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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Dec 1947

Vol. 109 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1947—Committee Stage (Resumed).

Section 11, as amended, agreed to.

On behalf of Deputy Sheldon, I move amendment No. 9:—

In sub-section (3), line 21, to delete all words after the word "force" to the end of the sub-section and substitute the words "until the housing authority is advised that the conditions under which the permission was granted have been materially altered."

The purpose which Deputy Sheldon had in mind in putting down this amendment was to ensure that people who had secured permission to utilise their premises as tenements would not have to repeat their application for such permission every 12 months. Twelve months is a very short period. It may be a long period if you are awaiting something pleasant, such as a dividend, but when it is a matter of a routine application of this kind, 12 months is too short a period. There should be no need to repeat applications.

I think we ought not to accept this amendment. After all, one of the purposes which we hope to serve by the provisions of Section 11 is to ensure that the conversion of houses into tenements will be brought under supervision and control. This amendment in the form in which it is proposed here might mean that, in certain circumstances, once a permission was given it would never again be reviewed and would never be withdrawn. That would defeat the purpose of the Bill. All that the persons concerned will have to do is to make application for permission every year and we may assume that, if permission has been granted in certain circumstances and if the conditions have been reasonably fulfilled, it will not be withdrawn unless the circumstances have materially altered in favour, shall I say, of the owner of the property.

May I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that this amendment sets out that the permission shall remain until the housing authority is advised that the conditions on which the permission was granted have materially altered? If the position did materially alter, I think somebody would bring the fact to the notice of the housing authority and permission could be withdrawn. It should not be necessary for the unfortunate owner to have to repeat application at such frequent intervals.

Major de Valera

Deputy Cogan does not need to put the section as far as this amendment puts it to do what he wants. I agree with the Minister that if he is to maintain the provision that he has in Section 12, the amendment as put down would mean that once permission was granted he would be virtually tied until the housing authority was in a position to establish to the satisfaction of the court that there had been a change in circumstances. That, the Minister feels, is going too far.

On the other hand, I feel that there is some substance in the point made that it seems, shall I say, unnecessary, and savours of red tape, to have a provision of automatic expiry of permission every 12 months, causing the person in question to renew his or her application. Take the practical problem in the City of Dublin where you have so many tenements, where you have on the best possible showing, a very large number of licensed tenements. If these are to be the subject of renewal applications every year to the city manager, I can see a separate department being established in the Dublin Corporation to deal with that alone.

I would like to suggest to the Minister that there is an easy middle course to adopt here. It is unnecessary to press it as far as Deputy Sheldon's amendment presses it, but it is unnecessarily troublesome as it is. Would the Minister not consider an amendment in the following form: "the permission shall commence on the date specified in that behalf therein and shall continue until withdrawn by the appropriate housing authority", or something of that nature? Let the permission continue until it is withdrawn. There is an onus on the housing authority to withdraw it. Under Sections 11 and 12 at the moment, they would have ample power to withdraw it.

If this amendment is to be considered at all—and this is on the assumption that Section 12 stands because the Minister has already indicated that he will consider making some alteration in the structure of Sections 11 and 12— the simple recommendation I would make to the Minister is, after "shall", to delete everything and simply say "until withdrawn". That would meet the case and save the unfortunate owners from a series of vexatious annual applications. Apart from that, I can see enormous administrative difficulties arising in Dublin for the city manager if every year the renewal of tenement licences has to be considered. In Dublin City, this Bill will mean that we are going from the system of free tenements which we have at the moment to a system of licensed flats and tenements.

The Minister has said he will not accept the amendment. An owner of a tenement in good, bad or indifferent condition will be obliged to apply to the corporation every 12 months. Unless that application is to be a pure formality and completely useless, some sort of inspection of the premises will have to be carried out; otherwise the application for renewal is not fulfilling any purpose beyond that of a purely administrative kind. The Minister should look into this matter and see if he could accept Deputy de Valera's suggestion, which seems closer to the ideal than the amendment standing in Deputy Sheldon's name. All renewals after the original application which puts the tenement on the register will eventually depend on the state in which the tenement house is. That can be ascertained only by an inspection.

Again, supposing the owner does not apply for permission or forgets to apply annually, is he to be liable to a fine of £100 and £5 per day and six months' imprisonment? In other words, what liability will the owner have if he does not carry out this annual application?

I suggest that it is most unwise to tie the local authority down to a definite period in this way. Cases may arise where it would be considered desirable to give the permission for more than 12 months and, on the other hand, cases may arise where it may be desirable to give it for less than 12 months. If the local authority wished to give permission for six months, they would first have to give it for 12 and then withdraw it. I suggest that the period of the permission should be left entirely to the discretion of the housing authorities and I would suggest something like this: "or such period not exceeding three years as the housing authority shall determine." That would be a safe period. There would be cases, such as that of the Iveagh Trust blocks of flats, where the officials would consider it desirable that they should not have to apply every year. A period of three years would be reasonable. On the other hand, there should be a provision for giving permission for less than 12 months.

Major de Valera

I find myself in complete disagreement with my friend and colleague, Deputy O'Connor, for the good reason that it is unnecessary, and savours of red tape, to put in a time limit. It is obviously contemplated, on the wording of the section, that the housing authority can withdraw permission at any time As it stands, the permission is for 12 months, subject to withdrawal at any time before the 12 months expire. What is the objection to letting that permission run indefinitely, with a similar power to withdraw? All it means is that the housing authority has to take the initiative, but that would probably be more suitable to them. They are not tied to time any more than the landlord.

If it is let run indefinitely and the housing authority, in the course of an inspection, finds that, in the case of a particular house, it is desirable to withdraw the permission, they have only to serve a notice of their intention, through whatever machinery is provided, and that is an end of the matter. By putting in this provision, there will be excessive administrative difficulties every year and a threeyears' period will not even out the administrative burden very much. Apart from that, the administrative burden will mean a new section of the corporation in Dublin and eventually a new licensing department in the corporation, with further overheads and a further increase in the rates. For that reason, I would urge the Minister to reconsider this purely as a matter of draftsmanship. I am not in any way questioning what he intends to do; I am accepting unreservedly the principle that this permission should be revocable at a moment's notice by the housing authority, where they deem it necessary. Is not the simplest and the most straightforward thing to do to let the permission, once granted, run indefinitely with an equally unlimited power of withdrawal at any time? That would be the simplest way from the Minister's point of view and the most justifiable way. It would certainly be the least expensive way for the people who make the application and the least expensive way for the people who have to pay for the housing authority, namely the ratepayers.

Would not that interfere with the performance of the condition? If you remove the time limit on the permission, then you have no time limit within which the conditions attached to the permission can be performed. I think it is essential to have some time limit to ensure that whatever conditions are attached will be fulfilled.

Major de Valera

There is a lot in what the Deputy says, but let us take the case of Dublin. The city manager in Dublin will grant permission, presumably in writing. Under sub-section (2) of this section he can include in that conditions as to various items—(a), (b), (c) and (d). There can be conditions, with a time limit, with regard to repairs, alteration of premises and so on. He puts in a time limit of six months or twelve months, or whatever is reasonable and, similarly, any other conditions as to time for the performance of these conditions. All that can go into the document. The Deputy agrees with me there?

Major de Valera

If the owner fails at the end of 12 months from the time specified in the document to perform the conditions imposed on him as conditions precedent to his getting the permission, then you can make the permission automatically expire. In practice, it will not make any difference if you simply leave it to the housing authority to come along to terminate it. In actual practice, the effective termination of that permission will be when the housing authority takes action, and that will be when it comes to the notice of the housing authority. It is immaterial whether you cause the moment of the cessation of that permission to be the moment when the housing authority takes action or whether you cause it to cease at some anterior time ineffective until action is taken. For these reasons, and in the interests of economy and simplicity, I think that the amendment and the 12 months' provision can be there and at the same time that the earlier provisions in the section will give ample scope to the people giving the permission to put in their conditions.

I think that, in considering this problem, we have first of all to make up our minds as to whether we wish to make the control of tenementing effective. If we wish to do that then we must devise machinery which will ensure that inspections will be made periodically, and that the premises will be brought under notice periodically. If we were to give licences for an indefinite period we have no guarantee—at least we have no guarantee so far as the statute is concerned—that they would ever be reviewed again: that they would ever be brought formally to the notice of the officers whose responsibility it would be, if they were made aware of them, to review them. For that reason, I think it is highly desirable, whatever we may do, that the permission should be given for a definite period.

Deputy de Valera argued in reply to Deputy Coogan that we could attach to the permission conditions that certain things would be done within a specified period. But, would it not be desirable, even if these conditions were fulfilled, that the matter should again, as I have said, be brought under review, and that a further inspection should be made to ensure that the reconstructed premises or the renovated premises were being maintained in a proper condition; because it is not merely a case of doing these things once and of being finished with the matter for ever?

I think, too, that the Deputy ought to have some regard for the position of the property owner. The amendment which Deputy Sheldon has proposed, and the suggestion which has been made by Deputy de Valera, would put him in a most uncertain position. He would not know for what period he was going to enjoy this permission; he would not know whether it was going to be for 12 months, 18 months or two years. It might be withdrawn at a moment's notice. So far as Deputy Sheldon's amendment is concerned, I think it is defective for a number of other reasons apart altogether from that fundamental objection to it. If Deputy Sheldon's amendment were carried, the property owner would not know who was going to advise the housing authority that the circumstances had materially altered. He would not know what were the particular circumstances, the alteration of which would induce the housing authority to withdraw permission. He would be living in a state of complete uncertainty. If Deputy de Valera's suggestion were to be adopted, I think that the condition of the property owner, so far as uncertainty was concerned, would be very little better. He would get his permission, as I have said, for an indefinite period, but it could be withdrawn almost arbitrarily.

