Committee on Finance. - Vote 41—Local Government and Public Health (Resumed).

At one period in his statement, when he was moving the reference back of this Estimate, Deputy Keyes touched upon the difficulties of obtaining supplies of milk for the free milk schemes in various areas. He intimated that one of the reasons why milk was not available was that people who heretofore sold milk in small quantities were not now doing so, because they could not bring their premises to the standard required by the regulations. The position is an extremely serious one, and it will become more grave if there is going to be a shortage of foodstuffs in urban or rural districts. I suggest it would be very advisable for the Department to take steps to acquire supplies of milk on a large scale for distribution amongst the poor children of this country. We are facing a period when milk will be more valuable than ever. The drastic rationing in regard to tea that we read about to-day will make things very awkward for the poorer householders.

The Minister cannot suggest that milk is not available. In every creamery district milk is being taken in every day of the week. That milk is turned into butter. We take a certain amount of butter for our own consumption and we export the balance. That balance is being exported at a loss, because the export is being subsidised. Would it not be possible for the Minister to ignore the regulations. cut through the red tape, and make arrangements whereby local authorities will be able to get the surplus milk from the creameries for the purpose of meeting the requirements of necessitous children? A creamery taking in 2,000 or 3,000 gallons a day could afford to sell, for direct human consumption, 400 or 500 gallons, and the local authorities would be able to secure that and sell it at a reasonable price to the poorer sections of the community. The farmers are not getting such a high price and any scheme of that nature would not hurt them. Even if it were necessary, there could be a subsidy given so that the poor would get the milk very cheaply, if it could not be given to them absolutely free of cost. In that way we would be merely doing what is always being done in connection with butter exports.

I would prefer to see the milk being drunk by our children rather than export it in the form of butter and subsidising that export. When the regulations about dairies and cowsheds came into force, persons selling only nine or ten gallons of milk could not afford £40 or £50 to bring their premises up to the standard required. The position with the creameries is different, because they have the machinery and equipment necessary to pasteurise the milk. Perhaps the Minister will consider my suggestion in view of the shortage of foodstuffs and the scarcity of tea. It would be desirable, in these circumstances, to take over surplus supplies of milk and put them within reach of the people who need milk so badly for themselves and their children. If that were done it would be of considerable benefit to the people of the country.

I do not think the Minister should allow any regulation or statute to prevent the operation of such a scheme. The one thing the children will most need if the emergency persists is milk and if it is available in the creameries it should be used for home consumption instead of exporting it in the form of butter. Last year we were exporting butter and subsidising it although we wanted it at home.

There is one particular aspect of the Local Government Department with which I would like to deal. It is in connection with building. It seems to be hinted that the Local Government Department or public authorities will not initiate building schemes or sewerage or waterworks schemes during the emergency period except in cases of urgency. That is a terrible mistake. When anyone considers the unemployment figures he will have to admit that were it not for public and private building, and sewerage and waterworks schemes, the unemployment figure would be much higher. If we are justified in spending money on anything at the present time we are justified in spending it on the relief of unemployment.

So far as building and waterworks and sewerage schemes are concerned, it is very doubtful if all the materials that would be required are not already available in this country. Take an ordinary cottage building scheme. It is hard to see why our native building materials would not be sufficient to enable us to erect cottages. The entire job could be one of concrete. Timber requirements could be curtailed considerably by constructing a concrete roof. If reinforcement is necessary, we have plenty of waste metals which could be used. If public authorities are to stop building schemes or other public utility schemes, it will mean adding very large numbers to the already heavy total of unemployed, because, in rural areas and in urban areas, the only available employment for carpenters, masons and other types of tradesmen connected with the building trade, and for the great bulk of unskilled labour who had not the opportunity of engaging in agricultural work, was the employment given by building and public utility schemes. At present I should much prefer to see money being spent on the carrying on of building and public utility schemes than to see these people allowed to go unemployed.

On another occasion, I referred to the fact that, in my own town, 18 out of 28 carpenters were unemployed. Four or five of these 28 carpenters were men who worked on their own and who had workshops in their own houses. The other 23 or 24 were employed by local contractors, and these local contractors now have no work for these men, except on one small scheme which is to start there immediately. Instead of dropping building schemes, would it not be much better to keep them on and to carry on the various schemes suggested for the past number of years? The number of cottages to be built in our public health area has not been reached at all, and would it not be better to spend money on building these cottages and on giving these men employment even though the cottages cost £50 or £60 extra?

I believe that if there were a little more care and attention paid to the pricing of the contracts, as I said last night it would be found very often that with good contractors, paying good wages the increased cost during the war period would not be so much. The trouble is that you are going to have no private building for the future and if the Local Government Department which controls all housing and public utility works, does not keep building and the carrying out of these works going on, we are going to have the unemployment amongst the type of people catered for by this work increasing every day. These people are not the type to be absorbed in agriculture. The agricultural position at the moment does not give any room for their absorption, and I ask the Minister, if he is going to spend money in his Department this year, to spend it on building and public utility schemes which will keep these people in employment.

There is one matter which the Minister seems to have overlooked. It has to do not with his own Department but with the position of the public health authorities by reason of the operation of the Employment Period Order. The Minister responsible for that order seems to suggest that no destitution or hardship can arise through its operation, because, if a person is destitute or suffering hardship, he can qualify for home assistance. Assuming that, owing to the operation of the order, 2,000 or 3,000 people are held by the local authorities to be destitute and entitled to home assistance, what provision does the Minister suggest the local authorities are going to make for them? They have no provision made at present because the local authorities could not have anticipated last year that this period order was going to be made, and does the Minister not realise that if the local authorities are satisfied that this order gives rise to destitution and hardship, they will have to budget for far greater amounts in respect of home assistance next year, with a consequent increase in the rates in the particular areas? It is merely a shifting of responsibility for a national burden on to the shoulders of the local ratepayers.

The Minister for Local Government is not responsible for that order.

My submission to the Minister is that, instead of putting these people on the home assistance authorities, when they will be his responsibility, he should provide employment for them, by carrying on the works which local authorities now seem to intend to stop. I will not go any further with it.

There is another point, and again it may be suggested that it is a purely local matter. I should like to know from the Minister what is the attitude of his Department with regard to sanctioning the appointments of people to jobs under public authorities. I want to give him an instance. Let us assume that the position of home assistance officer became vacant and one applicant was a man and the other a young girl. The board of health, wrongly, in my opinion, choose to appoint the young girl to the job and, having appointed her, when the position of cottage rent collector becomes vacant, they amalgamate that position with the position of home assistance officer, appointing the young girl to the two jobs. Does the Minister not think it would be no harm if he woke up the public authorities and told them that, where a suitable man is available for a job, he, and not a young girl of 22 or 23 years, should get it? After all, a man who is a candidate for one of these jobs may have family responsibilities or may be supporting other people, and nobody could suggest that we would be doing anything invidious or anything against the female sex, if we said that in respect of the job of cottage rent collector for a wide area in a rural district, a man is better able to fill the position than any woman.

I think that, in a case like that, even though public authorities are entitled to elect whomsoever they like to these positions, the Minister, in his discretion, ought to investigate the type of person appointed, even though the local authority says that person is quite all right, and use his discretion, if necessary, to refuse to sanction the appointment. It is not good in the eyes of the public that, in any board of health area, positions should be filled day after day by persons who are definitely connected with members of the board and who the public believe would not have got these positions but for the fact that their relations were members of the board of health. It has always been suggested in the past 20 years that we had got away from something which had been happening before that, and it was always suggested, in a sneering manner, that the old district councils and urban councils, prior to the movements of 1916 to 1920, were hot-beds of corruption, but I do not think that, in the history of these old boards, anything happened like what is happening in County Cork at present.

