I was speaking the other day about the generous grants which the Minister——
Committee on Finance. - Vote 29—Local Government (Resumed).
Do not forget to congratulate the Minister.
I am very grateful to the Deputy for reminding me. I shall remember his kind interjection. I thank the Minister for the generous grants which he is giving for road improvement in County Dublin.
It was about time.
I can assure the House that it was about time it was done. We hope that the Minister will remain in office until such time as we do a good job on the roads in County Dublin.
Methuselah will be outlived, so.
Do not spoil the poor man's joy on being re-elected to the National Executive.
Let us get back to the Estimate for the Department of Local Government and forget about the National Executive.
I am concerned about the number of unfinished estates in the county and city of Dublin. The developers in certain cases have failed to carry out their responsibilities. There are certain estates the developers of which have either died or gone into liquidation. There is one estate in County Dublin—St. Mary's estate— where the people are paying their rates, though they have no services and the roads are not equipped. I was hoping that in cases where we cannot place the responsibility on the developer, the Minister might be able in future legislation to deal with matters of that kind. My own cure for that would simply be to collect the ground rents and let the local authorities develop the estates. It is not fair to the people who have to pay high rates; neither is it fair to the local authority. It is too bad to let those people get away with it. That is a headache which we have had in County Dublin for quite a number of years.
With regard to reconstruction grants, I should like to see greater co-ordination between the inspectors of the local authority and the Department. One inspection should suffice in respect of the payment of the grant. When the Department of Local Government send their inspector there and when the matter is approved by their inspector, the local authority should automatically pay their supplementary grants. We have found in the city and county of Dublin that where the Department have paid their part of the grant, the local authority will again delay and send out their inspectors. They will always pick holes in something—there is always something wrong. For instance, they may find that everything is not in accordance with some town planning specification. There should be co-ordination between the local authority inspectors and the Department's inspectors. This would eliminate the delay.
A number of my friends in County Dublin have had some difficulty in getting contractors to do their business because of delay in the payment of grants. They have found that that is due to the divergence of opinion as between the local authority inspectors and those of the Department. I should be grateful if the Minister would look into this matter to see if one inspector would suffice and ensure that as soon as the Minister for Local Government pays the grant, the local authority would also pay their agreed portion for reconstruction.
We are also concerned about the local authority's power to acquire or allocate sites for factories. The difficulty arises sometimes when people want to establish industries in Dublin, that directly they start negotiations, the price goes sky-high because people know the site is required for a factory. I suppose everybody wants the best possible price and I do not want to interfere with that but it is nevertheless retarding progress to a great extent. There is great difficulty in getting sites passed and getting into an area properly serviced.
If a zoning arrangement were adopted by the Corporation, it would at least assure industrialists they would not have to encounter delay in acquiring a site and further delay in getting plans passed. We have the position now in south County Dublin, from Robinhood to Clondalkin district, that the drainage scheme there is unable to cater for the number of factories we could have in that area. I understand Dublin Corporation plan to have a proper drainage scheme for the area. This will give the local authority a chance of letting sites in the district.
At present Dublin Corporation have no authority to develop any seaside resorts outside the city boundary but they are faced with the problem that Portmarnock is in County Dublin and is specifically used by Dublin citizens. The Corporation are anxious to develop Portmarnock because thousands of people from the city go there in all weathers as it is so near and has one of the finest strands along our coast. Would the Minister consider amending legislation to give the Corporation authority to develop Portmarnock for the benefit of Dublin citizens? As a member of Dublin Corporation, I can say that the members are most anxious to see this development take place but they are prohibited from taking action in that respect because the Corporation's legal adviser states we have no authority to spend money on the development of Portmarnock.
There is something in the Planning Bill that might be relevant.
I believe there is. We have another problem in the city and county of Dublin at present. Due to the industrial activity of Fianna Fáil and the number of factories established in several areas, there is a great need for more and more houses. While both local authorities are doing their best, I feel that to get over the transition period and expedite building of houses a co-ordinating committee should be established by both local authorities and the Department of Local Government.
We also have the problem of sub-tenants, even where there are 13 in family and two families in the house. It arises when the mother or father allow in a married son or daughter, or perhaps a nephew. The problem has become serious because of the industries established in these areas. I am dealing now with County Dublin where the council is forbidden to give them the house as they will qualify for only one-third of the grant, being sub-tenants. If they were transferred from a condemned house, the local authority would get a two-thirds grant from the Department.
I have discussed this burning question with the Minister on other occasions and he promised that as soon as he got a housing survey made by all the local authorities, he would have another look at it. The matter is urgent; it arises almost daily. We have a housing meeting of the county council next Friday and these burning questions are coming before us. Naturally, the local authority want to avail of the two-thirds grant, but if they give the houses to people who do not qualify, they will get only one-third, notwithstanding the fact that there may be seven, eight or ten people living in one small house.
I know there was just cause when action was taken originally in regard to subtenants because families were just going into cottages when they knew houses were to be allocated or were being built in the area but now, due to industrial development, the overcrowding is unavoidable and I should like the Minister to look into the matter and see what can be done to improve the position. Even if he were not prepared to go as far as paying the whole two-third grant but would clear the arrears existing at present, that would be very much appreciated in County Dublin. I was at a house allocation meeting recently and we had to turn down people who should have got priority on the list because they were subtenants. The county manager advised us what we thought should be done could not be done because we would not get the two-third grant.
While the Minister, on numerous occasions, has advocated the establishment of swimming pools—and I thank him for the generous grants he has given towards such amenities—I feel that we as members of local authorities have given him very little help in these matters but we should like these swimming pools to be heated as they are in England and elsewhere and not just pools that can be used only in good weather. We have over 700,000 people in Dublin and we have only one properly heated public bathing place provided by the authority. Of course, we have the Iveagh Baths. On the other hand, there are large, populated areas on the outskirts of the city with no such facilities.
I suppose Ballyfermot is as big as Limerick city. There are no proper swimming pools for our children and for people who want to avail of them in these large areas of population. I know the Minister has been in touch with the local authorities on the matter. I urge him to avoid the holein-the-ground type of swimming pool which cannot be properly heated and which people cannot avail of every day in the year. Unless the water can be heated they are of no use to us.
As I mentioned a few days ago the subsidisation of public lighting is very much appreciated in the city and county of Dublin. There have been a number of fatal accidents due to bad lighting in the smaller towns and on the main roads into and out of the city. I am delighted the Minister has agreed to subsidise lighting by 50 per cent. in such areas and in built-up estates which require it. If we can eliminate or reduce the loss of life on our roads, we shall achieve something. A properly lighted road is a safe road; a badly lighted road is a dangerous road.
