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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 30 Nov 1944

Vol. 95 No. 9

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

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim breise nach mó ná £11,700 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31ú Márta, 1945, chun Tuarastal agus Costas Oifig an Aire Rialtais Áitiúil agus Sláinte Poiblí, agus seirbhísí áirithe atá fé riaradh na hOifige sin, ar a n-áirítear Deontais agus Costais eile i dtaobh Tógáil Tithe, Deontais dUdaráis Áitiúla, Ildeon-tais Ilghnéitheacha agus Ildeontais-i-gCabhair agus muirir áirithe mar gheall ar Óspidéil.

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £11,700 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1945, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, and certain Services administered by that Office, including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, Grants to Local Authorities, sundry Miscellaneous Grants and Grants-in-Aid, and certain charges connected with Hospitals.

The purpose for which this vote is required is set out in detail in parts 2 and 3 of the Estimate. The first item is consequent upon the appointment, to which I referred in the debate on the main Estimate; it is to provide for the salary of the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Childers, who has been appointed to supervise on my behalf the administration of certain sections of the Department.

The second item for which money is required is to provide a gratuity for a gentleman who since 1932 was a member of the former National Housing Board, and who retired in consequence of the dissolution of the board. The member in question has rendered exceptional services to this State in many capacities, and not the least of his services were those which he rendered during his membership of the National Housing Board. We would have been very glad if we could have availed of his services in a more permanent and whole time capacity in the Department, but in view of his advanced years that was not possible under the existing law and regulations. Neither was it possible to award him a retiring allowance, and in the circumstances we have decided that it is only right and just that the modest sum which is asked for in this Estimate should be granted to him.

The third and most important item for which money is asked in the Supplementary Estimate is under sub-head J (7), for grants towards the supply of footwear for necessitous children. Under this proposal, as will be seen, we require the sum of £20,000 for grants to public authorities not exceeding 50 per cent. of their approved expenditure on the provision of footwear for certain children under the age of 16 years, whose parents or guardians are not in receipt of home assistance. In connection with this proposal I should explain that, so far back as Autumn, 1943, we were trying to evolve a scheme whereby the hardship which has been created for poor parents by reason of the rise in footwear prices could be alleviated. I had hoped to have prepared much earlier a scheme which would aim first of all at securing that a proportion of the available supplies of children's footwear would be reserved for families of low income, and that such footwear would be made available to them at a cost which would be within their means. The preparation of such a scheme has been by no means simple. As the House is aware, the total supply of children's footwear is limited, and strong durable boots such as would be most suitable for this purpose cannot be obtained by encroaching on luxury lines, say of ladies' footwear, which were until then in comparatively good supply. Neither, of course, could we encroach on the too low output of leather required for farmers' boots and for boots of the adult agricultural population.

The first difficulty we had to overcome, therefore, arose from the fact that supplies of footwear for this scheme would, of necessity, have to be drawn from the normal production of children's footwear and this fact will involve the utilisation for the beneficiaries under this scheme of half the total estimated output of children's footwear in the current half year. Officers of my Department who have been in consultation with representatives of the trade, however, have, I should like to emphasise, stressed the desirability of increasing the production of footwear for all classes of children and I am satisfied that anything which the Department of Supplies, in co-operation with the manufacturers, can do to this end will be done. But, as I have said, the fact that the footwear for this scheme has had to come from the current general quota has given rise to many complex questions which have had to be resolved in lengthy discussions with the representatives of the trade.

The negotiations, I should say, were carried on with the utmost goodwill on the part of the trade and, notwithstanding that they were of a complex nature and that it was, naturally, found difficult to attain unanimity and quick decision from some of the interests concerned, what I hope will prove to be a satisfactory scheme has been evolved. Again, I should like to emphasise that on the whole I have found all classes of the trade—manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers— very ready to make a special effort to resolve difficulties and to sink differences in the interests of securing a satisfactory and workable scheme.

As to the details of the scheme, of course, the first step will be that the public authorities will give notice of the scheme by public advertisement, and applications which will be received in response to those advertisements will be investigated by the public assistance officers. The local authorities will then determine those recipients who appear to be most in need, and will at the same time determine the respective contributions to be made by each recipient. In the case of families already in receipt of home assistance, no contribution need be sought by the authorities if the circumstances of the applicant are such as to warrant the supply of free footwear. In all other cases, however, the recipient's contribution will be determined according to his means. I should perhaps stress here that the footwear even when supplied at full fixed retail price, will be considerably cheaper than the ordinary market price, thanks to the special financial arrangements which it has been found possible to make with all the interests concerned—the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

When the need of an applicant has been determined, a voucher will be given to him. In order to secure a voucher, of course, the applicant must be either the parent or the guardian of the child who is to receive the footwear. The recipient of this voucher will present it to any retailer of footwear. The retailer will then order the appropriate footwear from his usual supplier and, if available, supply it to the recipient. The local authority will undertake to be responsible for the difference between the fixed retail price of the footwear supplied and the cash contribution towards its cost to be made by the recipient.

