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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 2 Nov 1965

Vol. 218 No. 5

Private Members' Business. - Housing Bill, 1965: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That section 44, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Before we leave this section I should say I put a suggestion to the Minister to which he did not reply. I got the impression that he felt at least inclined to move towards the suggestion when I asked him if he would consider doing the same thing in respect of local authority housing as he has already acknowledged in the private sector, that is, to give a higher upper limit of subsidy in the areas where he knows building is costing very much more, as he did in the case of loans to certain areas. I hope that before we leave this section the Minister will give some indication of his intentions in that direction.

I think we have slaughtered a number of sacred cows in this particular section, particularly the two-thirds subsidy which the Minister may consider to be a very small calf. I think the Minister might possibly—particularly in view of his statement here earlier this evening about the maximum differential rents being paid in certain areas—consider a remission of rates on local authority houses similar to that on the private houses which carry a grant.

I want to support Deputy Clinton in his suggestion. The Minister in his reply to him dealt only with Dublin Corporation and gave us the figures for their area only. He did not give us any figure for Dún Laoghaire or, indeed, for County Dublin and I should like him to give us those.

I see that the explanatory memorandum refers to subsection (2) of section 44 and says that:

higher subsidy will be payable to a housing authority who provide accommodation for persons displaced by operations of another housing authority;

Could the Minister tell us just what he has in mind there?

It could well apply, for instance, in Dún Laoghaire where a house might be provided by Dún Laoghaire Corporation and given to and tenanted by a person in the county council, or adjoining local authority, area. This is the type of case we have in mind.

How much higher subsidy had the Minister in mind in these cases?

The ordinary subsidies.

The Minister has said that in these cases he is empowered to pay a higher subsidy but there is no indication of how much higher the subsidy may be.

It will be the higher rate of subsidy.

But is it higher than two-thirds?

I was interested in the contribution made by the Minister in response to a request from Deputy Andrews. One aspect, on which, perhaps, the Minister might give us a little more information, is the question of the regulations in relation to standards. I wonder is the Minister satisfied that sufficient attention has been given to standards in the past. There is no doubt that there has been too much slackness regarding the standards of the dwellings on which State and local authority supplementary grants were paid. When the Minister tells us of the action he has been taking regarding the prices of houses, has he in mind any form of administrative action which will ensure that standards laid down will be adhered to and that there will not be a continuation of what might well be termed exploitation of people purchasing their houses because of failure to ensure that the standards which at the particular time were supposed to apply were not in fact applied. In that regard, might I ask the Minister if he contemplates making his Department the Department which will ensure that standards are maintained.

I cannot see how the question of standards can be pursued in this way. The Minister mentioned it in passing on a question put to him by a Deputy but it does not open up a general debate on housing. We are restricted to the section before the House, which relates to loans by the Minister.

Yes, but the loans by the Minister are made to local authorities to build houses. Surely the Minister wants to be satisfied that the quality of the houses built are up to standard; otherwise, why should he subsidise? Taking it from that particular point, he should ensure, in any case where State money is being used to subsidise housing, that proper attention is given to the standards of construction. I am sure the Minister will appreciate the point I make.

In regard to subsection (4) (a), I think the Minister has in fact dealt in some detail with what might well be the effect of the application of Ministerial or departmental decisions in subsection (4) (e).

Subsection (4) (b).

Deputy Tully has, of course, reminded me that subsection (4) (b) would permit me to speak on standards.

Subsection 4 (a) deals with "conditions as to the rents of dwellings." It appears, having listened to the Minister before tea, that if I were not speaking as a Deputy, if I were just reporting this, I should be inclined to say: "Minister Calls For Increase In Rents", because the Minister has indicated quite clearly—there are many ways of skinning a cat—that his approach to the question of subsidy to local authorities will depend on their approach to the fixing of rents of local authority tenants. If that is not cracking the whip over managers, whether county or city—and it is the managers who up to this fixed rents —I do not know what it is.

The Minister says, in effect: "Unless you fix rents that I am satisfied with, I shall use the powers of this Act to ensure that the level of subsidy is a minimum not a maximum." Not too long ago, the Minister approved tenders for single-roomed dwellings in Dublin designed for old people and the tendered price was around £2,300. Under the present subsidies, the local authority could not even get 66? per cent of the loan charges on dwellings constructed for old people, the bulk of whom would be on social welfare or small pensions and of whom some few might be working as cleaners and so on. That was the cost of a single-roomed modern flat. If one goes on to the two-room or three-room flat provided for families where the father may be, as many are, in a low income or casually employed, the State subsidy, assuming the maximum would apply, would be 66? per cent or £2,200 in respect of flats costing £3,000 to £4,000. The Minister has said almost as a sort of warning to local authorities that unless they loaded on to the backs of the ratepayers an increasing burden from the housing account or unless the managers increased the rents substantially, the Minister and the Government would reduce the amount of subsidy.

I think it is correct that during the financial year ended 31st March, 1965, when the estimates for the current year in the local authority in which I am reasonably familiar were examined, there was a peculiar situation. The loan charge on capital account had increased more on the ratepayers than on the State at a time when the State, through the Minister, was calling for greater activity, and instead of giving greater encouragement we get, in fact, less and less subsidy by way of assistance. I want to pinpoint these two things because the Minister has been at some pains to give the impression that he would have no hand, act or part in or responsibility for increasing rents on local authority tenants. As I have said, the Minister does not have to send out a circular to managers saying: "Increase the rents or else ..." If the Minister tells managers that if they do not increase the rents of local authority houses substantially, it will affect the subsidy from central funds, that puts any manager under a very severe penalty and very severe pressure. It is for this reason that I am dealing with this section at such length.

This must also be said. I speak mainly in relation to the affairs of a city where so many people are in need of adequate housing. Because of the size of the city and its population which is being swollen by people coming from the country, the problem of housing is different from that of other parts of the country. There is no other centre where it is common for the bulk of the building to be in an area five, six or seven miles from the centre. Consequently the people are not faced with quite the same type of problems. There is not the great necessity to afford people an opportunity of transferring if their employment changes or if they have been compelled because of circumstances to accept accommodation from four to six miles away from where they wanted accommodation. No other city in the country has the same problem of trying to get rid finally of the hovels that still exist. I am relating this to the fact that to do this job properly requires adequate financial assistance from the State through the Minister. This section does not provide adequate assistance.

One must compare that with what happens in other parts of the community. As Deputy Tully has said, the corporation or local authority tenant is faced with having immediately placed on his dwelling the moment it is occupied, full rates. The fact that there is no State subsidy as such at that particular point in time means that the 66? per cent does not become 66? per cent in far too many cases. I ask the Minister to look at that again, and I conclude by pointing out that the whole intent and purpose of the section is to make clear that from the point of view of the national housing authority, the way to approach the situation is to impose heavier burdens on those who are unable to meet the burdens of tax and high living costs they already have to face.

The portion of the section on which the Deputy relies in trying to reiterate what others have already said—that the Minister for Local Government is advocating for its own sake an increase in rents on local authority tenants—is only one of six conditions, any or all of which may be insisted on for the purpose of subsidy to the housing authority. That is (a) conditions as to the rents of dwellings. I want to make clear that I envisage rents being brought down as a result of this in cases where this is necessitated by the circumstances of the tenants, as well as being put up in the cases of those who can afford it. I want to make it clear that if you want to hang me for one, you must hang me for both.

If we are to have a realistic approach to the matter, we cannot go on adding to the burdens of the ratepayers and taxpayers which will of themselves continue to increase year by year and the total of which is now approaching £6 million annually. This is the burden the community is carrying by way of assistance to the housing of those who cannot house themselves, under normal operations as of this day. Next year the figure will increase and the year following, it will increase again. Undoubtedly there are sums that can be subtracted from it at times in respect of loan charges that have expired but their impact is very insignificant because of the difference in the cost of building those houses and the cost of building now. Therefore, it may be taken that the £6 million is a figure that will continue to rise fairly substantially, divided between the ratepayer and the taxpayer.

All I am saying is that, despite the fact that it was easier to build when costs were very much lower, when a very small fraction of what it costs to build today could have built a house, despite all the apparent advantages of those days, although we have this emphasis on priority classes, quite a substantial number of persons throughout the country and in the cities and towns are living in bad conditions today because of the fact that they could not afford to pay the rents asked in respect of houses that were offered to them in their due turn. What are we to do about it? One thing that we can do is to look at those in our houses whose circumstances may have improved radically since they became tenants, who are now in a position to pay well for the houses in which they live, who have enjoyed the benefits provided for them by the community for years past when they were very much less well off, and to ask them, now that they have turned the corner and are better off and can still enjoy the facilities — nobody is advocating putting them out of the houses they have been reared in—to make a fair contribution so that others less well off may in turn be rehoused and this new class of persons who have not yet been housed can be housed at even lower rents than is being asked of them at the moment. Surely that is not an unfair suggestion to make to this House or to the community as a whole? If looked at in a fair light, it will be seen not to be an admonition that you must increase rents, just baldly and blandly and without qualification. There will be those who may continue to perpetuate the myth that that is what is inherent in the section. Let us look at the other five conditions, any or all of which may be insisted upon. Subclause (b) refers to conditions as to building standards, which Deputy Larkin has been talking about. Sub-clause (c) refers to conditions for acquiring contributions from the municipal or county rate (as may be appropriate) towards the costs incurred by a housing authority in respect of their housing services. This can be very useful and beneficial at times. Sub-clause (d) refers to conditions as to the maintenance of dwellings. Surely nobody will object to the Minister for Local Government insisting that proper provision be made for the maintenance of dwellings that have been erected or that are being erected or that will be erected, at great cost to the community, so that they will not fall down for lack of maintenance and have to be rebuilt at further cost? Sub-clause (e) refers to conditions as to the sale or lease under this Bill of dwellings or other land. Sub-clause (f) refers to condition as to the development of sites for building houses.