The Minister is doing a jolly good job. In County Dublin, the piped water schemes have enabled a number of my friends there to obtain piped water, thus eliminating the necessity to use wells. That scheme is very much appreciated by the people whom I have the honour to represent.
I am glad to avail myself of the opportunity provided by this debate to spotlight some local government problems in my constituency. In the city of Limerick, which forms the major portion of the constituency, the most serious problem is the housing shortage. The housing situation in Limerick is now so bad that nothing short of emergency measures can solve it. It is estimated that there are close on 2,000 families in Limerick city in need of housing. The plight of some of these families is so bad that, on a number of occasions recently, people looking for houses had to be forcibly ejected from the Town Hall in Limerick. In the past fortnight, the Garda and the fire brigade had to be called to remove some of these house-hunters.
There are families in Limerick city living in conditions almost too dreadful to contemplate. I have personally inspected the housing conditions of several of these families. I have been shocked and horrified at the appalling overcrowded and unhealthy conditions in which so many people are compelled to live. I do not want to dwell at too great length on it. The housing situation in Limerick city is a social scandal in 1962, and reflects no credit on the housing policy of the Government.
The housing crisis in Limerick did not come about overnight. It has gradually been developing over the past five or six years. The present situation is due entirely to the slowing-down of house building, particularly since 1957. Let us look for a moment at the figures for house-building. In a reply to a question which I tabled on 9th May last, the Minister for Local Government gave figures for houses built by the Limerick Corporation, which show that in the financial year 1956-57, 200 houses were built; in 1957-58, 159; in 1958-59, none; in 1959-60, 175; in 1960-61, 108; and, in the financial year 1961-62, none.
As a matter of comparison, I have here the figures for 1954 to 1957. During that three-year period, a total of 360 houses was built, an average of 120 houses per annum. In the five-year period from 1957 to 1962, a total of 442 houses was built, an average of 88 houses per annum over the past five years, which is a reduction of about 30 per cent. in the annual output of houses. This is the situation existing today in the City of Limerick.
Nobody in Limerick needs statistics to prove that there is an acute housing shortage there. Strangely enough, there is quite a lot of controversy raging in Limerick at the moment. It was put in motion, mainly, by the Minister who, prior to his departure to the United States in August, caused a veritable furore in Limerick when he said that we in Limerick have the distinction of having the worst slums in Ireland.
Personally, I was not surprised at the Minister's statement but I was very surprised at the reaction it provoked in the city and particularly at the self-righteous indignation expressed by certain people there. The general feeling seemed to be that if the situation were as bad as the Minister said, then he himself was the person mainly responsible for it. However, there is another side to the story.
On last Saturday, in a week-end edition of the Limerick Leader, a long letter appeared from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, Deputy O'Malley, in which he dealt with the housing situation. He said:
My Department is responsible for the administration of the Local Loans Fund. We have ample funds available and there is no hold up whatsoever in providing the necessary finances. The Corporation can rest assured the Government will provide all the necessary finances for its housing programme.
The fact is that there is an acute shortage of houses in Limerick. There is no point in laying the blame on one side rather than on the other. I shall not engage in that type of futile discussion. I would ask the Minister, on behalf of the many families in Limerick who are in the desperate plight I have described, when replying to this debate, to clear the air regarding the housing situation in Limerick. If his Department is in any way responsible for delay in the sanctioning of housing schemes, and so on, I would ask him to ask his officers to get a move on.
On the other hand, if Limerick Corporation is not facing up to its responsibilities in the matter of housing, I would ask the Minister to apply the necessary pressure. The situation is desperate and drastic measures are called for. I would go so far as to warn the Minister that unless something is done about the matter, there will be a revolution in the city.
Another matter arises in connection with Limerick city, a matter for which the Minister is fully responsible. Possibly it comes under the heading of town planning. A year ago, the Minister made a decision permitting the erection of a ballroom on a site adjacent to the Ennis Road in Limerick. In making the decision, he overruled a previous decision of Limerick Corporation turning down the application. The Minister also ignored the rights of the local community in whose neighbourhood this structure is now going up. When people have gone to the expense of setting up a home, they should not be disturbed. The area on Ennis Road is a residential area where the families concerned have purchased houses at considerable expense. They now find that, almost overnight, due to the erection of this monster in their midst, the value of these houses has depreciated.
I do know that a number of these families are making arrangements to move from the locality. The decision to permit the erection of this ballroom was a bad decision. I sincerely hope there will be no repetition of it. The Minister's decision was very difficult to understand, in view of the fact that there were several alternative suitable sites available for the ballroom. However, the Minister has made his decision but I would ask him to bear this matter in mind in future.
With reference to the rural part of the constituency which I represent and which comes under the administration of Limerick County Council, first of all, I wish to say the major problem is one of roads. We have very good first-class roads and secondary roads but we have very bad farm roadways, culs de sac and so on. Over the past twelve months, since I became a member of this House, people have been coming to me almost weekly in connection with the repair, in some cases, of small roads serving perhaps two or three families, in other cases serving 10, 12 or more families. This matter should be tackled and funds should be made available, even at the expense of neglecting major roads for the moment. The present policy in my constituency seems to be to make good roads better. Instead, we should try to make the bad roads good.
With regard to housing, in the part of County Limerick which is in my constituency there are perhaps more cottages locked up than there are in any other part of the country. Side by side with that situation, there is quite a considerable number of people seeking housing accommodation. The big problem at the moment with Limerick county council is to secure contractors to build cottages. In one or two cases I made representations to Limerick county council that they should purchase a cottage which had been put on the market. I understand that the problem in that connection is that there is a limit beyond which the local authority cannot go in the matter of purchasing a cottage which is offered for sale. In one case that I came across the limit was £200. The applicant was very badly in need of housing. The local authority went to some trouble in securing a site and a cottage is being erected for the applicant. The total cost of the site and of building the cottage will be many times greater than the £300, or so, for which a cottage could have been purchased. There is need for greater flexibility in this matter. The county council should not be restricted to a certain figure.
In conclusion, I wish to refer to the matter of rural water supply, a matter in which I have very deep personal interest because prior to my election to this House I was very closely associated with Muintir na Tíre and the promotion of a number of group schemes. I am a firm believer in the group water scheme and regard it as an ideal method of solving the problem of bringing piped water to rural homes. I am very pleased indeed to have been associated with the promotion of group water schemes in south-east Limerick where the original scheme, started two years ago, is now serving about 30 families and another scheme is serving 25 families and, in the past couple of weeks, another scheme has been promoted which will serve something like 55 families. I am convinced from what I have seen of the group scheme in operation in various counties and particularly in my own constituency that every encouragement should be given to the promotion of such schemes.