All manufacturers of children's footwear are being requested by the Department of Supplies to produce a proportion of the official footwear and the distribution, subject to quota limitations, will be on orders from the retailers based on vouchers received by them from recipients or, in the case of larger firms, on estimated requirements.

The financing of the scheme will be divided into two parts. In the case of existing recipients of home assistance, footwear provided for them is assistance in kind and the net cost will be chargeable to the ordinary funds provided for home assistance, but a proportion of the cost not exceeding 50 per cent., exclusive of administrative costs, may be charged to the local authority's share of the grant of £170,040 which has already been voted, as the House is aware, by the Dáil for the supply of assistance in kind to recipients of home assistance. In the case of applicants not at present in receipt of home assistance but who are considered by the local authority to be eligible for footwear of which only portion of the cost will be met by the local authority, 50 per cent. of the cost of the scheme, excluding administrative expenses, will be borne by the local authorities out of the ordinary funds provided for home assistance, and the State grant, estimated at £20,000, is required to meet the other 50 per cent. It is to provide for this balance that the sum of £20,000 is now asked for.

The fixed prices which make provision for the necessary retailers' and wholesalers' profits for the different sizes and age groups range from 10/6 to 16/-.

For children's boots?

Children's footwear. The fixed prices range from 10/6 to 16/- and the range of sizes is suitable for children between the ages of three and 16 years. The weighted average retail full price of all the footwear provided under the scheme will be 13/6, On the basis of the State contribution, the local authority's contribution and the amounts which particular recipients will be required to contribute according to their means, it is estimated that the amount of the Supplementary Estimate for £20,000, with a possible further charge of £10,000 on the Vote for assistance in kind should enable a distribution of up to 160,000 pairs of boots or shoes to be effected.

Will the Minister repeat that figure, please?

It will enable a distribution of 160,000 pairs of boots or shoes to be effected. I should mention, however, that, so far, we have no assurance that this target of production will be reached before the 31st March next.

With regard further to the administration of the scheme, the Parliamentary Secretary, Dr. Ward, under whose aegis the scheme will now be administered, is making regulations under the Public Assistance Act, 1939, to regulate the administration of the scheme in the various public assistance districts and an emergency powers Order to deal with possible abuses will be submitted in due course to the Government.

If the Dáil now authorises the Supplementary Estimate, I shall have the public assistance authorities advised to-morrow of the detailed arrangements proposed and I hope to have the scheme in full operation in all areas before Christmas.

I may say that I had hoped to be able to come to the Dáil long before this with a scheme of this sort but, as I have pointed out, the negotiations which had to be conducted have been of a complex kind; the arangements which have had to be made with the manufacturers, not merely in regard to the prices to be paid to them, but to enable the production of a standard article to be undertaken, have been difficult and intricate. I am glad that at last we have been able to ask the Dáil to make some provision to case the hardships, which undoubtedly have been suffered owing to the difficulty of procuring children's footwear, and the high cost of such footwear when it is available.

I must confess that it is rather difficult to follow the elaborate and intricate explanatory statement made by the Minister as to the manner in which it is proposed to administer the scheme for the distribution of footwear for children. This Supplementary Estimate embraces three items, the first one being £1,200 for the salary of an additional Parliamentary Secretary. One would imagine that the Minister in asking the Dáil to vote the £1,200 would at least explain why it is necessary to have two Parliamentary Secretaries in the Department of Local Government. It is the one Department of the Government in which we have two Parliamentary Secretaries. When we think of the Department of Finance, which appears to be a bigger Department, with one Parliamentary Secretary, and of other Departments with one Parliamentary Secretary, one naturally asks why it is that there must be a Minister and two Parliamentary Secretaries in charge of the Department of Local Government. Anybody who has experience in the country will say that the work of the Department of Local Government has not improved, nor has it become more popular in the eyes of the people, notwithstanding the fact that we have a Minister and two Parliamentary Secretaries.

That is a matter of opinion.

That is my opinion, and if the Deputy has any opinion to express, he can do so later. One would naturally expect that the Minister would have explained why it is necessary to have two Parliamentary Secretaries, and that he would also tell the Dáil how the work is divided in the Department; what section the Minister is responsible for, what section the first Parliamentary Secretary is responsible for, and what section the second Parliamentary Secretary is responsible for. I want it to be clearly understood that when I mention Parliamentary Secretaries I am leaving out entirely the personality, the individual. I have a very sincere respect and regard for the gentleman who was appointed to the position, but I certainly think it was the duty of the Minister, when asking the Dáil to vote a salary of £1,200 for an additional Parliamentary Secretary, to explain what the duties would be, and why or in what way the work of the Department had grown so much that it was necessary to have the help of a second Parliamentary Secretary.

The second item on the Estimate is for a sum of £500, gratuity to a former member of the National Housing Board. I have no doubt the gentleman to whom it is proposed to give this gratuity of £500 has deserved that sum, and that his services in the past may have earned that amount. The Minister might have told us how many years this gentleman was a member of the Housing Board and what his duties were.

