Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1947.—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The primary purpose of the Bill is to encourage and assist private building for the classes, other than those already catered for by the local authorities, who most require financial assistance to provide themselves with houses. It will also confer additional powers in respect of housing on the Minister and on the local authorities; and it will amend existing housing legislation in a way which experience has shown to be necessary for the purpose of conserving existing houses and expediting the promotion of new housing schemes.

The Bill has thus two broad aims: to encourage private enterprise to provide houses in relief of the acute housing scarcity and, to remove certain legal and other obstacles impeding local authorities' housing programmes. The housing drive inaugurated in 1932 proved eminently successful until the world-wide diversion of resources of money, manpower and materials from constructive activity during the war years slowed it down. We are resuming, as far as present conditions permit, the partially interrupted realisation of that policy. Our immediate efforts are directed to attain as speedily as possible pre-war production standards and from that to press on to the goal which this Government has always had in mind — the provision of an adequate minimum standard of housing accommodation throughout the country.

There are something over 600,000 habitable houses in the country. Of these, about 140,000 or more than onefifth of the whole have been built or reconstructed since 1932. Everybody appreciates that this was a notable achievement. It is in fact unique in the record of housing endeavour anywhere. A world tragedy, for which this Government cannot be held responsible —even by members of the Opposition— halted that constructive social progress over the period from 1939 to 1945. Each of those intervening years saw a new arrear added to those which had accumulated over the preceding generations. In each of them also not a few of our houses became uninhabitable through decay and obsolescence, against which in the existing world conditions we were powerless to provide. Other factors helped to swell the present demand, among them, and the most important the growth of new families. In the light of these factors we have revised the estimate of our total housing requirements, and we now fix the figure at about 100,000 dwellings. Of these probably about 60,000 are required to meet the needs of those urban and rural classes whose dwellings are normally provided by the local authorities, and the balance of about 40,000 for those of other classes.

To provide 100,000 dwellings at a speed which the acuteness of the housing scarcity demands would be a formidable, task even in normal times. But these are not normal times. The world disorganisation consequent upon years of destructive war manifests itself not only in global shortages of food, fuel, clothing and houses, but in monetary crises, in labour troubles and in losses in production. While we, in this country have been comparatively fortunate, we cannot but be affected in various degrees by economic stresses elsewhere. Not the least important effect is an inability to secure all the skilled labour and materials which our housing effort could absorb. The flow of materials is inadequate and uncertain; there is a continuing scarcity of timber; the fuel crisis of last spring led to a partial interruption of supplies of cement and steel; and rainwater goods and other equipment are difficult to obtain. Even if the building effort were not grievously impeded by these crippling shortages of material, it would be drastically restricted by the present insufficiency of skilled labour.

In Dublin City, for example, the contractors engaged on corporation housing schemes could employ considerably more than the present number of brick-layers, carpenters and plasterers, if such tradesmen were available. In the country areas the position is no better. Of 1,317 labourers' cottages advertised for tenders during the past 12 months or so satisfactory tenders were received for only 245. Because of shortages, work on only 140 of these had commenced by 30th September of this year.

These are the conditions against which we have been struggling and must struggle in getting the housing programme under way. It is evident that no amount of Government activity, or activity on the part of local authorities or private enterprise will enable the programme to be undertaken at the rate we would wish if adequate materials and labour are not available to get the houses built. The housing problem, let me emphasise, is no longer a financial one. Under this Government it never was a financial one. It is pre-eminently one of materials and skilled labour; and as these become available in increasing supply our housing programme will go forward with ever-accelerating speed, for our preparations are well in advance of the present capacity of the building industry to undertake the work.

With such materials and men as we have, however, we are making steady progress, thanks to the continuous urge on the local authorities which has emanated from my Department. The number of local authority houses in course of construction was 2,212 on 31st March of this year; at the end of August it was 2,433; at the end of September, 2,556. In the field of private enterprise the number of grant-aided houses being built on 31st March of this year was 1,394; but at the end of September the figures had increased to 2,041; the corresponding figures for houses in process of reconstruction were 1,932 and 2,019.

Concomitant with all this, every effort is being made to ensure that the local authorities' share of total building activity will match the predominant housing needs of workers both in town and country. For instance, we are investigating the possibilities of prefabrication as a means of by-passing labour shortages in the execution of housing schemes. Again, as a means of getting ahead with our programme, local authorities are being encouraged to carry out housing schemes by direct labour; and I have recently asked them to lay in stocks of timber for use in future schemes. Some of the larger authorities indeed have been asked to buy other materials and equipment, as well as timber.

I cannot on this Bill speak about the arrangements which will represent what I may describe as the "new norm" of local authorities' housing finance. There is not yet sufficient evidence of stability in prices or other factors which would enable the Government to make "normal" arrangements. But since May, 1946, we have established the Transition Development Fund, and the local authorities have been aware also of the Government's intention to reduce to 2½ per cent. the interest rate on issues from the Local Loans Fund, and to extend to 50 years the repayment period for such loans. In these several ways the local authorities were made aware at an early date that the Government were prepared to make their due contributions towards the added cost of their housing projects, and since then there has been, I am glad to say, a continuous acceleration in the progress of local authority schemes.

I have given this preliminary review of the general housing position in order to impress upon the House that, though the deficiency in accommodation is great and growing, the effort to reduce it is well under way and is gathering momentum. I should like to stress also that because of the shortages of materials and skilled labour to which I have referred, the costs of house building are extremely high, and that the Government is sensible of the fact that these now bear most heavily on the middle income classes, whose efforts to provide themselves with homes are at the moment unaided. And, finally, while the housing shortage affects every class of the community, it is recognised that it is most acutely felt by particular sections, such as newly-married couples. Some of the financial and other provisions of this Bill are designed to deal with these matters.

So far as the existing system of private building grants is concerned, it is admitted that it is quite inadequate to meet present-day needs, and the Government has decided that a new scheme of grant in aid of certain kinds of private building should be introduced to replace it. Heretofore grants to private persons ranged from £40 for reconstruction work to £70 for new buildings. These grants have been differentiated in amount on the basis of occupation; in rural areas up to £60 or £70 was paid for new houses for agricultural labourers and small farmers, while others might receive £45. Reconstruction grants were limited to agricultural labourers and small farmers. Grants of £70 to £80 could be made to public utility societies building houses for occupation by agricultural labourers and small farmers. In urban areas a public utility society building houses for letting to members of the working classes would qualify for a grant of £150 for each house, or two-ninths of the cost, whichever was less. Such grants were payable as to two-thirds by the State and one-third by the urban authority.

Finally, grants might be paid both by the State and the local authority to persons reconditioning houses in urban areas in pursuance of a repairs notice served on them by the urban authority, the grants being payable only in respect of houses suitable for occupation by members of the working classes, and being limited in amount to £40 or one-quarter the cost of the work, whichever is less, from either source.

The grants under the new scheme will be considerably larger than under the old, and they will be payable in respect of houses built in both urban and rural areas. But, perhaps, the first thing to be emphasised in regard to them is that no grants will be made to the purely speculative builder, i.e., the man who builds houses for sale to purely chance customers. To qualify for grants under the scheme, the houses must be built by a public utility society for its members for letting, or to the specific orders of individuals for their own occupation. With the present acute and widespread housing shortage the speculative builderper se requires no encouragement, for he is operating in a seller's market where he can very largely demand his own price.

For new building, the grants will range in amount from £125 for a three-roomed house erected by a private individual for his own occupation to £400, payable over a period of ten years, in respect of a five-roomed house built and let by a person or company. Within this range, grants of differing amounts may be made according as the house is being built by or on behalf of a private person for his own occupation, or by a public utility society for a member, or by a person for letting, and depending on the size of the house and the presence or absence of piped water and sewerage facilities. For details of the grants, I would refer Deputies to Part III of the Bill, and to the Second, Third and Fourth Schedules. It will be noted that the grants to persons building houses for letting are to be payable in instalments over a period of ten years.

The amounts payable in respect of houses built for owner-occupation will, as I have said, be differentiated on the basis of the availability of piped water supply and sewerage. The reason for the differential, which amounts to £50. is that houses incorporating plumbing and sanitary fittings, bathrooms, wash-hand basins and other amenities, customary in houses which can be connected with water supply and sewerage systems, are more costly than houses of the same size and type, built in districts not so serviced. The differentiation will also tend to rectify the effects of dissimilarities in building costs in urban and rural areas.

Certain important restrictions will govern the payment of the new grants. Let me emphasise again that they are limited to persons building for their own occupation, to public utility societies building for occupation by their members (which, in effect, is the same thing) and to persons or public utility societies building for letting. As I have already said, there is no provision in the schemes for grants to persons building houses for sale. Furthermore, the grants will be payable only in respect of houses containing at least three rooms, having between 500 and 1,250 square feet of floor area, and which are begun after the 1st November of this year and completed before the 1st April, 1950. There is, I might mention, one exception from the general application of the last condition: in the case of houses built by persons for letting, grant may be made in respect of houses begun after 1st November, 1945. The grants-in-aid of houses for letting will be made jointly by local authorities and the Minister. I thought it appropriate that local authorities should assist directly in the work which is so nearly related to their own housing activities. Private individuals, companies and public utility societies who erect houses for letting at moderate rents are, in effect, assuming part of the heavy burden which local housing authorities have to carry, at the moment, practically unaided.

Reconstruction and repair grants, whether for urban or rural houses, will be doubled in amount, and in the case of those payable to agricultural labourers and small farmers, the qualifying valuation limit is being raised from £25 to £35.

In accordance with existing practice with regard to rates remission on grantaided houses, houses in respect of which grants have been made by the Minister, but not by the local authority, will be assessed to rates at only one-third of their valuations for a period of seven years, and this will apply likewise to the valuations of reconstructed premises.

The Bill furthermore contains a provision, similar to that embodied in existing housing legislation, that no grant may be paid where it is shown that, in the erection of an otherwise eligible house, labour has been employed on terms less advantageous than recognised trade union standards for the district.

These proposals should go far to encourage and assist persons with moderate incomes, a class whose needs are not served by the direct housing activities of local authorities, to provide houses for themselves either individually or in combination with others as members of societies. The proposals should also encourage persons who may have the capital to provide houses for letting at reasonable rents, and thus co-operate to a greater extent in this very essential part of the housing programme. The province of the local authority in the sphere of housing, the vital function it must discharge, is the rehousing of the worker who is badly housed, the replacement of old unhealthy working-class dwellings with new houses, and, in a word, the establishment of a basic standard of adequacy in the housing accommodation of the economically weakest section of the community.

The private grants scheme formulated in this Bill is intended for the man who can and will pay a moderate rent for a house, but who cannot buy one; or, alternatively, who might be able to build or buy a reasonablypriced house, but not one at present-day prices. The class I have in mind includes the white-collar wage-earner, low-salaried employees and small middle-man and tradesman; but it also includes the better paid artisan, the small farmer, the comfortably-off rural worker and the middle income group generally.