The Department of Local Government covers a greater number of schemes than any other Department. While I cannot say to the Minister, as I did to other Ministers, that I believe everything that has been done under his auspices has been correct, nevertheless there are certain things in regard to which the Minister and his Department seem to be doing a reasonably good job. There are, of course, some sections with which I would disagree violently.
The question of housing has been dealt with in a critical tone by Deputy O'Donnell of Limerick, and with paeans of praise by Deputy P.J. Burke of County Dublin. My approach will come somewhere in between.
In County Meath, for a number of years, we have been trying to overcome the housing shortage, to see to it that those who need houses and who cannot afford to build them for themselves, who qualify in other ways, would have houses built for them by the local authority. One objection we have is in regard to the prolonged delay which occurs from the time a scheme is submitted to the Department until it is finally sanctioned and the green light is given and the council can go ahead with the building of the houses. I regret to have to say that we have experienced delays of as much as six years. All the blame may not rest with the Department but certainly the Department must accept a fair share of it. If the Meath county council or any other local authority inspects sites, considers them suitable for building, has them inspected by the engineers and submits the schemes to the Department it is a rather stupid idea that the Department should then find it necessary to send somebody down from Dublin to inspect the sites in order to decide whether or not they are suitable. That means duplication of work which should not occur and which causes unnecessary delay.
Another problem that we have to deal with has been referred to by Deputy Burke. Deputy Burke got a little confused in the percentages and vulgar fractions. He referred to a figure of two-thirds per cent. I assume he was talking about the two-thirds subsidy. The position in County Meath and elsewhere is that if persons qualify for the two-thirds subsidy the county council is willing enough to build the houses and, if they do not qualify for the two-thirds subsidy, the council will not build the houses.
I know the Minister can get out of it by saying very simply that it is a matter for the county council. The Minister would be perfectly right in making that statement, but when we consider that the people concerned are either (a) living as sub-tenants in county council cottages or (b), living in good houses for which they have no security of tenure, houses which were lent to them when they got married on the strict understanding that they would be provided with alternative accommodation inside 12 or 18 months, it is wrong for the Minister to say that they qualify only for a one-third subsidy. Thereby they are effectively prevented from having a house built for them by the local authority.
I understand that about 12 months ago a decision was taken by someone in the Department that the county council cottages which were being built were too big and too ornate. It was decided to reduce the floor space and to reduce the size of the cottages. In some cases, it was suggested that one fireplace was sufficient, on the plea that now that everyone has ESB current and can have an electric fire, or can use an oil heater, more than one open fireplace is not required. The result is that in the last scheme of houses built by some local authorities, including Meath County Council, some of the rooms are so small—and without a fireplace—that when the windows and doors are closed, and two or three people sit down for the evening, you cannot see across the room because of the smoke from their cigarettes. A very bad mistake was made by someone when those houses were being planned, and I would ask the Minister to reconsider that matter.
We should not reduce the size of these houses. Where it is at all possible, we should attempt to increase it. The old cottages which were built were small enough for rearing a family and we should not reduce the size of the houses now being built. If the fault lies with the local authorities, I should be glad if the Minister would let me know, when he is replying. From the inquiries I have made, I am informed that inspectors came from the Department.
To go to the other side of the picture, I consider that very many more people could help themselves by building their own houses. Very often you find a person who has a site but wants the local authority to build a house. When the house is built, he may have to pay a weekly rent of anything up to £1 and, in addition, rates which may run to 3/10 per week will be added on. If that person builds a house and avails of the full grants from the Department and the local authority—£300 in each case—it means he has a free gift of £600 to start off. If the House costs £1,200 or £1,300—and it can be built to his own design or very close to it—he gets a rates remission for a period of 10 years.
It is only fair that the Department should get full credit for the assistance they give when those new type houses are being built. I know that in County Meath any time they have been requested to give full co-operation in planning and building houses and in passing them for grants, they have done so. On the other hand, the local authority have also been helping in every way. The Minister and his officials should do everything possible to encourage that type of building. It will provide homes for people who might have to wait until they were 80 years of age for the local authority to build houses for them.
Can you get a house built in Meath for £1,300?
House built by the local authority are costing something like £1,200. If people are satisfied with houses which the local authority build for £1,200, it is a reasonable assumption that they will be satisfied with houses they build for themselves for £1,300.
Another fault I find with the Department is that when a local authority house is built, immediately the tenant takes possession, he is required to pay rates. There is a remission on private building for ten years but the local authority tenant gets no such remission. As soon as he takes possession, he is liable for rates, and must pay them from the first week he is in possession. Some effort should be made to try to deal with that matter. After all, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
In addition to the new houses being built, in Laytown, the village in which I live, a group of people formed a utility society or a building society and built their own houses. They are lovely houses. The people living in them have reasonably good jobs and the repayments are something around £2 per week. They are excellent houses and the people are well satisfied. The Department should be congratulated on the wonderful co-operation they gave. The local authority were also very co-operative. The scheme has been so successful that I imagine it will be copied and we will see many people helping themselves. Self-help is the answer, and I am sure it will get full co-operation from the Department as well as the local authorities.
The question of the employment of road workers has been dealt with. My biggest complaint about road work is that we have reached the stage where, if a job can be done by machinery, even if it costs more than it would cost to have it done by hand, those who plan these jobs consider it should be done by machinery; that it is more up-to-date, and the more modern thing to do. The fact that perhaps 20 or 30 men are left without a week's wages does not seem to worry those who plan these jobs.
I do not know if it is generally realised that up to ten years ago the local authorities and county councils who were employing 800, 900, or 1,000 men for the whole year, have now cut down their staff by the use of machinery to roughly 300 or 400. If one asks where have the other 400 or 500 gone, the answer is very simple: most of them have had to emigrate. It is all right to say that the jobs are being well done and are perhaps costing a little less—although, in my opinion they are costing much more— but the Department should decide that we have gone as far as we possibly can in the use of machinery and attempt to cut down on it. In my opinion—and this is a personal opinion —if we buy machinery which is made abroad to do work which could be done as cheaply by hand—perhaps not as quickly—that is a false economy. I ask the Minister and the Department to do everything possible to discourage that kind of thing. While we may talk at local level or in this House if the Minister sends down a circular, it is considered in the same light as the Bible and is obeyed immediately— indeed, perhaps, far more quickly than that which is laid down in the Bible.