If the Minister will investigate the appointments in the North Cork Board of Health area for the past four or five years, and look up the relationships of people appointed to particular positions, I am sure he will get the shock of his life. I regret very much that instead of the attitude of some public representatives being that they will not use their influence to secure appointments for their own friends, the attitude seems to be rather that it would be very unfair to penalise a man's son or daughter because his or her father was a county councillor. That seems to be the attitude towards public appointments now.

A change would require legislation.

No. I submit that when a board of health makes an appointment, the Minister should use his discretion in the matter of sanction, and, obviously, one of the reasons for refusing would be the appointment of a young girl to a job in a district where men were available. That type of appointment has done more to discredit public authorities in this country than anything else, and I am quite satisfied that, in the area I represent, owing to the action of persons who voted for people for jobs like that, if there was a plebiscite taken to-morrow morning for or against a commissioner and the abolition of the board of public health, the commissioner system would win by ten to one. That is not a very nice thing to have to say after 20 years of self-government. I make this final appeal to the Minister, that, no matter what happens, he will do all he can to keep building and public utility work going; that he will get all the money he can to keep them going; and that he will induce and encourage public authorities to keep them going by the provision of money —anything to prevent the unemployment which is being created in the country by the stoppage of these schemes.

I should like to hear from the Minister what, if any, schemes are in contemplation in his Department for the community-feeding of people, more particularly in the City of Dublin and, possibly, eventually over a much larger area. The Minister is aware that I recently put down a question on this subject, but it dealt only with the possibility of such feeding having to arise out of belligerent action, but it seems to me that if the promised spate of unemployment develops—and, unfortunately, I can see no reason why it should not some time—the probability that some form of community feeding will become necessary is, I think, very strong. I should like the Minister also to say whether he is prepared to co-operate with any other body already dealing with that matter—the older charities or the new one just started, the Guild of Good Will, which is concentrating on that particular aspect at the moment —and whether the Department is prepared fully to co-operate with any scheme such as that which will help to relieve the distress and destitution which may come upon this city. As far as the administration of this Department is concerned, one thing has been mentioned in every speech made so far—the delay which takes place. I have no desire to go into details on that point. The fact that Deputies from all parts of the country have mentioned it is sufficient evidence that such delay does take place. What the cause of it is I do not know, but it is very distressing to persons who give their time—time which, in some cases, can be ill spared—to the work of local authorities to find that schemes which they, in their wisdom, think are good schemes, when sent up to the Custom House, seem to hibernate there. "Hibernate" is hardly the right word because they remain there for more than one winter. I appeal to the Minister seriously to consider whether the time he spends listening to complaints of this sort would not be more profitably spent in a thorough investigation of the Department with a view to ascertaining the cause of these delays. The local authorities endeavour to act rightly in the various things which they attempt and they do feel that the Department should be as a father to them and should give them encouragement instead of allowing schemes to lie in their hands for so long a period that the people get disgruntled. I ask the Minister seriously to consider whether there cannot be more co-operation between his Department and the local authorities so as to get all outstanding matters cleared off. At times, the Department and some of the local authorities seem to consider they are doing better work by scoring points off one another in letters than by getting on with the work in hand. I am sure that, if the Minister would devote some of his time to the investigation of this matter of delay, he would clear it up and this important Department, which touches the life of the country more than any other Department, would, as a result, really and truly co-operate with the local authorities.

The Minister referred rather briefly in his speech to the moneys derived from the Hospitals Sweepstakes. For years now, we have been hearing, both from the Minister and his predecessor, about the increasing demands which are coming in from the hospitals year after year. We have never learned what the policy of the Ministry is with regard to that. So far as one can judge from the events of the past few years, there does not appear to be any directive policy. They simply take each year's accounts as they are submitted, express astonishment at the increase in the deficits and say that larger sums are required in order to provide a capital fund to produce the income to meet these deficits. They leave the matter at that. That is an unsatisfactory method of dealing with a problem which should be tackled much more intelligently. Has the Minister at any time considered the desirability of handing over to these hospitals a lump sum which will produce a standard contribution towards meeting the deficits? He need not bind himself to the sum which would be required in the case of last year. He can take into consideration extensions or improvements which would be required in the running of the hospitals and finish that side of the business.

The Hospitals Commission which has been established raised suspicions for a while as to whether it was not a sort of sanatorium for politicians who were rejected for the Dáil. They went in and out of it, they are going in and out of it now and probably will continue to do so for some time to come. What the actual work of the commission is nobody knows unless he reads the report which is occasionally published. The report does not seem to run on parallel lines with the policy of the Ministry as we learned on the introduction of a Bill to construct a new hospital on the north side of the city. Some years ago, the then Lord Mayor of Cork convened a public meeting in the City Hall to consider what should be done with regard to a hospital the building of which was then under consideration there. Nothing has been done about that, although it is some years ago.

Whatever allowance one may make for the criticisms, which are apparently perpetual, of Ministers and Ministries, one is forced to the conclusion—when finding such a case as the non-building of the hospital in Cork, the situation, described here yesterday by Deputy Brennan, of various other hospitals erected in different parts of the country which are defective in important particulars, one having no water and another no sewerage and a third allowing the rain to come in—an inspector visited the place after a series of dry weeks and was unable to discover the rain—that strength is lent to the case made against the Ministry in respect of its mishandling or incompetence in respect of public administration.

I suggest to the Minister the desirability of reconsidering his policy, if he has any policy, in respect of these hospitals' moneys. Many of these charitable hospitals are in existence over a long period—most of them over 100 years. They have ministered to the needs of the people for a long time, according to the moneys available to them, and they have done what they could to relieve suffering and to help the sick. Generally, their services were very useful and the people were very grateful for them. When this scheme of getting money for the hospitals was introduced, the people saw very big sums collected and subscriptions to the hospitals fell away. In essence the hospitals were placed in much the same position as they were prior to the introduction of the sweepstakes. They are now almost entirely dependent on what they get from the sweepstakes. So far as one can learn, they are in the position that they have practically to give explanations for all their expenditure. They are subject to examination and sanction has to be received for certain matters.

It is difficult to see that there is any policy behind this whole business. For instance, with the money that there is available, has there been any attempt, either on the part of the Minister or the Hospitals Commission, to see what improvements could be effected in any of the hospitals? From information conveyed to me from different sources, not confined to any one hospital, no such policy is being carried out at present. Proposals which are put up are subjected to the very closest possible scrutiny. In one case, down the country, the surgeon reported that he required an X-ray apparatus which, presumably, would cost about £100. The excuse was made that, in view of the likely construction of a new hospital, it would be inadvisable to spend this money, although the equipment could have been transferred from the old hospital to the new one, if it were ever built. Meantime, the patients there are not being properly attended to. There is plenty of money available.