Building is, of course, going ahead already to the limit of our resources in materials and manpower, but this new scheme of grants is intended to stimulate, within the limits set by the capacity of the building industry, the production of the smaller and cheaper type of house. Our aim is to divert, if we can, a large part of the present private house-building activity to the provision of homes of a size and price-range suited to the pockets of the intermediate class. For the person building a house for his own occupation, the grant will reduce the capital cost to an appreciable extent and help to bridge the gap between the cost of the house and the proportion of that cost which he may be able to borrow. The grants should also provide an incentive for persons and public utility societies to erect houses for letting at reasonable rents and thus to re-enter a field and share a responsibility which has been too long and to much too great an extent left to local authorities. I might add that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will give a high priority, in the issue of building licences, to houses for which grants will be payable.

In urban areas the proposed increase in the repairs grants payable to owners should aid in conserving existing dwellings suitable for workers, and in reducing correspondingly the overwhelming demand on local authority houses. In rural areas the proposed grants to small farmers and agricultural labourers should have a somewhat similar effect; a house properly reconstructed is given a new lease of life, so that to prolong its habitability in present circumstances is a practical alternative to the erection of a new house.

In pursuance of the general recognition that to-day speculative building is not in need of any adventitious aid, grants to persons building houses for sale to others will be discontinued as from 1st November, 1947. However, the old grant of £45 per house, which was limited to houses being built in rural areas, will be paid in respect of houses begun prior to the 1st November, 1947, and completed before 1st April, 1950. The Bill also provides for the discontinuance in the same way of other grants which are at present payable in respect of house building and reconstruction, with the same reservation in respect of work begun before the 1st November, 1947, and completed before the 1st April, 1950.

As the law stands, a grant, though promised to be paid in respect of a house begun in a rural area which later becomes included in an urban area through boundary extension, cannot be paid. This is a manifest hardship and the Bill contains provisions to remedy it.

While I am on the subject of private enterprise housing, I should perhaps mention certain amendments of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts which will be found in Part VI of the Bill.

The Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts at present authorise local authorities to advance money to persons intending to build or buy houses, for their own occupation, the market value of which does not exceed £1,000. This limiting value has hitherto been set by statute and was fixed at its present level by the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931. The original Act, passed in 1899, fixed it at £400 (four hundred pounds). Section 56 of the Bill incorporates a new procedure for determining the maximum market value for houses coming within the scope of the Acts. Under this procedure the figure will be fixed in future by Order of the Minister for Local Government, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. This method will enable the market value limit to be more rapidly adjusted in accordance with a rise or fall in building costs, house prices, and other factors. I may say in this connection that it is my intention, as soon as the Bill becomes law, to raise the maximum limit from its present level to £1,750, and I have the assurance of the Minister for Finance that he is prepared to concur in such an Order.

The interest rate for the purposes of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts is fixed for each local authority by Order of the Minister for Local Government, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. The rate is almost invariably fixed at ½ per cent. over that at which the local authority has borrowed for the purposes of the Acts. New Orders must be made with every fluctuation in the latter rate. It is proposed in the Bill that the lending rate should vary automatically with the borrowing rate, with a constant margin of ½ per cent. between, which should cover the normal running expenses of the local authority under the Acts.

Section 9 of the Small Dwellings Act, 1899, provides that where in any local area the excess of annual expenditure over income under the Acts involves a charge on the rates greater than ld. in the £ in an urban area or county borough, or ½d. in a county, the operation of the Acts shall be suspended for at least five years. In certain areas the local authorities have had to suspend the operation of the Acts because of the fact that, while the Acts allow advances to private persons to be repaid before the agreed time, local authorities themselves cannot as a rule make excess repayment of principal without premium or fine. During and after the war many house-purchasers found themselves in a position to repay outstanding loans under the Acts, and a number of local authorities accumulated capital repayments which were used in effecting a corresponding reduction in their own indebtedness. The fines exacted by lenders, however, increased the local authorities expenses under the Acts with a result that in particular years the statutory limit was exceeded. It is proposed that in future these fines should not be counted as expenses, so that existing suspensions will be abolished and the Acts again become operative.

The Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts have been, especially from 1932 onwards, a material factor in the solution of the housing problem. They provide a means whereby credit-worthy borrowers of limited means can obtain capital advances on reasonable terms for the purchase or erection of the smaller type of house. They have particularly benefited that class of the community which, while ineligible for local authority houses, finds that house provision through the commercial lending agencies is beyond its resources. The usefulness of the Acquisition Acts should be considerably enhanced by the new power to adapt the scope of the Acts to the requirements of the market situation and by the reduced rate of interest; so that persons wishing to become owner-occupiers should find in the Acts, as now amended, a very considerable measure of help.

I turn now to the general housing programme of local authorities. Both the Government and the local bodies themselves are alive to the importance of the part those bodies have to play in the solution of our housing difficulties. As early as 1943, all local authorities were asked (a) to survey the extent of the housing deficiency in their areas; (b) to proceed with the acquisition of suitable and sufficient sites for the coming housing drive; and (c) to push ahead with the preparation of contract documents for post-war schemes. They were asked also to consider getting development works under way in good time. As a result of this appeal for the exercise of foresight, approved sites have been acquired for 17,339 dwellings; roads, water and sewerage services are available on many of those sites. Plans have been approved and are ready for contract for 5,673 dwellings; and plans are well advanced for 1,480 dwellings. In short, preparations have been made for as many dwellings as could be commenced with reasonable prospects of completion in the next two or three years.

I may now deal with those parts of the present Bill which affect the powers, duties and responsibilities of local authorities as providers of working-class houses. I would first refer to an important new power sought in Section 26 of the Bill which will enable specified local authorities to be required to provide houses to be reserved for a particular class. What I have in mind is the erection of houses specially for newly-married couples.

The problem of providing housing accommodation for this class has assumed serious dimensions in recent years. The marriage rate took an upward trend during the war years and continues at a relatively high level; the amount of new accommodation becoming available has, on the other hand, declined sharply. While the scarcity of suitable houses and flats affects all classes it is most keenly felt by workers beginning married life who have no homes of their own; these cannot readily look to private enterprise to furnish them with the moderately priced accommodation they want, nor, under the law as it stands, to the local authorities who are catering mainly for larger families living in overcrowded or unhealthy conditions.

It will not, I think, be contested that some part of the resources of local authorities might with great advantage be devoted to the housing needs of newly-weds. It is desirable that as many as possible of these young couples should begin married life in proper surroundings; a good house, a house in which the young couple can take a certain pride, would be a potent factor in the eradication or prevention of that slum mentality which bad housing conditions so easily engender.

Since needs are greatest in the cities, it is proposed, as a beginning, to require only the local authorities in the Cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford and the Borough of Dun Laoighaire to provide the special houses. Two types of house are envisaged: Class A for tradesmen and workers generally who are in a position to pay an inclusive and economic rent of about £1 10s. 0d. weekly; and Class B for less well paid workers. The rent in the latter case would be about £1 per week. The proportion of Class A and Class B houses would be determined by the number of applications received for each class. The houses would contain two bedrooms and have the most up-to-date equipment.

No subsidy either from the State or the rates will be given in the case of the class A house. For class B houses it is proposed to meet the deficiency between the capital cost of the house and the capitalised value of the net rent by lump sum grants from State funds up to a maximum grant of £250 per house.

In order to prevent overcrowding of these special houses (which, as I have said, will have two bedrooms) it is proposed that a certain number of ordinary local authority houses would be made available to which the tenants would be transferred after a specified period (say, five years) subject to their having given satisfaction as tenants of the special houses. These ordinary houses would be eligible for State subsidy up to 33? per cent. of loan charges on £450 in the county boroughs and the borough of Dún Laoghaire.

The number of special houses built in any year must be limited by reason of the urgent need to re-house families living in unfit dwellings and it is accordingly intended that special houses should, for the present, let me emphasise that—for the present, be restricted to about 15 per cent of the local authority's annual output. As the capacity of the industry grows the proportion of reserved houses may be increased, provided the experiment has justified itself. In the case of Dublin the number on this basis of reserved houses should be roughly 150 in the coming 12 months. I contemplate that the scheme would operate for a period of five years in the first instance.

Assuming that the Dublin Corporation built an average of 2,000 houses a year over the next five years, the total number of special houses available would amount to 1,500 at the end of that period, and may be more, and will, I hope, continue to increase as time goes on, until want of a house is no longer an impediment to an early and provident marriage. During the subsequent year—during the sixth year after the initiation of the scheme — an average of about 20 per cent. of the special houses would, we estimate, become vacant for further newly-weds. Allowing for deaths, unsatisfactory tenancies, etc., the number of ordinary corporation houses required to rehouse the persons to be transferred after a five-year tenancy from the special houses would amount to from 15 to 20 per cent. per annum. But naturally the whole question of reserving ordinary houses will be reviewed from time to time in the light of the experience gained in the operation of the experimental scheme.

Part II of the Bill contains a number of provisions which will enlarge the powers of local authorities in relation to the preservation of dwelling accommodation in their areas, and in relation to the tenants or prospective tenants of houses provided by the local authorities.

A certain wastage of dwelling accommodation takes place through the demolition of habitable houses to make way for other structures, or through the conversion of houses into offices or factories. It is desirable, therefore, in present circumstances, to give local authorities, who are responsible for housing accommodation in their areas, power to check this process. It is, therefore, proposed in Sections 7 to 9 of the Bill to prohibit, under penalty, the demolition, or use otherwise than as dwellings, or habitable houses, unless the written permission of the local authority has been obtained. Provision is made for appeal to the Minister in the event of refusal, and for excluding from the scope of the sections houses whose demolition or conversion is required by statute or for a statutory purpose. In 1919, when the housing situation was broadly similar to what it is now, similar powers were vested temporarily in local authorities by Section 6 of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act of that year.

Sections 10 to 13 implement a recommendation of the Dublin Housing Inquiry Committee, 1939-1943, regarding the licensing of houses let or to be let for occupation by more than one family. It is proposed that the section giving effect to these recommendations should apply not only to Dublin but to the County Boroughs of Cork, Limerick and Waterford, and to the Borough of Dún Laoghaire as well, and that its provisions may be applied to any other area by order of the Minister for Local Government.

In connection with the new provisions I might mention that the Dublin Corporation's by-laws do impose a duty, under penalty, of fine, on the owner of a house to notify the corporation that he has let a house to more than one family; upon which the corporation can specify their requirements as regards repairs, sanitation, etc., in connection with the building and dwelling, as registered. But apart from the fact that many owners fail to register, the system is not effective in improving tenement conditions inasmuch as the corporation's powers can be exercised only where the house has already become a tenement.

It is intended that the new provisions should apply to all unfurnished lettings, irrespective of rents, and to furnished lettings where the inclusive rent does not exceed what a person of the working classes might be likely to pay, as determined from time to time by the local authority. The local authority would be empowered to attach conditions regarding prior repairs, etc., to the issue of a licence. Licences would come up for revision annually.

Section 14 proposes to empower local authorities to secure information from tenants or intending tenants of their houses. The type of information envisaged is that which would be required in connection with the introduction or operation of differential renting system. It will enable local authorities to judge economic circumstances of tenants and their families.