How does the Minister think he can prevent the annual application becoming a pure formality except as a result of inspection?

I shall deal with that in a moment. Deputy Sheldon's amendment, and the suggestion which has been made by Deputy de Valera, apparently emanate from a concern for the position of the property owner. In fact, I think Deputy de Valera used the phrase "the unfortunate property owner". I know that at the present moment in the City of Dublin there are many people who are drawing a net four figure income out of one house, the total outgoings upon which do not amount to perhaps more than £200 a year. I do not think there is anything very unfortunate in that position, and I do not think that we are imposing any undue hardship on such persons. At least we are imposing no greater hardship on them than we impose on the 130,000 or 140,000 individuals who have to apply for a wireless licence every year and pay for it. I do not know how many publicans there are in this city, but there are some thousands who have to apply for wine, spirit and beer licences every year and pay very substantially for them. Nor do we inflict any undue hardship on those who hold a tobacco licence, an entertainment licence, a hackney licence or even an ordinary private vehicle licence. They all have to apply every year and they all have to pay substantial sums to secure them. Probably not more than a few of those who apply for a taxi licence, a tobacco dealer's licence or a hackney licence, draw as substantial an income as the majority of property owners draw from the property which they possess in the City of Dublin.

I think that we should not adopt these sections at all unless we are prepared to make them, to some extent, a reality. One of the first things which we ought to do to ensure a periodic inspection is to ensure by statute that the position of these premises will be brought periodically under the notice of the municipal authorities. When we have taken that first step, we can in the ordinary course of supervision by the municipal administration, endeavour to ensure that the premises are adequately inspected periodically. That is primarily the responsibility of the municipal authority, and it is the municipality which has asked and pressed for this and has been endeavouring to get it since 1890.

Remember, there is a very long history behind these sections to which I did not think it necessary to refer while discussing Section 11 or to deal with on the Second Stage of the Bill. We must remember that the first endeavour to secure a system of control over the Dublin tenements was introduced in 1890. In 1906, and subsequently in 1914, attempts were made to tighten up the system of nominal control then instituted. Private Bills have been promoted to try to do that. A commission was set up to inquire into the housing of the working classes in Dublin in 1914 and recommended that some such system as this should be introduced. Our own Commission of Inquiry, which was set up in 1939 and which sat until 1943, made a similar recommendation, and it is as a result of the consideration of these recommendations and the whole history of the matter that we put these proposals into the Bill. On every occasion on which it was endeavoured to make them effective the same criticism as we had to-night in regard to red tape and the hardship on property owners was raised.

I am afraid that we have lost sight of the major problem that we have here in this city, that is, that so many families are living in one room in tenements and that a state of affairs is developing which, if it were left unchecked and uncontrolled, would create tenements in residental districts now regarded as very desirable. For one reason or another, but particularly for the reason that a large number of houses, without the knowledge of the corporation, have been converted into what are euphemistically described as flats, these highly desirable residential areas are now speedily deteriorating until they are only one or two stages removed from ordinary tenements and ordinary slums. That is the problem, and let us face up to it and let us not be unduly concerned with the hardship which is going to be imposed.

Naturally, if the provisions are going to be made effective, machinery will have to be set up under the Corporation of the City of Dublin and the other municipalities concerned, in order to ensure the effective operation of these provisions. We probably will have to recruit a number of inspectors and we will certainly have to set up a register and employ a staff to maintain that register and, if we are going to make the provision a reality, we will have to provide for the periodic inspection of premises. But the cost of that is surely not going to deter us from adopting the provisions if we think that the circumstances of the present-day warrant them. The cost, in any case, is not going to be very heavy.

There are about 6,000 tenemented houses in the City of Dublin. I do not know how many inspectors would be required, but I assume that one inspector could deal with perhaps ten such houses in a day and two or, at most, three inspectors would be able to inspect all the tenemented houses at least once a year. We may assume that they would get £500 or £600 a year. That would be £1,800 roughly, and allowing another £600 or £700 for clerical and other administrative expenses, the whole thing would cost less than £2,500 in a year, that is, less than a farthing in the £ on the rates of the City of Dublin in order to check the abuses already existing and to prevent them from being aggravated and increased.

As I have said, I think that, first of all, from the point of view of the owner himself, it would be much better that he should know that permission had been given to him for a definite period and that he should know that before that permission was renewed his property would probably be inspected. The onus should be put on him, as it is on every other licence holder in the State, to apply to the corporation for permission to continue to utilise his property in a tenemented way. I do not see any great objection to that, but I will say that, if it is going to satisfy those who think that the permission should be given for a period longer than 12 months, I am prepared to consider the proposal made by Deputy O'Connor. It seems to go a long way to meet any criticisms which have been made and gives the property owner a longer period than 12 months if his property, when he applies for permission, is in such a condition that the corporation would be warranted in assuming that the property would not deteriorate too far over a longer period than 12 months.

On the other hand, if the property, at the time when the permission is granted, is not in such condition, it would be desirable that the permission should be given only for a comparatively short period, sufficient to enable the owner to carry out the reconstruction necessary to put the house in a fit condition to be occupied by more than one family. I am not so certain, however, as Deputy O'Connor is, that the three-year period proposed would not be excessive. However, if it would, on the whole, meet the point of view of those who have criticisms of this kind to offer, I would be prepared to accept three years as the maximum period during which permission may be given by the housing authorities.

Major de Valera

The trouble I see in the 12-months' limit is that, presumably, the bulk of the cases of the 1,000 tenement owners in Dublin, immediately this Act is passed, will come up for the grant of permission. We will assume that they will get it. During the course of the year other cases will be accruing but, within 12 months from that date, this bloc will all come in at the one time for renewal. There will be a kind of peak, and it is because of that possibility that I think unnecessary expense is likely to be incurred. The matter is so completely indefinite from the owner's point of view—the permission can be withdrawn at any time as the section stands or even under the proposed amendment —that I do not see in what way the Minister's argument about the property owner having more security by this 12 months under this section has any substance in it at all. What more certainty has he of the fact than that he has to make an application at the end of 12 months? The only certainty that is given to him is the certainty that he must apply at a certain date. I do not think that is of any advantage to him. He is still at the mercy of the will of the housing authority as to the withdrawal of that notice and permission at any time. I am pressing this point purely as a matter of smooth administration.

Again, from the Minister's reference that the property-owner should take the initiative, it is painfully evident that such a procedure is directed mainly towards easing the lot of the public officials who have to administer this Bill, when passed, and that it is not in favour of the private citizen who is involved. I would be much more inclined to put the onus of taking action on the housing authorities themselves. Let them go out and find out for themselves whether permission should, or should not, be granted and let them withdraw their permission when they are satisfied it should not be granted. If the private applicant has to come to them there is a danger, as Deputy Dockrell says, of the matter becoming a pure formality. So long as there are no complaints, so long as there is nothing to ruffle the smooth surface of the waters, the permission will be automatically granted. The fact that these people have to apply annually will be a complete answer to any criticism. On the other hand, if the matter is let run indefinitely, if the onus is on the housing authority and their officers to review and they do nothing under these circumstances it will become more apparent. Questions will be asked as to how many houses have been inspected, how many premises have, in fact, been reviewed, and there will not be the omnibus cover-up that there is under such a provision as this. This House, as trustee, so to speak, for the ordinary private individual in the State, is entitled to ask that the onus shall be put on public officials. I am not suggesting for a moment that there has been any laxity by any housing authority in the past. There is no question of that.

I am looking at this matter from the worst possible angle with a view to criticising the Bill and with a view to helping the Minister with the draftsmanship. I am putting the arguments strongly in order to put them into better relief and for no other reason. I am still of opinion that it would be cheaper and more economical in every way to let that permission run indefinitely, leaving the onus on the housing authority inspectors to find out the cases they should review. I can see no practical or possible advantage in the present system of making the burden lighter on the officials responsible for inspection and for the carrying out of this section. The Minister frankly says that this is a system of licensing. I agree. But there is a very great difference between this type of licence and, say, a tobacconist's licence. Let me take the Minister on this question of licences. In most cases, where he has mentioned tobacco licences and such other licences, I would point out that they are really only revenue provisions. The only social interest involved in these licences is the collection of revenue. If the tobacconist, for instance, pays his duty, or if the owner of a motor car pays his duty, that is all the State is interested in. There is no review of fitness and it is quite correct that it should be automatic. The State's real interest is in the collection of the fee. The Minister also referred to public house licences. There, something much more than revenue is involved. The licensing of a public house involves suitability, proper conduct and other considerations very much akin to the licensing of a tenement. In that case it is not automatic. It comes up for annual review before a court.

The Gárda authorities and other people interested inspect, and there is a real review. That condition is feasible in these cases because, when all is said and done, the number of licences involved for public houses is relatively small and they are spread over a wide area. In Dublin, however, we will have a density of licences for these tenements. Each one of them, if this scheme is to be effective, will require a thorough examination and an inspection by officials of the corporation. It is undesirable that they should all come at the one time, as would seem to be inevitable under the 12 months' review. On the other hand, if there is no time limit, then the inspector of the public authority can adopt a systematic scheme of inspection. There is no hampering time limit. For that reason, I oppose this amendment in toto and I urge its rejection. I suggest to the Minister that he should consider an amendment on the lines I have suggested rather than the threeyear one. That would go some way towards providing a solution though it still does not give an adequate solution to the complexities which would be introduced.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

With regard to Section 12, I want to give notice now that in the Report Stage I propose to bring in an amendment giving power to the Dublin Corporation to make by-laws with regard to one and two-roomed dwellings.