I am afraid I must have been very indistinct. I did say that the gentleman in question was a member of the Housing Board since its inception in 1932.

It coincides with the advent of the Government Party.

With a housing policy.

I do not wish to say anything personally, except that I assume and sincerely hope that the gentleman earned the gratuity which it is proposed to give him. If he is the gentleman I have in mind, I am sure he earned it. Did I understand the Minister to say that the supply of leather for children's footwear in the factories will be supplemented?

No; but that half of the total estimated production will be for children's footwear during the current half-year.

I have no doubt that it may be necessary to segregate a certain amount of money to buy footwear for necessitous children. A sum of £20,000 seems negligible owing to the size of the areas taken into consideration, and the number of children in cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. When the necessitous children there are provided for I imagine that very little money will be left for children in rural areas. This proposal loses a great deal of its glamour when examined in the light of the answer given to-day by the Minister for Supplies when it was stated that there was practically no upper leather available for men's boots and no leather for children's boots. I do not know by what precise mesmerism the Minister is going to provide hides for the factories so that they may produce leather to implement this scheme. In any event, when the £20,000 is spread over the whole country there will be precious little left for the borough. This may turn out to be a gesture wasted, while possessing some value of political significance.

There is no doubt about the necessity for this sum to provide boots and shoes for children, because in my experience I have never seen so many of them without boots or shoes as during the past 12 months. Anybody who has occasion to go into rural areas especially, knows that it is difficult for many poor people, trying to exist on low rates of wages, on home assistance, on low scales of unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance, to pay the high prices demanded for children's footwear. In these rural areas one can see what I fear is a growing number of children who are compelled to go to school in bare feet, and badly clad. If one impression more than another is gained, it is that the standard of living, judging by the footwear which children are compelled to wear, or by the absence of footwear, has shown a noticeable deterioration in recent years. Anything that puts boots and shoes, on children who are without boots or shoes, or with bad boots or shoes, will be something that will be welcome to the children, whatever we may think of the philosophy of the State having to provide boots and shoes for children, instead of providing their fathers with decent employment and with decent rates of wages to enable them to buy boots and shoes. I am sure the children will not quarrel at seeing a pair of boots or shoes for the first time in a long period.

The Minister told us about negotiations with the manufacturers, and about the scale of prices arranged for footwear, varying form 10/6 to 16/- per pair, with a weighted average of 13/6 a pair. I should like to know whether it is intended that this footwear will be ordinary footwear such as might be purchased by any citizen with his own money in a shop, or that it will be footwear of a distinctive cut, or design, or leather, because it would be most regrettable if these boots and shoes were made in such a manner as would enable one child to shout after another: "You have a pair of free shoes or boots on you." It would be a most regrettable stigma to associate with them, and I hope that whoever is responsible for the technique of producing them will take all necessary steps to ensure that there is no distinctive cut about them and no distinctive quality of leather associated with them, so that children whose families are unfortunate enough to have to seek footwear under the scheme will at least be insured against the possibility of being taunted with the fact that their family's economic plight was such that they had to get their footwear from the State or the local authority. I hope the Minister will make sure that the footwear is ordinary footwear indistinguishable from the footwear purchasable by any other citizen and that the stigma of free boots will not be associated with them.

The Minister told us that the scheme would be financed to the extent of 50 per cent. by the State; in other words, the local authorities will be reimbursed 50 per cent. of their expenditure. I gather from what the Minister has said that it was also intended that applicants for these free boots and shoes would be required to make a contribution according to their economic circumstances, so that, of the cost of 10/6 of a pair of boots or shoes, the applicant will pay perhaps 2/- or 3/-, the local authority 3/- or 4/- and the State another 4/-. The Local Government Department is one of the Departments which takes a stand on the belief that local authorities can never do anything intelligently unless they are shown by the Department how to do it. We had an example recently when the Department told local authorities the way in which they were to administer the supplementary allowance of 2/6 to old age pensioners. They sent a circular letter to local authorities on the matter which started off with the intimation that the sum of 2/6 was available in special circumstances for old age pensioners and recipients of national health insurance. Every other paragraph was designed to tell the local authority where it could not give 2/6 and the scheme as administered, as those associated with local authorities know, has proved most unsatisfactory from the point of view of giving these people the supplementary allowance granted to them.

I should like to know whether local authorities will get any instructions about this scheme. Are they to be told the type of case to which they must not supply free boots or shoes, how much is to be expected from a person who is an applicant, whether there are to be any income gradings and generally whether local authorities will be permitted to exercise their own discretion based on their local knowledge and their sense of humanity in the application of the scheme. If it is desired that the scheme should operate smoothly, I suggest that the Local Government Department, beyond telling local authorities that they will back their expenditure to the extent of 50 per cent., should give the local authorities wide powers to make this footwear available to the children of parents in necessitous circumstances. Local authorities, generally speaking, will view the matter in a humane and understanding way. The main consideration, I take it, is to make sure that these boots and shoes are available to children for the coming winter, and a mass of red tape and instructions of a restrictive character ought not to be issued by the Department to frustrate the very desirable objective of making this footwear available to children during the coming winter.