There is an improvement, I admit, in the road workers' conditions in general. The superannuation scheme is working very effectively. The five-day 45-hour week is operating for nine months of the year—except in the Minister's county where they are dragging their feet like the Government—and is working very well. We hope next year to see a 45-hour five-day week operating over the whole country. We expect that it will be quite easily operated, or an average 45-hour week anyway. We must thank the Minister for the way in which he dealt with the applications for sanction in these matters when they came before him. He did not hold them up but apparently decided that if the local authority were satisfied and the Labour Court made a recommendation, it was good enough for him.
There is a question which I think has been very badly dealt with by the Minister, and I am glad that Deputy Faulkner is here while I am referring to this. It is an individual case of a gentleman in County Louth who was appointed as an overseer by Louth County Council. When he was appointed, a number of people who had been acting as overseers for a long time were asked if they would agree to an enlarged area to work in on the retiral of some of the overseers, with the consideration that they would get an extra £1 per week. The men accepted the £1 per week. The man to whom I am referring now was appointed subsequent to the change being made and the Department of Local Government decided that though he was doing the same type of work, was covering the same area, had the same costs as, and as a matter of fact, a little more than the other people who were doing the job, he was not to get the £1 per week.
Subsequent to the Minister's refusal in this matter, my trade union took a number of cases to the Labour Court which I considered were exactly similar. The ruling of the Labour Court was in favour of my members; the cases were sanctioned by the Department of Local Government, and still the Minister says he cannot give sanction in the case of this man. There is nothing political in this. As far as I am aware, this man is a supporter of the Minister's Party. Despite that, he has been prevented from getting this increase of £1 a week to which he is definitely entitled. I intend to have the matter raised again but may I say now that this sort of thing does not help the good relations that should exist between employers, employees and the Department of Local Government.
Another speaker has referred to the question of development along the seaside. We have a seven-mile stretch of coast in Louth and I should like to see development there very similar to what has been done in Salthill, Galway. An excellent job seems to have been done there. There are one or two things that could possibly be improved but they have spent lots of money which has been worthwhile. They are able to bring visitors there and cater for them.
It is a pity that places like Laytown, Bettystown, Mornington, Gormanston, which are within striking distance of Dublin and Drogheda, have received little in the way of help from the Department. The local authorities over the years have succeeded in getting money to build houses but very little has been devoted to developing the seaside. The Department should endeavour to channel some of the money which they make available into places such as those. That would benefit the whole country and would particularly benefit those who cannot travel as far away as the West of Ireland for a holiday but who would wish to go for a holiday to some of the nearer seaside resorts.
Public lighting has been mentioned. Twelve months ago, the Department issued a circular about public lighting. They referred to what I assume was the ideal form of lighting. I do not know who they expected would be able to pay for the lighting they thought ideal. Certainly, the local authority to which I belong did not feel inclined to look for the money needed to do the job. It would cost very much more than the present system. While the present system is not ideal, it must be remembered that many villages even in the thickly populated parts of the country have not yet been lighted publicly. It is a pipe-dream to suggest we should improve greatly the standard of lighting before some attempt is made to light the villages which are still literally in the dark.
In the course of his opening statement, the Minister referred to piped water and, if I am not misquoting him, may I say he seems to have had a change of mind since he first went into ecstasies about the regional water schemes. I have been trying to read the two of them one after the other to find out if there is anything there which I have missed out. I can be corrected if I am wrong but I understood that earlier this year, and perhaps last year, the Minister and his advisers were of the opinion that there was only one solution to the lack of piped water, that is, the piped scheme. There should be a central scheme as far as possible which could be used to pipe water to practically every part of the country. Local authorities, I understand, were advised to carry out a very extensive survey in order to find out what the position was in their areas. Many of the local authorities have spent a very substantial amount of money doing so.
The Minister the other day said he is not to be taken as saying that is the only solution, and maybe that is what he meant first. I did not understand it from what he said, any more than the local authorities seem to have understood it from the Minister's statement. Anyway, the Minister is entitled to interpret his own words but when he is concluding, I should like to know what exactly he did say. I agree with his second views rather than with his first ones. I am aware of one local authority with a number of small piped water schemes in their area and, when they got what they thought was the green light from the Minister some time ago, they started carrying out investigations into the piping of water from a lake which would supply the whole county. That piped water supply would cost the ratepayers of that county £5,250,000, less, of course, what the Minister would contribute by way of subsidy.
Now it seems they have to tear up their blueprint and start off on what is a reasonable way of doing it, using all the existing supplies of water, thereby trying to improve the general position. It should be remembered that very many farmers—and they are the people referred to as needing this water —have provided their own private supply. There are many substantial farmers in the country who already have their own private supply and I am sure they would not welcome paying extra rates for the purpose of supplying their neighbours or anybody else who had not got that supply.
There is one matter my Party tried to introduce in a Bill earlier this year, that is, a provision in regard to sewage disposal. I think the Minister is well aware the sewage disposal units which are supposed to operate in many towns are non-existent. In most villages, they are still using the old septic tanks or, worse still, pumping sewage into the sea or open rivers. In 1962, an all-out drive should be made to prevent that sort of thing. Every town of any size or any place where there is a sewage system should have a sewage disposal farm. There is nothing so appalling as to find an open sewer pouring into a river and find half a mile further down 20 or 30 children bathing in that river. That has been happening all over this country in the summer and, apparently, it is nobody's job to see that it is stopped. I would ask the Minister when he is concluding the debate to offer an opinion—I am sure he has very decided views on such things—as to what he thinks can be done about it.
Reference has been made here to the difficulty in some counties of finding contractors to build labourers' cottages.
Deputy Anthony Barry asked about the cost of these cottages. I suggest the reason it is so difficult to get contractors to tender for the building of such cottages is that over a number of years, a group of people have been contracting for the erection of cottages who have paid very bad wages, whenever they could get away with it, and who produced a very inferior house very cheaply. It is up to the local authority to see that each contractor does his job properly, pays the proper wages and observes the correct conditions. The authorities should see to it that no others are allowed to erect these cottages. If this is done, decent contractors who pay good wages and who do a good job will be only too anxious to tender for such work. They are not tendering at the moment because people who do inferior work are prepared to tender at hundreds of pounds cheaper and are accepted as contractors by local authorities.