Systems of differential renting whereby the rents of houses are adjusted to the means of the tenants are in operation in a large proportion of corporation houses in Cork County Borough and to a limited extent in a few other areas. The Committee of Inquiry into the Housing of the Working Classes of the City of Dublin, 1939-1943, recommended the introduction of a differential renting system or, more accurately, a system of differential rent rebates, in Dublin County Borough.

There are many difficulties attending differential renting and the question of introducing such a system in Dublin would be decided only after full examination of its probable effects on existing and future tenants, on the financing of housing schemes, and on the corporation's housing programme as a whole. It is essential for the purpose of this examination that an accurate picture should be obtained of the rent-paying capacity of the present occupants of corporation houses, and this is the object of the present proposal.

Sections 25 and 31 propose to give comprehensive powers to the Minister for Local Government to make regulations to secure the proper letting and good management of local authority houses. Existing powers relate mainly to houses provided after 1932. It is desirable that local housing estates should be treated as units and that a single code should be framed applying uniformly to all the houses provided by a local authority.

It is also intended that in the letting of houses due regard shall be had to the character and industry of applicants, as well as to their occupations, family circumstance and housing conditions. The regulations would also enable local authorities to revise, in the case of re-lettings, rents fixed under old regulations; and to reserve a certain proportion of their houses for a particular class, such as newly-married couples, and for tenants called upon to vacate their reserved houses.

The priority for single-room families laid down in the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932, has been preserved, so far as is compatible with the new proposals contained in the Bill. This priority will be found in sub-section (5) of Section 6 of that Act, which requires a preference to be given wherever practicable, to families in single-rooms where a member of the family is suffering from tuberculosis or one or more of the children are over 16 years or where the dwelling has been condemned as unfit.

It is proposed that the regulations made in respect of cottages provided under the Labourers Acts should ensure that farm workers will have first preference in the allocation of tenancies. This provision has become necessary as a result of the gradual widening of the legal meaning of the expression "agricultural labourer" to cover practically every type of worker living outside a town. As a consequence the greater number of claims to cottages are put forward by persons who, though technically within the meaning of the term "agricultural labourers" do not do agricultural work; and where as hitherto the urgency of the claim is determined almost entirely by the housing conditions under which the applicant lives, it may and does occur that the genuine agricultural worker is passed over in favour of some claimant doing less essential work or no work at all. The importance of agricultural production to our national economy justifies insistence on the priority for agricultural labourers which it was the intention of the original Labourers Acts code to accord.

The expression "agricultural labourer" though extremely wide in its application has not included hitherto farm workers who work otherwise than for hire on the family holding, and a considerable class of agricultural labourers is, therefore, cut off from the benefits of the Labourers Acts.

It is proposed to rectify this anomaly by extending the definition of "agricultural labourer" for the purpose of the Acts to include male persons who habitually work on the family holding. Whenever the farmer leaves the family dwelling to his son he can then be appointed tenant of a labourer's cottage under the scheme. It is hoped that this provision may thereby contribute towards the removal of what is recognised to be one of the major obstacles in the way of early marriages in rural areas.

Workers on the family holding are not, I should however emphasise, to be regarded as "agricultural labourers" for the purposes of a purchase scheme under the Labourers Act, 1936. The cottage built under the section in the present Act should be available for an ordinary agricultural labourer in the event of neither the farmer nor the farmer's son continuing the tenancy.

Certain sections of this measure which will be found in Part III of the Bill have a bearing on the important question of local housing finance. As Deputies may be aware, housing subsidy is paid by the State to local authorities in the form of a percentage of charges incurred by them in repayment of loans raised for housing urban and rural workers. Under Section 6 of the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932, the subsidy can be so paid for a period of not more than 35 years. As announced some time ago by the Minister for Finance, it is intended that housing loans issued from the Local Loans Fund should in future be repayable over a period of 50 years. It becomes necessary, therefore, to extend the subsidy period to bring it into line with the new loan repayment period. A proposal to this effect is contained in Section 19 of the Bill. That section also provides for certain adjustments in relation to the payment of subsidy on some old housing loans.

Up to the year 1935 many loans obtained from the Local Loans Fund by urban authorities were repayable over a period of 37 years, during the first two of which interest only was paid. Subsidy, however, was paid in respect of this two-year period in accordance with determinations made by the Minister under Article 7 of the Housing (Loan Charges Contributions) Regulations, 1932. As the total subsidy period was limited by law to 35 years, these local authorities would have to bear unaided the loan charges in respect of the last two years of the 37-year repayment period. It is proposed in this Bill to make the extension of the subsidy period retrospective so as to enable subsidy to be paid for the full repayment period of 37 years in these cases. Urban authorities borrowing from the Local Loans Fund under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts pay interest charges only on advances during a "waiting period" of two years immediately following the date of the mortgage deed, by virtue of Section 1 (2) of the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Act, 1908. This concession is not available in connection with loans obtained otherwise than from the Local Loans Fund. Now that the rate of interest payable in respect of loans issued from the Local Loans Fund has been reduced to 2½ per cent. and an extension of the repayment period is proposed, the "waiting period" can be discontinued. Section 1 (2) of the 1908 Act to which I have referred has accordingly been included in the list of repeals in the First Schedule to the Bill.

Section 19 also makes some amendment in the conditions attaching to housing subsidy, in order to provide that the assistance payable in respect of houses erected for persons displaced by demolition orders and other operations of the local authority under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts will also be payable in respect of the re-housing of persons displaced from houses condemned under certain enactments dealing with dangerous buildings, or which have collapsed or otherwise become suddenly unfit.

Section 37 contains a proposal for the exemption of local authorities from the requirements of Section 201 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, for certain purposes connected with housing. That section laid down a number of rules to be observed by sanitary authorities in the making of contracts. Those rules govern contracts entered into for housing, including the purchase of materials. The form of contract is outlined, and requirements as to advertisements and so on are laid down. These requirements are wise and useful in the case of ordinary contracting, but they unnecessarily hamper a local authority in the execution of urgent work in present circumstances. In the carrying out of a housing scheme by means of direct labour, quick decision and action are necessary on the part of the local authority in connection with the purchase of large quantities of materials. The question of having a certain proportion of housing schemes carried out by direct labour has been given a good deal of consideration.

The Dublin Housing Inquiry Committee recommended that the Corporation should establish an organisation for the erection of houses by this method. I am satisfied that in Dublin and other local areas direct labour would at present provide a valuable alternative to the usual contract method for erecting houses for the working classes. In a number of districts contractors are very slow to tender for this class of work. Accordingly an expansion in direct-labour building schemes has become imperative if the execution of our housing programme is not to continue to be impeded by the present inability of private enterprise to meet the demands upon it.

Interest at 5 per cent. is payable on the compensation money where, in the case of lands compulsorily acquired for housing purposes, the local authority enters on the lands before the compensation has actually been paid. It is proposed under Section 27 of the measure to reduce this rate to 3 per cent. as being more in keeping with the present-day trend in interest rates. I should mention that 3 per cent. is the rate specified in recent statutes such as the Tuberculosis (Establishment of Sanatoria) Act, 1945.

The existing provision for the remuneration of solicitors for work done under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts is contained in Section 48 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931. It has been found to work out somewhat expensively in the case of registered land. And Section 28 of this Bill will replace Section 48 of the 1931 Act, and will rectify that position. Local authorities have powers of entry on lands which are in process of compulsory acquisition. The powers of rural authorities, vested in them by Section 4 of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1896, are less effective, however, than those of urban authorities and it is proposed in Section 32 of this Bill to assimilate rural to urban powers in this regard.

Certain doubts have arisen about the validity of county council's borrowing powers under the Labourers Acts for certain purposes connected with those Acts. It is proposed in effect under Section 33 to re-enact the old borrowing provisions, but to define them more comprehensively.

I should like to draw attention to the fact that the repeal of the old provisions, Section 17 of the Labourers Act, 1883, carries with it the removal of the old limits on the poundage in the rate which might be levied for rural housing purposes. Rating limits of this kind have practically all disappeared. The latest to go was the limitation on the libraries rate, which was removed by the Local Government Act, 1946. I might mention, in order to remove any misunderstanding, that there is no statutory limit on the rate which may be levied for urban housing.

Section 38 and 39 contain a very important proposal to enable the Minister to divide compulsory purchase Orders under the Labourers Acts into opposed and unopposed parts with a view to having the unopposed part of an Order proceeded with at once. Compulsory purchase Orders under these Acts commonly cover a large number of sites, and, heretofore, where an objection has been lodged to one or more of these sites and pursued in my Department or in the courts, the whole Order has been held up while the necessity for, or validity of, the Order as it affects those sites is investigated and decided. Protracted delay has occurred and, if left undealt with, might continue to occur on this account, and I propose to bring in this procedure in the interests of speed. A similar provision was embodied in the old compulsory acquisition procedure under the Labourers Acts, which was replaced by a new system in 1932.

I have outlined the main features of the Bill, and summarised the reasons which lie behind its most important proposals. I would ask the House to give the Bill speedy consideration, so that there may be as little delay as possible in utilising its provisions and in effecting its enactment. I should have wished that time would have permitted of a thorough overhaul of the present mass of housing legislation, and the preparation of a codifying measure em bodying what is worth preserving of the multitude of provisions which has accumulated over the past half-century or more, together with such new provisions as might commend themselves in the light of our experience, but I am sure the House will agree that it is more advisable that an interim measure like the present Bill should be introduced now when aid is most sorely needed, than that we should wait for the preparation and enactment of a more comprehensive measure. Consolidation, moreover, should aim at some degree of permanence, and that is a quality which the uncertainty of the present situation with regard to housing costs and house building capacity renders it exceedingly difficult to capture. A transition period like the present demands transitional methods, a more flexible attitude to housing problems, and a rapid adjustment of means and methods to the exigencies of a developing and evolving situation. The time must come, however, sooner or later, when the housing code must be re-fashioned, unified and modernised to suit what will emerge as the normal conditions of the future.

By way of forecast, it is my intention to publish at an early date a White Paper, in which the whole position regarding housing and the various parts of the programme now projected for the provision of new houses, will be reviewed in detail. It will include a convenient summary of all the facilities available for local authorities and others erecting houses, including the new scheme of grants provided for in this Bill.

The country does not want either White Papers on housing or codification; it wants housing. We have been asking for the last two or three years for some indication on the part of the Government of what their approach was towards the housing problem. More than 12 months ago, with Deputy Costello, I tabled a motion asking that a joint committee of the Dáil and Seanad should be forthwith appointed for the purpose of reporting on the matter. Originally I think we asked to have a report made by 1st February last for the information of the Oireachtas and the building industry generally giving a general outline of the housing problem existing in cities and urban areas particularly, and the service required immediately from the building industry to solve the problem. That motion was put on the Order Paper more than 12 months ago and no attempt of any kind was made to facilitate the House by setting up a joint committee to put a picture of the housing problem before the Oireachtas and the building industry. The Minister now comes forward with certain financial proposals. On 4th July last, the Dáil was asked for permission to have the measure printed and circulated. It was not until some time well on in November and after the Taoiseach had announced that the Dáil would be dissolved at the earliest possible date that we got this measure.

Does the Deputy propose to oppose it on that ground?