I should further like to ask when these boots and shoes will be available. The Minister has told us that the scheme will involve a demand on those producing boots and shoes up to 50 per cent. of their production in a period of six months. It is very easy to approve of a scheme of this kind and to raise the hopes of people that they will see boots and shoes on their children during the winter, but if there is a lag between the announcement of the scheme and the time at which the footwear becomes available, considerable discontent will inevitably arise.

Could the Minister say now, with some degree of accuracy as to date, when the scheme is likely to be put into operation, when the vouchers to purchase this footwear will be available, and, not only that, but when the boots and shoes can be got by children in necessitous circumstances? Judging by the weather we have had recently, the necessity for urgency in the matter will be obvious to the Minister, and I hope he will be able to indicate that this scheme is not merely a scheme on paper but a scheme by which it will be possible to make boots and shoes available for these children with the utmost expedition. If the Minister could give any firm date, I feel sure that the scheme, which will on the whole, I think, be beneficial, having regard to the destitution problem with which we have to deal, will be still more welcome from the point of view of those who may benefit by the production of this footwear.

There is a statement in connection with the Estimate: Grants to public assistance authorities not exceeding 50 per cent. of their approved net expenditure on the provision of footwear for certain children under the age of 16 years whose parents or guardians are not in receipt of home assistance. Do I understand that children whose parents are in receipt of home assistance will receive free boots, the cost of which will be completely borne by the State and that the 50 per cent. is intended only to apply to categories other than these?

Yes, the £20,000 is only for those not already in receipt of home assistance. I will deal with the point when replying.

It is quite possible that, in the absence of a survey, the greater burden of the scheme might very well fall on the local authorities, as in the case of housing, for instance.

I want to make it clear that if this scheme is to operate as I think it will operate, in effect, the greater burden will be borne by the local authorities and not by the State. In view of the fact that a very large number of persons will be included in the low income category so far as Dublin is concerned, and that, in my opinion, the whole £20,000 would be needed to deal with the City of Dublin, when a survey is made and it is found that the money now being voted is not sufficient, will the Minister indicate that a further amount will be provided under this heading?

I should like to ask the Minister if he is aware that local authorities have probably already earmarked all of the amount allocated to them for assistance in kind and that none of that will be available within the rest of the financial year for this footwear scheme. A difficulty has already arisen in connection with one local authority that I know of who were allocated money on the basis of the Vote in the first of the financial year. They gave out too much to each person and, coming into the winter, they found that they had to cease giving it in a great number of cases. That local authority out of its own funds had to make good the amount in order to carry on the scheme of assistance on the basis on which it was allocated in the commencement of the year. All the money voted to local authorities in the early portion of the year has been allocated and no portion of that will be available to subsidise this footwear scheme for persons in receipt of home assistance. I want the Minister clearly to understand that none of that money which was made available by the Minister, under the Vote, to local authorities is available now to subsidise this footwear scheme for persons in receipt of home assistance. What Deputy O'Sullivan has said, therefore, is quite true. If the local authorities are to provide boots for those in receipt of home assistance they will have to provide the full cost to the end of the present financial year.

On the question of this 160,000 pairs of boots, it is a good thing that something is being done because people down the country have been wondering for the last three or four months why all the footwear had gone off the market. There was not a pair of children's or even adults strong footwear to be bought at any price. In view of this scheme, it is possible that the manufacturers have been holding up the boots for the last four or five months. I suppose that is what happened. It is to be hoped now that they will be released and that this 160,000 pairs will be made available in the next month or two. It has been quite a mystery why children's boots could not be bought for any money in many shops in rural Ireland in recent months. I hope all these boots have been made and are now in the hands of the manufacturers, and that they will be distributed at once.

I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government thinks it is fair to unload on the local authorities even half the cost of this scheme. There has been a tendency during the emergency to unload half the cost of every emergency scheme on the local authorities. We had the scheme in the early portion of this year for assistance in kind to old age pensioners and to other necessitous persons and half the cost was unloaded on the local authorities.

That is not so in the case of the old age pensioners. There was a State subvention of 76 per cent.

Twenty-five per cent. of it, or some portion of the cost at all events, was unloaded on the local authorities. Why should any portion of it be unloaded on the local authorities? Why should not the taxpayer who pays taxes into the Exchequer stand the whole cost? That is what we cannot understand. It is something that I think we should protest against. Local authorities do not object to raising money, but they should not be asked to bear any portion of any scheme arising out of the emergency. They have their own burdens and their own expenses arising out of the emergency to bear. Why should they be asked to bear a burden which should be placed on the Exchequer? I think it is only right that the full cost of subsidising this footwear scheme should be met by the central authority.