Major de Valera

On Section 12 there is one matter to which I would briefly like to draw the Minister's attention, taking into account the definition of habitable house in the opinion of a housing authority, taking into account what we propose to pass in Section 7 of the Bill, and taking into account sub-section (1) of Section 12 under which a housing authority may in their absolute discretion from time to time grant or refuse permission. There you are dealing with a right of property. I have some doubt as to whether the strict interpretation of an absolute discretion here is quite constitutional. It might be that the Minister runs some risk of conflict if this matter were to be brought before the courts. On Section 11, he said that he would consider the question of an appeal for this particular purpose and that, I think, gets over the difficulty there. If he is to consider an appeal under Section 11, I would ask him to bring Section 12 within the ambit of that appeal also.

Naturally, if I am going to make it a condition under Section 11 that permission shall not be unreasonably refused, I cannot allow a local authority absolute discretion under Section 12. But let me say, in regard to the point raised by Deputy de Valera, that if we were to embody these words in a statute we would be in danger of coming in conflict with the Supreme Court in relation to the constitutionality of the phrase. The fact of the matter is that the draftsman has been compelled by a decision of the Supreme Court in a notable case to insert these words in all statutes where it is necessary to ensure that they shall not be construed in a mandatory sense.

Section put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:—

Before Section 13 to insert a new section as follows:—

13.—(1) In ascertaining, for the purposes of Section 11 of this Act, whether premises are a tenement house, a part of the premises which is the subject of a furnished letting shall be disregarded if, in the opinion of the housing authority, the rent thereof is greater than the rent which a person of the working classes would be likely to pay for a letting.

(2) In sub-section (1) of this section, the expression "furnished letting" means the letting of a dwelling at a rent which includes payments for board, attendance or the use of furniture, or for the supply to the dwelling of heat, hot water, fuel, electricity or any other commodity or for the rendering of any services in connection with the dwelling, unless, in the opinion of the housing authority, the portion of the rent attributable to the dwelling alone equals or exceeds three-quarters of the rent.

This is purely a drafting amendment.

On amendment 10, I would say that it is something more than a drafting amendment. A good deal of principle is involved in it. There are two points at issuefirstly, the question of a person who is described as a member of the working classes and, secondly, the question of disregarding part of the premises which are intended to be let as furnished apartments. When the term "member of the working classes" was first used in legislation it had a particular significance and referred to people who were in receipt of a low wage—possibly £1 or 30/- a week. But the meaning of that phrase has changed in our changing circumstances and at the present time a man in receipt of £5 or £6 per week may quite obviously be worse off than the man who was in receipt of £1 or 30/- per week some years ago. I find it difficult to provide a solution myself and the local authority will be faced with the rather invidious task, as it has been on a number of occasions, of trying to find out where to draw the line.

The circumstances of a man earning £5 or £6 a week may be such as to warrant him for immediate consideration. A man earning £8 or £9 per week might quite easily, because of his family commitments, have to be regarded as a member of the working classes. There was a notable case in the courts some time ago. The Minister will identify it as the "Boland case", where the Dublin Corporation by a covenant in the lease endeavoured to ensure that certain houses built under the house-purchasing schemes should continue in perpetuity for members of the working classes. The court overruled the corporation in that particular case and another individual was deemed to have a right to purchase an interest in the house. I merely draw attention to that to show the House the difficulty in which the local authority finds itself—it is not easy to propound a solution—and I do so in order to ensure that if they step above what is termed the normal line their position in that respect will be understood.

There is another aspect of this amendment which is rather interesting. I refer to that part of it which relates to furnished apartments. I am afraid, with the best intentions in the world, the Minister's resolution will be very largely defeated in this particular instance. We have just been discussing regulations which will ensure registration and so on as far as compartments are concerned. Here you are going to give a certain amount of freedom to the owners of property. A compartment may be described as furnished, but there is no indication as to what that furnishing should be. It may very well be a few musty old curtains, a couple of chairs, and a strip of linoleum in order to comply with the terms of this particular section. The Minister's answer to that is that it is largely on the lines of the Rent Restriction Act, but I suggest that we should do nothing in this House at this particular stage to aggravate a position which is already exceedingly grave in this city in regard to furnished apartments. We have been promised legislation to deal with that particular question. I am afraid that this amendment will in fact and in effect defeat its own purpose.

I would like to support what Deputy O'Sullivan has said. I can envisage the enormous difficulty the Dublin Corporation will have in trying to arrive at the definition of "member of the working classes". Even if they do arrive at such a definition I do not know how they will decide as to what rent a person of the working classes would be likely to pay. The whole problem bristles with difficulties and I would be glad if the Minister could clarify the situation for us.

Major de Valera

While not going into the question of the desirability of dealing with furnished lettings here, there is the fundamental difficulty that under Section 11 the Minister seeks to discriminate between furnished and unfurnished lettings. Taking it by and large, is there any good reason why furnished lettings should be put in a particular category at all under this Bill? Adopting the Minister's own argument on the last section I do not see that it makes very much difference if a house is a furnished letting. The fact that the Minister says he is implementing in this Bill what has been requested by the Dublin municipal authorities for a long time, leaving it to their discretion to operate in that way, will not in any way affect in fact the operation of this Bill which confers such wide powers on them. It is going to cause a good deal of trouble because we again talk about the "opinion" of a housing authority. This is really somewhat worse than the definition section because it proceeds to define the standard upon which the housing authority will judge.

There is a vast difference between laying down certain conditions to which a housing authority must conform and, on the other hand, laying down a guide for its opinions. In one case, you are giving mandatory orders to an executive, which is a proper thing for this House to do. In the other case, you are giving a general direction to a body who, in effect, will be exercising a judicial discretion. In my humble submission, a housing authority is no fit recipient of the power of judicial discretion. Again, I have some fear as to the constitutionality of pressing the provision that far.

The Minister may question me when I say that it is giving them judicial discretion. Let me put it this way. In the Rent Restrictions Act there is practically the same standard laid down as in sub-section (2) of the Minister's amendment for the court's discretion. The phrase used is, "in the opinion of the court". That, of course, is in keeping with all legislation which is intended to be the subject of judicial discretion. Here very nearly the same phraseology is used and, instead of the word "court" the words "housing authority" are substituted. In regard to the determination of the effect of a furnished letting and the rights exercisable under Section 11, it places the housing authority in exactly the same position as the Circuit Court is in under an analogous provision of the Rent Restrictions Act. As I have said, I have some doubts about how far that will be allowed to operate in practice, but I am not pressing the point as an objection here.

I see further administrative difficulties. The housing authority, in refusing or granting its permission, if there is, as Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out, even a bit of oilcloth or a stick of furniture, must consider this problem. The question as to whether a housing authority has exercised its discretion properly, having relation to the wording of sub-section (2) of the Minister's amendment, will arise. I think it would not take an awful lot of ingenuity, even granting that the housing authority had the discretion, to force the housing authority into a court to test the question as to whether the housing authority lawfully and properly exercised the discretion given to them under this section. Therefore, as I see it, there is likely to be a considerable amount of difficulty arising from this provision in regard to furnished lettings. When you have such drastic and such omnibus powers of granting or refusing permission for the letting of tenement flats, it is questionable whether it is wise not to take the more or less crude course and include furnished lettings and leave it to the discretion of the housing authority to grant or refuse permission, as the case may require.

That argument is further enhanced by the point that Deputy O'Sullivan made as to what a person of the working classes would be likely to pay for the letting. As he pointed out, certain things are in a fairly fluid state. It is quite conceivable, under present changing conditions, that certain tradesmen who are highly paid may be quite prepared to pay more than certain people in clerical grades who might not be classed as working class within the contemplation of the term which Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned. That also is likely to cause difficulty.

Admittedly, it is wise to give this absolute discretion as to the control of slum property which the Minister has so eloquently pleaded for on the other sections of the Bill. But, if he finds he cannot accede to what he would perhaps call refinements, such as were advocated by myself and others earlier in respect of Section 12, because of the seriousness and the urgency of the slum problem and the necessity for dealing with it in a practical way, then I suggest to him that he should delete Section 13, withdraw amendment No. 10, and leave the furnished lettings stand in the same relation to this problem of permission for tenements or otherwise as the unfurnished ones are, leaving it to the discretion of the local authority.

I am afraid Deputy de Valera is rapidly coercing me to the opinion that nothing can be done in this country by anybody except a judge sitting on a bench.

Major de Valera

Not at all. I am trying to point out the difficulty the Minister may be in.

If the Minister is not careful, Deputy de Valera will play the mischief with his Bill.

It is true that the administration of these rather contentious sections must create difficulties for everyone concerned with their administration. Deputy O'Sullivan asked who is to determine who is a member of the working classes. I think the executive officers of the local authority of which Deputy O'Sullivan is a member are probably much better judges as to who should be regarded as a member of the working classes than a professional man sitting on the bench who is concerned mainly with the proper interpretation of points of law, because this is a matter of fact and not a question of law. It is not a question of judicial discretion. It is simply a question of coming to the same sort of conclusion that ordinary practical men of business have to arrive at in the conduct of their everyday affairs and which members and officials of the corporation have to determine in the conduct of the public affairs of the citizens of Dublin. I do not see how, by any stretch of the imagination, this is a question which should be left to the discretion of judges to determine while it is admitted that, so far as the law is concerned, judges have nothing to guide them at all. There are no sumptuary laws in this State; there are no hierarchical laws determining that people are born into one grade of society and not into another. There is no clear class distinction between members of the working classes, members of the professional classes, members of the shopkeeping class and so on. The decision as to whether a man is or is not a member of what I might describe as the commercial classes or a member of the working classes is a decision which each of us is as well qualified to take for himself as any other person in the community, in relation to that particular matter. So far as the majority of us are concerned, perhaps we might claim to be in a much better position to determine that than any judge sitting on the bench with no statute to guide him.

