the money is raised by the Corporation and the amount of money which the Government make available has nothing to do with the money raised by the Corporation for this purpose.

There is another point on which I am at issue with the Deputies on the opposite side. Deputy Moore seemed to suggest that, in some extraordinary way, only about five per cent. of these houses contributed towards a solution of the slum problem. He mentioned the case of a couple getting married. Let us take that case. They are potential competitors for a Corporation house and if they are not, some other dwelling is made available for people who are moving up, and the answer to that argument is that there are still 3,000 houses not condemned which ought to be condemned. My argument is that if there were many thousands of these houses provided, the population in Dublin could be stepped up and those houses done away with. I think Deputy Norton's psychology was excellent in respect of what took place at the interview. There is no doubt that there is a limited demand for houses under this section, that is, for people who can put down a certain sum of money which is strictly limited, and, by getting an advance of the balance somewhere else, purchase these houses, but there is an inexhaustible demand for the hire purchase of houses, if I might so describe it, under which a very small sum is put down and the rest provided by somebody else. How that could be brought about has been exercising the building trade in recent years. I think the Minister was approached and I should not be at all surprised if Deputy Norton's view of what took place were true. I am not in possession of accurate knowledge, but I imagine the Minister was pressed to give some facilities which would enormously increase the demand for these houses and that when he said there was a £45 grant, the reply was: "What is the use of a £45 grant, if a man has no money to buy a house?" I do not think the Minister has sufficiently appreciated that the building industry cannot be started and stopped in a few weeks or a few months. It requires slow development over a long period and a builder ought to be able to make his plans for some years ahead. I am very much obliged to the Minister for accepting my amendment and I hope he will also adopt Deputy Norton's suggestion, if it is not embodied in my amendment. I further hope that he will favourably consider Deputy Brennan's amendment.

The Minister, on very many occasions inside and outside this House, has stated that the most pressing problem confronting the people, and particularly the people of the urban areas, and still more particularly, the people of Dublin, is this problem of housing and the slums. I think the Minister must agree that if those of us who have any civic sense have come to the conclusion that sacrifices must be made, if necessary, by this State and by our people in order to provide housing, the removal of any inducement to build is a retrograde step. The Minister has said that the builders' view of the matter is that the £45 grant is of no importance and that it is not a serious inducement at all. I think that point has been very lucidly dealt with by Deputy Norton and Deputy Dockrell. I think that, on the face of it, it is ridiculous to suggest that a £45 grant is not an inducement, and a substantial inducement, to anybody about to engage in the building of a house or considering the purchase of a house.

Deputy Moore's suggestion that the grants under this scheme were not availed of to any great extent, except in the larger urban centres, is not a serious contribution to a consideration of this matter, because we all know that it is precisely in these larger areas that the slum problem and the housing problem exist in their most acute form, and if the grants have been availed of largely in the big centres, it is, in itself, evidence that the grants are of importance to people engaged in building and to the community generally who are looking for houses. I also subscribe to the view expressed by other Deputies that the building of a house of any description in Dublin City, or in any urban area where there is an acute housing problem, is a contribution to the slum problem. Deputy Moore, I think, when referring to the kind of houses affected by this grant, said they were in the main provided for people setting up house for the first time. Even if that is true, it does not take away from the argument that the provision of such houses is a contribution to the slum problem, because if people are setting up house for the first time, presumably they are in a position to pay a relatively substantial rent and will look for the best possible accommodation available. It will help people in the slums, because the others will be building up somewhat better accommodation that these people might be moved into.

I do not think it is sound to suggest that the building of houses, for what might be called the upper strata of the working classes, is not a contribution to the housing of the lower strata. Every house built is a contribution towards the solution of the housing problem, and I think it is definitely a retrograde step to remove any of these inducements. Reference has been made to increasing the tempo of house building. How is that going to be done? I could understand if it was suggested the £45 grant was not a sufficiently big inducement, and that we should give some other and bigger inducement. What other kind of inducement is being substituted for the £45 which it is proposed to take away? The £45 grant comes to an end, and the seven years' remission of rates also, unless the Minister, at a later stage, indicates his willingness to accept another amendment dealing with that question. If we are going to remove this active personal inducement to people to build, we cannot, at the same time, say that we are going in the right direction towards increasing the tempo of house building.

