Committee on Finance. - Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1956—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. It has been a significant feature of housing legislation in recent years that no change has emerged in the fundamental policy of the Housing Acts. The purpose of this Bill is to secure the continuance of that fundamental policy and to make such amendments and improvements in the provisions of the Acts as experience has shown to be desirable. The practice of bringing these Acts under review at short intervals indicates the importance which all Parties attach to housing as a major sphere of national development.

The recent debate on the Estimate for my Department will have made Deputies familiar with the level of progress achieved. At 30th April, 1956, 65 per cent. of the houses estimated in March, 1947, to be required by local authorities had been provided, including 89 per cent. of rural needs. To meet the need for 40,000 private houses as estimated in the White Paper of 1947, approximately 35,000 have been built under the Housing Acts administered by my Department. The total number of new houses provided since March, 1947, with State assistance under these Acts exceeds the impressive total of 80,500. This figure does not include houses erected by the Land Commission, Bord na Móna, the Department of Defence or houses erected by private enterprise without assistance under the Housing Acts. In the same period, more than 20,000 houses have been reconstructed by small farmers and agricultural labourers with the aid of State grants. The State and the local authorities have invested approximately £100,000,000 in housing between March, 1949, and March, 1956. As regards families still living in unfit housing conditions and unable to provide new dwellings for themselves out of their own resources, the means will be found, up to the limits of the State's resources, to rehouse them as soon as practicable in addition to the 80,500 families rehoused since 1947.

The grants payable from State and local funds to private persons and to public utility societies, together with rates remission, have been effective incentives to private enterprise to provide new houses or reconstruct existing houses. Section 6 of the Bill proposes to continue these incentives for a further period of two years to 1st April, 1958, so that there may be no retarding of these major aspects of housing progress. It is proposed also in Section 6 that the grants payable under Section 24 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1952, to housing authorities for the provision of houses for sale or lease to persons irrespective of whether they are or are not members of the working classes or agricultural labourers and the grants payable under Section 20 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, to public utility societies providing houses for letting to members of the working classes should be continued for a further two years.

Section 7 proposes a simplification of grant administration, by omitting the requirement that a house, when completed, must be occupied by the person who erected it. This will enable grants to be paid to a builder providing houses speculatively and selling at net prices. There will be no change in the case of a person or public utility society erecting a house, whether by contract or by direct labour; the society or person will continue to apply for and to be the recipient of the grant. Housing authorities will continue to have power to make supplementary grants to eligible persons occupying new houses.

Legislation prior to the passing of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1948, enabled the payment of grants to builders rather than to individual house owners except in certain cases. In the conditions of the post-war years, competition for sites, materials and labour presented the possibility of a sellers' market developing in which the benefit of the housing grants might not be passed on to the purchasers of the houses. The grants were, accordingly, made payable to persons erecting houses for their own occupation and to public utility societies erecting houses for occupation by members.

Improvements in conditions facilitated a more liberal approach to speculative building and grants for purchase as distinct from erection of houses were introduced in 1950. The total production of 35,000 grant-aided houses in eight years ensures that there is now no danger that market conditions would operate to the disadvantage of the person for whose benefit the grant is intended. In these circumstances it is possible to introduce more flexibility into the administration of grants and to relieve the individual purchaser if he so wishes of the tedious and often tortuous task of complying with statutory and administrative procedure to obtain a grant which he will ultimately hand to the builder. The necessity will cease for the allocation of grants specifically for houses purchased under Section 6 of the Housing (Amendment) Act, 1950, or for houses built for letting under Section 19 of the Act of 1948 or Section 13 of the Act of 1954 but where a grant has been allocated for such houses, the time for completion will be extended to 1st April, 1957.

Provision is also included in Section 7 of the Bill to ensure that even though a purchaser of a new house is not personally the recipient of the grant in respect of the house the concession in relation to stamp duties under the Finance Acts will continue to apply to his purchase.

The installation of water and sewerage facilities in both urban and rural houses and the conservation of houses by works of repair and improvement are operations calling for high priority in a comprehensive programme. The State grant available for the combined installation of private water and sewerage facilities has hitherto been £50, which may be supplemented by a grant from local funds, and is payable only in areas in which no public water supply or sewerage scheme has been or is being provided. These conditions preclude, for example, the payment of grant for the provision of water supply alone, or, where public water supply only is available, for private sewerage system alone. It is proposed in Section 10 to remove these limitations and to make separate grants of £40 and £20 available for the separate services. This amendment provides an overall increase of 20 per cent. on the present combined grant.

The volume of repair and improvement works undertaken since grants for these purposes were introduced in 1954 has been growing steadily. There is a large stock of houses, however, particularly in the major urban areas the conservation of which is an integral part of housing policy. Some of the bigger houses could be converted into several separate dwellings of adequate standards and amenities for working-class families, a process much to be encouraged in place of the letting of rooms or so-called flats which, because of overcrowding and the neglect of property by owners, can only result in the creation at a future stage of further unfit housing conditions. That has been the history of the slums, of the Georgian houses in Dublin and indeed of houses in all big towns and cities. Housing authorities have been slow to exercise their duties and powers in regard to unfit properties but I am hopeful that they will become more active in this field of preventive housing work in future. It is proposed in Section 8 of the Bill to offer further inducement to landlords and tenants to enlarge the volume of repair and improvement work at present being undertaken by making available increased grants. The amending section differentiates such grants on a basis similar to grants for reconstruction by farmers and agricultural labourers. The maximum grant of £80 per dwelling will be increased to £100 or £120 for each separate dwelling of four, or five or more rooms, respectively, provided. The power of housing authorities to make grants of amounts similar to the State grants will continue.

The participation by local authorities in financing the acquisition of ownership of private houses dates from the introduction of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act of 1899. The aim of this Act was "to assist persons of modest means to acquire ownership of the houses in which they lived and to do so by putting simple machinery at their disposal." The original Act has been so amended by our own Parliament that even its title is not now illustrative of the purpose which it is expected to serve. The Acts are now applied exclusively for the financing of new houses and not at all for the acquisition of ownership of old houses by tenants.

A great expansion of the operation of the Acts took place in the immediate post-war years with the result that the State has been called upon to provide from the Local Loans Fund since 1949 more than £15,000,000 for the purposes of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, apart from its participation to the extent of about half this sum again in financing the Acts by the Dublin and Cork Corporations. Side by side with these activities, there has been a substantial growth in the amount of shares and deposits available for private housing by building societies and the resources of assurance companies have also increased. House financing facilities are available from these sources to a greater range of borrowers than was the case in the immediate post-war years.

It is not the function of the State or of local authorities to provide loan facilities for persons in a position to finance their houses from these or other sources. It is intended that local authorities should continue to operate the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts for persons willing to provide their own houses and who are unable to provide the necessary finances otherwise but many persons have been availing of the facilities provided under the Acts who either did not need to do so or who would not have needed to do so if commercial agencies would advance a higher percentage of the purchase price and would allow a longer repayment period.

I have investigated this matter in recent months and, as already announced, discussions have been held with the principal commercial agencies engaged in house financing. I am pleased to say that the representatives of these agencies gave ready and generous co-operation in those discussions. The principal building societies were willing to widen the scope of their loan activities by making higher proportionate advances than hitherto, and by extending the period of repayment as far as practicable, on the understanding that they would not be required to bear the full risk of the higher loans and longer repayment periods and they have now agreed to the terms of guarantee schemes which will enable them to extend their loan facilities in these respects.

It is proposed in Section 9 of the Bill to enable effect to be given to the principles agreed upon with the building societies. It will be noted that the section enables assurance companies to be brought within the scope of schemes for guarantees in relation to advances. The assurance companies which took part in the earlier discussions indicated that, in view of the nature of their house purchase loans and other considerations, they were not participating, for the present at any rate, in the guarantee scheme. If, however, any assurance company wishes to participate in such a scheme it will be facilitated.

I may mention that some assurance companies, as well as continuing to make advances to individuals for house-purchase, are making or have offered to make direct loans to local authorities. The facilities available to borrowers under a guarantee scheme will be similar to those provided by local authorities under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, in that a guarantee will only be given for advances made for the purchase or erection of new houses for owner-occupation, and that advances will not exceed £1,800 in Dublin City and County and Dun Laoghaire and Cork City and its immediate vicinity, and £1,600 elsewhere. Subject to these limits the societies will advance up to 95 per cent. of the market value, exclusive of a grant under any enactment. The minimum deposit required from the borrower will be 5 per cent. Some of the societies are prepared to make advances repayable over 35 years. Interest will be at the rate charged by the society in its normal course of house financing.

Under a guarantee scheme a housing authority will undertake liability to a building society for two-thirds of any loss which on default by a borrower the society may incur in excess of the loss which it would have incurred if it had made only its normal advance. A guarantee will terminate when the principal sum outstanding has been reduced to 50 per cent. of the market value or purchase price of the property, whichever is the lower.

The State will recoup the housing authority half of any certified payments made on foot of guarantees. The principal building societies have agreed to make advances under schemes in anticipation of legislation. Housing authorities have been advised of the detailed lines which a guarantee scheme may follow and have been asked to notify building societies immediately on deciding to make a scheme, so that applications for guarantees can be made in appropriate cases. The making of schemes will be a reserved function of the elected members of the local authority.

I commend the proposals to local authorities and building societies in general. The margin of risk of loss on the higher rate of advance envisaged is negligible. Experience of the operation of the Small Dwellings Acts has shown that default has been so rare as to constitute for all practical purposes no risk whatever to the lender. The extent to which building societies can advance money for house purchase depends largely on their success in attracting savings. In this connection I would like to remind the House and the public generally of the statement by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Speech that increased saving "is our basic prescription for economic security and progress".

I would like to repeat that the proposals in Section 9 of the Bill do not amend in any way or interfere with the operation of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. These Acts will continue to serve their purpose, which is to facilitate persons who could not meet otherwise the cost of house purchase.

The method of calculating the appropriate advance under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts in any particular case is recast for administrative purposes in Section 18. Section 19 removes the limit of one half per cent. above borrowing rate on the rate at which housing authorities may make advances under the Acts. This will enable them to fix a lending rate prior to arranging their own permanent borrowing.

The consolidation of the Labourers Acts is a task which has been proceeding for a long time. Many of the provisions of the Acts are so outdated and outmoded that the entire code as it stands calls for revision and this work has been undertaken. Important changes in advance of consolidation have been effected from time to time, and in this Bill it is proposed similarly to make some amendments which in due course will fit into the scheme of consolidation.

Cottages erected on State lands are specifically excluded from purchase schemes made under the Labourers Act of 1936 for the reason that at the passing of that Act, title to State lands could not be transferred in fee-simple to county councils, and consequently tenants of labourers' cottages could not obtain fee-simple title to their cottages. The State Property Act of 1954 enables the transfer of certain State lands to local authorities and where the transfer is in fee-simple, there is no longer any necessity to exclude the cottages from statutory purchase schemes. Provision is made in Section 13 to give effect to the new position.

Since 1950, councils have been enabled to house in labourers' cottages persons who are not agricultural labourers, but such persons are specifically excluded from availing of purchase under the Labourers Act of 1936. This exclusion has resulted in certain amomalies. A serving soldier, for example, may not purchase his cottage while a working carpenter may. It is only fair that this exclusion should be waived where it is clear that the tenant is of a class similar to those coming within the definition of agricultural labourer, that he and his family are likely to settle permanently in the cottage and that he would not avail of the facilities with merely speculative intentions. I am satisfied that county councillors can be the best judges in the circumstances of each case, as to whether or not they should permit tenants who are not agricultural labourers to purchase their cottages. Section 15 of the Bill accordingly provides this power to county councils as a reserved function.

With a view to expediting the vesting of cottages in tenants who apply for purchase, it is proposed to modify the prohibition on the incurring of expenditure by local authorities on vested labourers' cottages. The procedure envisaged in Section 14 is that, following application for purchase by a tenant, the local authority will, when it has carried out its statutory obligation of putting the cottage into good repair and sanitary condition, vest the cottage in the tenant. The tenant's existing right of appeal to the Minister if he is not satisfied as to the condition of the cottage, will be exercisable within 30 days from the date on which the local authority notified him of vesting, and notwithstanding that a vesting order has been made, the local authority will be empowered to incur expenditure on such further works as the Minister may specify to be necessary for the purposes of the Act.

Doubt has been expressed as to the power of a county council to arrange for the sale of a dwelling erected under Section 35 of the Act of 1952 otherwise than by a lump sum payment. This was not the intention of the law and Section 16 puts the matter beyond doubt.

I am seeking authority in Section 17 to enable me to deal separately with the sites included in a compulsory purchase order for the purposes of the Labourers Acts, by annulling or confirming the acquisition of particular sites or groups of sites by separate orders, instead of having to await the making of comprehensive orders. The parliamentary draftsman is examining the effect which this Section would have on the validity and date of operation of compulsory purchase orders. If a further amendment of the Acts is found to be desirable, a proposal will be brought forward at the Committee Stage. It is proposed in Section 12 to amplify the scope of the local authorities' powers of land acquisition for the purposes of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, to facilitate in particular the provision of roads, streets, parks and open spaces for the service of existing housing schemes.

Section 11 provides for the continuance of the prohibition of the demolition of certain habitable houses and the empowering of housing authorities to grant or refuse permission for the use other than for dwelling purposes of any part of a habitable house.

I recommend the proposals in the Bill for the favourable consideration of the House.

It would, I think, be unreasonable to expect, after all the years in which we have discussed housing proposals here, anything exciting at this particular juncture. The Minister's speech on this Bill was quite a lengthy one; indeed, I was wondering how those who had the task of preparing it were able to string so much together about what I might describe as so little.

There are a few provisions in these proposals about which I should like to make a few remarks. The first concerns Section 7. I was wondering what reason the Minister would advance for the proposals to pay the grant to the builders. I am aware that that proposal was contained in a previous Housing Act and, as far as I remember, it was dropped at a later stage, as a result of administrative experience, in favour of the payment of the grant to the purchaser. I wonder if the reason which the Minister has given for the change is a good and sufficient one. If I were trying to justify the change, or if I were looking for a reason for it, I should have thought that perhaps this proposal was introduced because of the general situation that exists regarding private building and private builders—the difficulties that some of these concerns have in disposing of houses on their hands and the desirability of changing the law so as to enable the grants to be paid until such time as the builders could either dispose of the houses or let them in the ordinary way.

Although the Minister did not advance that as a justification for the change provided for in Section 7, I somehow think it must have been a reason such as that which operated in having this change effected; it seems to me it would be a better reason than the one advanced by the Minister. I do not know whether it is a good thing or not and I do not know whether it is a wise thing or not; it existed before and it was changed before. We are going back now and we shall have to wait and see whether or not that is a justifiable step.

The second matter to which I want to refer is the alteration in the amount of the grant under Section 12 of, I think, the 1954 Act—the alteration from a grant of £80 to grants on the same scale as those provided for agricultural workers in the Housing Act of 1954: £80 for a three-roomed house; £100 for a four-roomed house and £120 for a five-roomed house or over. That is a very desirable change because, since the provision of that grant, many houses which, in other circumstances would have been allowed to become derelict, were saved, houses which would have had to be replaced at a later date. This further concession to the owners or tenants of houses of that type will provide for better work of this nature in future.

The provision under Section 10 is also an excellent one. I remember that when we were discussing the grant in 1954 in relation to the installation of water and sewerage in houses, there was a good deal of confusion as to how these grants would be administered, having regard to the fact that the Department of Agriculture also gave a grant for the introduction of water into farmers' houses. We did not seem to be able to get over the difficulty then visualised and, as far as I can see, the proposal in Section 10 of this Bill is a very good one from that point of view. It means that where the owner of a house has introduced water he can get the grant provided here for the installation of sewerage facilities and, if it is a matter of the provision of water alone, the grant is segregated in such a way that he can have either or both. I approve very fully of that change.

The Minister referred to Section 14 which gives to the tenant of a labourer's cottage who has applied to purchase his cottage a right of appeal within 30 days after the making of a vesting order by a local body. That right of appeal is a good thing. There was supposed to be a right of appeal in the 1936 Act, but apparently it was not very clear and it did not appear to protect the cottage tenant. However desirable the provision of this right of appeal in this Bill may be, I cannot see how it will encourage the tenants of labourers' cottages in many parts of the country to apply to have their houses vested in them.