The section says that regard may be had to any or all of these conditions, notwithstanding anything that may have been said in any of the foregoing sections about other regulations. If you pick out one and say that this means that the Minister says you must increase the rents on local authority tenants, if that is the way Deputies want it and the way they want to interpret it, they can have it. I leave it to the House.

Deputy Clinton raised another matter, but before going on to discuss it, I should mention to Deputy Larkin and others who think like him that this idea of holding the Department responsible for building standards in respect of every house in respect of which public money is contributed whether by way of grant or loan can clearly be seen to be an impossible suggestion. It would require hordes of inspectors who would act as clerks of works. In respect of each house or group of houses being erected in any part of the country an inspector would have to be standing by. The suggestion is ludicrous. It has been suggested that the inspections at present carried out are merely a couple of inspections. These inspections cannot be regarded, and certainly should not be regarded, as involving any warranty on our part that the house conforms in every respect to the minimum standards laid down in our specifications. We cannot be there. We cannot give the service being talked about. Therefore, it should be clearly understood that the inspections carried out cannot carry a warranty in respect of everything contained in the walls, the mixture, whether they are cavity walls or a sham, whether the foundations put in when our inspector was not there are of the right dimensions. All of these things cannot be guaranteed other than on the basis of having clerks of works present, which we could not provide and even if we attempted to do so the administrative costs would be far greater than the grants.

I am sure Deputy Clinton does not agree with the inference to be drawn from what Deputy Larkin has said, that in the case of loans and subsidies the Department should take it on themselves to ensure that everything is carried out in accordance with the letter of the law when, at the same time, he and his colleagues and most members of the House are pleading for more autonomy for local authorities. Now Deputy Larkin says that the Department should see to it that local authority houses should conform to all the standards laid down if the Department provide money by way of loan and subsidy. He cannot have it both ways. There cannot be more autonomy and at the same time more departmental control. The argument which has been made, possibly well meant, does not convince me that I should carry out the intention behind it.

Apart from that, I do not feel that the question being raised here about making a special case for Dublin can be seriously considered, even though Dublin Deputies may feel that we should make a special case for Dublin. Dublin city and county have their problems. Deputy Larkin has outlined them. People are coming in looking for houses. There are problems here not met in other built-up areas throughout the country. On the other hand, Dublin has a lot of privileges. It is a very favoured part of the country and we should not decry it because it has its difficulties. It also has its advantages and I do not think any special case can be made for giving Dublin additional help when we remember that of this £1,650 limit which is operating at the moment a two-thirds subsidy means in effect almost 30/- a week contribution by the ratepayer.

By the ratepayer?

The taxpayer. It does not really matter. You can follow that up by approximately 30/- a week from each ratepayer.

The ratepayer in that case being the tenant.

I am glad the Deputy mentioned that. In the country as a whole we have approximately 110,000 local authority houses let, of which approximately 40,000 are in Dublin, the other 70,000 being here and there throughout the country. By and large, we have about 700,000 dwellings in the country. If Deputies work back and put the 110,000 let houses against the 700,000 other dwellings, they will realise the rates impact of 110,000 houses as against that of 590,000 dwellings the owners of which are contributing towards public housing. Let us not confuse the issue by asserting that the amount of rates being paid by tenants in local authority houses is of such magnitude that it would wipe out all the benefits such tenants otherwise get through taxpayers' and ratepayers' contributions.

In proportion to what they have got.

Do not let us allow that to happen because if we do we shall become blind to the real issue and shall confuse ourselves—probably that is what is intended—by these figures and interjections. I am not denying that these tenants pay rates. Let us again take Dublin. Deputy Dockrell will pardon me if I do not give figures for Dún Laoghaire. I have some but I have not got all of them.

They are not so favourable to the Minister's argument.

People have been talking about their knowledge and experience. I shall hold back on that but I direct Deputies' attention to the contribution made by the ratepayers of this city and they will readily see the total amount paid in rates by those housed in local authority dwellings in the city. It is not all that big a proportion of the total amount of rates contributed towards the housing account of Dublin Corporation.

Would the Minister have the figure in relation to the corporation dwellings?

In respect of which there is no remission for agricultural land.

That is a herring that will not queer the trail at the moment. Even if I have not got the figures—I feel sure I will be able to get them before we get through—I know what the position is. It has been pointed out that the person who builds his own house and gets a grant gets rate remission. Surely Deputies will agree that the person who builds his own house does so at the cost of a great deal of personal sacrifice and that the additional facility of some rate remission is not out of order, that it is not something he is not entitled to.

I did not say that at all.

Perhaps I am taking a cue from the manner in which things I have said are being misused and returned to me. Let us say the suggestion has been made that if people building their own houses get this remission why should not the new tenant of a new council house get some like advantage. The two people are to a degree different because one of them has had to make provision to get his house built——

And he will own it.

Ownership brings obligations. Having made that effort, the person who has built his house has the benefit of a scaled imposition of rates and this gives him some breathing space to help him out of part of the debt he has incurred. A new tenant coming in has not got the same case to make, though I feel sure specific cases could be quoted in favour of it. The new tenant has to furnish his house but so has the new owner who, because the house he built may have cost more than he thought it would, may have a bigger debt to pay, a bigger loan to repay than he anticipated when he began building. In his case rate remission for a few years can be of some assistance. I do not think a parallel case can be made for the new tenant.

I am not saying we should not do anything about the new tenant. All I am saying is that the two cases are not equal from the point of view of the amount they should or could get. The fact that the person who built his house now owns it does not necessarily mean he is any the better off as a result. He may be carrying a loan on which he must make repayments. He has to finance maintenance which he dare not neglect as may be the case of a local authority house. All these mount up to a tidy obligation for the privilege of owning his own house. We should not forget these things when we are comparing the two categories.

Would the Minister like to compare the outgoings of a Corporation tenant who goes into a house on what the Minister says is the maximum rent of 25/- per week plus rates of 25/- or 30/- a week—into a house which is only rented, which he will never be able to own—with the outgoings of a person who gets the maximum grant and loan for building his house and who must finance repayments of approximately the same amount? If the Minister goes deeply enough he will agree there is an injustice on the tenant, particularly in view of the fact that the tenant in many cases is in a far worse financial position than the person who builds his own house. I have great respect for the person who attempts to build his own house, particularly for those who did so a few months ago. Despite all that I feel the tenant should get more consideration where rates are concerned. With reference to subsection (4) (a), I am rather amused by the Minister's attempt to turn himself into a ministerial Mary Poppins and sing: "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."

I was not there yet, so I am not with the Deputy.

The Minister tells us that under this subsection certain conditions must be taken into consideration but he tells us not to mind that at all. Even though it does not mean an increase in rent for many people, there are also people who would be able to get new houses at much reduced rents. The spoonful of sugar is there in the imagination of Mary Poppins and it is in the Minister's imagination, too. If he imagines for one minute that one tenant in this country will, as a result of what he is trying to do here, go into a house at a lower rent than he is getting it for now, he has got to think again. I am quite satisfied there is not a snowball's chance of that happening and the Minister must know it. The Minister has made a fairly strong point regarding this and he must know that the right thing for a county manager is to bulldoze, if he can, an increase in rents over the local authorities and then be the whiteheaded boy with the Minister. I want to make it clear to the Minister that as far as we are concerned on the Labour benches, we will fight this tooth and nail. The Minister is trying to squeeze the last drop out but he is not going to get away with it.

When I was making a case with regard to the higher ceiling of subsidy, I did not make a case for Dublin city and county. I made a case for those areas where the Minister felt it was necessary to increase the limit of loans. The decisions and the conditions were the same in that case as they are in this case. All the favourable conditions he referred to exist. I submit the Minister is being inconsistent. He has acknowledged it in the private sector but he will not acknowledge it here. We are bringing in a new piece of legislation that is deteriorating every year that passes. That cannot be denied. Every year that passes costs are increasing. We have subsidies and associated with them, we have certain conditions and regulations that are so far-reaching that the Minister can nearly do anything he likes under the section.

The conditions as to rent have been discussed at some length. I want to say a word with regard to building standards. The Minister went outside the scope of the section when discussing building standards and went into private sectors. I am glad he did because there has been a misconception widely held that because there was a State subsidy, the State should then be responsible for standards and should, in fact, act as a clerk of works.

I am glad the Minister has made a public statement that this is not so and that everybody is responsible for his own house and the standard of quality of his own house. If he wants to have it 100 per cent, he must have a clerk of works. There may be a case for having an inspector to check up on standards generally, and if that is so he will see that they are maintained according to the degree of inspection carried out. That is outside the scope of this section.