In recent legislation, the maximum income limit for qualification for supplementary grants for house building was fixed at £832. The Minister should have a second look at that figure and he will see it is ruling out quite a number of people who feel they are in a position to build houses. When a person has an income of anything between £800 and £1,000, he feels he can build a house at the moment under this scheme. However, such people are ruled out because of the limit of £832. In my county, we had the suggestion that the regulation be graded so that the limit would be £1,040. It is rather a pity the Minister did not accept a Labour Party amendment to the recent legislation that the maximum limit should be £1,040 instead of the present £832. If the Minister is amending this legislation in the future, I suggest he could do something about this qualification limit for supplementary grants.
Another matter I wish to raise—I have done so several times by way of Parliamentary Questions—is the matter of appeals against the state of repair of council cottages when they are being vested. I should like to know now if the Minister has done anything to remedy that situation.
The present position is that when a local authority decide that a cottage does not require repair, the tenant due for vesting may appeal to the Minister. The Departmental engineer inspects the house and sends a list of the necessary repairs to the local authority concerned. Ultimately the repairs are carried out but the final inspection to find out whether the repairs have been properly executed is carried out by the engineer who originally said the cottage did not need repair—the engineer employed by the local authority.
Such an inspection should, of course, be carried out by the Departmental engineer. The Minister has said he does not consider this to be the ideal way of doing it. I suggest that was the understatement of the year. I believe that repairs to vested cottages should be inspected by the Departmental engineer who originally stipulated that the repairs were necessary. The question of cost may enter into it but I think it is highly undesirable that the present system should be allowed to continue.
We can all agree with the Minister's desire for a further increase in house building next year. There is at the moment a boom in the building trade generally and as such a state in the building industry is regarded as an indication of the prosperity of the country in general, the pointers are in the right direction. Most of the important features of this Estimate have been discussed. I wish to deal here with one aspect of it—the inter-dependence of building and the development of industry in certain areas in the country.
This is a problem certainly which we did not have to deal with previously but the general signs at the moment are that it is something we must give consideration to now. It is, I suggest, a matter to which the Minister and his Department must give special consideration. My constituency is highly industrialised. In it there has been a considerable increase in industrial employment during the past few years and all the signs appear to indicate that there will be further industrial expansion there in the relatively near future. If we are to ensure that we will have sufficient workers in such areas I am convinced from a close study of the problem that we will need to build in advance of requirements.
If more workers are needed in certain areas than are available it will have a serious detrimental effect on existing industry and a bad psychological effect on foreign industrialists who come here to establish industries, very often mainly for the reason I am referring to. It will not be difficult to get workers provided houses are available for them. I am not to be taken as suggesting that at the present moment we have not got sufficient workers or that workers are not available for employment, but I can see that the problem is likely to arise. It may be said I am looking too far into the future in this matter but I am raising it mainly because of the fact that a situation of this kind is developing in one part of my constituency and I feel that if present plans come to fruition this area may be detrimentally affected and that the problem will develop in other areas as well in my constituency.
For that reason, I would urge the Minister and his Department to face up to the situation now. It is a happy development but it could be very considerably hampered if the problem is not tackled now and if consideration is not given to what can be done to help. In Drogheda a certain amount of progress has been made in the building of houses in the past few years, I might say mainly through the foresight of the late Deputy L.J. Walsh, who was instrumental in buying Ballsgrove, against considerable opposition. One scheme has been completed there and another is being prepared but these will not be sufficient to cater for present needs. The needs in respect of future industrial expansion are not catered for at all.
The provision in recent legislation which gives powers to local authorities to formulate their own supplementary grants schemes for housing is very useful, and I was delighted to learn from the Minister's statement that there has been a considerable increase in private building. I feel that if housing authorities make full use of the powers given to them under this legislation, it will give a considerable shot in the arm to this type of housing and will encourage young people to build their own homes. I have very good reasons to believe it will be so in my constituency because even now, when no supplementary grants are available, a large number of young people have approached me seeking information about the loans and grants available. In fact many of them have already built houses.
We all realise that private building will never supplant local authority building, but it can do a lot to supplement it. If we are to develop private building to the extent we should like it to develop, we could do a lot to ease the problem I mentioned at the outset. At the present time, we find groups of people coming together and forming utility societies, to build their own schemes of houses. That is certainly very encouraging. I was at a meeting very recently in my constituency where a new utility society was formed for this purpose. Further in regard to this question of industrial development, I think that if existing industries would make more use of the powers available to them to build houses for their managerial staffs and for their technicians, it would ease the situation with regard to this particular problem.
I am fully in agreement with the Minister that houses should not be built at present without all modern amenities. I was going to make a suggestion to him with regard to allowing people to provide these piecemeal because of the fact that, in certain income groups, the cost of a house causes considerable difficulty but now that housing authorities are taking a much greater interest in the supplementary housing grants, I think these supplementary grants would overcome the problem I have in mind. I was glad to note that the Louth County Council are asking for particulars of figures so as to give consideration to the formulation of a scheme for the provision of supplementary grants.
I was glad to note from the Minister's statement also that, as was to be expected from the amount of work in progress over the past year, there was an increase of 22 per cent. in the number of reconstruction grants. These grants are doing excellent work by providing better homes, more habitable homes and more comfort for our people. I often felt that if reconstruction grants had been available during the time when Fianna Fáil began their housing drive in the 1930s, many of our housing problems which arose later might have been eliminated then.
The fact that there is an increase in the water and sewerage grants of 30 per cent. is also a great achievement. Deputy Tully mentioned this matter and stated that the Minister had a change of mind with regard to what is the most adequate manner of providing water for our people. He said, as far as I remember now, the Minister had said that the regional schemes were the be-all and the end-all in this matter of the provision of water. We, on this side of the House, never thought for one moment that this was the Minister's intention. It had always been my opinion—I have stated it on many occasions in my constituency— that the Minister's view was that the regional, group and private schemes should be availed of, depending on which was the most suitable and most economic for a particular area.
Deputy Tully mentioned, as one of the reasons why he believed the Minister favoured regional schemes only, that the county councils had been instructed to make a survey of their areas in connection with regional schemes. My feeling on that point was that the county councils made this survey, in relation to these regional schemes, to find out in what instances it would be more economical and more suitable to provide water by regional schemes. In fact, I think the county councils generally understood that that was the reason for carrying out these surveys.
I know that in my own constituency, the Louth county council carried out a survey and that they have now decided on schemes for certain areas where the cost of providing water would be under a certain figure per house. They intend proceeding with these particular schemes. The people in those areas are naturally enough anxious to get the water as soon as possible. The county council informed me recently that they intended to proceed very shortly with the provision of water by regional scheme in the areas in County Louth where it is considered an economic proposition to do so.