This is one of those steps which was discussed here for many years before the passage of the 1936 Act, and after. Indeed, on every Housing Bill and on every occasion when the Estimate for the Department of Local Government was discussed, I believe some Deputy or other referred to the desirability of having these cottages sold to the existing tenants. However much public men seemed to desire that result—I am speaking now from memory—the position in many of the counties seemed rather hopeless from that point of view. I do not know if much progress has been made recently, but only a few counties seemed to take any serious interest at all in the purchase of labourers' cottages and very few local bodies seemed to regard it as a desirable end. Very few local bodies really seemed to set about encouraging their tenants to purchase these cottages and have them taken off their hands.

This provision clearly gives a tenant the right of appeal within 30 days and it gives the local authority the right to enter on the premises, if the Minister so decides and to carry out further repairs. These are very excellent provisions, but they do not seem to make much difference, so far as I can see, as regards the number of tenants who will come forward and apply to have their houses vested in them, thereby relieving the local authority of their maintenance. However, we can say that it means that, to whatever extent cottage tenants apply to purchase, this provision will tend to give them additional safeguards should the local authority attempt to treat in a scanty way the work which they are bound, according to the 1936 Act, to carry out.

The reason given for Section 15 was different from what I thought was the reason for the section, but perhaps the section also covers what I had in mind. I had in mind a cottage that was originally granted by a local body to an agricultural worker and that where that man died and the son, who was, perhaps, a teacher, a non-agricultural worker, inherited, there was some impediment in the 1936 Act to his becoming the tenant and that it was to that purpose that Section 15 was being applied rather than the purpose indicated by the Minister.

I come now to the section which appears to me to be the most important section in the Bill, that is, Section 9, with which the Minister dealt at some length. The Minister said:—

"I would like to repeat that the proposals in Section 9 of the Bill do not amend in any way or interfere with the operation of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. These Acts will continue to serve their purpose, which is to facilitate persons who could not meet otherwise the cost of house purchase.

"The method of calculating the appropriate advance under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts in any particular case is recast for administrative convenience in Section 18."

What exactly does the Minister mean there? Are we to take it that local bodies, county councils and all others, will still be able to secure the necessary funds from the Local Loans Fund for the purpose of making advances under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts? To what classes of people? It seems to me that there is no effort here to indicate the level of income or means at which a person will be deprived of the right to borrow from his local body under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and the point at which he must turn to lending societies, building societies or insurance companies in order to obtain the necessary finance.

The Minister could have given us much more information on that matter. We are entitled to get much more information on that matter, because I cannot see that Section 9 means anything to anybody and, as I have stated, I cannot make up my mind as to the class of person that Section 9 will refer to. Those to whom it does refer will have to go to a building society and be approved by the building society. If the building society or insurance company does not approve of the application for any reason, the question of the guarantee referred to in Section 9 will not arise.

What is this guarantee? Section 9 says:—

"(1) A housing authority may, in accordance with a scheme approved of by the Minister, guarantee part of an advance (including an advance made before the making of the scheme) by a building society or an assurance company for the purchase or erection of a house together with interest thereon.

(2) For the purposes of a scheme under this section, a housing authority shall have the like powers of borrowing as are conferred on them for the purposes of the Housing of the Working Classes Acts or the Labourers Acts.

(3) The Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may recoup out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas not more than 50 per cent. of the expenditure by a housing authority in meeting a guarantee under a scheme under this section if the Minister is satisfied—

(a) that the guarantee was given in relation to such part of the advance as represents the excess of the advance over the advance that would have been made if the guarantee had not been given, and

If I apply to a building society and they decide to accept my application, but will give me only 70 per cent., 80 per cent, or whatever percentage they see fit, of the amount I require, having regard to the percentage specified in the Bill, the local authority will give a guarantee to that society for the balance, 10 per cent. or 15 per cent., as the case may be, and the State will give a further guarantee to the local authority that, in the event of my failing, the State will pay to the local body 50 per cent. of the 15 per cent. or 10 per cent., or whatever the percentage may be. Such a lot of words and bother over nothing! That is the sort of section that would irritate a person who really wanted to ensure that a Housing Bill would provide for what everybody would expect it to provide for and what Housing Acts have provided for in the past.

I detest having to talk about discussions that have taken place in this House in the past on matters similar to the matter we are now discussing. Very often I refrain from taking part in discussions in the House largely because of my dislike of going back on the past and reminding members of the House who were members of the House at times when other Housing Bills were being discussed of the attitude which they displayed thereon. On this occasion, I shall take the House back to some discussions which took place when I was Minister for Local Government, especially a discussion that took place on the Housing Bill, 1952, for the benefit of the members of the present Government and their followers, all the people outside who are interested in this matter, the people who want houses built, the people who want local authorities to build houses, those who want contractors to build houses, those who want to build houses for themselves, those who want financial assistance to build houses and who for the past 30 odd years, since the establishment of this State, have been able to get money for the purposes of financing their own initiative and providing themselves with their own houses and who, as far as we know, have paid back to the local bodies every penny with interest.

In 1956, four years after, we see in office men who were so outspoken in their criticism of Sections 9, 10 and 11 of the Housing Bill, 1952, men who were so critical at a later stage and critical also of the increase in interest rates, critical when the interest rates dropped slightly at a later stage still, because those who borrowed when those rates were higher would not reap the advantage of the reduced rates. We see in office men who thought the Government of that day were just bowing and scraping to the bankers and other financial interests. We had to face in this House and outside it that type of criticism.

Section 9 of this Bill was drafted, I understand, in consultation with all the Parties which form the Government—I do not know whether or not there was an agreement amongst them —by the Minister, representing Fine Gael and the Parliamentary Secretary representing Labour and surely it cannot be said that every point of view would not have been brought to bear on this proposal before it saw the light of day. In order to give the House an idea of the attitude towards the availability of money, when the House was discussing the Housing Bill of 1952, I will quote from Volume 133 of the Official Debates, column 135, of 3rd July, 1952. This is what the present Minister for Finance had to say on the three sections of the 1952 Act which are being re-enacted in this measure:—

"From the letters that I have received since the Committee Stage, it is clear that there are some housing authorities who are anxious to make more generous provision than is provided by these two sections. I have had letters, not merely from small farmers in Kildare who are over the minimum limit of £12 10s. provided in the Bill, but from people who had banded themselves together in the Newbridge Public Utility Society for the purpose of building houses outside Newbridge on the assumption that the scheme which the Kildare County Council had in operation under the 1950 Act could be permitted. These people tell me in these letters that they will not go ahead with the building of their houses because they feel that unless they would be able to get the facilities that would have been available to them up to the 31st March last, having regard to present costs and the prospect of mounting costs, the task and the burden of building houses for themselves would be entirely beyond their capacity.

"The Minister and the House will agree that anything that tends to impede or even to discourage the building of a single house at the present time should be avoided. The limits provided in the sections as introduced by the Minister are altogether too low in many parts of the country. We have suggested, therefore, that in regard to valuation, the limit of £12 10s. for the payment of an equivalent 100 per cent. grant should be raised to £25; that the limit of £20 valuation for the payment of two-thirds of the appropriate departmental grant should be raised to £40; that the limit of £27 10s. for a 50 per cent. housing grant should be raised to £55; and that the top limit should be raised from £35 to £65, that is to say, that between £55 and £65, a person would get only one-third of the grant; that between £40 and £55 he would get half the grant; between £25 and £40, two-thirds of the grant; and below £25, the full grant."

You can imagine the generous mood in which Deputy Sweetman found himself, when speaking from this very bench in 1952 about these two sections in the Housing Act of 1952. At a later stage, Deputy Norton spoke.

It is a fact that from time to time Governments have had difficulties in regard to the moneys required by local bodies for housing purposes. As far back as 1932 and 1933, and in the years that followed, except for the years of the war, there were occasions here and there when local bodies such as Dublin Corporation and Cork Corporation, since they could not resort to the Local Loans Fund as could the other local bodies, found themselves in difficulties in getting the necessary fund to go ahead with their work, but the thing to remember is that at no time in all those years, even where such difficulties did arise, were they not overcome.

In 1952, about the time we were discussing the 1952 Bill, such a difficulty had arisen with the Dublin Corporation and the banks and the present Tánaiste was terribly concerned about this matter. He took advantage of the occasion of the discussion upon the Housing Bill to raise the Dublin Corporation problem with me. The Chair, I think, was not at the time too clear as to whether or not he had that right. He said:—

"I want to make this submission to you. This Housing Bill is for the purpose of doing a variety of things which are set out in the Long Title, including making provision for the building of houses under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts, the Labourers Acts and the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. In so far as this Bill makes provision for the erection of houses under these Acts, which are the Acts under which the corporation are operating, and makes provision for the advancing of money under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, for which the corporation cannot now get money, I think it is relevant to this Bill. However, I do not want to delay unduly on the matter. I wanted to call the Minister's attention to the fact that a very serious situation has arisen. Whatever happens, the Dublin Corporation must get all the money it needs for the purpose of enabling it to continue its house building activities. A few years ago the banks adopted a somewhat similar attitude but, as the officials of the Department of Local Government and the officials of the Dublin Corporation know, on that occasion the Government in office at the time made sure that the Dublin Corporation got all the money they needed in order that there would be no interference with their house building activities."

Of course the whole insinuation there was, as we so often hear in this House, that housing was not a political matter but one on which there was complete agreement by all Parties. The insinuation was that while the previous inter-Party Government had met this problem as between the Dublin Corporation and the banks, there was the danger that the problem would not be faced in the same manner by the Government of 1952.

But what is the Government of 1956, of which the Tánaiste is a member, doing about this? What is the Tánaiste, and those who have taken the view on the financial aspect of housing to which I have previously referred, doing about Section 9 of this Bill?

The Tánaiste goes on:—

"A similar situation has now arisen with the exception that on this occasion the banks have been much more audacious."

Is this Section 14 of the Bill?

I am talking about Section 9.

The Deputy did say Section 14.

I will read it again:—

"A similar situation has now arisen with the exception that on this occasion the banks have been much more audacious."

Were they more audacious in 1952 than they are now? I am not making any comment on whether the banks were audacious in 1952 and in 1954 nor am I making any comment on the allegation as to whether they are audacious now but I am taking advantage of this occasion to remind members of this House who have been a long time here, experienced politicians who have talked glibly and who have pleaded during the course of discussion on housing, that no political issues existed at all, but who at the same time seized every opportunity to score their political points. I wonder what the Tánaiste, the Leader of the Labour Party, now has to say about the banks' audacity; what he and the Labour Party and other members of the House interested in housing matters have to say about Section 9?

We have been since led to believe, and the public were encouraged by responsible people to believe, what the Taoiseach said in 1952 and which was quoted in the Mayo News of the 21st June, 1952:—

"They in Fine Gael had within their ranks young economists and people who were trained in finance and they were taking advantage of their advice and bringing new ideas to solve the present difficult problems."

When one throws one's mind back to those years and back to the statements such as that made by the Taoiseach in 1952, one wonders where are the young financiers now.

There are several other extracts here that I could read if it were necessary or if it was likely to serve any useful purpose, in order to show the attitude of the members of this Government in the past, and that statements made by this Government have been reckless and irresponsible whether they were in office or out of office. The result of it all now is that we have before us a Housing Bill in 1956. After many years of what one could fairly describe as reasonably good conditions, this country now has a Housing Bill which contains Section 9 which is going to affect seriously the whole building programme. Only a few years ago some of those on the other side of the House were at their wits' ends to find out how we could get rid of the resources which we had built up in the prosperous years. We could not find ways or means to get rid of them or invest them in this country quickly enough. Now apparently the Government of the day does not seem to be able to get a penny for the continuance of a programme on which everybody seems to have been agreed for the last 30 years—the completion of the work of rehousing our people.

What has happened? Where have our resources and reserves gone to? Is it possible that we must limit—as we are proposing to limit here—the facilities which were available in bad times, in 1932 and in 1933? Then we could get money to undertake this work, and now after many years of reasonable prosperity, because as alleged, of the movement of more Argentine beef into the British market, we are now supposed not to be able to find enough money to give to people to build their own houses, money which they always repaid in the past with interest. I do not want to be unreasonable in this matter, nor do we as a Party want to be unreasonable.

Governments, as I say, have had had their difficulties in years gone by in regard to housing, and these difficulties have been surmounted. It appears now that we are about to throw in the sponge, and if we were doing it clearly, and openly admitting to the country that money could not be obtained by the Government, then there would be something to be said for the idea of sending people who want to buy houses to building societies and insurance companies, but the idea of their being able to repay these loans at the rates of interest that will be charged cannot be seriously contemplated by anybody. I do not know what these societies will charge in the way of interest but I can guess what the rates will be. As I say, we do not want to be, and we would not be, unreasonable with the Government if its members would come forward and say: "We have reached a position here in which we cannot find the money. The last time you were in office, something happened outside which caused you difficulty—it was the Korean war; now it is the Argentine beef."

If the members of the Government had shown any reasonableness in the past in regard to these financial matters, if they had been honest in regard to these matters, if they had not spoken so much with a political tongue in regard to them, and if they came forward now to admit that they could not get money to finance housing, I am sure we would have some sympathy with them. Instead of that they come along with Section 9. Section 9—I do not know who devised it and I do not care—is a fraud. It is intended to fool and deceive people and for that reason, while we do not propose to oppose the Second Reading of this measure, when the Committee Stage comes along we intend to vote against that section.

I do not propose to follow Deputy Smith in his line of argument because, unfortunately, in another place I had some experience of Deputy Smith's approach to housing and I regret to say it is not quite the approach he has been talking about here. As regards this Bill, there are one or two matters that I think require comment particularly when one reads the Long Title. One of these is whether it is an improvement in the position to give a grant to a house-builder instead of to a person who is to become the owner or occupier. The whole purpose of special supplementary grants was, I understand, to encourage people to own their own houses. It was, of course, also of importance that if our citizens entered into arrangements to have houses built, somebody would benefit the builders and those employed by them but, nevertheless, the initial purpose was to give the assistance direct to the person who was anxious to own his own home.

I ask the Minister whether he considers that the present proposal—in Section 6, I think it is—to transfer these grants from the owner to the builder is a wise one and whether it is justifiable when one considers the Long Title, and also the absence of any provision dealing with the ceiling on grants which has had the effect of preventing many people from obtaining loans through local authorities? I am referring now to this ceiling of £520 per year which has become imposed almost generally. Obviously under present-day circumstances, at least in the City of Dublin and Dublin County, a person could not consider purchasing a house unless he had something over £9 a week on an average, and to have the ceiling fixed at £10 a week, however it is fixed, whether it is by way of the maximum advance to be made or by way of a condition governing supplementary grants, and to say that if somebody has £10 5s. per week, or for that matter, £11 per week, under modern conditions, he has too much money to justify getting a loan under the various Acts and that he should be deprived of assistance from the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts is, I think, a hardship. I would suggest that the Minister might consider this aspect of the problem before the Bill comes up here in Committee.

On the question of Section 9, it appears to me that, as a practical proposition, people of a limited income are not going to get here the facilities they need from building or insurance societies, or will not even be able to apply for such facilities if the present interest rates are those which will apply. I am thinking of an interest rate which has been referred to, I think in this House, of 7 per cent. per annum. Consequently, while that section will enable the local authorities to give certain guarantees, generally speaking it will have no very wide application. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that the purposes of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts will not be defeated by this section. I am not in a position to estimate or deal with every difficulty facing the Minister, but I would submit that there are many hundreds of applicants who still require assistance in the operations of the Small Dwellings Acts and who cannot under any circumstances meet the requirements likely to be laid down by outside bodies such as building societies and insurance companies.

Finally, I may not be in order in raising the matter in this way, but I should like to draw the Minister's attention to certain classes of Dublin Corporation tenants—those who come under the reserve heading, I think, and are holding houses as newly-weds. Because of limited support from the central authority under earlier Acts, the local authority has been compelled to apply a rent based on a higher percentage of their income than exists in the case of general tenants coming under the heading of differential rents. I would ask the Minister to look into this and see whether some easement can be afforded to these classes of tenants.