The section refers to standards of local authority houses. I want to say it is my belief that we are building lower standard houses than ten years ago. We are doing so because the Minister insisted they must be of a lower standard. He insisted on that because the tenders we were getting were too high. I remember quite clearly plans and specifications being sent back to us and our being told to reduce standards in order to get prices down. We have built houses in the very recent past with nothing in the kitchen except a plug—no fire, no cooking apparatus, no range of any sort. At that time the upper rents were 42/-; now they are 73/-. These houses have a very small kitchen with no cooking facilities.

As I say, standards have lowered and if the Minister uses his powers under this section to lower standards any further, there will not be a house at all. That is one of the great objections that people paying the higher rents have to such houses. They are unsatisfactory accommodation. Many of these people realise that if and when they get an opportunity to purchase these houses, they will have to build a suitable kitchen. There is not very much more to be said with regard to it. As I said, this is a standstill section and the benefits to be derived under it are deteriorating every year that passes. The Minister refuses to acknowledge that by making any little improvement. We are legislating here for the future and we are worsening the position every year that passes.

(South Tipperary): I should like to ask the Minister if he could give some enlightenment on the conditions relating to subsection (b) and subsection (c)? Could the Minister amplify these?

With regard to standards, naturally I cannot answer that at the moment but the idea of this would probably be density, lay-out, maybe amenities, services and so on. These would have to be outlined, collated and written down in regulations and to give any indication now that might be binding would be wrong.

Not necessarily Ringaskiddy standards.

It depends on the part of Ringaskiddy.

There was a famous house of which the Department were very fond.

Deputy Larkin mentioned an inspector from the Department and he was shot down in flames.

(South Tipperary): If you lay down these standards, the local authorities will be given these powers and they will advise the engineer. He can inspect these houses. Will the inspection be subject to further inspection by the Department?

With regard to the other condition which the Deputy inquired about, this is one which may or may not ever have to be used. There might have to be an inquiry as to whether or not the facilities being provided by the local authority were adequate. The conditions mentioned here might have to be brought into play in such cases and we might have to do something about it. It is not a condition that we would like to have recourse to.

It is a protective one.

It is not really, but it is just one that might arise occasionally. I hope it never will, but it could arise.

With regard to building standards, I might again make this point. The purchaser of a dwelling might not be aware that an inspector would come from the local authority and the Department of Local Government, and yet, as Deputy Clinton says, it is up to the purchaser to look after his own interests and in fact satisfy himself as regards standards. In other words, he has almost to employ an architect. Many people are under the impression that if there is a local authority inspection followed by a Local Government inspection, there is some sort of implied guarantee that the house is up to the standard. This is a matter that should receive more publicity. In fact, neither the Minister nor the local authority protects the purchaser. He is on his own if the house should fall down.

Although there has been a tendency of late to increase the number of rooms in local authority houses, has the Minister any idea of insisting that the rooms in these houses be larger? For a number of years these rooms have remained minimal size, taking into account the requirements of families with growing boys and girls. I think there is a song called "Little Boxes" and this could well be applied to our local authority houses and even some private houses. I would be glad if the Minister would say whether or not he has examined this matter.

Another subject on which he might give us some information is the maintenance of local authority dwellings. Anyone connected with local authorities knows that the standard here is dropping year after year. Possibly, that is due to the actual cost of repairs. Minor repairs, which 20 years ago were considered part of ordinary maintenance, no longer come under that heading. Is the Minister considering laying down it is essential that these so-called minor repairs be done in order to maintain the property up to a proper standard?

The matter of building standards, which would include room size under the regulations, is something that would come within the ambit of this. In fact, this matter of standards is covered at the moment on an administrative basis. My answer to the Deputy is "Yes" when he asks whether routine repairs hitherto carried out should be done in order to keep houses in a proper state of repair, in other words, to maintain their value. Anything required to keep a house in a proper state of repair would come under this.

Is it not true that in the past few years the Department have instructed local authorities to reduce standards, particularly in regard to rural cottages? In fact, in order to keep costs down, they were instructed not to include fireplaces in bedrooms which used to be standard. Is it not true that the Department also instructed local authorities to lower ceiling heights, giving as their reason that this would reduce building costs? I agree that the last scheme in my area was a very big improvement on previous schemes, but the two before it, in respect of which the Department instructed the local authority to reduce standards, were not so good.

With regard to repairs and maintenance, I do not know what the usual practice is but very little maintenance is carried out by the local authorities. The result is that when rural cottages are being vested a major repair job has to be done. This is entirely due to the local authority's failure to carry out the ordinary maintenance work. It may be said the tenants could help considerably by carrying out some of the maintenance. In fact, a number of tenants do so. But where the tenants are unable to do it the onus is very definitely on the local authority to see to it that the houses are kept in good repair. In case the Minister thinks we consider the section is all bad, I want to say there are a number of good ideas in it, particularly the subsidisation of sites for building purposes.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 45 and 46 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 34—

(i) to delete all words from "to" in line 35 to "undertaking" in line 38 and insert "under this section and, as a condition of making the payment, has been given an undertaking which," and

(ii) to insert "or body" after "authority" in line 40 and in line 43.

Section 47 provides that the Minister may, instead of making periodic contributions by way of subsidy to housing authorities or approved bodies, pay the authority or body a lump sum. If he does this he may require an undertaking from the authority or body or the compliance with such conditions as he thinks fit. Subsection (3) provides that where a payment has been made to a housing authority and the condition or undertaking subject to which the payment was made has not been complied with, the Minister may recover the payment. The subsection does not make any similar provision where a payment is made to an approved body. This is, however, necessary and the amendment rectifies the omission.

This gives authority to the Minister to recover from a body. Does it mean he may recover from a local authority or only from an outside body?

In a case where an undertaking was given, it would.

Does the Minister think this is the ideal way of dealing with such things? After all, it almost looks like a family row. Something happens. Under the guidance or with the assistance of the Department, a local authority does something and, for one reason or another, the Department insist that the conditions have not been carried out and the money must be refunded. I do not think this is a good principle. There should be some other way of dealing with this situation, some way of insisting on the regulations being carried out. Refunding the money is not the ideal way. Suppose the money is refunded, what happens to the work originally subsidised? Does this mean the Department will have no further interest or can the local authority do nothing with it? Can they sell it? What is the situation? Would the Minister have another look at this? The principle enshrined here is not a good one.

From a bookkeeping point of view, an annual subsidy might be more of a nuisance than a lump sum. Assuming a local authority undertook to do certain things with this lump sum, but failed to carry out that undertaking, I do not think it would be unfair to ask them to refund the money, since they did not, for one reason or another, live up to their promise.

The Minister agrees it is a new principle. This is the first time there has been a suggestion that money can be recovered by the Department from a local authority. Surely there should be some other way of dealing with a local authority who fail to carry out the undertaking for which the lump sum was given?

The method of dealing with this matter is new. What brings about the necessity for the new method is the fact that the lump sum payment is also new. This is a compounded annual subsidy in relation to something done or about to be done. It is a new provision. In the case of a continuing annual subsidy, the Department have some say and control, but, once the annual subsidy is compounded into a lump sum, then the Department no longer have the same sort of control. Having lost that control, it is only fair that, where local authorities fail to adhere to the conditions governing the giving of the lump sum, they should be required to refund the money.

I can appreciate the necessity of having some way in which to deal with a local authority who fail to carry out an agreement. Where the Minister gives a lump sum to a local authority for administrative purposes and the local authority, having failed to carry out some undertaking, are then required to refund the lump sum, surely it is from the local authority the lump sum would be demanded back through the county manager? Supposing the county manager decides to spend the money in a certain way and the local authority do not enter into the picture at all, does it not seem a little peculiar that the local authority should be required to find the money out of their rates or through borrowing to repay money which, in fact, the local authority never handled? The principle is not a good one and I should be glad if, between now and Report Stage, the Minister would have another look at it.

It would be entirely out of keeping to have the Department going to court to enforce repayment and it has occurred to me that we could take power to withhold other payments.

That would be better possibly.

We can remove it from the context in which the Department would have to prosecute. We can do at least that.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 47, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 48 stand part of the Bill."

There is a reference here to subsidising the rate of interest. Is this an indication that the Minister is contemplating bringing in a scheme for subsidising interest rates other than by payment of grants? Does this indicate an intention to contribute towards interest charges?

No, it does not. This section is designed to deal with the situation which developed as a result of stabilising the interest rate between 1948 and 1953. Interest rates then which increased from 2½ per cent to 3¼ per cent were paid back at 2½ per cent and all we are doing is continuing the law.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50a:

In subsection (1), page 35, line 37, to add "and in paying for other premises any excess in rent over the rent paid for the premises from which he was displaced".

This amendment is intended to provide a safeguard for certain people who have not been covered by legislation so far and who have not been included in this Bill. I have in mind people who are forced out from an area in which rents are controlled, people who may be paying, perhaps, 5/- or 6/- a week and who may be forced out to an area in which they will have to pay £2 per week. There is no provision to compensate these people. They are compensated for disturbance, but compensation for disturbance is only sufficient to pay for the furniture van. It does not meet the situation in which they find themselves having to pay an increased rent or in which a local authority puts them into a local authority house at a greatly increased rent. There seems to be no safeguard in legislation to meet these people and give them what they should be entitled to get. I hope the Minister will see the good sense in this amendment and agree that it should be included in the Bill.