I propose to tell the Minister to take it with its 41 sections and its 4 Schedules and by the time he has built 45 houses under it there will be a Parliament here which will be able to review the worth of the measure in the light of the actual work done under it. The Minister surely does not expect that the House will discuss these details now. He surely cannot expect from anybody in this House anything but a gesture telling him to take this measure. We shall have an opportunity of discussing it and reviewing the situation in very different circumstances.

Is the Deputy certain that he will?

I am certain that the Minister will not, but I do not want to go into that. We have a housing problem which the Minister has not made any attempt to delineate. That problem must be dealt with by the building industry. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has had from seven to ten different committees working for the last two years dealing with various branches of the work that requires to be done by the building industry in order that houses may be built. They have not shed a single ray of light on any aspect of the problem. That may not be their fault; it may be the fault of the Government. At any rate, the building industry has a main function in the matter. The Minister is offering them what they have been looking for for some time past. He is offering them the present Government's mind on what financial facilities should be made available for them.

All I wish to do is to tell him to take his Bill and to look at what is happening. At present materials urgently required for housing are being used for all kinds of buildings other than housing, and men urgently required for housing are engaged on all kinds of buildings other than housing. One of the first things the Minister ought to do when he gets this measure is to see that they are diverted from some of the unnecessary and luxury building which is going on at present to providing houses for the working classes and the middle classes. The Bill before us is one that can be judged only when we see what happens under it. The Government have decided that they require the dissolution of this Dáil and a new Parliament will have an opportunity of reviewing this matter and of reviewing the work done under it.

It is a pity that the Minister did not take the opportunity of introducing this Bill much sooner. We then would have perhaps more adequate opportunities of discussing its various clauses. As far as we are concerned, we shall give the Bill to the Minister as speedily as possible consistent with that review of its various sections which is necessary. About six months ago the Minister announced— I think it was announced in the Budget statement—that the requirements of this country in the matter of housing were 61,000 houses. I mentioned at the time that I considered that an underestimate and that I thought we required in all probability, double that number. The Taoiseach interrupted me in the course of my remarks and asked me how did I come to the conclusion that we required a larger number than the estimate given. I replied that it was because there were so many farmers and farmers' sons throughout the country in need of housing accommodation who were not included in that number of 61,000. Now the whole estimate has been revised and the number has been raised to 100,000. I doubt very much if that either is an accurate estimate.

It is unfortunate that the Minister did not wake up sooner and introduce this Bill. The shadow of a general election, I suppose, has roused his conscience, made him more active and more solicitous in dealing with urgent national problems. More than six months ago our Party put down a motion stating:

"That, in order to promote the erection and reconstruction of farmhouses, Dáil Éireann is of opinion that legislation should be introduced increasing by 100 per cent. the grants payable to farmers for the erection of new dwelling houses and the reconstruction of existing dwellings; that the Dáil is further of opinion that the maximum grants for new houses and the grants for reconstruction should be payable to all farmers whose poor law valuation does not exceed £50."

After having in various debates during the last three or four years voiced these demands, we put down that motion six months ago with a view to having the matter discussed and decided by Dáil Éireann. Evidently the Minister is anxious to get this Bill passed before that motion comes up for consideration and certainly before the Dáil is dissolved. He is not prepared to face the people, leaving the position in regard to these grants as it is at present, because it is manifestly unjust to provide such inadequate grants as have been provided for rural housing.

Even if we take as a basis of consideration, a comparison with the grants which are made on houses built by the local authorities, the houses built by local authorities in many cases are intended for persons with as high or sometimes with a higher standard of income than the small holders in rural areas. Yet the grant for houses built by local authorities is at least twothirds of the cost. That would mean £400 or £500 in the case of ordinary houses even in rural areas at present. Compare that with the miserable grant of £60 provided for the small farmer who wanted to build a new house. It is obvious that the £60 would not pay for the carting of the material to build the house. However, the proposals contained in our motion have been implemented to a certain extent.

The grants have been doubled in most cases and in addition the valuation limit has been raised to a certain extent, though not to the extent we demanded. Our demand was that the valuation limit should be raised to £50. I think everyone who has any knowledge of rural Ireland will realise that there is a vast number of houses on holdings under £50 that are unfit for human habitation and require renovation. The average man who knows rural conditions will acknowledge that the person with a valuation under £50 in rural areas is not in a financial position to raise the money necessary to build a house out of his own resources. Therefore the farmer with a valuation up to £50 is entitled to a substantial grant to assist in the reconstruction of his house. However, it is well that the Minister has moved in the right direction. If the Minister remains in power after the election and there are frequent elections afterwards, I suppose it will be possible to move him still further.

As Deputy Mulcahy has pointed out, we want to get houses built and one very important matter is to ensure that building materials are directed towards the type of houses which are urgently needed and not towards the erection of luxury hotels and buildings of that kind.

Major de Valera

Where have building materials which are suitable for use in the erection of ordinary houses been diverted towards the erection of luxury buildings?

We can judge from what we see around us. We see luxury buildings, palatial buildings in many cases being erected, whereas county councils who are seeking to erect, by direct labour, houses for workers and other classes cannot get the essential materials at any price. It is essential, when the whole community is crying out for housing, and when we are legislating to provide housing, that the basking sharks, the profiteers, the racketeers, are not allowed to corner supplies or by combination, to keep up the cost of building and to prevent building at a reasonable price. There is no doubt whatever that contractors can combine in that way. That is a thing that must be faced and fought. There must be no profiteering, no racketeering in the provision of decent housing for the ordinary people of this country.

I notice that the Minister for Local Government appears at last to have been converted to the Taoiseach's idea of a second house on the farmer's holding, or a dower house. The Taoiseach has been pleading for that for a long time. He told us here in this House that he could not get anybody to agree with him in regard to that suggestion. He has, however, succeeded, evidently under the shadow of the election, in at last converting the Minister for Local Government.

I think the idea of bringing the farmer's son, working on his farm, within the scope of the provisions relating to agricultural worker's houses, is a sound one and it will have beneficial results, though not on the magnificent, far-reaching scale that the Taoiseach seemed to imagine. I am glad there is also a provision in this section which will prevent those houses from being bought out and detached from the original holder. That is also reasonably sound.

There will be many defects, even when this Bill becomes law, in our housing laws. For example, there is a disparity in the rate of interest which the Agricultural Credit Corporation charge when they give a loan to a farmer to build a house, and the rate of interest provided under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. Why have we all those different bodies concerned in the financing of houses? Why is there not some definitely guaranteed scheme by which anyone who wants to build a house for himself or a member of his family can borrow at the lowest rate of interest? Take, for example, a farmer who wants to build a decent house which does not come within the scope of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. He has to go to a bank or to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for a loan and he pays a very high rate of interest.

There is another matter which, I think, calls for slight amendment. It is in connection with the date upon which this Bill will take effect. The grants are provided in respect of houses commenced after 1st November of this year. Since the Bill is retrospective to the extent of some weeks or, by the time it is enacted, possibly to the extent of a month, it could be made retrospective to the extent of at least six months. A sound case could be made for that. If a man commenced building six months ago he did so faced with all the difficulties that confront a man who is commencing to build just now and, since the work is not complete and he has not yet received his grant, he should be entitled to whatever benefit he may derive under the provisions of this Bill.

Any man who has been paid off could not, of course, have his case reopened or his grant increased, but, in the case of any small holder whose house is in course of construction, he should be entitled to benefit under the grants proposed here. He has not yet received any money and I think it would be unfair if he were to get the lesser amount provided under earlier Acts.

The scale of grants for new houses is graded according to whether the houses are linked up with a water supply or not. In the first place, for a three-roomed house built by a person for his own occuption, he receives a grant of £125; for a four-roomed house, £175, and for a five-roomed house, £225. Where water mains are available the grant for a three-roomed house is £175; for a four-roomed house, £225, and for a house of five rooms and over, £275. That would be approximately £50 higher in the case of a house linked up with the water supply. Why should there be so much? Surely the man who is building a house in an area not linked up with a water supply is more entitled to the maximum grant than a man who has a water supply?

A man in an urban area, if he wants to install a water supply and have sewerage amenities, has to provide them entirely at his own expense and it is much more expensive to have these things in an area not linked up with an urban area. We ought to wipe out the smaller grants and give grants in all cases on the basis that the houses are linked up with sewers and a water supply. The present proposals are absurd and, even through the time is limited and the general election is approaching, I think the Minister should see about getting that particular section amended.

There is a very useful provision for newly married couples. I have on frequent occasions here pleaded for the old people and I suggest that some provision should also be made for them. They would appear to be the outcasts of society and, if there is not already some provision for them in the Bill, I strongly urge that some effort should be made to come to their assistance in the way of providing a very small house for a single old person or even a married old person.

Major de Valera

This Bill, perhaps of all the Bills that have come before the House since we assembled after the recent summer recess, is one of the most important and requires very detailed consideration. I am absolutely amazed and astonished to hear the Leader of the principal Opposition Party approach a Bill of this nature with "I will leave it there". He did not address himself to one single item in this Bill, which is, perhaps, one of the most important Bills introduced. He and his Party are much too busy playing politics to get to the bottom of a Bill which deals with the organisation of one of our most essential social services and which, even on a cursory examination, presents so many problems that we could fruitfully discuss them for more time than is available on the Second Reading and Committee. I will admit that this is a Bill of the kind sometimes called a Committee Bill, but one would have expected at least some constructive approach and criticism—because every measure is open to criticism — from the principal Opposition Party. I think that is an appalling state of affairs and a bad recommendation for our Parliamentary system. I will try to supply some of the deficiency by trying to look into the substance of the Bill.

I said that it was one of the most important Bills introduced, and so it is, for two reasons. Firstly, because at the present moment we are faced with a serious social problem in the housing question. Secondly, it is a question of the revision of the whole housing code, as the Minister mentioned. Omitting for the moment to go into points which can well be left for the Committee Stage, there are two broad questions to be considered. Firstly, how far this Bill goes to meet the present housing problem—and that involves an examination of the nature of that problem, and secondly, how far a Bill of this nature can be used to simplify the already unwieldy mass of housing legislation that is in force. The first problem is historically as follows: during the first few years after the foundation of the State, a certain amount of housing construction was carried out but nothing at all sufficient to meet the growing demands of the community for houses. According to the figures available, between 1922 and 1932 approximately 25,000 houses were erected. That would be the total number of houses built and reconstructed by local authorities or private enterprise aided by grants. Between 1932 and 1947, 120,000 were erected. That was something to meet the growing needs of the community, but notwithstanding that development of houses over these years, the problem was becoming more acute in certain areas such as Dublin City. It was growing more acute in Dublin, as we were faced on the one hand with the growing population of the city or in certain areas of the city, and faced on the other hand with the deterioration of existing accommodation, particularly in slum areas. Before the war a substantial attack had been made on that situation. The figures generally reflect the figures which I gave at first and, to avoid repeating them they can be found in Appendix III of the Report of the Dublin Housing Inquiry and also in Appendix VI.

It is obvious that the methods put into force since 1932 for dealing with the housing problem in Dublin were effective, in that they gave an increased number of houses, but when war broke out the shortage of materials and other complications of supply and labour resulted in construction being temporarily suspended or slowed down. That is the general picture with which we are confronted. In other words, it would seem from these figures that the method of attacking the problem adopted before the war was, generally speaking, satisfactory.