I indicated that I did not intend to follow the line taken by Deputy Smith in the course of this debate on this Bill; but I would impress on the Minister the importance of a definite statement from him as to the future of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and whether the passing of this Bill will not lead to the actual disappearance of these Acts as we have known them.

I should like to welcome the terms of this Bill as being, in some cases a long needed, and certainly in most cases a very wise addition to or amendment of the housing code. It is quite clear that, generally speaking, the most important, and certainly the most novel provision in the Bill is contained in Section 9. Apart from anything else, the fact that it appears to be a new principle or a new application of a principle in housing legislation seems to me to be deserving of being treated first in trying to deal with this Bill in general. Deputy Smith said that Section 9 does not mean anything to anyone. I hardly think the Deputy is fair to himself, as somebody who has had concern for the question of housing over a period in this country, when he says that; or I hardly think that he really intended to mean that the section is going to be of no force or effect.

As I understand it, no one, and least of all the Minister himself, from his speech, suggested that Section 9 is any sort of panacea or cure-all for any difficulty that arises or may arise in the future. Section 9 is clearly, and, I think, relatively simply designed to effect one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose is this. The policy of building societies, in particular with regard to the extent of the advances which they are prepared to make on house property much more than in regard to either the rates of interest or the periods of repayment, has always been somewhat conservative and somewhat restrictive. They are perfectly entitled to have that policy. It may be necessary for the running of their business. It is the policy they have; but I think it is true to say that, for some quite large section of the people who were anxious to buy or to build houses with the assistance of loans, it was the gap which the building societies were putting between the amount they would advance and the actual cost of the house which made it impossible for quite a large section of people in every area and in every district to avail of building society terms.

As I understand it, all Section 9 does is to close that gap by the local authority, with the ultimate guarantee of the Government. As I see it, it is nonsense to suggest that that section does not mean anything to anyone and that it is not a distinct help towards the problem of assisting the people to provide their own houses or to buy their own houses. That is inconceivable, if heretofore building societies were only prepared to advance 75 per cent. of the purchase price of a house and if the last 25 per cent. deterred—as I think it did—a great number of people from availing of building society loans.

If, as I understand it is the intention, that Section 9 closes that gap down to 90 per cent., surely it is not quite sensible to say that that is a section which means nothing to anyone? The position now will be that, in a great number of cases, where previously a man would have to meet that gap out of his own pocket, by making a cash deposit in the purchase of a house, with the assistance of the building societies, that amount will be so reduced, or minimised to practically nothing, that he will now be able to avail of the building societies. It is not suggested that those people who are unable to repay the loan for a house in the ordinary course of trade at competitive rates are going to be pushed into the building societies and out of the Small Dwellings Acts.

That is not the intention, and I think the Minister has made that perfectly clear. What will happen and must happen is that the resources of the building society—and, one hopes, either directly or indirectly, of the insurance companies—will be got in, by this bridging of the gap by the local authorities, to assist people who would otherwise be unable to avail of these resources by reason of the fact that only a relatively low proportion of the purchase value of the house would be affected. I do not think the Minister has put forward this section as being an overall cure for anything. He certainly has not put it forward as a substitute for anything, but it is quite obviously a very beneficial addition to the benefits already made to assist people to buy their own houses.

I do not think Deputy Smith was being fair to himself, having regard to his experience in this matter, when he suggested it would not mean anything to anybody. It will; it will not mean everything to everybody but it is not put forward as a section or policy which will mean that.

With regard to the other provisions of the Bill, it does seem to me that the change envisaged in Section 7 of the Bill, whereby builders of houses can obtain a grant rather than confining it to the people who occupy the houses, is a very wise one. In a certain number of instances, as Deputies from the country will confirm, it is bringing the law into line with practice because heretofore, while the cheque has been payable to the owner of the house, as most Deputies know it went directly into the hands of the builder through an arrangement between the owner and the builder.

I wonder whether the Minister would consider in any way extending this general principle to the question of the grants available to the builders of houses for letting under Sections 19 and 20 of the 1948 Act. I agree you cannot give the entire grant without tags under either section; under the present system there are three tags. One is that the person must not sell the house; secondly, the grant is payable only after a period, and thirdly, the person must not let the house except in accordance with the regulations laid down. In effect, he must not let it at a rent in excess of that prescribed in the regulations covering it.

The grants available for building houses for letting have been availed of to an extraordinarily small extent since the 1948 Act came into operation. The figures available in 1952 in the Rent Control Report showed that there were less than 100 applicants in each of the first two years of the operation of the 1948 Act. I believe that one of the main reasons for the non-use of those grants has been the fact that it contained this restriction on sale. Undoubtedly, the fact that the housing authority was entitled to require, and did require, restriction on the amount of the rent to be demanded, may have deterred people. In addition to the restriction on the rent, the restriction on sale, which went with the grant under the relevant section of the 1948 Act, had a deterring effect on persons who might have availed of these grants.

These restrictions completely ruined that house, built by a person with the assistance of the grant, as a security in the bank or otherwise. If you have a house on which there is an absolute restriction on sale, you cannot raise money on it. Without going far from the principle of Section 19, if the Minister were prepared to add to what he has done in relation to house building for occupation and not for letting, a provision whereby a grant would be available to a person building a house for letting without any restriction as to resale, merely providing against resale within a given limited period, and that the grant would be repayable if he wanted to sell the house straight away and that the local authority would be the first mortgagee, then there would be more use made of these grants by persons prepared to build houses for letting than there has been since the 1948 Act was passed. If that could be achieved, it would be yet another method of inducing private enterprise into the provision of houses at reasonable rents for people who are either unable to provide them for themselves or who require considerable assistance to build them.

That is the main problem we are dealing with in this Bill and in other Acts. We will not cure it by one single Act, one single move, but by attacking the problem in a half dozen different ways. It is on that basis that I welcome Section 9 as a new way of leading in private enterprise and money to assist in the housing of the people who cannot build houses for themselves.

I respectfully suggest that, in addition to the alteration in Section 7, if the Minister made a similar alteration applying to Section 19 and, of course, to Section 20 which deal with public utility societies, he would be going some distance towards trying to encourage private individuals and companies to build houses for letting, with Government assistance, in such a way as they might be let at reasonable rents.

With regard to the question of reconstruction grants I should like if the Minister would see again whether there is not any way whereby the existence of reconstruction grants could not be made known to the owners of houses, particularly where the City of Dublin is concerned. These reconstruction grants are a first-class idea; what is needed is to sell the idea. As far as the City of Dublin is concerned, particularly the centre of the city, there are houses which even still could be prevented from becoming slums if the owners of the houses could be persuaded to reconstruct them even at this stage. I think that if these grants, their availability, their terms and their amounts, could be brought home with sufficient publicity to people, whether owners or occupiers, houses already on the fringe of becoming slums, yet still retaining sufficient standards of respectability, could be improved considerably. I think the existence of such grants should be hammered home more extensively. I believe that the use of these grants would prevent a considerable amount of the City of Dublin from becoming a slum.

These reconstruction grants are used to a considerable extent throughout the country. The ordinary pattern you see, travelling through the country, is that a very high proportion of houses, particularly on small farms, have been reconstructed over the past ten or 12 years. I do not think these grants have been availed of to the same extent in the City of Dublin. I should like the Minister to consider what steps could be taken by him and the housing authority to try and sell these grants to people interested either as owners or occupiers. It should be driven home to those people that they can reconstruct their houses partly at the expense of the Government and of the local authority.

The only other section to which I should like to refer, and which I welcome very much, is Section 12 which provides that housing authorities acquiring land for the purposes of the Housing of the Working Classes Act can do so for the purposes of playing fields, parks and streets. Anyone who has anything to do with the situation in relation to playing fields in Dublin at present must welcome that provision. Any move, large or small, which will facilitate the provision of playing fields in the City of Dublin is bound to be welcome and is long overdue.

Section 12 is an enabling provision which permits the housing authority to use this power, if it wants to, and I would ask the Minister to impress on the housing authority, especially in the City of Dublin, the crying need of playing fields. In most of the large and closely packed flat-housing accommodation which has recently been put up, I think it is true to say that playing fields have not been provided. I know that the line of argument can be used that it is better to use space to get a family out of one single filthy room than to provide a playing field and I appreciate the strength of that argument. Everyone who sees the housing conditions of a very substantial number of people in the City of Dublin must appreciate its strength.

One does not like spending money on a playing field when there is a possibility instead of providing decent homes for people who have not got decent living conditions, but if you go on building these flats and do not plan for a proper proportion of playing fields and open spaces adjoining, you will create a situation which in the long run will be as bad, or nearly as bad, as that which you set out to cure. Therefore I ask the Minister to use his administrative powers to point out at least to the Dublin housing authority the wisdom and desirability of using that section and of providing these open spaces and playing fields.

Generally, therefore, I welcome the Bill. I feel that its novel section, Section 9, will be of assistance. I do not think it is useful—I do not think it is intended to be useful—to try in this House to discuss precisely to what extent it will be of assistance. The Minister has not suggested that it is a complete cure or that it is in substitution for anything else. It will add in some way to the amount of private money and private enterprise, and assist people in providing houses for themselves. Any step in that direction must be welcome no matter what view one may hold on the overall position.

This Bill is a Bill to which, regardless of its text, all of us have been looking forward with some anxiety over the past two or three months. As we are all very well aware, the housing legislation which we had in operation expired on 31st March last and, since then, we have had a situation which has not been conducive to continued house-building, for the reason that no one knew what amount of grant was forthcoming, whether it would be increased, whether the scope of it would be widened or what was going to happen. For that reason, I welcome the Bill. At least now we can see what the people will get in the future. They can now come to a decision with a full knowledge, as a result of what is contained in this Bill if it is accepted by this House, as to how much they must provide when they are building in the future.

In regard to the provisions that are continued to a large extent—for instance, the existing grants being paid— these were considered two years ago to be sufficient to meet the then needs of our people. Despite the fact that there appears to be a lack of money from Government sources at the moment for any of these things, at the same time, I feel that some further incentive should have been given by way of increasing grants from the figures at which they have stood for two years up to 31st March last. If we are to make the incentive to-day equivalent to what it then was, it is clear that these grants should have been increased in keeping with the increase in the cost of building and some of our building materials.

However, if the resources of the Government are so strained at the moment that this is not feasible, then we will not be unreasonable on this side of the House in expecting the impossible. We will regard the proposals in this Bill to continue the provisions, in the main, of the previous Act as something to which we cannot object too much since, because of the position the Government are in at the moment, no money is available to grant the increases to compensate builders and private individuals for the increase in building costs and the cost of materials.

There are a few points which I should like to get clear in relation to some sections which have already been discussed. In regard to this matter of paying the grants to the builders in future, can we take it that this provision only applies to the Government grant, or are we to consider that, in addition, if the local authority adopts a scheme, it may also be called on to pay the same amount to the builder?

Not to the builder.

Would the Minister also state when he is replying whether, where a house is built by a builder and later sold, the builder having got a State grant, in the event of a purchase being made, there will be any consideration given to the new purchaser?

There will.

That is something I wanted to get clear and I am glad the former position no longer exists. A further query I wish to address to the Minister is in relation to repairs and improvements. In the past, we had under Section 12 of the 1954 Act the provision that houses for letting could be reconstructed and that, for that reconstruction, a grant not exceeding £80 could be paid by the Government and, in addition, by the local authority. In regard to the new section replacing Section 12 and extending the present grants or the grants that were in the past paid under Section 12 and bringing them up to £20 and £40 in relation to four-roomed and five-roomed houses, will the no means test that applied under that section still remain in this new section? The reason I ask that is that I feel there could be certain confusion in local authorities with regard to this matter, and that, if it was a question of giving an equal grant from the local authority to the new figures of £100 and £120, we might well find that those grants could not be afforded in some cases or might not be fairly afforded from the point of view of the rest of the community with regard to a particular applicant.

As well as that, I would also like to know in relation to all those new grants, will each local authority have the option to adopt all or any of them, and in adopting, for instance, the section replacing the old Section 12 of the 1954 Act, can they adopt it in part? In other words, can they adopt a scheme and say that if the Government is in one case giving £120 they would be prepared to give up to a maximum of £50, £60, £70 or £80, as the case may be? Will they have that option, or will they be compelled as a local authority either to opt to work the scheme as outlined in the text of the Bill or not to work it at all? I ask that question for my own information and for that of the House and of local authorities who would like to have that aspect of the matter cleared up.

In regard to the provision of water and sewerage facilities, the proposal is to break down the grants. Formerly it was a single grant to the person who was availing of the grant, and who had to install the water and sewerage facilities at one and the same time. The idea that we should now put in water if necessary and leave sewerage alone for the moment, or, in a case where water is already there, we might install sewerage into the house, is in the main a good thing with which I agree. But, on the other hand, will this, in order to qualify for the water grant in this particular case, involve the same provisions as there were under previous legislation—in other words, will the installation of water under a local government housing or sewerage grant scheme entail not only the providing of the source of supply and bringing the supply to the house but also the provision of a bathroom and bath with hot and cold running water? Will that be obligatory on any applicant who wishes to avail of this grant? The Minister, possibly, could deal with that point later on.

We come, then, to the general feature that was given some little prominence, the idea being, so far as I could read it in some sections of the daily Press, that the provisions of the legislation which we are asked to enact, were to be an improvement. The improvement was, I seemed to see in black type in some papers, and even in the White Paper that was issued as an explanatory memorandum, that the reconstruction grants were being increased. That is rather misleading in that one would gather from the reading of the White Paper and the Press reports—some of them at any rate— that in the past the maximum reconstruction Government grant available from the Local Government Department was £80, while in actual fact that was not so. There were £100 and £120 grants in existence in respect of houses with four or five rooms or upwards, except in the case of houses which were being let to tenants. It was only in the case of the houses being let to tenants in more or less non-rural centres that this £80 maximum local government grant applied. We also had then as an additional encouragement the certainty that a second £80 could be got without a means test, which was not the case in regard to the other sections of the Bill. So far as the section replacing Section 12 is concerned, it is true that there has been an increase there, but it is wrong to draw from that, as seemingly has been drawn in some quarters, the idea that there has been in fact upwards of 50 per cent. increase in reconstruction grants generally proposed in the Bill we are discussing.

The section which I think will give us quite a bit of a headache is Section 9. Section 9, so far as I can gather— possibly I may not be able to understand it, and other members talking later on may be able to clarify it, or possibly the Minister in his concluding speech will give us a clear insight into what it is all about—says a lot and means nothing. I cannot for the life of me see how all the conditions that are envisaged here, and all the "ifs" and "buts" in this section, can be satisfied. Who is going to say they are satisfied? For instance, in regard to this dual guarantee which is being sought, it is completely in the dark so far as the ordinary man is concerned.

Who is going to determine paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) of Section 9? Sub-section (3) says:—

"The Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, may recoup out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas not more than 50 per cent. of the expenditure by a housing authority in meeting a guarantee under a scheme under this section if the Minister is satisfied—

(a) that the guarantee was given in relation to such part of the advance as represents the excess of the advance over the advance that would have been made if the guarantee had not been given, and

(b) that the amount paid by the housing authority in meeting the guarantee did not exceed two-thirds of the loss which arose from the making of that part of the advance."

I realise that draftsmen and legal men can thoroughly tie up the ordinary individual in a mass of words out of which we can make little or no sense. When we have occasion to try to make sense out of them it usually costs us a lot of money. In this particular matter let us talk about rural Ireland. Building societies, as far as I can ascertain, have not been interested over a considerable time in doing business in house property in rural Ireland. That policy or outlook, I take it, has been arrived at by their experience in operating in rural Ireland in the past. It is handier and easier for them, apparently, and a lot more secure, to do their business in and around big cities where, if there is default in payments, they may sell the house, because no matter what house you can put up here, there will always be plenty of people coming along to buy it, whereas in the country if a house is taken over through default in payment of repayment of the original owner, it is very unlikely that any of his neighbours will come in and put up a penny.

I believe that is the reason why building societies have been shy, in the main, of doing business in the country. In the last analysis, they cannot realise the money they advance from the sale of property because country people will not as a rule go in and buy over the head of a man the house which he himself originally either built or purchased. That is a characteristic of the people. In that case, the building society may possibly advance as much as 50 per cent. less on that house in the country than it would advance against the same type of house in a larger centre of population. Indeed, it may only advance 30 per cent. or 40 per cent.

