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/-.