It is a matter of common sense.

Accordingly, I think the whole of the elaborate argument which Deputy de Valera has based on the assumption that, when we ask a local authority to decide who, in its opinion, are to be regarded for the purpose of this section as members of the working classes, we are calling upon that authority to exercise a judicial discretion, falls to the ground.

Deputy O'Sullivan attacked this from another point of view. In connection with the criticism of Deputy Dockrell and Deputy O'Sullivan, I think I should remind them both that, in fact, these provisions have been introduced very largely at the instance of the Dublin Corporation. It is true that they would probably have been introduced in any event because the commission of inquiry which we set up into the housing of the working classes in Dublin—I wonder how we could have conducted that inquiry if we were not able to determine the type of persons which should be included in the category of working classes—recommended that these provisions should be incorporated. I understand when the inquiry was being conducted the representatives of the Dublin Corporation pressed very strongly that provisions of this sort should be embodied in the statute. It seems to me that the members of the local authority which was foremost in asking for some legislation of this sort should not shirk the responsibility of determining for itself, no matter how invidious it may be, this question as to who is to be regarded as a member of the working classes. All who seek public position have to make invidious decisions from time to time, and I think if we have to do that we ought to face up to the position. I do not see why in this case the members of the corporation should be chary about accepting that responsibility because, in fact, it will be discharged for them I think by the city manager.

Those who are administering the Bill will have to determine who are to be regarded as members of the working classes. It may be inconvenient for the officials of the Dublin Corporation to have to do that. It may be, as Deputy O'Sullivan said, invidious, but they are there to accept responsibility in their sphere as we are in ours and I do not think that there is anything we can do to get them out of that difficulty. I do not think there is anything we can embody in the Act for that purpose. There is no phraseology that can adequately and exactly define the term "working classes". We, all of us, claim to be regarded as workers of one kind or another. The only clear line we can draw in that regard is that we can say whether a man, because of his economic position, is or is not in need of the sort of assistance which the Housing Acts are intended to provide. That is the rough-and-ready line which is taken by the corporation itself. They have something like 20,000 tenants, all of whom are supposed to belong to the working classes and as they have been able to determine that fact in relation to the 20,000, I do not think they should have any great difficulty in coming to a conclusion as to who is a member of the working classes and what flows from that in the terms of this section.

I go a little further. I do not see that we have imposed any very difficult obligation upon the local authority in asking them to determine what would be the rent which might normally be payable by a member of the working classes. We have in fact given a fairly good guide. We have said that,

"the expression `furnished letting' means the letting of a dwelling at a rent which includes payments for board, attendance or the use of furniture, or for the supply to the dwelling of heat, hot water, fuel, electricity or any other commodity or for the rendering of any services in connection with the dwelling, unless, in the opinion of the housing authority, the portion of the rent attributable to the dwelling alone equals or exceeds three quarters of the rent."

Surely the officers of the local authority can determine for themselves what would be the normal rent of these apartments unfurnished? They can then look at the furniture which is supposed to be covered by the letting and they can say to themselves: "The rent of this apartment unfurnished should be so much; the rent of this apartment with the strip of oilcloth and the picture on the wall is 50 per cent. more than that or is perhaps 100 per cent. more than that and therefore this is quite definitely not a furnished letting." I think it is not beyond the capacity of any competent official of the Dublin Corporation or of any other local authority to determine that question for himself in the light of the specific guidance which is given to him by sub-section (2) of Section 13.

May I, straightaway, say a few words to relieve the Minister's mind of any suggestion that the corporation were not prepared to face up to the task of deciding the question at issue in this particular section? Actually I am glad that the discussion has taken place and, in the light of the Minister's own pronouncement, may I say that the position will be considerably eased as far as the Dublin Corporation is concerned. He has said, and very properly, that the matter can be decided on broad common-sense lines but unfortunately those who have had experience know precisely that that was just what could not be done in some cases in deciding the class of persons who should secure a tenancy. At least there was hesitation on the part of the local authority in including individuals who, in their opinion, because of their earning capacity or family commitments should normally be included. The discussion on this particular section is interesting and useful because it assists the local authority when faced with difficulties of that character.

I should like to take advantage of this occasion to remove any wrong impression which the Minister may have that the officials of the Dublin Corporation might not be prepared to face up to their responsibilities in this respect. It may interest the House to know that whatever may happen elsewhere, so far as housing is concerned, the Dublin Corporation have a very happy arrangement. As a result of sound common sense on the part of the person concerned, the Housing Committee of the Dublin Corporation is very largely left, shall I say a free hand in so far as its housing policy is concerned. When I say a free hand, at least its recommendations in nine cases out of ten are implemented, so that there will be no question of the officials not facing their responsibilities so far as this is concerned. The air is much clearer by the discussion in this particular case and the local authority, contrary to what the Minister infers, will be only too pleased to give decisions on such cases when they arise in the future in the light of the discussion that has taken place.

Major de Valera

I would like to make quite clear to the Minister that in this particular matter, in the desire to control licences, he has my sympathy. My remarks may seem annoying to him, but they are repeatedly aimed at draftsmanship in order to head-off possible difficulties in the future. When I spoke about possible legal implications in the section, I spoke with a view to bringing possible difficulties to the Minister's notice, not with a view to advocating a contrary state of affairs. I agree that the direct practical approach to this problem of licences is the correct one, but my object mainly was to bring the possible defects to the Minister's mind.

If the section is enacted as it stands, it will not be very long before somebody finds an excuse, particularly arising out of the words "in the opinion of", to make it a matter of law where the Minister means it to be a matter of fact. The Minister suggested that I was advocating a change to another point of view. I am not. I still suggest the section would be better left out. The discretion would be relatively absolute and there would be nothing to impede the executive— that is, the housing authority — acting, whereas if you put in this provision as it stands you will leave yourself open to the difficulties I have mentioned.

I do not consider it would be advisable to leave this provision out of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

The acceptance of amendment No. 10 involves the deletion of Section 13.


On behalf of Deputy Sheldon, I move amendment No. 11:—

In sub-section (1), paragraph (c), lines 5 and 6, to delete the words "or from any other source whatsoever".

While I do not know exactly what Deputy Sheldon has in mind, I think that it really is desirable that we should not have the type of inquiry that is set out in this section. It might be difficult for a person to state accurately his income from any sources whatever. While a person might be very well able to give his weekly income and answer the other points laid down, to state accurately any small sum that he might receive in the course of the year from any source would be putting a very serious obligation upon him because, in the event of the information not being correct, he would be exposed to a very severe penalty. It would be advisable to leave out the words to which Deputy Sheldon objects.

I think we must look at the section in the light of what we are very often urged to do. There are numbers of people who feel that houses in public ownership should be related to the total income of the family in occupation and that that is the fairest and most equitable way of distributing the public benefits. We should not let a house erected very largely at public expense at less than the economic rent to a person in receipt of a good income. We should not let a house at less than the economic rent to a person in receipt of a good income, having regard to the fact that the erection of that house has been heavily subsidised by the ratepayer and the taxpayer.

On the other hand, the object of these Housing Acts is to provide people with good homes at rents which are within their means and, accordingly, we do not wish to charge an economic rent to any person who is unable to pay it. We wish, in fact, to relate the rent payable for his home to the tenant's ability to pay. We cannot do that unless we know the full measure of his ability to pay, and for that reason we have to ask him to disclose his full income from any other source whatever, whether it is in assistance benefit or allowances received from public or private funds, because there are quite a number of people who will be in recipt of continuous allowances from charitable organisations and friendly organisations of one sort or another. It is all money which they have in their possession and which they can use for their own benefit and advantage. But they should not be permitted to use it for their own benefit and advantage at the expense of the public funds, the expense of the taxpayer and ratepayer if, in fact, it is of such a size that, taken in conjunction with what accrues to them in other ways, they could be justly required to pay an economic rent for the house. For that reason I could not accept Deputy Sheldon's amendment. If I did, it would probably drive a coach and four through the measure.

There is one point which I may consider between now and the Report Stage. I refer to the case of a person who may receive a temporary allowance from a charitable organisation to tide him over a temporary misfortune. I may, between now and the Report Stage, try to meet that case. I am not so certain that at the present stage it is necessary to try to meet it, because it will take some time to get these returns made and when we have a little experience of the type of difficulty that may arise we shall be able to amend the existing provision to cover it.

May I take it from what the Minister said that a local housing authority can demand a rent in relation to the wages of the occupant of the house?

No, not now. Perhaps the Deputy is not aware of the fact that the Cork Corporation let houses on a system of differential rents, rents supposed to be related to the income of the family occupying the house. It has been recommended by the Committee of Inquiry into the Housing of the Working Classes in Dublin that such a system should be introduced in Dublin City. There are one or two cases in the country where a system of differential rents prevails. The principle underlying the system is that the rent should be related to the income of the family occupying the house. In order that proper effect may be given to that principle, it is necessary that we should know the true income of the families occupying the houses. We have had the experience, in one instance, where that income was grossly understated and where families in quite comfortable circumstances were living in houses at nominal rents. It is important, therefore, if this system is to be introduced, that we should be in a position to compel people who want to enjoy that system to make a full disclosure of their family income.