I spoke so often on this question that I do not know if I have anything to add. The reply to Deputy Norton is that definitely, specifically, and without reference to anything else, the statement was made to me by people who made a lot of money out of houses in recent years. It was made by builders who made a lot of money out of building houses in recent years. They stated that the £45 grant was not a very big inducement to them to continue building.

They have been profiteering then?

Probably, and pocketing the £45, some of them.

Was the Minister surprised at that statement?

Then why was the £45 provided?

It was provided as an inducement to start a number of people, and it was successful.

Does the Minister seriously suggest——

I am not going to give way to anyone. The statement I made I stand over. Deputy Brennan's amendment refers to one type of house and Deputy Dockrell's amendment to another type. I am under the impression that Deputy Norton's amendment refers to the same class of houses. Deputy Brennan's amendment refers to 1,250 feet and Deputy Dockrell's to another type. In the last Bill the grant of £45 was for houses of 800 square feet.

Would acceptance of Deputy Dockrell's amendment mean that the houses should be started by the 1st January last?

No, the houses could be started any time, so long as they are finished before the 31st March next.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 30.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Bourke, Dan.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Colbert, Michael.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Friel, John.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Kelly, James P.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Meaney, Cornelius.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • Munnelly, John.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Tubridy, Seán.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Laurence J.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Conn.


  • Bennett, George C.
  • Benson, Ernest E.
  • Bourke, Séamus.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Esmonde, John L.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fitzgerald Kenney, James.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Heron, Archie.
  • Hogan, Patrick.
  • Keogh, Myles.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Lawlor, Thomas.
  • Linehan, Timothy.
  • McGovern, Patrick.
  • McGowan, Gerrard L.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Neill, Eamon.
  • O'Sullivan, John M.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Little and Smith; Níl: Deputies Bennett and O'Leary.
Question declared carried.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In page 3, before paragraph (c), to insert a new paragraph as follows:—

(c) the reference to the 1st day of April, 1938, set out in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Housing Act, 1936 (No. 27 of 1936) shall be construed in all cases as a reference to the 1st day of October, 1938, and

I understand that the Minister is accepting my amendment, and I am very much obliged to him.

I am accepting the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 3, before Section 4, to insert the following new section:—

(1) This section shall apply and have effect in reference to every house in an urban area erected after the first day of April, 1937, the floor area of which is not less than 500 square feet nor more than 800 square feet: Provided such house shall contain not less than four rooms.

(2) In respect of any house to which this section applies the local authority having power to levy rates shall in every of the first seven local financial years after the valuation for rating purposes remit two-thirds of the rates leviable by the local authority in respect of that house in any such year.

(3) The expression "floor area" in this section has the same meaning as in the First Schedule to the Principal Act.

On the Second Reading of the Bill this question of the discontinuance of rate exemption for a period of seven years was adverted to by a number of Deputies. The Minister said that he would look into the matter and see what could be done with regard to a further extension. He indicated that he did not know whether it would be possible to secure an extension under this Bill, or whether it would require an amendment of the Local Government Act. Perhaps the Minister would say if he proposes to accept the amendment.

I do not intend to accept it, and for more than one reason. The first is that I could not accept an amendment extending the provision for the remission of rates for seven years under this Bill, and, secondly, because the Deputy's amendment is an all-embracing one. It embraces every house built in the country, even by local authorities. On that basis it could not be accepted. I want to say to the Deputy that the Local Government Act of 1925 must come up for consideration probably within the next couple of months. I cannot make any promise except to say that personally I am sympathetic to the idea of continuing the provision for seven years. Under the Local Government Act it is only allowed for five years. I cannot, of course, say what the Government's attitude on the matter will be when the amendment of that Act comes up for consideration within the next couple of months, and, without previous discussion with the Government, I could not make any promise. The amendment as it stands cannot be accepted. This Bill does not take away the right to the remission of rates for new houses, because for a period of five years they still have that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 4 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:—

In page 3, before Section 5, to insert a new section as follows:—

Paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 10 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the deletion of all words from the words "of a house" to and including the words "of this Act" and the substitution of the words "which shall not exceed 1,250 feet floor area and shall have been completed on or before the 1st day of April, 1939."