I should like to know from the Minister what is the policy of either the Hospitals Commission or the Department with regard to the construction of hospitals in Dublin or Cork. It appears as if the Minister's attention was being directed towards the provision of new buildings. New buildings, if they are going to be expensive, and are going to add to the cost of attendance on the poor, are not as advisable as providing better methods of dealing with the patients, if that could be done at less expense. We had the example here a short time ago of the Richmond, Whitworth and Hardwicke Hospitals. The proposal was to scrap a hospital that was constructed only 50 or 60 years ago and that is one of the most up-to-date in the city. The idea was to have a magnificent new building. The first thing that ought to be considered is the treatment of patients and there has been no increase in hospital accommodation in Dublin. It is alleged that a few extra beds have been provided, but that is not a real increase. The same thing might be said with regard to Cork. In three or four cases, where hospitals have been built throughout the country, they have not yet been utilised. We heard from Deputy Linehan the other day of a hospital which was constructed and which was taken over by the military. The Minister ought to reconsider his entire policy in regard to this matter and approach the question from the point of view of increase in the accommodation for patients. There are other matters of which he can learn from the medical profession which would be of advantage, not only to hospital patients, but to the general health of the people in the cities and in the country.

The Minister told us about the discovery of a new serum for diphtheria. If I interpreted what the Minister said correctly, he conveyed that the matter had been put before the Medical Research Council by the Department of Local Government, but that so far they had not heard from the Medical Research Council. Some three or four months ago we read with great satisfaction about the discovery of this new serum by Doctors O'Meara and McSweeney. It is a matter of satisfaction to Deputy Hickey and myself to know that one of these doctors took out his degree in University College, Cork. It is four months since that announcement was made. I have made inquiries, but I have not been able to substantiate the Minister's statement, if I interpreted it correctly. No letter was sent by the Local Government Department to the Medical Research Council about this new serum. If I have misinterpreted the Minister, I shall be glad to give way to him. That is one of the things that would appear to the ordinary Deputy to be of some importance.

It is only a few years ago since the public were horrified by an occurrence which took place down the country. The information I had from some members of the medical profession at that time was that no reliance could be placed on the serum in use at that time, even though the Department of Local Government were particularly anxious that parents should consent to have their children immunised. If the discovery is such as has been announced, certainly a remarkable advance has taken place in medical science in this country and it merits much more consideration than the Minister has thought fit to give it.

It is a satisfaction to learn from the statistics given by the Minister yesterday that public health generally is improving. It would be interesting to get fuller statistics from certain of the hospitals. People who live in cities, such as Cork and Dublin, are always pleased to learn that their hospitals are showing good results. My information, for what it is worth, is that there have been remarkable results obtained in some of these hospitals. After a lean period, if one might so describe it, during the last couple of decades, it is a satisfaction to know that the medical and surgical profession here are keeping so well abreast with the times. It was the general impression, after the success which attended the Sweepstakes, that a remarkable improvement could be anticipated in medical science here. It afforded an opportunity for a progressive Ministry. Such a Ministry would have seen the opportunity that was there to mark an improvement in our position. Other countries have done so. There have been some remarkable results in places which, in the lifetime of people who are not very old now, were regarded as being second-rate or third-rate. You had them for example in Edinburgh, the McGill University and the Mayo Clinic. We had opportunities that few of those countries had, but we do not seem to have made any great progress during the last few years. We would be glad to hear from the Minister what his intentions are with regard to this question, whether he will now say to the hospitals: "Well, we have been for some time seeing what is the best policy to adopt with regard to this matter and we now propose to endow each one of those hospitals in accordance with a well-considered, fairly distributed slice of this public money".

There is then the question of the hospitalisation of Cork, a more important city than the one we are assembled in. It is to be hoped that it will now get the hospitalisation that it requires, needs and deserves. Generally, we would like to know what sum of money is going to be made available for the construction of new hospitals, and, if the very elaborate plans which were in mind with regard to the new hospitals, are to be in any way altered, what the proposals are for increasing the bed accommodation for patients. We should like to know, also, if there is any information from the Medical Research Council which has been in operation for some time. I think the Minister can depend on it that he will receive sympathetic consideration in regard to all those problems if we learn from him that he has his mind bent upon marking an improvement, and of showing that this country is worthy of the great confidence that not only the public here but in other countries have placed in it through the medium of their generous support of the Hospitals Sweeps.

My reason for intervening in the debate is to ask the Minister a question. Due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease the Minister is aware that farmers all over the country are finding it difficult to meet their obligations in regard to the payment of rates. The markets have been stopped for the time being. I hope the Minister will not place any difficulty in the way of county councils who, in present circumstances, desire to extend the period for the collection of the rates. I am not suggesting that he should issue any general order, but I am hoping that the Department will not do what it did in former years, compel rate collectors to close their warrants at an early period this year. That may have the effect of placing county councils in a financial difficulty for a month or so. Perhaps the Minister would enable them to get over that difficulty by making it easy for them to get bank accommodation for the time being. The position is so grave at the moment so far as the farmers are concerned, that I am sure the Minister will give every facility to county councils who desire to extend the period for the collection of the rates.

I look upon the Department of Public Health as one of the most important Departments of the State. As a member of the local bodies in Cork City, I want to say that we have experienced great disappointment at the slowness of the Department in coming to decisions on matters which affect the city and the county. We often wonder whether the Minister is in contact at all with the administration of his Department in view of the delays that take place in getting decisions on many matters of importance. Deputy Cosgrave referred rather lightly to the question of the hospitalisation of Cork City. If one wanted to criticise simply for the purpose of criticising, then I say the citizens of Cork have good reason to be critical of the way in which the Department of Local Government has treated the question of the hospitalisation of their city during the past six or seven years. It is hard to believe that any Department of State could have been so shortsighted as this Department has been or, to put it more bluntly, so inefficient. In Cork City we have had hospitals under way since 1932, 1933 and 1934. There is not the remotest sign of any of them being built for the next six or seven years. When one has to deal with these matters week after week, one is forced to ask whether the Minister is in touch at all with matters appertaining to his Department. I am a member of several public bodies: the public assistance board, the corporation, mental hospital committee, and the sanatorium. I have seen in the latter place an X-ray machine, value for £1,000, laid up in a room for over 12 months because we could not get a decision from the Department as to what should be done with the contractor responsible for putting it in a working condition. We had contracts being carried out, money held up and appeals made to the Department for decisions on this, that and the other. We had men losing their patience and giving up all hope of anything effective being done by this Department.

Six or seven years ago plans were prepared for a maternity hospital, and when the site was almost acquired we got word that the place was going to be condemned. It was condemned and a new site was mentioned. We were asked to inspect it. The committee was appointed to do so with the engineer and the doctor of the maternity hospital. They gave a certain report, pending the receipt of the engineers' report. The next thing we found was that there were several people interested in getting the site sold. The site was sold for £6,000, and payment was sanctioned by the Department of Local Government despite the fact that we had no report from the engineers. Twelve months or so after the site had been acquired we had a report from the engineers saying that it would cost anything up to £25,000 to prepare it and sink foundations. It would cost that before a brick was laid to build the hospital. That happened about three years ago, and we have not heard a word since. We see no immediate chance of getting the hospital in spite of the fact that we have paid £1,185 for the preparation of plans for the hospital on another site. When we were asked by the Department we agreed that a prize should be offered and a competition got going for plans for the hospital. We waited for months and months before we got the competition going. Without exaggeration it must be 18 months ago since we did that. We have not yet heard a word about the plans, who is going to get the prize or anything else.