There is a strange anomaly in this sub-clause (c) and, in fact, in the whole sub-section, that is, that a person is asked to give an account of his income from every source, but the question is not asked for what period or during what period he may have received that income. If a person is giving that information and if he has received a sum of money from a charitable organisation or some other source during the previous year, there is nothing, so far as I can see, to indicate whether he is to record that or not. What I want to know is whether a person is supposed to put down sums he may have received at some irregular intervals of time. So far as the weekly income is concerned, there would be no difficulty but, in the case of other sums received at irregular intervals, such as gifts from relatives abroad——

That is neither an assistance benefit nor an allowance. There is no reference to gifts in the section.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 14 agreed to.
The following amendment was on the Order Paper:
In sub-section (1), line 29, after the word "person" to insert the word "purchasing".

I have some doubts about this amendment as to whether the extension of this to the purchase of houses might not be too large an extension, but I am prepared to hear the Deputy.

I wish to move the amendment on behalf of Deputy Cosgrave.

Major de Valera

On that question, the content of the amendment is so drastic that I cannot see that we can adopt it. The section would read, if the amendment were adopted——

If the Deputy would bear with me, I may say that I have not admitted the amendment. I am prepared to hear the mover and the Minister.

Major de Valera

I thought you had.

No, I have not.

I have grave doubts about it and I want to hear the proposer or the Minister, because it is a very wide extension in regard to its repercussions.

I am afraid the amendment will extend the section so far that I do not see how we could administer the Act at all.

That is sufficient. The amendment is out of order.

On that point, suppose an individual, whom the Minister is anxious to house, wants to get a house in order to get married and settle down and a new house is offered to him by a contractor who has built that house, in that case, all the purposes the Minister proposes to serve are served. The man has to pay the full cost to the contractor, or to the man who erected the house, and he is relieved to the extent of the grant in the matter of the purchase price. Does that not achieve the purpose the Minister is anxious to achieve in this measure? So far as house construction is concerned, it means that the man who has built that house erects another house, and finds a purchaser again and that purchaser benefits to the extent of the grant. The Minister ought to consider the matter.

The second purchaser could also get the grant under the amendment.

Major de Valera

It would burst the Act.

It would burst the Act, as Deputy de Valera says, because a person purchasing a house and getting the benefit of the grant could resell it and the person to whom he sells would get another grant and so on ad infinitum. It would be a most profitable business, and could be made so profitable that the first man would sell the house to the second, and the second back to the first, and so on.

I did not intend that. The intention was that the Minister would give only the one grant.

Amendment No. 12 not moved.

I move amendment No. 13:—

In sub-section (1) to delete all words and figures after the word "reconstruction", in line 32 down to and including "November, 1947", in line 33, and substitute "commenced on or after the 1st day of November, 1945".

In this amendment, I am seeking to come to the rescue of people who built or reconstructed houses in the past two years. Many of these people built because they were in dire need at a time when costings were at their very highest. When they decided to build, they did not foresee that these costings would reach such a high figure. The position now is that many of these houses which they sought to reconstruct or to erect are in an unfinished condition. I have in mind the case of a man, the father of 15 children, who were in dire need of shelter, who started to build. The grant of £80 to which he was entitled would not purchase enough timber for the house and he found that he was unable to finish the roofing of the house, with the result that the house is unroofed yet. I have in mind also other cases which I know very well of men who, because of their desperate need for shelter for their families, had to erect new houses and do their best to complete them and who, in many cases, had to sell off their stock or portion of their stock, and in other cases had to go to the bank and borrow money which probably will not be repaid for a generation. Building costs went up so fast, especially in the past 12 months, that these people found themselves in a terrible difficulty and were compelled to borrow, whether they liked it or not.

It may perhaps be said that the value of the houses went up accordingly, but it does not matter what the value of a house is if a man requires it to shelter his family. He cannot sell it after building it. I do not know at what point in the last two years building costs reached their present level, but I am sure the experts in the Department could work that out. I think there is a good case for coming to the rescue of these people who reconstructed or built in the past two years. The numbers are very small. No man attempted to build or reconstruct unless he was in very dire need. All Parties in the House welcome the Bill and I can assure the Minister that it is also highly appreciated in the country. The agricultural labourers and small farmers who attempted to carry out such work in the past two years are surely entitled to the consideration of the House. The great effort they made should be appreciated. I appeal, therefore, to the Minister to give favourable consideration to the amendment.

I would like to support the amendment on behalf of Deputy Beirne. It was unfortunate that the Bill was not introduced at an earlier date. Immediately after the termination of hostilities, when building materials began to come on the market again, many people who were in very great need of housing accommodation proceeded to erect or reconstruct houses. During the war period it was difficult, if not impossible, to undertake such work because of the absence of building materials. The enterprising and deserving people who proceeded to erect new houses or to reconstruct houses when materials came on the market should not be left out of the scope of this Bill. In their case we should at least go back to the same date as is set out in the section dealing with persons building houses for letting. A person who builds a house for letting is usually a person of considerable means and can hardly be regarded as being so deserving as the small holder or private individual attempting to reconstruct his house or to erect a dwelling for his family. Definitely, the same date should hold good in the two cases. If that is not done, there will be a feeling of hardship and injustice. It will be particularly unjust in the case of those people who had begun the work of erecting or reconstructing before the 1st November last and who have not yet received a grant. Such persons will have a grave sense of injustice when they find that the grant they will receive is immeasurably lower than the grant payable in the case of persons who started work after the 1st November. There ought to be no hesitation on the part of the Minister in accepting this amendment.

I would like to know if amendments Nos. 13 and 21, which relate to two separate sections, are being taken together.

There are four related amendments — Nos. 13, 14, 21 and 24.

Nos. 13 and 21 are much the same.

No. 21 is related.

In that case I should like to support the amendment. I cannot understand the reason for the differentiation or discrimination between the private person building for his own accommodation and what may be termed the speculative builder. It may be argued that the speculator is doing a good deal to case the housing prolem in investing his money in housing, but I agree with Deputy Cogan that he is investing his money in the hope of making a profit. In making that profit and letting the house he is not relieving the very acute problem, because the person to whom he lets is a person who is capable of paying him a decent rent. In one case it is a matter of investing money for profit. In the other, it is a matter of erecting or reconstructing a house to provide accommodation for a family. There should be no discrimination and the grant should apply equally and as and from the date mentioned in the section dealing with the person who builds for letting, namely, the 1st November, 1945.

In my opinion, this section may lead to a little abuse and the Act itself may be defeated. I would not like that temptation to be there. For instance, if two people in a locality build houses convenient to each other and they started the work subsequent to the 1st November, 1945, is there anything in the Bill to prevent them letting to each other and drawing the full grant? That is a point I would like to put to the Minister. It is extremely difficult to understand why there should be this differentiation. The Minister is being very generous, in the main more generous than anybody anticipated or expected and, for what it would cost, he should go the step further and give the benefit to those who had the courage to start before the operative date.

I want to support the amendment. There is a good case to be made that the Minister should be consistent. There is no consistency in having one date for the speculative builder and another date for the private individual. As a matter of fact, I think the better case can be made for the private individual. There is some chance of the speculative builder getting back his money. The other man builds a dwelling-house for himself only once in a lifetime and there will be a great hardship on him if the Minister is not prepared to concede the same terms to one as to the other. I have no doubt the Minister sees the point and I am sure he will look into it.

Major de Valera

I think Deputy Hughes is not, perhaps, quite aware of the basis of that. As I understand it, the Minister had some delay in being able to produce this Bill, as everyone can understand. I believe that representations were made to certain builders and contractors, urging them, because of the urgency of this problem, to prepare sites and to do everything that could be done at that stage in anticipation of building when supplies opened up and when the Minister was ready to give his grants. I think that actually what is activating the Minister in giving this particular concession in the case of these bodies is simply that these people acted on representations and were pressed by the Government as a whole to do everything they could to expedite the preparation of sites and that it is in keeping his word to them that the Minister has put in the provision. That, I think, is sufficient explanation for the terms of the Bill as it stands.

The Deputy admits there is an anomaly in the Bill.

Major de Valera

At first sight but, when you look at it in another way, there is no anomaly. There is no anomaly for this reason: it is one thing for a person, without any assurance or any holding-out of a promise to go of his own accord and build or reconstruct a house. It is another thing for a man to undertake reconstruction or building or preparation of site on a positive representation. They are two totally different cases. What has happened is, on one hand you have these private persons who, without any such assurance, without any probability of getting a grant, to suit themselves reconstructed or built a house. They are one class. Are they entitled to retrospective consideration? On the other hand, there are people who would not have done this work were it not for the pressure and the representations and the implied promise — as far as a Department can promise — that is involved. They are all separate cases, so I do not think Deputy Hughes is quite right that the cases are equal. I would like to know what it would cost to embrace the houses that are referred to in Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment. If the cost is reasonable and we can bear it, then for the sake of uniformity let us bring them all in for the one date in 1945; but that is subject to what we see on the question of costs, as it may not be feasible.

Two Deputies have referred to the generosity of the Minister, anticipating that he would supply further moneys to meet this. If such were the case, the amendments would not be admissible, as involving a charge. There are four amendments —Nos. 13, 14, 21 and 24—which the Chair permitted because, under Section 22, there is an overriding maximum amount of money. Within that, Deputies were allowed to move amendments to devote some of the money so set out in Section 22 to go back to 1945 for certain people; and I thought it proper that they should be allowed so to plead, provided they did not go outside the amounts set out in Section 22, so that whatever it costs will come off houses to be built subsequently.