There appears to be one thing missing from the section. Would the Minister say if it is simply proposed to operate this from the passing of the Act? To be any use at all, this section would have to be operated from a date back quite some time in order to compensate people who have suffered very severely because of houses being condemned as a result of the purge here in Dublin, following the falling down of some of the houses. Is it the intention of the Minister to cover this by back-dating this section?

Under existing legislation, section 37 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1931, has been strained in its interpretation to enable certain things to be done, which will continue to be done until the enactment of this measure here. I would say that this section as it stands without any amendment is wider than the strained interpretation that has been put on section 37 of the 1931 Act. It is better than the best we could make out of that legislation. In the interim section 37 of the 1931 Act is being operated.

But in a very poor way.

I do not know whether it is in its operation it is poor or in the amounts it is providing.

Both. It could not stand much of a strain; it was too old. It creaked when they started straining it.

That is possible, but I do not think it had much to do with the amounts.

Would the Minister not back-date this section in order to cover those people who have been harshly treated? If the intention was to help those people, there is no point in locking the stable door——

Are we forgetting amendment No. 50a?

We are not, but going around it.

The Minister sat down without answering the question I put to him. There is no provision in this section for the type of person I have in mind, the person who has to pay a high rent on moving from a controlledrent house to an uncontrolled-rent house or a local authority house where the rent is estimated in excess of what he was paying prior to being moved.

The amendment proposes a sweeping obligation, whether implied or actual, on the housing authority. The amendment as sponsored here by Deputy Clinton, which proposes that the rents the persons he has mentioned are paying should be related to the rents they were paying prior to their being moved, may be a very laudable one but I wonder is it a wise provision to make. It could impose a rather heavy burden on the local authority. In the section as it stands provision is made which is better than anything we have had up to now despite the fact that in addition to the 1931 Act there also was a 1962 Act in respect of dangerous buildings.

It was of very little use, as the Minister knows.

I do not know. I am inclined to despair of Deputy Tully, in his present mood, accepting anything as being of any use, short of what Deputy Larkin asked for which is more than anyone could possibly concede. I do not think even that would satisfy Deputy Tully.

Justice will satisfy me any time.

The effect of the amendment could be rather sweeping. However, if the House agrees, I shall take another look at the implications of the suggestion and see whether or not we might, on the one hand, satisfy ourselves that it is not so sweeping or, on the other hand, find some compromise that would go most of the way Deputy Clinton suggests and, at the same time, remove the danger, as I see it, of imposing too much of a burden on the local authorities.

I would be prepared to accept a modification of this in order to safeguard the reasonable interests of the local authorities in so far as a person could not leave a house at a rent of 5/- and expect to be provided with alternative accommodation or that he could provide himself with alternative accommodation costing £3 and that the difference would be made up. I can see that would be unreasonable but surely there is a way around this. There is a way to safeguard, at least to some extent, the people who have suffered considerable hardship and will continue to suffer considerable hardship, people who were in accommodation which they considered good enough for themselves at a very low rent and who are not able to get that type of accommodation further out and who, on top of that, have the added expense of bus fares into town where they are moved out from town to this new accommodation. They have two losses, the loss incurred in paying transport costs and the loss due to increased rent. If the Minister is prepared to come back with something that will provide these people with reasonable accommodation while safeguarding the local authority, limiting the responsibility of the local authority in this regard, I am satisfied.

This is an amendment which would require very careful examination. We all have every sympathy for the cases of families who are dispossessed but there may be many families who were housed out of accommodation that was considered suitable and who succeeded in getting the best accommodation that was available well in advance of their turn. They may be paying the maximum rent for the type of accommodation they have got or may not even be paying that but this is a matter that requires to be carefully considered, having regard to the fact that there are thousands of other families who are in much more unsuitable accommodation and who are still waiting to be housed.

This problem arose in respect of people who are displaced because they were living in dangerous buildings or because of compulsory purchase orders. There may be many cases where they were living in accommodation that suited them and I suppose there would be thousands of cases where the rent paid was very low, a long-standing rent. In some cases they may have succeeded in getting accommodation which was not much better than what they had, but which was the best accommodation available. If, as well as getting the best possible accommodation, they also had their rent subsidised as against other people living in the same type of accommodation, it would be a problem that would require examination. Many of the people who were hardest hit were people who had small businesses and who in many cases had to provide accommodation for themselves at fairly exorbitant prices. As well as that, they lost the advantage they had of paying a reasonably small rent for the business in which they were engaged and in order to continue on with the business, they were compelled to pay fairly high rents possibly for premises which were not convenient and not very suitable for their type of undertaking. Both cases are affected and certainly should receive consideration. I support Deputy Tully's suggestion that whatever is decided, the Minister might consider adequate retrospective operation and I would suggest that the middle of June, 1963, should be the latest date for the local authority to exercise this authority.

The type of person I have in mind is not necessarily a person who is displaced because of dangerous buildings; it could be because of road widening, or because a whole area is being blocked out for redevelopment. A person might then be in a perfectly safe house.

Deputy Clinton has opened up the whole question of how wide the section is, with the present proposal to rebuild certain portions of Dublin city, and you cannot rebuild until you pull down. If we are to be told afterwards that this section covers that sort of thing, then the Minister and the House would want to be very careful about this legislation and about the wording of the section and of the Bill. Deputy Larkin made the case for the small businessman who had to move because of a dangerous building or because somebody decided that the building might be dangerous. We are aware of a number of landlords who got rid of tenants in that way, although eventually they themselves were forced to leave the dwellings. Even if such people were lucky enough to get somewhere else in the neighbourhood, it was not always suitable in which to carry on business.

I know of some businessmen who had to move again and again because the dangerous buildings inspector seemed to be following them. This of course was coincidence, but that is what happened. There was a loss to these people who suddenly found that even the most unsuitable accommodation would cost them £10 or £12, or even £20 a week. I do not know how that can be covered, or how there can be compensation for them, but the Minister should have a look at it. Quite a number of people in this city have been left almost penniless and some people who never before had to do so are now signing on at the labour exchange, people who formerly had small businesses, and particular attention should be given to them. The only way in which they can be included is by retrospective action and I would appeal to the Minister if he is having another look at this, as he has promised Deputy Clinton, to have a look at this matter of the date.

Because I say that I feel this idea in the amendment is entitled to further consideration, I should not like people to be disappointed afterwards because they thought I was inclined to go all the way. I do not think I could but I do not want to be too dogmatic about that until I have time to have a further look at it.

Reverting now to some of the points that were raised, in regard to the question of somebody with a small business, if he has a compensatory right in the property, then obviously he is paid compensation with regard to that right, or relating to his interest in the value of that business. This is where his property is being acquired. Over and above that, it may well be that hardship may be caused in moving. If that could be shown to be the case, I do not think anybody could raise an objection to further consideration being given to such a person. If a person owns his house and, through the operations of the local authority, has to move out, then he will be compensated in regard to his ownership or for his interest in the ownership—it might not be full ownership.

It might be rented privately and might not be a Corporation house.

He could have a compensatory interest.

The Minister is aware of what took place when buildings were declared dangerous and people with small businesses were pushed out by the owners for one reason or another. This is very tricky.

In so far as the dangerous buildings operations are concerned, although experience may be a guide here, that is dealt with under the sanitary services code rather than here.

One of these days I will fall out of my standing if Deputy Tully agrees with me. If a person owns a house, or has an interest in a house, a compensatory interest either as to full ownership or leaseholder's rights— whatever it may be—then to that degree he would be compensated, whatever the operation would be. To say that he should get further benefit because he moves from the house he was occupying for a rent of a few shillings and gets a house costing £2, and that the local authority should be obliged to make up the difference in rent, would not always be a good thing, for the reason that although the person might be quite satisfied to stay in the premises, that is not to say the local authority would be satisfied that he or anybody else should be allowed to stay in them. This may be for various reasons—insanitary, overcrowded, unfit, creating a public health hazard, he and his pals like him, if they were allowed to stay in bad housing conditions, and satisfied to stay in bad conditions at low rents. He will now be taken out and given better housing at a higher rent. It does not follow that in such cases these people may not be able to pay for the better accommodation. I do not think it is wise to say that in all cases—as this amendment is inclined to say—the entire difference should be made up.

It does not go that far. That is not the intention.

Let us say that regardless of the circumstances of the person, his standing, his ability and his income whatever it may be, it should be made up. Rather am I thinking in terms of trying to meet the intention of the amendment, while at the same time safeguarding the interests of the local authorities by in some way relating the intention of the amendment to the circumstances of cases in which hardship is likely to arise—some kind of approach like that, that would limit and make possible the elimination of hardship cases.

They are all hardship cases. Everyone who loses a house in which he has been living, or a business, is a hardship case.

Not at all, not necessarily. I know that can very readily arise but certainly they are not all hardship cases.

Most are, anyway.

Even conceding that most are, there are still a fair minority of cases into which hardship would not enter.