At the present moment we are confronted more particularly with the problem of shortage of supplies and labour. What does such a situation suggest in the line of legislation? Surely it suggests nothing more than a continuation on the lines which had already been adopted in regard to machinery. Of course, then there is the administrative problem of getting over the supply situation but that is not really a subject which is easily dealt with by legislation.

The next question is, does this Bill face up to these requirements? In my opinion it does. In the first place, in providing for grants—that is financial encouragement for building—it is giving ordinary incentive to prospective builders and to prospective private builders who are building for their own purposes, that is, for contractors and for those people who are building houses for themselves to live in. Experience proved that this method is effective and commonsense dictates it. Make building attractive in the business sense and people will build. The principle contained in Part III of this Bill is just designed to do that, and that I take to be the kernel of the Bill —further and better encouragement superimposed on the old provisions for encouraging the building of houses.

The details of the section involved can be dealt with in the Committee Stage. There is no doubt that the provisions here first of all encourage societies and contractors to build houses for renting, and encourage particularly people who might wish to have houses built to occupy themselves. It is above all an encouragement, and an enabling Bill, to stimulate local authorities and public and semi-public bodies to build houses for the community and particularly for those classes of the community which are most in need. On that basis none of us can object to the Bill. It is timely and it is desirable. There is a definite question to consider whether its method is proper. In my opinion it is.

Coming to the question of what the delay has been of getting housing under way again since the war, the answer is a physical one. It is simply that the building materials which were required in certain quantities for particular jobs were in short supply. Large girders required for building very big factory premises are not the same thing as the small doors, parts, and similar fittings required for building houses such as are in question here. It was materials for doors, small parts, and fittings of that nature which were in short supply because they could not be made in this country in sufficient number.

Major de Valera

The shortage from which we suffered was one over which we in this country had no immediate control or could not remedy by one wave of the hand. It is quite legitimate to say that a Minister or a Government has been slow to get over such a difficulty but I would expect the people who make that criticism to show us how they could have done better and how, more quickly, the necessary building material could have been provided. A Building Research Organisation was set up just to get over these difficulties. Every effort was made to import the necessary materials, to collect them and to get building under way. Even in advance of this Bill, certain encouragement was given to contractors and to people who were under way with work in order to get as much work done as could possibly be done in anticipation of the materials necessary for the erection of the actual houses, as the Minister himself mentioned in the course of his opening statement. We must, therefore, not confuse these two things—the delay which is due to physical circumstances, and the timing of the arrival of this measure before the House. So much for the general principle of the Bill. The control of premises and other provisions in it are largely for Committee Stage.

I will pass to the second point which could have been considered by the Leader of the Opposition if he were minded to get down to work on this Bill. It is the question of the Housing Acts. Anybody who takes up an Index of Statutes will feel that over a period of years, going well back into the last century, Acts have been passed, one after the other to deal with the provision of houses and that initially some of these schemes were not co-ordinated. Taking up Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy's excellent Calendar of Statutes passed by this Oireachtas we find when we open "Housing" that the first note is:

"See also Local Government, Public Health, Rates, Town and Regional Planning, and Gaeltacht."

This is a note before one gets to housing at all. Then we have "Housing for the Working Classes Acts, 1890 to 1931", and it notes one Act under that heading as being an Act since 1922. The next set are "Housing Acts, 1924 to 1925 and 1925 to 1931." There you have the Housing (Building Facilities) Acts, 1924; the Housing Act of 1925; the Housing Act of 1928; the Housing Act of 1929; the Housing Act of 1930; Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931. Under the heading "Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts, 1932 to 1942, you have further Acts. Grouped under the heading "Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous) Provisions Act of 1932" you have the "Housing and Labourers Act of 1937". Then one has to turn further to meet a whole group of Acts known as "The Labourers Acts, 1883 to 1941". That mass of legislation is, in my humble opinion, rapidly getting out of hand.

The next question which might be considered is whether the Minister should not have at this stage attempted a unified code. The Department has ample experience now to know what is necessary and whether a unified code such as the Public Health Act should not have been attempted straightaway instead of bringing in what is, in effect, merely another Act in a very complex and lengthy series. The list I have read out is a sufficient answer to that again, in my opinion. I cannot see the Minister with all the resources of his Department attempting to codify the existing legislation within any reasonable time. In a sense I am amazed that an amending Act to such a complex code can be produced in a relatively short time. We all admit this housing problem is urgent. The Minister himself said he thought it was expedient to bring in the Act in this form to get the work done. I, for one, thoroughly agree with him and any thinking Deputy will do the same.

It would have been wrong at this stage to wait to do the necessary consolidation and codification and so hold up the work till that was done. On that second general point then, I think the Minister was also right in the procedure he adopted, but I think that the sooner he puts in train the machinery for—I shall not say codify—producing a unified and simple housing scheme applicable to all types of dwellings that can replace this extraordinary mass of legislation the simpler it will be for all people who have to deal with this legislation whether in an administrative or in a judicial capacity. I would go further. I would suggest to the Minister that with the knowledge and the experience available in his Department now it would probably be better at this stage to take a bold line and to produce a simple and as far as possible a unified housing scheme applicable both to rural and to urban areas. That can be done with the necessary qualifications to suit both areas and without undue reference back to what has already been done. The fact that you have had a complex legal situation does not mean that it must be continued. I would suggest to the Minister that he and his Department should take courage in their hands and produce the scheme that is thought to be the best to fit the actual facts and forget the various legal anomalies and complexities that have inevitably developed under the old system. In other words, I would suggest to the Minister not to concern himself so much with codifying existing legislation as was done to a large extent with the Rent Restriction Act but rather to produce a consolidated measure that will deal with the situation as it existed in the way in which it could be dealt with from a practical point of view.

There should be no difficulty in operating a scheme of that nature. It may give some people, with set ideas in regard to the powers and provisions in the old Acts, a shock. What about it if it does? The main thing is to have houses built and to have them built in a reasonable and consistent manner and under a reasonable and suitable scheme. The legal machinery for the carrying out of the work does not matter very much. The provisions which have been in force for so long have no sacrosanct merits which would constrain us to keep them for eternity.

I agree with the Minister that this Bill could have been done in no other way having regard to the mass of legislation already in existence. The Minister could do nothing more than introduce an amending Act carrying with it the provisions which he requires to encourage housing construction and reconstruction. Consolidation must be left for a later date. While agreeing with him that consolidation is not possible at the moment I would ask him to hurry forward such consolidation in order to remove from our statute books the mass of unwieldly legislation that is there. In admitting that the Minister has done the right thing I am afraid I shall have to forego a point which I would like to have pressed— that is, the question of legislation by reference. I admit that my case is not as strong on this Bill as it has been on other Bills where the ominous marginal note appears. You find it in Section 27: "Amendment of Article 24 of the Second Schedule to the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890." That is the type of legislation to which I refer and to which I take serious exception. Such legislation is pernicious. It means that the ordinary layman can never hope to understand the code. Years of study are involved and even trained lawyers who have specialised in this particular branch of the law find themselves at a disadvantage and are uncertain as to what the true legal position is. That situation is bound to arise when you legislate by way of amendment and by reference. But I have no case for attacking the Minister on this Bill. The damage has already been done long before he took office. Departments should endeavour to get away from this legislation by reference and by amendment. Instead of amending Acts or section of Acts why not re-enact the whole Act as amended? It would cause very little trouble to do that. It would take a little more paper. It would mean a little more copying. But we would all know what the law really is.

Mr. Corish

You would know where to look for it anyhow.

Major de Valera

I agree. It is extremely difficult for the ordinary individual to understand such legislation. In order to digest the contents of this Bill one has to pull down several volumes of statutes. One has only to look at Section 2 to see the number of statutes dealt with there. The labour involved is too much for any ordinary person. That excuse, however, cannot apply in the case of the Leader of the Opposition who, in his time was Minister for Local Government. I will be interested to know if my remarks now will provoke a little more interest in the Bill. It is of a very important nature and yet one seems to feel a certain lack of interest in it.

On the general principles I think the Minister is on sound lines, but I want to make now a few points which might be more appropriate on the Committee Stage. I wish to make them now in order to give the Minister an opportunity of considering them before the Committee Stage. To some extent I may be usurping the functions of the Leader of the Opposition but, perhaps, I may be excused for doing that in the present circumstances. Under Part I the only question which arises is on Section 6. I would like to point out to the Minister that in Section 6 by the introduction of the word "neglect" an automatic offence seems to be involved on the part of directors or managers. That may not be intended but the Minister might consider whether the section is not a little too sweeping in its present content.

Coming then to Part II, this Act reflects once more a tendency which has gradually been creeping into our legislation; that is, a tendency to mix up what should be judicial with administrative functions. If that tendency goes too far the Minister may find himself in the position of having his Bill deemed unconstitutional in some particular respect. Quite apart from that it is undesirable to have an executive authority exercising judicial functions. If you take the definition in Section 2 of a habitable house it means not only a dwelling-house or building but a house "which, in the opinion of such authority, is reasonably fit for habitation or is reasonably capable of being rendered so fit." That is the first point—"in the opinion of such authority". Is the Minister satisfied that a decision of this nature should be left to a local authority? If there is a conflict between a local authority and a private individual, or even the Minister, would it not be better to have that determined by a competent tribunal such as the Circuit Court? A similar situation arises under Section 7, where in sub-section (2) power of appeal is given to the Minister. That admittedly is a departure.

Under Section 27 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931, a power of appeal is provided to the Circuit Court. In the long run I think it would be wiser to leave such decisions to a proper tribunal rather than permit them to lie in the Minister's own office. Even though there may be some slight delay involved in appealing to a tribunal it is better to have such independent power of decision. This matter has arisen before. Akin to that is the power the Minister takes to make regulations. For instance, in sub-section (6) of Section 16 it says "the Minister may make regulations for the purposes of this section". There are practically unlimited powers of making regulations under this Bill. Is it desirable that the Executive should take such wide powers? If it is, why do it in this complex way? Why not put in a simple omnibus section to deal with it? It will at least make it easier for construction. This Bill is being discussed on Second Reading and it is open for further consideration. Frequently Ministers themselves have amendments to make to Bills. I bring these two points to the Minister's attention and perhaps he might consider them.

The prohibition on the demolition of habitable houses is reasonable; there is nothing in that. But the prohibition as to the use of premises is to my mind very questionable. For instance, in Section 11 you have a rather startling provision in sub-section (1):

"After the coming into operation of this sub-section, the owner of premises shall not permit the premises to be used as a tenement house (whether or not the premises are so used at such commencement or were previously so used) without the permission, in writing, of the housing authority in whose functional area the premises are situate."

I wonder has the Minister considered the difficulty that arises there. Quite apart from whether it is desirable to limit the use by persons of their own property to that extent, supposing the housing authority withholds its permission in writing for a tenement house to be let which has been let previous to the commencement of the Act, what is the position of the owner? He is not supposed to have the premises let in tenements. On the other hand, his tenants are protected by the Rent Restrictions Act of 1946. That may need some clarification in Committee and I just mention it in passing. Most of the points which arise on this Bill are Committee points.