I am not impressed by Deputy de Valera's argument, because he is making the case for the men who were induced to prepare sites — induced by the profit motive, pure and simple. The other men are men who should command sympathetic consideration, the men who were living under such wretched conditions, as in the case made by Deputy O'Sullivan, that their houses were almost tumbling down around their ears. They were forced to construct new homes for themselves, and there are houses to-day in the course of construction where people were compelled to sell stock and borrow money in the banks to put up these homes for themselves. These cases should command the sympathy of this House.

I am not at all concerned about the speculative builder, whose sole motive is profit. We can be assured that he will get his profit anyway, next year if not this year, as he is in the business for profit. I know a small farmer whose valuation is under £17 and whose house was burned down a few months ago. His family had to live in the barn. He had a big family on that small holding and felt he was doing well if he was able to pay his way and meet his weekly budget. That man was forced to provide a home. He had to go into the bank and borrow and had to sell off stock. Now, just because he started a couple of months too early, he is going to lose this grant. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider the matter. I am not concerned with the cost. The House ought to provide money for cases of this sort and we should encourage individuals who through their own private enterprise provide homes for themselves.

I want to support Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment. I do not think he had any intention of being out of order in submitting these amendments.

The Chair did not suggest that at all.

He wanted to bring these houses within the ambit of the measure and make some of the money provided in the overriding sum available for allocation to those houses which had to be started before 1st November, 1947. I think there is an unanswerable case for these. I do not know anything at all about the other types of houses that are referred to by Deputy Hughes. We are dealing only with the houses in rural areas which were started prior to the 1st November, 1947, and Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment wants that date changed to 1st November, 1945. I ask the Minister to meet this amendment No. 13 if he can possibly see his way to do so. I have referred to this already in the Second Reading debate. There is a very strong and just case to be made in the case of houses of this type.

A good case can be made for this particular amendment, which is similar to one I had down myself. Many people who embarked on building schemes prior to the coming into operation of this new Bill will find that, having provided a certain amount of money, due to the increased cost of materials, they are unable to finish the building. It is only reasonable that those who had the courage to embark on a building scheme, even for their own accommodation, should not be debarred because of the date fixed in the Bill for qualifying for the grant.

Some of those individuals were forced to build because of the conditions that prevailed. Because they may be 12 months ahead of this Bill, they should not be left without any consideration, when you take into consideration that the Bill makes provision for speculators to qualify under the measure. After all, the speculators benefiting under the Bill are going to get their money back and will get their profit by drawing on the tenants to provide the amount of money expended on the building scheme.

I have a note here of one case of a man who wrote to me a few days ago. His licence was issued on the 28th May last, with the proviso embodied in it that he start to build on the 1st July. Now, because he is a few months ahead of the introduction of this scheme, he is denied this grant. I know two or three other cases in my own area of working men who embarked on a building scheme and who, after carrying on for a certain time, found themselves unable to finish it. The houses are still unfinished. We are not objecting to the scheme and the Minister is going a long way to meet these people and the wishes of the local authorities, but surely the number who would be outside the scheme since 1945 is very few, if you take into consideration that people who did embark on a building scheme, for their own purpose or otherwise prior to that date, were substantially wealthy. I hold that the Minister should give serious consideration to bringing within the Bill the people other Deputies have mentioned.

Deputy de Valera entirely missed the point of the amendment. He tried to relate conditions in the country with conditions in the cities, where you have an amount of building going on which is definitely for profit. That is not the case with houses that are built in the country. There, men have to build houses to shelter their families. The Deputy forgot that they have built those houses for themselves out of their meagre resources. That has been done by agricultural labourers and small farmers, and done almost entirely out of the grant and by their own family labour. Now, many of them are in the position that their houses are unfinished and shelter cannot be provided for their families because of the abnormal jump in building costs. I again appeal to the Minister to consider the amendment.

Major de Valera

I am not opposed in any way to Deputy O'Sullivan's amendment if I can get support for it. I was merely trying to show that, from the Minister's point of view, there was a case to be made.

Let him answer for himself.

Major de Valera

I was answering Deputy Hughes that there was that distinction to be made. I would support Deputy O'Sullivan in his amendment completely and wholeheartedly with the one reservation that I would like to know how the finances would be affected.

I desire to support the amendment. In view of the fact that it has got support from Deputies on all sides of the House, I cannot see how the Minister can refuse to accept it. We all know there is a great clamour for houses all over the country, especially among small farmers and middle-class farmers. They want to build houses for one reason, namely, to provide their families with shelter. We all know that during the war years the building of houses was out of the question. The individuals who decided in 1945 to try and make up for lost time, even though the cost of housing materials had gone up considerably, are, I submit, entitled to encouragement. As several Deputies have pointed out, those poor people in the rural areas set about building houses for themselves out of their meagre resources. In order to do that they had to sell out stock and borrow money from the banks. In some cases they have scarcely completed the houses, and indeed some of them are very badly completed. Now, when we have a good Housing Bill before us it would be very unfair, I think, if they were to be put in the position that they would not be entitled to the same concessions as the speculative builder is. There is no doubt but that he builds for profit. He would not spend one £5 note on the building of a house but for the fact that he knows well he is going to make a good profit out of the house in years to come. These speculative builders can be of great use to the country and can be a help to the Government by building numbers of houses. My submission is that the individual who, two years ago, set out to build a house for himself and his family is entitled to the same concessions as the speculative builder. If the Minister checked up on the number of people who started to build houses since November, 1945, I do not think he would find that the number is very big. That is due to the scarcity of building materials. Even those who were very badly in need of a house were deterred from starting by the scarcity and the immense cost of building materials. I think that the sum of money involved by the acceptance of this amendment would not be very big, and could be made good from the sum allocated for the provision of houses. In view of the fact that there is general agreement on this amendment from all Parties in the House, I do not see how the Minister can turn a deaf ear to the appeals which are being made to him.

Before the Minister definitely makes up his mind on this, I want to submit this consideration to him that, owing to the shortage of building materials and of skilled workers, it may not be possible to utilise the full sum to be made available. Therefore, I think he should be influenced by that consideration, and the amount of money provided in the Bill would, I think, be sufficient to make this measure apply retrospectively, in the manner suggested in the amendment.

I think the Minister could shorten the discussion if he would tell us what he proposes to do.

I do not propose to accept the amendment.

I would appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. The number of people who will benefit will not be very great and, therefore, the cost cannot amount to very much. Anybody who started to build a house two years ago did so out of dire necessity. It will be a terrible hardship on them if they are now to be denied any help. I know one man who started to build a house last August and another who started to build a house in June. They have been held up due to the fact that they have not enough money to complete the houses.

Can the Minister tell us the number of licences that were issued to such people since 1945?

I cannot give the Deputy information in that way. We have heard quite a lot about the position of the small farmer. We did not hear so much about the position of people in the urban areas. Those who built in the urban areas got no grant whatever. The people in the rural areas did get a grant amounting in some cases to £80. Another fact that we must take into consideration is that whether a man builds for his own occupation — if he is driven by a necessity to build — or not, nevertheless if he did build in the year 1945 the value of his house has considerably appreciated since then.

What advantage is that.

I am perfectly certain that if Deputy Hughes had a house for sale no one would have a keener appreciation of the fact that a purchaser now would be prepared to pay a great deal more for it in 1947 than in 1945, than the Deputy would. I am perfectly certain that the Deputy seldom makes a bad bargain of any sort in a market, whether as a buyer or as a seller.

I do not suppose that the Minister gives very much away for nothing either.

Do not let us run away from these plain and simple facts which, naturally, have to be taken into consideration in a matter of this sort. As I was saying, it is not merely one part of the community that we should have to deal with if we were to accept this amendment. We should have to deal with persons in urban areas also. Now, it has been argued that where a farmer builds a house for his own occupation he may not be in a position immediately to realise the value of that house if he wants to sell it. He could scarcely sell it without the land attached to it, I presume, although I have heard of some cases where it has been easier to sell a house without the land than with it. I have heard Deputies on the other side say that that is the general rule.

The Minister knows that they cannot buy them as the Land Commission does not allow it.

I will concede this much: the rural householder may not be able so readily to realise the present market price for a house as the urban owner, but if we were to give this concession in the form in which we are requested here, to rural areas, how could we stand up against a similar demand from the owners of houses in urban areas? The plea would be made to us that we had given the urban owner nothing over these years. No assistance has been given to him to build since 1938, while we have given — as I would remind the House — some assistance over the emergency period to persons in rural areas who were building for their own occupation or for whom houses were being built by public utility societies. If we give the concession in the form in which it has been asked here we will inevitably be asked to give it in the case of urban owners. The urban owner has already secured the advantage of his enterprise if he built a house in 1945, for, in fact, the market value of that house is considerably higher to-day than it was when he built it. Accordingly, we would have to make this very general and the cost would be very great. I have made some calculations and, if I were to accept this amendment, we would have very little left after the sum spent on Section 22 to cover the other proposals in the Bill.

It has been argued that we were making some differentiation in favour of the rich man, the speculative builder. When we talk of the speculative builder we do not in general mean the man who builds houses with the idea of letting them, but the man who builds houses on chance for anybody to come and purchase them.

He never takes a chance. He always nets a profit.