I am prepared to accept a modification that would safeguard the interests of the local authorities, while, at the same time, being fair to the person on whom new conditions are being imposed, because I think it should be evident to everyone that if he saw an advantage in moving out, he would not have to be compelled to move out. He would go. He may see no advantage but a big disadvantage, and in those cases where people are perfectly happy with the conditions in which they are living, this charge and this extra expense are being imposed upon them. If some way could be found to compensate reasonably those people, while at the same time safeguarding the interests of the local authorities, I would be prepared to wait for the Minister to improve the Bill in order to bring this in.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 49 stand part of the Bill."

(South Tipperary): I should like to raise a matter with regard to subsection (2). It seems to me, if I am interpreting the section correctly, that where a man's business premises are displaced, he will be allowed such reasonable allowance as the local authority may think fit, and in the explanatory memorandum, it is stated that “compensation for disturbance of trade or business will be payable to a person if the authority consider that he has suffered or will suffer hardship.”

It would seem that if the authority consider that he has not suffered hardship, they need not pay him anything. What I miss here is any question of appeal or arbitration for persons who are displaced. It is not mentioned in the section. We should have some provision for arbitration or appeal on the question of loss of trade where a person is displaced. Perhaps this is covered elsewhere.

Subsection (2) provides for disturbance allowances, and the person would already be entitled to compensation in relation to his interest in the actual property, building, shop or premises which he vacated as a result of the operations of the local authority. The disturbance allowance in subsection (2) would be in addition to the compensation he would already be entitled to in respect of his interest in the premises or business in question. It is not the only element of compensation or payment that would arise. This is an additional amount of payment if hardship can be shown to have been suffered, or if it can be shown that it would be suffered as a result of displacement.

(South Tipperary): Would it include mental hardship by reason of being displaced from his old surroundings?

Or increased rent?

I do not think it would stretch so far.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 50b and amendment No. 51 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 50b:

In page 36, lines 4 and 5, to delete "a letting made by virtue of section 58 of this Act" and to substitute the following paragraphs:

"(a) a letting made by virtue of section 58 of this Act,

(b) the first purchase of a house in respect of which a grant is paid under sections 15, 16, 17 or 20 of this Act,

(c) the first letting of a flat or maisonette in respect of which a grant is paid under section 18 of this Act, or

(d) the first letting of a house in respect of which a grant is paid under section 17 or 19 of this Act."

I think the Minister would agree that every encouragement should be given, and every obstacle removed, in cases where people of moderate means are endeavouring to provide themselves with their own homes at no expense to the State, the corporations or the county councils. That applies to everyone who qualifies for State grants and loan facilities. Why should those people be discouraged by the imposition of stamp duty on top of their difficulties in getting the necessary money together? In many cases, it is a great struggle, I suggest, for these people to get the £500 to £700 that is needed at present to meet the difference between the amount of the loan and grant and the amount required to purchase the house.

I know the stamp duty in this case is one per cent, but even one per cent reduces the State grant of £275 in respect of a £3,500 house by £30 to £40. Why should people who are endeavouring to relieve the State and the local authorities of the responsibility of providing houses for them, be penalised in this way, so unnecessarily, and for no service, because no service is involved in the stamp duty? It sounds very ridiculous to me in this case that this imposition should be put on top of their other obligations. The stamp duty in other cases is simply enormous. Legal expenses and stamp duty on the purchase of a house costing £3,500— and that is the normal price for a house in the Dublin region—are about £450. Auctioneers' fees on top of that are about £175. That is all for the privilege of buying your own house. Something should be done to relieve that hardship, and every effort should be made to lessen the burden on people who are trying to provide their own homes for themselves, at no-expense to the State, the corporations or the county councils.

Paragraph (a) of the amendment, as I read it, proposes to re-enact the exemption from stamp duty on lettings and dwellings in section 58 (3). In other words, it would do what is already proposed to be done in that section, so that is not at issue. When we come to costs of £450 in respect of a £3,500 house, all I can say is that we are talking here about a stamp duty of one per cent or, as proposed in the amendment, of nil per cent. How this can have any effect on what seems to be an exorbitant bill of charges, I cannot understand As soon as a person has £3,500, the stamp duty at the moment is £35. Where, then, do these hundreds of pounds come in?

Legal fees: I mentioned them in passing.

The trouble is that they were mentioned in passing. It indicates that if there is any fat to be taken off somewhere, it is certainly not necessarily on the one per cent preferential rate of duty charged on these particular transactions but on the £300 or £400 added on by other operators between the getting of the house and the actual getting of the title. I can only say that this is purely a tax revenue: there is no point in saying it is anything else. On this particular type of transaction, one per cent is the preferential. Whatever feelings I had about the matter before I heard the costs mentioned by Deputy Clinton, I think now that in the circumstances we are foolish not to be getting three per cent tax revenue and that those other boys might get less than——

There must be a High Court action.

If there is any semblance of reality about it, then it is the three per cent that we should reinsert here and let us get the tax, rather than the preferential of one per cent. So much of this is going elsewhere that nobody should carp at the one per cent.

Is the Minister not ashamed to admit that this is a tax on people endeavouring to relieve the State, the corporations and the county councils by providing themselves with their own houses? They are taxed £35 for being good citizens. The whole thing could not be sustained, no matter how one tried to make a case for it.

Check on the percentage the others get, not on what the State is getting.

I have an example here: this is not a new house. We are providing assistance for new houses. I know I would be going outside it to introduce people who would be providing for themselves by purchasing secondhand houses, so as to speak, even though loans are allowed on secondhand houses nowadays—£3,500 houses. Stamp duty, £105; purchaser's solicitor's fees, £105; solicitor's fees dealing with mortgage, £45; solicitor's fee on loan of £3,000, £45: total £300. Then there is vendor's solicitor's fees, £105 and, if you put auctioneer's fees to that, it is another £175. So, that is what a man has to pay for the privilege of buying his own house.

Tell me——

The Minister is trying to sustain this position.

I am not trying to sustain anything at all. Out of all that bill, even the £95 for a secondhand house transaction, out of £300 odd or with auctioneer's fees added, it would be nearer to £500, a sum of £95 coming back to the State that is providing the facilities of grants, loans, and so on, to the community is more than justified. In fact, it is the best argument I have ever heard for it.

I do not have any apology to make that this is a tax revenue. It is not a question of penalising people because they want to do these things for themselves. The money for taxation has to come from somewhere and three per cent is normal for ordinary transactions. What is the case here? A new house has a preferential rate of one per cent. In many cases where a new house is built, a person purchases the site, in which event the ground rent is probably £25 and, in that event, the actual tax to be paid under this heading would be about £2 8s. Od. Taking a look at the swings and roundabouts and realising that we are in the wrong side of the business in getting only £95 while £300 or £400 is going elsewhere, I do not think there is anything really wrong. There are a lot of other places we might start looking at.

I agree with the Minister that Deputy Clinton inadvertently made a very strong argument in favour of the tax but I think the Minister is arguing on the basis that two wrongs make a right. The fact that other people are getting more than their fair share out of the costs of the house, because the law cannot apparently control them, is no reason why the Government, the law of the land, should take extra money when in fact the Minister has it in his power here tonight to delete that particular fine. I think that argument is the one which should tell very heavily with the Minister. He is a sensible man. I am quite sure he appreciates the fact that because other people are taking far more than their share out of whatever money the person has available who is either building a house or buying a house, it is no reason why others— by "others", I mean the State—should also attempt to take a slice. It is entirely unjustified and it is no argument in favour of it.

Having said that, I think that the evidence produced has been very tempting for the Minister to make the reply he did, but, very definitely, two wrongs do not make a right. Even though what the Minister now describes as a very little wrong is hardly justified because other people have been committing big wrongs against the people attempting to supply themselves with houses. The Minister should consider this whole question again. I am sure the amount involved, as far as the State is concerned, is not so terribly great that, even at the present time of financial stringency, the Government should take it out of the pockets of those who have very little.

The Minister made a comment which I think slipped him, rather. He said that this money was necessary for the purpose of providing people with grants. In fact, it does reduce the Government grant by £35. I do not know whether that aspect of it has gone home to him or not, but if he looks at it again, he will appreciate that that is true. If he had done away with it altogether and reduced the Government grant by that £35, it would have the same effect. The Minister might possibly reconsider it, in spite of what he has to say.

Deputy Tully put his finger on the matter when he said that two wrongs do not make a right and it cannot be argued that it is right for the State to be wrong. If example should come from anywhere, it should come from the State. Surely the last person we should set out to penalise is the person who is trying to relieve the responsibility of the local authorities and the State? I hold that many of the people who provide themselves with their own homes would be a housing liability on the local authority if they did not do it. There is no stamp duty in Northern Ireland on a house costing up to £4,500 and just for the privilege of living on this side of the Border, we have this tax thrown in.

The Minister has not tried to make a case for this tax. He just admits bluntly that it is a tax on people where the State grant has remained static for 17 years, in spite of soaring prices and in spite of soaring costs of building. I am amazed that the Minister will not accept this suggestion and try to encourage more people to provide homes for themselves, even by that amount, because of the struggle so many people have to make to have the necessary deposit to become the owners of their own houses. Every little extra counts and £35 is not an insignificant sum when it comes to making up the £500 that is necessary, and in some cases, it is £600 and £700.