Under Section 9, will that be sufficient assuming the applicant wants 90 per cent. or 95 per cent. as the case may be? If the building society so wishes it can say to the applicant: "We are prepared to give you 40 per cent." Can the applicant then go to the local authority and get from the local authority a guarantee that, if the society advances 95 per cent., the local authority, in conjunction with the Department of Local Government, or in conjunction with the Government, will take responsibility and guarantee the building society against any loss that may accrue on the extra 40 per cent. or 45 per cent. which the society, in the first instance, was not prepared to advance?

If the local authority agrees to that, will they not then fall down when it comes to paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) of Section 9 where the Minister must be satisfied that the guarantee was given "in relation to such part of the advance as represents the excess of the advance over the advance that would have been made if the guarantee had not been given"? Unless building societies and insurance companies are prepared to change their outlook completely in so far as rural business is concerned, I cannot for the life of me see how or in what manner any guarantee can be given by anybody, least of all by the local authority, that any loss arising will be made good to the building society or insurance company. If this is the rock upon which this proposition will perish in so far as rural builders are concerned, then that will be an end of the matter.

Is it intended that loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts will continue? If it is the intention to continue them, to what category of applicant will these loans be advanced? Where will the loans start and where will they end? In Dublin at the moment the applicant, in order to obtain a loan under the Small Dwellings Acts, must have an income of £10 or £9 18s. per week in order to get a loan of £1,300 on a house costing £2,000. In other words, in order to obtain a loan to-day an income of £10 weekly is required. Is it not true that according to a recent directive from the Minister's Department, or elsewhere, anybody with an income of more than £10 per week will not be entitled to a Small Dwellings Acts loan? If a man has not £10 per week he is not worthy and, if he has over £10 per week, he is not entitled to a loan. Is it the position that in future there will not be any Small Dwellings Acts loans in fact, though in theory they will still exist? If the answer is that they will exist in fact, will the Minister tell the House plainly and without any quibbling where will the loan begin and where will it end? At what stage will applicants be compelled to seek from the local authority or from a building society the loans provided under Section 9?

There is nothing to indicate where one scheme will start and stop and where the other scheme will begin. Neither is there any indication as to whether there will be any difference in the rate of interest payable on loans under the Small Dwellings Acts as against loans from building societies. Irrespective of whether or not there is a difference, it has been rumoured—I take it with some foundation—that the new rate of interest will be in the region of 7 per cent. Is it not clear to the Minister—I am sure it is clear to other members on that side of the House—that a 7 per cent. interest charge will not bring about an increase in building? Neither will it help to alleviate housing conditions for the poorer sections of our community.

The present Minister, the present Government and its supporters had a good deal to say on this matter of interest charges for house building at one period. We recall the pronouncements made by prominent people on the Government Benches to-day. Those pronouncements have been recorded for all time. We know how they felt about housing not so many years ago. We know how they felt about the provision for housing. We know how they abhorred any suggestion of an increase in the cost of money for this very vital and essential service. The then Deputy Mulcahy, now Minister for Education and the Gaeltacht, speaking in relation to Government loans said:—

"The latest blow the Minister has struck at our economy is the launching of the £20,000,000 at 5 per cent.... the Minister goes out and puts this blister of 5 per cent. in interest for his borrowings on the people of this country in a most outlandish and cruel way.

That was on the 26th November, 1952. Surely the present situation is even more cruel because we are specifically picking out and selecting from amongst our community those who have no houses, those who are living in condemned houses; we are being much more cruel to them under this than the Government was in 1952 when the 5 per cent. National Loan was launched. Remember, subscription to that National Loan was a voluntary act. Surely, if it was cruel to have an interest rate of 5 per cent. then, it is still more cruel to have an interest rate of 7 per cent. to-day? Not only is it more cruel: it is almost criminal. Here is a Government which tells the people that, if they have not got houses or if they are living in condemned houses, they will have to pay 7 per cent. in order to provide themselves with houses.

We had the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, then Deputy Norton, on 27th November, 1952, talking on the same subject. He said:—

"We have yet another example of the slump in the building trade due to the Government action in paying 5 per cent. on the recent loan..."

Apparently there was a slump in the building trade brought about by the Government's action in paying 5 per cent. on the loan which they raised.

"...with the result that there is less demand for houses, less employment for building trade workers and consequent unemployment..."

Again, if 5 per cent. paid on the national loan raised at that time brought about all those evils, how much greater the evils which will follow the 7 per cent. on the moneys loaned by the building societies to the unfortunates of this community who have not yet got houses or the ready money to provide them?

The position would not be fully covered or explained if we did not have the then Deputy Dillon, now the Minister for Agriculture, also lending his view, voice and wit to the situation as he saw it. On the 1st December, 1953, almost at the beginning of a new year, when you might expect that a New Year resolution might suddenly curb his tongue, he said, 13 months afterwards: "Why did we ever go to the country to seek a loan at 5 per cent? The most abandoned banana republic in South America could raise money at less than that." What sort of Republic are we to-day and how abandoned have we become? What depths have we now sunk to, seeing that, according to the present Minister for Agriculture, we had sunk in December, 1953, to the lowest possible level, in his own colourful expression, lower than an abandoned banana republic in South America because we then had to pay as high as 5 per cent. for money for capital development? Where have we got to to-day, since we have to pay 7 per cent. on money required for a most essential social service?

Again, lest anybody might think these three—we could add a few fitting adjectives, but we will not—now holding responsible positions might not be regarded as sufficiently responsible, we had the Taoiseach himself, much later than any of those statements, speaking at Athy and reported in the Leinster Leader of the 8th May, 1954, make a very solid statement as follows:—

"An instance of the kind of government which Fine Gael will avoid is the high rate of interest paid for their borrowings by the present Government. There will certainly be a change of policy here."

Everybody in this House knows that there has been a change, but, far from coming down, as we were led to believe by that statement, the rate of interest has gone up and nobody seems to know just how high it may yet go.

In view of those statements and in view of one other statement which I should like to quote and which is specifically referring to houses, it is absolutely impossible for anybody trying to retain his sanity in this House to understand how we can have those people or the people representing them on the Government Benches come in here with housing legislation whereby the people of this country will have to pay 7 per cent. for the loans on their houses. In addition to all the worthies who have already been quoted on this matter of dear money, we also had a statement from Deputy MacEoin, the Minister for Defence, on the 17th November, 1952, and reported in the Irish Press, I take it correctly since it has never been contradicted, as follows:—

"General MacEoin said he was glad the recent loan had been a success but the success was too costly. Fine Gael pledged itself—"

pledged itself—

"——to restore cheap money for housing and capital development generally."

We are discussing housing to-day and Deputy General MacEoin, the Minister for Defence, is not here and the cheap money is not here either.

We also had a remark by one of the young economic experts to whom Deputy Smith referred earlier this afternoon, the people who were to save this country once this Government got into office. As reported at column 139 of Volume 149 of the Official Report, Deputy O'Donovan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government, interrupted Deputy Briscoe while he was speaking in regard to the price of money. Deputy Briscoe was saying:—

"It may be thought that by keeping our bank rate down the Government and local authorities that have to borrow from the public may be able to get money cheaper than has been possible in recent years."

At that point Deputy O'Donovan interjected: "It will not be dearer money anyway." Deputy Briscoe was pointing out that this would not be possible in the way the present Government was trying to manoeuvre the financial position.

Is this in relation to housing?

Yes, in regard to dear money. We are now being asked to pay a higher rate of interest for housing, although the economic expert in the present Government, Deputy O'Donovan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the present Government, said on the 8th March, 1955: "It will not be dearer anyway." We do not see Deputy O'Donovan here to-day and neither do we see cheaper money.

On the 9th March, 1955, just a year and a few months ago, as reported in Volume 149, column 227 of the Official Report, the Taoiseach said in this House:—

"An essential part of our policy is that the price of money borrowed for capital expenditure must be low. Ours is the policy of cheap money as against borrowing it at dearer rates...."

We heard what the Taoiseach said on the 8th May, 1954; what Deputy Dillon, the present Minister for Agriculture, said about the banana republic on the 1st December, 1953, and what Deputies Norton and Mulcahy, now the present Tánaiste and Minister for Education, respectively, said in November, 1953 and, not to be forgotten, we also had Deputy Morrissey who spoke on the 18th March, 1953, on the same subject in this House. He said:—

"The money which we require by way of loan could have been raised successfully at less than 5 per cent. Everybody who has to raise a loan for the purchase of a house will pay through the nose for it."

I wonder where they are paying through at the moment or where it is proposed they will get the money to pay through at all, if we were then paying 5½ or 5¾ per cent. on the loan raised previously by Fianna Fáil? It is now contemplated that the people will raise their own loans from the building societies and pay approximately 7 per cent., or even more than that. Where are all these people this afternoon? Where are all the pledges they then made both directly and by inference to be drawn from their statements about cheap money for housing and capital development?

1955, 1954, 1953 and 1952: I will not go back any further. However, in all of those years, statements were made on the subject of the price of money and I have just given some samples, a trickle, of the type of talk that came from the people now occupying the Government Benches about how they abhorred dear money and how they abhorred the fact that the poor people of this country would have to pay high rates of interest on the money lent to them for their houses. I would point out that the rates of interest prevailing at that time were 2 per cent. lower than they will now be under present legislation. Furthermore, I think the people had more certainty about being able to get a loan than they now have.

I have already pointed out to the Minister that there is nothing in this Bill or in the explanatory memorandum, nothing that I could gather from his speech when introducing the Bill, which gives any clear indication of where Section 9 begins, where the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts loans begin or end, who will be entitled to them or what amount of interest will be payable on the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts loans. Furthermore, no information is given as to the difference in the rate of interest chargeable on moneys from either of the two different sources.

If we cannot get more information on Section 9, let us, if necessary, pass what is understandable in the Bill and let this section go back to the draftsman or to anyone else who can frame it in such a way that light will be thrown on it and the House will know what it is passing when it comes to decide this matter. At the moment we just do not know. Time may be a healer. Section 9 will be no loss to the Bill as it now stands. It should be withdrawn for the moment for amendment, clarification or redrafting.

Let us proceed to Section 14. Here there is a provision with the spirit of which I am inclined to agree and one which I feel had a good motive behind it. In Section 14, apparently in order to expedite the vesting of council houses, it is proposed that notification of vesting having been given to the tenant, the local authority may later enter into the house and do further repairs as directed by the Minister or his agent, in accordance with a decision given on appeal. I feel I understand what the Minister is trying to achieve there and I am in sympathy with it, but I am not at all satisfied that Section 14 will work just as simply as all that and remedy the grievances which exist.

A great deal of vesting has been carried out in County Donegal in the recent past and I do know that a number of new vested owners have grievances, inasmuch as the houses which they had sought to have vested in them and which they expected would be put into proper repair, as is the law, were not repaired to their satisfaction. In some cases, they feel that there may have been some little neglect. In other cases, they feel that whoever inspected the house after the workmen had been there did not see defects that possibly showed up a week later.

Section 14, apparently, is to deal with such cases, but I wonder how this section will be operated. The decision will be given by the Minister on appeal, if appeal is lodged within 30 days after notification of vesting has been given to the tenant by the local authority. I want to know from the Minister—possibly he may have the information and will give it to us later in the debate—who will act as the Minister's agent in investigating any such appeal? Will there be a special inspector sent from the Department of Local Government, or will it be a question of some of the engineers in the county being appointed to act as agent for the Minister in this matter?

It will be difficult to have a fair approach to the appeal made by any tenant who has a grievance under this section. It will be difficult to get it investigated fully and fairly. On the other hand, if it is to be investigated fully and fairly, it may be a rather costly procedure. Assuming that the tenant applies for vesting, that the local authority proceeds to repair the cottage or council house and, when that has been done and notice of vesting has been given to the tenant, the tenant appeals because something that he feels should have been done was not done, and the Minister gives a decision, as a result of which the work is carried out by the local authority, what happens if, after that second round of work being done, the tenant is still dissatisfied, possibly with good cause? Is there any second appeal possible?

On the other hand, has the tenant, at that stage, the option of disregarding the vesting and of saying: "If you do not put it into repair, I will not take it"? Will the prospective vested owner, subsequent to an appeal, have the right to withdraw from the proposal to vest, or will he be committed to accepting the house, whether he likes it or not, whether the Minister's decision in regard to the appeal has been satisfactory or otherwise?

These are a few of the things about which I see difficulties arising in regard to this matter and about which the Minister may have some information or some line drawn up as to how he will act. I am in sympathy with the motive behind Section 14. I know that it is needed, but I do not know whether the method envisaged here can be operated satisfactorily.

All in all, it appears to me that, apart from continuing existing legislation and existing grants, nothing much of great benefit is forthcoming under this housing legislation. We cannot but say that we are disappointed. In regard to this Bill, coming from the present Government that comprises so many front-benchers and back-benchers who had so much to say in the recent past about what should be done to improve the lot of those looking for houses and those building new houses and repairing old houses, the least we can say is that we are very disappointed because, apart from these new sections, about which we have very grave doubts, no improvement is taking place in the amount of the grants being paid and there is quite a disimprovement since the last legislation was before the House because of the increase in the cost of building and materials. One thing we do take exception to, irrespective of what was said in the past, and even more exception to in conjunction with what was said in the past, is the method by which the unfortunates who may be looking for new houses or proposing to build them will be mulcted to the tune of 7 per cent. on any money they may borrow.

I mentioned the position in regard to Dublin as I have heard it. If you have not £10, you cannot get a loan; if you have over £10, you do not need a loan. In the rural part of Ireland the position is not quite like that. In some counties, in the case of a person who has satisfied the manager that he is eligible, on the means test, for a grant by virtue of his low means, we find that, because he has proved his eligibility for the supplementary loan or supplementary grant, he is not then regarded as loan-worthy for the purpose of a loan under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. He has a choice. He can make a good case for himself and show that he has very little means, and keep within the limit of £208 or whatever it is. Having done that and having succeeded in getting £225, £250 or £275, as the case may be, he then finds that the two grants combined still do not go more than half way on the house and he still wants the loan. When he comes along for the loan, the first thing produced to him is his own evidence that he is not worth £208 per year and on the basis of that evidence already given to obtain the grant, he is shot down for the loan. It is a case that if you are poor enough to get the supplementary grant you cannot get a loan. Everybody knows that if a person can prove he is poor enough in rural Ireland to get the supplementary loan from the local authority, then he is so poor that he must of necessity want the two in order to build a house. I would like the Minister to look into that matter. That has happened.

I am in entire disagreement with the managers doing it because they have their directions. In the case of Dublin, if you have up to £10 you cannot get a loan. If you are over £10 you are not eligible. The same thing applies to the country in regard to eligibility for a supplementary grant and later in regard to eligibility for a loan. In Dublin you cannot have either and in the case of the country you cannot have both.

Those things need to be considered by the Minister in addition to the other things already mentioned and which constitute the main objection to the Bill now before the House. If the Minister has answers to the points I made I will only be too glad. But it still remains for me to point out again that we on this side of the House cannot agree no matter what we may swap or accept in this Bill, and having regard to the circumstances in which the people of this country now find themselves, that 7 per cent. or anything like it is a fair or just imposition to place on those who are unfortunate enough to want houses.

We also want to point out that not only is it an unfair imposition but it is also a complete and absolute disregard of the promises, pledges and statements made during the past three or four years by responsible people now sitting in ministerial positions. That is something which the people should surely see. They should be clear in their minds that they cannot take any heed of the statements made either in this House or outside of it by those people as something they can rely upon.

I welcome this Bill. I think it shows that the Minister and his advisers have given a great deal of thought to the matter. Any Bill introduced from this side of the House is bound to receive a certain amount of criticism from the Opposition, but I think that all the speakers who spoke so far admitted that there is a good deal of merit in the Bill. The great merit in the Bill lies in the fact that it is an endeavour to change over from more or less State monopolistic control of building to private enterprise.

There is no doubt that we have reached the stage in the construction of houses in which it is very difficult for the ordinary private individual to build a house for himself, unlike the conditions of ten, 20 or 30 years ago. What the Bill proposes to do is to enable and encourage builders to build houses for the purpose of letting or selling them to private individuals.