In moving this amendment I am not going to repeat the arguments that I put forward earlier in connection with this measure. I would like to say that the purchaser of a 1,250-foot floor-area house is not the criminal that he is being represented to be. In my opinion he is making his contribution to the housing problem, a feeling which I think is shared by a great many people in this city and country. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.

I cannot accept the amendment partly for the reasons that I gave in refusing to accept Deputy Norton's amendment. This amendment also embraces all new houses, even those new houses which have been built by local authorities to which the remission of rates does not apply at present.

Would the Minister accept it in a narrower sphere?

They do not close remission so far as the five years are concerned, and that matter will be coming up for reconsideration in the next few months.

And the Minister is sympathetically disposed towards it?

Personally, yes, but I cannot answer definitely now.

So that a person now can get a remission for five years, and, before the five years expire, this Act may be reconsidered and it is possible to extend it to seven years?

I do not know whether or not it would be possible to do so.

But it can be done by legislation, possibly?

In any case, there are five years during which it can be changed by legislation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The next amendment is amendment No. 5. I think that amendments Nos. 6 and 8 also relate to the question of fair wages and so on?

I am not certain how far one meets the other.

I move amendment No. 5:—

Before sub-section (3), in page 3, to insert the following new sub-section:—

The Minister shall not make under this section a grant in respect of works executed on a house to which this section applies where it is shown to his satisfaction that throughout such execution rates of wages have not been paid or conditions of labour observed at least as advantageous to the persons employed on such execution as the appropriate rates of wages or conditions of labour generally recognised by trade unions at the commencement of such works.

My anxiety, Sir, in introducing this amendment, is for the purpose of trying to prevent a recurrence of what has happened in the past. It became notorious that a number of builders in this city did not pay the standard rate of wages, and secured the grants although it had been exposed at a later stage that proper conditions of employment were not being observed by such people. On many occasions, employees got their wages envelope and, as I said before in this House, the amount of money, as stated on the outside of the envelope, was not contained inside the envelope.

On very many occasions, when men insisted upon their rights of receiving the standard rate of pay, they were immediately rewarded by dismissal on some pretence or another, with the result that other men, who had come into the city, accepted the lower rate of pay and pretended that they were receiving the standard rate. My purpose in introducing this amendment is to have some machinery that would operate in the future to prevent that kind of thing occurring, and to introduce such machinery as will secure the punishment of an employer who is responsible for the robbery of the employee.

I accept the amendment. I think that, obviously, it will be helpful in securing that the trade union rate of wages in all these cases will be paid.

Amendment No. 5 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 4 to insert at the end of sub-section (7) the following new paragraph:—

(c) The Minister may require such person as a condition of his receiving a grant to enter into any undertaking which seems proper to the Minister in respect of the rates of wages to be paid or the conditions of labour to be observed in the execution of such works.

This is an amendment of my own. It is supplementary to the amendment proposed by Deputy Lawlor and which I have accepted. As set out, it gives the Minister power to require a person, as a condition of his receiving a grant, to enter into any undertaking which seems proper to the Minister in respect of the rates of wages to be paid or the conditions of labour to be observed in the execution of such works. I think it is necessary, if we are to have any control over these grants and over the persons to whom these grants will be paid, to be able to insist on their paying the trade union rate of wages and to see that proper conditions of employment are observed. I think it is necessary that we should have something of this kind to bind them with, so that in case they are found afterwards not to be paying the trade union rate of wages or observing the conditions of labour, we will have something with which to go after them later on in the matter.