I think the Minister has in his statement cleared up a misconception with regard to this thing. Perhaps, I might go further and say that he has cleared up a matter which has been very thoroughly misrepresented in certain quarters. The grants for derelict sites are being availed of to some extent in my constituency, but I still feel that very much more use could be made of them. We still have eye-sores along our roads which could be eliminated by taking advantage of these derelict site grants. I feel, however, that by degrees our people will make use of them to clear finally all these old ruins.
Mention was also made by the Minister of the amenity grants—the grants for developing parks and so on. There is no doubt that these grants are of very great value. They improve the appearance of the district and provide parks and so on to which people can come during the summer-time, particularly old people who have nowhere else to go.
My experience in one instance was not very encouraging. A particular group of people decided to develop a park without any grant as far as I can remember but I am not too sure of that. When the job was finished the Valuation Office stepped in and spoiled the whole effect. I do not want to deal any further with that because it is still for negotiation and it may be possible to do something about it. If it is possible to do something about it, something should be done. In this instance people gave their free time and subscribed money themselves. They worked very hard to develop this park only to find themselves saddled with a high rate demand.
The Minister mentioned that he intends to bring in the regulations under the Traffic Act with regard to speed limits in built up areas. So far as my constituency is concerned, we are particularly anxious about this matter. We hope that the Minister will bring in the regulations as soon as possible. We find, particularly in our villages on the main Dublin-Belfast road, that nobody is safe. In fact, our people are in constant anxiety about the danger, particularly to the children. I was going to deal further with this particular matter but owing to the fact that very recently there was a shocking tragedy in one of our villages in connection with this speed business, I prefer not to now.
I appeal to the Minister to consider making a regulation introducing the double white line system, particularly on main roads, as at present used in England. I advocated this previously. At present, to give an example, if a motorist is travelling north and comes to the brow of a hill and has a clear view for perhaps two miles, he may still find himself, if he is travelling behind other traffic, hemmed in for a quarter of a mile. The white line is there for the purpose of preventing south-bound traffic from passing out. The temptation is very great for the motorist with a clear view of two miles to pass out if travelling behind a slow vehicle and thereby cross the white line. I believe that once he gets into the habit of doing this when he has a clear view, he will develop a contempt for white lines. I think this is very often the cause of accidents.
It will be generally agreed that despite the efforts of the Garda, the regulations regarding the white lines are not being observed. I feel this is very largely because of the situation I have described and if we were to introduce double white lines, as in England, one line in the exact centre of the road and one either to the right or the left of it to show that in no circumstances may you cross from that particular side, people would have more respect for white lines and we would possibly eliminate some accidents of the type at present happening.
I agree that high speeds are responsible for the vast majority of road accidents but I also want to draw the Minister's attention to the hazard caused by the very slow driver on main roads. I see this frequently travelling on the main Dublin-Belfast road which is carrying very heavy traffic. The driver who travels at 20 m.p.h on that road, a very winding road with only about three straights of about two or three miles between Dublin and Dundalk, forces all other traffic to pass him out. This very often results in accidents. I am not suggesting we should have speed mechants but there is no question that on a winding main road the very slow driver of about 20 m.p.h. is a very definite hazard. What can be done about it is difficult to say.
I should like to compliment the Garda on the very good work they are doing in regard to road safety propaganda. They give lectures at schools and these lectures are very much appreciated by both teachers and pupils. Teachers like to see somebody in uniform giving these lectures because they feel that possibly the children will give more attention to road traffic lectures from a garda than from the regular teacher. We could, however, make more use of television for road safety propaganda. Some time ago the BBC had an excellent film on this subject portraying the different risks taken by a man leaving home and travelling all day in a car. It showed what thoughtlessness did and simple lack of care and the different things that, I suppose, most of us do when driving. Films such as this help us to be more careful. I think that when the figures for road deaths over a period are shown on television, it brings much more vividly to our mind the gravity of the situation.
The relief of rates on agricultural land was very much appreciated, particularly in my constituency. Deputy Tully referred to an overseer who was refused the extra £1 a week given to other overseers in an area because he was appointed after the date of the increase. I have made many representations to the Minister without success on this matter and I should be very glad if he would take another look at it.
There are three points on which I should like to comment. The first concerns the provision of piped water in rural areas. I do not believe the Minister at any stage intended that the answer to this problem should be regional water supply schemes. I believe that, genuinely or otherwise, that statement was misinterpreted, but, seeing that the majority of people accept the necessity for piped water supplies, I think it only right to get down to brasstacks and be practical about providing it.
In areas which I know pretty well, the most economic and efficient type of supply could be provided through group schemes and it is on these I wish to comment. No worthwhile consideration has so far been given by the Department to group schemes. The Minister may think this is nonsense, but, I understand from figures given here, that we have only one or two inspectors full-time on the co-ordination and investigation of group schemes in the country.
Having a group scheme initiated and put into effect means direct contact between the group in a parish or locality and the Department. There is a very strong feeling at present in rural areas that the cost of piped water will be outrageous. I do not know who put that out but it is out. Many responsible, or so-called responsible, bodies seem to believe that it is only the regional system that will be applied and I have had personal experience in various areas of trying to convince groups of people that there is no intention whatever, either by the Department or the local authority, to go ahead with regional schemes where group schemes can be provided and that they will get prior consideration.
It is very difficult in rural Ireland, to get a group of ten or 12 or 14 people or families to come together for any desirable communal effort. That difficulty has existed for the past 50 years. If we are to get communal effort, and the advantages of uniting for a purpose appreciated, we must have leadership. There must be immediate advice and assistance by the responsible authority in charge of group schemes. I find that the position in the local authority in Roscommon is that there is no responsibility whatever on the local authority to administer, advise or help in connection with the group schemes. At a recent meeting of the county council, I suggested that there was only one possible way out of this. I understand that as a result of a resolution passed at that council meeting, the Minister has been communicated with by the Roscommon County Council on this matter and requesting that the county council should provide a liaison between the group and the Department.
There is nothing wrong with providing, in the county council's staff, a special officer—as a housing officer was established in the Department of Local Government—to deal with group schemes. He would be in a position to go into the various areas at two or three day's notice and have the necessary information, in full, available for the people in the local authority area concerned. He would calm their fears with regard to the idea that the scheme will cost them an outrageous figure on the rates.
I shall believe that the Department and the Minister are serious about implementing this piped water supply scheme only when I see proper machinery brought into operation to get the group schemes on a practical basis. I can say definitely that at present in County Roscommon, no apparent practical effort is being made to get the group schemes working in a proper fashion. If the liaison I am talking about is provided, the Department would be inundated with applications. I hope the Minister will count on that. I am in complete agreement with the idea of the piped water supply.