About three years ago, as a result of consultation between engineers sent down by the Department and the local engineers, a site was acquired for a fever hospital. When, however, it had been paid for, we got word from the Department's engineers that the place was unsuitable and that we should look for another site. We paid £3,500 for that site; now it is condemned and is on the corporation's hands. We were then told to look for another site, which we did. The site was purchased without the consent of the corporation at the rate of £175 per acre. After acquiring the site and having the sewerage plans under way, we have discovered that we cannot build a hospital there until we first build a new reservoir. I submit to the Minister that if that were done by an ordinary member of the corporation rather than by what are known as experts we would have huge placards all over the place telling us about the muddling by the Cork Corporation. The same thing applies to the Regional Hospital. We had the plans prepared six or seven years ago, if not more, for a site for the new Regional Hospital, and after the plans had been prepared and the site decided on we had a communication from the Department saying that the site was not suitable and should be scrapped. The engineer who prepared the plans had been paid £2,500 for preparing them. A further site was acquired, and we were told that the hospital would cost, roughly. £300,000, and the architects' fees £15,000. A letter came from the Department telling us that the plans and specifications should be submitted for competition. As one member of that board, I voted for submitting the plans for competition, and it was decided, by one vote, that the whole thing should be given to a specific engineer.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Department had said the plans should be submitted for competition, the Department agreed that it should be given to the engineer who was mentioned. He happened to be an employee of the board. From our experience of dealing with the Department we feel—personally I feel very strongly—that the Minister has not that touch with those things which it is desirable for a Minister to have. If he took into consideration the views of the people locally, rather than those of the engineers and the experts in the Department, I think we would not be in the unfortunate position we are in to-day, as far as Cork City is concerned, on the question of hospitalisation.

When one considers the amount of money spent on architects' fees and legal expenses, I think it is appalling that any Department of State should allow such muddling. Another matter we have to complain about is that when a hospital is costing £200,000 or £300,000 we have the architects adding another couple of thousands to that. Of course the reason is that the architect is paid 5 per cent. on the total, and it is in his own interests to make the total as large as possible. Locally, we have cut out very large sums in those estimates, but the Department is more inclined to agree with the experts, as it calls them, such as the architects and engineers. Recently, in connection with the building of a cottage hospital in Youghal, we discovered after the whole thing was fixed that a lodge costing £1,300 had to be built. We stated that we would not agree to a lodge costing more than £480 or £500 but, notwithstanding that, a lodge costing over £1,300 had to be passed. I should like to say to the Minister that I think he should deal with this question of architects and engineers who are absolutely dominating the situation with regard to hospitals. What we want in this country are not palatial hospitals. We want plain, efficient hospitals, not the costly things which those engineers are putting up in the country, and which cost an enormous amount of money to maintain.

I understand that in his opening remarks last night—I was not able to be here—the Minister stated that public health had improved and that malnutrition was greatly reduced. I also gathered from the papers this morning that he said certain infectious diseases were reduced. I think that was contradicted in a later statement by the Minister, when he said that the infant mortality rate was exceedingly high. I would like to say to the Minister that I am afraid the health of the country has not improved, but is rather on the wrong side all the time. As far as malnutrition is concerned I am perfectly certain that it is increasing. I have condemned some of the medical officers because they are not specific enough in determining the condition of health of the people with whom they are in contact. I saw the latest report from our medical officer of schools in Cork in which he said that over 11 per cent. of the children attending school are suffering from malnutrition. If one were to consider the condition of the children under five who have not yet reached school, what must be the state of malnutrition?

I notice that some of the medical officers who talked about malnutrition some few years ago have very definitely cut it out of their reports for the past few years. If there was malnutrition in certain areas two or three years ago, am I to be told that it is not more marked to-day, with the increased cost of living and with the same purchasing power in the hands of those trying to exist? In order to bear out what I am saying I should like to refer to a report from one of the home assistance officers which came before us at our meeting last Monday. This report deals with three little so-called villages about five miles from the City of Cork, Little Island, Riverstown and Glanmire. The home assistance superintendent reported that there were 35 cases which had to be put on home assistance owing to the Employment Period Order. It goes on to say that on 22/3/41 there were 35 cases, which included 94 persons, and the amount which the 94 persons received from home assistance was £15 7s. per week. Now that amounts to 3/3 per person per week, or 5½d. per day, or 1½d. per meal per day, without making any provision for rent, fire, clothing, or school books for the little children, not to mention all the other things which would be needed in the household.

Does the Minister seriously suggest that those 94 persons are properly fed and clothed on that sum? Mind you, those people have no other income, and there were a number who were not helped by home assistance although they were put off unemployment assistance by the Employment Period Order. I would like to ask the Minister to read the report of the Cork City Medical Officer of Health last year. He will see there the amount of income of a number of families in 900 houses where we have differential rents obtaining. That income has not been ascertained by any outside body, but by the man appointed by the City Manager to determine the amount of the rent. I want seriously to suggest to the Minister that he should take notice of those figures, and not try to believe that things are as good as he would like them to be, but rather to see them as they really are.

The position is very serious from the point of view of poverty in Cork City and suburbs. We heard a good deal to-day about tea rationing and the arrangement of the ration at an ounce of tea for each person. That means that many people may not be able to get tea and, unfortunately, the poor depend upon it very largely. The only substitute the poor can have is milk and there are many of them who cannot buy milk on their present incomes. Take, as an example, an old age pensioner with 10/-, or a widow and an orphan with the average weekly amount that is allowed them, or a widow with a non-contributory pension of 7/6. How can they manage to exist? Some widows are living in rooms or in very small houses for which the rent is 3/- or 3/6. I have received letters from priests telling me how those poor creatures have to pay 3/6 out of their pensions for rent. I often wonder how those people exist. I should like the Minister to visualise their difficulties. I suggest that home assistance, old age pensions and widows' and orphans' pensions should be increased to meet the present abnormal conditions.

Reference was made here to-day to the desirability of communal feeding of the poor in our cities and towns and the provision of communal kitchens. I am opposed to communal kitchens. I believe in feeding the people in their own homes and, if we are to start feeding the sparse population we have in a purely agricultural country through the medium of communal kitchens, then it is time for us to ask ourselves do we deserve to be here as representatives of the people. It is unfair to ask the people to get their food from communal kitchens. I know there is some talk of it at the moment. I am not trying to make little of anybody's efforts to help the poor, but I am very keen on maintaining the status of the family and I want to see the poor being fed in their own homes and given the means to buy what they want so that they can cook and eat it in their own homes. I am opposed to communal kitchens and community feeding. It is the duty of any Government that describes itself as a Christian Government to enable the people to get the bare necessaries of life. I did not see any reference to that aspect of things in the Minister's statement.

In theIrish Press this morning I read that the Minister commented on the little advantage that is being taken by local authorities of opportunities in relation to building and he mentioned Cork as one place that has not many houses in course of construction. That is altogether due to the price we are paying for money. We have 216 houses under way and we are paying 5¼ per cent. for the money to enable us to build these 216 houses. Taking the acquisition of the land, the development of the site and the building of the houses, we cannot get them erected at less than £500 per house. The interest we have to pay on the money, 5¼ per cent., means a weekly rent of 10/4. That must be paid by the workers for interest alone before anything else is added and we cannot continue to build houses while we have to pay so much for the borrowed money.

We require something like 4,000 houses in Cork. We have sufficient land and the real problem is to get people to pay the rent for the houses we have already erected. We have houses at a rent of 10/- to 12/- per week. There are unemployed people in some of those houses and, because of their circumstances, they cannot meet the rent and the only alternative is to evict them and put them elsewhere. It is little use the Minister commenting on public bodies not doing sufficient in the way of house construction when we have to pay so much as 5¼ per cent. for the money. We have great difficulty in getting people to pay rent. They have not sufficient to buy themselves milk or even two meals a day. How are we to get rent from people whose incomes are not equal to it? In such conditions there is no use in the Minister telling us we are not taking advantage of the housing drive.