We are taking £35. Consider what is being taken by other persons when a person is in the position that he can pay £500 to all and sundry, between taxes, vendor's solicitors, purchaser's solicitor, auctioneers' fees, and the whole bill of the rest. I am sorry that people have to pay that sort of money but I am not apologising for the State's £95 or the £500 or £105 either.

You should be ashamed.

Why should we be? If every time we come along to a tax we said: "that is not of any great importance" and knocked it out, where would the money come from for public assistance or various grants for this group or any other group?

The dog is being fed by its own tail here.

There are a great deal more tails around than the one which we have now and when the feeding is just coming off the one tail. The whole community is paying this tax in various ways. There is special exemption for people who provide their own houses. Most of them purchase the site rather than their house.

Surely it is an exaggeration for the Minister to say that most people——

No, it is not. It is happening in many cases where if they do not go out to an auction and buy a site they do, in fact, transact a deal to acquire the site on which their house will be built. It works out in respect of many of our new houses that the tax payable is probably around £2 or £2.10.0. It is a concession surely in that sense. In this Bill we reduce it to a margin which is so small that it is insignificant. If we talk about the other charges being made for services rendered, or allegedly rendered, it is not an undue tax at all on the concessional rate of one per cent. All I can say is that the State which does not get its 20 per cent on a £3,500 house would be very foolish. This sort of money being paid is not obviously justified. Unfortunately, we do not deal with it here. We are not competent to deal with it on a Housing Bill nor have we authority to deal with it on any Bill so far as my Department is concerned. I am not at all impressed by the allegation —particularly viewing this against the background of the other charges and costs which are regarded as normal in this day and age—that the application of a one per cent tax going back to the State which provides much more assistance in other ways is an imposition against the other general background of the hundreds of pounds mentioned here.

The Minister has said on various other sections in this Bill that he was not anxious to increase grants but to reduce costs. This is the first opportunity the Minister has been given to reduce costs and he says: "No. I will not reduce costs." If he does not reduce costs how can he expect anybody else to reduce them? I think it is a shocking admission for a Minister to say this is a penal tax.

I did not say a penal tax. The Deputy should not misquote me.

The Minister said it was a tax.

Yes, a tax of £500 on a £3,500 sale and I think the State would be a right half-wit if it did not get its cut out of that.

The Minister tries to justify this injustice by other injustices and, of course, none of us can agree that that should be done. I hold that this will reduce the expense of the State because it will have the effect of inducing more people to purchase their own houses.

(South Tipperary): The Minister has said he is very pleased with advances in private housing over the past couple of years. He quoted figures which showed that we had considerably improved our position in that regard. Here is an opportunity for him, if he is so keen on accelerating private provision of houses, and he has not been too active in regard to the public provision of houses, to help people to provide themselves with their own houses. He states in his explanatory memorandum that he will extend stamp duty and make it payable by all housing authorities in the same way as land acquired by hospitals or other institutions. Housing authorities will have to pay stamp duty for housing. Surely he could help the acquisition of houses by private individuals, if he is sincere in what he says about that, by having a chat with his colleague, the Minister for Finance, and see if he could wipe out this stamp duty which has obtained in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We had considerable discussion on this particular question on the Finance Bill and we found that the Minister for Finance was adamant on the question. Now it is very disappointing to find the Minister for Local Government equally adamant.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 36, lines 4 and 5, to delete "made by virtue of section 58 of this Act" and insert "of a dwelling mentioned in subsection (3) of section 58 of this Act on a tenancy for a month or a less period than a month."

Amendment agreed to.
Section 50, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 36, lines 8 and 9, to delete "or subarticle (g) of article 2 of the Third Schedule to this Act."

The section provides that where compensation in respect of an interest which becomes vested in the housing authority is not finally ascertained at the time of vesting, the date on which it is ascertained will be substituted for the vesting date in section 12 of the Finance Act, 1895. That section provides for penalties for non-payment of stamp duty within a limited period from the date of a vesting. The words which the present amendment seeks to delete from section 51 have no relevance to the contents of the section. Article 2 (g) of the Third Schedule deals with the lodgment of purchase money into court where the housing authority consider that a person making claim to land is not absolutely entitled to the land.

Would the Minister care to elaborate a little on that?

No. I do not think so; it would be more confusing if I did.

(South Tipperary): Does it mean that the local authorities will now have to pay extra stamp duty?

No, but I know what you mean.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 51, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 36, subsection (3) lines 31 and 32, to delete "not being a grant to a public utility society or to the occupier of the house when the erection thereof is completed."

Section 52 provides for reduction in the rate of stamp duty payable on new houses for which grants are paid under the Bill or under the Act of 1962 which are not grants to a public utility society or to the occupier of the house when the erection thereof is completed. These words were inserted originally in the Act of 1956 because grants to public utility societies or to occupiers brought with them the low rate of stamp duty under section 19 of the Finance Act, 1951. This section, however, relates only to grants made under section 16 of the 1948 Act or section 6 of the 1950 Act. If, therefore, the words were retained in the Bill the effect would be to exclude from the stamp duty concession the public utilities or occupiers of a house when it was completed.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53a:

In subsection (5), page 36 to delete "two" and substitute "six".

I am seeking to have inserted "six years" in substitution for "two years" simply because every other debtor is at peril for six years. Why should the State be at peril for only two years? Why make an exception in the case of the State? It does not seem right.

I believe that two years is a standard period of limitation. It is not just picked out of the book for this particular purpose.

I thought the Statute of Limitations held a person liable for six years, not two. If the Minister is right, of course I accept what he says but I thought the limit for a private person was six years.

That is true but this limitation is a standard in the Stamps Acts and that is where we got it. That is why we put it here. It has been done before.

I am afraid I am not able to follow this and I shall have to let it go.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 52, as amended, agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 54:

In subsection (1), page 37, line 4, to substitute "one year" for "such period" and in lines 4 and 5 to delete "as may be specified by the Minister."

The intention in the amendment is not to leave this wide open. A period should be specified and I think a year should be long enough to do this work. Why does the Minister want to leave it open? It is not easy to see why. Surely it would be reasonable to accept that one year would be long enough for this type of inspection rather than leave it so wide open.

I think Deputy Clinton has something there. Some years ago the Department of Local Government asked for something similar to be done. I am sure the Minister recollects what actually happened. Some local authorities completed their survey inside a few weeks, some within six months, some within a year and some have not yet completed it, the reason being that there was no time limit specified. The result is that there cannot be a fair comparison between the figures given by local authorities a few years ago and the figures given by other local authorities now. I think Deputy Clinton is quite right when he says a specific period should be laid down. I know also that if it is arranged that this be done once the tendency is to say: "We had a report last year or the year before." The important thing is that there should be an accepted period laid down and it should be the normal thing to carry out this survey every four years or in whatever period is specified but it should be a specific period.

I think the Minister will admit that the survey which he was responsible for having carried out in the first instance revealed a situation that it was very important to reveal. It showed the deficiencies all over the country. This should not be left wide open. Local authorities should now know what is expected from them in this respect. First, they should be capable of doing this inspection in a year and if that is carried out every four years it should be adequate—make it five years if you wish: I am saying four years because of the expense of making this survey and because in a shorter period there would not be enormous changes. If it is made every four years the organisation is there and the local authorities know their responsibility and we shall not lapse into the chaotic position in which we find ourselves at present with an enormous backlog of housing and building to make up. That should not have occurred. We should be able to estimate housing needs and budget in advance for them over a period. It is time the Minister specified what he has in mind and he should not leave this wide open because if he does, it will not be accepted as a responsibility by the local authorities.

(South Tipperary): The Minister mentioned his difficulties on several occasions in getting social surveys carried out by local bodies. He mentioned on other occasions figures in respect of what he considers a reasonable period to carry out inspections of towns of a certain size. I think what Deputy Clinton has suggested is reasonable and if incorporated in the Bill rather than made as a regulation it might give added force to the Minister in insisting on these surveys being carried out at regular, say four-year intervals, and it might avoid getting into the chaotic position into which we have come in the last five or six years.

I think there is very little reason to believe there is any difference in our minds on this matter or on the method of doing it. As I see it, what I do not like about the amendment—let me put it that way— is that the period of one year could be too short in some cases, too long in others and the interval of four years may or may not be a desirable period. The insertion of these as fixed periods would give this measure an inflexibility that I do not think is good in the circumstances. Let us take Dublin with 130,000 dwellings approximately. The job of surveying that, assuming you had adequate and competent staff, could not be in any way compared with the job of doing a basically rural local authority, Meath or Mayo or Donegal. There is no comparison between the two operations. It is possible that we may be able to fix different periods for different local authorities depending not only on their need for the survey but also on the staff available to do it, in relation to the other things they also have to do. It is for that reason, to ensure a degree of flexibility, that I have left the section as it is.

I should like to say at the same time to Deputy Clinton that it is quite possible that what might be prescribed in the regulations under the section could very well be the one year and the four years he mentions in the amendment. I am not saying that it will not be. If it transpired that these were the proper periods they would be prescribed. I do not think it is right to tie ourselves to the prescription in law because there might be reasons that would render the carrying out of inflexible schedules of surveys impossible. We should avoid that. It is for that reason only that I am inclined to oppose the amendments. I am not against the intention behind them except in so far as they would destroy the flexibility that at present exists.