I suggest to the Minister that it would be a much better scheme if he had made an arrangement with the manufacturers to put subsidised boots of a durable kind on the market for certain types of people. It would be much simpler to administer if certain lines of boots were put on the market for people who would be certified by the local authority as eligible to get these boots. It would be a much better scheme than the present complicated scheme. Local authorities and assistance officers have been complaining for the last year or two that, with the additional work thrown on them by other schemes, they cannot possibly carry out their work effectively. There will be a similar complaint in connection with this scheme. The administration of this scheme will be found to be very complicated and difficult and you will have complaints from all over the country. A cheap line of subsidised durable boots put on the market for necessitous persons would be a far better scheme and much easier to administer than this scheme.

I agree absolutely with Deputy Allen on this matter. I think the House will agree that the cost of footwear and clothing is very high at present, and that a very severe burden is being put on the poorer sections of the people. It is necessary to provide a subsidy of some sort. As a matter of fact, we have advocated it from this side of the House on several occasions. Deputy McGilligan, in particular, has paid a great deal of attention to this aspect of our problem and has advocated the subsidising of different categories of food and clothing. I agree with Deputy Allen that it is most unfair to put the responsibility on the local authority for a very heavy part of the contribution that is to be made in respect of this scheme. Great Britain is paying a very heavy subsidy at present to keep down the cost of living. It is costing well over £200,000,000 per annum in Great Britain and that accounts for the fact that the cost of living there is lower than it is here.

What this really means, so far as the contribution of rural Ireland is concerned, is that you are really putting a tax on our primary industry, namely, agriculture. We talk about helping agriculture and helping to expand production. These burdens which are being put on it from time to time may appear to be very small, but in the aggregate they are substantial. I think that Deputy Allen's criticism of this scheme is very sound. You are throwing it back on a great many people who can ill afford to have their tax burden increased, while there are other sections of the community enjoying good salaries and living in houses with nominal valuation who make no contribution to a scheme of this sort. The fairest way to all sections of the community would be to give a subsidy from the Exchequer. As Deputy Allen suggested, if you had a cheap line of footwear subsidised and available to members of certain families who would get a voucher to purchase them from the local authority, it would be far simpler and far cheaper to administer and to control. While we believe that a scheme of this sort is very useful and will be very beneficial, the method of financing it is most unfair and unjust in the circumstances.

I should like to join with Deputy Roddy in saying that the Minister gave no information and made no attempt to justify the necessity for providing at this stage a second assistant for himself in the way of a Parliamentary Secretary. This is a very elaborate machine that this relatively poor country has to provide, and surely there is no justification whatever for providing a second Parliamentary Secretary in the circumstances. The Minister should have made some attempt to justify the necessity of providing a second Parliamentary Secretary. Judging by the services that are given to the country, and the feeling down the country generally so far as services of the Department of Local Government are concerned, I do not think that even the addition of a second Parliamentary Secretary has improved matters or has brought about any expedition of decisions from the Custom House. The Minister should give us a little more information on that point.

There are a few matters upon which I would like to dwell. One is in connection with the Government decision to take half-a-crown from the old age pensioners. At a meeting on Monday last in Cork I questioned the manager with regard to a large number of applicants—the poorest of our people. They had applied for the extra half-crown and they did not get it. Here is what I found. There was a Government decision, a necessary decision I would say, but since last June in Cork County no applicant for the extra half-crown could get it unless some other fellow died. That was the only way it could be given to him. That is the plain fact.

Will the Deputy show how it arises here?

Considering there are salaries amounting to £158,891——

Not on this Vote.

Is there not reference there to the salary of a Parliamentary Secretary, responsible for the administration?

There are three specific articles in this Supplementary Estimate—net total, £11,700.

It deals with salaries, wages and allowances and an additional sum required, but what the particular salary or allowance is meant for is not indicated.

May I take it that it means the salaries of all Local Government officials?

The Deputy will find particulars at A, at the foot of the Vote.

The salaries, wages and allowances are estimated at £158,891.

The net total is £11,700.

There is an additional sum of £1,700 required. It does not state what that is for.

Yes, it does at A, headed "Details of the foregoing", which gives specifically the purpose of this Vote.

Is Deputy Corry not in order in discussing the Parliamentary Secretary's salary?

There is an additional Parliamentary Secretary appointed and perhaps he might devote his attention to the particular thing that I have mentioned.

The Minister, not the Parliamentary Secretary, is answerable for the Department.

I am glad the Minister is getting the assistance to look up what I consider is a very necessarily evil. It is a most outrageous condition of affairs in any country that an old person must die——

The administration of that half-crown does not arise.

Why not?

Because there is no money for it in the Vote which covers three specific items—the salary of a Parliamentary Secretary, a gratuity to a member of the Housing Board, and the provision of footwear for necessitous children.

The Deputy who has just spoken, Deputy Hughes, said he could not find out what were the extra Parliamentary Secretary's duties— what he is required for. I am justifying his existence, or rather his appointment, by showing where, in the Department of Local Government, there is room——

You are giving him a special job.