As one who has some knowledge of public boards in Cork and who has some experience of engineers and architects, I think the time has arrived when the Minister will have to make some arrangement as to the salaries and pensions that are to be paid to engineers and architects. I have in mind the case of one man who is about to retire. His part-time salary is £750 a year and he is also being paid fees for other work. If his pension was to be calculated in accordance with the regulations of the Department, he would be getting far in excess of what his salary is from the public body by whom he is engaged. I have been informed that we would be bound to pay that man much more in the form of a pension than he is getting from the board by whom he is employed as a part-time officer. It is time for some definite arrangement in regard to the calculation of pensions in cases of that kind.

I am not objecting to placing a man in a position of security at the end of his days; I do not object to a reasonable pension, but I do object to any individual dictating to the members of a board who have to listen at another time to men who try to exist on 6/- or 7/- a week in the form of home assistance. Public boards frequently have to deal with men who have eight or nine in family and who are expected to live on 14/- or 15/- a week. Then, because there is a Departmental regulation and there are certain legal rights defined in the Department, an individual can get more by way of pension than he ever earned from the board as a part-time official. That position should be rectified at the earliest possible moment. I understand it can only be done by legislation.

Tea cannot be got for the poor and the only substitute is milk. I do not mind in what way the farmer is paid, but I am standing four-square behind the farmer's demand to get an economic price for his milk. If the farmer is charging 1/- or 1/4 for the milk, I am not one bit disturbed, because I believe those engaged in farming work never got proper recognition in this country. I say that deliberately. The farmer and the farm labourer are the people who now count in this country, and it is strange that the people upon whom we are relying so much to save us from starvation are the only people who have had least recognition in this country. While the only substitute for tea is milk, by subsidy or otherwise we must let the poor and their children have at least a sufficient supply. We have a milk board operating within and outside Cork City. Their price for milk at the moment is something like 1/4, and if they are not able to dispose of that milk amongst the citizens at that price, it is sent to the University College Dairy where it is taken at a price of something like 9d. per gallon. I believe that milk should be made available to the poor, and the difference between the 9d. paid by the college and the cost of distributing it to the poor of the city should be provided by subsidy.

I suggest that the Minister should consider that point in the immediate future because I know—and I can prove it by figures—that there are hundreds and hundreds of children in Cork City and suburbs who do not get even half a cup of milk per day. It is a sad thing that we should have that position when we have milk produced within a radius of eight or nine miles of the city and sold to creameries at about 7d. per gallon for manufacture into butter, on which there is a subsidy of 3d. a lb. in order to land it in the English market. That subsidy should be given to the farmers, so as to enable them to get an economic price and to enable the poor to have sufficient milk. I hope the Minister will consider the points I have made with regard to hospitalisation and the need for his taking a hand himself in order to see that decisions are arrived at and conveyed promptly to the local authorities who are doing the best they can for their areas.

We are all sorry to hear the position in Cork. There does not seem to be any cure for poverty.

I did not say that.

Mr. Kelly

I am saying it. As long as I have been in public life, I have heard these stories, and I remember well, in the concluding years of office of the last Government, in the provision and grocers' shops all over Dublin, one could see the notices "Relief tickets taken here".

And is the position not the same to-day?

Mr. Kelly

I could go back to 1729 on that matter of poverty in Dublin, but I am not making any point of it. I know that the Government at that time did all in their power to combat poverty, and it seems to me that the document read last night by the Minister was a calm and confident document, in face of threatening times, a document which I think would appeal more to the general body of citizens than the statements regarding Dublin which very often appear—sometimes grotesque, sometimes misleading and sometimes outrageous. The Minister and his Department are supposed to have their fingers on the pulse of the country, and they would not come here with a document that demands confidence if things were as bad as they are represented to be. Deputy Hickey is a very honest and sincere man—so are all the members of the Labour Party; I would not pick out anyone more than another—but his speech was more sensible than those of some of his colleagues because the others said that they were entirely disappointed with this document, with this report, and that the Minister must know nothing at all about conditions in the country. That was said, but I do not think that class of talk is going to do any good. I would rather, in these days, that we gave confidence to this Department and agreed that they were doing their best and that no political points should be made against them.

It was, however, on another matter altogether that I decided to speak. Certain motor regulations were made in this city, some three years ago, which interfered very much with the business of people in particular streets. I do business in a small central thoroughfare called Trinity Street, and there the police put up "No waiting" notices. I must say that I did not know what these notices meant when they went up, but I was soon brought to a realisation of the fact that motor cars would not be allowed to stop in that street at all. The result was disastrous to the business of most of the merchants engaged there. One electrical contractor, not in a very big way but still a very efficient man, told me, about a month or so after the notices went up, that his ordinary receipts for his shop were from £12 to £15 a week, but that when the "No waiting" business came into operation, they were reduced to 3/11 and 4/-. The result was that in a few weeks' time he had to clear out. He told me that he would conduct his business from his own house and try to live. Other firms simply faded out, and my own business went so much that I had to make application to my landlord, who happens to be the Dublin Corporation.

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy, but has this anything to do with the Estimate?

Mr. Kelly

There is a sum of £33,000 for the general Valuation Office.

I want the Deputy to relate his remarks to the Estimate.

Mr. Kelly

I want to inform the House and I have been only five minutes speaking. I applied to the corporation for a revision of my rent. I said that so long as I was getting public money, I was prepared to pay the rent, but that when the public money ceased, the position would be that I should have to give up the shop, as I could not pay the rent, that the people who came to buy the goods I sell drove up in their cars to look at the books and pictures. That would take some time but the police would not allow them to wait one minute in that street. The result of my representations to the corporation was that there was no decision made. The matter went before a committee and two members voted for the reduction, two against, and one did not vote at all. A solicitor was employed to make representations to the City Manager and the Local Government Department in respect of a revaluation. That was in January, 1940, and we got the result a few weeks ago. Those who are rate-payers received a postcard with two or three lines in print. One line said, "Your rate is increased" and the other "Your rate is altered" and a pen was drawn through whichever of the lines did not apply to the person receiving the card. Most of the people in the street got an intimation that their rate was altered and that they could inspect it, within 21 days, by applying to the corporation offices. Most of those getting the postcards found that their valuation was altered and, on inspection, that it was reduced, generally, by a sum of £5 a year. Those who were paying £100 a year in rates found that their rates would be £95—a reduction of £5 all round. I do not know if the Minister has any knowledge of this department. Is it a serious department? I know it is a long time in existence. It has its offices in a very serious street in Dublin—Hume Street. Are they serious in these offices? Only in two instances were valuers sent during the whole year to interview the owners of these shops and find out something in connection with their work. Upon what they based their valuation I do not know. I made very intimate inquiries lest I should make a mistake. I found that only in two instances in that street did valuers call and make a personal inspection or inquire as to the business carried on.

I hope the Minister will take my words here very seriously. I have been in other streets in Dublin and the phrase used to me was that "business is ruined". That is not good enough. I make this statement knowing very well that the Minister will take the matter up and have inquiries made. There are other streets which are one-way streets. The motorists must have a right of way one way through these streets. That class of restriction has interfered very much with business. A professional man in Trinity Street found his business receipts so much reduced that he moved out into Dame Street and took a place with a higher valuation at a higher rent. He could not stick it very long and he had to move back into Trinity Street. Such disturbance as that, simply for the convenience of motorists, is not good enough. The police are the controllers of the traffic in Dublin. They made no inquiries whatever beyond having a man counting the number of cars which moved backwards and forwards during a particular day or week or month. As a result of their calculations, they made these regulations, which interfere so much with business. That finishes my ten minutes and I hope the Minister will bear in mind what I have said and will see that we get a fair "do".