There is a good deal of criticism about the Small Dwellings Acts houses. There may be some point in the view put forward by the last speaker that the bottom and top margins are too small to allow people to participate in the benefits of the Small Dwelling (Acquisition) Acts. The Bill will enable builders to build houses, let those houses or sell them. It also enables money to be advanced and guaranteed to people who wish to do that. That in itself is, I think, the full merit of the Bill. Opposition Deputies and others may criticise the Bill but it is a piece of legislation long overdue.

If we are to have stability in this country and if we want people to save, there is no better way of doing that than by buying houses. When people buy houses they become stable members of the community and are of benefit to themselves, their families and the State as a whole. I congratulate the Minister and his advisers on this Bill. I have very little criticism to offer really. I want to stress some of the benefits that accrue from the measure.

Apart from building houses, our great difficulty has been the question of repairs. We have seen whole streets of houses owned by people who are possibly not in very good circumstances gradually falling into decay, becoming an eyesore and virtually going out of condition as habitable dwellings. There are benefits in this Bill. The grant is increased and it will enable people to put those houses into a proper state of repair and prevent certain areas which, owing to the change in times, tend to depreciate, from falling below a certain standard.

Another very good feature in this Bill concerns the water and sewerage facilities. The provision in that connection was long overdue. I know many people who would build houses if they could get one or the other. Having regard to this measure there is no reason why a person should not build a house because he can at least obtain one section of the grant. I take it that at a later stage people may obtain the other section with further benefits to themselves.

With regard to the vesting of houses, Deputy Blaney made extensive arguments. When a person goes into a house it is vested. The present situation is that when the local authority hands over the house that is the end of it. They have no further responsibility. The tenant is then liable for all the repairs. A person may go into a house and afterwards certain conditions may manifest themselves and the tenant may be put to a great deal of expense. Deputy Blaney made a lot of capital out of the fact that there is an appeal to the Minister and that if that appeal fails there is no further appeal. The situation goes against the tenant.

Under existing circumstances, there is no appeal of any sort. If a tenant has his cottage vested in him and if, subsequently, some serious defect, such as a fault in the walls or the roof, develops the tenant may be involved in a considerable amount of expense which he may not be able to meet. At least, he has now the opportunity of appealing to the Minister and it is quite reasonable to assume that he will appeal to the Minister. Where an appeal is made to the Minister, or to the Department of Local Government, through the Minister, it is reasonable to assume that the Department will send out an engineer to investigate the case made and that if the engineer comes down and sees that some gross structural defect exists, it will be put right. I think it is a very good section and I do not see anything wrong with it. It may be that some small amendments may be necessary later on, but fundamentally it deals with a position which needed to be dealt with for a considerable time.

With regard to the advances, I think it is an excellent scheme. The great difficulty has been, in practically all instances, to encourage people to build a better type of house for themselves. A better type of house is what we want, particularly in rural Ireland. If we have a better type of house in rural Ireland, we will have more people content to settle down in and around country towns and you will not have this mass migration to Dublin which is going on at the present time. We all realise that Dublin has grown out of all proportion in relation to its houses, and it is difficult to pass through any area in which one will not see new housing schemes. That is not desirable economically. This section deals with that problem and it is going to encourage the building of terraces of better class houses in country towns. That is what we want. I think it is one of the best sections in the Bill, and it shows a reasonable approach to the matter. It will give people who have any small funds at their disposal an opportunity of building houses for themselves and of settling down where they were born and reared or spent a great part of their lives in business.

It is very hard, in many instances, to keep officials in rural Ireland where their work is. The tendency is to try to get to Dublin for the simple reason that no housing accommodation is available for them in these areas. The same applies to businessmen. When business people retire and want to build houses in the country, they have no facilities in the matter of loans. I think this is an excellent Bill, and to say that money is dearer is a long-worn-out argument. One could argue for half an hour against the accusations of Deputy Blaney against this side of the House. Suffice it to say that all over the world, in every country, charges are going up. You cannot have it both ways. If you are going to have increased charges, you are going to have dearer money. If everybody agreed to work for longer hours and not to look for increased wages, then you would have cheaper money. We have got to move with the times and there is no use in Deputy Blaney saying we are responsible for it. They started it; they started this vicious spiral; and I should like to draw his attention to the fact that the position is not peculiar to this country. It exists all over the world.

I welcome Section 10 of this Bill because it will enable people in rural districts to avail of the scheme and it will also enable them to come, at a later date, and benefit under a local authority sewerage or waterworks scheme. That is an advance and a move in the right direction.

Much comment has been made in regard to Section 14 and, as the Minister may remember, I have had occasion to draw his attention to the vesting of labourers' cottages in County Kerry. I hope it will be possible to make this section applicable to our position as we go along. It precludes me from referring to cottiers who have already availed of this Order and who have been vested, but our position in County Kerry arose from the fact that the engineers who were in charge of the work sent in lists of estimates of cottage repairs to the Department, prior to the vesting Order being put through. The Minister and his Department naturally sanctioned the carrying through of the scheme, without having any information as to the name of the tenant or the conditions. Subsequently, when the repairs had been carried out under that heading, the tenant was informed and automatically it was sanctioned by the Minister; but when the tenant was informed that he had been vested, he stated that he had no information about it and that he had not been asked to sign anything. In some cases in Kerry, the clerk of works went around to people concerned and asked them to sign. That was the only indication they had that they had been vested. I appreciate the Minister's efforts to try to meet us in that matter. I have no intention of putting down an amendment because it would bring in perhaps hundreds of people who would not be entitled to come in, and would reopen the whole question of vesting Orders, but so far as we are concerned in County Kerry, as the Parliamentary Secretary can inform the Minister, the number is limited. Nevertheless, I hope the Minister may see his way to consider our position in regard to the matter, in conjunction with the provisions of Section 14.

There is another matter which agitates us very much in County Kerry, that is, that, in the decision of our county manager, a widow is not a qualified person in regard to the tenancy of a labourer's cottage. If the husband was in possession, and when he dies the widow applies for the tenancy, she is accepted; but if the widow applies for a new house, she is not eligible according to the interpretation put on the law as it stands at the moment, by our officers down there. I am very anxious that the Minister should examine the position to see if something could be done through this legislation to clarify matters.

There was another matter to which I had occasion to refer here already. I put down a question about it some time ago. It was in regard to a cottage purchase scheme. I am not trying to make things difficult but rather to remedy the existing position by having an appropriate provision included in an important piece of legislation of this nature, to bring in people who were omitted under previous legislation. This concerns tenants of cottages in County Kerry. We appealed to them to avail of the vesting Orders. They did so, but they purchased under the previous legislation which enabled them to have their rent reduced only to 75 per cent. of the original rent. We have approximately 200 or 250 tenants who, as a result of that arrangement, are paying 75 per cent. of the original rent while at the same time tenants who purchased subsequently are enjoying a reduction of 50 per cent. of the original rent. If it is possible under this legislation, I would like the Minister to allow the matter to be considered further as we go along. I would appreciate it very much, because it would merely be doing justice to these tenants to ensure that all of them throughout the county—most of them are county council workers and all of them work in the same conditions— would be placed on the same footing, if that is possible, in regard to the vesting and also in regard to the question of eligibility for the tenancy of labourers' cottages.

Much has been said about Section 9 of this Bill. I believe it is a way out of present difficulties. Of course the position requires clarification, but on the face of it, I think it is the best thing that could be done in the circumstances. In regard to the question of reconstruction grants, smallholders in our county were informed some time ago that these grants were being held up pending the introduction of legislation and I think it was suggested there might be the possibility of some increase. I may be putting the wrong interpretation upon it, but I think that was the implication of the reply received from the Department. I am referring now to smallholders who were previously informed that they were eligible for grants, that they would receive, say, £100 grants for reconstruction but who found subsequently when the engineer visited them and specified certain improvements and extensions he considered necessary, that they would be unable to do that work for £100. When they applied to the county council they were informed that they were not eligible for supplementary grants. That is our difficulty at the moment, and we would be glad if that position could be rectified. If the Minister when replying would inform the House and the smallholders concerned through this Assembly that they are still entitled to these grants or that there is still a hope that the position will be clarified and that they can proceed with the work which has been held up for some months past, I would appreciate it very much.

As I said, I welcome the provisions of this Bill dealing with water and sewerage scheme grants. I also welcome Section 14 dealing with vesting of tenants, and repairs. I hope that before this measure receives final consideration the points I have raised will be considered by the Minister.

I do not see anything in this Bill to help the unfortunate people of County Dublin who have made commitments to buy houses, or to compensate in any way the number of Dublin contractors who were allowed to go in and buy land in the City and County of Dublin. They were allowed to buy land at very inflated prices for the purpose of carrying out development work at a huge cost. They were not warned beforehand that this position would arise in which the small dwellings loans would be hampered or curtailed. Now they find that the value of the land has dropped, especially building sites, in some cases by at least 7 per cent. In some cases, the land is useless to them. I hold that this House has an obligation to the people who have made commitments in good faith, to the building contractors, and to the many applicants under the Small Dwellings Acts who made their applications for loans prior to the 10th March, 1955.

On a point of order, surely this is a matter for the local authority, the Dublin County Council, and not for me?

I am dealing with the Bill——

It is a matter completely for members of the county council, and not for me.

May I put it this way? I have tried to deal with the local authorities, and the local authorities tell me it is the Department that is responsible.

I now say publicly that it is not.

They say it is a direction they have got from the Minister and his Department. I have here scores of letters from people who have been let down as a result of broken promises.

Breach of promise?

There is nothing personal at all in this. There is not a man in the House, perhaps, for whom I have such a great regard as I have for the Minister. I raised this matter some years ago when the same position arose when Deputy Smith was Minister for Local Government. When I go to the local authority about this question of pledges broken or dishonoured, I am told it is the Government; and when I go to the Government, I am told it is the local authority. I am suspended between heaven and earth, as it were. I can get no information from anybody. I hold that this House is responsible for seeing that justice is done under the Acts of the Oireachtas. If people make a contract in good faith and that contract is not honoured, then I hold that this House is not doing its duty.

It may be that the affairs of the country are such that these obligations cannot be honoured at the present time—the same may apply in the case of an individual also—but there should be some promise that, when things are better, these obligations will be honoured. I respectfully suggest to you, Sir, that the changes which have occurred in the position regarding the Small Dwellings Acts occurred as a result of a statement made in this House on 10th March, 1956. As a result of that change, some people who had committed themselves to giving money to contractors cannot now get that money back, because the contractors have no money to give them. Even where people were told they would get their loans prior to 10th March, they were written to afterwards——

The applications for loans were made to the county council which is the housing authority.

Yes, Sir, that is true.

Then how does the Minister come into it?

It is as a result of the statement made by the Minister on 10th March, 1956, that the people are in the position they are in to-day.

To what statement is the Deputy referring?

May I put it in this way, Sir? I shall not say that the Minister can do the impossible, or that anybody else can do it. However, I fought the same point when my colleague, Deputy Smith, was Minister for Local Government. I do not want to be giving you any trouble, Sir.

The Deputy is not giving any trouble but he must stay within the rules of order. If the Minister has no responsibility and cannot alter or amend this Bill to meet the circumstances the Deputy is describing, I do not see his point.

May I relate it this way?

The Deputy is endeavouring to make an irrelevant statement by explaining how he considers it is related to the Bill.

I shall explain it to you, Sir. In 1952, when the then Minister for Local Government, Deputy Smith, had to increase the loan charges, meetings were held all over the City and County of Dublin condemning the Minister for Local Government for increasing the loan charges. I attended a number of these meetings, and one of the most vocal people condemning the Minister at that period was the present Attorney-General, Deputy McGilligan. At that time, I promised the people that I would see to it that people who had committed themselves, prior to the announcement being made of the increased loan charges, would get their loans at the old rate. I fought that, and I succeeded in winning my point. I am only asking the present Minister the very same thing I asked my colleague, Deputy Smith.

And Deputy Smith told the Deputy it would never be done again.

He did not. He told him no such thing.

Whatever Deputy Smith said, I want to say he honoured every application made prior to the date of his announcement. I led the charge against him at that time because I thought it was wrong even for us to do it at that period. I thought it would be morally wrong, if I did not right that. I regarded it as a lack of confidence, that we could not be depended on as a Government and that we were giving bad example here in the Oireachtas by not honouring certain Acts we introduced ourselves. This will not break anybody, but it will help the small people. The people I am talking about to-day are the hardest hit of all, because the commitments of some of them, in regard to rates, ground rents and so forth, amount to about £3 10s. per week. Some of them are in the £8 or £9 per week grade, and some of them are drawing lower wages than that. They are very hard hit and it is wrong that we here should be making matters more difficult for them. I have a moral obligation to these people who have sent me to this House, and I would be failing completely in my duty if I did not voice what I believe to be true. I would not speak with such confidence but for the fact that I made the same attack on my own colleague in 1952.

What I ask this House is a very simple thing. It will not break the Government or anybody else. I am asking this House that the obligations, entered into by these people who have made commitments under the small dwellings loans, should be honoured. This House, as the Parliament of the nation, has an obligation to see that these people are not let down—people who, in all good faith, entered into contracts. If my brother were Minister for Local Government I would make the same plea on behalf of those people. This is a matter of national importance as far as I am concerned.

Some people made applications for Small Dwelling (Acquisition) Act loans as far back as October and November last but will not now be considered because their incomes are too high. There is such a vicious circle now obtaining in this matter that a man must have up to £9 10s. a week before he gets a loan, but if he has over £10 he will not get a loan. In other words, 90 per cent. of the applicants will be cut out. I raise this matter on behalf of people who are not eligible for loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts but who will never have enough money to build houses for themselves.

These are not very pleasant circumstances for a Minister to face. Neither is it very pleasant for me to have to draw attention to it. My main purpose this evening is to appeal to the Minister to do something, if anything can be done, for those people who have already committed themselves to the expenditure of thousands upon thousands of pounds. While this Bill is at least an attempt to do something, it does not go far enough to meet the needs of the applicants. I should like to deal particularly with my own local authority, Dublin County Council. I suppose more loans have been given by that local authority than by any other in the country. Many people, who were given an understanding that they would get loans from Dublin County Council, have entered into commitments, many of them having gone into houses under caretakers' agreements. I have here a letter to one of those applicants stating that he could not be considered because his income exceeded £520. That letter was written by direction of the Minister for Local Government.

From whom did the letter come?

It came from the Dublin County Council, but the direction came from the Minister for Local Government in a general way. That is not an effort to meet the obligations to the people who have committed themselves. I have another letter here written to a man who was told that his application would not come within the categories which the council had indicated. That man had gone into a house under a caretaker's agreement and he now finds himself unable to do anything. He was told earlier that he would be eligible for a loan.

I think the Deputy should check that. Any applicant who was told he would get a loan should have got it.

Hold on. I have a darling letter here from the Dublin County Council.

I think the Deputy will find out that the letter said the applicant was of a class which might be approved for a loan.

It said more than that. I have a copy of a letter here, dated the 26th May, referring to Loan No. 6379. It says: "Applications are being reviewed in the light of recent developments in regard to the issue of small dwelling loans generally."

Where is the letter in which the applicant was told he would get a loan?

I am looking for the letter. This man got a letter from the Dublin County Council stating that they would give him a loan. He went and made arrangements with the contractor and on the 26th May he got this letter saying that applications were being reviewed generally.

Has the Deputy got the original letter?

When this man was told that he would get a loan, the local authority should not try to get out of it on the small point that applications are being reviewed in the light of recent developments. That man was told, in all good faith, that he would get the loan.

Produce that letter.

That is what I am looking for. I want to assure the Ceann Comhairle and the Minister that I would not make a statement like that——

If the Deputy can forward me the original letter from the council I shall look into it.

That is not the only case.

I am referring to this case.

I am very grateful. There are many people who committed themselves, having been told that everything would be all right and that they would get loans. But the Dublin County Council later said that, as a result of changed circumstances, they were reviewing the applications. Surely this House has an obligation and it will not break the country to honour that obligation.

The Deputy has said that several times. He is dealing in very general terms. The Deputy should deal with the Bill. I have given him a great deal of latitude. He has tried to get in this matter for quite a long time and I think it is now time for him to cease repeating himself.