In Part IV of the Act, under Section 25, "the Minister may make regulations for the purpose of securing the proper and efficient management of houses provided under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, providing for all or any of the following matters." Then a list of matters is given. Paragraph (d) reads:

"The terms and conditions to be included in any agreement under which any person is permitted to occupy or use such house;"

Paragraph (e) reads:

"Such other matters as the Minister may consider necessary or expedient."

Here you have it again: "such other matters as the Minister may consider necessary or expedient". How far does the Minister intend to push his powers of control under this Bill and, particularly, is that section designed to deal with the decision in the case of Boland against the Dublin Corporation which is reported in the 1946 Irish Reports, page 88? The importance of that decision was that it dealt with a right of ownership. Is the purpose of this section to get over that decision, and is it desirable that that decision should be reversed?

Again, there is a point in Section 28 which it might not be any harm to mention now. As regards the remuneration of solicitors for business arising under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, that section is not quite up to date. These are merely small points. There are obviously a number of points under this Bill which can be carefully studied. It would be profitable to the community if they were carefully studied and it would help considerably in the solution of the housing problem if they were studied. In that way Deputies could help to solve that problem by an intelligent discussion and also help the Minister. Instead of that, the Bill has not even been dealt with by the Leader of the principal Opposition Party, a gentleman who was a Minister for Local Government and who talked about the deficiency of the Fianna Fáil Administration in building houses, although, when he was Minister for Local Government, there were only 25,000 houses built as compared with 120,000 houses built under the present Administration. There is obviously need for a constructive Opposition in this House.

In so far as this Bill responds to repeated requests to remove certain defects which were standing in the way of housing progress, I should say it will be welcomed. So far as I can see, it does not presume to provide a solution of the building situation so far as it is reflected in the shortage of houses. What it does, in effect, is to include within the ambit of housing facilities certain categories that up to now were excluded and, to increase certain grants which are made. As I see it, it does not deal with the immediate solution of the housing problem and people need not expect houses over-night or within the next month or two. In so far as it purposes to remove vexatious restrictions on housing, it is welcomed.

We have, for instance, been speaking in this House and outside for a number of years of the absence of any provision for newly-weds or people about to get married. The Bill makes provision, to a certain extent, for that type of person, but not sufficient provision in my opinion, because the amount which it is proposed to allocate under this Bill does not cover more than 1,100 houses and is intended to provide for the five county boroughs. Therefore, the amount that Dublin would get would not be very material. I am not sure if I gathered correctly from the Minister that the intention was that houses of that character would eventually expand to 50 per cent. of the annual output. If that were so, of course it would be an entirely satisfactory position. I do not think that the amount granted to a local authority under that provision is sufficient. In view of the amount, the number of houses will be restricted. I suggest to the Minister that, while the proposal to make provision for that type of person is a very good one, nevertheless the manner in which it is proposed to be effected is socially unsound, so far as my judgment goes, in any case.

The Bill makes provision for putting newly-weds into a form of compound for a period, taking them out of their houses and transferring them over to local authorities presumably, when the family circumstances warrant such a step. Might I put it to the Minister that newly-married couples who go into these houses and rear a family in them will naturally have their roots in their local areas? They will be rearing their children and sending them to school in that particular locality. They will have made their friends and the woman of the house will be doing her shopping in that particular area and to attempt to uproot them almost arbitrarily at a certain stage is in my opinion not good social policy. I would commend the Minister to examine that particular section just one stage further.

As to the grant of £175, I do not think that is a sufficient contribution for the local authority. I think it should be more. Bearing on this whole question of housing, I must confess to some surprise and so does the local authority to which I belong, that opportunity has not been taken here to remove at least one disability which has been handicapping local authorities particularly during the last five or six years. The Minister is aware that under the 1931-32 Acts a ceiling was fixed, so far as subsidies were concerned. That was a ceiling of £450 in the case of houses and £500 in the case of flats. Everyone knows how building costs have advanced in recent years and the fact that these ceilings have been fixed means that a very heavy burden has been cast on local authorities during the last six or seven years. The Minister will claim, and justifiably I may say, that that burden has been eased since last year by means of the Transition Development Fund. That is true. One wonders, however, if that is going to be of a permanent character or to what extent it may be continued.

I think some indication might have been given here to local authorities as to the form of change which I thought was envisaged for some time past—that is, by removing these arbitrary and out-of-date ceiling figures to which I referred. It would be an encouraging gesture to our local authorities who are engaged in a herculean task, particularly the Dublin Corporation, against very heavy odds. I may say that I am particularly pleased, as one who has taken some interest in the section to which the Minister refers, that some facilities are again being provided for what he termed the "white collar" classes or the middle classes. They have been suffering under a very serious disadvantage in so far as housing is concerned for a considerable time as a result of what might be described as the lapse of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. Under that Act, the ceiling figure for advances was £1,000. Admittedly the house which could be purchased for £1,000 nowadays bears no relation to the type of house that could be bought at that figure some years ago. I did gather from the Minister that his intention under this section is to suggest to the Minister for Finance a ceiling figure of £1,750. Might I put it to him, as he is interested just as I and other members of the House are interested in that class, that houses of the type they wish to acquire would now cost round about £2,000 or £2,500? I think anybody associated with the building trade at the moment will agree that the type of people who were using the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act some years ago would now have to go to figures I have mentioned to acquire a comparable house. It may be that you will rule out a number of these people if you limit the ceiling to £1,750. I would urge on the Minister to look into that matter and to raise the ceiling to £2,000.

On the question of grants for private persons, this Bill deals with the provision of grants for persons who build houses for personal occupation. I think it is rather a neat point to define exactly that type of person. Is it usual to find an individual of that type who will have the experience and the technical skill, even to undertake the supervision of the erection of a house, no matter how small? How will you define a person who builds his own house? The Bill largely concentrates upon public utility societies as being the media. I am not quite sure what the record of public utility societies in the country as a whole is. I know some of them have done very good work but I think there would be general agreement that the number of houses for which they have been responsible over a given period is not altogether outstanding. It may be that the machinery is not flexible enough or attractive enough to induce a number of individuals to get together to form a building society. There will be, particularly in the City of Dublin, a number of people who do not understand the public utility society machinery and who may still want to buy houses or to get houses built for them by a private builder. The Minister is anxious to ensure that the grants will go to the individual who is going to live in the house. I put it to the Minister, would it be possible to find a solution particularly in the case of Dublin, where there are so many private builders, whereby it would be possible for an individual to buy a house built by a private builder on the understanding that he would still get this grant as distinct from the individual who built the house himself or who goes to a public utility society? Frankly I am afraid that the appeal of the public utility society will not be so great as the Bill might suggest or warrant. I am anxious that the type of person to whom the Minister has referred should not now, after having waited so long, be restricted in any form.

The Bill has been under discussion with the Dublin Corporation, the Minister will be interested to know, and possibly an amendment or two will be put down on the Committee Stage. I should like to refer to one point, as a matter of general policy. If there is one problem more than another that confronts the Dublin Corporation and which has confronted them for a number of years, it is the extraordinary situation which arises from the inability of the corporation to house certain families, no matter how overcrowded they may be in a single-room dwelling or a two-roomed dwelling. There are large numbers of one- and two-room dwellings in the City of Dublin, as distinct from apartments in a tenement. Under the regulations, if the Corporation house those families they will not be entitled to a major subsidy.

I think that is something that needs to be altered. It very often happens that you have a family more overcrowded in that one or two-roomed dwelling than you would in an apartment, no matter how large, in an ordinary tenement. The Corporation are anxious to get that restriction removed.

I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to introduce a regulation regarding direct labour. It was quite proper to do so, because here again local authorities will, perhaps, be encouraged when times become a little more normal to engage in work of that type. The Dublin Corporation some time ago passed a resolution deciding they would do so, but their operations were restricted because of certain statutory regulations that had to be adhered to in connection with advertisements for contracts for particular items over a certain figure. In so far as these restrictions will be removed, I think the advocates of direct labour on local authorities will be greatly encouraged.

I did mention the disability from which local authorities suffer in relation to subsidies. It is only right to record that relief is being provided for them under this Bill, in so far as loan charges are concerned, by an extension from 35 to 50 years. That is a step in the right direction. As distinct from the major question of the housing shortage, we say that this Bill contains good and useful provisions and members on this side of the House are prepared to support it.

So far as this measure goes towards meeting the housing problem, it is welcomed here, but it does not go anything like the distance that Deputy de Valera tried to suggest. He criticised the Leader of the Opposition for not studying the measure. The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition was: "Get on with the job; the houses are urgently required; take your measure and we will see how it operates."

Deputy de Valera advised the House to study the Bill carefully. He stressed its importance and suggested that it covered in a comprehensive way our housing requirements. I do not think the Deputy studied the measure at all. He said it enables and encourages local authorities to build all the houses that are required. It does not. It removes some difficulties and anomalies, and it removes certain things that impeded the construction of houses. But it does not deal with the all-important factor, the financing of house building by local authorities. It helps the individual to construct his own house and provides increased grants for public utility societies in order to encourage the construction of houses. It also encourages the speculative builder. That is the extent of the financial provisions.

The House fully realises that the main work, so far as housing the working classes is concerned, falls on the shoulders of the local authorities—it is their responsibility. The position at the present time is that a local authority has no clear understanding of what the financial provisions are so as to enable it to proceed with house building. As regards the materials required, there is much more of it available than Deputy de Valera mentioned. It is not want of material that is giving us such a very low output in housing; it is the unsatisfactory attitude of the Minister's Department in relation to the financing of local authorities. We all know that the old rate of subsidy is still in operation and the Minister has power, with the approval of the Minister for Finance, to make certain increased provisions out of the Transition Development Fund. Even the regulations governing the amounts that are to be provided in that way are highly unsatisfactory.

I am aware of a local authority that accepted a tender for the construction of houses. Their decision was submitted to the Department for approval, but the tender was turned down and the local authority was advised to readvertise. They readvertised and further tenders were received, and the lowest tender in response to the second advertisement was more than 50 per cent. over the tender accepted in the first instance and turned down by the Minister's Department.

There is nothing definite as to what the subsidy is and as to what amount will be provided out of the Transition Development Fund. The county manager has to invite tenders, set out what the rent will be and give other information, and it is only when that information is submitted to the Custom House that the local authority gets the particulars that are essential if they are to make a clear and simple proposal with regard to housing in their area. Until there is some improvement of that state of affairs, housing construction by local authorities will be extremely slow. The vast majority of our people have to depend on an intensive drive by local authorities.