A person who builds a house for letting is an investor and in the sense that every investment is a speculation he is a speculator, too, but the man or the company who builds houses under the terms of this Bill is a public benefactor. There is a vast difference between a speculative builder and a person who builds a house for his own occupation. A man who builds for letting under the terms of this Bill cannot sell the house; he cannot realise its value and he cannot take advantage of an appreciation in the value of the house. I think that is a very distinct difference. I do not know whether the Deputies who have talked about the people who are building houses for letting have read the section dealing with this, for not merely can he not sell the house, but the rent is going to be controlled. The person erecting a house must undertake with the housing authority that he will not sell such house and will let it only under such conditions as are prescribed by the section. The man who builds for his own occupation can let it as soon as he has fulfilled the terms in relation to occupancy, but the person who builds for letting and gets a grant under this Bill cannot do that. The Deputies who have been talking about the amount that is going to the man who is building a house for letting will see another difference. The person who builds for his own occupation gets a lump sum grant and the house is then his own and he has full control over it, but the person who builds for letting under this Bill gets a grant in instalments paid over ten years, the grant to be provided partly by the local authority and partly by the Minister. The reason for that is that we quite frankly recognise that the person who builds for letting under this Bill is in fact doing something that could not be done by the local authority in the present circumstances but which is essential for the public benefit. I think that these facts must have been overlooked by those who talked about rich people building houses.

What Deputy de Valera says is quite true. The position here is such, in relation to the classes who are not catered for by the Housing Acts, that owing to the strict system of priority laid down by the Housing Act, they would not have a chance of getting a house to rent for themselves and their families. Where people are prepared to go in and build in a reputable way under acceptable conditions we ought to encourage them in order to meet what is here in Dublin and in other urban centres a crying need, that is, the need of artisans, with the comparatively small families who are healthy and who are not living in one room, to find accommodation. There are thousands of people in the City of Dublin clamouring for that accommodation. As we have made it primarily the responsibility of the housing authority to deal with the poorer class, those who are not so well off economically, we have had to try to stimulate private enterprise to cater for the needs of other workers who are not in the lowest ranges of income but who are in the lower middle class ranges of income. For that reason we have given this encouragement to people who build houses for letting. Looking at it in an objective way, we ought to realise that there are thousands of families of industrious, thrifty artisans and clerical workers in this city who are living in one room or two rooms, or who are living on the consideration of relatives, neighbours, or friends, and instead of making a case on the grounds that we have been doing something to meet that problem we should stimulate other people to meet it and we should realise its gravity.

The Deputies who spoke upon this Bill ought to encourage us and they ought to have praised us for having encouraged the people who are providing houses for letting to go forward and try to provide them. That is the manner in which I think those Deputies ought to regard this situation. They could have made a case without reference to the fact that we were honouring commitments that had been given to enterprising people in regard to this matter. We gave no commitments to private individuals who were building houses for their own occupation. As I have pointed out, throughout the years of the emergency when the urban dweller who was not covered by the ordinary housing operations of the local authority was getting nothing done for him, something was being done for the rural dwellers. I think that, in fairness, that fact ought to have been adverted to, and the more fortunate position of the rural dweller in that regard ought to have been taken into account by some Deputies. I am prepared to concede that probably every builder, whether in a rural or an urban area, whether a private individual, a public utility society or a local authority, experienced difficulty in securing materials and labour. I am also prepared to concede that because of that difficulty in securing materials and skilled and semi-skilled labour in many cases his progress in building a house or houses may not have been as rapid as the builder anticipated when he began the undertaking and that the construction of the house has been prolonged and dragged out, and dragged out particularly over the year 1947.

I say "particularly over the year 1947" for the reason that prices in 1945 did not show any very great increase over 1944 and 1943 and 1942, nor did the prices over the year 1946 show any great increase over the prices which ruled in the preceding years since 1942. However, undoubtedly, in the present year building costs have shown a sharp upward trend. Therefore, people who may have begun their houses and have not been in a position to complete them before the 1st November may have been badly hit. I am prepared to face the facts and to concede that. In the light of that fact I will bring in, on the Report Stage, an amendment which, I think, will go far to meet that particular situation. At least it will go as far as I am able to go.


Hear, hear!

That will be on the Report Stage of the Bill. I think that Deputies will have to be satisfied with that.

Does that mean that the Minister will select an earlier date?

I shall deal with the particular situation I have mentioned in another way. The fact that there has been a sharp rise in prices during the year 1947, particularly in the latter part of the year 1947, and that persons may not have been able to complete their houses prior to the 1st November is the particular situation with which I shall try to deal by bringing in an amendment.

That is fair enough.

That is the point I was trying to make. I am glad that the Minister agrees, and that the sub-section will apply to houses in the course of construction on the 1st November.

The Deputy wants to defeat the purpose of the amendment in that way.

That will be on the Report Stage.

Would that take in people who started houses in August and September this year?

I think that the Deputy ought to await my amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 13 withdrawn.
Amendment No. 14 not moved.

I move amendment No. 15:—

In sub-section (1) (c), page 7, line 37, to insert "or houses" after "house" and "or are" after "is".

This is merely a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 16 not moved.

I move amendment No. 17:—

To delete subsection (2).

The purpose of this amendment is to bring under this Act in so far as it relates to reconstruction, people who received grants for reconstruction, say, pre-war. It may seem at first glance rather unfair that a person should receive two grants. I want, however, to stress this particular point. When those reconstruction grants were provided, those grants of £40, a number of people availed of them for the purpose of building an additional room to their houses. Many of those people who provided that additional room were people living in old thatched houses— very old buildings which were inadequate in size to accommodate their families, but which were also of a very old construction. Some people availed of those grants ten or 12 years ago. They built an additional room, but with the passing of time the older building has gone into disrepair. A thatched house, built, perhaps, 200 or maybe 400 years ago cannot be expected to last indefinitely. As a result of the climatic conditions we have experienced during the past year, I have in mind a number of these houses which have seriously deteriorated. It would not be unfair to bring such people under the scope of the reconstruction grant. Perhaps, if the Minister thought that to give these people the full grant provided under this Bill would be overgenerous, he would be prepared to give them at least a substantial portion of the grant.

Do I take it, A LeasChinn Chomhairle, that sub-section (2) of Section 21 relates to the same point as that with which we are dealing with under Section 15. My amendment to Section 21 is:—

Residents of houses in respect of which grants have been made under previous Acts shall be entitled to receive on application the difference between the former grant and what they would be entitled to under the present Act."

To my mind it is the same as the amendment moved by Deputy Cogan. My point is that where people received grants under the previous scheme, the £40 grants, it might be possible for the Minister to consider the feasibility of allowing such residents to benefit under the scheme. After all, with the passing of the years there probably have been changes—marriages and things like that. I understand that where grants were sanctioned formerly an application cannot be made for a further grant. Would it be possible, under this heading, that such applicants would be considered, at least to the extent of 50 per cent. of the existing amount?

I am afraid Deputies will have to rest contented with the fact that I am not in a position to do anything which would impose any additional charge on this Bill. The Bill, in present circumstances, is tightly drawn. I cannot concede the point which Deputy Heskin has been making and I cannot accept the amendment of Deputy Cogan. I could not, in any event, accept the principle that the same house should be entitled to benefit under two separate Acts.

Would the Minister bear in mind that what I am suggesting is not the provision of a grant for the work that was done some years ago. I do not suggest that a smallholder who received a grant some years ago to put a roof on his house would now be entitled to remove that roof or in any way interfere with the reconstruction work already done under the previous grant. What I have in mind is the case where a grant was given to build an additional room and where the main building has, with the passage of time, fallen into dilapidation. In that case, I think the owner should be brought within the scope of this Bill. What is happening is that in such cases the people are living in the room which was built under the previous grant and the rest of the house is unoccupied.

I can appreciate the Minister's point in this matter because of the tendency of people in the country to avail of all kinds of grants and I think it is a sound principle that the two Acts should not operate in favour of one particular individual. That is as to the general application of the principle. I think the Minister will find, however, that there is a good case to be made for Deputy Cogan's amendment even if it is only for the purpose of improving on the work done under the original grant to enable people to put up some kind of habitable accommodation instead of the mud hovels and ruined houses. In many circumstances the room built under the previous grant is practically standing alone. If any advantage is to be derived from that grant it is absolutely essential that provision should be made in the present Bill for the repair of the original dwelling-house. I think the proposition is sound enough. Whatever was given under the previous Act could be deducted and taken into consideration under the present Act and the work done should be separate and distinct. If something is not done along these lines the utility of the previous grant will be completely wiped out and the whole house will fall down for want of repair. Now that the time has come when the main buildings should be examined for the purpose of subsequent repair and reconstruction I think the Minister should do something in the matter. There are exceptions to every rule and I think the exceptions in the present case are sufficient to warrant consideration on this point. The remainder of the houses must be made habitable.

I have nothing more to add to what I have already said. Practically every proposal put forward here in the course of the debate on this Bill has been considered. We are limited in the amount of money at our disposal and we are disposing of it to what we think is the best advantage. We cannot go outside that.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 18:—

To insert a new sub-section (4) as follows:—

(4) Grants under this section shall be applicable to houses of a poor law valuation not exceeding £60.

My reason for putting down this amendment is because I think the figure in the Act too low in so far as poor law valuation is concerned. It would be a good thing to increase the valuation figure from £35 to £50 or £60. Another point to which I would like to direct the Minister's attention is that where a building grant is made under the Acts the total valuation is taken into consideration. I suggest to the Minister that where an application is being made on a separate holding, where there is no dwelling at the present moment, the complete valuation should not be taken into account, but only the valuation of the holding in question, provided that the holding is suitable for building purposes. In some cases the holders are now in a position, through improved circumstances and family help, to erect a separate dwellinghouse on a separate holding and it is a pity that in this type of case the holder is debarred because of the valuation figure. I would ask the Minister to give that matter favourable consideration. It would do something towards encouraging the people in the rural areas to build. I would appeal to him to increase the figure from £35 to £60.