I do not wish to repeat myself but I want to avail of this opportunity to make this final appeal. Will the Minister, where there are proved cases of direct hardship on people who made applications prior to the Order of the 10th March, promise to go into that question?

I cannot do it under this Bill.

The Minister could do it under an amendment.

If the Deputy puts down an amendment it can be considered by the House.

Very good. As a result of the increased loan charges under the Bill it will be very hard for the small man to carry on. The ordinary man who comes within the Act and who would be eligible for the loan——

There will be the very same loan charge as in 1952—no change.

Will it not go up to 7 per cent?

Not under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts.

I have already stated that only a small percentage of people, about 5 per cent., will be able to avail of the small dwellings loans and the others will be forced to purchase houses through building societies at 7 per cent.

I have no control over what building societies are charging. I have nothing whatever to do with that.

I hold that the Minister, and nobody else, has control. All these changes have come about as a result of the Minister's directions. Only 5 per cent. of the original applicants will be eligible for the small dwellings loan and the other 95 per cent. will be forced to pay the higher charges. I look upon houses as a national investment. Many people will find it impossible to get houses. They will not get them from the local authority. They will not get them under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and possibly many of them will not be considered eligible to secure a loan through the building societies.

Section 10 is one of the sections I welcome in this Bill. It deals with the extension of water and sewerage facilities. However, if this country could afford it I would like to see us going a good deal further in regard to the provision of these facilities because we are 100 years behind the times in securing pure water for our people to drink within a few miles of Dublin. We have old holes with rats and other vermin going into them and these are the only facilities available to many people. We have in my constituency at the moment whole families living without a pump. The local authority will come and sink a pump and then say that the water is bad; yet no other provision is made and the people can get the water where they like. I would like to take this opportunity of suggesting, as I have suggested on previous occasions to the present Minister and his predecessor over the years I have been in this House, that a regional water committee be set up.

It cannot be brought in under the Bill before the House. It excludes a public water supply.

I know the public supply is excluded but when I am dealing with the question of water supply I will give my opinion of the position as I find it.

This section deals with the installation of private water supply and private sewerage facilities. It does not deal with public water supplies undertaken by a public body.

If we could put a private water supply into every house, we would not want a public one at all. I want to point out that we are not going far enough. I would like to see this section going a good deal further. I do not suppose that I would get very far by putting down an amendment here, but at least I want to voice my opinion in this House about the water position. I would like to see it handled like the rural E.S.B. scheme. This section is most helpful to private individuals, and I hope they will all avail of it. If more could be done in this section in regard to water supplies, we would be doing a great service to the nation as a whole.

Certain county council tenants of cottages in County Dublin have complained that they are being told by the local authority housing engineer that their houses are all right and that nothing more will be done to them, and then they go away to purchase them. I see that under this Bill they can appeal to the Minister for Local Government. They always had that power, of course, but the Bill goes a step further under Section 14, in providing that where a cottage is already vested in an applicant who, through ignorance or inexperience, did not have it repaired before it was vested, he may apply to get it repaired.

They may appeal, of course, within 30 days after vesting.

But I wanted to go a step further. We have a number of such cottage tenants who purchased their cottages before they were repaired and they have tried to get them repaired. The only way that can be done, I suppose, will be under this section.

Where there are a number of complaints that cottages are not in a good condition, according to the tenants, and the local authority states that they are, I should like the Minister, when they appeal under this section, to have the housing inspector sent out as soon as possible, so as not to allow a long time to elapse before the position is investigated. I have seen some cottages and have been told that they are all right, but I must say that the eyesight of the responsible officer dealing with them must be very bad.

There is another thing about which I should like the Minister to bring in an amendment. We have serving soldiers, and widows and certain other categories, housed under the Housing of the Working Classes Acts in County Dublin who are not eligible to purchase their houses. Over a long period of time, I have been putting down questions here. The first occasion was when Deputy Keyes was Minister for Local Government. I had to raise a question on the Adjournment at that time because Dublin County Council refused to house soldiers and claimed that they did not come within the meaning of the Labourers Acts at all. Then they were housed under the Housing of the Working Classes Act. The position now is that a number of these people have applied to purchase their homes, and while their next-door neighbours may be allowed to purchase their cottages, they are not eligible, although a soldier, if he retires and takes up any other job, is eligible immediately. I feel that something should be done, and that the Minister now has an opportunity to bring in an amendment to allow soldiers to purchase their houses.

I think it was a few months ago that the Minister told me, when I asked a question, that it was hoped to bring in legislation, or some words to that effect. I thought I had a copy of the reply with me, and I wanted to refresh the Minister's memory on this matter.

There is a section in the Bill governing it. I purposely inserted it, and referred to it in my opening speech.

Well, it is long overdue, anyway.

Section 15 governs it.

Yes. I welcome that section also.

It covers all soldiers, anyway—those who are accepted as tenants. It is a matter entirely for the local authority.

I welcome that section also.

Could you not go the whole hog and welcome the whole Bill, while you are at it?

Oh, no; I could not commit myself like that, the way my people are treated outside.

By the local authority.

Deputy O'Leary, I thought, would be in here to help me some time ago because I was looking after a number of people he would be interested in, if they were in County Wexford. Another group have also complained to me—a number of newlyweds who have got houses from the Dublin Corporation. The Minister can tell me now that he has no authority in this matter.

Absolutely none, but I have arranged an interview for them with the Corporation.

I know they were with you, but may I say that where people who have to pay one-fifth or one-fourth of their income——

I have nothing whatever to do with it.

——something should be done to relieve that position, because what we are really doing is building sanatoria and hospitals and putting people into houses, trying to look after them, and forcing them out of those houses by our conditions and putting them back into the sanatoria again. The result is a most vicious circle. I know that anybody can say to me: "What are we to do? Where are we to get the money?" but we are up against this problem too long. I could remain on my feet a long time speaking about it, and the cases I have come up against in County Dublin, where I have to deal with so many of them—from Ballyfermot to Finglas and right out to Walkinstown and Crumlin and the other areas, the hardest hit areas in the constituency, which is the hardest hit constituency in Ireland. Every other day I am getting letters of complaint. I have numerous letters here.

Read a few.

I do not want to do that since I would be reading here until to-morrow morning. Surely the Minister has some authority over the county manager?

The local authorities have—not I.

The Minister is the head of all local authorities.

The Minister has no power over them at all.

Do not local authorities appeal to the Minister for sanction for (a), (b) and (c)? Is that not so?

What section of the Bill is that?

I am not talking——

About the Bill.

I am asking a question. The Minister tells me he has no authority over anything and he has nothing to do with local authorities. Surely the Minister cannot take up that attitude. The Minister knows very well that he is really, in common parlance, the boss of all the local authorities.

The position of the Minister vis-a-vis local authorities and county managers does not seem to be relevant to this Bill.

No, but the Minister said he had no authority. I suggest to the Minister that he should have a conference with the county managers.

That is surely a matter of administration which could have been raised on the Estimate. This is a Bill to deal with a very specific problem.

I hope that the people on the other side of the House who told us at one time that they could get money easily will come along now, when the interest rates are increased, and make the same speeches as they did then when they were organising meetings all over Dublin City and Dublin County. The position is very serious for those who have entered into commitments. This House should not let down the people who entered into commitments in good faith.

In order to avoid repetition, my observations must necessarily be brief. My colleagues have covered most of the points. This Bill should be a good Bill because it was a good while in process of production. It took well over the average period of incubation. For that reason we would naturally expect it to be a very presentable document. It is a good Bill in so far as it preserves the status quo, dots a few i's and crosses a few t's, in relation to previous legislation. Taking into consideration the fact that the cost of building and labour has gone up, one can scarcely say it makes improvements. This morning I saw that building operatives are to get 1½d. an hour more. That is only one of the many additional charges which have come into operation since the enactment of the previous Act, which has lapsed.

I am glad the Bill does not restrict facilities but, at the same time, I do not think we can say the Bill is an improvement really. Because of the long period which elapsed between the expiration of the previous Act and the introduction of this Bill I was suspicious that the Minister might not bring in as good a Bill as this is. I say that quite frankly. It is an "as-you-were" Bill with a few minor adjustments necessitated in the light of experience of the previous legislation.

Some of the changes are useful ones and were obviously necessary. I am particularly taken with the provision which grants the right of appeal within 40 days to those who are not satisfied with the state of repair of their cottages on vesting. Many local authorities had resorted to a method of vesting houses whereunder they accepted the tenant's original letter as sufficient. A tenant signified his intention of wanting to have his house vested. The local authority stepped in. The engineer estimated the cost of repairs and had them carried out. That is all the tenant heard until he woke up one morning to find his house vested. He did not even get time to bring to the attention of the local authority repairs he hoped would have been carried out. The present amendment will put an end to that. Even if the right of appeal is never used, it will have the effect of putting the local authority on the alert. Chances will not be taken on inadequate repairs. In that way it may not even be necessary to invoke this section of the Bill. Deputy Blaney asked how this would be administered. The Minister will probably inform us on that point when he comes to conclude. I take it an inspector will be sent to inspect the house.

I would have liked some reference to the powers local authorities have for the acquisition of derelict houses or non-tenanted houses. If local authorities could take these over, put them into a proper state of repair and let them to tenants on non-subsidised rents that would very often improve the face of a street.

I am in full agreement with the Deputy.

In some cases the people who own these houses are not in a position to put them into a proper state of repair. I think local authorities have some powers at the moment enabling them to do that, but they always fight shy of taking such houses over because there is a feeling that it may involve a good deal of difficulty. I would have liked to have seen some clause under this Bill dealing with that situation, a clause which would have the effect of giving an impetus to the implementation of the powers that already exist.

Grants under Section 12 of the 1954 Act always operate, I think, with a certain amount of discrimination against the farming community. The agricultural labourer and the small farmer are subject to a means test before they can qualify for a supplementary grant. It is quite possible that if an applicant has some income other than that from his farming or from his occupation as an agricultural labourer he may be debarred from qualifying for the full amount of the supplementary grant, whereas if he were a shopkeeper or a person other than an agricultural labourer or farmer and applied under Section 12 of the 1954 Act he would qualify for the supplementary grant without any means test whatever. I have met cases where it was wiser for the applicant to put himself down as other than an agricultural labourer or farmer in order to qualify for a grant in respect of a three-roomed house, the amount available in both cases being the same in respect of a three-roomed house.

Now the Minister proposes to bring the Section 12 grants up to those already available for agricultural labourers and small farmers. I take it that the supplementary grants applicable in those cases will still be available without a means test. In that way, it will pay certain applicants much better to describe themselves as other than agricultural labourers or farmers because they would qualify for the supplementary grant without any means test, whereas agricultural labourers and farmers are subject to a means test under the supplementary housing grant.

I was not here when the Minister made his opening statement but I have a copy of it before me. I must admit that I am in certain agreement with other speakers who said they did not fully understand the implications of Section 9 of Part II. To say the least of it, it is an involved section. The local authorities are authorised to guarantee that portion of the grant over and above what the building society would ordinarily give and, in turn, the State is prepared to guarantee 50 per cent. of two-thirds of their losses in respect of that grant over and above what the building society would give. That is sufficiently complicated to prevent most local authorities from ever bringing in a scheme under that section to operate it. At the moment, it is very difficult for an applicant to receive a loan under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. It always has been.

They are actually receiving it at the moment from the guarantee societies rather than the building societies.

It was always difficult to secure a loan——

Not merely do they look for a first charge on the property and two solvent securities——

In some cases.

——but they look into the bona fides of the two solvent securities and the pains they take are no man's business—so much so, that no man likes to submit his name as a guarantor. Sometimes they must have the equivalent of the amount of the guarantee on lodgment in the bank before they can be accepted as a proper security for these loans. That was a difficult enough situation. So far as I am aware, most people in rural Ireland who would contemplate getting a loan for a house would, before submitting two men to all that screening and private investigation of their means, take the two men to the bank and get the money and have the house built because it would be a much simpler way of doing things.

If a man's income is within a certain figure he will be allowed to continue under the scheme but if a man's income is over a certain figure he is advised to apply to a building society if he requires a loan. If he does not get all he wants, the local authority may step in with a State guarantee of two-thirds of 50 per cent. of whatever loss they may sustain. It was difficult enough to get a loan under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts but it will be very difficult when the two systems are mixed up together, both the building society and the local authority. I do not know that any applicant would be willing to suffer the mortification of going through all the red tape and trouble necessary to get a few pounds under that system. I venture to predict to the Minister that not a single local authority in the country will operate that section.

They are doing it already.

Operating Section 9? How could they operate it when it was not in existence?

They have been consulted and they accepted the principle of the whole thing.

County managers were called in. The Minister used what is commonly known in Donegal as the "come hither."

It is not an executive function. It is a reserved function. The county manager has nothing to do with it. It has been done in Dublin.

We do not accept what Dublin swallows as easily as all that.

You will get an opportunity.

I doubt if the scheme will ever be introduced by rural housing authorities because it is fraught and tangled with difficulties and red tape. How it may operate beats me. I think it means what most people here have predicted: it means the beginning of the end of the small dwellings fund; it is on the way out. Surely the Minister should be man enough to get up and tell us if it is the beginning of the end of the loans under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. However, we must wait and see.

I support Deputy Burke's effort to make a case for people who applied early for loans and who, while they may not have entered into definite contracts, were encouraged to build and make full arrangements for the acquisition of their dwelling in the belief——

That does not arise under this Bill. It is a matter entirely for the local authority. The Ceann Comhairle ruled——

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will not rule me out of order there.

Because you are three Donegal men.

What did you say about three Donegal men?

Surely the Minister has some function in the matter of small dwellings loans. I submit that the Minister's intervention has brought about this complete change which has held up building for the past four months in this country. We lay the responsibility for the slack state of affairs in the building industry, both private and public, at the door of the Minister. This has happened at a time when the public is weighed down by the burden of emigration and unemployment. The Minister has done nothing whatever to relieve that situation by one of the best means we have at our disposal, that is, not merely an "as you were" approach but an impetus so far as the building industry as a whole is concerned.

The few changes which the Bill makes are welcome. They have been obvious from the operation of previous housing legislation as, for instance, the one in relation to the payment of the local government grant without the necessity that the applicant should be occupying the house. Deputy Dr. Esmonde foresaw a great boom in housing as a result of that but he forgot that, while it is not necessary for the applicant to occupy the house in order to get the Department of Local Government grant, it is necessary for him to occupy the house in order to get the local authority supplementary grant, so that the position is not quite so rosy as one would think and the building contractors will not build houses all around the countryside as a result of the change that it makes. It will help us in one way. We sometimes found difficulties where migratory labourers sent home remittances to have a new house built and it did not suit them to come home for the sake of occupying the house in order to qualify for the grant; they preferred to remain where they were in order to earn more money. This will enable the grant to be paid in their absence and they can come home later and occupy the house and apply for the Department of Local Government grant. That is one benefit I see from that change.

Candidly, I do not see a great deal of difference between the existing system and the proposal to separate the amounts applicable to sewerage and water installation. I do not think it means much. My experience is that both installations were carried out simultaneously. When a person installed a water system it was invariably necessary to have a septic tank constructed. Possibly there are cases where there would be a difference.

It is a few extra pounds.

I do not think so. I think you just separate the two amounts.

No. Twenty pounds.

I am sorry. That was a big strain on the resources of the State.

Fifty per cent.

I would like the Minister to have gone further and to have given a grant for connecting with the main where there is a public water supply. At the moment many people are under the impression that grants are available for connecting with the main where there is a public water supply. Let the amount of the grant be small, if you will, but let there be a grant. For the Minister's information, the only grants available for that purpose are grants given where the job is incorporated in general reconstruction of the house.

And I think also from the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture does not pay grants for connecting with the main where there is a public water supply.

I thought they did.

There must be a private supply also.

Laying on to farm buildings.

It is very seldom that a farmhouse is convenient to a main. The Department of Agriculture grant is a very useful grant because it suits the section of the community most in need of a water supply.

I did not hear the Minister's opening statement but I have been looking at the paragraph in his speech which says:—

"I would like to repeat that the proposals in Section 9 of the Bill do not amend in any way or interfere with the operation of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts."