Surely there is room, where a condition of affairs such as I have described exists, for an extra Parliamentary Secretary? A definite sum of £8,000 is laid down.

Not in this Estimate.

In the general Estimate.

Which is not before the Committee.

The Deputy understands, and is giving an indication why there should be an extra Parliamentary Secretary. Surely, if any Minister has a sense of responsibility as regards his duties, he would not allow this condition of affairs to exist in Cork County?

That condition of affairs is not relevant.

Can the Deputy not use the Supplementary Estimate to protest against this treatment?

No. On a Supplementary Estimate Deputies may discuss only what is actually in it. Deputy Norton is fully aware of that.

If the Ceann Comhairle insists on that, I must shut up. I can only, by means of Parliamentary Questions and Questions on the Adjournment, deal with this matter. I intend to do so, and we shall have a few nights to deal with it when we come back in January. Meanwhile, I shall have to tell the old people of Cork that they cannot get the half-crown until the middle of January.

Or until some other pensioner dies.

Yes—until some other pensioner dies. I think it is a matter of urgent public importance.

It is not in order, and I have so informed the Deputy.

Very well. I will talk about footwear so. With regard to footwear, whilst we are getting less money by way of subsidy, we have received notification that we will be expected, out of the smaller sums allowed, to provide footwear. The subsidy last year was not sufficient to meet what it was expected to meet. This year, out of the ratepayers' pockets again, we are expected to provide footwear. This policy of taking so much out of the ratepayers' pockets is not, to my mind, justifiable.

This thing of asking boards of assistance, out of smaller subsidies, to provide footwear, in addition to other things which they had not sufficient money to procure last year, is, to my mind, scandalous. On this question of footwear, the amount looked for is not half or quarter enough. The Government Department should meet this question of footwear in full, not in part. On the other point, about the Parliamentary Secretary, I would like to mention that last February a letter was sent to the Minister for Local Government in connection with the appointment of an architect for a Cork hospital.

That does not arise.

Surely, if we are being asked to vote money for an extra Parliamentary Secretary, the fact that the Minister was so overworked that he could not reply to five letters, sent one after the other from the Secretary of the Board of Assistance and the Manager of Cork County, is relevant.

The Deputy should realise that the Chair is the judge of relevancy and he may not now, on the plea of discussing the salary for a new Parliamentary Secretary, raise grievances, real or alleged, affecting County Cork.

I am not trying to do so. I am trying to discuss, in this Vote for the Parliamentary Secretary, the fact that the Minister apparently has not time under present conditions.

The Deputy is discussing the Minister's administration and alleged neglect.

The Deputy is discussing, under this, the fact that the Minister is so busy.

The Deputy may not discuss details of the administration of Local Government.

If the Deputy may not do so, he will leave the House.

That is regrettable, too.

I would like the Minister to give some information as to how many pairs of boots will be made available within the next three or six months. Both Deputy Martin O'Sullivan, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and the Leader of the Labour Party estimated that Dublin alone would require the full amount of the Estimate. I am anxious to know in what manner the amount will be allocated and when the allocation will take place. I feel that Cork City alone would require the full amount. The Minister must be aware that many public bodies—Cork Corporation included—will be striking their rates shortly and would like to know beforehand, even approximately, what amount the ratepayers will have to bear. It would not be fair to expect the Minister to give a clear-cut estimate just now, but he might give a rough idea as to the amount and when the allocation will be made.

I rise to welcome the introduction of this Vote for boots for the poor people and I am surprised to hear Deputies talking about what it will cost the ratepayers. This Vote should not be challenged, as it is a very welcome one to the poor people. There are subsidies for all other parties, including the farmers, and it is disgraceful that any member of the House should grumble about these few pounds now for the poor in the towns and cities. It will not mean a farthing or a halfpenny on the rates, yet Deputies are talking about the ratepayers, although they have refused to pay income-tax themselves and are paying nothing to the State. I welcome the introduction of this Vote, and I am sure the poor people will welcome it also, as they welcomed the children's allowances. It is a step in the right direction for a Fianna Fáil Minister on this occasion.

It is sad that there is the necessity to introduce this relief measure. It would be better if we could provide work for the fathers of these children, but if that cannot be done, there must be some help for the downtrodden people of the country. There should be no argument, objection or opposition in regard to this Vote, simply because the local authority will have to pay 50 per cent. of the cost. In Wexford, we are bringing in a motion in the county council to provide more money during the winter time for those who have been put off the home assistance. This Vote should be welcomed by all Parties and I am surprised to hear some of the Fianna Fáil Deputies objecting to it. It will be welcomed throughout the whole country by the poor people.

I wish to welcome the Vote the Minister has introduced for the provision of boots for children. It is something which is long overdue. It reminds me of a speech I heard from one of the Fianna Fáil candidates in my constituency during the election. He was so excited on the fair day that he said: "When we get back into power, Fianna Fáil is going to provide boots for all the footless children." It was very nearly being so, if the Minister had not introduced this long overdue Vote. I am glad to see that the necessary steps are being taken now to ensure that the children will be provided with boots.