While it is a matter for satisfaction to hear from the Minister of the improvements effected in the public health services, in the health of the people and of the reduction of mortality for notifiable and infectious disease, there is cause for very grave and serious alarm when one views the spiral of expenditure of this Department over a period of years. Taking this Vote alone, in 1932-3, the cost was £437,091, and the Minister's Estimate for this year is £1,229,829. When one bears in mind that the local authorities have a proportionate growth in their expenditure, amounting to about £12,000,000, one becomes very seriously alarmed at the whole financial and economic position of this country. One is tempted to ask if this critical year is the culminating point of Fianna Fáil financial and economic policy or what attempt is being made by the Government in the various Departments to give value to the taxpayer and ratepayer for the money contributed? It appears to me that no effort has been made to keep expenditure by this Department or other Departments within reasonable bounds —within the capacity of the people. We must remember that we are a comparatively poor people in our ability to contribute large sums to public services and that we are facing a difficult situation. Recently, we were informed by the responsible Minister that unemployment assistance was being withdrawn in the rural districts and in towns under a certain population. The result was that large numbers of unfortunate people, who had not the wherewithal to live, were thrown back for assistance on the local authority. The Minister is well aware that local authorities, generally, had not budgeted for that considerable increase in their burden.

There is the further consideration that the charge for the bulk of the money put up by a local authority is borne by one section of the community—the agricultural community— and by the people who have property. Under this system of financing local government administration, numbers of people escape what ought to be their just moral responsibility. I refer to those—many of them with sub stantial salaries—who have no property and who escape local taxation. The tendency of the Government is to throw back further and greater responsibilities on those sections of the community who contribute to local taxation. That is unfair and unjust. I have had experience of deputations at boards of health within the last few weeks making representations for home assistance because unemployment assistance was being taken from them. We find, side by side with that, the Minister's order withdrawing, as from the end of last month, relief grants on roads and pointing out by circular to local authorities that there is sufficient work on the land at present for the people affected, owing to increased tillage operations. The Minister cannot have made an examination of the position before he arrived at that decision. I can inform the Minister that, in some of the counties where there was mixed farming and a considerable amount of tillage at all times, the increase in employment resulting from the additional tillage operations at present does not warrant the withdrawal of relief grants. There are many men thrown out of employment as a result of the withdrawal of this relief grant who cannot find any work at present. I suggest to the Minister that, before he makes an order withdrawing a relief scheme of that sort, he should make himself conversant with the local position. In my constituency, representations have been made to me by unfortunate men who have lost their employment as a result of the withdrawal of this scheme and who have no prospect of getting work anywhere, and that has resulted in a further burden being thrown on the local authorities.

I think it is altogether unfair to the local taxpayer to ask him to shoulder this burden. It is a continuation of the whole policy of making relief schemes contingent on contributions from the local authority. The local authority, in their effort and desire to help the unemployed, have to my mind stretched themselves beyond their capacity in order to comply with the conditions laid down by the Minister. I do not think it is fair or just to ask for these contributions from a particular section of the community and that is what I object to most of all. We live in a civilised state and we must maintain society. The responsibility is on the State to maintain society in decency and to see that people will not die from starvation. Those who are in a position to make contributions must do so. It ought to be the duty of the Minister and the Government to ensure that all sections who are in a position to contribute to taxation and to relief bear that responsibility in proportion to their income. What I take exception to is the method adopted by the Minister of throwing back that burden on one particular section of the community, the agriculturists who constitute the bulk of the taxpayers of the country.

There is a matter I have referred to previously on Estimates of this Department and that I briefly wish to refer to again, and that is the administration of the Road Fund. The contribution to the local authorities from the Road Fund is divided into two classes. There is a maintenance grant and an improvement grant. The maintenance grant is based on the amount spent by the local authority and the contribution is 40 per cent. of the amount spent. Of course there is an incentive there to the local authority to spend as much as possible so that they would secure a substantial grant towards maintenance. That 1926 road scheme was a good and useful one at that time when roads generally throughout the country were in very bad repair, but I am of opinion that to-day that scheme is obsolete and that it ought to be scrapped and a new method of administration of the Road Fund introduced. In my opinion much of that money is not spent to the best advantage.

Contributions from the Road Fund are only made available for main roads and main roads only constitute about one-fifth of the total roads in the country. We have approximately 10,000 miles of main roads and about 47,000 miles of country roads. In the most progressive counties, those main roads are in very good condition, and the county which is trying to secure a substantial maintenance grant for main roads very often has to scarify and tear up roads which are in very good condition in order to secure that grant. That is not good policy. It is a sheer waste of public money to a great extent.

I suggest that the local authority, and particularly the county surveyor, should be empowered to make recommendations to the Department as to how the money should be spent in the county. In the majority of cases that money could be more effectively spent on county roads. There is no reason why it should not be spent on county roads. There is no reason why we should tie the expenditure from the Road Fund to main roads only. This Road Fund is built up by taxes paid by motorists. These people do not all live on main roads and motors are not always driven on main roads. There is a lot of motor and lorry traffic over county roads. Yet, under this 1926 scheme, the county roads cannot benefit to any extent from the Road Fund.

I put that aspect of the case to the Minister before without any result. I suggest that there should be greater latitude given to the local authority, and particularly to the county surveyor; that they should make recommendations as to where the grant should be spent and that it should not be confined mainly to main roads. It should be within the discretion of the county surveyor to recommend how the money should be spent, and if his recommendations are approved by the Department's inspector, that is the proper way to have it administered.

The other grant is the improvement grant, which also comes from the Road Fund. I have always been of opinion that sufficient money is not spent on improvements and that possibly too much is spent on maintenance. Again, we have had the policy in some counties of attempting to maintain roads which are in poor condition, and the maintenance cost of which is very heavy. That type of highly cambered road, which shows a lot of wear and is maintained by a 40 per cent. contribution from the Road Fund, should be reconstructed. There should be an inducement to local authorities to go in more for reconstruction work on roads by making a larger contribution to local authorities through the improvement grant and reducing the amount spent on maintenance. To my mind, you will get a better road in the long run and it will not cost anything more.

The Minister regretted that there was a considerable falling off in the number of houses built. I suppose that is inevitable in present conditions. The cost of construction has gone up considerably, and there is a real difficulty in securing materials. In spite of the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the cost of construction, no attempt has been made to increase the subsidy payable to local authorities. Local authorities, in view of the present high level of local taxation, are faced with a very serious problem, and so far as they are concerned there is no inducement for them to go on with housing construction. The Minister is going to get very little improvement in that respect until some attempt is made to give increased grants to meet the increased costs.

How does the Deputy reconcile his two statements that the Estimate is too high and that there should be increased subsidies?

I think the Minister is misrepresenting me.

I am not trying to misrepresent the Deputy at all.

I want to make my position clear and to suggest to the Minister that there should be proportionate increases from the central authority to enable local authorities to meet the cost of social services that ought not to be theirs at all. The local authorities are now obliged to meet the cost of all kinds of social work. There is the question of house building. There would be no objection if the general taxpayer, and not a particular section of the community, made his contribution to the cost of that. That is not being done. What I take a serious objection to is asking a particular section of the community to bear a burden that ought not to be theirs only, but that ought to be the responsibility of the general taxpayer. Referring again to housing, county medical officers show a tendency to condemn houses that would be reasonably good for small families, for old-age pensioners or for a family of two, three or four. Because some of those houses are found to be too small for big families, they are condemned. I think that is bad policy, and that we cannot afford that sort of thing. If a house is in a reasonably good condition it ought to be preserved and a small family put into it.