I respectfully suggest that that is wrong. The section does interfere with the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts in so far as it segregates the sections of the community who heretofore enjoyed the benefits of the small dwellings acquisition fund and now only one section, those with incomes under £10 a week, are entitled to go to the small dwellings acquisition fund for a loan. Those with incomes over that amount must now come under Section 9. Yet the Minister said that the section does not interfere with the operation of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. The implications of that section will be better known when we come to revise the housing legislation in this House two years hence, whoever may be here then, but I venture to prophesy that that Section 9 will not be found to have been of any great benefit to building or to have given an impetus to private building. In fact, I think we will be then discarding it as something that had proved to be only a nuisance. Otherwise, the Bill is all right and we are glad to have it after the long delay.

We all welcome this Bill and I must say that the new provisions in it are improvements on the housing legislation which has been in operation. It is a pity that the Minister did not introduce this Bill on the expiration of the 1954 Housing Act.

The 1954 Housing Act is still in operation.

I know, but there are sections——

One section.

——one section which has created very many difficulties to house builders generally. As far as Donegal County Council is concerned, loans, grants and so on were held up. It caused difficulties. We are glad to see the improvements which are being brought about, especially the provision which gives the option to the private builder to occupy the house or not. The grant will be available to him whether he occupies the house or not. That is a big improvement.

While the water and sewerage grant is increased from £50 to £60, I think the Minister made a mistake in separating them. When a new house is being built sewerage is essential. If the segregation causes private builders to install water and not sewerage, it will be a retrograde step. Under existing legislation both are grouped and in order to get any part of a grant both must be installed. If this has the effect of a number of new houses being built with a water supply laid on and sewerage not laid on, it is not good.

What about the poor unfortunates who had water and who would get no grant for installing sewerage?

I realise their position. The increase in the grant should have the effect of compelling private builders to install water and sewerage. A private builder could get a grant of £225 for a five-roomed house without water or sewerage but if he put in water then he would have to put in sewerage and would get £50 for so doing. Under this provision he could get £60 but he can install both systems or elect to install only water. If that new arrangement causes more houses to be built without sewerage schemes it is not good.

As to the amounts, I think they are not according to costs. For the installation of water there is £40 and for the installation of sewerage £20. I should prefer to see £30—£30. That would represent costings better. The whole idea of the improvements which have taken place is to make house building easier and take away a lot of the embargoes which were unnecessary. It is a pity that more of the snags which private builders meet could not be eliminated.

We find from time to time very many snags so far as these Local Government grants are concerned. We find that the local authorities then base their grants on the amount given by the Department. I had a case recently of a person building a five-roomed house. His plans were drawn up by a qualified person and submitted to the Department's appointed officer who sanctioned the plans and issued a certificate of approval. The applicant built the house exactly to the plan which was so sanctioned. For the Minister's benefit I should like to give him the number of the certificate of approval which is——

If the Deputy will drop a note I shall look into the matter personally.

The matter has been hanging fire for some time.

I did not hear of it.

It is the principle behind it. The certificate of approval was issued for the plans by the Minister's appointed officer. The house was built exactly according to plan. The grant was reduced by £10 and the county council grant was reduced by £10 because it was found that one of the rooms contained 70 instead of 80 square feet. The third bedroom can in some cases be of that area but, when the minimum arrangements are adhered to in the other four rooms, the third bedroom must be 80 square feet.

However, the plan was sanctioned but had it not been sanctioned and had not a certificate of approval been issued, the applicant would have got his plans remodelled. However, the error was discovered by the Department. Yet, although the matter was brought to the notice of the Department and all the relevant facts placed at its disposal, the decision has not been changed.

Surely this is administration?

It does not seem to be relevant to the Bill.

I know, but housing grants are the subject matter of this Bill and I am advocating that in respect of some of the difficulties which applicants find when they apply for grants, difficulties over which they have no control——

Surely, the proper time to bring this matter up would be on the Estimate?

One of the points I wanted to make was that so many difficulties should not be put in the way of applicants for grants. Where there is a doubt, especially in cases where the applicant is not to blame, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the applicant.

There is one section of this Bill about which I am not too clear—it is that in connection with labourers' cottages built by the county council and the transfer to non-agricultural workers. Possibly, the Minister in his introductory speech explained that. I did not hear him. I hope there is still a limit to the type of person that——

It will be a matter for the local authority to decide.

Has the Minister given any guidance? Has he widened the scope by the addition of other classes?

Soldiers are one of the classes included.

Is there a specific number of classes added?

The matter is left completely to the discretion of the local authority.

The county manager?

It is not a reserved function.

It is, but it is not an executive function.

I was hoping that what would happen in this case would be that a certain number of other specified classes would be added.

It is left to each local authority to decide.

That is satisfactory enough. The latter part of the Bill deals with loans. To-day we received a good deal of further information by way of correspondence with the local authority but we have not been told what interest rates have been agreed on by the insurance companies and the building societies which have agreed to operate this scheme.

I referred to it in my opening speech.

Would the Minister say what is the rate?

It is the same rate as the rate to ordinary applicants for building loans.

I am afraid the rate which is in operation at the moment will be a damper on private building and on local authority building as well.

It will not affect local authority building at all.

What I had in mind, when I referred to the local authority, was the very high rates. The local authority will have to guarantee part of the loan issued by the society from which the applicant gets it. It is unfortunate that high interest rates are at the moment one of the things which militate against further progress in the building of houses.

I suppose none of us has any control over interest rates but in view of the fact that these interest rates are high and, therefore, will make house owning and house building an expensive job, I think the Minister in this Bill should take the opportunity of going further to help house builders generally. Even a small increase in the grant from his Department would have a psychological effect. It would mean that people would say: "Although the interest rates are higher and it may cost us a little more to get a loan, yet the grant is so much bigger we can go ahead with what we had in mind."

I do agree that as a Housing Bill this measure was looked forward to. We could have more improvements but the improvements which it contains are valuable and I think necessary under present circumstances.

The Minister to conclude.

Before the Minister concludes, there are a few matters which I would like to bring to his attention. One of them is the matter referred to by Deputy Brennan, the grants for the installation of water. The Minister seemed to think, in one of his interpolations, that the point put forward by Deputy Brennan is met by the Department of Agriculture. I think that the type of case which Deputy Brennan had in mind, and certainly it has come to my notice in my constituency, is that where there is a public supply of water within what is regarded by the Department of Agriculture as a reasonable distance, no grant is available from the Department of Agriculture for an applicant who wishes to have water installed. It may appear that the distance between the house and the nearest point of supply is so far that the local authority will not make a grant either. I take it that in such cases if the local authority does not approve, then there is no Government grant payable either.

Let me give a specific case to the Minister. Take a house that has received a building grant, say a number of years ago; the applicant now wants to install sewerage and water and the nearest point from the public supply which is there is, say, 200 yards. The local authority comes along and says: "You cannot get a grant in this case; it would be too costly." What I want the Minister to do in this Bill is to ensure that that applicant will get some grant. The grant available to the ordinary——

What it would cost would not have anything to do with the local authority.

That is where I am puzzled as to why they do object. I do not understand, any more than the Minister, why there should be an objection. The road will have to be opened up.

I promise the Deputy I shall look into the matter.

That is one point. There are people who are denied their water and sewerage because the local authority says, "You are too far away." The Department of Agriculture is no help in the matter.

I shall certainly look into the matter.

I do not want the Minister to try and absolve his own Department of responsibility because he thinks the Department of Agriculture can do it. It cannot.

The other matter to which Deputy Brennan referred is that of derelict buildings. The Minister in his explanation refers to what Section 11 does. It provides for the continuance of the prohibition of the demolition of certain habitable houses, etc. That is a very desirable and useful thing to have; it was the war emergency that made us all conscious of the need to provide such a prohibition. But it has been brought to the notice of various local authorities that they should acquire derelict buildings in small towns and villages and convert them for the purpose of the Labourers Acts.

I do not wish to interrupt but I would like to point out that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle called upon me to conclude and the Deputy merely wished to mention one particular point.

Since no Deputy offered I called upon the Minister but Deputy Bartley is within his rights.

I merely gave way because Deputy Bartley wanted to clarify two points. However, if the Deputy wants to continue I certainly waive my rights.

I would like to know in what way I have committed a breach of the rules?

The Deputy has not committed a breach. Since no Deputy offered, I called upon the Minister but Deputy Bartley is within his rights and so would any other Deputy be.

I do not want to blame the Chair for not being able to look in two different directions at the same time. If the Chair looked in the Minister's direction instead of mine, that is no proof that I did not rise at the same time. Have I the assurance of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle that I am not in any way offending against the rules by speaking on the Bill?

The Deputy is quite in order.

I do admit that I am repeating a point made by Deputy Brennan but I think it is of such importance—other Deputies also have had experience of its importance—that I might be permitted to endorse what has been said about it so that its importance will be borne home to the Minister's mind.

On this question of derelict houses I think that something more positive ought to be done than merely the prohibition of demolition. Local authorities, in my experience, have replied that the conversion of these derelict buildings is more expensive than the acquisition of agricultural land and the building of completely new houses. That may be so and I am not an authority to challenge that viewpoint, but I do wish to bring to the notice of the Minister that even if it is more expensive, the central authority ought to try, in co-operation with the local authorities, to work out some scheme of financial assistance whereby the conversion and rehabilitation of these derelict houses in towns and villages will be undertaken, rather than that new lands will be broken up for the building of new houses. There are applicants for labourers' cottages who do not want an acre of ground, nor a half acre nor any ground at all. There are men who are employed in these small towns—which are, I understand, classified as rural areas—who get employment and who do not seem to have any need to supplement their earnings by horticulture or the limited agriculture that is available to them on an acre of land.

Quite apart from the matter of the housing of that type of applicant, I think in view of the rousing of the public conscience as a result of the establishment of An Tóstal, that this question of the elimination of dereliction in the towns and villages has become, I might say, a burning question. If it is a matter of finance that is preventing the carrying out of this work I would ask the Minister to see what he can do in consultation with the local authorities to ensure that these derelict buildings will be utilised, converted into habitable houses instead of having new ground broken up for the building of completely new houses.

Deputy Brennan has said that Section 9 is a complicated section and certainly one needs to read it a good many times before its meaning becomes apparent. I am not quite certain that I have mastered its meaning. I see that there are two conditions laid down in sub-section (3). Before the Minister can recoup the local authority the loss which it, in its turn, has recouped to the building society or the insurance company which advanced the loan, the Minister must be satisfied:—

"(a) that the guarantee was given in relation to such part of the advance as represents the excess of the advance over the advance that would have been made if the guarantee had not been given."

I understand that building societies do not give any more than 60 per cent.

75 per cent.

It has been increased, then. Some years ago, it was down as low as 60 per cent., at least in the case of some of them. The second condition is contained in paragraph (b), and the Minister must also be satisfied:—

"(b) that the amount paid by the housing authority in meeting the guarantee did not exceed two-thirds of the loss which arose from the making of that part of the advance."

If a loss has been made, I take it, if the local authority has paid the building society more than two-thirds of that loss, the Minister may refuse to honour his guarantee to the local authority. Is that the meaning of it?

That is right.

Deputy Brennan appeared to be sceptical concerning the success of the proposal because of the uncertainty arising from those provisions. There may be a good deal in what Deputy Brennan says. However, in so far as the Minister is concerned to find some alternative to the Local Loans Fund, we on this side of the House welcome this attempt. I want to inquire, in connection with this section, about the meaning of Section 19, which provides that the local authority may fix the rate of interest. Heretofore, I understand the local authority was precluded from fixing the rate of interest at a higher figure than one-half per cent. higher than the rate at which they themselves borrowed. Now under this, they can fix the rate themselves, and if it is more than one-half per cent. higher than the borrowing rate, the Minister cannot interfere with them in the matter. Perhaps the Minister would explain what connection there is between Section 9 and Section 19, which governs the rate of interest.

No connection whatsoever.

Then, perhaps, he might say a little more about this alteration in the fixing of the rate of interest——

I explained it in my opening statement.

——than has been said in the explanatory memorandum. I know that something of this sort has evidently become necessary, because in my constituency, I understand that one local authority that has been borrowing annually for the purpose of the Small Dwellings Acts has been refused any advance from the Local Loans Fund this year. I hope this alternative will work out satisfactorily so that these private builders may continue to do the good work they have been doing in helping people to provide homes for themselves.

The Minister recently announced that he had made an agreement with the building societies, insurance companies and other lending agencies to replace borrowings under the Small Dwellings Acts. The system of guarantee, if this Bill is to be taken as an indication of it, will mean that people who applied for loans under the Small Dwellings Acts and applicants desirous of building their own houses can abandon hope. It is merely another shaky device. I call it a complicated make-shift, full of gobbledegook and, in my opinion, showing no desire on the part of the Government to come to grips with the housing problem or to finish that part of it with which we are familiar. It holds out no hope whatever for those people who are in need of shelter. One can visualise those who are anxious to be housed shrugging their shoulders and saying that the Government's promise to provide more and better housing can be dispatched to the cemetery along with the rest of their discarded ideals. This Bill shows clearly the failure of the Government to continue to finance housing in a straight fashion, and I believe it will result in an almost complete stoppage of the building programme.

What interests us most on this side of the House are the financial provisions of this Bill. In regard to the amount of the advances—one has to stretch the imagination and assume that those advances can be obtained— the scales laid down compare roughly with those obtainable under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, and the time for repayment remains the same, 35 years. But there the comparison ends. Under the provisions of this Bill, borrowers find that they will have to pay 7 per cent. interest, if not more, on the money borrowed. That is an appalling state of affairs, having regard to the volume of people waiting for houses, people who are feeling the pinch in every respect, from the point of view of dear money, rising costs, and in every other way.

The prospective borrower finds also that he will be lucky if his application is even considered. Is there any necessity at this stage for this milk and water plan? Where is the necessity for such unnecessary and complicated detail in making guarantees available to lending agents? If the Minister has any faith at all in the borrowers, surely he should arrange for a full scale guarantee? Under this Bill, the local authority guarantees the building society against default on the part of the borrower, and the Government, in turn, guarantees the local authority to the extent of roughly half of its liability. That is bad enough, but what is the reason for being so tight-fisted about the guarantee? Remember it is guarantees we are talking about now, and not loans.

"The local authority's liability would appear to extend only to two-thirds of any loss, which, on default by a borrower, the society may incur in excess of the losses which it would have incurred if it had made only the normal advance." Does the Minister think that this will put building societies in competition with one another in looking for a potential customer? Would it not have been a lot easier and much more simple to adopt the method of a full-scale guarantee? The Government stands to lose nothing over it. It would be following the course set by the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. Borrowers are usually responsible people. They cannot take up their stumps and flee overnight. This Bill, for me at any rate, and I am sure, for other Deputies in the House, simply spells the end of borrowing.

There is also to be considered the question of those people who had applied for loans from the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts Fund. The Bill makes no reference to them whatever. It makes no reference to the débâcle which has occurred in housing in general in Cork, Limerick and Dublin, and the long waiting lists of applicants. Neither does it make reference to the doubt and despondency which has been caused through waiting for this measure, and now that it is produced here in this House, and gets a Second Reading, we find that it is merely another empty formula, if you like.

While on the question of housing, it might be appropriate for me to mention two matters in connection with reconstruction grants. I want to draw to the Minister's attention the difficulty some applicants have at present, owing to high costs, in getting grants sufficient to defray at least two-thirds of the cost of house reconstruction. Certain applicants can get grants up to two-thirds of the cost of reconstruction as a result of the 1952 Housing (Amendment) Act. I agree that it is not always easy to provide for an adequate estimate of the cost of the reconstruction of a house beforehand. After visits by inspectors, we find appeals from applicants for higher grants because of the inadequacy of the estimated amount of the reconstruction costs. When an applicant appeals in that way, the inspector must go back twice or three times to look at the house. Normally an inspector must make two visits, but sometimes he must go a third time. I am not aware of an occasion where a fourth visit had to be paid.

I wish the Minister would provide that, when an inspector looked at a house, he would endeavour to provide for the full cost of reconstruction. This would obviate the necessity for the owner of the house waiting for the results of an appeal which sometimes is successful and sometimes is not. Whether the appeal is successful or not, I think the housing officer should be more careful in dealing with the matter. I have nothing further to say on this Bill except to express my disappointment at and disapproval of the measure.