Is the Minister inclined to accept the amendment or is he inclined to turn it down completely? Does he not admit that the local authorities should have some advance indication of what is expected from them and how often?

They will have.

It is not indicated in the Bill.

I agree that they are lacking in that but the difference between accepting the amendment, thereby giving them notice, and the drafting of a regulation that will indicate the schedule, should not be all that great. It will be only a matter of some months that should elapse. It depends on how we progress.

The Minister is ignoring two points. First, while he personally has a reasonable approach to this matter, there is no guarantee that Ministers who will succeed him —and somebody will eventually succeed him—will be as reasonable about this matter as he is, and it is quite possible that a Minister will say that this provision was put in by a nuisance of a Minister and that it can be shelved. The onus should be put on the local authorities to have this survey carried out and the way to do it is by inserting a specific period.

The second point which the Minister barely touched on is the question of staffing. The last survey was not carried out by all local authorities for the reason that they claimed they had not adequate staff available. If there is a simple inspection carried out, the existing staff are directed to have the work done and the work will be done in a certain way and then the staff will resume their normal duties and nothing more will be done about it. Whereas, if there is a specific period laid down and a regular staff put on the job, the job will be far better done and the excuse of insufficient staff cannot be put forward.

There is a great deal in what Deputy Clinton has said. If we do not include a specific period in the section, then we might as well delete the section because it is mere whitewashing.

There is one way that we could meet this idea of the whimsical Minister who would have no regard to those who went before him, which is always a distinct possibility. We may be able to meet that aspect of the matter by inserting somewhere, in lieu of the proposed amendments, a provision to the effect that the survey must be done not less than once every five years, but subject to regulations which may specify more frequent surveys; in other words, oblige the local authorities to carry out the survey not less often than once in five years and have a regulation which enables the Minister, if he thinks fit and is so advised, to have it carried out more often and to have it carried out earlier, and so on. That would meet the main objection.

I agree that it would meet the main objection but I think the period of inspection should be defined because a survey could be carried out every five years. The Minister knows the difficulty he had in getting the first survey done.

I am not unaware of it.

There should be a limit on the length of time a survey should take and an indication as to the intervals between surveys in the way the Minister proposes.

I do not know how far we could go and yet retain flexibility. If you get a Minister who does not want to do this, it will not be done. There was a law passed and it was ignored, not because any Minister disliked it specifically but because nobody had time to get around to it; there was so much else to be done, it was never insisted on. The result was that the situation got to the point where there was not any clear picture as to the overall position in regard to unfit dwellings in the country as a whole. Certain headway has been made over recent years under the old law and with a bit of prodding here and there to get things moving. A certain basic pattern has emerged. Certain information has come to light. The picture could be clearer than it is.

While I am not against the idea that as far as possible it should be inserted in the Bill as an obligation on the local authority. I am not quite sure that it can be so provided in the Bill as not to make the provision so inflexible as to be unworkable in some cases, which would be the beginning of the end of the section. If what we stipulated in law became clearly unworkable that would be the first step to making the section worthless. I want to avoid that by going as far as possible to meet the wish expressed that we should provide that the minimum should be done regardless of who is Minister and regardless of his outlook. I cannot see how far we can retain the necessary flexibility and at the same time give the positive indication to the local authority as to the carrying out of the surveys but I think we can go a good bit of the way.

If the Minister indicates that he is prepared to consider having written into the Bill a period of not less than five years, I think the House would support him completely, on the basis that the Minister would also have power to direct that surveys be carried out at much shorter intervals. It is quite clear that the position will vary in different areas. The possibility of carrying out surveys may vary from one area to another. In an area where the housing authority may be town commissioners, even though there may be staff difficulties, the nature and the size of the area and the type of dwellings and buildings might make it possible to have a survey carried out speedily whereas a number of problems might exist in other areas. In the case of Dublin when, in 1963, it was decided that it was essential to have a survey of dangerous buildings carried out, it was estimated that it would take up to two years to have the survey carried out fairly completely with the staff then available or that could reasonably be recruited. That is the type of problem the Minister would have to take into account.

At the same time, it is quite clear that at least once in the life of every local authority there should be a complete survey and the five year period would guarantee that. The surveys should be carried out simultaneously so that the national picture could be presented. It would be of no great benefit to have local surveys carried out at various times. It is important that the housing needs of the nation as a whole be presented to the House. The Minister has indicated that he will see what can be done on the question of carrying out a survey once every five years I suggest he should also indicate that, where possible, specific aspects of problems will be surveyed.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 55 not moved.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 37, between lines 10 and 11, to insert new paragraphs as follows:

( ) to what extent there exists in any area a shortage of houses at centres of employment,

( ) the demand or need for the provision of sites for private building, especially in urban and non-municipal areas,

( ) the demand or need for the provision of houses for newly weds,

( ) the demand or need for the provision of hostels, or temporary or emergency accommodation for homeless persons who cannot be accommodated at an early date because of letting priorities.

Amendments Nos. 57, 59 and 63, which are related, may be discussed with amendment No. 56.

Section 53 says:

(1) It shall be the duty of a housing authority, within such period after the commencement of this section as may be specified by the Minister and thereafter at such intervals as the Minister may direct from time to time, to inspect the houses in their functional area and to ascertain—

(a) to what extent there exist in the area houses which are in any respect unfit or unsuitable for human habitation,

(b) any overcrowding existing in the area, and

(c) such other matters as the Minister may specify from time to time,

We suggest that the other categories set out in the amendment be added, providing additional paragraphs (d), (e), (f) and (g).

The reason why we have asked that all these be included is that, as the Minister said in his Second Reading speech, we are here legislating for the future. We know that even at the present time—and the position must change during the years—our amendment must affect the position more or less as the years go by. There are quite a number of areas, centres of employment with factories and so on, where employees find it impossible to get housing accommodation. We believe that, where possible, surveys should be carried out to ensure that houses are made available for employees within a reasonable distance of their employment. To that end, we submit there should be surveys to find out what the demand is, what the need is for private building, especially in urban and non-municipal areas. It is not necessary to go into detail about those things because we all know that quite a number of people would be prepared to build houses but the local authorities will not make provision for sites on the ground that there is no demand.

In my constituency on a number of occasions I have carried out surveys on a small scale and have found a big number of people who would be prepared to build their own houses, if sites were available. When I approached the local authority, they said they had no evidence to that effect. I produced the evidence and the local authority proceeded to acquire sites in some cases—in others, it was not easy to procure sites. If we lay it down in the Bill that this should be done at regular intervals, the local authority will have on record the number of people looking for sites and then make the necessary provision to acquire land when it becomes available in the areas under their control.

We believe that the demand or need for the provision of sites for houses for newly-weds should be investigated. This may be the cause of some amusement to people who believe that the provision of houses for newly-weds is not of importance and that such people should make their own arrangements to provide houses. Though we call ourselves a Christian country, we seem to have the idea that there is no responsibility on local authorities to provide houses for people about to get married, that they can live with their in-laws in all sorts of unsuitable accommodation in what has been called their purgatory where they must suffer for a time before they qualify for houses.

The way to avoid this is by planning such as we are doing now in a Bill supposed to set up an ideal for future housing needs. We should now, therefore, make provision to ascertain what the demand will be and to do so at reasonable intervals. Then there would not be many obstacles in the way of making the necessary arrangements for housing such people. We also seek in the amendment to ascertain the demand or need for the provision of hostels or temporary or emergency accommodation for homeless persons who cannot be accommodated because of letting priorities.

I do not wish to enter the very dangerous atmosphere which the mention of Griffith Barracks conjures up in this city. All over the country we have similar situations on a smaller scale arising day after day. It is not unusual to find people being evicted from houses because their tenancy lettings do not give them the necessary protection. They are put out on the side of the road and the local authorities have then got to attempt to find some accommodation for them. It may be said local authorities have no such responsibility but I had an experience recently of a family of seven or eight small children and the man and wife being put out of a private house they had been renting for a number of years. They found themselves in a very bad tent in very bad weather. The local authority found everybody, including certain newspapers from outside this part of the country— it was during the newspaper strike—condemning them for their unchristian act in not providing accommodation for that family in such inclement weather.

The local authority had to do something about it and rather than bring those people to the county home, which looked to be the only alternative, they eventually found some accommodation at very high rents in the area. They had to subsidise this out of the home assistance; otherwise, a number of delicate children might have died. I understand this situation occurs again and again and it can pretty easily be overcome by the provision by the local authorities of houses which will be kept for such circumstances.

I know quite well also that there is a saying that when there is full employment, it is always easy to find a job for somebody and if everybody is housed properly, it is always easy to find alternative accommodation for somebody who requires housing for one reason or another. I still believe, even in the circumstances we have at the present time, it should be possible for local authorities to have available a spare house, suitable caravans or hostels with family accommodation in which people who need emergency housing for a short period can get accommodation. If this were done, it would get rid of the argument that people put themselves in bad housing conditions for the simple purpose of jumping the housing queue.