I do not know whether Deputy Linehan was right in what he said about the provision of back doors in houses. Deputies who are members of local authorities are familiar with the complaints made by the occupants of most of those new concrete houses with tiled roofs. They complain that they are very cold. I think that if you put two doors in that sort of a house and two windows you are almost certain to cause a draught. I do not think many of the tenants would be very keen on having back doors at all. I am inclined to agree with the architects and the engineers of the local authorities that in building houses without back doors they are doing the right thing. A back door might add to the general appearance of a house, but the comfort aspect should not be overlooked either.

I agree that this is a very important Department. We have had complaints made by Deputies, notably by Deputy Hickey, that local authorities find it very hard to get quick decisions from the Department, and that its whole machinery seems to be very slow and unwieldy. The result of all that is that local authorities are delayed in their work for weeks and, sometimes, for months. Complaints of that kind have appeared in the Press recently. The Dublin Corporation made a complaint to that effect, and I think there were grounds for it. I suggest to the Minister that he should look into this, and, if possible, speed up decisions by his Department so that the work of the local authorities may be more efficient and effective.

I am at one with Deputy Murphy and his complaint as regards the Department's interference in the matter of the small increase in wages that was given to the road workers in the County Cork. The argument was put up that there had been no increase in the wages paid to agricultural labourers. The agricultural labourer has perquisites that the ordinary road worker has not. In nine cases out of ten he has a free house. He has vegetables provided for him, and other things that the ordinary road worker has not. On this question of increases, I find what I can only describe as a class distinction working right through the Department of Local Government. That is a thing that should not exist in any democratic State. Some time ago a caretaker who had been with the Cork County Council for 31 years looked for a small gratuity or pension when going out. The county council gave it to him, but the Department of Local Government refused to sanction it. On the other hand, if a doctor looks for an increase in salary, the Department will tell the local authority that the doctor's salary is not half large enough. It will lay down rules and regulations for further increases. Deputy Hickey alluded to engineers. We have an engineer in Cork who is a part-time official. The unfortunate caretaker was a whole-time official and got nothing. This part-time engineer, despite the fact that he was getting a permanent and definite salary from the board of assistance was allowed by the Department to compete with other architects for fees, and got them. That was allowed, even though, according to the terms of his appointment, he was supposed to do all the work required by the board. When the question of the hospital arose he got fees on the work done, and the same happened when repairs were carried out to the county home.

Was it the board of health that gave them to him?

The members of the board of health are not all Solomons. The Department of Local Government is supposed to keep the local bodies straight. That is supposed to be portion of its job, but instead it is lending itself to the corruption that is going on.

By the board of health.

By whatever you wish to call it. I think I saw a few cases in Wexford recently that would not bear the light of day either. Here is an official paid a definite salary for his work. The Local Government Department comes along and gives him certain fees. For instance, a scheme for the building of labourers' cottages comes in—I notice the Department is complaining that there are not enough houses built—and the unfortunate workman who goes into one of those cottages has to pay first of all so much to the solicitor, so much to the engineer, 2½ per cent., I think, and so much to the clerks above in the office. That is all piled on to the unfortunate labourer, in nine cases out of ten a man who is on the dole. He has to pay all that when the cottage is finally handed over. We had an extraordinary position down in Cork recently when there were three special meetings of the board of health called for the division of the loot. The officials themselves could not agree on the division of the spoils with which the Local Government Department so kindly presented them. The secretary said: "I should get the whole of it," and the clerk said: "No; I worked five hours a day as well as you, and I should get a share." We even had writs served on the secretary by the clerk for a portion of the money. We had that extraordinary position of affairs brought about by the venal action of the Local Government Department in sanctioning those moneys. One would think that the ratepayers' money was like mud—something to be thrown away. They managed better in Wexford, I agree. They succeeded in dividing the loot there without any exposure. Now we have the extraordinary position of this engineer retiring. Through the casting vote of the chairman of the board he got large fees, to which in the ordinary course he was not entitled, and which in my opinion the Local Government Department should not have allowed to be paid. The Local Government Department should not have allowed those fees to be paid to an official who is working there as an engineer.

Does the Deputy say that the payment was illegal?

Why does he not fight it then?

It was carried by a casting vote and sanctioned by the Local Government Department. I hold that the Local Government Department had no right to sanction the payment. The Local Government Department, which refused to allow the county council to pay a gratuity to the caretaker after 31 years' service, comes along and says that this man will not alone be pensioned on his monthly salary but on the amount of the fees that he got with the collusion of his pals in the Local Government Department. It is about time that this kind of thing should end.

The Deputy should not accuse any official of getting fees illegally. There is a place for testing alleged illegalities.

Unfortunately I am accustomed to calling a spade a spade.

I fear it would be an adjectival implement.

There are lots of adjectives which might be applied to those fees.

The Deputy is digging with the wrong foot.

Mr. Brodrick

The Department must have great faith in the chairman.

That is the position, and we want it ended. It is about time that it was ended. Protests have been made as to the action of the Local Government Department in those matters. On the one hand they refuse to allow 2/6 a week increase in hi wages to an unfortunate roadman who succeeds in getting, at most, about four days' work in the week, and on the other hand they pile up salaries and fees for one class of the community. The ratepayers cannot afford the condition of affairs which is being brought about. They cannot afford it, and I may say frankly that they have no intention of affording it. If there is no other way of stopping the ramp that is going on except by refusing to pay the rates, it will be done. The ratepayers' pockets are not something into which you can be always dipping. An ordinary engineer down the country, appointed at £400 a year, can succeed in drawing £17,000 in fees in three years. It is time that that kind of thing stopped. If the Local Government Department itself is not going to stop it, some other means of stopping it must be found. If there are any mistakes in the law in connection with the matter, let them be straightened out, but for heaven's sake let us not have this extraordinary position of affairs going on. An individual comes along and draws £1,500 or £1,600 fees out of one hospital—a hospital that will never be built. An order came from the Local Government Department some time ago to prepare plans for a fever hospital. The plans were prepared by the whole-time engineer and sent up to the Department. The next thing that came down from the Department was a notification that the fever hospital was not to be built at all, but the whole-time engineer got £1,500 fees out of it. Does the Department think that that is a fair way to spend the ratepayers' money? Is it fair, when a member of the board of assistance comes in with a list of unfortunate people, as Deputy Hickey described them a while ago, looking for home assistance, that there should be cheese-paring in connection with them, while at the same time another gentleman gets "oodles" of loot out of the ratepayers' pockets with the collusion and assistance of the Local Government Department?

And the Minister.

The Minister is responsible. At least he says he is. I want the Minister to put an end to it. It is unfair and unjust. It is unjust to the ratepayers. It is unjust that there should be cheese-paring in the case of unfortunate people who are hungry while on the other hand when we come to let a labourer's cottage we find that the engineer has to get so much fees out of it, that the solicitor has to get so much, and that the clerks above in the office have to get so much, all piled on top of the unfortunate devil who gets the cottage.

Too much class distinction is going on in the Local Government Department. There is too much government of officials, by officials, for officials. That is what it means. Unfortunately, there seems to be no inclination to check it. If it is not stopped in one way the people will probably decide to stop it in another and, if they do, more power to them. I appeal to the Minister to try to stop it himself. He has the power. There is no reason in a gentleman coming along, after enjoying a salary of £700 a year for so many years, and telling us that his pension will be double his salary. That extraordinary position has been brought about with the collusion of the Local Government Department. A man who is retiring now finds that his pension will be double what he was earning when he was working; in other words, he will get double as much when he is idle as when he was in office. It is too bad to have that type of thing in a country where many unfortunate people are hungry because they cannot find money to buy the necessaries of life. There is a lot to be said for the fellow who declared that it would pay to have a few good gunmen to get rid of the pensioners.