I had not an opportunity of reading or hearing the Minister's speech in opening this debate, and for that reason I could not give it the detailed examination that I would have liked. I do not want to repeat what has been said, I feel sure, already, but as regards housing in Dublin, the present Government have made a complete mess of the situation. It is not a bit helpful in a situation as serious as that which has obtained in Dublin for the past nine months, that Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should go round the country pretending that no problem exists when, in fact, a problem of critical proportions does exist.

From the cursory examination I have been able to give to the proposals in this Bill, I believe they will be entirely inadequate. I understand that the principal means of financing will be through building societies, that the Government will no longer be finding the money but will be guaranteeing the financial provision the building societies will be making, up to a certain limit. The difficulty I see in that is that there will be a gap between the guaranteed amounts which the societies will be advancing and the normal level of the purchase price which the borrower or the purchaser will be required to find, having regard to the present-day cost of building.

In these circumstances, I can see borrowers being faced with the situation of having, say, 75 per cent. of their requirements met and being as badly off as ever through not being able to find the balance. Until some system is devised for bridging this gap, I do not believe any practical or realistic measure will have been introduced to deal with the very serious problem, in Dublin in particular, at the present time.

With regard to the country generally, there is one matter to which I should like to draw the Minister's attention. That is that in my county there are a number of people living in unfit houses which have been condemned by the local medical officer for health. These people have no redress from any side. I have raised this matter before, and have been informed that the Minister for Health has no function. I am satisfied that in fact he has not, other than to send out an official to examine the house and report as to its condition. I am satisfied the Minister, apart from grants of one kind or another which he gives, is not responsible, and I should like to appeal to him to bring pressure to bear on county councils like Mayo which have no scheme for the relief of those people.

I want to put the situation in what, I think, is its proper perspective and, in bringing in the Department of Health, I hope I shall not be held to be irrelevant. It will be realised that at the present time we are paying out a great deal of money by way of T.B. allowances and also in order to support the people who are T.B. patients in hospitals, receiving treatment. It has been pointed out, in a very forceful article by the Mayo County Medical Officer, Dr. O'Meara, in the British Medical Journal, that there is a close association between housing conditions and the incidence of T.B., and that people living in unfit houses are prone to typhoid, T.B. and other diseases which cost the community a great deal to put right.

In the case of T.B., I think we are adopting the wrong attitude. If we built houses for the people now living in uninhabitable dwellings, we would be saving ourselves the cost of hospitalisation and of the subsequent T.B. allowances which are costing the State so much at the present time. I believe that if we were to help out this very small section of the community who are not able to avail of the grants because of extreme poverty, we would reap the reward and that, from a long-term viewpoint, we would be saving money. I do appreciate this is a matter for county councils rather than for either the Minister for Local Government or the Minister for Health, but I submit that when some county councils can do it, both Ministers should use all their influence with the remaining councils to provide a scheme which will not merely give proper houses to those very poor people but will also save the State future expenditure, as well as providing human happiness for the people living in wretched conditions at the present time.

I notice that the Minister referred to the number of families still living in unfit and uninhabitable dwellings and said that means would be found, to the limit of the State's resources, to re-house them as soon as practicable. I do not know if the Minister amplified that statement, but I am very pleased to see that the State's resources will be used to improve the condition of these people. It is the first time that an unequivocal statement of this kind has been made in regard to people living in houses unfit for human habitation. These people represent a minute section of the community but they are the weakest section and as such are deserving of our special attention.

I do not believe that the Government or the Minister has handled the serious housing crisis in Dublin in the past nine or ten months in the way it should have been handled. These measures will not solve the problem, and until such time as a system is devised which will cover the total commitments of the borrower rather than a nominal down-payment, you will not have a solution of the housing situation in Dublin and in the country, particularly so long as the present extremely tight regulations regarding credit are kept in force by the joint stock banks.

As a member of a local authority for a number of years I welcome the Bill and the improvements in it. Of the members of the Opposition whom I heard speaking to-day some are in favour of this measure and others condemn it. I think the Minister must be congratulated on its introduction. In 1948 when the first inter-Party Government was set up a housing drive was initiated throughout the length and breadth of the country. That housing progress was halted by the then Fianna Fáil Government through their action in 1952. For the first time in the history of this country an appeal was sent out to our tradesmen in Britain to return home to Ireland. They came back and built houses all over the country. I belong to a local authority where housing in the rural and urban areas went full steam ahead. What do I find to-day? I am told by the members of the Opposition in the local authority that sufficient houses have been built, that the housing schemes are finished. That is not so. Housing is one of the most important duties of a local authority and of a Government. When a local authority is confronted with the problem of a house to let there are many prospective tenants canvassing to get it. At the same time members of the Fianna Fáil Party in the different local councils are saying that there are sufficient houses, that the housing drive is at an end.

To provide better housing is our first duty whether as members of the Dáil or of a local authority. As regards the cottage purchase scheme I believe that every tenant should be the owner of his own house. Whether a man be a white-collar worker or an agricultural worker, give him his own house. He will look after it and see to its needs better than the local authority. In my local authority in County Wexford there was a proposal to raise a loan of £30,000 to meet arrears of repairs to the cottages of agricultural workers and the very people in the local authority who voted against that proposal are the members of the present Opposition. It was carried by only one vote and I hope the Minister will sanction as soon as possible the operation of a scheme for the repair of these cottages so that we can hand them over in a proper condition under the purchase scheme.

Looking around the City of Dublin on my way here, I see houses being erected but they are not for the working classes who should be looked after. We should not make landlords out of some people and provide a big profit at the expense of the State. On my way into the city I see fancy houses being built with garages attached, and so on, while we have people still living in the slums and in tenements in Dublin. That is a disgrace and I think that any money to be spent should be spent for the benefit of the people who need houses, that is, the working class. I have never seen a man in a good salaried position wanting a house. He was always able to secure one because he had money. In the towns and in the rural areas all over the country we have agricultural labourers living in slums still, in old mud-walled, thatched houses. There are young men who would be inclined to stay at home, to work on the land and settle down in married life but there is no chance of their getting a house. Although housing is going on in the rural areas it is not proceeding as quickly as it ought. We are building houses at present by direct labour and through contractors. I believe that the best house at the cheapest price is built by direct labour.

I was surprised to hear Deputy Bartley telling the House that the agricultural worker does not want an acre or a half acre of ground. I think that is wrong. Everyone wants a garden to his house so that he can produce vegetables for his family. Years ago, the agricultural labourer was given half an acre and in those days he was put down in the bogs in the worst half acre that could be obtained. That situation was improved and an acre of ground was granted to the cottier. The land was inspected by the medical officer and by the engineer before the house was erected. To-day it is grand to see the cottages with the acre of ground around them. I cannot understand Deputy Bartley saying that a working man does not want an acre or half an acre of ground. If that is the policy of the Fianna Fáil Party in the local authorities, then we can see nothing but the four bare walls for the man in the rural areas.

Everybody in the Opposition who spoke to-day, particularly the ex-Minister, was not very helpful in saying that there was nothing in the Bill and that he could not see any improvement in it. We were all waiting for this Bill, especially members of local authorities, and the Housing Acts need to be renewed and amended. There are plenty of improvements now in every Housing Act. I hope that when the local authorities to which I belong submit schemes to the Minister, they will not be held up by delays in the Custom House, but that, when everything is in order, the Minister will sanction them and let them go ahead.

First of all, I should like to thank the House for the manner in which they have received this Bill. Most of the criticism has been constructive.

I should like to refer to what some Deputies spoke of as delay in its introduction, and it has been stated that as a result of that delay, a number of building projects, particularly in the City of Dublin, have been held up. That is not true, of course. Actually, I did refer to it in the debate on the Estimate, and I should like to point out now that there has been no holdup whatsoever in the building of houses in the City of Dublin particularly. On 1st April last year, the number of houses on which work was in progress was 6,017, compared with 5,572 on 1st April, 1955, and the number of dwelling-houses in tender on 1st April, 1956, was also higher than the corresponding number of 1st April, 1955, the figures being 3,214 and 3,029 respectively. That shows that there has been no slowing up in the building of houses in the City of Dublin.

Again, some Deputies referred to the fact that the 1954 Act had ceased to exist on 31st March last. That is not so. One small section, Section 6, of the 1954 Act is the only section that expired on 31st March, and I made it very clear many months ago in this House that, if there was to be any reduction in the grants for the building of new houses or the reconstruction of houses, due notice would be given to the House. No such notice was given; therefore, I took it for granted that every person was well aware of the fact that there would be no reduction.

Let us get a picture of the financing of the building of houses in this country. Up to quite recently, there were only two methods of financing the procuring of loans for building houses. One was under a very ancient Act known as the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. That was an Act introduced solely for the purpose of providing loans for the building of houses for people of modest means, to quote the Act itself; but in recent years those of modest means, unfortunately, were not the only people who had access to the funds provided by this particular Act, and a number of people who were not of modest means became applicants for loans under the Act. In recent years, building societies introduced a scheme whereby they advanced approximately 75 per cent. on loan for the purpose of enabling private individuals to build their own houses. Other than the banks, I knew of no other source from which individuals could procure loans for building their own homes.

As Deputy Sweetman, as he then was, pointed out when the 1952 Act was being discussed, there were those people who were just outside the scope of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts and could not procure loans, and those who could not provide the 25 per cent. deposit to enable them to take advantage of the scheme promoted by the building societies. It was for that class of people that I entered into negotiations with the building societies—to bridge that gap between the 75 per cent. loan of the building society and the 95 per cent. loan advanced by the local authority from the Local Loans Fund, a difference of 20 per cent. approximately. As a result of an agreement which I entered into with the building societies they, in turn, are prepared to enter into agreements with the local authorities whereby they will advance loans of up to 95 per cent. of the purchase price for private dwellings— loans of £1,800 in the City of Dublin, Cork, Dún Laoghaire Borough and Dublin County, and £1,600 outside these areas.

This gap of 20 per cent. is being guaranteed on a tripartite guarantee between the local authority, the State and the building society, whereby each of them will guarantee one-third of this 20 per cent. First of all, the guarantee lapses when 50 per cent. of the advance has been refunded. If there is default prior to that, then the local authority will pay two-thirds of this 20 per cent., and they, in turn, will be recouped 50 per cent. of the amount they have paid by the building society. In other words, the local authority will stand to lose one-third, the State will stand to lose one-third, and the building society will also stand to lose one-third of this gap between 75 per cent. and the 95 per cent.

We have now made available to those classes who were ousted from the Local Loans Fund in the past but had not the ability to provide or procure a 25 per cent. deposit, something they never had before, and, in my opinion, in that way we will go some way towards encouraging people to procure loans for building their own houses.

A lot of talk has been made about the percentage which the building society will charge. I have no control over that, other than that I have received a guarantee that they will charge the same rate of interest as they would charge a private individual who procures 75 per cent. and in certain cases the term for repayment will be 35 years. I think that is very fair indeed.

A number of Deputies commented on the statements made by the present Tánaiste, the present Minister for Finance, and the present Minister for Agriculture in the debate in 1952, when it was said that they criticised the amount being charged for a loan under the Small Dwellings Acts at that time. It was right that they should criticise the rate, in my opinion and in their opinion, for it was comparatively high in comparison with the corresponding rate in both Great Britain and Europe. After all, the loan at that time was floated at 5 per cent.

What was it floated at this year?

It was much higher then than loans in corresponding countries of Europe. This year, of course, it is much lower than the loans floated in other countries, and that is the comparison we must bear in mind. If we did criticise a loan of 5 per cent. in 1952, we merely did so in comparison with loans being floated in other countries.

It should also be borne in mind that the rates of interest being charged to-day for loans under the Small Dwellings Act are the very same rates charged for similar loans in 1952. It is true that there has been a decrease in the rates since, but there has also been an increase. Deputy Burke made a plea for those whom he described as caught in between; in other words, certain people who, he said, had entered into commitments prior to the increase in the interest rate. He urged that they should receive their loans now at the former lower rate. There was no such plea by Deputy Burke when the rate of interest fell twice between 1952 and now, and I can find no file in my Department whereby people who were caught, as he described it, and entered into commitments at the higher rate of interest, insisted on paying the higher rate when the interest rate fell. If there is a moral obligation on the local authority now to give those people the same rate of interest as was being charged when they entered into their commitments, there was the same moral obligation, or a similar one, on them with regard to the difference when the rate fell.

I have dealt fairly fully with Section 9 of the Bill, that is the guarantee section. Deputy Smith said this was the only section to which he objected and the only section that the Opposition would oppose on the Committee Stage. But if we take that provision out of the Bill we are still left with that section of our community which has not access to the Local Loans Fund and which is not of modest means, and the section in between that which has not access to the Local Loans Fund and the section which cannot afford a 25 per cent. deposit. For that reason, I think this is a very good provision and quite a number of speakers on the Opposition side of the House spoke in favour of it.

Deputy Smith referred to Section 14 and said he did not see how it would encourage tenants to apply for vesting. That is not the intention of the section at all. The intention of the section is to expedite the vesting of plots in various tenants. Its purpose is not to encourage them. The procedure hitherto was that once a tenant received notice of intention to vest, he had 30 days in which to appeal to the Minister if he was not satisfied with the repairs carried out. As Deputy Brennan pointed out, very often the original letter from the tenant to the local authority was accepted as an application for vesting and, before the tenant knew where he was, the 30 days had elapsed. Under this section that situation can no longer obtain. Due notice of vesting will be served on the tenant. If he is not satisfied with the repairs carried out, he has 30 days in which to appeal to the Minister. The procedure is clearly set out; the Minister will have the cottage examined independently and, if he is not satisfied that due and proper repairs have been carried out, then he may order the local authority, despite the fact that vesting has taken place, to carry out whatever repairs he prescribes. This section will meet the objections of many people from the rural areas. Those objections have been brought to my notice by Deputies and I am myself personally aware of them.

Deputy Larkin referred to newlyweds occupying reserved houses in Dublin, the rents of which are based on one-fifth of the assessable income under the differential rent scheme. I recently interviewed a deputation and pointed out to that deputation that the fixing of rents under the scheme is entirely a matter for the local authority and, if they did not believe me, I said I would state that in writing, which I did in a letter to their secretary. I also arranged through my Department that the corporation would receive the members of the deputation and explain the position fully to them. I have no function. If I had, I would be very glad to intervene but, as I say, I have no function. It is entirely a matter for the local authority.

Deputy Larkin, too, and a few other Deputies asked for a definite statement as to the future of the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts. Deputy Blaney asked where the loans will start and where they will stop. These Acts and the various amending Acts will continue. It is a matter for the local authority to decide who shall be the successful applicant. It is a matter for the local authority to impose any screenings they may wish to impose. I do not wish to intervene. The same amount of money will be made available this year under these Acts as was made available last year. I have gone further. I have told the Dublin Corporation that they will receive the same amount of money next year as this year, and in the succeeding year, in order to enable them to plan for the future so that there will be continuity of acceptance of tenders for building in the City of Dublin.

Deputy Smith raised the question of grants. That scheme can be put into operation by any local authority which wishes to adopt it. I shall not tell any local authority they should adopt the supplementary grant scheme. I hope they will adopt it where they consider it necessary. It is entirely a matter for themselves. The fact that under another section of the Bill the builder will now become entitled to the State grant will not debar any purchaser from receiving a supplementary grant within the jurisdiction of any local authority which may adopt this scheme. I hope that a good many local authorities will continue to adopt it.

I have heard criticism from both sides in relation to the segregation of the grants payable for sewerage and water. Some Deputies were complimentary on the scheme. I think it is a very good scheme. I know people who have already got a piped water supply. There is, however, no public sewerage and I think it is a good thing to give such people grants to enable them to procure sewerage schemes for themselves. People may not wish to involve themselves in both commitments simultaneously and, for that reason, I think the grants should be segregated. Indeed the majority view seemed to be that it was both right and proper that they should be segregated.

I have dealt with the principal points raised by the various speakers. Some Deputy pointed out that most of the points raised could have been raised more appropriately on the Committee Stage. Between now and the Committee Stage, I hope I shall have an opportunity of studying any amendments which may be put in.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 17th July.