We all know how regrettable it is that, in this House, we should be compelled to pass this Vote. It is a disgrace that the vast majority of our people should be compelled to stretch their hands out for these relief boots from the Local Government Department or the local authority. If the fathers of families were earning a decent living wage, they could have a proper standard of living, with food, clothing and shelter within the reach of every labouring man. Then the majority of the people would not be dependent on home assistance from public bodies and the St. Vincent de Paul Society in order to eke out a miserable existence. I welcome this Vote and say it is long overdue.

Regarding Deputy O'Leary's comment, I have been for the past hour and a half in the House and did not hear anybody grumble or protest. Everyone with common sense knows the Vote is very necessary. How many children will you see walking through the streets of Dublin, morning after morning, in cold, frosty weather, without boots? Then you hear the Minister for Local Government and Public Health making appeals for the co-operation of the general public in the campaign against tuberculosis. How can the children, or the vast majority of the people, be in any other condition, when they are half-fed, underclothed and without boots? It is about time the Government realised its responsibility and I am glad to see the responsible Minister here to-night introducing this long overdue Vote, which is well worth while.

Regarding the matter of the Parliamentary Secretary, I have been in touch with this particular Department since I left school, long before I became a member of this House, and got very little recognition there until I became a Deputy. Now, as a Deputy for the past two years, I cannot say that I have got much more satisfaction. There is a lack of attention in the Department. We have two Parliamentary Secretaries now, so I definitely hope there will be some improvement in regard to the sanctioning of various appointments, the question of old age pensioners' allowances, and so forth.

I am glad to see that the Minister is to receive help as far as the Parliamentary Secretary is concerned. I think that every guy in the Custom House looks upon himself as a Parliamentary Secretary. They all seem to be bosses down there. I do not begrudge the Parliamentary Secretary the salary which we are providing for him to-night. I wish him the best of good luck, and I hope he will prove himself worthy of it. We all must admit there is a grave responsibility on the Minister for Local Government in respect of several important matters which come under his jurisdiction. I think that if the appointment of the second Parliamentary Secretary is going to add to the efficiency of the Department, we should not grumble about it. I am glad to see that the Government have appointed the additional Parliamentary Secretary if, as I say, that is going to lead to the efficiency of the Department. In conclusion, I welcome very sincerely from my heart this legislation which, I think, is long overdue. It will be welcomed by the poor of Dublin City and by the poor throughout the country.

The Minister to conclude.

Deputy Roddy asked, in regard to the first item in the Supplementary Estimate, what section of the Department the Minister is responsible for, what section the first Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Dr. Ward, is responsible for, and what section my second Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Erskine Childers, is responsible for. Well, Sir, under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, I, as Minister, am responsible for the Department of Local Government and Public Health as a whole. Under the Delegation Order which was made by the Government at my request and laid before the House and, consequently, has the force of law, all my functions as Minister for Local Government and Public Health in regard to the public health section of the Department, and the ancillary services associated therewith have been delegated to the first Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Ward, and he, for all practical purposes, is the effective head of the public health section. So far as the second Parliamentary Secretary is concerned, he, in accordance with the provisions of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, acts as my immediate personal representative in regard to any particular question to which I assign him. By way of explanation, I would remind the House that I have already traversed all this ground in regard to the need of the Delegation Order and the appointment of the second Parliamentary Secretary in the debate on the main Estimate for my Department, and, therefore, I do not think it necessary to cover the ground again.

In regard to a number of the questions that have been raised here, I do not know whether it would be worth while prolonging the debate in order to give answers to them. The House must adjourn at 9 o'clock, but in case there should be some doubts I shall refer to some of the points briefly. I shall deal first of all with the point raised by Deputy Norton. In regard to that, I should say that the modest amount which we believe will meet our requirements for this scheme is entirely due to the careful forethought, planning and consideration which has been given to the working out of the scheme. If Deputies will bear in mind the prices which I detailed for these boots they will recollect that they range from, I think, 10/6 to 16/6. That is the full cost of the boot, covering producers', manufacturers', wholesalers' and retailers' profits. The weighted average price of the 160,000 pairs of boots which we hope to provide will be 13/6 per pair. That figure could not have been obtained except as a result, as I have said, of careful planning and foresight and a great deal of goodwill on the part of the manufacturing and commercial interests involved. I am satisfied that the amount which we are asking will meet our requirements so far as the 160,000 pairs of boots are concerned. Of course, should it fall short of our requirements and should more money become necessary we shall, if the sanction of the Minister for Finance is given, come to the House and ask it to make increased provision.