The next point I should like to mention is in connection with rural housing. I find, from figures provided by the Department, that my county seems to have fallen behind in the erection of council houses in the past nine months. The officials in our local authority have, time and again, pointed out to the council that the trouble is lack of contractors, that nobody seems interested in taking up the contract. I should like the Minister to give us his experience of the situation in other counties.
It is far too serious a situation to have people waiting for five or six years, living in condemned houses, and told by the authorities that this is due to the fact that they cannot get contractors. I should like to know the experience in other counties and whether the Minister can take any steps to alter that situation.
I would ask the Minister to restore the funds under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. I do not know whether mention has been made of it so far— I presume it has—by other speakers. It is essential at this stage to provide funds so that that Act can be put into operation without any further delay. What amazes me is that every member of the present Government is up in the moon. They talk about the wonderful benefits that lie ahead of this country in the Common Market. We are sick and tired of being told how the small farmer will be protected, how we shall have markets, how his livelihood will be protected, and so on, as a result of our admission to the Common Market.
We hear that kind of talk while, at the same time, the very small farmer, in particular in the West of Ireland, has to wear wellingtons for 12 months of the year to go around his land. Is there any commonsense in the minds of the members of the Government? Can they not see what is going on around them? There is little use in talking to a small farmer about increasing his output or about guaranteed markets if, every morning before he goes out, he has to put on his wellingtons before he can get to his front gate.
It is all very fine to talk about Europe, and so on, and what we shall do. The surest proof that we are serious about the welfare of these people is to make it possible for them to utilise the small amount of land they have at present. There is no good in promising them pie in the sky and that things will be good when the Common Market or some other thing looms up in the future. The situation in my county is absolutely desperate as far as drainage is concerned.
I am speaking on this not as an individual. I am also representing the views of the Fianna Fáil members and of other members of the Roscommon County Council. They are unanimous in their request to the Department of Local Government to restore the funds under this very worthy Act. No other county in Ireland is as badly off for drainage as Roscommon. The only trouble so far is that the people in that county have been too patient.
I do not think Deputies from other areas realise how bad the situation is. County Roscommon is bordered by two major rivers, the River Shannon on one side and the River Suck on the other side. Both of them run parallel for about 18 miles. The distance between them, across, ranges from 14 to 18 miles. When both of those rivers are in flood, and when the streams running into both of those rivers are flooded, the entire countryside in between those two rivers is, you might say, subject to water-logging, if not to extreme flooding.
The people concerned are the small farmers. They are the backbone of this country. They are finding it almost impossible to hold on to their holdings. It is absolutely exasperating for them to have to listen to the drivel uttered by Ministers at present about the wonderful Utopia that faces them while no attempt is being made to relieve the flooding of their land. It is all very well for the Minister to tell me that it will need arterial drainage to remedy the situation. That will not wash any more.
On one side of the River Shannon, a major drainage scheme is under way: the River Inny, into the River Shannon. If that can be done on the east flank of the River Shannon there is no justification for suggesting that the small streams on the west of the River Shannon, in my constituency, cannot be done until arterial drainage work is carried out. All of those small streams could be done under the Local Authorities (Works) Act. It would give tremendous help and encouragement to a community that is at present put to the pin of its collar to pay its rates.
The Minister, I know, may be fed up listening to my talk about drainage. I happen to notice the severe lack of it every time I visit any portion of my constituency. I cannot understand how the Deputies of the Minister's Party have not impressed more upon him the necessity for the restoration of the Local Authorities (Works) Act. These men in his own organisation are given the facts by people in their organisation down the country and surely the Minister will listen to the voice of his comrades in the Fianna Fáil organisation?
A request is being made—I do not know whether it has gone in yet to the Minister—by the Roscommon County Council to receive a deputation of all interests in the county. I do not want at this stage to jump the gun as far as that deputation is concerned, but I want to put it to the Minister that it will be one of the most representative deputations sent to his Department from any county in Ireland. The reason it is representative is that all sections of the people of the country are united now in demanding that either the Local Authority (Works) Act funds be restored or that the Minister make special provision as he has already done on another occasion by way of finance in order to put under way the very necessary drainage schemes in that county.
I was very glad to hear the Minister inviting local authorities to increase their output of housing. Taking this in conjunction with some remarks the Minister passed before he went to America, I think he must have included Cork in that invitation. I was very glad to hear Deputy T. O'Donnell say that as far as Limerick was concerned he believed the Minister's remarks were quite justified. Possibly technically the Minister's remarks are not justified in relation to Cork—I do not know what the technical definition of a slum is—but certainly, as regards the spirit in which the Minister spoke, I think he was quite right because there is a definite need for more local authority housing in Cork.
It is quite true that we have done a very great deal and anything I have said is not meant to reflect in any way on the excellent work the City Manager we now have has done since he came. It can be said in mitigation of the fact that we are not building as many houses as I personally and some members of the Corporation would like to see, that some of the work done over the past two years is the tedious kind of work you find when you are engaged in demolition and slum clearance generally. Personally I should hate to find Cork Corporation becoming complacent about the housing situation. We were told by the Minister in reply to a Question I put to him some months ago that 60 people who were looked upon as urgent cases could not be housed because the only houses being built are for people from slum clearance areas and this indicates clearly that Cork Corporation are not producing as many houses as they should. I hope the Minister's words will be taken to heart in Cork.
When we do get over the problem we have at the moment in getting people out of overcrowded dwellings, I hope it will be remembered that there is such an institution as Christian marriage and when a young couple get married, they are looking for a house. Unfortunately, unlike Dublin Corporation who, I believe, provides some houses by lot for newly-weds, as far as Cork Corporation is concerned the institution of marriage might as well not exist at all. We have no place for them and I am not surprised that the marriage figures for this country are as low as they are if other local authorities take the same attitude towards newly-weds. I would ask the Minister, when we break the back of the problem of crowded and unhealthy dwellings, to look to the future and see what can be done for them. Small houses should be built for young couples who are starting out as a family unit and have nowhere to go except to their mothers-in-law. In Cork, they sometimes split up and go back to their respective mothers and families which is a bad thing socially and otherwise.
I heard Deputy Tully saying that in Meath they could build a cottage for £1,200 and I heard Deputy Barry asking in surprise if that were so. I thought this was rather symptomatic of what is happening. I often wonder if the Minister ever tabulated the cost per house per local authority or if he ever tabulated the output per tradesman per local authority. If he did, he might find amazing discrepancies in these figures and this might be very useful to him regarding the question of housing.