Deputy de Valera missed completely what is absent from the Bill. The Bill provides financial assistance for individuals or public utility societies so as to enable them to construct houses for individuals. Mind you with the lack of construction of houses during the emergency there is a tremendous amount of leeway to be made up with a tremendous increase in the cost of production. While at first sight the grants provided may appear adequate, when you take the value of the pound into consideration they are very little more than those provided before the war. It does come to the assistance of that most neglected class, the small farmer with a big family, living very often in a house unfit for human habitation who was a very good fellow to rear his family and make ends meet. While he was anxious to have his family better housed, he was unable to face the financial situation and knew that it would be inadvisable to attempt to face it because he would sink himself under a heavy burden that he would never be able to clear and have a worry for his lifetime. While I do not want to belittle the financial provisions here, when we consider the emigration of population from rural Ireland, the appalling situation there is going to be in this country and how vitally essential it is to do everything humanly possible to encourage people to remain on the land, we begin to appreciate how essential it is to make an even more handsome provision than we have here. I am afraid that Deputy de Valera does not appreciate the problem at all and that he does not know what he is talking about. He approached the problem merely from the city point of view, because, I suppose, of his city environment and because his view is influenced by the city, but the Opposition Deputies know what is involved. Deputy de Valera drew a comparison between the provisions made in the first ten years of this State's existence and the following 15 years. He conveniently forgets the reckless campaign of destruction by the Government Party——

To start discussing the civil war on this Bill is quite out of order. I was here for the speech and one sentence——

You were not here when he made that statement and I resent it coming across the House. He does not appreciate the magnitude of the work done in that time in laying the foundations of the State.

What about the Blue Shirts?

That is completely irrelevant.

The matter was not introduced by me. If the Ceann Comhairle wants a discussion on it——

I do not want discussion from either side.

I thought we were going to get some extraordinarily constructive ideas which were going to be very useful for Dáil Éireann from Deputy de Valera. At least when he started talking he gave us to understand that we were going to get some information we never heard before. He talked a lot about codification. I do not worry about codification at all. If ample financial provisions are made and priority is given to building materials and we get on with the job, then we will have houses built, but you will not build houses on paper or by passing Bills. The principal part has to be done outside and the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition is not far wrong — there is the Bill if you want to make use of it, and get on with the job.

I welcome the provision of houses for newly-weds. Any amount of young people who are anxious to settle down in life and raise families, are prohibited because they have no means of making a home. But the fact of its being restricted to the county boroughs makes the provision far too restricted. You will have to provide for newly-weds outside county boroughs and I do not know why the Minister restricted it. The provision should be general for local authorities throughout the whole country and he could make greater provisions for county boroughs. I do not know whether the interpretation given by the last speaker to the methods by which the Minister proposes implementing the Bill is correct or not. The Bill will provide small houses for newly-weds first and then remove them to bigger houses and a number of small houses will be utilised for the solution of the housing problem of people getting married. The sum of £80 provided for reconstruction is, I think, exactly double what it was up to the present. I want to appeal to the Minister again to reconsider the matter, particularly the valuation basis of £35. I think he should raise the valuation limit and raise the provision too. There are quite a lot of small houses where an extra room is to be provided and £80 is very little assistance to the man who has to tackle the job. Again it is mainly a matter for rural districts. Reconstruction is a most important work and should be encouraged. There are many houses which could be saved which will become useless if they are allowed to fall into further dilapidation. The preservation and utilisation of whatever houses can be reconstructed is an important matter and that provision is a step in the right direction. It should apply, however, to a higher valuation than £35 because a farm with a valuation of £35 is very small, and to a man living on such a holding with a large family a reconstruction job is a very big proposition. The Minister must bear in mind that while the provision for construction is unlimited—for any man who is going to build is entitled to a subsidy—when it comes to reconstruction work, which, I submit, is most essential, he sets a limit to the provision at a pretty low valuation. I think the Minister ought to reconsider it.

As far as the financing by the local authority is concerned I think Sections 16 and 17 enable a housing authority to make a grant to utility societies not exceeding a sum mentioned in the Third Schedule, and under sub-section (3) the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance and subject to regulations made under this section, recoup to a housing authority an amount not exceeding two-thirds of a grant made under sub-section (1). Why does the Minister put in "may" if he is going to recoup the local authority? I think this is not fair to the authorities or to the people who have to pay rates. The Minister admitted this evening on another measure that the bulk of the rates so far as local administration in this country is concerned was paid by the people on the land.

I did not say that.

You may not have said so in these very words but, in effect, that was what you intended.

No, I said the bulk of the revenue of county councils——

I am talking about county councils and taking the rates to-day in the country as a whole, the rate that comes from the land——

The bulk of the revenues of the county councils was in respect of the moneys derived from or paid in respect of lands. If the Deputy will throw back his mind to what the agricultural grant amounts to he will see where it comes from.

Where does the agricultural grant originally come from? It is only handing back to agriculture something it was entitled to. Under Section 16 it is compulsory on a local authority to make a grant under this Bill. Under sub-section (3) of Section 16 the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, and subject to regulations made under this section, recoup to a housing authority. I do not know the Minister's intention but if it is the intention to recoup the local authority, I suggest the word "shall" should be used there and encourage the local authority to do their best so far as housing construction in their administrative area is concerned. That provision is essential. There is no use in making it compulsory in one case and making it optional in a second case so far as the Minister is concerned. We can well understand this section. Section 7 makes provision against the demolition of houses that can be made fit for human habitation. I can foresee some difficulties in its administration. Take, for instance, a house on a farm. If a farmer decides to build a dwellinghouse for himself and if he contemplates that the old dwellinghouse can be converted to house animals, in that case the local authority should not be the final arbiter in deciding whether he has power to do so or not. It would probably be useful and constructive from an agricultural point of view that it should be done. There is another provision which gives priority to farm workers. That is most essential and it is a point which I have raised many times in the past in this House. The agricultural worker, the man who performs the most vital service of all to the community, was not getting what he was entitled to. He should be properly housed and made as contented as possible on the land if we are to encourage him to remain on the land. Deputy de Valera suggested, or appeared to suggest, that some of the parts of houses, doors, etc., could not be made here. I want to assure Deputy Major de Valera that if we have the raw materials for housing construction all the parts can definitely be made here, and made very well. I think there is very little in the measure, beyond the financial provisions, to be criticised. The financial provisions in present circumstances are scarcely adequate.

It is true that this Bill provides for a subsidy for every individual who is constructing a house regardless of his valuation. It might appear at first sight that that is scarcely necessary. I suppose the House has taken objection on many occasions to the application of the means test and if we were to draw the line somewhere in the administration of this plan we would be applying the means test. Perhaps in the last analysis it is better that the grant should apply regardless of any limitation. There is a limitation in regard to reconstruction but none in regard to housing construction. I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter in regard to reconstruction. It is terribly important at the present time that we should preserve whatever houses can be reconstructed. There is a very long programme and it will take a number of years to overtake the arrears. In the meantime, houses which can be made fit for human habitation ought to be preserved and reconstructed. Looking back now it is a pity we demolished many houses pre-war. which could have been reconstructed. Our experience of the war has led the Minister to decide that any house that is suitable for reconstruction should be preserved. I think it is true, as has already been said, that material was used in constructing cinemas, luxury hotels and buildings of that sort that should have been earmarked and utilised for housing construction because housing construction is one of the biggest problems the country has to face. If we are to keep our population here we must house them. An Order was recently made in that connection which is a step in the right direction. What I have already said in regard to the financing of local authorities should be undertaken at an early date. The Bill is all right to the extent it goes but it goes only to a very limited extent. Housing for the working classes must be provided by local authorities and local authorities cannot get properly under way until we have a financial provision that will encourage them to get down to the job.

The position regarding housing in Dublin at the present moment is extremely serious and if the Bill will provide facilities that will even increase the output of house building by a few hundred houses a year we all must welcome the Bill. In the course of the debate attention was drawn to the scarcity of materials. In every department of the corporation we are informed, when we ask for the speeding up of house building or for the speeding up of repairs or for electric lighting for houses that require it, that there are no materials. I would ask the Minister if it is not possible for him to appoint a representative of his Department who will secure priority for the local councils' house-building schemes.

I hope that the Minister will make efforts to procure from the people across-Channel building materials in exchange for our foodstuffs and other goods which we shall supply to them. At the present moment, there are some hundreds of newly-married people appealing to every member of the municipality for houses. It is true that in the last two weeks or so special provision has been made for these people. In the section under which provision is made it is stated that at the end of a period of five years they shall be moved out to other dwellings. I want to know what is the meaning of that? Surely, if accommodation is going to be provided for newly-married people that accommodation ought to be provided at the very outset in order that they may have a permanent home right from the commencement of their married lives.

At the present moment we have applications from several newly-married people for houses. Inevitably what is happening is that, owing to lack of accommodation, the boy goes back to his mother's room, or two, and the girl goes back to her mother's room, or two. Down in Talbot Street there is a woman who has a two-roomed flat. In that flat living with her there is her married son and his baby and her married daughter and her two babies. That mother has been told that if she does not put this son and daughter out she herself will be evicted. There are a number of similar cases all over Dublin.

That brings me to another point in relation to the less well-to-do classes of the community. Quite recently the corporation held an inquiry into the Temple Street clearance area and it was stated publicly that 500 families there were to be dispossessed. Out of that 500, 300 would be permitted to go back to the reconditioned houses. The other 200 would have to "wait and see". Those were the exact words. The 200 were in the class earning 30/- a week approximately. I would ask the Minister to consider the question seriously of providing accommodation for the 25/- to 30/- a week class. What provision is going to be made for the people who are on home assistance or the aged men and women in receipt of old age pensions? Accommodation will have to be provided for them commensurate with the rent they will be able to pay out of that 12/6 a week.

I would ask the Minister to consider the revision of the grants to local authorities in order to ensure that such grants will be sufficient to enable a considerable reduction to be made in rents so that the lowly paid worker and the less well-to-do members of the community will have provision made for them. In that inquiry which I have already mentioned, it was stated that there were 100 old people with 15/- or 16/- a week from some authority. Now a woman in receipt of 15/- a week is at the end of her labours. She cannot earn. Out of that 15/- a week she is paying 2/6 for her room. She has now been ordered out under the clearance scheme. Where is she to find alternative accommodation at the same price? I would ask the Minister to give these questions particular consideration during the progress of this Bill.

Another point which arises in our housing schemes is in connection with sites for shops. The municipality either provides the sites or builds the shops. These cut right into the heart of the working-class areas. The small shopkeepers who normally cater for these people pay a rate in the city of £5 or £6 a year. Is the Minister aware that the corporation is forced by his Department to ask for tenders for ground rents and that the tenders in such cases run as high as £125 for the smallest imaginable frontage? The ordinary business people in the working-class areas cannot afford to pay such rents and the shop sites are taken over by some chain store or multiple store. No other businessman has an earthly chance of competing against them.

I am hoping that the Minister will review the question of the rents to be charged to the very lowly-paid persons or those who are on relief, and that he will also review the question of the rents for shops. I know what the Minister will say and what other corporation members will say: "It is the ratepayers' property and we are not going to deprive the ratepayers of the highest rent they can get for the shops. We must protect them also." But, remember, it means a half-penny or a farthing on every item that the shopkeeper will sell to people transferred from condemned premises in the city to Cabra, Kimmage, Crumlin and other areas.

I was a little bit alarmed to hear a Deputy who spoke from behind the Minister saying that the Minister is seeking too much power to make rules and regulations. He made a reference to a law case known as Boland versus the Dublin Corporation, and asked if under Section 25 it was intended to reverse that decision in connection with house purchases from the corporation. This Bill, I am sure, will pass and none of us can do anything about it. But it would be an appalling position, after a decision was given in a court, if any effort was made to take power to interfere with leases held by a few hundred people who have a vested interest in these houses. These houses were purchased under a 40 years' house-purchase scheme, and there are 21 or 22 years still to run. It would be grossly unfair if anything was done to interfere with the rights of these people.