As to the type of boots, they will be of good, strong serviceable quality. They will not be of a uniform pattern. If we could have got a uniform pattern, I think their cost would be still less, but they will, as I say, be of a good, strong serviceable kind made by all those manufacturers who are equipped to produce boots of that nature, and will be made, of course, of the best materials available to us. They will not bear any mark except one. They will bear a mark under the narrow part of the sole, close to the heel, a mark which will distinguish them as boots supplied under the scheme. One of our difficulties and one of the things which we have to safeguard ourselves against is that the provisions of this scheme may be abused: the advantages and facilities which we are offering and which are intended for the poorest classes in our community, may be taken unjust advantage of, and the goods we are supplying under the scheme may be misused. Therefore, there must be some mark, but that mark will not be a conspicuous mark.

The next question asked was when do we hope to get this scheme into operation. If the Dáil passes this Estimate to-night, as I think it will, circulars will go out to the local authorities to-morrow giving them all the information necessary to enable them to get the vouchers printed and ready for distribution so that we are hoping to have the scheme in operation before Christmas.

Hear, hear.

Undoubtedly, we could not have launched a scheme of this sort without having made proper provision beforehand for the production of the type of boot which we required. These arrangements have been made and, in consequence of that, we are hoping that there will be 80,000 pairs of boots available before the 31st December. They may not all be in the hands of those who require them at that date, but at any rate production arrangements have been made with that end in view. We will also, I think, have the balance of the 80,000 pairs available before the 31st March next. I should say, of course, that these estimates and anticipations of mine are subject to all the exigencies and unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the course of manufacture and distribution.

It is now 9 o'clock, and if there is not going to be a division on this Estimate perhaps the House would give me a little extra time to conclude.

I take it that the House will give the Minister some extra time to conclude.


Some exception has been made to the financing of this scheme, and, in particular, exception has been made to the fact that we are asking the local authorities to bear a reasonable, a fair, proportion of the cost. Well, now, when I hear criticism of the scheme of that sort, when I see an attack made on that feature of the scheme, I know at once that the scheme is generally a good one, and that the object which most of the critics have in view—I do not say all of them—is to try to decry the scheme in some way so as to make it unpopular with some sections of the people. In this case, the sections of the people with whom they hope to make it unpopular are those ratepayers who will have to bear co-ordinately and concurrently with the taxpayers a fair share of the cost of the scheme. I am sure that nobody thinks for a moment that we could carry out a scheme of this sort without imposing a burden upon the community as a whole, so that the only point at issue, apparently, between myself and my critics on that aspect of the matter is as to how the cost is to be divided between the several interests involved.

In general, local authorities derive their revenue from the property-owners. The people who provide funds for the local authorities are the ratepayers, who are assessed upon the property they occupy or enjoy. I do not think that there is anything unjust or inequitable in asking the property-owners to contribute according to their valuations half the cost, when necessary, of a scheme of this sort. When I hear criticisms to the effect that it is unfair to ask local authorities to contribute to a scheme of this sort, I immediately ask myself: "What are local authorities for; for what purpose were they set up?" Their original purpose was to relieve destitution in their own immediate neighbourhood. That was their primary obligation and that primary obligation remains their Christian duty to-day. I see no reason whatever to apologise to any person for asking the local authorities to bear half the cost of boots to be provided for the children of the poorest of our people. I think that it is unworthy criticism of a scheme of this sort——

It came from your own benches; not from this side.

It came from both sides of the House, and I am equally emphatic in condemning it, no matter from what quarter it came. On every occasion on which we try to do something to relieve the hardships which this emergency has created, the issue is knit as between the people who have property, on the one hand, and the general body of taxpayers, on the other hand. I hope that this is the last we shall hear of that sort of criticism of schemes of this sort.

Not by any means. The Minister has the city outlook.

The Manufacturers, the wholesalers and the retailers all made some sacrifice to enable us to produce those shoes and to offer them to the poor at the price at which they will be offered. We should all be glad that we had the ready co-operation of the interests involved. When a scheme of this sort, representing the fruits of a great deal of consideration, comes before the House, it should be welcomed and not made the subject of carping criticism.

Deputy Anthony asked how the amount would be allocated. No difficulty arises in that connection because, as I have mentioned, so far as persons who are relieved by home assistance are concerned, 50 per cent. will come out of the £170,000 already voted, without distinction of any kind. A distinction should be made between that £170,000, already provided, and the £200,000 provided for supplements to old age pensions. I am aware that, in some counties, the proportion of the £170,000 allocated may have been already used up. On the other hand, I know that there are counties in which substantial balances are available. If, however, the money has already been spent on assistance in kind, those who have spent it in providing assistance in kind, will have, if they are to avail of this scheme, to reconsider the position as a whole and rebudget, if necessary. So far as people in receipt of low incomes are concerned, their case will be judged on its merits. They will be asked to make a contribution and we shall provide half the balance required to meet the difference between the cost of the boot and the price at which it is sold to the recipient of the cheap-boot voucher. The remaining 50 per cent. will, again, have to be provided by the local authority and, as I have said, so far as that is concerned, I have no apology to make. I think that that course is fully justified on every ground.

Vote agreed to and reported. Report agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Friday, December 1, 1944.