Mr. Brodrick

So long as Deputy Corry is in this House, no matter what Party he belongs to, Independent or otherwise, he will be against the Government.

He will be telling the truth, anyway.

Mr. Brodrick

There is one thing to be remembered and that is that whoever the chairman of the Cork Board of Health is, the Department must have great respect for him when they carried out his wishes. I do not know if he is a member of Deputy Corry's Party; I do not know who the gentleman is, but there must be a great respect for him. It is quite possible he is not a member of Deputy Corry's Party, or there would not be so much respect for him.

I am not at all satisfied with the portion of this Estimate that indicates a reduction in the housing grant from £230,000 to £100,000. I think that the amount should have been kept up to the level of last year, seeing the advantage that housing is in this country, not alone to the people who get possession of the houses, but to those who are put into employment by the erection of them. The Minister may say that we are short of supplies. So far as timber is concerned, we have a fair amount of native timber being planted, but I daresay the war will be long over before that is fit for use. With the co-operation of the Land Commission, under whose supervision the timber is being planted, I think the Minister should make as much provision as he possibly can out of native timber for housing purposes. I may be told that native timber is too fresh for housing. It is, but why would not the Department try to get in a few drying plants to dry that timber and make it fit for use? I have seen some of the timber that is going into houses and it is regrettable to see it used in such a fashion. It is cut down to-day, sawn up to-morrow, and put into house construction the day after. That will mean a serious loss to the country because timber used in that way cannot be satisfactory and the house cannot be satisfactory either.

If we had a few drying plants I believe we could get on with a fair amount of house construction. I have criticised the housing Estimate year after year and I have done so for this reason, that I want them to bring building up to a certain standard in this country. I must give credit to the Department that in places that I have travelled through the building has been brought up to a good standard —from what I have seen, that is the case—but it is through criticism and great supervision that it has been brought up to that standard. I must give credit to the Department and its inspectors that they are doing their utmost. I should like the Minister to reconsider this part of his Estimate, because a drop from £230,000 to £100,000 is far too much. You can proceed with building because you have the main supplies in the country. All you require is some machinery for drying in order to get the wood into a suitable condition.

There are other parts of the Estimate with which I do not agree. I think there is a good deal of unnecessary expenditure. Let me take the sanatorium that was proposed to be built in Galway. There are some members of the Dáil who are members of the Galway Board of Health and I think they will admit that the board of health was compelled to buy a certain estate. Engineers were then appointed to draw up plans. A few years passed by and then the members of the board of health were told that they should dispose of the estate. It was disposed of at a great loss to the Galway ratepayers. I do not say that the board of health were responsible for it. After losing so much money on the Reddington estate, they are now being told that they have to look for another site for a sanatorium. It is too bad that there should be that kind of muddling, or whatever one may wish to call it. The house was no use, unless, perhaps, it could be used in an emergency, and the land had to be sold at a loss.

I will now come to the Galway Hospital. In 1921, or 1922, a sum of £30,000 was spent renovating the old workhouse hospital. I think there were up to ten workhouses in County Galway at the time and all the people in them were brought into the one place. It cost the ratepayers £30,000 to renovate one hospital and they reconstructed a small place close by. Money has been made available from the Hospitals Sweepstakes for the building of a new county hospital in Galway. I do not think the Minister will contradict me when I state that there were seven or eight plans and specifications drawn up for the erection of that hospital. I am sorry Deputy Beegan or Deputy Killilea is not here. Both Deputies could tell us the amount paid in engineers' fees and the amount already due to the architect in fees, all in connection with the erection of a hospital for which the plans have not yet been sanctioned.

The architects and engineers at the head of a Department should get into consultation with the architect employed on the proposed new building to draw up the plans and specifications. No doubt he is a man of great repute. He spends months of hard work there, the plans and specifications are sent to the Department and then some little tuppence ha'penny engineer comes along and says: "No, we will not have them." The men drawing up these plans and specifications are men with much better qualifications than some of the men who condemn them. That has been going on for years and all the patients of County Galway are in that central hospital. Not alone are they lying on poor beds, but they are lying on the floors of the corridors, and that is a scandalous state of affairs when the money is available.

The Minister was asked to meet a deputation composed of people, Church and lay, who were interested in the erection of this hospital, who knew the conditions in the hospital and who were anxious to do everything to help the Minister in every way and the Minister's reply was that meeting such a deputation was no use. That is the kind of thing that people cannot stand. The people of the county who pay their rates well, a county in which the home assistance is the lowest in Éire, are prepared to pay their portion.

Thousands of pounds of the ratepayers' money have already been expended in the drawing up of plans by an architect of repute, which do not meet the demands of the Department, but what the Department should do is to send the plans down and let the job be carried out, and not to be wasting money and holding up things as they have done for the last four years. I hope the Minister will consider the few points I have raised in respect of drying plants for native timber and I urge him to co-operate in those cases in which the Land Commission are selling mansions to people who want to make money. These mansions have good roofing, the finest of slates, which could be used on houses again, and the Minister should co-operate with the Land Commission in regard to them, instead of allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry who can do so to put down £300 or £400 for these places and to sell all the timber and roofing at a huge profit. I hope he will also consider the matter of the sanatorium in the Reddington estate and the new county hospital.

I sympathise with the point raised by Deputy Bennett, that ratepayers should be considered in the matter of the collection of rates, but I think a much more important point is that the burden of rates has been growing from year to year, due to a great extent to the policy of the Department. I could not hold the Department responsible, if local bodies were responsible for this increased burden, but unfortunately that is not so. The Department is egging them on by every means in their power to increase the burden on a section which is already overburdened and unable to meet its liabilities. Not only have the farmers to provide food for the country—and they appreciate the necessities of the situation and are prepared to do it, although they are not getting the cost of production— but they have to bear a burden of rates which they are not able to bear. Instead of the Minister trying to relieve them of this ever-increasing burden so far as possible, he is doing everything in his power to increase it by inducing them to take over the financing of unemployment and the provision of work, out of the rates, to a certain extent, for all the unemployed in the various counties.

The method adopted by the Minister in order to egg them on to spend more money is to give certain grants on condition that the local bodies pay a certain percentage. In order to secure the grants, the county councils think it wise to expend money, although they know that the ratepayers are unable to meet the burden. The ratepayers in rural districts are principally farmers, and these rates are assessed in a most inequitable manner. It is not that taxation is collected on the basis of income, but these people are assessed without any regard to their means. For that reason, they should be considered, and the burden of rates should not be increased. The Minister should co-operate with those local bodies who are inclined to reduce rates in order to enable them to reduce the burden. We have in the country at present the Guild of Goodwill and Muintir na Tire, two bodies which are out to do something to relieve unemployment and to improve the position of the poor, and I think the very least that could be expected is that the Government should co-operate with them. Instead, the Government is throwing obstacles in the way of these bodies whose activities are bound to fail unless the inducements held out to the people to leave the land, to fly into the cities and to create an unemployment problem are withdrawn. Unless that is done, it is inevitable that the unemployment problem must increase, and, no matter what organisations, the Guild of Goodwill or others, you have, they will not be able to improve the position.

I move to report progress.

Progress reported.
Committee to sit again to-morrow.