There is one point I should like to make in that connection. I think that the amendment meets the case, but there is another angle to it, which, I think, will arise in connection with the amendment of the section itself. The amendment suggested by the Minister would take its place in sub-section (7), and would then become paragraph (c) of sub-section (7). Sub-section (7) says that where the Minister makes a grant under this section to any person in respect of works executed on a house, the following provisions shall apply and have effect—and then it sets out the provisions. It sets them out as paragraphs (a) and (b), and now, by this amendment paragraph (c) will be added—the trades union clause, so to speak. In that connection I would refer the Minister back to paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 5, where it states that two types of personages may make a grant. One type of personage is the Minister, who, it says, may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, make a grant; and the other is an urban authority. It says that an urban authority may also make to such person a grant in respect of such works. I take it that I am correct in saying that two types of people may make a grant. Sub-section (7), however, says that, where the Minister makes a grant under this section to any persons in respect of works executed on a house, the following provisions shall apply, and so on. I suggest that that does not catch the grant made by an urban authority.

Urban authorities have the right to make their own regulations.

But I suggest that that trades union clause is definitely not of any use when a builder may get a grant of, say, £40 from the Minister for putting on, let us say, the roof of a house, because he can say: "I am giving trade union wages for the putting on of the roof, but in regard to the other money that I got from the urban authority, I need not do so and I shall pay any wages I like." I suggest that the Minister could very easily ensure that that would not take place by making it a dual arrangement here in sub-section (7).

It is up to the urban authorities to look after their affairs. We will look after ours.

But would it not be good policy for the Minister to do what I have suggested?

We could not do it. We do not own or control the grants of the local authorities. Take the case of the Dublin Corporation. They always insist that a fair wages clause and trade union conditions should be included in any works they have given. They would have the right to insist on proper conditions being observed and the standard rate paid, and I imagine that, under present conditions they would not give any grant without ensuring that the usual conditions would be observed. The general policy of the Government is to try to apply fair wages clauses, but this makes it specific and we can go after the individuals concerned for the moneys we have granted to them if they do not fulfil the proper conditions.

But the position still is that the urban authorities are not compelled by statute to pay trade union wages.

They do, as a rule.

But they need not do so. They are not compelled to do so.

Does Deputy McGowan know of any local body in this country that does not enforce trade union conditions? I notice the Deputy does not answer.

Amendment 6 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

On Section 5, Sir, I wish to bring this matter of paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (7) to the Minister's notice. The sub-section says:

"Where the Minister makes a grant under this section to any person in respect of works executed on a house, the following provisions shall apply and have effect, that is to say:—

(a) The Minister may require such person as a condition of receiving a grant to enter into any undertaking which seems proper to the Minister in respect of the maximum rent to be charged by such person for such house or for any separate dwelling forming part of such house after the execution of such works."

When that was inserted, was it ever considered in the light of the Increase of Rent Act? I think the Minister will agree that, if there is any terrible imposition on this country, it is the Increase of Rent Act at the present moment, and that it has got so complicated now that it has become a nightmare to every lawyer and tenant throughout the country.

A Deputy

That should be a good harvest for the lawyers.

A nightmare? It means money in the lawyer's pocket, anyhow.

Well, an unremunerative nightmare. However, I suggest that this is definitely cutting across certain provisions in the Increase of Rent Act. As the Minister knows, when a house is controlled by the Increase of Rent Act, the landlord is entitled to make certain statutory increases, and one of the increases he is entitled to make is to increase his rent by a certain percentage of the total amount expended on repairs. If he spends £50 on a house throughout the years, he is only allowed to increase the rent by a certain percentage. That is all he is allowed to do by statute. I contend that if this provision goes through it is going to lead to extraordinary ramifications and is going to increase the present confusion created by the Increase of Rent Act. I think that this definitely should be construed in the light of the Increase of Rent Act, because otherwise we will have a lot of unnecessary litigation.