I do not know whether the Deputy is under a misapprehension or not. So far as the erection of a house is concerned there is no limitation. The limit only operates in the case of a reconstruction grant. I am not prepared to increase the valuation for the purpose of a reconstruction grant.

I submit to the Minister that a £35 valuation is rather low. As the Minister knows there are a number of farmhouses throughout the country in a very bad state of repair. The farmer naturally tries to improve his house and put it into a proper state of repair but very often he has not the capital or the means to do the necessary work efficiently and well. Possibly that is equally applicable to the farmer over £60 valuation as to the farmer over £35 valuation; but the large farmer has more resources available for the purpose of raising money and he has some chance of doing the necessary work. The farmer between £35 and £50 finds it extremely difficult. Another consideration is that on a number of these holdings, say, under £60 valuation there are very old houses. When you come to the higher valuation holdings you will probably find a better house on them. That is a matter which the Minister should bear in mind. In a motion tabled by Deputy Heskin and myself some time ago we set out a valuation limit of £50 as being necessary and desirable and if the Minister would accept that——

I suppose if I put that in the Bill the Deputy would come along with an amendment to raise it to £100.

We would not. As I pointed out, a farmer with a large valuation has more opportunities and resources for raising money. In the last analysis, if he wants to build a house, he can sell portion of his land and still have an economic holding. He will also have a larger quantity of stock and might possibly be able to dispose of some of them for the purpose. But the man of £35 to £50 valuation has not these resources. I ask the Minister to raise this limit, if not to the amount suggested by Deputy Heskin, at least to some larger amount.

I have already raised the limit from £25 to £35 and that is as far as I am prepared to go.

The Minister has done a good thing in raising the limit to £35. I would prefer to see the valuation limit done away with altogether, but this probably will not be the last of the housing legislation to be passed by this House.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 15, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I am somewhat puzzled by this section and I should like to know if it includes speculative builders.

No. The House must be erected by or on behalf of a person for his own occupation.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 16 stand part of the Bill."

Major de Valera

I have been the Minister's bête noire to-night, but this is a purely drafting point. He will pardon me if I draw attention to paragraph (c), subsection (2) of this section, which was the subject of the unmoved amendment by Deputy Sheldon. That paragraph is similar to a paragraph in the 1932 Act which provides against the selling of a house which is so built: “The person erecting the house undertakes with the housing authority that he will not sell such house and will let such house subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by regulations made under this section.” It is quite clear that what the Minister wants to ensure is, if he gives a grant for the building or reconstruction of a house, that the house will be genuinely and bona fide let and that the person who gets the grant cannot cash in on or capitalise that grant straight away by selling it. Therefore, what the Minister wants to ensure is that the house is in fact let. Everybody agrees with him that that is the proper and correct thing to do. But the wording of this section goes a little further than that.

Supposing I am a builder and build a house and it is let under these conditions to Deputy Dockrell. What the Minister has in mind is completely fulfilled once that takes place. The relation then is of landlord and tenant. The relation of the person who receives the grant and who erects the house is that of landlord and his interest is the rent that he receives. As the section stands, he is prohibited absolutely from selling that interest. In other words, he is made permanently landlord of that house and he cannot part with his landlord's interest. I can see nothing in allowing him to part with his landlord's interest that would in any way conflict with what the Minister wishes to do. Provided the house is let to a tenant under the prescribed conditions, why should not the landlord whose interest is the rent not be able to sell that interest? In certain cases that may be desirable, but the wording of the paragraph is, "that he will not sell such house," and he cannot sell his interest in the rent.

I am not prepared to suggest straight away an appropriate amendment to the Minister, because there are always difficulties in drafting an amendment of that kind. But, if he could provide that the house will not be sold absolutely in the sense in which he wishes to provide against, that the house is duly let to a tenant, but that the landlord can sell his interest in the rent if he is so minded; in other words, that he can capitalise his rent, so to speak, and let somebody else take the payments and the continuing grant, that would be all right. For instance, what will happen supposing a man dies? The property will descend to his personal representatives or to his next of kin if he does not make a will. If it descends to his next of kin, if he has not made a will, the title of that house, subject to the tenancy that has been created, will be vested in a number of people as landlords in common and they will have no power of getting rid of it. Therefore, while I do not in any way want to go away from what the Minister wishes to do, ensuring that the house is erected for the purpose of letting and that it is duly let, the possibility of assigning the landlord's interest in receiving the rent should be provided for.

The Minister under this section wishes to encourage the building of houses for letting purposes. It is strange how the wheel always keeps turning. Hitherto the law was very much against certain types of landlords. Now we have to introduce legislation to encourage people to build houses for the purpose of letting. Of course, I entirely agree with that, but it is a peculiar situation in which we now find ourselves. I do not know why the Minister does not include under this section the builder who builds the house as well as the man who lets it. Supposing I buy three houses from a builder and then proceed to let them, I take it that I will benefit under this section, but the builder, who may have taken all the risk, will not get anything under this section.

He will if he builds and lets the house.

Mr. Dockrell

If he builds and sells he will not. Does the Minister not see that he has left out of consideration a very important section of the building community, namely, the speculative builders, those builders who, in the past, have provided houses not only for the working classes but for middleclass people?

I do not understand precisely what Deputy de Valera's point was. I can conceive a case where a person, having built houses under this Bill and having entered into an obligation under it, might say: "Well, I had better sell these houses because I can get a much higher price for them." Of course if he did that he would forfeit the grant. I think he is perfectly free to do it but he would not be free to dispose of his landlord's interest and to get the grant at the same time. That seems to be the particular point at issue. The fact of the matter is that we would frown upon the absolute disposal of these houses for any purpose except in circumstances which would render the transfer of the ownership inevitable. The person we are anxious to encourage, as I have already said, is the type of man who is prepared to build houses for letting because there is in large urban areas— perhaps in all urban areas—a crying need for houses of that kind which can be freely let without any of the restrictions which the local authority could hedge around houses which it had to let. Accordingly, as I have said, if this sort of practice were to develop, that people could come along, get grants for a substantial period and then proceed to dispose of their houses, we should have to bring in legislation to deal with that because I would regard it as an abuse of the section.

In regard to the case of the builder, who builds to order for a person who wants to let a house, I think we can assume that the builder before he entered into the contract, fully safeguarded himself. You may be perfectly certain that the terms he made with the person who commissioned him to build were, from his point of view, fully satisfactory. Whether they would be such as would encourage a person to go ahead and try to avail himself of the terms of Section 16, I very much doubt as I think once the speculative builder had got his cut out of it there would be very little left for the person who had given him the contract.

Does the Minister not see what an enormous advantage it would be to enlist the whole resources of the house building industry, especially those of the speculative builder, under this section? If he can envisage that situation, there would be a tremendous amount of houses built for letting purposes. The largest section of the building trade would be enlisted on the Minister's side in order to carry out what he wishes to do under this section.

Major de Valera

I think the Minister misunderstood my point. There is no question that these houses are built for letting and that they should be let. There is nothing to prevent that being done. Once they are built they are available for letting and once they are let, what the Minister wants to do has been achieved. Under those circumstances there are two parties involved. There is, on the one hand, the person to whom the house has been let, the tenant, and there is the person who made the letting, namely the landlord, the person in receipt of the rent. Under the terms of the section as it stands, he cannot sell his landlord's interest which is nothing more than his rent. It does not affect the availability of the house for letting at all; it merely affects his right to dispose of the annuity which he is receiving. I merely mention the matter here to point out the implications of the word "sell," that this man is not only constrained by the wording of the section to let but he is constrained to remain as landlord of the house in perpetuity. I am merely drawing attention to the wording of the section.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:—

In sub-section (1), page 8, lines 38, 44 and 45 to insert "or houses" immediately after "house".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

On Report Stage, I shall bring in an amendment to meet the amendment tabled by Deputy T. O'Sullivan.

Amendment No. 21 not moved.

I move amendment No. 22:—

In sub-section (2), page 8, lines 50 to 54, to delete all words from "a grant in money" to "so specified" and substitute the following:—

"a grant either by way of a grant of land as a site for such house or houses or by way of a grant of money in respect of such house or houses or partly in one such way and partly in the other such way, but in any case not exceeding in (as the case may be) the value of such land or the amount of such money or the total of such value and such amount the appropriate sum specified in the Fourth Schedule to this Act."

Amendment agreed to.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
Section 18 agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle

Amendment No. 23 in the name of Deputy Doyle is out of order.

In what way is it out of order?

An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle

It would impose a charge and therefore could not be moved by any private Deputy.

Question proposed: "That Section 19 stand part of the Bill."

There does not seem to be any provision in this section to increase the maximum cost of £500 per house.

There is not.

Would the Minister not consider bringing that figure more into line with present-day costs?

We can do that by regulation but, in view of the fact that the Transition Development Fund exists to meet that situation, it is not proposed to do it.

In regard to this section I should like to say also that the Dublin Corporation has done a good deal to rehouse persons displaced under the dangerous——

I have an amendment to meet that.

Not under this section?

Question put and agreed to.
Section 20 agreed to.
Amendment No. 24 not moved.

I shall bring in an amendment on the Report Stage to provide for the payment of increased grants under this section to persons who had commenced work on the 1st November, 1945, but who had not completed it before the 1st November, 1947.

Section 21 agreed to.
Progress reported, Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m., until 3 p.m. Wednesday, 10th December.