I suggest to the Minister that he would help the Dublin Corporation by getting them priority for materials required for building schemes. There are houses in the Cabra area which were let to tenants five years ago in which seven or nine electric lights were to be provided. On account of the emergency, only three lights were provided. Every time they asked for the extra lights to be put in they were told that there was no material available. In these houses also baths were to be provided. The people have occupied these houses now for five years and the war has been over for two years and yet the corporation cannot procure these baths. Builders' suppliers in some foreign countries are advertising these things in trade journals. The Minister should ask the Government representatives in these countries to see what can be done to get this necessary equipment for our people here. I would also ask the Minister to revise the grants to be paid to local authorities in connection with building schemes. A house which could formerly be erected for £400 is now costing the Dublin Corporation £1,000, yet the Government are only giving the corporation a grant on the £400 basis.

In the reconditioning of tenement houses in Seán MacDermot Street and Gardiner Street it may be interesting to Deputies to know that a splendid job has been done by the city manager, with the Minister's approval and backing. It is not generally known, however, that these flats cost £1,000 apiece, so that the reconditioning of a house in Seán MacDermot Street costs £4,000. The job has been well done and the reconditioning is fully appreciated by the people who occupy the flats. I wish there were more of them and that we could continue the work of reconditioning, but not by putting people out of their rooms and then putting them back in the flats at rents which are based on the cost of reconditioning.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill, even though, in my opinion, it should have been brought in some time ago. It is more than six months ago since Deputy Cogan and myself tabled a motion asking to have the grants increased by at least 50 per cent. and also to have the valuation increased to a sum which would cover the smaller type of individual who would be inclined to build his own house and who should be encouraged to do so. The Minister, however, has taken a step in the right direction. In my opinion, this Bill will be very well received and I hope that local authorities will be more active in connection with housing schemes and the Minister's Department more expeditious in sanctioning the schemes when submitted.

There are a few matters I should like to refer to that may require alteration in order to make the Bill more effective. The first point is that people who have embarked on a building scheme, whether large or small, particularly individuals who have started to build for themselves, should come within the scope of the Bill. I understand from the Minister that building societies will benefit retrospectively under this Bill back to 1945. These building societies generally operate in the cities or bigger towns, because it is more convenient for them to carry on building in a big way. Unfortunately, we have not such building societies in the rural areas and, because of that fact, private enterprise is debarred from the benefit of the Bill. I understand that private enterprise will not come within the scope of the Bill.

If houses have been built for letting, whether by a public utility society, by private individuals, or by any other agency, then the grants will be retrospective to 1st November, 1945, whether they have been built in town or country.

The people who have built for letting since 1945 come within the scope of the Bill. But, building societies who build houses for the purpose of letting them, are building for profit, whereas the individual who has built his own house and who will not come within the scope of the Bill is being penalised. These are the people who should be encouraged. I should like the Minister to amend the Bill so that the people to whom I refer would come within its scope, otherwise I think that their exclusion amounts to victimisation. I have previously drawn attention to some of these cases. I could quote a few instances without giving names. There is the case of certain workers who during the emergency period saved a little money and embarked on schemes to provide houses for themselves. These people are really an asset to the country because they were relieving local authorities of a certain responsibility by providing houses for themselves. I could quote two instances where some time ago certain people started to build their own houses having a certain amount of money in hands. Now they find themselves without sufficient money to complete the building, because of the fact that they will not get the grants until the buildings are completed. These people are as much entitled to come within the scope of the Bill as the type of society operating since 1945 to which reference has been made. I strongly urge on the Minister to give consideration to their claims because they should really come within the scope of the Bill.

I understand also that a number of people who embarked on building schemes during the emergency period were deprived of grants. I think that some provision should be made for these people who built even in urban areas. They got no grant whatever. I think it is grossly unfair that such people should not come within the scope of the Bill or under the scope of Acts which had been in operation up till recently. It is regrettable that people who have given of their best to the State, when it comes to the period of their retirement, should be denied the right of any State assistance in providing houses for themselves in their old age.

I would also suggest to the Minister that the Small Dwelling (Acquisition) Act should be made applicable to every county. Some counties did not avail of the Act. I think it should be made a general rule that all local authorities should operate the Act and thereby give encouragement to people in these areas who are desirous of obtaining loans to acquire houses or carry on building schemes.

Again, I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that farmers with a valuation of over £35 are debarred from getting grants for the building of houses or for reconstruction. I consider that the limit is too low and that it should be increased to £50. In rural areas one finds many small farmers living in very bad houses but whose valuations are slightly over the figure stipulated in the Bill. That prevents them from undertaking the building of new houses. Some of these people while rearing a young family were not in a position to build houses and now, when they are in a better position to do so, they find that because the valuation limit has been fixed at such a low figure they are deprived of any State assistance.

I would particularly draw the Minister's attention to the fact that if people in rural areas were able to avail themselves of the provisions of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, they would be able to get money at the low rate of 2¾ per cent., whereas if they do not come within the scope of this Bill, they will have to make application to the Agricultural Credit Corporation for a loan at a rate of 4½ per cent. Because of the difference of a small sum in their valuation, they will have to pay a much higher rate of interest on the money necessary to defray the building of houses. I think the Minister should take particular note of how unfairly that valuation clause may operate.

I should also like to draw his attention to the fact that it is a farmers' total valuation which is taken into account in deciding his eligibility for a grant. I made some representations to his Department on behalf of a person who wished to build or reconstruct a house and I found that it was the total valuation of his holding that was taken into consideration. I would suggest to the Minister that if a man wishes to build on one rateable parcel of land on which no house previously existed, that parcel of land should be considered separately in fixing the valuation. Recently some people came to me who had a couple of holdings and who were excluded because the total valuation of these holdings exceeded the limit.

Then there is the case of a large farmer, perhaps like myself, who may be inclined to give a piece of land to his son. The valuation clause will debar him from embarking on any building scheme on that land, whereas if the limit were increased to £50 it might induce that man or a member of his family to build an additional house on that land and thereby lead to the creation of more suitably-sized holdings in the country.

I should also like to call attention to the section dealing with reconstruction. In cases where a grant of £40 was previously obtained, some people may have since sold their holdings or, as a result of a family arrangement, one of the sons or daughters may have got married in the house. The fact that they obtained a grant previously now debars them from getting a second grant. I should like the Minister to make some provision in the Bill whereby when changes of that character take place, such people will be free to make application for a further grant. They are a type of people who, to my mind, should be encouraged. There may be an old couple in the house, and if a young married couple are coming in, if they were eligible for a second grant to enable them to build an additional room, it would encourage larger families. In doing that, I suggest that the increase given should be at least 50 per cent. of the amount proposed here. If, where a grant was made available for a certain holding, say a number of years ago or a year ago, and a fresh application is made under the new scheme, I suggest they should get 50 per cent. of the amount proposed in the Bill. That will meet the situation and I hope the Minister will give that idea favourable consideration.

The Minister has dealt with the provision of trade union rates of pay for people who avail of the grant to construct their own houses. Where a family is in a position to carry out work of reconstruction, or the building of a new house, they may have skilled labour of their own. Must those people comply with the regulation to pay trade union rates where their own families or friends build the house? That might be a snag where tradesmen are anxious to build a house and would do the work themselves, with family help. I agree with the provision in the Bill, but there also should be provision made so that, where people using their own labour decide to build the house, they should not be debarred from the grant.

These are points that I hope the Minister will consider. As regards the people I referred to in the first instance, they should be brought within the scope of the Bill. Any man who has courage enough to undertake a building scheme of his own and to provide his own house without asking assistance from the local authority, should be brought within the scope of the Bill and those people should get as much consideration as any public utility society or any other persons.

With other Deputies, I welcome this Bill. It is a step in the right direction. There are a few points I would urge the Minister to reconsider. The first one has been stressed by Deputy Hughes and Deputy Heskin, and that is the valuation limit for reconstruction of agricultural holdings. For the purpose of the farm improvement grant the qualification is that the applicant derives his livelihood solely or mainly from the pursuit of agriculture. When that is established, any farmer, no matter what his valuation is, qualifies for a grant for drainage, building of out-offices, improving the yard and surroundings of the house, erecting piers for a gate, and other things. No matter how poor he may be, or how dilapidated his house, there is no grant for the reconstruction of his dwelling if he is over the prescribed valuation limit.

Notwithstanding the statement that the agricultural community are living in improved conditions and that some of them, as has been said, are making money, it is equally true that the farmer with a £40 or £60 valuation who is married and has a weak family, as we say in the country—a family aged from 15 years to zero—when he has to pay agricultural labour, is very poor. I know farmers who have fair farms, but when they pay the wages that they must pay and do their tillage, they are worse off than they ever were before and yet, no matter how much the house may be in need of repair, there is no financial aid for such a person. I appeal to the Minister to waive that limit and make the condition that, to obtain a grant, the person earns his livelihood solely or mainly from the pursuit of agriculture.

I am sure it is not the Minister's heart that would stop him from giving this assistance. I have no doubt it is the Department of Finance that resists him. The case must have been made to him time after time. Once they have accepted that principle with regard to this other type of work, there is no reason why it would not be extended to the dwelling-house. The Minister may argue that this opens the door too widely and there must be some limit. I admit that if he makes it £100 valuation, there are farmers who will be £101 or £100 10s. 0d. and it will be just too bad for them. I argue that if the same principle is adopted as in the farm improvements scheme, the difficulty can be got over. It is rather important that that should be done.

When it is done, I suggest to the Minister that wherever and whenever possible—and I think that is nearly on every occasion—when the officer examines the proposed work, he should insist that some modern equipment is installed in every house in the way of sanitary arrangements. It is not too difficult at all. When a porch or a scullery is being built, it would not be too difficult to have a water tank erected for a sanitary system. As the grant for reconstruction is now a fairly good one, compared with the existing grant, there should be some incentive, such as an extra grant for the installation of such an addition to the holding, because it is too bad that, at this period, in a great number of cases the sanitary arrangements are as bad as they were 100 or 200 years ago. It is imperative that these additions should be made. When the young farmer or the agricultural worker comes to the city he sees all these amenities and realises the conditions under which he is living at home. There is no reason in the world why the same conditions should not obtain in the country, and if you are going to build now is the time to start and make proper headway.

I agree with the other speakers, but of course again you will always have hard luck cases. It is hard luck on the private individual who started to build a new house three months, two months, or five weeks ago because he is just outside the grant and if he were lazy and waited another week or a fortnight he would be inside it. But if you put it at the 1st December, 1945, you would have the fellow who started a week before that. There should be some consideration however, if possible, for the borderline cases and where a man started a house within the past 12 months and is prepared to put in the sanitary arrangements to which I referred a moment ago, provision should be made that he should come in. It would be an incentive to put in sanitary arrangements and in that way the Minister would perhaps meet the Reverend Mother of Finance and satisfy her that he was doing everything orthodox in that Department.

Debate adjourned until Thursday, 27th November.