I agree with Deputy McGowan's point on that. To my mind, if a grant is given in respect of the reconditioning or repair of a house, Deputy McGowan is right when he states that a certain percentage of the amount expended can be added on to the normal rent and that would then be the standard rent. But I cannot see clearly what the effect of the sub-section will be. Under the Rent Restriction Act, if the standard rent of a house was 4/6 along with the expenditure on repairs, and the Minister made a grant and as a condition decided that the person getting a grant could not charge more than 6/- per week rent for the house, would the position then be that under this Bill a person will be legally entitled to charge 6/-, whereas according to the Rent Restriction Act the standard rent would be 4/6? The Minister should carefully consider this point, because anybody with any experience of the Rent Restriction Act knows that there is trouble and difficulty enough in straightening proceedings under that Act without having a sub-section of this sort which is so vague that it is not possible for anyone to see clearly what the effect will be. The Minister should consider what the position will be and not add another source of litigation to the already troublesome Rent Restriction Act.

This section will enable the Minister to obtain an undertaking from the owner of the dwelling as to the maximum rent to be charged. If the undertaking is given, then you can understand the legal position. If the undertaking is not given, then the local authority and the housing department of the Government can reconsider whether they will give the grant or not. What we have in mind is that the maximum rent should be the rent paid by the former tenant before the expenditure on reconstruction, plus, say, 4 per cent. on the outlay.

It seems to be clear that the Minister's idea is that this sub-section will correspond practically exactly with the Rent Restriction Act.

It has been considered in connection with that Act.

Possibly the point is not a very immediate one, but supposing, for the sake of argument, that some Minister at one time or another makes a grant, that the condition is that the rent shall not exceed 6/- per week, and that the standard rent of that particular house after the repairs had been executed would legally amount to 4/6, would not the landlord under this sub-section, in view of the undertaking given to the Minister, have the right to charge 6/-?

Then this is cutting entirely across the Rent Restriction Act?

There will be a discussion between the local authority, the Government and the owner as to the rent to be charged, but the Rent Restriction Act has been considered and will be considered in this connection. There will have to be an arrangement made and an undertaking given as to the rent. I am satisfied that the local authority and the Government Department concerned have some knowledge, at any rate, of the Rent Restriction Act, and that they would see to it that one would not conflict with the other.

I can understand where there would not be a conflict, but I should like to put this point. If it happens that the rent under the condition made is more than the legal rent under the Rent Restriction Act, and the landlord charges 6/- he can charge that under his agreement with the Minister—what is the position of the tenant? The tenant may pay 6/- for a month or two and then decide to go for his legal rights under the Rent Restriction Act.

The court will have to decide that.

Exactly. Even though it is the legal profession in the House who are objecting to the court having to decide that, I suggest that the Bill ought to decide whether the terms of the Bill or the Rent Restriction Act will prevail in court and that people should know where they stand actually.

It appears to a layman that this particular amendment is superfluous—that everybody will go back to their legal and lawful rights, and that any undertaking given to the Minister will not override those rights. If the Minister gets an undertaking from people, and they get a grant on that undertaking, is there anything to prevent them later on from going for their legal rights according to the Rent Restriction Act? Apparently there is not. You come back to the one thing, and this appears to be superfluous. They cannot go beyond a certain amount under the Rent Restriction Act. The Minister apparently does not want to put them either above or below that. They are going to go for their legal rights, and the whole thing seems to be superfluous.

If anybody goes into court and an agreement is produced, the court will accept that agreement, whatever it is, made between the landlord and the tenant.

No. You cannot contract outside the Increase of Rent Act. That is established. I do not wish to be an obstructionist, but I think it will give rise to a lot of trouble later on. Under the Increase of Rent Act you are only entitled to raise the rent to a certain amount, and in that is included certain compensation for the amount spent on repairs during a certain number of years. If you insert something now altering the whole thing, and if you include a provision that the Increase of Rent Act shall not apply to a house of this kind, it would perhaps ease the matter. The Minister knows that a person may be in occupation of a house eight or nine years and suddenly find out that he is paying rent that is in excess of the legal rent. If he takes action against the landlord he may recover something like £100 or more. If that were in this, he could say: "I did that under an agreement with the Minister because I got a grant from him." If the Minister included in this now that if a grant is paid under this section the Increase of Rent Act shall not apply, that definitely would get out of the predicament which perhaps will arise with a certain amount of grist to the mills of the lawyers, which of course is no harm.