I would ask the Minister to consider and, as far as possible, try to meet the amendments, either by accepting them now or by agreeing to have them or some similar amendments prepared before the Bill comes before the House again.

I want to move amendment No. 57.

It is not necessary to move the other amendments now. We can have only one motion before the House but all the amendments can be discussed together.

This section deals with the inspection at certain intervals by housing authorities to assess adequately the supply and condition of houses in the local authority area. Certain matters are set out in the Bill that should be observed. Attention should be drawn to the making of this type of survey. The Labour amendment, and indeed our amendment, indicate all the other matters both relevant and desirable if this survey is really to mean anything. I believe that, unless these matters are written into the legislation, they will not necessarily form part of the survey work that will later be carried out by the local authority.

I do not know how good the reports which the first and only inspection that has been done are or whether they are completed. It certainly has taken long enough to provide them and one of the reasons why it has taken so long is that medical people were involved and you had not that sort of co-ordination and co-operation with the engineering personnel, which is necessary. I consider the engineering personnel of the council should be quite equal to deciding whether housing is satisfactory or not.

We set out in amendment 57 matters which we consider important in making any sort of assessment. We ask that between lines 10 and 11 certain new paragraphs be included, the first of which is:

(c) to what extent persons are paying for housing accommodation rents which impose undue hardship on them.

I have come across many cases where people are paying rents they cannot afford, simply because there is no local authority housing available for them. The doctor goes out to make his inspection and finds that these people are in quite suitable and spacious accommodation and he has no regard at all to the ability of the people in question to pay the rents involved. Therefore, I consider that is a very desirable thing to have included in this list of matters which should be investigated when making a survey.

The next paragraph is:

(d) the number of old persons living in accommodation or in circumstances unsuitable for elderly persons.

We have dealt with that. There is fairly adequate attention being drawn to this. It is no harm, nevertheless, to have it listed and to ensure that it will be included in the investigation.

Thirdly, we have:

(e) the suitability of premises for conversion into multiple dwellings.

That could be a matter which could provide a quick and perhaps fairly cheap method of providing accommodation quickly. It would perhaps be utilising space that is badly utilised at the moment. It would be one way of solving in a short time the housing problems of a particular area if this particular type of accommodation could be converted, and converted quickly, to accommodate a number of families.

The next paragraph is:

(f) the degree of future obsolescence.

It is well to include this but it is certainly something which in the cities is being fairly well assessed at the present time. It should be written into the Bill and the local authorities should have a clear indication of the matters to which they should pay attention and what should form part of this survey.

Then there is:

(g) the proximity of adequate housing to centres of employment.

That is also covered in the Labour amendment. It is not easy in advance to decide what will be the demand in that particular sector. All one knows at any time is that an area is set aside for industry. There may perhaps be a number of people coming along and proposing to set up an industry and there may be some estimate of the employment content of those industries. It is sometimes possible to forecast for a period ahead the extra housing required for a particular area in which industry is sited or in fact the position may exist where people are at the present time coming very long distances to work in industry. In fact they may be living in very unsuitable accommodation at some distance from the industry in order to have the advantage of employment there.

The next paragraph reads:

(h) the number of persons residing in housing accommodation provided by their employers which they will be required to vacate on termination of their employment.

Here again is a class of persons or families that is excluded in the normal way. Their employment may be in danger and they may say there is a limited period during which they will be in that employment. In fact they may have left the employment. There may be some sort of loose renting agreement that does not leave them anything. The doctor goes out to the area for priorities and he sees those people in perfectly normal and suitable accommodation. He cannot recommend them until they are on the side of the road, until they are evicted. The threat of eviction can be arranged. These are all the matters which should be taken into account in reckoning housing needs in a particular area.

The amendment further down dealing with repairs goes further into this and suggests matters that should be taken into consideration in making this survey, one of which is redevelopment causing displacement of persons. That is something that should be known fairly well in advance in any built-up area—the intentions in relation to redevelopment. There should be a fairly accurate calculation of the amount of disturbance this is likely to cause and of the increased number of dwellings that will have to be provided over a period. It should not just happen that these people, because of the decision to redevelop an area, are left in all sorts of emergency and unsuitable accommodation.

The matter of the housing need arising from industrialisation is more or less covered in amendment No. 37. The legislation would be much improved if the matters referred to in these amendments were written into it. Otherwise, this inspection will be too loosely carried out and in many cases will not indicate the real needs of an area at all, especially, as the Minister has said, if there is a shortage of staff in a particular area and the local authority avoid making a number of important investigations which should influence their decision in relation to future housing needs. For that reason, I think these amendments should be accepted en bloc. They may require slight rearrangement because there is a certain amount of repetition occurring in the amendments being taken together.

I was rather disappointed the Minister did not outline in a more detailed way the matters he felt a housing authority should deal with in making a survey. He possibly intended covering these points when drafting regulations. Nevertheless, it would be of assistance in discussing this matter if the Minister set down in greater detail what he had in mind.

In regard to the paragraph concerning to what extent there exists in any area a shortage of houses at centres of employment, in general this would refer to provincial areas. It seeks to have written into the Bill a specific provision that the housing authorities in those areas take into account the present and future establishment of employment and whether in fact employment opportunities may be prejudiced by the lack of housing. This also has some relation to the larger cities. Employment is attracted by the fact that suitable housing accommodation is available near an industrial unit. There is a tendency in planning housing to deal with it on the basis that a site is available and subsequently try to attract industry, without taking into account the fact that an industry may be sited some distance from the housing scheme. That is an aspect of the survey to which consideration should be given.

Included in the survey also should be the demand or need for the provision of sites for private building, especially in urban and non-municipal areas. While we stress urban and non-municipal areas in the amendment, it is not suggested consideration should not be given to possible sites for municipal development and for private dwellings. A survey along those lines would make it possible for local authorities to think more in terms of a community. It has happened in our cities over the past 20 or 30 years that there has been a segregation of municipal dwellings from private dwellings. That may have been necessary in order to meet the urgent demand for houses, but I do not think it has proved to be the best type of development. It has had the effect of separating the community to too great an extent.

In carrying out the survey, the housing authority should be required to examine not only the demand for sites for private dwellings in the urban and non-municipal areas but also the need for sites for private dwellings in conjunction with municipal dwellings. In the past in certain areas, in large municipal schemes, sites were reserved for people desirous of providing their own dwellings. Unfortunately, there was no plan for the provision at the same time of churches, schools, shops and industries. Consequently, in every city this imbalance has developed to some extent. Opportunity should be taken in the future to try to remedy that.

It is also suggested that the survey should include the demand or need for the provision of houses for newly-weds. In years past certain local authorities took advantage of this power in order to provide houses for newly-weds. Under the regulations, these houses had to be reserved for certain categories. The subsidy paid was less than that normally paid. But these houses were valuable where young couples who could not provide their own housing were concerned. Young couples, even if credit were easier and sites and houses more readily available, could not find deposits of £300, £400 or £500, to say nothing of undertaking the financial responsibility of repayments of £3 10/-, £4 or £4 10/- per week. Yet, they are reluctant, and understandably so, to start married life in a couple of rooms, even if the rooms are available at less than £3 10/- or £3 per week.

A smaller house than that normally provided by municipal housing authorities would meet the needs of these young people, houses at a reasonable rent; in time, they could transfer to a larger local authority dwelling or they might even be in a position to transfer to private enterprise housing. A survey of the needs of such people should be carried out. Up to two years ago, there was a draw for houses for newly-weds. That scheme commenced in 1950. An undertaking had been given some years earlier that these houses would be provided and the local authority felt committed to include all those who got married after the date on which the scheme was mooted. The result was that at the first draw there were some hundreds of married couples with one, two, or three children participating in the scheme. I believe the type of survey I have mentioned in this regard is absolutely essential.

Deputy Tully referred to subsection (d):

the demand or need for the provision of hostels, or temporary or emergency accommodation for homeless persons who cannot be accommodated at an early date because of letting priorities.

I do not think it is necessary to dilate on a matter which has been the subject of so much comment here and elsewhere. The system of providing hostels for families who cannot provide accommodation for themselves has been successfully operated elsewhere. In Britain, emergency accommodation is provided. No one can condone a situation in which a family, put out of housing accommodation by order of the court, perhaps because a building is dangerous and scheduled for demolition, perhaps because certain people are anxious to dispose of property for purely commercial purposes, is left without some kind of accommodation. While local authorities could not house these families in advance of those much higher on the priority list, the possibility of providing some type of hostel accommodation is worthy of examination and worthy of a provision in this Bill.

There is then the question of a survey to establish the needs of the aged. In this regard it would be desirable for the housing authority and the health authority to combine on such a survey. Housing may not be the answer in the case of every aged person. The provision of a room or two might be no solution. The old people might well be incapable of looking after themselves: they might need fairly constant attention. That is why the Minister should examine into the desirability of carrying out such a survey. It is possible that in some cases the addition of a room to an existing dwelling might provide suitable accommodation for the aged. This could be done by way of subsidy.

With regard to obsolescence, at the rate we are going it is doubtful if obsolescence will present any major problem in the future; but in Dublin, and throughout the country, there are one-storey and two-storey houses which will require examination. A survey of these should be undertaken to discover what the possible need in regard to accommodation may be.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.