I think Deputy Tully was wrong— though he might be right as far as his own county is concerned—when he said that some local government houses were too small. I think the manner in which the Minister imposes on local authorities such as Cork an obligation to build houses of a certain size is wrong. We have many owner-type small houses in Cork which are very adequate. The test is the strong healthy families who were reared in them and who continue to live in them.
I hope the Minister's promises regarding staffing difficulties and grants are fulfilled. It is a very important matter and we are told there is a hold-up in it at the moment. The Minister, in his opening remarks, said there were difficulties in recruiting and maintaining an adequate staff of inspectors, but if he offered proper conditions, I am quite sure he would have no difficulty whatsoever in getting the proper type of inspector to fill this very important need at the moment.
The Minister has expressed his disquiet at the number of fires, fatal and otherwise, which have occurred and intimated that more interest would be taken in the control of fires generally and that arrangements would be put in train for a more effective fire prevention programme. I should say that he should pay special attention to places like cinemas, theatres and dancehalls. Up and down the country there are cinemas which would prove veritable incinerators if a fire occurred in them. I have been in them myself and the thought uppermost in my mind was that, if there were a fire, I would be by no means underdone before I got out. They are not only in small towns but in cities like Cork and Dublin, too.
The Minister indicated that the first parking bye-laws under the 1961 Road Traffic Act in Dublin city and county would be in operation in January. I should like to indicate to him that I understand that Dublin city and county naturally would have priority in a matter like this but the citizens of Cork city and county are most anxious that the parking bye-laws, which are with the Minister's Department at the moment from Cork Corporation, should also be brought into operation as soon as possible. Parking is daily becoming a bigger problem in Cork city and, if the bye-laws were put into operation, it would assist both the commercial and the social life of the city.
The Minister referred to the fact that he has a very difficult task on his hands regarding regulations under the Road Traffic Act generally. Regulations regarding the dimensions of vehicles will have to be made and I hope that very particular attention will be given to the dimensions of vehicles carrying trailers which, on the main roads at the moment, are an immense danger to traffic generally.
I think the Minister did not indicate whether there were regulations in relation to the use of lighted reflectors. The Minister has told us he has issued illustrated booklets about various things. It is very important that, in addition to any regulations he might make, the Minister should issue a special booklet for cyclists, pointing out the danger they can be to themselves and to other road users. If he were to issue regulations making it mandatory on anybody using any sort of vehicle, bicycle or otherwise, to have a lighted reflector, he would be doing a good day's work. I do not know what the statistics of deaths or injuries to cyclists are but half of them could be avoided if it were mandatory to have lighted reflectors on bicycles.
The Minister should also bear in mind, when dealing with lighting regulations the experience of Birmingham Corporation recently where they had two test periods during which persons driving in the city drove not on sidelights but on dimmed lights. The incidence of traffic accidents during those test periods was much reduced.
It has been whispered in Cork that the Minister has plans in train for introducing the ward system in the city. That would be a very bad thing. Cork is not big enough for it. It is a selfcontained unit. The city at the moment has a corporation of 21 members. They are working well together. As soon as the Minister introduces the ward system, Cork Corporation will be broken up into little sections, each man looking after his own ward, jealous of anything any other ward may get, anxious to ensure that there will be no growth of housing in another man's ward but that development will take place in his own ward. As soon as the Minister does this, he will damage the material fabric of the Cork Corporation; he will reduce its efficiency and dispel the good feeling which exists between all members of the Corporation at the moment in regard to municipal problems.
I am glad the Deputies representing Cork city are here because what I have to say may help them. Some 11 years ago, the Cork Corporation applied to the Cork County Council for an extension of boundaries. I, with other members of the council, regarded it as anomalous that we should be collecting rates from houses built by the corporation. So, we freely gave our consent to that, on compensation. Subsequently, we had a row over the compensation and the matter was finally referred to the Minister, on 1st April, 1955. We may be "April fools" but surely it should not take from April, 1955, to November, 1962, to get a decision from the Minister's Department?
Did you get it yet?
No. In the meantime, the Cork Corporation were quite happy in drawing the rates out of the area they got. We have been at the loss of the rates for the past 11 years but the Minister's Department have not yet decided on the compensation that is to be paid for property handed over to the Corporation 11 years ago. Still, we had the farce of an inquiry into a further extension of that borough boundary last year.
I was rather amused to hear Deputy Barrett talking about the housing position. In our preparation of the case for the borough boundary, we found that there were 75 acres of derelict sites within the boundaries of the present Cork city. That should give enough room to build, without moving out. Unfortunately, due to the Corporation's neglect of their duty to house the people, the burden fell on the area close to the city and some hundreds of houses were erected by Cork County Council outside the present borough boundary of Cork city.
That brings me to a further problem, namely, the anomaly that exists between the Housing of the Working Classes Act and the Labourers Act and the absolute necessity of co-ordinating these two Acts. The Corporation insists that they have a right to extend out and to embrace all those housing schemes of the county council. If they do so, the unfortunate tenants will be put in the position that, if they ever want to own their houses, their rents will be doubled.
I asked a Question in the Dáil at the time and was told by the Minister that they would come under whatever authority was in charge of them at the time of purchase. There is a difference of which I was not aware until I came up against it in the town of Cobh. Many years ago, Fianna Fáil adumbrated the policy that every man should own his home. We introduced legislation towards that end, enabling local authorities to sell houses to tenants. During the period that I was chairman of the housing authority in the southern area of Cork, I was very careful, every five years, to bring in further purchase schemes to embrace the houses built during the previous five years. Due to the increase in industry and consequent increase in employment, Cobh urban council built some 52 new houses and the local authority has built some 180 houses outside the urban area. I would say that the work is about 25 per cent completed. There remains the large task of providing houses for the enormous number of people now finding employment there.
Under the county council purchase scheme, those people will get a reduction in rent from 11/- to 9/- and they will own their houses after a period of years. Two sets of houses were built, one in the urban area and the other in the rural area. In regard to those built in the urban area, we found that the rent on purchase would be increased from 11/- to 32/- a week because, under the Housing of the Working Classes Act, the subsidy ceases on purchase. Under the Labourers Act, the subsidy continues on purchase.
In plain words, if the large number of houses owned by the Cobh urban council were all purchased by the tenants, the State would gain £1,800 a year out of the town of Cobh. The Corporation extended their holy hand and said: "`We will embrace all those," and the unfortunate people are placed in that position instead of being allowed to purchase at reduced rents. Their subsidy ceases on purchase and their rents go up.