They could do with it.

What I really want to get clear is this: the standard rent of a house is 4/6 and the agreed rent under the Minister's condition is 6/-. Will the Minister give us any indication as to which in his opinion will hold in court afterwards—the 6/- or the 4/6?

I would not like to try to bind any court.

Will the Minister consider the point?

Is it not usual for the Minister to define a thing exactly and to see that, when we have a certain intention, it shall be expressed clearly in the Bill so that the courts will have no difficulty in interpreting the Act?

It is there and the Deputy can read it.

It is a peculiar thing if the Minister's only function is to provide costs for lawyers. We should not be slobbering over the thing in this way. It should be made clear so that everybody can interpret it.

I want to be clear in regard to sub-section (2). It provides that no grant shall exceed £40 for each separate dwelling-house. Does that mean that a person can receive £40 from the Minister and £40 from the local authority?

Yes, £40 from the Minister and £40 from the local authority.

Section 5, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 7 is out of order, as it would involve an increased charge.

Section 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.


I move amendment No. 8:—

In page 4, before Section 7, to insert the following new section:—

Section 8 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion of the following sub-section at the end of the said section, that is to say:—

(4) The Minister may, as a condition of his making a grant to any person or public utility society in respect of the erection of a house to which in his opinion this section applies require such person or public utility society (as the case may be) to enter into any undertaking which seems proper to the Minister as to the rates of wages to be paid or the conditions of labour to be observed in such erection.

This is intended to supplement and implement what we have already done in the amendment of Deputy Lawlor, and also in amendment No. 6.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:—

In page 4, before Section 7, to insert the following new section:—

Where the Minister has, whether before or after the passing of this Act, paid to any person or public utility society under Section 5 of the Principal Act or this Act, any grant or instalment of a grant and as a condition to his receiving such grant such person or public utility society (as the case may be) has given any undertaking to the Minister and such undertaking has not been complied with the following provisions shall have effect, that is to say:—

(1) Such person or public utility society (as the case may be) shall be liable to repay to the Minister the amount of such grant.

(2) Such amount may be recovered from such person or public utility society (as the case may be) as a civil debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

(3) The court in which such amount is so recovered shall on the application of the Minister declare such amount to be a charge on the house in respect of which such grant was made, and thereupon the Minister shall for the purpose of enforcing such charge have all the same powers and remedies as if the Minister was a mortgagee by deed having powers of sale and lease, accepting surrenders of leases and of appointing a receiver.

This is also tightening up the provisions with regard to the trade union clauses and conditions of labour.

The implications of the amendment appear to me extraordinary. It provides that if a certain undertaking has not been complied with, the Minister shall adopt certain steps set out in the amendment. The way in which he is going to enforce the carrying out of these undertakings is set out as follows: "Such amount may be recovered from such person or public utility society (as the case may be) as a civil debt." Now, here is where the Minister looks for his security: "The court in which such amount is so recovered shall, on the application of the Minister, declare such amount to be a charge on the house in respect of which such grant is made." Have we not many builders building houses and selling them before they are built? In fact, very often the house is not the property of the contractor or the builder against whom the judgment is given. How is the Minister going to provide for that? Would it not be a very serious matter if a builder built a house and, after getting the grant, sold the house to somebody else and the Minister subsequently got a charge levied against the house? Does the Minister think that is fair? It has been the custom for people to build houses or to reconstruct them for sale. If the Minister wants some security for the undertaking given to him, he should get a security other than a person who is entirely innocent of the whole proceeding and who should not have his house mortgaged in this way. I should like to know what are the Minister's views.

The Deputy has expressed my view as to what is intended in the amendment. There have been cases, not many, where utility societies have got grants on the grounds that they were building houses for letting and shortly afterwards, perhaps a year or so afterwards, they sold these houses. They did not keep to their undertaking. We think it reasonable to apply this section to them in regard to wages and conditions of labour. A difficulty may arise with regard to making it retrospective but I think it would be, at any rate, wise to provide that for the future in regard to the new houses that are being built, these provisions should apply.

Is it the Minister's contention that everybody in this country who requires a house should be conversant with that particular section? Ninety-nine per cent. of the people who will be buying houses will not know that there is any such condition to be fulfilled. The people are expected to know the law but they are entitled to some safeguard in the matter. If the Minister is going to carry out that provision, he should put in some safeguard which will compel the builder to disclose certain things to a purchaser. After all, this does not put any time limit to the period during which an objection can be made against a building. For instance, a builder may not have carried out the conditions with regard to wages or some other conditions, but this Bill does not lay down that an objection must be made while the house is being erected. It might be a year or two afterwards that certain complaints are made against the builder.

In that case the Minister would be letting some absolutely innocent person in for a penalty. He should allow some way out.

There is another aspect of this matter. Let us suppose that a man is purchasing a house and the solicitor acting for the purchaser says: "Well, before I conclude the purchase of this house, I had better ask the Local Government Department if they have got anything against the builder." Supposing they were asked to furnish a certificate that they had nothing against the builder, would they be prepared to furnish that certificate, or can they afterwards go back on their own certificate? To my mind, this means attaching other people's property for a debt they never incurred and with which they had no connection. I think the Minister should stand or fall on the assets of the people against whom he has a claim. I think he should not seek to enforce it against a perfectly innocent victim. It is going to have the most extraordinary repercussions.

I would ask the Minister seriously to consider the position in which a house purchaser, who buys through a building society or an insurance society, would be put if this amendment is carried. It will be inserted in all the leases. It will, in my opinion, seriously affect these people, and it will prevent a large number of people, who usually purchase their houses through insurance societies, from getting any advances. The solicitors for these insurance societies will ask for a clear certificate first. These societies advance, say, four-fifths of the purchase price to the person buying the house, and if the Minister carries forward this claim without any limitation, the societies now engaged in that business, who help some hundreds of people in the City of Dublin to own their own houses, may decide to withdraw from house purchase business altogether. I would ask the Minister to consider the views of outside bodies or solicitors representing bodies who advance money. This is a sort of second or third mortgage. Does the Minister wish to make this a first or a second claim on the house? Some of those houses are valued to the very last point in order to give the purchaser every opportunity. I am looking at this from the point of view of a solicitor representing a society that would advance money, and it may seriously affect the purchase of houses under this system. I would ask the Minister to withdraw this, at any rate for the time being, in order to consider that point.

I agree entirely with the amendment, but I see certain dangers. In the event of a purchase, the solicitor acting for the purchaser would not, by means of an ordinary search in the Registry of Deeds or the Land Registry, be able to have cognizance of this particular mortgage, and consequently the person who purchased would be subsequently saddled with a debt which he himself did not incur. I agree with the amendment, but I would make this suggestion. Would the Minister consider now, by way of machinery, that when grants are being given to utility societies he would issue a certificate stating that all his provisions and all his requirements had been complied with?

Some document of that kind, which would be filed in the Land Registry or registered in the Registry of Deeds, would make the amendment extremely workable. Perhaps that might be established by way of machinery. When the Department is satisfied, they might issue a certificate which could be registered in the Registry of Deeds or filed in the Land Registry. Then the ordinary purchaser, by paying a few shillings, would be able to make a search and discover all the encumbrances. I think the amendment is a good one, but I foresee that there might be a certain difficulty. I think that suggestion would be a way out of the difficulty.

I do not know whether it would be possible to do what the Deputy suggests, but I think there is something in the points which have been made by Deputy Brennan and the Lord Mayor. If the House would agree, I would ask leave to withdraw sub-section (3) and leave the other bodies liable under sub-sections (1) and (2).

Question: "That sub-section (3) of the amendment be deleted," put and agreed to.
Amendment No. 9, as amended, agreed to.
Section 7, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 8 and 9 agreed to.
Schedule and the Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Question: "That the Bill be received for final consideration," put and agreed to.